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Check out my book on the female jazz singers of the 20s to the 60s.
David Halliday’s Smashwords Author Profile: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/powerOFh
Book page to sample or purchase The Saints of Jazz: http://smashwords.com/b/27189
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Check out my new old book
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The Widow Murphy leaned over the stroller and smiled. She liked taking care of Alvin while his mother was absent. Alvin’s mother was testing perfume. The Widow smiled again. Like a pitcher throwing a change-up after his fastball. There was a certain kindness in the widow’s smile. Maybe it was the dentures. Produced by an old man from Port Elgin. Near the ball park. The Widow’s long black skirt was waving like curtains. Opening night at the Apollo. James Brown and his band of Renown. The floors of the pharmacy were sticky. And the air was blue. Posters hung from the ceiling. Like long lost friends. Gone bad. And the laughter was infectious. Like a yawn in a subway. The air rushed down the long tunnel. Threatening to sweep you under the wheels. And no one could stay out of the way of that beat. And the Widow had been there. Shaking her hair that twisted above her head like a briar. She smiled at all those good times. The honeymoon by the lake. And the full butter moon. The larks that cried out like stray dogs. Chasing sedans down the street. And Alvin was included. What a beautiful child. She suspected. What else could he have been? Came into the world laughing. Like someone had told him a joke at the last minute. Just before his arrival. Maybe it was something about rose petals. Or the smell of urethane. Life was good for little Alvin. That day. Or so he thought. But not this day. Alvin McGuire did not smile back. At the widow. He remembered opening night. How could he forget it? The Widow was always reminding him about it. Every time she stopped his mother so she could sink her face into Alvin’s personal pool. She reminded Alvin. How his head had been so big at his birth that Mrs. McGuire almost died. Mrs. McGuire smiled at these stories. She loved being the star of anyone’s story. The widow continued. Stirring Alvin’s memories. Remember, she always said. How they had to take a saw to your dear mother. Bones. Not some ordinary saw. A chain saw. There were pools of blood on the floor. And splatter marks on the wall. Like the Simpson trial. And screams that would have sent a shiv up your spine. How when little Alvin came into this world one of the doctors thought that it might have been the birth of a new universe. Like Mrs. McGuire’s uterus was a wormhole. And who the hell knew what might fly through it’s gates. The Big Bang. The nurses had laughed. That’s what the nursing staff called Alvin’s conception. The Big Bang. Dr. Sullivan had cracked that one. He was so funny. The nurses declared Especially for a urologist. Just happened to be in the parking lot that morning. When Dr. Williams complained about his golf game. You go to the driving range, Dr. Sullivan suggested. I’ll take care of your schedule this morning. And little Alvin was on that schedule. Like soup on a menu. The Widow reminded little Alvin about that day. Burnt it into his memory. Not because she disliked children. The widow held onto the peculiar philosophy that one could only become successful in life if one survived a major scar during one’s youth. If one was traumatized. Look at Napoleon, she insisted on pointing out. But no one was sure why. Besides being short and prematurely balding, what horrible event in his childhood had little Napoleon to overcome. Still the Widow held onto those three little words. You are different. And the Widow wanted little Alvin McGuire to be successful in life. Normalcy bred only Swiss Guards and accountants. In the Widow’s eyes, Alvin must be remembered. Alvin did not agree. Not that he had a particularly good argument to offer in response to the Widow’s notion. He was too inexperienced for that. The Widow scared him. And that seemed to offer a cautionary note to his response to the old woman. That and the hanging flesh that swayed under her chin. It sent a chill up Alvin’s spine. The old woman was turning into a lizard. Too long in the sun. Too many days on the planet. If I ever get to look that old, shoot me! he might have thought. When the old woman had pushed her attentions on the young child, Alvin was watching a commercial on the television monitor. Behind Mrs. Murphy. Who was looking at various vitamin pills. Mrs. McGuire was always attempting to find ways to extend conscious life. Her conscious life. And she’d heard about the power of vitamins. If only there weren’t so many of them. The commercial Alvin was watching was about taxes. And how people should hire lawyers to protect them against the government. That’s what smart people did. The government was the enemy. Especially the school board. And trigonometry. Had anyone found any use for it? Alvin didn’t know much about trigonometry. Except co-sines of which he had digested a few. His mother often accused him of shitting out tangents. But about smart people. They enjoyed lawyer-client confidentiality. Alvin liked the sound of that. But he didn’t like the idea that he needed a lawyer to protect him. Especially since he hadn’t sent in his income tax form. Since he hadn’t filled out a form. Since he had no income. That wouldn’t have mattered to the government. That’s what folks said. The government seemed determined to squeeze every last nickel out of everyone. And the Widow’s smile? Those weren’t her real teeth. How about her eyes? Were they cameras? Was she secretly an agent for the government? Was this their new tactic? Employ kindly old ladies to harass kids in strollers. And when the old woman reached down with her withered lips to take her accustomed kiss from the small child, Alvin did the only thing he could think of in the circumstances. He spit.
