Category Archives: Junesboy

Life Under the Hedge; 2 – A Chinwag

Janie and I live under a four-to-seven-foot high hedge of trumpet vine on top of a six foot brick wall.

This would be a good moment for you to read the previous blog entry concerning the hedge; Life Under the Hedge.

The hedge is lush, green, and geographically greedy.
The hedge is insidious, persistent, and smug.
The hedge is reassuring, constant, and protective.
The hedge has tendrils, flings seed wisps that fly like Saharan dust, and networks well.
The hedge is sentient.
The hedge is chatty.

“You did a helluva job on those Japanese beetles this afternoon.”

“Thanks. You see what they’re doing to our knockouts? They’re shredding the leaves!”

“They’re determined. They’re hungry. But you took care of ‘em. You looked like a gunslinger out there with your hose set on ‘JET’, bangin’ and splashin’ ‘em off the roses. It was impressive. You were like a Master Blaster Gardener. I didn’t know ya had it in ya.”

“Mock if you must, but it got rid of the bugs.”

“Granted. The filthy beetles vanished……and returned in ten minutes…still hungry…still determined…and somewhat less filthy for the shower you provided.”

“@#$!%&^*”

“Eloquently put. Might you have a Plan B?”

“I do, as matter of fact. I’ve got some spray coming that should take care of the problem. It’s an organic soapy insecticide spray.”

“An organic soapy insecticide spray… Doesn’t quite have the same terrifying ring to it as ‘Raid’ or ‘Agent Orange’. I’m imagining you in a Master Blaster Gardener baseball cap and a white Windex-type spray bottle screaming; ‘I love the smell of an organic soapy insecticide spray in the morning! It smells like victory!!’……feeble.”

“What does a hedge know about Apocalypse Now?”

“I have tendrils. The Lowe’s next door watched it on Netflix last week. I was diggin’ the Doors music, but Brando and Hopper jumped the shark for me. It’s a great film, but Conrad’s story is better.”

“Agreed. Hey, wait, what does a hedge know about ‘Heart of Darkness?’”

“You have it in your library.”

“…AND you have tendrils…”

“I also have dim hopes for your organic soapy insecticide spray and fear for your self-esteem and the roses. Might you have a Plan C?”

“Ya know, you could help. Isn’t this what a wall is supposed to do? Keep out unwanted foreigners?”

“No, no, no. First of all, I’m a hedge, not a wall. The wall has no tendrils. The wall doesn’t talk and a wall can’t stop hungry and determined. Stop listening to Trump. You were raised better than that.”

“Yes…yes, I was……”

“Let’s see how the organic soapy insecticide spray works. Maybe it’ll be sensational and we can brainstorm a different name for it.”

“How ‘bout Master Blaster?”

“I said ya looked good with that hose.”

“…gotta get a hat…”

“That’s the ticket.”

Life Under the Hedge

Janie and I live under a hedge.

No, we’re not hobbits…though it’s a tempting notion.

No, we’re not deluded…I’m pretty sure.

No, we truly live under a hedge.

Almost 20 years ago, we built a brick wall behind our house. By design, it has missing bricks in a pattern that enables you see through it. It has a mighty trellis on top of it and an iron gate with a heron silhouette.

When it was completed, on the guidance of the wall’s designer (our friend, Sanford Pollack), we planted trumpet vine next to the wall. We didn’t quite follow Sandy’s guidance as faithfully as perhaps we should have. His suggestion to plant one vine was utterly disregarded. It looked so puny. So…we planted six.

As the vines grew and became one, we threaded it into the wall itself and eventually, into the trellis. We removed any trace of green below the trellis, but let the vine run amok above.

The result?

Today, under the trellis, the vines are 1-4 inch woody snakes entwining the bricks. They resemble Hugh Lofting’s line drawings of trees in his “Dr. Doolittle” books or the various dancing trees in Fleischer cartoons. Those squiggly sequoias support the hedge above the trellis.

