Better

Would that her lips would always sparkle and shine red

Would that she always smelled like lilac and rose petals

Would that her mood was always sweet and gentle

Would that nails were never chipped

Would that she could always wear her sexy shoes

Would that her breath was always fresh

Would that she always understood you

Would that she was always ready for love

Would that she was always giving

Would that she was always gracious to your friends

Would that she always looked perfect at the beach

Would that she was always loving to the children

Better that you deserve half of that

Better that she holds your hand when that is all you really need

© Glenn R Keller 2022, All Rights Reserved

The Fan

It hummed along in the corner, an indiscrete presence. It was old and rickety and possessed of a bad temperament. When it worked, which ironically tended to be on cooler days, it serenaded it’s fellow occupants with a symphony of squeaks and squeals at intervals contrived to deny sleep. No one thought to replace it because it was just one more actor in a miserable tropical drama.

The air wasn’t moving today and the heat and humidity had turned the little apartment into a sauna. Two of his roommates were gone which left him and Sarah suffering alone. They were both soaked in sweat and were making a show of studying but it was too hot to think.

Sarah was laying on the couch trying to read and he was pretending that he wasn’t looking at her. She pretended that she didn’t know he was looking at her, and was amusing herself by tormenting him. The fan, in a rare show of magnanimity, had decided it would work today and she let her long brown hair flutter in the breeze.

He cursed at the heat.

“What?” She turned over and looked at him across the room.

Those damned eyes. She had huge almond shaped eyes and if you looked into them it was like having a spell cast. And of course, she knew it. “It’s just the heat. I can’t concentrate”. He left out that she was a major distraction as well “Fuck it, let’s go grab a beer. I’m done.”

She got up and walked over to him “let’s stay here” and she put her arms around his neck and sat on his lap. She kissed him and said “it’s cooler in my room”. It was complete bullshit of course, there wasn’t a cool place in the apartment. She got up, taking him by the hand and suddenly he forgot about the heat.

The fan, no longer of any use in the now deserted living room, went into a funk and gave one last screech before retiring for good. No one cared.

© Glenn R Keller 2021, All Rights Reserved

HR Issue

Peter was staring at Melody, his friend and the Director of Human Resources. He was trying to remember how much he enjoyed working with her, but right now he was stupefied. For months there had been rumors that two of his team members were having an extramarital affair and it was tearing his team apart. It might not have been so bad but the wife of the male side of the amorous alliance was active in the community and was well known to many on the team. Sides had been taken. Guilt had been assumed. Names had been called…ugly names.

He was at his wit’s end and Melody had just told him there was not a damned thing he could do. She hated it as much as he did, but without a specific policy or an illegal act their hands were tied. Melody had an idea; “if they’re fooling around surely their performance has slipped.”

Dead end. “That’s the hell of it” Peter almost laughed despite himself, “both of them are knocking it out of the park. I don’t assign them to the same projects but anything I assign to either one of them…well, it’s like there are two brains working on it. The problem is everyone else is in the toilet”.

Peter had brought in an Organizational Development specialist and they’d held a day long meeting where everything was supposed to get aired out. It was a nice try: they wound up talking about everything but the alleged affair, that is until Anna glared at Stacey and said something about the elephant in the room. Stacey glared back until one of her allies addressed Anna saying “look to your own house missy”. With that Anna had burst into tears and Stacey declared she had work to do and left.

“You’re just gonna have to find a way to lead through this Peter, it’s none of the company’s business”. Before Peter could reply there was shouting in the hall and the unauthorized entry alarm sounded. He and Melody bolted from his office and were nearly knocked over by two security guards going one way and Stacey hauling ass in the opposite direction. When they finally looked at the open area that served as their team workspace they had to rub their eyes, because standing on a desk was a disheveled looking woman in a housecoat waving a tire iron at anyone that came near. Stacey was long gone and some of the team members were huddled in a corner clearly frightened. Peter panicked as he remembered the two High School interns, fearing for their safety. When he finally spotted them they were seated next to each other enjoying the show.

One of the security guards finally shouted to the woman “What is it you want ma’am?” The woman froze for an instant, wild eyed, as if it were the most stupid question ever asked. “I want the bitch that’s fucking my husband!!!”.

