Random Scribbles · writing

The Zenith and Other Wonders of the Ancient World

TBP



The Council members sat stoically at the dais as Doctor Drew DeMarco steered the heavily laden hoverboard into their chambers.

“What have you brought us this time, Drew?” asked the Chairma’am with a pronounced nasal inflection in her tone.

Drew DeMarco bowed his head respectfully, “We’re not quite sure what to call it, your honor, but the markings inside indicate that at one time, it may have been called a Zenith.

“With your permission, I’ll have Lynette prepare a demonstration while I provide details on how and where we found it. What we believe its purpose was.”

The Chairma’am nodded her head and Drew leaned over to whisper instructions to his assistant, Lynette. She nodded, took control of the hoverboard and set to work.

“As you know we have been excavating around the site of an old volcano in the northwest corner of the continent. The locals there call the mountain ‘St. Helen’. About a month ago we uncovered an old wooden cabin buried beneath several hundred feet of dirt, ash, and debris. Said cabin has yielded a fascinating array of artifacts, all wonderfully preserved and this was there, pushed up against a wall.

“The cabinet, itself is wooden and inside there is a communication device. It is somewhat puzzling because it is incapable of transmitting. It can only receive but it can receive along a broad but low frequency band. Our engineers have analyzed the circuitry and they suspect it may be a functioning example of what the ancients called ‘Radio’ in their texts.”

Drew lifted one side of the cabinet top and showed the Council the AM radio mounted inside.

The Chairma’am tapped her chin, “We have heard of such things,” she said, “what makes you believe this one is functioning?”

Drew nodded his head to Lynette who had connected the device to a mobile fusion power source by means of a tail coming from the back of the cabinet. She reached in and turned a knob. The Council members all sat back slightly when there was a click and the AM dial lit up, but as there were no explosions, they soon leaned forward again. Drew grinned to himself, he knew he had their attention now. He nodded again to Lynette who turned the knob a bit further and gradually the room filled with the hiss of static. White noise. Dead air.

“The sound you hear is the result of the circuitry working, the amplifiers are attempting to amplify a radio signal but as there is no broadcast there is nothing to amplify.”

Lynette turned another knob and a red line moved across the green glowing dial. The static would come and go as she tuned across the entire spectrum.

“We are intrigued by your artifact, Drew,” The Chairma’am said, “You are hereby instructed to donate it to the institute. Our engineers and technical people will take over the investigation from this point on. You no longer need be involved.” she stood to adjourn the gathering but Dr. DeMarco interrupted.

“If I may continue, your honor, there is more here that I would like to show you.” Apparently intrigued, the Chairma’am nodded her head and sat back down. Lynette was flicking switches and turning knobs inside the cabinet.

She handed Drew a large envelope which he showed the Council members. There was a depiction on the envelope of a group of people and some smoke or clouds. Across the top was written “Led Zeppelin II” Drew spread the edge of the envelope and withdrew a large black disc. Lynette lifted the other side of the cabinet top and revealed a thin metal post on which Drew set the disc, sliding it down to a spinning platform. The disc began to spin and Drew moved a pivot arm over it. He set the arm gently on the spinning disc.

From the cabinet came wailing sounds and then someone shouted, “Oooooooohhhhh, wanna whole lotta love.”

Drew looked at the Council. Without exception, they were flabbergasted. The Chairma’am’s mouth hung open. He lifted the arm from the disc and the room was silent.

“A primitive musical instrument, your honor; that only my team and I know how to play, it requires additional study.”

The Chairma’am snapped her mouth shut then spoke, “Upon reconsideration I would like to request that you and your team work in conjunction with our engineers on this project. The administrator will instruct you on how to proceed. This gathering is adjourned.” She stood and quickly left the room, visibly shaken.

When they were alone Lynette and Dr. Drew high fived, packed up the old Zenith and went to find the Administrator.


