Posted in Stories - The Girl Next Door

At the Lake – Chapter 24

“Well, we survived the first night with flying colors”, which when said, made my father look, as if he had waited his whole life to say something like that.

The ground was really wet after last night’s thunderstorm, but the sun was shining with nary a cloud in the sky. My friend just looked at the mud and replied, “Convenient isn’t it, all that rain and all, washing away any footprints, we might have found around the cabin?” I thought it was a strange thing to say, even for her.

My father didn’t seem to notice anything wrong with what she said, and proceeded to talk about the day’s activities. First we’ll go down to the park entrance and look into renting that boat. Heavens only knows what might happen if we are as lucky fishing as your little friend! In that case, I’m afraid we’ll be eating fish for the remainder of the trip, both morning, noon and night! My friend looked pleased at his comments, but kept looking back at the cabin, as if something was biting her imagination, or something.

I might have said, it was mosquitoes, that was troubling her! The are nasty little devils, who know exactly when you’ve decided to change into shorts from long pants. My mother probably would have brought up the time that I made my own creepy crawlers.

That’s what they were called, Creepy Crawlers, made with the Thing Maker. Mom would never have given me such a thing, but then that’s why someone invented Grandparents. It had a bunch of metal mold,s and an oven of sorts, and some liquid rubber called Plastic Goop. I could sit for hours making multi colored bugs, even though I don’t know what I ended up using them for? I guess, if I had a little sister who was afraid of such things, then it would be expected of me to be a menace, just like Dennis. Dennis the Menace, I mean.

I think that the 3, no 4 greatest things of my childhood were Hardy Boy Books, Creepy Crawlers, illegal firecrackers and watching Gilligan’s Island. Man that was really living! But now that I’m older and wiser, I don’t seem to have time for a lot of those things anymore. My Creepy Crawler Maker seemed to break, or was it that it disappeared one day, with my mother denying any and all knowledge of its whereabouts. “It might have been stolen, or sold on the Black Market and shipped away to New Foundland, or something. I wish, she didn’t keep giving everyone in Canada the blame for unexplained things, but I guess if we had another foreign country which was closer, then it would have gotten the blame instead.

Funny, but My father and friend were nowhere to be seen. We had just been talking, then I had a few random thoughts, then….

There they are! Way down the road in the distance. I high-tailed it over to them, falling in step as if I had been with them all along. “Where were you this time?” asked my friend after a minute, or so. Were you traveling down the Nile, or something? You won’t find my father there, because he never wanted to end up in Egypt for fear of seeing the Pyramids. He always told us: Man fears time; time fears the Pyramids! Which makes sense if you think about it?”

I had to think that one through. Her father. The Nile. Egypt. The Pyramids. Nope, it must be one of my failings, but those things didn’t seem to add up, no matter what! I kind of regretted, that I had started this conversation in the first place, because now I didn’t know where to hop off, before the train traveled close to a chasm, or crocodile infested river bank.

Trust me, you won’t get hurt, she said and pointed to the edge of the cattle car. I’ve done this many times, when we were traveling light, that’s what my father called hitching a ride on a train, without buying a ticket. We’d usually jump from car to car, especially if the Rhinoceros start to stick their horns through the roofs. My father just laughed, as if it were a walk in the park, but I always hesitated and wanted to swing by Liana instead. That’s for Sissies, he’d say as he hopped over the next Rhino horn. The train began to turn the corner, making it difficult for my father to dodge the low hanging vines, now covering the Rhino horns and the holes, they made.

“What’s the name of your friend? Her father asked, pointing to me as the train rocked from side to side. “Just call him Ninny, or Poindexter. He is not particular about which one, you choose. ” Her father came over to me and shook my hand. “Nice firm grip there, young man. I’d feel funny calling you one of those names, but I’d rather call you Johnson, if you don’t mind?” I didn’t think that Johnson was any worse than what his daughter usually called me, so I shook my head in agreement. “Nice firm handshake, you have there, Johnson.” He said while smiling at me. “I like that in a man, especially one who is romancing my daughter!”.

Romancing his daughter? I just met the man, but I felt that he had been reading my mail. “The Postal Service frowns upon that kind of behavior “said the dour looking Postman. I didn’t see how there was anymore room on this Cattle Car, but I guess this was her party, and she could cry if she wanted to, while inviting every- and anyone to the top of that Train Car. “Low Bridge Ahead!”. Someone managed to yell, as we suddenly entered a tunnel. When we came out into the light once again, the Postman was gone as was most of the Lianas. I couldn’t see the point in hopping off the train car anymore, and decided to enjoy the ride, as long as it lasted.

My father came out of the boat rental cabin with 2 oars in his hands. “Now, we’ll see, who can sink, and who can swim!” which worried me a bit, knowing how my swimming instruction had been cut short this summer, by a wayward horse!

We all got into the row boat, which rocked a bit from side to side, as each of us got in. “Nothing to worry about with your Captain at the helm!” remarked my father, donning a Captains Cap which almost magically appeared from nowhere. “I’ve been saving this one for a special occasion like this. I had wished that your mother would have been here to enjoy it as well, but we’ll have more happy times together, I’m sure of it”. My father had put on his brave face for our trip, but I wish he had met my friend’s father as well, making it a sort of reunion of sorts, giving my father something else to think about. He didn’t seem to be on the same wavelength as my friend and I, so I just let her father be for the time being.

She was wearing shorts that were rolled up at the knees. She rolled up the left side a bit more to show me something that I hadn’t noticed before. You see that scar right there? Yes, I did see a rather nasty scar that ran up her left thigh. That was made by a Rhino which stuck its horn up at the wrong moment, when I thought I had jumped high enough, but the liana got in the way. “I remember that, I said thinking back to that moment. It was lucky, your father could patch you up using a needle, a bottle of whisky for disinfection and a thread from his shirt!” She just nodded and liked that I was paying attention to her at that time, and not having been someplace else in my thoughts. “It’s funny, how many  things we seem to be experiencing together? ” she said as the train neared its destination….

Her father motioned us to be quiet, as we neared the station. “Here” he said suddenly. “Jump here, it’s safe!” Which we did, rolling to a stop in the cool African Grass. “Hooooot” said the train when it entered the station area. The Zimbabwe Republic Police were present at the station, when the train arrived. They pulled out their flashlights and began searching the train from top to toe. “That was a close one” whispered my father and led us through the fence to the street. Now I was wanted like they were, that is if they ever caught us and questioned about how we got to Zimbabwe without any visible means of transportation.

My father rowed us out to a place near the middle of the lake. “This looks like a good spot for fishing! said while he began rummaging around for the fishing poles. Uh. There is something wrong here? He looked rather perplexed and told us why: “It seems, I’ve forgotten the fishing poles back on dry land. I hope you are not too disappointed? It doesn’t really matter to me, as we can have a good time, just being together with one another! I agreed and my friend seemed to do the same. We were sitting opposite my father, rather close to one another. “You know”, she said. “I really liked how you helped my father on that train. And you didn’t even try to deny anything when he mentioned that thing about Romancing his Daughter!”

It’s true, I didn’t deny that fact. I guess, I’d been a bit slow about telling her my feelings for her, but in the face of danger what with Rhino horns and the Police beating the brush for us and all, there just didn’t seem to be enough time to tell her everything I was feeling for her.

I moved a few inches closer to her to see how she’d react.

My father beat her to the punch, “Hey, are you two getting warm for each other, or something? I’ve never seen you sit so close to a girl before?” She just looked at me and smiled. Now it didn’t matter if her Rhino scar was visible, because I knew where it came from and all. We seemed to be sharing a lot more together, as if this story turned a bend somewhere near our cabin, and became another one.

Just one that was better for the two of us.

My father rowed us back to the shore, telling us some story about when he was younger and met a girl while on vacation. He tried to kiss her, but she only gave him a knuckle sandwich, with didn’t exactly sound like love at first sight to me.

I felt that I had my cake and could eat it too, whatever that  meant… but time will only tell on that one…..

 

 

 

Posted in Stories - Summer, Stories - The Girl Next Door

Glow in the Dark, Stars (The Girl Next Door)

I got used to being an only child. What was I going to do about it? Ask my parents to make a new one? I wonder if they had wanted another child, or if I was some sort of mistake?

“You don’t cross out mistakes, you erase them”. The teacher told us one day at school. “Crossing them out doesn’t make them any better, and you just end up turning in a report that is messy and incorrect at the same time.” I looked out of the window and wondered how it would be having brothers and sisters? We could play together, then they could make me do some goofy thing, which made my parents mad, but then I could blame them for doing so! “Why did you tell your younger brother to eat dirt?” My mother would be asking them, as they hung their heads in shame. “You know how he is? All ignorant and impressionable! I wonder why you didn’t sent him out on the main highway to play ball? Don’t start looking at each other as if that it your next idea, I won’t put up with it!”

Then she would threaten them with corporal punishment dealt out by my father, who would take them into the garage, and give them a sound thrashing. That’s what my mother told him to do, anyway, and I could see that it worked! They’d come out rubbing their hind ends, saying that “It’ll never happen again, we promise”. My mother would just nod her head, then tell all of us how her father did the same to her, and that’s why she turned out like she did!

I guess, my father heard her say that a lot of times, because when I was taken out into the garage, we only sharpened tools, and used steel wool to take the rust off the garden implements, and when I was finished, he told me to rub my hind end, as if he had given me a real hard spanking, making it hard to sit for the remainder of the week. He’d give me a wink, and then would turn to my mother sending her a stern glance, which meant that the deed was indeed done!

