November 24, 2020

Good grief! Again!

[This is a brief piece I wrote for my BRAINZ writing prompt group. The May one-word prompt was SHOCKS.]

Sometimes I’d swear I was Charlie Brown in a previous life. I never seem to learn that Lucy is going to jerk the football away just when I try to kick it. I end up flat on my face, furious with myself for being so gullible. Furious that once more, I have to pick myself up, dust off and remind myself to be smarter next time.

              My naiveté has led to many shocks along the way. The first that comes to mind was in the late 1970s when I was just out of college and at my first job as a journalist. I was working for a newspaper in Fort Worth during the trial of T. Cullen Davis, the oil millionaire accused of murdering two people and wounding two others at his ritzy mansion.

              It was “the trial of the century” in Fort Worth and for most of Texas. During weeks of testimony, three eyewitnesses at the mansion identified Davis as the shooter. It seemed a slam dunk case.

              I was still a full-fledged Charlie Brown at heart then, so imagine my shock when I heard the “not guilty” verdict over the radio. I couldn’t believe it. I had yet to realize that our justice system is far from perfect and that if you are wealthy, you can hire a high-powered lawyer and have a better chance of beating a rap.

              I guess too much time passed between the T. Cullen Davis verdict and the O.J. Simpson case for me to remember this bit of wisdom. Because once again, I was shocked, stunned that the man was acquitted. Silly me.

              But enough of the criminal justice system. My Charlie Brown tendencies have led to many shocks in my personal and professional lives as well. From backstabbing bosses to cheating boyfriends, there were plenty of folks I shouldn’t have trusted along the way. But I still did.

              Now that I’m considered a “senior,” I like to think I’ve shed some of my gullibility. That I’m older and wiser about human nature and frailties. I know it’s an imperfect world, but I still believe that there’s good in almost everyone. That most people are doing their best and just trying to survive in a crazy world. There’s one exception, though. I’ll never trust Lucy. We’re done.  

The day I met Superman

Over the years, I’ve had lots of crushes on movie stars. I like to think I was the first to discover Bert Reynolds when he played the blacksmith on Gunsmoke a few eons ago.

I also lost my heart to Clark Gable, Cary Grant and Gregory Peck. But they were passing fancies compared to Christopher Reeve, the hunk who played Superman in the 1980s.

I’ll never forget going to see him in Superman III in 1983. I was single at the time and I told my girlfriend Kathy, who went with me to the movie, that I was smitten with him. I loved his square jaw, powerful build and gentle voice.

Well, just forget about him, she said. You’ll never meet him. And, of course, I did forget. After all, I had a demanding job as a journalist.

But one day not long after that, I walked into the newsroom and the first thing my boss said to me was, “You want to meet Superman?”

“Sure,” I said sarcastically and wondered why he was joking with me. I sat down at my desk and went to work on some story. A few minutes later, he repeated the question. “You want to meet Superman?”

“Why do you keep asking me that?” I responded.

“Because he’s here in town. He’s having a news conference. I want you to go cover it.”

As it turned out, in those days Reeve was a champion of several causes, including environmental protection. He was making a special appearance at our local public television station and agreed to talk to the press.

I was much less impressed with him in person than I was on the screen. I guessed that he really didn’t want to meet the news media but felt obligated. As a consequence, he seemed remote and gave short, terse answers to questions.

I remember asking him one question (and it wasn’t “Will you marry me?”) but I don’t recall what it was. And I don’t remember what he said. But I afterward, I took great delight in telling my friend Kathy that I had, indeed, met Superman.  

It is written in my members

[Note: This is a poem I wrote for my online writing group. The writing prompt was “Jobs.”]

It came quietly, a nudge, a whisper, a knowing.
It came early and never left
this love affair with words,
this awe at their power
to paint a picture,
to move a crowd,
to harness a reader.

Mine were words of knowing,
of knowledge, words of healing
and understanding.
They told stories that must not be forgotten.
But they will be.
And they will be written again and again
long after I leave my words behind
and go to the place of my beginnings
where I heard the whisper and felt the nudge.
Where I knew.

Jamaica mind

This is a poem I wrote in November (way before the coronavirus pandemic) from the one-word prompt Trouble. I had just been to Jamaica and learned that the favored slogan is “No problem, mon.”

Jamaicans take a laid back approach to life, hence the saying. Whatever is happening, no matter how tough it is, just go with the flow.

It seems cavalier to use such a phrase during the current crisis, what with all the sickness, death, unemployment and widespread fear. What strikes me about the following poem is how trivial my complaints often are.

Getting stuck in traffic is not a problem and neither is the cable TV going on the fritz. A virus pandemic IS a real problem. It’s real Trouble.

Here’s the poem:

In Jamaica, they say
“No problem, mon. Soon come.”
The electricity goes out
No problem
The plane is late
No problem
You burn the meatloaf
No problem
Relax. Don’t worry. It will happen. 
The power will come back
You’ll fly away
You will eat
Waiting, making do, changing plans
These are not bad things
These are not problems
They are life.
They shall pass.
I like that. I need more Jamaica mind
When I’m stuck in traffic
When cable TV goes out
When the plumbing clogs
Remember to say
No problem, mon.
Soon come.

Her name is Rabbit

Her name is Rabbit. She is a cat. And throughout her 17 years with me, she has proven her worth many times over.

Rabbit, the cat that hops like a bunny and quacks like a duck

It all started with that “golden paw” on my front door. Stray cats would walk down my street looking for a place to get a handout or take up residence. Rabbit saw the “golden paw” on my screen door, rang my doorbell and said, “Hi, I’m your new cat.”

Actually, it didn’t go quite like that. The first time I saw her, she was a streaking blur across my backyard. I had gone outside to check on my border collie, who was running laps around the fence line. He was oblivious to the brown streak that shot under the deck.

At first, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. But then I saw the streak again, and eventually the flash came into focus. It was a Manx kitten, and when she realized I was not a threat, she started hopping and bouncing toward me.

With only a stub of a tail and her habit of hopping, she was named Rabbit. And she quickly snuggled her way into my affections. Despite her youth, she was already street smart. And since I had a mild allergy to cats, I taught her to use a pet door into a backyard shed and she lived there. She and the border collie established a wary truce and we were a happy family.

Rabbit is unique in many ways, especially her meow. She sounds more like a duck than a feline. I call her the Cat Named Rabbit Who Quacks Like a Duck.

We’ve moved since the backyard shed days to a condominium complex where there’s little traffic. Rabbit now lives in the garage, but she is so friendly she knows everyone in the complex. She hangs out at the pool and meows for attention and has charmed several neighbors into giving her treats. She is the unofficial mascot for our community.

When I took her to the vet for her checkup this year, the doc pronounced her in perfect health. Even though she is now officially a senior cat, she has never had any medical problems and she has never caused me any trouble.

Rabbit is my little five-pound wonder – my bargain cat. If I had it to do over again, I’d gladly pay good money for her.

…Sheila Allee [Note: This essay is my September 2019 contribution to the BRAINZ writing group. The writing prompt was “Bargains.”]