Thursday, August 20, 2009

Willie The Kid

It was sundown on the prairie. I placed a hand above my brow and squinted toward the western horizon. The dying rays of the fireball made long shadows accompany the cow pokes strolling down Main Street. I sighed and wiped my hands on my apron for the hundredth time.

Where is that kid the folks call Willie, I wondered aloud. He said that he'd return long before the Harvest Moon peeped over Twobucks Ridge. I'd been watching and waiting for half an hour but there was nary a sign of that man-child. Just as I turned to head back into the saloon, a cloud of dust appeared among the cacti occupying the desert on the outskirts of town.

Then, I heard ole One-Boot Kevin yell at the top of his lungs, "He's coming! The Kid is back!"

The sheriff fired his pistol into the air six times. It could have been a warning but then again; maybe he was just excited about his new gun. Either way, folks grabbed their younguns and headed indoors in a hurry. I, too, deserted the dusty road. Not that I was afraid of Willie, but that half-blind horse of his was a bit unpredictable.

I was behind the bar fixing a sarsaparilla when The Kid strolled through the flapping doors. He paused, and looked around the room. The piano grew quiet and everyone froze. In the corner, the drifter known as Nobody, let out an eerie whistle and retreated beneath his pancho like a turtle in a stampede. Somebody Jones laughed but he hasn't been right since that horse kicked him in the ear last year. The rest of us kept our eyes on The Kid.

The kid looked at me and tipped his hat. Then he blinked his right eye three times and said, "Evening, Ma."

"Evening, Kid," I replied. "I'll have your supper right out."

He made his way to the back of the room and sat down at the table with his brother, Sillie. Sillie grunted but didn't speak.

Safe for now, everyone resumed their conversations and card games. The piano man played a happy tune. A breeze came through the door bringing the odor of horse flesh and cow patties. All was well.

I came out of the kitchen carrying two plates. I placed one in front of The Kid and one in front of Sillie. They bowed their heads briefly and then Sillie picked up his fork.

"Wait!" shouted The Kid.

Once again, everyone froze.

The Kid reached for his holster and we gasped in unison. I started trembling as he slowly withdrew his - ruler. He measured Sillie's piece of Texas toast and then he measured his own toast. Mercifully, they were the same dimensions. Then he pulled out a meat scale from his boot and weighed the wieners. All was equal. But then, he began to count the beans.

"No, son, don't do it," I pleaded. "You're just gonna make yourself upset. I promise you, it's all evenly distributed. Besides, all those beans together don't amount to a hill. Please, Kid, just eat. Why torture yourself like this?"

"It's the principle of the thing, Mama," he said. "You say that you love us the same but you always give my brother a little more food than me. He gets the biggest cookie. He gets a larger slice of cake. Last week, he had half an ounce more water than me in his bubble bath."

"But Kid, he's two years older than you and sixty pounds heavier! Come on Kid, you're not a bean counter. Stop the madness. You know that I love you boy."

But the Kid just kept counting those beans. In the corner, some ranch hands were placing bets on the outcome of our family feud. I couldn't stand by and see my family torn apart over something so trivial.

Finally, in desperation, I said, "Kid, if you love me. You'll stop this nonsense and eat your supper."

The Kid put down his magnifying glass and glared at his brother. Then he picked up his fork and started to eat those cold beans.

I looked up and thanked my lucky stars. We'd survived another close one on the range.

Copyright 2009 Monica F. Anderson. All rights reserved.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Me, Michael, and Ben

I can only imagine how many articles, tributes, blogs, and songs will be composed in memory of the artist known as Michael Jackson. He died Thursday after collapsing at his home in Bel Air. I don't recall ever being so profoundly saddened by the loss of an entertainer. And I say the artist known as Michael Jackson because none of us really new the man; only the image he created or the caricature the media perpetuated.

Already, the press is dragging up his legal issues, health issues, and financial problems. But for many of us, those things are difficult to recall while humming the lyrics to our favorite MJ cut. I think the reason many of us feel so unhappy about his death is because his body of work brought us so much happiness. When I think of his songs, his dances, his weird, little boy voice acceptance speeches, I think of my life at those moments. I rocked with him. We moonwalked. He was Bad and I was Badder. He invented music videos as far as I'm concerned. His concerts remain the best orchestrated and performed. His musical influence was, well, Thrilling.

See, when I think of MJ. I'm transported to a time when I was younger, skinnier, richer (in my mind), and very happy. Gathering with my friends to watch a premier of his latest video or learn his new dance routine were highlights of my life. Nothing hurt when I was in MJ's world. Even his music with a message, like that black or white tune, was drama free. The controversies of the man were absent in his music.

So I don't know if the man MJ was a good person or not. It's not up to me to decide. I do know the artist transformed the music industry and brought joy to a lot of people. My hope is that we can bury the man, Mr. Jackson, along with his issues without burying the music of Micheal.

