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On Death and Dying … a Conversation

18 May

 

 

 

 

On Death and Dying … a Conversation

By L. Stewart Marsden

“Are you afraid?”

“Of dying, or death?”

“Of either.”

“Of dying — well I’m a little wary of that part. I have a low threshold for pain, you know.”

“What about death?”

“That’s the easy part. Everybody before me, and everybody after me has and will do it. I think we have it wrong, though.”

“How’s that?”

“Most are convinced it’s a final destination. Like the beach.”

“The beach?”

“Sure. You think about your trip for months on end. You imagine the warm sun and the calming surf and the lack of hurry or care. All of that anticipation.”

“Ok.”

“You pack your car with everything you’ll need, and map out your route, then jump in and start the engine.”

“Right.”

“Along the way you might hit traffic, or a detour — maybe even a wreck or two along the way.”

“Uh-huh.”

“At some point you begin to smell it in the air. The salt. That first indication you are very near. And you get impatient to get there. Or to be the first person in your car to see the ocean.”

“Yes.”

“You arrive, and you get together with your family, who’ve all arrived from different places, traveling different routes, and you mill about and greet one another. Then the inevitable question: how long did it take you to get here?”

“I see.”

“Yeah. So in a way dying is like your trip to the beach, and death is arriving at the beach.”

“Does everyone make it to the beach? You mentioned wrecks along the way.”

“You mean the heaven or hell thing?”

“If you like.”

“Kind of where the metaphor breaks down. So the way I see it, the beach isn’t the destination.”

“No?”

“The better metaphor –– at least the way I see it –– is labor and birth.”

“Why?”

“Labor is what we conceive as our life. In labor, we ease down the birth canal, and there are trying times along the way. We are distorted and pushed on every side. It’s cramped, dark, and –– frankly, uncomfortable most of the journey.

“Then, towards the end, we begin to see a little daylight ahead, and that daylight gets brighter and brighter. So does the pain and the difficulty. Again, maybe we get stuck. But you see we aren’t with anyone else. It’s just us. Just me. Just you. Our individual gauntlet to face and bear. Finally, we emerge –– to the applause of those waiting our arrival. We are swept up and held close and cradled in the arms of Someone who has been patiently anticipating us.”

“And who is that Someone?”

“You want me to say God, right?”

“I want to know what you think. You can say whatever you like.”

“I don’t know the answer to that, only that I’m excited to find out.”

“So you aren’t afraid you’re going to end up in one place or other?”

“Let me ask you something.”

“Okay.”

“You believe in God?”

“I do.”

“And is God male or female?”

“I don’t know.”

“Loving or strict?”

“I’d say both.”

“So there’s room in God’s lexicon for the two to exist juxtaposed?”

“Juxtaposed isn’t a word I would use, but, yes.”

“So a loving and strict God can appoint my afterlife to either a heavenly or hellish eternity?”

“Are you afraid of hell?”

“Do you mean, am I sure of my eternal destination?”

“I suppose.”

“For a complicated and unknowable God, that question seems too simplistic.”

“Well, how do you see it, then?”

“More complicated, of course. I’m not so sure our heavens and hells are after we die, but before it. And I’m not so sure we have only one life and death.”

“You believe in reincarnation?”

“Not in the sense I come here as human, live and die, and come back as a caterpillar.”

“Then how?”

“Have you lived a perfect life?”

“Of course not.”

“But a good life?”

“I try.”

“Why?”

“Why try? I suppose it’s in my nature to do the best I can.”

“Is it enough?”

“Enough for what?”

“To get into heaven.”

“To get into heaven you must be born …”

“Again! Exactly!”

“It’s a spiritual rebirth. Not a physical one.”

“Are you sure?”

“I –– we’re talking about you, not me.”

“I’m absolutely fine with the rebirth thing. It makes sense to me. I was, I am, and I will be. Even the Bible says ‘you are gods.’”

“That’s not what it means.”

“No? Are you sure? When Christ said, ‘It is finished,’ what did he mean by that?”

“He meant that the battle between good and evil was finished. That his death –– his blood and his body –– were the atonement for the sins of Man.”

“And you believe that?”

“I do.”

“So it was a done deal?”

“A done deal.”

“Then why hell?”

“Beg your pardon?”

“That’s why I’m not afraid of death. God has something far more wonderful for me than I can ever imagine. IF what you say is true.”

“So you do believe in God?”

“What I believe … will it change anything?”

“In what way?”

