Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Twenty-Four-Hour Pearl

I woke up this morning, and my mind took me back to this day in 1965. It always takes me back.





June 9th, was a hot summer back when the world was my oyster. The pearls, well, they were everything that an 8-year-old kid living out on a chunk of land in the hills of Pennsylvania could possibly experience.

There were creeks running cold, and an old dammed up pond with sunfish, bass, and catfish in it. There were trees reaching tall into blue skies, and twisted and gnarled apple trees whose misshapen fruit was green and sour. Forbidden fruit according to my mother which would give you more than a belly ache if you ate them. We ate them anyway, sprinkled with salt from a stolen salt shaker snatched from the top of old kitchen table. I would have slipped the glass shaker in my pocket and hoped it wasn't discovered missing until I replaced it again.

There were voices of kids, laughing, screaming, running, jumping, and well, being kids. There was an old red-bone hunting dog tied to a shed. The dog was too hot and too tired to howl. His happiness, was simply watching the action around him through sad brown eyes with slow blinks. 

Below the house, past a chicken coop was a ball diamond constructed by my father, and my older brothers with bases made of old feed bags stuffed with wild hay. They went so far as to line the field with a bag of lime, and I thought this must be what Forbes Field looks like. Pittsburgh could have been a million miles away as far as I knew back then. The only connection between our oyster shell of life and the Pittsburgh Pirates was an old tube radio humming on a varnished old stand in the room my mother liked to call the parlor. My father wouldn’t miss a game, and I can still recall him leaning toward the small square radio with his right hand cupped by his ear to drown out us kids, and hear better. My mother more than likely would have been in the kitchen kneading bread dough in a pan big enough to bath a kid in and wearing a worried look upon her face, for one of her children wasn’t there that day. In fact, in twenty-four hours, he’d never be there again.

Her first born son, my brother, Chuck was in a place called Vietnam. He was a Green-Beret, and just turned 24-years-old in January. In February, he left for a tour of duty leaving behind a son just over one-year-old, and a wife carrying a baby girl in her belly which he would never see, and us. I didn’t know much about Vietnam, I didn’t know much about war except what I saw on the old black and white television set in the living room. We played war with old sticks turned into guns and dried mud balls tossed as grenades. Nobody got hurt, much. It was just a game.

The ironic part of it all is that all the young men over there once probably played the same game. Now it was real. Some of these guys, it occurred to me were just a mere ten or fifteen-years-older than me. At eight, that seemed as if they were a lifetime older than I was then. I’d call them kids today. They left their oyster of a world back home, while I still played in mine.

The hands of time click with a solemn-ness leading us to aging. We go through our world counting seconds, minutes, hours and days that turn into years. Throughout it all, we live with good and bad times. In twenty-four hours, for my brother, the hands of time would forever become frozen just after midnight of the next day. On June 10, 1965, the oyster shell closed forever, and that pearl would be gone, forever. When will we ever learn, when?




Sunday, June 7, 2015

Borneo--Episode Two of "Billions."

This is the second installment of, Billions, an online story about a billionaire's search for the best app that just might make him the world's first trillionaire.



Borneo
Episode Two 


                 On the flight from Monkton’s private airport located just outside the wine country of California, it occurred to him that in order to become a trillionaire, he would have to do more than just create an app for cell phones. There would have to be more. He would combine nature, with music. It had to be unique, and never done before. He wanted to capture the market. He scrawled on paper, scratched his head, and scrawled some more. The entire flight, the man thought, and figured.

              The private jet circled a runway above Borneo, and just as its wheels screeched on the runway at the Kota Kintabalu airport, he knew just what he would do. By the time the jet taxied to the small airport terminal, the billionaire’s number crunching was finished, and a slow smile grew on his round, red face.

              Ten minutes later, he stood inside the terminal to claim his baggage that was thoroughly inspected by a customs agent in a wrinkled gray uniform. After answering a few questions Monkton turned to face a group of four men, one man dressed in a poorly fitted chauffeur's uniform held a sign lettered with, “Mr. Monkey.” Thurmond looked at poorly drawn and misspelling of his name and shook his head.

              Beside the man holding the sign, stood the head of Ornithology at the Borneo Institute of Scientific Studies. After handshakes, and introductions translated by one of the men, it was decided the chauffer would drive Monkton and the ornithologist to a hotel located a few miles west of the airport, and the other two men would remain and wait on the equipment he would need for his adventure. It would be arriving sometime today aboard a cargo plane that Monkton leased for the occasion. It was decided that the ornithologist and two of the men would accompany Monkton into the rain forest at first light.

