Christmastime in the Best of All Possible Worlds

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Christmastime in the Best of All Possible Worlds

The man who needs to find hope is strolling the avenues of the city as Christmas Eve encroaches. Hands in pockets, he tries to break his habit of taking the same route each day. Today will be different, today, he may find hope.

He is walking north on 20th Street, gazing at facades and into windows to see what he never takes the time to see, inertia having jostled him along at a blinding pace for so many years.

He stops before this big show window and blinks hard, trying to figure out why he’s suddenly in another time and place. What he sees on the other side of the glass is a winter wonderland of electric trains, small villages, city streets, all bedecked and animated as if Christmas has never ended.

This can’t be, he opines. Fifty years ago and more, the city’s streets were lined with scenes such as this, filled with small wonders and pleasant surprises and best wishes. Back then, people would do something called window-shopping. Each merchant and street-level business would decorate in order to attract a sidewalk parade of delighted season-lovers.

He remembers how all that changed over the years, how a committee of tight-lipped judges began to forbid owners to place images and “distractions” in windows and doorways, as if they had forgotten what joy window-shopping brought to the city, what commerce the displays induced, what fond memories remained.

At the moment, the man who needs to find hope shakes off the negative memory and more carefully examines the snowy humor and goodwill in this special street-side window display. He has the notion that the long-ago idea of decorative, playful display on cold city streets has somehow thrived, somehow holds out against the dark forces that would dictate drab identical facades bereft of all personality and sharing.

After having his fill of time spent in another place, the man strolls on, hoping that, here and there, he will see other signs of life and joy proffered by establishments who ignore cold rules and just want to hand passersby a friendly gesture. And, much to his surprise, he begins to see other show windows with verve and personality laid out, this time on Third Avenue. There’s a shop with an enormous Piggly Wiggly mascot grinning perpetually at the gray day. There’s a place with nostalgic old street signs lighted up and receiving their proper respect. Here’s an import gift shop with wondrous one-of-a-kind items to dispense,  there is even one window filled to the brim with poinsettias bursting with color…and here and there, the wonderful historic buildings and signs of yore smile down upon him and warm his chest.

The man in the process of finding hope finishes his stroll for today, knowing now that tomorrow he can take another avenue and perhaps find even more evidence that the spirit of the city is still alive and thriving under the radar, just for you and me to discover.

This may not be the best of all possible worlds, he thinks. But it’s the world I’ve got. So I’d best redouble the effort to experience it. Before the colors fade.

Time’s a-wastin’

© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.

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My Christmas Pulitzer Prize

This Christmas story happened a long time ago, butI re-read it every few years

because it tells me so many things about life, about paying attention…



Why did I ever go into retail?

Well, you know the answer to that—if you, too, are in retail.

I did it because I couldn’t think of any other way to be my own boss and actually provide food and shelter for the family, outside the corporate world. I couldn’t think of any other way to have the freedom to write what I needed to write, free of the Dilbert shackles of the corporate world.

So, a couple of decades later, here I am, the Christmas season upon me, at 4:50pm on Friday, just ten minutes till closing time, digging through computer-numbered boxes for a 1962 Esquire Magazine featuring Hemingway, a 1956 BBC Listener magazine containing a Salinger review, a first printing of Asimov’s The Martian Way, and a first edition copy of Salinger’s Raise High the Roofbeams…got to get these things overnighted for an anxious customer and then make it to a bookshop across town to conduct a reading, all by 6pm.

The front door chimes go off, so that means somebody has entered the store, 150 feet up the hall and up a steep flight of red stairs. You know the mixed feelings you get: Damn! Now I’ve got to wait on somebody and still get my tasks done…if it weren’t for these pesky customers, I could make a living (!).

I head up the hall to see who’s there, passing the glowing lava lamps and glistening Santas that line the path, giving a fairyland glow to the gathering dusk. When I get to the front, I see a small, pointy-haired big-rimmed eyeglass man, standing and staring at me as if I’m about to hit him. I do my usual “Hello, how can I help you today?” customer-friendly voice thing, since I have never seen this guy before.

