Saturday, August 31, 2013

As August Wanes...

...The Dog Days of Summer Come to an End.

There is something positively diabolical about the month of August for me. During my childhood it always hung in the background like some intimidating Grim Reaper signifying that the lazy and carefree days of summer were soon to end and that homework, bursting book bags, and crabby teachers would take center stage in my life. Making matters worse, here in South Carolina the late August weather usually had this soul grinding combination of broiling heat and oppressive humidity that made everyone both lethargic and short-tempered. People would mull about like disjointed zombies ready to descend on the first person who still harbored some sense of good humor and rip them to bloody shreds.

The grownups in my life then called it the “dog days of summer”, a designation that has marked me for life with its doom-like foreshadowing. Strangely enough there was this incredibly naïve time shortly after I left school where I thought those days were over. There was some idea rolling around in the cavernous empty space between my ears that no longer would I be oppressed by irate teachers and surly adults depressed that another year would soon be over. I believe that frame of mind lasted about as long as it took me to reach my first August after I left school behind me.

Almost without exception my August experiences had been either tragic or disastrous. The spectrum of events have ranged from the sad breakup with a girlfriend during my army days who I thought I loved to near war being declared on the butthole who even now lives across the street from me. At least the girlfriend is now a source of pleasant memories, the “neighbor” and I even now either glare or hostilely ignore each other in some sort of suburban cold war that will only end when one of us, probably me, moves.

Despite the fact that deep down I know there isn’t anything like an annual supernaturally-inspired conspiracy out to terrorize me, this time of the year is the worst for me at work. There is enough humid crap flung my way this time of year that I actually long since made a regular habit of doing a military-like situational awareness report in my head at the first of August to try and prevent any disasters before they occur.

Adding to the chaos is the start of the new school years as my rugrats ( ie: kids) work out the kinks of reentering the hallowed halls of learning. This year Darth Spoilboy is a high school senior who has already earned enough credits to graduate. This has created the attitude in him to skate through with classes akin to underwater basket weaving design and comic book appreciation. My lovely spouse, Dragonwife, wants him to still hit the books with college-level calculus and literature. Needless to say they have had several heated discussions over their differences.

As for my daughter Darth Wiggles, the reintroduction to things like homework and getting ready for the next day of school is far more physically and mentally exhausting than I thought possible. And I swear, two separate school fund raising project folders now sit on my kitchen table. My wife and I are expected to sell wrapping paper and candy bars to our coworkers, friends, and family so the football team can have new equipment and the spoiled suburban Tea Baggers do not have to pay a tiny bit more in taxes.

All I can really do this time of year is to hunker down and try to avoid the worst of the poop flinging and look forward to cooler weather. Around the first of October I usually head down to the coast and spend a Saturday sitting on the near deserted section of the shore at Huntington Beach State Park. The sound of the waves and smell of the salt air is almost enough to make up for this crappy month.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

In The Land Of The Gun

You don’t live around, and in all honesty once belong to the extreme end of the gun culture without having some basic understanding about how things have gotten this bad. There was time when the general public had enough commonsense to understand pulling any sort of weapon out as a threat was a declaration that society had essentially broken down at that moment. 

Without delving into all the facets of Southern society and their various strengths and faults the overall view was that civility was preferable to some sort of recreation of the Old West. Now there were individuals who were exceptions to this viewpoint, but a seemingly casual visit by a reputable law enforcement figure was usually enough to quash any nasty proto-anarchical tendencies forming. However, decent and mostly sane behavior could usually be traced back to how a person was brought up.  

For various reasons my grandparents raised me from the age of eleven until I reached that nebulous stage called young adulthood. During that time I was exposed to, but did not have any access to weapons greater than a BB gun without my grandfather right beside me. One of the few times my grandfather actually felt the need to ever spank me was the day I showed off his antique double barreled shotgun to a few curious buddies. Concerning the BB gun, I once made the mistake of bragging to him about a bird I shot for a thrill, the calm and cool reasoning my grandfather shared with me about how that was monstrous behavior was in its way far worse than the spanking. Needless to say, I never killed another bird again. Squirrels were a different matter; they could be cleaned and cooked and my grandfather’s neighbor loved to serve them up with rice and butter beans.    

