there's not a whole lot going on

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Passing on

It was time. Twenty years of waiting were twenty years too many. It was time. His wife was dead. The one child they'd born was grown. It was time. He donned his hat, threw on his overcoat - the same one his father-in-law had given him twenty-five years ago - and walked out the door.

He passed the flower shop like he always did, but this time he went inside for the first time in twenty years. The clerk greeted him cheerily, but he was more interested in finding the right roses - the slightly off colored ones with a little orange and a little pink. Not that he could tell - he was color blind - but his wife knew them. He shrugged and asked the clerk for help, they were called something like autumn or fall or some season or other.

With roses in hand, he walked toward the parish where they'd been married, where their daughter had been baptized and then married, and where he, at last, would end the waiting. Bittersweet memories brought a little smile to his face when he first looked on the statue where his wife had given every rose to Mary. Kneeling at her feet, he placed one of the roses in the little vase, asking her blessings for his wife, his child and himself. As he passed through the gates of the cemetery where his wife had lain these twenty years, his throat tightened and his eyes watered. Finding her grave with the little marker - as far away from the trees - so that she could see the stars - and as close to the water - so that her dad could go fishing - as had been possible, he knelt in the grass, placing the remaining rose upon her stone. Here he paused once more to ask mercy for his wife's soul, his child's and his own.

Standing, he continued his walk toward the parish. When they had married, it was a secular parish run by the diocese, but the Jesuits and taken it over in the last ten years. Fr. Peter smiled when he walked into the office.

"Andy! It's great to see you! How're things going down at the university?"

"They're good, they're good. How're the Jesuits these days? Running low on new recruits?"

"Oh no, we haven't been low on recruits since we got that new Superior General. The kids just love the guy. It's amazing ya' know, it really is."

"So you're not looking for any old men anymore, is that it?"

"Well, gosh, Andy, I don't know. Do you know any old men that'd wanna join these days? I mean, if there were more guys like you, we'd be doin' great, but you've got your daughter to look after and all."

"Actually, that's what I'm here for. I wanted you to be the first to know that I'm applying to the Jesuits. I also want your recommendation."

"Wow, Andy that's great. That's just great. Sure I'd love to give you my recommendation - don't look a gift horse in the mouth, ok? You know that one right? Oh, hey, did you hear the joke about the Jesuit and the liturgy yet?"

"Yeah, Fr. Peter, I heard that one already."

"Oh, that's too bad. It's a good one, but I guess it gets old after a while, huh? Say, listen, I've gotta hear confessions in a few minutes, why don't you come back after Mass and we'll go have dinner er somethin' alright?"

"Sure, that'd be great Father, I'll see you then."

He smiled as he left. Fr. Peter hadn't changed since they'd met twenty-five years ago. He was a good man. And a good priest, though how he wound up in the US and not in China was anybody's guess. Maybe he shouldn't have agreed to dinner. The last time they'd gone to dinner, Fr. Peter had picked the worst burger place in town. Oh well, it would at least be an experience, and his wife had always liked Fr. Peter. She would be happy for him. She would wish she could join them. He smiled, twenty years was too long to wait, but he still had twenty years left to go.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sometimes Misunderstanding is a Good Thing

Damon played with the Grape-Nuts that had sunk to the bottom of his milk. They weren't his favorite cereal - that one hadn't been restocked the last time he was in the SuperTarget near his house. If it weren't for the Tyson's chicken tenders he picked up at the same time, it would have been quite a failed trip, but he could at least remind himself of tomorrow's lunch of rice, chicken tenders and a protein shake that tasted like chalk. He usually didn't think much about meals - eating was more of a chore than a pleasure. This meal was of special interest though - the new teacher he'd been chatting with in the teacher's lounge always asked about his meals and she thought this meal particularly unusual. He smiled just thinking about how she would laugh at his lunch.

