The Party Line

I’ve been inspired to write and post this humorous little poem this morning and today I also plan to Reblog a few other bloggers’ poems I’ve found enjoyable and/or inspiring.

 

Sounds of a Six-O-Phonecrank-telephone

Grandma cranks and cranks
the old wall phone,
rouses Central to connect her
with her sister Margaret,
eager to share the news:
her daughter-in-law just gave birth
upstairs — in double quick time —
to a healthy baby. Number nine.

Margaret’s phone rings,
two long one short. All down the road
telephones tinkle.
Housewives leave their work;
half a dozen hands grab.
Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.
Half a dozen ears pressed to earphones,
listening on the party line.

“Another boy,” Grandma says —
and a whopper. Almost nine pounds!”
“That’s a good size,” says Margaret.
Half a dozen silent nods.
Good size. Good size. Good size.
Good size. Good size. Good size.

Before Margaret can ask
her neighbor Flo interrupts,
“What are they calling him?”
“Billy, after his Uncle Will.”
Half a dozen silent nods
and murmurs all along the line.
“Good choice,” says Margaret. “Won’t Will be pleased!”
Won’t he be pleased! Won’t he be pleased!
Won’t he be pleased! Won’t he be pleased!
Won’t he be pleased! Won’t he be pleased!

Right shortly six more calls
tinkle over the line as six tongues repeat,
“Another boy. Number nine. Good size.
Billy, after Uncle Will. Won’t he be pleased?”

“There’s talk of change,” says Belle
who lives two miles down. “But
how would you ever hear anything?”
Heads nod all down the line.
Anything? Anything? Anything?
Anything? Anything? Anything?
“We need our party line!”

phone-lines

 

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Character Study

Day after day I see him there, drinking his coffee and ostensibly reading his book, yet glancing up at times as if watching for someone to arrive or something to happen. I’ve noticed he seldom turns a page. And he always sits facing the street. Has he heard the rumors and wants to see for himself if they’re true?

man-reading

I chat with him now and then as I bustle around clearing off tables. Just letting him know I’m friendly. Nothing wrong with that, is there? His answers are always upbeat, respectful. That’s worth a lot in this day and age, let me tell you. Sometimes I think we could hit it off, both older and alone and all.

Yeah, he seems nice and easygoing, yet there’s a certain something in his eyes. Watchful. Almost wary.

In momentary flights of fantasy as I wipe tables I picture him as an undercover agent keeping an eye on what’s going on across the street. Gathering evidence, ready to catch the guys hauling the stuff in — or the customers sneaking it out in secret pockets.

Maybe he’s one of these writer types, watching the pedestrians, doing character studies for his next book? (Wonder which character I’ll appear as? The femme fatale? Yeah, really!)

Or maybe he’s just a regular retired guy who’s taken early retirement and he likes our coffee. As I load the dishwasher, I decide to ask him if he’s ready for another cup. But when I turn around, he’s gone.

Word Press daily prompt: Gone

“Red Sails in the Sunset”

Our boss, Jim Watson, had been to the local Super Discount store and bought our weekly grocery needs. When he got back to the senior’s home he hauled in his purchases, in miscellaneous boxes and bags, storing most of them in the large walk-in fridge just off the kitchen. On his way out again, he set one of these boxes on a stool that sat perpetually beside the fridge. Likely he meant to dispose of it, but it was forgotten there for about a week.

I was working as part-time cook/ part-time cleaner in this senior’s home at the time and I happened to work in the kitchen the next day. I noticed that box sitting on the stool and stopped to read the writing on the side: Red Sails Whisky.

I guess this dates me, but some memory bank in my mind started playing the song, “Red Sails in the Sunset.” It had been years since I heard that song, but the association was immediate. And the next day while my boss was working in the kitchen, though he paid no attention to the box, I heard him humming that same song.

The next day the main cook was back on the job and I was doing the day’s vacuuming, but came into the kitchen just before lunch to carry loaded plates to the residents, serve the tea, and help with the cleaning up after. As we were occupied with this last task I heard her humming the tune “Red Sails in the Sunset.”

I laughed. “You, too?”

“What?”

“You’re humming that tune, too. You must have seen the box.”

“What box?”

I pointed it out to her. She hadn’t even noticed the words. In fact the box itself, during its short stay, had blended in so well to the kitchen decor that it hadn’t registered on her conscious mind. But her subconscious mind had picked up on those words and recalled the same tune that popped into my own mind and my boss’s mind.

