A Poem

(I have not written a poem in years, but I used to write poems back in the ’90’s and read them at poetry slams and open readings.  My poetry is different than my prose and dramatic writings because once I write a poem I do not rewrite it, making my poetry, though imperfect, as close to pure expression as I can possibly get.  This poem is still untitled, so I’m using the date I wrote it as the title.)

January 18, 2017

 

A silent wound

That festers

Planted long ago

Buried by time

Ignored

Expecting it to leave

But is almost impossible

To unearth

The pain that was shelved

Continued to prick

And an old memory

Comes back to haunt

 

Redwood Summer Chapter 9

Jason paced himself with the surrounding traffic as he drove on one of the valley freeways during a sunny late afternoon. Vehicles moved in sync as cars sped around semi trucks. More vehicles entered and exited from on-ramps and off-ramps. Randy sat in the passenger seat talking while Brian was in the back seat, his head nodded back in sleep.

So the whole day was kind of a blur,” Randy continued, “but what I do remember is that me, Brian, Darren and Greg were just hanging out at the beach, tossing around the Frisbee, rapping with some bitches, pounding some brews, we were making a day of it.”

“Did you guys go to the Boardwalk?” Jason asked.

“Nah, we went to that beach that’s at the end of Twenty Sixth Ave, away from the tourists.”

“Good plan.”

“Yeah, because then a couple of other guys show up, and one of them had an entire case in his backpack, so we partied with them. It was live,” Randy said as he reminisced. “When it got dark we tried to get a fire going, but no luck. It got late so we finally decided to head back, and I ended up having to drive because I was the least wasted.”

That’s unusual,” Jason kidded.

Yeah, well no thanks to this pussy,” Randy said as he pointed back to Brian. “Anyways, I made it over the 17 in record time, and when we got to Jamie’s, the whole place was raging, an insane fucking party. It took me all of yesterday to recover.” Randy looked again toward Brian. “I don’t know what this animal here did yesterday, but he was the life of the party at Jamie’s.” Brian remained asleep.

You were partying and you didn’t even call me,” Jason said. “What gives?”

Aw, man, I’m sorry. I just figured you were busy with your family because your sister’s in

town.”

Yeah, but, you know…maybe I needed to get away.” Jason said to Randy, and they laughed to themselves familiarly.

“So how’s Kathy doing?”

“Doing well, living the college life.”

“Good for her, I’m really proud of her,” Randy said sincerely. “She’ll go far.”

“Yeah she will,” Jason agreed. “She’ll end up supporting the rest of the family,” he joked. They laughed some more and enjoyed the moment.

That was a good movie,” Randy finally said and broke the silence. “But you know what would have made it better? If Clint Eastwood had starred in it.”

Sean Connery did a good job.”

Yeah, but couldn’t you see Clint in charge of a submarine? He wouldn’t have to take any shit from anybody.”

I don’t know if it’d be right if Clint played a Russian,” Jason said. “That would be like John Wayne playing a Nazi. And could you imagine how funny he’d sound if he tried to talk like a Russian.”

He’s Clint Eastwood, he doesn’t have to say anything,” Randy said. “All he has to do is give you that don’t-fuck-with-me look.” Jason sped up as he changed lanes and drove past a tanker truck. “Hey, thanks for covering me. I owe you.”

No problem,” Jason said.

Movies sure got more expensive,” Randy bemoaned.

Tell me about it.”

I mean, when did it go up to five bucks a ticket? You can rent a movie for half that.”

What gets me is that they have the balls to charge you two fifty for a cup of ice that maybe has a couple of ounces of coke,” Jason said.

Highway fucking robbery!” Randy fumed. “Remember when we used go to the UA, only pay a dollar, and then sneak from movie to movie?”

Or play video games out in the lobby,” Jason said. “A whole weekend of fun with nothing but a pocketful of change.”

The place we were just at had at least ten screens,” Randy pointed out, “we should have sneaked into another movie just to get our money’s worth.”

I would’ve loved to, but you know, I’ve got things to do.” Jason drove quickly to keep up with the rapid, weekend traffic.

Right, family stuff,” Randy assumed. “Doesn’t your dad work on parts that go into submarines?”

He used to,” Jason answered. “I’m not sure what they’re having him do now, but he’s going to retire pretty soon anyways.”

Did he get to work on anything that had to do with torpedoes?”

Possibly,” Jason said. “But he wasn’t much into talking about his job. Whenever any of us asked what he did, he would say that when he was home that was his time, and he didn’t want to spoil it by talking about work.”

That’s because work sucks.”

Right,” Jason agreed dubiously. “How’s that coming along?”

Aw, more problems with the boss,” Randy said.

Same old problems?”

He’s not giving me enough work. I keep telling him that I could use some more hours, but he says he doesn’t have anything for me.”

It’s summer,” Jason said, “this is the busy time of the year for landscaping.”

“Lots of competition out there,” Randy countered, “at least that’s what he tells me.”

