Back home, back where we came from originally, the work for “trouble” has both a masculine and feminine form. The literal translation would probably be “unravel”, but trouble is what it means. These days the masculine is for big problems, and the feminine for smaller ones. Back then it was to distinguish between the troubles of men, and those of women.
That spring day when my Grandmother cried out the masculine form and threw a dish, then threw another and began to cry; we knew, my sisters and I, that our Father would not be returning from the war.
by-Doug MathewsonFiled Under Micro Fiction
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Dear Acme Co.,
Please find enclosed my exchange/upgrade form (26-B), and FedEx shipping receipt. As you can see I have been a loyal customer for some considerable time. Having my own 3-D fabric printer-tailor unit has eliminated any need on my part for buying new clothes. Your “Fashion in a Flash (For Him!)” program has been wonderful. The fitting booth, or “ Digital Valet” as your current catalog describes it, takes up closet space formerly occupied by my old regular clothes. Having new fashion forward garments every morning saves the time I formerly wasted on the endless debate of “what shall I wear?”. Your printer is already programed to make, in my size, what ever the celebrity of my choice wore yesterday! Every outfit is a proven paparazzi winner. Gather what you wore yesterday and dump it all into the recycle hopper, then step into the fitting booth. Your lease to own program has helped me immensely, allowing me to move up to a new look. As you can see from my paper work I am returning an Andre 3000 software module towards your newly announced David Bowie Berlin Years unit. Andre’s fashion sense has always been impeccable. A wise choice given my demographic of living in the Philadelphia -Boston urban sprawl. Being from New England I find myself more sprawl than urban and look forward to my new chic vintage Bowie look. On another piece of business, I still have still not received credit for the M.C. Hammer unit I returned some time ago. Gentleman, this matter should have been resolved by now. But not to close on a sour note, as I am sure you will sort it all out.
Yours most sincerely,
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There were troubles enough in Kitty Wang’s life without her nephew Walter mooning around with a broken heart. Kitty had been making the best of things since her unexpected arrival on this backwards planet. She suffered from Chronos Syndrome, or “Billy Pilgrim’s Decease” as it is known. Kitty just becomes unstuck in time and can find herself any where, and any when. Time travel planned or otherwise wasn’t the adventure science fiction stories makes it out to be. Kitty did not have a know-it-all magic cat or some other unlikely omnipotent companion. All she had was a knack for language and a little luck. Luck for example in arriving on Planet Betty that had recently been colonized by refugees from Old Earth. “Old Earth”, that made Kitty laugh. As if there was another one and how “Old” could it be? She was there six months ago living a perfectly enjoyable life in Renaissance Venice. She was a merchant then, and traded in the books and scrolls that still trickled from the great libraries of Alexandria. Certainly a more comfortable life than farming (and there was little else to do) on this small isolated planet. At least she had Walter. They had agreed early on they must be related. Exactly how was not clear since Kitty was from both Walter’s future (twice) and his past many times over. Walter wasn’t even Asian, but never mind. According to Walter the farm was coming along slowly till his brother Alice-Jane (?) went off to be a sailor, or marry one. Walter was terrible with details.
The farm needed work of course, what farm doesn’t? Since Kitty’s arrival they had at least developed a workable plan. Out back there was half a barn full of old Agro-Droids. The UN chalky blue kind that had been around longer than forever and always turned up broken down and forlorn on doomed backward farms. Kitty didn’t take any crap from droids. She hot wired one of them and told it to repair the rest or else. The poor thing worked nonstop for a week and now they had two dozen droids keeping up with the farm work. Kitty wished Walter was a droid so she could tell him to go fix himself. Some girl with a home-made bonnet and duck tattoos smiled at him on the crawler transport out from town and he fell in love. Then her boyfriend showed up at the station. Walter was devastated beyond words. They hadn’t even spoken! Three or four shy unreturned glances and Walter was completely love sick. Maybe what Kitty really wished was that there were a few old Chinese “Aunties” around to compare horoscopes for Walter and match him up, introduce him to a girl and her family. An Auntie to act as a seemingly disinterested third party and make some thoughtful introductions. That’s what Walter needed. She didn’t know a soul here (except of course useless Walter) so she had to improvise.
