Ramblings of Charles Prier – Writer-Insomniac-General Know-it-All

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1987 – The last thirty-five minutes

A New Year’s eve monologue

Big George Collier and his band blasted out nostalgic tunes. Cigarette smoke filled the room. We are all crowded on to a tiny square of polished hardwood. Finally, the dance floor cleared a little as a variation in the music style provided a cue for some of us to retreat to our seats. One or two other unremarkable songs in the final set of 1987 passed by.

Only thirty-five minutes left,” someone yelled and then the band began its version of “That Lovin’ Feeling.” I asked Robbie to spend the rest of the year dancing with me. She skeptically agreed, and we moved to the crowded dance floor.          

A giant mirror along one wall reflected reality but provided the illusion of greater size.

 It was a good dance. Robbie is so pretty. I wonder what she sees in me, I must be okay or she wouldn’t… I felt a bump, squish, and push as some fool tried to get the whole dance floor by knocking everyone else off with their big buns.

The colored lights around the bandstand blinked in perfect sequence. I wondered if they were just Christmas lights or part of the band’s engineered lighting.

Big George sure is tall… what does an earring in a man’s right ear mean? I’m sure not going to ask him. He’s a little cross-eyed or something – sure has a good singing voice.

Under The Boardwalk” sounded good. I think we were in Memphis then. I don’t think I’ve ever been under a boardwalk. Robbie sure does this well, wish we had more room we’d really show’em how.

A woman dressed in white was watching herself in the mirror. I couldn’t believe it; she didn’t even know anyone else was there. She was in love with herself in the mirror. Some twit in a red tie is looking at her; he’s not with her is he? Dang! That’s me. I feel so silly. I don’t think anyone saw me. Hmmm… I see what she means. I don’t look so bad. Maybe if I could lose a little of that paunch… o’ well maybe someday. 

“Up On the Roof” suddenly began playing. How did they do that? The song was different without stopping or starting. I think that’s what they call “Beach Music.” Wonder whoever thought of eating a raw oyster for the first time? Had to be someone who spent a lot of time at the beach. It was probably just a joke. Suddenly we were back to “Under the Boardwalk” I didn’t even hear it change. Whatever happened to Loretta Bowman?

The Song was over, about twelve minutes to go in the year.

I didn’t know the next song. Robbie didn’t either. I could tell by the way she looked at me. It had a nice beat, maybe a little fast and jerky. I probably looked so silly. I couldn’t see the mirror. Hope I don’t have a heart attack or some kind of medical fit, everyone would just think I was dancing. 

“Are you all right?” Robbie asked. 

“I’m fine.” 

Robbie would know if I was having a fit. Or… she would have before I told her I was fine. Shouldn’t have answered her. Sure is a long song. Why did she ask me if I was all right?

My Girl,” that’s better. I hoped it was the last piece so they wouldn’t play another silly song. 

Song ended. “Fifty seconds to go,” someone in the band yelled over the speakers.

They can’t play another song, can they? There’s not enough time. Just stand here and hold Robbie close. Count down’s starting. Did they say fifty seconds of fifteen seconds? Can’t tell. Just watch everyone else. This silly hat doesn’t fit. 

Five… Four,” the group shouts. 

Must have been fifteen seconds. Hope I don’t tear up when they play “Auld Lang Syne.” 

“Three… Two… One.” Sheeesh! Sniff Sniff…

Happy New Year! 

 

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Vision Stories

One day when I was almost 14, I was with a group of teenagers just goofing around in front of the library. Sharon, a member of our group, was holding her glasses in her hand. I took them from her and put them on intending to ham-up the delivery a Groucho Marx joke.

Suddenly, the whole world was different. I could see and read the store signs across and up and down Main Street. People nearly a block away had faces. The sidewalk was no longer just a gray slab of concrete but a mosaic of tiny pebbles. I was amazed. I didn’t know until that day that I was nearsighted.

It took a week for my first pair of glasses to arrive at Dr. 0. B. May’s office from Little Rock. They cost $28. I walked around town all day reading faraway signs and just seeing things brightly and clearly at a distance and with detail that I didn’t know was possible.

I was somewhat intimidated by the much bigger world. People looked at me differently; a few of my friends started calling me professor. A couple of guys called me four-eyes. Someone said that I looked diplomatic. I didn’t know the meaning of diplomatic but it sounded good.

I will forever be grateful to Sharon for just being there that day and to Dr. May for his kind professionalism and letting me pay in installments.