“Sounds like he’s jerking you around.”

The guy is a prick anyhow,” Randy said, “one of those anal retentive types who has to manage every little detail of your job, a real pain in the ass.”

Yeah, micro managers are the worst.”

“And he’s so into micro managing that he forgets to look for new customers.”

“Maybe you should try to drum up some business,” Jason suggested.

“Me?” Randy laughed.

“You’re an outgoing guy,” Jason pointed out, “and you have the personality for it.”

Not sure I’m the guy who should be the face of the company,” Randy continued jocularly. “He needs to learn how to schedule appointment first. One time when we were done for the day and getting ready to leave ready, but that fucker wanted us to keep working just as it was getting get dark. How the fuck are we supposed to work in the dark?”

Dude, you don’t need that headache,” Jason agreed. “There’s got to be something better out there for you.”

Sure, but you know what? I don’t need a lot to be happy, just the essentials. Why do I got to bust my ass for?”

Believe me, I wish I could do the same,” Jason said, “but prices keep going up. Rent, gas,

food…everything.”

Randy turned toward Jason. “You know what we should do? We should just say the hell with it and go live on a beach somewhere. We could do that. Who needs all that rat race bullshit?”

“I can’t do that. What would Christine say?”

“Bring her along.”

“Serious?” Jason laughed.

“Why not? We used to do stuff like that all the time, remember?”

Yeah, when we were kids,” Jason reminded. “But things change, and sometimes you got to change along with them. It’s all about growing up.”

Randy stared at Jason. “You used to never talk like that.”

C’mon, Randy, you know I didn’t mean anything.”

Yeah, I know,” Randy said as he looked back ahead, “just looking out for me.” He kept staring ahead as the pavement quickly disappeared under them. “I’ve been hearing that straighten up and fly right talk from teachers, principals, and bosses for as long as I can remember. You know I don’t sweat that stuff. Why worry about getting ahead or any of that? It’s all bullshit anyways.”

Jason noticed wisps of steam from the front of the car, then a steady vapor rose from

underneath the hood and blew over the windshield. “Aw, shit.”

Uh oh,” Randy said. “Looks like we’re going to need a ride.”

Jason decelerated and coasted to the right onto the shoulder of the freeway. “The last fucking thing I need,” he complained. He came to a stop and turned the ignition off. The engine hissed and steam wafted from underneath the hood. “We home yet?” Brian asked groggily from the backseat.

No, go back to sleep,” Randy said. Jason reached under the left side of the dashboard, pulled a

handle, and the front of the hood popped up. He got out and walked to the front of the car. He carefully reached underneath the front of the hood while trying not to burn his hand. He found the metal lever, pushed it aside and lifted the hood all the way up as it released a cloud of steam.

Hope it’s not the water pump,” Randy said as he looked down into the engine from the side.

Jason noticed Randy after not seeing him at first. “Probably just a hose.” He looked down behind the radiator and saw a thin jet of steam hissing out of the thick, black hose that connected the bottom of the radiator to the lower engine block. He leaned downward to get a better look.

Yeah, looks like a hose,” Randy said as he also leaned in closer, “at least they’re cheap to replace, could be worse.”

Brian wandered up to the front of the car. “What happened?” he asked.

We’re going to have a picnic,” Randy joked, “right here next to the freeway.” While they were all looking under the hood the vehicles sped by in a constant coming and going hum of tires spinning on pavement. The sun glared down on the arid landscape and baked the freeway asphalt and the dry dirt and weeds alongside. Smog and haze permeated the hot, dry air.

I got some rags in the trunk,” Jason said. “I think I can tie it around the leak and get us to a gas station. Then I can put more water in the radiator.”

“Electrical tape would be better,” Randy said.

Well, unless you can cough up a roll we’ll just have to make do with what we got.” Jason walked to the back of the car, opened the trunk, reached in and found a rag, closed the trunk, and returned to the front of the car. Randy surveyed the scene with a beer in his hand while Brian stood around lethargically.

Let’s find a pay phone and call Todd or someone and get a ride,” Randy suggested. “No, we’ll

call Stu. He’s got Brian’s van.”

“What’s he doing with Brian’s van,” Jason asked.

Randy looked to Brian. “Why did you let Stu borrow your van?”

“He had to move some shit,” Brian answered tiredly.

“He had to move some shit,” Randy reported to Jason.

“I’ve got ears, Randy,” Jason said.

“So I guess there’s no way to get a hold of Stu,” Randy said.

We’ll make it home,” Jason assured. “There should be a gas station at the next exit.” He went under the hood.

Maybe you can get a new hose there,” Randy said.

If they have the right one.” Jason found the steam sputtering pinhole size leak on the hose and began to tie a rag around it. He tried to avoid getting grime on himself as he reached down between the radiator and engine and worked the rag into a knot. “If they don’t, I’ll probably have to get one from a dealership, and those places love to rip you off.” The rag became wet as it minimized the leak.

For sure,” Randy said as he sipped his beer. “We should get into that kind of business, something a little shady.”

