Saturday, January 30, 2016

Little Red Hoody - An Urban Fairy Tale

I was tasked to rewrite Little Red Riding Hood from the wolf's point of view.  This is what I came up with.

Little Red Hoody

            I was parked in a loading zone across the street from the 7th Street Terminal......watching.  I spend a lot of time watching and waiting.  Waiting and watching.  Usually from the shadows.  A good hunter is patient. And I am a great hunter.  It is winter, which I love because I have more hours under the cover of darkness.  The gloom is where all monsters thrive, and it is already getting dark.  
             And there it is, nearly on time:  The 6 PM Greyhound from somewhere in the Midwest.  Saint Something or Something City.  It doesn't  matter, they are all the same: a great source of quarry   In a few minutes passengers will have collected their belongings and begin to leave the station for the taxi stand or waiting friends and relatives.  Except for a few, who will enter Los Angeles for the first time with starry eyed wonder and no idea where they will go next.  I will have an answer for one of them.
            Selecting a target is much like picking fruit. She can be neither too green nor overripe.  And I have no use for the decayed souls that have jumped or fallen to rock bottom.  And unfortunately most of the litters that are birthed from incoming Greyhounds are too putrefied for my tastes.  My perfect prey is................................there she is.  She has luggage, so she is not a runaway.  They travel light at the expense of their hygiene.  No, thank you.  She is ideal.  Attractive, though she doesn't know it.  Robust, however she probably considers herself fat.  As a skilled watcher, her entire deportment screams low self-esteem.  But the coup de  grace is the bright red hooded sweatshirt with a single word emblazoned, in white, across her ample chest: "Nebraska."   A corn fed, succulent, well-marbled college girl,  I had to purposefully keep myself from becoming one of Pavlov's dogs, right there in the squad car.  And it isn't even full moon until tomorrow. 
            This was going to be easy. My eternal 25 year-old good looks combined with an impeccable uniform,  tailored to accentuate my sculpted physique, hardly ever fails to mesmerize such a girl.  I will just drive across the street and she will be in the car in less than five minutes.  I will have that red hoody and whatever is under it on the floor of the cruiser by 8:00 and she will be dreadfully and fatally addicted to me by 8:15.  I do so love to play with my food.   I cranked the ignition and started idling across the street, when an old lady in an antique Cadillac convertible cuts me off and  comes screeching to a rusty stop at the curb.  Nebraska tosses her bags in the back seat and jumps in. They hug briefly and granny guns it and off they go cackling in a cloud of dust and burning oil. I am pissed but I resist the urge to pull her over and shoot her.  Patience.  I don't even need to follow her.  Patience.  I know where she is going.  Patience.  I can run her plate: name, address           
            I pulled up to the address that came up on my screen and found a small, well kept, bungalow, overrun with flowers and vines that were still flourishing in late December.  Well, it is Los Angeles.  It was the kind of house you would expect a granny to live in if this were a fairy tale.    The only problem is that it is in one of the worst parts of Mar Vista, shrouded in poverty and circled by crack houses.  Not much of a fairy tale kingdom.  No way would I come to this neighborhood if I wasn't immortal and horny.  I checked myself in the visor mirror, practicing my toothy smile, "here comes your Prince Charming, Nebraska."
