Sunday, May 26, 2013

151. Memories

It is usually C.W. at his most annoying. Of course I mean his assuming the shape of a question-a-second pre-teenager. This time, though, I decided it might be a learning experience.

He showed up in his shorts, flip-flops, and tee-shirt ready, as he said, “To party-hearty and enjoy the Memorial Day fireworks.”

I waited until he had finished his litany of expected festivities. “Do you think that is what Memorial Day is for?”

“Well yeah,” he said. Then he cocked his head. “Ain’t it?”

“No,” I said. “It should be a day of somber reflection.”

“A what?”

“A day that we remember those who died after they answered their country’s call for military service during times of war.”

“Oh, gross,” he said.

“Go change clothes,” I said. “We’re taking a trip.”

An hour later we were at our city’s military cemetery on the east side of town. It was quiet. Most folks were attending a large festival nearby. A few solitary souls were wandering the grounds. Some stood quietly in front of one of the white tombstones. A small group was placing flags on each one. It was a peaceful, lonely place.

“Lookit,” C.W. said, pointing to a man who was kneeling before one of the graves. Before I could stop him, he had raced over and stood beside the man, a well-dressed figure appearing to be well into his eighties.

Miraculously, C.W. took this opportunity to show both restraint and respect. He stood silently until the man looked up in greeting.

“Is this someone you knew?”

The man nodded. “We served together on the old Nevada.”

“What’s an Old Nevada?”

“It was a battleship.”

“He died?”

“In 1941.”

“How old was he?”

“He had just turned eighteen. We both had.”

“How did it happen?”

“The ship came under attack and we were on our way to our battle stations when a bomb hit near us.”

“He died there?”

“No, he was the only one that wasn’t hurt.”

C.W. looked confused.

“He carried the rest of us to a safe location, one by one.”

“And then?”

“After he saw that I was safe, he checked the group and saw that one of us was still missing.”


“When he went back that time, he never returned.” The man lowered his head and sobbed.

I was watching, proud of C.W. who waited until the man had regained his composure.

“I’m so sorry,” C.W. said. “It must have been hard on you to lose a shipmate.”

The man looked up at him through reddened eyes. “A shipmate?”

“Yes sir. A shipmate.”

“A shipmate yes. A hero, yes. But more. He was my sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening, a gentle breeze across my cheek on a tropical evening, and the beauty of the ocean’s roll on a following sea. I have missed him every day for over 71 years. I would have gladly given all those years for one more touch of his soft hand.” He began to cry again.

“Gee,” C.W. said. “Did he win a medal?”

Seems to me that war is crappy enough
without getting the bigots involved. - C.W.
“No,” the man said quietly. “Before the attack, we were both scheduled to be cashiered from the navy. His name was hardly ever mentioned afterwards. They wouldn’t have buried him here except that his family had some influence.”

“That don’t hardly seem fair.”

“The world is not fair, my son,” the man said as he stood. “And war even less so. Now if you will excuse me, I have a plane to catch.” He walked away on unsteady legs to where a taxi waited.

As C.W.came to where I stood, I couldn’t help asking, “Did you learn anything?”

“Shut up,” he said, and I swear he had tears in his eyes.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

150. Rage

It was to be a quiet walk in the neighborhood. I had gotten three blocks from home and crossed a major street near I-30 when I was joined by a tall, neatly dressed African-American man whom I recognized immediately as one who often strolls our city’s River Market area. He eased in beside me and we walked to the next corner before he stopped and spoke.

“This is where it happened, isn’t it?”

I stopped, thought, and remembered. “Yes, along here somewhere.”

“Did you see it happen?”

“No, but I might have. I walk this way almost daily.”

“And I as well.”

“You didn’t witness it?”

“No.” He looked wistfully at the scene. “It would have been an interesting experience to report to the Elders. Your species has a unique approach to settling disagreements.”


“Who did you think it was?”

“I never knew … I mean … has this been you all along?”

“I sometimes wander the earth without you.” Before I could speak, he continued. “But tell me about this ‘rage of the road’ that is so unique to your kind.”

“This was apparently a classic case. Two motorists got into a feud on the interstate and both pulled off at this exit and stopped. One got out of his vehicle and started toward the other. The man in the second car produced a gun and shot the man three times, killing him.”

“In front of the man’s family?”


“What could cause such an angry response?”

“I have no idea.”

“Perhaps one saw a car on the highway with one of those ‘these colors don’t run” bumper stickers?”

“I don’t know.”

“Perhaps they each had seen one of those TV shows where the hero solves problems by beating up someone.”

“I don’t know.”

“Maybe they watched that so-called news channel whose pundits tell their listeners that the government is coming to get them.”

“I don’t know.”

“Perhaps those guns of which you are so fond have an unsettling psychological effect on a person.”

“Dammit I just don’t know.”

“Have you ever carried a gun?”

“Once. For a time I carried one with me constantly, even when I ate. I stored it next to my bed at night. It was my constant companion.”

“Did it make you crazy?”

“I dunno.”

“What happened to it?”

“The United States Government took it away from me one day.”

“Well, there you go,” he said. “That’s too bad.”

“Oh no. Quite the contrary. It was one of the happiest days of my life.”

“You are weird.”

I thought this was a little bizarre coming from a shape-shifting alien and told him so.

“So we have one man dead in front of his family and another facing first-degree murder charges because of a minor fracas that either could have avoided.”

“That’s about it.”

“This worship of the gun and automobile, where do they teach it?” He pointed toward the spire of a church a couple of blocks away. “There?”

“No. They are supposed to teach just the opposite.”

“Supposed to?”

“Some of them have gotten a little off-track.”

