Barney’s Life

Bernard Henry Lupofski arrived from the old country with uncertain provenance. Though wanting for blood relatives he was never without family. His single aspiration was to experience an unremarkable life. His success was measured by complete and utter failure.

            Through Barney we saw a rose coloured world. He walked on quiet soles and touched with soft hands. What he noticed was worth reflecting. He gave without invitation and consumed nothing worth counting. Barney’s name did not appear in the newspaper. He passed through the cosmos without wake yet the stars he skirted became brighter for him.

            I met Barney in an odd circumstance. A busker pulled me from the crowd and proceeded to draw bright objects from my orifices. Children squealed with delight as did an odd little man with pince-nez. The entertainer reached slowly for Barney’s glasses, seeking acquiescence from the little man. Barney leaned forward to allow the gesture. The glasses passed through my head from one ear to the other to the immense pleasure of all. For a moment I saw the world anew. I can best describe the feeling as easy. I insisted that the busker repeat the trick. He did, and the feeling passed through me again. I shared coffee and cotton candy with Barney that day and we became…well, connected.

            But my encounter was not extraordinary. Each of you invited Barney into your life following a chance meeting at a crossroads. Appearing without expectation, Barney illuminated your perception in the most surprising of venue: A whale-watching boat. The public library. The street outside daycare. The civic gardens. Spanish class. None of us noticed Barney’s influence until much later. His disciples did not immediately follow in his footsteps. Instead we continued on our ways, ignorant of the new force leading us gently toward higher, more fulfilling roads.

            This morning has been enlightening. Before today I knew none of you. Before today I knew not our connection. Before today I thought my actions were for the most part independent of outside affect. I am humbled and quieted by the realization that my life has been a distinct and parallel version of each of yours’.

            In my mind’s eye I can see Barney standing in that crowd, his pudgy face framing the dimples his pince-nez impressed on his nose. But despite our long relationship, that image is the only one I can call up of the man. Strange. It originates from that moment, the moment that his glasses were in my head. Because of Barney, we all see more clearly.

            Charge and raise your cups: To Barney.

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NEWS! My latest play has been chosen for production!

LAST FALL, a thirty minute one-act play that chronicles a love affair that starts in a cancer clinic, has been chosen by Satc0 for it’s 2013 fall schedule at the Phoenix Theatre in Victoria! Of course, I’m very excited to see my play produced. Stay tuned for information on scheduled performances!

I wrote this play in the winter of 2013 with the generous assistance of Joan McLeod, one of Canada’s most celebrated and accomplished dramatists. My heartfelt thanks to Joan.

The Mayor of Osterville

Who wants to be the god-damned mayor?  That prick Denny comes into my backyard with the whipper-snipper on his shoulder and says we gotta go right now.  Right now in his truck.  Jesus, that truck only gets to about half of the places it starts out for.  So I grab my hat an’ we’re bumpin’ along S. Service Rd. at like 40 while the semis whistle by at 80 on the other side of the fence and over the rushes.  The road is sinking into the marsh faster than a stray tomcat finds a fight.  Where the fuck we goin’? I ask again.  He aint bitin’.  I’m in for the works.  So we get to the end of S. Service Rd. and Denny hollers somethin’ about the wheel and the truck starts to swish this way and that and the next thing I know I’m upside down in the ditch with fuckin’ catfish jizz all over my face.

“Fucking hell.”

“I’ll say. What the fuck?”

“I been meaning to get that wheel bearing done.”

“You been meanin’?” I cringe when I see the blood runnin’ down Denny’s ear.  It aint fatal but it aint pretty neither.  “Where the fuck we goin’ in such a damn hurry anyways?” I say.

“You going to be the mayor,” he says.

“What the fuck?”

“Yeh, turns out the voting is all but done and nobody’s voted at all and there’s a small print that says if nobody’s gonna be the mayor, you can be a write-on.”

“A write-in? That’s dumb.  Nobody’s gonna be a write-in for mayor.  And whaddya mean nobody’s voted and the votin’s done?” I says.

“Did you vote?” he asks.  And he don’t wait for an answer.  “Did your ma vote?  Did your pa vote?  Didn’t did they? Neither did mine or poor Alice, or Fargie or his elderly charge, or two-handed Luke Bishop and his kin.  So nobody’s voted and you gonna be the mayor.”