Peter looked at Melody ” Is it our business now?” Melody nodded slowly as security dragged the poor woman, screaming, from the building.

© Glenn R Keller 2021, All Rights Reserved

High Maintenance

Hugo had warned Tom. All his friends warned him. He’d be sorry. She was materialistic, she lived for nice things, her nails had to be perfect and god forbid she’d leave home dressed in non-designer clothes. While they were still dating he had to buy an expensive car because oh no, she could not be seen in that boring Honda. Even his mother told him “she thinks she’s the Queen of Sheba. Find a nice down to earth girl.”

But no matter what they said, it was no use, he stayed the course and married her anyway. And they shook their heads, even at the wedding and they all agreed “he just doesn’t see it.”

Hugo married smart. Susan was dependable, laser focused on her career, laser focused on the children, laser focused on tomorrow. But after 11 years, feeling like he’d been ground down like a cog in her machine, he sought solace somewhere else. And that was the end. And all their friends deserted him. And most of his friends deserted him. And some of his family deserted him. Because Susan was wonderful, and so busy and so sacrificial. And so the victim.

One person that didn’t desert Hugo was Tom. And Juliet, who Tom wasn’t supposed to marry but did anyway, seemingly pissing into the wind. Juliet was still high maintenance, and like Susan was laser focused on her children. But Juliet didn’t give a fig about tomorrow “we could all die in a car wreck let’s live now” and milked her career along without the least stress “I was looking for a job when I found this one”. And she consoled Hugo “what’s done is done, you can’t go back. Besides, she didn’t love you enough you ding dong”. Juliet would still throw the occasional fit if the table was bad or the wine wasn’t right. But she was also one of the kindest people he had ever met. Her materialistic nature did not conflict with her general selflessness, and she never batted an eye about Hugo sleeping in their guest room. In fact the only time she got annoyed was when he tried to pitch in on the grocery bill. “We don’t take money from friends in need”.

There was something else. Something you couldn’t help noticing as a long term house guest. Even with two children their sex life was epic. No room, no piece of furniture, no time of day was off limits. Tom had always gone home for lunch…and now Hugo knew why. Once, while he was staying with them, Tom bought her a new convertible. They spent the next few weeks “breaking it in.”

A few years passed. Hugo was back on his feet and was dating a woman, Amy,  who strangely enough, had a lot in common with Juliet. During one of their frequent visits with Tom and Juliet, Hugo might have drank just one too many and he looked straight at Juliet and blurted out “I’m sorry! I told him not to marry you.”

Juliet broke out laughing “I know, he told me of course.”

He looked at Tom “how did you know? When you were that young, that it would turn out this way? Or was it just dumb luck?”

Tom put his hand on his old friends shoulder. “No luck to it. She loved me above everything else. So none of that other stuff mattered.”

“That’s it? She loved you?”

Juliet piped up ” it was much more than that. I adored him. And I still do”.

Tom cleared his throat and flashed a look at Juliet. She grinned and they both got up. “We’ll be back in a few.”

Amy leaned into Hugo “and I adore YOU. I need some more of that Cab, not the Syrah it’s god awful. And get me a new glass, this one has a water spot.” And right at that moment Hugo was the happiest man in the world.

© Glenn R Keller 2021, All Rights Reserved

The Jazz Club

Packed in close

The tabletops barely big enough

.

A candle

Her purse

Your drinks

.

It’s cold outside

You wore overcoats

She wore a hat and mittens

You smile, because she’s cute

She smiles because she knows it

And you know she took her time

To get the hat just right

.

But now, down to your shirt

Down to her dress

You’re sweating

.

There is energy in the room

Some people close their eyes

Listening to the sax

Feeling the bass

Others make eye contact with the band

Some just sit, entwined

.

The atmosphere is heavy

Vivid

It imprints

She imprints

.

The moment

So easy to take for granted

Because there will be so many others

Until there aren’t

.

You can taste the warm beer

You can smell her perfume

Fighting against the perspiration

Fighting against the cigarette smoke

Holding it’s own

Until it fades

And is no more

© Glenn R Keller 2021, All Rights Reserved

Uprising

“Are you out of your mind?” Lois exhaled and gathered her thoughts. She had known Jamie forever. They met in college and then wound up working for Rexcom for 20 years. He was excitable but never like this. He was wild eyed and would not be talked down off this cliff.