Just as the song “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” was one of the things that popped into my head when I saw today’s daily prompt word: smoke. And looking through all the responses to the prompt, I see the same switch was flicked in the minds of a lot of other bloggers.

Instant association. You see something and, far faster than the speed of thought, an image, a statement, a slogan or the line from a song, pops into your brain. (And often it’s for the best if you can keep it from popping out your mouth! Let’s not go there. ☹ ☺)

Sometimes as I’m walking down the street, I get a whiff of tobacco from a freshly lit cigarette and my mind goes back to my dad. He smoked for over thirty years until one day he realized how it was sapping his lung power, thus his ability to work, and he quit cold turkey.

Actually, one of the first thoughts that came to mind when I saw this prompt was my Dad’s death as a result of smoking. I wrote an article about this; you can read it HERE.

Before I posted my article, I asked my doctor if I’d get into trouble claiming that smoking caused his cancer. Was there enough medical evidence to verify this, or would I get sued by the tobacco companies for defamation of product? “Yes, you can say smoking causes cancer,” he assured me. “There’s definitely enough evidence to back up that statement.”

This word also prompted thoughts of all the smoke we get hereabouts when forest fires are raging in the north. So I saw the word SMOKE from several different angles — and judging from the many links at The Daily Post HQ, others have, too.

The Beginning of Completion

“Perfect timing. I’ll just put the coffee pot on.” Tina said as she opened her door to her best friend Val. “Then you can join me as I drool over my latest treasure.”

She make a quick stop in the kitchen, then led Val down the hall to her sewing room. “Maya was here this morning and brought me a huge box of cotton fabric for making quilts. You’re going to turn so green when you see the variety in this box. But I’ll share,” she added with a grin.

Val laughed. “That’s what friends are for. Oh, wow!” Her eye swept over the colorful counter.

On the sewing cabinet was a huge box that had been full of fabric. By now most of it was spread out on the counter Tina used to cut out her fabrics. Val fingered the various pieces. “These do look like good quality cottons.”

“Maya says her Aunt Emma worked exclusively on quilt tops these last years.” Tina dug in the box and pulled out another pile. “And to think she was willing to part with all this for only twenty dollars.”

“Well, if Aunt Emma’s moved into the nursing home, and Maya doesn’t want boxes of her things piled around…”

Tina’s exclamation interrupted her. “Oh. What’s this?” She was lifting out a large shoe box stuffed in a shopping bag. Eagerly she slid the box out and opened it up.

“Looks like something’s been started and never finished,” Val commented as Tina spread the pieces out. “I have a few of those, too.”

The two friends spread out the contents of the box and found three blocks sewed together but they couldn’t recognize the pattern. Various small squares and triangles had been cut and stacked, ready to be assembled.

Tina help up one block and frowned. “Something isn’t right here. Well, Maya did warn me that I might find a project her aunt got stuck on and never finished. This must be it. Apparently Emma cut out the pieces, then misplaced the original pattern. She sewed several block together but they weren’t right, so she just stuffed it away in the cupboard. Maybe she thought she’d come across that pattern again someday and never did.”

“These could go together a number of different ways,” said Val as she laid out some of the pieces to make a few different quilt blocks. “But it’s hard to tell what pattern she had in mind and how these smaller triangles are supposed to fit in.”

Tina looked over the stack of fabric spread out on her cutting table. “I guess I could just forget about this, seeing there’s enough fabric to piece together at least three other quilt tops.”

“Well, yeah. Still, it seems a shame to leave this one unfinished when the pieces are all cut and ready to sew. Perhaps we can figure it out yet.”

“Here’s a clue.” Tina pulled a scrap of paper from the bottom of the box.“Home Treasure. Ring a bell?”

Val shook her head. “If that’s the name of a quilt block pattern, I’ve never heard of it. I’ll keep my eyes open, though.”

“Well, let’s just set this aside for now. I’ll see what Google can tell me. But I think these fabrics,” she picked up several piles and laid them together, “would make a nice Ohio Star. Anyway, let’s grab some coffee to fire up our imaginations.”

Later that afternoon when she went online Tina was disappointed to find that Google couldn’t tell her much about the block called Home Treasures. But then, so many quilt blocks have a variety of names and apparently Home Treasures wasn’t a commonly used name for any.

A week later Val again rang Tina’s chimes and when she opened the door Val waved a quilting magazine in her face. “Found it! I had to look through every single magazine in my stack, but I did find one by that name.”