Somewhere in the midst of the Ronny Reagan-inspired rebirth of American patriotism the usual reserved approach to even the appearance of weapons in public went the way of the dodo bird. It is hard to stay reasonable in the face of a massive theatrical onslaught where semi-coherent, quasi-actors battle the latest surge in atheistic communism with humorous one-liners and the most advanced and massive assault weapons their steroid soaked arms can hold.

While there is a question which actually came first, shrill politicians panicking over the Soviets conquering the Western world or the Hollywood action hero going out to battle this political Sauron and his legions of AK-47 carrying orcs. Our elected leaders, always willing to sink to the lowest common denominator of base behavior far faster than any daytime talk show host, continued to stoke the communist fears and promote the idea that the way to defeat the red menace was through armed conflict.

You simple cannot carry on like this without the basic underpinnings of society starting to come apart. Never mind that the Soviet Union collapsed under its own ponderous weight, once fear has been instituted as a national characteristic and the belief that all problems can be solved with the use of a weapon with sufficient caliber all bets are off. People start believing that weapons specifically designed not to outright kill, but shred the bodies of soldiers should be owned by all. That there is a right to the unrestricted purchase of all kinds of ammunition even though you cannot buy one package of extra-strength sinus medicine in a drug store without a record being kept. Or that a person should be immune from prosecution if he kills an innocent bystander because he was “standing his ground.”

From "The State" newspaper:

Is shooting a bystander in South Carolina someone else's fault?

Saturday, August 17, 2013 Short Story---Running on Empty

(Author's note: trying something new and submitted a short story. The prompt was "running on empty" which I made the title. Still managed to screw up by again leaving html code in the body of my story. Was able to correct that mistake but who knows, the Helium gods might still reject the story.)

Jacob found the note on the floor next his shoes. He stared at it for a second assuming he had inadvertently pushed it off his desk as he shuffled the mounds of legal papers that seemed to dominate his life. The message was in his secretary’s handwriting and was painfully simple and efficient. It reminded him that he had dinner reservations with his wife Denise at their favorite Italian restaurant. Seven o’clock was written in large numerals clearly indicating the time he was supposed to meet her there.

It made no sense to Jacob, Denise would never leave such a note without saying something to him first. “Denise?” he called over the intercom. The lack of her immediate response was frustrating but Jacob just assumed she might have gone to the restroom. He might have puzzled over Denise’s absence further if the report analyzing the legal ramifications of a regional business being bought out by a huge corporation did not demand every ounce of his attention. So consumed by his work it took the ringing of his private phone line a few minutes later to pull him away again.

“Hello,” he said while still looking at the report, “This is Jacob Lane.”

“Mr. Lane,” his secretary said coldly over the phone, “you’ve obviously forgotten about the dinner date with your wife.”

“Excuse me? Where are you Denise? I need those updated figures from accounting.”

“Sir, I’m home with my family. In fact I have been here for two hours. You need to look at that ancient grandfather clock by the bathroom door.”

Jacob considered himself an important man but he had long realized that Denise was not to be trifled with when it came to keeping him organized and on time. Still his mind refused to let go of the work that occupied his every waking moment and it took several seconds to understand what the clock said.

The hands on the old clock said it was a quarter past six in the evening. A flash of realization hit Jacob, the restaurant where he was supposed to meet his wife was across town and it would take something of a miracle for him to get there on time.

“Don’t worry Mr. Lane,” Denise said, “I took the liberty of calling a taxi and it is waiting for you now downstairs. If you leave this very second you can make your reservation.”

Despite everything Jacob found himself weighing the necessity of even going. Not only did he have the report to finish but he needed to work on two other projects and begin making notes for a speech he had to give in New York next month. Jacob sighed deeply, it seemed he was constantly running from one thing to the other and something had to give. “Listen Denise,” he said, “can you call my wife and cancel?”

“With all due respect Mr. Lane, no. I am off the clock and enjoying my family. If you want to cancel this late you will have to call Sarah and do it yourself.” Denise then abruptly hung up leaving him no choice but to run downstairs and catch the waiting taxi.

Minutes ticked by as the taxi sped through the streets of downtown Atlanta towards the restaurant. This gave Jacob a chance to reflect about his situation. Any anger he might have felt about Denise’s refusal to call his wife was dampened by the fact it was the marriage counselor he and Sarah was seeing that was forcing him to leave his desk when there was so many projects that had reached a crucial phase. Months before, they recognized that there was a void in their marriage and that it was only growing larger as their outside responsibilities kept pulling them in opposite directions.

