Jane O’-Lantern

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Trying to fight the grey day and the grey skies on Monday morning, I drop the humid laundry bags off and race from laundry door to car, hoping to dodge a panhandler or two.

“What do you writhe?” a feminine voice asks loudly behind me in the mottled parking lot.

Dang! I think. Someone’s about to hustle me.

I look over my shoulder as I hurry to make it into the car.

There’s a frizzy-grey-haired street woman of indeterminate age toothy-grinning at me. She repeats whatever it is she said.

“What do you writhe?”

“I can’t understand you,” I say, hoping she’ll go away.

I notice that her toothy grin is actually an every-other-tooth grin, since she’s missing sections of the usual white row. She grins widely again, like a happy, soulful jack-o’-lantern.

“What do you write?”

Now she points to the back of my car, where my self-printed bumper sticker proclaims    O What Fun It Is To Write.

Dang again! I think to myself. I’ve once again made a fool of myself. She wants to know what it is that I write.

I grin back, showing more teeth than her.

“Oh, I write books and stories,” I say.

“Like what?” she grins engagingly. She’s really interested!

“Well,” I stumble. “One of my books is Dad’s Tweed Coat: Small Wisdoms Hidden Comforts Unexpected Joys.”

It’s the most popular of my publications, and now I wish I had a copy with me, to give her.

She grins and glows again, appreciately, and turns to walk away. She’s satisfied with the answer.

Some days I writhe, some days I write. Seems all the same to me.

I drive on to work, thinking about her wonderful smile and wondering why all those grey people walking the grey sidewalks this morning left their smiles at home in sad sock drawers

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.



Podcasts: http://jimreedbooks.com/podcast/

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Tap Dancing on Shag Carpeting

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Tap Dancing on Shag Carpeting

“You have heard the sound of two hands clapping, but have you heard the sound of three hands clapping?”

Thoughts like this slither into my mind during the short periods between customers at the bookstore.

“She was aged to imperfection.”

You know, inexplicable thoughts like this—the kinds of thoughts that seem important at the time but ultimately are tossed into the napkin-note sticky-note file for later contemplation.

“You can only observe one-tenth of an iceberg lettuce salad.”

Where did that one come from?

The front door chimes and I am lifted from my navel contemplation. I arise from behind the counter and smile to the customer, “Good morning! How can I help you today?”

A woman of indeterminate age frowns, holds up a shiny book by two fingers, as if it is contaminated and ready for recycling. “I want to return this book for a refund,” she announces.

My policy is ironclad. I always refund, no questions asked. Or at least no questions required. But just for future reference, I say, “OK. Is there anything wrong with the book?”

She sneers, looks into the air—not at me—and says, “I just don’t like the way it ended. I want my money back.”

I am at a loss for words. I look for words, but they seem to have fallen out of my head and rolled under something, out of sight.

“Er, sorry,” I sputter. I determine that this particular customer has made up her immutable mind and is well beyond literary conversation or conversion. I also determine that she will probably never return. I think, too, that she has read very few books in her life and has no idea how a real bookstore operates. I am happy to refund her money in hopes that she will soon disappear and be replaced by appreciative browsers.

She stuffs the refund in her copious purse and grumbles to herself all the way to the door, her experiment with reading over and done with.

I re-shelve the book, return to my storely duties and my lone thoughts.

“She is as pure as the driven sludge.”

Where did that thought come from?

I wonder whether there are other would-be customers like her. Maybe, to paraphrase my Brother, Tim, she is part of a That Customer franchise, people who haunt old bookstores with unlikely demands, then dematerialize.

“I’m looking for a book by GO-eeth,” one customer says. It takes a while to decipher Goethe from his request. I gladly provide him with Goethe.

“I’m looking for poem,” a gruff character states. When I lead him to the poetry section, he stares blankly, arms limp, as if I’ve invited him to tap dance on shag carpeting.

