Jury Duty

April 24, 2008

Jury Duty.  I have been summoned.  Randomly selected to serve.  Why does this notice send me into an immediate bad mood?  Simply because I must participate in our country’s legal system?  Typically, I won’t even be selected to sit on the jury.  Truly all this notice requires of me is to appear for one full day to the Superior Court.  Granted it will be boring, with a lot of sitting around and doing nothing.  I must ask myself why am I immediately filled with anger and horror at the thought of having to fulfill this obligation.  It’s true, I like many people hate to be told what to do, but my mind instantly fills up with possible excuses to get out of this chore.  Unfortunately, I could not think of any good enough excuses so I will be appearing for this obligation.  But I must state, for the record, I hate it!  Perhaps it is because it has to do with criminals and lawyers and laws being broken.  The very idea puts me ill at ease.  Most people want to put as much distance between themselves and these instances.  I like everyone else would rather read about such things or watch it on tv and shake our heads in shame.  All I know is that I really do not want to do this, but I must.  Paying taxes, death and jury duty are things we all must do.  I wonder if people really get a fair trial when most of the jurors may just be taking our their frustrations on having to be there?  But I suppose I will just have to manage and be a mature, responsible adult and do the best I can.  There must be a better way!

Six Word Memoir

March 31, 2008

I was tagged to write a six word memoir.  Being as though I don’t as yet know how to tag or link yet, I will for now just write the six word memoir.  I will await to be taught the rest.  So here it is:  Never give up and never surrender.

So she finally makes an appointment to see her psychiatrist.  It had been nine years since she had seen him.  Typical of a manic-depressive.  The psychiatrist was an ancient man in his mid sixties.  Thin, frail and very quiet.  She was unsure of her diagnosis the first time she saw him.  After the hour and a half long session full of deeply personal questions ranging from how often does she sleep to her sexual appetite, she was exhausted.  She could barely hear the questions as his voice was deep but quiet.  She kept having to interrupt him with, “could you please repeat that.”  After the excruciatingly long interview, she was on pins and needles for his opinion.  He was busy scribbling something down on his pad.  Slowly he ripped off the small piece of paper and slid it across the enormous wooden desk towards her.  She gently reached for it, picked it up in her shaky hands and it read, “lithium.”  Her mind raced.  

She requires an explanation, or so it would seem.  Her deafening silence and awkward far away stares.  It puts a person off.  She looks almost exactly the same except there is something very different.  It is not easy to put it into words.  It is more of an essence about her that has changed.  She has a ghostly appearance, almost like she is a shell of the person she once was.  The only way you could tell that she is no longer who she once was is if you looked into her eyes and saw that the light has gone out.  Her energy is gone.  If you knew her before….then it would not be necessary to try and have to explain.  You would just know.  Those that are closest to her are aware that she is not the same person.  But it has been so long that they forget who she once was.  They may have even accepted this new version of the truth, sadly.  Yet they do so with distance.  Yes they have only been able to cope with the truth of this metamorphisis by walking away from her.  Otherwise it would be too painful to deal with.  Her strange behaviors, new personality, different energy.  After all who could blame them for leaving her?  She is not the same person.  Without notice or permission she just left them first!  That was not fair, was it?  That is a good rationalization.  It worked.  Who would want to be around someone who barely spoke, stared off into the distance in between the lulls in the conversations that mostly were about the weather anyway?  She used to be so engaging, delightful, funny, interesting, high energy and fun to be around.  She was moody but that was part of her charm.  In fact, she was probably one of the most interesting people they had ever met.  She was deep, philosophical, up on her current events and she always listened.  She was very deeply caring about others.  But now, and for the longest time, she is the opposite of all of that.  She is flat, boring, sad, aloof, dull, and depressing to be around.  She just can’t seem to snap out of it.  Her husband works late and spends most of his free time away from home.  Her daughter just can’t take seeing her like this anymore.  They have all but given up on her.  Her family loves her dearly but she requires an explanation!  Where did she go?!  Why is she like this?!  They want her back and she wants to be back but she doesn’t know how or what path is the right path back.  She is lost and it has been too long.  

Back Home

March 25, 2008

It was a warm day, almost the end of March, and I stood outside the barbershop looking up at the jutting neon sign of a second floor dine and dice emporium called Florian’s.  A man was looking up at the sign too.  He was looking up at the dusty windows with a sort of ecstatic fixity of expression, like a hunky immigrant catching his first sign of the Statue of Liberty.  He was a big man, but not more than six feet five inches tall and not wider than a beer truck.  He was about ten feet away from me.  His arms hung loose at his sides and a forgotten cigar smoked behind his enormous fingers.  I interrupted his reverie to bum a non-filter cigarette from Goliath.  I was in town on account of a death in the family.  I was the last of kin and was required to take care of all the affairs.  Florian was my uncle.  My childhood memories are dim, with the exception of the bar.  I lit the Chesterfield and the smoky haze, the burning sensation in my nostrils, sent a wave of familiar warmth through me, as I stared at the neon sign, that once buzzed with life.  J.D. Florian was from Bellmullet, Ireland, he was feisty, and engaging, the kind of guy that powerful men respected and gentle women adored.  His establishment was more like an historic monument for the small town of Sugarnotch, Pennsylvania.  If anything ever happened it happened at Florian’s.  And if nothing happened at Florian’s, nobody questioned that, either.  J.D. pretty much ran the town, in his day.  We lived above the bar, my parents died when I was a kid, he took me in.  Encouraged by my fresh haircut, I stepped off the curb and walked towards the boarded up door.  My knees gave into gravity, for a moment.  I hadn’t really thought about him or this place in a long time.  I welcomed the sobering images, as they began playing in my head.  I allowed myself to relive my earthy past.  I gained access easily as the lock hadn’t changed in over twenty years.  I kicked aside some half empty boxes as I walked through the saloon style doors.  My eyes were blurred from the stinging dust as I flailed my way through the spider webs, it was dark.  My hand instinctively reached for the wall nearest me and easily found it’s way to the light switch.  It remained dark.  What was I thinking?  Of course there’s no electricity, the place has been boarded up for quite some time.  A dusty stream of daylight caught my irritated eyes, as I ventured further into the musty room.  The smells were caustic at first, then more familiar as the scents of stale beer and whiskey mixed with cabbage and potatoes filtered through.  I followed the stream of light upstairs and found myself in the narrow hallway standing opposite of my old bedroom.  I was about to open the door, of my forgotten sanctuary, when I heard a man’s voice.

