Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Blue's Dream

This was a solo story, no collaborator on this one. The theme was "Blues". It was written in February of 2000. I keep trying this story as a letter form. I like it but I seem to be alone because they never seem to be among my more popular stories and none has ever won any sort of award. I actually did a fair amount of research for this story reading a book or two about blues music including some stories of artists and their experiences on the road. I'm not sure it was worth the effort but I enjoyed the process.

Hi, baby!

I'm wondering if you're missing me as much as I'm missing you. I know I already called tonight, but I wanted to write so you'd have something to hold in your hand---the hand that I so often hold in my own. We'll be home in just about two more weeks and I can't wait to hold you in my arms again. At the same time, we're all having a blast, and I 'm so grateful to you for supporting me while I follow my dream.

I think I'll tell you about today, because it was typical of our days on the road.

I got up and down to the lobby right at 11, which is when we'd agreed to check out. While I settled the bill, Luther went to pry Fred out of bed and get him moving. That boy seems to need more sleep than anybody I've ever seen! He'll probably be dozing most of the way to our next gig, too, until it's his turn to drive (and even then, somebody keeps an eye on him just to make sure)!

We grabbed a quick bite to eat at a place by the interstate that was still serving breakfast. (I just can't start the day with lunch; you know how I am!) Then we motored back on down the highway. We've been really lucky in that we haven't had too much really bad weather for driving; and so far, we've only had a couple of fairly minor mechanical problems with the van, which Don managed to fix. We tease him because he can't play a lick on an instrument and can only sing; but I gotta tell you, honey, he can turn a wrench every bit as good as Fred blows that sax! Don kids us that if the group doesn't make it in this business, he's the only one of us that is employable! Lord, I hope we don't have to find out if he's right!

We pulled in here around 3:30 this afternoon and got checked in. This motel is better than the last, but not as nice as some. I'm getting pretty good at picking them, though, and knowing the important things to look for---so much that everyone just leaves it to me to make the arrangements. (Hey, maybe I should tell Don that I can always be a travel agent if we don't make it singing the blues!)

After we all got settled, we drove over to the club to check it out, talk to the manager, etc. Most of the guys hung around there while Don and I went to the local radio station and did an interview and a couple of plugs. I'm still learning to tolerate them, as I know they're essential to our success... but I'll tell you, Don has them eating out of his hand during those interviews! I guess it's because he's always been such a natural with details and bullshit, and both of those are essential ingredients, it seems!

And from there, we went back to the club, where we spent a while with the guy that handles music for the local newspaper. That can sometimes be a joke, but this dude seemed to know his stuff.  I think the guys sensed it too, because they gave him some good material. Now we'll just hope his editor doesn't cut a potentially great story down to filler!

After the sound check, we stopped to get some dinner, and got back to the motel around 7:30. I took a nap (and of course, so did Fred), but I think the others were too keyed up. I didn't have any trouble nodding off, though, as life on the road really wears on me. Don't get me wrong, baby; I love this! But having so much responsibility, and not being home for so long, does tend to exhaust me... and it gets pretty lonely sometimes. I'm sure it does that to everyone in this business. But then again, I'd also hate to ever get to the point that I didn't look forward to getting home to you!

As we always like to do, we got to the club about an hour early. We went on at 10 p.m., and the first set went super. We were really in a groove and were all surprised when it was time for the break. I saw some people in the audience I recognized from several of the other clubs we've played, and I went down to say hello. While I was talking to them, a lady came up and said she was from a national magazine. I politely said goodbye and thanks to the other folks, and talked to that woman for a while.  She said that while this was the first time she'd seen us, she really liked our sound. She seemed to be very interested in the story of how we got started, and told me she'd like to see how her boss would react to a feature story about us. Honey, that will be so great if she can!

We wrapped up the second set late---almost 1 a.m.---but it felt so good that it was justtoo hard to stop! An hour later we were back here at the motel. We sat around shooting the breeze for a while, as it's impossible to go to sleep right after a show (not even Fred can do that). It's now almost 3 a.m. and I'm sitting here alone, finishing this letter to you. I'll go to sleep shortly; and tomorrow, we'll do the whole thing over again.