Out in the barn there were still a few broken half disassembled droids. Kitty would make her own “Auntie” and see what happened. She was not a technician by any means, but these old machines were designed to be repaired and easily reprogramed with minimum knowledge and a few simple tools (a coin, a pointy stick, and a rock were usually enough). Kitty set about her task with fierce determination! She worked non-stop and as her spare parts supply had dwindled and as she became more exhausted compromises and improvisations were made. Kitty has duct-taped over the droids missing top cover, and then feeling silly hot-epoxied on a blonde curly wig to cover the tape, then added a string of plastic pearls. She decided against a tiara, but did add a “Hello, My Name Is” sticker to finish the look. Kitty wrote “Auntie Blue” on the name tag and it looked just right. After hit or miss amateur software tweaking from Kitty Auntie Blue was sent out to find Walter a girlfriend. “This better work,” thought Kitty (not daring to think too far ahead). “What if it screws up? What if it brings home another boy?” Kitty shrugged and smiled to herself at the thought, then realized it would put poor Walter right over the edge.
For the next week or so Kitty tried hard not to think about Auntie Blue, or get too curious about the little blue droid’s comings and goings. After ten days first of the young women stopped by. She had a little printed slip with directions and Walter’s name printed on it. Politely she asked if “Mr. Walter” was at home. Kitty was so happy she couldn’t even talk, just pointed to the back vegetable garden her nephew was pretending to weed. The first girl left after only a very short visit. Walter lay in the hammock till dark.
The next day brought another visitor and the day after two. Walter had no idea why these women were coming to visit and was not about to complain or ask questions. Kitty was pleased, but impatient for results! All the girls were of a type. Tall like Walter, polite and quiet like him too. “What he needs is somebody to shake things up, make him step outside himself for once. Not his clone in a dress.” grumbled Kitty to dusty and bedraggled Auntie Blue.
No visitors came the next day, or for the rest of the week. Kitty was worried. Were her instructions to Auntie Blue too vague? Were they too specific? Sunday early someone rang the front bell. Grumpily Kitty open the door. It was a girl, eighteen or maybe twenty years old with a friendly grin and two bicycles. “Hiya, my name’s Jessie Canard. Could you ask Walter if he wants to ride bikes over to the lake and go for a swim? Can he swim? Oh, never mind I’ll teach him if he can’t. Wait, almost forgot”, Jessie said as she pulled something covered with a checkered towel from her bike basket. “This is for you” As she held out a delicious smelling home made rhubarb pie Kitty noticed the ducks tattooed on her wrists. By then Walter had bounced down the stairs. He waved his arms and beaming his biggest smile all the while chattering like a monkey. Off they went, Walter pretending very hard he knew how to ride a bike.
Later with coffee and pie in the kitchen Kitty was sorting the whole thing out. She had learned quite a bit about this whole Blue Auntie business. Maybe just maybe she could forget about the damned farm and make all the droids “Aunties”. An “Uncle” or two couldn’t hurt either. She’d build one of those especially for herself (as a test only of course). She’d give him a debonair look. A statesman’s suave demeanor, and a name to match . Kitty closed her eyes and pictured him, Boutros-Boutros Boutonniere!
by-Doug MathewsonFiled Under Flash Fiction
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How we communicate our thoughts and our opinions to each other daily maters.
Lately, as I make my rounds here and there throughout our small city I have become annoyed with a new phrase in contemporary American conversation. A phrase previously unknown in our nation’s dialogue. Now it seems when a person, a white person, wishes to express displeasure, anger, sympathy, envy or anything else regarding a person of color, that person is referred to as “Obama’s cousin.”
Conversations start with “did you see the Lakers signed Obama’s cousin, ready for this?, first year – seven million dollars!” Or overheard, “I went to pay for my gas and buy my lottery ticket, and there was Obama’s cousin in front of me counting out quarters and dimes to see if he had enough for the extra giant size Grape Slurppie.” Even “I work with this guy, totally Obama’s cousin, cool guy. You’d really like him. He’s been collecting cars for years! You wouldn’t believe some of the cars he has”
Racism is nothing new, neither is political humor, but it is the phrase. The phrase is new. People seem to disregard the fact that Mr. Obama is of mixed racial heritage. By extension of the logic that make people of color Mr. Obama’s relatives, all white people are his potential relatives as well. I am just as likely to be related to the President as any of his new “cousins.” That would be just fine with me. I would like to be Barack cousin.
I wouldn’t care about VIP tours of the white house, limo rides, a photo-op with their new dog, or any of that. What I would like is to see Barack’s girls with my grandkids, to listen to their voices blend as they played. I would smile to myself to hear Michelle Obama and my wife having a good laugh together at their husband’s expense. It is easy to picture my new cousins fitting in at family picnics. We all talk constantly in our family. Conversation only slows when we have our mouths full. Even then we’re still not quiet, just talking less.
