Lice Isn’t Easy – Humorous Essay by David-Matthew Barnes

A Dash of Whimsy Series –

Come read a fun and humorous essay about a young writer and a school play! You don’t want to miss David-Matthew Barnes’ entertaining work!


Lice Isn’t Easy
by David-Matthew Barnes

My playwriting career began with a typo.

As a child fevered with constant creativity, I lost hours flipping through dictionaries, fascinated by the meaning and sources of words. I conquered all competition at spelling bees, relished in my power to nail grown-up vocabulary like humanitarian and sassafras. I read everything I could get my hands on: TV Guide, cereal boxes, countless Nancy Drew books. While my friends tattooed the playground asphalt with chalky hopscotch squares and x’s and o’s, I devoted recess time to scrawling smudged haikus about sunsets and crocodiles.

I wrote my first short story at the age of seven. The assignment from my second-grade teacher was to write a few paragraphs about Halloween. I was charged with a sweet surge of adrenaline; the rush of a previously unknown exhilaration. No one had ever asked me to write a story before. I accepted the challenge and sharpened my No. 2 pencil. Lead hit paper and I experienced a state of reverie. While other kids wrote about ghosts and candy corn and haunted houses, I wrote a five-page story titled The Blue Witch. The mini epic told the tale of a sad witch named Isabelle who was suffering from a deep depression. Shunned by others, Isabelle decided that she did not want to be a witch anymore; she was craving friendship and true love. The reaction to my story was one of shock and awe. My teacher kept me after class. She looked down at me as I sat at my desk, paralyzed with fear. I watched her mouth; her lips curled up into a proud smile as she breathed on me, “You have a special gift.”

If writing was my best friend; television was my secret crush. I was thrilled by the plights of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, mesmerized by the escapades of Charlie’s Angels. Unlike my friends, I wasn’t drawn into these shows because of the action and the actresses; I loved the stories. I would faithfully tune in to watch each episode, captivated by the story arcs and plot twists.

By the time I was ten, I graduated from reading young adult books by Judy Blume and Norma Fox Mazer to the risqué worlds of Danielle Steele and Jackie Collins. My television viewing habits shifted, too. Summer vacation became a boring blur of reruns of The Jeffersons and One Day at A Time. It was around that time that I found a new passion: The Young and The Restless. I discovered the show by way of my grandmother. She introduced me to her favorite program and I was instantly hooked. The show appealed to be on many levels; the parallel storylines, the emotional conflicts, the nail-biting suspense. It was by watching The Young and The Restless that my voice as a writer began to form and emerge.

At the age of eleven, I unintentionally wrote my first stage play. As my devotion to The Young and The Restless was bordering on an obsession, I had been inspired to write my own soap opera. For months, I filled up spiral notebook after notebook with characters existing in a world I titled Life Isn’t Easy. The epic story was set in a small town in Georgia (although I was born and raised in California), rich with love triangles, conspiracies, lustful doctors and nurses, god-like private investigators and ingénues that could have been canonized. My characters had glamorous names like London Crèbach and April Montgomery. The dialogue was riddled with backbiting insults and heated innuendo. The settings were decadent and populated with the affluent.

In sixth grade, I was a student at Theodore Judah Elementary School in Sacramento. It was there that I would meet a woman who would forever change my life: my first drama teacher. When the sign-up list for after school acting lessons circulated around class, I eagerly penned my name, anxious to discover a new universe that would eventually become an extension of my soul. Mauvey, the curly haired drama teacher, was everything that I wanted to be: hip, cool, bohemian, artistic, and fearless. She inspired me, challenged me, listened to me and most importantly, encouraged me. I delved headfirst into the world of drama and I swam like an Olympic medalist.

Two weeks after afternoons that consisted of charades, improvisational games and trust exercises, Mauvey announced to the twelve of us in the after-school program that she had decided we were ready to produce a play. In her professional opinion, we had each learned a mutual respect for drama and had potential to be great actors. To my eleven-year-old ears, this was the first form of assuredness that I had received that being creative was a good thing. While the words of my second-grade teacher stayed with me, this felt much bigger, more important, as if I were being initiated into a secret society.

