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Archive for the ‘Ramble On’ Category

The Fisherboy’s Follies

 Or

 A Portrait of the Fisherman as a Young Man (A Romeo in Hormones’ Clothing)

Characters
(Main characters in boldface)

Sea Captains 1,2,3
Charlie Marigold
Mr. Marigold

Mrs. Marigold
Friendly Family Father
Frienldy Family Mother
Maya, the Girl of Charlie’s Dreams
Devil Fish
Righteous Fish


Scene One (In which Mr. Marigold gives some good advice)

Sea Captain 1: Something happens.

Sea Captain 2: Some other things happen.

Sea Captain 3: A fish winks at a lobster.

Sea Captain 1: It is early springtime in Kumbaya, Maine. The locals are preparing for the onslaught of tourists and vacationers. Yar.

Mr. Marigold: Hey Charlie, come ere, I wanna show ya somethin’.

Charlie: What is it, Dad?

Sea Captain 1: Charlie, a young fisherman learning the ropes, comes running down the dock to greet his father.

Mr. Marigold: You see that sea, Charlie? You’re still young but you can still see, can’t ya’?

Charlie: Sure I can see.

Mr. Marigold: Look past all of it, Charlie. Way out past the horizon there. Squint if ya’ have ta.

Charlie: (squinting) What am I looking for?

Mr. Marigold: Look past the sunspots and past the illusions; past all the grim monkey faces and graceful ballerinas …

Charlie: Um.

Mr. Marigold: There’s heaven and hell out there Charlie. Mark my words and don’t you forget ‘em. If ya wanna be a fisherman like your old man someday, you have to start learnin’ to distinguish between the two.

Sea Captain 2: Charlie smiles wide and grabs a medium sized trout from a bucket. He smacks his Dad across the face with it.

Charlie: (yells as he runs away) Sounds more like I oughtta be learnin’ to distinguish between sanity and madness.

Mr. Marigold: (yells after his son) Very well, boy! You’ve been warned! … Nice fish slap, son!

Scene Two (In which Charlie falls in love)

Sea Captain 3: Charlie runs all the way back to the Kumbaya Friendly Family Inn. His mother is checking in a family from …

Charlie: Connecticut.

Friendly Family Father: That’s right. How’d you know that?

Mrs. Marigold: That’s Charlie! He has a gift. He can guess where any family is from with 99% accuracy.

Friendly Family Mother: What happened to the other 1%?

Charlie: I have a raging fear of perfection.

Sea Captain 1: Charlie smiles wide, revealing a head full of sparkling teeth.

Sea Captain 2: Somewhat frightened by his gargantuan grin, the friendly parents turn back to the business at hand.

Sea Captain 3: Charlie turns around to leave when he finds himself face to face with the girl of his dreams.

Charlie: I love you.

Girl of Charlie’s Dreams: What?

Charlie: What?

Girl of Charlie’s Dreams: Did you say that you love me?

Charlie: Love you?!? I’m 13! What do I know about love? No, I said “elephant shoes”.

Girl of Charlie’s Dreams: (unbelieving) Elephant shoes?

Charlie: Yeah. Read my lips. El-e-phant Shoes. See, it looks like I love you when really … no.

Girl of Charlie’s Dreams: Why did you say elephant shoes?

Charlie: Elephant’s don’t wear shoes. They’re nocturnal.

Girl of Charlie’s Dreams: No they aren’t!

Mrs. Marigold: Charlie, why don’t you show these good people to their room?

Friendly Family Father: I’m sure we can find it ourselves, it’s not a big place.

Mrs. Marigold: Don’t be silly, Charlie is an excellent bellboy! Besides, he has to do something to earn his keep.

Friendly Family Father: Very well then. Come along, Maya.

Charlie: Your name is Maya?

Maya: (sarcastically) Nice deduction.

Charlie: My name is Charlie.

Maya: (sarcastically) Really? I hadn’t picked up on that yet.

Sea Captain 1: Maya and her parents begin to walk away. As they turn the corner, Mrs. Marigold winks at Charlie.

Mrs. Marigold: I think she likes you, Charlie.

Sea Captain 2: Charlie picks up their bags and winks back at his mother before heading into the Inn. Yar.

Scene Three (In which Charlie nearly earns a little less than a dollar)

Sea Captain 3: Charlie has walked the friendly family to their room. He inserts the card key in the slot and opens the door.

Sea Captain 1: A radiant beam of sunlight shines through the window, through the room, and into the travelers’ eyes, momentarily blinding them. As they adjust to the light, they make their way into the room.

Charlie: It’s small, but we like to call it home.

Friendly Family Mother: Oh, do you live here in the Inn?

Charlie: No … yes … no …

Maya: Well which is it?

Charlie: Which is what?

Maya: Do you live in the Inn or don’t you?

Charlie: Not today. Yesterday we lived in the Inn. Today we live out the out.

Maya: Is that humor?

Charlie: It was meant to be.

Maya: Charming, I’m sure.

Sea Captain 2: The friendly family father makes his way over to Charlie. He reaches into his pocket for some lose change.

Friendly Family Father: Well thank you very much, young man.

Charlie: Oh, no thank you, sir. I cannot take your money.

Friendly Family Father: Preposterous! You provided us with a service and you should be rewarded. Here’s (he counts out the change in his hand) … 25, 35, 36, 46, 71, 76 cents for a job well done.

Charlie: Thank you very much sir, but I must persist. I have already been paid … in other ways.

Sea Captain 3: Charlie makes googly eyes at Maya.

Friendly Family Mother: Excuse me?

Charlie: Oh, um, my Mother pays me in advance. Enjoy your stay!

Sea Captain 1: Charlie exits the room and shuts the door behind him. The friendly family father is left standing there with 76 cents in his dangling hand.