“In terms of me living or dying. This body of mine is going to wear out. Built-in obsolescence.”

“It won’t change whether you will die or not. It might change how you live, however.”

“But, everything I’ve done up to this point in my life –– none of that will be undone? I can’t take the bad things back, right?”

“Right.”

“What if I could? What if this life of mine is like a slinky toy, and it spirals slowly, each circumnavigation a lifetime?”

“A slinky is analogous to reincarnation?”

“Crude, I know –– but it serves my purpose. Let’s add another element. Do you believe in the laws of physics?”

“What I understand of them.”

“Well, gravity is the easiest, I suppose. The apple from the tree thing. Are you familiar with the Law of Conservation of Energy?”

“That energy always exists in some form or fashion, never diminishing?”

“Close enough.”

“It’s a theory, I believe.”

“Ah, like heaven and hell? But you understand heaven and hell to be spiritual absolutes, and Conservation of Energy is an absolute scientific law.”

“What’s your point?”

“My point is that I –– me –– the energy of who I am –– will not dissipate nor diminish. Not ever. Not one iota. It may transfer to a different form, but it won’t be lost.”

“So you think you are eternal?”

“Have been for a very long time now.”

“And by that you are equal to the god who created you?”

“Didn’t say that. I am the product of whatever caused me to be created. I am energy. Like everything around us. By virtue of that, I –– or my energy –– will be forever.”

“Namaste.”

“Don’t be sarcastic. If you think about it, it’s hard to argue against.”

“So it’s black and white with you, then?”

“Explain, please.”

“Science and what you call incontrovertible fact or theory, versus the existence of an all-knowing, supreme being.”

“I didn’t say that. I’m certainly open to an omniscient being. But I’m also open to the thought we could be in the bedroom of a four-year-old who is controlling all of this! Which is less absurd?”

“You compare God to a four-year-old?”

“It’s the Old Testament/New Testament contrast. To me, after all of the stuff in the Old Testament, God grew up a bit. Like that bit with Abraham and Isaac. He didn’t know Abraham was going to be obedient and would actually kill his own son? How’s that possible? Was that for Abraham’s sake? Or did he figure The paparazzi was going to start showing up at these events? So he learned from his own creation, and looked over and chose his son to come down and make things right.”

“Hush your mouth!”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to offend. I mean, how could God ever learn something from his own creation? Is that outside the scope of possibility? I thought all things are possible with God.

“Seems to me there’s enough evidence –– especially over the millennia –– that humankind has been going through this very slow slinky toy evolution process. We are learning that our impulses for power and dominance over each other and the world we live in are not the ones to guide us –– especially if one rejects the concept of survival of the fittest –– which has usually meant the most physically powerful and aggressive.

“What if survival of the fittest meant mentally and emotionally and spiritually fit? What then?More and more of us are rejecting how things have been, learning from the results of those base and instinctive primitive impulses. Fear and hate of those different from us. Clear-cutting and ravaging the land and its resources.

“So you asked am I afraid of death? Just the dying part. Mostly because I’m a wimp. But to me, being dead is either going to be mental oblivion, or rebirth, and a chance to continue that progressive evolution trend towards something bigger and better and kinder and more satisfying. I can die with that.

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The Gun Show

8 Nov

The Gun Show

By L. Stewart Marsden

Dealer: I need your ID.

Patron: They don’t need it when I vote … why the hell do you need it?

Dealer: It’s the law, Sir.

Patron: Effing law-makers! They need to put those leeches out to pasture.

Dealer: Yeah, the most of them are in it for the money.

Patron: MY money … and yours.

Patron hands the Dealer his driver’s license, who plugs the information into his computer.

Patron: Checking to see if I’m crazy?

Dealer: That, and if you have any felony arrests.

Patron: Ought to make running for office a felony.

Dealer: Get no argument here.

Dealer hands the license back to the Patron.

Patron: Clean?

Dealer: Have to wait ten days for the license to clear.

Patron: Uh. Ten days. Well, you got any of your private stock for sale?

Dealer: You in a hurry?

Patron: I want to get to a range and get used to my gun before the season begins.

Dealer: Well, since you asked – I got this sweet semi I can sell you.

Patron: And I can take it today, right? I mean I don’t have to have a license to buy it and take it home with me.

Dealer: Yep. Kind of like the way it used to be a long time ago. Only thing is if I suspect the buy is unhinged or something. You unhinged?

The Patron laughs in response, and the Dealer laughs.

Dealer: You a hunter?