            As I walked up to the door, I felt the smoldering heat of eyes from behind curtains, dashboards, and  dilapidated porches.  I don't imagine they see many 5-0 flying solo in this zip code.  I saw the doorbell but instead chose to knock  A firm knock sounds more official and authoritative, particularly if the door chime is one of those musical ones, that I want to shoot until it stops.  The door opened without hesitation, which I would advise against in this neighborhood.  There stood granny in a faded, light blue, robe, looking even older than I imagined. Any idea I had for a twofer melted away, as was my ardor.   "Yes?" she inquired.  "What can I do for you,"  as she read  my name-tag, stepping aside and letting me enter, then leading me toward the dining room.  My keen sense of smell was overwhelmed by the stench of  expensive cigarettes and cheap perfume, with notes of booze and beer.      
            "Yes, Mrs. Johnson......."                                                                                                          "Ms. Johnson," she interrupted.  "I am a widow.  You can call me Catherine.  Are you here to eat me up, Officer Wolf?"                          
            "Okay, Ms. Johnson." Ignoring her flirtatiousness, "do you live alone here?"
            "Normally, yes, but my granddaughter, Sally, is visiting for Christmas."
            "Is  she here?" I looked around and couldn't sense anyone else. 
            "She stepped out to get me some beer and smokes.  I find myself alone with the big, bad, wolf.  Should I be afraid?"  She reached into the pocket of her robe and pulled out the remnants of a pack of Marlboro Lights, shook out the last cigarette and held it up to  me as an offering.  I shook my head and she began searching for her lighter among the clutter on her dining table, finding it.  So, you never said what you were here for.  You are too cute to be  a cop.  Do you need to search me?"  She briefly flashed open her robe, revealing a sight I am unable to unsee.
            "So, I am told.  I am here because I wanted to warn you that there has been some gang activity in your neighborhood."
            "No shit, Sherlock.  For about 20 years. What are you really here for?"
            I quickly tired of this line of questioning and hit her just above her left ear with my flashlight.  Sometimes I forget my own strength and the weight of that huge torch.  It made a sound that reminded me of Gallagher and his melon act.  Luckily, there was is much splatter, but a huge dent that her current hairstyle did little to conceal.  As she crumbles to the floor, the lost lighter jangles uselessly to the tile, followed closely by the, still unlit, cigarette    I bent down to check her for life.  Unfortunately, she was still breathing, though faintly.  So I simultaneously pinched her nostrils shut, shoved the belt of her robe fully  into her mouth and covered it with my other hand.  She sprang awake for a few seconds, fought briefly and ineffectively,  and then I felt her existence leave her with wide staring, terrified, eyes and a last gasp of airless felt.
            Killing granny re-energized me, my tumescence returned, and I was anxious for Sally, to return.  Fortunately, grandma weighed hardly anything, like a hallow-boned bird, and was easy to stuff into the coat closet.  I had barely gotten the door closed when I heard Sally coming up the walk.  She paused to look at my patrol car and continued on up the walk.  She was still wearing the hoody, which I intended to keep as a trophy.  "Granny, what are the cops doing here?" As she entered, she saw me seated at the table.  "Where's Grandma?  Who are you?  What are you doing here?"  I flashed my smile and she forgot herself for just long enough for me to pounce on her.  Her fresh scent intoxicated me and the savage beast took over.  I began to tear at her clothes and she screamed.  I whispered in her ear, "nobody pays attention to screams in this neighborhood."
            Sally said, much more calmly and measured than I expected. "They do when granny  runs the neighborhood."  Just then I felt those gazes on me again. Looking out into the night, it seems that every pair of those sallow eyes was looking at me over a gun sight.     
            The last thought that ran through my head as the shooting started was that  I wished I was really a lycanthrope, because I doubt that these homies have silver bullets.   

