Decade Six: Creative reflection

Father Pierz Memorial High School had been a mere hole in the ground across the fence from the cemetery much larger than any open grave on the other side. Who or what was to be buried there the spring of 1952? Just four of my sexual formative years, that’s all, which I struggle to uncover at a class reunion some fifty years later.
From the sixth grade playground, I watched that hole fill and grow into a three-story four-year high school. Sixth through eighth grade school students were considered mature enough for no-nun supervised playground north of the church, yet not quite ready for the hanky-panky of a middle school or a junior high school. Little did they know. We were the first television generation.
During the ’51-’52 school year, we sixth-graders played on the prairie, a vacant lot across from the construction site, post nun-supervision, pre hanky-panky. Three years later, we entered Father Pierz Memorial High School as the future class of ’59. We exited as graduates four years later through doors of a gymnasium that did not exist when our incarceration began.
Until the gym had been added, busses of basketball players and student fans traveled thirty miles down the road to Belle Prairie’s basketball court. As the tallest kid in tenth grade phy-ed, I’d been drafted to the “A” basketball squad because they needed a tenth player for practice scrimmage games. I got to suit up and even sent onto the floor for a full minute of play that season. Many years later, John Tax, team manager (towel-boy) at the time, recalls, “The home town fans cheered so loud the visiting team thought I was the team’s secret weapon to turn around a losing game.
Three lay members of our staff, Misters Peterka, Swartz and Graeve, names sounded like a lunch item at a German family restaurant. Father Schulzetenberg, resident superintendent, added color to the program, mostly with his fire-engine-red ’57 DeSoto, its interior accented with red and white cheerleaders. One morning I caught his attention and his disdain by screeching my ’49 Studebaker to a stop inches from his rear bumper. We jointly stepped out of our cars, faced each other and my rear left tire popped and fizzled just parked there.
I whispered, “Good morning, Father,” as my ego and my car slumped. He nodded and walked toward the building.
Years later, Father Schulzetenberg lit his signature cigarette after a particularly ritualized Christmas Mass and experienced a fatal heart attack. According to Father Voigt, he carried a card in his wallet that read, I am a priest. In case of an accident call a bishop. I had discovered his humorous nature too late to appreciate him.
Father Kunkel, an elderly priest recruited from a neighboring parish to instill sophomore boys with religion and sex education, stalked up and down the aisle slapping each of the faces of disruptive boys uttering, “You don’t give a damn if you go to heaven of hell.” Cause of his tirade, everyone giggling over his explanation of oral sex as misuse of an inappropriate opening in a woman’s body to avoid pregnancy. He walked out never to return, a little taste of the heaven he had mentioned prior to his exit.
Father Thompson replaced him with stories of growing up in gang-infested streets of Chicago, his favorite anecdote, holding the flame of cigarette lighter to the foot of some particularly bad gang member. He eventually left the priesthood and married one of my classmates after she had become a Franciscan nun. The married couple attended our tenth class reunion.
Father Robert Voigt confronted seniors as dispenser of religion. He taught us to believe hell exists! Between his glaring from his perch in front of the room and the funeral procession to a grave site outside our window, we paid attention. His teaching method was to select one student to stand and be interrogated about the assigned reading for the day. No one dared to not be prepared, just in case.
Confessions were offered in the room adjacent to the office on days prior to required Mass attendance such as First Fridays. With hormones raging and mortal sins well defined, mostly boys took advantage of this service.
Custodian Al Sand held court in the furnace room for us boys who needed to talk to someone without a mission to mold our character, yet effectively did. He gave me some fabric to cover the seats in my 1950 Mercury, but my Grandmother made me a winter coat out of the material in stead. A beautiful coat but didn’t wear it with the pride she so deserved. I chose the dark room as my escape from class, FILM DEVELOPING posted outside the door. One time our principal knocked and waited. We—discretion dictates I not mention who was with me—were caught. However, as seniors I had earned the respect of Sister Mary Gertrude.
Sister Shaun brought life to history while Sister Phyllis destroyed math. Correction, students like me destroyed Sister Phyllis, the consequences of guilt still felt fifty years later. Sister Romaine was the proper type to teach typing and Sister Magloire exemplified yet debunked evolution in biology class. A lively young Sister Renee taught Latin, a useless dead language. Sister Judine encouraged acting in public forums, while Sister Hilaire insisted we model Christ in our homes. Not once since Christian Family Living have I ever inserted a light bulb into my sock to darn shut a toe hole.
School lunches were served across the street in the church basement for fifty cents, a price increase from the dime we paid in first grade.
Jiggs Gilbride said, “Toss me a milk.” I did. He shoved his hands into his pockets and wandered off. I had to clean up the mess, and pay for the bottle. He was the bully of our class, the guy everyone wanted to befriend.
This and more from a memory jogged by a fiftieth class reunion.

Mitchell Phillip’s PATH to HELL reviewed

Mitchell Phillip’s Path to Hell is short and simple. However, consider Rob Reiner’s comment about his revisionist fairy tale, Princess Bride: “A fine line separates just simple from great satire.” Mitch’s story is not a satire, but his tongue in cheek approach to an old and well-worn genre creates irony. Some literary critics might see any turd on a dusty road as an allegory; however, some turds are allegorical.
Mitch’s simple characters, twenty discounting the dead and unnamed ones, interact in a series of vignettes, not always sequential. Interaction between characters supersedes their actions in furthering the plot, often with trite, near child like, dialogue.
Mitch’s elegant prose contrasting that of his characters—some even speak in dialect—challenges the reader to find depth and the reward is irony built into each character’s self exposure and/or comeuppance from the good-cop-bad-cop to a naive psychiatrist, to racial themes, legal justice versus street justice, and deadly sins contrasted with altruism. The hero reigns in the end—I might have preferred an ironic twist—leaving behind a cast of characters appropriately shunned or rewarded. Intimate sexual scenes are blocked to the reader’s irritation. It is a tale to be experienced on various levels.