I hope you liked sharing my day. You know how I love the blues, and you know how I love you. Thanks so much for being there for me, and allowing me to live out my dream like this... you're one in a million!

I'll see you soon.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A Bounty of Books

I'm back from Biloxi so it's time to get cracking and post some more stories. This story was another collaboration with the same person as the last story. It was written in February of 2000. The theme that week as 'abundance'. I think the main inspirations for this story were my total love of books and my son's dislike of reading. It still doesn't seem quite fair that I'd have a son who disliked reading as much as he does even though he does read quite well. The public schools did that much right anyway.

"But Dad, I don't wanna read.  I don't like it," my son Bradley whined at my suggestion in response to his complaining about being bored.

How could I teach him to *enjoy* reading... to appreciate books the way I did?  And most of all, how could I convince him to value having the *time* to read, which would only too soon be gone as he ascended into adulthood.  But I was determined to try something.

I sat down in what I've come to think of as my reading chair, although it seems I use it all too little lately for that purpose, and said, "Brad, come here and sit on my lap.  Let's talk."

It was obvious he considered my words less an invitation and more of an unwelcome directive, as he approached me with his face contorted and his body twisted, in dramatic agony.  As he squirmed onto my legs, he only murmured, "Don't you think I'm a bit  old to sit on your lap, Dad?" which we both knew was a rhetorical question.

I started slow and simple with my favorite form of making a point--- analogies.  "You like watching movies, right?" I asked him.

"Sure I do!" he replied with an excited smile, probably wondering if perhaps this discussion might be going in a direction to his liking after all.

"And TV shows?" I inquired.  "Like the Hardy Boys?  And those Disney shows on Sunday night?"  He nodded eagerly in response.  "Well," I continued, "those movies and shows all started out as books!  Except the people in those book-stories were even more like 'real' people, and their adventures and were even more colorful and exciting than in the movie-stories!  Can you guess why?"

Looking disappointed, Brad shrugged and fell back against my arm, "I dunno.  How can they be more exciting if they're only plain old words?"

"It's because they let you use your imagination!  When you watch a story on TV or in a movie, you only get to see what the person behind the camera thinks everything looks like---the kids, and the monsters and the bad guys; stuff like that.  But when you read a book, you get to pick how all that looks!  It's like making your own movie right in your head as you're reading.  And what's really neat is that our imaginations don't have any limits like a camera does.  Everyone who reads a book gets to picture the story in their own way, and nobody's right or wrong!"

He still looked a bit skeptical, but I had his attention.  "Remember how much you liked the movie 'Swiss Family Robinson'"? I asked him.

"Yeah, that was cool!"

"Well," I continued, "How about if we read that book together?  We'll take turns reading out loud and being the listener.  And afterwards, you can tell me if you thought the book was even better than the movie."

"Well okay... I guess," he said, less enthusiastically than I'd hoped; but I was willing to settle for anything.

We got off to a good start that evening, and after several days of reading steadily, we made it about halfway through.  He seemed to really be getting into it, and I was really enjoying the time with him.  Then about a week after we started, he said he needed to talk to me when I got home from work.

"I have a problem, Dad.  You're gonna be mad at me," he said, staring at his feet.

"Well, just tell me and we'll deal with it," I replied.  "Trouble in school? You didn't get in a fight did you?"

"No... it's that book that we're reading."

"What's wrong?" I asked, fearing that he wanted to quit reading it.

"No, I really like it.  But, um..."  He hesitated for a few seconds, and then blurted out the rest in one long breath.  "It was all rainy this afternoon and Tim is on restriction anyway and can't play and I thought I'd read it a little by myself when I got home from school and... well... I sorta finished it without you, Dad.  I didn't mean to, honest!  But I just kept going, and before I knew it, I'd read it all."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing!  And while I gathered my thoughts, he added, "I figured you'd be really disappointed that you didn't get to hear the end."

I could not help but laugh in relief.  "Brad, I'm not the slightest bit upset.  I can read the end myself, and you and I can read other books if you want!"  It was funny how relieved he looked!  "Hey, I think it's great that you liked it that much to want to read ahead on your own!  Do you see what I meant about how books can be even more exciting than TV or movies?" I asked him.

