99 Word Prompt: Busy

September 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

Silvio the waiter moved from table to table taking customer’s orders and answering their many questions about the menu. He then ran back to the kitchen, quickly arranged various plates of food onto a serving tray, and ran back out with the tray on his upturned palm. He adroitly sidestepped other servers and bussers on his way to table.

“Waiter!” an obnoxious customer screeched.

Silvio halted and looked down at the customer contemptuously.

“What’s this fly doing in my soup?” the customer demanded as he pointed down at his soup bowl.

Silvio glanced down at the bowl. “The backstroke!”

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Ailurophobia – A 10 Minute Play

CHARACTERS

DARCY – A tenant

ROSEANNE – A tenant

TABITHA – A tenant

GEORGE – A tenant

WHISKERS – A tuxedo cat

Scene: Darcy’s apartment

Time: Early evening, Present

(The living room of DARCY’S apartment. DARCY is seated on the stage right side of a couch that’s at upstage center and facing the audience. ROSEANNE is seated to her left on other side of couch. At stage left is TABITHA sitting on a chair or a love seat. At stage right is GEORGE sitting in a chair. At center stage is a coffee table with some glasses of water and a pile of papers. There is a back wall upstage with two large windows on either side. Everyone has a sheet of paper or two that were printed by DARCY.)

DARCY

Thank you all for volunteering for the steering committee. We’ll be considering and discussing the new proposed rules for the Glenwood Complex. Let me begin by saying that I take our responsibility to our fellow tenants very serious. These are problems that we all want to be addressed, and I will give this all my attention without distraction.

(Everyone else nods in approval.)

DARCY

Now some of these new rules attempt to deal with complaints about parking availability, the lack of night time lighting for certain parts of the complex, as well as the recent worries about transients intruding onto our property.

(WHISKERS, DARCY’S tuxedo cat, enters.)

DARCY

Now I share everyone’s concern when it come to unwanted intruders, and I believe something needs to be done about it, but I also believe we need to be cautious in how we approach this problem.

(Whiskers starts rubbing up against DARCY and meowing.)

DARCY (To WHISKERS)

Not now, Whiskers. Can’t you see I’m busy?

(To tenants)

You’ll have to excuse my cat. He does love being the center of attention.

ROSEANNE

Oh that’s all right. I just love cats!

(Pets WHISKERS)

And you’re just an adorable little kitty!

(WHISKERS starts rubbing up against ROSEANNE and purring.)

ROSEANNE

Aw, how cute!

TABITHA

He is one handsome looking cat. Where did you get him?

DARCY

He was a stray. He just showed up one day when I was down in the laundry room. Poor thing was

starving, probably an orphan. I couldn’t resist, I had to have him.

TABITHA

Well cats are my favorite.

(WHISKERS goes over to TABITHA.)

TABITHA

(Pets WHISKERS)

Aw, you’re such a pretty little kitty!

GEORGE

I have to admit I’m not much of a cat person myself.

DARCY (Concerned)

If it’s a problem I can put him in my room.

GEORGE

Well, as long as he doesn’t disturb our meeting I don’t see a problem.

DARCY

You don’t have to worry about Whiskers. He’s actually very well behaved.

GEORGE

Oh, okay.

DARCY

So, back to the meeting. I’ve proposed that more security cameras be installed.

ROSEANNE

Good idea.

GEORGE

But before we do that we should fix the cameras we already have. A couple of them don’t work

anymore, which I know is more of a maintenance issue, but…

(WHISKERS walks up to GEORGE and starts rubbing up against him. GEORGE is a bit uncomfortable.)

DARCY

Whiskers! Leaver George alone!

(To GEORGE)

I’m really sorry about this. He’s friendly to everybody.

TABITHA (Humorously)

Cats always find the non-cat person.

DARCY

(To GEORGE)

Want me to get him away from you?

GEORGE

Well, as long as he’s not biting or clawing or endangering me in any way it should be all right.

ROSEANNE (Affectionately)

He’s marking you!

DARCY

You can go ahead and pet him. He won’t bite.

GEORGE

(Pets WHISKERS carefully)

I’ve never lived with cats, half my family is allergic.

ROSEANNE

He’s helping you with your ailurophobia.

GEORGE

Ailuro what?

ROSEANNE

Ailurophobia, it’s an irrational fear of cats.