The news of the layoffs hit everyone like a brick. A 15% staff reduction right before Christmas, and that after one of their best years ever. They had new products in the pipeline, and revenue and margin were both up. Of course, this was nothing new. It had been this way ever since the private owner had bought their division as part of a larger acquisition. They would turn a profit after dealing with staff reductions and higher targets, the owner would pocket most of the gain and then beat up on them for not making enough profit to pay the bank loans. They were very profitable but were made to feel like failures year after year.

And now someone had finally snapped…Jamie of all people. But here was the strange thing: he wasn’t walking out; not quitting. “It’s our company. It was shit when we started and now look at it. And this douchebag sweeps in and takes over.” Lois reminded him that the owner had bought the business fair and square. Jamie exploded: “he didn’t fucking buy shit. He borrowed money and used our assets for collateral. That’s why we can’t get any money to invest in new equipment. He’s mortgaged every thing we worked for.”

Lois felt defeated. “Well it’s not like we can do anything about it”.

Jamie laughed, ” I have a plan, well sort of. I’m gonna need some help.” He handed Lois a list of names. She scanned the list: it was full of colleagues they had known forever, friends really. More importantly, there were a lot of senior managers but no executives. These were the people that actually ran the company. “Have them meet us at Cadillacs tomorrow, 6am sharp.”

Lois stared hard at Jamie, she trusted him, truth told, she thought the world of him but this was stretching even her faith. “What do I tell them?”

“Tell them, no ones getting laid off.”

6:04 AM and everyone that had said they would come was actually there. She was bleary eyed having been up until 1 working the phone. The last thing was a debate between her and Jamie about inviting Teddy.  She was one of their best work friends and had been with them since the beginning. Lois thought she’d be valuable and Jamie agreed but said her position imparted a fiduciary responsibility to rat them out. “We are not doing anything illegal she said firmly”.

“No we are not”, Jamie assured her, “it’s just illegal for Teddy not to report it”. This only served to remind her she had no idea what Jamie had in mind, but she suspected he was massaging the definition of “illegal”.  She would soon find out.

By eight o’clock the meeting was over. Jamie had chosen the attendees wisely…there was not one single defection. Part of that was Jamie’s reputation for making sound decisions, part of it was his brutal honestly “I don’t quite have this figured out but I’m pretty sure it will work” he’d told them, and part of it was that they were angry and fed up. It was a witches brew custom made for rebellion. Something else that impressed her: Jamie had an assignment for everyone, and that had the effect of committing them to the cause. It was very shrewd. Though there was one person who neither spoke or got an assignment.

Her name was Jocelyn and she was the executive assistant to the CEO. So why was she there? Sometimes she was invited to things just because some man or other liked the eye candy, and even Lois had to admit she was pretty. But that was unlike Jamie who had built the guest list so carefully, so he must be sure she won’t go tell her boss. She has access to information that not even the closest subordinates of the CEO could get hold of, so that must be it. But Jamie was being tight lipped about it. And Jocelyn hadn’t said a word for the entire 2 hours.

Time flew by. Wheels were turning, smaller meetings were convened over the course of 4 weeks. They had agreed not to have another mass meeting so as not to arouse suspicion. And then at 8am on a sunny Monday morning they were ready to roll.

The date had been chosen carefully. Everyone that could act as an officer of the company was out of town with the exception of the CEO…he had come in at his customary time and was in his office in executive row. Jocelyn was at her desk just outside his office acting like it was an ordinary day. At 8:30 Lois and Jamie were seated together in her office because it had a better view of the front gate so they could monitor comings and goings…mostly comings. Jamie looked over at Lois and she nodded. He pressed send on the text to the CIO.  Instantly 700 mobile phones were shut down and 1300 users were locked out of the network.

Down the hall, Jocelyn got up from her desk and walked into the CEOs office. Everyone held their breath. As it turned out Jocelyn was the lynchpin of the entire plan, and while Jamie had assured everyone that nothing illegal was gonna go down, this was perilously close to blackmail. Still, it was unlikely Paulus would be filing a complaint. It took 15 minutes and everyone was getting jittery before Paulus emerged from his office with his coat and briefcase. Jocelyn came out a few seconds later and called after him “hey Paulus”, he turned around to look at her and she flipped him the bird, he just shook his head and headed out the door. Jocelyn waved a sheet of paper triumphantly and the staff broke into applause.

