Internet junkie

Internet junkie, I’m not.

I do know the exact spot

for downloading my music;

soul-soothing, rhythmic tonic,

not too classic, not too hot.

 

Find a gadget? Takes a “sec,”

because I know where to check.

MySpace is just not for me.

And Facebook, although it’s free,

takes gumption. But what the heck!

 

I’m not the kind to chat a spell

Instant Messenger? Oh, well.

Not for me.  Not in the least.

To me, they’re hair of the beast.

I’d rather a story tell.

 

So tell me not of wonders fine

or places to order wine,

clothes, gadgets, or new shoes.

I’ve plenty, in many hues.

At excess, I draw the line.

 

Speak to me of stories new,

Politics, and skies of blue.

Face to face I yearn to be.

Into your eyes, so I can see

you smiling right back at me.

Relativity

If I tell you I’m cold

you’ll die laughing,

for the temp is just

above fifty.

The nights drop down

to the high twenties,

and I shiver and shake

like Santa’s belly.

Thermals are my new

day time friends,

trapping body heat and

keeping me warm.

No-burn nights I hate,

for no crackling fire

toasts my toes, or

warms my buns.

Winter comes even here.

California’s sunny skies

are bright blue, crystal clear

beacons, dotted with clouds.

It’s all relative, you see.

While I moan about the cold,

You’re trapped in a deep-freeze,

with slick roads and piles of snow.

If I tell you I’m cold,

You’ll die laughing,

for the temp is just

above fifty.

A Teacher’s Lament

I spoke with your teacher today,

And this is what she had to say:

Please tell Billy I like him a lot

But not when he licks each tiny spot

Of food off his plate.

It’s just plain gross.

 

It’s not polite to pick your nose

That’s why tissue’s good for blows

Putting snot between his teeth

Makes kids stare beyond belief.

You just don’t do it.

It’s just plain gross.

 

He needs to keep his shoes on his feet

The stench smells like rotten meat.

While in the playground yard

Children find it too hard

To forgive him.

It’s just plain gross.

 

People don’t put their hands on their butts

And scratch until they make big cuts

Blood through the clothes

And a stink up the nose.

It’s just plain gross.

 

 

As far as work, Billy’s losing out.

He wrinkles papers and runs about.

Seldom sits for more than a minute.

Pencils in places where they don’t fit.

He’s failing.

It’s just plain gross.

 

There’s not much more that I can say

Except that you should be on your way

To talk to Billy. tell him I care.

For him I’d go anywhere

To find him help.

He’s not that gross.

The task

It was supposed to be easy.  All Stan had to do was clean out the loft in the barn.  As a young teen, he frequently got assigned the “dirty” work.  Most of the time he didn’t mind, even when it meant mucking out the horses’ stalls.

So, here it was, a steaming day in July, and Stan was  going through the junk in the loft, organizing it, and getting rid of anything that was too broken to fix.

He knew what was up there for he was the one who dragged designated detritus up the steps to be stored.  Over the years, Stan had brought up a rocking chair with a cracked runner, an ancient bed frame that lacked one wheel, and at least five boxes of mismatched glassware.

How did his grandfather define too broken to fix?  He truly didn’t know, and rather than risk making a mistake, he decided to simply go for organization.

It was supposed to be easy.  That’s what Grandpa said, but he was wrong.  This place is a mess.  Where should I begin?  Stan picked a pile of junk just inside the door as a starting place.

There was a cardboard box filled with plastic hangers that no one had used since his grandmother died.  That can go.  Stan carried the box down the stairs and put it in an empty stall.  Back up the stairs again.

Next he tackled an old brown trunk whose hinges were made of leather, and the lock was so badly rusted that it would never latch again.  He lifted the lid, and found a pile of dresses.  Now what do I do with these?  Grandpa must want them, or he wouldn’t have stored them all these years.  Does he ever look at them and think of Grandma? Maybe I should leave them alone.   He gently closed the lid, lining it up as carefully as he could.

In the corner he found several broken tools.  The handsaw was badly rusted and the handle cracked.  The other tools were in equally bad shape, so Stan carried them down.

