Below is this week’s journal entry: 1) a three-paragraph story beginning with a Mad-Libs type character identification. 2) two paragraphs where a character’s garbage is analyzed, and 3) a free-verse poem about someone who is older but is still a kid at heart. Lucky for me, quality is not scrutinized on these journals–but I have some new things to work with for later projects!
Scotty Rodriguez is a mischievous sixty-three-year-old sanitation employee who wants closure. “It’s the worst timing, Scotty,” Earl said as he squeezed his friend’s flimsy shoulder. The two men inhabited the cold, detached waiting room on the third floor of Jennings County Hospital. Four hours earlier, Scotty had driven his wife of thirty-nine years to the Emergency Room after he had found her limp on their paisley sofa. Their only accompaniment was the whirring of the generic soda machine. The clock above Scott Rodriguez’s bowed head informed the otherwise empty room that the new day was ninety-six minutes old. Earl glanced up at the clock and grimaced. His eyes settled down on the apex of his friend’s head and examined the pale patch of uncovered skin. A small island of bumps within the patch suggested the retarded recovery of a seemingly painful strike to that tender area.
Scotty wiped his nose with a yellowed handkerchief and sniffed. “Can you believe we were just talking about taking a trip to South Carolina to look at property?” His voice cracked at the final word, and Earl assumed there had been more planned. Janitors, even those who served in Vietnam, did not typically have a bundled savings that would allow them to retire south. Earl knew Scotty’s income because they’d been hired at the same time over a decade ago and have never been given anything but the same minimal raise each year since. . That said, it would have been in poor taste to contradict the possibility of moving.
“Look, Scott. Sheesh, I don’t know what to do here, ya know?” Earl attempted to lighten the mood–something he did at the lab every Monday through Friday evening. “You know, Libby and I don’t have much, but I gotta say,” he trailed off. His mouth was announcing things faster than he could control them. Suddenly, before Earl could continue, a short lullaby played overhead, announcing a birth. “Huh,” he continued. “Another life comes into the world.” He turned to Scotty, who was staring blankly at his handkerchief. “Listen, it’s not much, but I’d like to help you.” He withdrew several crisp twenties from his ragged wallet and did not count them. “Go the Carolina on this. Just go right after the funeral. Libby and I can help take care of all the other stuff until you come back.” He shoved the cash in his friend’s hand and remembered it had been intended for groceries the following day. Without speaking–without even nodding–Scotty Rodriguez stood, shoved the handkerchief into the back pocket of his faded blue coveralls, and left the hospital. When he reached the beachfront sixteen hours later, he knew he was not returning to bury his wife.
The top layer of Larry Markum’s garbage does not surprise me at all. Apple and banana peelings prove that he continues his habitual fruit intake to this day. Pushing these aside, I notice a cigar catalog that bears his address but not his name. This has been his residence for over three years, but he must have been too lazy to contact the distributor to inform them of the change. The first really bizarre item here is a browned, cracked tennis ball. When we were kids, Larry played catch with these with our dogs Frankie and Lizzie, but his building boasts a firm NO PETS policy on the front window. Several wadded up paper towels and three granola bar wrappers only show me that he has yet to venture beyond his longtime affinity for the types of snacks that allow multi-tasking. Digging a little further in I see two rather disturbing items that must have been tossed out at the same moment: a child’s toy and a half-empty milkshake from a local eatery. My brother does not have children, and he’s lactose intolderant.
Larry has been posting some very odd things online lately. There was a time when we emailed one another once or twice a week, but that has all but subsided and been replaced with social media. Nowadays, I learn things about him at the same time as the rest of the world. Sadly, what he’s been posting could very well be misconstrued and even criminal. He dodges my calls, and, well, here’s something interesting: his phone. Like the rest of us, he’s abandoned a land line, but this old cell phone was in his hands all last Christmas at Mom’s. Sure, it could have been replaced, but I remember my daughter and her friend Denise telling me that Uncle Larry’s phone was even nicer than hers. The face is cracked. Oh, my! Here’s something I didn’t expect to see. One, two, oh my God five pregnancy tests. There’s no indicator readout, but who takes so many of these in a single setting? And why is Denise’s senior picture torn in half?
For years, my brother and I were told
That our humor must have come
From our Uncle Bob,
Our mother’s brother,
Because wittiness isn’t achieved over time.
It’s ingrained in our blood.
My uncle was a teenager
When his little sister,
Our mother, was brought into the world.
Just as the Second World War was beginning.
Their relationship only really began
When they were both adults.
I’m told, however, that only my mother grew up.
Once, when we visited them in Louisiana,
my uncle took us in his car
to get drive-through chicken.
He would have been in his sixties.
With the order complete, and his old Dodge humming loudly,
he informed the teen on the other end
That our order was “To go.”
It’s over two decades later,
And I remember our backseat laughter
As well as I imagine
His happiness in being a part of it.