Nah,” Jason said as he closed the hood, “too messy. I don’t think Christine wants to see me with grease underneath my fingernails.” He looked over at Randy and Brian as they stood around by the car. “Thanks for the help, guys.”

Anytime,” Randy said. Brian crawled into the backseat and Randy got in after him into the

passenger seat while Jason got into the driver’s seat. “Look, about what you were saying. I know

you’re just trying to help, and I appreciate it, really.”

Yeah, I know,” Jason said.

Tell you what, since you paid my way, I should do something for you.”

“Like what?”

“Now, I know you love Christine,” Randy said, “but maybe sometimes you get a little curious as to what you’re missing out on.”

“Thanks, but I don’t need any of your ho’s.”

“No, I’m talking about Brian,” Randy kidded as he pointed to the backseat. “Serious, I’m going into the pimping business, and Brian’s going to be my first ho,” he laughed. Jason was unmoved. “Hey, lighten up, man. No need to get all serious.”

Jason shook his head as he tried to remain upset, then finally relented and laughed along with Randy as he started the car.

“Hey, what are you guys talking about?” Brian asked.

“Quiet, bitch!” Randy ordered.

 

©2017 Robert Kirkendall

Redwood Summer Chapter 8

So now that I have my general ed out of the way I can really concentrate on my major,” Kathy said at the dining room table.  “I’ll be able to do more work in the lab, in a year I can intern.”  Jason, Christine, and David sat at one side to Kathy while mother and father were at the other and circled the table crowded with food and drink.

That sounds wonderful, dear,” mother said.

“No more taking classes I don’t need to take,” Kathy said with relief.

Rick’s older brother went to Cal Poly,” David said eagerly.  “One time he went down there for spring break, he said there was a huge kegger in every house.  Then someone started a fire in a dumpster and everybody was rolling it down the street. Got so crazy that the police had to show up in riot gear and break it up.”

Sounds out of control down there,” father said warily.

Wasn’t me,” Kathy said with mock innocence.

Right,” Jason said.

I swear!” Kathy pleaded.  “I was studying that night.”

Jason no longer noticed the foreign texture of the chicken enchiladas as he ate.  A platter of enchiladas were at the center of the table surrounded by a large bowl of salad, dishes of rice, beans, and rolls, and drinks.

So who’s this guy that started the fire?” Christine asked.

Don’t know, I wasn’t out that night,” Kathy said.  “Could have been anyone.”

I meant the one in the dorm,” Christine said.

There was a fire in your dormitory?” mother said alarmingly.

It was no big deal,” Kathy reassured.

“Yes, it is a big deal when the building you’re living in catches on fire,” mother countered.

“No, the building didn’t catch on fire,” Kathy explained.  “All that happened was some moron in one of the rooms tried to microwave regular popcorn in a paper sack and it caught on fire, that’s all.  It wasn’t like the whole building burned down.”  She ate intently.  “God, it is so good to eat a home cooked meal after dorm food.  Thanks, Mom.”

Isn’t there any way you can cook for yourself?” mother asked.

Actually,” Kathy began, “I have these friends that live off campus, and they have a kitchen, washer, dryer, a bathroom they don’t have to share with a bunch of people, and I was thinking of moving out of the dorms and living with them.  I’ve already looked into it, it’d be cheaper than a dorm.”

Well what’s the neighborhood like?” mother asked.

Yeah, is it safe?” father added.

“Of course it’s safe, Dad, you think I’d move to a bad neighborhood?” Kathy said.  “It’s a small town, cops everywhere, it’s not like USC.  Nothing to worry about.”

It takes big money to go there,” mother said.

Nothing to worry about?” father responded.  “Wait until you’re a parent.”

“Should be all right as long as there’s no microwave fires,” Jason added.

Do a lot of girls go to Cal Poly?” David asked.

At that age, they’re called women,” Jason corrected.

Of course, it’s a big campus,” Kathy said.  “So whatever happened with Teresa?”

David looked down.  “She dumped me.”

She left David for the class president,” mother said quietly to Kathy.

Oh my god!” Kathy exclaimed.  “I’m so sorry!”

Still hurts,” David moped.

Don’t let her get you down,” Kathy said to David. “You can do better than her.  She’s kind of a bitch anyhow.”

“Katherine, you’re at the dinner table,” mother reminded.

But don’t you agree?” Kathy asked.

“Well, she did strike me as a bit shallow,” mother admitted.

“I thought she was superficial,” father added.

“She’ll probably end up being some rich guy’s trophy wife,” mother joked.

“See?  You’re better off without her,” Kathy said to David.

Yeah, I know,” David said.  “It just sucks, that’s all.”

That’s one way of putting it,” mother remarked.

Don’t worry, Dave, someone better always comes along,” Jason said, then felt Christine grab his knee affectionately underneath the table.

That’s right,” mother said.  “I’m sure there are a lot of nice girls at school.”

