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“To laugh is to awaken.” –H.G. Wells

Dear sad and morose denizen of the harried universe,

What can I do to make you snap out of your gloom for a moment and unaccountably chuckle?

As a jester, there is not much I can accomplish in terms of changing the world or making it a better place for you. I simply don’t have the skills to shift the global axis and bid cool breezes to cross your wrinkled brow.

When I laugh, I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you. More accurately, I’m not laughing at you or with you, I’m instead laughing FOR you.

If you have trouble finding a shard of Funny during your inexplicably unpredictable journey through life, then maybe we jesters can give you a break, cut you some slack, grant you a reprieve…just by making you laugh despite yourself.

Innocent laughter is like an inexpensive bout of shock therapy. When something suddenly causes you to put on hold all despair and simply laugh out loud for reasons you cannot explain, then you’ve just experienced free treatment, no co-pay required, no appointment necessary, no distracted medical tech poking at your privates.

A good laugh at the most dismal of times can, now and then, derail you and cause you to see past the bleakness, disregard whatever up till that moment seemed utterly undisregardable.

Kind of like thinking you are streaming War and Peace but suddenly finding yourself viewing Ferris Bueller’s Day off for the umpteenth time.

The jesters among us help us through the gloom. That’s what they are for. Laurel and Hardy and Belushi and Pee Wee and Abbott and Costello and Murray and Carlin and Pryor and Hope and Crosby and Silverman and Argus and Diller and the Bennys Hill and Jack, and Rock and Carson and Barney Fife and Lucy and on and on and on. These jesters have a purpose. They are not to be taken lightly.

Our jesters bring us up and out of the grind and show us how to find the ponies hidden beneath the spangled saddles.

So, if we are able to spend some time now and then in mindless mirth, we might just barely reduce the temperature of the seething planet.

We just might barely find solace long enough to form a plan of prankster battle against the grumpies surrounding us

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

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As Bronnie Nichols lowers my head underwater, I squeeze tight my eyes and suddenly realize I am about to die.

I can’t swim! I think in panic. What if he lets go of me? What if I get disoriented and can’t figure out which way is up, which way is the surface? Holy Moly!

I obviously survive the ordeal, or I wouldn’t be telling this true story so many decades later. So, to begin at one of the many beginnings from which I can select:

Bronnie Nichols does his job and baptizes me and gets me wet with God and makes me sputter a bit.

Reverend Bronnie Nichols is our pastor at Forest Lake Baptist Church when I am trying to grow up in Tuscaloosa, back in the 1940’s and 1950’s. We call him Brother Nichols, out of respect and tradition.

Brother Nichols is a distinguished-looking white-haired man with a laconic and pleasant manner, and in the pulpit, he appears even more laconic and pleasant. He doesn’t act like the other Baptist preachers we listen to on the radio or see delivering guest sermons at the church. Bronnie Nichols is nothing like the fire-and-brimstone evangelists who come through town during revivals, or who pitch tents or commandeer Denny Stadium for mass soul-savings.

No, Brother Nichols is kind of laid-back, intellectual, mildly profound, though he is judged harshly by some who say he does not make us in the congregation feel guilty enough to get through the week, once the Sunday sermon is over. Bronnie Nichols’ delivery is a sort of sweet, sing-song series of Bible quotations and moral lessons which he never seems to read. He actually “wings” his sermons!

That is impressive, because back in these long-ago days, folks feel that a preacher ought to be inspired by God or Mary or Jesus or Somebody Up There…so inspired that he doesn’t need notes or written-out sermons. Baptist preachers are supposed to walk back and forth across the stage (and during sermons like that, it certainly is a stage rather than a pulpit), waving their arms and making you regret the day you were born in sin—or at least regret what you did late last night. So, Brother Nichols does fill the bill to that extent—not having to rely on notes or worked-up speeches—but he fails in the arm-flailing department. He is just too distinguished to stoop to that sort of behavior.

