Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Day The Earth Stood Still

The newspaper was lying openly on the coffee table. My father in law had left it open in order to ask if I knew the man in the photo. I did. In, the past, he had made for me a couple signs. The detail is cut by a computer and they can be applied to a smooth surface. The article explained how he had bought the old movie theater. It had been storage building for an appliance store for many years and he hopes to renovate it back to a theater.  I have a strong interest in saving old buildings of all sorts but movie houses are especially intriguing to me. I made a mental note to drive by and look at the progress myself.

The rumble of the diesel pickup engine died away and the Sunday morning was deathly quiet. I had a perfect parking spot; within twenty feet of the ticket booth. I sat in my truck listening to the clicking of the hot engine cooling. I got out of the truck and walked under the awning. An earnest smile stretched across my face. The last time I had been to this movie house was still fresh on my mind. I can’t remember the title but it was an English movie. It had a police chase scene that lasted most of the movie and I was forever confused about the  "funny" siren noise. Years later I realized all European police cars made the same sound. I was a small boy, about ten or eleven years old. I was in the fourth grade. This was the same night the Gaston junior high building burned to the ground.

The front entrance was locked and the ticket window was boarded up. The side of the building has a large door used for the emergency exit. The construction men were using this door because of its location to the main theater. I turned the knob. It was unlocked and the door opened easily. A broken brick propped against the bottom held it open allowing a large shaft of sunlight through its opening. Stepping inside, it only took a few minutes for my eyes to adjust. There was no resemblance to its earlier years. Plaster had almost completely fallen away from the red brick structure wall. About a half dozen metal folding chairs haphazardly arranged themselves around an ancient wood burning heater. This must be what a dungeon must smell like. Dampness and mold mingled with wild animal excrement. What a mess.

Being careful of where I placed my steps, I made my way toward the concession stand area. Without warning the exit door slammed shut. The noise cracked off the brick wall and echoed back from when the stage one stood. Eternal blackness was complete. A person’s first instinct is to put their hand in front of their face. My hand was not there, or at least it was not visible. A touch to the forehead confirmed the darkness. Logic is an unarmed alley in the battle of panic. A mental retracing of my steps around broken glass, rusty nails and other debris hampered my ability to find the exit. Not even a sliver of light seeped its way around the rickety door frame. If I waited a few minutes, hopefully my eyesight would further adjust to the blackness. They were not adjusting.
I have heard that when you lose one sense, another will compensate to make up for that loss. Surely that was happening. The atmospheric interpretation changed. The cool air was starting to feel filtered and refined. Pungent mold odors morphed toward a hint of corn oil. Visions of molten yellow butter laced around the distinct memory of popcorn. They obviously were cleaning the snack bar area and had yet to clear away the years of spilled ingredients. No? The sharp report of filth was lacking. Sliding my feet instead of taking steps, a stationary object obstructed my movement; I bumped my knee. Reaching forward, searching for some determination of the object, I recognized the feel of an upholstered seat back. The cloth was cool and dry to the touch. A brocade patter was consistent across the entire back. Moving my hand downward I could recognize the shape as being a seat familiar to most move houses I had visited. I stood until my balance was steadied. If I sat for a few minutes surely my vision would adapt. The seat was soft and comfortable. I rested my elbows on the arm rests.

Stone quietness has a way of screeching; this was not that. Electronic scratching erupted from the darkness straight ahead. I relaxed my grip on the arm rests. My hands were going numb. Instantly the white reflection was blinding…..

The screen faded to black. A soft blueish glow through frosted diffusing panels scaterted along both wall casts a hazy hue throughout the theater. Small white lights at the end of each row of seats illuminated the carpeted isles toward the rear entrance. On the left east wall a white box with glowing red letters marked the side EXIT. My initial thought; I will sit awhile and enjoy the event but the door opened and a bright shaft of sunlight eased its way into the chamber. The house lights dimmed. I knew it was time to go.