You should try to get with one of the cheerleaders,” Jason said.

Good idea,” father agreed.

The familiar, casual banter continued while Jason looked around the entire table at Christine and his family and took in the whole scene as he remembered back to the last time the whole family was eating together.  A wave of memories came over him and he felt a tug of nostalgia.  He took in everything all at once into a single picture captured in his memory before it was gone.

Kathy, I’m going to Aunt Delia’s tomorrow,” mother said.  “Want to come along?”

Oh, I already made plans with Heather and Tina,” Kathy said apologetically.  “We’re going to check out that new, big mall in Milpitas.”

Where the Ford plant used to be?” father asked pointedly.

Busy, busy,” mother said.

Don’t worry,” Kathy gripped her mother’s hand, “we’ll do something together, I promise,” she emphasized then let go.  “I just need to catch up with a few friends, that’s all.  I’ll be around all summer.”

“We’ll be a full house one again,” mother observed humorously.

“Too bad we only have two bathrooms,” Jason kidded.

“I sure did miss all of you,” Kathy said as she looked around the table.  “There really is no place like home.”

Ah, you’re having the time of your life,” Jason said.

Yeah, but you do get a new appreciation for home once you’re away for awhile,” Kathy said, “especially when you have to do everything on your own for the first time ever.  Funny all the things you take for granted.”

You’re welcome,” mother said.

I promise that I will never complain to you about anything ever again,” Kathy said to mother, “and I mean it this time.”

That’s why I moved back,” Jason said.

Maybe I should stay,” David wondered.

Maybe you should start paying rent,” father said, then everyone laughed except David.

So what are you two doing anything tomorrow?” Kathy asked Jason and Christine.

I told Randy we’d go see a movie,” Jason said, “maybe some of the other guys will tag along.”

Randy,” Kathy said wistfully.  “How’s he doing?”

Oh, you know, same old Randy,” Jason said as he felt himself pulled back into reality.

God, I haven’t seen Randy, or Brian, or Todd, or Alex, or any of your friends for a year or more,” Kathy reminisced. “How’s everyone doing?”

“Doing fine,” Jason said.

They’re always asking how you’re doing,” Christine said to Kathy.

Yeah, they’re the best,” Kathy said, “but nobody was as fun as Randy.  Remember that time when I got stood up on a date, and Randy wanted to kick the guy’s ass for me?”

Didn’t I just say something about watching our language at the dinner table?” mother scolded.

Our little girl sure has grown up,” father said humorously.

If I don’t get a chance to see Randy, can you say hi for me?” Kathy asked.

I’ll do that,” Jason said.

©2016 Robert Kirkendall

Pacific Television Theater – Rising Tide

This is episode three of Pacific Television Theater, Rising Tide, a none act play about a small skin care products company struggling with the challenges of growth.  It was supposed air live last October 8, but due to technical difficulties it did not go out.  It was recorded however and one of the actors posted it to Vimeo.  This is the first episode in color, and the first to use the green screen for backgrounds.

I did post Rising Tide to YouTube, but they blocked it because the CD I used for the music is copyrighted, even though the music itself is in the public domain.

Current Affairs: A Fake Interview Show

(Inspired by the peculiar election season of 2016)

CHARACTERS

LIONEL TROWBRIDGE – The interviewer

TANYA BICKFORD – The interviewee

Scene: An interview studio

LIONEL

Good evening, and welcome to Current Affairs. I am your host, Lionel Trowbridge.  Tonight we’ll be discussing the entertaining, if not controversial, congressional campaign of Arnie Fowler with his most recent spokesperson Tanya Bickford. Thank you for joining us, Tanya.

TANYA

Thank you for having me, Lionel.

LIONEL

So you are the the newest spokesperson.  How long have you been in the inner circle the Fowler campaign?

TANYA

Hmm, let’s see.  (THINKS) Since this morning.

LIONEL

And what happened to the previous spokesperson?

TANYA

Well the police and the FBI are still looking for him.  Hopefully they’ll catch him before he flees the country. Who would think that a former Wall Street lobbyist would turn out to be an embezzler. Sure had us fooled.

LIONEL

Yes, quite. So, Arnie Fowler.  Last week he accused his opponent, incumbent Sylvia Brown, of being not only a sympathizer of ISIS, but a doner of money and time to the cause.  He even claimed that Brown runs an ISIS training camp on her palatial estate.  Now after a through search by our staff, we determined that all these claims were beyond false.  In fact, the palatial estate Fowler claimed to be owned by brown is actually a two bedroom townhouse next to a busy freeway.  How do you explain Fowler’s apparently false claims?

TANYA

Well, Mr. Fowler didn’t actually claim these things, he was merely speculating in the spirit of debate.

LIONEL

But debate requires two opposing sides.

TANYA

Well, yes, that’s the standard, mainstream way of debating, but Mr. Fowler likes to push the envelope of what are considered the accepted definitions of reality.