“What if I aint want to be mayor?”

“Don’t want it?  Let me tell ya, man, the mayor is the balls!  The mayor is— you get a desk and people call you all formal and you get to eat at the diner even when the sign says its closed and you get to throw out the first pitch o’ the season over at Larabe’s field when the team from Porterman’s Jailhouse comes.  Don’t want to be the mayor? Jesus, man, it’s the best job in the whole damn territory.”

“Mayor, huh?”

He smiles that wry pelican smile, like he knows where the mama catfish hangs out.  “Yeah. Sir Mayor Winslow fucking Washington, the hat.”

“I aint gonna give up my moniker, you’re right about that.  Mayor Hat Washington.  I like it.  It got a ring.”

“Fucking eh.” By now we’s up on the road, lookin’ down on the remains o’ fuckin’ Denny’s truck, all crumpled like Pastor Hildebrand’s mailbox after Tommy’s birthday bash, and Denny gets all uppity and says we gotta go. Almost time till the polls close. And if Denny and I vote for me then I get to be the mayor.  The Mayor of Osterville, SD. U.S.A.  Fucking Mayor Hat.

New video! Update. Please visit my blog.

The Making of TILL DEATH is now on Youtube. There is a link at the top of my blog page. Check it out and watch for my working fashion crimes!  I’ve also added a link at the right so you can click and easily FOLLOW my blog. This will allow ensure that you are apprised of my current fiction publication and posts and the status of the films I’m working on. Thanks for visiting! Cheers-

Sanitorium

William Orrow drew a gate pass from the pocket of his lab coat without breaking stride. He flashed it before the card reader and acknowledged the electromagnetic click that released the seasoned oak door to the vestibule. He always acknowledged the click as though it were a human nod, a welcome to the office.

Lochhaven Green is the oldest member of our community. Once the home of the banished and unthinkable, it was almost literally at the end of the world. But its third century of duty saw restoration, reconfiguration, and reconsideration. The facility now boasts the highest level of contemporary implementation of psychiatric care in the region. And the city has swollen such that Lochhaven is currently well ensconced in the central boroughs. William Orrow is one of the vehicles of that implementation. Certified, registered, and no doubt a recipient of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, Bill knows his shit, so to speak.  He’s not a shrink. He’s a patient care facilitator. The sharp end of the stick.

Bill squinted when exposed to Lochhaven’s inquisitorial lighting. He returned the gate pass to his pocket and snagged the light-sensitive reading glasses that hung by an arm onto the neck of his shirt. His work glasses were Bill’s procedural opus, his administrative masterpiece. The sunglass portion darkened just enough to take the edge off of the oppressively bright illumination of the patient facilities. The bottom half of the lenses were progressive readers. With his armour so installed, Bill waved to the nursing station and nodded to the second and third electromagnetic clicks that heralded his entry to patient lounge C.

“It’s the doc, the doc, the doc. Click clock bipity bop, it’s the doc, the doc, the doc,” Happy Harold mumbled to himself as Bill secured the door behind him and smiled at the tall brunette nurse with the funny teeth. The one with her finger on the button.

“Hello Harold,” Bill said with genuine pleasure. “It’s good to see you too.” Bill paused to take in the surroundings as he had been trained. This was his opportunity to size up the environment. How many patients are in the immediate area? Are they in groups or are they solitary? Is the mood elevated? Depressed? Angry? Are there any potential dangers within view? What objects could be used as weapons? The Scrabble Board? The tiles? Harold’s flannelette belt? The nurses are present and alert at the station and monitoring the door. They know he’s in there. Seven patients: Harold, Henry, Tiffany, Erik, Solomon, Sunburst Plum, and Dr. Liu. Bill was particularly interested in Dr. Liu.