At his core, Jacob knew he wanted his marriage to continue, if for no other reason than simple inertia. Divorce was messy and while the kids were grown with the way he and Sarah’s lives were intertwined separating everything after so many years would be a nightmare. More to the point he had this memory of Sarah when they were younger; she was so vibrant that it almost hurt to be around her. It was that memory Jacob clung to and the reason he wanted to stay married.


Sarah Lane was angry on so many levels that it was hard to think. Her assistant had screwed up the time of the showing and now she was stuck watching the pretension couple wander around the empty downtown condo discussing possible paint colors and what decorator they wanted to hire. Sarah would have long since dumped their backsides back on the street but they overflowed with money and if the sell went through she would score big time.

As Sarah leaned on the condo’s granite topped kitchen counter she dreamed of all the dirty and demeaning chores her ditzy assistant would be forced to perform for condemning her to such a late and painfully drawn out showing. As if on cue, Sarah’s cell phone started buzzing with the caller ID indicating it was her assistant Cindy.

“Mrs. Lane,” the young community college dropout said breathlessly, “I confused the time and day for your dinner date with your husband. It’s tonight and you have about thirty minutes to get to the restaurant.”

Rage seethed through Sarah’s body and she fought the urge to cuss out the young woman. Firing her was impossible, Cindy’s mom owned Davis Residential Builders, the biggest development company in north Georgia. By keeping the young slacker on her payroll all the real estate agents that worked for Sarah got first shot at all new homes Davis Residential built. For Sarah, keeping Cindy was just part of the difficult business equation she had to wrestle with on a daily basis.

Like her husband Jacob had done earlier, Sarah’s first thought was to have Cindy call him and reschedule. “Sorry, Mrs. Lane,” Cindy responded, “I can’t reach him for some reason.”

Sarah bit her tongue in an attempt not to ask Cindy the question as to whether she actually dialed the right number. Instead Sarah began running the equation in her mind as to whether she should drop everything and leave since the restaurant was just a few blocks away or to just stay at the condo and finish up with the couple in hopes of making the sale.

Sarah was surprised to discover that she really wanted to stay with the couple since despite their glacial pace they appeared to be leaning heavily towards buying the place. But as Sarah continued to run the numbers through her head she remembered what the marriage counselor said about her insane pace of life and that if she wanted to stay married to Jacob something would have to give. Jacob had always been a good husband and father, simple decency required she try and make things work. 

“Alright Cindy,” Sarah said, “I’m leaving the condo to go met my husband, I want you to immediately come here and stay with the buyers. Please be sure to lock up once they leave. I’ll touch base with you after I’m done.” After saying goodbye to the couple she walked out the door and hurried toward the restaurant.


Sarah arrived just as Jacob stepped out of the cab. They looked at each other and hesitated, some echo of a memory whispered that they should be glad to see each other. They almost embraced but instead Jacob just opened the door and allowed Sarah to enter first.

After the host seated them they both attempted to tell each other about their day. The conversation was stilted as each noticed the attention of the other easily drifted away. They eventually abandoned any attempt to chat and just ate in silence once their meals were served. Both took refuge in their own thoughts and what would be required of them after they were free to run back to their jobs.

With the check paid they walked out the restaurant. “I’ll see you back at the house once I make sure Cindy didn’t scare that couple away and that she locked up the condo.” Sarah said.

“Oh, don’t wait up for me,” Jacob replied, “I’ve got that report to finish and notes to write for my speech. I may just stay at the office.”

For a moment they looked at each other before parting. Some flicker of whatever it was that once brought them together still existed but it was elusive as a fine mist in a dark room and neither felt they had to time to find it again. But what really caused them to run back to their own pursuits was the utter emptiness they could no longer ignore as they looked into each other’s eyes. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bastions of Hope and Reason in the Vast Wasteland

As anyone who has ever worked the night shift knows you simply do not come home and go to bed after getting cleaned up. There has to be a certain period where you decompress, or unwind. For me this usually involves about an hour sitting in front of the television. Yes, I could read, and sometimes I do, but if I am tired I have a hard time enjoying it and often cannot remember whatever happened.

