About Me

I feel the wanderlust and the call of the open highway. Which is good, because I drive cars for a living. But I'm a writer, and someday hope to once again make my living using my writing skills.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

GENUINE MAGIC

As I drove past Pascagoula, Mississippi yesterday, my boss Riff called me.  "This is Bill."

"Hey butt for brains, did you get to Biloxi yet?"

"Almost there."

"Get your fat ass in gear.  The Great Gideon awaits you."

"The Great Gideon?" I asked.  The line went dead.  An hour later, I was driving by the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, and already thinking about how I'd get out of there once I dropped off the car.  Either an expensive plane ticket or an expensive rental car to get to Baton Rouge.  Greyhound was not an option, after all of the bad incidents I had endured on their buses.

I had been instructed to meet Mr. Alexander at the back loading dock of the hotel.  I found my way there, and saw a man standing alone wearing a black cape and a top hat.  He looked to be in his late 60's, with a full head of white hair.  "Over here!" he commanded me.

I drove up to him and parked.  "Are you Mr. Alexander?"

"No, no, please call me the Great Gideon.  Is this my new car?" he asked.

"Yes, sir."

He pulled a card out of thin air, and held it out for me to see.  It was the Ace of spades.  "Is this your card?"

I was confused.   "My card?"

"Yes, the card you were thinking of.  Hey, it's magic."  The card went up in flames.  Then Gideon held fingertips from both hands up to the sides of his head.  "Now don't tell me your name.  It is... it is..."  He pulled a dollar bill out of thin air.  "Is it Bill?"

I smiled and nodded.  "Didn't my boss tell you that Bill Thomas was coming?"

He began to fold the bill again and again.  "He said a driver was coming.  He did not say a driver named Bill."  Gideon threw the tightly folded bill into the air, and suddenly confetti fell all around.  "Now as you can clearly see, I have nothing up my sleeves."  He yanked at his sleeves and they tore away at the shoulder seam.  He dropped the useless sleeves to the ground.  "I would like to do something to thank you for driving this car all the way here from Charleston."  He waved his arms and a bouquet of paper flowers appeared from nowhere.

I reached out for the flowers.  "Thank you."  But before I could take them, he waved his other arm over them and they vanished.  "Wow, that is really something."

"What, that?  Nah, it is only the tip of the magical iceberg.  Wait a minute... what is that?"  He stared at me curiously, then quickly reached out and grabbed my ear.  He pulled out a Susan B. Anthony dollar and handed it to me.  "You'll forgive me for saying so, but you really should keep your ears cleaned out."

"Right."

"What did you say?"

"I agreed with you."

"I should hope so.  What kind of car is this?"

"A Ford Fusion.  Is it your new company car?"

"It is my personal car, thank you very much.  I won it in a magic show competition."

"Really?"

"No, but thank you for your interest.  I perform right here in Biloxi."

"You perform here at the Beau Rivage?"

"No.  I do a little show at the cocktail lounge down the block."

"Oh."

"Hey, its a very nice lounge.  Whoa, look out."  He quickly began to grab me with each hand, first on the legs, then the waist, then the torso, then the head.  He would grab and let go of each extremely quickly and with great finesse.  Then he waved his hands.  "Abracadabra.  Is this yours?"  He held out a wallet.  

"Yes, that's my wallet."  I reached out to take it, and he snatched it away.

"You will find that all of the money and credit cards are in it.  Still intact.  Do you believe me?"

"Yes I do."

He laughed.  "Foolish boy."  He threw my wallet into the air, then grabbed it and spun around.  When he turned back to me and opened his hands, a white dove flew away.  "Now I know what you're thinking.  And the answer is yes, I did used to perform shows in auditoriums to sold out crowds.  But then bigger and better magicians made me obsolete.  Like David Copperfield, and Maxamian the Magnificent.  And yes, it is true, Max was my student and my apprentice.  I taught him everything he knows.  Including the concept of real magic."

I prepared the paperwork for him to sign.  "Real magic?"

"Yes son, real genuine magic.  The actual real thing, bonafide and mystical.  Not just tricks or illusions, mind you, but the stuff that dreams are made of.  You can make things fly.  You can even fly."

I smiled.  "Sounds like fun."

He was very serious.  "Don't scoff.  I mean what I say, and it will do you no good to doubt my word.  Only a true believer can reap the benefits of genuine magic."