GEORGE

Well I don’t know if it’s an irrational fear, more like unfamiliarity.

TABITHA

You’ve made a new friend.

(To GEORGE, jokingly)

And so have you.

GEORGE

Um, yeah. Can continue with the meeting?

(Stops petting WHISKERS)

DARCY

Of course, let’s back to it.

TABITHA

George does make a good point about the cameras we have now that aren’t working. If we get those fixed, maybe we won’t need new ones.

DARCY

I agree, we should save expenses where we can.

(WHISKERS walks over to coffee table, peers at a pile of papers, starts batting at them.)

ROSEANNE

And while we’re at it, we should really do something about the lighting.

DARCY

Oh, definitely. Better lighting would keep away the trouble makers.

TABITHA

Yeah, like one of those spotlights that turns on automatically when you trigger a sensor.

(WHISKERS knocks pile of papers onto the floor.)

DARCY

Whiskers!

ROSEANNE (Laughs)

Cats sure do like knocking stuff over.

DARCY

(Picks up papers)

Especially this one. Bad kitty!

(WHISKERS meows back.)

DARCY

We’ll play with your cat toy later. Right now momma has company.

(WHISKERS mews some more, then sulks away. He slowly makes his way to window next to GEORGE.)

DARCY

For a male cat he can be a real diva.

ROSEANNE

My mom’s cat is the same way, a real attention magnet.

TABITHA

So was my old cat. Maybe I should get a new one.

DARCY

There’s plenty up for adoption.

TABITHA

Yeah, I just need to find the right cat. One who’s adorable as this one!

GEORGE

I hate to interrupt but shouldn’t we be discussing the agenda of this meeting?

DARCY

(Sits back down and lays papers on table)

Yes, yes we should. I believe we were discussing security cameras?

ROSEANNE

Yeah, as well as lighting.

(To WHISKERS, unctuously)

We just got a little distracted to adorable little kitty!

GEORGE

Okay. Like I was saying, if we fix the cameras we already have, or even replace them with advanced cameras, that could solve our problem.

TABITHA

You know, looking into new cameras would be a good idea. The new ones have such a better resolution.

GEORGE

Exactly. I’ve been looking around online and the prices of 2K cameras is starting to come down. They might actually now be in the range of our budget.

(WHISKERS look downward out window at stage right, then raises his hackles and hisses.)

GEORGE (Nervously)

Uh, what’s going on here?

DARCY

Oh it’s just another cat that lives in the complex. They’re having one of their territorial wars again.

GEORGE

He won’t attack me on accident, will he?

DARCY

Of course not, you have nothing to worry about. You’re not a rival cat.

(WHISKERS continues to howl and hiss, then runs over everyone and knocks some of the papers off of table again on his way to other window. He continues to howl and hiss out other window.)

DARCY

Whiskers! That’s enough!

TABITHA (Affectionately)

He’s just a little bundle of energy!

DARCY

Well he is a stray so he still has a lot of wild still in him.

GEORGE

I’ll say.

ROSEANNE

I think it’s cute.

DARCY

He can be a handful, but I wouldn’t have him any other way.

(To WHISKERS)

Whiskers! Get away from that window and behave yourself!

(WHISKERS finally stops howling and hissing, then walks to front of coffee table down stage.)

TABITHA

That does it, I’m adopting a new cat! There must be cats waiting for homes who are just as adorable as this little guy.

ROSEANNE

And you’ll be saving a cat’s life.

DARCY

That’s right.

TABITHA

The thought of all those poor kittens waiting for loving homes just gets to me.

(TABITHA fights back tears, DARCY and ROSEANNE console her.)

GEORGE

Um, the meeting?

DARCY

Oh, of course. Once again distracted by the feline.

(WHISKERS meows back at DARCY.)

DARCY

(To WHISKERS)

Not now, the people are talking.

(To GEORGE)

You were saying?

GEORGE

Good. Now in addition to new cameras we should also consider other security measures.

DARCY

Oh, agreed.

ROSEANNE

Maybe we can hire a security guard.

TABITHA

Yeah, the police don’t patrol this area nearly enough.

ROSEANNE

I know, it’s like we’re on our own out here.

DARCY

But can we afford a security guard?

(A fly starts buzzing around and WHISKERS follows it intently with his eyes.)

GEORGE

We can shop around, but I think we really need to look at that option. It’ll help keep out the criminal element.

