The Dinner

She called unexpectedly one day.

“Hi, it’s Sherry. We Met at Drew’s party. I’m a friend of Alice.”
“Uh, sure. I’ve seen you a few other times as well, haven’t I,” Bill said. “Maybe at some group meetings?”
“Yes, but I’m not a member. I belong to another one.”
Bill fiddled with the phone cord as he said, “OK. So what’s up?
“Well, I thought you were kind of interesting. I wanted to get to know you better.”
“Well, what did you have in mind?”
In retrospect, he realized he didn’t make it any easier for her, but then he really didn’t know what was up. A call from a woman he barely knew. It was the late 70s–not the 60s after all. But the more things change, the more they stay the same, he concluded.
“How about you come over for dinner at my place?”
Bill pulled the phone cord a little harder and looked out window at the sun peeking through clouds before answering. “Yeah, sure, why not. When?”
After dinner, things moved along quickly. He might have, but didn’t, expect how quickly. She and her boyfriend had an “open relationship,” she explained. He should have known better. He’d been there and done that before. Triangles and quadrangles are useful concepts for geometry but in human relationships they just don’t end well. Worse, the complications that develop along the way cause pain.

SPAM into SPAM

Think of the fortune that some techno nerd could make finding the secret technique of turning message spam into the real thing. Selected Pieces of Assorted Meat [one theory of the name’s origin]–SPAM. The US has its CAN-SPAM Act. The EU is even more stringent, with its double opt-in requirement for subscriptions. Few people like the spam they receive in their inbox. Surprisingly perhaps, some (especially those in Hawaii) savor the compressed cube of meat and meat by-products packed in  a can.

Who first develops the software that doesn’t just block or delete spam but can make it into an edible processed meat product will surely be blessed with wealth. Well, at least make a few bucks. Consider–the edible ad product could be sent to WI-FI coffee shops where people could gobble it down in between web surfing, messaging or composing the next best seller. Or maybe provided at a discount to homeless shelters. Finally, imagine it’s use as dietary torture for interrogating terrorism suspects. Assuming they’re devout Muslims, pork (an ingredient in the original) is on the list of food prohibited by their faith. Never mind that the ads that go into the converted product might contain no pork.

Soon we might all be hearing Weird Al crooning his tune with a licensing agreement for an ad, “Eat it, eat it . . . “

Dog is My Copilot

Dog is My Copilot

Sure enough, a hairy beast matching the bumper sticker sat in the passenger seat. It might have been a wolf but for the goofy grin it gave Wilson as he passed on the right, turning onto the road heading out-of-town. Soon he’d be in the company of real wolves, albeit unnatural ones. The pack hunted together only on those special nights of the year. Nights when the full moon shone brightly over the meadow deep in the woods, far from the small California college. Wilson and his friends studied medieval literature. In fact, they majored in more arcane subjects for which the college granted no degree. They drew straws those nights, with the loser being the designated human left to guard the clothes they shed before turning.Wilson held a longer straw this night. He’d have his fun with Sheila, resplendent in furry flesh. They ran away from the pack on their own, enjoying the night privately–until they encountered the lost hikers, sharing the woods on winter break. That’s when the conflict began, when the pack tracked the mingled scents.

 

 

Flotsam and Jetsam

I’m not sure from whence the information came–possibly one of those sites that publish stories on Martian babies born to celebrities. Unlikely that it came from Wikipedia. But I believe it anyway. Flotsam and Jetsam are twin brothers, most likely of Scandinavian descent. Some say they might have come from somewhere along the coast of the Baltic Sea. At least it’s said they dealt in recovering and refinishing debris washed ashore near their seaside village. The items sparked the imagination even as their gleam captured the visual senses. Much work went into fashioning the stuff into appealing souvenirs or for the better ones, objet d’art. Off the beaten path, their work seldom afforded them the wealth they deserved. So they retired to Copenhagen. That’s where they made their mark and their fortune. From scavengers they became successful merchants, dealing in chewing tobacco. A baseball player visiting from America enjoyed their new product so much that it became a big hit across teams in America. Eventually, of course, some of the younger players abandoned their product for gum. By that time, they were ready to move on to Copenhagen’s next big hit, marijuana.

Winter’s Grip Comes Early to Much of America

Been there, done that. A phrase perhaps out of favor by now, through overuse. Still, it applies. Growing up there and spending many years off and on, Minneapolis is feeling an early cold snap right now. One January, some decades ago, the average temperature for the month was well below zero. But here’s a fond memory of Minneapolis winters–well, not the below zero days. Maybe the heat wave days of high teens or low 20s.

Bridgeman's ice cream shop

There’s nothing like an ice cream cone on a cold winter’s day. I used to get one at Bridgeman’s, on the south side of  Hennepin Avenue between 6th and 7th streets. It’s long gone now. My dubious theory? The cold cone nearly equalized the inner and outer temperatures, making me warmer. More likely, of course, the warming came from the sugar–offering a carbohydrate boost to the metabolism. My theory seemed nearly plausible back in the 70s. If you’re in Minnesota right now or some other very cold place, why not give it a try? It might work for you.

