Friday, October 29, 2010

25. Walking

The figure moved along the walking path with a slowness that was almost painful. Dark skinned and aged, she leaned against a walker that helped her stay upright but provided no other assistance in mobility. She wore a long shirt and one could see that, beneath it, she wore a pair of men’s work pants. She also wore men’s work shoes, slit down each side. I was on a bench reading a book and tried not to notice her as she drew near. No luck. Reaching me, she spun her walker around and steadied herself as she sat down beside me.

I kept reading. She poked me in the side. “You white folks shore don’t like us, do you?”

“Excuse me?” I managed in the form of a question. I made sure anyone listening knew I was insulted.

“People who have to walk places,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“You just treat us like domesticated canines.”

It dawned on me. It was C.W. “What are you doing?” I said.


“Resting from what?” I asked.

“From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.,” he said.

“Give me a break,” I said.

“I thought you white folks didn’t like colored people, like your president,” he said. “But you really, really, really, don’t like folks who have to walk places.”

“Don’t talk like that,” I said.

“I’m sorry. I mean pedestrians.”

“I’m talking about what you call people,” I said.

“What do you call them?”

“Just people,” I said.

“Tell you what,” he said.


“Why don’t you come go walking with me?”

“Sorry, I’m busy right now.” I held up my book.


“Of what?”

“Crossing streets given over to homicidal maniacs in personal vehicles.”

“No,” I said. “I do it all the time.”

“What? Walking?”


“How long you been walking?”

“Since I was two or so.”

“No, I mean your species.”

If you count our closest relatives, more than five million years or so, as I understand it.”

“And how long you been driving cars?”

“A little over a hundred years.”

“Don’t make no sense to me.”

I made a show of returning to my book.

“You like to read?”

“Very much,” I said. He didn’t take the hint.

“Do all members of your species read?”

“No, only a small percentage of them bother.”

“What do they do?”

“Various things,” I said. “Eat, drink, sc ….”

He interrupted. “No, when they go home and relax.”

“They generally watch television.”

“You mean that device that shows people eating maggots and trying to dance with famous people?”

“That’s the one.”

So tell me why.”

“Why what?”

The figure sighed and looked at the ground. “If that’s what they do after they drive all the way home.”

“Yes.” I was getting impatient.

“Then why is they in such a dad-gummed hurry to get there?”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

24. Prophecy

Who in the world should knock on my door last night while my wife was gone but—get this—Bernie Madoff? In the flesh. Well, it was C.W. in the shape of Bernie Madoff’s flesh but I still thought it was pretty neat. And was he excited.

“Jimmie, guess what?” he said, with that famous hustler’s grin.

“You’ve been in prison?”

“No. What makes you think that?”

“Just a wild guess. What’s up?”

“I have discovered this ability that I have. You are going to love it. It must be something I transported from Falloonia that evolved in earth’s atmosphere.”

“What do you mean?”

“I have the 'thing willingly given' of prophecy.”

“Uh, the ‘gift’ of prophecy?”

“Quite so.”

“Have you tested it?”

“Yes, I told the girl who makes sandwiches at the Cox Center that someone was going to give her a 20 dollar tip the next day, and guess what?”

“You’re kidding.”

“Like magic, there is was: stuck in the tip jar, crisp and new before noon.”

“Have you ever heard of ‘beginner’s luck’?”

“No. What’s that?”

“Never mind. Have you tried it again?”

“Oh yes. I struck up a conversation with a lady at a nursing home last week when I went to see how you treat your old people.”


“She was in tears because her son in California hadn’t called her in a month. She was on the verge of giving up.”


“I told her that her son would call her that afternoon. And guess what?”

“He did?”

“Like timepiece-work.”

“Are you sure this is legitimate?”

“Absolutely. Now, one reason I came is that I need to borrow some money.”

I allowed myself to dream. The stock market would open tomorrow at 8:30 p.m. our time, and we were right in the middle of college football season. Less than 50 miles from here was a simulcast horse betting casino. Holy Mackeral!

“C.W., if you are right, you can borrow all the money you want. But are you certain about all this?” I was feeling great.

“You are proof positive.”


“Yes you.”

“What do you mean?”

“I told my colleague in South America that you would receive a visitor at exactly 8:00 p.m. tonight.”

“Me? A visitor?”

“Yep. Now check the time.”

It was 8:10 p.m.

“But you are the only visitor I’ve had.”