Mauvey said she wanted suggestions: what play did we want to perform? Most of us had never read or seen a play, so the group fell mute and shifted with a collective awkwardness. Finally, I spoke, “I wrote a soap opera. It’s called Life Isn’t Easy.” I shoved a few of my ratty notebooks across the shiny wooden floor of the school auditorium. Mauvey raised an eyebrow and took the notebooks. We all sat and watched as she thumbed through pages for ten minutes. My best friend, Christina, sat next to me and squeezed my hand. She had read every single word I had written; she knew how important the moment was to me. Finally, Mauvey closed the notebooks. “You wrote this?” she asked and I was scared to answer. I nodded in reply. She smiled at me, seeing something in me that would take me years to discover on my own. “This,” she said tapping the cover of the notebook on top of the pile of others. “This will be our first play.” I gulped, swallowed and Christina tightened her grip on my damp palm. Mauvey looked at me and with her words, my confidence was boosted. “You’re a wonderful writer.”

I had an identity, then. I was no longer just a face in the hallway at school; the boy in the back of the classroom who was always lost in an elaborate daydream. There was a description, a bon-a-fide explanation that described who I was: Mauvey had anointed me a writer. I suddenly had purpose, a sense of being, a new soul. Immediately, I started to see the world from a different perspective. I noticed the occupations of people around me: a waitress, a secretary, a doctor, a teacher. I was a writer.

Mauvey put us to work at once. We spent three weeks painting vividly detailed backdrops, building ornate sets, making glamorous costumes, casting roles, learning lines and rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing. Each day when I walked into the auditorium after school, my mind swam with excitement and pride. Through Mauvey and my classmates, a world I had imagined was coming to life. It was overwhelming and I floated through my life in a permanent state of wonder.

Two days before opening night, Mauvey came into the auditorium looking a bit dismayed and flustered. She had a stack of lemon colored papers in her hand. “Look at what they’ve done,” she told us. She put the stack on the floor for all of us to see. They were promotional fliers for the show. They looked wonderful but the printer has made one awful mistake: he had changed the title of the play to Lice Isn’t Easy. “Oh my God,” Christina said to me, who had been cast in the lead role of Lisa McGall. “Everyone will think we have lice.”

We all started to scratch our heads as if we’d been simultaneously infected. Christina whipped out a comb from her backpack and ran it through her hair violently. Derek, a future hottie with a body and the hero of my play, ran to the nearest drinking fountain and tried to maneuver his skull beneath the spigot. Stephanie and Wendy, the inseparable best friends who only spoke in unison, declared at once, “We’re gonna die!” and held onto each other as if our plane was going down.

“No,” Mauvey said, exuding authority. “We can fix this. It’s a minor setback, but as they always say, the show must go on.”

Christina stopped combing. Derek returned with wet hair. Stephanie and Wendy let go and began to breathe again.

Mauvey, the miracle worker, pulled out a black permanent marker from her mirror beaded purse that reeked of patchouli. With one single glide of her hand, she saved our reputation. She changed the “c” to an “f”. It took hours but we all changed every flier.

Friday night the auditorium was packed. Parents and siblings and teachers filled the room, all of them anxious to see Life Isn’t Easy. My mother worked the concession stand and sold her sticky Rice Krispie treats for a quarter a pop. My younger brother had to be blackmailed into being on his best behavior with promises that someone would take him to see Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.

I was backstage, where Christina and I and our co-stars clung to each other in terror, wracked with nerves and fright. Mauvey, our creative mother, calmed us down, skyrocketed our spirits with a positive pep talk and reminded us what a talented group we were.

The curtain rose. The lights came up. The actors took their places. Their mouths opened and I watched, and I listened as my words filled the air around us. I know, I know. The play was only produced in a school auditorium at an elementary school, but in my eleven-year-old opinion, Life Isn’t Easy was way better than any episode of The Young and the Restless.

Today, the faded lemon flier hangs in my home office. Each time I look at the scripted black “f” that covers the botched “c”, I am reminded that even a typo can’t stop fate.


Artist:

David-Matthew Barnes

Author. Playwright. Poet. Screenwriter.

Follow This Artist:

davidmatthewbarnes.com

FB/IG/Twitter: @dmatthewbarnes

Gravity Grateful/Six Pounds of Sin – Art Collaborations by Mark Blickley & Amy Bassin

A Dash of Whimsy Series –

Mark Blickley & Amy Bassin create text based art collaborations together. Today they bring us some humorous pieces of art to bring us a chuckle!