Sea Captain 2: Charlie’s heart is beating like a hummingbird’s after his third cup of coffee. About to faint, he leans slowly back against the door.

Charlie: (whispering) Her name … is Maya.

Sea Captain 3: The friendly family father opens the door quickly and Charlie falls backwards onto the ground.

Friendly Family Father: Oh, hello again Charlie. You saved me a walk. Here …

Sea Captain 1: The friendly family father drops all the change onto Charlie’s stomach.

Friendly Family Father: I’m not one of those cheapskate numbskull droll-abouts who flees from providing good and sensible wages for a job … well … done, I suppose.

Sea Captain 2: Charlie jumps up and collects the 76 cents from the ground.

Friendly Family Father: Just don’t go spending it all in one place.

Sea Captain 3: Charlie gives his signature grin again as the door shuts quietly in his face.

Charlie: (exhaling cautiously) Maya …

Scene Four (In which Charlie buys a soda)

Sea Captain 1: Charlie’s head is light. Air flows in and out of it. He glides down the hall and finds himself in front of the soda machine.

Sea Captain 2: He reaches into his pocket and retrieves 75 cents of the 76 cent tip.

Charlie: No sir, I won’t spend it all in one place.

Sea Captain 3: Charlie plinks the money into the machine and selects himself a Sprite. He clicks it and sips it. The fizz tickles his nose.

Charlie: Ahhh.

Sea Captain 1: A bucket has been left precariously on the edge of the top of the ice machine. The ice has melted and left a pool of cold water. Charlie takes out his remaining penny and rolls it between his fingers.

Charlie: Well, it’s not a wishing well, but it will have to do. (He ponders on a wish for a moment.) I wish … I wish … I wish for a lifetime of fishes and wishes.

Sea Captain 2: Charlie flicks his penny at the ice bucket. It flies through the air and hits the bucket on its side. The bucket comes crashing down to the floor and the cold water escapes in a splash.

Maya: Charlie.

Charlie: (screams) Ahh!

Sea Captain 3: Charlie whisks around to face the girl of his dreams once again.

Charlie: (catching his breath) What are you … why are you … how are you … when did you … where have you … hi.

Maya: Hi. Nice shot.

Charlie: Thanks. I meant to do that.

Maya: Yeah right. You were aiming for the inside. I heard your wish.

Charlie: Oh, you did. Um …

Maya: Are you a fisherman?

Charlie: Oh, um, no, not exactly. I’m more like a fisherman in training.

Maya: So you’re a fisherboy?

Charlie: No! No! No! I’m um … uhhhhh …

Maya: I think fishermen are cute.

Charlie: I’m a fisherman. Yup. Sure am. Always have been, always will be. That’s me. Fisherman Extraordinaire. There never was a man more fisher than I. No sirree.

Maya: (grabbing Charlie’s hand) Come on. We have to hurry. I want you to show me how to fish.

Sea Captain 1: Charlie is dragged away by the girl of his dreams. She pulls him down the stairs and out the back door.

Charlie: But what about your parents?

Maya: What about them? They won’t even notice I’m gone. Come on, take me to the ocean. Take me away.

Charlie: Listen, um. Maybe we should stop and think about this for a second.

Maya: What’s to think about? We’re young, we’re fun, we’re crazy!

Charlie: Yeah … OK.

Sea Captain 2: Charlie and Maya run down to the dock. Charlie looks around for his father. He sees him far off on the pier. A gust of wind carries his father’s voice to Charlie.

Mr. Marigold’s Voice: …and the most wickedest part of it was that the darn things had on these phony moustaches! Or at least… I think they were phony…

Maya: Is this your boat?

Sea Captain 3: Maya is pointing to a pathetic looking thing in the water.

Charlie: It’s a skiff, actually.

Maya: Well is this your skiff then?

Charlie: Yeah. Yeah, that’s my skiff. All mine. Nobody else’s that’s for sure.

Maya: Ooh, look, it’s already got all the stuff in it.

Charlie: Tackle.

Maya: What?

Charlie: It’s called tackle…

Maya: If you insist!

Sea Captain 1: Maya runs straight at Charlie. She tackles him and they fall off the dock into the skiff.

Charlie: Ow.

Scene Five (In which the fishy season begins)

Sea Captain 2: The little skiff has taken Charlie and Maya far out into the sea. The land has disappeared and the only sound is the peaceful drone of the loud, annoying motor.

Maya: It’s nice out here.

Charlie: (screams over the motor) WHAT?

Maya: (screams) I SAID IT’S NICE OUT HERE.

Charlie: (screams) THANKS! I THINK YOUR SHOES ARE PRETTY, TOO!

Maya: (screams) YOU CAN PROBABLY TURN THE MOTOR OFF NOW.

Charlie: (screams) I HAVE A BETTER IDEA … I’M GOING TO TURN THE MOTOR OFF.

Sea Captain 3: Charlie turns the motor off and suddenly, there is dead silence.

Charlie: Alright. Let’s have ourselves a fishnic!

Maya: A what?

Charlie: You know, a fishnic … It’s like a picnic with …

Maya: (sarcastically) … Fish, yeah, I got it. Is that what they teach you at Fisherboy school? How to be dopey?

Charlie: I’m not dopey! Look, do you wanna learn how to fish or not?

Maya: (overly excited) YES I DOOOO!!!!

Charlie: Nice enthusiasm. I like that.

Maya: I thought you might.

Charlie: OK then … grab a handful of worms from that bucket behind you.

Maya: Eww! What? No way!

Charlie: First lesson of fishing: If you want to learn how to fish, you’re going to have to get your hands dirty.

Maya: (sarcastically) That’s deep.

Charlie: Yeah, I guess it kind of is. My Dad taught me that.