One particularly guilt-provoking part of the Sunday sermon always comes at the end (the end being way past Noon…a good preacher proves his goodness by showing you how long he can hold you captive past Sunday lunchtime). This is when the choir and congregation join together in sad, passion-filled hymn-singing and Brother Nichols invites those who are ready to come down front and dedicate their lives to Jesus Christ and the other Powers Up There. In fact, the success of his sermons depends almost entirely upon how many people come down the aisle and say they want to Get Saved. If nobody comes forth, the Sunday lunch (we of course call it Sunday Dinner, as did just about everybody else except Yankees) conversation centered around whether or not Brother Nichols’ sermon has been good enough.

We really love Brother Nichols, because he looks so much like a preacher in the movies, and because he never makes us feel too guilty to show our faces in church next Sunday.

Anyhow, during those end-of-sermon hymns, little boys like me quiver in fear and expectation. We fight the impulse to run down front and let everybody know that we, too, want to be righteous and holy and forgiven for all we’ve done or want to do (in these days, we are mostly wanting pardon for what we want to do, since we don’t have much opportunity to escape the watchful eyes of family and neighbors). But going down in front of all those people is a terrifying prospect. Everybody will be looking at you. Everybody will be reminded that you haven’t already Been Saved, which means you are probably still sinning regularly. Then, they might want to know what you have been sinning at. Also, if you Get Saved, you’ll have to exert the effort to be good all the time, and that is totally alien territory.

But the sermon and the hymn pull and pull at you. The joyful sadness of knowing you can’t get to Heaven without a passport personally signed by Bronnie Nichols is almost unbearable. What if you don’t go down this Sunday, and you get run over by a ‘52 Ford pickup during the week? In spite of all your good intentions, you will wind up in Hell, and Hell is definitely a hell of a place, the way Brother Nichols describes it.

But the hymn goes on and on, and if only one or two people show up down front, Brother Nichols will have the choir sing yet another chorus, which puts even more pressure on you. Getting down to that sixth stanza that nobody knows by heart, is excruciating.

I hold out till I am thirteen years old. In fact, I am so stubborn that I hold out till a revival meeting is in progress, and a guest minister—not Brother Nichols—grabs me by my guilt and wrings it dry. Then I get the urge and follow it. I go down front, but immediately have second thoughts. That’s because during revivals, dozens of people pour down each night. In fact, many of them must spend the year preparing to go down only during revival. We know of some who go down every year, even though they have long ago been Baptized and Saved. They usually confess to additional sins and want some re-cleansing.

But going down front with so many others sort of takes the show biz out of the moment. I am hardly noticeable among the throng. It is hardly worth doing a good deed if no-one is watching. I later learn that comedian Tom Lehrer knows this all too well, too, when he sings,

“Be careful not to do your good deed when there’s no-one watching you.”

I go through with it, though. Getting baptized is a big event in the life of every Baptist, a cross between graduation and a funeral. You have to wear these stiff white robes (they tell you to wear a bathing suit underneath) and step into a pool (that’s what the kids call it) in front of the Sunday night congregation…and get dipped….submerged, not sprinkled…shaken, not stirred. I identify with other confused people I read about, such as Dorothy Parker, who was expelled from Catholic school for referring to Immaculate Conception as Spontaneous Combustion. What if I get all the terms mixed up?

The robes cling to my skin once I am standing there up to my chest in warm water, and Brother Nichols is kind of wet, too, calmly doing his recitation. Then, he leans me back into the water and takes me all the way under (I am told to hold my nose and cross my arms at the same time, so that I will look like a devout drowner. I long at this moment for a cyanide capsule).

After that, it is over. I return home feeling sacred for a whole night, before all doubts and temptations creep back in.

Strangely enough, getting baptized sort of washes me clean of wanting to go to church anymore, and I disagree with my father for years over the fact that I don’t want to go and he wants me to. It isn’t the Baptism so much as it is the structure of Sunday School that turns me away from the organized church.