Artists:

New York artist Amy Bassin and writer Mark Blickley work together on text-based art collaborations and videos.  Bassin is co-founder of the international artists cooperative, Urban Dialogues. Blickley is the author of ‘Sacred Misfits’ (Red Hen Press) and proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center.  Two of their videos will represent the United States in the 2020 year-long world tour of Time Is Love: Universal Feelings: Myths & Conjunctions, organized by the esteemed African curator, Kisito Assangni. 
 Their text-based art book, ‘Dream Streams,’ was published by Clare Songbird Publishing House.

Follow These Artists:

Clare Songbirds Publishing House – Amy Bassin & Mark Blickley 

Uplifting Illustrations by TAK Erzinger

A Dash of Whimsy Series –

TAK Erzinger is keeping up her spirits and the spirits of others by creating these gorgeous illustrations. She is not letting sickness or lockdown keep her from art or creativity. Soak in the joy from her work, and spread it to others to make these times a little brighter!



Artist:

TAK Erzinger

Is an Illustrator based outside of Zurich

I am an artist and poet.

I got my start as an artist in Baltimore, Maryland where I began exhibiting my paintings in boxes.  Early in my career I was fortunate enough to have my artwork at The American Visionary Art Museum as part of their Love, Error and Eros exhibition where my work sold thereafter through their museum shop. At that time, I was also commissioned by Latina Magazine to create a two-page spread with my cigar box art. Recently my work has evolved and I am now focusing more on illustration. My Latin background has a strong influence on my colour choices. I enjoy experimenting with illustrations and text.

The Games They Play/Staying Home – Poetry by Ndaba Sibanda

A Dash of Whimsy Series –

The first poem today is particularly amusing because it was written years before this pandemic! Enjoy the words of Ndaba Sibanda!

The Games They Play

She didn’t fathom how that act
could be justifiable in this age

She thought in the name of decency
it was indefensible and reprehensible

Sisa had always associated leadership
with smartness and decorum, not insanity

It was he-The Politician—who FREELY sneezed
on the Opposition Men when he had a terrible cold!

Couldn’t he have had the courtesy to look away
or to cup his mouth with his hand or it was too sudden?

Sisa asked him why he was playing an indecent game,
he divulged when pressed he`d just piss on their heads too!

She then recollected the big talk about the Big Guys sneezing
and the Small Guys catching the bug and falling horribly sick!

Sisa pictured a tug of war inspired by narcissism, coupled with
greed and the love for flexing muscles instead of for humanity

She began to wonder about the big economies and their impact—
if China, or any big nation sneezes, doesn’t Africa catch a cold?

The giant versus the midget, original put beside the imitation,
how could a microcosm be expected to levelled out the ground?

There was susceptibility on one end and immunity on the other–
a chronic case of the West sneezing, Africa catching pneumonia!

For Sisa the manifestations came in many shapes and colors and sizes—
–power—people — and what they wore and ate and aspired for etc.

But still, was this always about the Big Guys doing the sneezing
and shitting , and the Small Guys doing the catching and wiping?

Maybe, she thought to herself—the Small Guys needn’t dwell
on sizes but tackle their issues with conviction like little David

N.B
The above poem was written a few years before the advent of the coronavirus. However, surprisingly it is evocative and relevant to the new reality.


Staying Home

You taught me new things
For you came with strings

You set conditions and actions:
Keep away from social interactions

If you seek victory over me: self-isolate
Avoid handshakes, hugs, kisses as you greet!

You taught me to observe personal hygiene
In a better light, to invite all souls to intervene

These are unmatched times of social distancing
Mass closures of entities, a shift in everyday living

Did I know that you are a new reality, a pandemic?
Daily life you hamper, your wings unselective, epidemic

An enemy of humanity, you are beatable, indiscriminate
Our health heroes, here they strategise, swing to eliminate!


Artist:

