Sunday, July 26, 2020

Trickle Down Wishes

         The weight of a U.S. twenty-five cent piece is just about 2.3 grams and is composed of something called “cupro-nickel” and has been that weight since the 1960’s.

In 1984, if you asked Gary Bleckner, well, he would have a different point of view.


          “These damn things weigh a ton,” Gary remarked, heaving a sealed bucket off the hand truck and onto the floor of the cavern. “How much ya think’s in here?”
         “Dunno. Couple hundred bucks?” Dennis responded, swinging a second bucket next to the first.
          “Nah. No way. There gotta be more than that. Gallon jugs full of qwar-ders...I’d say...a grand a bucket.” Gary tore the tape that sealed the bucket off the container and pulled the top off to reveal coins of various denominations.
          “I thought it was supposed to be quarters?” Dennis questioned Gary, wiping his hands on his Levi’s and kneeling closer to the opened receptacle.
         Disregarding the interrogation, Gary asked, “Indiana Jones? Didya see that one? Now THAT’S a movie. I don’t know about all these pirates and blood a kids movie?” Gary thrust his hand into the open bucket, lifted out a handful of coins, and began scattering the change on the ground. “And this ain’t the treasure? You know, when I was twelve, I would have killed for a bucket of quarters.”
          “‘Cept it’s not’s pennies, too.”
          “Ah. Still. You know what I mean.”
          The two men slowly took turns pulling up handfuls of change, one at a time, and sowing the ground with the fortune.
          “Eh. I don’t know Gary. I like the Gremlins one. Made me laugh,” Dennis suggested, “I know it’s a kids movie...but it was cute. My girl loved it.”
          “Oh yea? You like that one? You know I worked on that one?” Gary offered casually, slowing his pace and peering at the credulous Dennis who was kneeling and catching a respite. Gary turned back to the bucket of change. “That whole eatin’ thing was my idea ya know,” scooping a fresh handful and continuing, “...I was cleaning up green slime shit in a kitchen for goddam three hours and I told Steve that this mess reminded me of the time this old dog of mine got into the bottom shelf of the fridge while we were sleeping and got sick. Damn dog got into a jello mold that my wife made. Looked like ‘Nam!”
          Dennis, shifting his glance to a sideways head tilt, likening himself to Gary’s fabled retriever, considered whether he would chew on this story any longer. The quiet was loud.
          Gary cut through the silence, “Yea I guess those things were pretty funny lookin.”
          And the men continued, shuffling around the artificial rock cavern tossing piles of coins at the earth.
          “What is this supposed to be anyway, a cave?” Dennis questioned, walking over to the edge of some pooling water and looking up at the ceiling of the space.
          “It said, ‘WISHING WELL’ on the production work order,” Gary answered.
          “I guess that explains the coins? Are they supposed to be wishes? Maybe from the hole up there?” Dennis pointed to a gap in the cave ceiling, where an old wood barrel dangled from a rope.
          “WORK ORDER. They give us the order and we work. Don’t ask so many questions!” The obvious tension built from Dennis’ earlier inquisition had yet to dissipate.
          Dennis, understanding Gary’s tone, responded in-kind, “So did Steve get you the job here?”
          “Yea-- Steve, right....It’s like I’m always saying...the union has weight. Maybe not as heavy as these goddamn buckets of qwar-ders...but the Teamsters take care of you. And THAT’S why I am voting for Reagan next week.”
          Dennis listened to the pitch, and a few clumsy verbal somersaults, all the while nearing the end of his bucket of change.
          “The Teamsters got me this job. And The Teamsters say to vote Reagan. I suggest you do, too.”
          “I’m not so sure. Remember the airlines? What about all this bustin--”
          “Dennis. This is the movies. Ain’t got nothin’ to do with the airlines. And while we’re at it, one piece of advice. They are always listening. Someone heard me talkin’ once and they even used one of my lines in that Goblins one.”
          “Right. Gremlins! So watch what you say! You want to keep working around here? Keep talking like that! You’ll be beggin’ for coins instead of throwing them around a cave!”
          In his heated defense of the Teamsters, Gary began to stumble. Tripping over an untied lace and losing his grip on the damp cavern floor, his steadying steps only found piles of soon-to-be discarded wishing coins to slide across. In what felt like a lifetime, the next few seconds Gary watched the inevitable tumble and fall draw nearer and he considered whether one of these coins was his own dream. His own wish. And whether he could take it back? Whether he could take it all back?
          And as he closed his eyes and prepared for the darkness he felt it...the strong sure hands of Dennis.
          “Careful there. I got you. You can’t keep working if you Die!” Dennis quipped confidently.
          Loosening his grip on the steadied Gary, Dennis stepped back to his bucket. In one motion he lifted the almost emptied bucket of coins and splashed the remaining change over the pool of water.
         Gary closed the other bucket and used it as a seat. He pulled a flattened pack of Winston’s from his breast pocket, lit up, and took a pull.
          “Die? Ah shut up. You know what it’ll say on my headstone? Garys. Never. Say. DIE,” punching his pinched cigarette with each word.
          In one week, an election would be decided, and somewhere off set, the not-so-great communicator, Gary, had inspired the bucket load.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Practical Guidelines for the Magically Uninformed

While picking a berry from the very same tree the squirrels politely warned him about one day earlier, Dave mulled this undeniable truth…

Talking squirrels are jerks. 