Maya: What else did your Dad teach you?

Charlie: Pretty much everything.

Maya: Has he ever been wrong?

Sea Captain 1: Charlie thinks about the question for a moment.

Charlie: No … not really no …

Maya: Your Dad sounds all right.

Sea Captain 2: Charlie shakes off this idea.

Charlie: He’s a loony. Anyway, hand me the bucket.

Sea Captain 3: Maya makes a face of disgust as she hands the bucket of worms to Charlie. Charlie grabs a handful of worms.

Devil Fish: Throw them at her.

Charlie: What?

Devil Fish: Throw the worms at her, Charlie. She’ll love you for it.

Righteous Fish: Don’t do it Charlie! It’s not right!

Charlie: What the …

Sea Captain 1: Charlie turns around and takes a look at the water near his skiff. Two fishes sporting handlebar moustaches give him a simultaneous wink.

Maya: Who are you talking to, Charlie?

Sea Captain 2: Charlie’s head gets even lighter now. The air flow makes his brain spin.

Devil Fish: I do believe that the boy will pass out.

Righteous Fish: I do believe you are right.

Sea Captain 3: And that’s just what he does. Yar.

Scene Six (In which Charlie faces a perplexing dilemma)

Sea Captain 1: Charlie opens his eyes and looks up into the beautiful face of Maya, the girl of his dreams. She is shining with the light from above.

Charlie: What happened?

Maya: You passed out. I had to slap you with a fish.

Charlie: A fish … what?

Sea Captain 2: Charlie sits up in the skiff and sees the fish that Maya is holding. It is the Devil Fish.

Devil Fish: That really hurt, Charlie. You’d better do something about this girl or I’m going to.

Charlie: (to the Devil Fish) Why are you talking to me?

Maya: (drops the Devil Fish) Um, hello? Who am I going to talk to out here? The fish?

Devil Fish: Easy on the crazy talk, Charlie. You’re starting to sound like a psycho.

Charlie: (to Maya) How did you catch that fish?

Maya: It was pretty easy. I saw him swimming by the side of the skiff and I just grabbed him by his moustache and pulled him in.

Devil Fish: By my whiskers, Charlie! By my whiskers!

Charlie: And then … you slapped me with him?

Maya: Him? I slapped you with it. How can you tell it’s a him?

Charlie: Um … The moustache gives him away.

Devil Fish: In my school, I’m actually considered quite handsome.

Charlie: Where’s the other one?

Maya: What other one?

Righteous Fish: (from the water) Yoo Hoo!

Sea Captain 2: Charlie looks into the water.

Righteous Fish: Don’t listen to a word he says! Follow your heart, Charlie, not the advice of a fish.

Devil Fish: Well by that advice, why should he listen to you either?

Sea Captain 3: The Righteous Fish thinks about this for a moment.

Righteous Fish: Touché.

Charlie: Maya?

Maya: What?

Charlie: The fish are talking to me.

Maya: Of course they are, silly! That means you’re a true fisherman!

Devil Fish: Oh that’s rich.

Maya: What are they saying to you?

Righteous Fish: But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

Charlie: But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

Maya: Ah me … you have found my weakness.

Charlie: I did?

Maya: Shakespeare always turns me to goo!

Devil Fish: Eww.

Righteous Fish: Aww. You should kiss her now, Charlie!

Devil Fish: Throw the worms at her, Charlie!

Charlie: I’m getting mixed messages.

Maya: What do you mean?

Charlie: Well … for starters … who are you? One minute you’re making fun of me and the next minute you’re swooning under my spell. Do you like me or are you using me as a tour guide in your own selfish fish-capade?

Maya: Fish-capade! Ha!

Devil Fish: She’s using you! Throw the worms!

Righteous Fish: She likes you, Charlie. She really likes you. Kiss her now or lose her forever!

Charlie: Secondly, in one ear I’m hearing that I should kiss you and the other I’m hearing that I should throw worms at you.

Maya: That would be rather disagreeable to me, Charlie.

Charlie: Which one? The kiss or the worms?

Maya: You have to figure it out for yourself.

Sea Captain 3: Charlie looks at the Righteous Fish in the water. The Righteous Fish shrugs.

Righteous Fish: You’re on your own, man.

Sea Captain 1: Charlie looks at the Devil Fish in the skiff. The Devil Fish shrugs.

Devil Fish: I really don’t care anymore. But I am having a little trouble breathing. Do you think you could hurry this up and throw me back in the water?

Sea Captain 2: Charlie’s mind races. He hears his father’s and mother’s voice in his head.

Mr. Marigold’s Voice Inside Charlie’s Head: There’s heaven and hell out there Charlie, and you have to start learnin’ to distinguish between the two.

Mrs. Marigold’s Voice Inside Charlie’s Head: I think she likes you, Charlie. 99% accuracy.

Maya: (puckering up) Well, Charlie? What will it be?

Righteous Fish: Kiss.

Devil Fish: Worms.

Righteous Fish: Kiss.

Devil Fish: Worms.

Righteous Fish: Kiss.

Devil Fish: Worms.

Sea Captain 3: Charlie sees the decision as if it is as clear as the bright, blue day. He bends over and grabs a handful of worms. Bringing them to his mouth, his huge smile kisses them. The worms are cold and slimy.

Righteous Fish: (sarcastically) Bravo.

Devil Fish: That’s it, I’m outta here.

Sea Captain 1: The Devil Fish manages to flop his body up and over the side of the skiff. He hits the water and swims away with the Righteous Fish.

Devil Fish: See you in the funny papers, Charlie!

Righteous Fish: See you in the loony bin, Charlie!

Charlie: Not if I see you first!

Sea Captain 2: Charlie turns back to face the girl of his dreams. She is frowning and looks rather distraught.

