Monday, July 7, 2014

Bolts and Screws

The little girl wandered into her daddy’s workshop even though she knew she wasn’t supposed to be there.  How is it that small feet so often find themselves in places they’ve been told not to go?

“What are you doing down here?” she asked the back of his head.

The daddy turned.  The little girl’s voice wasn’t big enough to startle him, but he was definitely surprised to see her in the basement.

“I’m doing what all daddies do in the basement,” he said.  “I’m making a monster.”

“Oh,” she said, and tried her hardest not to glance into the too-dark corners.  And then, after an uncertain pause she said, “A monster? Can I see it?  Where is it?”

“Oh it’s hiding down here in the dark,” he answered.  “But I’m not sure you should see it yet.  Monsters can be very frightening, especially to little girls.”

“I’m not sure I believe you,” she said, her eyes wide.

“No?” he replied.  “You know that monster that lives under your bed?  Where do you think he came from?  And the one in your closet?  And what about the one that peeks under your brother’s door after we turn off the lights?  (Well, to be honest, that monster was already in the house when we moved in.)  But those other ones I made down here, in the basement.”

The daddy carefully laid his hammer on his workbench next to a glass jar full of rusty bolts and screws.  The jar once held something like grape jelly, pasta sauce, or dill pickles, but now it was filled with a mismatched assortment of pieces and parts leftover after various projects.  Every workshop, it seems, has one almost exactly like it.

Noticing the jar, the little girl asked, “what are those for?”

“Those?  Oh, those are the bolts that hold the monster together.”

“They must be very special bolts if they’re strong enough to hold a whole monster together,” she said.  “But daddy, what if the monster is too frightening?  What if you make it too well?”

The father was good at building monsters, but he wasn’t a skilled question answerer.  After taking the moment his inexperience required, he said, “If you grow up one day and decide you’re tired of having a monster under your bed, or in your desk drawer, or creeping around the corners of your marriage, or wherever you decide to keep all the monsters I make, all you have to do is wait until they hold still for a moment and then take out their bolts.  Most of the time, they’ll fall right apart.”

“But how will I do that,” the girl asked.  “How will I remove them, and what if they’re screwed in too tightly?  And how will I make the monster stand still?”

But before the daddy could answer, a very old monster – one he had apparently neglected for quite a long time – jumped out of the shadows and gobbled him up in one big bite.

Then, after a loud burp, the monster ducked back into the shadows and left the little girl alone with her questions.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Location, Location, Location.

“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.” – C.S. Lewis

1.  Sticky Side Down

She didn’t mean any harm.  She was just digging.  And isn’t digging what little girls do at the beach?  But her little brother didn’t like it, not one single bit.

“Look what you’ve done!” he shouted.  “Stooooooop!!”

To be fair, the long gash leading from the surf to the castle’s moat did look a bit infected.  It bubbled and foamed each time a wave attacked and retreated.  But each time the water emptied, the wound also seemed to slowly heal as the sides collapsed into each other and the bottom rose.  In fact, after a few more waves the cut would barely be noticeable as a faint scar on the wet sand.

The boy, visibly upset by his sister’s digging, asked their mother if he could get a band-aid out of the small “emergency box” he knew she kept in their bag.

“Why, sweetheart?” she asked.  “What did you do?”

But before he could answer, the boy had already pulled the paper back off the flesh-colored bandage and laid it carefully on the beach, sticky side down.

“There,” he said, gently pressing the band-aid onto the sand to make sure it was secure.  “Now, isn’t that better?”

Later that day, a teenage girl was drawing a heart in the wet sand with her toe when a soggy band-aid washed onto her foot. 

She screamed.

2.  Soup

Jesse and Sarah had been all over the city looking for something to eat.  Sure, they’d found a castoff crust here and there, but nothing substantial.  For them, as for many of their brothers and sisters on the street, hunger sometimes drove them to terrible places.  No trashcan was too smelly.  No crust too stale.  No offering too small. 

And then they saw it -- a bowl of fresh, undisturbed gazpacho.  The chilled soup was sitting on the corner table of a sidewalk café on E 57th St.  The restaurant was one of those quaint spots where the city’s fashionable housewives pause during their afternoons of shopping to eat off of white clothed bistro tables in the open air.

