Often when writing, a character sets to arguing with me about where a piece should go. Best way to handle that is to excuse myself from the story and slam the editor closed on him/her/it1. After a cup of coffee or glass of iced tea, I extend my break catching up with world news and what those (whose blogs) I follow have been up to.
That’s also a great time to explore for new faces and new voices. In an effort to engender a new, more tolerant me, I expose myself to viewpoints I know are not ones normally held by sane people. I want not only to hear what they have to say (most generally a riot of insanity-based humor) but to understand how and why they are inclined to believe the way they do, espousing what I consider pure trash, or at best lunacy. Now you might say, it appears I’ve pre-judged and there is little hope for me to become more tolerant. But hey, I’m trying! I cannot give a specific example, but I have made some interesting discoveries, and have on more than one occasion (three, I think, but who’s counting?) discovered I was (shudder) wrong.
I’ll take some heat here. But I’m thinking:
Athletes’ Foot is not an incurable disease.
You cannot start a “size six club,” banning all sizes not six from membership in your club while insisting you be allowed to join the “one-size-fits-all” or more illustrative, the “size ten” club.
It hardly constitutes proof for you to first deny your sin, then suggest it is your accuser only who has the sin in question (which but of course, makes you innocent?) then finally to completely ignore the sin-issue altogether.
Yelling louder than the other speaker does not establish greater credibility for your argument.
Some kids need to have their asses pounded. Once or twice ought to do it. Problem there is, you gotta start before the kid is allowed to vote, and it sure as hell is not possible to pound the parent’s popo to learn the kid any good. Pounding some parental popo has great general appeal, but it’s not practical.
Very few multi-capital-letter diseases deserve credibility. Okay. Let me restate that. Very few ABCDEF diseases afflict as many people as ABCDEF “sufferers” would have you believe.
Given the same statistic, there being two diametrically opposed interpretations, I’m inclined to doubt the statistics as much as either of the interpretations. Given indisputable facts, I first am compelled to ask what simultaneous indisputable contrary facts have been withheld?
Freud, Einstein, and Howdy Doody agree: there are some genuinely evil and unredeemable people walking around loose who should be caged. If I take that any farther, I run the risk of upsetting even myself.
You cannot be a downtrodden (pick your favorite downtrodden category), insist on special, preferential treatment and special dispensations while screaming for equality. If you want “equal” don’t bother making it first known, you wear silk knickers, are purple, cannot speak English, can’t eat cereal grains, are left-handed, bald, or have dimple in your left butt cheek.
There are some legit handicaps. Okay, not handicaps, disabilities. Okay, not disabilities, personal challenges. Okay, physical or mental disadvantages. If improper nomenclature sticks in your crop, you my good friend, have a priority perception disability, or PPD.
My disability? For social correctness, I cannot tell someone their ass is on fire and their brains have taken vacation.
Fur is bad. Leather is good? What of the poor naugas?
There’s a different heat.* “Heat” also means a speeding baseball, usually when the pitcher hurls a fastball at the batter. It can refer to any ball thrown with speed and hopefully, accuracy.
Got enough years in my pocket I don’t play baseball anymore. Still idle away many afternoons watching high school varsity practices. When they have a home game, I’ll put a buck or two in the “support our teams” canister. In return, I enjoy seven innings of pretty doggone good baseball, accompanied by an aromatic symphony of snack bar hot dogs, chili dogs, garlicky brats, corn dogs, strong coffee, buttered popcorn, and burnt cotton candy. I could watch the game for free, but that strikes me to be wrong.
Claxbury Cougars generally field strong baseball teams. Usually first, no worse than second in the conference. Go to state some years. Regularly challenged by the Winfield Bears, sometimes by the Pittsfield Trojans. One year, it looked to be different.
In an early spring practice that year, Coach Elkins was having fits finding three outfield rifles.2 Likelihood of a successful season came into question. Miz Maverson, spinster High School Literature teacher and staunch Cougar supporter, Leron Tackertt, local service station owner, and I idled in the late afternoon sun, watching practice from the stands behind third base. Leron agreed with my assessment; not disparaging the boys, they just didn’t have arms.3 Well, more they weren’t using what they had as best they could.
Coach Elkins had other problems.4 His first base lacked height, his hot corner man’s glove had a hole in it, and his shortstop had no legs. Coach looked away from the team to choke back a moment of frustration and noticed the three of us in the bleachers.
“Leron!” Coach yelled. “Can you go show those gentlemen in Left, Right, and Center how to throw a baseball?”