Friday, January 22, 2016

My Folk Group - Resistant Elders

            I belong to many groups.  Some of the groups that I am a member of are by choice, such as living in a condo development and having to suffer the fresh hell of the Homeowners Association routinely.  Other groups I have no say in whether to join, such as the  family unit I was born into.  One group that I am a member of totally against my will are the Senior Citizens.  I have chosen to pick and choose which elements of this group I wish to be a part of.  I resist many common stereotypical sacraments and customs of the elderly.  Many of these cliches are accurate founded. 

            While I will accept a reduced price at the movie theater, I refuse to eat my dinner at 4:00 P.M. to save a dollar.   I will gratefully take a seat offered up out of respect and courtesy on the subway or a door held open for me but I will not enter the gate of a retirement village, regardless of who is holding the door and pushing me inside.  Those are the Grim Reaper's  anterooms. 

            Seniors normally enjoy the company of other blue hairs over decaffeinated, artificially sweetened, coffee, conversing through dentures about grandchildren, hip replacement surgery, and difficulty peeing.  I prefer the company and vitality of young people, which is one reason I began attending Coastal.  Sometimes, I actually forget I am old until I look with horror into the mirror.  But I still have my teeth.....most of them. 

            I have not, nor will I ever join AARP, which seems to be a rite of passage for codgers like myself.  Triple A, another group I voluntarily belong to, gives a better discount at hotels and restaurants than AARP and they will tow my car.  AARP will not. 

            Get caught in a conversation with an elderly person and you will get a better weather report than Al Roker can provide.  I don't understand the fixation on the weather that my contemporaries have. Are they preparing to sail to England on a raft?  They stay mostly indoors, so it is the same weather year round.  I have feigned deafness and unfamiliarity with English just to avoid these exchanges.     

            Because I was a career military person I am eligible to join other groups that I choose not to, such as the VFW and American Legion. Though they have cheap alcohol, the price you must pay is listening to old farts tell war stories that never happened about places they have never been, all claiming to be Special Forces or Green Beret, when they were actually cooks and clerks, that no one ever admits to being. No thank you. 

            Upon reaching geezerhood, it is a custom for many northern people to migrate to the south.  I guess southern geriatrics stay where they are.  Defying convention, I moved from Wyoming to Myrtle Beach at the age of 48, while I still had most of my faculties and some of my hope.  I love to fish and play golf but I have been doing both for my entire life, so they are not something I picked up since moving here to help me enjoy in my "golden years."

            I have to accept growing older,  but rather than sitting around waiting for more body parts to fall off and eventually to die I prefer Dylan Thomas' approach.  "Old age should burn and rave at close of day,"  and not leave their turn signal on for ten miles.   

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Dr. Strangelove - A Review

 This blog has been like a neglected child.  Abandoned to Facebook.  Here is a movie review that I wrote for film class. 

A Review of Dr. Strangelove (1964)
May Contain Spoilers

            This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a chuckle.  That is certainly what Stanley Kubrick, Director of  Dr. Strangelove, would have us believe.  And there is plenty to chuckle about, even with the dark cloud of  imminent thermonuclear war hovering over the proceedings.  This British production of a screenplay Kubrick co-wrote, based on the novel, "Red Alert," never disappoints or becomes tedious.  On the contrary, Kubrick bombards us with   so much sexual and political innuendo, zany characters, and absurd situations that we can't take our eyes off the screen, not even to text.  It is a dark comedy.  To make that extremely clear, Kubrick films in black and white at a time when color was all the rage.  But monochrome photography was not enough, he extensively uses darkness, effectively keeping the situation gloomy and the characters dimly lit.  Even the weak attempt at special effects with an obvious model of a B-52 is droll.  Kubrick seems to be winking at the audience throughout the film.         
            It is a relatively simple and, sadly, somewhat plausible premise that insane and paranoid General Jack Ripper (Sterling Haden)  launches 34 nuclear laden B-52s at the Soviet Union.  And that is where the hilarity begins.  He can't do that?  Oh, yes he can because there is an emergency war pan, called "Plan R," which gives the lower level of command presidential authority to do so in time of emergency."  Ripper is so bat-guano (also a character) crazy that he claims the Red Menace is poisoning our water with Fluoride (a real mania at that time) and even blames his own post-coital tristesse on a "communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids."    Ripper has also isolated his planes and the base he commands, Burpelson AFB, from contact with anyone, even President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers).  Doesn't sound funny yet?  There is more.  The Russians have a "Doomsday Device" that will eradicate all life on earth should the Soviet Union be attacked.  But, the truth is that Dr. Strangelove is uproariously funny.
            Much of the  humor is that the cast is deadly serious while delivering to us inane lines:  "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!" and the difficulty of President Muffley to communicate via telephone with assumed intoxicated, Soviet Premier Kissoff is Bob Newhartish buttoned-down comic genius.  .          
            Peter Sellers masterful performance as three separate and diverse characters led to a well-earned 1965 Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor.  One of four nominations, including Best Picture.  But alas, that year brought us Rex Harrison and My Fair Lady, winner of eight Oscars, including both of those mentioned.  In addition to the title role, Sellers also played President of the United States, Merkin Muffley, and British RAF Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (the only rational character in the movie).  Well, it is a British production.   
            Seller's performance somewhat overshadows an amazing turn by George C. Scott as the hawkish General  Buck' Turgidson: "Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks."   For me, his  facial expressions are the funniest elements of the film.
            Space does not permit me to relate all of the reasons you should see this movie, but it is impossible to give a reason not to.  Dr, Strangelove is timeless, 50 years and the same problems are still with us.  It appears near the top of any list of great films, not simply great comedies.  I give it 5 stars without reservation.     

