EXPUNGING WHAT DOES NOT COUNT

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http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/expunging.mp3
or read his story below:  

EXPUNGING WHAT DOES NOT COUNT

On a windy sunny morning Downtown, I’m strolling along Third Avenue North, as usual keeping to myself while covertly observing everybody and everything around me.

It is cemented into my daily behavior, this passion for paying attention to tiny things and tiny lives, tiny things and tiny lives that might otherwise be ignored or expunged from memory.

Suddenly, reality walks right up to me and snarls, causing me to shift focus from the important to the unnecessary.

A young woman stands on the sidewalk, staring off to the west at oncoming traffic, as if waiting for someone or something. She looks neither left nor right.

Off in the distance, I see the Screaming Man approaching. The Screaming Man is a Downtown regular. He haunts the landscape so much that we denizens pay little attention to him…until he gets out of hand.

The woman leans over the curb, again seeming to be searching—perhaps hoping to hail a ride.

I know the habits of the Screaming Man, so I instantly feel protective of her. He is going to walk up to her, ask for money, scream epithets if she turns him down, maybe knock her purse out of her hand. I’ve seen it happen before.

I say, “Good morning” in a cheerful voice, hoping to engage her so that the Screaming Man will decide to pass on by and not take on both of us. This sometimes works.

“Uh, good morning,” she mumbles, surprised that anyone would speak.

“Beautiful day, isn’t it?” I continue, glancing at the Screaming Man, who is trying to decide whether to stop.

“Are you trying to hail a cab?” I ask—you can’t hail cabs in Birmingham, and many visitors do not know this.

“Yes, but I don’t see any.”

The Screaming Man wobbles past, talking to himself and hollering at the windy towers.

I give the pedestrian the number of Yellow Cab, since I’ve never used Uber. She is grateful. I continue my stroll.

Now, back to tiny things and tiny lives and tiny moments and tiny kindnesses.

It’s all in a morning’s stroll, a morning’s effort to expunge the bad and focus on small wisdoms, hidden comforts, unexpected joys

 

© Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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REMEMBRANCE OF PAST ECHOES

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 http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/remembranceofpastechoes.mp3

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REMEMBRANCE OF PAST ECHOES

Love of books often has little to do with the books themselves but with the surroundings, the time, the associations, the feelings, the fragrances and the adrenalin rushes.

Each booklover brings into a book a special burden, a special package of memories and expectations, a special preconceived notion of what a book is and what it will do for them.

One of my favorite customers repeatedly recaptures her childhood by purchasing all the books she remembers and therefore all the memories associated with them. She recalls with a glowing smile how her father read to her when she was small. He lay on the edge of her bed and read stories aloud while she snuggled close to his side and felt the warm vibrations of his voice through his chest.

Her memories include the wonderfully secure feeling she had during these childhood times, and she can call them up whenever she is reading in bed at night, those loving and just-right notions that children have that nothing bad is ever going to happen in life.

I can vividly remember what it was like to lie on the floor of the bedroom my brother Ronny and I shared and, while Ronny was outside methodically searching for four-leaf clover, I would read and re-read my favorite stories from our set of JUNIOR CLASSICS or our volumes of CHILDCRAFT.

The room was painted dark blue–at our request–and the curtains were filled with stars, so it wasn’t hard to take a trip outside our bodies whenever we pleased, into another solar system, over to the other side of the world, or deep into the innards of the earth, places where stories in books had already been.

My dog Brownie would lie there staring at me, waiting impatiently for me to get away from those books and come play with him, and he always enjoyed the game in which I stared intensely into his eyes from a distance of about six inches until he would finally snap at me to break the spell, never coming close enough to bite but always making me flinch back just in case.

Brownie himself has become part of my stories and he is thus now in existence both as a great memory and as the subject of tales that will someday be in books and blogs and podcasts. Perhaps someday Brownie and I will exist only as books, since all those people who have known us will have long passed.

My greatest hope is that the books Brownie and Ronny and I shared will survive us long enough to be enjoyed centuries later by kids who are finally coming back around to discovering these marvelous artifacts with pages and stains from little boys’ fingers and small dogs’ sniffings

© Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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SPIDER AND SPIDER MAN COME TO TERMS

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or read his tale:
*
*
SPIDER AND SPIDER MAN COME TO TERMS
*
*
Three-year-old Jimmy Three is stooping low, almost squatting, here on the front lawn of his parents’ home. His head is inches above the base of a holly tree, and he is peering intensely at a spiderweb.
*
The fresh, dewy summer morning sun warms his back while he waits for signs of the spider’s arrival.
*
Jimmy Three remembers being taken to a sawdust circus just weeks ago, a canvas-tent cathedral filled with playful clowns and glowing tigers and pretty acrobats and lithe jugglers, all existing for the moment just to please J. Three and other admiring kids.
*
But the memory he treasures most is the one where a safety net topples to the ground just before a limber trapeze artist does his airborne triple-somersault feat.
*
Earlier, the acrobat flips through the air and effortlessly flies above the gasping crowd, safely rescuing himself at the last moment in the clutches of a fellow performer. Then, for a suspenseful tick or two, he stands high up on the small suspended ledge, stares down, then free-falls down, down, down to the waiting net, where he lands, bounces, and forward-flips himself safely to the ground.
*
The crowd and Jimmy Three are happy and satisfied. But the acrobat has just begun.
*
At the holly tree, a gangly black spider cautiously appears on the web, making it quiver a bit. Jimmy Three doesn’t move, doesn’t blink.
*
The circus crowd applauds, then suddenly freezes. That’s because the trapeze artist is now knocking aside the metal posts that suspend and secure his safety net. In seconds, the net is flat on the ground. The acrobat glances up at the high platform and begins ascending the ladder.
*
The spider begins its eight-legged journey to the center of the suspended web. Jimmy Three wonders what would happen if the web fell and the spider fell with it. Do spiders survive such falls? He picks up a nearby twig.
*
Now the circus acrobat is back on the ledge. The trapeze is freeswinging, teasing him with its closeness, penduluming back, out of reach. The artist’s companion is at another ledge across the tent, waiting to swing and catch his partner should he decide to do a netless triple flip.
*
Before the crowd has time to gasp, the act is in motion, the rapid muscular flips are done, the actor securely rescued, the finale underway, and the singular moment permanently recorded in the imaginations of every child present.
 *
Jimmy Three smiles to himself at the memory, waves at the safely bouncing spider in the morning web, puts aside the stick he was about to employ, and goes on to the task of finding four-leaf clovers in the dusty yard
*