I just didn’t have any siblings to blame for my misdeeds, when I managed to do something that my mother didn’t approve of. She suggested that I made a list of things in order to remind myself, what I was not to do. The list got longer and longer, and finally was long enough that I tied it to my bedpost, and shimmied down the downspout to the ground below. I hit the ground like a cat, which fit well being a cat burglar and all! All dressed in black with black gloves and a mask with eyelets cut out, I had the perfect disguise. I would have told my mother who could have shared in my secret identity, like Zorro, having his horse, or Batman having Alfred the Butler, but I didn’t want her to be subject to the wrath of the masses, if my misdeeds were ever discovered!

My teacher had apparently been dangling my pencil before my eyes, hypnotizing the rest of the class, but still not being able to awake me from my self induced trance. In the end she made a call to my mother, who had to interrupt her social work with the poor and needy in order to rescue her “in a trance-like state” son, who didn’t respond to bells, yells or cajoling of any kind. My mother had suddenly appeared in my classroom, looking a bit less than pleased, when I had returned to my room with the night’s stash!

“Young man”, she started to say, which usually meant that I was in some sort of trouble, but didn’t quite know why. It is kind of like the Girl Next Door suddenly appearing in my yard, poking me with a stick as if she was trying to smoke a badger out of a hole. “Light a fire in the other end”, the man told his companion. The smoke will get to him, then I can poke and prod him when he comes out of the other side!” The flames got higher and higher, when finally something started to move inside the hole. “Hey you”, she said, tapping me on the head with her stick. “If I only had a match, then I could give you a hot foot!” I’d seen that in the movies, and it didn’t look like that much fun? A matchstick placed between your toes, then lit. I’d rather face my mother than experience a hot foot!

“Young man”, said my mother once again. “You need to stop daydreaming so much, or we’ll have to have you tested at the doctors!” I wasn’t sure, if I’d get a lollipop after he tested me, or if I was getting too big for that kind of thing? “What about a beer with the old Family GP?” We could sit there in the examination room, quaffing a few brewskies, talking about women, or the chances about the local baseball team to participate in the National Championships? He’d ask, how the wife was, and wasn’t she a fine figure of a woman? He’d say that his old lady had left him for some Hippy-Commie type, and he was thinking of buying a gun and taking it on the road to search for them. It might be like Bonnie and Clyde with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, living and loving, but getting plugged full of bullets in the end. All those years of Medical School wasted on the likes of her! Better to die in a blaze of glory, then to end up on the wrong side of a Whiskey Bottle!

My mother brought me back to reality once again, by shaking me vigorously and stepping on my left foot. “Ow Mom, that’s where I got the hot foot!” My eyes blazing at her, telling her to back off! She didn’t seem to have the same understanding like my friends did, and promptly pushed me out of the door, in plain sight of my other cool friends, dragging me home by my ear.

“Jack, it’s time for disciplinary action again!”, which of course made my father come out of the garage, with the steel wool in his hand, telling her that he’d make certain that this time would be more thorough than the last time! I might have told him that the tools didn’t look like they needed sharpening, but I thought it was better not to push my luck!

My father pulled me over to the side, after he had closed the door to the house. “Look here, young man” which didn’t sound the same as my mother would have said it. He showed me a magazine with an article about “how to paint stars on your ceiling”, then they would glow in the dark! “We’ll do it some day, when your mother isn’t home, and somehow forget to tell her about it!” I was so happy that I sharpened so many tools, that some of them had to be thrown away, being sharpened so far down, that they couldn’t be held anymore.

The next day was Saturday, which meant that I could do my daydreaming at home, and not risk being punished by my parents once again. I guess, I lived in my own world, because I suddenly realized that the house next door to us, had people living in it. I casually asked my father, when the new people had moved in, but he only laughed saying that they had been there all along. The mother worked at night, and the father was away, making it seem like the house was deserted. Their daughter had been away with her father, which is why I hadn’t noticed her before that most fateful day, when she called me a Ninny for the first time. Some people might not see the significance in an act like that, but believe you me, it was a turning point in my life!

The next day was our weekly trip to Sunday School and church, but afterwards my father said that he had a headache, leaving my mother to make the coffee and serve cake after the church service. He said that it wasn’t anything for me as well, and excused himself to go home, and wait until the pain went away. My mother was way too involved with who was saved, and who was not, that she just nodded and waved us out of the door, before the saved-not saved people showed up.

My father just gave me a wink again, and took me into his garage when we got back home. He then showed me some funny looking paint which said “fluorescent” on the label, and grabbing a book of stars, and a brush or two, we made our way up to my room. I held the book while he painted, which wasn’t easy, with the paint being the same color as the ceiling. We both giggled now and then, as if we enjoyed deceiving my mother on her most special of all days, Sunday. When we were done, we opened the door and the window, letting the paint smell out as much as possible, before my mom came home again. We finished off the day by each drinking a Dr Pepper, which was my favorite soft drink while I was growing up. Dr. Pepper 10-2-4 was on the label, but it didn’t make much sense to me why it did so? I would have suggested that I be allowed to drink it at 10, 2 and 4, but I’m sure my mother would have had something to say about that!

When she came home, my father was lying on the sofa with a cold compress on his forehead, being looked after by yours truly. My mother seemed to be none the wiser, and began to make dinner in the kitchen. I couldn’t wait until it got dark in my bedroom and told my mother that I was feeling a bit sleepy at 8pm. That set her off, but in a positive way when she told my father that I was getting older and wiser, knowing how sleep was good for my well-being! My father just nodded in agreement, and winked at me once again, while I trudged upstairs, after a hard day of deceiving my mother. I just lay there, thinking about how I didn’t see much of the Girl Next Door today, but I thought about her all the same. I didn’t see her in church, but I guess, she had her reasons for not coming?

I rolled over a few more times, before looking upwards at the ceiling. Sure enough the stars were beginning to appear, one by one with the planets being visible at the same time. I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, when I just happened to look out my window at the house next door. There she was, just standing on her veranda, looking at my window, as if she knew I was there looking at her. She gave me a small salute, then disappeared into her house, with the front screen door slamming with a resounding bang!

I knew my mother would be sending my father out in his pajamas, on the lookout for thugs and thieves, or just noisy Canadians, who always seemed to be on the loose in our town.

That’s just how my mother was…..

Posted in Stories, Stories - The Girl Next Door

Cabin Number 13 – Chapter 23 – The Girl Next Door

There we were at the entrance to the lake and cabin area, when my father started to look at the map in order to find our cabin in the myriad of trees.

“Let’s see. Cabin number…..There! There is cabin number 13. At that moment a roll of thunder was heard in the background, then an owl hooted,”Hoo, hoo”. Wow, we’d better get a move on, before that storm catches up to us. My friend looked as if she were lost in thought. She asked my father, “The man at the reception desk. Did he have a pencil-thin mustache? And black greasy hair? My father just looked surprised at her questions. “Yes, yes he did. Have you been here before? Did you see him?”

“No. No I haven’t” my friend replied with a strange look on her face. “It was just a lucky guess, that’s all.”

My father beamed at us. “Yes. We are both lucky today. You with your guess, and me finding us a cabin to, now get ready for this, a cabin at half price! Think of it! Cabin number 13 is our lucky number for this trip!” A sound of thunder echoed at the very moment that my father said “13”. I looked at my friend, but she avoided my glance, and just kicked at the sand on the ground. “Well, let’s drive up and unpack”. My father was unaware of anything wrong, so I decided to go with the flow, until things proved otherwise.

Cabin number 13 was actually a nice-looking cabin, almost new, if you had asked me. We started to unload the car, and as I reached for the doorknob a flash of lightning lit up the front door, making the knob resemble a skull! “Did you see, that….” It was gone again. The others just looked at me, and I said, “It was nothing at all. Just a trick of the light.”

We moved our things into our 3 rooms and suddenly realized how hungry we were. Dad pulled out 3 juicy-looking steaks and began to light the gas grill. “It won’t be long now”, he said as we chopped the vegetables and buttered some bread. When dinner was finished, we all began to eat, as if there were no tomorrow…Now why did I say that? I had a funny feeling about our lodgings, but it might just have been due to my imagination?

When we were finished and started to wash the dishes, my father made a discovery of sorts, “I thought, I had turned off the gas, but listen, It seems like there is some sort of gas leak – sssss. “We’d better shut off the main tank before think about turning in. Just think, we might all died of gas asphyxiation, or worse yet, have been blown to kingdom come!”

How did they die, those poor souls? Some say it was the biggest gas explosion of the last 20 years. You’d think that someone would have made the necessary safety checks and all. Where were the yearly stamps, and certifications? You know, it wasn’t the first time someone had died unexpectedly in that cabin. The other time was not due to an explosion, but that didn’t make it any less suspicious. It was back in the early 60’s when….

The thunder rolled ominously in the background, even more so after my father’s dreary talk about explosions and all. The lightning began to flash as well, with us trying to see how many chimpanzees, or Mississippis there were in between flashes? “One Mississippi, Two Mississippi…Boom! The thunder shook the cabin, drowning out the hooting of the owl in the distance, “Hoo-Hoo-Ho…..”