PART TWO: CHAPTER FOUR (Latest chapter posted. Scroll down to chapter one and following chapters.)


Groceries unpacked, I had rewarded myself with a Coke when the doorbell rang. Can in hand, I came face-to-face with my younger sister who had no reason not to be back in Illinois that I’d been aware of. Had she left Leroy? On-and-off-again relationships were common with my family but hopefully not dependable Mary Ann. She being nearest my age and my level of shared trust of all my siblings, any decision about sharing my stash of legal documents with family suddenly became more immediate.
“Come on in to my messy house. You’ve got some explaining to do.” My usual short and to-the-point sister greeting. “I’ll put some coffee on.”
“Guess what.” Allowing no time for any response, “We’re moving to North Dakota.” My reaction cut off in mid gasp, “Leroy bought a farm next to his Dad’s. One hundred and eighty acres.”
“That’s nice.” Since neither of us city girls had a clue of what an acre was, I assume she merely echoed Leroy’s enthusiasm.
“It’s a dairy farm.”
With an image from Dad’s nostalgic recounts about farm life in Wisconsin, I blurted, “Cows? Pigs? Chickens?” Replacing Dad with my sister in that picture didn’t fit.
“Just cows. And a bull. Leroy don’t believe in artificial whatever it’s called.” Spoken like a not quite yet farmer.
“With your kids?” A silly question, but I had trouble squeezing them into that developing scenario.
“Of course. They’re excited about being with their other grandparents.”
Our sons, born within days of each other, had strengthened our bond, but moving to Illinois soon after put some distance between us. North Dakota didn’t feel that much closer.
Details of their decision exhausted by a second cup of coffee—and Coke, I approached my subject of interest. “Do you ever look back on those years when Dad had all his problems with the court?”
“Not without getting mad at Hachey all over again.”
The importance of the research I eagerly pursued had suddenly dimmed, and might disappear entirely as far as family is concerned. It will have dead-ended with me; any of my siblings ever digging into the matter is unlikely. However, discussing the little our family knows, or think it knows, is still fair game.
“Dad’s starting to drink quite heavy.” Continuing to drink, but I needed a starting point for our conversation.
“He’s welcome to join us in North Dakota. It’s a big farm house and getting him away from St. Paul might be a good idea.” Touching a nerve, she added, “Leroy would be a good influence on Dad.”
My husband, Tim, until joining Alcoholics Anonymous, had an overwhelming influence over Dad, quite the opposite what Mary Ann suggested from her husband. I discouraged the idea. “Dad would never give up his job at Third Street Bar.”
“Ma said that’s temporary, just until he finds an automotive job.”
“You know Dad’s employment history. Always claimed to know more about the business than any of his bosses. He’d either walk away or get fired. After completing that course at Dunwoody Institute, he did have more knowledge about automatic transmissions than most.” I shook my head in frustration. “Still that superior attitude.”
“He did well with his beer and snacks route, until he stepped on some hoodlum’s toes.”
I left that false impression ride. The hoodlum was a local mafia boss who actually protected Dad’s venturing into Wisconsin. They were old buddies. He even wanted to hire Dad as a body guard after the war. Dad refused, probably his best decision ever, and they often played cribbage until Dad met Mother. “He quit that delivery job after an attempted robbery. Some colored fellow picked on the wrong guy for drug money. When cornered, Dad will protect himself.”
Mary Ann asked, “Is that when the NAACP got involved? I thought that was just one of Dad’s stories.”
“They defended Dad, even though one of their people got hurt pretty bad. Dad quit driving because he injured his back unloading beer barrels.”
“So, he takes a job at a bar and gets involved with a motorcycle gang.”
Away from St. Paul these past four years, my sister seemed well informed of family matters. My expression must have given away my surprise.
She explained, “Ma told me about some guy named Tiny and his motorcycle gang.”
“Gossip hardly worth the cost of a long-distance call.”
“No, not over the phone. Just yesterday, at home.”
“In St. Paul? At Conway?” Home should refer to husband and family, not back with Mommy and Daddy. Or, maybe I’m just envious of Mary Ann’s nostalgia for the place where we grew up.
“Yeah. Been back a week. I took Ma shopping and out to get her hair cut.”
“Back a week already?” Trying to make light of her slight, I chuckled. “Catering to Mother’s vanity.”
As a child, I longed to run my fingers through her hair. She wouldn’t allow me to get that close.
“What’s with the gun? Ma mentioned a revolver, but didn’t elaborate.”
“Belongs to the bar’s owner, keeps it hidden in a drawer near the cash register. A few weeks ago, Dad refused to serve one of Tiny’s buddies because he was drunk and obnoxious. The guy must have stewed a couple of days before rousing the gang to rough up Dad a bit.” A tidbit of information that should and did get my sister’s attention. “Tiny warned Dad ahead of time, and they hatched a plan. When a bunch of motorcycles pulled up in front of the bar and the gang tromped in, Dad greeted them holding the revolver like he was John Wayne. In a calm voice he said, ‘I’ll serve you, but I don’t want any trouble.’”
“Faking surprise, Tiny stepped forward and said, ‘Oh Hell, let’s just have a drink and let bygones be bygones.’ They all proceeded to get drunk.”
