Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Piano Man

If there was anything in the world that Horatio Plummer loved, he would tell you, it was playing the piano. The twenty-seven-year old, tall, olive-skinned, thin man spent more time during the day practicing his craft, than most people spent awake. There were times he would tinkle on the keys of his baby grand piano, until Mrs. Fletching would find her broom and knock on the ceiling to make him stop.
Sometimes, the chubby woman would run her fingers through her sparse white hair as if she were going mad. Why just today, she was subjected to nearly nine hours of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. She turned up the volume on her television set, and tried to drown him out with, "The Wheel of Fortune," her favorite show. She hadn’t been able to enjoy the program since she decided to rent the entire upstairs of her small house to Horatio.
She cupped her hands over her ears, and closed her eyes so tight that she saw dancing black spots behind her eyelids. Grabbing the edges of her long, wrinkled house dress, her old hands squeezed the life out of the pink fabric, and she wished it was his throat. Groaning, she lifted her heavy body up from the couch, and waddled to the kitchen. Grabbing the broom, she held it with both hands and poked the kitchen ceiling above Horatio’s piano room until her silvery, horn-rimmed glasses hung crooked. He was driving her nuts. So stark-raving mad, that her last poke made a ragged hole in the drywall above her head, and white powder sifted down on her wrinkled, old long face. She coughed and sputtered when the drifting powder of gypsum landed on her tongue and found its way to the back of her already dry throat. She tossed the broom on the kitchen floor, and rushed to the sink. In her attempt to fill the glass her dimpled elbow knocked a tray of ground meat to the floor.

            “Dammit, Horatio,” she coughed.

            He didn’t hear her. He was lost in the ivory keys. His eyes were closed, and he wore a long, black tailed tux. The tail hung over the bench-like wooden piano seat and he imagined he was playing Carnegie Hall. The tail moved like tail feathers on a scissor-tailed swallow perched on a wire as he tinkled the keys.

             A slow smile grew on his face, and his head nodded, and turned with the melody. His shining black hair caught the light from the window, and lay flat against his scalp, combed back and held in place like a helmet with some kind of greasy mousse. “They love me,” he whispered.

            He ended the sonata with a flourish of movement, his long thin fingers manicured to perfection were lily-white, and on the last note, he lifted up from the stool, turned toward the old recliner in the corner and bowed low and long. He blew kisses to his invisible audience, and playfully ducked imaginary  bouquets of roses thrown on the stage to him. He took one last bow, sliding the piano bench back from the polished instrument, and decided to take a break from his concert.

            On his way downstairs, he paused at a desk piled high with sheet music, old 33-records, and bottles of pills. He gasped with remembering, and talked to himself.

            “Sorry Maestro, I nearly forgot to take my “make me better,” pills, “I won’t let it happen again, I beg your forgiveness, Maestro.” Then his voice changed and he answered himself with a deeper voice, “Don’t worry, Mr. Plummer, you are the greatest pianist the world has ever heard, and next week, you will be playing at the Met.”  The Maestro was as invisible as mountain air, but to Horatio, it was as if he could see the conducting baton in the old man’s hands.

            “The Met?” Horatio’s eyes widened and he answered himself again playing two parts now, himself and the Maestro. His nimble fingers removed the cap from the pill bottle.

            “They love me. Don’t they, Maestro?”  He popped two of the pills into his mouth, and picked up a dirty glass of lukewarm water near the bottles and washed them down.

            “They adore you, absolutely adore you.” The bitter pills slid down his throat, and he set the glass down. He studied it, and moved it three times until it was covering the water ring left on the desk. He stepped back and studied it, and nodded his head with satisfaction that the bottom of the glass fit perfectly in the ring.

            “A round peg in a round hole,” he muttered to himself…three times over. He walked from the desk and paused at the piano. His fingers gently caressed the top of it, and he said, “I won’t be long, baby.” He bent down and kissed the black polished wood leaving his lips impressed upon it, and two fog marks where his large nose exhaled to steam up the gleaming black. He went downstairs.

            In the kitchen, he saw his landlady picking up the package of ground pork off the floor.

            “They attacked Pearl Harbor, did you hear?” She looked up at him, then straightened and placed the pack of meat on the kitchen counter. She shook her head.