Sunday School is painful, though I learn a great deal about what the Bible spins in the way of interesting and dramatic tales. In fact, I remember those Bible tales all my life and am amazed when others don’t know anything about some of the Biblical heroes and parables we study in Sunday School. These are great stories to live by, fables to guide me, and I still use them every day, just to get through the day.

The teachers are only human, often preaching against the very things they do themselves—smoking in the alley after telling us smoking is sinful, telling “dirty” jokes while urging us never to do such a thing, using profanity after cussing us out for doing the same thing, and so on—like real humans! There are exceptional exceptions. Pearl White and Festus Barringer are teachers who are every bit as good as their teachings! How do they do that?

At home, I have been taught that really good people practice what they preach. So I figure church is no place to go in search of really good people. We are told that only Christians can get into heaven, which makes me worry about what happens to heathen babies and Jews and people who have never even heard of Christianity. Of course, Sunday School and Bible School teachers are always annoyed by such notions, so I learn to keep my mouth shut—most of the time. I can open it now, because I understand more about the need to preach what my Mother calls little white lies in order to give people hope and the energy it takes to get through a day…Santa Claus and Jesus give us something to strive for, something positive and benevolent.

So, thanks, Bronnie Nichols, thanks for giving me a standard to live up to. Thanks for setting an example I can at least work toward.

Sorry about not becoming a preacher myself, which Pearl White always assumed I’d do. I may not get into a Christian heaven, but at least I know right from wrong and, on good days, manage to do more right than wrong


© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

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Relentless summertime heat competes head-on with drenching summertime humidity. It doesn’t matter which one wins, because we boys of summer know full well that we are the losers either way.

Today, it’s the late 1950′s in memory green. I am sitting in an un-air-conditioned classroom at Tuscaloosa High School, bent over the keys of an old manual typewriter, fingers poised for the starting gun held high by my typing teacher at the head of the class. When the gun goes off, we clacking victims will be off and running, trying to see how many words per minute we can produce without error.

My pal, Jon Charles Palmer, sits next to me at his own machine, staring hopelessly at the keys, acting as if he and I are ready, willing and able to enter the same contest…even though we know that deep down inside we are actually unready, unwilling and unable to accomplish very much.

Jon Charles and I share the same sense of doom. Each day of summer school, we have primarily goofed off, kidded around, passed notes, giggled, stared at out-of-our-league coeds and in every way ignored the typing lessons. We can’t get over the silliness of our situation–having to make up for poor grades by serving out this summer school sentence.

And whenever we look down at the word QWERTY on the keys beneath our fingers, we are overcome with stifled laughter. QWERTY has become our mantra. While prim and efficient coeds apply their practice and studies to the task at hand, Jon Charles and I are acting like the nerdy pranksters we are. And now we will pay the price.

I wipe the sweat from my brow, glance around the room at coeds, teacher, typewriters, shiny-surfaced desks, open windows, and one solitary apple glistening from a corner of the front desk. Wonder which student brought that to class. Why didn’t I think of that? Dang.

The gun goes off, the clickety-clacking ensues, Jon Charles and I go at it with full gusto. He and I are frowning intensely at the keys, even though it is forbidden to look at them while typing. “A professional typist knows where the letters are, does not need to look down,” the teacher pontificates on many occasions.

“Time’s up!” proclaims the warden.

The inmates pause, lean back, gaze at their handiwork. The coeds are pleased and have successfully executed perfect documents. I stare in disbelief at my error-filled sheet of paper and begin to tally my handiwork.

“Fifteen words per minute?” I look at Jon Charles. Jon Charles looks at me, having just about accomplished the same thing.

My career as a typist is over. I barely escape the course with a C average. I continue to be the worst typist in Tuscaloosa County. Until one day, when I become a writer.

Now, at last, I am motivated to type. My newfound career requires me to: Type fast. Type confidently. Type to persistent deadlines. My job is to write and report. I love having the job, receiving the paycheck, seeing my very own words come alive in black and white. I am now the world’s fastest–and most inaccurate–typist and, once I learn to proofread and edit, even my rapidly sloppy typing can be “fixed” to read correctly.

