I have long suspected that I'm a “Sugar Baby”. What does that mean? Well, let me tell you a story...
Sugar rationing during the war, World War II that is, fell heavily on my father. No, he didn't fight. He was born earlier than the Greatest Generation. Most of them were born during the Great Depression. He was born during the Great War, the War to End All Wars, World War I. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, my father was already a family man with a wife and a young son. However, I suspect that he wanted another son to increase his sugar ration.
DEBRA MURPHY HAD A VERY MESSY DIVORCE. She caught her husband cheating with her best friend, three neighbors, her tax preparer, her hair dresser, her bridge partner, her gynecologist, her employer, and two of their husbands. She severed all ties with them and negotiated a healthy settlement, alimony, and child support for their two children. Inasmuch as her ex-spouse had children with three other women, Debra didn't have much trouble with custody and visitation. He didn't want any.
So Debra returned to the life she had before she married the “cheating bastard” – her words – except that she retained the house. She even resumed life as she had entered it as the daughter of Howard and Elizabeth Takken. She took back her maiden name. She also had the children's names changed and the "scum-sucking low life" – her words again – didn't contest the action.
Her friends and neighbors adapted easily to the new identities, all except Gordon Horvath, the elderly gentleman who lived next door. He continued to greet her as Mrs. Murphy no matter how many times Debra corrected him. “I'm Ms. Takken.”
Gordon would shake his head with his eyes foggy in bewilderment. “About what?”
“I'm 'enry the Eighth, I am,
'enery the Eighth, I am, I am.
I got married to the widow next door,
She's been married seven times before.
And, every one's been a 'enery...”
I CAN'T GET THAT DAMN SONG OUT OF MY HEAD ever since they announced this week's topic – Henry VIII – on the Writer's Collection. I'm a student of history. My head should be full of historical images. But no, I'm stuck in the land of doggerel. You know where this is going to end up, don't you?
No? Maybe you don't, not unless you lived through the 50s. Those of us of advanced years complain bitterly about today's music, especially rap. However, you haven't heard anything until you get an earful of the novelty songs of my youth, doggerel set to music.
They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha Haaa – Monster Mash – The Purple People Eater. These are not the titles of serious art. Disco Duck – Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport – Beep Beep. Dear God, I still remember many of the lyrics. At the very least I could sing along without hesitation. In fact, I typed the lyrics to Henry the Eighth without looking them up and am absolutely certain that they are correct, although I cannot remember what I ate for dinner last night.
THE COLLABORATING AUTHORS of The Writers Collection sat around their virtual conference table. Some were sipping coffee or tea. A couple had snacks handy and at least one was pouring liberal doses of something suspiciously hard over ice cubes he had extracted from an insulated bucket that he kept off screen. He reached forward towards the screen with a grease pencil in hand and did something the others couldn't see. Most had never seen a grease pencil before. All wondered what he was doing with it.
At least two were scowling at Tony's portion of the mosaic that presented all the writers within individual tiles. He was the one who had provided this week's topic.
“Brotherswater!” Jack exclaimed. “What the hell is that?”
“Google it,” Tony replied patiently.
“I did,” Jack replied.
“We all did,” Nancy chimed in.
“So, then you know its a small lake in Cumbria,” Tony said.
Phillip Catshill nodded in agreement. He too was a Brit.
“Yeah, yeah,” Jack interrupted, “and two brothers drowned there.”
“So, what's your problem?” Tony asked and sighed his exasperation.
“Okay,” Jack challenged, “you write about one and Phillip'll write about the other. What's everybody else going to write about?”
THERE ONCE WAS A FROG named Maurice who lived in a small garret above his flower shop, Grenouille, on the Rue de Seine. It was a humble abode with a million dollar view of the rooftops of Paris and the Eiffel Tower, the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the River Seine. Beyond the peeling paint and cracked caulking of his window sash, the world was a colorful mossaic of trees, bricks, tiles, steel, stone, sky, and clouds.
Being a man of simple tastes, Maurice broke his fast with hot chocolate and a croissant at a nearby sidewalk cafe before opening his shop for the day. He only scanned the news this morning because he wanted to get an early start. He was going on a short trip to meet a grower who seemed to have spectacular blossoms for reasonable prices.
By the time Brigitte, his shop assistant, arrived, he already had the sidewalk displays arranged and the store swept out. He stopped only a moment to help Brigitte who was fumbling with the frog at her throat. Maurice seemed perplexed that the device easily opened at his touch and her cape fell from her shoulders, softly to the floor. Their eyes met. She smiled, then made a moue as he gathered the frock and hung it from a hook behind the counter.
NICK SAT AT THE BAR across the road from Pimlico Race Track, surrounded by Milt and his coworkers from the Country Truck Shop. Milt and Nick were both members of PeeWee Pobletts's race team. Nick was an alternate driver and Milt was a mechanic in the pit crew.
The gang of them sat with crab cake sandwiches and beers sitting untouched on the bar in front of them, their eyes glued to the closed circuit television above the back bar. No one spoke. Their mouths all hung open.
