Wednesday, December 22, 2010

35. Lights

It was a cold and miserable night and C.W. had just called up and asked me if I wanted to go for a walk. I tried begging off but he said this was important and that I should bundle up and come downstairs. When I still hesitated, he reminded me of my obligation as his North American host. What could I say?

I exited the back door and immediately wished I hadn’t. It was frigid, and there stood the perfect imitation of a 1930s college student complete with raccoon coat, a hat with the front pinned up, and the type shoes that we used to call “saddle oxfords.” He was holding a pennant that simply read “State U” and was obviously excited.

“Come look,” he said. He motioned toward the houses along the street adjacent to our building. “Look at all the lights. Gee willikers. Look at all them lights.”

He was referring to the Christmas decorations adorning the homes and yards along the street. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s walk.

“I can’t go walking with you looking like that,” I said.

“Why not?” he said, waiving the pennant. “This is neaty Pete.”

“C.W.” I said. “They are just Christmas lights. People put them up every year.” He had grabbed me by the hand and was pulling me along the sidewalk.

“”Why”? he said.

“I don’t know. It’s just for Christmas.”

We stopped in front of an old, old house of the type so prevalent in this part of town. The structure itself was decorated with all the architectural features that the Victorians could imagine. In addition to that, the owners had attached lights outlining each of the features and had included lawn ornaments lighted with flashing illumination.

“Is that not something?” he said.

“It’s something all right,” I said. “It’s a big waste of money and time.” I don’t know what made me say it. Maybe it was the cold. Maybe it was the getup he was wearing, or maybe it was that stupid smile he had on his face. Did I mention that it was freezing? Well, as if to emphasis it, snow began to fall, drifting through the bare limbs of the massive oak trees that adorned downtown Little Rock.

“Oh my goodness,” C.W. said. He stood motionless as he watched the flakes fall between us and the lights.

“C.W., I said. “Did you have something you wanted to tell me?”

“Shush,” he said. “Be quiet,” He was enthralled at the quiet beauty of the scene.

I stomped my feet with impatience.

“Yes,” he said. “I have something important to tell you.”

“Well?” I said.

“You’re missing something.” He said. “Something that even an alien to your planet can notice.”

Best Holiday wishes to all. - C.W.

“And just what is that?” I said.

He reached into the pocket of his massive coat and retrieved a scrap of paper.

“This man named Ron Wild put it best,” he said. He moved toward me to use the light of a street lamp and read.

“Seek the wisdom of the ages, but look at the world through the eyes of a child.”

I didn’t say anything.

“Couldn’t you just try? Just once, at this time of the year?” he said.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

34. Imposters

C.W. has discovered that he can use the wireless internet service at the public library and he is showering me with e-mail messages. This morning he sent a particularly anxious one and asked me to meet him at the intersection of Ninth Street and Interstate 30. It’s only around the corner from where I live so, more than a little apprehensively, I agreed.

When I arrived, I had the shock of my life. There, on the corner by a deserted convenience store stood … well, stood me, at age 23. He had obviously “enphased” back to the 1960s and found me in military fatigues. He was holding a terrified man in dirty clothes and wearing a sign around his neck stating “Vietnam Veteran needs your help. God bless you.”

“What the …,” I began.

“I want you to make a citizen’s arrest and have this man incarcerated,” I, or rather C.W., said.

I was confused. “What are you doing?”

“It’s simple,” C.W. said. “This man is breaking the law, and I want him arrested.”

“What law?”

“Ask him to show you his DD-214,” the young Jimmie said.

“What’s a DD- 2, uh, whatever?” the terrified man said.

“Oh, shit,” I said as a police cruiser pulled along side us and stopped. A side window rolled down.

“What’s the problem?” A young officer said.

Before I could answer, C.W.—or the young me, if you prefer—piped up. “We want this man arrested for lying about military service.”

“Oh, jeez,” the “homeless” one said. “I didn’t mean no harm.”

The officer studied him. “Well,” he said after a long pause, “Do you have a proof of service—a DD-214?”

“Aw, man,” the hapless fellow said. “I’m just trying to make an honest living.”

“Take his ass to jail,” C.W. said. “I’m tired of folks pretending to be veterans and grabbing publicity.”

“What about you?” the officer asked C.W. “You have on the attire, but do you have any proof?”