 

Random Scribbles · writing

Insomnia

TBP



At the stop Sue used her hand to wipe the fog from the inside of the oversized window and peered out at the city streets. She listened to snatches of conversation around her. Almost musical, her fellow passengers seemed to speak in time with the staccato cadence of the large wipers that cleared the windscreen in front of the driver.

THWACK, thwack

THWACK, thwack

THWACK, thwack

Rivulets ran down the glass on the outside of the window and she traced their paths with her mittened fingers as she studied the street lights and the neon signs in the shop windows that whirled past. She made note of the way the lights reflected off the droplets that fell around them, the resultant halos that formed.

Forgotten was the budget analysis, due at work first thing in the morning. Forgotten was the hamper of laundry, sitting neglected in the closet of her cold, cold room. Forgotten was her need for sleep.

The only thing that mattered tonight was the motion of this bus and the wet, empty, silent streets that blurred together before the dawn.


 

 

Random Scribbles · writing

How I got Involved in Volunteer Work

TBP
TBP


At the end of another long day, and too many more ahead to even think about, Sam took a moment to gather his thoughts. He was a volunteer now, thanks to Mr. White; who had sent him to the new VA center to interview some of the patients there. Sam had called ahead and made an appointment with Ms Henderson. He told her what his brief was; and asked if he could meet with some patients; interview them and get their stories. He said it was for a human interest piece for the Sunday “Life” section of the paper coming out before Veterans Day.

“By all means, come on, “Ms Henderson had told him on the phone. “Come early so you can park close to the compound. The lot fills up fast. I’ll see you in the morning, first thing.”

First thing, to Sam meant sometime around 10:30 so he wheeled into the lot at exactly 10:25. He found a parking spot at 11:15 in the furthest corner of the lot. A shuttle came by and gave him a lift. It was a little before noon when he found Ms Henderson’s office.

“You’re late,” she barked when he was shown into her office. “The watch changes here at 0800. You should have been here at 0745.”

“Sorry,” Sam mumbled.

“Let’s get moving,” she said walking briskly out the door, obviously expecting him to follow. “I’ve got people waiting for you.”

They twisted their way through endless hallways and  between buildings. Wherever they went, people seemed to know Ms Henderson. Most of them greeted her with, “Morning, Commander,” or, “Morning Ma’am.” She seemed to know each and every one of them by name and/or rank. She answered every one of them, “Morning Gunny, how’s your leg?” and “Jimmy, what did Doc Thornton say?”

They kept moving and Sam was jogging to keep pace. Finally they began to slow down as they approached a patch of shade beneath some tall palms near a white stone building. There were four people there, smoking and talking.

As they drew near Ms Henderson shouted, “Look sharp people, Sam finally made it.” They cheered and introductions were made all around. “Sam’s a reporter. He wants to talk to you guys. Interview you for a feature article in the paper.”

They all smiled.

“Sam this is Crystal Walker,” a young blonde lady with sunglasses extended her hand and they shook. “Crystal was a business major before she joined the Army. Her eyes were taken by an IED in Iraq. Now she’s a Braille translator and a volunteer here, working with PTSD patients. She was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross when she returned stateside.”

“This is Jerry O’Brien, Physical Therapist and ex-Navy Seal”

A graying man nodded his head at me. He lifted his trouser legs, both of them, to reveal stainless steel and cable prosthetics with running shoes attached on the ends. “Nice to meet you,” he said, “I feel compelled to correct Commander Henderson though. There is no such thing as an ex-Seal. Once a Seal, always a Seal.

“Jerry has two purple hearts and a Navy Cross,” Ms Henderson added.

The others were a Marine Lieutenant who told Sam to call him Lou, and a ginger haired lady who favored her right leg a bit. Ms Henderson said that Lou had both a Medal of Honor and a Silver Star. He donated his time on weekends and evenings in admissions at the VA. The red haired lady had been a Huey pilot in Vietnam tasked with moving supplies behind the lines. She filled a non-combatant role, until one day the lines moved and she found herself ferrying wounded soldiers out of combat zones. She flew back and forth tirelessly for two whole days without sleep and when she finally got out of the chopper she had taken three rounds in the legs and buttocks. She had kept flying even wounded. Now she was a volunteer at the VA, moving patients on gurneys and wheelchairs from department to department.