Maya: Take me home, Charlie.

Sea Captain 3: Charlie drops the worms and guns the motor.

Scene Seven (In which all is resolved or not)

Sea Captain 1: It is seven days later and Charlie sits on the edge of the dock with his feet dangling over the water.

Sea Captain 2: Mr. Marigold walks over to Charlie as he stuffs his handkerchief into his overalls pocket.

Mr. Marigold: Don’t tell me you’re still pining over the one that got away, son?

Charlie: I can’t help it, Dad. She’s the girl of my dreams.

Mr. Marigold: Well then maybe you oughtta wake up now, dontchya think? She’s nothing but trouble from the sounds of it!

Charlie: I had a chance and I blew it! I kissed worms, Dad!

Mr. Marigold: Yeah well, that is a little peculiar, I’ll give you that. But you said that the fish were controllin’ ya, right? You were all messed up in your head! You can’t blame yourself, for your actions, Charlie. It’s like I’ve always told ya … it’s heaven and hell out there.

Sea Captain 3: Mrs. Marigold walks over to her fishermen.

Mrs. Marigold: Leave the boy alone, Dad. He’ll do better next time.

Charlie: There won’t be a next time. The dream is over.

Sea Captain 1: Charlie gets up and sadly walks away. He heads down the pier with his head hanging down. Mr. Marigold puts his arm around Mrs. Marigold and they watch him walk away.

Sea Captain 2: Charlie walks down to the parking lot of the Kumbaya Friendly Family Inn. He hears a horn beep and he looks up to see the friendly family father driving toward him.

Friendly Family Father: Thanks for a great week, Charlie. We had a ton of fun! We’ll see you next year!

Sea Captain 3: The friendly family drives past Charlie slowly. Charlie manages a weak smile when he sees Maya’s face appear in the back window.

Maya: (mouths out these words) Elephant shoes.

Sea Captain 1: Charlie lights up instantly and reveals every tooth in his face. His smile reaches the heavens as his sour mood fades away. Laughing loudly and loving it, he watches as the girl of his dreams drives away.

Mr. Marigold: Hey!

Sea Captain 2: Charlie turns around to face his father. Mr. Marigold slaps Charlie playfully with a fish.

Mr. Marigold: Now we’re even.

Sea Captain 3: Mr. Marigold sprints away and Charlie chases after him into the cool, Kumbaya sunset. Yar.

The above is the ridiculous property of Bryon Cahill. Any attempt to steal any or all of the highly intellectual integrity found herein will be laughed at, profoundly. Also, it wouldn’t hurt you to visit Kumbaya. It’s tourist season there now and I hear the fish are jumping.  — BC

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Carl 2.0

I was first introduced to my neighbor Carl on April 2 when he came screaming into my life. Since then, I have had a few run-ins with the man. The following is a true account of his retirement party as well as a few events leading up to it.

TWO WEEKS AGO…

It’s quite rare when a knock at my door comes, unexpected. Sure, if I’m waiting on a pizza or a friend, it’s a Godsend. But when I’m sitting around on a Saturday afternoon, watching baseball and strumming my guitar, a knock knock knock fills my mind with questions. Who could it be? What do they want? Does Ed McMahon still make house calls? Quietly, I tiptoe to the peephole. Oh geez. It’s Carl. This oughtta be good. I open the door.

“Hey Bryon how you doin’? Oh wow, that’s a nice TV.” Human nature intruded on me. I didn’t want the thought but it came. Is he casing my joint?

“Hey Carl, what’s up?”

“I want to invite you to my retirement party. I’m retired now and I’m throwing myself a party and I want you to come.”

“Oh yeah?” Carl is about my height. For an older guy, he looks pretty strong. It’s not so much that he’s got bulging biceps, he doesn’t. But in the way his arms bounce all around and how his eyes dash back and forth, you can sense a dangerous history. Sometimes you can just smell the fight in people.

“Yeah. I’m 65 years old. Did you know that?” He doesn’t give me a moment to answer his rhetorical question. “It’s going to be great. The 26th. It’s a Saturday. Out on Lake Waramaug. There’s gonna be beer and meat and oh God I’m getting this prime meat. Wait til you taste this shit. Importing it from Rhode Island. I got a buddy who’s bringing it. It’s called Kobe beef. You ever heard of it?”

“Yeah yeah.”

“Oh man that’s good shit!” He rubs his belly which protrudes out over his belt. In fact, now he pulls his pants up a little. His mannerisms are like none I’ve ever seen in a man. He is constantly moving. Jittery but not nervous. “Oh, I gotta tell you. I’ve got a friend, she’s a professional chef. She’s coming and she’s a professional chef. She’s a big girl, you know, so you know she’s a good chef.” He laughs and chucks me on the shoulder. He’s really a friendly guy. Overly friendly but I’m starting to warm up to him. “Yeah she can cook the fuck outta a burger. Holy shit.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah so you know, you’re invited. There’s gonna be meat and potato salad and beer and you can take my kayak out! All you gotta bring is what you wanna drink.”

“Sounds all right. I will try to make it. I’m just not sure if I have something going on that day or not.”

“Yeah ok. Well like I said, you’re invited. And you can bring a lady friend …. or a guy friend or whatever.” He pauses and I wonder if he’s wondering if I’m gay. Another intruding thought crosses my mind. Is Carl repressing something? Suddenly I see Chris Cooper’s character from American Beauty all over him. He even looks like him, I realize. Ah Christ. I push the thought away because it’s too scary. He’s just a nice guy. He’s just a nice guy. He’s just a nice guy.

“I will definitely try, Carl.” I think it’s over. Not yet.