Patron: Used to when I was a boy. Me and my dad. Squirrel. Rabbits, sometimes. Ever eat squirrel?

Dealer: Can’t say I have. What’s it taste like?

Patron: Chicken. Everything tastes like chicken, right? ‘Cept for chicken …

Dealer laughs …

Dealer: You gonna use this for hunting, then?

Patron: Yeah … hunting. And target shooting, you know.

Dealer: This baby’ll bring down a bull moose at 200 yards. It’s lightweight and won’t throw you to the ground with the recoil.

Patron picks up the gun, hefts it, and points it up, sighting down the barrel. He checks the action several times, then puts it back on the counter.

Patron: Nice! I’ll take it. You recommend a scope with that?

Dealer: I do if you want a clean kill. Otherwise you might miss, or worse – wound your target and have to go traipsing into the brush to finish the kill.

Patron: Well, better add a scope, then. I don’t do traipsing at my age.

Dealer: Okay … I recommend this scope. Assembles onto this model quick and locks in tight. Myself I never use a scope. Kind of takes the challenge out of it.

Patron: Quick and tight. Sounds good to me. Ammo?

Dealer: What do you want? Ain’t cheap.

Patron: What is these days? Any limit on how much I can buy?

Dealer: Only your wallet. Ammo for this gun come in boxes of fifty.

Patron: Ten should do for now.

Dealer: That won’t last very long. Especially on the range.

Patron: It’s 500 shells. It’s enough.

Dealer: How you want to pay?

Patron: Cash okay?

Dealer: Need you to sign for it.

Patron: No problem.

Dealer: Anything else today? Camouflage outfit? Ear protection?

Patron: Naw. I’m good. Wait … can you outfit this with a silencer? For the sound. My hearing is bad enough as it is.

Dealer: What about ear protectors? Cheaper.

Patron: I heard they amplify background noise – least that’s what a friend of mine told me.

Dealer: Yeah. You can actually go online and get instructions how to make one. I sell you one it gets reported to the ATF, and they may want to talk to you about why. Anyways, I don’t carry them.

Patron: I’m an engineer. Or was. I have a huge workshop full of every tool imaginable. Can’t imagine making one will be too difficult for me.

Dealer: Probably not. Anything else?

Patron: You got bump stocks?

Dealer: Nope. But there’s a booth close to the bathrooms that does. They have one that’ll fit what you bought. Not going to use that hunting, right?

Patron: Just curious. Grew up on James Cagney gangster films. Always wondered what rapid-fire would feel like.

Patron pulls out his wallet and counts out the cash, and hands it to the Dealer.

Dealer: Thank you! Now if you’ll sign right here, I’ll get your change.

Patron: Lot of folk pay in cash?

Dealer: Does a bear shit in the woods?

They laugh.

Dealer: Okay, partner … you’re all set. Unless there’s anything else?

Patron: No, no! I’m good. Between you and the guv’mint, I’ll be in the poor house!

They laugh again.

The Patron walks off and disappears into the mulling crowds of the gun show, as the Dealer turns to the next customer.

Dealer: Help you, Sir?

Gun control laws are riddled with loopholes, “protecting” an American citizen’s 2nd Amendment right to own a gun. This is one of them. It’s referred to as The Gun Show Loophole.

 

 

Lunch

14 May

Lunch

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

Thank you for meeting me today. I realize it’s awkward, but it speaks tomes about the kind of person you are.

We try.

The waiter interrupts, asking for drink orders.

Make mine an Old Fashion.

Make that two.

He nods and whisks away.

I don’t normally drink before five. Certainly not at lunch. Not one of those people.

Nor do I. I think it’s warranted, given — well, you know.

Absolutely. So, you wanted to ask me something?

I do.

Ask away.

She pauses and looks out at the front sidewalk where passersby click away to their various destinations.

Am I making a mistake?

Beg your pardon?

Am I making a mistake? With him?

I’m not sure I understand.

You know him much better than I.

I suppose. Well, I thought I did.

There are things I already know about him. As a man, I mean. He has almost literally swept me off my feet.

Yeah. I know. Been there.

The waiter returns with the drinks. They clink glasses, and feebly say Cheers!

Are you making a mistake? I don’t think I can answer that. I don’t think I should answer that. That’s a question your best friend answers. Or your mother — and the answer from her is yes, definitely. At least that’s my experience.

They laugh, and the tension is reduced.

Are you making a mistake? What does your shrink say?

I don’t see a shrink. I don’t trust them.

