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Insignificant Choices by Clayton Jones
Philadelphia suburbs, June 1955, nine P.M., another agonizing junior high school dance draws to a close. Thankfully, it is the last before the summer recess. One more long night, standing awkwardly on the sidelines, avoiding glances from girls. Horsing around with friends and watching classmates, appearing to have fun, dancing on the basketball court now transformed into a mid-summer nights dream thanks to not-so-skillfully placed crepe paper and balloons, but mainly thanks to dim lighting. The music, fifties fast and slow numbers, via 45 RPM records indiscriminately played by one of the audio-tech students. Teachers patrol the perimeter and hallways least anyone tries to make a run for it.
After the last song, all the lights come on full blast making everyone squint as they head for the exit and pile into waiting cars of family or friends to be whisked off to parts unknown. I had the misfortune to be in the restroom taking care of business, washing my hands, then combing my hair. By the time I came back to the gym, it was empty. Same for when I went outside. I thought, "Turn on the lights, and everyone scatters like roaches."
Torn between walking home and arriving by 9:30 or, walking to the Malt Shop to see if any of my friends were there, and probably getting home by 10:30, I chose the Malt Shop. I'd only taken a few steps when I heard "Yo, where ya going?"
It was Nick. A friend pointed him out earlier as one of the school hoods. As evidenced by his black motorcycle jacket, greased hair combed into a DA, and the ever-present tough guy attitude.
"I'm going to the Malt Shop," I said.
"Me to," he said as he walked up and we headed off down a dark residential street toward the main drag about a quarter-mile away.
"My bike won't start. I need to call my friends for a ride."
I don't know anything about Nick, but I was glad for the company, this street's lonely at night.
"My names Ron Brown. I'm in the ninth grade."
"I'm Nick in auto-shop, everybody knows me. I'm out this year. My old man said I have to graduate or he won't give me a job in his garage."
"Good, that sounds good."
"It was that or the Army, but I don't let just anyone cut my hair."
I thought, "this is going to be a long walk."
The modest houses were close together; only a few had porch lights on. The pavement is old, narrow, uneven, and hard to see. It was easy to pretend to be concentrating on walking rather than talking. Nick smoked Camel cigarettes one after another, throwing the butts into the small front yards while he kept up a steady stream of false bravado about all the girls he knew and how most of them didn't measure up to his standards.
I thought, "Apparently none of them measured up tonight since you're as alone as I am, and what are you doing hanging around a junior high-school dance?" Of course, I didn't say any of this. Nick is probably two or three years older, about six foot and 180. I'm five-ten and 125 soaking wet.
Nick is intent on impressing me with his exploits. I pay some attention so I can chime in with a one-word response or confirming grunt as needed. I don't want him to think I'm ignoring him; that could go badly for me. The walk to the Malt Shop never seemed so long.
I hope most people are watching The Ed Sullivan Show, or already went to sleep, so they won't hear Nick's loud, often graphic comments about how bad the dance was and the equally disappointing girls who were there.
I looked up from the sidewalk and stopped short. A few feet ahead, parked at the curb, was a new, light-blue 1955 Chevy Bel Air V-8 convertible with the top down. The all-white interior almost glowed in the dim light from the nearby house. As I caressed the car with my eyes, Nick walked up and opened the passenger door. The interior lights went on and seemed to light up the entire street.
"Hey look, Blue Coral wax," Nick said grinning as he held up a container of the expensive car polish.
"Nick put it back," I said.
Nick looked past me, and his expression changed from bravado to fear.
"You do it; I gotta go." He tossed me the can, turned, and ran off into the darkness.
I was about to lay the wax on the car seat and close the door when I was distracted by red flashing lights. I turned to see a police car. The Officer was getting out; he looked grim.
"What are you doing son?"
"I..I was just looking at the car," I stammered.
"Appears to be a lot more than looking. Show me some ID."
I gave him my school identification. He kept the card and took the can of wax.
"Stay right here," he said as he turned and went onto the porch and knocked on the door.
