Find a Character Anywhere

This one surprised even me:

The temp on my patio hit 98 degrees; heat index is much higher.  With the weedy grass in the front yard two feet high, I felt compelled to mow, but I got a little trick that I call the Wet Arab.  I don a long sleeve shirt, a pair of long pajama bottoms and dunk myself in the pool.  Then I top off this soppy outfit with Panama hat.  I suppose, I look quite ridiculous.  Who cares?

A neighbor stopped me from my work to discuss a dying tree–more on her property than mine.  While her SUV idled and the chit-chat revved, I was at first chilled in my wet clothes and then began to dry out.  By the end of the conversation I was sweating.  As you may guess, the talk when pass the initial topic of tree.

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Weird Willy

The omens are bad.  Two years ago, a storm blew a baby mockingbird from its tree.  I saved him from my vicious (kidding) Chihuahuas, but I could not put him back in his nest; I dare not climb the spindly branches that his parents chose to build on.  Instead, I placed him in a thick set of Indian Hawthorns and his mother fed him from there.

Weird Willy survived this early trauma, but he was never quite right.  Socially challenged, I’d say, and I don’t think he ever lured a mate.  He went around disrupting other couples and never understood the concept: two’s company, three’s a crowd.  He was amusing though.

Now, I’m afraid he’s been a victim of Mr. Hawk.  First my best friend and now Weird Willy is gone.   

Call me superstitious if you want, but I’m going to be very, very careful for awhile.  Bad luck comes like a train wreck, one car slamming into another.

 

Express Pass

 

January 1996 – July 2011

Handsome, humble and housetrained.  A good guard dog, good eater, good listener and good kisser.  A trustworthy walking companion:  no leash required.  A diligent sentry, until he handed over yard patrol to another able soldier.  For nearly fifteen years, he diligently upheld the ideals of noble dogism.  Salute.

In return I loved, pampered and indulged him.  He never knew a flea, tick or illness, except old age.  Never suffered the bite of a wintry night, the end of a chain or fell out of favor with his pack.

Easter Bunny Goes Out of Business

“I’m late. I’m late,” said Mr. Bunniwunie.

“Indeed, you are,” said Uncle Sam.  “Hand over the pot of gold, for I owe wagons of such tender to places that lay east by east of east of here.”

“A bunny has neither rainbow, nor pots of precious stones.”

“Then I’ll have that pillbox hat and that green felt jacket, which keeps your worthless hide warm.”

“What, pray thee, will become of me?” asked old bunny, handing over all he owned.   

“Pray not,” said Uncle, as he collapsed the hat and slipped in a pocket.  “We separate such things from the reckoning.”  Of the vest, he shredded the fuzzy material and cast it to the wind.

“How did these vestments aid the cause?” asked Mr. Bunniwunie.

“As a citizen of the glen, you may ask,” said Uncle.  “But I shall never tell.  Of this, I will say only one thing: I have deprived you of your trappings as an example, least all bunnies delay to pay.”

“How shall I go forth, naked as I am?”

“Perhaps, you need welfare now,” spoke Uncle with a wink.  “How many offspring have thee?”

“Oh, many,” said Bunniwunie.  “My wife, Alice, and I have a collection of decorated eggs stashed about the shire.  Dyed in pastels of pink, blue and yellow.  Quite extraordinary this year if I say so myself.”

“Eggs, you say.” Uncle pondered.  “Un-hatched eggs are asset of considerable worth.  Are you being evasive?”

“Nay,” the bunny said.  “My business is known about the village.  Every child can vouch for me.  I am familiar to the media, especially this time of the year.”

“Then I shall offer an extension,” Uncle said.  “Sell your eggs and give Uncle a quarter to begin, a third for labor and a half upon the end.”

“Robbery,” protested Mr. Bunniwunie.

“Ssssh, call it not,” said Uncle, bending down low.  He whispered into one of Bunniwunie’s giant ears.  “Hatch your eggs, claim them as dependents, and I shall owe you.”

“Is it better to proliferate, than to toil and propagate my gifts of joy upon the world?”