Even Jon Charles Palmer finds his own way as a professional, is eventually motivated to type.

All we need is motivation. A cell block full of heat and humidity and QWERTYness just doesn’t cut it if you’re a 1950′s teenager clueless to the world and tuned solely into your own undisciplined imagination and ungainly body.

And the mystery remains: How do all those coeds appear to keep it together? They seem to know how to stay the course and get the task done, while we guys just meander along, waiting a few more years till QWERTY fades and maturity arises.

This much I know. QWERTY seems more important now, all these decades later, than just about anything else this summer. That’s because QWERTY remains before me each and every day, grinning back at me from the keyboard, reminding me that ninety per cent of life is finding something to giggle at when times are muddled

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

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You and I are having this serious one-one-one conversation over lunch. As always, our chat is punctuated by anecdotes, laughs, gossip and factoid-sharing. We are having a pleasant time.

At some point in this exchange over edibles, I catch you staring at the top of my head. You do it again, later. Now I’m beginning to wonder whether there’s something atop my pate that is attracting attention. Is there a wild hair? At my age, I do find an occasional errant unclipped intruder. Are you just now noticing how bald and shiny I’ve become? Is there a dab of soap lather missed during my morning shower? Am I so boring that you are drifting into daydreams?

Then, it suddenly occurs to me that the far away look in your eyes doesn’t have anything to do with my head or your attention span. There is a large television screen behind me, hanging from the ceiling. Indeed, there are several such flotillas scattered about the eatery–and just about any eatery I’ve visited lately.

I am looking into your eyes and you are looking into the face of a perspiring athlete on an electronic device. Guess you’ve made your choice. As a test, I halt my story midstream and continue eating in silence. It takes a few seconds for you to avert your gaze and re-join the flesh-and-blood moment. You have that “where were we?” look and I have my quiet bemusement.

The conversation re-boots and we get along well for moments at a time, in between your magnetized meanderings back to the hovering screen.

Well, it’s sighing time, I know you’re going to leave me again. I can see that far away look in your eyes.

They ought to write a song about it

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

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Writers, authors, tellers of stories, poets, purveyors of enhanced realities, composers of  realistic mythologies…we all have one thing in common. The prospect of coming down with something called Writer’s Block.

Some of us could use a dose of Writer’s Block. These folks suffer from Multisyllabic Reflux, the inability to hush up and pay attention to the silences and pauses between thoughts.  They just can’t stop themselves from unedited wordflow.

Others freeze up when it comes time to utter or compose or write or in some way begin a story. They await a miracle or an inspiration or a Voice.

In my own case, I do not have Writer’s Block. My stories never seem to end, always appear to be waiting to pounce onto the keyboard or sheet of paper. Because of this, I have to be careful which tales are ready to be shared, which need to age first, which would be interesting to anybody outside of Me. And that, I do not always know.

So I suppose that editing and vetting become most useful skills. The story is there, now I just have to shape and guide it into the appropriate format.

I’m at the checkout counter in a Dollar General Store in a nearby rural county. I ask, “Could you direct me to the Kleenex?” The nicely-dressed elderly clerk replies, “Peanuts in the can?”

“Uh, no…”  I begin.

“Oh, you want them in the bags?”

“Er, I don’t think they come in bags.” Now I realize she may have a hearing problem. How to communicate?

“Kleenex, you know, like, tissue (I point to my nose).

“Oh, yeah,” she realizes what I want. “Well, I don’t know…” She looks over at the tall booth where an employee is bent down to her paperwork, oblivious of all store activity but listening intently to any words floating in the air.

“Dorothy, do you know?”  Dorothy just shrugs and continues looking down at whatever she’s doing in the manager’s high castle.

I smile and motion to the clerk not to worry, then wander off to find some aisle that looks like Kleenexville. I eventually stumble upon facial tissues and fail to find them in either bag or can.

I take my box to the lady at the counter and find that she knows how to make change backwards and aloud, the way they used to make change way back when. I bask in this experience because it reminds me that my mother also knew how to make change from her clerking days at F.W. Woolworth and R.L. McGee General Merchandise.