            “Horatio, they attacked Pearl Harbor, seventy-four-years ago. I was two when that happened.” She studied his face, and asked him, “Did you take your medication, today?” The old lady knew when Horatio skipped his pills just by some of his outbursts that rarely made sense.

            Horatio nodded his head that he did.

            Her old eyes locked onto his brown eyes, and his moved with jerky movements from left to right. It reminded her, that she had to take her medication too. She turned from him and reached up to a cupboard above the sink. She hated taking the anti-depressants, but since her husband of more than fifty-years died two years ago, she just couldn’t shake the feelings of despair. Barely making it, she had to take Horatio in as a boarder. She plucked the pill bottle from the shelf, opened it, and tapped a pill into the palm of her hand.

            Her morning orange juice sat on the counter near the meat grinder, and she picked it up, slapped the pill onto her tongue, and swallowed it with a large gulp of the juice. It mixed with the after effects of the powdered drywall, and felt like paste going down her throat. She reached to set the glass back down and paused in mid-action when Horatio said, “The Maestro said I am playing at the Met, next week.”

            Mrs. Fletching simply played along with him. Sometimes it was best. Why just last week, he told her Billy Joel was stopping by to tune the piano.

            “That’s great news, Horatio.’ She set the glass down, and with shaking fingers brushed the hair back from her right ear. Sometimes, he scared the hell out of her. There were times she wished she hadn’t answered the door eight months ago, when she first ran the ad in the Chronicle for someone to rent the upstairs in the brick house on the corner lot on Cherry Street. The day he showed up, he seemed normal. He looked clean, and groomed, and when he told her he played piano, well, it was a welcome and comforting thought to her then. Music might just lift her out of her life of gloom. Now, she couldn’t wait until his year lease was up. She groaned, and told him there was a bowl of left over soup in the refrigerator, and that he could have it. First though, would he help her lift the heavy, electric meat grinder from the counter to the table?

            “Why sure, Mrs. Fletching,” he answered. 

            The large machine was on a heavy iron base, and together they grunted as they lifted.

            “Careful now,” she said. They sidestepped from the sink counter, to the table, and managed to set it down on the top of the large wooden table. She lowered her glasses and studied the old machine. She had made tens of thousands of links over the years with it. Her husband loved her homemade sausage, and so did the neighbors. They said many times, that she should sell it locally. It embarrassed her to be honored with such a request.

            Her eyes moved the frayed black cord of the machine, and she picked up the plug on the end of it, and pushed the prongs into the outlet.

            “Hold your ears, Horatio,” she said. She pressed the red button on the base and the grinder came to life. The noise of it startled Horatio, and he slapped the palms of his hand over his ears, and wailed loudly. Quickly, Mrs. Fletching pushed the button and the growling, loud machine sputtered to a stop.

            “Oh, stop it, you big baby. It’s not going to hurt you.”

            Horatio slid his hands from his ears, and his bottom lip quivered.

            “I don’t like that. Too loud. Horatio hates loud.”

            “Well good, then I know you won’t be messing with it when I go to the Frank’s Butcher Shop, I have to buy some more pork. Eat your soup, while I am gone.” The old woman slid past Horatio, grabbed a sweater from a hook near the back door, and her purse. She slid the sweater on and slipped the purse over her shoulder.

            “I’ll be back in twenty minutes,” she said, and went out the door. It screeched when she closed it. Horatio stood in the kitchen thinking. “The soup,” that’s what she said. He opened the refrigerator door, and cupped the large covered bowl with both hands. At the microwave, he took the lid off, and placed it inside. His finger played the timing pad like it was a piano, and he set it for three minutes. Suddenly, he turned around and with wide eyes, said, “They did what? “ His head shook violently as if centrifugal force could throw the words in his head out through his ears.

            “They cancelled, Horatio. The Met cancelled your concert.”

            “How dare they cancel on the great Horatio?” Horatio screamed.

            “They said you aren’t good enough.”

            “Maestro, but you promised I would play there.”

            “You’re a square peg, Horatio, you don’t fit. The Met is a round hole.”

            The microwave sounded a loud beep. It triggered anger in the mind of Horatio.