“Well, do you buy stuff?” he asks. I’m in a hurry, so this means my thoughts are going to be negative—I’m thinking he’s got the usual dog-eared Reader’s Digest Condensed books and Stephen King paperbacks that we see a lot of around here.

“Well, it depends on what it is,” I say, thinking this does not look like a millionaire about to donate his Gutenberg Bible to me. “We have just about everything, but we’re always looking for what we don’t have,” I say, motioning down the hallway at the 6,000-square-foot shop.

“What about this?” he says, pulling a rusty three-inch-tall miniature replica of a Sprite cola bottle from his pocket. It’s cute, just the thing I have all over the store for decoration, along with the life-sized Leg Lamp from Jean Shepherd, the seven-foot-tall Piggly Wiggly statue and the Pee-Wee Herman Playhouse suitcase, interspersed with books galore.

The next negative thought I have is that he will, like most people, have watched the Antiques Roadshow and determined that this is worth $32,000, of which I should pay him half for re-sale. I brace myself and say, “That’s neat. How much do you want for it?” He says in a small and meek voice, “What about a dollar?”

I am relieved and brighten up instantly, I pull a dollar from the cash tray, give it to him and he walks happily toward the stairs.

He bends to pick up two large and obviously heavy satchels he’s lugged up the stairs—I’m just now noticing them. Then, he turns and asks, “Can you tell me how to get to Jimmie Hale?”

The Jimmie Hale mission is for homeless people, and it’s seven walking blocks away. I give him instructions, he thanks me, then begins his painful descent. I wait in the foyer, hoping he doesn’t stumble, and hoping I can get the door locked behind him so I can head to the post office on my way to being an unknown author reading his stuff aloud.

I can tell he’s about halfway down the stairs when I hear his meek voice, “I read everything you write.” I freeze in place to hear more. “And I see your columns in the paper. You are a natural-born writer.”

I can only yell thanks! as he closes the door behind him and disappears from hearing. I rush down the stairs to lock up, look up and down the street, and see nothing. No trace of this fellow and his heavy luggage and his mild temperament.

I lock the door, take down the OPEN sign, and start up the stair, turning out lights as I go.

Back at my counter, I reach into my pocket for keys and find the tiny Sprite bottle.

I hold it up to the lava lights and note its special green glow. And I wonder what a Pulitzer Prize looks like. This may be as close to one as I’ll ever get, so I’m going to adopt it and keep it around to remind me that now and then—just every once in a while—a writer can get a good review, a good award, at an unexpected time from an unlikely source…and then wonder later whether it was all imagination.

At the reading, I tell the story of the little man and his Sprite bottle to Joey Kennedy, who is a genuine Pulitzer Prize winner. He grins ear to ear, because he knows all about fate and how things come to you only if you don’t look at them straight on

© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.

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The Gradual Maturing of the Overwrought Booklover

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The Gradual Maturing of the Overwrought Book Lover

“I’m still trying to grow up, bit by bit by bit. I  kid you not.

Even at the age of what it is I am, I’m still trying to grow up.”

–Jim Reed

The anxious customer, fraught with self-imposed deadlines of earth-shaking immensity, enters the bookshop and proclaims, “Hello! Anybody here?” as if she’s summoning an aide to organize her affairs.

I wait a beat before replying, wondering whether this is the way she enters Wal-Mart or Publix. “Hello! Anybody here?”

“Good morning,” I say in my best and most cordial voice. Maybe she needs a little TLC.

“Oh, THERE you are!” she peers down her nose as if chastising me for my momentary invisibility. “I need books for my new bookcase.”

“Well, maybe I can help. What kinds of books do you like to read?”

She sniffs at the dusty air in something resembling disdain. “Oh I’m not going to READ them. I just need books to fill the shelves.”

I bite my tongue and switch over to my must-act-as-if-this-is-the-kind-of-work-we-do-every-day at Reed Books tone.

“OK,” I say. “Well, perhaps you would like to look around and identify the kinds of volumes you prefer…then I can gather more to your liking.”