“Hey Dr. Liu. Hello!” Bill shouted. He raised his hand.  Tiffany and Solomon watched Oprah on television. Henry and Sunburst Plum sat at the Scrabble table. Henry had his hand under the table on Sunburst Plum’s knee. He smiled heartily toward Bill in search of a reaction. Bill shook his head and let the minor contravention go. Was it a contravention at all?  Bill considered the rule: If the purpose of the touching was to elicit a response from a patient care facilitator it could hardly be described as being with sexual intent. Hmmm. Bill erupted in a broad smile when he visualized his logic exonerating Hank and Sunburst from intercourse on the Scrabble table if the purpose was only to get a rise out of him. Happy Harold held a jelly-bean up to the light of a wire-reinforced window. Erik read aloud. Thomas the Tank Engine. Lee Liu was working in a thick notepad with a faux reptile cover.

“Doctor,” Lee Liu said quietly.

“Doctor,” Bill replied as he pulled up a chair.  “How are you today?”

“Not Loo. Liu,” Lee corrected. He used extra syllables to emphasize the correct pronunciation.

It took Bill a second to remember using Lee’s last name.

“Your hand was in the air.”

“Yes, I remember now. Dr. Liu.” Bill mimicked Lee’s exaggeration.

“No need for sarcasm, Doctor.” Lee said. He turned his attention to his workbook for a moment. Then having apparently completed a task, he closed the book and laid the pencil gently on top.

“What are you working on, Doctor?” Bill asked.

“An interesting question.”

“How so?”

“We’re all one. Yet one part of one does not know what another part is doing.”

“Yes, I see,” Bill said. He noticed Sunburst trading in her whole set of tiles and made a mental note to revisit the rules of the game with she and Henry.

“You see what?” Lee asked.

“That we’re all one.”

“I think you do not see. I think you subscribe to the contemporary and attractive theory that all life is connected. That all matter comes from a single origin at the commencement of time, the beginning of the universe. I believe you have failed to fully grasp my position,” Lee explained.

Bill listened carefully. He knew better than to offer Lee less than his complete attention. “So what exactly is your position then?”

“We are all one. Not of one, or from one, but one. As a thumb is to a forefinger, are you and I. Parts of a single organism.”

“And why don’t I know what you are doing in that workbook?”

“Ah,” Lee said. He monitored Bill’s attention for genuine interest.  “I am not in the workbook, as you and I, components of this single unity, are aware. But if your question is why you do not know what I know, the answer is simple: You have not learned how to see through these eyes.

“How would I do that?”

“As any part of a living organism must learn to communicate with another part. By experience. By experimentation. By will and practice.”

“That sounds very difficult,” Bill said.

“Have you ever tried to see through these eyes, doctor?”

Bill considered the question. Lee was entirely unschooled in science or philosophy but incredibly scientifically persuasive. More so than even Bill. The inescapable truth was that Bill found Lee’s ideas compelling, logical, and enlightened. Bill spoke of Lee often when outside of Lochhaven. Bill thought through Lee’s theories in the quiet of his dreams.

“No. I suppose I haven’t,” Bill conceded.

“Do try,” Lee said.

“To see through your eyes?”

“Counterproductive,” Lee snapped.

“Come again?”

“It is counterproductive to label them my eyes. They are eyes. They cannot be seen as your eyes, as you have already established neural patterns for control and reception through those. You cannot see them as my eyes, as you have long ago accepted that you cannot see through the eyes of another. See them as eyes only, and try to establish a connection with these eyes. Set aside what you have learned. Accept willingly that you may have missed a lesson or two. Work to see through these eyes.”

Bill lost his need to contain Lee’s theory and reinforce to Lee what he knows to be fact. Bill did as Lee asked. Bill tried to establish a connection with those eyes.

First, Bill tried to find an irregularity in his own lab coat. An irregularity visible from the opposing chair. A stain. A wrinkle. A thread amiss. Then Bill saw his effort, correctly, as a potential parlour trick. The goal was not to prove the theory by identifying a physical trait that could only be known from an opposite point of view, but to live the experience of another vantage point. Bill tried to establish a connection to those eyes. Eyes not previously thought of as his own, but his own nonetheless. And for a moment, for a brief and fleeting moment, Bill saw himself hunched over in deep concentration, brow furled, eyes closed to eliminate confusion, brain plying avenues of instinct and intuition for a pathway to a new perspective. And then it was over.

“I think I saw,” Bill said.

“What did you see?”

“I saw me. In this sanitorium. Trying to find a way to see through new eyes.”