“Indeed,” said Uncle.  “The Royal Accountant has proclaimed that a trillion taxpayers are required to settle our debt with eastern concerns.”

“But a trillion bunnies upon the glen will burden our resources, strip all things green and leave us hungry in the winter that shall surely come to pass.”

“Tsk, tsk, Mr. Bunniwunie,” said Uncle.  “We must solve one problem at a time.”

The End

Suing a Deity

Suing a Deity

by

C.M. Marcum

The courtroom hummed.  A hundred private and hushed conversations overlapped, as people adjusted their belongings, staked out their seats and prematurely opined on the outcome of my case.  A few snatches of gossip stung my ears, as the whisperers suggested that I didn’t stand a chance, yet none seemed to doubt the validity of my claims.  Voices swelled and ebbed at regular intervals; enthusiasm crested over decorum, and then snapped off abruptly when the audience recognized their own inappropriate volume.

On my side—the Plaintiff’s side—the low whir of chatter came from women.  Half of them flapped their jaws, while the other half leaned forward to get a better look at me.

On the Defendant’s side, men crammed the pews, while simultaneously doing their best not to touch each other.  Predominately baritone, their voices suggested anger mixed with a more fundamental bias.  One man grunted loud enough for everyone to hear:  What’s sup with that bee-ich, anyway?

The A-wipe was talking about me, of course.  I could understand his point of view.  I’m seriously, outrageously over matched.  I’m just an average girl, a plain Jane really.  I did have a lot of gall bringing a lawsuit against a goddess, and now that the trial was actually in motion, I wanted nothing more than to run away and hide.  Foolish, foolish me.  Why did I ever listen to Paul Kernosfkie?

Paul, my pro-bono lawyer and ex-boyfriend, cupped his hand over my sweaty fist and cooed something in a soothing tone.  I didn’t catch the words, but at this point I didn’t want to be coddled; I wanted to flee the county, change my name and vanish from public view.

My gaze drifted over to the Defendant’s table.  F. Lee Bailey, freshly arisen from the grave by the goddess just for this occasion, turned and awarded me with a slow and empathetic grin.  Confidence oozed from his pores, along with an unpleasant stench.  Bailey paused long enough to give my lawyer a smirk too, although there was nothing sympathetic in his face when he glanced at Paul.  It was a Zombie look, a stare that said:  I would like to eat your brains. Paul’s hand jerked away from mine, as he turned his back on the elder and slightly moldy jurist.

Aphrodite sat beside her undead lawyer.  She glowed.  Her aura radiated over the table and cast a semi-circle of light behind her.  The men captured by the cradle of luminous light in the pews behind her, sat in rigid silence, too stupefied to speak or look at anything, except the back of their idol’s head—and a beautiful head it was.  Gold ringlets tumbled over her back.  Her hair seemed to flutter and dance in a breeze that did not exist inside the stuffy courtroom.  I suppose, she’d conjured some mystical air circulation to keep the rotting corpse of Bailey from offending her delicate nostrils, and I suppose it would have been imprudent of me to ask her to include the entire courtroom in that breath of fresh air.  I folded my hands, one atop the other, and stared openly and enviously at her, confident that I was not the first woman to do so.

Aphrodite had donned a traditional toga for her courtroom appearance.  Stylish and yet simple.  Her irises—bigger than a mere mortals and a dark translucent violet—were locked on the judge’s high-backed chair.  I had the idea that it was not unusual for her to stare at a seat of power.  Covet it, even.  I was thinking of Zeus’s throne, of course, not the judge’s seat.  Her chest rose in long, relaxed breaths that drew the eyes to those marvelous and bra-less boobs.  I suppose, F. Lee Bailey, being a dead man, had a certain immunity from her presence.  He exhibited none of the trance-like state that her nearest fans were demonstrating.

The Bailiff called the court to order, breaking my train of thought.  It had begun.  As Paul said, history would be made today.  Never before, in all the centuries of law, had a human brought suit against a deity.  Papers would be filed and kept in secure locations, books would be written and newspapers would be sold.  Already my name flew across the internet and betting parlors were giving me long odds.  Paul would become famous and I would…I would be lucky if I didn’t become the butt-end of every late night comedian’s joke.