“I don’t have time to look around, just show me your section of fine books—I need about four feet for the bookcase.”

I lead her to some turn-of-the-century titles with “nice” bindings to see whether these will do.

“How much are these?” she snaps.

“Uh, each one is a different price.” I pull several titles down and show her a range of prices, from $8.00 to $95.00.

“I’m not going to pay that much for ANY book,” she proclaims.

I keep trying to help.

“Well, what is your price range?”

She says, “Five dollars each is all I intend to pay.”

“Hold on,” I reply and scurry about making a sample stack of appropriately-priced volumes.

“These fall into that category,” I say.

She sniffs again and squints at the books. “Are they all leather bound?”

“Well, as you can see, they have attractive bindings but they are not leather—leather usually means much higher prices.”

“You don’t mean that!” Her haughty manner is not going to get to me, I decide.

She goes on, “Well they are all the wrong color, too. I must match them to my blue curtains.”

“Right. I need to answer the phone, so take a look around to see if there’s anything that suits you. I’ll be right back,” I say.

When I return to her, she’s standing with hands on hips, staring at a box of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books—sans dust jackets–that I am donating to The Foundry, since no-one has purchased one since 1986.

“These are mostly blue—what do they cost?”

HERE ARE THE THINGS THAT I DO NOT SAY ALOUD: “Ma’am, these are very inexpensive, but I would hesitate selling them to you,since any of your visitors, seeing them in your Liberty Park book cases, would know that no real book lover would ever invest in these.” I ALSO DO NOT SAY ALOUD: “I would recommend purchasing a variety of non-matching books, with some great classics and popular titles thrown in, so that it will appear that you actually have selected, loved and read each one.” AND, FINALLY, I DO NOT SAY ALOUD: “And I would encourage you to pick some titles that you will read yourself, just to season your conversation with the appearance of having intelligence.”

What I do say aloud is something like this, “Well, they are well within your price range, and we have enough to fill your space. Would you like for me to load them in your car?

The woman pays, her vehicle is full of books, and she rides away into the city sunshine.

There might have been a time when I would get all worked up and preachy in my effort to save the world through inducing people to enjoy reading. But what the heck. Non-readers have rights, too. I just don’t think they have as much fun as I

© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.

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The Night Santa Claus Saved My Life

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The Night Santa Claus Saved My Life

Just past the age of seventeen, about a billion years ago,  I’m walking the late-night long walk home from my job as a radio announcer at the public radion station, WUOA-FM. It’s nearly Christmas and, like many Tuscaloosa days, the morning begins warm and humid, so I wear my short-sleeved shirt and jeans to work.

Now, after a long day indoors, I’m realizing that a cold front has descended and suddenly I’m walking home from work in sub-freezing weather circa 1959 A.D.

It’s cold, so cold.

My Cushman motor scooter, held together with duct tape and optimism, has finally
broken down and the only way to get from the University Campus to Eastwood
Avenue is to trudge, since classes are on holiday and there’s no traffic at all.

I have to walk east on University Boulevard and cut across the railroad tracks to get to 15th Street, but it’s getting harder and harder to do this, my breath coming in short and frosty gasps.

Everything is starting to freeze up.

My painful nose and painfully cold toes are protesting. My bare arms are
screaming for fur.

Gloveless hands are poked down into my too-thin pockets. Thighs are cold for lack
of thermal underwear.

My teeth are gritted tight against their chatter and at this point, I’m wondering
whether I can make it. I remember all those tales about people freezing to death
without knowing it, and at this moment, I’m not knowing if I can make it.

I’m tired of painful walking.

It’s too cold to walk.

Now I’m feeling drowsy…

What will be the last thing I see?

Childhood comes ‘round in my mind. There’s Santa, coming to take me back into
his arms. I can always depend on Santa. He’s made me feel good in the worst of

Wait—where am I? I’m walking along in the darkness—and I’m hallucinating
about SANTA!

But now I hear Santa, I actually hear him.

This has got to be the end of me, I chatter to myself, leaning in the wind.

What I hear are sleigh bells, and who has sleigh bells in the Deep South on a
snowless, freezing-cold night?