“It’s a funny thing”, my father started to say. “The man at the Reception Counter hinted about a story that was connected to this cabin, but he said that we should come by some sunny day and hear about it.” “Boom” “Crash”  went the thunder, as if to drown out what my father was talking about. “He just kept saying, Remember, come by in the sunshine. Not at night! What a funny duck, he was!”

I looked over at my friend, but she was concentrating on the lightning show outside of the window. “It’s just like that time in Botswana, when we went over the border to Zimbabwe..” She didn’t seem like she was talking to us, but more like she was in a trance of sorts. “It was a long drive and I kept saying how it would be nice to buy an ice cream, or a jug of cold water, but my father just said, “Those things might as well grow on trees….in your dreams. And laughed at the thought of ice cream trees in the middle of Botswana. I longed to see my mother again, but feared the worse, having to visit her in the hospital in Bulawayo. “Remember, my father kept saying. It’s just a touch of Malaria, nothing to get upset about. I tried to reassure myself that Malaria was a better thing than being bitten by Tsetse flies, but the choices seemed to be between bad or worse.”

I just looked at her, as if she were someone else. I wondered why she never told me these things before, when we were in the comfort of our suburban neighborhood where the most dangerous thing was getting yelled at, for not removing the crabgrass, before company came over for coffee. “Honestly” said my mother, who was quick to tell me, what I had done wrong. “Here we are, just minutes before your Uncle Danny and Aunt Catherine came for their yearly visit, when the yard looks like some sort of Canadian weed flu hit the area. Is it so much to ask of you? Weeding the yard for your mother? I wonder sometimes if you knew the pain and heartache that I’ve suffered at the hands of Crabgrass?!”

I really should have consoled her, but felt that the few times that I’ve tried to get close to her, my intentions have backfired in the most horrible ways. I chose instead to nod in the right places, and tried to understand the pain that she was feeling.

My father had dosed off after telling us about the Reception Clerk, so he didn’t hear any of what my friend had talked about. It was almost as if, she were speaking directly to me, but not to me. The storm seemed to have passed by us, with the thunder sounding farther and farther away. We made small talk about this and that, and decided to hit the sack, being very tired after the day’s events. I woke my father and pointed him in the direction of his room and after hearing a muffled, “Goodnight, Sweet Dreams” I could almost hear him start snoring before his head hit the pillow.

My friend and I checked the gas tank, just to be sure and started to move towards our rooms. “Listen here, Ninny and listen good”. I knew it. It sounded too good to be true. Now I was in for it!

“When I lean up against the wall in my room, it’ll be like lying next to you. All you need to do is to do the same in your room. Then no matter what happens, we’ll be together in spirit, with just one wall between us.”

It was almost like the time, when she told me about her circus dog. It was such a beautiful thing to say, that I couldn’t say anything in return. I just smiled and told her goodnight. She smiled back at me and blew me a kiss before closing and locking her door. I wasn’t certain what to do now? I guess, I should move my bed up to our common wall, and dream sweet dreams about friends, and the like. And their former life in Botswana…


My father was already in the kitchen, frying eggs and bacon, whistling some tune from when he had been younger, his face lighting up when I finally woke up, and dragged myself into the kitchen. “Well, how’d you sleep? I slept like a log. Yes, I did. Just like a log.”

I looked out of the window and noticed how close we were to the lake. “About an hour ago, just when the sun had come up over the horizon, I saw some fishermen out in their boats on that very lake.” I could feel the fishing vibrations shake the house, whenever my father started to get the idea that we were some sort of weathered fishermen, who had not only caught Moby Dick, but had eaten the most of it in one sitting. I wanted to remind him of the fiasco,  the first/last time we went fishing, but I didn’t have the heart to do so. I started to think about my friend instead and wondered when she would be getting up and joining us.

Just then the door opened and in walked my friend, carrying a whole bunch of fish in her hands. “Look here. Dinner for the 3 of us. Freshly caught!”

My father and I just looked at her, as if she had been fishing on the moon or something, but it really didn’t matter how she did that, because the surprise effect was a once in a lifetime moment between us. She laid the fish on the counter and showed us how they were cleaned and ready to fry, as if they had been bought at the local grocery store.

My father just looked at her with great admiration, and said that when we were going to try  our luck at fishing on the lake, we had to have her with us in the boat!

The cabin in the sunlight looked completely different, than when we had arrived the day before. I couldn’t wait to start off our day together, but thought about leaving my bed against the same wall, during the rest of the trip.

You never know what might happen, being all close to someone like that……

 

Posted in Stories, Stories - The Girl Next Door

Driving to the Lake – Chapter 22 (The Girl Next Door)

I don’t know exactly, but I felt like Ricky and Lucy on the way to California. Fred Mertz had packed their car with things hanging off the sides, the top and everywhere else. He had left a small hole where Ricky could see out of the front windshield, but even I could see, that they would never make it to California like that.

We had a bit more than my father had reckoned with, which meant that if the car was completely packed with all of our things, then we might as well spend the time camping out at home for all the room there wasn’t in both front and back. My father just shook his head and began to sift through the various piles. “If only your mother….” with that thought left unsaid, but could have been one of the following things:

  • had been here. Her intelligent ways would have solved our problems immediately.
  • had seen this mess, she would have yelled at us, until the cows came home
  • had seen that the Girl Next Door was going with us, then heads would fly
  • had experienced a fatal traffic accident, and couldn’t remember who we were…

He didn’t finish that statement, nor did he chose to use any of my suggestions either. We tried to put things into 1. clothing; 2. essentials; 3. games; 4. food.

Essentials for my father were copies of Fly Fishing Digest and Garage Monthly, while I chose a ball, a few books and a baseball bat, without baseball. My friend had any number of unnamed boxes which had to be taken along, or else!

We finally weeded out a few of the larger things, like a footstool, an ironing board and a set of Winter Tires. My mother would have insisted on those things, and would have forced the rest of us to re-examine our essentials, leaving them at home instead. I might have been brave enough to point out that Winter Tires in the middle of Summer might be overkill, but she would just bring up the poor Donner Family in California, and how they only had their Summer Tires to chew on, when they had run out of food on their vacation. Naturally, Winter Tires would be more filling, and would have gotten them to the next filling station, and customary gift shop.

After my father had checked the doors and windows, and especially the lock on the garage door, we set off at last. It really didn’t seem like the time had gotten to be 11am, but then The Ricardos and The Mertzes couldn’t have left New York any earlier, I’m certain of that.

My father yelled, “We’re Off”, like some fellow in a checkered shirt firing his pistol at the start of the race. A voice called out from the crowd. Oh My God, he’s been shot! And everyone’s attention get diverted from the race to the man on the top row. “Stop him. Stop that killer! A dark figure was seen running away from the bleachers, hopping over obstacles, catching himself once or twice from stumbling and falling. Now the race left the confines of the track with everyone and anyone scrambling in the direction of the elusive figure. “Grab onto your varicose veins!” an old Geezer yelled after the crowd exited the area, leaving plenty of hot dogs and Cotton Candy to eat in the wake of the confusion. The man that was shot was heard to utter the following words: “He did it. *cough* cough*” with blood running down the side of his mouth. The one-armed man did it, but it wasn’t him that fired the shot. Everyone present looked from side to side, trying to make heads or tails of these cryptic words. Then suddenly….

“Hey. Poindexter! Isn’t it great that you have the privilege of my company on this trip?” She looked at me with a wink, knowing that I was lost in my thoughts once again. If only I knew what to say to her, then maybe I’d stay in the present?

“It must be years since I’ve been on vacation”, she said, breaking into my thoughts. “The last time was when we went on a lion safari in Botswana. My father bagged a nice one, but the authorities confiscated it ,when they found we were trying to smuggle Coffee out of the Country. My father started to argue with the border authorities, when one of the guards pulled out his pistol. My father grabbed the lion’s head, and hit the road, leaving me with his passport and bottle of whiskey. They searched for weeks, but never found a trace of him. Years later my mother and I got a letter, which had postmarks from no less than 10 African Countries across the backside, with my father’s message to us in an unintelligible code:

Rickets, Rackets who has my Sackets. Peron has one, but he gave it to Samuel. Yours Truly. Truely.

My mother began to cry at the mere mention of Peron, who had been my father’s faithful native water bearer, during his travels along the Chobe River. He was indebted to my father, when a sudden flood occurred during the rainy season in December. He had lost his footing while attempting to fill the water jugs, and plunged into the surging river. He was swept away into Zimbabwe until he came dangerously close to Victoria Falls. My father well-versed in the act of lasso throwing, succeeded in casting his lasso out in the surging waters to Peron, and exhibiting almost super human strength, he was able to drag him ashore, just before he was dashed to his death on the rocks beneath those spectacular falls. Peron swore on a stack of bibles after that incident to serve my father until the day of his death, which was the start of a friendship that only a few in this life will ever experience.”

My mouth was wide open, while she told me that story. I couldn’t find a single word to say, or even attempt to daydream myself to another place, because her story was so gripping that I couldn’t believe my ears.

She just looked at me after telling her story and smiled, as if we were the only 2 people in that car, speeding along toward Lake Winnipuh, towards our honeymoon suite. With this ring I thee…..

“But as I said, my life tends to be a bit complicated”, she said as she looked out of the window once again. “I can’t wait until we get there! Maybe there is a lion head on the wall, which is hiding a secret message from my father?” said, as I almost choked on my Pixie Straw with its bittersweet candy inside.