The hedge is about 30 feet long and ranges from 4-7 feet high above the trellis, reaching a peak of about 13 feet above the ground, and is quite impenetrable. It’s dense, green, and celebrates each summer with hundreds of clumps of butter-yellow and orange-red trumpet blossoms. I’m told it was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite garden plant. I share his opinion except when I’m combatting the hedge’s myriad “volunteers” that insinuate themselves everywhere at the rate of several inches a day.

I love living under the hedge despite the constant battle with its efforts of expansion.

– It’s on the weather side of the house and garden. Its mass offers at least the illusion of some natural defense against natural assaults.

– When cirrus-eyed poets from pre-drone days wonder at “How many colors of blue make up the sky?” and speculate on eyes watching us “make love well” from above, I’m happier with the illusion of privacy the hedge offers.

– In winter when the vines are denuded of their foliage, I’m encouraged when the hedge becomes a chattering condo for tiny nesting birds, though the heron gate beneath suffers the indignity of the resulting guano rain.

Yes, I love living under the hedge, and weirdly enough, despite my determined eradication of its invasive offspring, I think the hedge patronizes me and thinks me to be of some interest.

Otherwise, why would it speak to me?

(Cue the theme from “The Twilight Zone”)

Cannabis, Candor, & Courtroom Drama

“Thank you for your candor, Mr. Lay-zer.” the judge intoned, and with that I knew my fate had been determined.

It was around 2005 and I was in my 13th month of jury duty. At that time, federal jury duty called for 10 days of actual service or one year of being “on call”. The clock, however, did not begin until you had actually been called and served the first day. I had, by the time this call was issued been “on call” for 13 months. It felt like a side hustle at an occasional $15 dollars a day and a lot of worry and schedule-shifting.

This jury call was unusual. I was accustomed to reporting to a jury pool of 25-30 people, but when I had surrendered my phone for the day and passed the metal detector, I entered a juror’s room packed with 80-100 bleary souls.

There aren’t many comforts in a jury room, but there is coffee and I wonder about that. I mean, you’re pretty well limiting how long a court session can be when you immerse the jury pool (note the choice of words there) with java. Someone’s gonna have to pee or they’re gonna get pissed. Of course, it could increase the alacrity of the jury’s deliberations and save a little time there. Comme-çi comme-ça.

This was a big trial from out of town, moved to Lexington because of local notoriety in Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati. Thus, a large jury pool was summoned.

I gathered from the voir dire, the two defendants were accused of possessing a semi-truck full of marijuana, intending to informally retail same. I learned after the trial, that one of the defendants, instead of making that “one phone call” to his lawyer, placed the call to his girlfriend who was just then firing up the grill for a celebratory cook-out at their apartment homestead. Being an adaptable, quick-thinking gal, she ran to freezer and removed several chunks of cold cash and surplus inventory from the semi and employed them to get the charcoal started. The police arrived soon enough to preserve some evidence but not soon enough to prevent an escape of intriguing fumes. I understand attitudes improved and vocabulary decayed in Cincinnati for about a week.

Uh…that last paragraph…

…if you scrambled all the words in it and subtracted every other letter and divided by two and had a beer and squinted real tight, it might spell; “urban legend”…or not……oh, wow!

Whatever.

In court, the judge began the day by wishing the jury a “good morning” and then turning to the attorneys and wishing them the same. The prosecuting attorney, a local fellow, returned those good wishes. The defense attorney did as well, adding that being from Cincinnati, he admired the quaintness of such civility as a “good morning” in a courtroom. I, having just interpreted his comment as being called a hick, made a mental note that if I ever was caught with a semi-truckload of marijuana and made to miss a real interesting cook-out, his would not be my first phone number to call, even if it was a cute number.

I glanced at the judge and thought I caught a flicker of “Well, bless your heart and fuck you” in his visage.

I felt we were simpatico.

Actors are often foolish that way.

Voir dire began.

The judge, in order to expedite the process, decided to ask some basic winnowing questions to the group. Useful queries like;

  • Is anyone here not a US citizen?
  • Does anyone here not speak English?
  • Does anyone here not know how many fingers are on their left hand?
  • Does anyone here not have a pulse?

We handled those pretty well as a group.

Then he asked a hard one – I wanna be sure I get it right;

“Does anyone here think…let me say this right…uh…marijuana is illegal…should it…maybe it…well…uh…lemme just say it. Does anyone here think marijuana should be legal?”