An older man answered. I could see the Officer talking and showing him the wax. The man looked at the can, then at me, said something and disappeared. A moment later he was back with a younger man who took the wax, looked at my ID card, and came back with the Officer to the car.
"I didn't do anything," I said as they approached. "The person I was with opened the door and picked up the wax to show me."
"See if anything is missing or damaged," the Officer said to the young man.
"Let me check," he said as he went around the car checking it over, got into the driver's seat, opened the glove box, then looked around inside the vehicle.
"No, everything's here and no damage. I just got the car yesterday; the wax is all I had in it."
The Officer turned to me, "Who's your friend?"
"He's not my friend. We were walking from the dance to the Malt Shop and stopped to look at the car."
"What's his name?"
"Nick, I don't know his last name. He said he's a senior taking auto-shop."
The Officer looked at me for a long time. Then he turned to the young man, "You OK if I take it from here?"
The owner thought about it for a minute while he looked at me.
"Yes, I was young once, stuff happens, he seems like an OK kid."
The Officer turned to me, "Today's your lucky day."
"Thank you," I said to both of them as I teared up.
The Officer put me in the back of the police car. I told him where I live. He drove me home in silence.
Before he got out to open the back door, he turned and looked at me and said, "Life is full of choices, and luck, sometimes seemingly insignificant decisions can have major repercussions. Maybe you couldn't help how things went tonight. But, you can improve the odds of good results by thinking before you act, and being careful about who you associate with. Good luck and goodnight."
"Thank you, and I will."
Damn this life.
Damn its empty existence.
I once was young , you know.
What was the purpose, the destiny..........it seems to have passed me by. These waters I see before me I don't understand, I'm sure they in turn care not for me. So let this solitary bay deal with this shabby hat that I cast away in distress. I have become a sea apart from human understanding and a universe of separation from the answer to why. I seek not reciprocity, agreement or amnesty. My body sags limp inside baggy pants, my mind downcast, I'm saddened by a departure of faith. Alone in mind, frozen in snapshot time. The now of soft water is lapping at my feet, inexplicably soothing my uninspired woes. It's not my age that hampers nor the white of hair. It is the unknowing of my genesis in a universe guided by entropy that speeds evermore rapidly to empty. What is my destiny? Do I ever get to know? So alone I remain frozen in photographic poise, eyes and head downcast in despair. Yet in defiance the might of my right arm rebels and flings my hat. Could it be my reverie searching for some time before or possibly a better heavenly after? I'll wait a moment before I look up to see if that hat will float away or chance a route of return. Life is but happenstance with a probability ring. So will my mindless hat, by gentle wave-assist, return to me or slowly drift away without a solitary care? Returning a sign to hope and pray; drifting away a sign to remain apart in an uninspired way.
What was the purpose, the destiny..........it seems to have passed me by.
These waters I see before me I don't understand, I'm sure they in turn care not for me.
So let this solitary bay deal with this shabby hat that I cast away in distress.
I have become a sea apart from human understanding and a universe of separation from the answer to why.
I seek not reciprocity, agreement or amnesty.
My body sags limp inside baggy pants, my mind downcast, I'm saddened by a departure of faith.
Alone in mind, frozen in snapshot time.
The now of soft water is lapping at my feet, inexplicably soothing my uninspired woes.
It's not my age that hampers nor the white of hair.
It is the unknowing of my genesis in a universe guided by entropy that speeds evermore rapidly to empty.
What is my destiny? Do I ever get to know?
So alone I remain frozen in photographic poise, eyes and head downcast in despair.
Yet in defiance the might of my right arm rebels and flings my hat.
Could it be my reverie searching for some time before or possibly a better heavenly after?
I'll wait a moment before I look up to see if that hat will float away or chance a route of return.
Life is but happenstance with a probability ring.
So will my mindless hat, by gentle wave-assist, return to me or slowly drift away without a solitary care?
Returning a sign to hope and pray; drifting away a sign to remain apart in an uninspired way.
With Pen In Hand Richard Carr
With pen in hand we scratch a page
with etchings from our hearts.
These markings form the letters
of the words to which they’re parts.
And the words, in turn, become the means
by which we bare our souls
and speak our minds in lines of rhyme …
we poets and our poems.