The problem with watching television in the morning specifically and anytime in general is that it is dominated by what at best can be described as lowest common dominator programming. I have Dish Network as a satellite provider and there are times I can surf the scores of channels they offer and find absolutely nothing worth watching. Cable networks like the History Channel, Discover, and several others which were formed to provide a higher level of broadcast entertainment, or even dare I say intellectual stimulation, are in fact bastions of near moronic reality shows that never stray from a simplistic formula involving an equally dimwitted cast of reoccurring personalities.  

Way back in 1961 the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, a Newton M. Minow called old fashioned broadcast television a vast wasteland. I can only imagine what he might think of if he saw Honey Boo Boo, Chumlee, or any of the myriad of other reality show characters that suggest American culture is an empty intellectual husk about to collapse under the weight of its own banality.

Before anyone starts flinging hateful emails at me saying I am a delusional elitist snob let me state that I am all for mindless escapism, I have my own shows that allow me to leave this crappy reality behind and reboot my mind. It is just that it seems a line has long been crossed where escapism is not only the norm but that the producers of such shows are in competition to reach the very bottom of idiotic and banal behavior.

The one oasis in all this is the various categories of TED Talks the internet video streaming company Netflix offers. TED Talks are conferences where various experts on such subjects as science, culture, politics, and just about anything else give short speeches in an attempt to spread ideas or information. Always insightful and very often profound these videos open brand new worlds to anyone who can access them through Netflix or free from the TED Talks website.

In an blatant attempt to induce anyone I can to these videos I offer three of my recent favorites. The first is Isabel Allende speaking on passion, not the sexual kind but how women from around the world stand up and make a difference for their families and others. If you do not come away from this video wanting to do more for the world you have no soul.

The second is by a man named John Hunter. He is a teacher who engages his elementary school students to think in ways that are simply astounding. One such very young student quotes Sun Tzu about war and appears to have a grasp on human's favorite pastime that far exceeds the vast majority of our glorious elected leaders.


The last is by Richard Preston who speaks on the giant redwoods of California whose complexities have been overlooked until very recently.

Be very careful, after viewing these videos you could actually come away thinking that if we had more of these outstanding people involved in public life the human race might have a chance at surviving.  

Saturday, August 10, 2013 Flash Fiction---The Injured Earth

 (Author's note: Trying this flash fiction yet again with the prompt being "isolated thunderstorms". The gods at Helium have not kicked the four-hundred word version off their site but after reading it I am very unhappy with the result. In simpler terms it's crap. Plus, somehow a piece of html code ended up in the text of the story. As for the inspiration, saw the movie version of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" yesterday. )

As I begin my journal entry the morning is quiet and serene as I leave the secure confines of my underground shelter and gaze out at the plains of Kansas. My calendar says it’s the middle of spring but all I see are dead and burnt fields that seem to stretch forever. As I check my gear for my hopeless quest I feel a breeze blowing from the northeast suggesting the weather will change soon.

The only sounds I hear come from the collection of rusting vehicles abandoned on the interstate. The wind whips through the twisted hulks producing a surreal concert as if a hundred demented ghosts decided to start playing tin flutes to pass the time after the end of the world. Only a few more years will need to pass before the weather, the sun, and time will reduce these relics to red stains on the crumbling asphalt of Interstate Seventy of western Kansas. 

You don’t survive as long as I have by keeping a sense of time. On my little strolls I just place one foot in front of the other and mentally shut down. At times a whole day can pass in a blink of an eye. However at some point along the deserted highway I realize I have reached evidence that a civilization once existed. Off in the distance is a cluster of ruins that were once outlet malls, national chain restaurants, and gas stations. As I gaze at the high point of my culture the wind surges and I turn to see a band of dark clouds coming my way. Lightning flickers at the edge of the storm front forcing me to seek refuge.

I reach the nearest structure just as the rain hits me. The thunder and lightning could almost be God raging against what humans have done to his creation. The joke is on him, except for me the rest of us are dead. Even the ferals are gone now, products of the Apocalypse they were in a sense the truest form of humanity. The collapse burned away all the civilized niceties and sophisticated pretensions humans had created for themselves leaving the most vicious and cunning animal ever to evolve on this sad planet.

At first the ferals roamed the land like locust scavenging the remains of civilization. During this time a few of the pretenses of small group organization and cooperation were kept, in actuality I’d have to say they had more similarities with a wolf pack if that didn’t insult those noble animals. Once the last can of tuna and box of corn flakes was ate, the ferals started feeding of each other.  The only thing worse than the screams from those being kept in the improvised pens awaiting their turn as meals was the utter silence that followed after even that resource was exhausted.        