As the sun rose, the temperature in the loft soared.  It had no windows that opened, and the swamp cooler broke last summer.  Sweat poured down his face, back, and legs.

Stan moved on to Grandpa’s old chest of drawers, covered in dust.  It needed to go, as the back leg could not be repaired, but it was too heavy for Stan to move alone.  I’ll go through the drawers and see what I can get rid of.

The top drawer was filled with county fair ribbons.  Most of them were for prized horses, some for the cows, and a few were for sheep.  They spanned the years from the early 1980s to 1995, when Grandpa quit showing.  That was the year that Nightingale had died.   Grandpa was so devastated, that he almost quit living.  He went days without eating, and refused to work the ranch at all.

I think these can go.  They’re pretty old now.  Stan found a paper bag stuffed behind the dresser, and put all the ribbons in it.

The second drawer had a bunch of colorful handkerchiefs and some rope ties.  Since his grandfather hadn’t worn any of them in years, Stan added them to the bag.

The bottom drawer held photo albums.  Stan gently lifted out the top one.  Its leather cover was faded and frail.  Stan sat on the floor, and put the book in his lap.  When he turned to the first page, he smiled.  There was his grandfather as a young man, standing proudly next to his wife.  Nightingale was dressed in her white leather wedding clothes.  Her hair was braided, and piled on top of her head.  On her feet were the beaded moccasins that her sister had made.

Grandpa wore leather leggings, a buckskin jacket, and rows of beads around his neck.

This is a keeper.  No way would Grandpa ever let this go.  Stan turned a few more pages, and saw photos of Nightingale’s father, who was a chief in the tribe.  Her mother, a shaman, in a different photo.  There were pictures of horses,and people on horses, and the building of the ranch house and barn.

Stan put the album back away.  He really wanted to look at the rest of the photos, but the heat was worse and he was feeling somewhat dizzy.

I’d better go get some water before I pass out.  Stan closed and locked the loft door, then went downstairs.  When he stepped from the darkened barn into the morning sun, the brightness blinded him for a few minutes.  It didn’t matter, as he could make this walk in his sleep.

Across the drive, up the five steps onto the porch, and then through the front door.  The swamp cooler was doing its job, for the house was comfortably cool.  Stan went into the kitchen and fixed himself a tall glass of ice water.  He carried it into the front room, and settled into “his” chair.

Even though he wanted to turn on the television, he didn’t.  Grandpa had rules about when it could be on, how long it could be on, and what type of programs could be watched.  Stan had learned quite young that the risk was not worth the limited enjoyment, so he left the set off.

He was reading a Louis L’Amour book called Bendigo Shafter.  It takes place in an area of Wyoming that Stan knew.  What he liked about L’Amour’s books was that he wrote about cowboys and ranchers.  Stan identified with the author, as he also wrote poetry and short stories.

Bendigo had just met the widow Ruth Macken who was both beautiful and crafty.  Wanting to know if the hero would put aside his dreams of finding gold to settle into married life, Stan found his place and began reading.

The afternoon sun came in through the front windows, falling across Stan’s chest and lap.  Soon he fell asleep.  In his dreams, he became the leading man.

Ruggedly handsome, he swaggered up to Ruth’s front porch.  She stood in the doorway, leaning suggestively against the frame. “Howdy, Miss.” Embarrassed by his dusty boots, he wiped the toes against the back of each leg.

“Come in and have some water.  Or would you prefer somethin’ a might stronger?”

Bendigo followed the beautiful woman inside the cabin.  Ruth’s furniture was more elegant than anything he had ever seen before.  Out here, living was rough and fancy goods were hard to come by.

He headed for a stuffed armchair near the fireplace.  It looked strong enough to hold his muscular body. 

“Don’t sit there,” she said.  “That was my husband’s favorite chair.  Come in the kitchen.” Bendigo did as told.  The kitchen was painted a bright yellow.  Sunlight filled the room, and the smell of flowers wrinkled his nose.

 

The table and chairs were store-bought, a might too fancy for Bendigo’s taste.

“Here’s some whiskey.  So what do you want?  Men never just drop in.”