“Hey kids, look over there. A marauding flock of Wildebeests.” Craning our necks to the left, the only thing visible was a herd of cows, chewing their cud, totally unaware of us. “Just kidding!” I can’t wait until we reach the cabin and our vacation can finally start! Just think of it. A cold drink enjoyed on the veranda, with the sun shining down, on my latest issue of Garage Monthly, waiting to see, who has won the contest this month for “The Most Innovative Garage this side of the Chobe River!”.

Wait a minute. Did he just say Chobe River? Wasn’t that in my friend’s story? I turned towards her to see her reaction, but was greeted by the sight of a lion’s head mounted on the wall of the safari shelter.

“Did you bring your gun with you, Bwana?” A tall, but extremely thin native was standing in front of me, waiting for a reply.

“I didn’t catch your name”, which I hadn’t having just come in the door after being caught in the torrential rains of December.

“Peron is my name. Just Peron!” I saw dim images resembling water jugs stacked in the corner of the shelter, and ragged suitcases belonging to someone long, long ago.

“Do you know of a man who…”.Then I was stymied. I didn’t even know her father’s name, let alone what he looked like.

My friend seemed to be asleep, but awakened when I touched her arm. “Oh, it’s you. I thought it was the doctor telling me that my mother had contracted Malaria after having searched for my father in Zimbabwe, and Botswana. He also touched my arm in the same place. Funny thing isn’t it?” I didn’t want to ruin her memory of that moment, but I had to ask what her father looked like, otherwise I’d never get back to my conversation with Peron and his water jugs.

“He was rather tall, with brown hair and blue eyes. He always joked with my mother telling her, how he’d never fit in with the indigenous population looking like that, but that didn’t keep him out of doing his job in Africa. He loved Diamond Mining and was good at it as well. His workers respected and adored him, which is probably why my mother fell in love with him way back when at that Cotillion held at the embassy in the capital city of Gaberone.”

I excused myself, striding out into the blazing sun of the Botswana Summer. I needed to travel back to that shelter, before my time ran out. Finally, I found the shelter, but the man, Peron was long gone, which I discovered by feeling the temperature of the coals in the fire ring. His water jugs were also gone, which made me want to follow his tracks, along the Chobe River in search of my friend’s father and his faithful companion.

My father let out a “Whoop”, which sounded like a wild Indian on the American Plains, when we reached the entrance to Lake Winnipuh. Boats were seen in the small harbor to the left, while the check-in cabin was visible on the right. My father parked the car on the side of the road and sauntered up to the cabin, pulling out his wallet with the reservation hanging out, threatening to fall.

My friend sighed a sigh, and turned toward me while we waited. “Did you find him in time?”

“Sadly no, but I did speak to Peron, and was certain that I could follow his tracks down the Chobe River.” She took my hand and looked into my eyes. I felt a warm feeling radiating in my limbs, making me want to draw her closer and kiss her. Just when the moment that we both had been waiting for came, my father returned to the car.

“I have it! I have it here”, he said waving a piece of paper and a set of keys. “Now we are ready to rock and roll!” said as if we were about to strip naked down to our waists and set fire to the band!

My friend just looked at me and said, “This will be a vacation, you never will forget. Mark my words….”

Then I knew it! I knew, regardless of me finding Peron, or not, this still was going to be something that I would never forget…..never!

Posted in Stories, Stories - The Girl Next Door

Packing the Car – Chapter 21 (The Girl Next Door)

I really underestimated my father. How could he have arranged for the Girl Next Door to accompany us on our vacation? Not just a one day vacation, but almost a whole week! I’ve never even seen her mother, let along her father. I tried to ask her once about them, but all she said was, “It’s complicated”. She was rather complicated before I even thought about her parents being even more complicated, which made me think that I should leave well enough alone, not complicating matters any further!

My father said that we’d rent a large cabin with 3 bedrooms, a kitchen and an inside bathroom. I mention the bathroom as sometimes women seem to get all bent out of shape when saying that the bathroom is outdoors, or over in them thar trees!

My mother would be ready with a comment, almost before the last statement was made. “If the Good Lord had meant us to go to the bathroom out in the woods, then he would have equipped us better to deal with that! My word, it’s hard enough visiting the ladies room at the local gas station knowing about the habits of those grease monkeys and their wanton ways of cleaning the restroom for the rest of us. Many is the time, when I’ve needed to give those “mechanics” a piece of my mind, telling them how things should be done! Your father has joked and said that we are the only family who has been banned from using any bathroom on the Interstate within a radius of 100 miles!

I’ve half-expected to see my mother’s face on a wanted poster, warning everyone about the dangers caused by her and her standards for filling station restrooms.

“I’ve seen her”, said a man who just rode into town on his Appaloosa. “She was visiting the ladies room at the first filling station before town! People threw themselves off the stage, fleeing for their lives! “She’s mad, I tell you. Stark raving mad! With her painstakingly clean white gloves, running her right index finger along the top of the towel holder. “Clean! I’ve seen cleaner things in a slop kitchen! Did your mother raise you wrong? Don’t try to deny it, I’m armed you know…..”

It’s just not like when we real guys go into the forest! Every tree is our bathroom, and we know it too! I figured it probably was better to keep those kind of thoughts to myself, knowing how My Friend probably would react, her being a woman and all.

Dad just started throwing things in a pile, no matter whether he expected to take them on our trip, or if it was just because with my mother gone, it seemed like a really reckless thing to do. “Have you checked if we still have any beans in the cupboard?” he called out to me, even though I winced at the thought of eating more beans. “No, sorry, we’ve eaten them all, and the man at the grocery store said that they won’t be getting anymore in stock until next week sometime.” That was a white lie, you know? I really thought that he would get the picture, if I made it as hard as possible to fill the car up with non-existent beans and all. “Well, I guess we’ll just have to eat steaks and fried chicken instead!” sending me a wink, making me jump up at his statement and give him a big hug.

We talked about leaving early the next morning, getting up with the chickens, if we had any that is. My mother always wanted our food to be fresh, but not by having chickens run around the yard, clucking, and digging in her flower beds and all. “But Mom, we can build them a coop with running water and everything. A sort of Chicken Penthouse!” Mom just looked at me as if I had been some wayward Canadian, who fell of the first truck, headed for the promised land. “First it was a ladybug in a jar. Then it was talk of a dog, now you want chickens! I was not born yesterday, you know? I see, what all of this is leading up to! It is some sort of a plot to get chickens for your own pets.”

Fresh eggs, Mom!” That’s what they all say. I won’t have foul fowl ruining my suburban lifestyle.”

Foul Fowl – Ha! Mom made a funny, she would just never know it herself!

I went next door to my friend’s house to make sure that she knew about when we were leaving, so we wouldn’t run into any problems like when we went to the movies. Her house looked just as forlorn as usual, with no sign of life anywhere to be seen. I knocked on her door and waited. I half expected to hear the TV in the background, or the sounds of a dog on the other side of the door, whimpering and barking at the sound of strangers outside. Nothing. Nothing at all.

I was about to go home again, when the door opened a crack. “Oh, it’s you. What is it Poindexter? Have you gotten lost, and couldn’t find your way back home again?” I wish she would be nice and pleasant when I came by. I wish her eyes would light up and look as if she were glad to see me, because it was me. I wish she would tell me that she was the luckiest girl in the world, because someone like me liked someone like her. I wish that….

“Oh. Don’t mind me, she said breaking me out of my thoughts. I guess, it is more interesting to be in Dream Land then to talk to me?” Her head disappeared back into the house, and the door slammed with a fury, that I thought a tornado had hit our neighborhood.

“Grab the kids and the dog” my father yelled through the screaming wind! “Down into the shelter!” Things were swirling around our heads like being in a Waring Blender. I would have wanted some fresh-squeezed orange juice instead, but that would have to wait until later! The car suddenly began to rock from side to side. “Wait a minute!” my father screamed. “I forget to set the emergency brake!” and with that he left us to fend for ourselves, and jumped into the car, fumbling around, looking for the brake handle. Suddenly the car was lifted up over the rooftop and carried away! “Dad!” I cried, even though it was too late. Not even Dorothy and Toto could have helped him now.

The door opened once again. My friend’s hand appeared and knocked on my head, like it was a coconut. “Hello. Hello in there!  Are you going to stand there all day? You are making a scene! Get off my porch, Are you listening? Try to wake up, and smell the coffee!” What. Coffee. Porch. Wow, where was I? I looked around me and realized that the tornado had gone, but I was still worried that my father had gotten blown away. “What is it, I’m busy packing for the trip, so I’m not late tomorrow morning!”

Women! Just when you think you have them figured out, they go and do the reverse once again. “Uh, I. I just wanted to see if you knew when we were leaving, but I guess you do, don’t you?” She just looked at me like I was some sort of door to door salesman who couldn’t sell her any brushes, or steak knives. “Look at the edge of these knives. You could slice a piece of paper with one sweep of the hand. She took one of the knives in her hand. “Yep. Looks pretty sharp to me”. I don’t know, but I was worried to take this daydream any farther, lest she did something with that knife to someone, which made the police come and…. “When was the last time you saw her?” The Policeman asked while following what looked like a trail of blood through the house. “Oh, I’m not sure”, said while trying to wipe the blade while he spoke. I think it was a week ago Tuesday, or perhaps Monday, during the last Presidential Election?” “You look familiar”, said while slapping his pockets for the wanted poster of my now-missing friend. “It says here under known accomplices: Boy who lives next door. Constantly Daydreaming, Mildly Confusing, Most likely just as guilty as she”. I wish, I had a getaway car like in the Hardy Boys. One of those dark jobs which could whoosh through the city without being seen.

