Feel Like a Million

     Drugstores built and operated by a neighbor before the mega CVS and Walgreens dominated adjacent corners of busy intersections magically still managed a meager survival in towns with simple names on the outskirts of urban sprawl. Tucked in the corner of brick facades where next door retail shops would come and go from shoe repair shops to ladies wear consignment stores, these drugstores, pharmacies, apothecaries, made do with prescription refills along with an assortment of over the counter remedies, toiletries, canned goods, and menagerie of retail items from manicure kits to children’s toys. At one time, it was expected that stores such as this featured a lunch counter. In the 1940s before the golden arches, a cup of coffee for ten cents and a hamburger created a comfortable spot for customers to wait for their prescriptions to be filled. Most of these faded away beginning in the 1960s as the population favored fast food, fast service, and the death of lunch counters and most independently owned drugstores; the drive through window. Rare is a good word for Mechanicsville Drug Store. Just off  I-295; actually off the Mechanicsville Bypass. That far out of way survival for the small store was even more of a challenge as not many travelers made it a destination for a quick stop off the interstate. Somehow the family continued to offer hot breakfasts for patrons that were comfortable at a lunch counter or small Formica booth. Laminate hard surfaces withstood attacks from spills and cigarette buts long past the installation date when smoking was cool. Most soda fountains had disappeared in the 1970s, so this specific store was a time capsule since the family that owns it bought the business in 1957. 

     Strange how some things last and others fall victim of the times. How, you may ask, does a lunch counter last when just up the road a ways, so they say, the site of Pole Green Presbyterian Church is marked by a grave stone looking historical market that dates the founding in 1748 by Reverend Samuel Davies. The Reverend Davies ministered to slaves and preached a great deal about freedom and liberty. Patrick Henry of ‘Give me liberty or death’ fame attended many of the services led by Davies and was so well received he expanded and became minister to lead seven congregations in five counties.

     Times change and in 1864 the Civil War destroyed the shouts of hallelujah when the church was burned. People burn the damndest things when emotions run wild.

     Reverend Davies did okay. He went on to become the fourth president of Princeton, however, his legacy would be all but forgotten without the Woman’s Auxiliary who created the memorial in Hanover County in 1929.

     Eight generations after the church burning, the sun rises once again above the pines and rolling fields part and parcel of the same landscape that once ran with blood from any number of Civil War memorials from Polegreen Church to Cold Harbour a stones throw east of the marker erected by the ladies.

     Instead of a church, the old men who hung out every morning at the drug store for breakfast, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, and non-believers alike have found the dated store cafe a preferred place to meet each morning and discuss world events. On no occasion has anyone brought up Reverend Davies burnt out church. The counter and small booths provide adult day care for some guys who will sit there for hours drinking coffee and talking. Each day as the group would gather, old man Chuck Davies, no relation, not even distant, to the Reverend Davies would enter and hold court over the other men. “C.D., about damn time, how you doing?”

     Chuck Davies did not mind the nickname C.D. as he grew up with the moniker being that he was a junior and the pet name gave clear identification when he and his father were together. Even after the older Chuck Davies passed, the initials C.D. lived on.

    C.D. answered, “Feel like a million … and two.”

     “And two?”

     “Any body can say they feel like a million, but when life is good enough to hand two more, that’s saying something.”

     The younger guy sporting a worn cowboy hat poked back, “Just two? That ain’t so much to brag about.”

     “Hellfire C.D.,” another local piped in, “You wouldn’t know what to do with a million in the first place.”

     “My name, after all is said and done, is C.D. You run on up the street to the windmill bank and ask them what C.D. means.”

     “You been up to that bank?” One of the younger guys in his fifties asked and commented, “That new teller up there is cute as a button.”

      “You’d know about as much to do with that young lady as C.D. knows what to do with a million dollars.”

     “And two,” another adds.

     C.D. explains, “You will learn over time that additional two is everything.”

     The group settled into a quiet moment taking a few slurps of coffee. C.D. looked around noticing the metal clanking of the spatula against a hot grill scrambling eggs, bacon and sausage frying perfumed the air, Loretta, the weathered waitress, was making rounds with a fresh pot of hot black coffee in each hand, one with a green rim, the other orange, the green topped pot mostly drained.