             Back at the mansion, Pancho, Rosalina, and the gardener, who the other two called, “Maestro,” were thrilled that Monkton would be out of their hair for awhile. They made Jiffy Pop Popcorn, and sprawled out on large leather couches and watched the huge flat screen television that slowly rose up from the floor with just a press of the remote. It nearly covered the wall. Pancho held onto the remote and held full responsibility for finding a station. He spoke to the other two in their native language, Spanish. This is what he said.

            “I think we should take advantage of our free time, and learn English. We could surprise our boss. I think he would be impressed.” Rosalina, smiled broadly, and shook her head with violent agreement. The Maestro nodded, and answered back, “Si.”

            Pancho flipped through the channels, and pressed buttons on the remote. One button, turned the screen into a huge, white background with red letters spelling out, “Netflix.” The three of them stared at the screen with puzzled looks. Pancho looked down at the remote, and his thin finger pressed another button. He had just ordered up, seventy-two straight hours of black and white movies from the, thirties, forties, and fifties, and they were listed under the title, “Gangsterland.”

        He punched the down arrow on the remote, and scrolled. He wasn’t sure of what would be on the screen when he hit the play button. When he did, they all leaned forward to watch, James Cagney. Then, another movie, with Humphrey Bogart, and another with Edgar G. Robinson, as Pancho would occasionally pause the movie, rewind it, and acting as the teacher, began to teach English to the Maestro, and Rosalina. Pancho himself was very limited on English, but out of the three of them, his command of the language was the better of the other two. By the time Thurmond P. Monkton rose from his bed in Borneo, the three immigrants parroted the English language including dramatic on screen body language of the three actors.

               Pancho stood in the middle of the room with James Cagney frozen in the background on the huge television screen behind him. Paused, with his shoulders hunched, and wrists limply dangling off his two hands, Cagney looked ten-feet-tall.

            “Again,” Pancho said to his students.

            Rosalina sat on the couch and lifted her broad shoulders up high under her ruffled sleeved maid’s uniform, and beside her, the old gardener did the same in his thin and sweaty tee shirt hanging off him as if his shoulders were one large coat hanger. They looked at Pancho with wide eyes, and responded to his request for them to again, repeat the English.

            “Mmm, mmm, you dirty rat.”

            The two students repeated the phrase, and then broke into broad grins, when Pancho said to them, “Bueno, bueno,” He told them to copy Cagney, and they did it again, this time, nasally, and sounding very much like James Cagney.

            Pancho yawned, and looked at the clock on the wall. They had just spent eleven-hours watching movies.

            Being left in charge by Monkton, Pancho told Rosalina and Maestro that they probably should get some sleep.

            “Good night,” he said to them in English. He waited for their reply. The two of them lifted an eyebrow much like Cagney.

            “Mmm, mmm, you dirty rat,” they replied back in response with pride shining on their faces. They had learned some English; they just didn’t know how it applied. They all headed off to sleep and no longer bothered waking up at sunrise as they normally would have if the boss man was home. 

             By the time they woke up back at the mansion, Monkton was double checking the gear he would need in the jungles of Borneo including three parabolic dishes with super sensitive microphones, and several ultra-modern digital recorders.

* Author's Note:

The expression Jiffy Pop Popcorn is intended to be used in this work of fiction simply as a tool of literature and in no way disparages the fine products manufactured by Conagra Foods. Netflix was formed in 1997, and now boasts more than 57- million users globally who enjoy their fine programming. As for James Cagney, who, if living would probably have let the public know that the phrase, "You dirty rat," was never used in any of his movies. In reality, it was the movie, Taxi, in which Cagney said,  "Come out and take it, you dirty, yellow-bellied rat, or I'll give it to you through the door!"



©2015 Ronnie Ray Jenkins

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Coming Soon
Episode Three
Angrier Birds

            

Friday, June 5, 2015

Billions--Episode One





Billions


Episode One




The claim now is in the United States, every week, a new billionaire is made. This has led to boredom among billionaires. They are running out of things to do. They are running out of things to buy to entertain themselves. This is a story of one such billionaire.