I raised my arm, confident in the belief that it would be lost in the forest of other raised arms.

My arm was a specimen tree, alone in a sunny field, commanding the attention of every eye in the universe.

<< A side note, if I may. >>

I had determined early on in the jury process that the best way to repel being selected for a panel was to look as much like a 2005 Republican as I could. I showed up every day dressed in gray slacks, blue blazer, light blue Oxford button-down shirt, double-Windsor-knotted tie (red, white, and blue foulard), short hair, and glasses…and flag pin. If I coulda found a place to slap on a flag decal, I woulda. I think it kept me out of a few juries, but it made me the foreman of almost all of the juries for which I was selected. Comme-çi comme-ça.

This side note is only important to truly depict what the judge saw when his eyes followed my specimen tree arm down to the rebellious source that raised it.

<< End of side note. >>

Where were we?

Oh yes.

My arm was a specimen tree, alone in a sunny field, commanding the attention of every eye in the universe.

The person in the seat next to mine subtly adjusted his seating choice by two to the right.

The judge gazed, open-mouthed, in my general direction. I suspect he was reconsidering the accuracy of his “good morning” greeting.

An exchange of information ensued.

“Your juror number, sir?”

“Juror number 73, your honor.”

“(Consulting his print-out) Mister……Lay-zer?”

“Close enough your honor.”

“Mr. Lay-zer, did you understand the question?”

“I think I did, your honor.”

“So…you are saying you believe that possessing, selling, and using marijuana should be legal?”

“I do, your honor. I have been in the alcohol retail business for over thirty years. It seems to me that it would be hypocritical for me to believe marijuana should not be legal.”

“I see…”

A longish pause before the judge continued; “Believing as you do, do you believe you could render an impartial verdict based on the facts to be presented at this trial?”

“I think I could, your honor. You are asking me to make a decision based on the law as it is, not as I think it should be. I think I’m capable of that.”

“Hm-m-m-m. Well, thank you for your candor, Mr. Lay-zer.”

I knew then I was about to get the rest of the day off.

I made another mental note. If I ever was caught with a semi-truckload of marijuana and made to miss a real interesting cook-out, I would not want this particular judge.

BUT, if I was the taxpayer lookin’ to keep juries fair and impartial…I might.

The Clan Assembles

Unbeknownst to Lexington, a Clan assembles for an evening of mayhem.

The South is renowned and mostly disowned for its Klan. Dividing and judging people by the shades of their skin…foolishness. Politically and physically acting on that foolishness…shameful. We know better.

Dividing and judging people for what’s going on voluntarily in their bedrooms…foolishness.

Dividing and judging people……foolishness.

We have important and glorious things to do with our days and we need the talents of everyone to do them. Could we please keep our eye on the ball here?

But…

…this is not that kind of clan.

Instead of the KKK, one could call this group, the CCC (Classical Cinema Clan).

One could.

To avoid confusion, one should reveal that “Classical” refers to the age of the members rather than the quality of the films. This octet has amassed over 500 years on this planet. I can’t accurately speak to their whereabouts before then, though I harbor suspicions.

One would assume that in 500+ years, some wisdom would have also been amassed and perhaps it has, but that’s not what this assemblage is about. No, the CCC is probably about as foolish as the KKK, but much more benign. Their foolishness is much more centered on good pizza and happily bad movies than lynching and gerrymandering. Their rants tend to be more about the uselessness of ubiquitous standing ovations on the theatrical stages of Lexington rather than Hillary’s emails or Stormy’s career choices.

While I personally believe our country is diminished by the hijinks of the KKK, I can’t honestly assert that Lexington is in any way enhanced by the activities of the CCC. Who is made better by our devouring (inhaling?) of an “Ultimate Warrior” from Puccini’s Smiling Teeth or a “Hudson” from Big City Pizza, followed by a double-feature of War Gods of Babylon and Carry on Cleo?

Well…of course WE are…but the pleasures are ephemeral at best and the digestive dreams that ensue rival those of Dickens’ Scrooge.