Sitting under the roof of what was once an IHOP I wait out the thunderstorms as they come and go and as night falls I unroll my sleeping bag and make camp. During the night I keep my pistol close, although nothing in this dead world threatens me. If I was a better and stronger person I would toss the killing abomination as far away from me as possible. But like the rest of humanity, I continue to tell myself it has a vital purpose. For my now extinct species it was a fatal delusion, the realization of the supremacy such instruments gave overwhelmed both the weak who succumbed to the siren call of power and those who kept them because they wallowed in abject fear of the unknown.   

I try to sleep but my thoughts continue to plague me. With nothing else to do I step outside the burnt structure and look upon the stars. Both they and my silly childhood dreams mock me now. I do find some dark amusement when I think that Earth is now prime real estate for a more rational and successful species to colonize.

As the hours pass in the stillness I begin to hear sounds out beyond my shelter. The fear that madness has finally found me requires that I find out if the disturbance is real. With the beam of my flashlight burning through the darkness I see tiny glowing and curious eyes popping up from the ground.

Prairie dogs, a whole colony in fact! Relief floods my soul. At any other time it would be almost insane feeling such joy at seeing such a collection of mere rodents but I am overjoyed. I have finally found evidence that the earth still possesses such life and that in time the wounds humans have inflicted will heal.  

The melancholy that my searching held at bay for so long comes back like the thunderstorms from yesterday.  “The world is yours my friends. Take better care of it than us.” I say to the new masters of the planet. In response they rightfully fidget and scurry about in the darkness worried over the threat I represent.  

With my quest is over, I look at the pistol I clutch in my hand and realize it does have one last purpose. I will spend these last few hours before sunrise watching the prairie dogs go about their lives. As soon as the sun comes over the horizon I will place my pistol against my head and pull the trigger.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Why Should I Care

No one would be wrong to think I really need to start to mind my own business when it comes to my incessant habit of passively observing those around me. I guess it is the writer in me that is always looking around searching for some inspiration, or as it has not so kindly been suggested once or twice I inherited a touch of my grandmother’s nosey nature. Being fair to myself my observations are always in public places that by simple definition are open to all making privacy impossible, especially when someone is talking on a cell phone which is what happened this morning.

This week my daughter, Darth Wiggles, is taking a cooking camp on the other side of town. It requires my wife to hand her off to me after I get off work. From there she goes to her job while Wiggles and I mosey over to the little gourmet cooking shop where she has her class. It is located next a Whole Foods Market and since she has have about thirty minutes  before the class starts we go inside the ultra fancy grocery store and buy a couple of fresh croissants and small bottles of orange juice.

Being that the morning was breezy and almost surreally pleasant temperature wise for August we picked a table outside the store to eat our food. Wiggles and I were alone for the first ten minutes or so except for the upwardly mobile professional types that came and went out of the store to buy their various organic and freshly made items. No sarcasm meant in that last sentence, if we had a Whole Food on my side of town I’d buy everything there.

As my daughter and I sat waiting for her class to start I noticed a lady approaching the store. Being honest the first reason I noticed her was because she was a very attractive lady in her late thirties to early forties and was wearing a brilliantly colored summer dress. The second reason was as this unknown lady approached I noticed she seemed very upset as she talked on her cell phone.

The problem with cell phones few seem to understand is that if you talk at a normal volume anyone within a few feet can easily hear your side of the conversation no matter how personal the subject may be. Where my daughter and I were sitting the awning above us stretching the length of the store and the front wall of the building itself changed the acoustics just enough that when the lady sat down about twenty feet away we could still hear what she was saying.

It was a pained and very sad conversation that from what I overheard involved the lady breaking up with her husband or boyfriend. Wiggles and I could have probably just ignored the lady like most people do when someone is talking on a cell phone close by if she hadn’t started yelling to the person on the other end. If in fact she is married to this guy given what she accused him of doing he better have a great lawyer because he will be lucky to come away with his underwear.

The conversation ended soon after that with the lady getting up and walking towards the store entrance and indirectly my daughter and me. “I’m sorry you both had to hear all that.” The unknown lady said to us as she paused for a moment to wipe tears away.