"I believe you."

He studied me intently.  "Do you?"

I shrugged and nodded.  "Well, I want to believe you.  I have wanted to believe in magic ever since I was a little boy."

"Ah, you wanted to, but did you really?  And is this your wallet?"  He made my wallet appear again.  I grabbed it and put it into my back pocket.

"Yes, I really do believe.  With all of my heart."

"Well then, there's really nothing more to say.  Except to ask you to pick a card."  He made a deck of cards suddenly appear, and fanned them out in front of me.  I pulled one out, and he quickly said  "Don't let me see it."  I held it close.  "Is it the Jack of clubs?"

I felt a tingle in my toes.  "Yes, sir."

He took the card from me and put it back into the deck.  "You ever considered being a magician's assistant?"

"No."

"Probably a good idea, there's not a lot of money for assistants.  Where do I need to sign?"  I handed him the paperwork and a pen.  "I have my own pen," he said as he made one appear.  And then it went up in a flame, and he sighed.  "Well I guess I will need to borrow yours."  He took my pen and signed, then I gave him a copy and took my pen back.  "Where do you go from here?"

"Baton Rouge, to pick up another car.  Thanks for the entertainment."

"Anytime."  I grabbed my bag and started to walk away.  Gideon called after me.  "I believe you forgot something."

I turned.  "What's that?"  He stepped over to me and reached into his coat pocket, pulling out my wallet.

"How did you do that?" I asked as I took it from him.

"Magic," he said.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

WHITEOUT DANGER

This past Friday, I was driving a car to Akron, Ohio.  After many years of driving all around the United States, I had never driven in snow.  Somehow I had been blessed to avoid it, and I was thankful for that.  I was born and raised in the South, and while I know how to drive in hard rainfall, snow and sleet and ice present all kinds of challenges I felt unprepared for.

When it snows it pours, and this was one heck of a snow storm.  At times I was having trouble seeing.  My boss Riff called at a most inconvenient time.  "How ya doing up there in the snow storm, cream puff?"

"I really need to focus on the road right now, Riff."

"You really are one pathetic pussy willow.  Do you have any idea how much you disgust me?"

"What do you need?"

"Did you find a way out of there?"

"Not yet.  These people live 20 miles outside of Akron, and there is no bus, no taxi, no nothing."

"So how are you getting out of there?"

"The man who I am delivering to said that as an absolute final resort he would give me a ride."

"Take it, you fool!  Accept the ride!"

"But Riff, you told me just last week to never accept a ride from a customer."

"That was last week.  Take the ride."

The Ford Explorer I was driving began to slip and slide.  "Riff I have to go now."  I dropped my cell phone and put both hands on the wheel.  I only had ten more miles to go, but it took me 45 minutes to get there due to poor driving conditions.

As I drove up to the address, an elderly man came running out into the driveway waving his arms and whistling at me.  I rolled down the window, and snowflakes blew in on me with a fervor.  "This is the Jonesboro place, you found us.  Park it in the garage."  I did as the old man told me, and when I was inside he closed the garage door behind me.  I got out of the car with my paperwork.

"Are you Charles?" I asked.

"Nope, I'm his father, Wally.  Charles had to go to Chicago for the weekend, but he said that I could accept delivery of the car.  Is that correct?"

"Yes sir."  My heart sank, because I now guessed the offer of a ride to the Canton airport was off the table.

"Now my son told me that you might possibly need a ride."

My hopes were rekindled.  "That would be great, if you'd be willing."

"Oh heck yeah, sure, I mean why not?  But you'll have to pay me for the ride."

"Gladly.  How much were you thinking of?"

"I'd say $30 ought to do it.  My wife and I are on a fixed income, but if you pay us then we can go out to the Chinese buffet tonight.  We'll eat like kings!"

We took care of the paperwork, then I moved my bags over to his 70's era Chevy van.  His wife Pam stepped out into the garage.  "Who is this, Wally?" she asked.

"This is the fella who delivered Charley's new company car.  And we're gonna give him a ride to the airport."

"All the way to Cleveland?" she wondered with worry in her voice.

"No honey, the Canton airport."

"Oh."  She smiled.  "That's much closer.  That's better."  She seemed sweet but sounded ditzy.

Wally turned to me.  "What's your name again?"

"Bill Thomas."