Commander Henderson looked at Sam, “You said you wanted to talk with patients. I brought you patients, volunteers, staff, and friends. They all have medals to prove their valor and courage. Furthermore I would suggest that what they do today simply reinforces that. You guys can stay here and talk as long as you want.” Then she marched off, with a purpose.

It was almost dark when the shuttle dropped me at my car in the far reaches of the lot and I turned to watch the sun set over the empty lot and the oasis that is the VA center before I made my way back to the freeway and drove home.

The next day, the article wrote itself. Everybody has a story at the VA. Everyone has done their part. Some paid dearly for the privilege. The story  I wrote ran on Sunday, pretty much exactly as I had submitted it. A few commas had been removed but that was it. I always use too many commas.


Too many words, sorry. You should have seen it before I pared it down.

The publish button tells me that this is my 666th post on this blog. It’s Veterans Day and the hull number of the boat I was on in the Navy was SSN 666.

Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Random Scribbles · writing

Things Are Going to Start to Get Interesting

TBP
TBP


At the ripe old age of 20 my sister, Lana, fell in love with Vito. I’ll never forget the April evening she brought him home to introduce him to Mama, who was in the kitchen preparing dinner. Mama was always in the kitchen preparing one meal or another so everything was, pretty much, as it should be.

“Mama, this is Vito. My beau, my fiancée, my one true love and we’re going to get married in June. It’s only going to be a small wedding with you and TN. Vito’s cousin Anna Marie will be there too and of course me and Vito.”

“Oh, my,” Mama said, “this is unexpected. I think I need to sit down.” She put her hand to her face. Vito pulled a chair from the kitchen table for Mama to sit down and held her elbow as she lowered herself to the vinyl seat. He sat with her and tried to comfort her, he brought her a damp cloth, he made cooing noises and the like until she finally had to get up to keep the sauce from boiling over.

Vito was, of course, invited to stay for dinner. Anyone in the vicinity of our house was invited to stay for dinner when it was dinner time. There was always enough. He and Lana left shortly after helping to clear the table. Mama never let anyone wash her dishes except me. I was allowed, only sometimes, but really it was Mama’s job. It was hard for her to let go. We did the dishes together that night and then sat at the kitchen table with cups of coffee and snifters of brandy. I could tell she was upset.

“TN, will you be a good boy and bring me the cookie jar? Not the one on the counter, the one in the pantry.” she asked and I complied.

She lifted the lid and reached in; removing a baggie with about 20 hand rolled cigarettes. She reached in again and pulled out a package of camels, without the filters. Reaching behind her she grabbed a blue tipped match and struck it with her thumbnail lighting a camel. I was amazed, I had never seen Mama smoke before. Three quick puffs on the cigarette ensured that it was hot boxed and she set it in her saucer, freeing her hands to pull out one of the hand rolled ones.

Another blue tip flared and she touched it to the end of the hand rolled. I immediately knew it wasn’t tobacco Mama was smoking now. She drew deep and held the smoke in her lungs offering me the joint. I took it and inhaled as she exhaled the smoke from her lungs, coughing slightly. She took it back from me and hit it again then set it next to the camel in her saucer.

“What am I going to do, TN?” she asked as she held the precious smoke deep in her lungs. “Your sister wants to marry some guy named Vito! What kind of a name is Vito? Is that Scandinavian? Italian? Japanese? We know nothing about this boy. I mean I like him and all. He took seconds at dinner. You noticed that didn’t you?”

I nodded my head and wondered what was happening here. I was smoking dope at the kitchen table with my mother. Who does that?

“Tomorrow,” Mama continued, “I have to call Jim St. Claire at St. Claire Investigations. I’ve known Jim for years. He goes to my church. I’ll ask him to do a background investigation on this Vito fellow. I mean, Lana has to know what she’s getting herself into, right. He might check out but… who really knows if we don’t do our due diligence.”