As I looked at the peeling paint from the stately marquee, I sat in my truck listening to the clicking of the hot engine cooling.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The "Point" of It All

Today Septembermom "pointed" me over to Write With Pictures  with her post.  The photo was the prompt for a Tuesday short story.  My youngets daughter (middle daughter's story is almost finished) popped into my mind.  She was the ballerina.  This is my entry for the phot prompt.  Please drop over and check their blog out, and thanks to Septembermom for the tip. 
Photo by Michelle

Get The Point?

“Oh daddy, throw those old smelly, worn out things away.”

Holding the tattered shoes that once were shiny and pink, now torn and scuffed to the point of being tread bare, I place them back into the box in which they arrived.

Her first pair looked like doll shoes. She was just a doll. Hardly in school but she wanted to be a ballerina. Perched on the edge of the theater seat watching for the first time what would become an endless stream of dancing toy soldiers and sugar plum fairies, a determination was being forged; A determination that would be the vehicle to carry beyond the colored stage lights and grease paint.

Blisters on top of blisters compounded with swollen and aching joints became the norm. Practices when most of the other kids were home or doing other recreational activities was the daily routine. Hundreds of hours preparing paid its dividend when the house lights dimmed and the stage lights glared. Smiling through pain was masked in the twirly whirl of satin and lace. Snow scenes to sword fighting mice. What a spectacle; a spectacle not so grand as to be able to hide the one small face that was continually sought by gleaming parents.

Hardwood floored dance studios have been replace with wood paneled walls and black robes as the halls of determination. Still just as intense and crisp but a different arena. But now, as the show starts to begin, the program announcer invitation has changed from “all be seated” to “all rise”.

Throw those old smelly things away?...Don’t even touch ‘em.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Maybe you Know,,Maybe Not

I am not a writer nor am I a storyteller, but I enjoy folks that are. All of you are these and each of us has the opportunity to jump around from blog to blog and enjoy these stories. From time to time I reference artists that are outside our blogging family and they are of interest to ME and I think that you all might have not heard of them and would enjoy their work.

I cannot remember the chicken and egg scenario between Whole Wheat Radio  and
Woodsongs Oldtime Radio Hour. Whole Wheat Radio is a computer based radio station in Talkeetna, Alaska. It was started by a computer guru and his soul mate. Jim Kloss and Ester Golton moved to Alaska and built a 12 x12 cabin and started their own radio station promoting only self produced music. It is carried on internet only. It does not produce any radio “waves”. It has grown beyond that first small cabin and you can research their journey if you have the interest. Woodsongs Oldtime Radio Hour is the brain child of Michael Johnathon and is produced at the Lexington Theater in Lexington Ky. It has a folk theme and it is produced by all volunteer staff as well as the performers. The theater is actually two movie houses that have been refurbished. The Boss and I stopped in on our way to Virginia Beach on our past vacation to tour the beautiful buildings.

Both of these outlets are a treasure chest of brilliance. I have no favorites, but one artist that you may not have heard of came to light via Woodsongs. Minton Sparks is a talented lady that tells stories, set with background music. She tells about things she has experienced in her past. If you would like to hear her perform, click on the Woodsongs link and then jump to “archives”. Scroll down to number #490 and click on the WMV icon and that show will download onto your computer. She shares the show with Jakob Dylan.  You can “drag” the player time button over to her performance if you are not interested in Mr. Dylan. Minton Sparks also has her own website.

Just a thought, not a directive. If you cruise the internet for entertainment, this will be, I think, a fun episode with both of these sites.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Within or Beyond?"

Beyond Their Means

I have been doing it all wrong. I have been trying to live within my “means”. I thought I was following the habits that I had been taught growing up. You have met him in “Paw Paw Sacks”, “Lady McQuay”, “Put Up’t Tomatoes”, and perhaps others. He and my mother had been living “beyond their means” up until their passing and I didn’t know it. After he passed away, I took over the day to day operations of the bank statement, you get the picture. My mother lived and stayed on another three years. Not me, nor any other writer, is clever enough with words to convey how determined they were. An instant “blended family”, with the added opportunity of being share cropper poor, was grounds for an interesting lifestyle. This is not about how they negotiated though the financial and sociological rapids of raising three girls and a boy, all public school ages, but a synopsis of the outcome. Future stories will unravel the plot and introduce you to the characters.