Pushing back from the big picnic table we’ve always had out back I would say to The President, “Barack, I’m going back for another hot-dog and some of that potato salad. While I’m up, can I get you anything?” Barack would smile at me and with a small shake of his head (wipe a smidgen of mustard from the corner of his mouth and say, “No thanks, I’m saving room for some of that strawberry shortcake your wife made.” Smart to plan ahead. I like that in a person. I like that in a leader as well. The Obamas would fit into my family just fine. They might just turn out to be my favorite cousins of all.
by-Doug MathewsonFiled Under Running Commentary
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Social Security office, poor kid behind the desk
explains that for full benefits I should work till age 92.
Work till I’m dead and not collect a dime?
I don’t think so, can’t see the point.
Count on me till my double Jesus year,
and not so much as minute longer.
Up yours, Uncle Sam.
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We never had a family album, it wasn’t our style. No photos of picnics or birthdays, no graduations, Easter Bonnets or Christmas Mornings. We had a family envelope. That’s how we were I guess. Our envelope was tattered and old filled mostly with out dated papers and useless receipts. Hardly any pictures or clippings.
When Mom died and the newspaper needed a photo for her obituary we cut their wedding picture in half. When Dad passed on two years later we couldn’t find his half!
The best we could do was his drivers license. Too bad it had “Suspended DWI” stamped across his face.
And wouldn’t you know it? Now the darn dog’s gone missing and not picture one of the old mutt! We’ll just have to use a picture of somebody else’s dog to post on facebook. Have ya seen him?
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Joanie DiMartino and Annmarie Lockhart are working on an anthology the sale of which will raise funds for victims of Hurricane Sandy that caused such devastation along the southern New Jersey sea coast. This story has been written in hopes of inclusion in their book due out in late 2013.
A Jersey Story
I told you this story. I told it a thousand times so I know I must of told you.
Okay, the first time I painted her I was about sixteen. No! It’s not that kind of a story. Nothing artsy fartsy. I has two hundred hours of community service to perform for the court. Don’t ask, that’s a different story. My mother didn’t want me on a road crew picking up trash all summer, and I’d be damned if I’d wash police cars every Saturday for a year. The only other choice (and it wasn’t a choice, it was something my mother’s brother Angelo arranged) was to paint her. No! She wasn’t no girl! I told you it wasn’t that kind of a story. She ‘s an Elephant! Big grey one six stories high, down by the beach. Her name’s Lucy. Lucy the Margate Elephant. I had to go up on the ladder and paint her because the regular guy was too old to climb up.
The regular guy, well really there were two. Sallie and Benno. They’d sit there on milk crates with a quart of beer in a paper bag and yell. Tell me how bad I was doing.
“Hey kid, what ya doin’ up there painting your toe nails?”
“Yeah, paintin’ them like Benno’s fruit cake cousin in Philly!”
“Who? Jo-Jo? Jo-Jo, he got no feet!”
“Kid, hey kid, you got no feet like Jo-Jo the swish?”
“What ya doin? Ya did that side!”
“Twice ya did it and what, still nothin’ on top?”
They could go on like that for hours, walking around and pointing at spots I missed or
where the paint wasn’t even. Finally I was so mad I came down and made them show me on her leg how to paint. Those two miserable old bastards yelled and cursed, but
by God I learned how to paint. How to cut in the edges nice. How to use the whole brush, flat, tip, and side. By the end of my two hundred hours I could paint pretty good,
and you know I was hooked and stayed on. Sallie mostly, he taught me about the paint.
The colors, how to mix my own and get it just right. What ever you wanted, glossy or flat, think or thin, whatever. Benno, my God, that crazy old man Benno. I never to this day meet anybody who could use a brush like him. He taught me all the tricky stuff, like how to paint shadows that aren’t really there. We painted the stairs inside her together.
He gave me some of his old brushes and taught me how to do the fine work. On the bottoms of the steps he painted pin-up girls. I was too embarrassed to try that so he had me paint religious stuff. I painted Mother Mary, and Jesus, and I think half the Saints under those stairs.