If you’re not there now but do want to visit Minnesota, spring or fall are more tolerable from a heat and cold perspective. On the other hand, summer does have the Aquatennial in Minneapolis and the Winter Carnival comes to St. Paul in January. Just bundle up for the latter. Don’t be like the high school girls of the sixties (and today?) walking around with open toe shoes, skirts and short socks.

If you want to escape your deep freeze, wherever you are, you could come visit us near Silver City, New Mexico. December is normally the coldest month in southwestern New Mexico. Not this year. It will be in the mid 60s most days this week. Warmer than average the rest of the month as well. I think it’s the work of La Nina.

Shakespeare’s Sleep–Elusive for Some

He died at 52–probably a long life in the 16th century. Still, I must suppose that had Shakespeare lived another 15 years he might have worded these lines from Hamlet a little differently,

To sleep, perchance to dream.

Seriously, for most guys over 60 or certainly 65, it’s more like,

To sleep, perchance to pee.

More than once, most nights. Dreams are fine–entertaining in their way at times. But sleep, now that certainly could:

“Knit up the raveled sleave of care” or be “the balm of hurt minds.”

But only if it persisted, steadily on course to morning, rather than being somnum interruptus. Just the other night I skipped the ice cream during TV watching. (Dairy products do their magic on the bladder). Only got up twice, nonetheless. Unfortunately, the 2nd came at 5:45. Not so early, but then I retired at 11:30 and didn’t immediately enter into dreamland. I used to get by on 6 1/2 hours of sleep back in the working years–fewer in college. Now the shortfall in

Great nature’s second course

leaves cobwebs in the brain. Perhaps a spider or two, crawling the interior of the cranium right where attention stops short of being fully paid.

Why isn’t the coffee done yet? Oh, didn’t turn on the #*x$#$% machine. Thankfully, exercise and a shower cleared the head that spent less than its essential time in bed. I determined to be more productive the next day. Clean up for company coming on Thanksgiving, work on the websites, etc. The next night, I hoped, would be the

Chief nourisher in life’s feast,

that along with the turkey.

 

It Might Have Happened Like This

The wind came early that year, bringing with it the spring that never ended. Flowers bloomed as never before. Fruit soon followed. Sweet, succulent and intoxicating delights drenched beards or bodices of all who partook of it. Everyone enjoyed the sunny days and refreshing nights. When the wind went its way, they all waited for spring to give way to summer. It did not. Some thought spring might pass directly to fall. It did not. Winter never came either. People enjoyed the fruit while it lasted. They enjoyed the weather as well—for a time. Then some became unsettled. Cranky even. “It’s not normal,” they said.

At first just a few talked of leaving. Then they did. Soon others followed. Eventually, only a goat remained. He ate what fruit remnants the town’s people left behind. Then he too moved on, to a town whose seasons still came and went. He stopped at St. Cecilia’s Rectory when he saw a man smoking. A man he could follow–which he did.

 

 Read the short piece by James Tate that inspired this post. You will enjoy it.

The Time of Your Life

They promised a vision of your life, from childhood through your current age. You’ve already lived it, why get the condensed VR version? Because they said they could change some things, beginning with the year of your birth. Instead of being born in 1980, for example, they could make your birth year 1970. Your parents, who’d been in their late-30s in 1980 would be in their late 20s, still getting started in careers after college. Perhaps an unwelcome surprise or maybe a happy occasion avoiding fertility issues that plagued them. You might never meet and marry your current spouse, have a different education and career path. Or you could go way more extreme—choose 1870 for your birth! New parents—your great-great grandparents or perhaps another generation before. You might then be one of your own ancestors!

My mother was in her late 30s when she gave birth to me. Her last child before me came at age 22. A very different experience for him and a still older brother than mine. What life might I have lived had I been born 12 or 15 years sooner? From that thought came this story beginning.

 

A Mirrored Palm

The start of something new.

Mary checked the face appearing in her palm before entering the room. Appearance is a cultural imperative on Drath. Even more so when meeting those of a higher caste. Silica, a major component of sand, is common and abundant—on earth. One might expect this to be so on most other planets. But that’s not the case on Drath. Without it, glass and the mirrors one can make with it are luxury imports. Over time, the people of Drath evolved the means to manipulate their palms into mirrored surfaces as required–much like chameleons, squids and other Earth creatures alter coloration for camouflage or attention. Aside from checking one’s face, the attribute also offers the advantage of looking behind or beyond peripheral vision without turning a head or alerting others to the gaze.

The Transport Pod

A scene. A story starter. From a recent writing group.

His gauzy skin stretched, sliding over muscle and bone. Sealskin slippery fingers pushed and pressed against the pod wall without success. It moved but wouldn’t open. He must get out. His time had come. Tools were banned within the pod. They could damage growing flesh during the transport. A time-saving process—transforming the colonists for life on the planet while in transit. A water world yet with usable land as well. Well suited to amphibians but not so much to humans as they are. The many years journey offered ample time for the genetic modifications, with the colonists in stasis. Impatient in his newly awakened state, he struggled until the pod wall finally parted, revealing a sunny shore on the green lake.

Soon he saw others, already exploring their new world. Some dove fearlessly into the water. Alex felt no rush to join them. He called out, “Sara, where are you?” but got no reply. Perhaps still in her pod. He looked for her pod before noticing that none had markings. He could, he would, wait for her appearance–assuming he could recognize her amphibian self.