You might want to reconsider that. How about your pastor — or who you go to for spiritual advice?

I’m agnostic. Bad experiences in that area.

Oh. Understood.

So, am I? Making a mistake?

A long pause and a deep breath.

Maybe you are. But, maybe not. When I met him we fell head over heels. It was so spontaneous! So incredibly unlike anything else I ever experienced before — and believe me, I was experienced!

Yeah, me too.

This isn’t easy for me, you know.

I know.

I hear about you guys — from friends as well as him, sometimes.

I’m sorry.

Not your fault. We came to an impasse. What had been wasn’t. The spark had died.

Why do you think that happened? If you don’t mind my asking.

We quit tending the fire, I guess. And it was as much me as it was him. One day I looked at him and thought, Who is this man? A relationship is so much more than the giddy stuff, you know. It’s the trenches stuff, like he would say. Dating and dancing and champagne and walking on the beach hand-in-hand are only moments you catch here and there after time.

The waiter returns, and asks if the two women are ready to order. They aren’t, but ask for another round.

Why would you come to me and ask me if you’re making a mistake?

I know what I know about him, and I’m so pleased with that. It’s what I don’t know I worry about.

Honey, every man has a basement full of things they never let you see at the beginning. To be honest, I didn’t exactly reveal all my warts at first.

Why not?

What? Because I liked him and I didn’t want to scare him off! Men are skittish like that!

They laugh again, and the waiter delivers the Old Fashions.

Look, maybe you are making a mistake. But who cares? The mistake he and I made was letting things go over a long period of time. Our split didn’t happen overnight. Besides, you are always going to make mistakes, and they won’t be the same ones he and I made.

I know that. I’m not naïve enough to think it’s the fairy tale ending.

He’s not a serial killer or a bank robber or a secret agent, if that’s what you’re worried about. There was that time an enforcer from the mob showed up looking for money, though.

What!

I’m kidding!

They laugh. The waiter reappears, and asks if they are ready to order.

Not quite, right? Bring us one more round, Sweetie. I’m going to have to take a cab home!

We both will!

Honey, what’re you worried about?

Nothing. Everything! The data isn’t good for second marriages.

The data’s not good for first marriages, either.

True. But my parents have been married going on 45 years.

Wow! That’s a long time. Mine divorced when I was in college. Dad remarried got a second divorce. Mom said the hell with it and came out.

She’s gay?

And happy, if I can be redundant. So, nothing’s guaranteed.

I guess not.

But you want a guarantee, right?

I suppose. It’s not like I don’t know what pain is like. I’ve had three relationships I thought were it.

And they weren’t?

I don’t know. I couldn’t get past the what ifs.

Yeah. I can relate.

So, am I making a mistake?

Honey, I wish I could give you a definite answer. He and I were a different couple than you and him. That much I do know. You seem to be a nice fit. That’s really difficult for me to say, by the way.

I know. I shouldn’t have imposed on you.

Well, if it were the reverse, I might have done the same thing.

Really?

I know what you want. And I don’t blame you in the least. But I can’t guarantee you’re making a mistake by taking this relationship to the next level. On the other hand, I can’t guarantee it’s not a mistake if you don’t. Make sense?

Yes. And that’s what I’ve been struggling with. There aren’t any guarantees. And you’re right, I want one. So you can’t tell me whether I’m making a mistake or not?

I can’t.

You know what?

What?

I think he made the mistake.

Which was?

Letting you go. Cheers!

Cheers! You hungry?

Famished!

Waiter!

 

The curse

27 Sep

The Curse

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

“By the way, one doesn’t curse in or around my family.”

“Really? One doesn’t curse — what an odd expression. No one? I’ve heard you curse often.”

“Sure, but you won’t ever hear me curse around my family.”

“Absolutely no one in your family? Ever? Other than you, of course.”

“No one. Ever.”

“I’m impressed.”

“You shouldn’t be. While we don’t curse with our mouths, we find other ways that are far more effective.”

“Such as?”

“Money.”

“Oh, please! You can curse me with money any day you like! In fact, bury me in curses!”

“You say that now. But that isn’t how it works.”

“How does it work?”

“We accustom you to money. To its trappings, its finery — and worst of all — its expectations. You become used to exotic and sumptuous foods and drink. Clothing and jewelry grow boring. What you do and what you wear and where and with whom you go all become ridiculous and trite rote. Genuine life fades.”

“What a ghastly fate money is!”

“You don’t believe me?”

