Cleo, Theo & Cosmo (Bus Stop Chat #003) Alienation

 

 

Even if you’ve missed this fictional series’ previous chats (archived in my “Cleo Theo Cosmo Chats” category) the single paragraph synopsis, below, can quickly get you up to speed.

 

The twenty-something carpenter / homebuilder Cleo, fiftyish Catholic theologian Theo and thirtyish cosmologist Cosmo all call the bustling metropolis of Upland their home. Their similar Friday a.m. work schedules and dependence on public transportation first caused their paths to cross in mid-August ‘16. The punctually late buses usually afford them plenty of time to engage in sugary confection and caffeine buzzed, political and social commentary. From day one, these three newfound friends have established an immediate rapport, respect and resolve to chat on a weekly basis.

 

An earlier than usual, distinctly autumnal coolness has descended upon the city as September’s second Friday, early a.m. commute commences.

This new day, Theo and Cosmo have unintentionally met up at the Go Nuts 4 Donuts bakery while waiting in a somewhat long line. Once the “Hi how are yas” banter subsides the conversation steers towards more “serious” biz.

“I missed not seeing each other last week,” Theo says.

“Yeah, me too. Guess we’re forever at the mercy of early and late running buses.”

“Since Cleo treated us to a bagels and jam breakfast last time I figure it’s my turn to provide the sweets.”

“Well, since I’m ahead of you in line, how about if I buy this week?”

“OK… but since the coffee here is a bit pricy… why don’t I buy my own?”

“Fair enough. Well, at least we’re dealing with an efficient staff… wow… look how rapidly the lines are moving!”

“They do put the ‘fast’ into ‘fast food’. Hopefully, this’ll give us more chat time with Cleo!”

Upon exiting the bakery, they walk the short distance to the bus stop. Even from a block away, they can readily identify their female friend… center seated on the bench… talking animatedly on her smartphone between sips from her thermos’s steaming coffee cup. She’s welcoming whatever warmth will negate the chill in the air… be that assist from her black java or thick blue denim jacket.

The three friends exchange silent, cordial hello waves as the men settle in… assume their customary theologian on the right / cosmologist on the left seating arrangements. While both men tear open and empty sugar packets into their coffee, Cleo completes her call. Cosmo then presents and opens the white paper bag.

“Ta Da! We didn’t discuss, last time, who’d be buying what for our next breakfast… so I chanced it. Inside you’ll find a vast variety of ‘Go Nuts 4 Donuts’ goodies… plain, chocolate covered, powder sugar and cinnamon glazed,” I hope you’re up for a sugar buzz this morning.”

Cleo grins, “You’d better believe it… I’m addicted to such yummy, calorically incorrect decadence.”

Theo, next to dig into the bag adds, “I do hope there’s no 11th commandment.”

While taking a bite out of his powder-sugared selection, Cleo asks, “You mean the one that goes, ‘Thou shalt not worship false junk food gods?’”

Theo chuckles.

As chocoholic Cleo sinks her teeth into her chosen pastry, Cosmo asks her, “So, tell us how your brother and sister-in-law are doing… any plans to fight City Hall?”

“Yep… Al and Liv, with an assist from the ACLU, have obtained a temporary court injunction. The mayor’s Un-Welcome Wagons are now parked. The ACLU believes they’re dealing with closeted, small town, political bigots… that their anti-blight ordinance is aimed squarely at low income minorities… those who can least afford to pay for home repairs. I’d say the mayor’s comply or get your house condemned ultimatum is the epitome of localized Trump arrogance.”

Seeing how this discussion has saddened everyone, Theo tries to cheer things up.

“Cleo, I couldn’t help but overhear your phone conversation… your speaking in Spanish. While I’m bilingual, too, I could never even come close to your fluency.”

Suddenly, her body language becomes undeniably defensive… her facial expression a mix of dejection and indignation.

She practically snarls, “Like… uh… what’s it to you? I suppose you now want to see my papers or something?”

The taken aback priest sits there in jaw dropped silence. Cleo’s eyes dart both left and right. Her friends’ shocked expressions speak volumes. The echoes of her last words have barely died off when her apologetic words cascade forth…

“I’m so sorry, guys. Trump’s ranting and raving against my people, bogusly insinuating that Hispanics are drug lords, addicts, murderers and rapists, has put me on the defensive.

