Canceled Plans

You were supposed to be there.  We were supposed to be there together.  We made a deal.  There were witnesses.  Plans were pored over.  Decisions were made.  Dreams were discussed.  Tasks were completed.  Lives were changed.  Responsibilities were taken.

You were gone.  We were not together.  The deal was broken.  People asked questions.  Cancellations.  Dashed dreams went silent.  It was decided for me.  All the work did not matter.  The changes were irreparable. Who was responsible?

Today.  The present.  The shadows still linger around the edges, but the feelings have been replaced.  That time.  Then.  It is only used as an explanation.  A placeholder for a period in life.  Some may see it as a longing for what once was, but they would be wholly mistaken.  An ending was written.  The Finale happened and the curtain again dusted the stage as the house lights came up.

That leaves the future.  An actor left searching for the next role.  The next place to ply his craft.  A reason to fulfill his purpose.  A script that may not even be written yet.  It is in that future that he is willing to give the performance…of a lifetime.

Why, Saturday? Why?

James slowly stood up from his crouched position amid the pungent cloud of vinegar.  His arms slowly coming down after guarding his face out of instinct.  He glanced down at the stain of pink brine spreading across the dingy tiled floor.  Shards of glass glistening like angry teeth radiating away from his feet.
“Jesus! How could that many pig’s feet have possibly been in that jar?!” he observed at the carnage of pickled porcine paws littering the floor.

All he wanted was a 6-pack of beer and a quiet afternoon in his recliner with SportsCenter on repeat.  As he approached the counter, the man ahead of him was talking annoyedly at the clerk behind the counter.

“Damnit, Dale! How Could you? She’s my sister!  She’s only 17!  You’ve known her since we were playing Guitar Hero together back in high school!”

That was when James had to duck and protect himself as bags of Corn Nuts and other assorted snack foods and candies flew through the air past him. He saw Dale pick up the big half-wheel of red-rind cheddar cheese from the counter and wasn’t sure if it was going to be a shield or a weapon.  He didn’t want to find out either way.  Right then was when the assailant tried to punch the wheel of cheese, but accidentally knocked the giant jar off the counter.

James couldn’t take any more of this redneck theater.  No shitty light beer was worth the chemical warfare to which he was now subjected.  Relaxing in the recliner was now out of reach.  Maybe the local dive bar would make this day end a little better.  At last no one there would notice the vinegar fumes on his clothing.

Stage Performance

So, here I am standing next to the stage.  The twelve wooden stairs that lead up to the old, well-worn timber platform seem like they go into the sky.  The stage door is closed, for now.  As I survey the crowd I see that nearly the whole town is here to watch my performance.  It is quite early in the day for this much anticipation.  Who am I to garner this much attention?  I wonder if I will give them what they expect.  The energy is radiating from the buzz of whispered voices in attendance for my show.

The man in the nice black suit stands on the stage worrying over the preparations.  The concerns crease his face at the sides of his mouth when he is not talking.  The glint of sunlight flashes off the fancy star-shaped pin on his lapel and into my eyes below.  To his side stand Judge Parker and a small crowd of local VIPs who have secured their special places on the stage so they may enjoy what I bring today. A handful of stagehands whir about as they follow the instructions and commands given.  It is quite the process to prepare for such a simple show.

The time draws near for me to climb those stairs and stand bare in front of that crowd for my performance.  I look out into the flow of faces, some familiar, some not.   Just before I mount the first step I catch the eyes of my Jenny.  She is near the back of the audience.  Her face fills with emotion for me.  I see what looks like worry, fear, and even some pride.  I do this for her.  She is the love of my life and makes me a better man.  Her father, the man above me in the black suit, knows nothing of our love. As some fathers are wont to be, he is quite protective of her, and rightfully so.  Even after all of his restrictions and protections, however, she still found her way into my arms and my heart.

One of the stagehands calls to me.  Showtime.  He asks me to come stand next to the man in the suit.  As I take each stair, it feels like my boots are made of lead and mired in wet clay earth.  I wring my hands in front of me.  Am I ready for this?  My world slows down and I am conscious of every intake of breath as my chest becomes tight.  By the fourth stair, I say a short prayer that God, if he is listening, will bolster my spirit for this undertaking.  As I reach the stage I can taste the dust in the air from the stirring crowd, the slight tinge of acid rising from the knot in my stomach, and the sickly metallic taste of iron in blood from where I worried a small hole in my lower lip.

Everything is almost ready.  I stand in front of the stage door.  My performance is imminent.  The man in the suit is addressing the crowd with a booming, baritone voice.  My heart races.  In a flash, I think of my dead parents.  What would my mother think of my performance today?  Would she stand in the audience with the hot morning sun overhead to see her boy?  Am I my father’s son?  I barely notice the stage hands around me as they make ready.

My introduction draws to a close and I look down at the timbers of the stage.  They are sturdy and strong, made from very old trees.  The hinges on the stage door are free of rust and well oiled.  I am ready for this.  This is my time.  My guts turn and beads of sweat drip down the small of my back.  Jenny’s eyes go big as I step onto the stage beside her unknowing father.  As he finishes speaking to the crowd, he slowly turns to me.  In a low voice he says, “Son, you ready?  You deserve this.”  I nod slightly at his affirmation as I look squarely into his sun-creased face.  It is my time.

I take a firm, deliberate step forward and survey the whole of the crowd. So many expectant faces here for me. All here for me.  The man in the suit moves off to the side by the VIPs. I find Jenny one last time in the sea of faces.  I wink at her with a slight smirk on my face.  She always makes me smile and feel a bit more at ease.  Then, I take a very deep breath.  I feel my chest swell.  My body stresses the buttons on my overcoat.  With that breath, I turn my head and nod again at the man in the suit. Showtime.  It is all up to me now.  I feel the knot in my stomach drop away as the stage door opens. Momentarily, I am weightless.  A snap thunders in my ears.

The show is over.  I perform perfectly.  The show is over.  From the thick hemp rope, my body slowly swings in the dusty shadow of the sturdy gallows stage.

Of Hope And Happiness On A Sunday

Flying Blind

Meeting someone new
Enjoying each other’s company
Feelings of friendship forming

The thought that a person
Can feel love towards another,
Can accept another,
And can create a friendship
That is as meaningful
As any other

In true friendship there is love
A love that, if it is not hindered
Could found a firm relationship
And when it is controlled,
There is a bond formed
That will keep the two friends
In touch for life.

Get a Ray In Your Life

A lot can be said about good friendships.  There are just some people in this world who we meet and they stick with us.  Real friends have helped each other, fought each other, disagreed with each other, and stood by each other through myriad situations.  These friendships can happen in a week or over the past 30 years.  Some friends come into, and stay in, your life due to specific shared situations.  Many times you can be separated from your friends for weeks, months, or years, yet the next time you see them it is like hardly a moment has passed.

I have watched my father, who is a Colorado native, live in Mississippi away from his friends and immediate family my entire life.  I have also spent these 40 years watching him foster one of the most amazing friendships of which I know.  The man in the picture above is my father’s best friend, Ray.  I even share his name as my middle name.  They have known each other since high school.  They have lived through decades of joys and tragedies together.  They call each other to check in at random intervals, often to make a joke at the other’s expense.  In a financially questionable deal, they have also had a longstanding continuous bet involving the Denver Broncos season record vs. the New Orleans Saints season record.  That bet alone has created many laughs, empty wallets, and a host of jokes between the two during the seasons through the years.  I have made some very good friends through the years, but theirs has always been my gold standard.

Just yesterday I was at work and feeling a little down.  Not depressed, but unsettled with my day as it had unfolded to that point.  I managed to get off work in time to watch the 2nd half of the New Orleans Saints game with a group of my friends, of which I have known between this past year and all the way to over 30 years.  There was an immediate release of my inner funk.  I felt a catharsis and serenity while living in the moment with these people as we watched our football team try to win the game.  It made me cherish that time even more because I realized that I have the opportunity to see my friends on a fairly regular basis should I so choose.  My father and Ray have not had that opportunity.

There is not really a closing point to this because all of it is still happening.  So go find the people in your life and keep making good, deep friendships.  Play a little joke on your friends.  Buy them a 6-pack of their favorite beer for no reason, but only give them 5 because you drank one.  Foster that friendship with someone who knows you so well that they can get under your skin, in a good way, from 6 states away.  Find yourself a Ray.