“Yeah I hope you can make it.” The fidgeting continues. I look at his arms. They are wiry and bony and he’s wearing a tank top so I can see them all the way up to his neck. They move constantly. I wonder if he has control over them at all. I think, if those arms wanted to reach out and strangle the life out of me, could Carl stop them? I could not. He says, “I drink like a fish.” O… K….

“Oh yeah?”

“Ha. Yeah. So I’m not driving. My friend is going to drive me and I’m gonna get shitfaced! You know what I’m saying, man?” He chucks me on the shoulder again and I laugh. I hear myself laughing and wonder if he can hear the fear in it. He has to. It’s so obvious.

“Nothin’ wrong with that.” I say.

“A-fucking-men!” He turns to go. “Well all right, Bryon. I hope to see you there. Like I said, just bring whatever you want to drink. That’s all you gotta do.”

“OK Carl, we’ll see. I’ll try. Have a good one.”

“Yup. Enjoy the rest of your day.” And then he walked off back to his place. I closed my door … and locked it. But that’s not too weird. I always lock my door. I sit back down in my chair and strap on my guitar. I don’t strum it for a few minutes. Instead, I sit there, staring off, replaying everything that just happened. I’m going to have to go to this thing. Fuck.

ONE WEEK AGO…

Sometimes, when I pull into my parking lot, Carl calls down to me from his window on the 3rd floor. He’s always asking me to come up and have a beer with him. I never go. I probably never will. On this particular day, Carl yells down to me, “Hey Bryon! I’d better see you at my party on Saturday!”

“Yeah.” I say up to him, “I’m going to try to make it.”

“I’d better see you there, Bryon. Just bring whatever you want to drink.” I’d BETTER see you there? Um.

“All right, man.”

“All right, Bryon. Enjoy your day.” And he disappeared, away from his window, back into his condo. I walked into mine, feeling less comfortable about the impending weekend.

YESTERDAY…

I went to see Shakespeare in the park on Friday night. Othelllo. My third favorite Shakespeare play. It was magnificent. Deacon from King of Queens played Othello a little too naively, I thought. But Iago was picture perfect. Afterwards, I stayed at a friend’s house. Saturday morning, yesterday, I drove home. I was 98% certain that I would be going to Carl’s retirement party. Why not? You only live once or twice. When I pulled into my parking lot, sure enough, Carl was standing there, talking it up with a couple other neighbors. I didn’t know them. Good, I thought, maybe I won’t be the only one from my complex that is invited. Carl saw me pull up and he waved and shouted, “Hey hey, Bryon!” Our other neighbors saw their opportunity to escape and did so. Glad I could help. Carl was at my car before I was out of it.

“Hey Bryon,” he said, and got right up close to me. “You coming, today?”

I didn’t have to think about it anymore. It wasn’t out of fear or duty or social grace or trying to be a better person or anything; in that moment, I suddenly knew, I wanted to go. “Yeah Carl, I am.” His eyes lit up and he grabbed my hand and pumped it vigorously. “Oh that’s great, man! I’m glad! It’s gonna be great! Just bring whatever you wanna drink. Oh hey, look at those arms of yours.” What? “Yeah we’re gonna be going all day. My buddy’s coming to pick me up now. I’m gonna get drunk. I drink like a fish and I don’t mind admitting it.” He finally let go of my hand. He looked so happy. I was touched. Yes, I was still weirded out by the odd arm compliment but I chalked it up to a faux pas he was unaware of making. He gave me directions and told me once again about the professional chef that was coming. How many times had he told me about her now? Oh, and he reminded me once again, unbelievably, to bring whatever I wanted to drink. In all honesty, all I wanted to drink was water. The previous evening, as Shakespeare tickled my heart with his eloquent words, Bacchus’s fingers danced like Chopin on my brain with red, white, and even pink piano keys.

“I’ll be there a little later. I had kind of a rough night last night. I need a couple more hours sleep, first.”

“I hear you, man! I’m hungover like a skunk!” He laughed loudly and slapped me on the back. “OK, Bryon, go get some rest and I’ll see you later.” And then he turned around so quick and was moving away like water. For half a second, I thought I might be hallucinating. I shook it off, went inside, and fell asleep.

THREE HOURS LATER…

I wake up. Still tired but I have to get up. Why? It hits me. “Fuck.” I say to my empty bedroom.

In the shower, I wonder what it’s going to be like and what I should bring. Probably whatever you want to drink. I laugh at the thought and suddenly feel better about the whole thing. It’s going to be an experience. And what is life but experiences? I’m okay with this. I am.

APPROXIMATELY THIRTY-FIVE MINUTES LATER…

I’m inside a gas station buying what I want to drink. A big bottle of Poland Spring and a big can of Arizona Iced Tea. I also buy a bunch of scratch-off lottery tickets and the cashier is friendly and gives me an envelope to put them in. Back in my car, I seal the lotto tickets in the envelope. I write “CARL” on the front and smile.

APPROXIMATELY TWENTY MINUTES LATER…

At Lake Waramaug, day parking costs $9 and I grumble a little at that but whatever. Carrying my two drinks and Carl’s envelope, I walk to meet him. He has secured a couple of picnic tables and a grill. There are about a dozen people sitting around, eating, talking. I recognize a few from my condo complex. Richard is there. He lives above me. He’s older, too. Probably in his late 50s. He’s a nice guy. Fixes stuff. He’s brought his son. I see them both and say “Hey.” I’m about to shake Richard’s hand when Carl sees me and jumps up to greet me.

“Hey Bryon, you made it!”

“Of course I did!” He reaches me and shakes (pumps) my hand again. “Here you go, Carl, I put a lot of thought into this.” It’s obvious I am joking. A couple people laugh but Carl seems touched.

“What? Oh fuck, you didn’t have to.” He puts the unopened envelope down on the table and introduces me all around. “Everyone this is Bryon, my neighbor. Bryon this is Richie and his son…. oh wait. You probably know these guys, huh?”

