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