Both of them had grown up through the Great Depression and had experienced firsthand true hardship. As youngsters, we were glad that we didn’t have to experience the same situations as we heard during the front porch conversations after supper. We knew that there were things that we were not accustomed to but seldom did I feel poor. Somehow we made it over the hurdles that presented themselves, from time to time. Credit was a necessity but it was taken very seriously. Credit was something to be afraid of and kept in check. Credit was allotted within a frame of mind of how you were going to pay it back. Credit was used for necessities. There was never a thought of buying something on credit that you didn’t need.

“Let me ask you something”. My sister that is my age, except she is four months OLDER than me asked, no demanded. We were sitting in the porch swing that actually hung from a frame in the back yard of their house.

“What?” All the time I wondered what kind of butt chewing I was in for. (Not really)

“Does Daddy always try to give you money?”

It had been almost a half century since the “blend” had been concocted. “You too?" He asks me that every time we go eat fried fish.” My thoughts, for some reason, jumped back to when school pictures were ready and there was such an effort to make sure we all had enough money for pictures to pass around to kin folks and friends at school.

“I don’t want or need to take from them, besides If I took it all I would still probably be…...” well my daughters might read this so you will have to fill in the blank with anything you want. The cackle echoed off the green asbestos style siding on the house. I laughed as well.

“Hell, take twenty bucks from time to time. It will make them feel better somehow.” I guess I was feeling a little guilty. He had bought lunch earlier that day.

Such a short time later, it seemed, my three sisters and I were sitting in their kitchen getting ready to draw numbers out of a hat to see who would go first. A lifetime of trinkets were sorted and place around in full view. Jewelry, watches, bibles, the list is too long to mention. One sister was designated to select for the older brother who was unable to be there. We started. We took turns selecting items that each of us wanted as a keepsake. More attention was given to watching the others as we touched each item. At the slightest indication that the chosen piece was important to someone else, it was left or offered to the other person. These were things they were given over the many years. Seldom did they indulge for themselves. We completed our task.

“Glenn you have to do the rest.” No questions or directions were given.

Still sitting in my pickup, looking across the deserted campground, listening to the Angelina River water ripple toward the Gulf of Mexico, there was the fire pit where fifty years ago, I watched my first pot of River Coffee being “cooked”. I realized just how far beyond their means they had lived. My goal was to take care of the rest of the loose ends. The final services had been covered. The hospital and doctors and been compensated. The house had long been paid for. The three automobiles were paid for. No outstanding obligation was left standing. The thirteen grandchildren and umpteen (I have tried to count three times and failed) great grandchildren had a little surprise coming, and still had six one hundred dollar bills with which I intended to “buy supper” for the girls. (And have).

This school custodian and restaurant waitress set for us a standard that I hope that I can someday reach. At first glance you might say they lived within their means. Trust me or ask anyone who knew them. They lived waaayyyy beyond their means.

Painting: A River Landscape, Peder Mork Monstead 1897

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Dry Hot Plains of Texas

Trudging one foot in front of the other, hampered by the gouge in his thigh from the 50 caliber buffalo gun, Shane was desparate for a drink of water.  The Texas sun was beating down.  The only shade was his Stetson felt hat.  Sweat was exploding from his whole body.  He raised his head to look toward the horizon...... Damn I am in the wrong movie....
Texas February 12th

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Invict Us

Six more minutes until the bell rings.

“Out of the night that covers me….” Ok, I will memorize this thing tonight. The last half of class was designated as study time to give us a jump on the homework assignment but my concentration was on the clock above the caulk board. Invictus. Sounds a little bit sinister. My favorite lines “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul”, held little support for my more pending anxiety. Four more minutes until the bell rings.