“You don’t believe it yourself. Not for one minute. Take all this away and you’d see very quickly.”

“AH! THAT’s exactly the curse! Once you are accustomed to it you worry if somehow you will lose it! Who will take my wealth away? The what-ifs haunt you throughout the night! You worry you’ll wake up and it will all be gone! Like the Prince and the Pauper! No one EVER wants to be the Pauper, do they?”

“I’m sure most don’t.”

“So there it is in a nutshell — the curse! And people like us know that. We reel others into our boats by dangling the promise of a life of riches. Get our victims off-guard and when they begin to relax and enjoy everything — BAM! We’ve got you!  And then we throw you back. Oh, god how I love it!”

“Shit!”

“That’s why we don’t curse with our mouths. We don’t have to.”

 

  Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 27 September, 2015

Ghosts

25 Sep

Ghosts

by L. Stewart Marsden

 

 

“Are you angry with me?” she asked.

“Why the hell should I be angry with you, for God’s sake?”

“That I’m thinking of him?”

“I can’t help what you think about. I can’t even help what I think about, for that matter.”

“I do try.”

“Yes, you do.”

“But sometimes I can’t help myself.”

“It’s called PTSD.”

“What?”

“Post traumatic —“

“I know what it stands for. It doesn’t really apply in my case. I mean, I wasn’t in battle or anything. It wasn’t traumatic like that.”

“No, but his death was traumatic. Look — this is my issue. It’s perfectly natural for you to think about him and about what happened. I understand that. Intellectually, at least. I know this sounds a bit glib, but what if he hadn’t died? I mean, what if you had gotten a divorce and he was still out there?”

“I think I would prefer it.”

“I sure as hell wouldn’t. Does that sound selfish? Mean?”

“No. I don’t know — I’m sorry I’m so screwed up! I should be able to let go and move on!”

“You will. And I’ll be with you along the way. Promise. You can’t feel guilty for thinking about him.”

“No?”

“No. But not every minute of every day. You’ve got to find some space for me, right?”

“Right.”

“I mean that. It’s okay. I understand. And, I love you. I wish I had met him.”

“You would have liked him.”

“Yeah. But we would have had a problem.”

“What problem?”

“You.”

“I love you.”

“I know.”

 

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden 25 September, 2015

 

I love you …

25 Sep

I love you

a two Dewars’ conversation

by L. Stewart Marsden

 

As they sat on the veranda overlooking the lake, the blood-red harvest moon pulled itself into the starry sky. She pondered the thoughts swirling in her mind. Was it the scotch? Was it the gravitational pull of the full moon yanking at her loins? Was it his nearness and yet his remoteness? She breathed in slowly, smelling him.

“I want to tell you something,” she almost whispered, half hoping he wouldn’t hear her.

The lake lapped at the darkened shoreline. An owl hooted in the far bay south of them. A lingering time passed where neither dared break the spell.

“We don’t utter those words here,” he finally answered, rattling the ice in his glass, and taking a sip.

“What words?”

“We never say them here. Here they are poison. Certain death. Like uttering the name of that Potter character the grandchildren banter about.”

“Voldi —”

“Yes. And like his name, those words you’re thinking tend to put people into a trance. Into a stupor from which they can never regain their sensibilities.”

“Ah. Spoken from the heart.”

“Not a whole heart. A very fragmented and wounded one. Stitched together time and again with the merest of threads. A bit of time, as time heals all wounds — right?”

“So they say.”

“Do you hear what I’m saying?”

“Well, yes. But I wonder can we agree to disagree?”

“Seems rather useless. Pretty much a stalemate, I’d say. You won’t get me to budge.”

“Then Mohammed will come to the mountain.”

He laughed. “I’m anything but a mountain, my Dear. More like a hill. A mole hill, in fact. The result of some furry mammal burrowing inches under the soil. An easy prey for a wary cat.”

“You think that’s what I am? A cat?”

“I think you have no idea what you are. Of your power. Of your presence. I am just a contributor along the way to your discovering yourself. I am of no consequence to your future. And I intend to remain in that role. Nothing less, nothing more.”

“Oh. There’s nothing I can do or say?”

“I’m sure there’s a great deal you can do and say. But it would have the same effect as shouting down a storm.”

“And you’re the storm?”

“So you do listen! I was beginning to wonder.”

“And you are warning me?”

“This is a weather advisory, my Dear. You can heed it and save yourself a great deal of heartache, or you can throw caution to the proverbial wind. It’s your choice.”