“Yes,” Lee said. “I believe you may have seen. And were you, the you observed through your new sight, competent? In control?”

“I was trying to comply. Trying to follow your instructions. To see things your way.”

“As was I,” Lee said. And he opened his notebook once again.

“Are you writing about me in there?” Bill asked. Lee smiled and continued writing. “I see,” Bill continued. “We’re part of the same organism.”

“Yes,” Lee spoke without interrupting his note taking. “We are one.” Lee closed the book one more time and placed it on his lap. “I am tired,” he said.

“Until tomorrow then,” Bill replied. He pushed back the chair and rose to his feet. He paused to consider the other patients in the room. For a moment, he tried to see through Oprah’s eyes, and Harold’s. And the nurse with the funny teeth.

That night at home with the television on and his paperwork in front of him, Bill thought about the thin line that separates the patients at Lochhaven Green from you and I. Bill thought about the events that precipitated the incarceration, indoctrination, or involuntary commitment of his patients. Bill thought about seeing through Lee Liu’s eyes.

That night at the sanatorium, with neither television nor paperwork, Lee thought about the thin line that separates the patients at Lochhaven Green from you and I. Lee thought about the events that precipitated the incarceration, indoctrination, or involuntary commitment of the patients. Lee thought about seeing through Dr. Bill’s eyes.

As Bill fell asleep in a featherbed in his loft, he listened to the hum of the distant air circulation system at Lochhaven, studied the exquisite cornice moldings and dished ceiling of the patient residence wing, and pulled the state-issued course sheets up under his chin. And he flipped through Dr. Liu’s notebook with interest.

The next day, Bill approached the facility with a spring in his step. He flashed his pass card and virtually skipped into Lochhaven’s Thursday wing, as he called Patient Lounge A.  He nodded to Nurse Teeth and bound into the room without the requisite contemplative scouting and patted Sunburst Plum on the shoulder on his way to Lee Liu.

“Oh, that was nice,” she said. Bill paused for a moment, then continued on.

“Dr. Liu, I would like to speak with you if you have a moment,” Bill said.

“Of course, Doctor,” Lee replied. He sat quickly at one of a pair of facing square fabric chairs with a wooden block of a table between.

“Last night, I felt I was looking up at your ceiling. Here. At Lochhaven.”

Lee considered this news. “And how did that feel?” he asked.

“It felt, well, freeing.”

“That’s very interesting,” Lee said.

“Yes, I know, and, well, I want to see your workbook, if you would let me.”

“I don’t know that you’re ready.”

Bill thought for a moment. “When will I be ready?” he asked with caution.

“This workbook contains nothing more than the random thoughts of an insignificant mind recorded from a somewhat restricted perspective.” Lee looked around the room as though demonstrating the terms of his incarceration.

Bill acknowledged the gesture. “I understand,” he said. “And my review of those thoughts will be through the unremarkable eyes of one sharing your limitations.” Bill mimicked Lee’s visual acknowledgment of the relevance of their surroundings.

Lee considered the contents of the workbook. He fingered the glued spine and pressed paper cover, ran his fingernail audibly over the embossed alligator finish. The fluorescent lights dimmed perceptibly. Lee looked up. The lights returned to their oppressive level. “I’ve been here a long time,” Lee said. He stared at the workbook.

“What is a long time?” Bill asked.

“Exactly,” Lee replied thoughtfully. He unceremoniously handed Bill the workbook.

“Can I return it to you tomorrow?” Bill asked.

Lee smiled as he rose from the blocky chair with the aid of a push off of the heavy coffee table. He hesitated as though he was about to reply and then turned his back and shuffled off toward a locked metal door. He stood gazing through the small wire-reinforced window at the pale painted non-descript hallway beyond. Bill held the workbook tightly as he watched Dr. Liu’s back. He felt the embossed finish for the first time. His fingertips were surprised by the depth of the embossing, the complexity of the cover’s texture. His conscious mind didn’t leave Dr. Liu’s back. The mind that saw only a thick workbook had no part in experiencing the book’s cover. The fingers that probed the workbook’s physical features took no notice of Dr. Liu’s resigned demeanor.