“Reckon, Coach,” answered Leron. Leaving Miz Maverson and me, he offered, “’Scuse me folks, gonna go show those boys how to make some heat.”
Leron, not many years out of Claxbury High himself, did just that. Showed them how to turn momentum from chasing down a rocket or getting under a space launch to put their whole body into a graceful, effortless throw from deep nowhere back to the basepath guardians. Made ballerinas of gawky sophomores. Leron became the official unofficial outfield coach.5
Two days before the season opener, Miz Maverson and I relaxed in the bleachers, watching Leron “coach.” There was great improvement in the outfield, relays dependably reached, and hope beginning to glimmer. With Leron settling the outfield, Coach Elkins made progress at first and third. Still likely he’d need to get his shortstop a motor scooter.6 When the boys headed for the showers, Leron joined Miz Maverson and me in the bleachers. Our few minutes’ post-practice chatter had become something of a ritual that spring.
None of us was in a hurry. Leron’s mechanic and pump jockey could close-up if he wasn’t there. They knew Leron was helping Coach. Miz Maverson was all done with school for the day before she sat down with me to watch practice. Her Buick waited patiently just outside the chain link fence. Retired myself, and my missus passed on several years earlier, I wasn’t much of any good to any-one at any-time any-way. Walking home to an empty house wasn’t something that ever required I be in a hurry.
While afternoon toyed with the idea of becoming evening and Leron and Miz Maverson “caught-up,” I relaxed – daydreamed actually – leaving the conversational heavy lifting to Miz Maverson and Leron. That was fine by them. I paid them little attention until we suddenly, quietly, agreed it was time to hurry off.
New Calipers, Blades and Mallets
When the task before you demands everything you can give, make sure the last thing you give is ‘up.’
So far as we know, there’s never been a sunset not followed by a sunrise.
Anyone can make change for a dollar. It takes real grit to change an opinion.
Life comes at you often enough a mad dog, knife fangs of fear and disappointment bared, frothing confusion and hatred, snarling warnings it will bite. Rejoice when instead, life comes at you a puppy washing your face with kisses, slobbering happiness just to see you and hear your voice, or a big Irish Setter bruising your shin with her tail joyously wagging so furiously her whole spine does a serpentine dance.
Recognize life, like your Shepherd, builds hopes for the day’s adventures with you based upon how you greet him each morning. You might not fool your Rottweiler when you lie to yourself, but smile and welcome another opportunity to screw things up every morning because you stand a good chance of fooling yourself. And a pretty good chance at fooling life.
© SP Wilcenski 2020
Lie Detector (One Hundred words)
Detective Bureau doesn’t need a polygraph. They call me in from patrol. They asked; I don’t want to be a detective. Except in court, my time is my own and regular. I’m not admissible in court but seeing a liar squirm, I suggest the next set of questions. That and seeing me silently signal interrogating officers with shakes and nods, intimidates perps into confessions. They think I know. Our confession rate is over seventy-five percent. Division head asked me how I know a perp is lying. I told her, “Easy. I’m allergic to lies. When someone lies, my nose itches.”
Until maybe three years ago, I worked (officially) three AM to three PM herding a remote offshore team. At three AM in the big city, there wasn’t much traffic. No morning commute to speak of. Not leaving the office until well after six7 weekday evenings, home after seven and living a bachelor’s8 existence, I had neither desire nor energy to prep a hearty, healthy solo evening meal. Sleep, gimme sleep.
Several months in, I had all my trousers taken it at the waist. Trust me, that’s not the way you want to go about losing weight.
Circumstances pre-COVID then had me working remote. Still up early, but no city commute saved at least an hour a day. Hours were still long. They bullied me into staying slim. With the extra time, I set up a snazzy exercise routine because with the refrigerator living right next door to my desk, eating habits would certainly change. Irregular and unwise dietary choices, had it not been for my exercise routine would have been disastrous.
Good plan while it lasted. Again, circumstances presented changes, this time dared me to retire. Jury is still out on the decision. Still always, almost always, sometimes, following my exercise plan, most of my exercise and cardio comes from chasing the lawnmower and other yard and housework. The refrigerator seems to have moved closer to my desk. I skip meals less often, rarely, in fact.
Then there were the holidays just past. The upshot is a need to drop about ten pounds to get back to where I was when I “retired,” another ten to reach the goal I’ve been slowly working toward for five years.
My jeans still fit. Comfortably. I was contemplating dropping a waist size. Well, that’s what I thought.