“I’m sorry, too, for unintentionally striking a raw nerve,” adds Theo, “Trump deserves to be charged with committing hate crimes.”

“As do those who he’s emboldened to follow his lead,” Cosmo adds, “Dangerous Donald’s profiling has gotta be tough on all minorities.”

“And that makes life extremely unpleasant and downright dangerous, for my family… for me… for the entire Hispanic community. We’re getting unjustifiably and illegally detained and questioned. Our only ‘offense’, by Trump’s skewed standards, is our higher skin melanin content. And don’t think such profiling could never happen to you, Father… if not for your collar, by now, I’m sure your Mediterranean features would’ve raised at least one law enforcer’s hackles… I mean… you are of Greek extraction, are you not?”

Theo nods yes as Cleo continues her now somewhat subdued rant.

“The irony is all of my living family members are born in the U.S.A. American citizens… and we’re fed up with having to constantly prove it to a Gestapo channeling police force… cops whose main mission has become ferreting out, rounding up and deporting illegals… making life miserable while making points with their superiors. To be sure, here, my family and I do love America’s once upon a time grand vision… where our differences are supposed to meld to make us stronger… but… Adolf Trump’s tirades have totally Mucked up everything for everyone. And btw, I start out spelling that “M” word with the letter “F”. I hope that doesn’t offend either of you.”

Cosmo responds, “Trump is the far bigger obscenity here. What he’s doing, I suspect has already brought America to its breaking point.”

“We may already be at the point of no return,” suggests Theo.

Cleo responds, “My family and I feel the same way. We’re even seriously considering Mexican citizenship, should Donald Trump ever become president. That damned wall he incessantly rants about could work two ways… you know… could also serve to keep that xenophobic bastard and all of his likeminded, rabid rabble out of our lives, too.”

“Although I know it’s a highly unlikely event, I’m constantly looking up to the heavens… wishing some ETs would land and offer me a lift to their home world.”

“Well if they ever do touchdown, let’s pray it’s nowhere near a Trump rally. Those boneheads would easily provoke an interstellar war we’d never be able to win.’”

“Well, it looks like vehicles of a terrestrial origin are now approaching,” Cosmo points out.

Two buses now pull up alongside the littered curb… their lit up route signage indicating that Theo and Cosmo will be leaving Cleo as they had found her this early a.m.… all alone.

“I’m buying breakfast next week,” Theo proclaims as he rises. Just before boarding, he turns to look over his left shoulder. With a grin he shouts above the rumbling diesel engine, “You two have a great day at work and an enjoyable weekend.”

With his “Take care Theo, Cleo,” Cosmo, too, heads off to his bus and climbs aboard.

“See you guys next Friday,” Cleo shouts out and waves.

With time to further mull over her Trump complicated life in solitude, Cleo laments the demise of civil American society. As her ears detect the diesel drone of her in the distance bus, the tears well up in her distant eyes.

 

A note to my readers: My game plan is to post these Cleo, Theo & Cosmo Bus Stop Chats on most, but not all, Fridays.

 

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Cleo, Theo & Cosmo (Bus Stop Chat #002): Unwelcome Wagon

For those who’ve missed Chat #001 to this fictional series, the one paragraph synopsis, below, will adequately get you up to speed. If you’d prefer to first read the full, introductory post, it’s archived in my “Cleo Theo Cosmo Chats” category.

The twenty-something carpenter / homebuilder Cleo, fiftyish Catholic theologian Theo and thirtyish cosmologist Cosmo all call the bustling metropolis of Upland their home. Their similar Friday a.m. work schedules and dependence on public transportation first caused their paths to cross in mid-August ‘16. The punctually late buses usually afford them plenty of time to engage in caffeine buzzed, political and social commentary. From day one, these three newfound friends have established an immediate rapport, respect and resolve to chat on a weekly basis.

The blue/grey overcast dominates the sky as Cleo and Theo near the bus stop bench from opposite directions… both spotting the already seated Cosmo. Once the cordial greetings are exchanged, Cleo, true to her previous week’s word, treats her new friends to an on-the-fly bagel and strawberry jam breakfast. Their cups of java, each has already purchased from various fast food eateries, complete the menu.

But, this Friday, Cleo’s smiling face is only short-lived.