Be that as it may, no damage is done by the CCC. No animals are harmed – in fact, Chloe the wonder pup and the only female in the group, scores big from “pizza bones” slipped to her clumsily and surreptitiously by the easily charmed clansmen.

We assemble in the kitchen, munching on beer cheese and chips, drinking wine, bourbon, beer, and herbal tea, filling the time until the pizza arrives with stirring accounts of various physical ailments (500+ years, remember?). That sounds deadly dull and it is but it doesn’t last long. The discussion morphs quickly into passionate descriptions of current projects of the clansmen. Here, I should point out this group is comprised of a painter, a director, an attorney, a writer, an actor, a teacher, a critic, and a junesboy…all occupations that our current governor would consider useless. The members of the group always have something going on; a script, a play, a showing, a concert… And every one of this group has performed on stage. Thus, there is always much to discuss.

 

The Writer has just finished a new play and, not being averse to a little self-promotion, offers; “Richard III got a bum rap.”

The Lawyer; “So…you’re sayin’ Shakespeare was puttin’ out fake news?”

The Teacher; “Maybe he’s a victim of the Deep State.”

The Actor; “Oh yeah. I got yer Deep State right here.”

The Critic snorts and giggles ominously.

The Director; “I remember one day in Montana I drove 836 miles to watch some Udder Pagans play baseball and do some unmentionable things to local cows. I remember thinkin’ that Montana was a Big State and perhaps an Odd State, but I never remember thinkin’ it was a Deep State…and I don’t think I ever met anyone named Dick there.”

This was met with a significant pause as we pondered all the images and possibilities sparked by that pronouncement.

Finally the painter summed it all up; “What kind of pizza did you order and what are we watchin’ tonight? Any pulchritude on deck?”

Junesboy answered; “I ordered copious pizza – the best kind. As for the flicks, I thought we’d start out with some old trailers, followed by an old local commercial featuring The Actor talkin’ ‘bout a rubber ducky, and then move on to the Ed Wood rarity; Devil’s Night Orgy.”

The Painter replied; “I’m very happy.”

Not Knowing…

In Edgar Rice Burroughs’ first Tarzan book; TARZAN OF THE APES, there is a moment…

The novel’s not well-written. It may Burroughs’ best, but it’s not good. There are holes in the plot that could swallow houses. I, of course, love it. It’s imaginative. It’s exotic. Hangin’ out with apes…what’s not to love? It’s like eternally living in Animal House, or tailgating seven days a week and never having to actually go to the game.

So.

Very.

Sweet.

But there’s this moment…

Tarzan is beginning to fathom that he’s not an ape, but a man…whatever that is. He’s been raised by apes. He lives as an ape. He’s not sure of the difference but he’s aware there’s a difference. His closest companion, an ape, is killed by a man. Tarzan stalks the killer, is attacked, and slays the man.

He’s hungry. This slain man…is he available for consumption? Is he different from a slain boar? If Tarzan is a man…does man eat man?

“Alas, not knowing, he stays his hand and lowers the man to the ground.”

It’s 1968.

Summer spent as an intern at an outdoor theater, meant unpaid servitude. A day of preparing breakfast, attending classes, assisting rehearsals, singing to diners, setting up chairs, preventing attendees from falling into the fire pit, and listening to the terminally tedious curtain speech was behind me and there was still twenty minutes or so of sunlight for the other interns and me to sneak off to the nearby pool house.

I recall a young lady from another state, her eyes at half-mast, purring; “I could use a Coke. If you could get me a Coke, I could be real good.”

Was that an invitation?

Was that consent?

In 1968 what the hell did “consent” mean and why should I care?

All I knew was I was on fire with a mission. I pity anyone who got between me and a Coke at that moment. I acquired the Golden Fleece and presented that fizzy Holy Grail to the damsel in need.

Now what?

…not knowing, he stayed his hand…

The arts, even the cheap, poorly written arts, can be powerful reinforcements for our better angels.

What’s a Junesboy?

thoreau-01What’s a Junesboy?