Someone was knocking on my head again. “Hello. Anybody in there?”. My friend didn’t seem to be the worse for wear. No blood to be seen, nor Brush-Knife Salesmen with a pale complexion, lying on the floor. “Uh. So I guess, we’ll see each other tomorrow morning. Don’t be late!” And with that I backed away from the door, making sure that the Cops were looking the other way, as I raced to my Roadster.

The next morning dawned bright and sunny as I rolled over in bed for another 40 winks. “Hey, Sleepyhead! Wake up! You need to beat those Chickens to the punch!”

I rolled over, and looked at the time: 5:30. 5:30 was she out of her mind? Stop right there. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. I might as well have hit the Go to Jail. Go Directly to Jail. Do not collect $200. Why wasn’t I allowed to buy Boardwalk and Park Place? Why did I not land on them, when there weren’t any houses, but managed to hit them when they had hotels on them? Why did I have to sell out of my Railroads, leaving me Connecticut, but not the other Blue Properties? I might as well ask, why the sky was blue. Rather a deep blue, if you are not used to 5:30am Blue?

I dressed as quickly as possible and rushed downstairs. Before she had a chance to wake up the rest of the neighborhood, I threw the door open and saw….

There she was. Sitting on a heap of this and that. Everything from Tennis Racquets to Pots with broken handles, and this and that all over again.

She just looked at me and said, “Good Morning Sleepy Head! Ready for our new adventure?……..”

 

Posted in Stories - The Girl Next Door

Summer and Cessnas – Chapter 20

Dad was working on some sort of plan to get my mom back, but he was really mum about it. I only hope that it worked for him, so we could start eating things that didn’t come in cans!

I felt that my summer vacation had stalled in midair. The pilot looked at both engines, but the propellers refused to spin, with traces of jet fuel leaking out of the sides. I started to panic this being only my second time in the air with the pilot suddenly grasping his chest, as if he were suffering a heart attack, or something! His last word to me before he passed out, were anything less than reassuring, “Tell my wife and the kids that my affair with the Tunisian Belly Dancer didn’t mean anything, and that I still loved them with all my heart! I would like to carry out his last wish, if that is I too survived the plane crash, happening just minutes from now!

We spent a lot of our time cleaning the house, and talking about how we felt. It was beginning to feel like Dr Joyce Brothers had moved in with us, telling us to talk about our feelings, and what had happened in our childhood. I felt it was easy talking about my childhood, as it in some ways, still was my childhood. My father, on the other hand, seemed to have forgotten a lot of things that happened when he was young, prompting Dr Joyce to say, “You are in denial. Plain and Simple. A Classic case of Oedipus complex, if I ever saw one!

I pushed his prone body out of the way, and began to use the microphone in a frantic sort of a way, “Mayday, Mayday” “Pilot in trouble, both engines out, pilot unconscious, imminent crash possible, please advise!!” Someone on the ground had forgotten how to work the darn thing, and continued to talk to the others in the control tower, thinking that I couldn’t hear him. “That boy is SOL if you ask me?  Unless a miracle occurs, he’ll be plowing the nearest field with the nose of his Cessna, and soon. He turned on the microphone once again, and said “Take it easy young man, we are discussing the best way to get you down in one piece, we’ll get back to you in a bit. Thus thinking he had turned off the microphone once again, he added to those around him, “Better call in the Chaplain, we’ll be lucky if there are any pieces left to find of that poor fellow, so we might as well comfort him as much as possible!

My father had put a pile of papers, on the kitchen table. They looked like travel brochures with cabins and lakes and the like, lying in the nearby county just an hour’s drive as the crow flies! “I think we need to get away for a few days, enjoy the summer a bit more, what do you think about that?” My father didn’t like to beat around the bush. He liked to tell it like it was, and I admire him for his directness. I guess, hanging around the house with all of those memories of my mother and all, made him crazy in a way? He wanted to get her back, but he usually spent all of his time away from her, either at work, or hiding out in the garage. It was a woman, making him crazy again! Why should he be different than the rest of us?

“Perhaps, if I can pull up on the throttle, I can straighten out the plane enough to make an even landing”, said aloud, while considering my steadily decreasing options. I knew the plane soon would be strafing the top of the palm trees, casting monkeys from side to side, coconuts scattering along the way….”

A trip to the lake, I said breaking free from my thoughts, Great! “That’s what we need, Jack. Some water on the back of the neck, and the code!” That was what Peter Sellers told Sterling Hayden in Dr Strangelove, just before Sterling Hayden blew his brains out! His brains, that is. Not Peter Sellers. Funny how my father’s name was Jack, and the crazed commander of the Bomber Wing of the American Air Force, who sent the B-52s on their way to Russia to drop the A-bomb on the heads of those Red Commies, was also named Jack! I might just work that into my next daydream, if I remember to?

  1. daydream number 1- the trip to the lake
  2. daydream number 2-plane crashing
  3. daydream number 3-Dr Strangelove
  4. daydream number 4-The Girl Next Door
  5. – empty slot-

I might have to make some sort of mental note, in order to keep track of my thoughts? It seems like a lot of people have been having difficulty breaking through them as late?

“It seemed like the motor on the right side of the plane still had something to give. I swear, I saw some movement in the propeller, as if it wanted to start again and save me, the girl of my dreams, and the important shipment of food to the third world. If only, there was a chance..

My father just waited patiently until he established eye-contact again with me. “I’d like to think that we have all summer, but we don’t”, he said with a bit of impatience in his voice. “Well, are we going, or not?”

I started to think about the Girl Next Door. I didn’t think it fair that she ended up as number 4 on my list, but I was sure, I could talk my way out of that one, if pressed into a corner. “Armed only with a chair leg and a whip, I felt the corner of the room pressing me in the back. The lion roared, and stepped closer. “Back you beast, Back, I say” as my possibilities decreased in a way that I rather wished, I was in a Cessna with motor stop, heading toward certain death in the jungles of Swaziland!

“Uh, I guess so. It’s just…”

“Oh, I see” said my father, but I was sure that he didn’t.

“You’d like to be together with your little friend, instead of being with the Old Man? Well, you know what? I’ve spoken to her mother, and she agreed that you two could take a vacation together, that is with the Old Man…”

Peter Sellers needed the code to stop the bombers from bombing Russia. It might have succeeded, but in the end Slim Pickens got himself the ride of his life, on the back of an A-bomb heading toward “Commie-land, Russia”. That’s what my mother would have said. She clapped and cheered when the bomb fell, starting WWIII, and all, when we saw that movie on TV once.

I thought that we should try to communicate with each other, and sit around a round table, or perhaps a horseshoe-formed table where all of us could share ideas and thoughts.

“Is it that school that teaches you things like that?” she’d ask me after the movie had ended.

“My goodness, if you think that we can get anywhere with the Russians by talking, then you should think again! Détant. That’s what we need to concentrate on! It’s us against them! And the only thing they understand is how many nukes we have vs how many they have!”

I worried sometimes about how my mother looked at things. I realize that her father, being an avowed Anti-Communist might have influenced her thinking a bit, but sometimes even I wanted to be a Russian, just to rebel against my mother’s way of thinking.

My father was losing patience. I know that, because he suddenly slammed his hand on the table, and demanded an answer !Well, what do you say?!

“Yes” was about all that I could muster. “Yes, I think that is an excellent idea!” but the questions and doubts had already begun to grow in my mind. When did he speak to my friend’s mother? When did he see her mother? The woman was Gone With the Wind, for all I know? “Frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a …… And being together with my friend was both good and bad. I knew she would get us, I mean, I knew, she would get me into trouble, before you could say “Jack Robinson!”

Another Jack to keep track of? I’ve already got the lion, the Cessna, Slim Pickins, and the Girl Next Door to think about, and the plane still hasn’t crashed in the jungles of Swaziland!

The motor on the left side also was trying to save my skinny butt. It seemed as if my time to shuffle off this mortal coil hadn’t come, as yet. The children at the orphanage clapped and cheered at the sight of the supply plane, heading their way. Now they would be saved from the dreaded disease with the much-needed antidote! “Pull up, you devil. Pull up!” I felt, as if I were regaining control over the plane and more so, over my life.

Lucky for me, the lion got distracted, just before my days indeed were numbered. It exited the building with me following after it, exerting maximum caution and restraint. Outside stood my friend, looking as if she had won the “Nobel Scare Away Lion Prize” or something? leaning up again the spiny kapok tree deep in the jungle. “That was a close call, what with the Cessna and all!” she said.

It was. Oh, how it was.  I was so happy to see her again, I threw caution to the winds and stepping lightly over the A-bomb and Slim Pickens, running over to her, throwing my arms around her, and….

“Why in the world are you hugging the kitchen chair?” My father’s voice seemed closer now.

“Uh, I ….” Oh yeah? Why was I doing such a thing?……

 

 

 

 

Posted in Stories - The Girl Next Door

Dad Gets an Earful – Chapter 19 (The Girl Next Door)

I really felt sorry for my father. First he had a wife, then he didn’t.

All the while my father thought he knew what was going on,  but it turned out that he really didn’t anyway. I guess he forgot how women can make you crazy, just when you thought you knew how they were, but it turns out that you were wrong, way wrong!