            “How dare they, and how dare you, Maestro.”  Horatio looked at the microwave and he pressed the button causing the door to open. He grabbed the bowl of soup with both hands and the glass bowl stuck to the palms of his hands. His beautiful hands seemed to melt on the hot glass.

            “Nooooooooo,” he screamed and he threw the bowl toward the sink. It crashed into the chrome spigot and soup splattered the counter, the short curtains covering the small window, and the bowl shattered into countless shards that tinkled and slid across the counter top and onto the floor.

            Horatio flipped his hands to study his red, skin-peeled and burning hands.

            “Look what you did, Maestro.” He pushed his hands out in the air to no one, yet the no one responded. His fingers appeared twisted, and gnarled.

            “Way to go, Horatio. You’ll probably never play piano again.”

            “I can fix them, Maestro, I know I can. They will get better.” Horatio’s face grew red with anger.

            “Put them in the finger fixer.”

            “The finger fixer?”

            “Yes, on the table, that machine. You’ll be as good as new.”

            Horatio walked to the table and looked at the meat grinder. The silver funnel at the top widened out bell-like. He flipped on the switch.

            “That’s it; you’ll be good as new in no time.”

            The old machine growled. Then it smiled. Then it begged in a voice that was soft and sweet. It reminded him of the kind nurse back in the asylum, the only one he would take his medication for when she asked.

            He watched the Maestro disappear before his eyes in a cloud of yellow. Then, Horatio put his fingers together as if he were praying. He plunged them deep into the wide opening of the meat grinder. He leaned forward and used the weight of his body until the worm screw ate at his flesh, bones, and tendons. Blood spurted from the top of the grinder, and at the outlet tube, his piano playing hands plopped like raw hamburger onto the kitchen table. He felt nothing. He pulled his forearms dripping with blood and ragged torn edges of his flesh hung from sharp bones that once were his wrists. His arms hung loose, stumps where his hands were just a minute ago.

            He trailed blood from the kitchen upstairs. Mrs. Fletching found him first, bent over the piano, his bloodied tux tails hanging limp. His white face rested on the black top of the piano, and his eyes were frozen open. She looked down at the stumps resting on the keys in pools of blood.  Eighty-eight keys were smeared with red as he tried to play his last song before he bled out, and died.

            The shocked old woman grabbed her chest, and stumbled backwards, and down the steps she tumbled. A neighbor found them when she happened by to buy some sausage. It was a tragic event, read the Chronicle’s headlines, the next day after the discovery. The only sound interrupting the peace that Mrs. Fletching wished for was broken by a rustling breeze that moved the curtains in the kitchen of the empty house and outside the place, the laughing children played in yards with anxious talk of Halloween. Leaves rustled, and the first fires of October took the chill from the land in houses lining the street. Somewhere, the distant notes of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata stroked softly over the town and it was almost as if it purred itself to sleep.

Happy Halloween and for more of Ronnie Ray, click the link below.







Friday, October 2, 2015

Change me? You Bastard

Every now and then, I throw my hat into the ring with a challenge to write something. Today, they wanted no more than 500-words and it had to be a glimpse into the future by a character, and there had to a fortune involved.

Being a writer, it's very easy to become connected to your characters. After all, you make them every thing they are. Everything. So, it occurred to me what if a character was unhappy with the way you were moving him along in a story, and worse yet, what if he hated it, and then hated you?

Here's my take on it all, in 499- words. Enjoy it.

Change me? You Bastard

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

One Big F---king Book!

I don’t ever remember a time in my life that I didn’t write. The moment I picked up a thick pencil, and was taught the alphabet in a two-room school house in a place called Glasgow, Pennsylvania, there was something beyond magical that occurred.  I could leave this world around me, and I could create a world outside of where I lived, or even use that world as a setting. It was amazing. I didn’t have to be there if I didn’t want to, with words, I could go somewhere else.

I read everything I could get my fingers on. I was eight-years-old, when I read the entire Warren Commission Report on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I read it at a time when I was supposed to be in bed sleeping. I read Doctor Seuss, and I didn’t just read it, I read it upside down just to prove that I could and I was going on five. I read Steinbeck, and Hemingway, and Jack London on a front porch of a company house with the only light coming from the front room window and cast outside to me. I didn’t think then that authors were paid, I thought they just did it like I did it, because it seemed as much a part of me as breathing.