“Yeah I…”

“Stupid me. Duh. Ha. OK over here are my Dominican friends.” L…O…L… “Watch out for this guy right here.” As I’m shaking “this guy’s” hand, Carl says, “He escaped from prison two years ago. Killed 14 people. He’s a mean fucker.” I laugh. Everyone laughs. Carl goes on and introduces me to everyone else. There’s a tiny little dog on a blanket and Carl walks up to him. “This here is Milo.” Milo is cute but he rages at Carl. He’s barking at him like crazy. Carl barks back and laughs. “Haha. Milo wants to bite my nuts off! Don’t you, Milo?” It’s not his dog. It’s one of the Dominicans’. They laugh. “This is my nephew and his beautiful wife.” Forgive me, I forgot most everyone’s name. “Hey,” Carl says to his nephew, “How’d you get so lucky to have such a beautiful wife?” I hear Richard say “uh oh” behind me. I look at the woman in question. Without being cruel, let’s just say she is far from beautiful. Sorry. It’s true. At any rate, Carl’s nephew laughs off the comment. And I quickly realize that everyone here is used to Carl. Everything he says is expected of him. In a nutshell, he is accepted.

There is a much older man sitting at the far picnic table, smoking a cigarette. I am not introduced to him. An oversight.

Carl shows me the bags of meat in a cooler and tells me to make myself a burger and to eat til I puke. I do. Cook a burger that is, not puke. Carl may be a weird dude, but he is definitely right on about the meat. When it is done grilling, I take a bite and am in Heaven. I salivate as I swallow. “Holy shit, that’s good.”

“I fuckin’ told you, didn’t I?”

“Oh my God.”

“Ha!” We are right on the Lake’s edge. Many families and parties are all around us. An overweight girl, she can’t be 13 yet, walks out of the water. When (I hope) she is out of range, Carl says (too loudly, I think), “Oh boy, look at her. Looks like she had a few burgers.” I cringe and pray to God the girl didn’t hear him.

What I am starting to learn about Carl is that he does not have an off switch. Like his arms, his mouth seems to move independently of his brain. He starts to tell us a story and from the very start, I know it’s not leading to anywhere good.

“Hey Marie,” he says to his friend. I forget her real name but Marie will suffice. “Hey you’re a really beautiful woman, Marie, you know that?” Marie blushes. I wonder how these two have become friends. My first instinct tells me that Marie is a quiet woman. She is pretty, in her 40s, a mom. She’s a nice lady. I can tell. There is a ton of food and beer and soda all over the place but Marie doesn’t eat a thing. Instead, she sips a large McDonald’s soft drink through a straw and listens to Carl tell her she’s beautiful. Behind her big sunglasses, I see her blush.

“I remember the first time I met you,” he goes on. “I said to myself, ‘That there is a beautiful woman.’ It’s true!”

“Oh stop it.” She says playfully. I’m positive these two are not dating. Why? Because it’s just impossible. Their physical proximity is not close and their body language reveals nothing of passion. Maybe there is a mutual attraction but I would bet the farm that nothing has ever happened between them. Or maybe I just hope not. If a woman like Marie could be intimate with a man like Carl then I really know Jack Shit about the world. And that’s no good.

Carl changes the subject. He puts it back on himself. He is a non-sequitor magician.

“I remember when I met my wife, I thought she was beautiful, too. Shit, I must have been on heroin. I probably was, too. Man she was a bitch. This was my second wife. Don’t ask me why I ever married her. I MUST have been on heroin. I remember one time… holy shit wait til you hear this… one time she hit me in the head with an ash tray. I was fucking asleep and she hit me in the head with an ash tray because I was snoring! Do you believe that?”

Everyone is rapt with attention and no one bothers to answer his rhetorical question. We all know he doesn’t want an answer. He’s just going to plow on. Besides, there is no answer to a question like that. Do we believe him? Who fucking knows. Probably. Why the hell not?

“That bitch hit me with a fucking ash tray because I was snoring. My wife! Holy Christ! I remember waking up and seeing all this blue light in my head. My head was filled with blue light. And it was dancing. And then I reached up and felt my head and it was all wet and sticky, you know? So I screamed at her, ‘What the fuck did you do to me?’ and I saw the broken ash tray in the bed and she was standing by the window smoking and she told me I was snoring so she hit me with the ashtray. Holy shit! Crazy bitch. I drove myself to the hospital and in the admitting room, they asked me what happened because you know, they have to ask you what happened. It’s protocol. They have to do that. For legal purposes. So the nurse, she asked me what happened and I told her my wife hit me in the head with a fucking ash tray because I was snoring and you know what she said to me? The nurse said, ‘You’re gonna have to come up with a better story than that.’ Holy shit! I told her … I told her, listen lady, that’s the truth I wouldn’t make that shit up. And she must have seen it in my eyes because next she said, ‘Well if that’s true than you should divorce her.’ And she was right and I did. Hey Bryon, how about another burger?”

Now, granted, the words I am telling you are, to some extent, paraphrased. But I am trying to recall the events as best that I can. Sure, it’s not word for word. But it’s as close as I can get.

I blinked. Carl had asked me a question. What was it? Burger. “No thanks.” I said. “I’m good.” And he moved on to something else. Another Busch Light. Another cigarette. Another story.

EPILOGUE…

I only stayed for about an hour and a half. At some point, Carl opened up the envelope and pulled out the scratch-off lottery tickets I bought him. He walked over to me and thanked me profusely, telling me how I really didn’t have to do that.

“You didn’t have to do that, Bryon. Shit. Really.”

“It’s nothing. I just thought it was better than a card. Happy retirement.”