Since I have never, ever been able to think quickly on my feet all I could respond was to say, “No problem, we’ve all been there.”  The second I said those words they sounded utterly trite and sophomoric. At least I stopped there and said nothing really stupid and clichéd like “it will get better.”

The lady smiled weakly and said, “Yeah,” as she continued into the store leaving us behind. Seeing her walk away I thought of this song by Diana Krall.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Dealing With Legal Eagles and Assorted Villiany

It is a common occurrence among the unwashed masses frustrated with the fact our society is far too litigious to utter this infamous line from Shakespeare’s Henry VI: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Coming from the unwashed masses myself, for the longest time I thought it was a statement actually promoting the idea that everything would be peachy keen if in fact if all the shysters and assorted ambulance chasers were rounded up hauled off to the nearest slaughter house.

It was my lovely spouse, Dragonwife, herself an attorney, who sat me down and explained the true nature of what Billy Shakespeare meant. That lawyers, judges, and the rest of the legal eagle profession provide an important framework where disputes can be rectified before everyone starts to take matters in their own hands.    

As it is with all Southerners, at first I protested and continued to assume that I knew what I was talking about when in fact I was just proving the old maxim about people who cannot get over the fact that are nowhere near as smart as they think. At least I had enough dignity to surrender the point when it was proven that I did not have a leg to stand on. Southerners have for the last couple of centuries somehow come to believe they are legends in their own minds and usually have to be whipped to within an inch of their lives before they admit to being wrong about something.

As much as lawyers seem to be a parasites on the hypothetical butt of humanity, I at least understand now that we could not have a functioning society if they did not exist. The problem is that like all other people, groups, and professions there are those who are blatantly obnoxious and almost prove the stereotype.

About a year ago my wife and I went through the motions on refinancing the house. While this could be a whole post by itself in many ways I will just cut to the chase and say this was not the first time in recent history my wife searched for and got a lower interest rate on the mortgage. In fact, for her, it is sort of a hobby.

In truth, I shudder to think of the numerous trees that have to die for all the paperwork that is needed to refinance this fabulous money pit I live stuck in a neighborhood filled with soulless pod people that make Stepford wives seem fully human.  Excuse the sarcasm folks; I’m suffering from acute cabin fever exacerbated by my beer supply being exhausted at this moment.

Be that as it may, during this last mortgage refinance once the paperwork was completed my wife and I had to go to some local law practice and sign the forms. Like everything else in the area I live the offices housing the attorneys who were processing all the real estate mumbo jumbo had all the character of a lower end strip mall. Trust me, if South Carolina has one thing on the nation it is strip malls accommodating such glorious businesses like “pay day advance” establishments and tanning salons. The former being legalized loan sharks and the latter palaces for those desperate to experience skin cancer without going to the beach.

After a few perfunctory minutes of small talk with the receptionist my wife and I were escorted to what served as the conference room for these professional descendants of Clarence Darrow and Oliver Wendell Holmes. More sarcasm here, but the soda machine and industrial strength coffee maker did give it that homey convenience store touch.

About ten minutes later the two attorneys handling the paperwork came into the conference room and introduced themselves. The individual I will call “Heckle” was dressed in a decent but non- pretentious business suit. In fact he seemed genuinely friendly and with the top button of shirt undone along with his tie hanging loose around his neck he had the look of a tired but populist politician.

His partner, who I will call Jeckle, was the exact opposite. Despite being dressed in casual attire consisting of polo shirt, slacks, and leather loafers it was easy to tell none of it was bought at J.C. Penney or Macy’s. In fact I would be willing to hazard a guess Jeckle’s outfit came straight from the pages of GQ and cost twice as much as Heckle’s suit. Adding to Jeckle’s overall upscale GQ appearance was his stylish haircut and his beard that was so neatly trimmed I am sure he had visited one of those expensive salons where you do not walk out of the place without paying at least a hundred bucks.   

Part of the procedure to finalize the refinance involved my wife and me signing all the required paperwork along with showing valid identification so the legal gods could place their official stamp on the documents. By the time my wife and I had to prove who we were Heckle had run off to take a phone call leaving his metrosexual partner to finish everything up. Dragonwife handed him her driver’s license with Jeckle duly noting that the picture on the card was her.