LIONEL

I see.  Now let’s move on to another of Fowler’s statements. He referred to appellate court judge Margaret Tanaka as a “disgrace to the bench and women everywhere,” a “stupid broad,” and “proof that only men were capable of being judges.”  He then followed these statements with a series of stereotypical karate motions and sounds in an apparent swipe at Judge Tanaka’s heritage.  How do you explain such behavior?

TANYA

What Mr. Fowler said was taken completely out of context by a media that is obsessed with political correctness and doesn’t really care what the average middle American is thinking.  And Judge Tanaka did rule against Mr. Fowler and his business associates planned project to revitalize the city.

LIONEL

Was that the project that was going to demolish an old folks home so they could build a golf course?

TANYA

Yes, that one.

LIONEL

Back to your previous comment, are you suggesting that middle Americans are thinking the same things and feel the same way as Arnie Fowler?

TANYA

I’m just saying you can’t know until you stir things up, and Mr. Fowler has been drawing sizable crowds. Why at our last rally a bunch of supporters all showed up in white.  They were even wearing these white hoods.  Very supportive, and so many of them.

LIONEL

Now that brings me to another point.  At many of Fowler’s speeches, there have been verbal and physical assaults against peaceful protesters, a number of which were egged on by Fowler.  And at one rally Fowler handed out cattle prods and autographed ax handles to his supporters. Are you at all reticent about working on a campaign that seems to endorse violence?

TANYA

Mr. Fowler is a man of the people, and he likes to keep that relationship close.  He doesn’t need the filter of handlers and political insiders who are so called experts on campaigning.  All these high priced consultants claim that all they’re doing is trying to save their candidate from embarrassing and campaign killing situations. Mr. Fowler isn’t afraid to say what’s on his mind at all times no matter the consequences.  Some even say that Mr. Fowler is beyond embarrassment.

LIONEL

Hmm.  Another recurring theme in the criticism of Arnie Fowler is his consistent ignorance of history and today’s news events, as well as his constant disinformation.  Care to comment?

TANYA

Glad to, Lionel. People are sick and tired of being told what to do by snobby, overly educated elites.  Just because they’ve studied and learned more than most people doesn’t make them experts.  People want a candidate they can identify with, who’s just like them, humble and god-fearing, not some intimidating brainiac who knows how to read.

LIONEL

(PAUSE) Are you saying that Mr. Fowler doesn’t know how to read?

TANYA

He does know the alphabet. He just still has trouble with words longer than two letters.  But you know what?  People like an underdog.  They don’t want a candidate who claims they can solve every single problem, they want a candidate who’s willing to admit his shortcomings. That’s what makes Mr. Fowler so relatable.

LIONEL

Actually Fowler has claimed to be perfect and mistake free on many occasions, and he regularly ridicules people for their mistakes and flaws.  And his recent embrace of Christianity seems to go against past comments in which Fowler referred to church goers as (LOOKS AT NOTES), “dumb sheep who’ll believe anything.”

TANYA

Ah, but Mr. Fowler was merely being sarcastic when he was saying those things.  Certainly the people know the difference between truth and sarcasm.

LIONEL

Interesting. Any final comments on the campaign of Arnie Fowler and why people should vote for him? 

TANYA

Yes. People are tired of the same old same old.  They want a fresh perspective with a new agenda that isn’t beholden to special interests like the human rights agitators and union bosses and intellectual elites. A vote for Arnie Fowler is a vote for political honesty and against political correctness.  Mr. Fowler is candidate who always speaks his mind without concern of how those words words will affect others.  You see, deep down Mr. Fowler has the innocence of a child, and like a child there is a purity to his demands. That’s what matters to his supporters, and that’s why people should vote for Arnie Fowler.

LIONEL

Well thank you for joining us, Tanya.  (TO AUDIENCE)  And thank you for watching another edition of Current Affairs. We have been speaking with Tanya Bickford, the newest campaign manager for congressional candidate Arnie Fowler.  I’m your host, Lionel Trowbridge. Good night.

©2016 Robert Kirkendall

lester.jpg

Last Show Did Not Live Broadcast

My last episode of Pacific Television Theater which was supposed to live broadcast last Saturday night was not able to broadcast due to technical difficulties.  The person in charge of programming at CTV Santa Cruz was not made aware that my show is live.  However the show was performed and recorded, so once I edit out a couple of parts I will be able to post episode 3, Rising Tide, as soon as possible.

Tales From The Studio

A friend from college who’s been making industrial films for 25 years allowed me to guest post on his blog Tales From The Set, a behind the scenes look at his film making.  My post is about the making of my live TV show Pacific Television Theater and is called Tales From The Studio.  In this post I talk about finding rehearsal space.  I did take some liberties with the narrative to make the post more interesting, but the underlying truth is the same.