“Dad shouldn’t be messing with guns, especially at a bar.”
“I got on his case, too. He just sloughed me off. Claimed it wasn’t even loaded.”
“I’m surprised that Ma puts up with him anywhere near a gun, even if it’s not loaded. She sold his shotgun while he was…” Mary Ann paused as if trying to find the right word. “Gone.”
“Nearly gave it away, according to Dad. The guy took advantage of Mother because she didn’t understand its real value.” I accidently touched on Dad’s superior attitude toward his wife and most other women. With Mother, I agree he’s smarter, but she seems to have more common sense. Makes it all the more difficult for him to give up a good deal of control to her and his mother. I felt his defeat.
I changed the subject to another family trauma. “Do you remember the fire?”
Eyes lit up. “That kid could have gotten all of us burned to death. And what was his mother thinking? Shutting the closet door and leaving their apartment like nothing happened.”
“The kid was a pyromaniac and she covered for him.”
Mary Ann asked, “Were you home when it happened?”
A fair question. I was in junior high school and seldom hung around the apartment during the day, or even after dark, for that matter. “All eight of us kids were. Don’t you remember?”
“I was only ten. But I can still picture Ma walking us to Aunt Rita’s small apartment like a bunch of chicks following Mother Hen. Lucky Ma was there when the fire broke out.” Mary Ann peered into her coffee cup. “Seems like she’d been gone a lot. Was she working?” Her attention focused on Mother rather than Dad.
“The job at Whirlpool came later, after Hasting put Dad on out-patient status. At the time of the fire, she kept herself busy trying to get Dad transferred out of St. Peter.”
“And taking care of us kids.” Mary Ann reminisced. “I remember moving to the Projects quite clearly. Less crowded than at Aunt Rita’s, but the boys got the bigger bedroom, and four of us girls squeezed into the smaller one.”
“We had lived there years earlier.”
“I must have been a baby. How did we…?
I paused but Mary Ann failed to complete her question.
“When I got hepatitis from that filthy back yard and passed it on to our parents, Dad moved us back to the apartment on Seventh Street where we used to live with Grandma Leslie.” Thinking about that place conjured many unhappy memories as a toddler. Grandma fighting with my mother and forced out of her own apartment. Mother leaving me unattended and I fell off the second story porch. My being sent back to my Wisconsin grandmother because Mother was pregnant with Mary Ann. I can still feel Grandma’s swats across my butt with a willow switch.
“When did we move to the apartment on Ostego where that kid nearly burned the place down?”
“After a year or so on Simms Avenue.”
Mary Ann’s mood turned somber. “I remember moving often.” She brightened. “Well, once Dad got out of the hospital, it didn’t take him long to get us moved out of the Projects to our own house on Conway.”
“Thanks to being put back on one hundred percent disability. He made the down payment with the three years back pay he received.” The moment seemed right. “After nine months of lock-up at St. Peter, do you think Hastings’ psychiatrists should have allowed Dad that much freedom so soon? He was barely there a month.”
“No thanks to Hachey!”
“I suspect the judge made his decision and couldn’t change his mind without looking weak.” A deep plunge. “Dad could have gone haywire again and done something worse. Maybe even killed someone.”
“Dad would never do that.” Mary Ann voiced the opinion I’d shared until I read the newspaper accounts.
“That’s what we thought that back then.”
A childhood vision flashed of Dad asleep on the couch yelling and firing a make believe rifle into the air. Ma shooed us off to our rooms, said Dad was having a nightmare. Little did we know how his nightmare would become ours.
Mary Ann’s opinion remained firm. “Well, he’s a different man now.” She reflected, “That part of my life is cloudy. I was still in elementary school. All I remember is crying myself back to sleep ‘cause Dad wasn’t there to tuck me in.”
“You had Mother,” a direction I hadn’t intended for this conversation.
“Ma wasn’t as affectionate as Dad.”
“She let you brush her hair.” There, it was out, my only childhood envy of any of my siblings. Mother had long soft hair but, like touching a hot stove, a second attempt didn’t happen.
“Fixing her hair was my chore. We all had our jobs to do.”
“I never thought of it that way.” My leadership role in our family, belated but glaringly necessary, to stand up for my father as a counter to siblings who side in with our mother, or don’t give a damn about either. Mute though it must be, I will maintain my opinion about our father’s too casual treatment by his psychiatrist, a feeling I had resisted until researching the facts. He shot two men with little or no provocation. Location of the entry wounds indicted an intent to kill rather than just wound. Within inches, just one of the bullets would have changed Dad’s charge from attempted murder to first or second degree, or an insanity plea that would have been taken more seriously.
My head tells me Judge Hachey’s opinion was correct, and my heart sides in with those who diminished Dad’s crime. Why hadn’t I left the matter rest with family lore rather than dig into the facts? Consider the entire coverage of Dad’s criminal act buried permanently, along with the curiosity of one snoopy daughter.
The conversation with my sister steered back to Dad spending time in North Dakota. I agreed to work toward that goal, if I can’t get him to help himself without having to leave home.