Thus far, the Magical Forest lived up to its name, but its magic had yet to reach Dave's stomach.

Dave was torn between trusting these tree-rats or sampling the delicacies that these chatty rodents were clearly hoarding for themselves.

So that morning, with the squirrels out foraging, he decided the tree's vacancy was an invitation. 

“What makes them the experts?” Dave said, rebelliously tossing the ripened morsel into his mouth. “Hm. Tastes itchy.”

Friday, May 29, 2020

The Chippening

          “When I was young my father would spend summers mending fences and clearing brush around our farm. Every morning I’d run to the window, just as he would cross the tree line at the edge of our homestead and disappear for the day. I can still picture him in his overalls, caked with dirt and muck, and swinging his wood ax, it’s long wooden handle smoothed to satin by use and the passage of time.
          At dusk he’d return, his hands would be cracked and blistered from the heat of the sun, glistening from the sweat of his work, and battered by the order he was laboring to create.
          His ax, he’d return to its place with force, into the side of the stubborn old swamp maple just below my bedroom window. Each day, slicing though the air and chopping a new notch in the body of the tree. It was as if he was putting the day to rest with the last bit of strength he had left. Each day leaving a new chink in the armor.
          I can still hear the - CCCRAACKK - of the ax. It was like the sound of a slap. A single note of applause. Try it .You can mimic it. I swear it is the same noise. Each morning he'd take the ax. Each night he’d return it - CRACK.
          Today, when I think about it...when I try to really remember those hot summer days...I struggle to picture him coming home. I can’t visualize him walking up from the woods. Nor can I see him tired, or triumphant, or defeated from the day. And I certainly can’t see him replacing the ax. And maybe - the more I think about it - maybe it is because I never did see him come home? Maybe I couldn’t watch, maybe...he just looked too tired, too hunched, and too broken.
          But I can feel it, the same way you can feel a rainstorm or the color of dusk, you know? I can still feel him coming home...and I can hear the sound of it. I remember the crack.

Every evening. Crrrr-Ack.

A little deeper. CRACK.

A little deeper still.

          Then came that morning. The morning of 'the Chippening.' I ran to the window expecting to start the day, except, it was much later than usual. And when I looked out from the window, the ax and my father were already gone. The ritual was broken; all that laid behind was the tree. The old battered maple, no longer upright. No longer standing. Its top laid low around its base, its branches looking up at its trunk, roots and crown now level with each other. It must have splintered and fallen in the night.
          The odd part was that I never heard it fall. When my father came home at dusk, I heard the CRACK, like I usually do, but I never heard the tree fall.

I saw the ax, I saw the deep cuts...I saw the Chippening.

Deep down, even then, I thought it would hold.

Deeper and deeper, I saw that ax make room in the trunk of that tree. Deeper and deeper, until there was not enough to hold the weight. And then that morning came, while I was in bed, while I wasn’t there, while I wasn’t watching - it toppled.

No one was there to see it.

I was only there to see what was left. The remainder. The Chippening.”


          Patrick looked at the man, giving the man’s story a beat and time to linger. He considered everything he said, took a large gulp of suds, and responded thoughtfully, “I think it would make more sense if you called it ‘The Chipping.'”

The man finished his drink and let Patrick buy his next round.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Trust the Process

Undecided, Dave began to sink into the muck.

As frenzied grains of silt muscled over each other to smother him, he thought, "Maybe the voting process here in the Kingdom of Mud is dirty?"

“Pppppthhhit,” raspberrying the grains lemmying into his mouth, he finally conceded, “Alright, you win! It's a great Kingdom!”

Victorious, the fine silt cheered. In unison they ebbed, erred, and burped Dave onto the shoreline of the muddy pit.

United, the dirt droned, "Mmmmmajority rulessss."

Dave, catching his breath, remembered the rest of the world beyond this isolated hole and this very vocal minority.

He settled.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Hi, I'm Dave.

The voting started promptly at the beginning of time.

Air didn’t bother showing up, quite literally, gone with the wind. And water, well, water flooded the polls early but couldn't collect enough to sway the moot.

Eventually it came down to Fire, the most combustible, who sparked some interest and then wanted a recount before there was even a vote. However, this protest was stifled when Earth shook things up with her nominee, Dave.

Dave waved, and it started to sink in. He spoke, "Hi, I'm Dave, and I think I'm ready to be your guy."

He was not ready.