“You have no choice in the matter?”

“I am what I am, and I go where I go. Some accept me as I am. Others try to bring me down. And still others think they can ride along with me.”

“That’s a helluv an ego you’ve got!”

“It’s about all I’ve got these days. Besides, I never promised you anything else.”

“You haven’t promised me anything.”

“Exactly.”

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 25 September, 2015

Murder Most Grievous: Sedgwick

20 Oct

Murder Most Grievous

Sedgwick

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

 

Sedgwick was a gay and carefree lad. At least he was certainly happier and less encumbered than others of his same age. Perhaps that was due to his being overly naïve, or more protected from the outer world. Nevertheless, he was who he was, and strongly encouraged by his mother to ignore those who were not as enlightened and confident as he.

Being of such composition, his worries and concerns were few. He cared little for the accoutrements of style or possessions. Those were unnecessary drags against his long-range goals, and merely weighed and mired others down in the common muck of life. In his opinion.

He was not aloof nor condescending in spite of his judgment of others. After all, they were who they were, too — and why should they care that he deemed them inferior? He, to them, was but a spot in their passing blurs of life.

He surmised that his impact on the lives of others was as inconsequential as theirs on his. And he felt no obligation to be anything more or less than what the gods had already ordained. He would live his life, and they theirs.

To that end Sedgwick employed all his talents and resources, the first which were many, the last which were few. Of the two he found talents more important not only when mined, but arduously developed.

His primary talent was thought. It was thought that quickly carried him from those life moments each one of us faces: pain, humiliation, self-doubt, loss, frustration, anger and more. When he found himself drawing toward the edges of such devouring eddies, he consciously triggered his thought process. Soon he was beyond the moment, and delighted in Elysian fields of comfort and rest. He was, after all, one of those chosen few — as his mother often told him.

In that conscious state of removal, Sedgwick not only endured, but prevailed and benefitted from each life crisis. He learned. He equipped himself. He grew stronger.

While he didn’t seek trouble out, he deeply understood the words “bring it on” uttered by countless heroes depicted in movies he watched.

And he watched a lot of movies.

And, he read voraciously.

As a child the library was his primary home, and his home merely the location where he ate and slept — and watched movies. His mother was grateful for his bookishness, for the library also served as her no-cost daycare when Sedgwick was younger. She would drop him off in the morning with a small backpack that contained a crinkled paper sack. In the sack was a peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich, wrapped in waxed paper. Also a library card, and a note explaining how to contact her if anything should occur.

Nothing ever occurred. Odd as it was, Sedgwick had the ability to blend in among the book stacks, and in corner reading nooks. No librarian or other person ever noticed or bothered him.

At noon he would take a brief break and go outside to eat his sandwich, then carefully fold the waxed paper and insert it into the paper bag, which he stored in his back pack. On rainy and very cold days, Sedgwick would go into the men’s room and enter one of the toilet stalls, where he sat carefully balanced on the john and ate. He looked about and read the penciled and scratched graffiti that covered its walls.

His real food was the sumptuous diet of books he read. He devoured the classics: Stevenson and Kipling; Dickens and Hawthorne; Twain and Poe. He feasted on O’Henry. He coursed through Crane and Hemingway, Steinbeck and Kerouac. His desserts were Dahl and Silverstein. By the end of each day when his mother came to pick him up, he was temporarily sated. But he knew he would be mentally hungry again an hour later — like after eating take-out Chinese.

Back in the thin-walled apartment, Sedgwick sat hours in front of the bulky RCA television and plugged in  VCR cartridges. The TV was a holiday special from Goodwill. Hues were washed out, and the sound crackled at times, but it still served its purpose.

Again, only the best movie fare: “Lord Jim,” “Bridge Over the River Kwai,” “Casablanca” and “The African Queen,” “Citizen Kane.” Nothing common. Nothing trite. No mere mortal actors. Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Ernest Borgnine, Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman, Elizabeth Taylor. Sedgwick’s film repasts were carefully selected and screened by his mother from what was available at the library and the various second-hand locations she frequented. Only rarely did she actually purchase a film in good condition, and then on sale at Kmart or Walmart.

Sedgwick never felt the pinch of poverty. Just the opposite. His was a life full of riches, in his own estimation. He pitied those around him who were unable to luxuriate in experiences like his. Who were tripped up by convention and fad and who had to appear as what they were unable to be. In his mind, they lived a perpetual Hallowe’en, dressed up in order to go through life tasting only the candies of life and not feast on real food.