CHAPTER SIX (latest posting–Scroll down for previous chapters starting from the beginning)

Sunday, November 26, 1899

Hands folded on kitchen table, holds back giggle.
Father and Stella say, “Amen.”
Shouts Stella’s church words. “Et cum piri to-to oh.”
“What in tarnation! Stella?”
Words didn’t make Father happy. Eyes follow hands to lap.
Nana’s eyes wait to see Caleb’s eyes. “That was almost the correct pronunciation, Caleb. With a little more practice, you’ll be able to recite the Latin response.” She looks at Father. “I want to impress the Benedictine Sisters when Caleb answers, ‘Et cum spiritu tuo,’ during Mass this morning.”
“Well, we don’t speak Latin at the breakfast table.” Father tears bread and smashes egg yolk. “Caleb needs to say it properly or remain quiet.” He stares at yellow goo dripping off bread. “Are you sure he’s able to sit still through High Mass? Or church at all, for that matter?” He sets bread down and wipes mouth with napkin.
Big golden eye on plate stares up at Caleb. Stabs it with fork. Yellow blood oozes. Tells Father, “Caleb can take Oma’s locket to play with in church.”
Nana’s hand tells Caleb to be quiet. “My mother and I took Virgil to Mass when he was only three.” She butters Caleb’s bread. “The sisters expect me to sing with them, and I don’t want him to stay in the house alone.”
Father stands. “I need to dress for eight o’clock early Mass.” He pushes chair under table. “We can discuss this further between services.” He opens kitchen door and turns. “I’m afraid I won’t have time. Do with him what you think is right.”
Nana calls after him, “Thank you, Father.” She smiles at Caleb. “I have a nice surprise after you finish eating.”
Oma coming home for Caleb’s birthday was nice surprise. Some surprises aren’t nice. Shakes head, makes bad surprise go away. Face smiles without telling it to smile. Earl’s mother gave Caleb a present. “Can I wear my new stockings?”
“Yes and some other new things. Finish eating the egg from Earl’s chicken.”
Stares at the yellow puddle from busted eye. Present from Earl’s chicken is broken.
Runs to couch and hides under Mother’s quilt.
“Now, what’s the matter?”

On top church step, Stella bends down and tightens rope around Caleb’s neck. Tugged it loose walking to church. “I know the necktie feels uncomfortable, but you’ll get used to it. I’ll only ask you to wear it to church and during dinner on special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
“Good morning,” Stella.
Stella looks up and squeezes Caleb’s shoulders with both hands.
Won’t run away.
“Good morning, Sister Ernestine.” Black dress, white cloth wrapped around face and neck. Remembers penguins from Nana’s The Jungle Book.
“This is Caleb. He’s going to sit with us this morning.”
Sister Ernestine smiles. “Can you sing, Caleb?”
Takes big breath. “Et cum ’piri to-to oh.” Every word right, almost. Holds out hand and she shakes it.
“My goodness, you are a little gentleman.” She hides her hands behind black curtain in front of dress.
“The suit was his surprise. I ordered it from Sears and Roebuck for my kid brother, Virgil. My mother can take Virgil to Macy’s and select something he really likes for Christmas.”
Sister asks, “How old are you?”
Holds up open hand.
“Five years old. I’ll expect you in my first grade class next year.” She faces Stella. “Unless a farm family adopts him, and he goes to one of those little country schools.”
“Expect Caleb in your class next fall.”
Stella’s words make Caleb smile.
“Let’s follow Sister Ernestine to Holy Virgin’s altar.”
Stella’s brother, Virgil, has altar!
Sister’s arm comes out, waves them forward, and hides again. Stella takes Caleb’s hand and they walk to Holy Virgil’s altar.
Points to ceiling. “Look, S-stella. Pictures of angels in clouds.”
“I should have taken you inside the church ahead of time.”
“Just like pictures in Caleb’s coloring book.”
“You can look around, but please don’t talk.”
Counts windows. “What comes after five?”
“You know what comes after five.” She sits Caleb on bench next to Sister Ernestine. They kneel. Slides off seat and kneels, too. Points to statue of woman in blue dress. “She’s not holding real baby.”
Stella whispers, “She’s Mother Mary.”
“Your mother?”
“Everyone’s mother.”
“Virgil’s, too?”
“Of course. Now hush. Mass is about to start at Jesus’ altar.” She points. “It’s the big one in the center with all the statues.”
Two boys wearing white dresses come from behind big altar holding real long matchsticks. They light six candles. Caleb will be six years old in Sister Ernestine’s first grade. Buddy will be in second grade. Looks up at Sister Ernestine. Are black and white sisters nice like sisters-in-white?
Points. “Look. Father came out wearing a white dress, too.”
“That’s the door to the sacristy where the chalices and vestments are kept. And the sacramental wine.”
Oma says, “Wine only on Thanksgiving with turkey.”
“Are there turkeys back there?”
“Stop being silly.” Stella shakes finger. “Any more talking and I will take you back to the Rectory.”
Points and lips ask without making words, “What’s that?” Stella doesn’t look. Wants to know why lantern only makes smoke. Smells like Oma’s burning soldier. Stands on bench and looks back. “There’s Earl and his little sister.”
Stella says, “Sit.” She whispers, “We’ll talk to them later. When Father stands and sings, get ready to say your prayer.”
Screams, “Et cum ’piri to-to oh.”
Father stands in front of big altar with angry face. His mouth opens but doesn’t sing part like Stella said. Backs into Sister Ernestine and hides behind black curtain. Strings of beads wrapped around hands like when Nana whispered prayers. Fingers count Sister’s beads. She doesn’t push Caleb’s hands away. Stays behind curtain until tears stop. All sisters are nice.
Father sings funny words and waves smoking thing at people. Can’t use words to ask Stella in church. Father should go out door and let people leave. Wants to tell Earl and his little sister Latin words. Closes eyes. Thinks of Nana’s praying beads. Smiles.
After church, Caleb asks Earl’s mother, “Can Caleb pet your horse?” Didn’t want to say Latin prayer.
She tells Earl, “Take Caleb and Rose to the buggy while Stella and I talk.”
Stella doesn’t let go Caleb’s shoulders. “Maybe we should go with them.”
“I’m sorry, Stella. I forget that not all children are used to horses. We can certainly visit over there.”
“Better yet, why don’t you give Caleb a ride to the front of the Rectory so the children can come in and play for a while?”
“But, Father will be wanting his dinner.”
“It’s in the oven. He makes himself available for parishioners who don’t get to town often, and he has to close the sacristy. Won’t be ready to eat for at least an hour.”
Mary looks at Caleb. “Would you like a buggy ride to your house?”
Nods. Follows Earl to buggy and climbs onto front seat next to him.
Earl’s mother says, “Okay, Earl, you can take the reins, but go slow.” She points to the Rectory and sits in back seat with Rose.
Climbs down when Earl stops buggy and runs to tell Stella. “Caleb sat up front with Earl and helped drive horsey.”
“That nice. Now let me talk to Mary.” Nana doesn’t care. Feels sad.
“Caleb really did help.” Looks at shoes. “A little bit.”
“Take your friends into the living room.”
“Caleb stays with Nana.”
Nana looks at Mary. “I think church has him stressed.”
Shouts, “Et cum ’piri to-to oh.”
Mary and Nana laugh. Face feels hot.
Earl laughs. “You were funny, Caleb.” He tells little sister. “Caleb yelled those words in church, Rose.”
Little Sister giggles. “Say them again, Caleb.”
“Et cum ’piri to-to oh.” Caleb is funny like Buddy.
Stella says, “Show Earl and Rose your new bedroom.”
“Father calls it a kest room, S-stella.” He runs to stairs and yells back. “Up here, Earl.” Rose stands at bottom step. Caleb tells Little Sister, “Hold your brother’s hand so you don’t fall.” Eyes closed, one step at a time, thinks helping Little Sister up to Caleb’s bedroom.
Opens eyes. Earl holds Rose’s hand on the top step. “Wow. It’s big up here.”
Rose pulls hand away and pinches her nose, “Smells like cigars.”
Holds door open to Caleb’s room.
She sniffs. “Smells nice in here.”
Earl says, “That’s the fresh-cut wood smell, Rose.” He looks at Caleb. “Mama says she splits the firewood before bringing it into the kitchen for the aroma.”
Points. “Caleb’s bed will be in front of window.”
Rose blows specks of sawdust from glass. “That’s the cemetery out there. Why do you want to look at the place they put dead people?”
Face wants to cry.
Earl puts hand on Caleb’s shoulder. “Rose didn’t mean to make you sad.”
Rose hugs Caleb and presses her face to his chest. “I’m sorry.”
Pushes back sob. “Next to window…,” Sniffles. “In case of fire.”

