Jimmy the Wrist [Repost]

 

accordion_on_the_beach

Bernard’s mother was the accordion player in an ethnic folk band. They called themselves the Charlie Manson Quartet, and played for dances and weddings in Legion and Elk halls up and down the valley.

Of course, this was years and years before the Charles Manson family committed bloody murder in California. Bernard remembered guitarist Charlie Manson as the most benevolent kind of year-round Santa Claus, with his premature white hair and trimmed beard. Except when he drank, which was actually rare, he was a jolly trickster, who made charming but suggestive jokes in between songs, told the most ridiculous tall tales about fishing in the lakelands, and played Chinese Checkers with a fierce competitiveness.

The other band members were Harry Porter, the bass guitarist, and Jimmy “The Wrist” Corcoran, so named because he drummed a full spring wedding season with his left wrist in a cast. Bernard wasn’t sure the wrist ever healed properly, but the fracture never seemed to affect his drumming, which was odd. Or maybe he just wasn’t a very good drummer.

Jimmy was kicked out of the band after The Incident, and they never replaced him, using a small electronic rhythm device instead, which turned out to be a good thing because they could sell the van and just go from gig to gig in Harry’s massive old Lincoln, which had room for the three of them and their instruments. They became the Charlie Manson Trio.

Bernard’s mother was a pretty brunette, with doe-like brown eyes and a shy demeanour, though she really was, Bernard remembered, a crackerjack— smart, funny, and talented. She could play any kind of keyboard fluently and had a low, sweet singing voice.

She loved the water and Bernard remembered many summer afternoons at the beach, he digging in the sand for creatures— freshwater clams, mussels, burrowing sea bugs of all kinds —which he put in a big plastic washing tub filled with sand and water. Sometimes he waded on the shore in search of painted turtles, but didn’t put them in his washtub aquarium anymore because one young turtle ate all his collected clams. He brought them to his mother to be duly admired, and released them again.

Sometimes at the beach his mother read books from the library, sometimes chatted with Bernard about his collection, but mostly she liked to lean back in the blue and yellow strapped lounger in her swimsuit, and feel the sun. He remembered her humming, tunes the band played for people to dance to, or little patches of songs that she made up.

Bernard remembered one day, filled with the lazy sounds of waves lapping the shore, seagulls squawking overhead, his mother humming. The sunlight shimmered behind her, and he saw another, larger silhouette appear alongside.

“Hi Bernie,” said Jimmy The Wrist, waving stiffly. “Why don’t you go play in the water or somethin’?” Jimmy had a funny part in his hair, too close to the centre, which made him look a bit like Jimmy Olsen from the comics.

Bernie turned to his mother, who sat up in her lounge chair and ruffled his sandy hair.

“See if you can find another turtle — you can show Jimmy,” she said to her son.

People always looked strange on the beach when they were fully clothed; awkward and out of place. Jimmy wore a starched white shirt, open at the collar, and a pair of grey slacks with a belt. His shoes were polished black leather and fastened with shoelaces.

Jimmy joined Bernard’s mother on the lounger, perching on the edge, while Bernard waded ankle deep in the cool water. He hadn’t learned to swim yet, and wasn’t allowed to go any deeper.

All was well until Bernard heard loud voices. “No, I’m not!” his mother shouted. Bernard froze, and then he saw Jimmy stand up and slap his mother hard across the face. She screamed and Bernard started to propel himself from the shore towards them.

Before he reached his mother, before the blonde couple down the beach or the man at the concession stand up by the parking lot could react, a seagull, a raggedy old grey and white seagull, flew straight into Jimmy’s face.

It flew in with its beak and claws out, tearing up Jimmy’s clean-shaven face and neatly-parted hair. It fluttered its broad wings and flew away. There was blood.

Jimmy flailed around blindly, and Bernard’s mother put a towel into his hand, Bernard’s towel that had the Superman crest on it.

Jimmy was gasping and crying, the towel pressed to his face. Bernard reached his mother just as the young couple did, and she clasped his hand tightly, her other hand on her cheek. The man at the concession stand then arrived with a heavyset man in uniform, who, after talking in low tones to Bernard’s mother and the young couple, invited Jimmy to come along with him. No one seemed in a great hurry to tend to Jimmy’s wounds, but he was quiet now, and walked away with the officer silently, subdued.

Bernard’s mother knelt in the sand and enveloped Bernie in her arms. He could feel her breathing heavily, and feel the heat from the cheek that had been so forcefully struck. She hugged him tightly, and he looked over her shoulder at Jimmy and the officer in the parking lot as the officer opened a white car door and Jimmy bent to get inside. Just before his bloody face disappeared into the back seat, the old seagull returned, circled, and shit on the top of Jimmy’s head.

“We’ll get you a new towel,” Bernard’s mother, unseeing, whispered in his ear.