ROSEANNE

Okay, but I’d hate for this place to become a fortress. One of the things I like about living here is all the friendly neighbors. I wouldn’t want it to feel too authoritarian.

GEORGE

Of course not. We need just enough security to protect us from dangerous types and the trouble makers.

(WHISKERS starts to go after fly, knocks over a glass of water off of coffee table, water spills on GEORGE.)

GEORGE (Stands up angrily)

Hey!

DARCY

Whiskers! Get a hold of yourself!

(To GEORGE)

I’m really sorry, I’ll get a towel.

GEORGE

Your cat is a menace!

DARCY

I’m so sorry, George! He didn’t mean it, really he didn’t!

(WHISKERS continues to chase after fly, then bumps against GEORGE causing him to stumble toward window and teeter over the window sill.)

GEORGE

Oh no!

(Falls out of window)

Aaaaaaaahhh!

(WHISKERS looks out window, then stars preening himself. Sound of GEORGE crashing outside.)

DARCY (Hands on hips)

Whiskers! Bad kitty!

(WHISKERS meows back innocently, then goes back to preening himself.)

©2017 Robert Kirkendall

Current Affairs: A Fake Interview Show – Episode 2

(Originally written as a short play during the summer of this year, posting it here after failing to get it staged.)

CHARACTERS

CHARLENE BEAUMONT

AMELIA KIRBY

HARVEY CHESWICK

REX PAULSON

Scene: A local television station

(A local television studio where an afternoon talk show is about to air. The host and the three guests are seated around a coffee table. The host, Charlene Beaumont, is seated at stage right. She is intelligent and informed. To her left is Amelia Kirby, an officious but dense person. Next to Amelia is Harvey Cheswick, obsequious and two faced. Seated at stage left is Rex Paulson, a menacing heavy.)

CHARLENE (Addresses audience)

Good afternoon, and welcome to Current Affairs. I am your host, Charlene Beaumont. Since the election of Arnie Fowler to Congress, things have been very different for District 7. In addition to an increased emphasis on security measures and a decrease on social spending, there has been a very concerted effort to go after immigrants, both documented and undocumented, environmentalists, human rights observers, women’s groups, minority groups, LGBTQ groups, civil libertarians, unionized workers, teachers, intellectuals, journalists from all forms of media, the entire county board of supervisors, people who speak with accents, appear too swarthy, and have last names that are, quote, funny sounding. With me to discuss his new administration is Congressman Fowler’s chief of staff Amelia Kirby.

AMELIA

Thank you having us, Charlene.

CHARLENE

The Congressman’s governmental advisor, Harvey Cheswick.

HARVEY

A pleasure to be here, Ms. Beaumont!

CHARLENE

And also with us is…(Looks at her notes), Director of Special Operations Rex Paulson

REX

Hi.

CHARLENE

Well, it’s been a hectic time in District 7 since the election. How have you all adjusted to your new positions as well as your sudden presence in the public spotlight?

AMELIA

Well I’ve adjusted just fine, and I really don’t know what all the controversy is about. Congressman

Fowler was very expressive about his vision during his campaign so for me there were no surprises. Plus I’ve had plenty of experience when it comes to dealing with an upset public.

CHARLENE

And where was that?

AMELIA

Customer service for United Airlines.

CHARLENE

I see. And have the rest of you readjusted to your new positions?

HARVEY

Like a hand in glove! When Mr. Fowler tells me to jump, I don’t even bother to ask him how high, I just jump.

CHARLENE

But as his governmental advisor aren’t you supposed to inform him of the duties of his job? Especially if he’s about to do something illegal or make some other kind of mistake?

HARVEY

Ha! Oh my, you are so naive. Congressman Fowler never makes mistakes. He told me so himself.

CHARLENE

Okay. And you, Mr. Paulson? Have you acclimated yourself to your new position?

REX

Yeah.

CHARLENE

All right. Now Ms. Kirby, how has the Congressman reacted to the slew of protests that have plagued him since he took office?

AMELIA

Well I just remind Congressman Fowler, and the rest of us, that the protesters represent only a small minority of voters and doesn’t reflect the majority of opinions.

HARVEY

And I have it on good authority that all these so called protesters are bussed in from out of state and are funded by George Soros.

REX

A conspiracy.

CHARLENE

Now protesters claim assiduously that they are local, and they contend that Congressman Fowler only won through voter intimidation.

