Annoyed and unnerved by his absence,
“Twice this week is twice too many.”
Gruffly she said to herself.
Bea left for work early again,
To go three blocks over and throw,
A whole dam handful of gravel and grit
At the fogged-up curtained window,
The one nearest that girl’s bed.
And Bea not caring who might hear!
More than amorous adventure,
Bea already knew.
This girl, she could just be the one.
Smiling as the light came on,
Softly to herself she said,
“Renew love’s vows before the dawn,
That’s magic, you never forget.”
But he’s my son dammit!
Up there in her bed.
And right now,
He needs to get up for School!
Space invaders from the sky!
Oh so horrifying to behold.
Wave upon endless wave of metal ships descend from above!
With menacing visage they march upon our fair metropolis,
Morning light discarded, crazed in refraction
Off armor’s unnerving gleam.
Cruel tridents ring with each lock-step strike upon ground,
Marking the measure of their advance.
With steely swords raised aloft in unison
They chant and march as one.
Clockwork voice-boxes proclaim Earth’s demise,
In crude flat imitation of our sweet native tongue.
The situation is so desperate!
Things are bleak for all mankind!
Till New Jersey’s Mighty Teamsters did arise
From very depths of Newark’s scrap-yard bowels.
Striking back with vengeance, fearsome to behold,
And the most monstrous of grapple cranes.
Huge magnetic claws cut swaths of utter ruin,
No invader remained intact, no body, ship, or sword.
We weep and laugh so joyfully now!
Our hearts do burst with delight!
As China bound by cargo-barge this once fierce army goes.
Crushed and bailed, then sold by weight.
An unanticipated destiny for them now,
Awaits beneath our foreign stars.
Newly minted they shall be reborn,
As products made by Kitchen-Maid.
Life could be worse, much worse. He could still say “Professor Jacob Bernstein, Former Chair of Literature, Cornell University”, and there were his publishing credits (not that there was any actual income from either source). But more importantly, he was working. Working, still able to live in Manhattan and continue teaching. So many colleagues and acquaintances of his age and tenure had been herded quickly towards “early-retirement”, offered “buy-out-packages.” Exiled and sentenced to a living death. Shepherded to aquiet demise. Extinction would a more accurate description. Teaching jobs, good or bad, were quite a rare commodity in this economy, and being an elitist English Literature Professor no longer an option. Things were different now. Times, sadly, had quite changed.
Jacob was a very good teacher, by anyone’s standard, always tailoring lesson plans and curriculum to best fit the class. He truly cared what his students would take with them from his classes. This was a major challenge indeed, his incoming classes would be very different. The So-Ho Institute of Fashion Evening Program offered a far more exotic group of students than any Ivy Grad-School could ever hope for. When hired he was told repeatedly that twice “Project Runway” has filmed at the school and with a bit of luck he might have a cameo appearance in an upcoming spring segment.
“Fashion Institute Professor of Literature” had a quirky ring to it. He liked it, even if it was a rather hollow ring. Maybe a 60’s ring. “Think “Blow-Up”, think “Zabriske Point,” he said aloud,“ and all the other art-house movies of that delightful decade long past. There is your key.” Why should the classics of literature, particularly American literature be so ham-strung by tradition? Making these great works relevant to new generations was so much more vital than upholding established traditional interpretations of these novels. Yes, he would make things different, as different as need be to make it work for his new classes. A new generation, always he had felt, should see with new eyes. “I’ll start with the driest material”, he mused, “and see just how we fare.”
“So, my dear young friends, Hester Prin refused to wear her Scarlet Letter. It was shaped entirely wrong for her face, the color clashed with everything she owned, and it limited so severely what she could do with her hair. It was a difficult fashion problem, but problem for The Courts as well, since she was obliged to wear this inappropriate tacky bit of flair. A more reasonable settlement was eventually reached. A solution of which some of you may be aware.” Smiling to himself, Jacob continued “Since the only charge she was finally convicted of was Contempt of Court she would wear two “Cs”. She would not actually wear them on her outfits (since there could be no guarantee it would work any better than the initial Scarlet A) but rather on a large shoulder bag, or any other accessory item, she might carry or wear. And that, class, is how the ‘Coach’ brand was born oh so many years ago. We still see Hester’s influence today. In many fine stores, as well as popular knock offs, sold buy enterprising street vendors through our fair city,” he concluded, his confidence now renewed.
The Night-Clerk showed him in, and seemed relived when he smiled so broadly. Snow fell from Lyosha’s fur hat and wide shoulders as he deposited his tattered valise on what remained of the old stained carpet. What Lyosha saw pleased him. A small worn suite of rooms perfectly suited for his stay of indeterminate length. “Very nice for me” he said. Nodding the night-man added, “yeah, not bad, but trouble with the toilet and television sometimes.” Lyosha was grateful for the offered punch-line, even in English he knew this one. “So” Lyosha said “you are saying is nothing on TV but shit?” They both laughed as the key was passed. He had made his first friend on these alien shores.
Buddy loved surprises, both to give and to get. Buddy wasn’t dumb, but he wasn’t exactly right either. The Group Home’s rules said for your birthday you could order whatever you wanted for supper. Buddy did a funny voice and surprised everyone yelling steak! At dinner on his birthday, he had another surprise. He gave his steak to Big Eugene, who ate it with his fingers, while Buddy palmed the special knife. Buddy wasn’t stupid, just had his own different ways. Late that night when Mr. Jackson the janitor came to hurt the girls, and make them cry, Buddy had a surprise for him too. A six-inch stainless steel surprise with a serrated edge and a wooden handle that Buddy ripped all the way back to the bones in Mr. Jackson’s unshaven surprised throat.