Thurmond P. Monkton sat in his forty-two room mansion and scratched his balding head. The short, pudgy man had just watched his millions roll over and today, he was officially a billionaire. According to his accountant this occurred at 12:04 P.M. and it was only 12:06 when the accountant called Thurmond and dropped the good news on him. Thurmond thanked him for the call, and hung up the phone with a sigh. Thurmond was bored as hell.

The mansion was a prison to the middle-aged man, who made his fortune in hedge funds, and so many other diversified investments, he couldn’t sort them out. His yacht and six vacation homes were gathering dust. He shook his head, groaned and rose up from his leather chair, handmade with wood from the Amazon forest, and upholstered in leather harvested from the hides of Peruvian mango cats that were bordering on extinction. His chair sped up that process for seventy-three of the mango cats required for his chair. The last four remaining cats were in a zoo, that Thurmond was a silent partner in. He wanted a matching ottoman, one day.

Monkton walked across the massive room, and looked at the thick curtains draping down from the high ceiling. Plates of gilded gold made up the ceiling and the light from the hand-designed chandelier filtered down casting liquid gold on the tiles imported from Italy. He had no clue how to open the curtains to look outside. His green eyes studied braided ropes that hung alongside them, and then he remembered Pancho, and called for him. Pancho was hired specifically to do things that the billionaire couldn’t figure out.

Suddenly, a brown skinned man man appeared, and Thurmond said, “Open the curtains, Pancho.”

The man’s thin, black mustache twitched as he replied, “Yes, Mr. Monkton.” The illegal immigrant gingerly stepped across the tiles, and shook his head.

Pancho often said to the gardener who also came from the same small town in Mexico, that their employer must have been graced by God to have been blessed with such wealth. The gardener, a stoop-backed, white haired, old man would tell Pancho, “One, doesn’t have to have brains today to have wealth. Sometimes, God has a sense of humor, too.” The two men would laugh.

They rarely laughed, especially on pay day when Monkton would count out cash for the men into their calloused palms. Once, Pancho figured out, that at the rate they were being paid under the table, and if he and the gardener combined their income, and never spent a cent, they could be a millionaire in 13-years. Pancho reached up and grabbed the braided cord and pulled on it like he was raising a flag up a pole. The curtains separated. Light from outside bathed the room.

Pancho looked at Monkton who stared with empty looks out to the massive courtyard. A huge fountain spewed water in the air. Hedges perfectly manicured surrounded it, and it was all tied in by marble tiles leading back to the mansion’s front doors. Seven luxury cars parked on the tile gleamed.

            “Will there be anything else?”Pancho asked the man who stood looking out the nearly floor to ceiling arched windows. The man lifted his arm and shooed him away like he was a fly. Pancho turned and left leaving Thurmond Monkton, standing in the bright light dressed in a red silk robe whose bottom edge ended just above his pasty white calves with varicose veins the colors of grapes. Monkton watched a bird flitter by and land on the edge of the huge fountain’s basin. His eyes opened wide with discovery. It was then that the bored billionaire decided to break free from the reins of boredom, and to develop a new app for cell phone users everywhere.

            He yelled for his maid, a middle-aged chubby woman who made her way to his employ by way of Guatemala to Mexico, aboard a north-bound cargo train delivering car batteries made in Guadalajara. It would take her 40-years to make a million based on Monkton’s pay, and that was if she lived on frozen Slushies only. She didn’t mind, she didn’t care about millions, she didn’t have time. She was just glad to be out of the box car.

            Her chubby face appeared in the wide doorway, and a feather duster in her hand pointed upward as if it were her scepter.

            “Yes, sir, what is it I can do,” she answered him with broken English.

            “Pack my bags,” he said, “I am taking a trip.”

            “Okay, Mr. Monkton,” she replied nodding her head that she understood. She didn't. She left quickly, and looked for Pancho. She wasn’t sure what, “bags,” meant, and had to have him explain it to her. Learning English was hard for her, and she had worked for Monkton for two-weeks. Her talent lay in starching and ironing, cleaning, and keeping the mansion spotless. Pancho helped her with her duties, and Rosalina was grateful for that. Together, they packed the luggage Monkton would take on his journey.

Two-hours later, Monkton settled back in the frog skin desk chair of his flying office and worked on his idea for the new app, while the pilot of his private jet set the GPS…for Borneo.

©2015 Ronnie Ray Jenkins



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BORNEO


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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Ben Dachshundberger, Beyond a Dog


Ben Dachshundberger is dead. Not the quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, my brother, Greg’s dog. Greg named him, Ben Dachshundberger, a play on the name of Roethlisberger. You see, Greg is a die-hard Steelers fan, and he and his dog Ben, spent many Sundays together watching football.