“Holy crap!”

“I knew you would be astounded. Now about the money. The airline ticket to California was expensive, not to mention the 20 dollars.”

“You little Falloonian asshole.”

“What’s wrong?”

“C.W., if you make it happen, it’s not the fulfilling of prophecy.”

“According to the ministers on television, it is. Where do you think I got the idea?”

“I hope you rot in jail.”

Friday, October 22, 2010

23. Pins

He was one of the happiest looking men I ever saw. I noticed him wheeling himself along Bill Street (President Clinton Boulevard) whistling and speaking to everyone he met—a real delight to behold. As he neared me, I noticed both legs were missing from just above the knee. When he reached me, he suddenly pivoted directly in my path and stopped.

“Hello brother,” he said. “Ain’t it a wonderful day to be alive?”

Then he winked.

Yep, it was C.W., the little Falloonian himself.

“Come over here and sit,” he said. “I got some questions to ask you.”

We moved over to a bench, and he pointed to pin attached to my shirt.

“What’s that?”

“It’s my Red Cross Donor Pin,” I said.

“What’s it for?”

“It means I am an 11-gallon donor.”

“Of what?”

“Blood. I donate blood and platelets that are used when needed in operations or other medical procedures. I started doing it years ago, at my wife's suggestion.”

“Well bless you, brother, and your wife as well. I must have needed a bunch of such stuff once upon a time.” He nodded at his legs.

“C.W., you didn’t really go through that.”

“Never you mind. Now here’s the thing: I see a lot of folks wearing pins. Is that what they all mean?”

“No, different ones mean different things.”

“I see. Well some folks wear these little flag-looking pins. Does that mean they are veterans of the military, like you and me?”

I winced. “Not exactly.”

He looked puzzled.

“What do you mean?” he said.

“In my experience, it almost always means that they never served in the military.”

“Sort of making up for it, huh?”

“Sort of.”

“Well, answer me another one. I saw this woman wearing the symbol of a cross on her blouse. That’s all about your Jesus, isn’t it?”


“Then tell me why she was wearing a bunch of expensive clothes and jewelry while she was cursing a homeless person who asked her for money.”

“I can’t explain it.”

“Wouldn’t that sort of make your Jesus wince? Or maybe even weep?”

“He’s not my Jesus, but, yes, as he is presented to us in literature, it would.”

“I don’t understand.”

He stopped to greet a group of tourists walking by.

“Bless you folks,” he said as he smiled and waved.

“What do you not understand? I said.”

“I don’t understand all this disconnect in the logic of your species. We’ve been through this before.”

“And I’m sure we’ll go through it again. Many times.”

“Well I have decided …” He stopped.


“Never mind.”

“No. What?”

“You’re sure you want to hear this?”


“It seems to me that not everyone who waves a flag is a patriot, and not everyone who waves a Bible is a Christian.”

Out of the mouths of strangers.

Monday, October 18, 2010

22. Secrets

C.W. provokes me to no end. I know we have an agreement. It’s called, for some reason, “Don’t Inquire and Don’t Enlighten.” This simply means I am not to ask him directly about the vast store of useful knowledge his planet must have about the universe. He, then, is not supposed to tell me anything that would disrupt the normal development of our evolution.

But, hell, he could give me a hint on occasion, couldn’t he?

Not this little prick. Today, for some reason, he had assumed the shape of a carnival barker, complete with a striped sport coat, white pants, a red-satin bowtie and a straw hat. We were strolling down Capitol Avenue and I was keeping a sharp eye out for anyone who might know me.

“So, step right up young man,” he said. “I understand you want to know the secret of life.”

“Just a little info about the formation of the universe will do,” I said, ducking my head as a city-owned vehicle appeared in sight.

“The secret of life. Well I’m here to tell you,” he said in a loud, huckster’s manner, more TV evangelist than Carnie. “The secret of life is this—now listen closely,” he paused for effect. “Life is just a bowl of cherries.”

“Screw you,” I said.

He looked hurt. He hurried a few steps ahead of me and then spun around. He gazed directly into my eyes the way a puppy will when he realizes that you have no treat for him.

“You mean,” he said. “Life is not just a bowl of cherries?”

“C.W., “I growled. “I have heard that joke dozens of times.”

“It’s still funny, though. Isn’t it?”

“If you say so.” I walked along saying nothing.

“Are you going to pout?” he said.