Years later, I was a training specialist in the Navy engaged in training Navy Reservist to be aviation flight crewmembers. This involved flying from time to time. Charlie Lindbergh (really that’s his name), a shipmate of mine suggested that we should receive hazardous duty pay like those we were training. This required passing a flight physical — a significant challenge since, we joked, neither of us could see our feet; me because of my vision and over-weight Charlie because of his big belly. Charlie went on a diet. I memorized the eye chart.

During the eye test, the medical corpsman asked me to read a line from the chart. I recited it flawlessly without hesitation. The corpsman gave me a puzzled look and said, “You certainly can see good, sailor. You just read the other side of that eye chart.” No one told me that eye charts have two sides.

The results of our efforts presented a life lesson to me. Charlie’s hard work paid off with dividends. My shortcut didn’t even work.

I still had to fly from time to time and without the extra pay. I complained once to my crew leader that everyone was receiving hazard pay except me. He said, “Maybe your participation in this flight is the reason the rest of us are getting the hazard pay.”

Another life lesson — it’s not just about me. I never complained again.

The Legend of the Parson’s Shoe

Parson Marcus Burns was a blessing to the Villagers of Ballycarry in 18th century Northern Ireland. When he came to visit, if their floor squeaked it stop squeaking, if their roof leaked, it stopped leaking. Babies stopped crying, dog stopped barking, colors were brighter and the air throughout their home took on a clean and wholesome fragrance. The Parson’s visits brought peace and tranquility to the family along with a sense of security that there would always be plenty of everything they needed.

Some thought the Parson was accident prone because he was known to suffer numerous bruises, scratches, and minor lacerations from odd accidents. Actually, Satan hated him, he cursed him and placed obstacles in front of him to trip him up everywhere he could. He would cause otherwise friendly puppies to bite him and kittens to scratch him. At inconvenient times, bees and unprovoked wasp would sting him. Parson Burns was undaunted by Satan’s efforts. He kept his faith and cheerfully continued his visits with the villagers.

One day while visiting a newlywed couple the bridegroom mentioned that he was concerned that their well was going dry. While leaning over to look into the well, Parson Burns slipped falling headfirst into the well. The young parishioner, trying to save him grabbed the Parson by one leg. Unfortunately, he kept slipping and slipping until he was holding him only by his shoe. Finally the Parson’s foot slipped out of his shoe and he continued to fall into the well which, since being bless, was filled with water. All efforts to save Parson Burns from drowning failed.

The newlywed parishioners kept the Parson’s shoe, placing it in a position of prominence in their home. Throughout their lifetime their home was abundantly blessed with plenty of everything they needed.

Since that time the Villagers of Ballycarry have given a single Parson’s shoe to newlywed couples to remind them of the Parson’s blessing, encourage them to keep the faith and to symbolize their wish that everyone in their home would always have plenty of everything they need. –The Towne Crier, 1796

Just for the fun of it

 We played ball when I was a kid. Sometimes it was with a softball or just a rubber ball. Since hardly anyone had ball gloves, we rarely played hard ball. Sometimes even the bat was home-made, fashioned from a board or pole by someone handy with tools.

I remember a time at my uncle’s place, four or five of us were hitting and throwing a ball around in a freshly mowed hay-field near his house. Others joined us. Someone brought a real bat. Pieces of board appeared and served as markers for bases. Soon we had a crowd of all ages. Everyone got to play and no one kept score. We played till dusty dark – a full afternoon of ball playing, just for the fun of it.

My father was an orphan raised by elderly foster parents. He worked hard all his short life but he took having fun almost as seriously as work. On weekends, we would often picnic on a creek near a swimming hole. There was always a campfire and Mom would fry chicken in a cast iron Dutch oven and roast potatoes and corn-on-the-cob over the coals. We would play in the creek, fish, or hunt treasures till exhausted. These outings didn’t cost much so we could do them often just for the fun of it.

Without a special occasion, we would sometimes make ice cream. We had a hand-crank, ice-cream maker. The neighbors would come and everyone would get to help crank. Someone always put an ice chip down someone shirt – just for the fun of it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit my daddy’s knack doing things just for fun. Many of my leisure activities were attached to an obligation or associated somehow with work. Parties fulfilled social obligations or provided business contacts; even vacations were often combined with business trips. Like many of my associates, I rarely did anything just for the fun of it.

It’s sad that nowadays even kid’s ball games have evolved into achievement oriented, competitive, institutions like T-ball and little league championships and no longer exist just for the fun of it.