My brother loved him. They spent a lot of time together. They watched the Pirates playing baseball together just this past Tuesday night. How quick can the curtain of death drop? It dropped on Ben after the game. Greg said, he shut off the lights, and heard a thump. He called for Ben in the blackness. There was no reply. When he turned on the light, the dog was on the floor. Gone forever, that quickly without great fanfare.

Ben left after a companionship of eleven years. His send off came later when Greg took him out to the state game lands to bury him among the things he loved when he lived.

Ben, the Dachshund loved chasing squirrels, and barking at leaves. He would stare down a mushroom popping up from the ground as if the piece of fungi would fight back. The trips to the stores by Greg often resulted in him returning with some kind of squeaky toy. Those toys never lasted long, because Ben’s sole purpose with a toy was to get to the squeaker inside. He was as tunnel-visional on getting that noisemaker out of the belly of the toy as a moth would be to a porch light. He didn’t stop until it was removed. He didn’t stop loving my brother, either.

There is something about a dog, and a human that has been handed down since the days of the caveman. That first bone tossed out the cave opening to a wolf-like animal started that circle of trust, I imagine. Man and dog, dog and man, either way you look at it, there is that relationship that goes beyond symbiotic. It becomes love.

Ben rests today among the trees, and among the soil, yet his memory will remain a part of my brother’s life, probably forever. I know for me, there isn’t a dog that was a pet to me, that fond memories don’t suddenly appear out of nowhere. In fall, when the leaves are dry and the wind pushes them across the grass, Ben will be remembered by my brother. All those squeaky toys that Ben fought to remove from the noisemakers may lay soundless today, but in my brother’s mind and in his heart, he’ll forever turn his head at the sound of one. This is how sometimes, memories are re-kindled. It is Ben’s way of saying; “don’t forget me,” long after his bed and blanket are put away.

There will remain that empty spot at the end of the couch, or the foot of the bed. The sound of paws upon the floor, and the sight of a tail wagging like a pendulum gone wild won’t be heard or seen. Memories though, with their promise of remembrance will remind him of Ben Dachshundberger, and those Sunday Steelers games won’t be the same as last year’s. Baseball will have lost some of its glory, yet, if there is a heaven for a dog, Ben is there in a place where leaves can be chased, mushrooms attacked, and squeaky toys are piled like mountains, and if he misses my brother, it’s my hope his heaven is free of dog tears.

Rest well, Ben.

Uncle Ronnie Ray Jenkins


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Seven Crows




















Seven Crows







Seven crows flew across the sky

I watched them and I knew not why

When three went left and four flew right

The death of night brought morning flight that had me contemplating life.



Across the sky painted pink, their raucous calls made me think

What joy these seven birds expressed 

When leaving bowls of twigs called nests

To shake the cold from feathered breasts

And leave the dark of night behind and taste the fruits of morning wine.



Their calls grew distant, they grew small

To disappear

And leave my morning world behind with an unblemished sky

In a painted world with colored light as if the artist wished to start again

With brush-stroke finality,

The seven crows were gone leaving me only sky.










Thursday, March 12, 2015

I'm a Palcoholic


Okay, so now there is new drink out on the market, Palcohol. A powdered mixture of alcohol that requires only water, a few shakes, and you are ready to imbibe several offered types of drinks. There is vodka, Cosmopolitan, Powderita, and rum, currently available. The maker says, “Lemon Drop,” will soon be out on the market. You can drink it after you mix it right out of the pack, sort of like those kid's drinks. Packaged much like it too, and easily confused would be my guess. Danger, Will Robinson, Danger. I can see the lawyers lining up now on this one.
The federal government approved the sale of Palcohol. Currently, more than twelve states are considering banning the product. Pot for recreational and medical use is still up in the air in many states, which doesn’t make a whole heck of a lot of sense to me.
This Palcohol will be sold in stores, and online. In some states, there is a concern that Palchoholics will snort the powder, and that is what it is in its current form, a user could find innovative ways to Palcohol their way to a faster inebriation. I’m picturing contests to see how much a person could eat before they pass out.
It is almost like something out of the, “Jetsons,” cartoon. I could imagine a grizzled looking, Elroy Jetson wobbling on his feet at the local AA meeting. “My name is Elroy Jetson, and I’m a Palcoholic.” Heck, AA, could become, PA.
The maker claims it has its benefits such as light weight packaging, and no reason to lug those heavy bottles around when, camping, kayaking, or boating. You could climb a mountain and when you reach the top, melt some snow, and celebrate your success with a delicious, “Powderita.” Just be careful coming back down.
We all know if something like powdered alcohol is widely available, there are gonna be some problems. There are going to be some lawsuits, I can smell that already, and it won’t be the aroma of a tasty, “Lemon Drop, flavored Palcohol drink.” It will be the smell of money.
The claim of Tang being taken on space flights sent its sales, soaring. There never was really any evidence that it was actually used on space flights, by the way. Imagine, Palcohol on one. “Houston, we have a problem. We’re all out of Palcohol.”
As for me, I’d just as soon crack a nice cold beer.
Drink some of this:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Brain Sucker