The judge took his seat and nodded at the Bailiff.

“Jane Smith verses Aphrodite the Goddess of Love,” the Bailiff said, and he did a pretty good job, too, except when his voice soften on the word love and his knees seemed to buckle a bit.  The Bailiff, a skinny squirrel of a man with thick glasses, glanced at the Defendant, sighed and scurried back to his position beside the judge.

It seemed a short and blunt beginning.  I expected more, but I suppose a civil lawsuit, does not carry all the pomp and rigor of the law that we become accustom to in the movies.

***

“The Plaintiff’s lawyer will make his opening statement,” the judge said.  The judge, a wise and elderly man, kept his eyes averted from the Defendant’s table.  Bless him.  He was trying to be impartial.

“Your Honor,” Paul said, rising from his seat, “my client is suing Aphrodite for pain, suffering and damages.” Paul walked across the room and handed the judge a fat envelope.  “I’d like to enter into evidence several impromptu and nude photographs of my client.  I want the judge and the jury to note that even though my client, Miss Smith, has reached the age of thirty-eight, she still has an above average figure; and, therefore, should be quite appealing to the opposite sex.”

The judged opened the envelope and slid the pictures out.  He sorted through a dozen square 9 x 5’s.  My first instinct was to rush the dais and rip the photos from the judge’s hands.  Paul had never discussed the, incidental, fact that he was going to share nude snap-shots of me with the court.  Where and when did Paul take these pictures anyway, I asked myself. My humiliation was complete, or so I thought.  I gave in to it.  What else was there to do?  I couldn’t just scream, ‘Stop.  Stop, now.  I withdraw the suit.’ Or could I?

There were more photographs; but, apparently, the judge had seen enough.  The Bailiff leaned over the judge’s black robe and took a freebie peek.  Sensing his guardian squirrel, the judge relented and handed the pics to the Bailiff.  The magistrate rested his big head in the cup of his right hand and nodded in the general direction of the seated jury.

I thought my eyes were going to pop free of my head, as I watched the Bailiff sashay across the floor.  Once the photos passed to the jury, I couldn’t look in their direction anymore.  Worse of all, I hadn’t even seen the ‘evidence’ myself, so I had no idea what the pictures looked like. My mind fluttered over the…well, what can I call it?  The one-night stand that Paul and I had shared.  A ratty motel room with flowered wallpaper in the background—that’s what I remembered best—which says a lot about our little tryst.

“Don’t be shy, ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” Paul said.  “Have a good look.  Miss Smith is a perfectly acceptable female form.  I want you to know, with one-hundred percent assurance, that there is nothing out of the ordinary or abnormal hidden beneath her clothes.  And consider this:  after thirty-eight long, long years my client has never been loved.  No, not once.  Love has been denied to Jane.  Time and time again.”  He pointed at me.  “And there is nothing wrong with her face, either.  She’s tried different hair styles and multiple colors, but nothing works for her.”

Pumped with enthusiasm, Paul stomped back to the table and gathered up a sheaf of papers.  I took the opportunity to beg him with my eyes, but he only winked at me.

“I also have several affidavits from many well known dating services and internet corporations, who all state that they have been unable to find a male companion willing to propose to the lonely Miss Smith.”  Paul fluttered the papers in the air and took a deep breath, ready to forge ahead.  “I will also produce several witnesses who will testify that Miss Smith has a pleasant if somewhat sedate personality.”

Paul walked back to the judge.  At this point, my lawyer let his shoulders slump and he turned his hands out, in a gesture of being at a loss for words, which had never been true of Paul for as long as I had known him.  He made a show of regrouping himself.

“In summation, your Honor,” Paul said, “A reasonable person can conclude only one reason for this lack of romance and lack of companionship in my client’s life.”  He turned and pointed a shaky finger at Aphrodite.  “The goddess has ordained that poor Miss Smith shall never be loved.”

The goddess gazed at Paul, as if seeing him for the first time, and he seemed to shrink inside his power-blue suit.  Even his tie sagged, but he bravely held his ground.  Paul wanted, above all things, to be a famous lawyer; or, failing that an infamous one.