“I got a distressing email this morning… from my brother Alberto.” Barely able to choke back her tears, she continues, “He, his wife, Olivia, and their three young children live in a small Midwest community where the mayor and city council, yuppies all, suffer from a massively snooty ‘tude. They’ve recently passed an anti-blight ordinance designed to ensure homeowners keep their neighborhoods’ appearance presentable. Of course, at face value, this doesn’t sound like a bad idea but… damn it… these arrogant bastards are brutally insensitive towards some of the very people they’re supposed to serve. They’ve failed to realize that not everyone is drawing six and seven figure incomes the way they do.”

“No doubt their new ordinance boasts plenty of sharp teeth, too,” Cosmo chimes in.

“Damn right! They have a fleet of code enforcement cars. The clowns behind the wheels go out on patrol through each and every neighborhood… ferret out and issue tickets to anyone in violation of the mayor’s new, stringent community standards.”

“I’m already beginning to catch a whiff of the political stench, Cleo,” says Theo.

“You got that right! They’ve singled out my brother and sister-in-law, who’ve each been juggling multiple, low paying, part time jobs. Their combined incomes barely cover their regular bills… and now… they’re facing down the mayor’s ultimatum… either fix up their humble house or face down a stiff fine.”

“My dear God,” Theo exhales, “This is so typical of draconian laws… I mean, to kick someone who’s already down… that’s sinful.”

“Yeah, tell me about it.” Cleo says trying, barely succeeding at containing her anger and frustration, “They already cannot afford to make these major repairs and now the city is threatening them with an additional financial burden!”

“I presume a home equity loan is out of the question?” Cosmo asks… Cleo’s frown already answering.

“They haven’t tried that yet,” she elaborates, “But Al and Liv are already in thousands of dollars of credit card debt. It’d be a miracle if the banks were to ever approve their application… I mean… not with their tanked out credit scores.”

“So what’ll happen if they fail to fix things up?” asks Theo.

“The mayor will gleefully condemn their home and heartlessly toss them out into the street.”

“That makes these code enforcers out to be the drivers of the mayor’s unwelcome wagons.”

“Well put Father Theo,” Cleo says.

Silence descends upon the three as Cleo wipes away a tear. With a sniffle she continues, “I’d offer my financial support to Al and Liv but… I’m not faring much better than they are. Besides… they’re both aware I’m struggling, too, and would never want to drag me down with them. What’s so damned frustrating is that, with my carpentry skills, I could fix up their place free of charge… were it not for the fact we live thousands of miles apart.”

“So what are they going to do?” Cosmo queries.

“It would appear their only option is to sell their home and use the proceeds to rent an apartment. And going that route will not be easy, either… this house has plenty of sentimental value… it’s been in Liv’s family for three generations.”

“Wait a sec, Cleo,” interjects Theo, “I’m sensing a diabolically evil plot. Doncha see… the mayor is cozying up to real estate agents, house flippers…”

“And I’ll bet home construction firms and home improvement retailers prominently factor in there, too,” interjects Cosmo, “Corruption, collusion… you know… all that under the table dirty wheeling and dealing.”

Cleo nods her agreement, “Don’t think I haven’t already considered all that crap. To be sure, each of those evil, big biz entities would then show the mayor and city council their undying gratitude via hefty campaign contributions.

“Cleo, your story saddens me down to every cell of my being,” says Cosmo.

“It’s heartbreaking,” adds Theo.

At that moment a gentle rainstorm moves in… not unlike tears from above. Up pops their three umbrellas as they wait in somber, contemplative silence. One by one, as their busses pull up, they bid their so-long-till-we-meet-again next Friday farewells… and head off to work.

 

A note to my readers: My game plan is to post these Cleo, Theo & Cosmo Bus Stop Chats on most, but not all, Fridays. These three fictitious characters will engage in political / social commentary… sometimes in agreement… other times not. But either way, the important thing, here, is that no matter how heated a discussion may get, they’ll remain civil towards each other… which, btw, is the way it should be… but usually is not… in our real world.

Cleo, Theo & Cosmo (Bus Stop Chat #001) The 3 Meet!

An orange hued, hazy sunrise presides over another summery, muggy day in the bustling metropolis of Upland… bakes the pavement and skyscrapers… slow simmers the pungent blend of vehicular exhaust and fast food fumes.