Lois looked at Jamie “that took guts, I am not sure I could have confronted him”. As it turned out ever since he’d hired Jocelyn he’d been trying to get into her pants. It wasn’t that he just had the hots for her, hell half the men and even a few women in the office did, it was the things he said to her…and the fact that he had groped her. He’d signed all the papers and docusigned the form from the bank.

Then things began to happen. All incoming ACH receipts were channeled to the new bank account using the authorizations the now departed CEO had signed off on. No one, outside of the ringleaders, had any access to that account. Payments to vendors were being handled the same way. In short, from a cash flow perspective the company was operating normally. But it wouldn’t last. Already two of the sidelined executives had managed to reach the help desk. Fortunately, they had VIP flags turned on and so instead of normal troubleshooting they were triaged to internal IT where the CIO had set up a stalling mechanism. For now they were being patient. But sooner or later they would figure out something was wrong and start calling each other. And then someone would see the daily cash flash from the old bank and the jig would be up.

So they had to get to the people who really mattered…the investment bankers. The company owed them collectively close to twenty three billion dollars. They had to convince them that this was the best way for them to go. Fortunately they had Chip on their side.

Chip was an enigma. Harvard, Oxford, father who ran the biggest investment portfolio in Austria, he was set up for a seat at whatever table he wanted. Yet here he was, upper middle management at a run of the mill manufacturing company. Yet he always seemed to be the happiest guy in whatever room he was in at the moment. But to those that took the trouble to know him he was a man who was exactly where he wanted to be; making his own way with no help from his powerful father and pulling down enough money to still be in the 1% club. Most of all he was free to engage in his favorite passions; chasing women, skiing, cycling and chasing women in no particular order.

Like their erstwhile CEO, Chip too had taken a run at Jocelyn. Unlike the CEO he had taken the time to get to know her, and when she’d rebuffed him, he’d politely taken “no” for an answer. For Jocelyn’s part, after getting to know him a bit better she found herself wishing he’d ask again.

Chip brought something to the table no one else could: he personally knew someone senior at each of their investment banks. Even more importantly he knew that getting their money back, hopefully with a fat return, was all they really cared about. When Lois had reminded him that the bank CEOs had a relationship with their owner and the CEO, he laughed hysterically and said “Lois, they’ve got a relationship with their money. Go where the money is and you’ll find their best friends.”

Lois nodded slowly, ” and we have control of the money.”

Chip smiled, hope you’re packed because by this time tomorrow you’ll be on the corporate Gulfstream headed to Geneva. And with that, Chip went off to have the phone calls that would make or break the whole scheme.

“Well we had better get going”, Jamie stating the obvious broke the tension and though it was not humorous everyone laughed in relief. Chip had briefed them on the phone calls and the final teleconference with all the bankers. They had a tentative agreement pending an in-person review of the internal only financial reports. As predicted, Jean-Claude would want to take their measure in person, though after hearing the tales of cooking the books with deferred maintenance and late season inventory builds without demand, there was not much suspense.  The bankers had already grown wary of the owner;  his operating costs seemed very low by industry standards.  And what of the executives who’d been cut out of the loop? None of the bankers really cared. Jamie would be acting CEO with Chip as CFO and Lois filling in as COO until the bankers had their own consultants come in and sort things. They could retain who they needed and sever the rest.

As for layoffs? Darlene Hughes of Intercontinental, their second biggest lender, put it bluntly: “We could care less. It’s going to be employee owned so you do what you think is right. But if things start looking risky you’ll be getting a lot of help.”

As they were heading towards the elevator, Chip turned and looked at Jocelyn,” Come on”. Jocelyn smiled and said “I was just the honey trap, you don’t need me, I can’t talk to bankers”. “Who cares? We want you to come.” Jocelyn didn’t budge. Chip sighed, and for the first time in his life he realized he wasn’t in control. He was trying to act like he didn’t care but it wasn’t working, “okay, I want you to come.”   With that Jocelyn picked up her coat.

