I’ve been thinking of dieing lately. Not doing myself in. I’m over that. But dieing. It comes up in almost every drama program. If someone doesn’t die, there doesn’t seem to be much point to the story. And there’s always music in the background. Used to be the strings section. But now its usually a guitar. With a male or female voice. A generic voice. Singing something sensitive. Not Barry McGuire and the Eve of Destruction.

Although it is. And when you die the world hardly hiccups. Like when the planet dies. The universe’s reaction.

 

THE ONE ARMED MAN SPOKE GERMAN

 

Mr. Harvey, a middle-aged balding man was sitting in a chair in the corner of the small waiting room. Of a doctor’s clinic. In the back of the drug store. Sweating. Feeling that he might. Kick the bucket. At any moment. And every time. He thought of his name. Appearing. In the obituary column. Misspelled.

There was a kid beside him doing a crossword puzzle and peeing his pants. His blue jeans were getting darker. And the smell was making Mr. Harvey nauseous. Mr. Harvey leaned over and noticed that all the kid needed was one more word to finish.

“Paper Moon,” Mr. Harvey said.

He loved Elle Fitzgerald’s version of the song. And the movie. He loved the movie with Ryan O’Neil. And his daughter. Who certainly wouldn’t have sat on a waiting room floor peeing her pants. Since she seldom wore a dress. And was what they called a Tom. Like she was a cat. Or a turkey.

The kid looked up with a disappointed look on his face. The kid’s mother was listening to an Ipod. It was loud enough to hear the music.

The congregation sensed it and they knew what he meant.

My text today is you sinners must repent.

Who threw the whiskey in the well?

The kid tugged at his mother’s arm and whispered in her ear. After she had unplugged. The woman gave Mr. Harvey a dirty look and escorted her son to the washroom. On the way the kid turned back to Mr. Harvey and stuck out his tongue. Mr. Harvey reciprocated. Although he was surprised that he was up to the refrain. Having forgotten if only briefly. Why he was there. And where he was headed.

The doctor stepped into the room looking at a form on his clipboard. He looked around. He had the arrogant effluent appearance of a maitre d’ at an expensive restaurant.

“Mr. Harvey?” he cried.

Mr. Harvey raised his hand and approached the doctor. The doctor, nattily dressed in a shirt and tie and plaid jacket, put his arm around Mr. Harvey’s shoulder and escorted him to a small room.

“You think you’re having a stroke, Mr. Harvey?” the doctor said reading the form on the clipboard.

Mr. Harvey nodded, looking up at the doctor through his glasses. His vision was still blurred. There wasn’t a sound in the room. Is that a symptom?

The doctor took the patient’s wrist and listened to his pulse. He asked Mr. Harvey to take his shirt off. The doctor listened to his heart. Which from Mr. Harvey’s point of view. Was pounding. Like the alien. In its human womb. Ready to explode out of its cage.

“Everything sounds okay,” the doctor said. “Of course we’ll take a blood test and an ECG to be on the safe side. But tell me, Mr. Harvey, why do you think you’re having a stroke?”

Mr. Harvey put his shirt back on. He couldn’t see the buttons. Knew that he was going to misbutton. Is that a word? He couldn’t spell either.

“I don’t want you to think that I’m one of those people who goes crying to a doctor every time a muscle flinches. You shouldn’t go to a doctor every time you have a flinch, right?”

The doctor smiled.

“It depends on the flinch.”

“Oh,” Mr. Harvey responded and then seemed lost in his own thoughts for a few moments. Visions of his mother scolding him after he had scraped a knee, flirted with his attention.

“Mr. Harvey?” the doctor enquired.

Mr. Harvey looked up. “Oh, yes,” he said remembering where he had left off. “I’ve seen death, doctor. Been as close to it as you are to me. Smelled his breath. So I know what I am talking about.”

The doctor nodded appreciatively.

“Last summer, “ Mr. Harvey continued, “I went to Cuba. For the sun. I almost drowned. Pulled out to sea by an undertow. And then dragged down. I saw the underworld, doctor. All the floors of Dante’s inferno. Hell, doctor, is a shopping mall. That’s what it’s like. I thought I had been designated to a Goodwill store. But then a hand reached out to me. Like a miracle. A hand like the hand of God in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. I was pulled out of the froth by a German. Nice fellow. Thick accent. My savior. My savior only had one arm. Lost the other arm in an industrial accident. Or maybe he was in such a hurry to save me, that he left it on the cross. I washed his feet. I was that grateful. Of course it wasn’t necessary since we’d both just gotten out of the sea. But I felt that the gesture was appreciated.”