When he finished washing his bowl, Damon tuned his tv to the Rangers game - no matter how badly they were doing (they were 3 and 51 this season), they were still his team, and he watched religiously. That was something else the new teacher laughed about - she was an Angels fan, graduated from UCLA but born in New York City. Somehow that didn't bother him. It was a little like her tastes in music - he hated rap, but it was cute the way she waved her hands in the air while singing to her iPod. He was sure it would never last, but he enjoyed thinking about her and being with her. He decided he'd have to ask her out the next week so they could laugh at that too. She'd already said she never dated coworkers, so it would be ironic.

The next morning he woke up smiling, still thinking about the girl who was his opposite in all things. He had twenty students in his class - ten who had never cared, five who hadn't cared for the last ten years, three who didn't come and two who managed to pass most six weeks. Up until the new teacher started a month ago, he woke up frowning, still thinking about those kids. For the first time since he was a student teacher with an Honors class, Damon was actually looking forward to going to work.

That afternoon, the two of them laughed over his lunch and even talked a little baseball - Abby had watched the Angels game the night before and she was happy they were doing so well this season - 51 and 3. Damon barely noticed his class that afternoon or the next.

In fact, he didn't notice them until the following Tuesday after he asked Abby out for Friday. He hadn't expected her to say yes, that would have been ridiculous after she'd sworn she never dated coworkers, but the response she gave was unreal, unbelievable, earth shattering in fact. He needed to think things through, to work things out in his head before it exploded, but his entire class seemed to be jumped up on some kind of nutty juice. He couldn't take it, they were making him insane, he was on the verge of running out of the room, of screaming the thoughts he'd kept to himself about their true origins and the nature of their minds for the last six months, when the last bell finally rang. He breathed deeply, gulping for air as though his head had been underwater for the last two hours of the day. When he made it to his car, he only felt a little less like a fish out of water, but by the time he'd gotten home, eaten his cereal, and turned on the Rangers game, he was in a better state of mind.

He couldn't believe what he'd done. He couldn't believe what a fool he was. He couldn't believe his horrible, rotten luck. What kind of girl tells you she NEVER dates coworkers and then agrees to go out with you? To a rap concert that you don't have tickets to no less! He was getting himself worked up again, he was on the verge of panicking when his phone rang.

"Hello?!" he gasped into the phone.

"Hey, Damon?" It was a woman's voice. Who would be calling him? Who was it? What did they want? What was going on?

"Hey, Damon? Is this Damon's phone? Hello? I'm trying to reach Damon." It was her. It was his opposite. The freak. The psycho. The crazy the loon the whacked out nut job who agreed to go on a date to a rap concert when she knew he hated rap and she had sworn she NEVER dated coworkers. What kind of woman was he dealing with?

He finally choked out a strangled, "This is Damon."

"Oh, hey, this is Abby, I was calling about our date this Friday. You looked a little green when I agreed, so I wanted to tell you that if you didn't really want to go out, that's ok. I almost thought it must be a joke when you said you had tickets to a rap concert, but when you actually knew the band's name and they were in town, I thought maybe you were serious. I think you must have been kidding - it would have been a really funny joke - but I thought that we had been having such a good time that maybe you were serious. So anyways, if you don't really have tickets and you don't really want to go out on Friday, that's alright, ever since one boyfriend turned out to be crazy, I've avoided dating coworkers. You just seemed so nice and normal that I kind of hoped you meant it, but I'm pretty sure you didn't, and it's really a bad idea anyways - everyone always says, 'Never date your coworkers,' but sometimes I forget stuff like that, so yeah, I'll see you tomorrow. Sorry if I weirded you out or anything. Have a good night."

"Wait! Abby, wait!" He listened for a full minute, holding his breath, but there was no answer. Once he came to, he remembered how to use his caller id to return the call.


"Hey, uhh, Abby, this is Damon. From work."

"Oh. Ummm. Hi, this is awkward."