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Why do we remember things? I met a girl named Eleanor. It was at university. She told me that her name was pronounced with a silent E. As if you said her name as “Lenor”. I guess the A was silent as well. I never forgot that conversation. Although I can remember very little about the girl. Perhaps her insistence on the silent ‘e’ annoyed me. Or intriqued me. I’m not sure we ever spoke again. Perhaps she didn’t like the expression on my face when she said silent ‘e’. If she reads this I would like to say, “Eleanor, I love your silent E.”
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The Higg’s Silence
“I took the package out of my purse and when I tried to open the lid of the pills… oops! The top flipped off and the pills flew into the toilet. My heart fluttered. I swear it. Like a butterfly in your fingers. Then I knelt down and wept for an hour. God, this is so impossible. Why do I confess all of this to you? But like the old song says, love will bloom in that starlit hour with you. Have you ever waited in a train station?”
Mrs. Newton felt like panting. Like a dog. He probably thinks that I’m lying. One little scratch behind the ear. That wouldn’t look too odd. I wish I could have heard the Beatles at Albert Hall.
Mr. Edwards stared across the counter at the attractive blond. He’d seen junkies before. But never so immaculately dressed. He couldn’t help but wonder if he’d fed his gold fish that morning. It was always a problem. Overfeed them and they turned belly up. Don’t feed them and they ate each other. And ended up. Belly up. And then there was that gas bill.
Before Mr. Edwards could respond, Mrs. Newton continued.
“If I was a writer. Would have spilt ink all over the veranda. If a hunter. Fire across the savannah. It is so romantic waiting for a lover. Who does not arrive. And all those touching sentiments betray you. Sometimes I feel like a Hallmark card. Loose ends. What to do next. That is how I felt. Like a klutz. Is that spelled with a ‘c’ or a …”
Mr. Edwards smiled. Sometimes there’s nothing you can say. He waited. She might not be finished. But Mrs. Newton had nothing else to say. So she smiled. And this smiling back and forth went on for some time. Like a tennis match. Without a ball.
Why are you lying? And if not lying, why not simply go see your doctor? Mr. Edwards thought.
He knows I’m lying. Body language. Smells like chemical equations. I can smell his reprimands. Mrs. Newton thought. Then her mind went blank. And her thoughts banged around in her head. Like a blind man. In a room. Without doors.
“They flipped out of the package?” Mr. Edwards repeated.
The wrong question to ask. She probably thinks. That I think. She’s lying.
“Yes,” the blond said. “They just flipped out of my hands. Right into the toilet water. Well there’s no way I could fish them out. Who would want to place one of those pills… It goes without saying.”
Mr. Edwards smiled. “It goes without saying.”
“Did you know,” Mrs. Newton asked, “that in 1956 Nat King Cole was beaten while performing on stage in a small city in the South?”
Mrs. Newton was chocked full of information like this. She did not know where they came from. Or why. Or what any of it was worth? But it always seemed to catch people off guard.
While Mr. Edwards considered Mrs. Newton’s story about Nat King Cole she continued to talk.
“And I just got the prescription the other day. Something to settle my nerves. Nerves are such funny things. They jangle around in your head. And affect your juggling. Simple things. Like mirrors. And hairbrushes. And in this especially unfortunate situation, my pills. I know that if I had been myself I would never have dropped them. But then… well it goes without saying.”
Mr. Edwards continued to smile. Though he could feel a headache coming on.
