Saturday, December 8, 2012

Take Five


When Dave Brubeck died, I was reminded of our friend, Don Bogdan, who was a lover of good jazz. Don believed in the underlying hope offered to us by music, especially jazz. On clear, balmy nights he would sit outside on the terrace enjoying his last cigar of the day while listening to the raspy voice of Billie Holiday, the earthy tones of Ella Fitzgerald, the progressive sounds of Stan Kenton and the always dynamic Dave Brubeck.

He told me once that jazz made it easy for him to unwind from a particularly stressful day. He could relax, he said, while soft musical themes and moods waltzed through the night air as if holding hands with some of his fondest memories.

Don had loved music for such a long time that he knew which songs could make us sad, yet in the next moment make us glad. Music, he said, has its own language. It has no doctrine, no borders and no reason to do anything but attach itself to our senses.

Don believed that it had the power to draw people together even when it was unfamiliar. His appreciation for the originality of Stan Kenton and the creative genius of Charlie Parker had been honed over many years and many hours of listening. He knew jazz because he felt it in his bones, which is the same as knowing that the universe eventually carries us all toward joyful reunions. Don giggled when he was happy and he was happiest when listening to jazz.

Thinking of him today, I picture him lounging on a celestial terrace. The night is clear and balmy, he puffs on his last cigar of the day while surrounded by his chosen guests: Louis Armstrong, Oscar Peterson, Rosemary Clooney, Ella, and Charlie “The Bird” Parker. He smiles  while familiar melodies flutter through the air holding hands with his memories. And he giggles.

If it is true that jazz is the sound of God laughing, then I have no doubt that God, our friend Don and Dave Brubeck are listening to it together... and they are all laughing.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

High Cotton Christmas

My latest collection of Christmas stories was released on December 3. It's called, HIGH COTTON CHRISTMAS: Southern Christmas Stories and is available in print at Amazon.com and also on Kindle. I hope you will enjoy these stories as much as I loved writing them.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Let’s Wrap!



“The best gifts are wrapped in love and tied with heartstrings.”
~ Leap of Faith

Christmas is the season of wishes and dreams of wonder. It is in that spirit that I invite you to join me in creating a living symbol of the goodness surrounding us as well as the beauty it reflects.
If we only pull together we can build a gigantic Christmas tree designed and adorned by the power of love. We can trim it with people of all sizes and colors and light it with the brilliance of their imaginative ideas. The gifts we place underneath the tree can be plentiful because there is more than enough for everyone.
A white gift box contains Peace of Mind and a pink one Health. Talent and Abundance burst from confined packages like multicolored confetti! Faith, Hope, and Love bask in the glow of gold and silver, and a bright yellow gift opens up Enlightenment. Contentment? That one is wrapped in many different colors and designs.
At the very top of the tree, we can place a brightly shining star to illumine each gift, each life and each open door and call our star Freedom of Choice.
The largest gift of all is an unfilled box of Christmas Spirit. By putting ourselves into that box, it is possible to fill it with food for hungry people, solutions for drug and ecology issues and freedom for those still living behind walls of fear, hate, and ignorance.
Charles Dickens wrote, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
If we wrap up just that one thought, tie it with our heartstrings and place it under our tree, the world will have one Dickens of a Christmas!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The First Ever Thanksgiving Feast




Myles Standish, Captain of the Mayflower, is responsible for holiday stress.

In August, he invited Indians to a Labor Day party, got them so shitfaced that they revealed where wild turkeys hung out. Promising more firewater, he conned them into showing Pilgrim women how to grow, harvest and cook maze, squash, pumpkins, turnips and Boston Baked Beans.

By the middle of November, Myles was thinking, PAR-TAY!

Picture this: Captain Standish is relaxing on his horsehair couch reading Julius Caesar aloud, mooning over Priscilla Alden and watching football. (Pilgrims vs. Indians).

His wife, Barbara, is in the kitchen thinking about wringing his neck instead of the fifty-pound-turkey. Overwhelmed by twenty sacks of potatoes to mash and pumpkins the size of wagon wheels to pick and cook, she's seriously ticked. Her experimental spaghetti squash exploded during the summer and her zukes grew to the size of Labrador Retrievers. She has wheat to thrash and dough to rise and roll. The colossal turkey has eighty-five pellets in its butt, because Myles introduced the Indians to firepower as well as firewater. They got trigger happy.