"Yeah, I thought it'd make something fun to talk about on Friday night when we go out to this blues club a friend has been telling me about. I didn't really have rap tickets, and I don't want to go to a rap concert, but I think we can both settle on the blues. There's also a little sports bar owned by a guy from L.A. who plays the Angels games no matter how many people try to pick a fight with him. Does that sound alright to you?"

When she didn't answer he almost fainted from holding his breath. He looked at his phone, stunned that she had hung up on him. He felt so foolish. What was he thinking? He'd never be able to talk to her again. She'd hate him forever. She'd think he was creepy, a jerk a freak a weirdo a louse. Then his phone rang.


"Hey, Damon?"


"I'm sorry, I get really bad reception in my apartment, can you repeat that? I didn't hear anything after something fun to talk about."

"Oh. Uhh, yeah. Well, I, umm, I just thought it'd be fun to actually go out on Friday night. Not to a rap concert ya' know, just out to something I don't hate and you don't hate. Like a, uhh, blues club or something and maybe a sports bar where they play the Angels and the Rangers."


Unable to bear the long pause, he hurried on, "But only if you want to. I mean, you know, I kind of lost reception halfway through your phone call, so maybe you said you didn't really want to go out or something and you know you don't have to feel obliged or anything, so you can just say no, and it won't be weird at work or anything 'cuz it'll be funny in a week or so and..."

She interrupted him, "Sure, Damon. I'll go out with you on Friday. Do you want to leave from work?"

In his astonishment, he almost forgot to say, "Yes, of course," and when he finally had finished making all the arrangements he was still uncertain that this was a good idea.

Then he thought about what he would have for dinner on Friday and smiled. At least they'd have something to laugh about on Monday.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Her Lover* was Coming Home

She arose that morning at the usual time with an unusual smile upon her face and her lover's voice in her ear - he was coming home at last and she'd miss him no more. She walked to work that day at the usual time with an unusual step and her lover's face in her thoughts - she'd be in his arms by 8 the next morning. She came home at the usual time with an unusual lift to her chin and her lover's embrace on her mind - a few more hours, a good night's rest and he'd be there. She cleaned at the usual time with an unusual glow in her eyes and her lover's voice once more in her ear - he was going to bed to rise fresh and early to see her the sooner.

Then she realized she should have washed the sheets at 6 and not at 10:30 so she could go to sleep and be awake enough to go to the airport at 7.

*Hey! Let's keep it Catholic here!

Monday, March 10, 2008

From dust you have come, to dust you shall return

"'The fool folds his arms
and consumes his own flesh' -
Better is one handful with tranquility
than two with toil and a chase after wind!" - Ecclesiastes 4:5-6

"Now, my child, I will tell you three little stories of three little creatures.

"First, there was the ant. As you know, ants are among the strongest of God's creatures, moving objects many times their sizes and their weights. They are truly amazing little insects and are known for their industriousness. One year, during a particularly wet year, when food was in plenty and grain was easy to find, our hero, we will call him Ant, was busy with his cousins and his brothers and sisters bringing in the harvest for the winter. Many times he would look around at all of nature's marvels and wish for just a moment that he could stop and rest a bit. One day he even climbed up a rosebush just to smell the roses, but he immediately had an overwhelming sense of loss when he realized how much food he had failed to move in wasting his time climbing the rosebush. When the winter came, the anthill had food in plenty, and so everyone was healthy when the spring came once more. The new spring was as beautiful as the last, but Ant refused to succumb to the temptations of the year before - he knew that this winter could be much harder than the last and that you never know what tomorrow holds in store. When the next winter came, the ants were as well prepared as the year before, and everyone was well fed. The next spring Ant noticed the ground rumbling, but he and the other ants didn't know what could make the earth rumble so. Then one day many ants were sucked up into a terrible cyclone as the rumbling moved over the mound. The next day a terrible smelling liquid fell from the sky, drowning many and poisoning the others. Our little hero, industrious and hardworking Ant watched in sorrow as those around him died. He too passed on, thinking of the rose and the fine harvests of years past."

