Flash Fiction #42

Barbecue

 

 

 

 

© Copyright – Rachel Bjerke

Thinking Outside The Box

Fountain, where are all the people?

I don’t know, Barbecue.  We used to be the center of entertainment.  They cooked meat and roasted corn on you, and splashed fingers and sailed little boats on me.  They had picnics.  They enjoyed the sunshine and fresh air.  They laughed, and talked, and joked, and played out here.

Now, the few times I see a person, they carry something in their hand that glows.  I hear them complain, “There’s no bars out here!”

I fear we’ve been abandoned.  Now they’re trapped inside, not merely the house but their heads also.  It’s not healthy!

 

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

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Dear Abby

Dear Abby, and her twin sister Ann Landers have both retired, and later died.  Abby’s daughter, Jeanne, was (is?) carrying on the advice column her mother penned.  Other yentas, both Jewish and not, have come, and some have rapidly gone.  From one of them, I give you the following question and answer.

Dear Abby; I recently discovered that my son, who is 17, is a homosexual.  We are part of a church group, and I fear that, if people in that group find out, they will make fun of me for having a gay child.

He won’t listen to reason, and he will not stop being gay.  I feel as if he is doing this just to get back at me for forgetting his birthday for the past three years.  I have a very busy work schedule.

Please help him make the right choice in life by not being gay.  He won’t listen to me, so maybe he’ll listen to you.

Feeling Betrayed

 

Dear Betrayed; You could teach your son an important lesson by changing your own sexuality, to show him how easy it is.  Try it for the next year or so.

Stop being a heterosexual to demonstrate to your son that a person’s sexual orientation is a matter of choice – to be dictated by one’s parents, the parents’ church, and social pressure.

I assume that my suggestion will evoke a reaction that your sexuality is at the core of who you are.  The same is true for your son.  He has the right to be accepted by his parents for being exactly who he is.

When you “forget” a child’s birthday, you are basically negating him as a person.  It is as if you are saying that you have forgotten his presence in the world.  How very sad for him.

Pressuring your son to change his sexuality is wrong.  If you cannot accept him as he is, it might be safest for him to live elsewhere.

A group that could help you and your family figure out how to navigate this is pflag.org (In Canada, see pflagcanada.ca.)  This organization is founded for parents, families, friends and allies of LGBT people, and has helped countless families through this challenge.  Please research and connect with a local chapter.

***

Advice columnists have to be well-mannered and respectful.  Me??  My reply would probably started with, “Really, Bob??!  Do you think you could possibly make this any more about you?”  In this day and age, it still amazes me how powerful the religiously-driven willfully-blind syndrome can be.  Bad enough that he still thinks that being gay is a choice, and one made just to spite him and his ego, but even worse, that he thinks some advice columnist can, or will, do, what he as a parent, cannot.  There are none so blind, as those who will not see.

***

A man walks into a bookstore….

Sadly, this is not the opening line to a joke – at least not intentionally.  The “man” is the well-known, powerfully connected pastor of a large Protestant New York church.  After thundering from the pulpit about an attack on the Christian faith, he calls all his political buddies and complains to them, to the point that he is contacted by the TV show, The View, where he gets to complain an national television about how Christianity don’t get no  respect.

What was the trigger for all this, “Alas, woe is us?”  While he was in the bookstore, he saw some Bibles which were on sale.  That would seem to be a good thing for Christians….except, the shelf tag, advertising the sale, also listed them under “Fiction.”

As a minor addendum, after he finished whining to Elizabeth Hasselback, he finally admitted that it might have merely been an inattentive clerical oversight.  I think that, like above, the It’s All About Us button was pushed too soon and too hard, but, if it’s good enough for Brittany Spears and Lady Gaga, it’s good enough for the Bishop of New York.  I say, only change the tag when he can prove they’re not.

***

The pastor of a fairly large suburban Philadelphia Methodist church has been suspended for 30 days, to reflect on his actions and attitudes.  It was not said that he was suspended without pay, merely that his pastoral powers were temporarily removed.  He cannot perform weddings, or offer Holy Sacrament.

What was his crime, you ask?  He married his son, two years ago.  No, no!  Not like that!  He officiated at his son’s wedding.  I still see some confused faces, although that’s common on this site.  I’ll give you a hint.  Psst, his son is gay, and the Methodist Church don’t allow no equal rights, gay marriage ‘round here!