“Well, I was hopin’ that you’d step out at the dance with me.  I don’t dance too good, but I have fun.  Are you gong’ with anyone yet?

“Why would I go with you?  You’re a runt, you don’t own a durn thing except for a beat-up horse and a patch of land with a might small cabin.”

Bendigo shrugged.  She was right about everything.  After downing his shot, he got up and headed for the door.

“I’ll go.”

“What?”

If you really want to take me dancin’, then I’ll go with you.”

Bendigo walked out the front door.  “Seven.  I’ll come by and escort you.”

Stan didn’t hear his grandfather’s old truck pull into the drive, or the angry voices just outside the front door.

Stan awoke, somewhat disoriented.

A shot rang out.  Stan, ran over to the rifle cabinet and pulled out his favorite gun, a Browning cynergy 28-gauge sporting rifle, with a walnut oil finish that he kept well polished.   He liked the feel of the gun, the way it nestled against his shoulder, and the lightning smooth pull of the trigger.  It made shooting easy and accurate.

After closing the cabinet, Stan hustled to the front door, afraid of what he might find.  His Grandpa was a bit of a character.  He frequently “riled” the neighbors, to use Grandpa’s term, by scheming against them in poker games, auctions, and even in drinking contests.

“Git off my land.” Grandpa stood with his hands planted firmly on his hips.

“How am I supposed to do that when you drove me here?”

Stand stepped outside, his rifle held against his chest.  “What’s going on?”

“This dang-gum liar says Rosie isn’t a Mustang.  He won’t pay more’an a hundert for her.”

Stan looked at the man, and recognized Mr. Werner, the principal of his school.  Decked out in jeans, cowboy shirt, and high-top boots.  Mr. Werner was a good guy.  He was fair and honest and liked kids.  Stan lowered his gun and quietly came down the steps.

“Put your gun down, Grandpa.”

“Nope.  Ain’t a gonna do it.  Not ‘til this here cheater is long gone.”

“I’ll take him home.”

“You don’t have a license, do you?”  Mr. Werner knew every student, so there was no use lying.

“No, sir.  I can drive on our land, though.  That’s legal.  I can take you just over the bridge and out to the highway.  From there you could walk home.  It’s only a couple of miles.”

Mr. Werner backed away from the cocked rifle.  Step by step, he slowly moved.  Stan pulled open the creaky door.  He kept an eye on his grandfather, whose arms now shook from the effort of holding the gun.  He still glowered, and Stan knew that look.  He had seen it many times when he had disappointed his only living relative.

 

Werner got inside the cab. Stan turned the ignition.  The truck, as always, didn’t catch the first time, or the second.  Thanks goodness it kicked in on the third try, as his grandfather had stalked up even with the truck and was pointing his gun right at Werner’s sweat-streaked face.

“Don’t you never come back unless you offer a fair price.  You ain’t no charity case.  You make more at that school than I do in a good year.  You got no business cheatin’ ranchers that way.  It’s disrespectful, that’s what.”

Werner sat still, staring straight ahead.  His face had a peculiar green tinge around the lips and eyes.  Stan thought the man was going to puke, right there in the cab.

After putting the truck in gear, he turned left and headed toward the bridge.  Just as they pulled into the shelter of the surrounding quaking aspens, a shot rang out.

“He’s old and cranky,” Stan said.  “He hasn’t been feeling too good lately.”

“Humph.”

“He’ll get over it, Mr. Werner.  He works hard on the ranch.  Lots of folks laugh at him, as he never finished school.  He reads some, and is pretty good at math, but he has a hard time writing.  It embarrasses him, ‘cause he feels stupid compared to the college-educated ranchers moving in.   Grandpa’s a proud man, and he does get upset when he thinks someone is cheating him.”

After crossing the bridge, Stan turned off the engine.  “This is as far as I can take you.  There’s a bottle of water in the glove compartment.  It isn’t cold, but it’s wet enough to get you home.”

“Thanks.”  Mr. Werner’s hands trembled so badly that he couldn’t open the bottle.

 

“Let me do that,” Stan said as he reached over and twisted it open.  “I’ll see you Monday.  If you want, you can call me and let me know that you got home safely.  Grandpa never answers the phone.  He says he’s too old for gadgets, yet he owns a pretty good tractor that he maintains himself.  He’s good with his hands.  Did you know that he built the house by himself?  For my grandmother.  It was his wedding gift.  She was the prettiest woman he’d ever seen.”

When Mr. Werner got out, he looked at Stan, as if for the first time.  “Thanks.  I appreciate your help.  That old man had me pretty scared.”

“Next time you want to buy something from him, don’t haggle over the price.  Folks think it’s easy to cheat him, but they’re wrong.  He’s a smart man.  Smarter than most.”

Werner nodded, and then shut the door, the rusty squeak filling the blue skies.  “I’d still like to buy that filly.  Think he’d sell her to me?”

“Give him a few days to calm down.”

Werner patted the truck door, and then stepped away.  Stan watched him amble onto the paved highway and head south, toward town.  As the man’s figure got smaller and smaller, he thought of Bendigo Shafter.  Bendigo might not win the heart of Ruth Macken, but there were lots of other women out there and lots of other battles to fight.  Like Bendigo, Grandpa Ellis was a handsome, proud man, who would pull a gun rather than be thought back down on a fight.

Stan smiled when the engine kicked in on the first try.  He smoothly turned around and headed across the bridge.  Grandpa was standing in front of the barn, with a scowl on his face.

 

“You were supposed to clean out that loft,” he said as soon as the motor died.  “It was an easy job, and you didn’t follow through.”

“It wasn’t easy at all.  You got all kinds of memories stored up there.  I was afraid to throw much of anything out.  Maybe you could help me a bit?”

“Let’s tend the horses first.  Then we’ll go take a look.”

Stan followed his grandfather into the barn.  The horses whinnied at the promise of fresh hay and oats, and maybe an apple or two.  Like Bendigo, Grandpa knew good horseflesh, and only bought and bred the best.  That part was easy for him.

 

Little Red Revisited

Little Red didst blithely skip

in forest deep and dark.

Forgetting all had been warned

laughing as if on a lark.

 

She swung her basket to and fro

not looking through her eyes,

for dangers hidden in the trees

not thinking about a disguise.

 

Upon a hunter meek and mild

Little Red didst soon arrive.

With clear blue eyes she smiled

At him, so sweet, so clear, so alive.

 

He spoke of peace and gentle things

and she didst fall in love.

He promised not to hurt her heart

and swore to God above.

 

Red knew him not, but answered yes

despite what she’d been told.

And so struck out on her own

with step both confident and bold.

 

Ignoring signs of pending doom,

Red whistled as she skipped.

Right up to Grandma’s house

and in the door she slipped.

 

In bed poor Grandma slept

with fever and with cold.

Red tiptoed up to see her eyes

and Grandma’s hand to hold.

 

“What big eyes,” Red declared

when Grandma didst awake.

“To see, my dear,” she replied

and took a bite of cake.

 

“What big teeth,” Red did say

when Grandma opened wide.

“To chew, my dear, these lovely

cakes,” she sneakily replied.

 

“What furry arms you have,”

said Red, “but I remember not

when didst thou grow such

lengthy hair could be tied in a knot.”

 

“It keeps me warm on winter’s eve,

and dry during a spring rain.

I’d love to hold you in my arms,

to cradle you once again.”

 

“No, thanks,” said Red for she did see

that things were not all right.

For Grandma dear was way too dark

even in such poor light.

 

“I think I’ll go,” Red didst say

and hurried toward the door.

“You shall not go,” Grandma declared

and sprang feet on the floor.

 

She threw off her cap and gown,

revealing a wolf-like shape.

Red didst scream and run about

attempting to escape.

 

The wolf didst flash a mighty smile

and throw his arms out wide.

Intending to capture Little Red

without wasting even one stride.

 

Suddenly there didst appear

a man both tall and strong.

Red ran to him and told her tale

so he could right a wrong.

 

Listen now for you shall hear

the moral of this tale.