"Pam, this is Bill Thomas.  Bill, meet my wife Pam."

I nodded.  "My pleasure."

She squinted at me suspiciously, then waddled toward the driver's side of the van.  She was an extremely plump woman, and did not seem overly fond of me.  Wally got the shotgun seat, and I climbed into the back.

As we rode along, I noticed that the weather was getting worse.  I began to fret about how my plane was going to take off in this kind of heavy snow.  Not only have I not driven in such harsh conditions, I have also never had to fly in it.  Wally turned and smiled at me.  "Bill, would you mind if I smoke?"

Pam shook her head.  "Oh no, you're not going to smoke that wacky weed in the car, are you?"

Wally looked startled and tried to hush her.  "Shh.  Pam honey, you don't know what you're saying."

"Sure I do, you like your weed."

"No, no, you're confused."  He turned to me again.  "Pam is confused.  She fell and hit her head last week."  He pulled out a cigarette and lit it.

Pam looked genuinely confused.   "I did?  I don't remember that."

Wally smiled.  "Of course you don't, the Doctor said you would have trouble with your memory."

"He did?" she asked.  "Well, all I know is that you do love to smoke your pot.  Every single doggone day."

He turned to me and shrugged sheepishly.  "Only once in a while.  I've got the glaucoma pretty bad."

Pam seemed surprised.  "You do?"

Wally seemed to want to change the subject.  "So I bet you have a lot of adventures on the road."

I grinned.  "Yes, I call them my driving fool adventures.  I write a blog."

"Really?"  he asked.

"Oh yes.  In fact, I--"

I was interrupted by a car behind us honking non-stop.  Long bursts, short bursts, it sounded like the driver was mad as a hornet and wanted us to know it.  "Wally, why are they honking at me so?"

"Probably because you are hogging the road."

She looked hatefully at her husband, as if she was about to burst into tears.  "How could you call me a hog, you know I have been on a diet.  And I'm really trying."

"No Pam, I mean a road hog."

"Oh, so I'm only a hog when I'm on the road.  What about when we're at the house, am I just a piglet then?  Is that what you think?"

"Sweetie, its a four lane road.  You are driving right down the middle lines, taking up two lanes.  The man behind you wants to get by."

"How do you know its a man?  It's snowing too hard to see who is driving that car."

Wally turned to me.  "Sorry about Pam, she got hit in the head with an iron skillet a few days ago.  It just fell off the shelf and BANG!"

"I did?" she asked.  "I sure get hit on the head a lot.  Why can't I remember it?"

"Asked and answered."  He looked at me and winked. "It has been affecting her judgement."

Pam got over to the far left lane, and the car behind us when zooming by on our right.  Even through the heavy snowfall, I could see it was a man driving, and it was a middle finger he saluted us with.  "I don't like this weather.  No sir, not one little bit.  This looks like a whiteout to me.  I don't like our chances of getting back home."  Right about then is when Pam turned onto a One Way road going the wrong way into the airport.  "And this is all because of you, Bill Thomas.  We could die in a horrible crash on the way home, and it would be all your fault.  Can you live with that on your conscience?"

"Pam, he's paying us $30 for giving him a ride.  We are going to the Chinese buffet for dinner tonight."

Pam lit up like a Christmas tree.  "Really?  Well that makes everything OK."  Several cars came head on towards us, slipping and sliding sideways to get out of our path.  "You are a good man in my book.  I love the Chinese buffet.  I am going to stuff myself like a pig.  Not a hog, Wally, I said a pig."

He nodded. "Understood."

I got the $30 out of my wallet and handed it to Wally.  Pam pulled up to the Departure area from the wrong direction.  A police officer came hurrying over to the car.  I got out and got my bags out with me.  "Thanks for the ride, folks."

The police officer ran up and knocked on Pam's window.  She stepped on the gas and took off in the wrong direction.  I stepped into the airport ready to see how well a plane could fly in a blizzard.

Friday, January 11, 2013

BOYHOOD CRUSH

After driving a retirement home van over to Atlanta just over a week ago, I began to shuttle vehicles back and forth between Birmingham and Atlanta.  It was a nice, easy drive, and gave me more of a chance to enjoy time in my old home town.

I had received an invitation a few months ago to go to my old Scout troop reunion.  At first I had no intention of going, because I seriously doubted I would be back in Birmingham on January 9.  But when I saw I would be here, I thought Why Not?