And so Sedgwick passed each day, month and year. He grew tall and sinewy, and his mother old and bent. He slipped through public school uneventfully, and obtained his associate library science degree from the local community college. He went to work at the very library in which he passed so many days and months and years.

When his mother breathed out her last, Sedgwick entered his Elysian Fields, and drew upon the strength and sustenance of his books and his films until he felt the time to emerge had come.

Which it inevitably did.

 * * * * *

For the next Sedgwick installment click here.

Copyright ©  by Lawrence S. Marsden, 20 October, 2014

Fantasti-gal

18 Jun

 

 

Fantasti-gal

by L. Stewart Marsden

 

Hi!
Um, hello?
May I come inside?
Do I know you?
I know you.
You do?
All your wants, all your needs.
Um, have we met?
I know all about you.
Really?
Even so, I don’t care.
You don’t?
I like what you’ve done to the place.
It isn’t much.
Even so, it’s so you!
I need to clean up.
No — it’s fine as it is. You are fine as you are.
I am?
You seem tense.
Just a bit.
Mind if I do this?
Um — wow!
And this?
B- but . . .
No buts. No ifs. And no ands.
I don’t . . .
Understand? It’s simple.
It is?
I am yours.
You are?
And there is nothing I won’t do.
Really?
Really.
Am I on Candid Camera?
No cameras.
Are you a cop?
No.
Am I awake?
Yes.
Ouch!
See?
Yeah . . . what’s the catch?
No catch.
None?
Ningun. Nada.
I could get used to this.

 

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 18 June, 2014

Marco Polo

12 Jun

image
A short exercise as an assignment for a playwriting seminar.

Criteria: Two characters in one location. Ten lines back and forth dialogue for each, with no more than five words per line. Something must occur that forever changes the relationship.

 

MARCO POLO

At rise, a backyard. MALE and FEMALE fireflies flitting about. It is evening.

MALE

Here I am! Psst!

FEMALE

Where?

MALE

Right here! Listen to me!

FEMALE

Oh, there — you went out!

MALE

Endurance is not my strength.

FEMALE

Apparently no one else, either.

MALE

Marco!

FEMALE

What?

MALE

It’s what the kids do.

FEMALE

Huh? What kids?

MALE

At the pool. Say Polo.

FEMALE

Polo?

MALE

Right! Say it again! Marco . . .

FEMALE

Polo — oh, I don’t know!

MALE

How ’bout I sing, then?

FEMALE

                                                                      (frustrated)
Anything but this!

MALE

                                                                      (Sings, like a goat)
You light up my life . . .

FEMALE

AUGHHHH! Stop! Please stop singing!

MALE

Well, I could dance like . . .

(A bat swoops down and catches the MALE, then swoops away)

FEMALE

Marco? Are you there? Polo!

CURTAIN

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 10 June, 2014

The sweatshirt

1 Jun

image

The Sweatshirt

by L. Stewart Marsden

Hey! Where are you?

Down here. In the basement.

(Pause)

Hi! Didn’t you hear me calling you earlier?

No, I guess not. What’s up?

I just thought I’d drop by and see, you know, how you’re managing.

Well, I’m managing, I guess.

Yeah . . . yeah. So, what’re you doing?

Laundry.

Where is it?

Oh, right. I came down to get the laundry basket.

That Mom’s sweatshirt?

Yeah, it is. It was in the laundry basket.

Um-hum. To be laundered?

Yeah.

And . . . it’s been down here how long?

Um, I dunno. For some time I guess.

Since before she went to . . .

Yeah, I guess. Before that.

You’re right. That’s some time.

You know how things’ve been, though. I just haven’t come down here since.

So . . . there must be a helluva lot of laundry to do, then.

Enough.

Three month’s worth, I’d guess.

About.

How do you do that?

How do I do what?

Go without clean clothes?

I don’t.

You have three months’ worth clean clothes?

Of course not. If I wear something more than once, then that cuts it down.

So how many months clean clothes do you have, then?

I dunno. Couple weeks, maybe?

Ah! So you definitely wear things more than twice.

Sure.

Not underwear, I hope.

Oh, no. I don’t do that.

You have three months’ worth of underwear?

No. A couple of weeks, perhaps.

Okay — I’m not understanding. If you have a couple of weeks of underwear, and — let’s say you do wear them more than once . . .

Twice, at the most.

Okay . . . so, it’s been three months, Dad. Explain it to me.

