pointless and mundane remarks

November 10, 2013


There was a terrible longness in her eyes


Ralph Bellamy, known as the Wanderer, to the employees of the drug store, stepped up to the postal booth. Josephine, the new girl, stood behind the postal counter, smiled at him. And as was his custom and his pleasure, Ralph Bellamy smiled back.

“Can I help you sir?” the young woman asked. She was perhaps one third his age. And yet she let him make believe.

“I have a problem,” Ralph said. His face grew serious. Like parenthesis more than emotion. Ralph believed that you should play the part.

“Well, that’s what I’m here for, sir. To solve your problems. Hopefully.” Josephine squiggled her shoulders. And the dimples in her face.

“That’s very admirable,” Ralph smiled. That’s what he wanted to see. Accommodation.

Josephine tilted her head ever so slightly to one side. She’d been practicing the move since she saw it on television. When she was six years old. On the Miss America Beauty Pageant. With Bert Parks. Who looked like her father. Who was an auto mechanic. And not a master of ceremonies at a beauty pageant. We’re talking about Josephine’s father, and not Mr. Parks who was unconscionably handsome.

Ralph Bellamy looked around him. As if he were trying to discover who was slowing up the procedure with pointless and mundane remarks. He turned back to the young woman.

“Did you hear that?” he asked. The question posed by the wrong lips. Or so Josephine was beginning to believe.

“Hear what?” Josephine smiled banally. Banally is unfair. It was just that Josephine’s thoughts were elsewhere. On that boy she was to meet later that night. Oh, he had pretty teeth. They were pearly white. And he liked to nibble on her ears.

“That constant commentary on everything that’s going on.” Ralph responded, demanding more attention than he was receiving.

Josephine, though still smiling, looked at Ralph Bellamy warily. She had a bad experience with her funny uncle Tom. Who put his hand on her knee. With ambitions. And she screamed out like a sailor. Hand ahoy!

Ralph looked at Josephine. “You didn’t hear that?”

Josephine giggled and looked around the shop hoping that another customer would approach her counter. Josephine always giggled when she was nervous. Giggled so much that the police thought they would never get a statement from her. Against her funny uncle Tom.

“I’m not sure. What you mean. Sir.”

Ralph chuckled to himself. Like an old man. In a movie theatre. By himself. With his box of popcorn. And the pretty girl on the silver screen.

“I got a little side tracked there, honey. Happens to me sometimes. Especially in the presence of such… wholesome beauty.”

“Oh, sir!” Josephine blushed. Did he call me honey? The very endearment funny uncle Tom used. To explain that it had all been a mistake. Miscommunication can cause all sorts of problems.

The serious look came over Ralph’s face again. And once again Josephine became concerned.

“Does time exist?” Ralph Bellamy asked. He looked around the ceiling of the pharmacy. Maybe there were speakers. And cameras. And amused little games. Played by bored employees. With too much time on their hands.

Josephine stared at Ralph. Was he the weirdo Bea had warned her about? Bea seemed to know a lot of weirdoes. Some of whom she had dated.

“You see,” Ralph continued, leaning over the counter. Almost whispering. “We are always in the moment. The future doesn’t exist because it hasn’t happened yet. And what can we say about the past? Except that it’s spilt milk. So we’re stuck in the moment. It’s like a prison. And the more we focus on the moment, the less it seems that time exists.”

“I sell stamps,” Josephine reminded Ralph Bellamy. She noticed he didn’t have an envelope. Or a package. Not even a postcard. Which made her wonder. What was he up to? She checked her knee. That was protected. By the counter.

“I know that,” Ralph said, shaking his hands in the air. “But don’t you have an opinion?”

Josephine thought for a moment. Her back became rigid. She licked her lips and pressed her uniform down over her hips with the palms of her hands. Which were becoming clammy.

“If time didn’t exist than I wouldn’t get paid.” Josephine giggled. “I get paid by the hour.”

There was a long pause. While Ralph Bellamy got comfortable. Thinking.

“That’s very good.” Ralph laughed for a moment. Before returning to his former state. Seriousness. The laughter had not just been a reflex of politeness. He hadn’t expected the girl’s response. In some respects he had no answer for it. But if he had, he would have realized that the girl had refuted him. Soundly.

Ralph Bellamy looked around. Again. The comments were not ending. He did a pirouette. His back to Josephine. Thinking he would catch the commentator. But of course he could not. The commentator was in his head.

“But did you ever think,” Ralph said his back still to Josephine. “That you only remember getting paid? That you’re not actually paid.”

“Than why would I remember it?” Josephine asked. Oh, she was glowing. She had him. And she knew it. This was better than sudoku.

Ralph took a deep breath. Thought about… Josephine. Turned around.

“Maybe God is a prankster. Maybe he’s playing tricks on us.” Ralph Bellamy raised his eyebrows. Like bar bells. At the Olympics.

“Why would he do that?” Josephine asked. She looked around to see if there was another clerk nearby. How am I going to get rid of this loony tune?

“Why is he playing tricks on us?” Ralph repeated. “That’s very good.” Ralph thought for several moments. A point well taken. A rational being like God wouldn’t commit irrational acts. Unless.

Ralph snapped his fingers. Like Bobby Darren.

“Maybe God is bored. So much time on his hands.”

Josephine saw Ralph Sampson, the tall black clerk. She tried to get his attention.

“What do you say to that?” Ralph grinned like he had just screamed out check in a game of chess.

Josephine looked at Ralph. “God is bored because he has too much time on his hands? Is that what you’re saying?”

Ralph nodded.

“But you said that time doesn’t exist,” Josephine countered. “So how can he be bored?”

Ralph rubbed his chin and thought for a moment.

“Okay.” Ralph waved his hands in the air, the fingers spinning around like the wings of a fan. “There’s only one of Him, right?”

Josephine nodded. She hated to agree with him. Hated to agree with any male. Since her funny uncle Tom. Made her pull his fingers.

“So maybe he’s lonely,” Ralph cried. “And that’s why he plays jokes on us.”

The girl shook her head.

“I don’t think so. God is all powerful. You got power, you can buy company.”

As Ralph considered her response, Josephine waved over to Ralph Sampson. Surreptitiously she pointed out Ralph Bellamy to the clerk. The tall black clerk started to laugh. She knew that Ralph Sampson was not going to help her. He was enjoying Josephine’s plight. Sampson knew that the customer known as Ralph Bellamy, or the Wanderer, had annoyed all the clerks at one time or another. It was her turn.

Ralph smacked the counter with his open palm.

“Maybe being a joker, keeps God from going mad.” Ralph Bellamy did a little dance step. God, he was happy. Lucky that insight had suddenly appeared. Like a balloon in a cartoon.

Josephine looked at Ralph Bellamy. She’d have to deal with him. Herself. She dealt with happy uncle Tom. Got him six months. And a restraining order. And then there was Billy, Frank, Louis, and Joseph. Hadn’t they found themselves into the oubliette.

Josephine put her hands on her hips. Hobbled her chin back and forth.

“You’re saying that God does things that are insane so that he can prevent himself from going nuts. That’s a circular argument. Circuitous. Only makes sense. On a flat world.”

Ralph’s mouth hung open.

“What?” he cried.

Josephine repeated herself.

Ralph Bellamy stroked his head.

“Do you still want stamps?” Josephine asked.

Ralph shook his head sadly. And wandered off. Defeated. Crest fallen. Buried under… Then suddenly. Like he’d caught his hand in a buzz saw. Screamed at the ceiling. Which was another way of saying…

“Shut up! Just shut up!”


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