“Wow,” said Tina, appreciating just how many quilting magazines there were in Val’s stack. “You are a true friend!”

“It’s a variation of the Sawtooth Star. Now let’s see if this works with the pieces already cut.” So off they went to the sewing room and laid out several blocks.

“Yes!” Tina squealed. “This is going to work. This must be the one. Now I’m eager to get started.”

Val was looking at one of the blocks already sewed. “It’s easy now to see the mistake Emma made when she put her blocks together. This part got turned around. Now that you know how it should look, it’ll be easy-peasy.”

Tina laid out another block. “Reminds me of a saying my mom always quoted: ‘A job well begun is a job half done.’

Daily Prompt word : Unfinished

It Takes All Kinds

colored-pensMusings on Self-Respect

On Saturday I was people-watching at Walmart, I started on one of my flights of fancy that has culminated in this morning’s post.

Not feeling the best myself that day, I plopped down on a bench and watched the world go by — in all its variety. An observer is privy to such an interesting spectrum: people of all shapes, sizes, skin tones, and moods passed before my eyes.

Have you ever, as you watched people grab their carts and flow through the doors of some Mega-Super-Mart, indulged in extreme make-overs? “What would this person look like if…” I confess, I do this at times.

I have no problem with the variety of people that exist. Nature has given us an entertaining variation of heights and breadths, faces, noses, hair colors. And then individual personalities expand and enhance the potential outward appearance — for better or for worse.

I’ve seen some people who would be outwardly quite attractive, except they look like they’d murder their own mother for a dime. Some men can have such “handsome” potential but look so cold. “How would this person’s looks change if they lost the anger they carry around inside?”

“What would that person look like if they could just lighten up and enjoy the day?” I’m sure I didn’t look the most cheerful that day, either, especially when my stomach felt like it was filled with some kind of slime. Nevertheless, when you’ve been through the mill health-wise it seems lightening up and enjoying life more seems a good plan.

Sometimes I see some young female slouching along the aisle and I wonder, “What would that woman look like if she really cared about herself?” Not that I expect females to turn out in fancy designer fashions or have their hair and makeup salon-perfect. Comfort is great; I go for comfort. And maybe I’m just so old school, but slopping around in tattered sweats, especially with grubby underwear on display, just doesn’t speak well for a healthy self-respect.

Someone may protest indifference. “I don’t care what people think! People can take me as I am. I don’t dress up for anybody.” But I wonder. We don’t have to dress up for others, but isn’t there a point to looking good for our own benefit? Because I want people to respect me? And when we lose interest in caring for our appearance or our surroundings, what’s going on inside?

Then again I see some young things whose appearance is all about appealing to other eyes, usually by displaying as much as possible without getting arrested. I tend to read this as low-self esteem. One gets the impression they have no sense of worth apart from their ability to attract male eyes and ogles. Of course this is exactly how people respond to them, too. Human nature is very predictable. You see passing males looking at them not as a person but as a flashy toy.

When I think of the rhetoric of the feminist movement back in the 60’s, this was one of the main gripes put forth: “We don’t want to be seen as just bodies. We want to be treated as real people, with real brains and a real contribution to make.” When I see so many teen girls today throwing everything out for display, willingly becoming “only bodies,” I have to conclude those feminist ideals have been totally derailed by the Hollywood divas that have arisen since. I think we had more sense of personal worth and less pressure to conform back when I was a teen, before the feminist movement came on strong.

Then again you see quite ordinary down-to-earth people passing your observation point, going about their business. They appear to have made their peace with who they are and how they look. They don’t especially dress to impress anyone around them, yet you can see they look in a mirror before they leave home and want to appear worthy of respect in the eyes of others. They carry themselves as someone of worth — and people do give them respect.

This morning as I thought about self-respect this bright picture popped into my mind. What if a “greeter”could stand at the entrance of the local Mega-Super-Mart and give each person a shot of honest-to-goodness self-respect as they walked through the door? Self-worth, if you will. Not a shot of ego, but a sense of personal value. How much would it change each individual, their appearance, their posture, their behavior? And how long could they hang onto it?

(This is actually what God does for people. Not just a quick shot that evaporates; rather, He lets us know we are valuable to him and that changes everything. Ask any person who’s had an honest encounter with him and they’ll tell you it is so.)

And now I must conclude this two-hour writing practice and get on with my day’s work.