"Gramma, that wasn't a very nice story. All the ants died. And Ant died. And he didn't do anything. I didn't like it."

"Ahhh, hush child. Let me tell you the next story, perhaps you will understand a bit more.

"Grasshopper, the highest jumping, farthest spitting, greenest looking grasshopper in all of nine counties was hopping through the fields one spring. All around him he saw the other insects working hard to prepare for the winter, but Grasshopper said to himself, 'Oh, ridiculous fools! Don't they know we've never needed extra food in this area? That noone ever goes hungry around here? There's always plenty to eat!' And so, the young grasshopper didn't do any work that spring. Instead he hopped here and there, distracting the other youngsters from their work, convincing them that tomorrow would be just as sunny as today and what they should be doing was having a good time. The young grasshoppers caused a great deal of mischief that spring, but when winter rolled around, it was just as Grasshopper had said - noone went hungry and there was plenty of food to go around - everywhere one jumped there was a leaf, just waiting to be eaten. The next spring and winter passed just as before with Grasshopper and his friends causing trouble. When the third spring came, the little band, convinced that nothing bad could come tomorrow disrupted all of the gathering for the next winter, so that that year's harvest was smaller than all the years before - much smaller than would be necessary if the winter turned out to be a bad one. But before winter even came, there was a rumbling like none of the insects had ever heard before. Grasshopper and all of his friends were confused and frightened by the noise. Some of them were caught up by a cyclone that moved over them. Most were fortunate enough to have hopped away, but when they looked around, there was nothing to be harvested - everything was only three inches tall! The insects looked at their stored grains and were saddened to see so little there - it would not be enough for the rest of the summer and certainly not enough for the winter. That winter was very hard and many of the insects died. Because Grasshopper and his friends hadn't helped, they always received the smallest and most infrequent portions. Finally, after watching each of his friends fall ill and die, Grasshopper died too, thinking of the beautiful springs of long ago and remembering his empty tummy."

"Gramma! That's so weird! Why does everyone keep dieing and not doing anything! Why don't you tell me a good story?"

"Child, child, listen to the stories - I tell them to you for a reason! Now, hush and listen to the last one.

"One spring the butterfly flitted to and fro through the fields of flowers, happily dining in the sweet nectars presented him. His happy flitting was periodically interrupted by the other animals - Ant called to him, 'Butterfly, Butterfly, you are too beautiful to go about so merrily without putting up your stores for the winter! Do not enjoy yourself so much unless you do not make it this year!' and Grasshopper cried out, 'Butterfly, Butterfly, why spend so much time collecting your meals? Come, join us in our revelry and enjoy this find spring!' But Butterfly kept floating from one flower to another, relishing the ebb and flow of his work, content simply to do what he was made to do. When the winter came that year, there was food in plenty. The next spring Butterfly did the same as he had done the year before and Ant and Grasshopper looked on, thinking him very silly for seeming to put no thought in tomorrow and take no time for today. The winter came and went just as before and so did the next spring. But the third winter, the great rumbling came, chopping down all of the plants so that many of the insects went to the anthill to ask for food. Grasshopper was first in line, asking Ant to share his stores. As they argued as to whether or not the lazy should eat, they looked up to see Butterfly flitting to and fro, just as happily as ever. 'Butterfly!' the two cried together, 'Why are you so happy and not the least distressed about this terrible winter?' Butterfly looked down and said, 'Why don't you know that there is a time for everything? We do not know what tomorrow may bring, so if we worry about tomorrow today will be wasted. But if we are always worried about today, then we will waste tomorrow. And so I haven't enough stored for this winter to share with Grasshopper, but I have enough to last until the spring rains come once more!' With that, Butterfly flitted away, only to find himself inside a jar with a strange smelling puffball that put him into such a sleep he never awoke again."

"Gramma! Those stories were awful! I wanna go home!"