I hear the question. It’s not a terribly important question, nor terribly interesting, but if ya wanna know…

Three answers leap to my mind. A Junesboy could be;

  1. Beaver Cleaver, the son of June and Ward Cleaver on television in LEAVE IT TO BEAVER.
  2. Timmy in the LASSIE television show (his mom was played by June Lockhart).
  3. Any young man whose father was named after his father and whose relatives couldn’t be bothered to pronounce more than one syllable.

Here’s a hint; answer #3 is the largest group.

I was ten or eleven years old and attending the visitation of a funeral of one of my dad’s relatives in Anothertown, Kentucky. I didn’t know who.

In Kentucky then, visitations could be as long as a flight to South Africa and feel as long as a flight to the moon to a pre-teen…with better food, though. I spent the eternity of the day wandering from room to room of the funeral home, simultaneously seeking stimulation and invisibility. Neither seemed available in this venue. Keep in mind these were horse-and-buggy days before the internet and smart phones. Instead, we had conversation.

O-o-o-o-o-kay.

As Socrates might query; “How’s that working for you?”

In those “good ol’ days” adults could lie, exaggerate, or just be wrong loudly with a pretty fair amount of impunity, and if caught, be politely ignored in their factual transgressions, especially if aimed at someone younger…or female…or from more than 30 miles away (20, if north)……and you could say any damn thing you wanted to a minority – what the hell were they doin’ there anyway?

This is how I remember visitations in the 60’s. Unlike much of today’s world, civility in today’s visitations seem to have improved. It occurs to me; talk radio, social media, and Russian bots have subsequently siphoned away some of this need to vent mendaciously, face-to-face. Just a thought…

Needless to say, “conversation” was not working for me on that particular day.

I spent the day having adults squint at me and say; “Yer June’s boy aren’cha?” I gaped in response. It was the only tool I had in the box at that age.

It was a long, long day.

I glazed over so much and so often I recall thinking if they made Glazing Over an Olympic event, I might have a shot at a medal.

On the drive home I related my experience to my dad. He explained that his father (my Papaw) was named “William” and that he had been named William, Jr., but growing up in Western Kentucky, everyone just called him “Junior” or “June”. Somehow that made me feel like I was part of some sort of a secret society of “June’s boys” who might rise up someday and force adults to tell the truth and get on with life a little quicker.

I confess to some disappointment with how that turned out.

Baseball on Gay Place

A memory of an older Lexington.

Great.

Now I’m gonna want a Dodger Dog all night.

I know I’ve mentioned once or twice…or perhaps a hundred times before how much I love baseball. I come by this infatuation honestly and early.

I grew up in North Lexington, on a street named Gay Place. Go ahead, snicker if you wish, but all it meant to us then was that it made it easy to fill out any forms requiring a home address. I didn’t need to write out street names like “Henry Clay Boulevard” and “Avenue of Champions” until much later in my intellectual development. To be perfectly accurate, the street was South Gay Place and yes, there was and still is a North Gay Place. Today I suppose we would call this configuration a cul-de-sac, but in the late 50’s/early 60’s the only French we knew was French’s Yellow Mustard (See? Completely obsessing on those Dodger Dogs).

On Gay Place, in the summer, we played baseball all the time, everywhere, and with all kinds of equipment.

We mowed the vacant field behind our street and played on the stubble. The field was severely canted on a hill. What did we care? Yes, the run uphill to first base was arduous and rarely successful, but if you made it, you could attain Olympic speed from first to third. Flat is seriously over-rated.

We played intense wiffle ball. We would locate the densest shrub in the neighborhood and put home plate in front of it. That eliminated the need for a catcher. I recall one memorable game when my participation was cut short after I reached into the catcher/bush to retrieve the ball and retrieved a wasp nest instead.

We played in driveways using a fishing cork for the ball and a broomstick for the bat. Our eyes were better then.

My favorite games were played in our backyard. The ground rules were remarkable and vital to know to determine a winning strategy.