 


  • Original Prompt: Beach, May 5, 2016
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He was very pensive [Repost]

Prompt: Teach

grapes-690230

Todd’s mother answered the door. She stood there staring blankly at Lily-Rose, without recognition or curiosity, and said, “I’m not interested.” She started to close the door.

“Mrs Caper?” Lily-Rose said quickly. “I’m Todd’s English teacher, Ms Roades. I was just wondering how he is doing.”

“Oh,” said Todd’s mother. “Oh, well, come in.  I’m so sorry, we get so many suspicious people coming to the door!”

Do you? Lily-Rose thought, slightly ill-at-ease with the lack of some kind of immediate connection with Todd’s mother. There was always something, she found, when you met someone new, if you looked. A warmth in the eyes, a recognition of challenges shared. A camaraderie based on a flimsy but mutual instinct. She felt none of that, and neither did Mrs Caper.

Todd’s mother was tall and thin, with wavy, partially grey hair pushed behind her ears, and now that she was smiling, was not unattractive.

She stood aside and Lily-Rose tentatively entered the Caper home.

Nothing wrong with it. Clean, carefully decorated and tended. Framed pictures on the living room walls, though Lily-Rose would be hard-pressed to remember their content later.

“How is he doing?” she asked Mrs Caper.

“Well of course the flu became pneumonia,” said Mrs Caper, as if that was the established progression of life. “He has always been delicate. I’ve done my best.” She looked at her watch.

“Of course,” said Lily-Rose. She held out a small brown paper bag. “I brought some fresh grapes,” she said smiling,” it’s kind of a traditional offering.”. Mrs Caper took the bag, looked inside, and then back at Lily-Rose. There was an odd silence. “May I see him?” said Lily-Rose.

Todd’s bedroom had the usual accoutrements expected of a “normal” affluent teenager: expensive computer, posters of badly photographed women, blood-spattered heavy metal band posters, wi-fi speakers everywhere, yet the room was completely neat and in order. Mom had obviously taken her son’s weak moment as an opportunity to tidy up.

His bed was dishevelled; a sign of restless sickness and restless sleep. A pitcher of once-icy water and a clean glass were set on the bedside table. There was a small plastic tub, too, presumably to catch any stray vomit. The room was not stuffy since the window opposite the bed was wide open. The curtains moved lazily, like ghosts.

Todd looked a little pale, with not unexpected dark circles under his eyes. He looked at her with a pronounced What the Fuck expression.

Which was not surprising, since Lily-Rose and Todd had evolved into mortal enemies since the start of the spring semester. He refused any attempts at discipline, and bordered on physical threats. Lily-Rose had never experienced such hostility in her teaching career before, and needed to see where he came from. She needed to know if it was her failing, or his– or no one’s failing, but a circumstance to be endured, a problem to pass on to his next set of teachers.

“How are you feeling?” Lily-Rose asked when his mother finally retreated from the room.

He didn’t answer. He stared at the ceiling.

“I have your last test results with me,” said Lily-Rose. “And a little outline about what we are studying now, into next month.”

He then turned his gaze on her. “Get out,” he said.

“Here,” Lily-Rose said, pulling a sheet of paper out of her soft-sided briefcase, “is your answer to one of the test questions, Use ‘pensive’ in a sentence.” She read his answer: “He was very pensive.” Then she looked up and smiled.

“I thought that demonstrated a sense of humour,” she said.

“I don’t care about you, your class, what you think, who you fuck,” said Todd.

Ouch, thought Lily-Rose.

“Well, I appreciate a sense of humour,” she said. “But anyway the main reason I am here is to apologize.”

He pretended not to be interested.

“I came into the classroom when I had the flu,” said Lily-Rose. “I should have stayed home. I’m sure you caught the bug from me.”

Todd looked startled. Lily-Rose concluded he was expecting a different kind of apology. She was intensely interested in what apology Todd expected. She was missing something.

Mrs Caper came into the room, unannounced, with a thermometer. Lily-Rose stood up.

“Let me show you out,” said Mrs Caper.

They walked to the front door, and Mrs Caper said politely, “Thank you for coming.”

Lily-Rose caught her eye, and held it for a moment. “Please keep me informed,” she said.

And she walked home, thinking about the look in Mrs Caper’s eyes, and what it meant in relation to Todd. She understood it completely. It was a look of complete detachment, disinterest, distance, and disdain.

That was the look that Todd, as a child and now an adolescent, faced every day. Lily-Rose would think about it, but she believed when Todd returned to school, they might become allies instead of enemies.


  • Original Prompt: Pensive, May 19, 2016.

 

The Forest

Prompt: Forest

forest mushroom

Our mother said, don’t touch the walls of the tent. So we all touched the walls of the tent. It was canvas, so water started saturating the little finger spots, droplets formed, and the inside of the tent became wet and cold.