He was invited to a private little Star Chamber meeting by the ruling synod, who chastised him for marrying gays, in defiance of Church doctrine.  He fired back, rebuking them and the Methodist Church for not being more loving, acceptant, and inclusive.  That, at this late date, is what actually got him censured, this lack of blind faith and obedience, and of course, a tendency to think for himself.

This man has not been afflicted with the trials of Job himself, but I find it ironic, that, in a Denomination which does not believe in gays, three of the four children of this pastor, are gay.  It’s no wonder he’s fighting for their equality.

I love Jesus; it’s just many of his followers that I hate!

Food Service

On the third Saturday of November, we went to the Farmers’ Market.  They have the steel frame of the temporary replacement building up, and the plasticised canvas cover over it.  They’re just working on heating systems and internal power supply.  It should be ready for re-opening soon.  We later made several more shopping stops, and we all, but especially the daughter, had a big day.

The brunch meeting of the Free Thinkers was the next day, but she was nearing her next pain-med infusion treatment, and was just too weak and sore to attend.  She urged the son and me to go without her.

After parking, we picked up three beer bottles and three cans which had been left, after parties had spilled outside the night before.  We walked downstairs to the door that is always open, to find it locked, because of sewer work being done outside, so we walked back up two stories, to the door which is usually locked.  It’s a good thing the daughter didn’t come along.

Since we didn’t stop to pick up daughter/sister, we were early, arriving at 10:20, for a 10:30 meeting.  Something about the new hotel’s service caused them to begin the meeting at ten AM.  The son and I are not “members” so we weren’t notified, but we weren’t the only ones.  Other members continued to amble in after us.

Two full tables and a part table, where we soon joined the meeting in progress, greeted us.  Sitting across from each other ensured that both the son and I were surrounded, and well supplied with copious, varied conversation.  A later move to an emptying table, as the early birds left, garnered us more erudite, and non-Atheist, discussion.  My “boy”, who is almost BrainRants’ age, wants to go again.

The room was set up.  The coffee was ready.  The buffet was available, and more Sterno heaters were under the chafing dishes.  The food was warm.  Scrambled eggs with cheese had been replaced with eggs Benedict, a dish I refuse to touch.  The (cheap) ex-Mennonite lady demonstrated that there is menu service, something I may look at in the future.

She wears a pair of glasses, but took them off to read the menu.  I don’t know what the glasses do for her, but, if her nose had been a quarter-inch longer, she wouldn’t have been able to see it.  She is working with the chapter president to produce a Humanist/Atheist study module for the regional (and Ontario) schools.  No school, or teacher, will even mention it without having authorized course paperwork available for preparation.

She wants to have a list of influential people who are Humanists/Atheists.  The SOFREE website mentions Canadians such as actress/director, Sarah Polley, Canadian rock group Rush’s singer/songwriter, Geddy Lee (attn. Madame Weebles), actress Caitlynne Medreck, and scientist/oncologist/linguist, Rob Buckman.

She asked the room at large to send her names of others, especially Americans.  She has a Smartphone, but no computer, and has never seen a movie nor ever watched any TV.

There will be another meeting on Dec. 15, another early, third Sunday, but it will be overshadowed by the Winter Solstice party they have scheduled.  The calendar, this year, allows them to celebrate the 21st, on a Saturday.  We have decided to skip the December brunch, and not return till January.  We’ll have to check the website, or email someone to find out if they’ve returned to Waterloo, and what the start time is.

Because the two top (male) execs are members, the solstice party will be held at the premier local curling club.  They offered to take anyone interested, out for a quick instruction and practice session.  I picked up, and investigated a variant word usage.  The one man mentioned “a quick jitney”.  I was aware of meanings of that word being about unlicensed cabs, bus-type van-cabs, and small motorized non-autos.

In this usage, it refers to an unscheduled, fun match/game, with teams picked from a pool of attendees, particularly referring to curling, or lawn bowling, which is where I first saw the term as a child.

Shortly after I started working 40 years ago, at the building the son now works in, at the corner where you turn off the highway out of town, a six unit strip mall was erected.  Recently, it has changed hands.  Taking advantage of the destruction of the Farmers’ Market building, the internal walls were torn out, and it became a pretentious new boutique Market.