I tote my flimsy white plastic bag to the exit door, wishing the clerk a happy day and a good life. She doesn’t catch the last part, but I carry her smile with me.

And that’s my little story. There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?

By now you may be grumbling, “Well, he may not have Writer’s Block, but I do, and this anecdote doesn’t help me at all.”

May I say this about that?

All I did in telling my story was shake the Writer’s Block Snow Globe a bit. Whenever things settle down and verge on stagnation, I pick up the globe, shake it, watch how its contents flutter and swirl and settle down into entirely new configurations. Then, like reading tea leaves, I gaze intensely and imagine what’s under those flakes, what secrets are awaiting revelation, what joys and horrors are ready to spring.

And out comes a story. I don’t have to make anything up. Life is brimful of so many lost moments that I can merely reach my hand into the miasma and come up with a gem not of my own making. As a writer, all I have to do is pass this gem on to anybody who cares to read these words.

Too simple, too easy, you say.

Well, it only took me several decades to discover this secret, so it may take you a while, too. Once you establish the rhythm of the snow globe routine, you might have an aha! moment. Or not. But in your search for the right ritual you could stumble upon your own method.

At least I caused you to consider it

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

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She is standing before an old stained-glass church that houses the honors program at a local university. She is working on her tobaccolaureate degree.

Alone, she puffs away, gazing wistfully at the branches of a big tree, who knows what,  going through her mind.

If you take time to look, you’ll see other nicotined scholars, only they seem more isolated than they were prior to the advent of palmed phones.

Back then, puffers were the last sociable people on earth. They stood in groups before buildings high and low, chatting and sharing and signifying and learning more about each other than they’d ever learn inside their cocooned work places, where they stared at  screens or dozed spasmodically or filed nails or filed files.

Outside, in the particulated air, they grew to know little things about the people they seldom spoke with once inside the buildings.

Then, the pod people devices came along, so that now, even though puffers still stand outside, many only talk into the ether to people whose bodies are not present, ignoring fellow solitudes who stand just inches away, talking into their armpits as if their conversations deal with life-threatening issues. Or they speak silently with pecking thumbs.

Me? What do I inhale each day that is half better than what these folks inhale?

Well, here at the shop, the fragrances embedded within old books and newspapers and magazines and ink blotters and documents and brochures and maps are fragrances unlike any you’ll ever experience elsewhere. They blend with the inherent fragrances of old high-rag-content paper, old highly acidic paper, to be fermented and reborn as new and more mysterious fragrances.
To gain the attention of an old bookie like me,  just dab some of that fragrance behind your earlobe and pass by. “There’s something about that customer,” I’ll say to myself.
So, the book addict is standing inside the 1890′s building that houses the last and final old rare bookstore in the region. He is working on his bookalaureate degree.

Alone, he inhales the gossamer essences, gazing wistfully at centuries of tomes stacked about him, who knows what, going through his mind

 © 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

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Jimmy Three is lying flat on his back in the living room of his family home. He is staring at the hard-plaster ceiling and contemplating the cracks that zigzag here and there, going nowhere in particular. Jimmy Three is just a kid, back here in the 1950′s when this scene is taking place.

Alone in the asbestos-shingled bungalow he shares with two parents, two sisters, two brothers, he is enjoying the silence of the moment and doing what he does best: ruminating and cogitating and fantasizing and thinking real hard.

Right now, Jimmy Three is wondering where his inspirations are buried. Over the years, he has hidden things so that he or somebody might find these things and gleefully re-experience them someday. For instance, there is a note squirreled away between the insulation  and roofing in the back of the house, and he can no longer get to the note. He has no idea what this message to himself says, because it has been so long since he hid it there during construction of the room.

In the back yard is another secreted treasure–a small box with important but now forgotten objects that he wants to dig up. However, he is unable to locate the spot because the secret map to this burial site is also missing.

