Sunday, February 26, 2012

We're all sick

The snot has really been flowing at my house because we all caught a particularly nasty cold with a large side of hacking cough. We made it this far into winter without catching anything, but now as the weather is getting warmer, we all got sick.

When the epidemic hit I brought it home from work and gave it to Junior. Not deliberately, mind you, we just live in pretty close quarters, so when one of us brings something home, we all get it. I felt pretty bad, though, because he is eight months old and sounded like he smoked three packs a day.

Next, Junior gave it to my wife and then quickly got over it. This left the two of us lying like dead people in a growing pile of our own dirty Kleenex while he happily crawled around getting into things he wasn't supposed to, knowing full well that we couldn't do anything about it. It's scary when a baby is running things.

Now my wife is over it, which leaves me coughing all by myself. I'd go to the doctor but I don't want to talk about the color of my mucus, which is what doctors always want to talk about whenever I have a cold.

I'm also worried about the money. I have insurance, but what does insurance pay for really? I pay a copay when I go in and then get a bill for the rest a few weeks later.

However, I might reconsider going to the doctor after all. One of my co-workers has the same cough and when he went to the doctor he got hooked up with Codeine cough syrup. Sign me up.

I'll pour a little cough syrup over ice, put in a tiny umbrella and sip my way back to perfect health.

Has anyone else been sick? Or have advice on how to care for a well baby while you are sick? Leave a comment, if you please.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

We got older but we're still young

I turned 30 last week, and if there is a more definitive sign that the good times are over, I can't think of it.

First of all, my smart-aleck family wanted to put 30 candles on my cake. Not candles in the shape of a 3 and an 0, but 30 small fires blazing away on my birthday cake. The result was the largest dessert fire you've ever seen. You could feel the heat coming off of the cake, and when I went to blow out the candles, I singed my eyebrows.

At first I thought it was funny, but when I realized, “Your birthdays candles can heat a medium-sized room,” I got a little sad. In some ways, turning 30 makes me feel weird.

For one, I am admittedly not in the best shape of my life. I went to the store to buy a shirt but all the stupid shirts were “Athletic Fit.” I wanted to grab the store manager by the lapels and yell, “What if I'm not athletic? This is America, and I know I'm not in the minority. Where are the rest of the shirts?”

Also, I'm cranky. I complain incessantly about how much stuff costs. I tell the same stories over and over. I talk about how bad I used to have it and how hard I worked to get where I am.

And then soon after my birthday I went to a punk show with my sister, who is 11 years younger than I. I've been going to shows for years but this time I felt out of place. Do you know what an outlier is? The bands were great and I had a good time, but I felt so old surrounded by all these younger people. Then I had a revelation.

Everyone there was trying so hard to be cool, and I realized that I don't have an interest in being cool anymore. It was replaced by the need to survive. Paying bills, coordinating schedules and the baby's temperature are taking precedence over cool things, and it's nice to be free from that pressure.

They were wearing clothes that were really stylish and only a little bit comfortable, and I was wearing clothes that were really comfortable and only a little bit stylish. They were flailing around at the front and I stood at the back because taking an elbow to the face isn't as novel as it once was.

Ultimately I ended up feeling pretty good about turning 30 because I'm pretty satisfied with how everything is going. I have a wonderful wife, a healthy baby who is starting to sleep through the night and the three of us have big plans. I am happier now than I have ever been. I may be old, but I'm doing ok.

You may think that last paragraph was cheesy, but I'm 30 now, and that means I'm old enough not to care.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Brian Wolcott and the Court of Unrequited Love (PART 5 of 5)

If you need to catch up, you can read Part 1 over here.

We just came here to talk and you start throwing crap,” Mrs. Bernman was yelling. “Why do you always have to act a fool?”

Clarice, I'm bored. I've been haunting an empty racquetball for the last thirty years, remember?” the thin figure was yelling back. “Plus, I'm dead, so really I can act any way I want.”

Ali shook herself and tried to understand what was taking place around her. The hazy figure was gradually becoming more solid until it looked like a young, rodent-faced man dressed in dated racquetball clothes.

Wait Wait Wait!” Ali screamed holding her hands up for silence.

Mrs. Bernman and the young man paused mid-argument and looked at Ali.

You know him?” Ali asked Mrs. Bernman.

I'm sorry to day I do,” Mrs. Bernman answered in disgust. “Malcolm here took racquetball lessons from me a long time ago.”

And you're dead?” Ali demanded.

Yes, indeed,” Malcolm replied. “And she killed me!”

The court erupted into more arguing and Ali had to yell again.

Now wait,” she said after everything had quieted down. “So you're a ghost, then?”

That's one way to put it,” Malcolm shrugged. “I prefer 'poltergeist' or 'life challenged spirit,' if you don't mind.”

Ali looked puzzled and Mrs. Bernman stood with her arms crossed. Malcolm laughed icily. Mrs. Bernman sighed loudly and turned to Ali.