“You’re a class act, you know that? A real stand-up guy.” I was starting to get embarrassed. Everyone was watching as he told me this stuff and I started to get the feeling I was the only person who brought a present. That saddened me a little. But looking at Carl as he held most likely worthless lottery tickets in his hands, I noticed two things. He wasn’t making eye contact with me and his arms were not moving. For a few seconds, Carl’s whole body was still. “I’ll tell you what,” he said and jumped back into his unstable personality. “If I win, I’m gonna buy you dinner!”

“Ha ha ha ha ha. Noooooo.”

Did I say no? I think I did. Regardless, if he heard me speak in the tone that I think I spoke… the tone that conveys the fact that you don’t want to have dinner with someone… the tone that says that snowmen will be eating popsicles in hell before you spend an evening in a public place with this person… the tone that says “You’re a scary dude”… if he heard that in my voice, he didn’t acknowledge it. Carl is 100% original. Whatever happened in his life that brought him to be the person he is today is a mystery. Maybe he is a self-proclaimed drunk. Maybe he did a little heroin. Maybe he did a lot of heroin. Maybe a midnight ash tray to the skull knocked a few screws loose. Maybe all these things are just a minuscule arrangement of his character. Maybe they are nothing. What I think is beautiful about him is that he is unapologetically happy, that he lives his life on his terms, and that he hasn’t murdered me yet.

Carl, this Bud’s for you.

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It’s raining a little today. Do you know how I know? Because I have eyes in my skull that see. I look out the window and my eyes tell me, “Ah yes, rain.”

Lately, I have been somewhat addicted to the Weather Channel. Sometimes, when I’m writing, I have it on in the background and I look up from time to time and the holes in my head process maps and weather patterns. I like to watch the green splotches move across my state and I say to myself, “Ooh, looks like rain.” It’s hypnotic. During the “Locals on the 8’s” they usually play mellow rock in the background. Anything from Jack Johnson to early U2. Have I still not found what I’m looking for? Perhaps.

This morning, the rain is moving patiently through my area to Eric Clapton’s love ballad, “You look wonderful tonight.” Yes, my darlin’. Honestly, the Locals segment lasts just about 90 seconds but with this song playing, I got lost in my thoughts for what can only be described as 1,000 lifetimes. When it finally ended, I snapped out of it and started writing this post. I thought it would be more poetic or instructional than it is. And I forget what my point was. I think it had something to do with losing yourself in the moment. Yes. That’s what writing is. Losing yourself in thought provoking moments. Take time for yourself every once in awhile. Make sure you are alone. If you stare off into space at a dinner party, people might think you are having a stroke. These moments are for you and you alone to create. You don’t need the Weather Channel or Clapton’s soulful guitar, and most of the times, you can’t predict these moments. They tend to catch you by surprise. So planning them can be difficult. The best time to do it is just as you are sitting down to your computer to write. Me? I’m about to do some writing for work so I’m hoping this moment of mine carries through and helps me locate my muse. Wish me luck. I wish the best for you and your words. Wherever they may derive from.

Sidenote: Al Roker is the anti-christ. That is the only downfall of the Weather Channel. That he’s on it. I wrote a story about him once. Maybe I’ll post it here someday. It is not complimentary.

Today’s Writing Assignment: Look and feel and be and write wonderfully.

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I have numerous car problems. My rear windshield rattles, I have a pebble ding in my front one, and I need an oil change. Three separate auto issues that don’t really amount to much besides a pain in the ass. I have just come from the dealership where I drove around with a mechanic riding in the backseat. He was listening closely for the noise, feeling for air, being a mechanic. I felt like a crazy person bouncing through back roads, seeking out bumps and potholes, swerving to hit them, just to prove my point.

No, I swear, this is happening. Listen, do you hear it?

Noooo.

Yeah maybe that wasn’t it. Wait. Was that something?

I don’t think so. Where did you say you heard it again?

I don’t know. Maybe in the middle? Maybe more on the right? I’m not crazy. I know it.

No, you’re not. We have people that come in all the time that think they are hearing things in their cars. Sometimes it’s nothing but we usually find it if it is something.

Wait. That was it. Did you hear it?

No.

We drove around for miles. I was more concerned with proving my sanity than avoiding oncoming traffic. No, I didn’t crash. Never came close. Probably. But it was just fascinating to me—how quickly I was forgetting the problem at hand and how willing I was to replace it with thoughts of being cuckoo. At last, the mechanic heard it. I hit a big ass pothole and there it was, the unmistakable rickety wrinkling of misplaced glass in rubber.

Oh yeah. There it is.

I wanted to hug or high five him. But, being the responsible driver that I am, I kept my eyes faced front and resisted the urge to abandon the wheel for an awkward (and most likely crash-inducing) moment with the mechanic in the back. Woo hoo, though. Not crazy. For now. Yayyy everything.

Yes, the character of the mechanic is an oily one. But this guy went out of his way to place makeshift, plastic floor mats gingerly before plopping his mucked up boots on my interior. That is pleasant. Refreshing even. And then he at least attempted to help me back from Crazy Town by really hearing what I had to say and really listening to my problems. Ladies, come on, who doesn’t love that? You want this guy’s number? I didn’t see a ring.

From one pleasant, unlikely experience to the next I went. I was headed to Valvoline. The fine gentlemen there have my oil change down pat! And, they greet me with “sir.” And today, offered me a brownie. Are people getting friendlier? Is this post turning into multiple advertisments? If so, SCREW UHAUL! Good. I feel balanced.