A big thanks to Sean Frame from Frame X Frame Productions for letting me post on his blog.

http://framebyframe.com/content/tales-set-volume-3-method

Redwood Summer Chapter 7

Jason and Christine sat upon a small stand of wooden bleachers and watched her nephew’s little league baseball game along with Christine’s sister, brother in law, brother, brother’s girlfriend, niece and nephew.  Other families and groups of friends sat amongst the bleachers or on folding lawn chairs on either side of the cyclone fenced backstop that surrounded the back of the baseball diamond.  Ten and eleven year old children dotted the the gravelly dirt infield and the patchy, uneven green grass covering the outfield.  The high summer sun shone above from a cloudless sky.  Past the field heat waves shimmered up from the blacktop and blurred the images of the drab, rectangular school buildings in the far ground.

Christine’s nephew, Tommy, crossed the white chalk foul outline at the side of the diamond and advanced to the batter’s box with bat in hand.  “All right, Tommy, let’s go!” Christine and her family shouted.  Tommy planted his cleats into the dirt rut beside the five sided white plate, gripped the bat with both hands, held it up behind him ready to swing, and focused on the pitcher.  The pitcher stood still on the mound and looked straight ahead to the catcher.  He nodded yes, then wound up, leaned back on one foot, launched forward and hurled the ball to the catcher.  Tommy stepped toward the pitch and began to swing but held back as the ball smacked into the catcher’s mitt.

Ball,” the umpire called from behind the catcher.

Good eye, Tommy!  Make him pitch to you,” the family called out.

He’s showing more patience now,” Christine’s sister, Carla, said.  “Remember how he used to swing at everything?”

Looks like he listened to what you told him,” Carla’s husband, Bill, said to Jason.

He’s a natural,” Jason said.

You were pretty good in your day,” Christine said to Jason.  “You should see his trophies,” she bragged to Carla.

They give those to everybody,” Jason downplayed.

C’mon, you were good, you know it,” Christine insisted.

I heard you were an all-star one year,” Christine’s brother, Pete, said.

“Yeah, that’s right,” Christine agreed.  “Don’t be so modest.”

Yeah, I guess I was pretty good,” Jason admitted.

Hey, Chris,” Carla said, “we’re having a barbecue after the game, want to come by?”

Sure, we’ll be there,” Christine said.  “I’ve been dying to see what you’ve done with the backyard.”

Jason was caught off guard.

You should see the new roses,” Carla said, “we also have a new brick walkway, and the deck is finally fixed.”

Did you and Bill do that yourself?” Christine asked.

Are you kidding,” Carla laughed.  “We hired this guy who uses college students to work for him, he’s a friend of a friend of Bill’s.  I think they were all hungover half the time, but they did a good job, a lot faster than we ever could have done it.”

Jason became irritated as their conversation continued.

Hey, is that Tina over there?” Christine asked.

Yeah, her kid brother is on the other team,” Carla said.

The frustration was building in Jason until there was a break in Christine and Carla’s conversation.  He leaned toward Christine.  “We’re supposed to be having dinner at my place tonight,” he reminded her sharply.  “My sister’s coming home today.  Don’t you remember me telling you earlier?”

Oh, that’s right,” Christine said apologetically.  “I’m sorry, I forgot. We can skip the barbecue.”

You should ask me before inviting us places,” Jason asserted.

Carla asked me,” Christine pointed out.  “We don’t have to go if you don’t want to.”

Don’t worry about it, we’ll go.”

Why are you being so touchy?”

Let’s just watch the game.”

When the game was over, the two teams went to their side of the diamond, formed into a line and walked toward each other.  They slapped each other’s outstretched hands while saying ‘good game’ as they passed each other then wound back to their side of the field.  The coaches gathered the players together, said one last thing to them before letting them go, then they all dispersed to their families.

Did you see that RBI double I hit?” Tommy said excitedly as he ran up to Carla, Bill, and the rest of the family.

How about that catch back in the second inning?” Bill said.  Everyone stood around Tommy and congratulated him and bragged about his team’s performance as they headed to their vehicles.

The celebratory mood continued as the families walked over to a row of parked cars with their folding chairs and coolers while chatting with each other.  They slowly loaded everything in while still conversing, then got into their cars.  Carla rolled down her window.  “So I’ll see you at my place?” she asked Christine.

Jason thought he could feel Christine’s eyes on him.  “What do you say, hon,” she asked him.

Yeah, sure,” Jason said.

See you there,” Christine said to Carla then she and Jason walked over to his car.  “It was an honest mistake, really,” she said to him once they were alone.  “I know, I should have remembered about your sister, it’s just that I haven’t seen Kathy in a while so I guess I forgot.  We go to Carla and Bill’s all the time, I didn’t think you’d mind.”

Yeah, I know,” Jason said as they got into his car.  “Just me overreacting,” he said sullenly.

No, you’re right. I should’ve asked you first,” Christine replied helpfully.  “We don’t have to stay long anyhow.  Carla just wants to show off her new deck, you know how she is.”

Jason started his car, backed up into the street, and drove off without saying anything.

“Really, I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Jason drove along with the exiting traffic.  “I know.”

I’ve invited us to places before, we both have.  I didn’t think it’d be a big deal.”