Preparing for the first ever Thanksgiving feast, Barbara mutters to herself while quivering all over like a jellyfish.

“What was Myles thinking when he invited all of the Indians to eat with us? Would it have killed him to ask me first? He expects me to entertain those strange people dressed in animal skins? Gimme a freakin’ break.”

Baby Lora is walking now; son Charles is into teenage angst, and young Myles is all about looking up girls’ skirts. Big Myles stretches out on the horsehair and muses.

“Husband,” Barbara shouts above Baby Lora’s wailing. “Pu-leese stop your musing and come help me with the food.”

He stomps into the dirt-floor kitchen. “I hate it when you make me stop thinking what I was thinking, Babs."

 “What are ya, blind? I’m knee-deep in unshucked maze and pumpkins that need to be stewed. Dirty dishes are piled up, Baby Lora messed up her last clean nappy and you're mooning over Priscilla. She married somebody else, Myles. Get over it.”

Like a Fifteenth Century Mr. Clean, Myles crosses his arms and spreads his legs. “Blimey! It's Disaster City in here. Other than whining, what on earth have you been doing? Company's coming, like ... today?”

The baby screams, the zukes continue to grow faster than the speed of light and the sweet potato pies bubbling over in the oven are making the house smell similar to Baby Lora’s messy nappy.

 “What, pray tell, is so difficult about cooking enough food to feed a small continent? What else would you be doing with your day?”

Her eyes dart around the kitchen for something sharp. “I’m hormonal, Myles. Maybe I would be in my room taking a nap. Maybe I would leave instructions for you to wake me up in 1776 in time for the Fourth of July fireworks.”

“Are you daft, woman? What is this nonsense you speak?”

She spies a knife under a sixty-pound zuchinni and sidles over to it. Little Lora screams bloody murder. A vague smile crosses Barbara’s lips as she focuses on the bad-tempered, albeit intrepid Mayflower Captain.

“Myles,” Barbara croons, “You invited the entire Wampanoag Nation here for dinner. Why did you do that?”

“There you go exaggerating, Babs. Dr. Phil calls that non-productive behavior.”

“Do not,” Barbara snarls, “repeat, do not speak to me about non-productive behavior. I push my tush while you sit around and muse.”

He sighs. “There you go again.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She tugs at the knife under the seriously heavy zucchini.

“It's a reminder that the entire nation is not coming over for dinner. Only the families of Squanto, Samoset and Chief Yellow Feather.”

Barbara hides the knife within the folds of her grease-spattered skirt. “Husband, do I dare ask how many family members the savages will bring with them?”

Myles lights up a cheroot and blows out a smoke ring. “No more than ninety, I should think. What? Why the long face? Is entertaining a few of my friends too much to ask? I have a colony to run, you know.”

Ninety people? Ninety? Are you are out of your freaking gourd? Who is going to look after your wild offspring, do the laundry, cook the stinkin’ pumpkins and clean up this house? Do I look like Martha Stewart?”

"Babs, what we have here is a failure to communicate. You're missing the magnitude of creating a tradition. Seriously, what would you rather be doing?”

“I'd rather you pummel me to the ground with a twenty-pound sack of flour until I pass out, Myles.”

“Now, now. There's no need to get your bloomers in a bunch over a little dinner party. Chill. Call the Butterball Hot Line. Next to turkeys, they know all about holiday stress.”

Barbara stares. “Silly me. Why didn’t I think of that? Perhaps they’ll send over a wagon train of cooked food and an army of people to serve it.”

“Babs, Babs, Babs. The Butterball Hot Line was designed to help you through holiday angst, not spoil you rotten.”

“Myles, this might be a good time to tell you that I have a raging case of PMS, a migraine and I'm holding a sharp knife. I am on my last nerve and I don’t give a flying fig about the Butterball people.”

“Hey! Don’t go all nuterootie on me.”

Barbara closes her eyes and wraps her fingers around the hidden knife. In a low voice, she hisses, “Get out of my kitchen, Myles.”