Tomorrow, I will be visited by the magic Safelite Auto Glass van people. I’m sure you’ve seen their commercials? I’m mostly terrified for the sun to come up on this visit. I figure that if the mechanic in my backseat earlier today acted as my therapist and the Valvoline guy was a super polite baker, then the odds are stacked against me that tomorrow I’ll get some punk kid trying to make his way up in the fine, upstanding Latin Kings organization. He’ll roll up in his super friendly Safelite Auto Glass van, bring out that glass-glue suction cup gun (what is that??), shove it in my eardrum and fill my brain with slow, torturous death. And all in the name of Shorty. But I’m not pessimistic.

Beep beep
Beep beep
Yah!

Today’s Writing Assignment: Look at someone differently.

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New low or new high? Tough call. I’m sitting in a bar in a booth facing out. I look like the dummy writer in the booth with the laptop because that’s who I am. I’m being careful which way I tilt my head. I’m being careful not to tilt my head at all. Because people look at people in public places who are working on laptops. They think, “What is that pompous fool doing? Can’t he do that in private?” Or maybe that’s just what I think they are thinking. I know I have such thoughts from time to time when I see someone pounding away at the keyboard in a Starbucks. Although my thoughts in such cases go deeper. I think, “Why can’t that be me? Why can’t I be comfortable enough to sit in a public place and be creative? It might actually do my writing good to do so.” But the audacity that wafts from a writer in a Starbucks is tame compared to what I am most likely emitting in this pleasant watering hole. Ohp, I just tilted my head, and someone saw. Damnit. I’m really not writing anything important, construction worker! And no, I’m not creating a character. He’s standing in front of me. Greybeard and all, wearing a dark blue sweatshirt and comfortable jeans. The logo on his back reads: Little Blue Construction. He’s a common man. As am I—the idiot boy writer who sips his beer slowly.

Ahh.

I wish I were writing something of value. Would that make me feel less out of place here? If I fell into “the zone” and wrote some crazy good story, or chapter, maybe I could put these other barflies out of my mind. I’d be swept away be the creative process and nothing else would matter. Yeah, and if a frog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his ass when he hopped, Tia. Bah. Whatever. You all can deal with me. And you know what the real truth is? Are you listening? OK, I’m going to whisper it to you. Here it is…. nobody cares.

Once you get that simple fact in your head, it can get smoother. Not only will you write like the wind in public, but you will ride that writing right INTO the wind! It’s like your own personal Luck Dragon in your neverending story. Plus, you have a pint of goodness! And the week was hard. And you deserve it. You deserve good beer and good friends and good words. You don’t have to be shy about your writing. If you are out in a public place, having a coffee or a beer or even just a relaxing sit in a sunny park, you’re not flaunting yourself. You’re just doing what you do. You’re being you. Look at that guy over there. He’s trying to get a game of ultimate frisbee started. (Yes, we’ve moved from the pub to the park now.) That guy is just doing what he does. And that family over there. They’re just doing what they do. And that squirrel. Well dude, that squirrel is fucking nuts. Slow down, squirrely!

But really. You’re in a bar. You should have another drink and try write a play about two mismatched roommates called Mr. Hops and Chancellor Barley. Who knows what hijinks will ensue? Anything can happen here.

Cheers.

Today’s writing assignment: Go somewhere public and write something. If anyone messes with you, destroy them. Then get back to writing.

Click here to celebrate St. Patty’s again!

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Explicit language forthcoming…

Friday morning
11:30

Bry sits on his stoop, enjoying the grace of the day. Suddenly, peace is interrupted.

You fat fuck! Who do you think you’re dealing with, you fuck?

It’s Bry’s neighbor. A man he has never spoken more than a few words to—the regular banalities of civil society.

You fuck! You don’t mess with me!

The voice is getting closer. The older neighbor, who, Bry has always seen coming home with a 30 pack of Natural Light beer. Every time.

You do not want to cross me you fat fuck! I’ll fuck you up!

Now the man is at his Rav 4. He carries with him a beautiful, purple, potted flower. Where is he taking this prize of nature?

Oh. Hi. Sorry. I didn’t see you.

It’s all right.

I’m having some trouble with my neighbor. He laughs. What happened, did you get laid off?

Ha. No, not yet. It’s Good Friday. We have today off.

Oh. He thinks about this. His eyes seem glazed. Anger or alcohol? Bry doesn’t know. Hey, what’s your name?

Bryon.

Bryon? Nice to meet you, I’m Carl. You should come over for a beer sometime. I’m up in B. Top floor. I’ve always got like 20 or 30 beers lying around.

Bry is nervous. Yeah. Possibly.

OK yeah. You definitely should. It’s a beautiful day huh?

Back to banalaties. Sure is. Supposed to be even nicer tomorrow.

Yeah that’s what they say, yeah. He places the flower carefully in the backseat of his Rav 4. Someone is either lucky or unlucky. Bry doesn’t know. Well have a good day. It’s Bryon, right?

Yeah. Bryon. Carl.

Yeah Carl. Definitely come over some time. We’ll have a beer.

Yeah ok. Maybe.

All right.

Is there a moral to this story? Maybe. Probably not. It shouldn’t really be a story. But it is.

Today’s writing assignment: Don’t get on Carl’s bad side. He will fuck you up.

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Joy

Oh what a joy is here. Everyone gather around and share in its warmth. Isn’t it gorgeous? Are we not blessed? Who would like a cup of Joe to go with their brimming cup of Joy? Lancaster? How about it, huh?

I’m actually not incredibly comfortable with Joy.

Excuse me?

Well, yeah. I didn’t want to say anything. I didn’t want to upset the mood.

I… I just don’t understand what you are saying? How can this be, Lancaster? You have always been so exuberant!

Yeah, about that. I’ve been faking it.

All this time?

All this time.

Huh. Well that’s a thinker.

Not really. It is what it is. At any rate, I guess I’ll be going.

Bye Lancaster.

Bye.

The moral of the story is: Never invite Lancaster anywhere.

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