Jimmy Three blinks and stares harder at the ceiling, massaging ideas and poems and stories in his head but not yet being brave enough to set them down on paper. These compositions will float and flourish for decades until the day comes when he will regurgitate them in the form of columns and books and blasts and blogs and podcasts. Some will remain hidden. Some will inspire others. Some will simply exist.

Finally, life intervenes and motivates Jimmy Three to arise from the floor, dust himself off, grab a snack, pocket a pad of writing paper and a pencil, and leave the house before any family members return. They might not understand the significance of his lying afloor and appearing to be doing not a thing in the world.

Another hidden note: Jimmy Three knows that these few minutes have been busy and activity-filled and reanimating for him. He knows, too, that those in the family who are not imagineers will think him idle.

But he also is aware that there are fellow dreamers among them who will someday blossom and expose their hidden treasures to appreciators, too.

Appreciators who will have not a clue as to how much floor-time goes into molding a work of art into something visible or audible

 © 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

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Einstein was right. Everything is relative.

What Einstein failed to go on to say is: Relativity is EVERYTHING. In fact, relativity is EVERYBODY.

We are all related in some manner, a fact at once beguiling and frustrating, at times horrifying to think (did I really come from the same evolutionary roots as that third-world dictator and that European princess?), and at times provocative (I may share wellsprings with Einstein himself or Nelson Mandela, or even Charlie Chaplin).

If we are all kin, most of us don’t like to admit it except when it’s convenient.

Sometimes, the same folks who go on and on about how they’ve traced their roots all the way back to King Henry or the Vikings, are the same folks who don’t like to talk about the fact that if they go far enough back before that, they are also kin to Kunta Kinte, Adolf Hitler, Moses, Rube Goldberg, Henny Youngman and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Within the bowels, we share common ancestry–and you have to believe that, whether you’re an evolutionist or a religionist.

So, if we’re all in the same family, why do we treat cousins and sisters and offspring different from neighbors, foreigners and aliens? Why is our own blood so much more palatable than a stranger’s? Why are my lawn weeds nicer than your lawn weeds?

It’s not only a small world, it’s a world interwoven with genes and bloodlines and ancestries. Unfortunately, it’s also a world of many fences and few gates, a world of barely-suppressed hostility that can become offensive at any given moment, a world of more should-have’s than can-do’s, a world where the meek, though blessed, are often oppressed simply because they do not place aggression at the top of their priority lists.

Where is the good in the world, then, you ask?

Well, it’s like everything else in the universe–the good is there, you simply have to fade the bad stuff out for a while so you can notice it.

An audience laughing at the same humor is sharing a commonality that transcends the petty differences of the moment.

An old man stopping to pat a small child on the head is making a quantum leap in time and without knowing it, is by the same act, massaging the cosmos with a bit of kindness.

A firefighter who suddenly and without thinking risks life and limb to save the life of someone who in normal situations wouldn’t seem worth the extension of a cordial greeting…that firefighter is unconsciously affirming the fragile but extensive thread of hope that cobwebs the world and makes itself available at the strangest times.

It’s out there. You have to either take time to notice it, or act quickly when the kindness urge strikes, so that you won’t have time to figure out why you should not be doing something so wimpy as generating an unconditional act of sweetness

 © 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

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                       (adapted from the book Dad’s Tweed Coat, Small Wisdoms Hidden Comforts Unexpected Joys by Jim Reed)


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The small girl student walks up to me and hands me her very first personally-authored book.

“Will you sign this for me?” she asks.

I pause for a tick and try to process this, before replying.

You see, I am sitting at a portable table in the hallway of a grammar school somewhere in North Alabama some years ago, a hallway crowded with milling students and teachers and…authors. I am one of five authors being spotlighted today, some famous, some somewhat known to a few readers (my category). We are all guest speakers and honored personalities invited to the school to encourage kids to produce literary works.

For some reason, each child has been assigned the task of writing and illustrating and binding an original book. The informal session going on right now provides the beginning authors a chance to mingle with accomplished authors. As proof of their participation, the students have to get the guest authors to sign their freshly produced works–a reversal of the usual author-signings common in the book hawking world.