They had all seen the number five horse cross the line first, and were waiting on the Tot Board to make the results official.
No one seemed to be breathing. Droplets of condensation slid silently down the bottles and pooled at their bottoms.
The results, though expected, startled them when the board lit up. First place, number five, two dollar ticket pays ninety-six.
Wait for it. The synapses in all of their heads seemed to flash the signal from their eyes to their brains in slow motion. Then came the reaction.
THEY WERE DRESSED to the aces. Versace. Mccartney. Garavani. Accessories by Gucci. Bling – God, don't let them hear you call it that – by Belle Étoile, Chan Luu, David Yurman. Hair by April Barton, Sally Hershberger, Sharon Durram. And, don't get started on the shoes. Christian Louboutin. Alexander McQueen. They were tanned, slimmed, nipped, and tucked. They moved in their own circle daring anyone to join, daring anyone to not look. No one watched more closely than the two men.
The older man sat staring at the women unabashedly, the younger man at his side staring at the program he held in front of his face without reading it.
“What's the matter, son,” the old man laughed without taking his eyes off the ladies, “afraid they'll recognize you?”
A choking grunt was all the reply he received.
“So, what if they did?”
The younger man stood and placed himself between his father and the women, and the older man leaned to peer past his legs.
“Dammit, dad, they might recognize you,” the young man complained. “If they recognize you, they'll know it's me.”
The old man laughed louder and looked up at his son. “So what?” he responded. “So, they recognize you. What then?”
“They'll want to talk.”
JEFFREY LAY ON HIS BED surrounded by team pennants, books, and his collection of childhood trophies, solving algebra problems, when his mom stepped in the doorway.
“Uh, huh,” the boy responded without looking up from the equation.
“I need you to drive me to the drug store.”
Jeffrey dropped his pencil into the book gutter between his two pages of homework and hopped out of bed. “Okay,” he answered. His license was just three months old and he jumped at any chance to drive, even to take his mother on errands.
Jeffrey's mom headed downstairs while he recovered his sneakers from under the bed and put them on. He was half way down the stairs when doubt clouded his joy at getting a chance to drive. “You okay, Mom?” he shouted without knowing where she was.
Her voice filtered out of the hallway. “I'm fine,” she replied. “I just have...”
Jeffrey filled his mother's pause with a word, “Mom?”
Within moments, she appeared in the living room. “Really, it's nothing,” she assured her son. “I just have an errand to run.”
The boy stared at his mother, his mouth agape. She was dressed in her long camel hair coat. The netting from a wide-brimmed hat covered her face to the middle of her nose, and she was wearing sunglasses. She never wore sunglasses.
BOB RICHARDS WAS footsore and tired. Cowboy boots weren't made for walking, especially not his good ones. The heat radiating from the pavement and through his soles convinced him that his work boots wouldn't have been much better, but they might have been a little more comfortable.
The crowd that flowed around Bob was better equipped. They wore sensible walking and running shoes, some almost as expensive as Bob's hand tooled leather boots. They were dressed differently, too. There were a variety of costumes reflecting a myriad of cultures and socioeconomic strata, but none stood out more than Bob's Stetson hat. Strangers might have overlooked his jeans and his pearl-buttoned long sleeve shirt, but that hat drew their attention every time.
It was afternoon now, and Bob had been walking ever since he left the Hotel Taft after breakfast. Two breakfasts actually. The waitress may have wondered how he kept his boyish figure eating Texas-sized meals, but she had no doubt that his smile was a winner. She scowled the first time he called her “ma'am,” but quickly forgave him when she discovered that he used the appellation freely, even with women of every age seated around him.
I AM POSSIBLY the worst practitioner of cow pasture pool to ever pick up a golf club. Friends have assured me that there a worse players but have failed to ever provide the identity of even one. I usually shoot in the eighties, on the front nine. (That's eighty strokes in nine holes for anyone who knows less about the game than I.) By then, I sort of “warm up” and shoot in the fifties on the back nine. I went to Walter Keller's Golf Shop in Westwood, California, and signed up for lessons after having “played at” the game for some ten or fifteen years. The instructor had me “swing a few.”
“You've been playing for some time haven't you?” he asked.
I smiled and nodded like an idiot.
“Is it worth ten dollars an hour for me to take a few swings off your game?” he asked. Ten dollars was a princely sum in those days.
I smiled and shook my head like an idiot.
He then gifted me with a dozen golf balls and invited me to take my trade to his chief competitor. He must have truly despised the man.
That's as close as I ever came to a lesson.
Actually, I love the game. I love the fresh air. The pleasant walk in pleasant surroundings. A few hours spent with pleasant company.
Few of my golf-addicted friends ever asked me to accompany them. Shame, I'm certain, played a hand in their recalcitrance to be seen in my company on a golf course. Thus, I played with strangers, filling out many foursomes when a player became too ill to play due to, what I can only suspect, was a terminal illness. Surely no true golfer would miss a tee-time for any other excuse than a date with St. Peter.