“Leave me alone.”

“Yowza, yowza, yowza,” he said, loud enough that people on the street turned to look.

“Forget about it,” I said.

“Okay, I’ll tell you one thing,” he said.

He could be slippery. “What’s that?”

“I will tell you the most important thing for your species to know at this exact moment in your history.”


“You can take it to the bank, brother,” he assumed his carnival voice again.

“No tricks.”

“No tricks. Nothing in my hand, nothing up my sleeve.” He demonstrated this.


“What do you think it might involve?” he said.

I thought. “Some might say religion.”

“Good guess, mister. But you’re absolutely wrong. Try again,”

“The type of political structure.”

“Nice try, young man, but wrong. Try again.”

“I give up.”

“So quickly?” No wonder your species still believes in ghosts.”

“Just shut up and tell me.”

“Okay, you are ready for the most important piece of information there is?”

“I’m ready. Tell me.”

“Just this,” he said, as he put his hand to his mouth to whisper it.

I leaned forward, shaking with anticipation.

“If A equals B, and B equals C, then A equals C.”

I was exasperated. “C.W.,” I said. “Our leaders already know this.”

He looked at me, sadness in his eyes.

“It’s not your leaders I’m talking about.”

Thursday, October 14, 2010

21. Cigars

Captain Kirk and I were sitting on the balcony of my condo smoking cigars and enjoying some Glenmorangie Scotch. Actually it was C.W. and I, he being in the shape of one of Captain Kirk’s later kin, a Boston attorney. And he only claimed it was Glenmorangie. He can be such a liar. Anyway, it was good and we were feeling expansive, watching the night lights of downtown Little Rock sparkle like flakes of diamond dust being blown across a flame.

“Tell me something, Jimbo,” he said.

“Don’t call me that,” I said and then: “What?”

“Why does your species hold such grudges?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean why did I have to get these Cubans from our South American representative and then sneak them in to your country?” he said, regarding his cigar at arms length.

“It’s complicated,” I said.

“That’s what you always say,” he said. “Now tell me, is your country at war with Cuba?”

“No, not really.”

“Was it ever?”

“Kinda, sorta,” I said.

“Judas Preacher!” he said. “Were you or not?”

“We invaded them once, and it’s Judas Priest.”

“I see,” he said. “Then what?”

“They tried to threaten us with nuclear weapons.”

“Tried to?”

“It didn’t work.”

“And since then?”

“We haven’t traded with them.”

He took a long, sensuous draw from his cigar. “And when was that?”

“It was 1961, I think.”

“Almost 50 years ago?”

“Yep—and is this going somewhere?”

He ignored the question. “And since then?”

“Nothing much, just some mutual mischief making and no trade.”

“Any effort at reconciliation?”

“A few attempts, some progress on occasion, and some near misses.”

“Close, but no cigars, eh?”

“Screw you,” I said, but I couldn’t keep from laughing.

He studied the hot end of his cigar. “So since 1961, the Cubans haven’t done any real harm, say like a group of its citizens flying planes into your buildings or something like that?”

“Not really.”

He indicated his cigar, “This is the only major product that they have embargoed?”

“Entertainment, too.”

“I see.” He looked at the skyline and smiled.

“I’ve been studying this character named Jesus that your people write about.”


“He advocates forgiveness.”

“I think so.”

“Has your country ever considered following his teachings?”

“Oh please. His philosophy would be the most blatant sort of liberalism today, and liberals are despised by much of society.”

“Along with the poor?”

“Quite right.”

He took another draw from his cigar, exhaled, and then took a sip from his drink. He smacked his lips in delight and formed a smile so broad that it challenged the moon for attention.

“Yeah well,” he said. “Screw ‘em.”

Friday, October 8, 2010

20. Politics and Brotherhood

A group of friends and I were seated comfortably, enjoying the 25th year of the King Biscuit Blues Festival on the banks of the Mississippi River in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas. The crowd was loving the music. In fact, beer and enthusiasm had already combined to convince a number of folks to start dancing. It was a beautiful October day, and all seemed well with the world.

A friend sitting beside me offered to make a beer run before the next act, one of his favorites. He left and I became distracted by an elderly white lady dancing with a whole group of folks and anyone else who happened to walk by. A hand tapped me on the shoulder. It was my friend, the beer-runner, or so I thought.

“Perry,” I said. “You back already?”

“Shhh. Be quiet. I want to talk to you for a minute.”