So our mother gave us each a plastic bucket, which we hadn’t been able to use on the sandy beach all week because of the rain, and sent us out to the forest across the road to forage for dinner. No mushrooms though, she said. And: “If you don’t find food, you don’t eat.”

She tied on makeshift rain bonnets though gave up on the boots and we wore rubber thongs and our feet got wet.

The rain in the forest sounded like a waterfall; a continuous ruuuussssh of drips and drops, and the forest floor was muddy and our flip-flops kept sucking into the ground and we walked with great effort, looking for berries. Or maybe a dead rabbit? We weren’t certain what edibles were to be found in the forest.

We came across a man, sleeping on his side under a plastic sheet attached to branches secured into the ground. His hands joined in a fist and nestled between his thighs. He wore dark clothes and sunglasses and had a straggly beard. It occurred to us that he might be dead.

We saw a battered wallet peeking out from under a damp grey pillow, and pulled that out. There was ten dollars in it; we took five and put the wallet back.

Drops fell on our faces and stuck to our eyelashes.

We found some deer scat, which we’d learned about in science class. It didn’t gross us out. We didn’t see any deer, though. Perhaps they were taking shelter from the rain, or perhaps the hunters had taken them all down. My mother once fed us venison pretending it was beef, but we knew it wasn’t beef, and wouldn’t eat it.

There was a clearing ahead where the road curved around the woods, and a small grey stucco building stood in a level gravel lot dotted with tufts of grass and moss. The windows were opaque with condensation, rivulets running down and pooling on the soggy ground beneath the eaves. Letters hammered to the frame over the door said “Store”, so we went in to forage for dinner.

There was a wooden bucket of worms, and a glass jar of brass bullets, and a stack of felt cowboy hats, and a counter behind glass with tubs of ice cream underneath it, and we all had a single scoop cone. We all had chocolate. After we ate the ice cream we examined each others’ faces for traces of chocolate, and cleaned off any smears with damp kleenex.

We had enough money left from the five dollars we stole from the sleeping man to buy two boxes of macaroni and cheese, a bag of liquorice whips, which our mother liked, and a coke.

We put the macaroni and cheese, liquorice whips, and pop into the buckets along with one shiny brass bullet which the store owner gave us for free, because he said he was proud of us for not staying inside just because it was raining.

We started to head back to the tent through the forest, but we saw the sleeping man in the distance through some dripping white spruce. He was awake and packing up the shelter, folding the plastic sheeting into an irregular square and stuffing it into a nylon bag.

The rain had subsided to a drizzle, the spit of god.

So instead of going through the forest, we traced the road skirting around it back to the tent, and mother didn’t ask us where we got the money for the macaroni and cheese. She was pleased with the liquorice and said she would share it with us later.

But she didn’t.

Strategic Nudity

Prompt: Laughter


Dear Wednesday, and dear Mama,

Today’s birthday girl and the Daily Prompt, Laughter, couldn’t have been been more brilliantly matched.

Happy Birthday, Mum. I love you. I miss you every day. You had a difficult life, a struggle, that culminated, I hope, in a wonderfully happy marriage and four non-criminal children. You certainly deserved all the happiness that came to you, finally.

One of of my favourite memories of you is your laughter jiggles. You kept many emotions to yourself, but oh, how you loved to laugh. So when you laughed, your whole body vibrated, and your laughter was entirely silent but contagious and irresistible. You taught me that laughter was valuable and important, and that has been a positive and hugely meaningful influence my entire life. It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of finding joy in all the hidden corners of a life, especially during the hopeless, difficult times.

I’ll post a few of my favourite cartoons, as it is Wednesday, then withdraw to think about my mother and the joy she brought!

cartoon stratigic nudity

cartoon trump scandal

cartoon too late roger


~~FP

Spotless

Prompt: Elaborate


Greetings, Wednesday!

I need to feed the roses today. They provide us with an elaborate show all summer long– not a detailed or complex show, but an ornate one in red and yellow and pink.

There’s not much more satisfying than taking to the rose bushes with a wide-brimmed straw sun hat and some good sharp secateurs, while waiting for Miss Marple to stop by and ask you, over the fence, if you noticed any strange comings and goings from the Winthrop residence across the road.

“Why, I noticed Mr Winthrop arriving home rather early, looking somewhat flustered.”

“Are you sure it was Mister Winthrop?”

And so goes the story: Distant, pastoral England in the summer, roses, straw hats, murder, and cross-dressing.