"Yeah, I do!  And when I was looking at the books you have in your office, too, I saw some other stuff I've seen on TV, like Tom Sawyer and Peter Pan." He had obviously found the group of books that I'd kept from my childhood.  "You have so many, Dad!" he added excitedly.  "Are they all good?"

"Well, I think they are, Brad.  But you know what?  The best thing is, there's pretty much an endless supply of books in the world.  So if you do come across one that you don't like so much, there will always be another one waiting for you."

I put my arm around him and headed toward my office.  "C'mon, I want to show you some special ones that I read when I was just about your age.  I bet you'll like them, too!"

As we walked, my heart just leapt with joy, knowing right then that I'd hooked him!  It was one of those incredible moments that you never forget as a parent... when you realize you actually can make a lasting, positive impression on your kid!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

One Dozen and One

This entry was the first of several stories I wrote in collaboration with a friend. We had very different styles of writing but she mostly prefered to edit what I wrote so most of the stories don't sound too much different from my normal ones other than there are commas where they should be, shorter sentences and better grammar. Most of the plot was frequently her suggestion with me doing the development. I loved doing stories this way and miss it a lot. It didnt' last long as she quickly lost interest as other things in her life pulled her in other directions but it was nice while it lasted.

Hal trudged down the sidewalk, watching for icy spots and tugging his coat a bit tighter around him in response to a frigid blast of wind.  As he entered the florist shop, he found it refreshingly warm, although just as crowded as he had expected at 4 p.m.  But nothing would make him miss getting Martha her special bouquet for Valentine's Day, as he'd been doing for over 40 years.  He opened his coat to let the humid, fragrant heat of the shop soak in; and as he took his place in line, he looked around at the other faces, smiling at the one or two people who made eye contact.

Impressed at his cheerful demeanor in the light of their obvious lengthy wait, the young woman next to him struck up a conversation.  "I see you waited until the last minute, too," she said.

Hal grinned and replied, "No, late afternoon is my usual time to buy Valentine flowers for my wife.  She's always loved watching them open from beginning to end, so I have to be sure they're good and fresh when I present them to her!"

Her eyes widened slightly as she responded, "What a lucky lady she is, to have someone who cares about her that much, to be willing to stand in line every Valentine's Day!  I sure know my husband wouldn't!  In fact, neither would I, except I got tied up at work today."

Hal glanced down for a moment, and pushed his hands into his coat pockets; and with a wistful smile on his face, he continued.  "Oh, I'm the lucky one; my Martha is one in a million.  In fact, luck plays a little part in her special bouquet.  The first twelve years of our marriage, I bought her one red rose on Valentine's Day for each year we were married.  And when the next year came, she joked that I'd better stop with an even dozen, as thirteen roses might be bad luck.  Butinstead, I got her one more that year--a yellow one--just to show her that we make our own luck.  And ever since then, I've gotten her twelve red roses, plus one yellow one for good luck, on Valentine's Day."

When it was his turn to order Martha's bouquet, he saw that the clerk seemed very harried and uninterested in anything but getting through the line of customers, so he didn't expound on the meaning behind it.  When his order was ready and wrapped for the cold, he did the same to himself, buttoning his coat up securely and pulling the collar tight around his neck.  And as he left the shop, he was delighted with the cheery goodbye and smile he received from the young woman he'd met in line, and reciprocated in kind.

He shuddered as the warmth and comfort of the flower shop quickly drained out of him, and the icy wind gripped him once again.  He walked two blocks to the bus stop, and as he arrived, he was thankful that the next bus was already in view.  It was crowded with people going home from work, but it would be a short ride for him.  He sat next to a young man in a suit who was busily talking on his cell phone, but who was also eyeing Hal's flowers.  Ending his call, the young man turned to Hal and said in a disgruntled tone, "Oh that's right; it's Valentine's Day. I suppose I should pick up something for my wife."

Hal couldn't imagine the word "should" being attached to such a gift; it kind of defeated the whole purpose of it.  He thought for a few seconds, and then replied, "I'm sure she would appreciate it.  I love to get my Martha flowers for Valentine's Day, as I know how much she enjoys them."  And then leaning a little closer, he added, "I've discovered over the years that when a wife knows you're thinking about her, and you have made an effort to do something extra... the pleasure she feels comes back to us in very special ways."

