Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lucas Flincher, Somewhat Clever with a Strong Inclination toward Laziness

Lucas Flincher wanted the new Street Blazer Bike for his birthday. “That bike is too expensive,” his mother told him repeatedly. Lucas looked at the less expensive models but couldn’t see himself riding one of them down the High Street in Cloverdale. Lucas had a certain image to uphold and a cheap bike didn’t fit that image. Besides, his best friend Matthew Rich had a Street Blazer. They had visions of themselves riding the streets of the town showing off in front of the girls by doing bike tricks. Of course there were several trips into the hills planned as well - but first things first.

Lucas applied more pressure on his parents. He told them he’d give up his Christmas gifts that year so they could combine the two gift giving events into one. Father thought it was a brilliant idea. Mother was wiser and knew Lucas far better than father. Mother knew that Lucas knew she couldn’t let him get up on Christmas morning and not have a full Christmas under the tree. Lucas’s understood that all too well and was upset when mother overruled father. Father didn’t like disappointing his son. He was always a bit of a pushover when it came to the kids, but he understood his place in the home. Interfering with anything regarding the children would be punishable by royal decree - two weeks banishment on the couch.

Lucas was too big to cry or throw a tantrum. It wouldn’t have done any good. Mother would banish him to his room and withhold his supper - claiming she cooked only for good and deserving boys. Lucas searched for a different plan, one that would bring her approval.
“Mom,” he asked one night while helping his mother load the dishwasher.
“If I get straight A’s on the last report card can I have the bike?” Mother looked at his face for a sign he was joking. He wasn’t. Lucas wasn’t a good student. He was a good boy but not a good student. He had a passion for getting C’s. A ‘C’ was the lazy boy’s grade. It was good enough to pass without having to give up his after school time with his friends. Mother accepted the situation. Father wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer either and Lucas was a chip off the old block. Come to think of it, Mother couldn’t think of a single member of her husband’s family that possessed a keen intellect. If Lucas was serious about getting good grades then this was a bet she couldn’t loose.
“Deal,” she said.
“All right!” Lucas shouted and danced around the kitchen. “Im going to my room to study right now.”

Mother looked at the clock above the pantry. It was 7:07 P.M. She smiled to herself while pouring the dishwashing powder into the dishwasher. She took off her apron, folded it on the counter and walked into the parlor to pick up after father. He was downstairs working on his plastic models. A story on the front page of the newspaper caught her eye. She sat down to read. A few of the grocery ads looked worthy of clipping. She walked into the kitchen to find the scissors. That’s when she heard Lucas shout out Matthew’s name. She looked out the window. Lucas was running down the street. The pantry clock read 7:21 P.M. “That’s my boy,” she whispered to herself, “Einstein reincarnated.”

Needless to say, Lucas’s end of year report card was a celebration of C’s. Mother patted him on the head wishing him better betting next time. Lucas was not a happy camper and sulked for days. His sulking kept him underfoot and that’s not where mother wanted him. It was summer and he needed to be out of the house.
“Lucas, “ mother said one day while standing over him as he picked up his legos. “I’ll make you a deal for that bike.” Lucas jumped to his feet and stood at attention in anticipation.
“You earn one fourth of the price of the bike and your father and I will cover the rest.” Lucas stuck out his hand and asked how much mowing the lawn was worth because he did it that morning.
“If you want money from me you’ll have to do extra chores. I’m not paying you for your normal chores. Those chores provide you with room and board mister.” Mother said as she turned and walked away.

Today Lucas is up at 7:00 A.M. He hops on his skateboard and goes up and down the neighborhood streets providing his “Newspaper at your Front Door Service”. For a small fee, Lucas will pick up your badly thrown newspaper from wherever it landed and bring it to your front door. He thought of the business himself after hearing one of his neighbors cussing at the newspaper delivery man as he sped off down the street tossing papers in every direction. The neighbor’s paper was in the bushes.