  • A ball hit over the right field fence was a home run UNLESS;
    • It crossed over my dad’s vegetable garden. Then it was a foul ball. If it landed in the garden, it was an out – no, it was the ultimate out. We weren’t allowed to play anymore that day. OR…
    • …if the unsympathetic neighbors (probably hockey fans) who lived in the house over the right field fence were home. Then the ball hit over the right field fence was considered un-retrievable until they left home and the game was over or suspended until such time.
  • A ball hit over the left field fence was considered to be “in the outfield”. It could be caught on the fly for an out or fielded to hold the runner to a single or a double. UNLESS…
  • …it was a ball hit over the left field fence AND traveled beyond the tree in the middle of the neighbor’s back yard. That was considered to be a home run and would invariably initiate an argument over the distance measurement of such vitriol it would dwarf today’s chats between Clinton and Sanders supporters.
  • Games would continue until twilight, at which time we would switch to horseshoes, just to irritate ALL the neighbors.

No matter which incarnation of “baseball” we happened to be playing each day, the score for each game was meticulously kept and just as meticulously forgotten the next day. Players switched teams with complete fluidity. Feelings were hurt…and healed. People were offended…and survived. Heroes were made…and humbled. The sun set…and then rose again. We could spell “Gay Place”, but we couldn’t spell “Republican”, or “Democrat”. We had heard of the Reds and the Yankees, but we had never heard of conservatives or liberals. If, in the middle of the game, we felt the call of nature, we ran home or to a neighbor’s house or behind the catcher/bush and no one checked any birth certificates about it.

We had all the time in the world, but there was no time to waste on foolishness like that. We had a game to play.

Oh yeah, I love baseball. I earned the right to that love. Those wasps…!

Chapter Three; Cabana Daydreamin’

This is the third chapter because it is the third written. It may not actually end up being chapter three – does that make sense?

Whatever.

This is preceded by blog entries; “It Was a Close Day” and “Though the Booking Glass”. If you’re a chronological sort (guilty here), you might look at those.

 

Chapter Three; Cabana Daydreamin’

It looked like a dive.

It wanted to look like a dive.

But what kind of dive featured brunch? With Eggs Nova Scotia and Mimosa’s – good ones?

And there was the jukebox, the old soda shop kind at every table, with tabs on the bottom to flip that displayed the 45’s available for play – hit sides and flip sides.

And the mahogany walls…well…the heavily and redly varnished tongue-and-groove looked like mahogany…if you wanted it to and you squinted a bit. That pressed metal ceiling however, would’ve been expensive to fake.

Maybe it was a dive of sorts, but it was a dive with a lively clientele. On any given night, you might see a local oil-painting legend and his goat, a gentleman from a fine thoroughbred-breeding family in the garb of a drive-thru carhop (fully attired in roller-skates and angel wings), narcotics undercover agents that everyone knew and flirted with, lawyers, dentists, judges, teachers, preachers… and if someone played Artie Shaw’s version of “Begin the Beguine” on the jukebox, it would be a deadly race to see who among this population would be the first to leap (or crawl depending on the age of the contender or the number of drinks consumed) to the top of the bar to prove that America’s got talent years before television took over that function.

It was a real good time.

It was the Cabana Club.

At this moment though, it was a slow time at the Cabana, a sluggish couple of hours between lunch and the dinner/drinking crowd. There was one couple at a table trying to figure out what to say next to each other that would be effective but not too direct. There were a few barflies sagging over their second or third time-killers (depending on how much soul-cipherin’ was required this afternoon). Morey Duke was in the kitchen contemplating dessert while scribbling the evening’s menu specials. Paulie Gasper was holding court.

Paulie was the waiter/bartender/maître d/dishwasher/cook of the Cabana. Essentially, anything the owners (Joe and John) didn’t want to do that day became Paulie’s lookout.

But it was a slow time just now, so Paulie was perched on a bar stool overlooking the room and it seemed to be an excellent time to read the just-delivered afternoon paper……out loud.

Paulie was a local actor – probably the best Concord had to offer. Consistent acting work was scarce in town (paying or non-paying), while the need for an audience was in plentiful supply. Paulie surveyed his domain and determined that bedazzled and befuddled low-rent rendezvous wannabes and blurry midday philosophers would suffice as an audience. Joe and John had fled in the heat of the afternoon so there were no sober, adult voices to stop him.

“Ha!”