Oh, my favorite MJ song is "Ben." Like the true nature of Michael, I can't even explain why. It just makes me happy.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I feel cheated. A once in a lifetime opportunity has passed me by and there's absolutely nothing I can do about it. I'll spend the rest of my life in that lonely valley between Mt. "What if?" and Mt. "If only..."
You see, I could have been in the circus.
Seriously, at one time, I met all of the job requirements. I was physically fit and I loved traveling. I've always enjoyed being around unusual people. I liked being the center of attention. And, best of all, I could do the splits; that marvelous feat of separating the legs and sinking to the floor until they extend at right angles to the body.
I loved to do the splits. I did splits on the playground during recess. I did them in PE and at home while watching television. I did them at parties to impress my friends. Bigmouth Tyrone, the class clown, could put his entire fist in his mouth but it was generally agreed that my splits beat his wet fist, hands down. I was good.
Those days are long gone away. The last time I did the splits it was totally unplanned. I slipped on some ice on the sidewalk. It took three people to get me up and I had to be carried to the car. After that incident, I pretty much forgot about my special talent until a recent visit to the circus brought all those memories flooding back.
I was sitting with my family in the huge auditorium trying to see around the hundreds of balloons and flashing swords blocking my view. The eloquent ringmaster called our attention to the trapeze suspended from the rafters high above in the center of the room. As we watched mesmerized, a lovely lady (who could have used another yard of fabric in her costume by the way) was quickly hoisted up from the ground to the small, dangerous swing.
After watching her entire routine, I came to the conclusion that her primary talent was her ability to do the splits. She did the splits and twirled in a spiral. Then she did the splits while hanging from a leather strap by her very strong teeth. The place went wild. Finally, she did a chin up while, you guessed it, doing the splits. she received a standing ovation from the adoring crowd.
That could have been me, I thought. Those guidance counselors back in high school never told me anything about a career in the circus. When I took the aptitude test, they told me I could work with nuclear waste, be a doctor, or excel as one of the fine people who pick up road kill. Not once did they ever mention that I'd make a great trapeze artist. Now, I'll never know.
Actually, I did make an attempt to see if I still a had it in me like Michael Jordan trying his hand at baseball. After we got home from the circus that night, I went and got on my neighbor's trampoline. Luckily, they weren't home. After a few successful bounces, higher and higher, I felt brave enough to try a somersault. I thought that I was safe there in the middle of that big, black circle of fabric.
I wasn't.
I don't think that I was unconscious very long. There were just a few fire ants on my arms and legs when I came to. I slowly tested each limb and they all responded properly. I didn't notice the big bump on the back of my head until later. I needed that to knock some sense into me.
Walking home, I had just two thoughts. First, I remembered that Michael Jordan wasn't a real awesome baseball player. Beyond that, I merely hoped that no one saw me on that trampoline.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pass The Praise

Most people are not very good at taking compliments. We like to get them, no doubt, but, then, we don’t know what to do. The appropriate response is a simple, “Thank you. That’s very kind of you to say.” Instead, we make statements like, “This old thing? I’ve had this dress forever,” or “Nah, it’s not a big deal. I always make banana bread from scratch at four in the morning.”

Why do we do this? Why do we minimize praise?

On the other hand, we often fall short in the compliment-giving area. There is nothing wrong with praising someone for doing a good job. We need to compliment each other a whole lot more than we do. If your co-worker has a nice new haircut, tell her. If your son took the time to iron his wrinkled shirt, tell him he looks nice even if he only ironed the cuffs and the collar. Maybe he’ll iron the entire shirt next time. Again, it’s important to understand the effect of praise. Research has proven that praise, as opposed to criticism, leads to more of the positive behavior.

I’m on this tip because I was a weather-proofer for most of my life. When you weather proof a home, you go through it looking for every thing that’s wrong. You find windows that don’t seal properly. You check to ensure there’s enough insulation in the attic. You look for light seeping through cracks around the entry doors; an indication you need to add weather stripping. You pore over every square foot to see where you’re losing energy.

In my advancing age, LOL, I’ve learned it’s just as important to look at the good things in my home. It’s beneficial to my mind and spirit to notice what is working properly. This applies to homes…and relationships.

We need to seek balance between the praise we give our loved ones and the criticism we hurl at them. We need to spend much more time talking about what’s working properly in our relationships.

I’ve come to believe that people are like my sports watch. It’s inexpensive and the design is simple. However, it’s much more complicated than it appears. Whenever, I travel outside my time zone, I try to change the time on the face of the watch. Invariably, I forget the peculiar combination of buttons I must push to change the time. I get mad at the watch and yell at it. I tell the watch it’s wrong and I’m going to replace it. Sometimes, I hit the watch.

It doesn’t change.

In order to get the watch to change on the outside, I must change the inside. I can’t do that by randomly pushing buttons. I have to push the right buttons, in the right order. Once, I get into the “heart” of the watch, I change the “behavior” of the watch. In other words, it responds favorably to my wishes.

I react the same way and I suspect you do, too. If someone says the right thing in the right way to me, I’m willing to help them. I want to help them. Yelling or hitting me doesn’t make me want to do anything but leave.

Perhaps this works for everyone. Maybe if we show each other more appreciation, we’ll get along better. I’m willing to try. Are you?

© 2009 Monica F. Anderson. All Rights Reserved