“We mortals may ask ourselves why the goddess has done this,” Paul said.  “But why is not the question that this jury faces.  The defendant’s guilt is obvious, to any reasonable person, and my client has suffered and will continue to suffer.  Maybe she will never know love.   Unless the goddess relents, Miss Smith may die as a bitter old maid.”

I began to cry.  I suppose my tears could have been mistaken for perfect timing, but I didn’t plan it.  Paul had always been good at making me cry.  The six women in the jury box brought hankies to their faces.  Sympathy.  Oh, how I hated sympathy.

“The Plaintiff rests,” Paul said and finally sat down.  He actually had the unmitigated nerve to smile at me.  I squeezed my hands together, praying that my degradation was over.

***

“The Defense will give its opening statement,” the judge said and my belly threatened to erupt.

F. Lee Bailey begged the court’s pardon and requested to remain seated—owing to the fact that one of his legs had rotted off.  Indeed, his right leg was tucked discreetly under his seat like a forgotten umbrella.  The judge nodded.

“Your Honor,” Bailey said and his voice boomed across the room. The jury swayed back from this vocal pounding.  He may have lost certain body parts, but death had not weakened his vocal cords.  “This is a frivolous lawsuit.  Nothing can be proven.  Can we divine all the reasons that men find Miss Smith unattractive?  No amount of naked photographs can tell us about all the missed cues in her romantic endeavors or replace lost telephone numbers or negative rumors that might abound.”  His voice softened and the tempo slowed.  “Perhaps her pheromones emit an aroma that men find debilitating.  Perhaps her well is dry.  Perhaps she does not shave her legs at regular intervals.  Or, perhaps, Miss Smith is just terrible unlucky.  Bless her heart.”

Bailey slammed his hand down on the table.  Two fingers on his right hand rolled away.  The courtroom tittered.  Bailey picked up his errant fingers and slipped them in his pocket.  He smiled to let everyone know that he was a good-sport and not offended by their laughter.

“I would like your Honor and the court to consider the future of the Law.  My client is a deity.  Of what use is a civil law suit, a point of tort or even a criminal judgment?”  Bailey said and continued with hardly an in-take of breath. Do dead men breathe, I wondered.  “Aphrodite owns everything; and, yet nothing on paper.  The plaintiff can gain nothing in monetary fines against my client.  Or, perhaps, Miss Smith expects Aphrodite to take a job as a waitress to pay off her court penalties, should such be awarded, injudiciously, to the Plaintiff?”

The courtroom tittered, again.  It was hard to imagine Aphrodite in a polyester uniform, a wad of gum in her mouth and a miniature pad in her hand.

“What jail could hold my client?” Bailey asked, “And even if this was a capital murder case, what punishment could the court demand?  Aphrodite is an immortal?”  He raised his finger toward the sky.

Bailey shook his head.  Completely ignoring the jury box now, Bailey held his eyes on the judge.

“Your Honor,” Bailey said.  “My client’s guilt is not the question here.  The court’s ability to exact a negative ruling is the question.  The very future and order of the Law, as written by man, is in danger of being over ruled by Zeus, himself.  Will we risk that for the sake of one lonely; and, perhaps, very unlucky girl?”

***

The judge pulled back from his desk and let the idea roil around like slushy water in his brain.  His ruminations lasted about 30 seconds.

“I judge this to be a frivolous lawsuit.  Case dismissed.”  The judge slammed his gravel down.

***

And me?  Well, I’m just glad that it’s over and wondering if I have enough money in my bank account for a ticket to Aruba.

Author’s Note:  Originally  published in Emerald Dragon, August 2010 and listed on Facebook by admin.

The Antique Shop

With his chin nearly touching his chest, Bob stood in the dark cubbyhole, sorting through the tools: a dull hatchet, several hammerheads with no wooden grips, of course, an assortment of wrenches, two warped saws and several broken screwdrivers seemed to be the best of the bunch.  A hand-painted sign on the side of the box read, ‘CHEAP’ but any price was too much.  Nothing sharp and everything oxidized to the point of breakage with very little torque; Bob thought, the sign should read, ‘TRASH.’