Lucas does his normal chores after breakfast. Extras chores are assigned if his normal chores pass mother's inspection. Once mother’s patience and money is exhausted, he and Matthew hit the town on skateboards to ride their circuit through Cloverdale. The circuit includes a stop at the baseball and soccer fields. Lucas and Matthew searched under the bleachers for people’s loose change and other object. Once in awhile they get lucky and find something of great value, like a cell phone. If they can find he owner they’ll deliver it with every intention of getting a reward. Lucas will engaged them in a long conversation on the porch if a reward isn’t offered. He describes his quest to raise enough money to buy his young crippled and blind brother a small gift for his birthday. It works every time.

Stopping at Cloverdale’s two village parks end their circuit. The parks have fountains and fountains are perfect depositories for people’s spare change. Lucas and Matthew remove all the coins tossed for luck the previous day and cool themselves off at the same time. The only people that seem to care are the old ladies that don’t have anything better to do than sit around and feed the pigeons. If some 'old grandma' as Lucas calls them, tries to interfere in their fountain money collection scheme, Lucas retells the story of his crippled, blind and now deaf younger brother that desperately needs better medical attention and is now in the hospital and his mother is there with him so she isn’t at home to take care of him and there isn’t always enough money for food so he has to find someway to eat and wouldn’t she be kind enough to help by giving her spare change to him instead of purchasing seed for the birds?
Lucas can usually get through that in one breath. It always works and the boys leave the park with wet coins and dry bills.

Lucas is happy. In another week he should have enough to pay for his part of the bike. Mother is happy to see her lazy son find something to occupy his time besides video games and skateboarding. Father is happy because mother is happy and when mother is happy everyone is happy.

A Thought from the Ministry of Education and Employment

The Confederation of Dunces’ Ministry of Education and Employment reminds you that with a bit of imagination and creativity even the most difficult of problems can be solved. When faced with a challenge take a moment before frustration convinces you to give up and think out of the box. Always ask, “Is there another way to get the job done?” Given enough thought, a solution will become apparent.

Keep thinking. Never give up and remember, we are all in this together.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Mary Nora's Perfect Moment

Mary Nora Freeman waited all year for the third grade graduation dance at St. Bartholomew’s Primary School. She was in his arms. The music was soft, the lights were not as low and she’d hoped but it would do. She was determined nothing would ruin this perfect moment. The cosmic fates brought Norman Leech into her personal space using coincidence and mathematical probability. He held her hands. Her heart beat like a Congo Drum gone mad. She remembered to put the Breath Strip she borrowed from her teen age sister on her tongue. She closed her eyes and turned her innocent third grade lips into position for her first kiss.

Earlier that year........

Norman Leech sat in front of Mary in Sister Agatha Noom's class. It was September. He knew a girl sat behind him. He ignored her. Girls had germs so Norman and his friends kept their distance. He was aware she stared at him in the cafeteria and on the playground. It made him uncomfortable, but as long as his friends didn’t notice he would leave it alone. Halfway through the year he found notes in his textbooks. Each note was written in colored marker - the kind with ink laced with gold glitter. He read one and threw it away. The rest were shoved under his desk and then into the trash when Mary wasn’t looking. He tried to be polite and not hurt her feelings but he didn't have time for love notes when there was soccer and video games.