Darkness had become the enemy.  In the absence of light, there were no reminders of life.  She had been alone too long.  Her promise never to marry again, rang in her ears.  It would betray her past to be a happily married woman.  Yet the question of betraying herself weighted heavier on her conscience.   In the light of day, at least, she could busy herself with the mundane activities of life.  She was aware that she could not avoid answering his proposal any longer.  The pain of her avoidance of life had become unbearable.  No longer could she be satisfied with fulfilling obligations.  She thought, possibly this may be her only chance for happiness.  Although, the risks involved were not obvious in the twilight.  She could conjure a fantasy life very easily in the stillness of the dark.  She had lost herself in playing the role of a good mother, a good wife.  Ironically, the pain she worked so diligently to avoid found its way to her through loneliness.  A much bigger wound.  The emptiness she felt as she became one with the darkness was exquisite.  The only true way out is through, she decided.  Yes, she would accept his proposal.  She would take the chance, and to hell with her fears.  She would be happy.  She could take the first step towards her new life.  There is obviously nothing to be gained from taking the safe road.  She would easily trade in her pain and emptiness for the possibility of fulfillment.  Or is that just another fantasy?

Mrs. Betterthan

March 19, 2008

She could not understand, why a hospital, with as much money as they make, charging five dollars a visit, just to stick their head in the door and look at you, couldn’t afford a decent sized waiting room.  This one was hardly bigger than a garage.  The table was cluttered with limp looking, out dated magazines and at the end of it there was a big green glass ashtray full of cigarette butts and cotton wads with little blood spots on them.  If she had anything to do with the running of the place, that would have been emptied every so often.  A plastic fern in a gold pot sat in the opening and trailed its fronds down almost to the floor.  The radio was softly playing gospel music. Mrs. Betterthan could not remember when she’d seen these chairs, old and yellowing, so full.  After all, she did make the appointment early enough in the day, at a time when she and Earl could avoid contact with such undesirables, who if she had been correct in her guessing, would be home sleeping the morning away.  If it was anything that got under her skin, it was people who didn’t make full use of all that they could, with what God gave them.  She and Earl had worked on the five acre farm for hours, and attended early mass, before they came to his appointment.  His sciatica was acting up again.  It doesn’t matter how many times she tells him, he should get more help lifting those heavy bales, he just goes about his business, as if she hadn’t said a word.  They had plenty.  With the cash that the farm brought in, they could well afford to get all of the help they need, and then some.  But, there’s no sense in speaking directly to him, Earl isn’t deaf, but he certainly acts it, stubborn as a mule, he is.  He wouldn’t have come in to see the doctor at all if it weren’t for the pain getting so bad.  It acts up now and then, just often enough so that it becomes necessary to come here and pay the doctor, our hard earned money, just to hear the same advise that he hears every day.  Earl signed in on the clipboard, using a stubby yellow pencil attached to a dirty string, held on haphazardly with old masking tape.  The gal at the front desk must have trouble keeping track of things.  Along the far wall, a young woman, wearing dingy sweat pants and oversized men’s shoes, sat in the corner.  Lying across her lumpy lap was a barefooted, unwashed child, no more than two years old.  The child’s dull stare seemed to focus on the pattern of orange and yellow flowers on her cotton shift.  As she stepped towards the last two seats that were vacant, the sick child’s eyes remained fixed on her.  Why, if she wasn’t blessed with Earl and their five acre farm, she, at least, would stay clean and know enough to keep shoes on a child’s cold feet. As she hummed along with the familiar gospel hymn, she had heard earlier in church, she busied her mind with the thought that if she had it to do over again, she’d do everything the same.  Her eyes scanned the rest of the yellow chairs, as Earl ambled across the stained linoleum, and lowered himself, with some effort, into the chair next to her.  Sitting between Earl and the neglected child was an elderly man wearing a freshly pressed suit.  The pale blue gingham matched his glassy eyes, which made her eyes water a little when they exchanged respectful greetings.  Earl and the man discussed what they had heard in church and the days’ news, while she searched for a person upon whom she could rest her eyes comfortably.  She sensed someone was watching her, as she listened to Earl say, “Can’t say as I’ve heard a better sermon come from Reverend Waterson, than I did this morning.”  The glassy eyed man nodded in agreement.  “And the kingdom of heaven shall be yours!”  Earl shook his fist for emphasis.  “Amen.”  The man offered.  The woman in sweat pants, offered a bit of the candy bar which she’d been eating, to Mrs. Betterthan.  Barely stifling a shudder of contempt, she shook her head, and managed to utter, “no thank you.”  That was all she needed, germs from the likes of her.  She continued the search for a face that she could settle her gaze on easily.  At last, a conservatively dressed woman, with a glance of recognition smiled a hello to Mrs. Betterthan.  The woman’s shoes, tan in color, with an all around one inch heel, made for wear and not show, were just like a pair Mrs. Betterthan had bought last week, for a church picnic.  A bit on the casual side for a Sunday morning, but reassuring familiar. 

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