There’s the general hubbub of humanity… the multitudes milling about… the engines, horns, sirens and jackhammers are all in play. Each component acts as an individual instrument in the soundtrack of city life.

The rat race begins, anew, as two men, in walking run mode, approach from opposite directions… a near photo finish as they bookend themselves onto the weatherworn bus stop bench and set down their Styrofoam coffee cups.

Paper napkins serve as makeshift mops to sop up perspiration from their brows. Upon catching their breath, they exchange perfunctory, good morning pleasantries. Their rush had been needless for, once more, the poorly funded, public transit system is punctually running late.

“Looks like another scorcher brewing… almost too hot to be drinking coffee. But I’m not about to give up my caffeine buzz,” sighs the disheveled looking man seated on the left. Dressed in white polo shirt and faded blue jeans, his thirtyish, in need of a shave face is topped off with the bedhead look.

“By the way… the name is Cosmo.”

“Pleased to meet you, Cosmo. I’m Theodoros… but just call me Theo”, says the fiftyish looking, greying, bearded man, off to the right. He then adds, “And, I wouldn’t give up my daily java jolt, either… no matter how hot the day, or, for that matter, the coffee may be.”

They first lean in sideways to shake hands and next drink their espresso.

“Couldn’t help but notice the Roman collar, Theo. Where’s your parish?”

“Resurrection Church… over on the east side.”

“So what brings you over to this side of our fair city?”

“I’m to be a guidance counselor and instructor… temporarily assigned to Andrew’s Youth Center… every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In essence, I’ll be a surrogate parent to latchkey kids… keep ‘em intellectually engaged and out of mindless mischief. It’s really tough when moms and dads each work two or more jobs to pay their bills. The resultant dwindling quality time is doing immeasurable harm to the family unit. But there I go again… rambling on and on. I’ll bet you’re sorry you asked.”

“No, not at all. What you’re doing is admirable. By intervening and interacting you’re working towards the betterment of society.”

“Thanks for saying so. Since I’m mostly paid in compliments, your kind words have made me a wealthy man.” Taking another sip from his cup he thinks aloud, “I do hope I’ve figured out the correct bus routes and schedule… wouldn’t want to be late on my first day.”

“Hmm… Andrew’s Youth Center, you say… that’s affiliated with the church over on Monroe Blvd… is it not?”

“One in the same… the Center is right in the church basement. You know so much about us, my son, are you by any chance Catholic?”

“Once upon a time… as a young boy. The word that now best describes me is ‘lapsed’.”

“If you don’t mind my asking… why did you leave the church?”

“Well, it’s a long story, Father, but not to worry… if memory serves… all you need know now is the Route 33 bus will take you to your destination.”

All too familiar with how folks handily dodge the ‘why did you stray’ question, Theo stifles his knowing smile…

“Good to know I’m heading in the right direction. So… where, pray tell, are you heading this a.m.?”

“Well… it looks like we’re both in the biz of educating young minds. The community organizers who run Kids’ Corner have me on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday schedule, too.

“I’m familiar with that fine organization. So, what’ll you be teaching?”

“I’m on sabbatical from U of C Berkeley, where I teach astrophysics. Since I’ve now got plenty of free time, by day, I’ll be a volunteer teaching astronomy for beginners, by nights I’ll be scoping out the heavens at the San Gorgonio Mountain observatory. Regrettably, with light pollution and smog problems, heavenly matters aren’t what they used to be.”

“So true. I’m facing down problems with my own brand of heavenly matters, too. These days, people seem to deem God as unimportant.”

“Well, I don’t believe folks have actually stopped believing, Father. While I cannot speak for everyone, I think regular folks are finding the church’s overall image off-putting and irrelevant to their needs. You know… stained glass, palatial churches that could rival St. Peter’s Basilica… past popes who’d look right at home lodged in Trump Towers.

“But our new pontiff, Francis, is trying to change all that…” Theo starts to remind…

“Well, I did say past popes…” Cosmo interjects. A police cruiser whizzing by with flashing reds and blues and wailing siren nearly drowning him out.