In April Norman could no longer ignore her advances. The notes came daily instead of weekly. She quietly sang to him during Sister Agatha’s lessons. During worksheet time she tried to scratch his back. He was at his breaking point. He asked her to stop repeatedly. Mary didn’t. She thought his rejection of her affection was his attempt at playing hard to get. One day after class Norman talked to the teacher. He explained the situation Mary had him in and asked to be moved to another row.
Sister Agatha took both students into the hallway for questioning.
"Mary, is this true? Have you been making unwanted advances to Norman?" Mary was one of Sister Agatha's favorite students. Her father was a Deacon in the Church.
Mary was cornered - trapped by her love for Norman and her fear of disappointing her parents and Sister Agatha.
"Its a lie," she replied behind large crocodile tears. "He's been saying bad things to me all year?"
"WHAT!" Norman shouted. "She's fibbing Sister. She's the one that's been bothering me. I've got her notes to prove it." Sister Agatha asked to see the notes. That's when Norman remembered he'd thrown them all away.
"I threw them away," he confessed. Sister Agatha's anger exploded. She called Norman 'demented'. Norman had no idea what that word meant. She grabbed him by the arm and led him straight to the chapel where Father O’Reilly was waiting to hear confessions. No one else was in the chapel. Sister Agatha knocked on the confessional. No answer. She heard a snore. He was asleep.
"Father," she called in a rather loud voice while knocking on the side of the ornate box. The priest woke with a start. "Yes," he replied. "I've got a discipline problem for you to deal with."
The old priest emerged from box rubbing his eyes. "It's been a slow morning for sin," he said looking at Norman. He motioned for him to sit in the nearest pew while Sister Agatha explained Norman's unforgivable sins to the priest.

Sister Agatha left. Father O’Reilly sat down beside Norman and began explaining the roles of men and women in God’s kingdom. He explained sexual harassment. Once again Norman had no idea what he was talking about. He only knew he was in trouble because of Mary Nora. After thirty minutes into a discussion that caused Father O’Reilly’s face to change color many times Norman excused himself to use the bathroom. Instead of going back to the chapel he returned to class. It was then Norman began thinking of revenge, sweet revenge.

The opportunity came when a third grade end of the school year dance was announced. The girls would be in dresses and the boys in suits. Norman changed his tactics and began smiling at Mary. He asked her if she would be going to the dance. He asked if she would put him on her dance card. Mary was overjoyed. The love of her third grade class had forgiven her. Norman knew he had one opportunity and one opportunity only to let Mary Norma have it for her lies.

The day before the dance Norman stopped by Cloverdale’s Pet Bonanza and asked the clerk if any of the goldfish in the large tank near the entrance died during the night. The clerk checked the tank. Sure enough, one of the larger goldfish was floating belly up. The fish had one eye clouded and looked heavily pecked. Norman asked the clerk for the dead fish. The clerk asked why then stopped Norman from answering in mid sentence. He realized he really didn’t want to know. Using the fish net under the tank the clerk scooped out the deceased fish, dropped it in a clear plastic bag half full of water and handed it without charge to Norman. Norman's plan was complete.

The day of the dance........

It was the third dance. Norman was next on Mary's dance card. He walked up to her and held her hands. He smiled at her. Her heart when pitter pat.
“Close your eyes,” Norman whispered. “I’ve got a surprise for you.” Norman looked at Mary’s face to be sure her eyes were tightly closed. He turned and looked at the three nuns standing near the record player. The nuns were using their loud voices as they reviewed the records looking for the music they had agreed to play. It was time. He reached into his pocket and took out the fish wrapped in a plastic sandwich bag. He let go of her hands to take the fish out of the baggie. Mary opened her eyes.

The thrill of anticipation raced through her. She knew he loved her even though he pretended not to. He was going to kiss her. She was right. She knew it would happen at the dance. Everything was perfect.
"No cheating," Norman said. "Close your eyes for a big surprise." She closed her eyes and puckered her lips. Norman held the dead fish up to her lips and pushed gently. She moved her lips back and forth like she had practiced so many times before. The moment was interrupted by Sammy Mulligan’s laughter. Then Rose Lemond screamed. Mary opened her eyes. She could see Norman’s face - including his lips. Mary wondered how she could see his mouth when it was suppose to be kissing hers. She pulled her head back and saw the dead fish held between his forefinger and thumb. Mary held a hand up to her mouth to prevent the escape of her partially digested lunch and ran for the bathroom.

Sister Agatha Noons looked over from the refreshment table in time to see everything. “God save us,” she said as she rushed take hold of Norman’s left ear. With a powerful twist she convinced him to release the dead fish into her hand. It was all the evidence she needed for conviction.