It was happening at an Episcopal church at 7pm, and I showed up wondering if I would recognize any of the guys I hadn't seen since I was a kid.  I looked around the room full of men and no one stuck out for me.  At the same time, nobody seemed to know who I was.  And then I heard a voice.

"Bill Thomas?  Is that you?"

I turned and looked into the face of a stranger.  "Yes, I'm Bill."

"And you have no idea who I am, do you?"  He smiled.  He was tall and slender, very well coiffed and manicured.  "Bill it's me, Simon.  Simon Turner."

"Simon?"  My mind searched for some type of memory.  "Simon..."

"We went to school together from first grade until 8th grade, when I left and moved to Colorado.  I always loved to dance, don't you remember?  You cast me as the lead in that play you wrote for English class."

That did it.  I remembered him!  "Simon!  How are you buddy?"  We hugged, and he seemed genuinely happy to see me.

"Well I'm much better now that I see you.  I must say, you are a sight for sore eyes."  I felt like I had heard those very words recently.  Somewhere.  It wasn't like it was a unique or original phrase, and yet Simon seemed to really mean it.

"Simon, how long has it been?"

"Well, like I said, the end of 8th grade.  We were supposed to go to a summer scout camp, and I didn't get to go because my Dad got transferred.  It broke my heart.  You and I had agreed to be bunk mates.  Do you recall?"

I squinted as I tried to recall.  "Kinda sorta."

"Oh come on now, you and I were as thick as thieves."

"I remember we were friends."

"I tell Jackie about you all the time.  Come on, let's sit down."  He took me by the arm and led me to a table, where we sat together.  "Oh, you would not believe the way I go on about you to this very day.  Bill this and Bill that.  Jackie says he gets tired of hearing about you, but I don't care."

"Who is Jackie?" I asked.

"My life partner.  Certainly you must have known back in those days that I was a gay bloomer?"

I shook my head.  "No I honestly did not."

He wrinkled up his nose.  "Really?  How could you not?  I was such a prissy little sissy."  Simon giggled, and it made me smile.  "You know I had a huge crush on you, didn't you?"

"What?  No."

"Oh come on, you had to know."

"I really, really didn't."

"In 8th grade, I was just gaga over you.  It was a boyhood crush, just puppy love.  But oh..."  Simon held his hand over his heart and mimed a pounding beat.  "You were so damn cute."

"Was I?"  I was very surprised by this news.

"Didn't you ever notice the way that I would stare at you in the showers after P.E. class?"

"I really didn't.  And maybe that was for the best, I was so sheltered I don't know what I would have done with that information.  I mean, I don't know how I would have processed it.  I mean..."  I realized I was rambling, so I shut up.

Simon was beaming.  "You are blushing.  That is so adorable."

"You know, I just remembered something.  When I was a kid, when we showered after P.E.,  I would just run around under the water and get wet.  In and out of the open shower area as quick as I could.  Most of the guys would do the same.  You were always the first one in and the last one out.  I recall that I thought that you had to be the cleanest kid in the whole school."

He smirked.  "I had another agenda.  I was a people watcher."

"Yes, I get it now.  You were watching, all right, you sneaky little SOB."

Simon held up a hand in the air.  "Guilty as charged."  He laughed.  "Well, my one regret was that we never shared a night of passion."

"Buddy, if it makes you feel any better, I was too dumb and naive to have even understood any of that back in those days.  Heck, I didn't go to bed with a girl until I was 20, and she turned out to be gay."

He gasped.  "How funny is that?"

"Not too funny.  Her name is Karen, and I'm still in love with her."

He grabbed my hand and squeezed.  "You are just too sweet."  I wriggled around in my chair.  Simon eyed me with suspicion.  "Have I made you uncomfortable?"

"What?"

"Well, telling you how I felt about you, that I was watching you and so forth?  Did I scare you off?  Because that is the last thing I wanted to do."

"No, Simon.  I guess it is sort of unusual, I'm not used to this sort of thing.  But you are my friend first and foremost, and I'm really glad we've reconnected."

As the evening wore on, other old friends came up and we got reacquainted.  Simon never left my side, and we exchanged information and promised to stay in touch.  I guess I will take any positive attention I can get.  It's nice to be cared about, whether you're a Boy Scout or a driving fool.