Of course, there were also breadsticks on the table, but it was the pale red soup that caught Jesse’s attention -- a beautiful soup left unguarded while its fashionably dressed owner, who had spent the morning sipping over-priced vinti coffees, discretely used the restaurant’s ladies’ room.

Jesse and Sarah sat on a park bench across the street from the soup, trying to look inconspicuous.

“I don’t know,” Sarah protested.  “We really probably shouldn’t.”

“We probably shouldn’t?!” Jesse snapped.  “We also probably shouldn’t be eating out of trashcans… but we are.  We also probably shouldn’t be drinking leftover beer out of other people’s cups… but we are.  We also probably shouldn’t be following bratty kids around the park hoping their nannies will forget where Jr. set down his organic peanut butter and free range jelly sandwich… but we are.  So, you can stay here on this bench if you want, but I’m about to have some fresh $12.95 soup, all thanks to Mrs. Well Fed Rich Lady and her tiny bladder.”

Jesse lifted himself off the bench and crossed 57th St.  He casually hovered around the cluster of tables, drawing not a few uneasy glances from the café’s diners, until we was confident the coast was clear.  Then, ever so carefully, he descended on the soup and took a long, slow sip.

The sweetness of the tomatoes… the rich olive oil… glorious.

Consumed as he was by the delicious broth, Jesse didn’t see the woman with the large sunglasses returning to her table.  He was lowering his head for a second drink when he heard her yell.

“Waiter,” she barked.  “What kind of place is this?!  I leave my table for two minutes, and you bring me a bowl of soup with a fly in it?!  Disgraceful.”

3.  Never Been Married

The reason she’d never been married was that she’d never been in love with a living man.  She’d been too busy loving Jesus, that long-haired boyfriend who never seems to call back, to find a boy that might one day want to lie with her.

And then Ken showed up.  He was clean and cut and they almost instantly knew which hymns would be sung at their wedding.  Six months later, those hymns were indeed sung at their wedding.  She wore a white dress, and even her best friends (who knew everything about her), knew the color was appropriate.

Not surprisingly, her brother thought it would be funny to decorate the getaway car with condoms.  For an hour, while the bridesmaids fussed over his sister, Dave and his friends tore dozens of square foil packages and got slippery lipped as they blew up the condoms they then tied to her car.  What better way to send his Disney princess of a sister into wedded bliss, he thought, than in a condom-covered car with a note under the windshield wiper reading “May Your Love Know No Barriers”?

Kate and her groom were halfway down Spring St. on that blessed Saturday afternoon before she paid any attention to the torpedo shaped “balloons” on the car.  When one broke free from the side mirror, she was mortified and said, “oh, I hate to leave that nasty thing on the street! What if a child finds it?”

Her Prince Charming smiled, but didn’t stop the car.  He wasn’t going to stop now – especially not for a condom.


Mrs Murphy lived in a house separated from Spring St. by little more than a narrow sidewalk and a slender rose garden.  The widow stayed on a constant vigil to keep her rose beds free from the beer cans and potato chip bags that blew into yard on a regular basis.

But on Saturday evening when she went to sprinkle crushed egg shells under the flowering bushes and found a limp condom hanging from one of the thorny stems, Mrs. Murphy’s disdain for “litter” reached a new high.  

Shaking her head, she sighed.  “…practically Sodom and Gomorrah.”

4. An Issue of Blood

In those days there was a man named Jesus, the son of a carpenter.  Because of his great love for the people, he walked from village to village feeding the hungry and caring for the poor.  And he taught them many things.

And it came to pass that as he passed through a certain village, Jesus encountered a young woman suffering from an issue of blood.  She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.

Trembling with fear, the woman fell at Jesus’ feet and asked “why are the sins of my fathers being visited upon me in this way?  If you only wished it, I know you could make me well.”

“Arise, my child,” he said.  “I have an uncle, a skilled surgeon, who lives just across the border in El Paso.  In his house there are many rooms.  I will go and prepare a place for you.”

And behold, it came to pass that Jesus did, in fact, prepare a place for her and provided for her every need.  The woman (who was called Angelina) healed nicely and lived in the US for the rest of her days, doing honorable work among her citizen neighbors.

But Jesus, having angered the local authorities by speeding in a school zone, was deported back to Chihuahua.  And there he fell among thieves, and his uncle heard from him no more.