Walking Around Walker Street

Here’s what I discovered today, while walking around Walker Street:

1. You are wonderful.
2. Your life matters more than you realize.
3. I am grateful for you and all you do.
4. Sometimes saying, “I am sorry” helps heal hurting hearts better than any medicine.
5. Friends need friends too. Be a friend.

–Richard Bryant

A Play About Nothing

You may recall, gentle readers, previous missives, published here by S.P. Wildeman. The same author has been in touch and asked to submit another story. I have so obliged.

Richard Bryant, Proprietor, Richard’s Food for Thought

Note to the reader: Everything in this short story bears a resemblance to someone living and something dead. Whether man or machine, theater critic or person, we’ve all met for coffee and coordinated our versions of the truth.
-S.P. Wildeman

I’m never sure where I am these days. So many of the places I inhabit tend to blend together in the darkness. Lit only by second-hand lamps, I am led among frayed extension cords, by one-eyed adult orphans, and through hastily arranged curtains. The villagers, I am told, have taken me to the theater. The play we are about to see is something I created over a decade ago. There were no actors, plot, or scenes. Borrowing mainly from the work of Samuel Beckett, I wrote a play where nothing happened. The curtain remained closed for two hours. Behind the curtain, the audience could hear the occasional sound or see an intermittent light. There might be a clashing cymbal.

Here is my point. Nothing happened. One person (in the early days, it was me) sat behind the curtain, making the noise. After a few of the trendier theater journals reviewed my descent into nothingness, I was able to bring on a few stagehands to bang wooden spoons against my kitchen pots. Eventually, they wanted to be called actors, so I fired them and hired the one-eyed orphans. This was a play without a plot, actors, or any of the conventions of modern drama. I was going to ask my audience to stare at a closed curtain and listen to random sounds for two hours, all in the name of culture.

While the New York critics were harsh, we were huge in France. The French ate this up. The best negative review I’ve ever received came from Le Figaro. “Could less have occurred on stage?” It was a good question. Could I do nothing at all and still call it a drama? Would people pay to stare at a closed curtain with no sound or any physical interaction at all? Yes, I thought they would. I would go for all and nothing.

Why a remote village in northern Togo cobbled together enough Central African francs to buy the rights to produce a 10-year-old American play about nothing was beyond me. I had a theory. I once wrote a book on Dom Deluise as a recurring Christ figure in the Burt Reynolds’ Cannonball Run Story Saga. (I sold 12 copies, 4 of which were to Reynolds himself). Deluise’s comedy was widely revered throughout French-speaking West Africa, with his work featured in film festivals in Guinea, Ivory Coast, Togo, and Burkina Faso in alternating years.

Let me clear things up. I didn’t know where I was beyond a dank basement and hastily assembled theater somewhere on the northeast side of Togo’s capital, Lome. And even when I’m in Lome and watching a play I wrote, I couldn’t find myself on a map with a GPS if I had to.

One question still vexed me. Had the Togolaise seen any of my work? Did they know what they were getting into? How would they respond to spending their hard-earned money to get nothing in return? Plays about nothing are fine and dandy for first world theatergoers with disposable incomes. I can hear it now, “où est le dialogue?”
Were they expecting DeLuise to be a character?

Finally, someone asked, “When does the funny fat man arrive?”

He’s here, sitting in the corner, a piece of paper in his hand, furiously writing a part for a man named Santa Claus in a Christmas play about nothing.

 

Paradise Falls By A Dashboard Light (or how I heard Genesis 2 and 3 in Randolph County, NC)

Start at the beginning,
the third page of the book,
two people left behind,
Ready to make a go,
A human start,
When the dinosaurs said no,
Adam and his manly chest,
Eve and her… all the rest,
Out of the mud they came,
country people,
from lower Mesopotamia,
Adam ate with elbows on the table,
A cap on his head,
Outside and in,
Cause he had no Mama,
to name this sin,
“Boy, your manners just ain’t right,
I hope you don’t meet a reptile with a mandolin,
or a girl with an apple who offers a bite.”
Life didn’t get real until it got wrong,
When it got wrong,
it was past making it right.
Two people alone,
Leaving paradise,
Navigating creation
by a dashboard light.