A 2019 Pushcart Prize nominee, Ndabas poems have been widely anthologised. Sibanda is the author of The Gushungo Way, Sleeping Rivers, Love O’clock, The Dead Must Be Sobbing, Football of Fools, Cutting-edge Cache: Unsympathetic Untruth, Of the Saliva and the Tongue, When Inspiration Sings In Silence and Poetry Pharmacy. His work is featured in The Anthology House, in The New Shoots Anthology, and in The Van Gogh Anthology, and A Worldwide Anthology of One Hundred Poetic Intersections. Some of Ndabas works are found or forthcoming in Page & Spine, Peeking Cat, Piker Press , SCARLET LEAF REVIEW , Universidad Complutense de Madrid, the Pangolin Review, Kalahari Review ,Botsotso, The Ofi Press Magazine, Hawaii Pacific Review, Deltona Howl, The song is, Indian Review, Eunoia Review, JONAH magazine, Saraba Magazine, Poetry Potion, Saraba Magazine, The Borfski Press, Snippets, East Coast Literary Review, Random Poem Tree, festival-of-language and Whispering Prairie Press.
Sibandas forthcoming book Notes, Themes, Things And Other Things: Confronting Controversies ,Contradictions And Indoctrinations was considered for The 2019 Restless Book Prize for New Immigrant Writing in Nonfiction. Ndabas other forthcoming book Cabinet Meetings: Of Big And Small Preys was considered for The Graywolf Press Africa Prize 2018.
Sibandas other forthcoming books include Timbomb, Dear Dawn And Daylight, Sometimes Seasons Come With Unseasonal Harvests, A Different Ballgame and The Way Forward.

Follow This Artist:

 Let`s Get Cracking! – Ndaba Sibanda - WordPress.com

Dear Editor/I Want a Writer’s Block/Virtual Love/By All Accounts – Poetry by Joan McNerney

A Dash of Whimsy Series-

Giggles and smiles will become a part of your day when you read the following poems by Joan McNerney!


Dear Editor:

Unfortunately I’m unable to

accept your rejection.

So many come in, it is

possible to accept only a few.

Due to staff limitations

no specific comment

can be made on yours.

Be assured it received

a careful reading.

I do hope you find a home

for this rejection.

Remember rejections are my

foundation and lifeblood.

Always feel free to send more.

Joan McNerney,

Poet


I Want A Writer’s Block

A real writer’s block.  After I’m finished

writing, I could run and skip down streets

with all the other writers on the block.

Compare notes, exaggerate and have fun.

Another good one would be a crystal block

on which the great master works are contained.

Stick it in a pocket and read it with my

fingertips.  Why strain my vision?

How about this?  A big block of ice cream

oozing pass throat filled with inspiration.

Or a chocolate block made from creamy images.

I want a writer’s block.  Any or all of the above.


Virtual Love

A

long

slim

poem

full of hyperbole

and alliteration drifted

into the wrong e-mail box.

There she met an erudite

rich text format.

They became attached.

Her fleeting metaphors

lifting his technical jargon.

They were a word couple

spinning through cyber space

giddy with inappropriate syllables.


By All Counts

Proper and improper fractions

have distinctive differences.

Proper fractions study at

prestigious universities.   They

attend cultural events and play

at least one musical instrument. 

Proper fractions step aside

for ladies patronizing

haute couture shops.

Improper fractions are hooligans.

Each one guzzles cheap beer,

crunching potato chips while

screaming at wrestling matches.

Improper fractions knock over

seniors to reach clearance racks.

Beware of mixed figures.  These

hybrids can not decide what they are.

Medication might help them plus

talking therapy so popular today.  Never

allow children to associate with them.

Negative numerals should be avoided. 

Those will only subtract from your life

flinging freezing rain in your face.

Conversely, positive numerals are

delightful handing us glowing statistics

and bright bouquets of fragrant daisies.

Never take integers for granted.  Do not

allow yourself to be divided but let

all quotients be fruitful and multiply

until that day when your number is up.


Artist:


Joan McNerney’s poetry has been included in many literary magazines such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Poet Warriors, Blueline, and Halcyon Days.  Four Bright Hills Press Anthologies, several Poppy Road Review Journals, and numerous Spectrum Publications have accepted her work.  Her latest title, The Muse In Miniature, is available on Amazon.com and Cyberwit.net.  She has four Best of the Net nominations. 

After/Word – A Short Story by Richard Oyama

A Dash of Whimsy Series –

Start your day off with the amusing story by Richard Oyama! Take a look at his gripping work below!


AFTER/WORD

The Book first came into our hands as a typewritten manuscript on 20 lb. bond paper. It was composed on an IBM Selectric electric typewriter as there were occasional misspellings fixed with correction tape. The footnotes were laboriously lettered in a meticulous hand with a Cross ballpoint pen. Though the date of composition is inexact, the end date is consistent with its method. If the period is accurate, it was a serendipitous disaster, following upon Ronald Reagan’s ascendance and in the same month as John Lennon’s assassination.