All in all, I think music produces
a better effect on your species
than does driving a vehicle. - C.W.
“Surely your schoolteachers warn that your DNA contains dormant remnants lying ready to activate and produce violent responses during times of stress.”

I pointed at the church. “You and I have talked about this before. They don’t quite approve of teaching science to young kids.”

He stood silent for a moment. Then he lowered his head until his chin rested on his chest. “I hope …,” he said, then stopped to gather his thoughts.

“Hope what?”

“I hope that my next assignment is to a simpler planet.”

Sunday, May 12, 2013

149. Payback

Friends. I am “Mother-in-Law sitting” this weekend, and C.W. has mysteriously vanished. I think he is afraid of her for some reason. This is odd, for she is one of the gentlest creatures on earth. I think it may be her honesty that frightens him away. The first time she ever saw him, she asked him if he ever had pains.

“Sometimes,” he said.

“I don’t,” she said.

“Oh,” he said, showing a sudden scientific interest. “That must be nice.”

“Well, yes,” she said. “Except for one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“I don’t have anything to talk about.”

So one can see that he finds her a bit unsettling. This one time, she asked him why he couldn’t be satisfied with one shape. He didn’t have a good answer. Then she began asking him to appear in the shape of long departed friends.

“I don’t do ‘made-to-order’ shapes,” he said.

“What kind of alien are you? Where I come from, they take orders all the time. Mothers have to anyway. Did anyone ever wake you up at two o’clock in the morning and tell you they had to have a ballerina dress for school next day?”

Before he could answer, she came at him again. “I’ll bet you never even learned your ‘take-aways.’”

“My what?”

“Your ‘take-aways.’ I was always good at those.”

He just had to ask. “What are ‘take-aways,’ anyhow?”

“You know. Ten take away two is eight. Eight take way two is six. Six take away four is two. They should have taught you those.”

Now he avoids her whenever he can.

So I am here with this wonderful lady, at least I think it is she. She is alternately talking and reading the paper. The conversation is going something like this:

“So they are going to make them carry guns to school?”

“I don’t think they will make them.”

“It’s a shame. One is going to go off and put out a child’s eye. Where is she?”

“Gone to Texas. She will be back next week.”

“She was a good child, not a hillbilly. She was always smart, you know.”

“She still is.”

“Hillary is smart. Do you think she will be the next president?”

“It looks that way.”

“Where is she?”


“No. You know …”

“She has gone to Texas.”

“She has a cousin who lives in Texas.”

“Yes, that’s where she went.”

Here's hoping you all spend Mother's Day
with one of your favorite people. - C.W.
“Oh. So she won’t be back today?”

“No. Next week. You and I can do whatever you wish for the entire day.”

“Do you have any peanut butter?”

So, we are going to have fun on Mother’s Day and hope you will as well. I’m sure our friend will be back next week.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

148. Rights and Powers

C.W. set my wife off again the other night by coming to the supper table dressed in a sport coat and tie. He calls it his “Mr. Cleaver look.”

“Please tell him to leave and come back when we’re finished,” she said. He smiled and grabbed an ear of corn with one hand. The other held a pocket version of the U.S. Constitution which he studied with interest.

“Tell him yourself, why don’t you?”

She slammed a glass of water onto the table in front of me by way of explanation. Part of it splashed onto my shirt. “He’s your alien,” she said. “Besides, I’m still not over the fact that he’s been using my sewing machine.”

I stopped a plate that she had slid toward me before it landed my lap. “Is this true?” I asked him.

Ignoring me, he waved the Constitution. “This part that says ‘… the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.’ Does that mean what it says?”

My wife glared at me. “Can we not bring up the matter of bearing arms right now?” I said. “But yes, I’m afraid it does.”

“Hmm,” he said. “Weird.” Then he began making machine gun-like noises as he nibbled down the length of his ear of corn.

“That does it,” my wife said. “You two have fun. I’ll be in the living room.” With that, she gathered her plate, utensils, and water glass, then left us at the table alone.

“You sure made her mad,” he said. He shook the document again. “This doesn’t seem to have been written with her in mind.”

“No,” I said. “No it wasn’t.”

“Weird,” he said. “So, these rights are absolute for us menfolk?”

“Actually for all of us now.”

“Hmm,” he said. “What about this ‘…making no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..’ part.”

“What about it?”

“That’s pretty much of a joke, right?”

“Don’t call our Constitution a joke,” I said.

He reached into a coat pocket and retrieved a dollar bill. Slamming it onto the table, he pointed at the slogan, “In God We Trust.” When I didn’t respond, he put it back into his pocket. “And what about this Article Six thing?” he said.

“What Article Six thing?”

“The ‘thing’ where it says, ‘…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.’”


“So, have you ever watched one of your celebrated political debates?”

“On occasion.”

“And the first question usually asked is?”

“Sometimes they ask about the candidates’ religion,” I said. “But debates have no official standing.”

“Boy,” he said. “Mrs. Big Dope is right about you.”


“Never mind,” he said. “Now let’s look at this section that sets up the Judicial Branch.”

“Article Three,” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “Article Three ... the shortest of those dealing with the various branches of government.” He turned the pages until he found the article. He studied it carefully with a periodic “Hmm.”

Actually, your Constitution is not a  bad piece
of work for a  bunch of aged white men. - C.W.
I ate in silence until he placed the document gently on the table.

“I can’t find the part where the court elects the President.”

“It has only done that once,” I said. “And I think most everyone regrets it. We have much more respect for the separation of powers as a result of that caper.”

“I see,” he said. “Speaking of ‘separation of powers,’ could you please have your wife bring us some more water?”