When it came time for Jeckle to review my license I handed it to him just wishing this whole procedure would soon be over. As anyone who has been through this process can attest, it is boring and seems to take forever. In fact I actually believe time slowed down while we were in that conference/snack room because when I glanced outside the window I swear I saw the grass and trees visibly growing.

Just as I was beginning to believe we would never get out of that place I noticed Jeckle had discovered that the lamination covering my driver’s license was splitting causing the front and back halves to separate. “Mr. Johnson,” he said in an incredibly nasal voice, “just for your information with the lamination coming apart on your license it is essentially invalidated, you need to go to the DMV and get a new one.”

“Thank you, I’ll look into it,” I replied respectfully but with a touch of yeah, whatever.

Even with time slowed my wife and I eventually signed and initialed all the documents along with checking all our important information printed on them. Heckle and Jeckle tried a few final minutes of small talk to be friendly because all four of us in that room realized they were going to get paid a lot of money for just watching my wife and I sign papers, something I am sure a chimp could be trained to do.  

Like I mentioned earlier I completely understand lawyers are vital to the functioning of our society and if Jeckle had let his piece of counsel about my driver’s license not being valid anymore we could have all gone our separate ways in peace. No, Jeckle had to add more making me reevaluate my ideals.

Before I got up from the chair I was sitting, Jeckle came over and laid his hand on my shoulder. Unless you are a lover, relative, or a close friend that is a bad idea, like all people I have my own personal space and to put this in Star Trek terms for me he crossed the Klingon neutral zone and started firing on Federation starships.

“Mr. Johnson,” he said in his nasally voice full of authority, “about your driver’s license being invalidated that was some friendly, free advice I could have charged you for.” The look on his face and his hand on my shoulder strongly suggested he was serious.

Everyone has their own particular perceptions and ideas of how others in society see them. I’d like to think that when I encounter a stranger I appear welcoming, open, and ready to be friendly. Evidence in this can be found in my ongoing communications with about twenty some odd people I have met over the years on many trips to Disney World and the three Disney cruises I was lucky enough to catch with my wife and kids. While I am not exactly a party animal neither am I a sociopath.

Thankfully my wife understood the boundary Jeckle had crossed and quickly got me out of there only allowing me the satisfaction of envisioning him and his high quality attire being tossed off a very high cliff next the ocean to the hungry sharks swimming around below. Naturally my only concern would have been for the health of those imaginary sharks.


What brought on this post was the fact I spotted Jeckle in the grocery store just this last Thursday. He was talking with another person and although they were standing up he had his hand on this guy’s shoulder much the same way he did me. The look on the face of that unknown person suggested to me he was imagining a similar fate for Jeckle as I did leaving his office. 

Had to add this one just for giggles.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What Wives Should Never Do

 (Author's note: This was my first attempt at nonfiction at the writing site where I have been playing around with flash fiction again. The gods at Helium did not like my admittedly tongue-in-cheek response to their prompt and kicked it off the next day. As you might be able to guess the prompt was to explain the things wives should never do to their husbands. For those who might cast a disparaging eye at such a topic there was another prompt asking wives to explain what husbands should never do to them.)    

Guys in general rightfully deserve the stereotype that we are tactless brutes lacking any consideration, especially for our suffering better halves. The key words here are “in general” because if you can look beyond the superficial gruffness and false bravado are not we fresh and blood human beings ourselves with feelings that can be hurt? So ladies here is a short and simple list of things you should never do to your husband.

Never force your husband to go shopping. Simply put guys usually hate going shopping for themselves and often can be found sprinting inside a store for something they desperately need like new underwear or toothpaste. Shared common interests notwithstanding the only reason husbands and boyfriends will even begin to enter some dress or candle shop is because they think such attentive behavior might get them sex later.

Along those same lines some ladies think allowing their significant other to wait outside their favorite boutique and hold their pocketbooks while they shop is enough of a reprieve. In some ways this situation is even worse, the male of the human species spent millions of years of evolution roaming the African savanna, to tie him to one spot is akin to those brutal and inhumane cages where some livestock are forced to spend their entire lives. The only possible exception to this predicament is if there are already other guys at the same location holding their girlfriend’s pocketbook.

The funny thing is there is actually an established social hierarchy for guys who sit outside some store waiting for the ladies in their lives. Seniority is based on the oldest male in the immediate area requiring the younger pups to sit and listen to whatever he was to say. Any guy who disrespects the sitting grand poobah is expelled from the group and forced into the store his wife or girlfriend is shopping to stand around and hold her items.