The Wedding Shower

The Wedding Shower
by Mort Harris

A friend of mine was getting married. I was invited to his wedding shower that was held at a Dude Ranch. The wedding shower was great but the day ended in disaster. That was the day I received a new suit, got blisters on my foot and tried to explain to a judge why I was picked-up for indecent exposure.
There I stood in front of the judge with no pants and looking like a drowned rat. The judge stared down at me.
“It says here you were found by the police wandering on the bridle path in your underwear and no shoes. Do you have anything to say?”
“Yes. For one thing, I was not just in my underwear, I had a shirt on and I had one shoe on. I lost the other one trying to get my pants off.”
“Can you explain why you’re tried to get your pants off?”
“Yes.” “I was at my friends shower.”
“You were showering with a friend?” asked the judge.
“No your honor, I was with a horse.”
“You were showering with a horse?”
“ I was at a Dude Ranch your honor.”
“Okay” she said, “we’ll work that out later. Continue.”
“Well, it suddenly began to rain heavily so we were washed out.”
“You or the horse?”
“The shower was rained out so, we reined in the horses.”
She stopped me, “you said the shower was rained out and the horses were reined in?” “Yes.”
“We’ll work that out later too” she said. “Go on.”

“Well, we all rode our horses back to the stable but on the way my horse stopped to eat apples on the ground. I kicked, I hit, I punched but the horse would not move. So there I am sitting on the horse and getting rained on. I thought, if I could get off the horse and pull him away from the apples but that is when my leg got caught in the reins.”
“Wait” said the judge “you say your leg was caught in the rain? Where was the rest of you?”
“Getting soaked!”
“How come only your leg got caught in the rain?”
“Because your honor, I let the reins drop.”
“I know sir, in what direction did the rains drop” she snapped. Continue.”
“Well, as I was trying to get my leg out of the reins the horse started to run and there I was with one leg in the reins and the other on the ground being dragged along. To get my leg out of the reins I had to strip off my pants and lost a shoe at the same time. That’s how I got out of the rain.”
“Why was it so important to just get your leg out of the rain?”
“You don’t understand!”
“Please” said the judge “I’m confused enough. You must be telling the truth because no one could make-up a ridiculous story like that. We now find your story at the stable. They said your horse came back with a pair of pants but no rider. I have two pieces of advice for you. See a doctor and stay out of the rain. Case dismissed.”
When I returned to the stable there was my horse looking at me and laughing, and I’m sure the rest of the horses were giggling too. That’s the last Dude Ranch you’ll se me at.