I look around to find Santa, and see an old pickup truck, trundling along, a loose
chain dangling from its rear gate, making those sleigh bell sounds. The truck
slowly passes, heading toward the railroad tracks.

I shake my head and laugh involuntarily.

The rush of adrenalin from my laugh and my embarrassment gives me enough energy and body heat to jump-start myself.

I’m inspired and ready to walk faster, now. The truck’s chains have given me the
boost I need to survive.

Then, squinting ahead, I remember the receding truck and want to maybe hitch a ride or at least thank the driver.

Way off in the distance I see a red-mittened hand and a flash of fluffy white cuff
poke outside the driver’s window for an instant, as it disappears in the distance. A wave?

I rub my eyes and the truck is gone.

My pace quickens, and soon I am home, warming my hands and thighs over the
floor furnace, drinking hot chocolate, and remembering with a sheepish grin and
unclenching teeth the moment when I really believed Santa was coming to rescue

Now, all these many decades later, I really do believe it 

 © Jim Reed 2014 A.D.

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 Here’s is a true story I re-tell every Thanksgiving, just

to remind myself and you that everything that really

matters is right before us, all the time. Here ‘tis:



The saddest thing I ever saw: a small, elderly woman dining alone at Morrison’s Cafeteria, on Thanksgiving Day.


Oh there are many other sadnesses you can find if you look hard enough, in this variegated world of ours, but a diner alone on Thanksgiving Day makes you feel really fortunate, guilty, smug, relieved, tearful, grateful…it brings you up short and makes you time-travel to the pockets of joy and cheer you experienced in earlier days.


Crepe paper. Lots of crepe paper. And construction paper. Bunches of different-colored construction paper. In my childhood home in Tuscaloosa, my Thanksgiving Mother always made sure we creative and restless kids had all the cardboard, scratch paper, partly-used tablets, corrugated surfaces, unused napkins, backs of cancelled checks, rough brown paper from disassembled grocery bags, backs of advertising letters and flyers…anything at all that we could use to make things. Yes, dear 21st-Century young’uns, we kids back then made things from scraps.


We could cut up all we wanted, and cut up we did.


We cut out rough rectangular sheets from stiff black wrapping paper and glued the edges together to make Pilgrim hats. Old belt buckles were tied to our shoelaces—we never could get it straight, whether the Pilgrims were Quakers, or vice versa, or neither. But it always seemed important to put buckles on our shoes and sandals, wear tubular hats and funny white paper collars, and craft weird-looking guns that flared out like trombones at one end. More fun than being a Pilgrim/Quaker was being an Indian—a true blue Native American, replete with bare chest, feathers shed by neighborhood doves, bows made of crooked twigs and kite string, arrows dulled at the tip by rubber stoppers and corks, and loads of Mother’s discarded rouge and powder and lipstick and mashed cranberries smeared here and there on face and body, to make us feel like the Indians we momentarily were.


Sister Barbara and Mother would find some long autumnal-hued dresses for the occasion, but they were seldom seen outside the kitchen for hours on end, while the eight-course dinner was under construction.


There was always an accordion-fold crepe paper turkey centerpiece on display, hastily bought on sale at S.H. Kress, just after last year’s Thanksgiving season. It looked nothing like my Aunt Mattie’s turkeys in her West Blocton front yard. And for some reason, we ate cranberry products on that day and that day only. Nobody ever thought about cranberries the other 364 days! And those lucky turkeys were lucky because nobody ever thought of eating them except at Thanksgiving and Christmas. They were home free the rest of the year!


Now, back into the time machine of just a few years ago.


It is Thanksgiving Day. My wife and son and granddaughter are all out of the country. Other family and relatives are either dead or gone, or just plain tied up with their own lives in other states, doing things other than having Thanksgiving Dinner with me.


My brother, Tim, my friends Tim Baer and Don Henderson and I decide that we will have to spend Thanksgiving Dinner together, since each of us is bereft of wife or playmate or relative, this particular holiday this particular year.