The doctor smiled. “And today?”

Mr. Harvey smiled. “Patience, doctor.”

The doctor looked at his watch. “Of course. Continue.”

“It’s more than one incident,” Mr. Harvey continued. “I was skiing at Mt. Tremblant. North of Montreal. I’m not much of a skier but I went for the air. One morning I went out for my constitutional walk. It’s important to get exercise every day. Well, I wasn’t looking where I was walking. And fell through a snow bank. And stopped. And when I looked down I saw that I was hanging over a precipice. Death was looking up at me. With its mouth open. Like in a Spielberg film. My arms were stretched out like Christ on a cross. And it was all that was holding me there. And the next moment I was grabbed by a fellow and dragged back into this world.”

“And your rescuer only had one arm,” the doctor suggested.

Mr. Harvey shook his head. “But he was German. And once again I had looked into death. Two strikes. You see what I mean, doc. I’ve got one more strike coming.”

“And this is your heart attack?” the doctor asked.

Mr. Harvey nodded.

“Can you be more explicit?” the doctor asked.

“I’ve been watching those ads.”

“Those ads?” the doctor asked.

“Yes, doc. The ads about strokes. About the warnings of a stroke. Sweating. Blurred vision. You see, I’d been playing hockey. We play every Friday. It was a particularly tiring game. I was exhausted. Legs cramping. Trying to keep up with the kids on the team. These 20 year olds think that Friday night hockey is the NHL. Fighting for every puck. I was really having trouble after the game getting my breath back. And then I noticed, sitting in the dressing room, after I got dressed, that my vision was blurry. I remembered the ads. The stroke ads. I thought it would go away. The blurred vision. I was driving to the pub after the game to have a drink but the blurring wasn’t going away.”

“You thought you were having a stroke and you drove to a bar?” the doctor asked.

“It’s a tradition,” Mr. Harvey said. “We always have a few pops after the game. Talk. About the beauty of our passes. And the glory of our goals. And an assortment of other lies. About work. About women. Some of the fellows are having marital problems.”

“And the blurring continued in the bar?” the doctor asked.

Mr. Harvey smiled. “That’s right. Even after a couple of beers. So I thought I’d better get to a clinic. Just to be on the safe side.”

The doctor stared at Mr. Harvey.

“And your vision is still blurry?”

Mr. Harvey nodded.

The doctor reached out toward Mr. Harvey and took Mr. Harvey’s glasses off. Showing the glasses to Mr. Harvey, the doctor put his finger through a space where there should have been a lens.

Mr. Harvey blushed.

“Your lens fell out,” the doctor said. “That I think explains the blurred vision.”

“Then I’m not having a heart attack,” Mr. Harvey said.

The doctor shook his head. “I’ll send the nurse in to take some blood and get an ECG. But, I shouldn’t think so.”

Mr. Harvey smiled. Embarassed. “Oh, my.”

The doctor turned to leave.

“Doc,” Mr. Harvey said.

The doctor turned around.

“You wouldn’t happen to be German, would you?” Mr. Harvey asked.

The doctor shook his head. “Lebanese.”

 

 

I don’t have a comb over. Not yet. But I was looking out at the night sky. Thinking about dust bunnies. And the underlying structure of the universe.

And I speculated that those dust bunnies and dust webs that appear over time in houses where husbands don’t help with the cleaning had a structure. And that structure was not unlike the appearance of the universe. Either God is a lazy husband who spends way too much time…. ya know… blogging. Or there is some underlying or pre-existing phenomena that caused this structure.

In the case of dust bunnies it would be air-currents. Wind. And in the case of the universe? Something like an air-current. And that you could measure the strength and direction of that force. Like if you measured a comb-over. And figured from its length and position the strength and direction of said wind.

My daughter is studying for a test in cognitive memory. What is a person without a memory? Are they human? Do they exist? What is a people without a history? Do they exist? Which is how diabolical the Nazis were. They didn’t just want to kill all of the Jews. They wanted to erase them from history. As if those people never existed. And who knows. Maybe it has been done before.

