Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Arugululu in the Candle Shop - A Children's Story

                                                Arugululu in the Candle Shop

Once upon a time in a tiny village named Tumbrics there was a candle maker named Alfabetasupa. Whenever he said his name his head and shoulders bounced from left to right and from right to left. Try it: Alfabetasupa, Alfabetasupa, Alfabetasupa. That's how he said his name.

Alfabetasupa made very good candles. He used excellent wax, fine wicks and noiseless perfume. All the candles he made were high quality but he made one special candle that was better than all the rest. He used only wax made from whale snot (Eee-ew, whale snot!) called spermaceti. The wick was made from the chin whiskers of a mountain goat found only in Pakistan, It was a superior candle which he named Arugululu, nobody knows why. (Whenever he said Arugululu his head would first go way down, then it would go way up, try it: Arugululu, Arugululu, Arugululu.) But Alfabetasupa was sad, He wanted to make a candle that could whistle Yankee Doodle and he didn't know how. Maybe it was impossible. Nobody knew.

Alfabetasupa worked hard every day. Some people said, he could make one hundred excellent candles in a single day all on his own. I don't believe it, myself.

He worked so hard that he often got kinks in his neck and knots in his backbone. When he got the kinks and knots he always took a walk through the village to stretch himself out and untie the knots and de-kink the kinks. Of course he knew everyone in the village.

After checking the door twice times two he strolled out onto the cobblestones and headed for the bakery. The first person he met along the way was an old, old, old, really old man named Mickle. When Mickle said his name he knocked his knees together three times, sometimes four. Try it. Mickle, Mickle, Mickle.

--Howdy, said Mickle.

--Howdy, said Alfabetasupa.

--I can see you have a problem, said Mickle.

--I ain't got no problem, said Alfabetasupa.

--Ain't got no? Who taught you to talk? Said Mickle.

--Yo mama done teached me how to talk, said Alfabetasupa.

--That explains it, said Mr. Mickle. You'd best git along now.

Alfabetasupa went on his way. Soon he came to the barber shop. The barber was always telling people they needed a haircut because she didn't have enough business.

--Hey Alfabetasupa, time for you to get a haircut, said the barber.

--I don't need no haircut, replied Alfabetasupa.

--Don't need no? Who taught you to talk?

--Mickle's mama, said Alfabetasupa.

--That explains it, said the barber.

The barber's name was Pretty Patty Runnynose. Whenever she said her name she scratched her chin four times. Try it: Pretty Patty Runnynose, Pretty Patty Runnynose, Pretty Patty Runnynose.

Soon enough he arrived at the bakery.

--You'll excuse me for saying so, said the baker, who had no name, but I believe you have a problem.

--Nope, said Alfabetasupa.

--You want bread again today? Said she who bakes.

--Yep said Alfabetasupa. He picked out one of those long skinny breads that look like flutes, stuck it in his oxter and sauntered back toward his candle-erium.

A red bird sang three notes. Alfabetasupa suddenly remembered what his problem was. He didn't know how to make a candle that could whistle Yankee Doodle. Nobody knows why the red bird sang three notes.

Alfabetasupa rushed to the doctor's clinic.

--You got a problem honey chile? said the doctor.

--I want to make a candle that can whistle Yankee Doodle but I don't know how. I thought maybe you would have some brains lying around that I could try, said Alfabetasupa.

--Don't be foolish, said the doctor, brains can't make you whistle Yankee Doodle unless they are connected to a body. You would have to stuff a whole person into the candle and you will never be able to find anyone who will do it.

One fine day in late October a tramp came knocking on the door. The tramp was tired from tramping across the country, catching hobo trains, riding in the back of turnip trucks, tramping one foot after the other till he happened to reach the village where Alfabetasupa lived and made excellent candles. Excellent candles! The tramp, whose name was Bob O'Link said he was hungry and tired and wet and cold and dirty and could he come in, please? When Bob O'Link said his name he clapped his hands once for every syllable. Try it: Bob O'Link, Bob O'Link, Bob O'Link. Alfabetasupa said he could come in if he wiped his feet first.

--I have a problem, said Alfabetasupa.

--Oh, what is it?, said the tramp.

--I want to make a candle that can whistle Yankee Doodle, said Alfabetasupa.

--Why?, said the tramp.

--Nobody knows? Said Alfabetasupa. The only way I can figure out how to make a candle that can whistle Yankee Doodle is to stuff a person into the candle. The town doctor told me that. But I can't find a human who will let me stuff him into a candle.

--That makes sense, said Bob O'Link the tramp.

--Would you let me stuff you into a candle if I paid you? said Alfabetasupa.

--How much? said Bob O'Link.

--Two dollars? said Alfabetasupa.

--Two dollars? I'd do it for twice times two, said the tramp.

--It's a deal, said Alfabetasupa

So he gave the tramp some dinner, let him wash up and get some fresh clothes, then stuffed him into the candle, At last he had done it. He had made a candle that could whistle Yankee Doodle. Nobody knows why.

Can you whistle Yankee Doodle? Would you let Alfabetasupa stuff you into a candle if he paid you twice times two dollars? I wouldn't, even if it were a really excellent candle. Nope.

The end.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Rome in a Day

 Rome in a Day

Rome sits on its seven haunches
And the pines, with fountains in their branches,
Old road markers in the Appian sun,
Are stolid, green and well run.
A conservative morning begins with dawn
And makes its logical way as a pawn
Is moved one square at a time
To Noon. It seems all right, but I’m
Conscious of a skip in my heartbeat,
And the day pops like corn in the heat
Of a sudden three o’clock. The wrench
Of time ticks in my ears. I hunch
My watch into a shadow to hide
It’s face from the white glare. Inside,
The gold hands turn green and catch
On the number six. I light a match
To see if they will stick there
As the fountains, with pines in their sprays, share
Their fate, dwindle and dry in the light
And Rome gets marching into the night.

Jack Wilson

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

(The story below is restricted to 420 characters including spaces and punctuation).

Jeremy bucked the line to the disgruntlement of seven customers. He smiled like a snake at the young woman behind the window. She told him he was a skunk and must go to the back of the line. He told her to meet him out back in half an hour. Thirty minutes later, Jeremy and the clerk were licking their lips, looking all around and grinning to show yellowish teeth as they traded baseball cards behind the rank dumpster.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Stone Lion

The Stone Lion

James slouched in a hunting jacket which sported a leather patch on the right shoulder. Nola had dyed her hair orange and purple. They walked in silence across the square which featured only six other people and sat next to a stone lion. James made faces at the statue. He remarked that he knew a lion joke. Nola snickered.

“These two guys ran madly down the road, chased by a lion. The first guy tells the second guy that it is no use their trying to outrun the lion, he would catch them for sure. The second guy replied that he was not running from the lion, he was running to keep just a little ahead of the first guy.”

She laughed a more delicate laugh than her get-up would lead one to expect and lit a cigarette. He fingered the huge paws.

Mummers whirled by, pigeons fluffed and pecked. The sun warmed their noon against the mist. Her sister came to mind again. Six years had passed now. Mother? Would other chances come? Thanksgiving?

James noticed her puddling up and offered his leather shoulder for her to cry on. She buried her head in the pad. James did not know why Nola cried and he felt satisfied to keep it that way. A whimper. She wiped her nose with a rough tan paper napkin. Jenny used to sniff at paper napkins. She thought them low class. Nola did not share her snooty attitude.

Miss Abandoned-at-birth coughed occasionally but otherwise sat in silence. Her hand traveled to her right earlobe and fumbled with the doodad. She thought that she would prefer that he leave now. Mr. Hunting Jacket understood, unbent himself and ambled alone toward the column, looking forward with no expression.

A bell in her mind rang to signal nearing time for her next performance. She pushed herself to the theater and got her props together for the show. Once onstage she relaxed and went rhythmically through her boffo routine, unicycle, slapstick, red nose-ball and all with vacant dexterity. Ten minutes into the performance she noticed Leather-Man sitting in the third row. He bubbled with laughter. Never saw that before. She continued with Indian-clubs and a few magic tricks everyone had seen tens of times on tens of Saturdays, finishing to hollow applause, mostly from children.

She tugged at her remaining energy to slog herself back to the dressing room. As she watched in the mirror her cracked face emerging from cold cream she saw that James stood pensive at the green door looking in. She liked that he had laughed at her performance. He did not say more about the subject. In fact, he said nothing.

The swivel dressing stool creaked when she got up to touch him as he clomped over to her side. He helped her with her coat, put his arm around her and held her tightly as they walked down the long dank corridor all the time her crying on his shoulder. Her performance had shown James an aspect of Nola he had not known. He even had some slight interest in knowing the reasons for her endless tears.

Things would not change tonight or anytime soon. Nola knew it, James knew it too. They bumbled and bumped arm in arm along Regent Street and Waterloo back to the square where they sat shivering close together between the paws of the same stone lion to mark the end of daylight.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

He Said, She Said

Some people swore that the house was haunted. She said that it wasn't.

So I Tweeted her and she Tweeted me, and that's how we met. I said if she could tell me all about that so-called haunted house in one Tweet. She said I am tall, thin, red-haired and my skin hurts. I hate geeks and atheists.

So I said Well, I am a geek and an atheist. But I want to hear about the house. Want to have coffee?

So she said no.

So I said That's just because your skin hurts. Meet me at Coffee Dan's at 8.

So she said FO.

So I said I'll be there.

She said Ha!

So I went and there was this tall thin red-headed girl with a pained expression. I said hi and she said hi. We sat down together and had some coffee, regular. She wanted to go out and smoke.

So she left and I sat there nursing my regular. Lo and behold, in walks another red-headed girl with a long skinny body, looking around as if to find someone. I hailed her, she walked toward me, smiling, then walked right past me to catch up to her girlfriend.

So I went home and tweeted her again and said I was there, where were you?

She answered Ha!

Well, you can imagine I was ready to give up on her when all of a sudden I get another tweet from her and she said It was nice that you went there even though I said I wouldn't go. How about tonight?

So I said You bet.

Well, she did show up and so did I and we sat and talked and drank regular for an hour or so. Then she said you want to come over to my place?

I said You bet.

We took the second door on the left and she unlocked that. In we went.

I sat on the canvas couch and she gave me a Dr. Pepper. Then she said now that I have you here, I want to show you something.

I said okay.

She said, this book, it tells you why you should believe in God and why that house is not haunted. I'm going to read it to you out loud, word for word. No interrupting.

I said oh God! And wondered why atheists say oh God!

So she started. I sat for half an hour then said I had an early appointment and left.

So she tweeted me and said come over tonight so I can read you more from the book.

I said no way.

So she said if you let me read my book to you, I'll let you read any book you choose to me.

I figured I could cope with her book and then I could get back at her with a book she couldn't possibly understand. So I said okay.

So I come over every night for two weeks and she reads that damned book aloud till it finally gets finished. So she said your turn. So up I comes with Finnegans Wake. Nobody understands that.

So I started to read but stopped after a few words because it wasn't a sentence. My English teacher told me how to recognize a sentence so I knew it wasn't. Becky (the red-headed girl) said it wasn't a sentence too. We couldn't figure out how a book could start out with not a sentence, so we made out for awhile and I went home. Nothing was ever the same again after that.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Rosie Lost Her Flip-Flops

Rosie Lost Her Flip-Flops

It was a real dungeon, just like the ones in monster movies and Disney castles with sweaty prisoners and mean-looking guards holding spears and truncheons. It was a real dungeon but the prisoners and guards were only actors, at least that is what the guide book told us. Rosie was braver than me, but she wasn’t stupid. She kept her distance from both the mangy criminals and the well-fed officers.

Rosie and I talked about what we should wear when we visited the castle. It was hot so we chose light t-shirts and shorts. We both wore flip-flops. I know now that we should have worn laced shoes, sneakers anyway, but flip-flops it was. Here in Scotland we probably looked strange with our beach shoes but we were tourists and tourists can get away with anything as long as they are not in church.

Rosie and I grew up in a small coal town in Pennsylvania. We had been to Philadelphia and D.C. but never out of the country like this. Rosie was only two years older than me but she was much taller and I was the tagalong little brother all the time. I wished I could be the boss sometimes. At least I was boss of our cat, Sprinkles. Well, sometimes anyway.

I don’t know how we got separated from Mom and Dad in the castle. I don’t know how we got down into the dungeon either. I know there was not an elevator. I think Mom and Dad slipped off to the wine-tasting tables in the refectory. I don’t know what a refectory is but it was really big. Anyway, Rosie and I just sort of drifted away and found ourselves surrounded by these stinky old buzzards and their caretakers. Rosie wanted to talk to one of the prisoners. I didn’t.

She waltzed right up to one of the cages; I think they called them cells. I don’t know why they called them cells. I thought cells were batteries. Anyway, there she was, talking right in his face. I told you she was brave. The man raised up, rattled his chains and yelled huge un-understandable words at Rosie. Rosie jumped ten feet and ran like mad. I could see that she had lost her flip-flops but I wasn’t about to go back and get them for her.
 She’s supposed to be the brave one and she is two years older than me, so let her take care of her own flip-flops.

Well, I didn’t lose mine, but I don’t know how that happened ‘cause I sure wasn’t thinking about keeping them on my feet. When we got up to the refectory floor, Rosie looked down and saw that her feet were all red and blue and she had no flip-flops. So, guess what? We have to figure out how to get the flip-flops back without running into that scary prisoner.

 Mom and Dad seemed to be feeling pretty good so we didn’t bother them, just put our minds to work on the problem. There was our tour guide. Maybe she could help. Nope, she was at the wine-tasting table too, smiling at all the guards.

How about our driver? As usual, he is out by the coach smoking a cigarette. Imagine! Smoking! In this day and age! I don’t know why they call the bus a coach. I thought a coach showed you how to play football.

So that left me and Rosie all alone to get her flip-flops back. We didn’t have a fishing pole so that was out. Rosie’s feet were getting sorer and colder. We rummaged around and found some gunny sacks piled in a musty corner of the castle room. I’ll bet you didn’t expect me to know a word like musty. Rosie taught it to me. I don’t exactly know what it means but it isn’t good.

Anyway, we both put gunny sacks over our heads for a disguise. I don’t know why they call them gunny sacks. We slithered down the stairs to the dungeon, hugging the walls. We didn’t really hug the walls but that’s how you say it. When we got to the floor, we were standing almost next to the biggest guard and we could see Rosie’s flip-flops. Boy, were we lucky. The guard was snoozing; standing straight up and snoozing. How did he do that?

There was another guard down the hall but he was leaning against the wall and paying no attention since there weren’t any tourists around. We tip-toed across the big cobblestone floor, which was hard for me because I was wearing flip-flops, and hard for Rosie because she was barefoot and the stones were cold. We snatched Rosie’s flip-flops and turned to run when the mangy prisoner saw us and started yelling those un-understandable words again. The guards came to life and we ran like the dickens. I don’t know why we were so scared; we weren’t criminals. Anyway we got our little selves out of there, Rosie’s flip-flops in hand and sat down outside the refectory. Rosie put on her flip-flops and just about then, Mom and Dad and the tour guide came out of the refectory and patted us on our little heads and said what good children we were to wait for them so quietly.

Hah! That’s what they think!

(894 words)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spy Jeans

Spy Jeans 
Jack Wilson

Kerry ambled out of the posh boutique on Rodeo Dr. mumbling to herself. “I just bought these five-hundred dollar jeans and look at this. Now who would plant a trick button on the fly of these Gucci pants?”

Once home she took off the jeans and replaced the false button with one not quite right but adequate. She put the offending object in a 4x6x5 inch cherry wood box her Grandma Cerise had left her. She did not realize that the button was a GPS device.

Kerry had inherited more than a cherry wood box from Nana. Kerry was rich. She had no particular interest in culture or hobbies or plants or anything except shopping and hanging out in clubs. She had a degree from Claremont but did not think much and never read a book she could skip. She made no effort to understand the why of it all.  She didn’t care. She was really, really rich.

The spy-cam sat in the cherry wood box, beeping almost silently. The beeps contained no information except the location of the cam. Knut maneuvered his Miata in tightening circles, or rather squares, till he got the strongest signal, uncoiled himself from the diagonally parked car and inspected the apartment building. He knew that anyone buying absurdly high-priced jeans would live well but he was not expecting such a fortress. He sidled up to one of the sentry plants guarding the entrance, stood in its shade and pondered the possibilities. He depressed the button to call the doorkeeper.

He had dressed in overalls and wore a cap with an SRP logo and carried a toolbox. He presented himself as an electrician requested by a Mrs. Johnson. The doorman knew of no Mrs. Johnson residing in the building. Knut scratched his head and suggested that someone must have played a trick on him. He begged the doorman’s pardon for any inconvenience but asked if he might use the bathroom in the lobby, indicating by his body language a certain urgency. Without expression the doorman directed him.

After an appropriate wait, Knut slipped out the bathroom door and glided down the hallway, listening in his earbud to the faint beep growing little in strength. Must be on another floor. He slithered up one flight and heard the beep reaching maximum volume. He lingered at the correct door. He snaked through all the hindrances and got inside, moved directly to the bureau containing the cherry wood box and pocketed the cam. Now to find the booty, fill up his toolbox and fly.

He felt smooth, getting into the flow of the caper, slightly giddy. He was on the right track when he heard a keycard in the lock and a shuffle outside. He sought to hide, but on quick reflection, chose to face the pants. He planted his feet solidly in the frame between the sitting room and the hall to the bedroom. When Kerry turned on the light, there he stood; quiet, smiling.

Kerry giggled.

Kerry marched right over to Knut and touched his nose with her right forefinger. “What’s your story, hot shot?” Knut said nothing, grabbed her around the waist, pulled her to him and kissed her surprisingly softly. She liked it; kissed him back.

“Let me tell you a story,” said Knut, “about a trick button I planted on your fly.” Kerry listened, enchanted, while signaling to the waiting doorman to take a hike. The cam beeped.