     “Hey, earth to C.D. You were about to shower us with some old fart knowledge,” Cowboy hat said.

     “First piece of advice is to remove that hat in the presence of a lady,” C.D. said as he motioned for a refill from the green pot.

     Loretta smiled, winked, and took a shot at cowboy, “I hear you over hear bragging again about two inches?”

    The guys laughed and applauded Loretta. The hat said back, “You ain’t woman enough for this man.”

     “You can’t even get the name of the song right,” Loretta said, topped off the cup in front of C.D. and turned away.

     “See there young man. You just got your extra two dollars worth for today.”

     “How’s that?”

     “Young Loretta just gave you one more new lesson to add to your education. Everyday can be like that if you live long enough to understand that any increase you get each new day enriches your life. Sometimes two is more than enough. You count up enough days with small daily increases as I have had the great fortune to enjoy, and if you are smart enough to count blessings instead of losses, you too will become a happy old man.”

     “How can you be so positive with all the crap that’s going on?”

     “Like what?”

     “You watch the news?”

     “Only if I have to. Mostly I avoid it like a plague.”

     “Have you seen the riots tearing down statues and burning up places?”

     C.D. sipped his coffee, “Don’t get so worked up.”

     “You’re damned right I’m worked up.”

     C.D. made the observation that a contagious sentiment could rifle through the group and decided to calm the mood, “I have lived long enough to know these things come and go. People burn things for the damndest reasons. Sometimes they can’t even figure out they’re burning the very thing that is on their side. It’s happened over and over. Hundreds of years, most likely.”

My Blue Heaven

Two came together to form my world. Some magical birth derived from the comingling of red and green parents to procreate a brilliant light blue universe. The blue filled my vision left to right, down to up, and that is all there is and all that ever was. My universe. At times shades and values would change in waves. Other times a dark void of blue from some deeper abandoned abyss would float by, but mostly my world existed in crystal clear sparkling shallows. Comfort came to me in every waking moment from the spotless and free peace warmed from some distant light source radiating that beautiful blue spectrum of wavelengths. The blanket of hues and shades delighted me beyond any and all sensations that could ever come from the touch of another body. For me, the light, the warmth, the blue exceeded any satisfaction of any variety of tastes and smells. My light was all I needed. I never knew darkness. My closed eyes brought no black veil down to shut out my world. Why would I ever want to shut out such beauty? But, you may ask, don’t you sleep? Sleeping does not compute in my world. There are times when I hear things, and times when there is only silence. If silence is sleep, then you can say yes I do sleep. How would I know?

Those rare moments of muffled voices bubble up from the abyss out of view are just distractions. I’d choose not to hear them. Voices in some garbled language from unseen spirits not visible in my blue universe require some kind of belief that has escaped my reasoning for some time. I can’t tell you how much time, as to me that concept does nothing to serve me.

One day a dark chasm began to swell and squeeze by blue heaven aside. The shadow grew, and with it faint words grew and with each decibel of loudness more and more meaning began to fill my mind. Stifled voices began to shape thoughts that had never occurred to me. “How sad,” drew my attention. Why would such a foreign comment be made in a world as beautiful as this is? How sad? What could that mean? Another voice commented about my expression changing, “Look. His eyebrows frowned.”

 

Some new strange obscure reality began an assault into my translucent sphere. Why would such a pit of darkness begin to well in me? These spirits, these creatures from the crevasse dared to pull me into some new world that made no sense as words formed sentences that I, for the first time, could begin to understand. They were here to impose their world, their view, their sensitivities casting a shadow over my perfect pristine world.

Then, they left. The hole of dark blue black they came from shrank and my blue orb filled my world again. My beautiful blue heaven once gain warmed me in that comfortable blanket of peace, tranquil, thoughtless, wordless, meaningless but full and ripe with a richer meaning. Words those demos began to utter faded from thought; washed away in soft surf releasing crystals of sand back to the beach it was meant to be; the way of divine design. All was blue and light.