As they walked down the hallway Chip suddenly stopped dead in his tracks and was facing Jocelyn.  “What do you mean he never…?”

“Well, he did this morning.  Isn’t that what you needed?  Let’s go, we’ll hold everyone else up.”  With that she took Chip by the hand and they headed for the airport.

The Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor Was a Tactical Failure: Change My Mind.

Imagine you’re a little guy and you look for the biggest badass in the bar, you walk up and punch him in the face. You’re gonna take a beating, but in the weird world of drunken guy fights you might live through it. He might even buy you a beer after he’s pounded you into the floor.

But that’s not what this was. That’s not what this was at all. This was finding the same big badass and punching his daughter in the face. You’re gonna die. They’re gonna invent whole new words to describe how dead you’re going to be.

And so it was with Pearl Harbor, one in a campaign of orchestrated attacks over 48 hours beginning on 7 December 1941. This was not a daring gambit that might give the Japanese the edge they needed to at least fight the U.S. to a tie. This was DELUSIONAL. It was delusion fueled by a spirit of machismo embodied in Samurai traditions loosely codified in “Bushido” or the way of the warrior. You’d have to be Japanese to really understand its influence but the perpetrators of the war are easier to understand. Look around you and everywhere you can see people clamoring for a return to some long gone mythical glory years.

What was standing in the way were other colonial powers, and the US that could make Japan pay dearly for behavior it disapproved of; Japan wanted its share of the colonial goods, and the British, French, Dutch and Americans were in the way. And so, as one of my former bosses used to say “they did stupid”.

The attack on Pearl Harbor is often portrayed as a strategic failure and a tactical victory beautifully executed. It was neither. It was a stupid idea, led by the wrong commander, dependent on luck that never materialized that failed to achieve its primary objectives and did not capitalize on the opportunities that presented themselves.

That is not to say the Japanese did not execute; the Japanese were arguably the finest sailors and naval aviators in the world and it showed. They snuck across the Pacific in a storm without the benefit of radar, maintained radio silence, conducted beautiful carrier operations, and achieved complete surprise. Hats off to them. But those are methods not objectives. Things immediately started to go wrong.

The first thing that went wrong was that the main objective was to get the US out of the way so they could rapidly expand across the Pacific. To do that they had to destroy the US carriers…yet they let this fall to chance. While much has been made of the US forces being caught with their pants down, the US carriers were alert and engaged in preparing for war, delivering planes to far flung outposts. The entire mission depended on a bit of luck and they’d thrown snake eyes right off the bat. Then they used excellent bombing skills and a very clever torpedo design to sink four old battleships in the least offensive way possible. They were sunk in shallow water, in a port with massive repair infrastructure and where, despite the loss of life, most of their sailors were able to swim or take boats to shore. Contrast that with a scenario where these old ships offer battle at sea…it’s been war gamed many times and the result is the complete loss of every US vessel and over 10,000 American sailors. Later in the war, these old ships and those sailors would wreak a terrible revenge. And the US had other battleships that were soon transferred to the Pacific: The Washington, North Carolina and South Dakota were newer, faster and more powerful. They were not scratched.

They did tear up a bunch of US aircraft, 188 to be precise. But before you say “well there you go” let’s put that in perspective: at peak war production the US could replace 188 planes in 17 hours. That’s faster then it would have taken to realize they were missing. The thing that could not be replaced were the highly trained pilots. But they were safe on the ground with their destroyed planes.

Now’s a good time to discuss the Japanese commanders. The brains behind the fiasco was Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet. Yamamoto is often portrayed as this wise old owl, forced by circumstances into executing an attack he thought was ill conceived. I mean, it’s almost like he was on our side. To be sure he was against war with the US because he knew it would end badly. But the attack on Pearl Harbor was his idea. In fact, he threatened to resign if it weren’t carried out. For context, he was also the architect of another more obvious disaster, the attack on Midway; he threatened to resign if that wasn’t carried out either. How did the US Navy view Yamamoto? Prior to having him killed by US Army P38 Lightnings, there was discussion that it might be better to leave him in command. In the end he was killed for the morale impact on the Japanese.