So, we wind up at Morrison’s Cafeteria, eating alone together, going through the line and picking out steamed-particle-board turkey, canned cranberries, thin gravy, boxed mashed potatoes and some bakery goods whose source cannot easily be determined.


But we laugh at our situation and each other, tell jokes, cut up a bit, and thank our lucky stars that this one Thanksgiving Dinner is surely just a fluke. We’ll be trying that much harder, next year, to not get blind-sided by the best holiday of the year, Thanksgiving being the only holiday you don’t have to give gifts or reciprocate gifts or strain to find the correct gifts.



On Thanksgiving holidays ever since, I make sure I’m with family and friends, and now and then I try to set a place at the table of my mind, for any little old lady or lone friend who might want to join us, for the second saddest thing I’ve ever seen is a happy family lustily enjoying a Thanksgiving feast together and forgetting for a moment about all those lone diners in all the cafeterias of the world who could use a glance and a smile


© 2014 A.D. by Jim Reed

 © Jim Reed 2014 A.D.

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The Doofus Avoidance Factor Catches Up With Me

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The Doofus Avoidance Factor Catches Up With Me

 Three lessons I’ve learned from a lifetime of misreading my visible and invisible audiences:

 I’m delivering an energetic but hopefully entertaining diatribe on the art of communicating with the public. This is way back when I believe that the profession of Public Relations Practitioner is tantamount to a Calling, that I can actually change the world—or at least cause it to shift slightly on its axis—by telling the Truth. My audience of writers and communicators is rapt, which encourages me to go on about the importance of Detecting BS in all public messages, be they purposeful or inadvertent. And I preach about the BS factor, the litmus test for finding fact amid the babble. Proud of myself, I stop to take questions. “Uh, what does ‘BS’ mean?” one participant asks. I freeze, my mind racing to do two things instantly without allowing the crowd to see me sweat. First, I realize that a generous amount of my speech has fallen on deaf ears, since they don’t know what I am talking about. Second, I try to verbalize a definition of BS that will avoid using the “S” word, this being a Baptist school with lots of prim and proper folk scattered among the folding chairs. “Uh, BS means bullshooting—you know, covering over the truth with your own agenda or message.” Saved! That seems to satisfy the inquisitor.

Another jarring lesson:

I’m performing some of my stories before a group of educated and skilled authors and artists, going on about my book, “How to Become Your Own Book,” all about the joy of creating words and images. I provide lively examples from popular culture, so that each point will have some gravitas as it is being digested. I read a wonderful passage from Jack Benny’s autobiography, a piece about life, both poetic and instructive, an example of great and simple writing. After a dramatic pause to allow the words to sink in, a middle-aged participant timidly raises her hand and inquires, “Who is this Jack Benny?” I sputter and explain, knowing that, once again, I have  assumed that my audience knows everything I know. The lesson I learn from this is, IF MY AUDIENCE KNOWS EVERYTHING I KNOW, WHAT AM I DOING WASTING THEIR TIME? ‘Tis better to lead them gently into new ideas, making sure that they are following each step.

And one more lesson, Grasshopper:

Two days ago, I am groaning my way into a very cold car seat, preparing to face low temperatures and a short ride to the shop. I get the motor going, then reach for my genuine brown cloth Family Dollar bargain garden gloves (four pairs for $2.00) to give my pinkies protection against the day. The gloves are not on the passenger seat, so I grope around between the seats to see it they’ve fallen into an abyss of thingies that accumulate there. Ah! A glove! Shivering excitedly, I pull the soft fabric onto my left hand and reach down for the right-hand glove. There it is! I try to don it but it, too, is a left-handed glove. Muttering in amazement, I open the glove compartment—where else would you find a spare glove—and pull yet another one out. It, too, is a left-handed glove! Now I’m speaking words to the frosty air that I try to refrain from using in public. I slam the glove compartment closed, but it pops back open because the stuff stuffed within is expanding like a nova. Ah! Again! I suddenly see popping out onto the floor a genuine right-handed glove. I calm down a bit, slide it on, then resume trying to close the cotton-pickin’ door. Fifth try is magic and it sticks shut. At this point, my mind is sorting out what else is going on around me, and I realize someone is giggling nearby. I lower the window because my friend Lon is standing there, having observed my entire Passion of the Family Dollar Store Bargain Gloves. He’s having so much fun, he could use a bag of buttered popcorn. I am now beyond dignity and simply join in the laughter, having learned that sometimes the audience you are performing for is invisible…so you’d best be on good behavior at all times to avoid being packed into the doofus category that life provides free of charge

 © Jim Reed 2014 A.D.