The young man said, "But flowers die in just a few days. Wouldn't something long-lasting be more practical?"

"Well, I guess everyone is different," Hal answered, "but for Martha and me, this bouquet has a significance way beyond just a bunch of flowers."  He then related the story of the dozen red and one yellow rose. "Besides," he continued, "I'm sure your wife already has a lot of practical things; anybody can give her those.  But when I get flowers for Martha, I'm saying she's worth something more.  Even though some people think of them as a frivolous expense, I don't feel like I'm just giving her a thing; I feel like I'm giving her my love and attention."

Seeing that his corner was coming up, Hal rose and signaled the driver to stop.  Before he headed to the door, he looked down and smiled at the young man and said, "I hope you and your wife have a wonderful evening tonight."

As he exited the bus, he thought of all the many years of Valentine's Day evenings he and Martha had shared.  His presentation of flowers was just the beginning of their celebration.  She always made him a very special meal, using a linen tablecloth and the good china, and it was accompanied by soft music in the background of a room illuminated only by candlelight.  And the thirteen roses always sat at the center of the table while they ate, stopping their conversation now and then to fit in a quick hand-squeeze or a soft kiss.

As he passed through the gates of Hillside Cemetery, taking his usual path to Martha's grave, he decided he would tell her about the young man and woman he'd met today, and how he had shared the story of their special bouquet.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Opposites Can Become One

Well I'm back from vacation so it's time to post another story. This one was, in part, inspired by things a couple of people I was talking to at the time told me. It was written in January of 2000. The theme was "opposites".

How did it happen? I can still scarcely believe it. Even when I look over at you in the night and see you sleeping there, it's just too good to be true.

There I was a 40 something divorced mother of two. I was trying like crazy to lose just a little weight on the hopes that I could, maybe, find a good boyfriend then. Oh I had dates but I realized finally I was settling for people I didn't like, just to not be alone. I was working my butt off as a secretary. I had just bought my first house all by myself and was so proud of it.

Then you answered my personal ad. After all the pretenders and jerks, I was sure that you were too good to be true. You lived on the east coast yet were willing to fly all the way out to meet me, if I would only agree. After all the times I met people closer that I knew less about, why did I put you through so much? What did you see in my letters that kept you interested while I did my best to discourage you?

Then when you did come and we got along as happily as we had by email and on the phone all those months, I dared to wonder. But it was also apparent to me that you were in a class above me. You didn't say anything about my house but I could tell you were used to better. The restaurants you picked, the cars you rented, later the hotels we stayed in told me that if you could truly afford this you were out of my league. Just the fact that you came back every month for 3 months told me you were unlike anybody I'd ever met.

And again, I tried to discourage you. I was so sure you could never be happy with somebody like me. A lowly secretary. Oh love, I know better now but if I'd known the truth then…. I only thought I knew how far apart we were.

I remember vividly the only time I've seen you mad at me in all the time we've known each other. I remember how it shocked me to find you knocking on my door after I'd told you that we should not see each other anymore, that I was not good enough for you. Oh how your face looked a combination of anger and hurt, as you demanded I tell you what you'd done to make me think I was not good enough for you. I tried to tell you and you shut me up when you got down on your knees, took my hand and said you'd give everything you owned away if I'd just agree to be your mate for the rest of your life.

How you must have hurt when I just told you I'd think about it and told you not to call me that I'd call you. Then I spent the next week thinking, searching my soul. Could it be real? It was more than just me too, my kids deserved more than I could give them and you seemed genuinely enamored of them as well. Was I being selfish? I was beginning to let myself believe that you really did love me.

Finally, I relented and called you and tearfully told you that I loved you and that if you still wanted me I was yours. Then it was, that you showed me the rest of your world and you know how it nearly blew my mind. I know to this day you shake your head at my one request. My refusal to quit working.

I am happy now though. Five years its been on this Valentines day. I wanted to write this to you so you know how much I love you. You have all the physical things you could want and I understand that's not what you craved most. That I can give you the gift you most wanted, I who was so opposite you in every way possible it seems, that just makes me want to love you all the more. Now I can proudly say that I'm happy as your wife, your mate for life and I thank you for your compromise so I can also say I'm your secretary.

Happy Valentines Day my love.