To be a little fair, Yamamoto was saddled with the wrong commander in charge of “Kido Butai”, as the main Japanese carrier attack force was known throughout the war, Admiral Chuichi Nagumo. Nagumo was a competent commander and had performed well to date, but he had not faced the Americans before. Nagumo lacked aggressiveness and creativity, something the US Navy had in spades. Nagumo was in charge not because he was the best person for the job, but because of seniority. This is not a Japanese thing, lots of organizations work this way, but in this case it led to mission failure.

So what was Nagumo’s main mistake? Failure to launch a third wave. The American’s were awake, punching back, and looking for Kido Butai and so a third wave would have incurred heavier losses, but in a fistfight at this point the Americans were no match for the Japanese attackers. And this is where the saying, sometimes attributed to Omar Bradley, that “Amateurs talk tactics and professionals talk logistics” rings true. Carriers or no carriers, the prize was in Nagumo’s sights: all he had to do was attack the oil storage, dry docks, repair facilities and submarine tenders and boom, objective accomplished. The US navy would have had to limp back to San Francisco, there would have been no US Carrier raids in the first months of the war, no attack on Tokyo, no submarine harassment of Japanese forces. In short the US Navy was up and on offense very quickly after December 7th and that would not have been possible had Nagumo launched that third wave. But that was a Japanese navy thing too, so maybe we should not be so hard on Nagumo.

At the onset of the war, the Japanese were superior on the attack in almost every dimension with the exception of submarines. But they never did master effective defense, logistics, code breaking, damage control and a whole litany of non glamorous but essential skills. For the first year of the war the adversaries fought as near equals, but once the manufacturing capability and training system of the US had ramped up, it was all over. Had the Japanese taken out those logistics facilities, they would have given themselves more time and perhaps made it too costly for the US to pursue unconditional surrender. But all they wound up doing was kicking the bear in the ass and pissing him off.

The Witch

I don’t use the word lightly. But I am not sure how else to describe her. You’re judging, I can tell, and normally I’m with you on that. But hear me out, some people have rotten hearts.

A good teacher can do a world of good in a child’s life. A bad teacher can do immeasurable damage. I have been blessed with many excellent teachers but the witch, we won’t use her actual name, was not one of them. She was not about children, she was about herself, and her perfectly ordered life.

I was a mid year transfer from another school. The principal brought me into the class and introduced me. She did not say hello. She did not ask the class to welcome me. She did not ask me where I came from. Rather, her first words to me were “Great, and we just finished updating the seating chart.”

Thus began a test of wills and I spent the rest of the school year in battle mode. She may have been a witch, but in 5th grade I was a world class motherfucker. Seriously, I was a handful.  Her problem was I was smart.  This was the smart class and I was easily the smartest one in it,  but I wouldn’t work for her. She catered to her pets, the perfect blonde Hitler youth suck asses. She wasn’t talking to me, and I wasn’t listening, all I did was read. Finally,  in exasperation she put me by the class library. “Just sit there and read then”.  I was happy. There was a good selection of Beverly Cleary books and The Mad Scientists Club.

Eventually, my grades sank enough that she got me kicked out of her class and into the not smart but not stupid class. “Good riddance” she said as I was told to switch rooms one day. As much as I hated the idea of going back to her class I was not going to let her win. I immediately started to destroy every task put in front of me and you guessed it: back to her class. Collective groan encouraged by her…though not everyone. There were a couple of boys and one girl that were happy that I was twisting her ass in a knot. I did have a few friends you see. At that age, if a teacher hates you, that’s major school yard cred.

The standoff continued through the last of the school year until it was time for her crowning glory moment of the year. The final assembly was where all the classes put on a performance for the parents and the entire student body, after which there would be a rousing rendition of the school song, set to the music of the Notre Dame fight song. Then everyone would return to their classrooms to gather their gear and head out for the last time and into summer break.

You won’t be surprised when I tell you that she prided herself on always having the best class play. And you have already surmised that it wasn’t about the kids but about her.  But this year was going to be different. Believe it or not, this grown ass adult set out for revenge.  Dig two graves.

The whole thing was so transparent that she could not have been thinking straight. Even my one little girl ally said to me “you’re not going to do it are you? In front of the whole school? She’s so mean.” I thought about letting her in on my plan. After all, she was the only girl that would speak to me, but I couldn’t afford any leaks.