Oh, I see what you’re getting out. Truth? I don’t wear any. I mean, if I don’t go out, why wear them? If I think that I’m going out, and might have a heart attack or something, I slip ’em on. That would be embarrassing. A sick or dead guy without underwear. Might think I was a pervert.

Dad! That’s disgusting!

No. That’s what they call going commando, I believe. Have you never gone commando, Kiddo?

DAD!

I rather like it! Nice and airy . . .

Stop it! Too much information!

Okay. I’m just kidding with you. I have a couple pair of polyester boxers I rinse out in the sink.

STILL TOO MUCH! And I’m not sure I believe you about rinsing your boxers.

I’m fine. You worry too much.

Apparently not! Besides the laundry piling up, you’ve got a sink full of dishes. How long since you’ve cooked yourself a real meal?

You know, Stouffer’s has an excellent line of full meals . . .

You can’t eat frozen meals every day!

I don’t eat them frozen, I heat them up in the oven. And once the dishes were all dirty, I bought paper plates and cups and utensils. They don’t ever need to be washed. Although your mother would wash them anyway. Protects the environment and saves a tree, I guess. That’s what she said.

Why don’t you just get a dishwasher? Who doesn’t have a dishwasher these days? You can afford it! Randall can come by and install it for you. Plus do some of the other things that need to be done.

What other things?

The railing on the steps, for one. It’s real loose. That’s all you need is a fall down the stairs.

I can fix it. I have tools. Randall’s not the only guy who can do stuff like that.

Yeah, but he does it every day.

Right. Don’t remind me. A real catch, that one.

Dad!

Sorry. But I never liked him from the start. Your mother did. And every other woman that meets him, too.

What’re you implying?

Nothing. I’m not implying a thing.

He’s a great dad.

I’m sure he is. But, just the same, I can do my own repairs. Every time he comes over here with his tools he asks me if I know what he gets for screwing in a damn doornob, for chrissakes.

He want’s you to know his skills are valuable and wants you to appreciate what he does for you.

He want’s me to know he resents doing the work for free, that’s what he wants me to know. And I’m tired of it. So don’t ask him to come over, okay? Okay?

Okay, I won’t. But he’ll ask me if there’s any work to be done.

Jerry and I will get it done.

The screens, too? They need to be taken down and washed for the winter.

Yes, the screens, too.

But Jerry’s nearly eighty. And he has that heart condition.

Goddamit! Just because a guy has a little age on him, everybody’s ready to put him in the deep-freezer! And don’t worry — we’ll both wear underwear when we do the work!

Sorry, Dad. I didn’t mean anything by it!

I know. I’m just . . . well, you know. It’s a goddam adjustment, it is. Your mother took care of all these things and I played golf.

So, can I see the sweatshirt?

Oh, sure.

Wow, there sure are a lot of memories in this rag.

Yeah.

Ummm. It still smells of her.

Yeah, it does.

She would never let us throw it away. She liked to hang on to old things.

Like me, for example.

She loved you.

I think she loved that sweatshirt more. More reliable. More comfortable.

I mean, even the logo has faded almost entirely. And look at the elbows — it’s worn to mere threads. And the grease spots.

Yeah.

Mind if I put it on?

Put it on? Sure. Put it on.

Whaddaya think?

(Pause)

I think you look like your mom. A few years ago, of course.

You’re sweet. So, what shall we do with this? Can’t take it to Goodwill it’s so old and ratty. We could cut it into rags.

Cut nothing! Why the hell would you do a thing like that? Jeesh! Cut it into rags . . . No, we won’t!

I have an idea.

Yeah?

Yeah. Let me have it.

Let you have it? The one who wants to cut it into rags?

No, I won’t do that. I’ll wear it. When I garden — like she did. When the weather’s cool and I’m sitting by the fire. When you come over.

You won’t throw it away?

No. It will be a legacy sweatshirt, and I’ll pass it down to one of the girls and teach her all about Mom.

You will?

I will.

That’s nice. I like that idea. A legacy. Kind of a living memorial.

Except the sweatshirt’s not alive.

Yes it is.

(Pause)

Yes. It is. (Pause) Say, wanna go for a short walk?

With you?

See anyone else?

Sure. Let’s go for a walk.

(Pause)

So, do you have underwear on?

Hmmm. I’m not telling.

________

 

Note:
The sweatshirt conversation was inspired by a delightful poem I read on Bhartithewriter’s blog, entitled “My Old Sweater.” You can read this rich work by clicking here.
— SM

 

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 31 May, 2014