………………………………………………………

THE WIDOW SAT DOWN BESIDE HER

Mrs. Murphy, often called the Widow, propped up in her walker. Her arms like wires. Leaned against the counter in the cosmetic section of the drug store looking into the mirror that was looking back. She played with her hair. Remembering those cool April evenings, when in front of her vanity she drew a brush through her thick long brown hair. And the mice scurried across the floor. And looked up her night dress.

Without turning her head away, she spoke. Like she was Alanis Morissette.

“I used to be a great beauty.”

Deborah Hall, the cosmetician stood on the other side of the counter. Like a secretary waiting on the corner. For her boss, a married man, to pick her up. Cleaning the glass counter top. With a dry cloth. And no sense of humor.

Deborah hadn’t heard Mrs. Murphy. She’d been thinking of last weekend. It was already Tuesday and she was still thinking about Frank. About how funny he’d reacted. When she told him that he should make use of a good deodorant. Right after his eyes had rolled up in his head. Beads of sweat rolling down his forehead onto Deborah’s chest. And that terrible lonely sigh slipping out of his lungs. When he had reached his orgasm. Or what passed. He hadn’t phoned back. And it was Tuesday.

Deborah Hall looked at the Widow. Patiently. She’d heard the old lady’s story so many times. It was tiresome. How all the young men of her village had fought each other for the privilege of her… company. How she had met them in the parlor. Did anyone have a parlor anymore? She met them with the doors open. So that her mother could hear everything happening. As if anything happened. How the last one standing had proposed to her. Not standing. But kneeling. A sentimental cliché. But still romantic. And tragic in a kind of pathetic way.

Mrs. Murphy had fallen for someone else. Was that possible? A fellow she’d met while she’d been with Harry looking for his new car. Did she actually fall? Harry was another suitor. More interested in big automobiles. He never called them cars. Mrs. Murphy’s mother did not approve of Harry. He had grease under his fingernails. Why wouldn’t he? He was a mechanic. Owned his own service station. Wore his uniform as proudly as any sailor. Maybe her mother was right. He smoked. Held his cigarette in his teeth. Too tight. Like the Germans. There was a bad lot. In the big city. Where temptation lay. In small hotel rooms. With the windows open. In hot sticky August evenings. Mrs. Murphy told Deborah how someone across the way had watched them making love. Her and Harry. From another building. Where they made fans. On his lunch break. And Harry wasn’t the one she’d fallen for. That was Earl. He was an accountant. In his father’s business. And the fellow was standing in the window. Boldly. Holding his male thing. In his hand. While Harry did what he was proud of. And Earl was bound to inherit the business. And a comfortable living. And with the right woman, an ambitious woman, maybe expand into real estate. Mrs. Murphy believed in property. It’s the only thing that they’re not making any more. Of. Unless we travel the stars. And then all bets were off. And Mrs. Murphy stopped. To take a breath.

For a brief moment Deborah considered confiding in Mrs. Murphy. Should she phone Frank back? Or just chalk it up as one more guy? Who couldn’t appreciate a good thing. But then dismissed the idea. Talking to Mrs. Murphy. How could you trust anyone who had so much stuff dangling from her? And we’re not talking about jewelry. From the chin, the neck, under the arms. And we don’t want to imagine anything else. Being old is so hideous.

“Dear,” the Widow said. Attempting to get Deborah’s attention. From her own selfish thoughts. Maybe laying with her lover. Under a tree. Where’s it’s shady. Deborah smiled. Mrs. Murphy had succeeded.

Then all the young men were gone. Mrs. Murphy continued. This time as she had on previous occasions. Gone. Young men sucked up in the war. Lost in foreign mud. With her image in their hearts. Like a thorn in our Saviors flesh. She’s Pathetic.

That’s what it is. Deborah believed when she stood in her smart little outfit in the drugstore. But in those moments late in the evening when Deborah was alone. She wondered. As she cleansed her face with care. Whether she would feel that way when she was Mrs. Murphy’s age. And how fast that time might come. And would she have any memories of her own. To soothe a lonely soul.

Mrs. Murphy leaned over the counter and whispered to the cosmetician.

“There are only two things that smell like fish,” she said. “And one of them is fish.”