Career development and lasting relationships

My mother claimed I laughed after hanging up, but the information received wasn’t funny. Gerald was dead, and I felt some responsibility for his decision to end his own life.
My mother had called me to the phone and stood by, curiosity etched on her face. “Well, what was that all about?”
I said, “My cashier’s husband shot himself.” I distinctly remember saying my cashier, not the cashier at the Paramount, or calling her by name, Carol.
“But you laughed.”
“I didn’t laugh,” I replied. “At least I didn’t mean to.”
“Were the two of you friends, this man who shot himself?”
“No, as a matter of fact he was very jealous, and I think he wanted to hurt me.” I had already said too much, but she tucked that incident away with the other mysteries surrounding my life away from home. “That was my manager on the phone and he wants me back right away.”
I had been summoned, but more important, I needed to talk to Carol, the first person I ever had intimate sex with.
The thirty-mile drive from my parent’s home to my college apartment seemed to take forever, with emotions ping ponged from guilt to relief and back to guilt. My unplanned one-day trip to visit my parents was to avoid a conflict with Gerald. Carol and I had been counting the box office receipts, when he parked across the street, got out of his yellow Buick, and glared.
Against Carol’s advice—he had obviously been drinking—I crossed the street rehearsing a question that I hoped would break the ice. His features were shadowed from the overhead streetlight and gave no indication of his temperament, but the strong odor of alcohol offered a clue.
“Are you willing to talk to me?” I chose my words carefully, opting against the blunt can we talk?
I accepted his snort as yes, because I hadn’t a prepared response if he refused.
“I’m so sorry about what happened between Carol and me. I would give anything to change that.” Silence. I chanced what only a naive young man might attempt. I held out my hand and said, “I’m hoping we can get past this and still be friends.”
The double irony of the situation, we weren’t friends before the incident. From the details Carol told me about their relationship, he wouldn’t be the kind of person I would want as a friend.
He stared at my hand and said, “And to think I was just beginning to trust you.” He stepped off the curb and headed toward the Paramount. Carol scrambled from the box office and disappeared into the theater. Gerald paused in mid street and headed toward the Sportsman Bar. I felt a sigh of relief when he bypassed my uncle’s bar in favor of a more rowdy bar a few doors down.
Later, as I was taking the receipts to the night deposit at the bank, a huge yellow Buick swerved, jumped the curb and came directly toward me. I froze, not knowing which way to move, but it swung back into the traffic. Gerald’s last words through his open window, “You fucker.”
I didn’t go to my apartment that night, but decided to pay my folks a visit. The next day was my day off and I didn’t care if I missed a day of school.
The seduction began a couple of months earlier when Carol and I were counting the matinee receipts. I joked that my landlady painted the toilet seat without telling me.
She laughed and said, “My sister’s fixing up an apartment in her basement you could rent. I’m living upstairs with her for the time being.”
Separated from their husbands, both sisters could use the extra money; it seemed like a logical decision. I moved a couple of days later, just before the storm of the century. When I woke up, I found approximately four inches of water covering the floor. Sloshing to the toilet I thought about the painted toilet seat, my reason for moving to this swimming pool. I retreated back to bed, the only dry spot, and pondered my predicament.
A light knock on the door and Carol’s voice, “Are you awake?”
She entered before I could answer, standing in the open door with the sunlight behind her. Her long blond hair usually tossed over her shoulder and spread across her left breast or braided and trailing behind her, was rolled tightly into a circle on top of her head. The few errant strands glittered.
She sat on the edge of my bed and said, “I’m sorry. We never expected a flooded basement. I wouldn’t blame you if you want to move out.”
I lay on my back grasping the single sheet tight to my neck. “Does this happen every time it rains?”
“It depends on what you mean by this.” She crossed her arms, lifted her negligee and thrust it aside. She stood and pulled the cover from my grasp. I remember her cold wet feet against mine, barely recovering from my trip to the bathroom. We were side by side, naked.
I can’t remember what happened, or didn’t happen, but she said, “Maybe if I let my hair down it will help,” so I assume our first attempt wasn’t a total success.
I didn’t need her to let her hair down to appear more sexy. That wasn’t the problem. I couldn’t tell her that the stretch marks on her stomach disturbed me. I knew she had children, but I had no idea what pregnancies can do to a woman’s stomach. To this day I imagine, if she thinks of the incident at all, she will assume letting her hair down did the trick. Actually, I shut my eyes, and it worked.
I hesitate to tell what happened next. Gerald burst into the room, sloshed to our bed and cuffed me across the face. He pulled Carol up by the hair and dragged her through the water and upstairs.
About a minute later Carol’s sister came down and said, “He’s gone, but you better get out of here.”
After a night in my car, my friend Del Hoppe and I located an apartment above Harry’s Bar at the opposite end of St. Germain from the Paramount. Del, a fellow college student, worked as a relief projectionist at the Paramount. We maintained our friendship to the present.
I suffered bouts of anger and guilt, the first against Carol and second against me, and our relationship never recovered to the openness we once shared. She got into trouble reselling tickets and pocketing the money, a somewhat common practice at the time, and agreed to quit. She remarried one of my college buddies.
I stopped at their apartment one evening after work to share the details of my promotion and was surprised at her protruding belly. I resisted asking if the wrinkles disappeared, and then began to mentally count our months of separation, although nearly a year had lapsed.
She grinned and patted her tummy. “It’s my husband’s baby.” She cast her gaze to the floor. “I miscarried Gerald’s baby.”
Gerald’s baby. I again began to mentally count but had no beginning or ending reference dates.
“You probably figured out that we reconciled before I quit at the Paramount, but you and I weren’t talking much at the time.”
My turn to stare at the floor. “I’m sorry.” For allowing her to take the blame or for the loss of her as my confidant, I couldn’t express at the time.
She ignored my apology. “Gerald took advantage of my guilt and forced himself sexually on me until I got pregnant. After the doctor established my due date, he shot himself.”
“He wanted you pregnant? Why?”
“I would have three kids to support, not an attractive situation for finding another husband.”
“Well, I guess you proved him wrong. Where is Gary?” When I had called she said he wasn’t home but I should come over anyhow.
“He hasn’t left me, if that’s what you’re thinking, nor are you going to get a repeat performance. We’ve hurt each other enough.”
“You didn’t hurt me,” I lied.
“Good. Now tell me what happened to Sammy?”
Sammy had been fired as manager of Paramount’s sister theater, and I was promoted to his position, the news I intended to share with Carol that evening. Theater business dominated our conversation the remainder of the evening. I wish we could have dug deeper into our relationship, which, except for one incident of sex, was like a brother sister. Had things worked out different, my seduction could have been a positive experience.
Like an older sister, Carol cautioned me about stumbling into a forced relationship by getting a girl pregnant. “Always carry condoms,” she had advised. “Look at me. Pregnant at age seventeen and forced into a bad marriage.”
I refused her advice because the sin would be premeditated. Ironically, she hadn’t offered a condom that morning in the flooded basement.
I believe her intent was my initiation to sex and wanted to make the experience a positive one for me. Another gift of irony, it turned out to be the least safe sex of all. The incident ultimately blended with all my other growing-up experiences and helped shape my character.
I only wish Gerald would have shaken my hand that night in front of the theater.