The reproduction of the Mark Rothko painting at the end of the novel was cut and pasted from a catalogue of the painter’s work published by Yale University Press. A search of the 42nd Street Public Library’s holdings disclosed that an image of the painting was removed from that volume; formerly stored in a spherical reading room; the defaced book was withdrawn from circulation.

There is no official record that shows this book’s author checked out the Rothko book; however, a marginal note in the library volume reads, “Use this,” in the cut-out page that a handwriting analyst said matches the tiny lettering in the manuscript’s footnotes.

Little is known about the author. This biographical note was included at the end of the manuscript:

David Shimamura was born in Brooklyn before it was “Brooklyn.” His parents, aunts and uncles are deceased that allows him an impossible liberty. He attended neither Harvard nor Iowa Writers Workshop. His college transcript has been redacted. He prefers the company of roofers, engineers and grips to other writers. He has been a private investigator, an undertaker, confidence-man and cutlery salesman. He has walked a country mile on a moonless night and urinated on a red maple, making jagged striations like a Clyfford Still painting, and on backstreets where the shadows are thin knives. His fiction has not been published in The New Yorker or Paris Review but in Yellow Peril, Irascibles, Mumbo Jumbo, Insurrections, Sound Dada, Lonelyhearts, Red Armies, Intersectionalities and Hybridities. He knows nothing about Schrödinger’s cat or deconstruction. He notes that dogs romp and are still. It’s all in the letting go. He does not live in the academy but clings to the gutter, looking at the stars. Secrecy, exile and cunning; abstention, renunciation and withdrawal. No model no doctrine no exemplar. He would be Urashima Taro the Fisherman who rides a five-colored turtle to the Eternal Mountain on an island of jeweled palaces beneath a sea of green. The gods sing and dance like the waves. Urashima and his maiden make whoopy. He rows his boat and returns to Tsutsugawa. It’s 300 years in the future. Everything solid melts into air. He intends to save himself from drowning in the image-world. The American century ended around 1974 but in our innocence we prefer the myth of the city on the hill. This is the coda. “Birth of a Nation” established the country’s narrative practices, the black body is to be feared and happiness is, after all, a warm gun. He sees the devil’s compact of technology and capital. He has no wife, no children and no significant other. He is a monster of the imagination, a phantom, a ninja, somewhere you will not find him, nowhere and everywhere—in the subway, the park, the library, the basement, the encampment by the river as polar caps melt and the sea-level rises—waiting for a false dawn.

The book was delivered in a certified manuscript box with no return address. Rumors persist that a mimeographed, samizdat edition of the novel circulated underground among a coterie of fanatical readers in New York and San Francisco, primarily poor, neo-bohemian metropolitans—yes, such people live amongst us—and that excerpts were published in multiethnic small presses and literary anthologies like Mazes and Dark Fire in the ‘70s under the pseudonyms D. Shim or Divad M. Ashiruma, implying that the author wanted to bypass essentialist notions of race,  gender and identity, to be known simply as an American writer, Brooklyn-born, riffing jazz-like.

    “Scribes take a secret oath,” Jorge Luis Borges wrote, “to omit, interpolate, vary.”

    Three months after receipt of the manuscript, I took a phone call from an

unidentified caller. Our conversation proceeded as follows. He asked whether I had

received the book. What book is that? A Riot Goin’ On. I had. “And?” the voice said.

With whom I was speaking? “The dead author,” he said.

    Since the novel was unpublished, I asked the caller to verify specific details and incidents from the book in order to establish his authorship. He did so, citing in its particulars the water tower scene. Having identified the caller as David Shimamura, I told him our house planned to publish the novel. “Fine,” he said.

As for the novel’s composition, the voice on the phone said that it consisted of “five years of very intense work and multiple revisions—perhaps twenty or so?—and thirty years of pain, repression, psychic and linguistic blockage, incoherence, dreams of murder and suicidal ideation, magic, bridge-burning, malediction and love, duende, brainstorms, priapic convulsions, hallucinations, a tricked-up ebullience and a grim determination to amuse myself, come hell or high water. Think of the book as a graphic novel, a dimestore pulp, a cable mini-series, a critique of representations. It’s a post-revolutionary, hybrid work. It was written under extreme duress. I’m just a regular cuppa joe.”

There has been some dispute about Shimamura’s origins. A microfilm birth certificate exists at Brooklyn Hospital, but the birth name David is penciled in, whereas two other names, Cal and Stephen, were typewritten, then X’d out.

