140 CHARACTERS 100 DEGREES

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140 CHARACTERS 100 DEGREES

Stepping into the morning, I hit an all-encompassing wall of 100-degree heat and humidity, SPLAT! just like Wile E. Coyote slamming into a brick wall. Wow!

I catch my breath and wade into the scorching mass like a ghost seeping through a closed door.

How will people behave on a day like this? I wonder. How will this affect their attitudes?

I soon know the answer during my amazing encounters with some 140 characters.

Won’t list all 140 encounters in this story, but will share a few with you.

CHARACTER 1

BEEP! The Roadrunner in the bubba jeep behind me taps his horn in the split second it takes the light to change and my foot to switch from brake to accelerator. My reaction is to remove foot from pedal and slow down a bit, a simple act of aggression exacerbated I suppose by the heat of the day…but eminently satisfying to me and doubly frustrating to the bubba jeep guy. He whizzes past and gets on with the journey, I resume my forward trek and smile a bit.

CHARACTER 2

I’m peering into a chest-high used-book bin at the thrift store to see what’s what, when a longsleeved arm curls around me from behind to grab a volume I’m examining. I turn to see who would do such a thing and just miss observing a different arm snatching a book from the other side of the bin. I sigh, count to eight and a half, and decide not to protest. These are just books and those are just locusts doing what they know how to do. I move on to a section of the store where nobody is hovering. My fun comes from silently–and alone–reading the titles and imagining the contents.

CHARACTER 3

The building I’m about to pass sports a long staircase upon which four orange-hard-hatted men wearing orange vests sit and chat next to four orange traffic cones. They don’t notice the heat of the morning because this is what they experience all day every hot day that occurs. They aren’t whiners like you and me. They are enjoying each other’s company.

CHARACTER 4

I’m at the car radio store standing by while a perspiring clerk lies on his side on the passenger seat of my vehicle, surgically probing for the top of a Flair marker that has leapt into the bowels of my cassette player and clogged the works. He’s a good sport and doesn’t mind the challenge. I’m proud of the player, ordered brand-new from Japan, where it is still manufactured. It gives me pleasure whenever I drive, because I can play all those wonderful old cassettes that have piled up over the years. EUREKA! he shouts as he displays the culprit he has just fished for and caught. He doesn’t want to charge me anything, but I feel it’s worth every cent of the twenty-dollar bill I slip him. He’s a good Samaritan.

CHARACTER 5

That hot evening, we are dining at our favorite Peruvian restaurant, being served by a brusque but efficient waiter who clicks into Polite as he brings the tab, making a little joke and hoping to engage us. We show our appreciation and actually do leave a nice tip.

CHARACTER 6

At the shop earlier in the heat of the day, I assist a customer whose face is remarkable–expressive dark eyes, soft lips, soft smile, pleasant and easy to deal with. As she prepares to leave, a shadow flickers over her countenance for just a second and some distant pain reveals itself. By the time I react, she is gone, like so many others whose sequestered lives remain out of reach. But I remember her face.

Back to the 100 degree day: These are just a few of the 140 characters with whom I engage or disengage. There are so many, so many. I appreciate them all, I wonder about them all. If you like, I’ll take a few at a time and describe them to you now and then. It’s important to record them somewhere, somehow, since daily life will distract them from ever getting around to writing it all down themselves.

Maybe you can help me archive all these lovely sad and happy people

 

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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GOOD FATHERS ABOUND

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http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/goodfathersabound.mp3

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GOOD FATHERS ABOUND

Today is Good Father’s Day. Tomorrow is Good Father’s Day. Every day is Good Father’s Day.

Good fathers come in many forms and packages.

Here’s my toast to:

motherless fathers

fathers who’ve lost their children

fathers of sons, fathers of daughters

fathers whose children have been taken from them

fathers of mothers

fathers of grandmothers

absentee fathers

honorary fathers

mysterious fathers

fathers who are always there

poster fathers

flawed fathers

step fathers

adoptive fathers

bad-example-but-still-trying fathers

adopted fathers

fathers in name only

clueless fathers

clumsy fathers

fathers we wish we had known better

fathers we know only too well

highfalutin’ fathers

humble fathers

welfare fathers

imprisoned fathers

hugging fathers

distant and cool fathers

dream fathers

dreamy fathers

fathers we would give anything to see again

creative fathers

fathers who do what they can do, just for us

brilliant fathers

caretaker fathers

sacrificing fathers

storybook fathers

protective fathers

biological fathers

test-tube fathers

guardian fathers

only-in-their-imagination fathers

good-pal fathers

uplifting fathers

grandfathers

great grandfathers

fathers  both great and grand

not-so-grand-but-still-trying fathers

foster fathers

stand-in fathers

well-meaning fathers

wanna-be fathers

to-be fathers

long-gone fathers

faraway fathers

gentle fathers

good example fathers

gay fathers

straight fathers

not-quite-sure fathers

surrogate fathers

trans fathers

black fathers

brown fathers

red fathers

pale pink fathers

pasty complexioned fathers

swarthy fathers

fathers we wish we had

fathers we wish we had back

fathers and grandfathers who serve as mothers

fathers on bail

disenfranchised fathers

hospitalized fathers

fathers in nursing homes

fathers who never ask for thanks

funny fathers

fun fathers

sad fathers

sacrificial fathers

attentive fathers

AND ESPECIALLY: fathers who always take the time

In a way, I love them all, these disparate good fathers, mainly because we never appreciate them enough and they never feel they give enough.