“Mrs. Murphy!” Deborah cried and stepped away. The widow often talked like this in Deborah’s ear. When there was no one about. If only the old lady would speak loud enough for others to hear, she would have a witness. And proof enough to have her removed from the store.

Deborah turned on the old woman and spoke lowly as if in confidence.

“How can you talk to me like this? Such intimacies should not be shared amongst strangers. And we are certainly not friends.”

The old woman giggled and returned to her previous conversation.

“Oh, yes,” the Widow said standing more erect to get a look at her bosom in the mirror. “I had all the young men eating out of my…” She smiled at Deborah and added. “Lap.”

“Mrs. Murphy, you mustn’t…”

The widow stepped back over to the counter and took Deborah’s hands in hers. Took them swiftly. Like a thief. Ready to run off.

“All my life I’ve been holding back but not now. It’s so liberating being my age. You can say anything and be forgiven.”

“But I…”

“Don’t you have gentlemen friends,” the widow asked, “who, in the heights of passion, whisper lovely obscenities in your ear?”

At that moment a mouse ran down the middle of the aisle. Deborah Hall unable to scream, pointed at the small furry animal. Mrs. Murphy turned and seeing the animal, brought her foot down heavily on the floor. The tiny creature disappeared under the Widow’s shoe. A moment later a pool of blood crawled out. Deborah Hall, about to scream, fainted instead.

Funny. Well, not actually funny. But Christianity always puts more emphasis on hell than heaven. Ask about Heaven and you get blank stares. A friend asked a priest if there is sex in heaven. The priest said no. I guess there’s no beer. Or Sunday football. No beach. Nothing apparently but a frontal lobotomy.

Ask about hell. Its like an S&M smorgasbord. Fire. Brimstone. Fox News. There is no end of pain. The eternal dentist appointment.

Is there a 3rd choice?

 

 

He ain’t that smart

March 12, 2012

Socrates I think it was who said that the thing you had to worry about was the dirt under your nails. Meaning that. Its the needle in the haystack that devastates you. That minor let down in life that becomes the last straw. What kills you is not that tornado that you saw on television the night before. But the toast burning this morning at breakfast. I thought that if God did exist he could have done a better job designing our teeth. Just goes to show. He ain’t that smart.

………………………………………

AN ARGUMENT AGAINST THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

 

Bea pulled up her skirt. Tucked in her blouse. Drew a finger across her lips. Looked in the mirror. Everything presentable? Buttons straight. She loved her eyebrows. Lorded over them. They turned up at each end. On time. Like she was going to ask a question. Kept people on their toes. Made them feel – uneasy.

Make-up. A soft brush across the cheeks. A touch on the lips. Eye liner. Make the eyes look bolder. Powder on the nose. And the chin. Where a few days before she had spotted some migrant hairs. They were gone. Out of sight – out of mind. She thought for a moment. Who thought up that phrase. A phrase she enjoyed mulling over in her mind. It made her feel… thoughtless.

I dim all the lights and I sink in my chair.

Bea did a side step. Promenade. A fox trot out of the washroom, down the hall, and into the kitchen. Oh God, it feels great to be a woman. Who is light on her feet. If her appearance matched her dancing, men would throw themselves at her.

The smoke from my cigarette climbs through the air.

She turned the coffee maker on. It smelled like Artie Shaw.

The walls of my room fade away in the blue.

And popped some frozen pancakes into the microwave. Laid them out on Brian’s plate. Like corpses in a morgue. They would dry out. All he had to do was to pop them in the toaster. If he got up before noon. If he didn’t go out for lunch with his friends. If he didn’t… Bea shook her hair.

And I’m deep in a dream of you.

Rustling like leaves in the fall.

God, there is something crazy in the air.

Bea laughing. Out of the blue. Out of desperation. And her heart fluttered. Like a butterfly in her chest. She couldn’t continue to worry about her son. He was twenty-six years old. She moved. Two steps backward. Slowly. If only he could hold down a job. Quickly to the left. One step. Why was it so difficult to show up on time? Two steps forward. And then a promenade. And why did women have to dance backwards? Was it because men couldn’t manage it?

A smile gripped Bea’s face. Like a vice. She was no longer pretty. Maybe she never was. But she had been young. One time. And loved it. Carefree. Her hands in the air. Shaking her curly hair to Hendrix. Really mixing it up.