The intrepid Captain Myles Standish retreats out of Barbara’s disarrayed domain like a cowardly lion. He rushes back to the sanctuary of his den. A quirky grin sneaks onto his lips and spreads across his face like warm cranberry sauce.

“Wooo-Hooo. For a minute there, I thought the old lady might bolt and then what would I do? I've got no time to cook a fifty-pound turkey. I have a colony to run.”

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Is There a Cure for MRB?


 “Q: How many men does it take to find a quart of milk  in the refrigerator?
A:  Nobody knows because it hasn’t happened yet.”

I am on fire with a new mission and I’m asking for support from other women who live with a man legally or illegally. Their input will be an invaluable aid in my quest to find a cure for the previously unidentified condition now known as MRB, or Male Refrigerator Blindness.
Women know what I’m talking about, but what they may not know is that Refrigerator Blindness is genetic, passed down from father to son like body hair and permanent immaturity. Little boy babies pop out of the womb with the MRB Syndrome but it doesn’t rear its ugly head until he is approximately three feet tall.
The symptoms may not be recognizable at first because they can be dormant until the moment he pulls open the refrigerator door for the first time. At this point, the condition is automatically activated. I am sorry to report that at this time all research data on the subject leads me to believe that there is no known cure.
It’s like this: Suddenly, those baby blues you fell in love with oh so many years ago, turn to dull, lifeless orbs from which the male can see nothing inside the fridge. His lips part slightly and a noticeable trickle of drool makes its way south as his stupor becomes more pronounced. After no less than five minutes, while staring, sock-footed or fully shod at the white carton with the letters M-I-L-K printed in bright red letters on the front, he calls out for assistance.
“Honey, where’s the milk?”
Some grown men have been known to stand in front of a refrigerator with the door open until the bulb blows and leaves him staring into the dark abyss. Others may stand there until the lettuce wilts.
Those men have a full-blown case of Refrigerator Blindness and they need help.
Women of the world, there is promising news on the horizon. Although there is no known cure, I have devised two possible “band-aids” to help with the problem. I was driven to do this because Babe’s disease is so far advanced that it scares me silly.
In the first experiment, I glued heavy-duty Velcro on the underside of a tape recorder and then stuck another piece to the inside of the refrigerator. As soon as Babe opened the fridge door, a pre-recorded tape of my voice automatically played the following:
“Look directly in front of you, Babe. Do not blink. Place your right hand straight out, parallel to your nose, then lower it eight inches. You are now touching the top of that object known to everyone in the civilized world as a carton of milk.
“Grasp it firmly with your hand and then take two steps back. This will allow the refrigerator door to close all by itself before everything inside dies a slow death.
“Your normal vision should slowly return at this time. Look to the left and then walk over to the first upper cabinet you see, open it and remove a clear cylinder that normal people pour liquids into that they intend to drink. It is called a glass. Pour the milk from the carton into the glass, put the glass up to your lips and sip. If you have any problems with these directions, do not call me. Call Dr. Phil.”
The second experiment was easier. I glued pictures of big boobs onto the surface of anything Babe might possibly think of removing from the fridge.
I considered drawing a detailed map to designate the exact spot where the milk or other items are normally located. I gave up on that idea, however, when I realized that MRB can only be cured by direct intervention administered by a wife, significant live-in OR anatomically correct pictures of big boobies in living color. Besides, expecting Babe to look at a map was too much like asking for directions. My man doesn’t do either one.
Time is a commodity for me and as I inch closer to bankruptcy, I'm hoping to enlist a few good women to help me spread the MRB word. I’ll probably never win the Nobel Prize for curing the syndrome, but maybe someday I’ll receive a refrigerator-shaped plaque given by grateful women who were able to help their men to become MRB survivors.

Check it out at: www.mrbandaids.com


Monday, September 24, 2012

"The Road to Hell is Seldom Seen" Excerpt


"Blood Is Thicker Than Water"

It was dark underneath the house and smelled like old dirt. It made me want to sneeze. I thought about crawling out long enough to look up at what was left of the sun, long enough to finish off that wishy-washy sneeze. But I was scared, so I sat on a pile of damp dirt and caught my tears with my dirty hands.

Why couldn’t Daddy just die? If he wasn’t around, we'd make out all right. It wouldn’t be long before I was old enough to get a job. Annabelle got one and everybody knows she doesn’t have the sense God gave lettuce.