I just want them to know that I thought about them for a few special moments, that I wish them well for all they’ve done or hoped to do for us, their babies old and young

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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DO THE RIGHT THING

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http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/dotherightthing.mp3

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DO THE RIGHT THING

Sometimes, I want to halt the traffic in my life and simply Do the Right Thing.

When I’ve had enough of the rambling, sometimes vicious, often hopeful, seldom unconfused thoughts and feelings that rain down upon me each and every day by way of directionless and fearful mass media, social media, over-the-back-fence palaverers, walk-by/drive-by criers and whisperers…I tend to shut down for a time.

Yep, I can only take so much of the ricocheting, emoting, subversive and uplifting chatternoise that has become our way of communicating with each other. Once in a while, I just want to sit quietly with a friend or two, unplug the devices that tell us how to act and purchase, close out the intrusive distractions, and simply have an unagenda’d conversation.

You know–I’d like to have what we used to call a dialogue, a brief period during which no-one talks over someone else’s talk. A moment when no-one shouts a dogma or bullies a subject flow or attempts to “win” a round.

My favorite times in life usually involve peaceful jiffies when I can learn a little more about you and who you are and who you wish to be and who you don’t want to be, a jiffy when you may actually ask me about my innermosts–and really listen up.

Sigh.

In reality, these moments seldom occur in my social life. The best times are still the times when Liz and I quietly share thoughts, feelings, experiences, laughter. I cherish these times above all others.

I suppose all I want in life is something to live up to, something to aspire toward, something that makes me want to get up in the morning…because it’s always possible that this morning will be slightly better than yesterday morning.

I take my inspiration from two works of art. If only I could make them my mantra, my template for getting through each tick tock of the day:

 “Do the right thing.”

–repeatedly spoken by “Da Mayor” (Ossie Davis) in Spike Lee’s film.

and

“Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

–written by Henry James

Hey, wouldn’t it be a nicer world if I could just spread the gospel of DO THE RIGHT THING and BE KIND?

Do you think we’d get along better if we could espouse this gentle gospel?

Oh, well, I do have peculiar thoughts now and then. Thought I’d share them with you

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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The Hornswoggler Swoggles Another Swashbuckler

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The Hornswoggler Swoggles Another Swashbuckler

I am sitting half-hidden in the tall grass of our back yard in 1952 Tuscaloosa, swatting at flies, clawing at red bugs on bare legs, tying tight a red bandanna to dam the rivulets of sweat pouring down my neck, day-dreaming about swashbucklers and hornswogglers.

I am quiet and vigilant, awaiting the appearance of brother Ronny.

I have a plan.

“Hey,” Ronny grins as he trots over to my nest, short pants, no shirt or shoes, perfectly attired for this hot summer day. Being a younger brother, Ronny is still willing to go along with just about anything his big brother comes up with.

“Okay,” I say. “Let’s play like we’re Scaramouche and we’ll sword-fight to the death!”

We’ve just seen the Stewart Granger movie and assume for the moment that we, too, can learn to conquer evil with trusty swords in hand, given the chance.

“You be the bad guy and I’ll be Scaramouche!” I love saying the name—Scaramouche!

Of course, Ronny is almost always relegated to being the bad guy or the sidekick, and for now he doesn’t complain. When we play Tarzan, he’s Boy. When we play Lone Ranger, he’s Tonto. If it’s Roy Rogers, he’s Gabby Hayes.  If it’s Captain Marvel, he’s just Billy Batson.

Today, we can’t remember the name of the evil swordsman in Scaramouche, but that doesn’t much matter. Ronny knows he’ll have the honor of being defeated by Big Brother.

We find two semi-straight sticks of equal length and begin our idea of fierce swordsmanship. Knowing that our all-seeing all-knowing mother will know whether we’ve behaved, we are careful to knock sticks together without knocking heads or busting knuckles. We leap over the splintery hand-made saw horse, roll over a rusty oil drum, pole dance around the swing supports, wallow atop ant beds, all the while pretending to sword fight to the death.

After a while, the heat gets to us and we run to the kitchen for cold Pepsi and crumbly cookies.

Down all the years, I can’t help recalling all the wonderful fictitious sword fights I’ve witnessed on screen, in imagination most vivid. But the one sword fight to which all subsequent sword fights are compared is locked into memory.

Even  back then, we kids of summer know that there is something special about the Scaramouche fight. It is long and fierce. Very long. Very fierce. And daring, too. Between them, the dueling Mel Ferrer and Stewart Granger destroy an entire stage set, slash props, mangle a piano, leap over balconies, swing from velvet ropes…and all this with no musical background. Decades later, I learn to appreciate how dramatically loud silence can be. This sword fight is so ferocious that accentuating music is not needed in the least.

Nowadays, I get to check out my childhood impressions by re-viewing that marvelous battle. And sure enough, it still holds me in thrall.

I love many movie sword fights, including the one between Danny Kaye and Basil Rathbone in The Court Jester and, of course, the great conflict between Inigo Montoya and Westley in The Princess Bride. In all of these battles, the viewer is simply lost in the passion of the moment. We really believe these people are fighting for their lives, or at least their honor!

But the best sword play in all memory is the one between Ronny and me. For at this one special moment, we really are Scaramouche and the Marquis de Maynes. We really are caught up in the most glorious of all battles—the one where imagination and hope win out over red bugs and itchy grass on a hot summer day in the long-ago, far-away land of pre-Buttercup Tuscaloosa

 

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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