Five minutes later Norman was back in the chapel with two other boys from the sixth grade waiting for Father O’Reilly’s verdict on their misbehavior. The sixth grade boys were found throwing rocks at a bird’s nest in the courtyard. They would be given two slaps on the hands with a ruler and sent back to class. Norman risked suspension. A final decision awaited the arrival of his parents. Norman wondered if his prank was worth suspension. After all, it was the end of the school year. . Only time would tell - but he did get a thumbs up from the two sixth grade boys as they left the chapel.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Failed Launch

There was a special assembly at Confederacy Elementary School last Tuesday. A speaker from the Ministry of Education and Employment spoke to the children about overcoming obstacles. He told them to dream big, set goals and achieve. “The world is yours,” he repeated over and over throughout his speech.

The children seemed captivated by the message. Even the students from the antisocial left paid attention. The teachers heard it all before. Some slept, others graded papers while others sat watching their students hoping to catch some form of misbehaviour. With a fisherman's patience they watched their students, knowing one of them would crack under the pressure of trying to be good for thirty minutes. When they did.......... Gotcha - the unlucky child lost a recess and wrote 100 words out of the dictionary.

At the end of the speech the children wrote their dreams for their future on a pieces of small paper and put them into balloons. Three teenage boys from Saint Bartholomew’s School stood in the back of the gym filling the balloons with helium in preparation for ‘lift off’. The teenagers were completing the last of their public service hours for getting caught smoking in the school’s parking lot.

With balloons in hand the students walked outside and released them one class at a time. Mrs. Pennypacker’s Special Education Class was the last to launch. The students stood up and waited while the rest of the school counted down. At zero the children released their dreams into the sky.

A sudden wind redirected the balloons right into a neighboring tree. The three teenage boys broke into laughter - resulting in another two hours of public service each. The shocked Mrs. Pennypacker quickly gathered her 7 students and rushed them into the school. The Ministry official followed trying to think of something he could say to turn what happened into a positive. The rest of the students went to recess.

For the rest of the week Mrs. Pennypacker’s Special Education student’s balloons remained lodged in the tree. At the request of the Head Master, The Fire Department sent a truck to take them down. Mrs. Pennypacker did not like the assembly and refuses to allow balloons in her classroom ever again.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Stinky Morrill, his Mother and the Water Wings

Stinky (Steven) Morrill was pouting. He was upset because one of his water wings had a puncture and mother refused to leave the pool to buy a new one. He was on step three of his multi step procedure into getting mother to surrender to his will.

• Step one. One tear paired with a look of despair.

He forced one tear out of his left eye and down his cheek the second he heard air escaping from the cracked seam of the water wing. He changed his facial appearance from that of a happy boy about to go swimming into an injured puppy. He rushed to find his mother before the one tear dried up on his face. She was sitting beside the pool with the other mothers. She looked at his face, took the water wing, tried to inflate it, saw the leak and put it under her chair.“We will get you a new one when we leave,” she said wanting to get back to her conversation with the ladies.

Stinky pulled on her arm to get attention. He wasn’t sure she saw his lost puppy dog eyes with added tear for effect. “Not now Stinky. Go into the baby pool and I’ll keep an eye on you.” she said.

• Step Two. Crying.

Stinky started to cry. Big crocodile tears streamed down his face and onto the wet swimming pool’s pavement. Mother raised a finger to the other ladies, the worldwide accepted mother's sign that she needed a moment with an upset and rude child. “Stinky, stop crying. I’m not leaving the pool. Crying won’t help," she said in a quiet voice only he could hear. Stinky didn’t stop crying. He knew he was pushing her buttons. Although taking the risk of a spanking, if he played the game correctly, they would soon be in the car on their way to Woolworth’s to purchase new water wings. He kept crying
“Ladies, would you excuse me,” mother said. She got up from the deck chair and took Stinky by the arm. Stinky knew his mother’s holds. If she took him gently then he got his way. If she was firm, then he’d had his chips. She took him firmly. They were walking toward the gate. His crying increased in intensity. He had nothing to loose at that point.