Yet, there was a problem. Words. Two words, to be exact just two syllables that played over and over, “How sad.” Never before in my world had that opine ever manifested; and then one thought became obsessive. Sad about what? Did some other perspective have some superiority to my beautiful blue heaven? Therein, it was decided these voices would forever be known as something from the others. The others. What did they know that had been kept secret from me all these years? The bigger question came to me to wonder why after all this time did vague mumblings begin to take shape in some foreign concept that disrupted the beauty of my world. The others must have agreed on some doctrine that what they had was better than what pleased me. For the first time, there was a need in me to learn more from the others.

Just then that void of darkness once again crept into view. This time the voices muffled in the distance seemed to be mingled with various voices sending sound vibrations up from the pit growing closer and closer. There those words again, “How sad.”

My mind ached for an answer to reveal what that meant. Sad about what? The voices grew clearer as the darkness swallowed my blue paradise. “How old is he now?”

Who did they mean and what does the term old mean anyway? My mind raced for some understanding about old, age, years, was there some measure of time that had been held back behind the light blue veil? There must be something the others know; or more dangerous some thing they believe that had escaped my knowing.

Voice after voice offered more to question as one said, “I pray for the strength for you to get through this.” Another, “God never hands out more than you can handle.”

Wait. Who or what is God? Did the others have some king to rule over them? Had this king never cared enough of me to set forth some rules in my blue heaven? All these new challenges grew larger in the black gorge now filling my view with no prism to reflect the beautiful blue rays that gave me life. Then, one of the others said, “Today he turns forty.”

Forty what? I wondered. Another said, “Forty years. Unbelievable. The thought of him lying there locked in a world of darkness never knowing anything of life.”

The others said my life had been nothing but that of a vegetable for forty years.

They must know more than me. The others said they knew some God; a ruler who knew better. Reality set in and there was darkness. My beautiful dazzling blue heaven was not really my world of plenty. The others said that I had been cursed to living a life without. Then, there was a small spark. Something of a pin sized light. It sparked again, and reproduced itself swelling out the darkness and jumbling the words of the others. Their words, thoughts, ideas, beliefs faded with the darkness that loses space with a new dawn. The light. The refraction of light in the drops of mist that create sunshine and rainbows arched in a newer shade of bright blue.

My world was returning.

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Abigail

Abigail entered the restaurant on Sunset to meet the reporter from some Hollywood weekly recommended by Abigail’s publicist. Abigail was wallpaper compared to the crowd that met at this ambiguous cafe everyday to lunch without the bother of tourists gawking at them. She could be anyone. Not a very vivid imagination could easily see her torso curled up in fuzzy flannel pajamas, pasty complexion with no color, curled hair tied back out of her face as she munched on a bowl of Raisin Bran. Another time, she could walk in that cafe painted and accessorized carrying a very high maintenance profile. Someplace else, she could be the mousy librarian hiding behind thick black eyeglass frames. Abigail was a chameleon. That day, she projected more of her true self in a business suit, moderate makeup, and the only jewelry was her wedding band.

“Hello, I’m Abigail,” she smiled and extended a warm soft hand.

“Everyone knows who you are,” he said.

The bearded ferret of a man from the 1990’s held on to her hand until they sat in the booth her back to the wall to view the parade of plastic people strolling by on Sunset. “It is a pleasure to meet the queen of erotica,” he said.

“What a stupid title,” she said.

“No offense, but your book is the number one erotic thriller novel.”

“Soon to be a movie,” she added. “But, let me correct you. First, I agree anything erotic can be thrilling, but, I write romance. That’s the genre.”

“Okay,” he nods, “however, what about those very descriptive scenes?”

“You mean the ones about moist body parts, the touch of soft skin, the electricity of entangled nerves,” she teased.

The comment did not fit the straight laced woman next door sitting across from the man. He swallowed, “Yeah that kind of sums it up.”

“And, you and your friends would label me a poet of pornographia?”

“You mean pornographic?”

“No, pornographia. Ancient Greek. Some refer to pornographos as the writing of harlots,” she paused. “I’m no harlot and neither are my characters.”