HARVEY

Sore losers, ha ha!

AMELIA

They’re making that all up. I have yet to hear any examples of this so called intimidation.

CHARLENE

Well, some of the voter disenfranchisement techniques cited by protesters include closed polling stations, voter intimidation by brown shirted protesters at other polling stations, and one instance of a man in a security guard uniform who claimed to be a ballot inspector, and went around looking at filled out ballots looking for irregularities. He ended up throwing away hundreds of ballots.

REX

Mr. Fowler denies knowledge or involvement in any of these alleged activities.

CHARLENE

They’re not alleged, there’s plenty of video footage. All the local TV stations and many online sources have already shown footage.

REX

They’ll be dealt with.

CHARLENE

I beg your pardon. What do you mean by that?

HARVEY

Uh, Mr. Paulson was merely being sarcastic.

AMELIA

Of course! Rex is very well known for his sarcasm.

CHARLENE

Is that true, Mr. Paulson?

REX

Yeah, sure.

CHARLENE

Moving on. Another complaint from citizens is that the Congressman is rarely at his office. They accuse him of spending too much time golfing, bowling, playing poker, and when he does meet with constituents, it’s usually at a strip bar.

REX (Agitated)

Are you accusing Mr. Fowler of meeting with Reds?

CHARLENE

No, (Enunciates) a constituent. It means someone who lives in the Congressman’s district.

REX (Beat)

I knew that.

CHARLENE

Back to voter concerns. Many are worried that the Congressman is not only shirking his duties, he doesn’t take seriously the very responsibilities of his job.

HARVEY

Now I think I can put those worries into perspective and ultimately to rest by pointing out that candidate Fowler ran a very unique campaign. So of course after winning he going to be a unique, outside the mainstream congressman.

AMELIA

And let me add that no one takes his job more seriously that Congressman Fowler. You should see the passion with which he yells at the TV when he sees a news item he disagrees with, especially when Sylvia Brown is on.

CHARLENE

Yes, the Congressman’s opponent during the election. Why would he still be angry with her?

AMELIA

Because she said some mean things about Arnie.

HARVEY

She sure did.

CHARLENE

But since Fowler won and became Congressman, it seems rather unnecessary to harbor bitter feelings toward Mrs. Brown.

AMELIA

But she never apologized for her mean comments.

CHARLENE

Actually Sylvia Brown said very little about Fowler, especially toward the end of the campaign. Most of her ads were just clips Fowler’s more outrageous accusations, especially the obviously false claim that Mrs. Brown killed Vince Foster for the Clinton’s, and that they paid her in heroin.

HARVEY

But can you prove that it didn’t happen?

CHARLENE

You can’t prove a negative.

HARVEY

Aha! More pseudo intellectual hooey!

CHARLENE

No, it’s just common logic. You do understand the basic tenets of logic, right?

(The guests stare back at Charlene blankly.)

CHARLENE

Okay, let’s move on. Another area of concern is the shroud of secrecy that surrounds the office of Congressman Fowler. Access to him has become more restricted, and most people have no idea what happens during a typical day at the Congressman’s office.

AMELIA

Well then let me explain it to all those anxious, worried people. In the morning we put together his briefing. We keep it simple. He likes it when they have pictures and lots of color graphs.

CHARLENE

Is anything substantive said at these briefings?

HARVEY

Of course! Mr. Fowler is a very complex man who takes his job very seriously. Just the other day I attempted to bring up an important issue that I referred to as an elephant in the room. But when I said it that way, Congressman Fowler jumped to his feet and said, where’s the elephant? where’s the elephant? Then he excitedly ran around the office looking for an elephant. When we finally explained to him that it was a figure of speech and not a real elephant, he was extremely upset. He even broke down in tears.

CHARLENE

It does seem alarming that the Congressman has a hard time controlling himself.

AMELIA

But would you rather have some cold blooded, unemotional leader who doesn’t have feelings and only does things calmly, and rationally?

CHARLENE

But how do you deal with Congressman Fowler when he acts in such an emotionally unhinged way?

HARVEY (Reassuringly)

Oh, we know how to handle him when he gets in one of his special moods. A box of crayons, some paper, and he relaxes like a tranquilized animal.

CHARLENE

I see.

REX

I’d like to state for the record that Mr. Fowler does not inject tranquilizers or any other drugs. He just says no.