Next to the box marked RACE, “American of Japanese descent” is written on that line, although a genetic mapping based on a sample of Shimamura’s DNA obtained from a hair follicle, thick and unruly, in the manuscript box showed traces of Senegalese, Navajo, Irish, Thai, Cuban and Ashkenazi Jew. The test results also detected lineage with Otzi, The Iceman (not to be confused with soul singer Jerry Butler), a mummified, 5,000 year-old man discovered in the Italian Alps in 1991 and, further, an association with a “ghost population,” the genetic link between Europeans and Native Americans.

As for the premonitory gifts of the character “David Shimamura,” one can only speculate what in the novel is quasi-autobiographical and what fabrication, imposture and misdirection. Responding to our house’s Twitter solicitation asking for biographical facts about the author, an email from a correspondent in Tegucigalpa recounted a conversation with a Sensei Shimamura in a Nicaraguan bar. The author is said to have told him about his ability to move playing cards with his mind, read the secret emotions of animals and of his belief in Vico’s cyclical notion of history in Scienza nuova (New Science, 1725), but this testimony is suspect.

As to Shimamura’s present whereabouts, sightings have been reported by correspondents in Baltimore, Paris, Gaza, Prague, Havana, Hanoi, Tlön and Athens. These reports are sketchy and fugitive. The only known author photograph is a medium profile shot of a slim man, slightly balding, outfitted in black—black hat, black shirt, black pants—with a studded Western belt and hand-stitched cowboy boots in a hall of mirrors, but the endlessly receding images grow smaller and more indistinct as they approach the infinite. An art critic once wrote of Mark Rothko: “It is true that to enjoy [his] paintings seems less a thinking than a feeling process . . . One tends to enter into his canvases—not merely look at them.” Perhaps the same can be said for this book. As for the author himself, one may well begin to question whether the shadow-chaser David Shimamura exists at all.

—The Publisher


Artist:

Richard Oyama’s work has appeared in Premonitions: The Kaya Anthology of New Asian North American Poetry, The Nuyorasian Anthology, Breaking Silence, Dissident Song, A Gift of Tongues, Malpais Review, Mas Tequila Review and other literary journals. The Country They Know (Neuma Books 2005) is his first collection of poetry. He has a M.A. in English: Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Oyama taught at California College of Arts in Oakland, University of California at Berkeley and University of New Mexico. His first novel in a trilogy, A Riot Goin’ On, is forthcoming.

The Shot – A Whimsical Story by Mark Jabaut

A Dash of Whimsy Series-

Mark Jabaut has brought us today a story of whimsy! So, go grab your coffee, curl up in your comfy spot on the couch, and take a read!


The Shot

             My son Aaron called on Thursday to ask us out to dinner.

            “No can do, kiddo,” I said.  “Your mom and I are pinching pennies, saving money for the Shot.  Thanks for the invite.  Maybe another time, Sport.”

            I call my son Sport sometimes.

            We had been saving for what seemed like forever – but what was, in fact, just a little over eight years – not taking vacations, not eating out, renting videos instead of going to the movies.  We discontinued the newspaper and cut the cable down to basic.  Who knew you still got over a hundred channels with basic?

            The thing was, the Shot was not cheap.  It was the exact opposite of cheap.  On a scale of zero to one-hundred, where cheap was zero and expensive was one hundred, the Shot was about one-hundred-fifty.  It was a bitch saving up that much money, excuse my French.

            We had even cut down our food expenses to the bare minimum.  We bought dented cans of soup at Mack’s, the discount grocery store, and an oversized box of saltines at Costco, and ate soup and crackers for every meal.  Almost every meal.  Sometimes we had PB&J if we wanted to splurge.

            The thing about the Shot, though?  It was worth it.  It was a vaccine against all the known diseases of the world.  So if you got the Shot, you would never get sick again.  And that could add up to twenty years to your life expectancy.  So that was worth eating soup every day, three times a day, with the occasional PB&J thrown in for variety.  For eight-plus years.

            Imagine never being sick again.  What a life that would be.  What a world!  Never having to deal with having that clogged-head feeling, where your brain is in a fog, and you have to blow your nose about a thousand times every hour?  Never having to trudge down to the drug store with a sore throat, wearing your coat over your pajamas, to buy cough syrup because your wife forgot to buy some the day before?

            Not to mention all the horrible diseases that are out there, even though it’s unlikely that you’ll ever get them, since they are so rare, but still, it would be nice to know that you never have to worry about getting them.  Like Ebola!  Or that sickle-cell thing with the blood.  And cancer, or course.  Everyone worries about cancer.