–Richard Bryant

The Death of Cool On the Island of Diabetic Ducks: An S.P. Wildeman Story

You may recall, gentle readers, previous missives, published here by one S.P. Wildeman.  The same author has been in touch and asked to submit another story.  I have so obliged.

Richard Bryant, Proprietor, Richard’s Food for Thought

Note to the reader: Everything in this short story bears a resemblance to someone living and something dead. Whether man or machine, fowl or person, we’ve all met for coffee and coordinated our versions of the truth.
-S.P. Wildeman

In May of 1979, I live by selling bootleg seersucker suits from the back of a yellow 1975 Volkswagen Sirocco. We had both seen better days.  The car and I reeked of low-grade diesel fuel. This was before the environmental movement hit fuel swing – pun intended. Driving anywhere was a dirty business for motorists and Mother Earth.

The seersucker suits, in all their wrinkled glory, however, were immaculate. Their finely tailored cuts (designed to fit any gentlemen) and thin blue lines were crafted by the best Russian tinker, tailors, soldiers, and spies. With their help, I was going to be America’s next men’s clothing giant. They guaranteed it. American’s would love the way Russians thought they should look. Who was I to second guess their advice?

On a cold morning in Moscow, using only the letters in my Captain Crunch cereal, I spelled out the letters of the clothing brands I could duplicate. My company was to be Trooks Trothers. I’d open a chain of stores called Barks and Bencer to sell Trooks Trothers suits. This was the only business plan I thought I would ever need. After all, “cool” wasn’t about who you wear, it’s about whom people believe you are wearing. Labels only mattered to a point. With only $2.74 remaining to my name, I returned to the only place I thought might be cool enough to buy seersucker suits from Russia on the cheap.

Long story short, it was one heck of a drive. Before it was all over, I drove the car and nine different boats; the last of which was a ferry. I should have known something was wrong the moment I arrived at the ferry terminal. Everyone was leaving. I was the only person going over to the island. What could be wrong? No one seemed to know. It was when I arrived that I noticed the ducks. Something was amiss with the ducks. Broad groupings of ducks milled aimlessly, up and down the center of the street, quacking loudly at friend and foe alike. What traffic remained on the island came to a halt. Nothing moved north or south, left or right, and up or down because of the ducks.

From a distance, they appeared harmless enough. Come on, who’s afraid of a duck? A duck exudes the gentle air of waterborne bunny rabbit with a beak, or is that my Pepsi fueled imagination talking? I’d driven (without fear or common sense) from Russia to the Outer Banks with no memory of a bridge at the Bering Strait or Oregon Inlet. I was held for 29 days by Rohingyas on the north end of Burma. When my parents refused to pay the ransom, even my captors realized I was worth less than the distinguished blazers in the back of my cheap German car. Today was different. These ducks, they scared me.

In the parking lot of the community store, where a large crowd of mallards had gathered, the ground was littered with Kit Kat wrappers, M and M bags, and Reese’s Cup containers. These birds were mainlining chocolate. While across the street and down the road, another group stomped about like angry teens realizing their fake ids are not good enough to buy vaping products.

Might they be diabetic? Yes, these were diabetic ducks. Everywhere, chocolate-covered quacks for help came from bushes, ditches, and roadside glens.  What does one do for ducks overdosing on Toberlorone?  I didn’t know.  On occasion, I ate duck.  I was not a speaker of duck dialects.  They ignored my pleas to “Stop Eating the Chocolate”.

Airborne veterinarians don’t come cheap. In fact, they don’t come at all. Someone eventually reached a level one trauma center with a helicopter. They promised to send a veterinarian with a kayak.  Neither the kayak or the doctor arrived.  Morning showed up right on time.  The ducks, however, were gone.   Local news reports place them somewhere south of here, north of there, and looking for their next oversized Kit-Kat fix.

Even though years have passed, if the winter wind is just right, I hear plaintive quacks for duck insulin.  While I did not know them personally, the emotional bond remains.

When it was all said and done, I learned one thing: no one wants to buy chocolate stained seersucker suits, regardless of how cool they make you feel.