There are things I’ve learned to do just for fun. Parades are fun. I like to fish from the bank with a simple pole and worms for bait. Fancy boats and sophisticated fishing tackle seem to take the fun out of fishing.

This Fourth of July, on the spur-of-the-moment, we went out to watch the fireworks. Now we share a simple but pleasant memory.

The western skies near us offer beautiful sunsets almost daily. At one time, I would have felt obligated to fiddle with a camera and worry with framing, focus, and f-stops trying to capture in a single dimension the sunset’s unique beauty. How foolish;  it’s much better to caress and share the moment with someone you care about – just for the fun of it. –CP

 

 

Where Are You Young Jeffery?

It has been more than fifteen years since that day. Jeffery would be about twenty-five today.
I was deep in thought that summer morning when the desperate cries for help from my front yard penetrated the stillness of my small study.
I opened the door to see a youngster, I later learned was Jeffery, running up the street toward our house screaming for help at the top of his lungs. I grabbed the portable telephone and stepped to the porch prepared to call 911. A couple was running a short distance behind calling to him. The sobbing youngster quickly moved behind positioning me between him and the couple; all the while, crying that they were going to kill him.
Everyone seemed to start talking at once. Sorting through the confusion, I learned that Jeffery was the couple’s nephew; that they were contractors working on a job down the street; and there had been a minor altercation to which Jeffery overreacted. The Boy’s mother had allegedly placed him with his uncle because of behavior problems she couldn’t handle.
I realized I had become the mediator in a family dispute for which my qualifications to resolve had been inaccurately assumed. The only thing I was sure of was that Jeffery believed he was in danger.
“I’m sorry to put you in this situation”, said the uncle. “If you’ll just call his mother, she will tell you what I said is true.”
Jeffery said, “I don’t want to stay with them, I want to talk to my mom. I want to go home.”
“Calm down Jeffery, let him call your mom. Let’s get this mess straightened out so this man can go back to his business.” The uncle said.
I handed the phone to the uncle and asked him to dial her number. He dialed and handed it back. The boy’s mother repeated the uncle’s story to me adding that she had even called the police on occasion.
The thought, is this really his mom, went through my head. I said to her     “Jeffery wants to talk to you” and handed the phone to Jeffery.
“Momma please, I want to come home,” he said. “I’m scared. They say I am evil, there’s a demon in me.” His voice was loud and whiney. “Last night they took me to this place where all these people held me down and prayed over me. I’m scared; I think they want to kill me. Please… can I come home? I’ll be good. I promise.”
I don’t know what his mom said to him but after a few minutes, a glass of water, and promises from his uncle that he wasn’t in trouble Jeffery calmed down and they returned to their jobsite.
Through these years I catch myself watching half hoping to see him or his uncle; I haven’t seen either. Today I wonder about young Jeffery. Was he just a spoiled  young man with growing pains or a victim being traumatized by a cult or group of otherwise well-intentioned individuals. CP

Small Town USA

A recent road trip had us passing through many small towns. There are towns off the main road. Then there are towns off the back road. Weldon, Arkansas is off Highway 17 and Jackson County Road 22; neither are main roads unless you live in Weldon.

The homes of the 100 residents looked neat, almost prosperous although the median annual income is probably less than $30k. No doubt, everyone took pride in what God had given them. No one is struggling or living below the poverty line.

We didn’t see many people. Those we saw seemed happy, curious, and carefree with no concern about what is going on in Egypt or even Washington, DC. Their crops were green and abundant. The road was smooth. I got lost in my mind, everything was so Peaceful and unfamiliar. I didn’t recognize any place or the feelings I felt… but I yearned to.

 

Why I like My New Book

Primarily because I did it all myself; all the stories are from my imagination and are recorded as if I personally witnessed the story-line images. The essays are mostly fragments of memories, some enhanced with maybes, or could-have-beens, born of later events or experiences. Others are simply the result of mental fits of anger, love, pride, or remorse thoughtfully presented.

I did all the mechanical tasks myself; the design, typing, layout, selecting the images and arranging the mundane but necessary nits associated with finally publishing. All of this is to efficiently mark the end of a project that has stimulated and amused me for the last few years.

I encounter a lot of people who say they don’t read books; that’s a shame. However, I believe that even they would enjoy this book. I think they would learn to find a few minutes away from their busy lives to savor the taste of a different perspective.

Not only a good read but a great gift for almost anyone.

Available at Amazon, Lulu, and my website under Books

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