Rehearsals all went off without a hitch. The other students played their parts as the seasons passed. Trees would bud, birds would sing, brooks would babble and then leaves would fall and cold would swoop in. Until the climax, and I would dutifully run in a circle around the stage while one of the Hitler youth informed the audience that “The sap was still running”. And then the whole class would cheer and tell me I was going to be the highlight of the assembly. It was like one of those things where a sociopath takes over and gets everyone else to act like sociopaths, and they start believing that the laws of physics don’t apply to them.  The applicable law of physics here was that kids from a neighborhood like Hollis are not going to fall for some bullshit cooked up by a bunch of spoiled assholes from a rich neighborhood.

On the day of the big assembly kids were telling me to break a leg, do a good job etc. Even the witch cow was in high spirits. It wouldn’t last. The skit got underway and things went perfectly, just as we rehearsed it. Until it was my turn. I didn’t budge. “Get out there!” someone hissed. I crossed my arms “no”. The narrator, with nothing else to do on stage delivered the punchline before the joke. The witch cow started to grab me by the arm and then stopped. I think that was the moment her rationality came back in a blinding flash of clarity. She saw that I was playing a bigger game. I wanted a confrontation in front of the entire school and all the parents. She didn’t rise to the bait. I’d done enough though. The joke was blown and that was the entire point of the skit…for an adult to humiliate an 11 year old in front of hundreds of people. She shoved one of the Hitler youth on stage to run in a circle and the the narrator delivered the punchline again. There was laughter but they were laughing at the obvious foul up.

She never spoke another word to me. We just went our separate ways. The only smart thing she did all year was that moment when she backed off. It was a good thing and probably for both of us. What she did not know was I was already destined for Military school the next year. Which meant I was untouchable. They could suspend me. They could expel me. It wouldn’t matter. There was nothing the New York City School system could do to me and I was primed to take full advantage.

Light and Dark

He was born into the light, Chris-Crafts and girls in white swim suits. That’s where he met her. In the light

But she belonged in the dark, and she carried her own light like a creature from the deep. She enchanted him and took him with her. Then she left and took it with her, the light, and the dark took him.

He was a creature of the light, alone in the dark. He bent his mind. He forgot where he was and where he came from. The vortex was taking him.

Just one glimmer of light, fading away. He reached out his hand to touch it and another hand touched his.

When he grabbed the hand the dark became dawn. When he held it fast the dawn became light. She unbent his mind and shared her light until he had his own.

He never left her side. Because he was afraid of the dark

Thanksgiving Kindnesses…

I have a lot of memories of Thanksgiving dinners in a lot of different places, with families that were not my own.

One of the strangest, and perhaps the sweetest, was when I was in military school in Virginia. The school did not completely shut down over the holiday. Most people went home, but you could stay if you wanted, and a few of us did. They would feed us, but other than that we were generally on our own.

I never would go home to New York, it was a long set of bus or train rides for just a few days, especially with Christmas so close at hand. Not to mention the cost. We didn’t have a lot of money and so I stayed. One year I went with some people from a little town in the valley. I had met them at church and they’d befriended me. Kind souls,  they lived in a house built in the late 18th century in the middle of nowhere. But that’s another story, warm and sweet in its own right.

The teacher’s name was Captain Mason, but upon meeting him I immediately nicknamed him “Dancing Bear”. The name stuck, but it was not a mean name. He was much loved among the cadets that took his classes. I had him for French and English and he ignited my love for theater by encouraging me to appear in two plays he and another teacher produced. I owe much to this man, as he challenged us with literature and writing , and spent his own time and money exposing us to the arts in various places around Virginia. Romeo and Juliet at the University of Richmond, “The Miser” by Molière at the University of Virginia, in a beautiful theatre that looked like Jefferson himself had designed it…because he had.  And the play was completely in French.

But this was not about learning. This was about kindness and two cadets who didn’t have family to go to and would have had something not very special in the mess hall on that particular Thursday.  Instead he took us with him to his mother’s home on the family farm.  She lived in a mobile home in the snow covered beauty of the Shenandoah Valley.

The other cadet and I wandered around the farm in the deep snow, talking to animals, and exploring a huge stone and wood barn, before returning for dinner with our two hosts in the tiny trailer. We were treated like kings, and the trailer was warm and cozy.  It might as well have been a mansion.