Of course, words alone cannot express
the wonders life presents
to each and every one of us
from birth until our death.
And, despite our “crafty penmanship”
and clever use of words,
the truths we write and read and speak
have yet to find a cure
for the illnesses and madnesses
which plague the human race.
And so, we poets must keep writing,
ever writing, just in case
some one of us, come someday,
pens the world’s most perfect poem
which maintains its rhyme and rhythm
in every language ever known.
It will likely be a simple piece
that’s easy to recite
which our kids will learn and
share for fun with giggles of delight.
And it will touch our “better spirits”
as if God had pushed the pen
to help this world of foes transition to
a globe of peaceful friends.
Copyright©2016 Richard Carr
Moonset On Sunset Beach Richard Carr
As the moon sets on Sunset at six-thirty a.m.
a new day is beginning to dawn.
The ocean is calm while mere traces of waves
wash ashore causing barely a sound.
The birds are hunting their prey in the usual way.
The only thing out of place here is me.
And, as I watch the moon sink upon the western horizon,
the first rays from the sun to the east kiss the beach.
Soon the masses will arrive with their
bundles of civilization to spread on the sand.
There’ll be young boys and girls and grown women and men.
here to play, or to just work on their tans.
Then, come the end of this day, they’ll pack up
their belongings and go home … but their footprints will remain.
But now … it's moonset on Sunset ... all is peaceful and calm.
Such sweet moments in life keep me sane.
Copyright ©2014 Richard Carr
FADED PHOTO Nick Kalvin MD
Each day, I blow a kiss, to your photo
Above my dresser, then go on my way.
That old picture, so long up on the wall
Last few years, that the colors fade away
Happy people, birds, waves, beach, golden sun,
All seem to dim as I reach eighty years.
You two, first son Tom, me in uniform.
If I look too long, my eyes blur with tears.
Wish we could go back, lovely Mom, dear Dad,
Instead, I move forward, use up each day...
So, please tell me, just how is it, where
Loved ones stay and never fade away?
Copyright 2015 Nick Kalvin
WINNER OF OUR SHORT STORY/POETRY PROMPT
Uninspired Fling Don Erdek
The Country Doctor - A Dying Breed by Clayton Jones
The last patient of the day, an eighty-year-old lady in for a checkup and a gossip update, said 'goodbye' and left Doctor Stevens (he prefers 'Doc') alone in his office with a paper plate full of cookies she baked for him.
It was twilight and he had worked through dinner again, as he was prone to do since his wife of forty-five years passed away six months earlier. It was easier than going home to an empty house and TV dinner, or worse, eating out, alone in a crowd.
The office was getting darker as thesun set. In the fading light things slowly took on different appearances. Everything was softer, not as sharp as in the bright light of day. The darkly stained heavy pine furniture looked almost black in the dim light. The roll top desk and chair, all the items in the office, except the coffee maker, looked like they came from the early 1900s, and they did.
Every flat surface had papers piled on it. On top of each stack of papers was a medical item used as a paperweight. The overall effect was the appearance of a literary flea market. Doc knew where everything was. He planned to get it all put away 'very soon.'
He took his glasses off, laid them on the desk, and slowly looked around the room. His eyes were burning from the strain of the day and he rubbed them. Times like this, bone tired, sitting in his dark office he thought back to days gone by when he and his wife were young and just starting out.
The future looked bright and the world was theirs. He was going to start with his general practice then move to a big city hospital and 'specialize.' In what he didn't know, but it was an up and coming thing and a way to make a lot of money.
Things didn't work out as planned. Somewhere along the way, taking care of broken bones, delivering babies, and fighting death, he found he belonged in this little town. It felt right and the people needed him. His wife understood and agreed.
Besides, on a doctor's earnings, they would be able to travel every year and see the world. They were happy with their prospects. Now, forty-five years later the sum total of their travels consisted of an annual two weeks at the Jersey shore and one week in the mountains.
Through all those years Edith never complained. Now, he was alone and the travel brochures were still in the bottom of a desk drawer. He looked at her picture for a long time. 'Goodnight my love,' he said.
