Lovely Rita

Saturday Stories #9

rita's story

When Rita was a little girl, there was a song about a meter maid, and it sounded like such fun, and she grew up to be a meter maid of charm and loveliness, and instead of grousing over tickets people would see her name tag and smile and say, “Oh, it’s you! ‘Lovely Rita, Meter Maid.’ And yes, I suppose I am a little late getting back to my car, and I’ll cheerfully pay my fine because you asked so sweetly.”

But then they equipped the meters with devices that did Rita’s job with electronics and told her “It’s not performance-related, it’s the economics,” and the sadness returned to the meters and the resentment: “I was only a few minutes late, damn machine.”

But Rita never lost her smile, and if she were sad not to be walking among her meters – and it did make her sad – she never let on, she just went on to share her charm and her loveliness in other places and for other people, who said, “You’re so lovely, Rita; lovely Rita, you should have been a meter maid.”

And she would say, “I was, for a time, but this is now. And I’m so grateful, at least, that I had that chance, for a while.”

Photo 102417709 © Kamil Janiszewski |

The miracle of words

miracle of words

When Poe wrote “The Raven” or Shakespeare “Hamlet,” did they stop at the end and say, “This. This is what I will be known for, in a space of time measured in generations” – or did they just pick up and write the next, forgotten words?

There are times when you say yes, these are good words, and times the words you never suspected have touched a soul. The words in combination march along, march away, and they are heard sometimes in ways that are more than you intended or realized.

That is the wonderful surprise of saying something – the miracle of being heard – the precious dance of speaker and listener, writer and reader, the creative mating that grows (at best) into a wondrous understanding, an insight rediscovered or newly found.

Speak and be heard; speak and listen for the echo; remember what was forgotten and tell about it; and find what was lost without realizing it was ever gone.

A next time sometime past time

a next time sometime past time

The old man sits, head bent, eyes closed, in his familiar comfortable chair, pen poised above paper bound, blank and waiting.

Suddenly his eyes drift open and his hand begins to scrawl across the page: “I remember this – this is how it was – this is why it is the way it is now – this is what I recall and when and where.”

He scrawls, alive, bringing the past and the memories and the what-is-it to life. And scrawls and scrawls.

And just as suddenly, the words have been written and the images and the thoughts are spent. Hand poised over paper, just in case, his eyes flutter and his head sags forward, and he snoozes, waiting for the next burst of energy and thought and yesterday and tomorrow and dreams of a next time sometime past time.

Here comes a living soul, and another, and another, flying past his house on a mission from here to there, thousands a day on millions of missions – and somehow it all comes together.

… This is why I rise before I’m ready: to write on these pages. The words may be nonsense, but it comforts me to extract them from bleary blurs and to ramble across the page – and maybe the nonsense means something after all. If I’d slept another hour, the pages would still be blank, wouldn’t they? And then they would be saying something else entirely.

A field now lost to time

a field now lost to time

The sun was a white burst without shape in the sky, and crickets sang all around, and the green of the plants was pale, and bees and bugs hummed away minding their own business all about. A path led from one street to the church parking lot and to the other street a block away – not an alley or any straight path built by man, just a path worn by child feet meandering from here to there looking for beetles or bottle caps or any other such wonder as might be found.

It was the times when the only agenda was to discover what’s out there, to explore what there was to explore, and if nothing came of today’s exploration, no matter, because there would be more exploration and more discovery tomorrow. No greater good because this was as great as could be. And it WAS good – or not – I don’t recall judgments being made.

The field is gone now. What would you expect? It’s 60 years later. Those who were once 5 years old and exploring have blazed through careers to retirement, and those who were 35 and moms are loving their great-grandchildren or they are gone, and those who were 65 and retiring are long ago at rest, and this generation of bees and bugs is somewhere else.

Somewhere else, then, a little girl or boy runs across a field alive with crickets and buzzing noises and marvels at a butterfly in wonder, and discoveries are made all over again in a circle old as time – although, time never ages, does it? And 60 years from now, will the child’s field be paved over and forgotten? Or will she, sitting with her pen and/or tablet, describe a memory with words that echo through the centuries and touch a heart that sees the pale green field, and a child running, all over again?