She was late getting to school. She did not ride my bus. Actually we weren’t in the same grade level. Two more minutes. Changing class at the end of a subject period was a major social event. A short event but at times could be very intense due to the brevity. Surly she had made it to school before the first class was over. Today I will speak to her. I am pretty sure she will talk to me. Just last week as we passed in the hall a small smile gave me confidence. I think she was smiling at me. One more minute until the bell rings. We have five minutes between classes. Maybe we can talk about the football game Thursday night. I think there might be a reception after the game. The high school always has one.

The snap of books shutting coincided perfectly with the rolling clang of the class bell. Chairs clanging against desk fortified the signal of the bell. The rush to the halls was in full gait. I only have five minutes. I can’t be late for science again.

“Excuse me. Opps, sorry.”

Pushing and shoving to get to the hall. Finally the room emptied into the hall. Frosted blonde. Ok, nope that’s not her. An instant case of “cotton mouth”, as I recognized the "letter sweater" turning from the midway stairway landing and descend the last half of the staircase at the other end of the building. I would never live it down it I threw up right here in the hall, not even counting the fact no telling who all would be splattered in the ordeal. Ok, now that thought made me feel better. If I take normal strides, we should meet just past the intersection of the other hallway. Oh goodness, six more steps.

“Hi.” The high pitch of my voice shocked me back into reality. Where did that come from?

“Hello.” A brief hesitation and a smile as if she had not finished her sentence.

“Come on, move it!” The crowd following either of us was not interested in our conversation.

Man oh man, if I just had a couple of minutes, I would have had it made. Maybe I didn’t win that battle.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.
(William Ernest Henley)

That was a smile, wasn’t it? She said hello. YESSSS!

"Ok class, let's get started."

Only Fifty-five more minutes until the bell rings.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010



The rain finally stopped after three days of on and off drizzle. Nothing had been able to hold his interest since the company had closed and liquidated its inventory. It seems all the late nights and weekends over the years was riding the skim along the curb being washed down the gutter. Two months and he still had no prospects with new employment. The severance package allowed him to take his time to secure a new job as long as he used good judgment. It was kind of pleasant spending a few days in Charleston. No rush, no deadlines. Just doing whatever he wanted to do for a few days.

The houses turned trendy shops along the street held little interest as he strolled down the historic district. He was following his sense of smell toward the aroma of fresh, roasted coffee. An empty table with only one chair snapped his attention. The heavy wrought iron chair screech as it dragged against the rough sidewalk as he sat down.

“No, just plain regular roast coffee, no cream or sugar, please.”

The waiter was dressed in white slacks and white shirt. His black vest matched the stripped canvas awning covering the sidewalk. The stranger blended into the crowd that had begun to gather along the street since the sun started to peek through the clouds. Young children laughed and played as their parents toyed with the wares of the neighboring shops. Relaxing had never been on his list of daily routines. Today was no exception.

It was easy to expect the jolt of caffeine. The brew was that good. Holding the cup in both hands, leaning on his elbows, his gaze caught a glimpse of movement through the window across the street. The design was more of a studio than a storefront. There were no wares placed in the window to draw the attention of the holiday shoppers. Some sort of cloth drape was covering an artist easel that faced toward the street. Removing the covering, a young artist immediately started with her brushes. Random strokes, it seemed to him. The fluid movements and pastel colors had a hypnotic effect. Soon, he was captivated.

A burning sensation shot through his elbows and up his forearms. How long had he been sitting in that position? A quick glance at his wrist watch indicate over an hour had passed. Screeching his chair he stood up trying to shake off his disorientation. The cloth covering was place over the canvas and the lady obviously left the studio. A feeling of anxiety flooded over his mood as he crossed the street and placed a hand on the window of the studio. Peering inside, he could see the covering still swaying back and forth. He had apparently missed the artist’s exit.

Today might be the day. He was poised at what had become “his table”. This had been going on for two weeks. Some days there was no activity in the glassed studio, but he had to make sure he didn’t miss a day. The lure had become too great. With the painting, arms and body had taken on a life form, blending into the background, without giving away the identity of the ghostly figure. His white Kaki slacks and starched shirt had collected three days of wear and wrinkle. Frenzied anticipation replaced every day concerns and routine. Today might be the day. Maybe.