I watched the world changing. I lived through more wars than a person should have to live through, it wasn’t my fault. I never understood them, and understood them even less when my brother died in some far off place called Vietnam. Eleven of us became ten, and all we were left with were memories. Every now and then, I reach back into the recesses of my mind and pull one out, and write about it. If this planet makes it another hundred years, will anyone be around to even remember Vietnam? History is often times hidden or sugar-coated anyway, and is simply accepted for the God-awful truth. We know better, or at least we should know better.

So, as a writer I just try the best I can to tell the truth, even if it’s fiction there are parts that are real. We need real today, there’s no app for real. The Internet can be a wonderful tool, and smart phones make things easier for us, but it’s not always about easy, is it?

Which leads me to this, One Big F---king Book, that you can read online or on your phone, now
that’s easy. Why, you might wonder would anyone title a book in such a way. Here’s why.

Kindle Unlimited was launched by Amazon in July 2014. Since that time, the catalog of Kindle Unlimited eligible books has grown from 640,000 to over a million and it’s growing even more. For 9.99, a member can read up to ten books a month for that price. That’s good for Amazon, and it’s good for the readers. It’s not so good for an author. You see, we get paid by the page. Currently, that payment is ½ of a penny per page. Yep, I know you read that twice. I’ll spell it out, one-half of a cent per a page read. Now, you don’t have to be in this program as an author, you can just sell your book and opt for 70-perceent, or 35-percent royalty. I do it both ways.

I got into the Unlimited though, because I thought it would open up a whole new audience, and I thought that would be cool. Plus, I’ve been an author who has given away massive amounts of books and stories through my blog, and I used to do what Amazon likes to call “free,” promotions. I don’t do that for two reasons; most of the people who take a free book fill up their e-readers with free, and never get to your book. Secondly, I have yet to see any proof that it helps with ranking, reviews, or readers buying other books or stories.

So, I decided to combine four novels, two novellas, and some short stories into One Big F---king book. There’s a nice picture at the end too, of me looking at my statement online for ½ cent. It’s almost shameful for anyone to be paid half a penny for a page. On the average a page is about 250-words. Imagine how long it takes a serious writer to put down 250 good words, and you get the picture.

Ben Franklin, Charles Dickens, and Hans Christian Anderson lived hundreds of years ago, and made more per page than what an author would make in 2015. There’s something very wrong with that picture. Is there an app for that?

So, if you are a member of Kindle Unlimited, grab this 1360 pages of mine, it is truly One Big F---king Book.
Bring back penny candy too, I could by a nickel's worth of it for ten pages of writing.
Ronnie Ray Jenkins

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Real Ticking Time Bomb

When I was a kid there wasn't a radio, an old television, or anything that could be torn apart that was safe. This included my sister's talking dolls, or even something that wasn't broke if I could get away with it.

It was called learning on my own, it was called inquisitive, and it made me think of the great inventors. It also allowed me to say, "Hey, I can do that, too."

Today, because of our paranoia, and our fear, and our being misled, making a clock from some spare parts can land you handcuffed and in a juvenile detention center. It's what we've become today. This 14-year-old kid in Texas by the name of Ahmed Mohamed found himself in just that situation.

Here's a kid wearing a NASA shirt, who wanted to build a clock. He had three things going against him. His color, his name, and his religion. The school had one big thing going for them, lack of common sense. The arresting officers, forgot something you learn in the academy called, prosecutorial discretion. For the layman, that means using common sense and determining do I really want to make an arrest based on my observations? The boys in blue down at the precinct are going to have a lot of fun with this one, I bet. Can you say a locker full of alarm clocks?

This lack of common sense happens a lot lately. Here's a kid, trying, learning, experimenting and doing all the things schools should just hope for today, because as you all know our education system today is falling off the graph world-wide. Wonder why that is, maybe because there are no classes in common sense.