My field was alongside a Methodist church, and the town was Little Falls, New Jersey, but the reader sees it with different eyes and recollections, so it could be anywhere that crickets sing and beetles leap and bees hum about, a green oasis from the mad covering we called civilization.

Beware the Ides

Saturday Stories #8

A public square, people walking, vehicles buzzing past.

“Beware the Ides of September!” cried the old bearded man, boring his wild eyes deep into the stranger’s soul, and then, as the stranger stared at him confused, stepped forward and shouted this time: “Beware the Ides of September!”

“Don’t you mean March? Caesar’s death and all that?” asked the stranger, perhaps a bit condescending, perhaps a bit amused.

“Six months on. The assassins fall in among themselves,” said the crazy one. “Your sins shall find you out. Beware the Ides of September.”

‘Well, I haven’t killed any emperors lately,” said the stranger, smugly now. “I think I’m safe.”

“It’s the ones who think they’re safe who are in the most danger,” the mad prophet snapped. “Beware, I tell thee. Beware the Ides of September!”

“Poppycock,” said the stranger, and stepped in front of a dump truck bearing the name Ides & Sons Gravel and Excavating.

Something goes horribly wrong

Saturday Stories #7


“I love the feel of paper in my hands,” the wild-eyed woman said. “Do you know the feeling? Do you?”

“I know exactly what you mean,” the nervous old man said. “Exactly.”

“You do, do you?” She said, moving ominously close to him. “Do ya, punk? Exactly?”

“I really think you should take a deep breath,” he breathed, “and put down the weapon.”

“And all this time I thought you were my friend,” the old woman snarled. “All along you were plotting to bring me down.”

“That’s not true! I mean, yes, I am your friend.”

“How do you explain how you knew my cat is gone? Did you kill her? Did ya, punk?”

“No, of course not. I heard the news from your neighbor.”

“And only the thief would know my necklace was stolen from the drawer in my closet.”

“Don’t come any closer.”

“I’ll come as close as I want,” she said quietly. “Why are you dead set on making my life miserable?”

“You told me yourself about the drawer in your closet. I just assumed that’s where your necklace was stolen from.”

”You know what you do when you assume, right? You make an ass out of u and me.”

“For the love of God, Agnes!”

The next morning the nice detective came to the door to say her necklace had been found in the stash of a young burglar who had struck several homes in the neighborhood. While they were talking, her cat hopped up on the stoop and rubbed against the detective’s leg, back from a long adventure.

“Oops,” said Agnes.

Comfort & Joy, Detective Agency

Saturday Stories #6

the office

Chapter 1

Adam Comfort woke with a start.

“Whoa, that was close,” he said to himself, and he realized he was sweating – or out of breath – or wait, what was close? How did he know he just escaped from – something?

Just like that, the dream was gone.

The brick view out his bedroom window was the first anchor of the morning to reality. What the hell had he been dreaming? It was a hell of a dream, that much he remembered – if he was a movie writer, he’d be rich if only he had written it down. It was about – what? He was chasing down – something. He and his partner were about to capture – someone – and just before he woke up they were caught in a trap by – whoever. He had quickly lost every little detail about the dream – well, most of the details.

“I’ll always remember the skunk,” he said out loud. Good grief, the skunk. Continue reading →

Morning in the garden of good and evil

letter to the editor dreamstime_s_51857409

Where do they all come from, these bug-eyed monsters, these giant ants in the New Mexico desert who fly to Los Angeles to live in the storm sewers? What brought to existence the man who pieced together body parts and lighted a spark of life into the remains? Why tell the story of doomed lovers on a ship destined to sink? What made the story of the man whisked to Mars leap into Edgar Rice Burroughs’ mind and out his fingers?

How do we see things that never were and cannot be? What allows us to see a better world – or a worse world? We conjure spirits and realities out of thin air. It would be best if we use this power wisely, and for good, not evil. Continue reading →