I nodded because I knew that was what she expected me to do.

Mama grabbed a handful of matches and her pack of Camels. She slipped them into her apron pocket and relit the joint before she offered it to me again.

“I’m going upstairs for a soak before retiring. Lock up when you go to bed will you TN? That’s a good boy.” She took back the joint and tottered off towards the stairs, snagging a bottle of cheap Pinot Noir on her way.

I sat at the table and thought about all the things I had learned that evening. I wondered if I should call Lana and warn her about what Mama was planning, but decided against it. I figured things were about to get interesting and, it was all about the entertainment from this point on.


Random Scribbles · writing

Grandma’s Quinceañera

Image Courtesy of The Blog Propellant
Image Courtesy of The Blog Propellant


We were at a costume party, I think. We were supposed to be Southern Belles or Debutants. No wait, I think that photo was taken at my Quinceañera. Yeah, that’s right, my Quinceañera. I’m the one in blue.”

“Almost everyone here is wearing blue. Which one is you?”

“I’m the pretty one.       The pretty one wearing blue.”

“Is that a Diego Garcia mural on the wall?”

“Let me see that photo. Why yes it is a Garcia mural. He was a friend of my mother’s you know. In fact that’s him in the background with his hands on his hips.”

“That doesn’t look like him.”

“Of course it does dear; and look, I think that’s his wife, Frieda in the red dress. You know she and Josephine Baker were lovers.”

“Oh?”

“You know, now that I think about it; there mighta been something going on between my Mother and Diego too. Hmmm?”

“I don’t think you had a Quinceañera. I think you’re making up stories again, Grandma! Your parents were Irish.”

“Maybe you’re right. Let me look at the picture again.

#

“Yeah, you’re definitely right. This was a dance at Garfield High School. I’m the girl with the red hair.

“It was my senior year. See that man with his hands on his hips?”

“The one you said was Diego Garcia?”

“Don’t be silly girl. He doesn’t look a bit like Diego Garcia. That’s Mr. Smitkins. He taught calculus to unsuspecting and gullible high school students. The girl in the red shift with the black buttons and knee socks, you see her here?”

“Yes.”

“That’s Frieda Kahlo we went to different schools together. She and Mr. Smitkins got married the day after her high school graduation. It was quite scandalous.”

“Grandma, Frieda Kahlo was married to Diego Garcia.”

“No, dear, you’ve got it all wrong. Diego Garcia was married to Josephine Baker. See, that’s her in the blue dress standing over my right shoulder. Look at that teal dress I’m wearing, and those green shoes! What the hell was I thinking? Why would I ever dress like that?

“Anyway that’s Miss Baker, over my shoulder, with the grey hair and the glasses. She was my third period home economics teacher. She taught me to make Snicker Doodle cookies. I really enjoyed her class.

“I wonder whatever happened to her.”


 

 

Random Scribbles · writing

Me and My Gal

TBP



I first met Janine in grade one when we wound up in the same class at the International School in Singapore. She marched right up to me and announced that she was a Viking warrior. My father had brought us to Singapore from New York when he took the managerial position at Raffles. Janine’s mother was a diplomat from Norway. We were both the only child and immediately became best friends.

We did everything together. We went to school together, we ate lunch together, we studied together, we attended one another’s birthday parties, we told each other our secrets, and went on outings together. Our parents did what they could to foster our friendship and Janine was often invited over to our house as I was often invited to hers.

I never knew my mother but Janine had both a mother and a dad. Her dad was a “stay at home” dad as he had no permit to work in Singapore. Some weekends he would take Janine and me on the cable car to Sentosa Island and we would spend the day with the butterflies there and eat local food in the Hawker Centers.

Everything was perfect until that day in sixth grade. I was excited that morning on the bus to school. I had made the cut for the Junior Rugby Team and I knew Janine was going to be proud of me. I spotted her, sitting on the concrete, leaning against a wall outside the library. She wasn’t smiling. I ran over and sat down next to her.