Late that night Bill turned the pages from his featherbed, three pillows propping up his head and shoulders. His thumb and fingers addressed each page as though consecrated material. As he read, his bedside lamp dimmed, the brownout common in his rented heritage loft. The soft light bathed him in warmth as he absorbed Dr. Liu’s thoughts. He smiled occasionally. And then, having completed his first review of Liu’s treatise, Bill closed the book on his chest and fell into a deep and peaceful sleep.

The next day Bill sat with Lee in Patient Lounge C. The square chairs sent hard sharp shadows into the institutional-grade linoleum floor. Happy Harold sang a loop of one verse of Oh Christmas Tree. Tiffany, Solomon, and Henry stared vacantly at a game show on television. Sunburst Plum worked to set up the Scrabble game. Erik filed his nails with a plastic emery board. He wore furry slippers with squirrel heads on the front. Bill experienced himself standing at Sunburst Plum’s side. “You can’t trade in all of your letters. You have to keep one back,” he said. And then he was seated across from Dr. Liu again. He didn’t know if his experience with Sunburst Plum was real and he didn’t much care. He saw Lee standing by the metal door, then sitting before him. He lowered his glasses and told Lee that he wondered if maybe Lee should be outside of Lochhaven and himself inside.

“It is already so,” Lee said, and he smiled contentedly.

Long Way Home

Jake had to go. There wasn’t another exit for 22 kilometers and then it was probably several more minutes of twists and turns until he’d come to a restaurant or gas station with a bathroom. It was getting dark and the sky began to spit, so hurrying up in his rickety pickup wasn’t a good idea.

            He pulled off the two-lane highway onto the sloped stony shoulder and rolled up to within ten metres of a small bush, the only bush he could see in immediate area. He bounded out of the traffic side of the truck without looking back, as there were few other vehicles travelling the road this time of day, and felt the hood for heat as he skipped around the front of the old thing. Dust from the truck’s wake overtook him as he hopped down the grassy embankment and over the trickle of a crick in the bottom of the ditch. He was still moving toward the bush when he pulled down his zipper and checked over his shoulder to see that he was facing away from oncoming traffic.

            A booming voice interrupted him. “I wouldn’t do that.”

            “What?” Jake stuffed himself back into his pants and snapped his head around. He saw no one. He looked down the road both ways. He looked across the field of grain and noticed a brassy barn and elevator and a single tall tree highlighted by the setting sun. Then he turned toward the sun, squinted into the shimmering pumpkin sphere hovering just over the featureless horizon. By now he was no longer sure that he heard anything at all. It had been a long day of driving. He pulled back up to the bush and again unzipped his fly.

            “Don’t,” he heard.

            “What?” He didn’t bother with his zipper this time. He stood fast but looked back toward his truck. He didn’t see anyone nearby when he stopped “Who’s there?” he called back. There was no reply. Once again, he prepared to relieve himself.

            “Really. I think you should reconsider,” the bush said.

            He stopped again, did up his pants and bent down as he did a three-sixty around the bush looking for the source of the voice. A car blasted by his parked truck, buffeting it and throwing up a cloud of dust. Satisfied there was nobody there, he faced the bush once more, this time from the opposite side, and he pulled at his zipper as he watched the area around his truck. He had an unobstructed view, though he was facing directly into the setting sun. Only half of the effervescent globe was above the field now.

            “No. Don’t do it.”

            “What the hell!” he blurted out, startled. Up the zipper went again. “I gotta go!”

            “Not here,” the voice again came from the bush.

            “Who are you? Where are you?” Jake asked. He was somewhat calmer now but starting to bounce with urgency. There was no reply. Jake lined up to the bush again, but this time did not reach for his zipper. Instead he stood there, waiting.

            “I am The Lord your God,” said the bush.

            “Fuck off,” Jake replied. It was a knee-jerk reaction that he immediately regretted. “I mean, no way.” Who are you?”

            “I am The Lord your God,” the bush said again.

            “Get out of town,” Jake said.

            “Really. I am,” the bush said.

            “Well, I gotta go.” Jake pulled down his zipper. God or no god, he was getting it done this time.”

            “Think about it,” the bush said. “Do you really want to piss on god? You may or may not believe I am, but is this really a good percentage move?”