C.W. looked a little startled. “Ask him,” he said, pointing at me.

Up until this point, I had tried to stay out of it. “Officer,” I said. “Maybe we ought to forget about this whole thing.”

“Maybe,” he said. “I have better things to do.”

“You aren’t going to arrest him?” C.W. was regaining his confidence.

“If I arrested him, I might have to arrest you as well,” The officer said. “And if I arrested every homeless person that claimed to be a veteran and wasn’t, we’d have no room in the jails for rapists and murderers.”

“Well, I never,” said an indignant C.W. “It’s certainly different where I come from.”

The officer ignored him and continued with an air of finality. “Besides, I’m two tours in Iraq myself and, believe me, I understand.” He looked at the homeless man. “I’m going to count to three and maybe I won’t see you here.”

The man had disappeared by “two.”

The officer then looked us over. “You guys favor one another. Father and son?”

We didn’t say anything.

“Why don’t you go home and have a nice day?” he said. He didn’t have to say it twice.

Friday, December 10, 2010

33. Fan Mail

I allow C.W., in this posting, to respond to some of his many fans who have taken the time to send questions or comments via e-mail. Caveat: bear in mind as you read these that the greatest joy among Falloonians appears to be BS-ing anyone who will listen. With that in mind, enjoy yourself.

Studmonkey Three: Do Falloonians marry?
C.W.: Falloonians mate for life, as your species in American used to. We have three genders, however. One, Kolookas, are designed to become impregnated and then to bear and care for children, maintain feeding centers, and keep relaxation outlet bunkers orderly. The second, Prostones, are similar to your male. The third, Suprotonians, contain characteristics of both your male and female. Prostones and Suprotonians mate, based on similar interests and the measurement of a high degree of electrical impulses generated by their proximity. Either of them may impregnate a Kolooka, which they do periodically to maintain a stable population. Otherwise, the Prostones and Suprotonians mate for mutual satisfaction, study, and the enjoyment of Falloonian recreational outlets.

Ladiesdream: Why do you never carry firearms?
C.W.: Oh, I want a Glock so badly, but the Big Guy, Jimbo, won’t allow it. He claims I did some damage once with a slingshot but I’m sure he mistook someone else for me. Why don’t you talk to him?

Thebigevader: Why do you use the element of surprise so often? We always know it’s going to be you.
C.W.: To keep Big Guy in shape. Believe it or not, he used to be lithe and perky and once ran a marathon. Now he has devolved in to a fata(CENSORED.) I use surprise in an effort to keep him in shape.

Totaltanner: Why do you appear as an attractive woman so often?
C.W.: Because, in the words of America’s Number Two Media Darling, Bristol Palin: “I enjoy being a girl.” I only wish we were talking in person so I could mimic the version of that song she is preparing for her future appearance on “American Idol.”

Brushcutter: Why do you not ask many questions about our politics?
C.W.: Quite frankly, although Falloonians have had a recorded culture for over 6 billion years, can travel almost its entire extent, and converse with most of the universe’s cultures, we can make neither heads nor tails of your political system.

Big Sam: Don’t you find Americans to be the top dogs in every aspect among the cultures on earth?
C.W.: Of course that is what we are here to determine and I am only responsible for North America. But from our monthly meetings so far, the Albanians are well out in the lead in the attributes we consider important.

SecretLove: How do you explain your good luck in landing such a cultured and educated host as Big Guy Jimmie?
C.W.: Well there’s a Falloonian expression that translates roughly this way, “As long as people eat, there’s going to be s …”

Oops, that’s all we have time for today. Keep writing. See you next posting. Over and out.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

32. Indifference

C.W. and I were sitting on our balcony watching the sun sink over western Little Rock. Its rays combined with the ozone layer to produce a marvelous sight—physics and nature in a whirlwind of jagged colors. He whacked the railing with his “thumping stick” and regarded the sights our planet can produce.

He was in the form of a service station worker, complete with an insignia of a long-forgotten oil company. I would guess his assumed age at about 18.

“Where have you been?” I said. I guessed that he had been “enphasing” as he calls it—going back in time to revisit life in the past.

“Working in a service station in your hometown back in 1960,” he said. “Just a temporary job parking cars during the holiday season.”

“Seeing anything interesting?”

