Snow Days (Chapter 2)

 

The flash of rare winter lightning and subsequent rumble of thunder, as well as a sudden onrush of cold air had briefly snapped Carl back to the present-day snowstorm. A fierce wind gust had also blown his down jacket’s hood backward. Hurriedly refastening the Velcro, he resumed his seemingly endless, snow shoveling routine. As he battled the winter elements, his reverie returned and zeroed in on a long ago snow day of his youth… and, regrettably, that included a childish battle with his dear sister Cathy.

On that particular day, their bickering had gone way beyond the typical sibling rivalry. Adding to the tensions were Carl’s unscrupulous business practices. His devious MO was to sell to her his transistor radio’s used (nearly dead) 9V batteries.

It had been quite by accident that he’d discovered how, after these dry cells had failed, they oftentimes (albeit briefly) came back to life. Ergo, whenever his sibling’s radio went dead, like a circling vulture, he’d swoop down and set up shop. Of course, that day’s snowstorm… one that had rendered the roads into town nearly impassible… made it far easier for him to close the sale. For Cathy, it all boiled down to either buying his shoddy wares or missing out on listening to her fave new Beatles songs.

In feeble defense of his compromised, faltering ethics, he did warn her she was buying used merchandise and, if lucky, she might get up to an hour’s worth of music out of her radio.

However, once her luck ran out… her battery conked out… her justifiable indignation boiled over, which powered her high decibel demands for a full refund… only to be met by her brother’s smug reminder, “Sorry, all sales are final!”

While present day Carl took a breather from his shoveling, he tempered his memories with a grown-up perspective. He realized that a well-timed parental intervention had made him the principled man he had become. He fully credited Mom and Dad’s stern lectures for successfully curing him of his crooked, conman conduct. Had they not?

Well… he could’ve easily morphed into a predatory lender or, perhaps, even some rank, high-ranking, power-tripping, eccentric, egocentric archconservative. Hell… he might’ve even metastasized into a “too big to fail”, global economy plundering, Wall Street bankster and/or tyrannical, egomaniacal, whining, crybaby, capricious, Constitution gutting, corrupt, corporately owned, unpresidential president.

Carl’s thoughts once again bridged the decades… back to that particular snow day of his youth… how he had looked over his left shoulder just in time to catch a glimpse of his own Mom rolling her eyes and slowly, glumly shaking her head side to side.

With his now grown-up perspective, he could totally dig her reaction… even caught himself mimicking her same gestures.

He realized that there are still far too many spoiled rotten boys who never received that much needed, inter-generationally imparted wisdom… and, as such, too many of them were doomed, forever, to remaining little boys, hopelessly, helplessly trapped in adult bodies… that such infantile misbehavior / arrested development represents much of what is wrong in his homeland… indeed… the entire world.

Once again Carl resumed shoveling and remembering… picking up where he had left off…

By that time, young Cathy and Carl’s poor, sleep deprived Dad had realized that there could be no extra ZZZ’s for him. And adding to this already considerable racket, Mom would be revving up her vacuum cleaner; employing this “white noise” as a means to drown everyone out.

So desperate for some peace and quiet, both parents teamed up and used their best con job to convince their kids to go outside and play in the snow. Their logic… what better way to get them to “chill out”? Dad could barely contain his chuckling as he handed them both snow shovels and said, “Have fun kids.”

And once they were out-of-doors, it was only out of parental love that he had resisted the strong temptation to haul out some nails and oak 2 X 4s to hammer barricades across both front and back doors. Of course, the fact that his kids were now unknowingly and obediently clearing the sidewalks and five car length driveway for him could only help get them back into his good graces.

Their labors had also netted them a fringe benefit. The resultant snow piles were the stuff snow forts were made of. Once their opposing “military bases” had been completed, the snowball fights erupted; approaching levels of viciousness that only could’ve been an extension of their earlier indoor skirmish.

It probably would not have even shocked Carl had Cathy gotten one final usage out of all of those used batteries he had sold to her… by hiding them inside her snowball WMD… the sis vs. bro battle “powered” by dead batteries.

Well, eventually, the hostilities subsided. Not unlike Carl’s used batteries, yet another dwindling energy issue had occurred… as the morning had worn on, their sugar buzzes bad worn off.

Just about the time the siblings had gotten the rage out of their systems and declared peace, that’s when aggression of a different nature kicked in… courtesy of their nearby, madman neighbor, Phil Anders.

 

Chapter 3 to be posted tomorrow.

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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.