            “Jesus. I mean—

            “That’s okay. I’ve heard it all.”

            “This is bullshit,” Jake said, getting fed up with the encounter. He decided that he’d been driving too long and his mind was playing games with him. Like that time that he and two buddies from high school tried to stay up all night watching Leave it to Beaver reruns. He started to pee.

            When his urine hit the bush the small leaves burst into flames- not continuous flames but just flashes of fire where the liquid contacted the otherwise dry leaves. When the flash subsided, each leaf was dry.

            “Holy shit!” Jake jumped back, tucking himself in again.

            “Yes,” the bush said. “Nobody likes to be pissed on.”

            Jake sat back on the grass with his knees up. He looked at the bush, his truck, the bush, the highway in each direction, the light sky where the setting sun had been, and back to the bush. He realized that he hadn’t considered all of the options and stood, back to the bush, urinating on the dry grass. The barn and silo were now grey against the darkening sky. He didn’t notice the tree this time.

            “Ahhh, that was good,” Jake said. He tidied up and turned back to the bush. “So you’re god.”

            “Yes.”

            “Here by the side of Number 3 Road.”

            “Yes.”

            “Burning bush. I get that. Wasn’t very impressive, actually. More like a couple of sparks. I’m not even sure I saw that. It might have been the sunset glinting off the leaves. It is starting to rain a bit.

            “I am The Lord your God.”

            “I expected more. You know, the burning bush thing.”

            The bush suddenly burst into a violent flash of fire. Flames shot up ten feet. Jake fell back partly from shock and partly from the blast of hot air. There was a rush of sound from the bush like a jet blast. And then it was gone. The sound, the light, the heat. Jake wiped his eyes, felt the heat on his face, his singed eyebrows. He stood. “Holy shit.”

            “Yes.”

            “Okay,” Jake said. “So if you’re god, why are you here?”

            “Why not?”

            “It’s the middle of nowhere.”

            “Not for me.”

            “It’s not very… I don’t know, its not, I mean, of all the places to be. Outside? Here? By the highway? A bush?

            “Why not?”

            “Can’t be much fun,” Jake said.

            “Fun’s not really my priority.”

            “What do you want?” Jake asked, figuring that he might as well get on with it.

            “Nothing.”

            “Nothing?”

            “What did you have in mind?” the bush asked.

            “Well, I figure if you’re god and you’re talking to me, you must want something. I’ve been chosen for something, right?”

            “No.”

            “Well, why are we having this conversation?”

            “You were going to piss on me.”

            “And that’s why you spoke to me?”

            “Seemed reasonable at the time.”

            “So I’m driving home and god speaks to me but it’s for no high level stuff, but just so I don’t piss on him.”

            “Yes.”

            “I don’t think my buddies are going to buy this.”

            “I wouldn’t think so. Best to keep it to yourself.”

            “ I guess,” Jake said. Then he stood still for more than a couple of minutes trying to get his mind around the situation. He looked at the dark sky, at his truck. He could still make out the barn and maybe the silo, but it was fading fast. The sky to the west was lighter than to the east, but not by much. A tractor-trailer rowed through its gears as it slowed in the distance. He turned his attention back to the bush. “Can you do the fire thing one more time?”

            “Why?”

            “Just so I know it really happened.”

            “It happened.”

            “I thought you’d say that. So no souvenirs or autographs or anything?”

            “No.”

            “Yeah, I sorta figured that too.” He put his hands in his pockets. “So I’m free to go?”

            “Of course.”

            “And you’re just going to stay here?” he asked the bush.

            “For now.”

            “And if I come back? You won’t be here.”

            “Right.”

            “Will the bush still be here, but it will be, you know, just a bush? Or will the whole bush be gone? Stupid question, right?”

            “Right.”

            “Okay, so I’m going to go then.”

            “Yes.

            “So, see you. I mean, thanks. I mean—”

            “Good bye, Jake,” the bush said.

            Jake made his way back to his truck, looking over his shoulder every couple of steps. He put his hand on the hood as he walked around the truck. It was cold. He tried to make out the dark form of the bush as he got into his truck, started it up, and drove off the shoulder and into the lane. Several seconds later, he turned on his headlights and looked into his rear-view mirror. He saw nothing unusual.