There was a movement behind the glass. The spilled coffee went unnoticed as he shifted to get a better look at the lady on canvas. The removed dust covering revealed a continuing kaleidoscope of colors. The facial features becoming apparent, while leaving the recognizable features as bland as an egg shell, ignited a mystery within the daily visitor. Maybe today. The coffee half finished, he jerked as if his foot has stepped off a bridge. His head was lying across his folded arms and numbness was felt along the right side of his face. The sun had dipped below the horizon and the street was once again alive with reveling merry makers. The clatter of the foot traffic had jostled him awake. The drape was covering the portrait. How had he missed the artist today? He had been determined to bask in every stroke, watching the woman on the canvas come alive. The disappointing grind of the steel chair signaled his departure for the day. Maybe tomorrow, just maybe.

The following night brought no rest for it was filled with reoccurring dreams of the olive skinned lady on the canvas. Long dark hair, pulled back and tied into a style often seen as the fashion of a ballerina, framed an elegant profile. Large gold hoop earrings accented the eyes and smile of contented mischief. This could not have been the lady on canvas. The features were yet to be brushed by the artist. Where had he seen this face? Tired and weary, but without ability to sleep, he turned to the brown bottle of spirits to relax his fidgetiness. A half bottle into self medication, weariness tipped the scales toward sleep. A more peaceful rest, he had never experience. The cool night air brought a chill into his quarters as he slept through a dream filled sleep. Stirring in the middle of the night, a chill had fallen upon his shoulders. A damp and lingering chill. Attempting to reach for the woolen blanket he knew to be at the foot of his bed, he rolled gently to reach for the blanket. It was as if he was somehow fastened flat of his back to the cot. The harder he attempted, the tighter he seemed to be fastened. At the point of exhaustion, the stranger collapsed once again on his mattress. The candle had burned through its tallow and the room was totally absent of light. The heavy beating of his heart and deep laboring breaths were the only sounds in the room.

“Dawn will arrive shortly.” He whispered softly.

He supposed he whispered. No one was there to hear his words or he would have yelled louder hoping that someone would come to his rescue. The thought of a stroke or some other health related catastrophe went through his mind. There was no idea of the time of night. The oddest ideas appear at times like this. He would get a striking clock on his next visit to the shops. Even in a pitch black night the counting of the chimes would tell the time of hour. He would be patient. Each attempt get up from the bed brought the bounds tighter and tighter. Imagination or actualization? Time passed. Finally, the night felt to be fading. Eye muscles ached as they were pushed beyond their limits, attempting to land upon a recognizable speck. There. It appeared as a slinder streak, no wider than a hatpin - a golden streak of light piercing through the window. His eyes could not easily adjust from the long hours of darkness. The light beam inched its way down the wall facing his left. The room was beginning to become illuminated. Just a few more minutes. Maybe. In the window?

“Is someone standing there?” Once again, words not verified for ears to hear.

Advancing sun rays projecting into the room focused a mirror imagine on the glass panes. The coffee shop was visible beyond the figure directly across the narrow street. The image at which he looking, was not a figure at all. It was the likeness of the lady in his dreams. The mischievous smile and large gold earrings were the key. Yes, it was definitely her. The painting was finished. How had he missed it? But, this wasn’t the painting in the window. Was he still dreaming? Instead of her arm resting, relaxed, on a bookcase, it was hooked through the arm of another figure. Why had the artist painted the lady so perfectly dressed and this other figure was crumpled and disheveled. It appeared to be his suit. The sun’s ray continued crawling down the wall giving greater contrast to the reflection. His heart skipped a beat and then raced unabated. Breathing was labored with the tightness holding him into place as if he were sewn into, - into a canvas. No sound could be heard for the scream was suspended in time. There was no mistaking the recognition of the gentleman suitor reflected in the pane of glass.