“Will you sign my book?”

I look at this expectant child and blurt out, “I’ll be happy to sign the book–but will you allow me to read it first?” She looks startled that any stranger would want to read her work, especially a stranger accustomed to signing his own books for fans. She nods enthusiastically.

I examine the slender volume and begin to read her story, a tale of dragons and princesses and adventures, colorfully illustrated and meticulously designed. I finish, look up at its nervous author, and say, “I enjoyed this very much.” She beams.

I wonder what I can say to her that she can carry with her and perhaps remember years later.

“Have you started writing the sequel?”

Her brow furrows. “What’s a sequel?”

“What happens the next day?” I point at the dragon and princess.

A light switches on inside her eyes. I can actually see it. Her face beams. She almost hops up and down but controls her excitement. “Oh, I know what happens the next day! Can I write about that, too?”

“Yes, you can.”

I sign her book and she skips away, anxious to begin her neverending tale.

I think about all the sequels and sequels of sequels that have been written, are being written, may never be written. And I am happy that I have just met a fellow traveller, one who, like me, knows that no story ever ends.

Which is why I never place a period when I cease my narrative. It always goes forth to the next day and the next and the next, you know

 © 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

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Thanks to a nurturing upbringing, I have always been aware of germs and their place in my life. This awareness can be troubling. Or a bit silly.

At a local restaurant, I take a men’s room break. At the same time, an aproned server hastily enters a stall, performs his necessary bodily function and rushes out the door. He doesn’t flush. He doesn’t wash.

Now, as I prepare to re-enter the diner, I have to touch the same door knob he has just touched. And me without my surgical gloves. I return to the table, wiping right hand on  jacket in some kind of leap-of-faith hope that the germs will leave my skin, grow bored of the jacket, and magically disappear.

I’m ready to order a meal and look up to find the very same server politely awaiting instructions, pencil and pad in hand. This is the person who will serve my food, the same one who earlier brought in the place settings and coasters and napkins and handed my granddaughter crayons and coloring book. My wife wonders why I’m just sitting here, staring at the waiter’s hands, temporarily unable to speak.

I finally do what I usually do. Rather than cause an unpleasantness that would be the only thing my family remembers about the evening, I take a deep breath, pretend I’ve seen nothing, and place my order. Everybody has a good time, but I can’t help recalling those glory days way back when our favorite restaurant is El Gringo’s on Crestwood Boulevard. El Gringo’s sells a lot of iced tea each day, so a large tray table of pre-filled glasses sits against a wall. When we arrive to dine, a busboy quickly directs the five of us to a table. While we are being seated, I gaze over Liz’s head at the busboy, watching him go to the iced tea cart, stick all four fingers and thumb a couple of inches into each glass, pick the five of them up, and bring them to our table. He does remember to dry his fingers on a filthy cloth hanging from his belt. Ah, another local meal at another local restaurant. Family bliss comes in small doses.

My life with germs is not an easy one, but I do remember some things I’ve been taught, some of which might actually be true.

Germs are everywhere all the time.

Some germs are germier than others.

You can’t get rid of germs.

Germs are inconvenient.

You can see germs. At least in your worst imaginings.

You can get on with daily life by ignoring germs.

You can lower the germ population in certain instances.

Germs can be moved out of one place and chased to another place. The Leaf Blower process.

Germs R Us.

Aside from these thoughts, I find that avoidance is a wonderful coping tool, so my attacks on germs are only spasmodic. I fight the good fight by quickly retrieving a dropped chip from the floor, hoping that a three-second rule applies. When a friend sneezes into his hands and then reaches out to shake mine, I try to smile through it and then head for the Purell. When an uncovered dish lolls about overnight after a party, I quietly dispose of its contents before anybody comes to claim it. And, when in the dental chair, I just close my eyes at the infractions all about me.

Germ warfare is important but largely ineffective unless you pay very, very close attention.

But if you constantly do that, you  won’t have any fun at all

 © 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

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