If my mother was still here, she’d probably just make his life miserable in person, and not just long-distance, like she seems to be doing right now. I don’t know which one I’d prefer?

It might be like having to choose between fighting an alligator with your hands tied, or jumping into shark-infested waters, armed only with a dull pencil and a bath towel with a duck on it. I bet, James Bond might be able to do something about that, he always does, but the rest of us might just end up in a can of Tuna-shark surprise!

We still carried on, but things were way different than normal. My father seemed to have lost interest in his Garage chores, concentrating on fixing up the house instead. He seemed to be making improvements on things that my mother had talked about over the last 4 years or so. “What if you put a mirror here? I’ve always wanted a bug screen over this window…Wouldn’t it be nice with a row of vases right here, where all of our garden flowers could be seen at one time?” I was amazed that he could remember all of those things! It kind of made me wonder, why he didn’t just do them right then and there, when my mother talked about them, instead of waiting for a better time to do them?

You see, it’s like this. My father had reasons, you see, and I was going to learn about the perils of being a married man, right here and now. “If you do everything, they want, then the chores will never stop. Let’s say that I made that bug screen. Then she’d get some idea about how all of the screens should be a different color, let’s say pink. There I would be, spray-painting all of the screens, while the rest of you would be suffocating inside the air-tight house, when your mother would get a new idea. “What if you painted all of the window frames at the same time, with a light red color. I would have to ask if light red and pink were not the same color, but then she would accuse me of having all my taste in my mouth, and that men had a bone in their head and all. I would argue that our house was fine like it was, and changing the color of the window frames and screens would make the rest of the house look wrong. “Exactly” she’d say. Then would instruct me in why the rest of the house should be painted at the same time, probably in a reddish carnation color. I would have to argue that reddish carnation is the same as light red, which is the same as pink, which would make her throw her hands up in the air and ask the gods, why she married me in the first place, and wasn’t there anyone else who could have been luckier to do so?

Right then and there! There was the perfect spot to tell me father about my mother’s first love, without having to pull teeth, or whatever that means anyway.

“Dad.” Sounding as grownup as possible, “I have to tell you something about mom. You’d better sit down first.”

They were always saying those kind of things in the movies, and on TV. I have some bad news to tell you and it would be better if you were sitting down, when you hear what I have to say. I guess, they’ve had more experience in such matters? Maybe they got tired of having to pick the people up from the floor after them having fainted and all? They never say things like, “Perhaps you should stand on one foot first, or lean casually against our paisley-colored wallpaper, while I regale you with the news of the disappearance of your pet mouse! I just thought that dad wouldn’t want to mess up all of our house cleaning work, by having to collapse in a heap, or alert the neighbors to our plight, by him running out of the front door, screaming bloody murder.

My father looked at me, in the same sort of way that my friend, the Girl Next Door does. “Uh are you going to tell me something, or are you just lost in your own thoughts?

“Dad. Mom told me about someone who she knew before she met you. A French-speaking bloke, who promised her a glorious life in Canada, and marriage and all that stuff.”

I half expected the walls to blow out, or some sort of fire-breathing monster to wake up in the cellar and stick its head through the floor, throwing us to each side of the room. “Run Dad, Run for your life! I’ll hold him as long as possible, grabbing a chair and a nearby whip, and proceeding to crack it over the head of the roaring beast. But when the monster turned its head toward me, its face was that of my mother, changing from light red to pink then reddish carnation at one time!

We ran upstairs, my father and I seeing how the floor beneath us seemed to crumble and fall away. Upon reaching the top floor, we searched the skies for the rescue helicopter, knowing that would be our only chance to get away, saving the world and getting the girl at the same time.

My father didn’t exactly react like I thought. He seemed to take it in stride, as if people told him that sort of thing every day.” I knew it was something like that”, he said. “I always knew there was something in your mom’s past that was gnawing at her. She just refused to tell me about it, that’s all.”

Colonel Mustard was in the Drawing room smoking his pipe. I’ve gathered you all here today to tell you something dreadful. Mrs Peacock has been found, stabbed with a knife in the Conservatory. And all of you need to account for your whereabouts. Miss Scarlet told how it couldn’t have been her as she had been in the Dining Room discussing the Bible with Mr Plum. “People who discuss the Bible cannot do such things” she tried to say, before Colonel Mustard simply waved her to the side saying in an ominous voice, “Everyone is suspect here, no matter what”! I used to get upset while playing Monopoly, and would end the game by throwing the board in the air, but in Clue I just bided my time, waiting for the murderer to be uncloaked.

It didn’t seem to me that being an adult was all it was cracked up to be. There were way too many problems, and unanswered questions, and it made me happier to think that being young and all, wasn’t so bad after all. I couldn’t see any way out of my father’s dilemma. At least in Clue there was a secret passage which would allow someone to escape, or kill another person, depending on your mood at that time, but I don’t think those were options for my father.

“Where is the boy’s mother?” the Police would ask my father. “I’m not sure, but I think she might have run off with a Frenchman from Québec. She’s done that sort of thing before. The Police would be jotting in their notebook while my father stood next to the wall, moving a well placed carpet with his foot. He did so to divert attention from the carpet, which covered the spot where the trapdoor  to the cellar was visible, lest he be discovered in the act. The trapdoor which led to the cellar, where my mother and her French lover would be chained to the wall, still professing their love for each other, while my father continued to stack the bricks higher, and higher, entombing them in their icy grave. “One last kiss my love, then we will journey to eternity together….

“I’ll win her back, you’ll see.” My father looked determined like I’d never seen before. It was more certain that going fishing without knowing what you were doing, but did so anyway. He seemed to be possessed in his thoughts, which was scary in a way, showing what women can make you do, even though common sense tells you the reverse.

 

 

Posted in Stories - The Girl Next Door

Fishing with Dad – Chapter 17 – The Girl Next Door

Today would be our last day together, me and my father that is,  if mom really was coming home tonight? I didn’t want to jinx it by saying that she might stay a bit longer at her mother’s house, but until we knew for certain, I decided to enjoy this Sunday all the same.

Dad had been reading a lot about fly fishing, and decided that today was the day to try out his new rod and reel. He said that the best way to learn something was hands-on, but was lacking the money to fly to England, where he longed to fish in the Derbyshire Wye, just like some fellow named Isaak Walton did once upon a time. “I wouldn’t know him from Adam”, is something which dad said a lot, but didn’t mean a whole lot to me. I don’t remember hearing mom talk about any friends called Isaak, or Adam, but it didn’t seem like they were that close, or they would have spent more time together, or so I would imagine?

Dad just smiled and laughed saying that “I still had a lot to learn in life, but with friends like the Girl next door, I’d surely get there sooner or later.” He sure seemed to be taken aback by my friend. I really hadn’t seen her around since yesterday, not even from our bedroom windows which were right across from each other on the second floor. I kind of hoped she’d happen on by so we could happen to have a casual conversation, and I could happen to invite her along on our outing and such! Her house though seemed dark and deserted, which made me think that she was hiding behind her broken screen door and plastic covered furniture, not wanting to talk to me after that episode in the cinema yesterday?

When we had the car all packed and the house locked up, I took one last look at the house next door. Nope, she might have been inside wearing her stealth shoes, and smoking her pencil thin cigars, like the ones I’d seen in the movies.  Mom would have said that all of that tobacco smoke would stunt my growth, or make me look like the Marlboro Man, but then he was a Cowboy with Chaps and a Rope, and the like, which might just make the girls swoon all over me in my otherwise nondescript mid-western way. Sometimes, I wanted to be someone else, doing other things, living and loving in Africa, or something like that. My mother would just mention National Geographic again, and worry that I only was thinking of Bare Breasts again, which I could have explained to her, that it didn’t seem to be a bad thing after all, but…

“Come on now”, my father yelled behind me, waking me up from my Non-Mother Approved Thoughts once again, and we hit the road for yet another Father-Son Outing. A real hunting trip!

My father had been out at the local Sporting Goods Store, talking up a storm with the proprietor, throwing around Fly-Fishing Terminology like he was the one who had invented the Silly Sport, but then he might have done so, for all I know?

Now, all that stuff was bouncing around in the back of the car, still sporting price tags and being in plastic bags, as if their time had not yet come to breathe air of freedom as yet.

My father had been working for weeks tying flies, making sure that the name fit the fly. He couldn’t stop laughing every time he mentioned his favorite type, “The Woolly Bugger”, although he didn’t seem to laugh when mentioning “The Royal Coachman” which was almost like “being blasphemous to the Sport”. That showed me that this both was, and was not a laughing matter, but not having a clue as to when I should laugh along with him, or just keep my mouth shut in order to keep me on his good side!

I tried to fit into my Father’s hobby by going to the library and doing a bit of reading about Fly Fishing. I really liked the story about the traditional Japanese method of fly-fishing is known as Tenkara”: “from heaven” I thought about how I could work that into our conversation, perhaps this evening when we would be finishing off the last bit of Trout, or Torauto in Japanese? Toss me another chunk of Torauto, I’d say to my father, while lying back looking at the sunset, thinking about the Girl Next Door, and if she was thinking about me as well.

I caught my father looking at me, while the last shards of my mind’s image of The Girl Next Door faded from my mind. “Daydreaming again? I used to do a lot of that when I was your age”, he said awakening me from my dreams. “Sometimes, I wanted to be someone else, doing other things, living and loving in Africa, or something like that, but look how I ended up? Being an Insurance Salesman with a wife, his expression stiffening a bit, and a son, and a house to take care of. No time for silly thoughts about traveling to Botswana, or someplace like that”, he said looking a bit distant in his thoughts, but bringing himself back to reality in the end.