Bea stepped out of the house. Like she had a thousand times. After locking the door behind her, she stepped jauntily around to the driver’s side of her Honda. Sprightly. She smiled when the motor turned on. Dance lessons again that night. Where was she going to get the money to buy another car when the Honda finally kicked the bucket? Maybe she’d start taking cabs. And giggled.

Why didn’t we take out more life insurance, Mel? Bea smiled. Most of the students at the dance class were women. Men are such cowards. But still she loved to move around the floor. Even if it was in the arms of another women.

Mel wanted to take out much more insurance. As if he knew his days were numbered. And wouldn’t she have been in the peaches. If she had agreed. But she wanted to take dance lessons. She should have listened to Mel. Or was that just guilt? She was still alive. And where was Mel? On a couch somewhere. Up there. Watching television. Asleep.

Bea backed down the driveway and waited for the street traffic to break. She looked back at the house.

At least the mortgage is paid off.

Just as she was about to back into the street, she heard the bang. Like a midnight backfire. From some kid’s jalopy. And then the left side of the Honda sagged. Depressed. Giving up the spirit. She got out. Looked at the flat tire. Crossed her arms. And wished secretly that she could sing.

Taking out her cell phone she called the drug store to let them know that she would be late.

Late. Don’t know how late. But late.

She wondered if she could manage changing the tire by herself. Or should she call a service station? Or should she wake up her son and ask for his help? She shook her head.

No. I can’t face him this early in the morning. And opened the trunk of the car and took out the jack and the extra tire. I’ll have to go back and change.

Bea threw her arms up into the air and laughed.

“There is no God!” she cried. Took the jack and smashed in the front window of her… car.


Elysium

March 11, 2012

Sunday afternoon. Suffering from 2 much scotch. Mixed with an old body. And I’m feeling almost listless. When I ran across this blog. Fit my feelings of that moment. Elysium. The word is a poem.

When does the brain rest? Parts. Never. What does consciousness do when you are asleep. Dream. Dreaming is consciousness snoring. And when you awake you are aware that you were sleeping. You are somehow aware that time has passed. Unlike the situation when you are etherized or unconscious. Then you wake with the sense that only a moment has passed though in truth minutes, hours, years perhaps have passed. Where was consciousness during this time? Was it dead? And how does it suddenly get turned back on?

And then we are not

March 10, 2012

 

There was one they found with a needle in his arm. OD’d. Another who died of a heart attack. With a gun in his hand. One in a psychiatric ward. One in jail. One on a bottle. One on an oxygen tank. One living in the suburbs with his family. All artists. Of different degrees. None wanted to suffer. Most to be truthful. It is a life that promises nothing. And gives what it promises. It is everyone’s life bared down to its essentials. Without the retirement home. And the bank account. We are all alive. And then we are not.

 

 

 

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I Am A Landscape Painter

My face is gone. Senses bared like skin pulled back over a face by a coroner. Etherized on a table. I can hear the piano keys eating fingers. The tenor’s voice has no mouth. I can smell cancer on her clothes. The soft touch of shade between her legs. Taste the liquor of God in the sky. I have lobotomized the education system from every hemisphere. Taken my censors out on the town and gotten them hammered. My wiring is in chaos. The owl is not in the sky; the sky is in the owl. The artist does not stand aloof from his work but steps into the canvas and tries to paint his way out. I paint nothing on the canvas until it is there. The world does not exist; it appears.

The highest hilltops

March 8, 2012

This is just boasting. My daughter was part of a sound editing team that won an Emmy Award. For the series “the Kennedys” I think I’ll roar it from the highest hilltops.

I work in a high school. I’m not a teacher. I’m the dreaded hall monitor. I have a Master’s Degree in philosophy and a trade (computer typesetting). The reason I’m not a teacher is a long story… and boring. At the school I also coach girl’s soccer. (In Ontario coaches aren’t paid. So its voluntary.) So many people are down on teenagers. Mostly because they are parents. And that energy is so hard to contain. We have kids from over 50 different countries. And they have one major thing in common. They’re all alike. And they’re all terrific. Fantastic human beings. Even the ones with issues. Even the rich kids. I don’t know what happens to kids once they hit adulthood, but teenagers are the greatest group of human beings on the planet.

 

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