Go careful through yon forest deep

and whilst skipping through a vale.

 

Rescue might not come your way.

To perish could become your plight.

Unless you’re careful to observe

even on the darkest dark night.

 

While Little Red didst escape

and her story she soon didst tell.

You must listen and take care,

so for you things will go well.

 

You cannot walk and prance about,

with head adrift in the skies.

For on you might come, like to Red,

a murderous surprise.

 

Beware, my child, of strangers met

in forest, field, or glen.

For they might be a dangerous sort,

then we’ll not meet again.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy People

Gwyneth loved living at Euclid Retirement Home. It was clean, comfortable and she was well cared for. The staff was kind and helpful. Her room wasn’t large, but she didn’t have to share it with anyone, unlike friends she knew who lived in other, not quite so nice places.

Her favorite thing about Euclid, though, was how pleasant everyone was. There were no grumpy people among the staff or the residents. Everyone walked around with smiles on their faces. Even those whose communication skills were limited smiled all the time. It was as if Gwyneth had fallen down the rabbit hole and landed in the land of happy.

Before she moved in, she was sad and lonely. Her children lived in other states, far away, and seldom came to see her. Her friends had moved on, either through death or a lack of independence, so she had no one to pal around with.

Her days were the same: get up, eat, eat some more, read, watch television, go to bed. Sometimes she went to the movies, but it wasn’t the same as when she would go with her husband or friends. Who do you discuss the movie with when no one was there?

Sometimes she’d treat herself to a meal out, but then she was a sad, lonely old woman sitting in a booth by herself. She’d bring a book and read in order to have something to do, but it wasn’t the same as sharing conversation over a good meal.

Her life was one big lonely day after another.

Until she heard about Euclid. A friend discovered it first and moved in when an opening appeared. Nancy loved the place and spoke highly of the wonderful staff. Nancy bragged about how much better she felt shortly after moving in, that she no longer looked forward to death, and in fact, enjoyed every single day.

She invited Gwyneth over for lunch one day so Gwyneth could see for herself how happy everyone was. And she was right. The residents sat around the large dining room table with smiles creasing their eyes. The staff sang and danced as they delivered the food, and sang some more as they cleaned up afterward.

The atmosphere was so low-keyed that Gwyneth was surprised that anything got done, but the residents were clean, their clothes were spotless, and her friend Nancy’s room was dust free. The furniture in the common room was a bit dilapidated, but still comfortable. The walls and floors were clean, and when Gwyneth had her tour of the facilities, she was pleased with how sparkling clean the kitchen and bathrooms were.

It was so perfect that Gwyneth inquired as to whether or not there was an opening. There wasn’t, of course, but there also was no one on the waiting list. Gwyneth completed the necessary paperwork and that was it. All she had to do was wait until someone either died or moved out.

Meanwhile she sorted through the stuff in her home. She went through closets, drawers and cabinets. She got rid of clothes she hadn’t worn in years, blankets that had sat in cabinets waiting for company to need them, and excess silverware that she wouldn’t need. Placemats and matching napkins…gone. Tablecloths, even fancy ones, stuffed into giveaway bags.

Even the piles of cookbooks disappeared. Anything she wouldn’t be able to take with her to Euclid left the house. She kept enough furniture to live with, enough pots and pans to cook basic meals, and the clothes she wore every day. Well, a few good dresses, but that was it.

Her son helped her find a realtor and arranged for an appraisal of the house. Once she knew fair market value, she put it up for sale, thinking that if all worked out, an opening at Euclid would magically appear when she had no place to live.

And it did. No sooner had a buyer made a reasonable offer for her house, not just meeting the sales price, but adding an additional $75,000 as enticement, than a room became available. Gwyneth would move in her new place just as the buyers were taking over her house.

Even though she wasn’t sure she’d like living in a home, Gwyneth’s mood improved after the first meal. She felt calmer, more relaxed and happier than she could ever remember feeling, even when her husband was alive and her kids still lived at home. That night she slept well, with no nightmares chasing her thoughts.