It seems like we both had a lot on our minds, but luckily we finally arrived at the fishing stream allowing us to concentrate on something entirely different for the next few hours. Sooner than we could say, Isaak Walton, the campsite was ablaze with rods and reels, flies and creels and every funny name, that you could think of. My mother would have said, “Shake a Stick At”, but then she did use a lot of expressions, that I didn’t understand, probably coming from Canada, which was not a topic that I was going to bring up. No way. No how! My Father did mention that the best Fly Fishing was to be found in Canada, but I thought it was a long way to drive, to be humiliated in French instead of English when the real fishing was going on. I wouldn’t want to doubt my father in his endeavors, but I worried that he had bitten off more than he could chew.

“Toss me another piece of that Jerky”, he said to me, as if the one he had in his mouth wasn’t enough to pull out a good tooth with on its own. We always had a bag of Canadian Jerky with us, because dad said that was one of the most important things to have, when we were out and about. He even gave my Mother a large bag of it once for their anniversary, which to him, said “I Love You” more than words did themselves. He was a true romantic, my Father! My Mother didn’t share his appreciation for dried meat and promptly chucked it out of the window, prompting my father to hope for a Beef Jerky Beanstalk, or something in that way, which would have enriched our lives all the more, and make my Mother happy at the same time. Women! What do they know about gifts, anyway?

There we stood, along the shores of a wide river which told my Father, “Fish me, I’m all yours”. I only heard, “Dream on you losers, you don’t know what you are doing here, do you?”

I didn’t want to tell my father about the words in my head, as he was in 7th Heaven, and couldn’t see the forest for the trees. That’s probably why he tripped on the first tree root on the path, throwing him and his precious fishing gear into the fast-running river. “Stay Back” he yelled to me, while trying to gather his bearings, and the nearest fishing pole stopping it from floating away. He managed to herd the most of our things into the side, where I bent over as far as I could, and “fished” up any, and everything I could before they floated away again. My father, dripping wet and a bit angry with himself, dragged himself up on the riverbank, looking like he’d lost his only friend in the world.

We dragged the gear, and my father’s wet self over to the fire ring, and proceeded to think “hot” and “warm” without really having lit a fire as yet. I ran about and gathered every dry twig, I could find, and put some dry leaves under them and lit it with our dry matches. As time went on, with the fire being real warm now, and a good bag of Beef Jerky in his hand, my Father once again began talking positive about our Fishing trip. I pulled out a transistor radio, and let my father choose whatever he wanted to hear, which didn’t interest me at all, it being all Old Folks Music and all.

I sat over to one side thumbing through a Walt Disney Comics Digest, hoping that I had forgotten to read one of the Donald Duck Stories, that I most likely had read before. All of those real-life adventures about Davy Crockett, or Daniel Boone, just couldn’t hold a candle to Huey, Dewy and Louie and their adventures floating down the Amazon River in South America, or being chased by Border Guards in Botswana! I imagined me and the Girl Next Door living and loving in Africa, being 1000s of miles away from my boring and predictable existence. She was someone else, pretty, and witty, daring and filled with excitement, making my heart pound with….with….wait a minute. What am I thinking about? I must be out of my mind, or something? Maybe it was me who had fallen in the river and the freezing cold made my brain freeze which….she did have that look, you know, like she really liked me a lot….

We agreed to tell a whopping story about all of the fish that we had caught, eaten and perhaps even given away, as we drove home again.”Telling Fishing Lies wasn’t as bad as telling real ones”, my father had said, but he continued to look over his shoulder after having said that, for fear that my mother might have been listening all along.

When we got home again, it was quite late, with my father stretching his arms and yawning so much I didn’t catch a lot of what was said, other than “go to…., or…night.” I hesitated in the front yard for a minute or two, hoping against hope for something? It might have been a shooting star, or a Canadian Fox wandering through town, but that was only because I didn’t want to disappoint myself with something else not happening. Finally, I decided to hit the hay, and as I opened the front door, a hand appeared out of nowhere and turned me around in the dark, and kissed me smack on the lips!

It might have been one of those marauding Canadians, my mother told me about, sneaking about, attacking normal, decent folk, with their wily wanton ways! I couldn’t see very much in the dark, but felt as if the danger, if that’s what it was, was indeed over, and I could continue on my way into the house.

Maybe tomorrow they will be out attacking again….I could only hope for the best, um. I mean the worst…..

 

Posted in Stories - The Girl Next Door

At the Movies – Chapter 16

There we were standing outside of the cinema, looking at the movies available to be seen on this Saturday afternoon. Mom would have made our decision for us, excluding the violent, the scary and the overly sexy movies, without ever asking us what we wanted to see. Dad suggested that we toss a coin, or perhaps it were better that we saw the movie that we liked, while he saw something that he liked. Things seemed to be getting better, and worse all the time. I admit to liking the thought of being together with the Girl Next Door all alone in the dark, but it was scary at the same time! I knew somewhat how her mind worked in the light, but not as much how it worked in the dark. Sometimes it is better, leaving well enough alone.

I figured that she’d probably want to see some Love Story and all that gushy stuff, but she didn’t care for that sort of thing.

It’s kind of like that song, I’ll Never Fall in Love Again:

What do you get when you kiss a guy?
You get enough germs to catch pneumonia ** and between you and me brother, that seems to be more trouble than it’s worth!

I’ll admit to being a bit worried about being in the dark with her, but to hear her last words about love being so much trouble, didn’t exactly make my day seem any better.

Dad had chosen some adult film called “Clockwork Orange” which sounded like some sort of highbrow thing, that probably would bomb terribly, and disappear quickly from sight! We decided to see Escape from the Planet of the Apes which seemed like a nice compromise between what Dad was watching, or waiting to catch pneumonia from kissing some girl.

We discussed where to sit, but couldn’t quite agree with each other. I said that the sound was better in the front row, but she wanted the whole picture, and chose the very last seat in the theater. Dad had given me some money for candy, popcorn and sodas, so I excused myself (which my mother said I should do in the company of others) and made my way to the snack bar, before the picture started. When I returned to our places, the movie had started making things difficult with balancing the sodas and popcorn, and not having my feet stick to the floor, where others had been more unlucky with their sodas. It was also dark which made my eyes not be able to find the seats at first, but finally sat down next to….Hey. Where has she gotten to?

I thought when the movie started, she would have been there, but maybe she had to go to the ladies room, or something? The movie started with the usual Apes vs Man theme, but that didn’t seem to be important, as my friend still didn’t come back to our places. I decided to place our popcorn on the seats, and go back out into the waiting area to find my friend. It was pretty empty now, with just the sound of the popcorn machine, and the ice-maker humming in the background. I went over to my Father’s theater, but didn’t see her anywhere around, even trying to look inside to catch a glimpse of her. No Luck there.

The next theater was showing some gushy love movie, so I took a chance and waited near the entrance, until my eyes got used to the darkness. It didn’t seem to be that many people who had Love on their minds on that Saturday afternoon, but I did see one lone figure sitting in the front row, eyes glued to the screen. I casually sauntered over to her and sat down next to her. She didn’t seem to notice me being there, so I just waited patiently and tried to get into the movie at hand. There was some sort of couple who were in love and all that stuff, but she got Cancer and was in the hospital. Her mother was some sort of a crazy wacko, who made her life difficult, even though she had cancer and her husband was fooling around with her best friend!

I wondered if those Apes had decided to eat our popcorn and drink our sodas, having put their feet up on the seats in front of us, making monkey sounds and laughing while Chuck Heston yelled at the Statue of Liberty on the beach at the end of the movie. Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter were in their monkey suits, which probably was a pretty warm thing to do, but they got hosed down in their cages, before one of them said something in English, and the humans got all panicky, and decided to end the movie in order to make another sequel.

As I sat there and worried about our candy and popcorn being eaten by strangers, my friend leaned her head upon my shoulder and placed her hand upon mine. I don’t know, but I could have been anyone right then and there, so I hoped she knew it was me, or maybe she did that kind of thing every Saturday at the movies? I leaned my head towards hers, and there we were together, watching some movie about love and all that stuff, in the dark, sitting closer than I had ever sat next to a girl in my whole life, and you know what? It wasn’t as bad, as I had imagined it to be!

The movie plot went from bad to worse with the girl’s mother getting lucky with the fellow next door, while her daughter wasted away in the hospital. Her husband had gotten kicked out by her best friend, who told him to take a hike, or a leap at a rolling donut, which made me see why that movie had gotten an “R” rating for language and suggestive behavior. My mother would have made me leave immediately and probably would have me showing up at our church, to do community service, but the reverend was not there being it Saturday, and he was probably in seeing Clockwork Orange, or The Nun’s Story, or whatever movies those kind of people like to see? I was happy that my mother was at least 200 miles away at that moment, and my father was close by, but far enough away to not discover what his son and his little friend were doing at that moment!

My friend sighed a quiet sigh, then turned toward me and looked me in the eyes. “What are you doing touching my hand, and head like that! I ought to call an usher right now! Have you lost your mind, or something? I thought you’d be in with your Ape-movie! You men are all the same: Leaving your wife, when she has cancer, then wanting to come back and get friendly with her again! I’m not that kind of a girl!!!”