            Of course, just because you couldn’t get sick didn’t mean you would live forever.  The body ages.  Cells die.  But I can tell you this – you wouldn’t be dying from malaria, or cancer, or TB if you got the Shot.  No way, Jose.

            Lots of old people, they get pneumonia and die.  But it isn’t actually the pneumonia that kills them, it’s other things that the pneumonia invites in.  The pneumonia weakens the body, and then those other things get in and kill the old folks.  Sad but true.

            So if you’ve had the Shot, you can still die.  Just not from disease!  But you can still get run over by a delivery truck, or get stabbed by a mugger, and that can kill you, so once you’ve had the Shot, it behooves you to be extra careful about crossing the street and walking in dangerous neighborhoods.  It would be ironic to die by getting hit by a truck after you had your Shot that makes you immune to all known diseases of the world.  And an ironic death is the worst kind (aside maybe from burning to death, which I’ve always thought was the worst).

            Or, how about this? – you get your Shot, and get struck by a truck as you leave the clinic and walk to your car.  Talk about irony! I have to think that a lot of people, maybe even most people, take a lot of extra precautions when they leave the clinic after their Shot.  Maybe they stand just inside the door to the street, and watch the traffic for a while, worrying about the best time to make that dash to their car and home.  Me, I’m going to hire some armed guards and an armor-plated car to get me home.

            Just kidding – we’re having a hard enough time saving the money for the Shot.  Where am I supposed to come up with enough to pay for guards and military-style vehicles?  I’m not, that’s where.

            But that’s okay.  Just being able to afford getting the Shot will be enough.  Everything will be gravy after that.
            So, the point is, the wife and I were working really hard to save the money, and we were doing pretty good.  We got out the old calculator and made some projections, and we figured out that we only had to save for two or three more months to have enough to get us both the Shot.  Which was pretty damn good, right?  Two or three months of soup and crackers.  It looked like all of the sacrifice – the lack of cable premium channels and vacations, the intermittent PB&Js, the scrimping and saving, all of it – would be paying off soon.

            Then the bad news.  Carrie, Aaron’s littlest, comes down with some auto-immune thingamabobby that makes her very tired and causes her three-year-old little nose to run endlessly, and of course, the crappy insurance that Aaron gets through his work is only going to cover part of the treatment.  And can we loan them some money, they want to know?  Well, of course we can.  I mean, what are grandparents for, right?  If we can’t step in to help out little Carrie and her auto-immune problem, then who is going to?  Who is going to make sure she grows up healthy and happy and not lacking in the immunity department but us?  Not Aaron and his wife, that’s for sure.  They’ve never saved a penny in their lives. 

            So we say, sure, no problem, and how much are we talking about to treat this suspiciously fake-sounding disease with no real symptoms except for a general feeling of tiredness and an incessant runny nose, which I contend is a normal and constant condition in children this age anyway?  And Aaron mentions a figure which, if I were to say it here, would cause my blood pressure to soar and would make me yell all the swears I could think of, so suffice it to say, the figure is almost exactly the amount the wife and I have put away for the Shot.
            And so, after a spirited and half-whispered discussion in which the wife repeatedly uses the term “stingy ass-wipe,” we tell Aaron to meet us at the bank the next day when we will get him the money he so desperately needs to help little Carrie recover from this dreaded condition.  Because that’s what love is about. 

            Despite the fact that I have agreed to loan this huge sum of money to my son and his family, and despite the fact that when I say “loan” I really mean “give” because both Aaron and I know that he will never pay it back, I am drowning in second thoughts.  I mean, I’m really wallowing, here.  I’m wallowing and drowning in regret and the knowledge that I will have to start over saving money and spend the next eight-plus years eating soup three times a day, and will probably even have to waive the infrequent reprieve of a PB&J because things aren’t getting any cheaper, you know, they never do – and this wallowing and drowning feeling is making me resent my son for asking for the money, and resent my wife for talking me into loaning the money, and even resent little Carrie who really doesn’t have any concept of what is going on or the thousands of dollars that are being spent for her benefit in order to make her less tired and slow the flow of snot from her nose.
            And it’s then, when I start resenting Carrie, my innocent, snot-nosed granddaughter, that I realize that maybe I am a stingy ass-wipe.  What is eight-plus more years of nothing but soup when compared with the health of a young girl?  What kind of heartless grandfather would begrudge his little granddaughter a hand up in the world?  What kind of jerk would want a three-year-old girl who never did anything wrong except for the time she got snot all over the new sofa when she spent the night to have a less-than-optional shot at life? 