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Eagles Aerie 972 Awaits Me

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Eagles Aerie 972 Awaits Me

Lying snug and covered in my Sunday morning bed, I try to focus my mind on what I will do today.

Liz is preparing to go to church, to sing in the choir. I, the secular husband, like to laze about on Sunday, since it’s the only day of the week I do not ply my trade(s).

Then, I remember that today will be different—I am to be guest speaker at the annual Thanksgiving gathering of Eagles Aerie 972 near Graysville. Oops, that’s at 1 p.m., a mere two hours from now.

I never turn down an invitation to speak or perform publicly, since it serves to pull me out of my shell, away from my routine. And it forces me to re-live all that wonderful practice I got back in youth-time, when years of acting on stage, followed by years of announcing and interviewing on radio and television gave me the self-confidence I needed to deal with other people. Like riding a bicycle, it all comes back to me whenever I’m in front of an audience. Plus, I like to make people laugh and remember the good tidbits of life, if only for a few minutes.

But what will I say to an audience of military veterans? What can I do to help them override bad memories for a while? After all, I am not a veteran, I am not an Alpha Male exuding testosterone and bluster, I am merely a nerdish guy who spends his life with words swirling about him, selling books, reading books, writing books, preaching about the importance of books.

When will the first yawn come from the audience today?

Lying here, staring at the ceiling, I await Liz’s emergence from the bathroom, so that I can hop across the cold wooden floors and grab a hot shower. Liz comes into the room, all dressed up and perfumey, looking radiant. She places her hand on my forehead and, sensing my natural insecurities, says, “You’ll do fine. You always know how to make ‘em laugh,” or words to that effect. That’s all the encouragement I need.

Liz leaves, I get cleansed and dressed, and here I am at the computer keyboard, writing a note to you—or to myself, if you aren’t there.

My mind starts clicking and I kind of know what I’ll be doing at the lectern today. Maybe I’ll read them my favorite true Thanksgiving story—the one I share with you once a year. Maybe I’ll tell them about my Uncle Buddy’s adventures as a paratrooper during WWII. Maybe I’ll mention that sometimes war can make certain things better. In Uncle Buddy’s case, he taught me how to turn swords into plowshares. In the case of the Berlin Wall, it was 25 years ago today that it came down. Maybe I’ll mention several Russian and American astronauts who have lived and worked together in space for six months and will come down to Earth today just in time for Thanksgiving.

And maybe I’ll get a nice turkey dinner and some camaraderie from the veterans and spouses.

Why not have a good time on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in a little town named Graysville, located near here somewhere on planet Earth

© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.

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A Gift of Time Not Squandered

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“An extra hour of time. What would I do if I were handed an extra hour of time, to do with as I pleased?”

This thought suddenly arcs out of nowhere and, like a Cupid arrow, plants itself into his racing and fertile mind.

He prepares to go to bed Saturday night and dutifully resets the nearby clock so that eleven o’clock becomes ten o’clock. He is suddenly excited by this pressing idea that he’s being gifted, that an hour of his life has been handed back to him. He feels like Ebenezer Scrooge, waiting for the next revelation to be forced upon him, a revelation about Life and Meaning and Purpose…

What if the first ghost to appear is Sadie Logan, his late, revered Second Grade teacher, who gave him the best school year of his life? What if she appears just to observe him while he struggles with his decision? What if she grades him on what he intends to do with his precious extra hour?

Will he come up with a new theory of particle physics? Will he be inspired to write a new and lasting thought about the meaning of life, such as “Tomorrow is the day after the first day of the rest of your life.”? Will he fill the time carefully thanking all the people he’s never thanked, the people like Sadie who nudged him along in positive directions throughout the decades?