“Not much. Just observing how much calmer things were back then.” He paused and whacked the balcony again. “Oh we did fire somebody yesterday … that is the two bosses fired this colored man.”

“Don’t call people that,” I said. “Why did they fire him?”

“He didn’t call one of them sir, or something. They said he was a smart aleck.”

“Is that all?”

“Well he was a couple of minutes late coming back from dinner.”

“You mean lunch?”

“We call it dinner. Anyway, they said they wasn’t going to pay some smart assed ni…”

“That’s enough!”

“They wasn’t going to pay somebody like him 50 cents an hour and have to put up with his disrespect.”

“So they just fired him?”

“Well, he had to walk home every day for dinner since there wasn’t a place downtown for him to eat. He evidently lived way over on the east side and sometimes he was a few minutes late getting back.” He whacked the balcony again.

“So they fired him,” I said. “For being two minutes late?”

“Yep. Kinda sad seeing him turn around and head back home. Guess his wife was pretty disappointed when she found out.”

“Did you try to help?” I asked.

“Wasn’t none of my business,” he said.


He whacked once more and turned to me. “Did you ever help one of them back then?”

“No, I lacked the courage.” I paused and offered, though I know it was weak. “I never knowingly mistreated anybody of any color, though.”

“I see,” he said. “You know, your species has made an art form out of indifference.” He whacked the balcony.

“Careful,” I said. “You’ll chip the paint.”
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference. Elie Wiesel

“I just keep thinking about that man walking back to his family.” He stared at the city. “Well, got to go.”


“Got to select a shape for the peace march Saturday.”

“It’s been cancelled,” I said. “Not enough interest.”

“Crap,” he said, whacking my balcony rail again.

Friday, December 3, 2010

31. Gratitude

Those behind me in line reacted to the smell before I did. We were at one of those fancy fast-food restaurants with a “snake-through” line and I was about to order a cheeseburger with fries when I noticed it. I turned and saw a man in a working uniform being stared down by everyone around him. His shirt announced that he was a city wastewater department employee and, to put it mildly, he was gamey.

I purchased my food and sat as far from the line as possible. The entire place was buzzing and those in line formed a three-foot gap on either side as they moved slowly through the process of getting their lunch. Even the clerk at the ordering register couldn’t suppress a grimace as the poor fellow went through.

I resolved not to think about it and bent over my food. But then I noticed a figure standing over me and I almost gagged from the spell. It was the smelly man.

“May I join you mister?” he said. “All the other tables seem to be full.”

I looked around. Sure enough, the place was packed and whatever seats were vacant had suddenly been filled with packages, coats, or even empty food trays. Before I could answer, he sat across from me and began unwrapping his food.

“Thanks,” he said. “I’m starving.” He began to devour his burger and I pushed mine away.

“If you don’t want the rest of that, I’ll take it,” he said, and flashed me a smile.

Crapola. It was C.W.

“What the hell are you doing?” I fairly hissed it out.

“Whatschew mean?” he mumbled through a mouth of food.

“You smell awful.”

“You would to if you had my job.”

“Dammit. You don’t have a job. What are you trying to prove?”

“I’m not trying to prove anything. Just testing your species on gratitude and honesty.”


“Yep. I been reading the newspapers and couldn’t help notice all the politicians braying on about doing something for the common working man. So I’m running some tests.”

“By ruining everyone’s lunch?”

“You mean you don’t think resolving problems involving the sanitary collection and disposal of wastewater represents an honest endeavor?”

I chewed on a fry and thought. “Well, sure,” I said.

“You just don’t want to be reminded of it,” he said.

“Maybe not during lunch.”

“When then?”

“When the problem arises.”

“I see,” he said. “A necessary evil, that’s all I am?” He ate silently for a moment and then looked up with hurt in his eyes. “You know, I learned this morning that your newspaper editor doesn’t even believe I deserve a pay raise this year.” He said it loudly enough for the whole room to hear.

Would serve them right as far as I'm concerned. - C.W.
I wanted to crawl under the table. I’m not sure the embarrassment was for me, personally or for, as he puts it, “my species.”

“Oh well, he said. “I’ll get by,” and he took another bite of food. “It’s a pretty easy job if you can remember one thing.”

“I’m all ears.”

“You have to remember not to bite your nails unless you’ve been wearing gloves.”