Monday, April 25, 2011

50. Reality

We hadn’t had much good weather recently so, during one of the rare pleasant interludes I walked to my favorite spot in the park. It was spring and threatening to rain again, so I kept a weather-eye out for clouds. That’s why I didn’t notice someone sitting beside me until I smelled a mixture of body odor and cheap cigar smoke that snapped my head around.

There beside me was a figure as sad as I had seen beyond the movies. He was balding and badly in need of a shave. He was dressed in work pants and a sleeveless undershirt with a large mop of gray-black hair protruding from the top of it. His stomach spilled over his waist like dough overflowing in an oven.

I didn’t have to guess.

“C.W.,” I said. “What the hell are you up to?”

“What business is it of yours?” he said.

“None,” I said. “You are absolutely right. None at all.” I turned to watch the river, now at flood crest.

“If you must know,” he said. “I am waiting for a date.”

“A date?”

“A date. Is that so unbelievable?”

“Well,” I struggled for politeness and chose honesty instead. “Who would date you looking like that?”

“You would be surprised,” he said. “Some women look at the ‘inner-man’ and beyond superficial appearances.”

I nodded and turned back to the river as my lunch began to roil.

“I just may have found a soul-mate,” he said, brushing some cigar ashes off his stomach.’

“A soul-mate.”

“Yes, a soul-mate.”

And how did you happen to find this soul-mate?”

“On the internet,” he said. “They have sites where you can find a date.”

“You matched a date on the internet?”

“You have a problem with that?”

“No,” I said. “But didn’t you have to submit a photo?”

“The Falloonian Elders don’t allow me to publicize my own photo,” he said. “So I used one of yours.”

Now he had my attention. “You used my photo?”

“Yep,” he said. “And it took a long time, as you could imagine, but I finally got a hit.”

“And what was the attraction?”

As close as I could get to reality
“This, he said reaching into a pants pocket and retrieving a soiled paper containing print. He handed it to me and I read.

“Attractive SWF wants man who is comfortable within himself, loves casual dress and good food, and isn’t hung up on physical appearances—who loves to share a smoke and then take long, romantic walks in the spring rain.”

“Don’t I look the part?” he asked.

I was already up and moving away.

“Don’t you want to see her happy face when she meets me?”

He yelled something else but I was already out of hearing range.

Friday, April 8, 2011

49. War

They were having a literary festival in our town and I was walking to it when a figure fell along side me from a side street. At first I thought it was a street hustler since the man was shabbily dressed and smelled like a boatload of used cigars. I pretended not to notice until I heard a clanking sound. From the corner of my eye I saw the slouch hat and faded jacket of a civil war general. I looked closer. Hell, it was U.S. Grant himself, easily recognizable from period photographs.

“Hello Sailor, what’s up?” he said.

Of course it was C.W. I hadn’t seen him in weeks and thought perhaps he had left for good.

“Where on earth have you been?” I asked.

“Nowhere on earth,” he said. “I was called back to an intergalactic conference on intra-species hostilities. Your little planet was the subject of much of the discussion, by the way.”

“My planet?”

“Yes. Tell me—what is it about war that you find so appealing? Hell, I hated it and I got paid for it.” He was General Grant now.

“I don’t know,” I said. “You seem to forget that it cost me four good years as well.”

“I thought that at least your Christians found ‘The Peacemakers’ blessed.”

“Used to. The ‘Peacemakers’ were replaced by the ‘Moneymakers.’”

“Funny,” he said. “And all those comedians out of work.” He pulled a cigar from a pocket and, as we walked along, lit it and blew some smoke my way. For once, people didn’t stare as I assume they though he was just part of the literary festival.

“Tell me something else,” he said after we had walked on a ways.


“What is this fascination your region seems to have with that greatest of warmongers, old Bobby Lee?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean you even honor his birthday. Why don’t you honor the 25,000 of his men he massacred in his insane little venture up in Pennsylvania?”

“You mean Gettysburg?”

“I mean ‘Lee’s Folly.’ Hell he lost more troops there than they say I did in The Wilderness. And I said I was sorry and came down in history as a butcher. He is the national symbol of the noble warrior. Why?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“I’ll tell you,” he said.

“Tell, me.”

“Because the goddam Virginians, who lost about 7,000 in that war, compared to more than 20,000 from North Carolina, wrote the history of that miserable little affair.”
Hey Barack and Hillary - war isn't really that great. - C.W.

He began to cough, so I didn’t say anything.

“Then they blamed the fact that George Mead whipped Bobby’s ass on everyone from poor Pete Longstreet to Heth’s Division.” He drew on his cigar and inhaled. “And all because General Lee didn’t want to send any of his troops to help out at Vicksburg.”

I walked on. He exhaled some cigar smoke and turned to me.

“I always like what little Georgie Pickett himself had to say about who caused the defeat of his ill-ordered charge,” he said.


“He said: I always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.”