Gossip and Alpha Male

According to Yuval Noah Harari in his book SAPIENS, the key that set homo sapiens apart from the other animals about a million years ago can be found in the use of language. Most animals have speech related to specific needs: mating, danger, and pleasure. Some such as monkeys learned to deceive, a false alarm to clear the pack from a food source. Most sounds are memorized codes such as the alphabet soup of acronyms relating to our government, CIA, FBI, USDA, etc. Like the nouns in any language, the list could go on nearly forever.

Homo sapiens discovered relationships between these coded sounds, much like verbs, actions between them. On to higher forms of communication: abstractions (unseen forces in the universe) and hypothetical’s (if thens and what ifs.)

Abstract language coupled with a more basic interaction inherited from animals—rule of the alpha male over social groups, modern time extended to include alpha female—coupled with a basic human need for self identity. Who am I in relation to the other members of my social group. Gossip. These judgmental statements require abstract words—feelings, values, attitudes, appraisals, put-downs.

Social groups are still ruled by alpha males, but the lower hierarchy continually jostles for position, how do I fit in relation to those closest to me. Conspiracy theories—recently labeled fake news—add juice to the conversation.


by Mort Harris
Nineteen forty eight, the American West teemed with hostile Indians. As more settlers moved out West, Redskins attacked wagon trains and burned ranch houses, tarnishing the name of Washington’s famous football team. The President, in desperation called upon Stephen Gold, the Secretary of State. “We have a serious problem with terrorism in this country” said the President. “The Indians are attacking us indiscriminately. We have information that they are stealing herds of women and raping the cattle.”
“Sir” asked Gold, “Could that report be in error?”
“Never!” thundered the President. “Our intelligence is indisputable; worse than that, they have resorted to suicide knifing.”
Gold was shocked. “Suicide knifing?”
“Yes” said the President. “Terrorists are attacking saloons; they knife a few people and then stab themselves to death.”
Gold shook his head. “Insane fanatics.”
“What’s wrong with those Indians?” questioned the President. “Haven’t we been generous with them?”
Gold whispered, “Maybe they are a little upset about us being on their land and slaughtering their Buffalo.”
“Nonsense. It’s those wild extremists, the Redskin Supremacists.” He grabbed Gold by the shoulders, “Gold, you are an expert on the far West. I need you to go and check out the tribes. We have received reports that they are preparing for more attacks. More importantly, it is rumored that they are compiling arrows of mass destruction.”
Gold asked, “Have you intercepted any vital messages between the tribes?”
“Only one, when we broke their smoke signal code.”
“What did it say?”
“Yankee go home.” The President shook his head. “Those inconsiderate heathens.”
“Ungrateful savages.” echoed Gold.
The President slammed his fist against his desk. “We have got to have more rigid immigration laws. The Indians act as if it were their land.”
Gold grimaced but nodded.
“One more thing Gold, when you’re out West find out what we can do to lure more settlers out there. I’ll send a large army with you as a peace measure, of course.”
After his futile search for arrows of mass destruction, Gold wrote:
Dear Mr. President,
I picked up some pretty trinkets and got a great buy on a blanket. At our pow-wow, I learned the tribes were not open to our kind of democracy. However, they thanked you for the gifts of whiskey.
Stephen (One Braid) Gold
Toward the end of his trip, Gold found himself in Sutter’s Mill, California. Crossing the muddy main street, he was struck by a speeding stagecoach. People gathered around his injured body.
“Who is that?”
“That’s Gold.”
“What happened to him?”
“He was struck by a stagecoach.”
Word started spreading though the town. “They struck Gold.”
“Sutter’s Mill.”
The Pony Express carried the fake news all the way to Missouri. “They struck gold in California.”
The excitement spread by telegraph to Philadelphia, New York and Boston. Thousands of people stampeded out West to seek their fortune.
Swathed in bandages, splints on his arms and legs, Gold, leaning on a crutch, met the President in the Oval Office. The President nailed a medal into the cast that covered Gold’s chest. Gold attempted a salute but the cast on his arm locked at the half way point. The president heaped praises on his Secretary of State. “You have exceeded my expectations. You not only pacified the Indians with whiskey, but you discovered an ingenious way to get our people to migrate West.”
“Sir, the people of this nation are lucky to have a man such as you as President.”
“I know,” boasted the president. “I sent my best General and more troops to suppress the Indian uprising in the Dakota territory.”
Months later, General Custer stood proudly on a hill top waving the flag of the 27th Cavalry and shouted, “I will stop those Indians if it’s the last thing I do.”
Mort Harris is a comedy writer for Marty Allen.


by Geri Bedrosian, President Summerlin Writers Workshop

Calpurnius loved his horses. It might be said Calpurnius loved his horses more
than his sons, more than his daughters, more than Potitus, his father, more than his
wife, Conchessa, more than his life. True the horses and the cavalry command
brought him wealth and prestige. The horses in the cavalry and his Decurion, (10
Roman-Briton cavalry horse warriors), needed him-they were welfare, income, life
style, life’s blood. Every day he and the men and his sons tended to the horses
every need. The exercising to create muscles of steel, quick responses and
maneuvers in the face of battling foe, feed, brushing down, rubbing down, finding
mares and sires to continue to breed the finest cavalry horses in Cumbria. He
demanded utmost allegiance from his men, his ten and his sons that these horses
and men became as one in the face of battling for life, limb, family, tribe, religion,
country and king.
Depending on the season, bone cold, chilling wet or hot soaking steamy work life,
little rest from training, maintaining, managing – it consumed all their lives for it
was their livelihood. They slept and woke with the horses every day. This was the
life of Calpurnius’ son Maewum Siccat, born 387 to Calpernius and
Conchessa. He grew to be a strong, wiry fair-haired lad and could know the best
and worst of a horse, could out ride his tribe and siblings, could know the very
dreams and ideas behind those most beautiful largest eyes in kingdom come.