THE SALE LASTEZ TILL MARCH 6

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http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/thesalelasteztillmarch6.mp3

or read his story here:

THE SALE LASTEZ TILL MARCH 6

My favorite road signs and display signs are the ones that grow larger in memory as time passes.

Cruising past a variety store/thrift store/remainder store I notice a carefully hand-lettered-hand-colored poster that prominently states, EARS PIERCED WHILE YOU WAIT.

It’s not until a few beats later that the message snaps back at me. EARS PIERCED WHILE YOU WAIT.

What I enjoy most about signs like this is that they actually communicate, with a high degree of accuracy, what they are attempting to get across to passersby, despite their humorous blend of common sense and mixed metaphor.

Even though I write and edit as part of a vocational calling, I am careful NOT to correct every grammatical or syntactic misuse I see. Especially when the communication is deliberate and the message immediately understandable. I almost admire the creative and original way the author has laid out this cardboard placard idea.

Another handmade sign at another independent roadside sale: THE SALE LASTEZ TILL MARCH 6.

This statement precisely reflects, economically and simply, exactly the way the proprietor talks and, again, I can’t find fault with its clarity. THE SALE LASTEZ TILL MARCH 6 says it all. No proofing red marks allowed.

As a kid, I used to ponder over the meaning of metallic intersection signs that warned NO U TURN. It took me years to decide what this message meant. Was it a shorthand way of saying, “Don’t you turn here,” or “There is no way for you to turn here,” or was it something that only grownups understood, and was it any of my business anyhow? NO U TURN.

For weeks now, just a block from my home, I pass a large orange sign that has been damaged to read, ME WORKING. The N has been obliterated and the message altered. I keep meaning to have Liz take a picture of me next to the sign, holding a shovel and grinning idiotically. But I never get around to it. One day, there is actually a hardhatted city employee digging up part of the street near the sign. I’d love to see all hard workers sporting badges that say ME WORKING. Or, during breaks, ME NOT WORKING.

My brain does rattle on, doesn’t it?

I guess just jotting all this down for your entertainment means that ME BE WORKING.

I hope your laughter and goodwill lastez while you wait and that you make no dangerous U turns, at least on my watch

© Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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ONE WAY DOWN, THATAWAY

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

 http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/onewaydown.mp3

or read his tale below:

ONE WAY DOWN, THATAWAY

Horace and I are free-falling down an elevator shaft, much to my horror, much to his delight.

The time is many years ago when Birmingham still has living elevator operators on duty in each tall building. Horace is the uniformed elevator man at the controls. I am the hapless businessman who makes the mistake of stepping aboard, wearing suit and tie and carrying briefcase.

Horace and I are alone in the elevator, so for the moment he is in total charge of me and my smug universe. At least for the next fifteen stories down.

Horace’s ritual is clear to me only later, when I’m trying to calm down, when I am counting my lucky stars.

Earlier, the upward ride from first to fifteenth is smooth and gentle, as there are other passengers present. But right now, with no-one else aboard, Horace has a chance to play his game, the only game in which he for a few seconds has total control of his life. And mine.

Horace nods a polite, obligatory nod and grasps the handled wheel as he closes the clanging doors.

Staring expressionless straight ahead, he spins the wheel to what I can only assume is full throttle position, and the elevator begins its joy-ride drop.

I back up against the wall and clutch my briefcase, gasp deeply and glance in panic at Horace, who is elegantly expressionless and artfully oblivious to my plight.

The elevator descends as if in free flight, my stomach ascends as if compensating for the fall, I suddenly decide that this is definitely a structured game. I must play my part.

Pretending to ignore my internal churnings, my last rites recitations, my roller coaster fears, I, too, become stoic and expressionless, lest Horace reduce me to a whimpering mass.

Just before the feeling of certain death and transfiguration, the elevator magically screeches to a halt at the first floor. I try experiencing breathing again. I straighten my tie, hold my head up as if nothing unusual has occurred. Horace opens the doors and I wobble through them to the lobby, just as he says in his most gentlemanly and polite voice, “Watch your step.”

And so I shall, so I shall.

One thing I learn from this experience is that exercise is good for me. You know, at my tender age, walking down fifteen flights next time is probably going to be the right thing to do.

Assuming I ever enter this particular building again

© Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

 Twitter and Facebook