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

No One Would Believe Him Anyway - A short story

I was assigned to write a short story for my Creative Writing Workshop.  I took a flash fiction idea I had abandoned some time ago and revised it. This is what I came up with: 

No One Would Believe Him Anyway
            Jacob was ten when he realized that not everyone could see the future.  He had known that he had that ability ever since he could remember, but didn’t think much about it until that fateful year.  He had thought his ability to know the future was like his sense of smell or taste; the capability always existed but he only noticed it when something smelled or tasted really good or really bad.  He simply knew things that were going to occur.  He could not control when it happened.  It just happened.  But it always happened.  Sometimes it was just a little thing, like knowing the phone was going to ring and who was going to be calling or that his mom would break a glass in the kitchen.   Other times it was a more meaningful event, like a neighbor’s dog getting run over by a garbage truck, what he was getting for Christmas, or an earthquake in India.  Though he didn’t know exactly where India was, other than far away, he could feel the terror and see the destruction of the quake as if it was in his Brooklyn neighborhood
            The mistake he made was telling someone.  One evening, just before bedtime, he frantically warned his dad not to drive to the 7-Eleven for a pack of Marlboro's.  "You can't go dad! The man is going to rob it.  He has a gun. He will shoot you.  Please, don't go!" Jacob screamed.    
            His dad laughed and as he grabbed his car keys from the cluttered breakfast bar and was walking out the door he said, "you have a great imagination, Jake.  I will be fine. You can stay up until I get back.  I'll bring you some ice cream, chocolate chip?"    The door slammed before Jacob could answer. 
            Less than an hour later the Korean store clerk's body was encircled with a chalk outline  and  his dad was in an ambulance with a bullet wound in his shoulder and a confused look on his face.  The police were equally baffled when they apprehended the shooter the next day based entirely on Jacob’s detailed description; including the license plate number of the getaway car and the scorpion tattoo on the robber's neck.  His dad, being in shock, much of which was not gunshot induced,  could provide little information to the authorities, but could clearly identify the culprit from a police lineup. 
            From that moment on, everything was different.  Jacob was talked about on the news.  They used his soccer team picture in the broadcast.   He hated that picture.   It looked like  he was picking his nose.  Maybe he was.   People were calling his house day and night, wanting to know who would win a ball game or what numbers to pick.  No one understood that it didn’t work that way.  Random Images would just appear to him, as real as life.  He had no control over when or where.  It could happen in a dream, at the dinner table, or in the classroom.  Sometimes he would go weeks without a premonition.  Other times they would come so fast and frequently that it gave him a headache. 
            The kids at St. Rita's  suddenly noticed him, where before he had been happily invisible.  They called him a freak and a weirdo.  One kid, Evan, that he had thought was his friend stole his Han Solo lunchbox and hid it, saying, "if you are so smart, you will know where it is."  Jacob never found it.  But he knew that the boy had an uncle who did things to him that Jacob didn't even understand but which made him feel sorry for Evan.  Even the teachers, who were mostly nuns, looked at him warily and he was sure he heard whispered devotions and saw lots of hurried crossing as they passed by him in the halls.  But the worst part was the way his parents looked at him.  It was never the same again at home.  He felt that they actually feared him.  Father O'Shughnessy once told him in Catechism that Catholics feared "anything they don't understand."   Jacob hoped that mom and dad didn't regret adopting him.   
            Mrs. Howard, the school counselor, was not a nun and seemed more interested in his “gift” than afraid of it.  She met with his parents and it was decided that he would undergo some trials to verify his ability, though she admitted being skeptical that this type of power (she called it ESP) actually existed.