That is why it surprised Calpernius that his elder son did not want to serve the
Calvary or the Curia, the senate seat of Cumbria’s decision-making government as
was written by law. Maewum wanted adventure and not servitude to the Cumbrian
citizenry. He knew horses and he knew he was a warrior. Be careful what you
wish for. And, as fate would have it, Maewum got his wish. A marauding tribe of
Irish pirates overtook Cumbria and kidnapped most of the women and children,
leaving many Cumbrian men dead. Maewum was on board a ship to Ireland with
some of his townspeople, a slave to a ruthless Pelagian tribe who believed original
sin was not passed on to mankind, born in innocence with a nature that is pure as
Adam first was. This was not Maewum’s tribal religion. He was in servitude until
he was 16 having mastered the Irish language and culture and worked as beast
master, tending all manner of animals. He was abused and psychologically
brainwashed to believe the Pelagian ways or die. This he did until his
He escaped all right-right into the hands of the French in Tours where he learned
French monasticism. He escaped and returned to Ireland where he converted
pagan warriors, wealthy royal, noble women, the unfree and the poor to vow to his
monastic charity overthrowing pagan idols, converting pagans in Ireland to true
Christianity, that humankind is born in sin and must spend eternity and good works
to escape it. Churches were built on royal lands but Maewum refused Kingly gifts,
their kinship which made him outside their protection. He was charged with
financial impropriety having received gifts from his converts, wealthy women,
who later became nuns. He was beaten, robbed, chained, imprisoned, awaited
execution. He returned the gifts and made restitution and was set free to continue
his life’s work. It is true he used the parable of the shamrock to teach the trinity of
3 persons in one God: the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit but never a snake
slithered in Ireland’s cold and salt sands. The Druids wrote this poem about
“Across the sea will come adze head, crazed in the head, his cloakwill hole
for the head, his stick bent in the head, he will chant impieties from a table in the
front of his house and all his people will answer: so be it, so be it.”
By now Maewum Siccat was being called holy
Magnus (famous), Succetus (god of war), Patricius (father of citizens),
and Cothirtiacus, which in Old Irish is Cathraige and Celtic Latin
is Patricius (servant to the Four Druid Houses). This last name is the name
Maewum became: Patricius (Patrick) warrior/priest, father to followers, slayer of
Pagans for conversion to true Christianity. He made a name for himself but about
that color green….


The leprechaun slipped out of his secret hiding place as
the sun set in the west.
From afar he heard the music of an Irish Jig and began
to swirl and dance.
A cloud appeared above his head and swiftly travel to the
young lass.
To bring unto her young life a feeling of a wonderous
No, no said the people, we do not believe in love and
It’s for us to decide who shall drive the bridal carriage.
Young people do not have the wisdom and knowledge to
make such an important decision,
it’s the elders to decide each and every mission.
Ah, but the leprechaun wanted to cause havoc and
disruption, for he knew true love was the best of a
romantic discussion.
So, he cast a spell upon a priest to secretly to find and
marry, those of whom that loves comes from the sprinkle
of the love fairy.
He goes by the name of Patrick and the world owes him
great affection, because he turned the world around in a
new direction.
This annoying little leprechaun spell made the Priest owe
so famous.
A holiday was name after him that brought true love to
the surface.
First comes St. Patrick’s Day – when the Irish celebrate
the Wearing of the Green. Then comes April 15th – when
the government observes the Sharing of the Green.
St. Patrick’s Day is such a wonderful occasion. It gives
Irishmen that same feeling of omnipotence that Texans
have all year round.
Like Clancy told his wife the other day: “You gotta look
on the bright side of things, honey. Remember all the
gold jewelry I gave you for Christmas? Be thankful it
turned green in time for St. Patrick’s Day.”
I know a Jewish fella who celebrates St. Patrick’s Day.
The way he reads it, it’s: Aaron – Bo Ruagh!
Leprechaun fair warning “Never iron a four-leaf Clover.
You don’t want to press your luck.”
Murphy told Quinn that his wife was driving him to drink.
Quinn thinks he’s very lucky because his own wife makes
him walk.
Reilly went to trial for armed robbery. The jury foreman
came out and announced, “Not guilty.” That’s grand!
shouted Reilly. “Does that mean I can keep the money?”
Billy stops Paddy in Dublin and asks for the quickest way
to Cork. Paddy says, “Are you on foot or in the car?” Billy
says, “In the car.” Paddy says, “That’s the quickest way.”
On St. Patrick’s Day O’Reilly was going to take his final
solo flying lesson. His engines cuts out and he
immediately gets on the radio yelling, “Easter –
Christmas – Armistice – April fools – New Years. The
radio operator on the end says very comely, “Do you
mean mayday?”
“Did you see the paper?” Gallagher asked. “They say I
died!” “Yes, I saw it!” Finney replied. “Where are you
callin’ from?”
Leprechaun words of wisdom: In life, there are only two
things to worry about. Whether you’ll live or you’ll die.
If you live, there is nothing to worry about. If you die,
there are two things to worry about: whether you’ll go to
Heaven or Hell. If you go to Heaven, there is nothing to
worry about. If you go to Hell, you’ll be shaking hands
with so many friends you won’t have time to worry.