Next summer I came back and painted her again. Summer after that I was in ‘Nam. By the time I got back, oh my God you should have seen her! What a mess. Sallie and Benno both gone. They died when I was over seas, and the City’s got no money to hire a painter, so I did it. I painted her for free. Uncle Angelo still had pull at City Hall so he
got me the paint. All the years I painted, her or anything else, I never payed a dime for paint. It all went on the City’s tab. It was my thing, painting her. Last week of July, every year. That’s what I’d do. It was my vacation painting her! Rest of the year I’d paint what came along; condos, beach houses, stores, apartments, anything at all. Painted up at the casinos too. Good money, all cash, but I didn’t like the people. Acted like they were better than everybody else. I told the guy up there, the head guy in charge, I said “You
never painted no elephant so you don’t mean shit to me”. And I quit. The hell with all of them. I’d rather stay down here where I belong and work small. Just people I know. People and one elephant. Sure, the neighborhood’s changed over the years. Everything’ different now. We been through a hell of a lot down here. This last storm, you wouldn’t believe the mess! So much damage, so much gone. But she’s still here and so am I. And know what? Come last week of July I’ll get her all dolled up again.
by-Doug MathewsonFiled Under Flash Fiction
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Waiting Room TV always on
Celebrity Chefs bask in their glory
The gay one with the under-sized trendy hat
Laughs uproariously at anything
The fat one in the over-sized floral shirt says
Now that’s what I call entertainment!
Filed Under Poetry & Essay
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On the bus to New York she made a dozen lists, and changed each one a dozen times. On the plane to New York he made dozen lists, and changed each one a dozen times. Always first on her list was a knife. A good sharp knife and she’d use it too if that bastard (or anyone else) came after her. Always first on his list was a knife. A good sharp knife, that’s the first thing you need in a kitchen his grandmother had taught him. Overhead was her duffel. The few clothes she could grab, and of course her iguanas Peaches and Herb. Overhead was his duffel. The few clothes he owned worth taking, and of course his drawings and a books. Dozing she thought of the husband she left, how he hit her one time too many. She could still picture him, drunk, breathing heavy, belt doubled in his hand. She ran. Dozing he thought of his grandmother, all she taught him, the heart break of her death. He could still picture her, with her short orange hair, smoking her little home made cigar, and walking her old iguana Judas on his leash. He couldn’t stay. Off the bus from Texas she found a cheap Brooklyn rent. Off the plane from Ecuador he found a cheap Brooklyn rent. She cut her hair short, to look like a city girl, dyed it woodpecker red. He cut off his long braid, to look like an American, saved it wrapped in tissue. She took what work she could, wouldn’t file for aid. He took what work he could, visa long expired. Hot summer night. She’s on the fire escape, smoking what she rolled, hunting knife, cutting up bananas for Herbie in her lap. Hot summer night. He’s on the fire escape, lemon soda, chef’s knife, cutting up plantains to fry for dinner.
Knives in hand their eyes meet. She smiles, then smiles again. He seems nice.
“My Christ,” he whispers, what a beautiful woman……. She reminds me of someone”.
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I was specifically told to buy wine and even more specifically to “pick something people will actually like”. I buy wine based on the label. If it has nice artwork, it must taste good. I chanced into my friend Maurice in town. He was back from Jamaica. Another hurricane had taken the roof off his mother’s house. As much as he loved his mother it was the third time in five years, and that’s twice too many. We joked the next roof should be perforated with soccer ball size holes so the wind couldn’t lift it off! His Mother would have to tarp the house, but only when it rains.
So, I forgot to buy wine. The little market near home has wine, and just because they sell gas doesn’t make it gas-station wine. The two back isles were full of bottles, but I didn’t know what to get. Classy looking dark bottles with kangaroos on them filled four whole shelves. Flamingo pink, shamrock green, Barney purple, and more. As I turned looking in desperation for guidance or inspiration, I saw her. Her in her New York City Taxi Cab yellow sun dress that was a little short, but matched the wide yellow ribbon holding back her dark pretty hair and the yellow kangaroo bottle I was considering. Case closed, I took two yellow ones and wiped off the dust with my shirt. With my shirt pulled up, and my glasses sliding now I was smiling at her when she took two big bottles of something clear and slid them into the ugly oversize Monet sunflowers shoulder bag she carried. She turned then, caught my eye, and graced me with a big smile and a wink! I smiled, she smiled again and shrugged.
Was she short of money? I was going to charge mine anyway and could pay for hers. Was she underage? Was I smiling the way I was smiling at someone that young? Buying liquor for cute underage women could only lead to disaster and a complete misunderstanding of my generous intent. I put the yellow kangaroos back and took two red ones. Fire Engine red to match my face.
By-Doug MathewsonFiled Under Flash Fiction
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