Usually a couple of days in advance,” Jason reminded, “not all of a sudden.”  They came to a stoplight.

Is that what’s bothering you?” Christine asked.

The light turned green and Jason turned onto the main avenue.  “I don’t know how it happened, but now it feels like that I always have to be somewhere.”  He felt somewhat unburdened.  “Nothing feels spontaneous anymore, you know?”

We weren’t planning on going to Carla’s right now,” Christine offered.

I mean just the two of us,” Jason argued, “like when we used to go places on the spur of the moment, just for fun.”  He thought longingly.  “Like going to the beach, or that time we went down and camped at Big Sur, stuff like that.”

I’d love for us to get away, but sometimes you have to make the time for family.  Maybe we can’t do everything we want, but we still have fun.”

You know I don’t like to whine,” Jason said as they drove ahead.  “I’m not trying to be a dictator, but I still like to have a say in things.

Of course,” Christine agreed.  “We definitely need to get away somewhere.  Take a break from everything, like when we took the trip to Hawaii.”

But first we need to be able to afford it,” Jason reminded.  “I don’t need much, anyways, even a trip up to the City would be all right.”  They drove along with the busy traffic then came to a red light.

So how are things at work?” Christine asked.

Work’s fine,” Jason said.  “That isn’t a problem.”

Didn’t you say they laid off some people?”

They were just temps.”

I see,” Christine remarked.  The light turned green and they drove ahead.  “Maybe that’s why they have you working more hours.”

The extra money will get me out of debt quicker,” Jason pointed out.

But it’s going to cut into you going to school.”

See, that’s what I’m talking about,” Jason said angrily.  “I’m tired of worrying about this, that, and every other damn thing!  I just want things to be simple.”

Me too,” Christine agreed.  “But what can we do?  Maybe this is just how life gets, less play and more responsibilities.”

“Just like our parents always warned us about,” Jason said half seriously.

“It’s been getting busier at my job, too, ever since that new client.”

Work is cutting into both of our lives.”  Jason thought yearningly of disappearing free time, and feared that it would never return.

You should hear some of the talk at my job.  Mergers, acquisitions, lawsuits, one company swallowing up another, and they don’t even think about how all that affects other people’s lives.”

I’ll bet a lot of that is big talk just to impress each other.  Guys like to bullshit, especially lawyers.”

It’s what they’re saying behind closed doors is what gets me wondering,” Christine said ominously. “Who knows what they’re planning.”

“No need to get paranoid,” Jason cautioned.  “Why worry about things you can’t see?”

“If there’s one thing I’ve noticed is that what happens in the boardrooms runs everything, and they’re all secretive.”

“And I suppose you think where I work is the same way?”

“Aren’t they all?”

I don’t have my head in the sand,” Jason asserted.  “If anything was going to happen to my job I would know about it.”

They should at least pay you what you deserve,” Christine insisted.

It’ll do for now,” Jason said.  “Besides, it’s such a pain in the ass to look for a job.  I should just pick up the extra pay while I can.”  He slowed down and turned right into a residential neighborhood.

I’m not trying to be a harpy, it’s just that it feels like it’s hard to tell what’s going to happen next.  What if the lawyers I work for are planning something with the owners you work for?”

“Well if they are, maybe it’ll end up working out for us,” Jason said positively as he navigated through the maze of suburban tract houses.  “They tell me that I’m a good worker. If there are any changes, I can rise with the company.”

“I just don’t want you to be left behind when everything settles.”

Enough worrying, everything will be fine,” Jason said confidently.  “Bad enough I can’t hang out with Randy anymore.”

Jason, you know I don’t want to keep you away from your friends, but Randy is getting difficult to be around, especially if he’s been drinking.  Remember how belligerent he was at Todd’s party?”

Yeah, he was a little of out of control, but so was everyone else at that party.  We’ve all seen him that way before.”

Gina kept calling me and Cheryl and Rachel and Liz and everyone else everyday for about the past two weeks crying over Randy.”

Maybe she’s better off without him.”

So you agree Randy is getting difficult,” Christine replied.

That’s not what I meant!” Jason said irritably.  He calmed down and tried to gather his thoughts. “Sure, Randy has been kind of wild lately, but maybe he’s just blowing off steam.  Troubles with Gina, bouncing from job to job, conflicts with his mom.  He’s got his reasons.”

“But where’s he going to end up?”

Jason felt pressure to come up with an answer.  “You know what, we all make mistakes.  Hell, all of us got into trouble with teachers or the principal or parents or someone.  That’s just part of growing up.”

Yeah, but once you grow up you’re supposed to mature and leave that kind of recklessness behind.”

I don’t know if I’d call Randy reckless,” Jason countered.  “It’s not like he crashed a car into a school bus.  He’s just got a behavior problem.”

“A problem that’s worsened by alcohol.”