When she gets paid, she lies about the amount; thinks nobody knows she’s giving most of it to her boyfriend so she won’t have to bring it home. If Daddy finds out he’ll knock her teeth down her throat and dare her to swallow them. If you ask me, Annabelle is about an inch away from running out on all of us. Ever since she started working and silly old Floyd started sniffing after her like a dog in heat, she’s been the devil to be around. I wish she'd hurry up and get it over with.

I was in the middle of asking God to consider taking Daddy back so he wouldn't hurt us anymore when I heard Pearl, Lonnie and Rusty racing up to the house. Before I could call out to them, I heard their loud footsteps on the porch and then the sound of the screen door banging shut behind them.

“I won. I won,” Rusty yelled as other feet stomped up the wooden steps after him. Pearl laughed when Lonnie called Rusty a big, fat cheater. Then there was total silence up above me.

It was too quiet. I figured they'd found Mama dead. Daddy had finally killed her with his mean old temper and hard fists. Something inside of me wasn’t a bit surprised. Hadn’t he already murdered one innocent person? I would always remember Orville J. Tinsley, the ugly Bible salesman, even if Daddy did forget all about him.

I knew my sister Pearl inside and out, so I pictured what she was probably doing up there in the house. In my mind’s eye, I saw her tending to Mama. It made me feel some better to think that our mother was getting attention, if she was still alive, that is.

Right about then, I heard Daddy roar like a bellowing bear at my sister. “You want me to give you some of what I just give your mama?”

“No sir,” she said. “But she’s hurt bad, Daddy. Look at her. She’s bleeding. We got to do something for her. You can see that, can’t you, Daddy?”

I heard heavy footsteps pounding the floorboards above me. There was a scrambling noise and I figured it was Pearl trying to get away from Daddy.

“Don’t you run off from me, young’un,” he yelled. “You git your sorry ass over here right this minute. I’ll teach you to sass me and try to run off like a rat. Git over here, I said.”

There was a storm of loud sounds then. Lonnie and Rusty were both crying out and Pearl was yelling for Daddy not to hit her. I covered my ears and squeezed my eyes as tight as I could. It didn’t begin to muffle their cries and it didn’t keep the new tears inside of me either. I heard the first crack of Daddy’s belt even with my hands closed over my ears. Pearl was getting the might of his wrath. Lonnie and Rusty somehow managed to sneak back out to the barn so I didn’t hear any more out of them.

After Daddy hit my sister every which way and twice as hard on the way back with her sobbing steady through it all, things got real still. Pearl quieted down while Daddy took a breather. The last sound I heard was squeaking bedsprings which made me fear that he had drug Pearl’s skinny little body out of the kitchen and into his bed. Some birthday present, I thought.

I thought about Mama telling me and Pearl that blood was thicker than water. But then as soon as the word blood came to my mind, I saw Mama plain as clean glass lying on the kitchen floor with blood all over her face. I believed Daddy had killed her, so blood being thicker than water didn't make sense. I thought and prayed, thought and prayed until I fell asleep.

When I woke up, light was creeping through the ragged foundation boards of the house. I had hid under there for eight hours, nine maybe. After I didn’t hear any movement above, I steeled myself to go up there and find about Mama. If she was not dead, then she was hurt bad and I needed to help her.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Work It Out Without Me!


“It’s very important to have the right clothing to exercise in. If you throw on an
old T-shirt or sweats, it’s not inspiring for your workout.” ~ Cheryl Tiegs

It’s a known fact that writers never break a sweat if it means they have to exercise. Most of my days, when I am not searching for an excuse not to write, I am sitting at a computer keyboard. That’s enough of a workout for me. I don’t have arthritic finger lumps, I have tiny biceps. Then there is the up and down movement of my mouth while talking or eating. What more of a workout do I need?

I have occasionally made the decision to ‘get with the exercise program,’ but not anymore. I’m tired of donating what’s left of my money for a health club membership card I know will sit in my billfold until one of us expires.