Will he decide to spend sixty minutes being unrelentingly kind and thoughtful?

He is filled with anticipation and ideas and outrageously pious thoughts.

He knows he is about to do something great.

Instead, he spends the spare hour lying abed on Sunday morning, contemplating stuff like this.

But he knows that, wherever and whenever Sadie is, she still believes in him.

And that is enough of an epiphany to make him feel the hour is not completely squandered

© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.

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Grace and Beauty in a Frazzled World of Frazzled People

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Grace and Beauty in a Frazzled World of Frazzled People

The young mother driving the van-like vehicular contraption stops so abruptly in the supermarket parking space that the whole machine bounces once, testing its suspension system against a forgotten warranty.

She pushes the door open with one foot while disentangling herself from a cranky seat belt. Her otherwise lovely face is pinched in concentration as she hoists a shoulder bag or two, slings them over her back and circles to the passenger side to dig for a small child who is buckled and cocooned in a plastic and synthetic cloth bucket.

The squirming child frowns in the sunlight and flails about while its mom steadies herself under equal parts of bulging baggage and contorted tot.

At some point, she has everything balanced and in place, and for a moment her world is steady and stable, what with kid planted and detritus organized. Then, she points her squinched nose toward the supermarket and begins steering herself in the direction of automatic doorway safety.

As the young mother disappears with child and burdens into fluorescent air-conditioned sanctuary, she just as abruptly is replaced by an enormous woman emerging from the other automatic entrance, slowly pushing forward a metal wheeled cart packed with all the victuals and cleansers and aids she will need to accompany her through the week. The cart serves as a walker, and it is obvious that she feels pain from her swollen ankles, pain she is accustomed to, pain that is always fresh and relentless.

Her progress across the parking lot is steady, and it is clear that she is as organized as the mother, carefully opening the car trunk and methodically arranging each bag for stability in preparation for the drive home.

Two lives passing in the light.

In just a few years, will the young mother be alone and overweight in an asphalt parking lot? Just a few years earlier, was the large woman a young mother, packing and unpacking her child, keeping it safe and nurtured till distant fly-away time?

The moment passes. The Writer who is writing all this down meanders on to the next parking lot vision, hoping against hope that each sighting will induce some insight, some wisdom, some empathy, for all the sole survivors in all the village parking lots of all the towns in all the world


© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.

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Hand Prints on the Sands of Time

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Hand Prints on the Sands of Time

The bright whitish sand in the small hand-made sandbox at my feet pulls my attention away from the green and asphalt world around me.

It is Childhood Summer on Eastwood Avenue and I the small boy am alone this afternoon, playmates scattered to the winds and wilds of the neighborhood.

I stoop to examine the sand up close. The longer I stare, the more un-whitish the sand appears. It seems to be multi-colored—granules of tan, clear crystal, brown, orange, white, off-white, cream.

The more closely I gaze, the more the sand fills my vision, until there is nothing to see but vast stretches of exotic desert, mounds shifting in the breeze, sculpted contours that can change on a whim. Then, to add to the desert, there is all that cannot be seen, that which is barely hidden from view, that which can appear and disappear if I’m not paying attention.

A grunting camel just over the horizon, a green and damp oasis around the next turn, a crawling thirst-craved man following the next mirage, mysterious veiled women offering jugs of sweet water.

I press my open hand, palm down, into the warm sand, forming an inch-deep print for future nomads to discover.

I raise my hand and turn it over to examine the single layer of grains coating all, forming a temporary glove that glistens in the sunlight.

And, as gossamer as a spider web, the sand flies into the air as I brush away the evidence, erase the Sahara box from my mind, and go on to the next adventure and the adventure after the next adventure.

Later, lying abed after a firefly and ice cream evening, I stare at the dark ceiling and re-live the desert adventures, adding color and texture to the story line by switching on my Boy Scout flashlight and reading another chapter of ROBINSON CRUSOE to flavor what dreams may come


© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.

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