            Not this grandfather.  Not this jerk.  At that moment, I resolve to lose all resentment.  Things happen for a reason, I tell myself.  It will work out.  I like soup.

            And at the bank, everything is all smiles and happy tears, and the bank representative kind of grudgingly hands over the bank check that I’ve had made payable to Aaron, and I hand that to Aaron and he hugs me.  And I know, right then and there, that this was the right thing to do.  And I feel a sense of calm.
            We leave the bank, and the thank-yous are still flying profusely from the mouth of Aaron as we head to our cars, and I’m nodding and picturing Carrie, healthy and dry-nosed.  I stop for a final handshake with Aaron as the wife goes to the street to unlock our ten-year-old car.  And as I’m shaking my son’s hand, there is a squealing of brakes and a dull thump, and I turn just in time to see a city bus rolling over the wife.  Aaron runs over to her, and passers-by are screaming from the sidewalk and someone is shouting into a cell-phone about an ambulance, and I take one look at the wife and I know that no ambulance is necessary.  She is not going to recover from that. 

            I stand there, still as ever, and watch the activity whirling around me.  I’m still calm.  In fact, if anything, what I feel is relief.  Because I realize that, now, it will only take me four years to save the money I need for the Shot.


Artist:

Mark Jabaut is a playwright and author who lives in Webster NY with his wife Nancy.  Mark’s play IN THE TERRITORIES, originally developed via Geva Theatre’s Regional Writers Workshop and Festival of New Theatre, premiered in May 2014 at The Sea Change Theatre in Beverly, MA.  His 2015 Rochester Key Bank Fringe Festival entry, THE BRIDGE CLUB OF DEATH, went on to be featured at an End of Life Symposium at SUNY Broome County and is listed with the National Issues Forum for those who wish to host similar events. Other plays seeing the stage in recent years include THE HATCHET MAN, DAMAGED BEASTS and COLMA!  Mark has authored many short plays performed by The Geriactors, a local acting group.   Mark’s fiction has been published in a local Rochester magazine, POST, as well as The Ozone Park Journal, SmokeLong Quarterly, Spank the Carp and Defenestration. 

Follow This Artist:

www.markjabaut.com

The Rise of the Coconut – Poem by Adrian Slonaker

A Dash of Whimsy Series-

Adrian Slonaker presents to us the picture of a different kind of world. Take a look at his epic poem below!


The Rise of the Coconut

Cravings for coconut meat,
cries for coconut milk-
Are coconuts becoming the new cows?
Will belligerent bikers hog the highways
in jackets crafted from coarse coconut hides?
Will toddlers toddle into REM slumber
to accounts of coconuts
leaping over chalky lunar landscapes?
Will an unwatchful spouse’s coconut clobber a lamp,
beget a blaze,
and incinerate the Windy City?
Beware, Bossie and your bovine brethren-
and sistren-
your velvety ears may be tagged for Obsolescence.


Artist:

Adrian Slonaker crisscrosses North America as a language boffin and is fond of opals, owls, fire noodles and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Adrian’s work, which has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net, has been published in WINK: Writers in the Know, Page & Spine, EZ.P.Zine and others.

Danny Jack – Poetry by Daniel Miltz

A Dash of Whimsy Series –

Daniel Miltz brings us a playful poem to take a stroll through.


Danny Jack

Danny Jack –back in the day
Was a ‘rebel with a cause’ display
He had an entourage of superstars
He would ride around town in muscle cars
Go from one party to the next
Drinking and picking up chicks for sex
He had a great job
Making tons of money, tiptop
But he was living the wild life, nonstop
He was full of energy and rage
A self-glorifying big shot on stage
Thinking he belonged in every place
For a few years, he went through a phase
With a big messianic ego embrace
One day, he finally made a forecast
Go ‘west, young man, go west’
The result –a new conquest


Artist:

Daniel Miltz

Born in Michigan, resides in Hampstead, New Hampshire (U.S.A). He is a Freelancer Writer & Poet. Devoted 40 years to an Engineering career in Government Aerospace programs as a Mechanical Engineering Designer. He has won over 300 accolade awards from numerous Poetry Forums and has been in 29 published anthologies with two published books to date.