A recent newspaper had a two-and-a-half page congratulatory, Grand Opening announcement.  It has two meat vendors, one specializing in beef, the other in pork.  It has a seafood outlet, a coffee company, and a deli/cheese sales and lunch seating area.

Part of their advertising tries to pull disappointed patrons of the Farmers’ Market, but, it’s bright and cute, and I assume, more expensive.  A few might make the switch, but it just doesn’t have the same look/feel, and there are no vegetables, plants, Mennonite baking, or much parking.

That was my weekend (two weeks ago), how was yours??   By sheer coincidence of an every-three-days posting schedule, today, December 2, 2013 is our 46th wedding anniversary.  Don’t I get frequent flyer miles or something??   😉

Lost In Thought

Comment-provocateur John Erickson recently published a post about how Depression could derail him from his normal social circles, and send him off into extended bouts of abstruse research.  While our so-called minds don’t chase quite the same shiny objects, I appreciate his problem, because much the same can happen to me.

A typical recent day

I opened my stats page.  Someone had mined my archives and accessed my Trips With Mom And Dad post, from Feb. 18/12. I clicked on it to remind myself of the contents and comments.  This was the 14th post I had published, and was the one where I was given my very first blog-award.  Candice Coghill, for whom I recently published a requiem post, had given me a Versatile Blogger award.

I reread all the comments.  Hers included two links, one to her acceptance-speech post, and the other to the Versatile website. I nostalgically reread her post.  Mine had been the first comment, though, that far back, I didn’t have a good grasp of blog protocol, and hadn’t “liked” it.  Even though it means nothing to anyone but me, I corrected my oversight.

The Versatile logo apparently has worn off my old post, and I went to the site with the vague idea of lifting and re-applying it.  There are almost a hundred comments, over about three years, from people who have received the award.  Some wanted tech help.  Some seemed to think they must declare the receipt of their award.  Others did so with the intent to create some interest and drive readers to their site.

I picked one, not quite at random, a young female who mentioned the “seven facts about me.”  Snoopy is not just Charlie Brown’s dog.  She’s half Filipina, and half Irish-American.  She started out looking like her Dad, but has vitiligo, Michael Jackson’s “drinking bleach” disease, and now is whiter than her Mom.

I “liked” her post, and thought about leaving a long explanatory comment, but didn’t like the idea of an international restraining order.  Finally, the concept of a blog-theme broke through the mental clouds, and I was off to Dictionary.Com to check the meaning of abstruse.  Might as well look up abjure while I’m there – and a couple of others.

Crossword puzzle clue/solution, singer Alma Gluck, turns up fairly regularly, and the name Gluckstein came up recently.  Let’s use the German translation program to get an idea what those names mean.  Gluck could be printed in English as G’luck because, aside from fortune and favor, it means good luck.  Stein means stone, so Gluckstein means good luck stone, a magic amulet, or charm.

I could almost see Google beckoning to me.  Exactly who, what, and when was Alma Gluck??  She was a Romanian-Jew named Rebecca Feinsohn, who came to America around the beginning of the 20th Century.  She had a beautiful soprano voice and wanted to get into the entertainment business.  Since, at that time, Jews weren’t openly tolerated, she became the German, Alma Gluck.

Feinsohn translates as “fine son”, but “fine” used to mean small or delicate, like fine thread, or fine-grit sandpaper.  Was the progenitor of this surname small and delicate, or was he the A-one son we might think him today?

In the meantime, this Jewess, from a third of the planet away, became well-known for singing American folksongs like Carry Me Back to Old Virginny, and Swanee River with her husband, entertainer Efrem Zimbalist, not Junior, the original.  Now I know, who had no imagination.

I was down and up the stairs a half-dozen times.  I had to, to wear off all the food I stuff in my face.  It’s a good thing you didn’t see the platter of nachos I made myself for lunch.  I made and served lunch in bed to the wife, who’s still getting over her nasal surgery.  I fed and watered and medicated the cats, and let the dog out and in, each time returning to find out more about the German language, and a woman I’ve only met in newspaper crossword puzzles.

Yesterday’s crossword wanted “Kon-Tiki material” in 5.  Since I thought it was constructed of bundles of bulrush-like plants, I put in “reeds.”  I had to back out and work around to “balsa.”  Dictionary.Com has a crossword solver program, so I entered the clue.  Sure enough, there’s balsa, at the top, with a 90% likelihood.  The 6/7 other possibilities, in rapidly descending order are….interesting.  I copy them and put them in a Word file for a later post.