The first of my favourite cartoons this fine Wednesday is related to today’s prompt, “elaborate”, and the others have precisely nothing to do with it. Enjoy!

cartoon tattoo at party

cartoon clean underwear

cartoon mormon literature


Peace and gardening,

~~FP

I Dream of Jean

Prompt: Genie

I dream of Jeanie with the light brown hair
Borne, like a vapor, on the summer air;
I see her tripping where the bright streams play
Happy as the daisies that dance on her way…

The above is a lovely, sentimental song written by Stephen Foster, which was eventually punned to this:

My mother’s name was Jean, and I think of her whenever I hear either the song or the TV series theme song, and also when I hear this:

I miss my mother, and do dream about her.

And in lieu of getting all weepy, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons, only the first one of which is related to the daily prompt, “genie”?

cartoon dog genie

cartoon web troll

cartoon shrink lifeguard


Have a happy, sunny week!

~~FP

Philosophy

Prompt: Song

college campus

Dear Virginia,

Sorry I took so long to respond to your email, but the campus ISP was down for almost four days. We were also without running water for two days, which was a disaster. The administration tells us these occurrences are extremely unusual, and to happen concurrently is even more of a rarity. Anyway I’ve sat constipated and lonely with dirty hair in my room trying to fathom David Hume’s billiard balls and now think I will just make something up for the paper due tomorrow.

I don’t know why I’m taking Philosophy, though it’s probably why I’m now wondering about everything including the meaning of life and why I am wasting away my youth at this fucking college. Virge, I can hear you say, “It’s only the first semester of your first year, Envy, give it time”.

How do I give it time? My roommate is a raging germaphobe who counts Q-tips in fear I might have stolen one, and she sings “Where is Love” from the musical Oliver in her sleep. Or at least I think she is sleeping. So I can barely stay awake during the day and already struggling with most of my classes, include the ones I should breeze through like Lit and Art History, because my Lit prof is trying to bully me into participating more in class (can you image me participating to begin with? me?) and my Art History class is nothing but a series of slide shows. I get most of my sleep time there. My Spanish tutor thinks his housemate is trying to murder him, so every class is like a scene from a horror movie, where we expect a man in a moustache to jump out from behind a door wielding a kitchen knife.

Let me tell you about my new friends. Oh wait, I don’t have any. Only one guy in my Spanish class has even spoken to me, and I have no idea why he would. He’s gorgeous, you see, and well, you know what I look like.

My roommate just burst in and told me she has food poisoning from the toxins served at the cafeteria. She may be right.

It’s ironic: I picked a college as far away from my parents as would have me, and yet I’m so looking forward to Christmas and getting home and seeing you and even my worthless brother, Cash. I want to sleep in my own bed and eat real food and read a trashy novel and maybe even decide if I want to come back here in January.

Have to run. Roomie is vomiting in the trash can.

Tons of love,
Envy

——–

Dear Virginia,

I can’t even tell you how much I missed you over Christmas break. Words fail me. I’m speechless. And so on. I understand you had to take the job, and lucky you for going to the Bahamas in this weather, but oh lord I could have used a friend.

My brother picked me up at the airport, because he got his driver’s licence back. He really shouldn’t be on the road; plus I think he was a little drunk.

Anyway we get home and Millie takes my bags and leads me upstairs to my room (mother was at a meeting) except it was not my room, it was the small guest room. This room has a double bed, a wardrobe but no closet, and has blue geraniumed wallpaper that matches the bedspread. There are carpet and wallpaper samples rolled and stacked in the corner by the window, and on top of the wardrobe is a stack of old telephone books. It is the overflow guest room, in other words.

“Darling,” my mother says when she gets home, flushed from her success in choosing the theme for the cancer gala, Greece, Ancient and Modern, “we are converting your bedroom into a clay room, you could say, since I am learning to sculpt and throw pots.”

“You are? Why my room? What did you do with my stuff?” Honestly Virge, I was well and truly devastated.

“Your room faces north— the light is right, and it’s bigger than the the um, overflow guest room. I didn’t think you’d mind really, your little room was so fussy and dated, you know, with those posters and pink things and that koala bear.”

What did you do with Cocoa?

“Darling.” My mother smiled indulgently. “All your precious belongings are in boxes in the garage. Millie was very careful to pack everything.”

“Even the jewelry I made?”

“Oh,” said mother. “Did you mean to keep that?”

“Why couldn’t you set up your clay room in the basement? There’s tons of room.”

“Sweetheart, I’m not a basement kind of person…”

God, my family. Nana Appleby and my father’s cousin Uncle Gary had been assigned the actual guest rooms, even though Nana was only staying overnight Christmas Eve. I can’t begrudge her. She turns 101 in February. Uncle Gary though, what an asshole. I can only imagine he is paying to stay with us, since no one likes him.

So the decision whether or not to return to college became no decision at all. I see now how that can happen. When you have two shitty alternatives, you choose the one you are not in the middle of.

And semester two couldn’t be worse than the first. I found out the name of the guy in my Spanish class. Marcus. He’s adorable.

Tons of love,
Envy