            Jacob was very nervous on the day he was to be probed.  He didn’t know what sort of exams he was going to be given, but he hated tests of any kind and just wanted to forget the whole thing.  But as his grandpa once said, "You  can't put toothpaste  back in the tube, son."  He thought that was funny but didn't understand exactly what it meant until now.    For one of the assessments, Mrs. Howard held up cards with symbols on them; stars, circles, triangles; and he was supposed to guess which figure was on each card.  He knew, just by seeing the look on the therapist that he was not getting them right.  In fact, he failed all the tests, but he did know that Mrs. Howard’s heart was going to stop working very soon.  He decided to keep that information to himself.  No one would believe him anyway.   His advance knowledge about the shooting was explained away as coincidence or happenstance.  That was fine with Jacob.  Mrs. Howard concluded that Jacob was not gifted with second sight and things at school soon returned pretty much back to normal.  Things at home never did.  There was always an uneasiness and his dad seemed to always have a beer in his hand and his Marlboros were replaced by something that smelled worse.  Life went on, but not for Mrs. Howard.  When his mom told him that Mrs. Howard had died suddenly, he acted surprised.  He had learned to fake a perfect look of astonishment.
            That was twenty years ago.  Both Jacob's parents had died of cancer in the last two years, with no foreshadowing.   He was now a successful New York stock broker, working in an office with an exquisite view of the Manhattan skyline.  Though he never learned to harness his ability, he heeded his intuition enough through the years that he had made some very successful investments for both he and his clients.  A type of insider trading that no one would ever believe, nor prosecute him for. 
            When he met Sherry, the first day of his senior year at NYU, he knew immediately that she was the woman he would marry.  He had learned never to doubt his insight.  He had also discovered that nothing he could do could change the future.  Life was a story that was already written and any attempts by Jacob to edit it always failed.  The fact that she was totally out of his league and had absolutely no interest in him did not bother Jacob at all.  He ignored her right back.  They married a week after graduation.  
            When Sherry told him excitedly a few months later that she was pregnant, he had to expertly feign surprise and avoid letting it slip that it was a boy, Abraham.  Jacob's "gift" was the only secret he ever kept from her.  Well, the only important secret.  The facts that he hated the hideous sweater she bought him for Christmas and a woman in his office had tried unsuccessfully to seduce him that same Christmas would die with him.          
            Sometimes Jacob was amused by the inevitability of his ability.  When he and Sherry went to Dr. Gobel's  office for her sonogram.  Dr. Gobel  said, "everything looks fine," and asked, "do you want to know the sex of your baby?"
            "No," Sherry quickly replied.  "I want it to be a surprise."
            Jacob added, "that is fine with me.  She has names picked out for either. I have no say."
            "Yes,  Sherry said with a grin. "Esther if it is a girl and Bradley if it is a boy."
            Jacob smiled inwardly.  "Her mind is made up."
            When she was eight months along, she excitedly met him at the door as he arrived home from the city, "I want to name him Abraham, if it is a boy.  We can call him Abe."
            "What made you think of that?" Jacob chuckled.
            "I was just thinking what a strong name it is.  I started to hate Bradley, but still like Esther.  What do you think?"
            "I think it is perfect.  Abe it is........or Esther," he whispered as he kissed her.  He could almost taste the happiness on her lips.
            Tonight, six year old Abe awoke from a terrible dream and crawled into bed with his parents, shaking uncontrollably.  As Abe related the detailed horror of the dream, Jacob realized that as he had sometimes suspected, but prayed was not true, his son shared the burden of premonition.  Jacob had experienced the identical horrible vision that his son had  recounted while looking out his office window that very afternoon.   He had told his middle-aged assistant, Helen, to take tomorrow off, telling her only that they had worked hard on the Anderson account and deserved  a break.  She started to remonstrate, until he revealed that he, too, was taking a personal day to spend in his Connecticut home with his wife and son.  In all the time she had worked for Jacob, starting as a temp two years ago, he had never taken a day off, nor offered her one.  She accepted it without protest.  "See you on Wednesday, boss."  Helen hugged him and he feigned a convincing  smile.               
            Jacob woke early from a fitful sleep and eased out of bed as not to disturb Sherry and Abe, who had finally dozed off.  He went to the kitchen and poured himself a cup from Mr. Coffee, strong and black.  He sat down at the hardwood desk in his paneled study.  He looked at the blotter calendar where he had circled today’s date, September 11, 2001.  He had not told anyone what was to come.  They would not believe him anyway.  He sipped his hot Folgers and waited for the world to change.