“No, I’m looking for POEM,” he repeats. It takes some time to figure out that he is searching for pornography, or PORN, as it is called these days. Dang, we are fresh out or porn, I say to myself.

I gently let him down and he leaves—again, someone who will never return.

Some folks seem to be searching for Manifest Density. If there is no such thing, there ought to be.

Me, I’m just drifting with my thoughts on a normal day at the least normal bookstore you’ll ever visit, the most enjoyable bookstore you will ever visit, a bookstore stripped bare of unsavory endings and GO-eeth and porn

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.



Podcasts: http://jimreedbooks.com/podcast/

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Glowing Dreams of a Tom Mix Radioman

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Glowing Dreams of a Tom Mix Radioman 

 Squeak. Rustle. Clunk!

It’s the sound of our mail box being opened, stuffed, then securely closed.

Today, I am first to run to the front door and retrieve the daily mail, just in case my special order has arrived.

This is 65 years ago, when we still know the name of the letter carrier, his family, his route and his schedule. He is right on time.

I run to the living room sofa and spread the trove. The newest issue of Life Magazine. A utility bill. A letter from Aunt Annabelle. And a small package addressed to Master Jim Reed!

This is it. Without waiting for permission, I carefully dissect the wrapper, emulating my mother’s care in saving for re-use any and all paper and cardboard materials. I pull out a personal greeting from Tom Mix, the cowboy star I listen to each week on the radio. I won’t know for decades that Tom Mix actually dies a year before I am born…but his franchise lives on.

Lo and behold, here is what I’ve been waiting for. A Tom Mix white plastic belt with red cowboy figures printed thereon. And it is just my size. Well, it is just the size of any small boy who owns it.

I am excited beyond all measure. Not just because I now own the belt. I am excited because this Tom Mix belt is supposed to glow in the dark! Following instructions, I expose the belt to sunlight, then rush to the nearest closet—the only daytime dark place in the house.

I pull the door tight, imprisoning myself among mothballs and suitcases and shoes and clothing. I dare to open my eyes. And there, lighting up the darkness, is my genuine Tom Mix glow-in-the-dark white plastic belt. It seems magical. I am not at all sure that I have ever seen anything that glows in the dark without an electrical plug or a battery or a hand crank.

I look around to see just how much illumination this  belt is capable of. Sure enough, I can see ghostly images of my hands, my shirt, my pants, my bare knees, and all the mysterious closeted objects I can never see in the dark.

Later, after showing off my latest mail-order acquisition to playmates and siblings and mother, after wearing the belt secured by cloth loops about the waist of my Jungle Jim khaki shorts, I have completed the chores and commitments of the day and am once again alone—my favorite place to be. Supper dispensed with, bath behind me, fresh pajamas donned, I climb up to lie abed on the top bunk of the bedroom and spend a little daydream time before slumbering.

Brother Ronny is already snoring in the bottom bunk. Flashlight and comic books are nearby. The sounds of the nightly neighborhood critters filter in through the metal window screens. Nearby houses are already dark. One bright planet, Venus, peers in through the west-facing window.

And there, within my grasp, is the Tom Mix belt. I wonder what Tom Mix would do with a glowing belt out on the cowboy prairie of the Wild West. Since cowboys don’t have flashlights back then, he probably uses the belt to locate firewood on a dark and stormy night. His horse, Tony, is settled in. He holds the belt aloft to find wooden matches. He lights kindling, feeds the flames with more wood, and beds down for the night, using his saddle for a pillow, hoping it doesn’t rain.

The Tom Mix glow-in-the-dark white plastic belt has served its purpose for the night.

Here I am, also bedded down, hugging my new belt, gazing at bedclothes faintly illuminated.

I close my eyes, drift into cowhand dreams, knowing that this has been a really great day, knowing that there may not be that many really great days to come. Hoping that there will be more wonderful days than I can possibly imagine


© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.



Podcasts: http://jimreedbooks.com/podcast/

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