While I’m over at Google, looking up Alma’s skirt, I plug in Kon-Tiki, and, sure enough, there’s a picture of Heyerdahl’s balsa raft.  Or maybe that’s a photo of a couple of political refugees, on their way to Miami, from Cuba.

I finally heaved my bulk out of the computer chair, and headed downstairs to think about preparing supper.  (I fried up some onions and made up some boxed perogies, in case you care.)  Hot Damn!  It’s almost five PM!  I haven’t read anybody’s blog!  I haven’t read or responded to comments on my site!  I haven’t even read today’s paper, and I’m obsessing about composing this post.

I know I told you that I’d respect you, and call you in the morning but, ….if I haven’t shown up at your site for a couple of days, or a couple of weeks, I still love you.  It’s just that I’m lost in thought, since I have no mental GPS.  I’m probably wandering around in a forest of thoughts, that I can’t see for the trees, trying to entice my intellect back to reality with a virtual ice cream cone.  That explains why I also have a fat head.

Strangers In A Strange Land

With all due apologies to Robert Heinlein.

While none of us actively seek to do so, each member of our family often manages to be the odd man out.  The last place the son worked, he said he was the weirdest guy in the room.  He’s actually happy at the new plant, where, he says, he’s just the opening act.  There’s nothing that will hold a mirror up to your normalcy, or lack of it, like a road-trip, to see how others do it.  Jeff Foxworthy says it’s like goin’ to the local fair.  “Why, we’s dang near royalty!”  With that in mind, the son and I spent a weekend in the Detroit area.

He hasn’t been able to make the trip for almost ten years.  He had seen the photos of the big wind-turbines we passed last October, but nothing gives the scale like driving right under them.  I’ll include pictures, and maybe a video, in a later post.  He was impressed by their size, and proximity to the highway.  He was less impressed by the two fields of solar panels, which we didn’t get a picture of.  They just looked like someone had pulled a black shroud over a couple of acres of dead farmland, which, in effect, they had.

I think we passed the home of the lady who objected when the turbines were going up.  She complained that they already had enough wind in the area.  They didn’t need these big fans making more.  She could have been Liz’s sister.  D’oh!!

We crossed the Ambassador Bridge and stopped at a Security booth manned by a 30-ish male.  As I’ve said, we never mention knife shows.  As I do when the wife and I go down, I told him we were going to do some shopping.  I should have told him that the wife had sent along a list of stuff we can’t get in Canada.  We got Searched!  He looked in the car and saw two males claiming to be going shopping, and said, “Pop the trunk.  I want to take a look.”

I wasn’t worried.  He saw a shopping basket with five bottles of Pepsi, a large orange juice bottle, filled with iced tea, a smaller bottle with two days worth of orange juice, two newspapers and two crossword puzzles.  I’m surprised he wasn’t so bored he dozed off and fell into the trunk, but, back he came.  “Thanks guys.  Have a nice time.”  Them boys is too bland to be smugglers or terrorists.

We were supposed to have phoned the wife, our designated worrier, when we crossed the border in each direction, but we got distracted by all the big-city lights, and forgot till we were on the wrong side of the river.  The son tried to place a billed-to-the-room call when we got to the motel, but the phone system malfunctioned.  Finally on Saturday he placed a collect call.  She said that no police officer had showed up by 11 PM to report an accident, so she assumed we were safe.

After we booked in, we both lay down for a nap.  Mine was only an hour and a half.  Since the son had been up since 7 PM the previous day, I let him sleep four hours.  While he was still out, I took a walk, circling the Big Boy restaurant in front of the motel.  In the James Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever, Bond apologizes to a rat for having a gay assassin’s cheap cologne spilled on him.  He says, “One of us smells like a tart’s handkerchief.  Sorry old man, I think it’s me.”  Around on the unused side of the restaurant, two guys were doing something near two vehicles.  I assume they were the gay assassins, because, from 10 feet away, I could hardly breathe from the tart’s handkerchief smell.  I left quickly, lest I be invited to join the party.

We went out to check a couple of possible places to get good fish and chips.  I passed a place I had found on-line, on the way to another spot.  We decided to go back to it, because it looked more reputable than the one recommended by the on-call ambulance team I had met.  We walked in just ahead of two young men, just before 7 PM.  A sign out front threatened “Live Entertainment”, and they were it.