Paulie’s “Ha!” could cut through the thickest haze, be it composed of alcohol or hormones.

But just in case…

“Ha!” he re-barked.

“Check out this play review by our local Frank Rich.

‘Of the actors involved in Piecework Theatre’s latest effort; “Belfast or Bust”, the least said the better with the exception of a seductive performance by Stella Nolan. Ms. Nolan purrs her dialect with heat and commands the stage like a jungle princess after a warm rain.’

“What the Christ does that even mean? I wish he would just fuck her and get it over with!”

Paulie held for applause.

It came in the form of slightly belated, ragged laughter.

John Prine describes moments like this accurately; “Well, ya know, she still laughs with me, but she waits just a second too long.”

Paulie thought it might be best to refrain from holding out for an encore. Besides, just as he was delivering his punchline on the review, he’d felt something; a bend in the room, a quiver in the afternoon light, a sussuration on the jukebox (Percy Sledge offering some painful, keening psychoanalysis of “When a Man Loves a Woman”)…something…or nothing.

Morey popped up at the kitchen window. He fluttered his eyes and waved his finger in the air. Paulie went to him.

Morey stuttered; “Did you feel that? I think the boys are back in town!”

(Oh, yes-s-s-s. To be most likely continued.)

Chapter Two – Through the Booking Glass

This is Chapter Two – a continuation of an entry entitled; It Was a Close Day. You might want to scroll back and read it first. -RLL

Benjamin Andante wobbled a bit, stabilized himself, and visually assessed the shop; not an easy thing to do just now. The light was strange. Romantics would call it sepia-toned but they’d be selling it short. It was golden. Every spine of every book was a lighter or darker shade of gold. Every drifting mote of dust was golden and there were a blue million of those.

“S’pose that would technically be a gold million. Blue million…wonder where that comes from?” He made a note (for real, not mental) to look it up. He took the note, pulled a piece of Scotch tape, and stuck the note on the shelf nearest the book shelf marked “Economics”.

“Scotch tape”…why “Scotch”? Another note was duly made and attached to the shelf marked “Gaelic”.

He shuffled over to the front window. The outside heat radiated through the letters on the glass;

“pohS .T .I .A .B regooC & etnadnA”

And under that;

skoo-B

dn-A

gniugirtn-I

stibdi-T

He noticed the fluttering of paper across the street. The newspaper flickered in the hands of a more-than-amply-haired young man, sitting on his butt, leaning back on the front of the chili parlor, gaping at the bookstore like he’d just seen…what?

…A light on the road to Damascus?

…A close encounter?

…His mama kissing Santa Claus?

“Well…” Ben thought; “Close, but no cigar.”

Then it hit him;

“Uh-oh.”

From the back of the shop came a familiar, and uncomfortable “plonk”, followed by two more; “plonk, plonk”, and a growl; “This bastard’s gonna be a bitch to tune.”

“Sam, you just used ‘bastard’ and ‘bitch’ in the same sentence referring to the same object.”

“Well, I guess that’s just the kinda goddam’ poet I am.” Sam Cooger replied from the depths of the alcove marked “Counter-Culture Studies”. Four pristine copies of “Big Table” literary digest sacrificed their pristine-ness in a suicidal plunge to the floor in protest of the banjo assault.

The banjo chirped obliviously; “plonk-PLONK plonka plonk” in a key unfamiliar and just as uncomfortable to Schoenberg.

“Dammit!”

“Sam, we may have a problem. There’s a kid across the street. I think he may have seen us come home.”

“Do I need to kill the son of a bitch?”

“No…not yet……but he’s comin’ this way.”

 

(perhaps to be, yet again, continued)

It Was a Close Day

It was a close day.

Summer afternoons in Central Kentucky can be that way. They portend delicious summer nights, viscous and promising.

We call a day “close” because it wraps itself around you; a lover that wants more and then more. It closes in on every cranny of you, insisting on your total attention and concentration. It obliterates free will. It obliterates independent thought and movement. It ridicules quickness. It ferrets out any remnant of energy and smilingly, triumphantly commandeers it for its own. And you have no objection. The southern night will soon follow…promising, remember?

This was a close day indeed.