Does this sound like too much whining? Yes ladies, as a man I freely admit my brothers and I complain and whine far more than the cruel and very inaccurate stereotype of woman doing the same thing suggests. What in heaven’s name do you all think us guys did as we strolled the African savanna for all those countless eons?

Do not expect us to read your minds. One of the biggest obstacles I have had to overcome in my own marriage is to develop the talent for reading my lovely wife’s mood or true feelings when she says the exact opposite. How females interact with each other when men are not around is a complete and utter mystery to me. From what I have read though it has been suggested that it is often a byzantine labyrinth of intrigue and deception. Bringing that into a relationship is a dangerous affair. We guys usually, but not always, appreciate the direct approach; remember we are after all just relatively cleaner versions of unrefined cavemen.

About a month after my wife and I were married I could tell she was very upset about something but refused to tell me what was wrong. This went on for nearly a month until she exploded and began to tell me I was the crudest and poorest example of a human being this side of your average genocidal dictator. What brought on this volcanic emotional eruption was my long habit leaving my socks on the floor next my shoes. Of course, it is an immature behavior but I had just spent two years living alone in a small apartment and developed the usual set of male habits when it came to keeping a room clean. The general reason I left them next my shoes was because I often just wore the same pair for several days. Okay, maybe that was more information than you needed to know, I apologize.

On a side note, speaking strictly for myself, but I figure it goes for all guys, if I could in fact read minds rest assured I would have already used it to become filthy stinking rich.

Wives and girlfriends should never attempt to force their significant other to dress differently, unless we ask. One of the worst traumas for boys growing up is when their mothers took them shopping for new clothes. Now some guys do have a fashion sense and enjoy walking around all GQ and honestly more power to them. That being said a number of us males, very much including myself, had to deal with a mother who desperately wanted a little girl to dress up in pretty clothes. When they had a son instead this desire stayed the same with them dragging their boys around forcing them to try on suits, ties, and oddly decorated or strange feeling pants and shirts that we were told not to get dirty.

One of the worst experiences I had along those lines was during elementary school. My mother had gone out and bought a pair of off brand blue jeans decorated with the image of a shiny cowboy hat on one back pocket and a pair of cowboy boots with tiny rhinestones on the other. At the time I was nine years old and when I saw them I knew I would catch the devil from my classmates the minute they saw me walk by. As everyone knows children can be extremely cruel and after just wearing those odd pants to school once I swore I would never go through that kind of abuse again. This bring up the fact that mothers, wives, and girlfriends should never buy the men in their lives clothes that cannot get dirty, paint splattered, and then torn to the point they become un-wearable.

Only if your husband or boyfriend asks for assistance in picking out clothes should such a task ever be attempted. Of course, this all goes all out the window if said man is about to make a total fool of himself, and then it is at your discretion.

Wives and girlfriends should not freak out if their man needs some alone time. This is where things can get messy, the two sexes, forever locked in a strange dance alternating between love and hate, each have segments that are convinced that they naturally carry all the burdens associated with a relationship. Because of this the various injured parties believes that should get the majority of time to be alone to mentally and emotionally regroup. 

The simple answer to all this posturing is that there is not one. Yes, some individuals permanently carry the burden of the relationship they are involved in but most of the time responsibilities shift from one to the other. A rational couple would sit down and discuss what bothers them and when they would like a chance to slip away and enjoy a movie or a cup of coffee before they take a chainsaw to the other. While we are at it we should all come together for a group hug and to sing “We shall overcome.” Truth be told it is human nature try and exploit an advantage to greatest possible extent at the weaker party’s expense.

While ladies are universally viewed as the weaker party in the male/female relationship dance, mainly because men are often jerks prone to quick violence, women get the edge when it comes for the need for some alone time. Ladies who are financially able can spend a day at the spa without anyone thinking anything about it. Now if a guy wants to spend the day fishing or being just being lazy he is open to a world of acid comments about falling short. The truth is that we all need a little times away from the everyday grind to recalibrate no matter how wasteful our lack of purpose might seem to others.

All this boils down to something husbands and wives should do for their spouse, it is ridiculously simple to the point of being so obvious that we often fail to think of it. Just give the most important person in your life a little consideration and take care of them like you want to be treated.