Rounding Second

Red and green stars arc toward earth trailing streams of white plumage against the bold blueness. Blunt explosions of cannon fire mistimed like a badly dubbed movie explain the silent puffs of smoke. A prattle of smaller pops interrupts tens of thousands of conversations and marks the end of the demonstration. The cooling embers consume themselves in the dry air of Minneapolis before reaching the unnatural green of the Shultz Center’s artificial turf.

            “Opening day. Who woulda thunk it.” W. Charles Brown stands to remove his mohair coat.  He folds the shoulders together exposing the white silk lining and turns the inside-out coat over his forearm. He removes his Borsalino fedora and holds it outstretched toward his companion.  Patricia Reichardt-Brown smiles a tight little smile and snaps up the hat with a glint in her eye. She ungloves one hand and smooths over Charles’ broad gleaming dome.

            “I’m so proud of you, Chuck.” She leans into the round-shouldered man and hugs him hard.

            “Hey, careful,” he says, as he pulls back his hat.  “It’s my favourite.”

            “We bought that for your induction,” Patty says.

            “A good time to bring it out of retirement.”

            The announcer blares over the loudspeaker. “Welcome to the first game of the 2012 season of your Minnesota Twins!”  The crowd screams. Even in the corporate boxes adjacent to the Browns’ private box, everyone is standing.

            “This is a dream come true,” Charles says. “Ranks up there with the day I pitched to Joe Shlabotnik.” He takes Patti’s hand and adds: “And the day we married.”

            Patti glows with pride. “This is going to give pleasure to thousands of children,” she says.

            A roar rises up from the crowd. Simultaneously, Charles and Patti point to major league Baseball’s newest and largest digital scoreboard. The images of the pair appear in real time, five stories high.  As Charles drops his arm, sixty-two thousand fans give him a standing ovation.

            “You’re blushing,” Patti says.

            “It’s good to give back.”

            The announcer continues: “A big, big welcome to the patron saint and benefactor of the Shultz Center: Hall of famer, W. Charles Brown!”

            The fans cheer louder. Charles waves to the crowd.  Patti’s eyes are frozen on the image of the good-looking couple on the Jumbotron. “You should have thrown the first pitch,” she says.

            “I’ve thrown enough pitches for an old man. Its enough that I let you talk me into taking credit for this.”

            The couple stands until the applause subsides. Then they settle in for the game. The Twins lose to the heavily favoured Red Sox as Boston’s 2011 MVP hits a two-run triple in the top of the eighth inning. 

            “That was great!” Patti opens the passenger door of their blue Bentley. “Chuck, you’ve done it again.”

            “Lets get out of here, Patti. I don’t want to be late for Lucy’s thing.”

            “Your sister-in-law will wait. Everyone will wait.”

            “I don’t know why you call her that.”

            They get into the car and drive past the line of cars waiting to pay for parking. Charles lowers his window and flashes a card to the uniformed attendant at the VIP parking booth. “Good day sir,” says the attendant. ”Thank you.”

            “Because she is your sister-in-law,” continues Patti.

            “Yes, but it’s not right.”

            “I call her your sister-in-law. It suits her. It suits me.”

            “I wish you two would get along better.”
            “We get along fine.”

            “You said you’d put that behind you after the wedding.”

            “Sally also thinks Lucy is challenging. She calls her a bitch behind her back.”

            “She does no such thing.”

            “Really, Chuck?  Really? Talk to your sister sometime.  You two should get to know one another.”

            “Funny. Anyway, Linus and Sally are happy and that’s what’s important.”

            “I wonder where Lucy would be if Schroeder was still with us.” Charles aims the long hood up the entrance ramp to the freeway. “Things happen for a reason. She really threw herself into baseball after that.”

            “Do you think about Schroeder often?”

            “Yes. I do.”

            “Me too.”

            “Schroeder would be happy. That’s hard to say. His Wagner retrospective was the most moving recital of classical music of our age. Even school children listen to classical music now. Sally’s grandson has a little grand piano. It’s so cute- he props the top up and everything.  Of course he’s no Schroeder, but—“

            “Who is, right?”

            “Exactly.”

            “It would have been nice if Lucy had come today. For you.”