Heat, yes… Humidity, certainly… And an impending doom or salvation in the form of a draft lottery. The air was saturated. All kinds of dew points were high.

The sidewalk was certifiably warm on Cayton’s butt as he squatted under the awning of Streemer’s at the corner of Grove and Proclus. He was waiting for the evening newspaper to be dropped at the stand.

Streemer’s was renown in the county as serving the best chili in town. The Iconic Basketball Coach at the college had pronounced it as such and was believed to consume serious quantities of the stuff every other day. Fans without season tickets, wishing to catch a glimpse of the Iconic Basketball Coach, would patronize the restaurant and dutifully order the chili, or peer into the establishment through the street windows. But today wasn’t “chili” weather and it wasn’t basketball season. It was a slow day at Streemer’s. Cayton had the sidewalk and the newspaper stand to himself.

There were two businesses across Proclos Street, a florist and a shop that apparently sold pianos and cacti. It seemed to be a slow day for them too. 86 degrees, chili, flowers, pianos, and cacti…Cayton couldn’t imagine anyone’s shopping list requiring a visit to this shopping mecca. Strangely enough, his did.

He needed information; detailed information.

The results of college had been……mixed for Cayton. Classwork had been a disaster for two years, but theatre work had been challenging and exhilarating. He suspected the success in one area compromised the other – duh. He didn’t care. He loved the theatre. He loved rehearsing. He loved the emotional exploration. He loved the puzzle of script and character. He loved the audience. He loved to speak loudly. He loved to sing…yes, loudly. And, God help him, he loved to pretend to be someone else. Most people travel geographically to expand their experience – he traveled through characters and stories for same reason. For him, it was a fair trade and reasonable choice; skip Physics 101 – rehearse “Measure for Measure” instead. “Be absolute for death. Either death or life will thereby be the sweeter.” made more sense as a way to spend time than bending a stream of water with a comb.

There was a “rub” in the trade, however.

It wasn’t money. These were days when student debt was a non-factor. A semester’s in-state tuition was in the $120-150 range in the early 70’s. No, it wasn’t money.

It was freedom.

While theatre work made Cayton a bigger, happier, and more valuable person, it did not maintain his deferment from the draft. Because of his sterling academic record, his deferment was about to evaporate.

Not to worry. The draft lottery had been held earlier today. Each date of birth was drawn and given a random number; 1-365. Eligible men would be drafted in that order. Cayton had done the math (he was dedicated to an unusual path of study but he wasn’t stupid) and felt pretty good about his chances. 80-90 numbers is about what would be drafted. Higher numbers were assumed safe forever after that. He needed to know so he could get on with his next show.

The evening newspaper was the easiest and fastest way. Cayton didn’t have a TV and even if he did, the network news didn’t come on till six and they wouldn’t waste their precious half hour giving out all 365 results. Ditto for the AM radio news; five minutes at the top of every hour? How much detail could they provide?

Cayton was sweating. He was out of the direct sun and the odds were in his favor, but it was a close day and the moment was at hand. His head was swirling.

“I got this. It’s OK. I’m supposed to be off book for tonight’s rehearsal. Who the hell buys a cactus from a piano store? Look at the heat waves over the street. Act two tonight – don’t have much to learn. Look at the buildings shimmer. How am I gonna explain this? I won’t have to. The odds are in my favor. No sweat. So what if I’m drafted – I’ll go to Canada. It’s cooler there. I’m sweatin’. I got this.”

The newspaper’s panel truck pulled up. The driver climbed out and opened the back and hauled out a stack of papers. He carried it over to the stand and cut the strings that bound the stack. Cayton shuffled over. The driver looked at him; “You waitin’ for these? Here, it‘s on me.” Cayton took the paper back under the awning and unfolded his future. The story was on the bottom of the front page, but the details were on page three. He flipped the pages and checked the chart for his birthday.

His number was 12.

He sat hard on the cement. The day sat hard on him. The day was no longer close – it had arrived.

He squinted out from under the awning into the glare of summer and truth reflected off the three stores across the street.

Three?

The piano store, the book store, and the florist…

Book store?

(perhaps to be continued…)