The fish was good.  The chips were the milk-powder coated variety for crispness, the kind the lactose-intolerant wife can’t eat.  Without the spoilsport chaperone wife along, I had a cup of decent bean soup, a bowl of crisp, well-dressed coleslaw, and  a 20 ounce glass of well-chilled, Australian-type, 8.5 percent, craft-brewed ale from Wisconsin.

The two musicians (?) played a keyboard and a guitar, and one of them sang – I think, although the noun caterwauling came to mind.  Without any help from the studio audience, I managed to identify every song they played, even if they couldn’t.  Is it cynical to note that those few of the audience who clapped, did so when these guys stopped playing?

We stopped at my favorite Meijer store on the way back to the motel, and got everything on the wife’s list except flavored coffee creamers.  Oh, the excitement, it was like electricity in the air.  We were asleep again by midnight.  Tomorrow we attend the knife show.  Stop in to the site, I hope to post pictures.

Statistics Status Stasis

I’ve seen other bloggers gleefully, boastfully, posting about their year-end WordPress stats.  Much against my own advice and better judgement, I’ve decided to serve up a little tale of my own results.

I don’t remember WordPress presenting stats, last year.  Even if they did, I only managed to get out two posts in late November, and another two in December, before the *Flu To End All Flus* almost ended me, and F….ouled up my vision.  I could barely run the keyboard, much less the WordPress platform.

Over the past year, I’ve improved and increased my output, but still didn’t set the world on fire.  The fireworks on my report consisted of a picture of the kid next door, with a birthday candle in a cupcake.  In my report’s reference to Mount Everest, apparently the cargo plane hasn’t even landed at the airport in Nepal.  If my output were compared to Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill, he’d still only be halfway up, the first time.

Actually, not setting the world on fire with my prose is not a disappointment.  It was neither an expectation nor a desire, when I started.  Veni, Vidi, Vocab.  You came, you read, and you commented, and for that, I am greatly gratified.  I continue to read, and be read by, some interesting and impressive people.

Actually, a couple of things about the daily report, interest and confuse me more than anything in the big year-end wrap-up.  Along with other bloggers, I am surprised by the themes of posts which seem to attract the most views.  Post something about Native poverty, or religious intolerance, and get the usual crowd slouching through, kicking the tires.  Put up a little fluff piece, and have to step back into a corner, to keep from having my toes stepped on.

My most visited piece this past year, was a (hopefully) humorous acceptance speech for a blog award which had been flung at me.  For three or four months, my most-visited day was 71 viewers.  Near the beginning of December, suddenly that same day was only worth 69 views.  Wha’ happun??  Did two of my readers die?!

I offer that possibility flippantly, but, one of my followers is a cancer sufferer, and another is a hopefully recovering drug/alcohol addict who was missing for about three months, because she had a car crash.  Neither has posted in months.  I am concerned!  Can any of you techies out there explain why my reported viewership is shrinking?  I believe I remember Edward Hotspur mentioning that the same thing had happened to him.

The other thing which baffles me, is the new, “so many actual visitors/so many different page-views” daily report.  During one day, when I checked, the report showed 5 visitors, and 6 separate views….yet I had 10 *likes*!  Somewhat later in the day, when my ego drove me to check again, it still showed only 5 visitors….but now 7 different views, even though all views were of the most recent post, and I now had 11 *likes*.

Again, if one of you who understand WordPress workings wishes to explain its arcane actuarial tables, I’m interested, but not concerned.  When I reached my one-hundredth post, I expressed concern about coming up with more blog-themes.  It may have been like driving past a traffic accident, but apparently I entertain a few folks, and was urged to continue posting my digital diarrhea.  I’m now near 140 posts, and occasional ideas continue to pop up.  You’ll not get rid of me easily.  I’m goin’ out typing and tapping….

……Gerry Seinfeld just called.  He said, Enough of the Yada-Yada, Nothin’ already, put this puppy to bed before all my readers doze off.  I just threw this post together because I wanted something time-sensitive.  I’ll be here all week, ladies and gentlemen.   I’ll be back soon with a Christmas-cookie photo spread, and some more serious fare.  A Happy New Year to all, and to all – good blogging.