“Didn’t anyone help Nat King Cole?”
The blonde smiled back at him.
“Excuse me?” she said.
“The story,” Mr. Edwards responded, “about Nat King Cole.”
Mr. Edwards smiled. As did Mrs. Newton. She stared back at Mr. Edwards waiting as did Mr. Edwards. Another bout. The Higg’s silence.
Is he trying to find out which one of us will break first?
No one spoke. Finally the pharmacist could take it no longer.
“Do you have the package with you?”
Mrs. Newton fished into her purse and pulled out the empty pill container addressed to Mrs. Newton. It was a prescription that Mr. Edwards himself had issued. But he could not remember doing so. He couldn’t remember much of anything so preoccupied was his mind with the beating of Nat King Cole. How come I never heard that story before?
“Mrs. Newton?” Mr. Edwards asked, looking up from the empty pill tube.
“Mary Newton.” The blond smiled. “Or Tess if you wish. Friends call me Tess. My husband calls me Mary. The maid calls me Miss. My husband is the manager of the bank in the plaza. He is a very powerful man. A man who can be beneficial to anyone in business. His name isn’t important. For now.”
“Yes.” Mr. Edwards nodded. “I have met your husband on a couple of occasions. Business meetings. What would you have us do?”
Mary Newton brushed the hair from her eyes as she sighed. A cute little sigh that she most often performed with one hand on her hip.
“I would like you to replace the pills. If you would. Please.”
Mr. Edwards keyed in Mrs. Newton’s name into the computer. He asked her for her address. She complied. He licked his lips. It was a habit he had acquired any time he had to pass on bad news.
“We can’t replace your pills, Mrs. Newton.”
“You can’t… I don’t understand.” Her eyes grew large. As if that would improve her hearing.
“We can’t renew your prescription. There was nothing on the previous prescription to allow that. There were no repeats.”
Mrs. Newton stared at the pharmacist. She could not believe what she was hearing.
“I don’t understand,” she said. “I haven’t taken any of the pills. It’s as if I’d never even bought them. Now don’t go correcting me. There on my husband’s medical plan.”
“It’ s quite explicit. The prescription does not cover refills.”
“But, I haven’t taken any of the pills. It’s not a refill.” Mrs. Newton raised her eyebrows ever so slightly. Blood began to be sopped up by her face. She felt one ear. It was burning hot.
“If you would like, Mrs. Newton, we could phone your doctor and ask him if he would allow you to renew the prescription.”
“And you’ll tell him what happened to the pills?”
“We’ll relay your story.”
Mrs. Newton took a deep breath.
“It isn’t a story. It’s the truth.”
The pharmacist smiled. “I’m sure it is, mam, but we have no way of confirming that. I’m sure that your doctor, who knows you better that we do, will renew your prescription.”
“I’m sure he would but… he’s gone on holiday.”
Mr. Edwards looked at Mrs. Newton and shrugged.
“What does that mean?”
“There’s nothing that we can do then.”
Mrs. Newton took a deep breath. She was growing increasingly impatient.
“Is there something you could suggest?”
Mr. Edwards thought for a moment.
“There is a doctor on duty in the clinic attached to the drug store. He might be able to help you.”
Mrs. Newton smiled with relief.
“Oh,” Mr. Edwards said. “I’m sorry. I forgot. It’s six o’clock.”
Mrs. Newton looked at the pharmacist.
“It’s six o’clock?”
“He’s gone home,” the pharmacist explained. “At least he has left.”
Mrs. Newton stared at the pharmacist for some time. She wanted to remember his face. Then she turned and walked sharply away from the counter and down the aisle toward the exit. Across the parking lot .Stepped into her car. Turned on the ignition. Her automobile was conveniently pointed. Directly at the drug store.
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We throw around the word ‘murder’. Its on television, in movies, books etc. People are more concerned with the f, b, n, etc words than with the word ‘murder’. I’m a writer and I’ve used murder as part of several books. But the actual horror of someone taking away someone else’s “one time” shot at being alive hardly touches us. Unless of course there is a murder in our family. Or to a close friend. Or even an a acquaintance. And then the utter futulity of the act, the waste of another human being, hits us like a wall.
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