CHARLENE

I believe that was a metaphor.

HARVEY

That’s my fault. I should have been more plain speaking, like our beloved Congressman, instead of relying on the crutch of metaphor.

CHARLENE

Okay. Well one thing Congressman Fowler has been open about is his desire to return to policies that are fading, like mandatory minimums, suspension of civil liberties, and general prison expansion.

AMELIA

He is merely reacting to the wishes of the people.

CHARLENE

Actually public opinion is going against those policies.

HARVEY

That’s absurd!

CHARLENE

Not really. And many speculate that these policy opinions are because the private prison industry was a major donor to Fowler’s campaign.

AMELIA

But they are merely supporters who are showing their appreciation by donating to Congressman Fowler’s campaign. It’s really all quite innocent.

CHARLENE

But donations give the appearance of influence.

HARVEY

Might I remind you that money is speech?

REX

Citizen’s United, sweetie.

CHARLENE

Okay, currently money is considered speech, but that decision has been steeped in controversy, so just saying money is speech doesn’t seem to satisfy the public.

AMELIA

Well maybe the public needs to pull itself up by its own bootstraps instead of asking for a handout.

CHARLENE

I’m not sure how taking issue with moneyed interests having a disproportionate influence on elected office holders makes one a seeker handouts.

AMELIA

You see? You just answered your own question.

CHARLENE

That doesn’t make sense.

HARVEY

You need to stop thinking and just go with how you feel.

CHARLENE

Okay, I think we’re going off course here. Now I want to bring up the nagging and persistent questions that continue to surround the last election. More specifically, Fowler’s connections to figures in the criminal world.

AMELIA

Oh please! Congress are the real criminals.

CHARLENE

But Mr. Fowler is now a Congressman.

HARVEY

A new kind of Congressman, without that Washington taint.

CHARLENE

But these connections between Fowler and the criminal underworld go back years, long before he got into politics. He plays golf with members of various South American drug cartels, is suspected of having ties with members of the Yakuza, and has been accused of brokering money laundering for Russian oligarchs.

AMELIA

But as you can see Congressman Fowler has very diverse friends.

HARVEY

You think the pointy headed elites would at least give him credit for that.

CHARLENE

Uh, I think you’re missing the big picture. Now that Mr. Fowler is a congressman he is under greater scrutiny, so all those connections to criminals that he was able to hide when he was a private citizen are now in the public arena.

AMELIA

Those charges are baseless!

CHARLENE

And there’s Congressman Fowler’s insistence that climate change is a hoax despite all scientific evidence to the contrary.

HARVEY

The Earth is still around last time I checked.

CHARLENE

But the Congressman is at odds with most of his constituency. Isn’t he afraid of a backlash?

AMELIA

If Arnie took his critics seriously he would have given up long ago.

HARVEY

And he knows how to deal with his critics.

CHARLENE

How does he?

HARVEY

Oh, he has a plan.

CHARLENE

What plan?

HARVEY

A little thing called martial law.

REX (Jumps up)

You’re not supposed to mention that!

CHARLENE

What??

HARVEY

No! I didn’t say anything!

REX

That does it!

HARVEY

Noooooo!

(Rex grabs Harvey and drags him off stage.)

CHARLENE

What’s going on here?!

AMELIA

You didn’t see a thing!

CHARLENE

We’re on live TV!

AMELIA (To audience)

You! At home! You didn’t see or hear a thing! Got it?

(Runs off stage after Rex and Harvey)

CHARLENE (Pause, to audience)

Well this is flabbergasting. When we come back from break we’ll try to straighten out this mess and then discuss the Congressman’s voting record.

(Harvey runs back on stage screaming for help and then runs down the center aisle while being chased by Rex, who holds a pair and manacles or a large net, and Amelia.)

CHARLENE (To offstage)

Security!

©2017 Robert Kirkendall

99 Word Prompt: Lighthouse

July 6: Flash Fiction Challenge

Wendy and Jack approached the old lighthouse with other tourists.

“I just love these old buildings!” Wendy gushed.  “Don’t you, dear?”

“They’re okay, I guess,” Jack replied.

“But it’s so grand looking!  They knew how to build things then.”

“It’s just an archaic brick building with no more use.  Modern ships rely on more advanced technology.”

“But it’s historical!” Wendy reminded.