At that moment, a twentyish looking woman, wearing blue denim jeans, unbuttoned work shirt, tee and heavy steel toed boots approaches the bus stop… clutching a Styrofoam coffee cup in one hand… a cell phone in the other. She immediately goes into a circular pacing mode… impatiently… holding her cell phone skyward… frantically waving it about while muttering, almost inaudibly, her “c’mon, c’mon, c’mon” pep talk directed at that unresponsive, barely functional device.

“Looks like we’re not the only ones with upward connection problems,” Cosmo quips. Quickly checking his own cell, he speaks up, “Excuse me… I’m getting a strong signal… four out of four bars. You may borrow my phone.”

“You’re a life saver,” she says while approaching the bench. As she sits down and keys in the number she mutters, “That damned bus is going to make me late for work again… and it’s only my second week on the job. By now, Manuel… that’s my boss… is probably thinking that I’ve flaked on him again. He’ll likely fire my ass.”

Now speaking fluent Spanish into the phone, only Theo can understand her side of the conversation. Of course it’s easy to fill the gist of the rest. That’s in the form of her crisis averted, call’s end sigh of relief. Handing the phone back to Cosmo… she’s once again profuse with her thanks.

“Well… since it looks like we’re stuck here for awhile… I’m Cleo.” The round of handshakes ensue as she continues, “I’m a carpenter working over at the Devonshire construction site.”

Theo and Cosmo’s facial expressions “out” their lingering provincialism.

“Hey guys, welcome to the 21st century… don’t look so shocked. These days, women carpenters can and actually do cut it.”

“And I’ll bet you have plenty of power saws to back up your statement, too, “ jokes Cosmo. As the chuckles subside he adds, “I’m Cosmo… I teach astrophysics over at Berkley. As for my newfound friend…”

While conspicuously adjusting his collar and, clearing his throat, the other man interrupts, “I’m Theo…”

“Well ain’t that a hoot!” Cleo chimes in, “You’re Theo the theologian and he’s Cosmo the cosmologist.”

The group laughter gets drowned out as three 18-wheelers rumble by.

“Devonshire… wow… that’s really upscale,” Cosmo says while competing with the street noise.

“Yeah, tell me about it… the site’s billboard out front boasts, ‘Outstanding new homes starting in the five millions’… blah, blah, blah. Hell, I couldn’t eke out the mortgage payments on a birdhouse in that soon to be snooty, gated community.”

“Affordable housing? Does that even exist anymore?” laments Cosmo.

Theo frowns his silent, horizontally nodded answer to those Qs as Cleo asks, “Just where are everyday, average folks supposed to live, any way?”

“For sure, that’s a problem that that insensitive unholy, Trump, could never begin to fathom… let alone fix,” adds Theo.

“Amen to that!” she sighs and then looks down at her cell’s chronometer. “Guys, we’ve only known each other for ten minutes and… if you’ll excuse the construction worker parlance… I’d say we’re already building some great rapport.”

“In this one instance, I don’t even mind the buses running late,” Theo agrees.

“I’ll ditto that… but better late than never,” Cosmo says while gesturing leftward.

A three-bus convoy is now barreling down upon them.

“Any chance we’ll see one another again?” Cleo queries.

“Well, as for us guys, we’ll both be here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning,” says Theo.

“Thru late September, if not longer,” adds Cosmo, “How about you, Cleo?

“Well, since the only day my carpool can’t get me to work is on Fridays, it looks like we’ll all be meeting back at this bench a week from now.”

“Here’s to next Friday,” says Theo as all three raise and carefully tap their coffee cups… make a toast to their newfound friendship.

“You two like bagels?” she asks. Since both men nod vertically, she adds, “OK, that’ll be my treat for next week.”

Just then the busses all come to a squeaky, air-braked halt. The doors fling open to admit Cleo, Theo and Cosmo. Waving their till we meet again farewells, each climbs aboard to complete the final leg of their Friday morning commute.

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A note to my readers: My game plan is to post these Cleo, Theo & Cosmo Bus Stop Chats on most, but not all, Fridays. These three fictitious characters will engage in political / social commentary… sometimes in agreement… other times not. But either way, the important thing, here, is that no matter how heated a discussion may get, they’ll remain civil towards each other… which, btw, is the way it should be… but usually is not… in our real world.

My apologies for this first installment running a bit long… that was mainly due to character development requirements. Future chats will focus more on (what else?) the actual chats… and consequently, be of shorter duration.