“Greek, huh?”

“There’s a line of study about ancient languages. You should check it out sometime. Names can mean a lot when you dig deeper.”

“Look, not to get off on the wrong foot, I did not mean any insult.”

“Really. Erotica? Based on your description of my work,” she said. “I assume you think John Updike was a pornographer?”

“Of course not.”

“Have you read some of his long intense meticulous scenes with beautifully articulated descriptions of bodies and the acts his characters performed? That’s why I hate labels, genres, and comfortable little slots to mold, shape and identify someone.”

He had no retort to give.

Her smile did not quiver as she sat with feline superiority knowing she was the stronger sex in the conflict of words and meaning, “Well,” she said with un-flinched smile, “What do you want to ask?”

“What’s your inspiration for your characters?”

“You want to know if I have done some of the things my characters have done, is that it?”

He paused caught in the moment, “How much is imagination and real experience, yes.”

Abby punches back, “How much of anything is real? Maybe all there is comes down to illusion.”

“That sounds new age.”

“There’s nothing new about it. Ideas are around all of us all the time. I can’t tell you how many times people have commented that they had the idea about my books first. They all say they thought of that. Well, the difference is I did something with the idea and wrote a book. They did nothing with the idea. The truth is ideas come to all of us because the ideas were there all the time. The secret is to tap into those thoughts that are already there; ready to be taken.”

“If the ideas are already there, how does that ring true with imagination?”

“Imagination leads us to the answers. We don’t create the ideas. We just find them. I would say the process is more about finding the key parts of an idea and putting them together.”

“That can’t be right.”

“Have you interviewed anyone about quantum physics and quantum entanglement?”

His blank stare was answer enough.

She seemed to delight in taking him down, “Einstein called it ‘spooky action at a distance.”

Abby waited for a reaction and thought for a moment she had delivered a concept way over the reporter’s head. However, he returned the volley, “I have not had the opportunity to interview anyone about quantum physics; until now. The subject is interesting and I have watched several documentaries on the topic and found a lot of holes in the theories. Coming from a skeptic’s point of view, I enjoy approaching topics the way an atheist scrutinizes religion.”

“Not a believer, huh?”

“Religion or a spooky universe? Both,” he smiled off the concepts.

“Well,” Abby began to explain, “The scientists that dig into quantum physics have a theory that particles have no definite state. Each atom is just a probability of one thing or another until they can be measured. Then, these particles become something. That’s why I say all the ideas floating around in the ether of space become real in the minds of those that are creative enough to put the answers together.”

“Now you’re mentioning the fake argument about some mysterious ether.”

“Nothing fake about it. We could get deep in the weeds about gravity, energy, plasma and all the stuff scientists rant on about, but to keep it simple, there is a connection in the matter that fills the universe and floats all the planets and solar systems. That’s the probability, we just have no way to measure it; yet. That’s where some religious ideas come from.”

“Here we go,” he said.

“Can you prove that all there ever was and ever will be does not exist in some spiritual realm?”

“Can you prove that it does?”

“There are too many near death experiences and psychic interactions to just deny that these things happen all the time.”

“Unreal,” he said. “The writer of dirty books has all the answers about the universe, religion and spirits. What’s next; some thoughts on praying? Is that just a spooky universe too?”

Abby lost her stoic smile. The guy had just pushed some button that stabbed her, “You enjoy that, don’t you?” she said.

“What?”

His lips posed a superior curve in the smile that revealed more than he could write in some five thousand word essay for the opinion page of his useless rag. Abby prided herself as a real writer paid handsomely compared to the smart ass jerk relishing in his own stew of imaginary glory. She took a deep breath and waited for him to raise an eyebrow coaxing an answer, the said, “You like to come at a story with your mind already made up. You have a pre-conceived idea and the information you find just fills in the blanks. You probably came here today to get some angle to get a good headline for click bait. You called me the queen of erotica. Now you find that there is a great deal more to all of us. Here’s a good line for you, ‘The queen of erotica has more between the ears than between the sheets.”

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