“He is what he is, and that’s why everybody likes him,” Jason said defensively.  “Randy’s a lot of fun, he makes people feel good and festive.  He’s a traveling party, what’s wrong with that?  He may not be the most responsible guy around, but he brightens up wherever he goes.  And that’s something we all need.”

Yes, he can be a lot of fun,” Christine agreed, “and he’s a joy to be around when he’s that way.  I wish he could be that way all the time.”  Jason sensed Christine looking at him again.  “I know he’s one of your best friends and he means a lot to you, but his behavior seems to be getting worse.  I just don’t want see him to get into any serious trouble.”  He felt her words penetrate.  “Maybe he needs outside help.”

Like what, AA?”

If that’s what it takes.”

I know you’re just trying to help,” Jason said, “but I really don’t think that Randy is at that point yet.”

I just don’t want to see him get to a point where it’s too late,” Christine warned.

But what can I do?”

You can talk to him.”

Jason chuckled.  “Yeah, that’ll work.”

All you have to do is tell him that you’re concerned,” Christine pleaded.  “He’ll listen to you. Just tell him that you don’t want to see him or someone else get hurt.”

Randy may blow it sometimes, but he would never hurt anyone intentionally.  He’s a result of his upbringing.  He can still grow out of it.”

He’s an adult now.  Shouldn’t he have grown out of it already?”

Ah, why stress so much!” Jason exasperated.  “Randy will be fine, he’s a survivor.”  He turned onto another residential side street.  “If I go to Randy with some Nancy Reagan lecture about how he’s got to straighten up and fly right, he’s just going to think I’m getting on his ass like everyone else in his life and that’ll just upset him more.”

“So nothing?”

“If he gets any worse, I’ll talk to him, okay?”

I’m just concerned, that’s all,” Christine reiterated.  “He might have a lot inside of him that he needs to let out.”

Well I don’t know about that,” Jason replied.  “Randy isn’t the type to hold back,” he said as a new thought occurred to him.  “Maybe that’s the problem.”  He turned onto another street.  “So how’s Gina doing?”

I think she’s starting to recover,” Christine said.  “That poor girl always has bad luck with guys.”

Like Randy?”

They’re not right for each other,” Christine said pointedly.  “That’s all I meant.”  Jason felt Christine looking at him again as she moved in closer.  “I care about Randy, too.  Deep down he’s got a good heart.  Sometimes he can be a real sweet guy.  I just wish he could be his better self more often.”

Sometimes you just have to accept people for what they are,” Jason deemed.  “People are what they are, they don’t change all that much.”

Christine relaxed back into her seat.  “I know he didn’t have an easy time of it growing up.  Maybe if things were different.”

If only,” Jason agreed.  He thought back to when he and Randy were younger.  “Randy was always wanting to go somewhere, he couldn’t just settle down.  We thought it was because he was more adventurous than the rest of us, I guess he was just trying to get away from home.  His older sister was the same way.”  He looked upon his old memories with new perspective.  “Seems like you don’t notice that stuff as much when you’re younger.”

So what’s Randy’s sister doing now?”

Last I heard living with some guy she met at The Saddle Rack.”

“Do she and Randy stay in touch?”

Yeah, they talk once in a while,” Jason said.

It’s really too bad Randy’s dad wasn’t around,” Christine sympathized.  “His war experiences must have seriously messed him up.”  They pulled up to Carla’s house and parked out front.  Jason cut the engine.

You know, the only reason why he got sent to Vietnam was because he got into trouble with the law. The judge told him he could either join the army or go to jail.”

Not much of a choice.”

They probably would have drafted him anyways,” Jason said.

So what’s he doing now?” Christine asked.

Jason tried to remember the last time he heard anything about Randy’s father.  “I have no idea. Randy hasn’t seen him in a few years.  Last I heard he fell in with a bad crowd.” Jason thought some more of Randy and his father and their similarities.  “Just a couple of victims of circumstance.”

They got out of the car and walked to Carla’s house.  “We don’t have to stay long,” Christine promised, “just long enough to admire their new deck,” she joked.  “I’m really looking forward to seeing Kathy. I want to hear some of her college stories.”

Same here,” Jason said.  “Did you know she’s going to be a junior when she goes back to school in the fall? She’s halfway to graduating.”

Already?  Time sure does fly.”

And where does it all go, Jason thought to himself.  They entered through the open front door and were enveloped into the hum of socializing once everyone said their hellos.  People were in the kitchen and backyard cooking and barbecuing, chatting and laughing while a ballgame was on television in the background.

©2106 Robert Kirkendall

Pacific Television Theater – Gateway/Reunion

The second episode of my live televised drama anthology show!  Episode 2 is two short plays.  Gateway is about a new resident to a gated community who discovers that the aberrant behavior he thought he was leaving behind in the outside world also exists within the confines of his new community.  Reunion is about two high school acquaintances who run into each other after two decades, and secret and unsettling desires are revealed.

If you enjoyed this please consider a small donation to keep my little show going.  Thank you!  http://www.gofundme.com/PacificTV

©2016 Robert Kirkendall