Here's what happened: Thirty years ago I had just moved in and I was giving Malcolm there racquetball lessons. He never was very good.”

Malcolm looked scandalized.

Yes I was!” he cried. “I was getting better. I was going to go pro.”

Mrs. Bernman caught Ali's eye, shook her head and mouthed, No he wasn't. Ali smiled, in spite of herself

Anyway,” Mrs. Bernman said, rolling her eyes. “Fred in D14 was having an affair with Mary Ellen in G19. They would always meet in the racquetball court at eight, play a few games and then go back to Mary Ellen's apartment afterward.”

Only Fred's wife Susan found out...” Malcolm interjected.

Mrs. Bernman fixed Malcolm with a withering look and he shrank back.

Getting to it,” she said slowly. “Now if I may finish...”

Malcolm held up his hands in surrender. Ali looked at the odd couple quizzically.

Susan found out about the racquetball thing and waited for Fred in the racquetball court with a bat.”

Hammer,” Malcolm interrupted. “It was a hammer.”

Mrs. Bernman shot him an evil old lady look but he remained firm.

It was my death, Clarice” he said defensively. “I want you to at least get the details right.”

Mrs. Bernman dismissed him with a wave of her hand.

So Susan was waiting for Fred with a hammer,” she said, looking over at Malcolm. “Only that particular night Fred and Mary Ellen skipped their normal racquetball time and poor Malcolm decided to practice his serve. Wrong place, wrong time. Pretty soon after Susan went to prison, strange things started happening in the racquetball court and they closed it down.”

Mrs. Bernman looked sad and Malcolm looked at Ali with a big grin.

What did you think?” he asked eagerly.

Of your death story?” Ali asked. “It was tragic!”

Malcolm smiled even bigger. “Wasn't it?”

But you said Mrs. Bernman killed you,” Ali said.

Malcolm's smile disappeared and he turned to Mrs. Bernman and pointed at her accusingly.

That right!” he exclaimed. “Convenient how she left that out!”

Mrs. Bernman looked ashamed and wrung her hands. Ali waited in the awkward silence and looked from Mrs. Bernman to Malcolm in puzzlement Malcolm looked smug.

I lived in D15, next to Fred and Susan,” Mrs. Bernman said finally. “And Susan told me all about the affair when she found out. She told me she was going to kill Fred, only I didn't think she was serious. And how was I to know he wouldn't be there and...”

Mrs. Bernman was looking up at Malcolm, whose expression had changed from self-satisfied to slightly embarrassed. Ali looked at the floor awkwardly. Mrs. Bernman shook her finger in Malcolm's face.

I'll have you know I never forgave myself,” she said in a choking voice. “And now I've told you and I'm sorry and I don't know what else there is to say.”

The two women and one ghost stood in awkward silence for a few moments. Ali waited for Mrs. Bernman or Malcolm to speak but neither did. Ali coughed awkwardly.

That must be good for you to hear, Malcolm,” Ali ventured uncertainly. “That must feel like some kind of closure, doesn't it? Maybe you can move on now and stop haunting the court?”

Malcolm was smiling again. He put a slightly transparent arm around Ali and Mrs. Bernman and started walking them toward the door.

That's a popular myth about us life challenged spirits,” he said. “That we all want to get 'closure' and 'move on.'”

Don't you?” Ali asked.

Some do,” Malcolm shrugged. “Like that guy who drowned in the pool. He moved on last summer. Lame.

Ali and Mrs. Bernman looked intently at him.

I'm perfectly happy here,” he said. “And I have no intention of leaving. Ever.”

But maybe you can stop haunting the court? Just let people play?” Ali asked. “You really scared those guys.”

They had reached the door now Malcolm stood apart from the two women.

Most fun I've had in years,” he laughed. “But maybe we can make a deal. I've been dying to play racquetball again. I can stop bothering people if you can find me someone to play with...”


Brian's knees knocked together but he stayed put, knowing this was the only way to make it up to Ali for his earlier cowardice. He shivered as the ghost stood at the serving line and bounced a racquetball menacingly.

You think you can return my serve? I've had thirty years to perfect it.”

Brian shuddered. “I'll sure try.”

Good,” Malcolm laughed and prepared to serve. “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Please tell me what you thought of the story! Leave a comment or suggestions for the second draft, if you please. If you really want to endear yourself to me, you could post a link to this on your Facebook or Twitter.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Brian Wolcott and the Court of Unrequited Love (PART 4 of 5)

If you need to catch up, you can read Part 1 over here.

Ali walked resolutely toward the racquetball court, leaving Brian standing in the doorway calling pitifully after her. She turned back to face him.

Security said you knocked over some seven-year-olds running like a crazy man, you're covered in red welts and you won't tell me what happened,” she called back to him in a voice full of frustration. “I'm gonna get to the bottom of this.”

Don't go!” he squeaked.

Come with me, then!”

Brian cowered back, shaking his head violently.