A moment later he was in the back seat of the car over mother’s knee. She spanked him three times on the backside. Mother was good. Her blows found their way to the mark despite Stinky’s repeated use of his arms and hands for shielding. “I told you I’d give you something to cry about,” she said sternly. Mother believed children should behave. She had no patience for a spoiled child. Stinky gambled and lost.

She took him back to the pool after calming him down by saying, “You don’t want the other children to see you’ve been crying do you?” Stinky stopped sobbing and wiped his eyes and his nose with the back of his hand. Mother went back to the ladies and Stinky stood beside the baby pool thinking about his next move.

• Step Three. Guilt.

Stinky needed mother to feel guilty for what she had done. If successful, the guilt would eat away at mother’s self imposed vision of what a perfect mother was. She would then solicit his forgiveness by taking him to Woolworth’s to purchase the water wings. Stinking stood beside his mother and tugged at her arm. “What is it Stinky?” she asked.
“I’m not going to swim. I’m going to the bathroom,” he said while wiping his nose and eyes again to illicit sympathy. He looked at the other ladies in the circle and gave them his lost puppy eyes hoping to capture their motherly instincts and use them in his favor. He needed one of them to tell mother what a cute boy he was. No one spoke. “Go ahead Stinky.” mother replied.

Stinky walked back into the locker room. He found an open locker and sat down. It was turning out to be a horrible, terrible, very bad day. How could he have lost the upper hand? Why wasn’t his mother like other mothers? Why was she so insistent on good behavior in public?

Stinky thought and pouted for awhile. Several minutes later he heard his brother’s voice from the locker room’s door. “Stinky, mom wants you.” Stinky jumped to his feet. Did he win after all? Did the guilt he spread so thickly take hold? He ran out the locker room and straight toward his mother. She was holding a pair of pink water wings decorated with unicorns. Stinky stopped dead in his tracks. “Stinky, Mrs. Marshall is leaving and is kind enough to let you borrow Silvia’s water wings. You can go swimming now. What do you say to Mrs. Marshall and Silvia?”
Stinky wanted to cry. He wanted to scream. He could never be seen wearing girl’s water wings, but the look in his mother’s eyes convinced him otherwise. Ingratitude was something mother would not tolerate. If he said or did anything at that moment other than say “thank you” he might as well prepare for early death.

“Thank you,” he said. He reached out and took the water wings, while all the time looking into his mother’s eyes. Mother smiled. She was proud of Stinky. He came through in the end. She patted him on the head and whispered “thank you for being a polite boy” into his ear. Stinky felt better. His mother thanked him. That meant she owed him. What a wonderful position to be in. That meant not only a pair of water wings from Woolworth’s but a treat at the lunch counter as well!

All was well with Stinky. It was a good day after all.

Sally and Fluffy, her Alpaca

A friendly message from the Dunce Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Remember, your animals are up and about while you sleep. Just a reminder.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lloyd Buddle and the Angel

In 1971 Lloyd Buddle attended an outdoor Christian revival. He sat in the congregation mesmerized by the tribal atmosphere. There was singing and preaching and healings and speaking in tongues. The preacher spoke of the wrath of God about to befall mankind. He described the pestilence and wars and rumors of wars. He outlined the signs of the times and warned of Hell’s fires to any soul unsaved by the blood of the lamb. From his knees the preacher begged the unsaved and unwashed to come forward to taste the living water of salvation.

Something deep inside Lloyd snapped that moment. Some say it was his sanity. His family always believed it hung by the thinnest of threads anyway. Others say it was the sound of the devil himself releasing Lloyd into the loving hands of God. Lloyd stood, not under his own power but under the power of an unseen hand, and walked toward the front of the large circus tent. The preacher’s eyes widened on his approach. He jumped from the podium and embraced Lloyd as he did all the others. After the choir finished the last verse of “Just As I Am” the preacher led the lost in the Sinner’s Prayer. Shouts of Hallelujah filled the tent at the amen. Lloyd was saved. He would never the same.