The last time I went to a gym, I looked at the young, cavorting members and became immediately conscious of my state of under-dress. I was wearing a timeworn University of South Carolina T-shirt, circa 1962, the year I would have graduated had I not wasted so much collecting fraternity pins. The gym shorts I wore that day had once belonged to my husband Babe, which is to say that either he used to be much smaller or I am in big trouble and I seriously don’t want to go there.

I stepped inside that oversized den of stinky sweat and throbbing tendons, looked at the throng of well-turned-out women in gymnastically correct leotards and coordinated thongs, and I cringed. At that moment, a craving for chocolate dropped down on me as if it had come straight from God.

So who in their right mind ignores a directive from Himself? Spinning around so fast the revolving door didn’t have time to turn, I headed straight for Sweet Mama’s Bakery where Mama doesn’t give a French fig fritter how I’m dressed. God didn’t intend for me to die all sweated up and dressed like a throwback to the Sixties.

That night, Babe, my good humored, patient husband, lifted the lid on a pan of Southern fried chicken. “Hell-ooo,” he exclaimed, “Something tells me another health club expired today. The dirty look I gave him replaced a less than ladylike digit gesture.

In the past, Babe has supported my infrequent urges to eat cabbage and kale for seven straight days in hopes of losing a pound. He even claims to like kale although he doesn’t have the slightest idea what it is. On our last anniversary, the last of the big-time spenders gave me a new bicycle in lieu of the ten days at Canyon Ranch for which I had outrageously hinted. What a guy. It is true that I have joined too many health clubs while believing in the fantasy of regaining some resemblance to the size-eight I used to be. Where there’s life there’s hope, they say.

My friend Craig once joined a gym following a New Year’s Resolution, and being a humorist of some note, he asked, “Has anybody ever died in this place?”   

The trainer assigned to give him the nickel tour didn’t bat an eyelash and smiled with a mouth full of Chicklet teeth. “I wouldn’t be caught dead in any other place,” she said.

His question and her response gave me pause. What did this silly notion of mine to keep my body fit have to do with anything? Whatever possessed me to heed that nagging inner voice each time it shouted, ‘No pain, no gain.’ Did I pay attention to it in order to stay healthy or because I wanted to reclaim a portion of my youth? At my age, the portions are few.

When I am even older and my brittle bones clack like a set of bad-fitting false teeth, when my hair has turned white and wiry and falls out in clumps, I may experience a little remorse. I might regret having spent too much time at my keyboard instead of sweating while straddling a stationary bike.

But until the dawning of that day, I’ll ride my little old lady’s bike every now and then and I’ll keep working my jaws up and down hoping for a trickle down result.

The bad news is it won’t restore my youth; the good news nobody expects me to wear fashionable workout clothes ~ not in my neighborhood.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Seven Days of Gaga



