Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Jars - 2/20/2012

The final assignment of the, now defunct,South Strand Writing Group was a visual prompt:

This is the 50 year old memory that this photo caused me to revisit:

My dad spent his formative years during the Great Depression. One of his most vivid memories was of one particular Christmas that his only presents were an apple and an orange. Best Christmas he ever had.

As a result of his experiences in living in abject poverty, he was always hesitant to throw away anything that had even a remote chance of being reused. Recycling is not a novel concept.

Under our kitchen sink were Maxwell House coffee cans and Mason jars filled with hardware items: nuts, bolts, screws, washers, nails, cotter pins, etc. I do not remember where these components originally came from. Dad must have once participated in some great demolition project to acquire all those bits and bobs. At least that is what I thought until I found out that nearly all homes have a similar stockpile of hardware odds and ends. Except mine.

My dad was quite a handyman and could fix anything. He even learned to repair televisions, back before televisions were disposable. Ours broke and he took it to a repair shop and upon hearing how much the guy wanted to do little more than change out a vacuum tube, dad came home, studied the schematic diagram, and isolated the problem. It came so easy to him that he enrolled in a correspondence course and became a part-time television repairman. Because he was fair, he soon had more customers than he could handle. As a young boy, I often accompanied him in his workshop, "helping" him fix televisions and other electronic devices. I learned to replace tubes, use a voltmeter, oscilloscope, and other test equipment. I even learned the electronic color codes, which I remember to this day: black, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, gray, and white. I also learned that an unplugged television still carries enough voltage to knock a person across the room. I only needed one such lesson to secure that fact in my memory banks forever.

Whenever dad had a project that required a nut, bolt, screw, washer, nail, cotter pin, etc., he would drag out the appropriate can or jar. They were not labeled, but he knew which container held the type of hardware that he needed for the particular job. Much to my mother's chagrin, we would dump the contents of the receptacle on her kitchen table and sort through the contents looking for just the right part.

As a young boy, I really enjoyed this activity, as I loved to put washers onto bolts an thread nuts onto them. I would sometimes slide several washers and thread several nuts on to one long bolt. My dad didn't particularly like having to unthread several nuts from a bolt, but he never discouraged my interest in mechanics or creativity.

I could amuse myself for hours assembling combinations of assorted hardware into abstract metal architecture. Sadly, my fine motor skills and capacity for spatial thought never progressed much beyond that of a child.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Childrens Cancer Fund Raising Event

Please consider a donation to my participation in the event on March 10th in Atlanta.

Monday, February 13, 2012

First Day A New School - 2/12/2012

This South Strand Writing Group's prompt for this week was "The first day at a new school." I responded with the following piece:

Clark woke up before daylight, but that was normal for him and most people that live on a working Kansas farm. What made today special and excited Clark was that it was to be his first day of school. Though he was about 12 years old, he had been home-schooled up until now. He was going to be a seventh grader at Smallville Junior High. He had ventured off the modest 300 acre homestead on rare occasions, but was never allowed to interact with any other kids. His mother and father, Martha and Jonathan Kent, were always afraid that someone would discover the "secret." They had told him since he could remember that if anyone found out about him they would take him away and they would never see him again. Though he felt a bit like a prisoner, he certainly did not want to be alone, so he never objected. And he loved the Kents. He was pretty sure that the people in Smallville thought he was retarded anyway, since he never communicated. It was finally decided that he was old enough to begin to go out in the world and to be trusted to keep the "secret."

The Kents had told him the amazing story of how a rocket ship had crashed near their farmhouse and baby Clark had miraculously survived. The highly religious Kents, who had been unable to conceive children, considered him a gift from God, if not a God himself. They had surreptitiously raised him, nurturing and loving him as their own. Though he did not have a birth certificate, it was not uncommon in farm country in the 1930's for child to be born without any official records. So Ma Kent had registered him at the school, making up a back-story that he was left to them by a dying relative. No one questioned that. People were always farming out kids in those days.

Today, for the first time, Clark would meet other people his own age. He was both excited and a bit anxious as he had always suspected he was a bit different. There were some things that he had not confided in Ma and Pa Kent about. Secrets of his own. As he grew older, he seemed to acquire some abilities that he had not seen displayed by the Kents. For instance, he could fly. He hinted once at supper that he had read a story in one of the books in Ma Kent's extensive library about a boy who could fly. He asked Pa Kent if he had ever heard of anyone flying. "Charles Lindbergh is pretty good at it," he laughed without looking up from the fried chicken. "Amelia Earhart is evidently not as good at it. She has been missing for some time," he added.

"No, Pa. I mean without a plane. Just flying, like Peter Pan."

"That is a storybook, Clark. Not real. Not even Jesus could fly."

But Clark could. At first, just a few feet off the ground. But soon he could fly as high and fast as he desired. It took him a while to learn to control his flight-path. That is how he found out about one of his other capabilities. He evidently could not be hurt. One day he flew right into the barn door, smashing it to kindling. He was not injured. At all. Not a scratch. When Pa Kent found the damage, he blamed it on one of the horses that was known to be pretty ornery. Never imagining that little Clark could cause such destruction.

Clark tested this invincibility power several times to varying degrees. Once, he tried to stab himself with a pitchfork and another time he put his hand in a boiling pot of water. He didn't feel a thing either time and there was no damage to his skin, whatsoever. Though it felt just like the skin of his parents, it seemed bulletproof. The pitchfork, on the other hand, was no longer usable. The tines fanned out in all directions. Pa Kent took it back to the hardware store, as it was clearly defective. It caused quite a discussion among the hardware crowd.
Then there was that unfortunate incident when he was milking Bossy. That one was hard to explain to Pa Kent. Bossy was his favorite milk cow. He had to learn to manage his new found strength. He also learned two valuable lessons from that regrettable episode. One: that milking faster did not get him finished with the chore quicker. The second concerned the appropriate pressure to apply to a nipple. This knowledge would serve him well in the future.

Clark had never thought too much about where his capabilities came from but noticed they got stronger and he discovered new ones as he got older. He assumed it had something to do with arriving in a spaceship. He heard programs on the radio about flying saucers attacking Earth, but never really considered that he might be one of the invaders. Someday, he would have to try to find out more about where he came from, but not now. Not today. He had big plans for today.

He looked forward to starting school, mainly because of a girl that he was eager to meet. He had observed her on several occasions during his night-flights. She lived a few miles from the Kent's farmstead. Though she had a paralyzing effect on him, he could think of little else. She had beautiful red hair and dazzling green eyes. She always wore a silver necklace with a, large, shimmering green stone. This piece of jewelry totally mesmerized Clark. Not only did the presence of Lana take his breath away, it also took his ability to fly. He would crash to the ground if he got too close. And it hurt when he hurtled to the ground. He guessed that was what love did to you. Took away your gifts.

Yes, today, he was going to school. But while it was still dark, he was going to fly to a bank far away from Smallville and make a withdrawal. What good were extraordinary skills if he did not use them? He didn't want to work on the farm his whole life and Ma and Pa Kent were not getting any younger. They believed in a spaceship crashing on their land. Why not a big bag of money? Clark smiled as he said aloud, "Up, up, and away," and shot straight up through the dark sky." He plotted a course in his head to a place he had read about, called Metropolis. There were lots of banks there.