For the past thirty eight years Lloyd honored the calling he received that day and conducted his own ministry in the parks of the Confederacy. He traveled from Fernwood on the Moor, to Cloverdale, to Tamworth on Tide preaching the end of the world was at hand. He urged all within the sound of his voice to accept Jesus Christ as their savior and receive his promised salvation. Never once did Lloyd preach hell, fire and damnation. The joy of the gospel filled Lloyd’s heart. He wanted everyone to obey God because of love, not fear.

When he ran out of money, Lloyd asked people in the park for donations. The appeals brought in enough money to keep him in modest food and shelter. An unnamed conductor on the Coastal Express let him ride the train for free as long as he didn’t bother the other passengers. He could preach only if asked.

Life passed Lloyd over the years. From the parks Lloyd saw people moving back and forth on their daily business. He saw couples holding hands. A few weeks later they were kissing. A few years later he saw the same couples with small children of their own. There was a yearning in his soul but Lloyd was sure the end was at hand. He couldn’t abandon his flock. His love for the people and God spurred him on. There were so many souls to save and so little time.

The people grew to admire Lloyd. He became a fixture in their parks. He was never loud or obnoxious like many of the other street preachers. His message of love encouraged many to look for religion in their local churches. Many of the townspeople felt a debt of gratitude toward him.

Ten years ago the people petitioned the Confederacy’s Ministry of Health and Asylums to name Lloyd a ‘Eccentric Citizen’. The people of the Confederacy value individuality and uniqueness. Eccentric Citizen’s give communities flavor and character. As a Confederacy of Dunces Eccentric Citizen, Lloyd received a small government pension to continue benefiting the lives of the people through words, song, actions, and deeds. Lloyd was humbled by the honor and worked diligently to continue his work in the parks to quietly bring people to God.

Three months ago an old woman Lloyd had never seen before was walking her dog in Cloverdale’s Park. He approached her with his sign proclaiming “The End is Near!”
“Christ’s coming is near at hand,” he said to the woman. “Have you been washed clean in his blood?”
“How long have you been preaching in the park?” the woman asked, ignoring his question.
“Over thirty years,” he said proudly.
“You’ve brought people to God?” she asked, looking at his outdated but tidy appearance.
“I answered the call and hope to help others do the same but I’m only a messenger.”
“Jesus said no man knows of his coming. Now, you’re wanting to tell me you see the signs and you may be right. You will point out all the horrible things people are doing to each other. You will list natural disasters and diseases as further proof your statement is correct. But I can tell you how the world is getting better. I can show you there have always been wars - many of them. The signs you proclaim as proof he is coming have been here every since the crucifixion. There are no more or less.”

Lloyd rose his finger to take control of the conversation but the woman wouldn’t allow it. She took a deep breath and continued. “ You can’t know when he is coming. God won’t allow that. He will come on his own time. So...... here you are. For thirty years or more you’ve been preaching something that will most probably not happen for a long, long time. What have you given up?” She stopped at that statement to let him think. She looked deep into his eyes and smiled. He started to speak. She put her index finger up to his mouth to stop him. “Lloyd, God is joy. He wants his children to experience joy. Its time to put your sign away. Its time to step out of the park and into life. Its time to let God reward you with a little personal happiness before you go home to meet him. You’ve been a good servant but now its time to get out there and experience what life is all about. Do it before its too late.”

The woman patted him very gently on the cheek with her leather gloved hand and walked toward the fountain.

Something inside Lloyd snapped. He sat down on the nearest bench. He spent the rest of the afternoon watching children playing in the park. He watched couples both young and old enjoy each other’s company. Instead of thinking of the impending end of all things, his mind - for the first time in over three decades - entertained the notion that the end might be far in the future. A different sunshine shone on him that afternoon.

Lloyd left his sign in the park that night. On his way home he stopped at the city offices and officially resigned his status as Eccentric Citizen. He slowly walked to the train station. A weight was lifted from his shoulders and a new love of God filled his heart. Lloyd spoke to an angel that day and his life would never be the same. Tomorrow was the first day of the rest of his life.