Still he looked, carefully flipping the contents with a gloved hand; after all, the local hospital had run out of tetanus shots years and years ago.  Even the pine box that housed the antiques had water stains on it.  He tilted his head back and noted the gray ripples on the ceiling.  The whole store showed a general lack of care.  The owners were probably some left-wing malcontents.

“Damn waste,” he said, speaking to no one in particular, except the swirling dust motes.  Still he kept sorting; half hoping that he’d find some forgotten treasure and one-hundred percent certain that there wasn’t anything else in the shop of any interest to him.  His wife, on the other hand, was always mesmerized by anything from the 21st century.

“Bob,” his wife called.  “What are you doing?”

“I’m just looking at these tools,” he said, tossing a hammerhead back into the rotting crate.

His wife sighed with relief.  “Good,” she said.  “For a moment, I thought you were peeing.”

He pivoted away from the closet, sweeping the sawdust on the floor into dirty, brown drifts that piled up against his boots and frowned at her. Sometimes Martha acted like he didn’t have any civilization about him.

Martha stood on the far side of the store in the Electrical Department.  Something had cocked her interest; he could tell.  She had that sparkle in her eyes and she was bent over some gizmo, rubbing it, checking the price tag and talking to herself.

He moseyed across the floor and stood beside his wife.

“Oh, Bob,” she said, “do you remember these things?”

He did not, but he wasn’t going to admit it.  He lifted the tag and pause for a moment, struggling with the word.  “Sure,” he said.  “It’s a vac-u-ma. And the owners want five whole dollars for it.”  He blew out a breath of air that sounded a lot like, ‘pifft.’

“It’s a vacuum, dear,” she corrected.  “And the tag says that it’s in good working order.”

“Well, obviously they don’t use a vacuum around this place or a stiff broom for that matter.”

“When I was a child, Momma would let me vacuum the entire house,” she said.  Her hand glided over the rubber hose, which had seen better days.  Dry rot, he thought. Rubber just did not hold-up over the years. No doubt, she intended to plug the holes with his precious resin, as if that would work.

He grunted, noncommittally.

“A vacuum sucks up the dust and dirt, like nobody’s business,” she said.  “It made everything so neat and tidy, back in the good ole days.  Vacuums kill fleas too, you know.”

Clearly, his woman was infatuated with the electrical doodad, and that meant it was time to insert some practicality into her dream world.  He stooped down and lifted the butt of the oval canister, as if checking for its sex organs.

“Aha,” he said.  “It says right here:  12.0 AMP.  That’s point-one-two kilowatt hours of electricity.  Outrageous!  Do you think I’m made of money, woman?”

“Oh, but I wouldn’t use it everyday,” Martha said.  “Just once a week.”

“Still too much,” he said.  “You’ll drain the batteries, and you know what happens when the batteries are completely drained.  No, Martha.  It’s not the five dollars for the machine; it’s the cost of running it.”

“Oh, Bob.”

“Next thing you know, you’ll be wanting to pour some toxic cleanser down the toilet to make it all shiny white.”

“I’d never,” she said, hushing him.  “I’m a good citizen.  I’d never pollute the water table.”

People were beginning to stare, but he smiled as Martha moved away from the barmy machine.

Endless

A Word Changes

 

‘Endless, endless, endless.’  I whisper the two syllables over and over, seeking a cozy acquaintance, a sense of the old definition: hope, promise and another chance.  But the word has died, fluttered away to spectral memory.  Echoes remain.

The clock ticks, the yellow pan glows, and the wind pushes winter’s refuse.  Everything is as it was.  Today is yesterday, but it is not.  There is a counting of finality, a tolling of payment due and the veil lifts, oh, so slowly.  Endless lops its suffix.

I feel it, I sense it and I deny it.  Perhaps, I opine, it is personal; my blade of life spinning low.  But I do not feel the draft of a little fan. Somewhere, far away, the grease dries, a belt cracks and Endless runs down.

There is nothing to validate these thoughts.  Yet, neither my fear nor my denial will change the hollow clanking in need of urgent repair.