“It’s useless,” Jack insisted.  “There is no more need for it.”

Just then the long, ugly sound of a ship crashing upon rocks and resulting screams filled the air.

“Okay,” Jack admitted, “maybe this lighthouse is still useful.”

Pacific Television Theater – Oasis

Episode 4 of the drama anthology Pacific Television Theater, performed and live broadcast from Community Television of Santa Cruz on May 27, 2017.  Oasis is a half hour drama about a dispute over a community garden.  The people of the neighborhood want to save it while the owner of the land has different plans.  Selena and her father Diego meet with Roger, who works for the land owner, to find out what’s going to happen to their community garden, and if it’s possible to save it.

Redwood Summer Part III Chapter 12

Jason hurried along Santa Clara Street as the glaring, late summer sun heated him from above. The unfamiliar feel of his necktie stifled him. He loosened the knot as he was moving, unbuttoned the collar, and let the heat out. He turned south onto Market Street and crossed through shadows cast by mid sized office buildings. He then arrived at an oval island of grass and trees two and a half blocks long from north to south in the middle of Market Street. He ran across the northbound lanes between traffic and onto the sidewalk.

Jason anxiously looked around for Christine as he walked alongside the park. He spotted her sitting on a bench on the other side near the park’s southern end, and felt some relief. He went across the park toward her as she looked the other way seemingly unaware of him. He thought back to the first time they met, when he saw her across the room at a party as she was talking to friends, momentarily unaware of him until he came to her and introduced himself.

As Jason was approaching Christine finally saw him. She smiled at him, and he managed to smile back. He dropped himself onto the bench next to her and let out an exhausted breath.

“So how did it go?” Christine asked.

“Worst job interview ever.”

“What happened?”

“It was a goddamn sales job!” Jason fumed. “Should’ve known.”

“Really?” Christine said with surprise. “The ad didn’t say that.”

“Of course not, that’s how they lure you in.” Jason replayed the whole event in his mind.

“First, they crammed all of us into this room and have us fill out this one page application that looked like it came right off the copier. And then before anyone can finish filling it out, some loudmouth jerk walks in and starts giving us this spiel about making sales, closing deals, and fleecing people. And then some other clown walked in and gave us the same bullshit speech, but even louder and more obnoxious!”

“That sounds nerve wracking,” Christine said.

“I swear, he was like the evil twin of the Downtown Datsun guy,” Jason complained. “Whole thing was like a weird, bad dream. But what gets me were all the applicants who just sat there and bought the whole song and dance, and then they joined in all the noise like sheep! What kind of a person acts like that?”

“It does seem that a lot of people are going into sales these days,” Christine pointed out. “Lots of want ads in the paper for sales jobs, guess there’s a lot of demand for it.”

“Not for me,” Jason rejected as the memory of the event became less haunting. “I can’t bullshit for a living.” He relaxed a bit more. “Remember how the ad in the paper sure made it sound like a once in a lifetime opportunity? What a load.”

“I guess it did sound too good to be true.” They stared out across the park silently.“Something better will come along,” Christine finally said as she put her hand on Jason’s knee encouragingly.

“Yeah, but I’m going to need something more than ‘some college’ and just a few skills to put on my application. I guess I’m going to have to lie more.”

“It does help make getting a job easier.”

“It’s funny,” Jason observed, “when you’re a kid, your parents and teachers and all the other adults are always telling you to not lie and to be honest. But when it comes down to it, you do what you have to get by, even if it means lying, and everybody is fine with it.”

“They should teach that on Sesame Street,” Christine joked.

“And you know what else is bothering me,” Jason continued. “Even if I did find a good job, how do I know that place won’t get bought out, and then they start firing people and making new rules and all the other bullshit that’s happening now at my current job. No way out.”

“At least you’re still working,” Christine said optimistically. “No need to grab the first thing that comes along.”

“Yeah, that helps. I just hope something comes along soon. I don’t know how much longer I can stand it there.” Jason stared out across the park. “You know, I always thought that showing up on time and doing a good job was all it took to make it through life. No one said anything about the office politics and ownership changes and the closed door meetings where your future is decided. Too complicated.” Jason looked out over the grassy field, then up a new twenty floor hotel across the street from the park as he tried to figure out his options. “You want to get something to eat?”