“Hey, what’s up?” I asked.

“My mom got a new assignment,” she said, “we’re going to Paris in two weeks. She says it’s great for her career, but I don’t know, Freddie. I’ll probably never see you again.”

We made the best of the two weeks we had. The zoo, the botanical gardens, everywhere we could think of to go; and Dad took time off work so we could see them off at the airport. Janine and I both laughed and roughhoused but it was all show. When her family made their way through security I watched them recede until they blended in with the crowd.

“Come on son,” Dad said, “we gotta go.”

That was twenty-five years ago. Last night there was a friend request on my facebook page from Janine. I accepted right away and went to her timeline. Her profile photo was familiar.

me-and-my-gal

Fourth grade. Good times. Best friends.


 

Random Scribbles · writing

It’s Our Little Secret

TBP

img_4321



Arrgh, there Matey,

Cap’n Bones Malone, be me.

A fearsome, fearful pirate,

scourge o’ the deep blue sea.

Used to be.

Till I fell in love with Lenora

and I gave up me pirat’n way.

We bought a house in the suburbs,

and I work in the garden all day.

Yeah, I gave up the sea

for the love o’ me life.

I gave up me ship for this trike.

I’ll share with you a secret, but

you cannot tell m’ wife.

Way back, in the back of the g’rage is a trunk

piled high with the usual g’rage stuff n such.

Inside of that chest, tucked ‘neath old clothes and junk

Is me cutlass, a pistol, and map.

It’s all buried deep,

‘neath the rest o’ that crap.

Stuff I couldn’t get rid of

despite me love for Lenore.

Stuff that concisely, precisely defines

the rake of a man that I was before.


Random Scribbles · writing

Grateful

TBP
TBP


Ricky the Roach thought he spotted a Crown Vic turn onto 37th street so he ducked into the alley and prayed for good luck. He dipped low and scrunched himself up against the brick wall as far as he could, tried to be invisible. When the dark blue car cruised past the mouth of the alleyway he breathed a sigh of relief, waited a couple of minutes for Buzzsaw to get down the street and out of sight and stepped back onto the pavement. He turned quickly to retrace his steps and collided with the big man himself.

“Oh, hey Buzz. What’s happening man?” nervously, he pushed his oily hair back, off his forehead, only to have it fall immediately back. He pushed it back again and looked pleadingly at the man everyone called Buzzsaw, whom he suddenly realized he was standing too close to.

He took a step back and continued, “I was gonna come see you this afternoon man.”

“Were you now Roach?”

“Yeah man, fer shure. I’m gonna stop by and make a payment. I still owe you money right?” he let loose a forced laugh.

“Yeah you do, Ricky, a lot of money. You got it all? Cause I’m getting’ tired of fucking with you. You and your stories are beginning to annoy me.”

“No, I don’t have it all Buzz, but I got some, and I wanna give ya what I can ya know? I’m good for it and besides that; Mama wanted me to ask you to come over for Thanksgiving dinner. She says she’d like to see ya.”

Buzzsaw smiled a big smile, he had tiny teeth that looked to Ricky as if they had been filed to points. He shuddered.

“How is Mama, Roach?”

“She’s good, man. She’s good. Asks about you all the time.”

Buzz was nodding his head, “Thanksgiving, huh? That sounds agreeable. I’ve always liked Mama’s cooking. Tell her that I’ll be happy to come for Thanksgiving. Is Gina going to be there?”

“Oh; fer shure, man fer shure.”

Buzzsaw seemed to relax and stepped aside, “I’ll see you then Roach,” he said. “But, first I want to see you this afternoon at 3 o’clock sharp. Bring all you got. I’m doing you a favour here. Try to cover the vig.”

The Town Car pulled up to the curb and Buzzsaw got in the back seat. Two of his boys came out of the alley and got in with him. Ricky hadn’t even seen Tony and Al. He pushed his hair back again and touched his St. Christopher medal.