I would go with you but I... can't,” he murmured.

Ali threw her hands up in the air and resumed walking as Brian watched her from the doorway, light from the apartment streaming out and framing his hunched silhouette.

I don't believe this!” Ali said disgustedly to no one in particular as she walked past the mailboxes. Having just returned from her late-night run, Mrs. Bernman was standing at the mailboxes checking her mail. She called to Ali as she passed.

Ali! Where are you going, dear? It's late!”

Ali stopped and turned to look at Mrs. Bernman as if awakening from a trance.

The racquetball court,” she said, matter-of-factly. “Something weird happened to Brian over there and I wanted to check it out.”

Mrs. Bernman's eyes bulged.

You're not going to go there!” she said shakily. “Not at this late hour.”

I just want to get to the bottom of this,” Ali said with a shrug. “Now's as good a time as any.”

Mrs. Bernman put her mail back into her box and locked it. She started hurriedly toward Ali.

Oh, please don't go there, honey,” she pleaded. “It's a bad place.”

Ali narrowed her eyes and put her hands on her hips.

Yes, I was getting that impression. And you seem to know a lot about it.”

Mrs. Bernman looked embarrassed and then her wrinkled face took on a worried expression.

You're really going to go?”

Of course I am,” Ali laughed. “Unless you know of some reason why I shouldn't?”

Mrs. Bernman looked harassed and after a short pause she grumbled in defeat, “Alright. Suit yourself. I'll go with you, though.”

The two women walked briskly through the night air toward the racquetball court. Moonlight filtered through the bare winter trees and reflected off of the few inches of murky water in the deserted pool. When they reached the court Ali gave the court door a pull.

Locked!” Ali said bitterly, continuing to pull on the door.

What did you expect at this time of night? That they'd leave it open? So some hobo can come live in here?” Mrs. Bernman said.

Mrs. Bernman motioned Ali to step aside and she set her feet wide apart and grabbed the door handle. Ali looked on curiously as Mrs. Bernman gave the door handle a mighty pull. The door swung open and Ali shot Mrs. Bernman a questioning look.

That's not natural,” Ali said. “Aren't you, like, a hundred or something?”

Mrs. Bernman shrugged and said, “There's a trick to it.”

Ali followed Mrs. Bernman inside and said, “When are you going to tell me what you know about this court?”

Mrs. Bernman ignored Ali and the two women stepped into the court, which was pitch black. Mrs. Bernman clicked on the light switch and the over head lights flickered on. Both women immediately covered their eyes and stood blinking for several moments. When her eyes had adjusted Ali looked out at the court. It was littered with Brian, Matt and Kurt's spare racquetballs but otherwise empty.

Something scared them,” Ali said uneasily. “Brian would never have left all these racquetballs behind otherwise.”

Mrs. Bernman looked thoughtful. She looked the court up and down and seemed to be thinking hard to herself. Ali waited for her to speak but she was silent for several minutes.

What was it, Mrs. Bernman?” Ali asked darkly. “I know you know.”

Mrs. Bernman looked helpless and held her open hands out.

I wish I knew, Ali,” she said hesitantly. “I really couldn't say.”

Ali looked at Mrs. Bernman and Mrs. Bernman looked away. Ali picked up a racquetball and hurled it at the front wall angrily. It bounced back toward them and Mrs. Bernman caught it.

I've tried to be respectful because you're just so ridiculously old, but I've had about enough of this,” Ali said sternly. “Brian is covered in welts and is gibbering like a crazy person. Tell me what's going on.”

Mrs. Bernman looked as if she might cry and she shook her head.

I can only tell you what I know,” Mrs. Bernman sighed. “It was back when-”

The lights clicked off and Ali gasped. She could hear one racquetball start to bounce on its own.

Mrs. Bernman,” she called out in the darkness.

I don't know what's happening,” Mrs. Bernman's voice returned.

More balls were bouncing now, and picking up speed. Ali heard them hitting the walls and ricocheting back.

Mrs. Bernman!” she screamed. Ali started to feel her way cautiously to where she thought the door was as the racquetballs flew and whizzed around her. Several speeding racquetballs whacked her in the shoulder and arm. She heard Mrs. Bernman groping in the dark. Another racquetball smacked her in the leg.

All at once, above the din of bouncing racquetballs, Mrs. Bernman called out , “Malcolm Washburne, is that you? You stop all this right now!”

The lights winked on and all the racquetballs in the air suddenly lost momentum and dropped to the floor. Ali looked at Mrs. Bernman quizzically, but Mrs. Bernman was staring goggle-eyed at the front wall of the court. Ali looked in the same direction and froze. A thin, wispy figure in the shape of a young man had suddenly appeared there and it began to speak.

Clarice, is that you?”

Tune in next week for the epic conclusion...

Please tell me what you think of the story so far! Leave a comment or suggestion, if you please. If you really want to endear yourself to me, you could post a link to this on your Facebook or Twitter.