Who’s The Man?

“Where the hell’s Rosalie?” Pat Bowman asked as he peered over his son Mark’s shoulder toward the front door.

“She was here this morning, Dad,” Mark said with a sigh. He sighed a lot these days, though he tried not to.

“Wasn’t that Becca?” Pat said. 

“Well, yeah. Becca was here, too. A little while ago. Rosalie came this morning, though.”

“I would’ve sworn…” Pat’s attention refocused on the television.

“She’s the one who came earlier, Dad. Trust me.” Mark decided to hold his big inhale this time. Sighing didn’t make Mark feel any better about his father or his own role as Pat’s health proxy and primary caregiver.

Besides, what good would sighing now do? The doctors and therapists explained to him how his father’s condition would become frustrating. Then would come the hard part. Mark closed his eyes and tried not to think of what the hard part would be like in light of the past three months.

“Who the hell thought this stupid ostrich was a good idea to sell insurance,” his father, a retired business executive, said. 

“It’s an emu, Dad. But you’re right. It sucks. Annoying as hell.”

“Stupid fucking bird. Assholes must think we’re idiots. If some ad man brought me this concept I’d throw him out the window. See if he could fly as well as some damn ostrich.”

“Relax, Dad. It’s only a commercial.” Mark was seeing more of these tirades all the time. And they hurt.

He recalled how when they were kids, his sisters Rosalie and Rebecca and he couldn’t go to sleep without listening to their father tell them a silly story.  Never the same one, unless they asked for one. Pat Bowman put the “gentle” in “gentleman.”

Mark thought of the time back at Yale when he the cops hauled him in after trying to score some weed off an undercover. Pat drove from Albany to New Haven in a blizzard to bail Mark out and drive him home. Not once did he raise his voice or issue a profanity. Not one “damn,” let alone a “fuck.”

“You’re better than this, Mark. You know the difference between right and wrong, and the law says what you were trying to do is wrong,” Pat said. 

“It’s a stupid law, Dad. But, yeah. Sorry. I fucked up,” Mark said, his chin to his chest as he stared at the floor board.

“Careful of your language, Mark. Words have power I don’t think you fully understand yet. How you use them communicate as much as what you’re trying to say. I tried my whole life to set a good example for you. Maybe I slipped up — slipped up — somewhere. Always remember, you’re my main man, pal. When I go, I want to say ‘My boy Mark is The Man.’ Not ‘The *blanking* Man. MY Man.”

And so he was.

Mark’s mouth twisted into something between a grin and a grimace thinking of that night. “MY Man.”

“When the hell is Rosalie coming? Was that a car?” Pat said, trying to rise.

“Sit! Yep, It’s Rosalie,” Mark said with touch of relief.

“Hi, Mark. You get some rest. Hi, Dad,” Rosalie said as she breezed into the living room.

“Thanks, Ro. Later, Dad.” Mark said, and kissed his father’s forehead.

“So, is there anything I can do for you, Dad? Need a drink, something to eat?” Rosalie said. Just so she knew she’d have his attention, Rosalie stepped between her father and the television screen.

“Yeah, get outta the way. And can you tell me who that guy was who just left?”

This is a larger version of a 250-word story I wrote (Yes, I WROTE!) Thursday in response to Siobhan Muir’s Thursday Threads  flash fiction mini-competition. It was probably better at 250. Somehow, though, my piece won. Never ceases to floor me when one of my simplistic, minimalist stories garners some bit of approbation. It’s humbling and encouraging. Those are two ingredients any writer needs to make his or her next bit of creative sustenance. 

Do You Ever?

Do you ever wonder why
I do these things I do?
Those annoying, forgetful,
clumsy, mean-spirited,
endearing, gentle,
memorable, loving things?
I suppose not.
That would mean you’d
have to think about me,
and that’s something
you’d just as soon
not have to do.
No reason to,
no future in it,
don’t care.

I wonder not only
about all my actions,
but also about yours.
Sorry, that’s another thing
you might not think about
that I do. Did you ever?
Will you now? Now that
I’ve brought it up,
like someone saying
don’t think about me.
And so you will.
Add another annoying
act to my tab.
You’re welcome, stranger.

Awaiting Your Touching Words

When you’re lonely, do you long for someone
who could find a way to reach out to you?
Does thinking of them make you come undone?
Don’t you wish you could reach out to them, too?

Rest assured you’re not alone, just lonely.
My friend in need, many share your distress.
I clothe my need in pretty words only,
you choose whether their those pants or this dress.

Just like you decide to accept my touch
when I reach out for a you who’s not there.
They’re all I can do, I know they’re not much,
but mere words are all I ever might dare.

So if my touching lines you’ve ever accepted,
send back your own. Please, do the unexpected.

Yeah, the final couplet of this janky sonnet is made of two eleven-syllable lines. But I’d hope you’d allow this desperate artist some leeway after all our years of sharing secrets, lies and truths beyond belief. I forgive you your sins, maybe you could forgive mine. They’re only words, right?

The Forgotten Man

I am the forgotten man,
forgotten by you and you
and, if I’m not mistaken, by you.
(You know who you are.)
But that’s okay. I’ve forgotten
some of you, as well. It’s
something that happens when
we get older and too long hide
behind walls and in our depressions.
I’ve already lost the memory picture
of my grandparents. And recently,
I lost high school, like it’d been
razed and buried with all my memories
in it. I tossed my yearbooks
in the grave with it.
I like my memory of you, though.
I’m sure it’s mistaken and certainly
isn’t the you you are now.
Which is fine. We all change.
Like this morning, I looked
in the mirror and didn’t recognize
that guy staring into the windows
of my soul through this window
of sad truth. I turned off
the light and we each walked away,
as I heard someone say,
“Forget him.”

Another Gray Winter’s Day

I don’t take much joy in this time of year.
It’s cold and still dark longer than it’s bright.
And trees, bare-ass or muted around here,
are the contrast to a tableaux off-white.

See, there’s little difference ‘tween the sky
and the ground, since the ground sleeps ‘neath the snow.
Tree-limned horizon interrupts the eye,
breaking gray monotony, high to low.

I’m not sure if it’s winter’s curtains drawn,
or my need for warmth that burns up my joy.
Or perhaps it’s those trees, the view they’ve sawn,
spoiling Nature’s symmetry, that annoy.

Typical, a break in dull tedium
would inflame a poet so… medium.