She stared at the letter. It was addressed to Mrs. She’d always been a Ms.
They used her first name, Barbara, but she’d her middle name, Sue, since she was three years old. (Funny story, there, but for another time.)
They did have the correct middle initial and last name, so it was fifty percent correct.
Shrugging, she tossed it unopened into the recycle. Whoever it was clearly didn’t know her.
The gods of beer
to take a swig,
and make their play.
They don’t quibble
over a quaff,
nor hesitate to laugh
over another’s gaffe.
They’re there to spread humor
and good cheer,
because everyone knows,
life is better with a beer.
A couple flirted, giggled, and kissed on a blanket under the cemetery pines while a woman sat on a towel, eating an apple and reading, in a splash of sunshine twenty yards away. Dozens of grave markers from them, a trio of fawns bucked and gamboled. A pair of does ate while a grave majestic buck chewed in thought. A gray squirrel, egged on by cawing crows and jeering jays, chased another squirrel around and up trees and over headstones as a flock of wild turkeys tsked, sighed, and tutted.
It was a lively place to be, in the cemetery that day.
It seems like a surprising twist, but it probably isn’t. It’s probably one of those oft-experienced, universally known, but rarely mentioned phenomena of life. I will mention it in passing because it strikes me now.
Every night brings something different that I miss from the past. Tonight brings memories of sitting around, listening to music with my friends. I’m listening to some old live Clapton and remembering times and places, but it’s such a solo act.
Yet…this is how it is for most of us. We slip from childhood to our teenage years, to first loves and first jobs, to relationships and marriage, and then find ourselves looking back, remembering, think, and wondering.
I guess it’s not that surprising, or a twist, after all.
I spread the good news to my friends. “Hey, the local WalMart supposedly has the latest manscaping products in stock, and it’s supposed to be the best!”
They, twelve retired professionals ranging in age from sixty to eighty-five, responded.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
I was not put off. I’d already talked to them about anal bleaching. They often overlook these fine points of pop-culture. I’m the chosen one to educate them.
Many immediately said, “We don’t shape at WalMart.”
I said, “You might need to change your ways, if you want the latest manscaping products suitable for urbane gents such as as yourselves.”
Bill laughed. “Manscaping! I don’t have the eyesight for that kind of thing. I’d be afraid of what I’m clipping.”
“Get your wife to help you,” I suggested. “You can make it a romantic evening.”
“A romantic evening of manscaping?” Joe asked.
“Yes. Light some candles and have a few glasses of wine, and then strip down, lay back on the bed, and let her groom you.”
Bill roared. “That’d be a bloody mess. Her eyesight is worse than me.”
Andy nodded. “Enough said. No one sees me naked and I’m not interested in landscaping myself just for the joy of it.”
“Someone change the subject,” Chris said.
“Hey,” I said, “did you hear about the new waxing place in town, just for men?”
Today’s was a direct and simple connection between walking, thinking, and my theme music.
Thinking about time, I was walking through some low humidity, ninety degree sunshine. Across the valley was clear from my vantage. It was its typical summer brown, the green baked away, a striking but depressing tableau under a crystal blue sky. With that vision of heat and dryness dancing with memories of wildfires from the last five years, I hoped for rain.
The opening words that Sting sings from “Desert Rose”, a duet with Cheb Mami (2000), rose in voice in my mind.
I dream of rain
I dream of gardens in the desert sand
I wake in vain
I dream of love as time runs through my hand
His head was down against the silvery sunshine heat. Walking along, he looked up to orient his course and spotted Doctor Frank further up the white cement sidewalk.
He literally froze where he was. His heart beat – he felt it – but a shocked stupor held him stiff. Doctor Frank had died two months before. This had to be a doppelganger. He’d heard or read that everyone has an exact replica of themselves elsewhere on the world. This was the most perfect one he’d ever seen. The man was just like Doctor Frank, the biologist, in every aspect from his impish, good-natured expression, gray and white beard, and slender-as-a-broom frame to the outdoor pants, boots, and vest that were Doctor Frank’s regular attire, including the forest green bush hat.
He snapped out of it. The result put him up the sidewalk past where he’d spotted Doctor Frank, as if he’d never stopped. His head swooned. Pausing to regain control of his senses, he saw Q across the street, waiting to cross.
Now that was fucking impossible. Q’d died four years ago. Like Doctor Frank, doppelganger Q was an eerie ghost of his deceased friend. As he wondered what the what, he saw his mother-in-law, Jean, dead for the last two years, off to the left, with her husband, Carl, who’d been dead since 1992.
“Holy shit,” reverberated through his mind and came out his mouth. “What’s going on?”
In a blink, he realized all the color had deserted the world, as though he was watching a movie on an old black-and-white television. Closing his eyes to recover, he gasped; with his eyes closed, he could see everything taking place in color, except the dead folk that he saw weren’t there.
Slowly, he cracked his eyes open and took in the monochrome world. The sound differed from before. Swiveling his head, he saw more dead friends and relatives. It wasn’t his beloved hometown any longer, until he closed his eyes. With eyes closed, color was restored, and he was in the town where he’d been living and walking.
Keeping them closed, he resumed his walk. That seemed to work, but it was a temporary solution. Something fundamental had changed in his world.
He was going to have to open his eyes again sometime. And then…
He shook his head. He was going to keep his eyes closed until he was home. And then —
Well, he’d see.