            “I’m sure she watched it on TV. You know she doesn’t get out much any more.”

            “Yeah, but it’s the Twins. You’d think she’d come out for this. I guess she’s not completely over it.”

            “Managers come and go. She knows that.  One bad season and you’re gone. Steinbrenner fired Billy Martin, what, five times?”

            “Yeah. Something like that.”

            “She was only there for half the season. It was just a parlour trick for Steinbrenner. Once he got the mileage out of having the first female GM, he had no use for her.”

            “She did a good job.”
            “Its political, Patti. Billy-ball kept the fans’ interest. Lucy was only good for George as long as she was an oddity. As soon as she proved she could do the job, there was no story. No story, no job. That’s the way it is in New York.”

            “So she wins ballgames and she’s fired because she can do the job as well as a man.”

            “That’s correct.”

            “Well, that sucks,” Patti says.

            “She got ten good years in Minnesota. Almost won GM of the year once. It’s no a small feat. And she’s a good soul,” Charles says. “I owe her much.”

            “You tell me all the time. I think you give her too much credit. You made your career.”

            “Lucy helped me find my groove. She was my teammate. She kept me focused—

            “She almost ruined you,” Patti interrupts. “She had nothing good to say about your pitching back at the old field. I remember her hitting straight back at the mound on purpose. Remember when she hit that one so hard it ripped your clothes off? You were left standing there with nothing on but your shorts!”

            “That was pretty funny.”

            “And the football?”

            “I consider that an important part of my professional development.”

            Charles slows to let a small hatchback into his lane. The driver almost misses the exit and has no time to signal, but Charles notices the driver suddenly turn his head. The hatchback driver waves in his rearview. Charles replies in kind and follows the hatchback down the ramp.

            “Can we stop and get some dog food?” Patti asks.

            For a time, Charles thinks about Lucy and the football. She had a mean streak to be sure, but once she grew tired of taunting him she was the first to realize he had genuine talent. Nobody would believe a boy with Charles’ stature and physique could kick a ball like that. Lucy stood by him.

            Charles leaves the Bentley trunk open as they saunter into the dog food store.  He walks directly to the large bags of organic TOP DOG premium food with Alfalfa sprouts and ginger while Patti browses the toy section.

            “I’m getting him a new squeaky toy,” she says.

            “Good Grief,” Charles answers. “How about some chewies. Those things are driving me crazy.” He lifts the bag of food onto one shoulder and heads to the till.

            “You’re still quite the athlete,” Patti says.

            “When I can’t lift a bag of dog food, I’m in trouble.”

            The clerk offers to help.

            “I got it, thanks,” says Charles.

            “And how is little Snoops today?” asks the clerk.

            “Snoopy III is doing just fine, thanks. He’s a bit miffed at the speed of those new fighters the Jerry’s have, but he’ll be okay.”

            “Huh?” Says the clerk.

            “He’s just pulling your leg,” Patti says. “Just ignore him.”

            “No ma’am,” says the clerk. “Two world series rings, a Golden Glove, and number nine on the all-time slugging list? I’m not going to ignore Mr. Brown.”

            Charles winks at the clerk and carries the dog food to the door. Patti opens it and thanks the clerk. Charles drops the bag in the trunk. “Eight,” Charles says. Patty smiles.     They drive home in silence. The gate opens at the driveway. “Something on your mind? Patti asks.

            “Schroeder,” Charles says.

            “Artistic genius is a difficult thing. I guess none of them die old and happy.”

            “Pretty deep for a freckle faced redhead.”

            They share a worn and comfortable smile, like an old sweater with holes in the elbows that you just can’t throw out. Charles guides the Bentley into the garage. The couple gets out and meets at the trunk as though for the first time. Charles presses the trunk release on his key fob while staring into Patti’s eyes. Patti moistens her lips while Charles watches intently. She leans into him. Charles puts his arms around her waist and pulls her in close. He marvels at her slim youthful build and feels warm inside. He closes his eyes and tries to picture Peppermint Patti as an eight-year old in the outfield of their childhood. But it’s almost sixty years later and the only face he can call up is the face he knows, the adult face pressed to his lips just then. And he realizes that there was only ever one face. She hadn’t changed at all.