“Sure.” They got up and started walking up the concrete path that crossed the middle length of the park. Christine linked her fingers into Jason’s and their hands held onto each other. They walked along and approached a fountain to their right. About two dozen jets of water shot up from the flat, square sectioned concrete. The water came up to just above Jason’s eye level then flowed back down in a foamy stream. Children in soaked T-shirts and shorts ran in and out of the water in front of watchful adults. “Looks fun,” Christine commented as they stopped to watch.

“Yeah,” Jason agreed. While watching the flock of children he looked into the sun sparkled mist and saw glints of color. He thought back to when he was younger and all the long carefree summer days spent at backyard swimming pools or hanging out at the beach. “Wouldn’t mind being a kid again,” he said partly to himself.

A mother holding an infant emerged from the ring of adults and carried her child into the
fountain. She cupped her hand into one of the founts and then gently applied the water onto her child while the playing children tried not to bump into her. Jason looked upon the scene while still feeling preoccupied, then noticed Christine watching the playing children intently.
“I saw Randy the other day,” Jason said.

“So how’s he doing?”

“Well, he took me out for pizza, and paid for everything, with beers. He said he owed me.”

“Sounds like he’s doing better,” Cristine said. “Right?”

“One minute he’s broke, then suddenly he’s flush,” Jason replied.

“Where did he get the money?”

“I asked him, but he wouldn’t say. And you know what that means.”

They stood quietly against the sound of the splashing water and playing children. “How do you know?” Christine finally asked.

“What else could it be,” Jason replied. He looked upon the fountain scene as he thought of that day and remembered how Randy didn’t give a straight answer when he asked how was doing. “I have been ragging on him lately about not being able to hold a steady job and never having any money.” The mother cradling the infant rocked her child a little more while the children played around her, then sauntered out of the fountain. “Maybe I pushed him to it.”

“You can’t blame yourself,” Christine insisted. “It was his decision.”

“I don’t think he feels he has a choice,” Jason said.

“I know, it’s terrible, and I feel for Randy,” Christine said, “but he is an adult now, and he’s responsible for his own actions.”

“I wonder if he even knows what responsibility is.” They watched the children play in the
fountain for a little more then moved along. They walked up the east side of the park and the sound of the splashing water faded away as they came alongside a wall of traffic noise. “You know,” Jason began, “I actually used to be jealous of Randy. I always had chores to do, a little sister and brother to look after, had to be home by a certain time, but it seemed Randy could do just about anything he wanted, could come and go as he pleased, could stay up as late as he wanted. I thought he was so lucky.”

“You’re the one who was lucky,” Christine countered. “He needed that kind of structure and guidance. He’d be a different person right now if he had.”

Jason noticed the concrete front steps and large white pillars of Saint Joseph’s Cathedral in his right periphery as he reflected further. “Randy has been one of my best friends for almost as long as I can remember, and I thought it was always going to be that way. I just never imagined Randy not being a part of my life.” He dwelt some more as they walked along. “I know the smart thing would be to just let it all go and get on with my life. But how do you that?”

“It’s tough, I know,” Christine said, “but at least you’re concerned about him.”

“Doesn’t feel like enough.”

“You’ve done more for Randy than anyone else, and that’s all anyone can do.”

“I suppose,” Jason said. “I just wish he’d stop hanging out with Darren and all those other sketchy bastards. That’s a bad scene.”

“As long as you’re there for him maybe he’ll realize that. He can still turn things around,” Christine added hopefully. They continued walking toward the north end of the park. “I’m sure the next interview you have will be a lot better than that last one.”

“For sure,” Jason agreed. “I got one tomorrow and another one next week,” he said. “You
know what else is bothering me, when my folks got married they bought a house and raised a family on one paycheck. Now you need two paychecks just to get by. I’m not trying to make excuses, but how the hell did that happen? I thought life was supposed to get better.”

“I know. And do you ever notice how older people always talk about how hard life used to be and everything they had to go through? Which is probably true, but everything sure was a lot more affordable back then.” Christine wrapped her arm around Jason. “But you know what, something good will come along. And it won’t be like that place where you just had that interview from hell.”

“I’m over it,” Jason said and put his arm around Christine. As they came to the end of the park they saw a small plaque in front of a young tree. They stopped, read the plaque, and saw it was a memorial to a Vietnam veteran who was still missing in action. They silently looked upon it for a moment, then moved on.

 

©2017 Robert Kirkendall