Slowly he got up turned off the lights. He went out the back door down two steps and along a short path leading to a small area for patient parking. As he walked to his car he noticed it was a cloudless night with a nearly full moon. The cold September air smelled fresh and good.
The light green twelve-year-old 1970 Chevy Nova was waiting in the far corner of the lot. He remembered when they bought it new for $2,450. A basic two-door coupe, the only option he allowed himself was an A.M. / F.M. radio. Doc opened the car door and slid his bag across the bench seat to the passenger side and got in. He put on his seat belt and cranked the window down two turns to let in some air. Depressing the clutch, he moved the three-speed column shifter into neutral and turned the ignition key. The small in-line six fired right up and settled into a smooth idle. Headlights on and a quick scan of the analog gauges on the dashboard directly in front of the steering wheel: gas, oil pressure, water temperature, battery charge. He noticed the odometer was at 249,999.8 and remarked out loud, 'Two-tenths to go Becky. We'll have to get you a wash and wax after you turn 250,000.'
Doc and Edith were never ones for material things. They spent much of their time and money doing volunteer work and helping local charities.
As he drove through the small town on his way home, he noticed a group of people up ahead standing on the sidewalk. As he got closer, he could see someone lying on the ground. Pulse quickening, he pulled over and grabbed his black bag.
“What happened?” he asked as he approached the group.
A teenage boy spoke up, “He was walking along fell over and hasn't moved since. That was about two minutes ago.”
As soon as Doc got through the circle of spectators he saw a couple things: one, it was his long-time friend Bill Powers, and two, the gray pasty look of someone having a heart attack.
“Has anyone gone for help?” His question was answered with blank stares.
“Call for an ambulance, he's having a heart attack!”
Quickly he rolled Bill on his side and checked the mouth for any obstructions. He rolled him back and arched Bill's neck to open the airway.
“Anyone here who knows CPR?” Doc asked desperately hoping someone in the crowd of more than ten would be able to provide the actual breathing while he supervised.
No one spoke up, the people either stared at him or looked away. One person commented to another that a course had been offered at work but it was after hours and you didn't get paid to take it.
Doc couldn't risk teaching someone with his friend's life on the line so he got on his knees and started the routine with the compression's and breathing. The concrete was cold and hard, but it provided support for Bill's back for the compressions.
Doc's pulse was racing wildly and the forced breathing was the last thing he needed, but he had no choice.
As he worked on his friend, long ago memories of things they did together came flooding back. Time spent at the proverbial swimming hole. Sneaking a smoke behind the barn. Awkward first dances and even a fight over a certain girl in high school who had long since moved away to New York City. So much of his life had been shared with Bill. He couldn't live with himself if he let him die.
“Where's the ambulance? Did anyone go for help?”
People looked at each other. A young girl said, “I don't think anyone went.”
Five people started to move, one rose to the occasion.
“I'll go,” shouted the girl as she ran off.
The others sputtered out and came back to watch the one old man try to save the other old man. Such was life in the country before cell phones.
Doc was so intent on keeping the rhythm that he failed to notice the growing pressure deep within his chest. The first sharp pain was like being kicked in the ribs by a horse.
“Oh no! Not now!” Bill was just beginning to breathe but then stopped.
“Come on Bill! I can't keep this up! Just a few more times!” The second pain was sudden and massive, it took Doc's breath away. He collapsed unconscious on top of his friend. His last thought was of Edith.
The spectators moved back as one, intimidated by the lights, siren and speed of the approaching police cruiser skidding to a halt inch from Doc's car. The ambulance was right behind, swerving to the curb in front of the two vehicles. The officer was already directing traffic as two young EMS jumped out flung open the ambulance doors grabbed their gear and ran to the motionless figures lying on the sidewalk. They worked frantically to revive their respective patients. The crowd, their faces illuminated by the red and blue flashing lights, watched spellbound as dedication and technology did their best. Sally, the EMS person working on Doc, had to be pulled away ten minutes later when the on-call doctor arrived. With a heavy heart, he pronounced both Bill and Doc deceased.
Sally broke down in tears. Twenty-three years ago Doc had delivered her at the home for unwed mothers. With no children of their own, Edith and Doc had taken a special interest in doing what they could to help her and her mother, as they did for many in the community. For Sally and others, they were a Godsend and dearly loved. They are gone, but will never be forgotten.
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New Beginnings by Clayton Jones
September 1991; I take a last look around my office, pick up my box of personal belongings and head for the door. I was leaving seventeen years in a good Information Technology job with a Fortune 50 company to move to Naples, Florida and join a young software development company. The move was not without risks, but neither is life.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the surrounding area had been home to my wife and me all of our lives. The thought of moving away from family and friends never crossed our minds until, in our early forties, a close friend developed cancer and she was gone in six months. It was a moment that caused us to evaluate our situation and quality of life. Up to that point, as the years had passed, the winters seemed to be getting colder and the number of gray, dreary days increasing. We had taken cruises and vacations in the Caribbean and saw that there were places where the climate was warm all year and almost every day was full of sunshine.
In the late eighties, a week-long business conference in Tampa provided an opportunity to have my wife fly down and meet me when it was over. We took a twin engine prop commuter plane to Key West to spend a few days at the Casa Marina near the Southern most point in the United States. It was like being in the Caribbean! The weather was great and the unheated pool water was almost ninety. This was what we were looking for; the climate of the Caribbean without leaving the comfort and security of the U.S.A.
The search was on for a job somewhere in the lower half of Florida. Friends had recently moved to Sarasota and said we should check out the area. We flew in, booked a hotel room and rented a car. We spent one day with our friends, who took us around and showed us many of the features that make the area so desirable. The next day we said our goodbyes and started driving South on the Tamiami Trail. Two lanes of desolation with brief spots of human activity. We took our time and looked at possible locations along the way. A couple days later we reached Naples. In downtown Naples, where the Tamiami Trail made a ninety degree left, we made a ninety degree right onto Fifth Avenue and drove to the beach; it was like coming home.
The final drive on my last day of work in Pennsylvania was mixed with excitement and concern. Excitement because in two days my wife and I would be taking the Am-tract Auto Train from Lawton, Virginia to Orlando, Florida and then driving to Naples where I would start my new job. Concern because there were a lot of unknowns.
A few months before, after a couple phone interviews, my wife and I had been flown down to meet my potential employer and see more of Naples. I got the job and our Realtor found us a condo in Park Shore to rent while she showed us more permanent rentals and houses to buy.
Work was filled with long days, but after hours, and after working on the weekends, I would drive around on my own to see areas beyond Naples proper. One night, I was driving on Collier Boulevard toward Marco Island when I saw a road on the right a short distance before the bridge that spans the Marco River. I turned right and headed down the winding narrow road hemmed in on both sides by tall mangroves and water close to the road. After a couple of curves I thought it was a dead end, and was looking for a place to turn around, when suddenly the mangroves on the left opened up and there were streets and houses. I continued down the road as it turned left and left then right and on and on as it threaded its way through a maze of clusters of houses connected by narrow strips of land where the road was. I stopped at a small store with a coconut tree growing through its thatched roof. The store had a small restaurant that overlooked a bay. I ordered coconut fried shrimp and a bottle of beer. As I sat there in the silence, the only customer, I thought about how laid back and peaceful everything was; this is Isles of Capri.
We bought a house on Capri, on a cul-de-sac, with a great view, water on two sides, and a dock and a pool. That was twenty-four years ago; seems like yesterday. There have been many changes: kids growing up and moving on, marriages, and births, passing of family and friends; tears of joy and tears of sorrow. Life comes at all of us relentlessly, full speed ahead, no holds barred. We can deal with it anywhere, but my wife and I prefer a climate and community that feel like old friends. Every morning is a new beginning, every day is full of warmth and sunshine that heals and lifts the spirit. Every day is magic!
This is a collection of some of our members short stores and poetry. Stop back often as the entries will change from time to time. Views are the explicit opinion of each author and not that of Marco Island Writers. Caution: Some content is graphic in nature.