Timing Is Everything

In Uncategorized on February 18, 2015 at 6:58 pm

Ernest Miller Hemingway, 1899-1961

It was so sad reading about love gained and lost that it made me hungry.  I put down my paperback copy of A Farewell to Arms and made my way to the kitchen for a snack.  “Why would a man of Hemingway’s talent kill himself?” I asked out loud.  “He could have spent more time breeding cats with extra toes.”  The cat lying on the table was not polydactyl, and kept its own counsel on the matter of artistic suicide, so I continued on to the refrigerator.

Opening the door and hoping for salsa, I found myself looking instead at a young Ernest Hemingway.  He was sitting alone at a table, swearing into his mustache with his chin uplifted at a dangerous angle.  Gertrude Stein exited stage left, presumably into the ice maker, and I resolved to set things right, no matter the cost.

“You don’t know me,” I began, “but I know you, and we are going to get a little tight and settle this thing.”

“She is so God-damned right all the time, it drives a man to drink,” declared Papa.  “I will do it my way or not at all, by Christ.   Or not at all!”

“Of course,  you are quite right, one must be true to oneself and all that rot,” I murmured while signaling the waiter for a round of saucers and wondering if I had any interwar period francs in my wallet with which to pay.  No matter, it would take care of itself when the need arose.

As we toasted Paris and quaffed the first round, Ernest settled into a more dignified funk and revealed he was about to begin a novel but needed the ending first.  “How can you balance the scarcity of words with the vast emotional lives of the characters, eh?  Answer me that.  If you fail to begin in the correct manner, they will never arrive at their intended fate.”

Nodding as we drank the second round, I waited for the opportunity to present itself.  Some people learn the hard way or not at all, we had that in common.  My nerves were jumping as Hemingway gestured for the third drink.   Timing was everything.

“Timing is everything,” the young man continued, “If I do not start this story now, I will never get it right.  Art imitates life, and any damned thing will throw you off if you are not careful.”  The third round arrived, and if he noticed that his toast was met with my left hand, he made no comment.  “To Art!  May she blossom and die in the blink of an eye, for we have all time and a bottle of rye.”

I surged up and toward him as he lifted his cup, feeling the power rise from the floor and through my hips and back.  My right hand crashed into the side of his jaw and followed through as the chair tipped over.  I stumbled over his legs and stood above the literary lion.

“Real life does not always end with a carefully crafted climax, Ernie!”  He was down but not out, and I had to talk fast.   “Remember that when you think you need a better ending.  It goes on and on and it is stupid and ugly and all that we have got and art imitates life you son of a bitch, so stop trying to be perfect all the God-damned time!”

Hemingway glared as he rose up on one knee, and then advanced with a snarl.  “Don’t you think I know that?”   I had time to remember that the cuts of salami were in the crisper drawer and he was upon me.  He feinted with two jabs though my arms hung loosely at my sides, then landed the right.   My eye exploded in pain and light as the world went dark all around me.

“Don’t you think I know?”

The cold hard tile felt surprisingly good on my forehead, and the refrigerator door was wedged open by my elbow.  I reached into the drawer without getting up, grabbed several slices of cool deli meat and pressed them against my nascent shiner.  The cat was licking the cut knuckles of my hand and I shoved it away.  A Farewell to Arms still rested on the table, but now appeared to be twice as thick.  Something about the way the cat was licking his paws sent a shiver down my spine.  “Six toes,” I heard myself cackle, “he’s got six toes!”

Ernie Hemingway, 1899-1982


Separate Spheres

In Uncategorized on February 16, 2015 at 8:44 pm

Cash and the Changeling Coloring Book

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Young Cash Brandon was a different sort of boy, in several different sorts of ways.  For one thing, he was a very dark boy, both in coloring and in temperament, and prone to long silences.  His dark brown hair was liable to cover his eyes or his ears or both if not pushed back with a hurried hand, and although he wore plenty of red shirts and white socks he was bound to be described as the “boy in black” by anyone familiar with his appearance.

Another difference between Cash and the other four year olds of the neighborhood was that Cash had learned to read at a young age, and had an astonishing vocabulary for a pre-schooler.  When his father came back from a long sales trip for example, young Cash might say “Hello Father, I trust you had a fulfilling junket this last fortnight, mother and I have missed you terribly.”  And so on.