“Happiness is a warm puppy.” ~Charles M. Schulz

Day 1:
As Empty Nesters, my husband, Babe brought home an adorable chocolate Lab. I didn't think I would ever be able to own a dog because of my allergies, but Babe assured me it would be okay. I'm glad I listened to him. I haven’t sneezed, coughed or swelled to the size of an NFL linebacker in the twenty-four hours since puppykins came to live with us.
Day 2:
I could put that precious little face in my mouth and eat her up. What a doll baby. Because she's such a perfect little dog, we were in a quandary trying to decide on which name would suit her best. I suggested Lady Gaga, but my husband said, “No. It should be Lady Godiva, for obvious reasons.” I won that argument because I believe when you give something a name it acts accordingly. My dog will have more going for her than if she were associated with an upscale Hershey Bar.
Day 3:
Lady Gaga has taken a shine to my antique oriental rug, the one my grandmother, God rest her soul, left me when she died. The upside of it is that it seems that our precious puppy-poo, like Granny, has excellent taste. The downside is that she feels it necessary to mark her territory on every square inch of my beautiful rug, the little dickens.
Day 4:
Babe said he didn't mind making an emergency trip to PetSmart at seven o'clock this morning when we completely ran out of puppy peepee pads. He took along a sledgehammer heavy enough to break the glass and rob the store in case it hadn’t yet opened. What a clever man I married. Lucky for him, the manager is a morning person. Babe could only buy five-dozen peepee pads for our little bundle of badness, but that should be more than enough. Surely, it can’t be much longer before she is housebroken.
Day 5:
It is hard for me to understand how, but Puppykins has managed to go through every one of the new pads Babe bought only yesterday, so Lady Gaga scored another point on Granny's rug. My house smells like a nursing home. Lady Gaga’s loving eyes and the cute way she cocks her head to stare straight through me were adorable four days ago, but today, they are getting on my last nurturing nerve. If Babe's dog pees or poops on Granny's rug one more time, they are both history. I have allergies. I have lived all of my life with a firm Animals Don't Live in the House with People Policy. I have limits.
Day 6:
This morning Babe went in search of an open all night pet store in case we need more peepee pads later tonight and just after he left, my doorbell rang. It was the UPS man delivering a new issue of It's All About Moi Magazine. I love getting packages via UPS and flirting with the hot UPS guy. I may be over fifty but I’m not dead. I asked him if, by chance, he suffered with dog allergies. He said he did not. Then he added (with tears pooling in his luscious Paul Newman blue eyes) that he was still mourning for his recently departed Poodle, Tammy Faye. The poor little thing had choked trying to eat his wife’s false eyelashes and within fifteen minutes she had taken a trip to PTL Dog heaven. Feeling obliged to help that poor man out of his sorrow, I gave him Lady Gaga. I hope his burden of grief will be lifted, not as high as Tammy Faye went, but enough to get him through. 
Day 7:
I have been grinning for so long my jaws ache. Each time I picture Lady Gaga riding in the front seat of that UPS truck looking so darn happy, I know in my heart that Mr. UPS and Lady Poopoo, uh, I mean Gaga, are a match made in heaven. I will have to muddle through my days while lounging in my now environmentally refreshed and blissfully quiet home with no distractions or smelly rugs, reading my newest issue of It's All About Moi Magazine
What can BROWN do for you?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Squatter's Rights ~ 138 Lowman





I lived here once, in a house on this site.
Nothing left now save a pile of bricks and a reclining sentinel
With its soul nailed to the crossbars of life.
I lived here once on this plot, this gaping hole.

Hungry for comfort, I squat and dig for
Leftover pieces of another life, crumbs of what used to be.
I long to quench my unhappy thirst with forgotten tears of laughter,
Warm my waning spirit with past shouts of heated energy.

A shattered brick becomes a conch shell as
Waves lap onto the shoreline fringes of family:
A baby stumbles into her first word,
A dying old woman whispers her last.

A century of howls yanks me back
As the spine breaks away, separates.
Sounds from whimpering souls slip past as
The last pinch of light morphs into dust.

Mama, are you still here?
Do you wander through the rubble
and think, “I lived here once.”

Old wart of a house with all your bumps, lumps and blisters
Fix me with your defiant stare if you have to,
Pin me with your mutinous stance if you must,
But release me from your cantankerous hold.

The old wart roars, “I am you. 
Now and forever, I am you.”
The heated words burn acrid on my tongue.
Go to hell, you deceitful pile of bones. Go to hell.

No half-hearted sigh reaches my ears, no agonizing keen of grief.
No sounds come from the rubble that once was my house.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fantasy Number One


In the past I lived in another world.
My special purpose never unfurled.
I always answered to child, wife or mother.
Non-exclusive labels; I dreamed of another.

I want to thank this lofty Commission.
As I accept this prize from my new position,
Tonight I stand before you a poet.
And believe it or not
By God, I still don't know it.

                                                  — by Cappy Hall Rearick

© Copyright Cappy Hall Rearick

Time Out!


If I could have one more shot at life, one more turn at bat,
I would make my life a Happening, not an
Almost Happened, not a Spectator Sport.

I wouldn’t be content to sit on the sidelines while
The rest of the world played hardball life.
I would pitch and take my turn at bat.
I would break some records.
If I lived before in another lifetime,
I hope I didn’t settle for the sidelines,
I hope I gave it a shot.

I hope I didn’t sit on the sidelines and say
‘I coulda been a contenda’
Or look back on yet another lifetime and say,
“If I could have one more shot at life, one more turn at bat . . .

Time out!

It’s the top of the fifth,
The bases are loaded. It’s my turn at bat.
It's my turn to hit a homer,
My turn to take a shot at life,
My turn to break records,
Just because I can . . .
                                                                              ~ Cappy Hall Rearick