Good luck kid, I hope you invent something really cool some day, maybe save a few lives, or provide a better quality of life for this dying planet. Maybe you can invent a common sense machine, or a machine that instills tolerance, and understanding. You can have all my old tools, I ripped up about everything you can rip apart.

As for schools, guess what, things can be built outside the realm of Popsicle sticks, glue, and rain gauges made from plastic pop bottles. Besides, those projects are a bit dated, don't you think? Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs would have been in a world of hurt if anyone had walked into their garages when they were young inventors, there were "bombs" everywhere.

Here's a few things I invented called books, and some teach common sense.

Books By Ronnie Ray Jenkins

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Small Measure of Wealth

Time, moves forward, but it leaves memories behind, rather you are a King, or a pauper. The human mind knows wealth in the form of fond recall and that makes all of us equal. Disparity dies.

All can then claim their riches simply because of that joy in remembering the simple and good of the past. That's priceless, and  it is done so without the payment of interest, or penalties for early withdrawal, because it is there in the recesses of the mind. There is no need to remember, frugally. You can spend it all. There is no bankruptcy, or no running out until our last breath leaves us and even then, I am not so sure, it ends there. Although it may be an inanimate object, a house in a place long-forgotten can hold many stories.

Real wealth can't be measured in dollars and cents. It's something bigger than that. It's in memories, and childhood, and growing up in a place where five pop bottles returned down at the gas station bought you a candy bar, and a bag of chips that were savored more than dining at the finest of five-star restaurants. Etiquette went out the door, and no one cared that the chips weren't truly finished until the bag was torn open and the salt and crumbs were licked off the inner paper.

The wealth was the walk to the place, the sounds of tar snapping on the soles of your shoes on a hot summer day and ahead of you the road shimmered with heat waves. and rose up into a dazzling sky that made the sweat bees dance. Then, things suddenly got a whole lot better because you spotted a bonus glass Pepsi bottle in the high weeds along the road on your way there. Those two pennies, added to your wealth would go into the dusty gumball machine inside the gas station.You prayed you might get one of the sparse tin buttons inside it that entitled you to a free five-cent candy bar. Even if you didn't, the gumballs were good enough. You won the lottery by finding the bottle anyway.

Dogs, well, they belonged to everybody because we knew their names, and talked to them as if they were our own and that last piece of crust from that sticky piece of jelly bread belonged to them, because sharing was just a natural thing to do. Suddenly, those sad eyes turned a bit brighter with just that gesture of good will, and their tails wagged long after our footsteps disappeared.

We didn't litter the planet with empty plastic water bottles, our cupped hands captured the cold waters from off the hills, and our pant legs dried our hands, and our thirst was quenched. Keep your bottled water it comes from a municipal supply anyway. Oh, yeah, and one-fifth of your bottled water just might as well contain petroleum, because that's how much oil is used to make just one plastic bottle. I'd take a bucket and dipper now, there's nothing to throw away.

Then there was the smell of grass just cut, and the June nights where the aroma of it was held to the ground as if the whole town had been mowed. The night filled with laughing kids wrestling around in the grass and rewarded with the itch of new-cut grass and sweat and all of it spot-lighted with the weak, soft, golden glow of inside light cast through panes of a thin window. No X-box can replicate it.

Neighbors, who waved or said hello without prompt. A place where we had to ask what the word prejudice meant, because it just didn't exist, here. Equality was a given because everyone's sole purpose was to see another day.

Lilacs and their fragrance wafting through the air on a summer night, a fragrance impossible to copy, because there was no way to get the sounds of katydids in the bottle. Keep your Chanel.

Mansions need not be filled with rooms numbering so great that many of them aren't stepped in at all, today. There is nothing more lonely than that brand of quiet. Keep them too, because we could hear a Patton Courier's pages being turned from anywhere inside the mansions of Clearcreek.

Things... folks, things that cannot be bought. Remember those, and forget for a moment, or better yet, remember for a moment.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Flowers of Reminiscence--A Novel.

If you are looking for a great summer read that will take you away, The Flowers of Reminiscence will do just that. Today, more than ever we need to read. Take your mind to places you have never been, and journey along with a cast of wonderful characters.

Available in paper back and e-book.

Click here, and read books by Ronnie Ray Jenkins, today. 

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?