One day, Cash and his mother, Janene, were home as usual in their modest story and a half home when his mother made the mistake of asking what he was coloring.  Cash would gather his coloring books and crayons, bring them to an otherwise clear area, and proceed to color the pictures with a slow and steady hand for hours at a time.  One of the world’s great colorists, Cash never colored outside the lines.  What he did do was think carefully about his subjects, and what colors they deserved to be.  You or I or other children his age would color flamingoes pink, dolphins grey, and penguins black and white, but not young master Cash.  He would color a giraffe green with purple spots, and when questioned would ask in return “Doesn’t this particular giraffe deserve to be green with purple spots?  After all, he is the one who drove the rogue elephant away with his ultrasonic horn emissions.”  And so on.

So when the boy responded to his mother’s inquiry, she was prepared for an odd answer, yet not prepared enough.  “It’s a picture of a yellow dragon being pulled by a blue van,” said Cash.  “Well that’s an odd picture to find in a coloring book,” exclaimed his mother.  “I suppose they’ll be making you color pictures of minotaurs eating popsicles next!  What’s the name of that coloring book, anyway?”  “It’s my Changeling Coloring Book, mother,” said Cash.  “It’s my favorite.”

An hour went by as young Cash worked on his picture, and his mother busied herself with folding laundry, feeding the cat and blogging on her computer about where to find the best grocery coupons.  When Cash was finished working on his picture, he very carefully tore the page out along the perforations, walked it over to the refrigerator, and hung it up with the help of several colorful letter magnets.

“I’m going upstairs to take a nap now, mother,” Cash called as he walked by the combination guest bedroom and office where his mother was clacking away at a keyboard.  “Love you,” called his mother.  “Love you,” called Cash.

Something tugged at the corners of Janene’s mind and she couldn’t quite place what it could be.  Then it hit her; she would like to see what the picture of the yellow dragon being pulled by a blue van looked like.  “The Changeling Coloring Book,” she mused.  “Now what could that possibly mean?”

As she entered the dining room, she looked toward the refrigerator and was immediately able to locate the most recent picture to make the fridge.  Cash had rearranged the other half dozen or so pictures to make room for the new one and in so doing had created a dramatic focal point for his newest creation.  “Did he do that on purpose?” mumbled his mother.  Then she stopped short as she saw the picture itself.  She held her breath for a long moment, and then let out a guffaw.  “Oh my god that is so like me to be freaked out by a stupid picture from a kids coloring book.  Ha!  If only Lucius could see me now.”

The picture was indeed yellow and blue as advertised, but it actually portrayed a man pulling a wagon, pretty standard coloring book fare.  Cash had apparently decided that the man deserved to be blue, and the wagon deserved to be yellow, and the picture was as perfectly colored as could be, with long even strokes all within the lines, as always.

As Janene stood and looked at the picture, she began to think about the tension of being home alone with Cash most every day while her husband was out whooping it up on the road.  Sure, he always came home with new stories to tell and books for Cash to read, and sometimes a magic trick picked up from the locals at some small town bar, but it was hard to be alone for two to three weeks at a time, and emails and voicemails just didn’t cut it.  “What the…” Janene started to say, then nearly lost her balance but caught herself.  The wagon had wings.  It was a yellow wagon, and now it had grown wings.  And the wings were still growing.

Staring in horrified fascination, Janene saw the picture slowly moving its fields of color into new yet related shapes as the wagon stretched out, grew bigger, and somehow became a dragon tethered by a chain to a large blue man.  Next the man flexed his muscles like a bodybuilder, dropped on all fours and hunched into an automotive posture as his limbs became wheels, his teeth the grill, and his torso the body of a large blue van.

Janene was drawn again to the dragon, she could see the pain in the creature’s eyes as they bulged from the pressure of the metal collar squeezed around its neck.  Pain, and a promise of revenge.  The blue van was moving very quickly, and she was not sure if it was in malice or fear that the van accelerated.  If only the van would just slow down!

“Hi Mom,” said Cash from behind her.  Janene yelped, and spun around twice quickly to see first her son, then the picture as it had been, the yellow wagon and the blue man.  “I couldn’t sleep, I was thinking about you and father.  I know he misses you lots, and he wants to be here with us.  He’s a good man, he doesn’t deserve to be blue anymore.  I think I’m going to draw a picture of you two next.  Freehand. And happy.  Okay?  Mother, what’s wrong?”

Janene shook with silent sobs and a lone tear rushed hotly down the left side of her face.  “Sweetie, I want you to give me that coloring book, and I’m going to rip it into shreds, and we are never going to mention it again, now where is that Changeling Coloring Book?”

Cash looked up at his mother with patience beyond his years and replied, “Mother, they’re all changeling coloring books when I color in them.  That’s why I deserve to be black.”

And things were never quite the same.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.