Jeez. It was C.W. in the shape of my friend Perry. I had left the alien a while back sitting on the seat of a Harley Davidson Motorcycle on Cherry Street belting out a blues rendition of “The Promised Land, and in the shape of a motorcycle gang member.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I been walking around looking,” he said. “There are at least a dozen different races of folks gathered up here from all parts of the Globe having fun together. Look there.” He pointed at an elderly African-American man who had stopped and was dancing with the lady I mentioned earlier.

“Yes,” I said. “That’s what happens at blues festivals.”

“That’s amazing,” he said. “In many parts of your state, people leave their homes and move away to some dreadful place to avoid living near people of different races. Here they travel from all over to be together.”

“It’s something alright,” I said.

“Do the races get along this well all the time here?”

“Maybe not always.”

“Really. That’s too bad.”

“But,” I added. “I am told that people do work together as a single soul to put this show together.”

“Interesting,” he said.

We watched the act for a moment. A young guitarist was putting on a show and the crowd was urging him on.”

“I don’t much like the politics of your species,” he said from out of nowhere.

“I don’t think anyone does,” I said.

“Why don’t they change the process?” he asked.

“Too much cost sunk into maintaining it, I suppose.”

“Wouldn’t it be better if Congress met only at blues festivals?”

I looked at him to see if he was serious. He was.

“Let me get back to you on that. Here comes Perry.” I pointed to our right.

When I glanced around, he was gone.

Perry eased back and handed me a beer. He started to say something but a wave of excitement moved through the crowd. There were shouts of: “Look,” and “I told you he was alive,” and “Oh my god, he’s real!”

It seemed that Elvis was walking along in front of our part of the park. He hurried along but stopped every once in awhile to wave.

“That goddam little twerp,” I thought to myself.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

19. Collapses

I almost missed him, being deep in thought with a deadline looming. I was imagining scenarios when he stopped to ask the time. I told him and then couldn’t help staring. Since they built the President William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library in my neighborhood, it is not unusual to see someone famous, or near famous strolling about. “Aren’t you someone?” I asked.

“Could be,” he replied. “Who did you have in mind?”

I thought, then the book cover appeared in my head.

:You’re the author,” I said. “You wrote the book Collapse. Jared Diamond. Right?”

“I did pretty well,” he laughed. “Had you fooled.”

Shit! It was C.W.

“What in the world?”

He enjoyed my discomfiture for a moment and then led me to a bench. “Did you enjoy my book?”

“I enjoyed his book. Why are you he?”

“Went back in time doing research,” he said.

He had been “enphasing,” as he calls it—a process by which he places himself so mentally deep in a time that he is able to visit it.

“Why Mr. Diamond?”

“To answer a question he asked in his book. It involves a matter of behavior among your species in which I am particularly interested.”

“And that is?”

“It involves Contacura++. You remember that, don’t you?”

“I think it means Literally, the act of sitting on a baby’s face, or a foolish course of action.”

“Precisely. The kind your species is famous for.”

I winced. “So what have we done now?”

“Remember the Easter Islanders?”

“Oh yes. They exhausted the timber resources on their planet with no conservation measures so that the species died out. And they left those famous giant statues as their only legacy.”

“Well, Contacura++ was their legacy as well.”

“Oh yes.”

“Remember the haunting question I asked in the book?”

“You mean that Mr. Diamond asked?”

“If you must.”

“I think he wondered what was said when the last tree was cut, spelling society’s collapse”.

“Yes. He suggested maybe: ‘Jobs, not trees’ or ‘We don’t have proof that there aren’t palms somewhere else on Easter, we need more research, your proposed ban on logging is premature and driven by fear-mongering.’”

“So you went back to verify?”

“Yep. You want to guess what was said just before they cut the last tree?”

“It’s my property and I can do what I want to on it?”


“We can’t do anything that might hurt the economy?”

“Wrong again.”

These summbitches are ugly and dumb. - C.W.
“Okay, I give up.”

“There was this big meeting and the head man spoke. It took me awhile to master their language but I think I got it right.”

“And what did he say?”

“Well he first said: ‘Facts are stupid things.’ Everyone winced. Then someone said it was the Village Council’s duty to save the society from ruin. That’s when the chief made his final pronouncement.”

“And he said?”

“Government is not the solution. Government is the problem.”

“And they cut the tree down.”

“Without another word.”