I was already on my way out of the door of her theater, and on my way back to my own. Somebody had eaten half of the popcorn, and had spilled one of the drinks on the floor, making things even more sticky than when I came in. I managed to come back, when the credits were rolling down the screen, just before the lights were turned on once again. I thought of going back to my friend, but was shown out to the exit by a flashlight waving usher, looking very mean and determined to stop people from sneaking back into the theater in order to seen another film for free.

I waited outside still sipping on my soda, when my father happened on by. “Whew, that was one crazy film! Your mother would have walked out, even before the titles were done in the beginning of the movie. How did it go with you two? Where has your little friend gotten to?”

Yes. Where had she gotten to? We walked towards the car, talking about what we had seen, but were surprised to see my friend waiting for us next to the car as we arrived. “My, oh my. What do we have here? Two handsome and gallant men out on a lark this fine Saturday afternoon!”

My father was smiles from ear to ear at her comment. He looked at me, as if to say how lucky I was to have such a nice friend as her, while I was wondering when she would be asking my father to stop by the police station on the way home, in order to report me to the proper authorities for assault and battery! She didn’t say anything of the kind on the way home, but thanked my father more than once for his generosity and thoughtfulness at inviting her along with us.

When we got back home again, my father said that “We should do this again sometime” then disappeared into the house, leaving us alone on the street once again.

“Listen here you Ninny” she started to say, as I considered going inside once again where I felt it was a safer place to be. “I got a bit carried away at the cinema, OK? Nothing to worry about. If you don’t mention it again, then neither will I?” I just nodded and agreed without saying that much. I thought things were going in the right direction between us, but when she lost her nut in the theater, I started to doubt my relationship possibilities with her all over again!

“It’s complicated, you know?” she said as she headed toward her house. “I wouldn’t have had a better time with anyone else but you, and I’m glad that we shared a special moment with each other today!”

I agree. It was a special moment together. She still confused the heck out of me, and I didn’t know if I was coming or going, but I guess that some things seem more trouble than they are worth.

Like love and all that stuff…..

** I’ll Never Fall in Love Again. Burt Bacharach/Hal David

 

Posted in Stories - The Girl Next Door

Mom Takes a Trip – Chapter 15

Mom decided to visit her mother, and told us that she’d be gone for the weekend. After their discussion, it came as no surprise to either dad or me, and it was something of a relief that she chose to do so.

Dad said that we needed a weekend together, just the two of us guys, without worrying about what mom would say or do. Sort of like camping indoors, just hopefully without the canned beans this time!

We had said goodbye to mom at the bus station, trying to think of something to say before she boarded the bus. Dad seemed to have the hardest time, telling her to say hello to her mother for him and tell her that he was sorry to hear how her lumbago had been acting up. He and mom looked at each other like they wanted to say something, but just couldn’t find the right words to say. She just waved halfheartedly, as the bus pulled away from the curb, and disappeared into the distance. Dad and I drove home in silence, not quite knowing, what to say to each other!

Dinner was an experience in itself. Dad put on one of Mom’s aprons, and turned the radio way up high while we cooked. I’d never really experienced my father in that way before. He sang along to the music, and twirled the frying pan behind his back, as if he had done that sort of thing for a living. He threw in a lot of spices that probably didn’t go together, then drowned the whole mess in ketchup to make up for the missing mom touches with the finished product.

After we had eaten, and had complemented each other on the best meal, we ever had tasted, we cleaned up the mess in the kitchen, then went outside to look at the stars in the nighttime sky. Dad told me the names of the constellations, and showed me Polaris, the North Star. I told him it was getting chilly, but I didn’t want that moment to end, goose-bumps and all. After we came in again, he made us some hot cocoa and found some cookies hiding in one of mom’s many cookie hiding places, and we curled up on the sofa to watch some film with John Wayne and Montgomery Clift.

Dad liked to watch those old movies, but was rarely in the living room with mom, when they were on. I guess, he reached some sort of compromise with her years before, about him not watching Western Movies and her not entering his garage sanctuary and cleaning it up. During one of the commercials, Dad started talking to me about what we should do tomorrow, it being Saturday and all. I really didn’t have any suggestions, but he said that we should go to the movies, and that I should ask my little friend, the Girl next door, if she wanted to accompany us? I nearly fell off the sofa, when he said that!

I said that “I’d ask her tomorrow, after we had eaten breakfast.” My father didn’t even ask if she was Canadian, or Tierra del Fueguen, which would have been the first words out of mom’s mouth, with the next being, “Not on your life!”I guess, dad saw things differently than mom, and that alone brought us closer together. I already started to worry about asking my friend, if she wanted to come with us. There was that thing about being alone with her in the dark that frightened me most of all. She was so impetuous and all, which meant that I was never quite sure, what would happen next with her, even though I thought I understood her pretty well by now.

I tossed and turned all night in bed, dreaming about her, and the things that we had done so far that summer. Some of the dreams were with the Girl next door, just having my mom’s face and voice instead. I think, I’d rather have wrestled with the Blob, or Rodan then having to face someone like her and my mom together in one. I would be there with Raymond Burr fighting Godzilla and Rodan at the same time, while yelling at each other in Japanese while doing so. “Fuji that godless monster, and he’ll be sayonara in no time! I yelled out, being Steve McQueen at that moment. “Watch out for his Datsun, it is going over the hill with a group of tourists, still snapping pictures as they go!” said Raymond Burr with eyebrows looking a bit oriental, pointing some chopsticks on the button that would activate the A-bomb!” Remember Iwo-Jima,” Steve McQueen yelled as the Blob slid into the ocean again, after being frozen by Rodan, and waving at the Japanese flag, one last time.

I awoke with the bed all wet with sweat, and a certain hankering for noodles and Sake, even though I know mom would never allow that kind of foreign stuff to set foot across our door step, without being certified by the USDA, and then probably wouldn’t be allowed in the house anyway! I tumbled down the stairs, only to find Dad in the kitchen trying his best to make pancakes, like Mom would make, but ending up with something that was black on the outside, and raw on the inside. He said that “food like that would put hair on my chest!”. I’m not sure if that was a good thing. Having a hairy chest, and a upset stomach??

After breakfast, I excused myself, and went next door to my friend’s house. I didn’t expect her to be at home, as she always seemed to be busy with this and that, only having time for me, when it was her idea. I knocked on the tattered screen door and waited. I thought I heard noises, like cats being chased by dogs, and plates falling off the cupboards, but finally the door opened a crack with my friend’s face appearing slowly but surely.

“Poindexter, what a surprise! What are you doing here today?” I told her about my father’s idea, and started to turn back towards my house, fully expecting a resounding, “No”, but what turned into a “Yes”, quite unexpectedly. “You Silly Goose, you’ll try anything to get me alone in a dark room, won’t you?” I started to clear my throat, and kick the door jamb with my foot, not quite knowing what to say to that. “I don’t, I mean, I didn’t mean it like that, I mean….” I surprised myself at being at a loss for words, especially after all that we had experienced together so far this summer.

“The quiet ones, are always the really hot lovers!” was all she had to say. I got all red in my face, and didn’t know what to say, other than we’d pick her up around 2pm, and drive to the local cinema.

My palms were really sweaty, when I left her house. I tried to think about something else than being alone in the dark with her, my father and everyone else who thought “movie” today. I tried to put it out of my mind by mowing the lawn with our push-mower. I liked how it made a pattern depending on which way I pushed it. I figured that I probably could have spelled my name, if I really thought about it, but it would probably backfire on me in the end. I could almost hear my mother’s voice, saying “What in the world is wrong with the front lawn? That is the first impression, our visitors see, when they come up the front walk! It almost looks like someone wrote their name in the grass! I would imagine some tricky foreigner is trying to mark our house as the next one to rob, by writing something in our Kentucky Bluegrass Lawn! I knew it, when the Democrats were voted into office at the last election! Now we are all going to purgatory, on the way to something worse. I knew it would happen to us!”

It’s funny, how I can hear my mother’s voice, even though she is 200 miles away. I can always imagine what she will say, when things don’t suit her way of thinking. She is no stranger to telling us about what she likes and doesn’t like, so it is rather easy knowing what she is going to say in certain situations. I think that Dad thought the same way too, that is until this weekend came along, and left him wondering, just what mom would be thinking about right now! We might have grown closer since mom left, but there were still a lot of things left unsaid. I guess, it isn’t always easy being an adult, with all of their other worries and bills and things to think about. I hope it is different, when I get to his age?

Finally it was time to go. Dad locked the house and we went out to the car, with me craning my neck for my friend. “I told her 2pm, which is now, but I’m sure she’ll be here in a few minutes” I told my father, hoping that he wouldn’t get mad at her being late. “No problem at all, we have until 2:40 until the movie starts anyway.” Dad seemed to take things in stride, as if it didn’t matter if we made it to the first film or the next. Mom would have screamed and yelled that the neighbors would consider us the laughing stock of the town, if we couldn’t even show up for a simple thing like the movies on time, when we lived so close and everything. Dad started the car, as if it were now or never. He shifted into reverse, and started to back down the driveway. I frantically looked left and right, hoping that my friend would make it at the last minute. When he reached the street and started to drive, the back door suddenly flew open, and my friend literally jumped through the opening into the moving car. “Whew! she said. That was a close one. I almost got my knickers in a twist!”

And with that, we were on our way towards town….