She enjoyed being with those residents that were able to converse. Every night they had pleasant discussions about the current political mess in Washington or movies or happenings in the news. After dinner they competed against each other to get the answers on Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. Sometimes they played card games, which were rollicking bits of pure unadulterated fun.

Gwyneth knew she had made the right decision because every day was the same. Happy people, happy staff.

The only complaint that she had was that one resident, Lawrence, a grizzled old man of about eighty, seemed to have an unusual amount of company. Day in and day out people came to the door. Lawrence would take them to his room, and within a few minutes the visitors would be gone.

The staff seemed to like Lawrence more than the other residents, which was also bothersome. They also visited the man’s room quite frequently throughout the day, then would bustle into the kitchen. Amid the sounds of cooking would be giggles and loud guffaws.

One day the police walked through the door, dressed in what Gwyneth thought of as combat gear. That caused quite a stir. The residents were abuzz as the police searched the kitchen, opening every cabinet and drawer. They went through the massive china cabinet that stood in the dining room. They opened the envelopes that contained residents’ prescription medications and examined the contents of every bottle.

The cops went down the hall while the residents were sequestered in the front room. Another hour went by, while everyone speculated about the purpose of the visit, what they might be searching for.

Eventually the cops conferred with the manager who had been called to the home. Shortly after that, Lawrence was taken out in handcuffs and all the police officers left.

There was great speculation as to why he was arrested. Someone thought he was running a secret gambling operation on the computer in his room. Another guessed that he was a pedophile who was collecting images of children.

But no one would ever have guessed the real reason for his arrest if the manager hadn’t sat down with everyone and explained what had happened.

Lawrence had been buying and selling marijuana over the Internet. The police found over $20,000 worth of the drug in his room along with a stash of money, hidden between his mattress and box springs. He was being accused of selling drugs to the staff, to residents and to those non-residents who dropped by to visit him.

Gwyneth had wondered why anyone as popular as Lawrence would live in a home. After all, he seemed to have a goodly number of family and friends that came by, day after day. Well, now she knew that they weren’t family, but customers.

The next day there was an account of the arrest in the local paper. The police suspected Lawrence after seeing him approach a red sedan at the corner of Thornton and Fremont Boulevard, a sedan that was under surveillance for possible drug dealing. They followed Lawrence home and staked out the house for several days. After witnessing the number of strangers who came and went, they sought a court order.

And that’s how they caught him.

Everyone at the home was dismayed. Lawrence was a happy man and a good conversationalist. The staff members that were arrested were also good people. One was a mother of several small children and another was a cook who babysat her grandkids on weekends.

It was a shame. Lawrence’s arrest brought a great sadness to the home. No longer were the residents happy. Long gone were the pleasant conversations. No more did they compete over the game show for answers.

And the replacement staff wasn’t nearly as happy, either. Many of them were downright grouchy and seemed to resent working with a bunch of old folks. Slowly the house fell apart. Things weren’t as clean as before. There was grime in the bathroom and dust built up in the corners. The carpets were seldom vacuumed and the quality of the food disintegrated.

Gwyneth and Nancy organized the residents in the writing of a letter of protest, begging that Lawrence be allowed to return once he had served his time. They saw him not as a drug-dealer, but as the catalyst of all things good about Euclid.

Months later, when Lawrence was released from jail, he returned, but without a computer and without his car. He was restricted to the home and no longer did countless visitors walk through the doors.

But the mood slowly changed. It began with the staff. All of a sudden they were happy to be there. They changed sheets and diapers with smiles and laughs. There was giggling from the kitchen and guffaws as meals were served.

And then the residents began to smile again. And talk again. And compete over game show answers.

And Gwyneth was happy to be alive.

Child’s Play

Easy, breezy, light and freezy

squeezy, sleazy, sometimes squeaky

Fluttery, buttery, I’m not nuttery

Cattery, splattery, but no flattery

Speedily, bleedily, just not greedily

Eerily, blearily, eyes are tearily

Quakery, shakery, give me cakery

Flakery, bakery, do not takery

Snuggle me, bungle me, don’t tungle me

Spangle me, dangle me, please jangle me

Laughy, gaffy, just plain daffy

Play with words every dayfy