You see, sadly, a neighbor recently passed. The funeral to attend and all. Or at least “visitation.” Guess the Irish call it a wake. The reasons wakes came to be make sense. What we do today makes absolutely no sense at all. Not for the living, and certainly not for the deceased.
I’m hung on respect. Wouldn’t attend a viewing/visitation/wake/funeral/celebration of life in jeans and a pullover. These things call for a suit, preferably dark, at worst a sedate jacket and dark trousers. And a tie. Makes as much sense as a wake, but there you have it, that’s what I feel proper, therefore what I do.
Tried on six suit pants before I found a pair I thought would be comfortable for two or three mostly stand-around hours.
Unh, and most Protestant “celebrations of life” are pretty dreary affairs. Not that I’ve attended or am planning on attending that many. And certainly, no booze. Seriously considering a name change. O’Rourke? O’Reilly? O’Shaughnessy? O’Wilcen?
Now face a modest dilemma. Either I have my slacks let out or get serious about dropping the last twenty pounds. Before you start laying bets, I’ll remind you I’m cheap. An eating less, exercise more schema has two things going for it. Costs less for less food and costs nothing to spend an hour a day exercising.
— Notes –
* There are fourth and fifth common usages of “heat.” Let’s recap: 1) high temperature or to cause a rise in temperature; 2) flak from folks disagreeing with something you say; 3) a well-thrown baseball; 4) a shooter, gun, gat, pistol; and 5) law enforcement agents. On the fourth, I would be inclined to offer a flash fiction link in a heartbeat, but sense already half of my audience (one of two people) is nodding-off.
1 Him and her are of course, obvious. Yes, when I incorporate Clutch, a contrary Hereford, or some other animal, and abstractions like, oh, I dunno, life’s confusions, an angry sky, an inanely babbling mountain brook, I imagine human thoughts and feelings exist there. Human feelings, contrary to what many think, I understand. Thinking in ways I understand, I hope to “understand” better why a brook babbles, what (or if) skies before a thunderstorm feel, then to use understanding these personae and subconsciouses to paint them with words. Or better, to graft them into human characters unfortunately trapped in my writing.
2 Rifles. For my international readers and those stateside who don’t keep up with baseball slang past or present, a “rifle” did and still does describe a good arm. (Ability to chunk the old apple.) Referring to outfielders, it suggests skill running down a ball deep and getting it back to the infield like a shot to keep a run from scoring on a sacrifice or long drive. You don’t think it takes a good arm, or rifle, to “fire” a baseball from three hundred feet and change with accuracy, you should try it once or twice. Some call a hard-thrown ball “heat” but that’s generally reserved for pitchers when they have a decent fastball. You get the idea.
3 Arms. Having an “arm” meant one threw hard and fast, with heat or like a rifle shot. Accuracy is part of the deal, too. Missing your target, no matter how quickly the ball gets there, kind of defeats the purpose, you know. Athletes, like fashion mavens not content to call “lipstick” “lipstick,” will call a “good arm” a “gun.” Go figger.
4 Problems, in the following sentence. First base(man) is usually a tall, lanky player able to reach to catch errant throws and “shorten” the distance the ball must travel. Hot corner man, the third baseman; his glove had a hole in it – he had difficulty fielding the ball. Shortstop had “no legs” meant this player could not cover distance – had no “range.” Shortstops must cover a lot of infield between second and third and into shallow outfield, left, right, and center.
5 (Sigh) this is gonna wear me out. Owe it to my international audience though, both of them. “Rocket” would be a line drive, a well-hit ball with little arc. “Space launch” would be a high fly ball, especially one deep into the outfield. “Basepath guardians” would be infield players.
6 Suggesting he was no quicker, a motor scooter would be necessary to move him quickly from one side of his range to another in time to make a play.
7 The math does make sense. Nine and one-half hours ahead of us, the offshore team would be returning from lunch when I got into my desk mornings. We’d address their issues, I’d set them new goals, and they’d hand me new problems. Long-distance scrum, anyone? However, everyone else in my office worked nine to five, which stretched to six or six-thirty since most everyone worked while waiting for evening rush traffic to dwindle. Integral to offshore and home teams, all home office denizens expected me, even knowing I started well before them, to spend traffic-wait time “coordinating” or answering their questions. Even at six or after, city traffic made my evening commute arduous.
8 Lived in one city, worked in another megacity. Sunday evenings and Friday afternoons were a treat as I commuted from Living City to Working City, and back. You do what you have to do.