A very creative writer is hired to produce. They can’t get enough of him, but they want more.

The producers were thrilled at his pitches. This guy was the best, and they knew it. They’d keep him happy for as long as he could churn out works. So far, they rewarded him with a house on the beach, a Maserati, and a salary. Everyone was happy. That was until they hired a new CEO who ruled with an iron fist, and who demanded more production.
Once he called a meeting at ten o’clock sharp. When the writer got the email about the meeting, he wasn’t supposed to show up for it for an hour later. The writer didn’t mind, he was sitting in his office at the beach house working on a new show idea. While he worked, the meeting at the office was taking place.
“We have to do something about this writer, Tosco.” The CEO looked around the long, shining, highly polished, mahogany table. Smith, Johnson, Lemay sent an attorney who scratched on a yellow legal pad as the CEO spoke. The other four people at the table sat straight-backed and tense.
The CEO picked up a briefcase near his chair and gently placed it in front of him. His nimble fingers unsnapped the lock and he opened it, hiding his hands behind the opened top. The lawyer watched him, and when he saw the old man hold up a syringe and a small vial, he scribbled hard on the pad.
An hour later, Tosco showed up. His uncombed black hair dangling in front of his brown eyes, and walking briskly to his chair, he said to all of them, “Good Morning, Gents.” Sitting down, he looked up the long table at the CEO. The other people nodded a silent good morning back to him. They knew what they were scheduled to do next, and Bob Maronie got up from his chair and walked behind Tosco as the CEO spoke with a wide smile, “Tosco, you’re doing a bang-up job, and we just wanted to thank you. No wonder they wanted me to come an hour later, Tosco thought.
The door to the office swung open and two caterers wearing drooping, white, chef’s hats walked into the office balancing a thick and decorated ice cream cake. It was chocolate, Tosco’s favorite. The two men placed the cake down in front of Tosco. The CEO dismissed them with a friendly nod of his head. When the door closed, the CEO rose and walked around the table to stand near Tosco. The others stood up and formed a circle around him and burst out loud with a rendition of, “A Jolly Good Fellow.” Tosco’s thin face beamed with a wide grin. Then, the sting in his right arm struck him like a wasp, and he looked at the CEO. The room lights changed colors, and his head spun. Everyone looked like they were standing in front of a funhouse with a mirrored wall. That was the last, he could remember.
He woke up strapped to a gurney with what looked like a colander on his head. Wires protruded from it, and his eyes rolled upward. Behind a large glass window above him, the entire team from the production company looked down on him. Fighting to turn his head to the right, and still feeling weak, he looked at the refrigerator-sized machine that the wires from his head led to, and squinted to see a slot much like a printer. A faint hum grew in the room, and Tosco felt his hair rise a bit like iron filings to a magnet. His gaze returned up toward the window, and he watched as the men behind the glass threw curious glances from him to the machine. They jumped in the air, and palms slapped backs when the machine whirred and spit out papers filled with Tosco’s ideas. They were in chronological order and collated. They were ready.
His head felt empty, and Tosco who normally had a million ideas bouncing around in his skull, suddenly felt, empty. He was empty, and drained dry. They kept him around though; it was the right thing to do. Even when he demoted to cleaning up the office, he didn’t mind. He didn’t know any better. He was sucked dry by the machine, and as he pushed the broom around, he just thought that he always was the janitor. Once, they let him play a walk on part, as a janitor of course in one of his productions they sucked from his brain, that day on the gurney.
That made him very happy.
That art for this piece is from the works of Matakishi. You can check out his stuff here: http://matakishi.deviantart.com/
And me, here: