by S. Greenstreet
It was one of those rainy afternoons when I stepped away from my typewriter and settled into the window seat in my studio. I plumped the big cushy pillows, placed my cup of tea on the window sill and leaned back with a sigh.
A beautiful thunderstorm was making its way across the horizon; black roiling clouds with flashes of lightning and cracks of distant thunder completed this perfect scene. As a child, I had learned to count the seconds after each flash of lightning to determine how far away the storm was. One-Mississippi equaled one mile.
I also used that measure after I’d sass my mother – gaging when her reaction would descend upon me. I don’t believe I ever got beyond three-Mississippi. If you happen to be a comedian, counting that way provides an accurate measure of how funny you are or are not.
The trailing edge of the storm brought gentle showers to the garden below my window, freeing me of the task I enjoyed but was happy to release to the heavens on this occasion.
What I have failed to learn during my stint on this planet, is to count the seconds between each flash of lightning and clap of thunder in my personal life – and there have been many.
For instance, the moment I was born, those blinding lights to eyes that had never seen before, and someone unceremoniously slapping my bottom did not strike me as a welcoming gesture. Was I being punished for being born? Fortunately, Doctor Death, who attended my birth is happily pushing up daisies, or I would seek him out and wallop give him a time or two, to see how he likes it. But I’m a forgiving person – sort of.
That being said, the next noteworthy event in my life was the first day of kindergarten. I remember hanging over the passenger seat backrest of my father’s ’45 Ford, screaming my lungs out in protest; and promptly coming home after school with a black eye. Fortunate for the giver of the black eye, I don’t remember the details or who actually did this grievous injury to me, or I would probably seek the culprit – even now.
Over the next few years, until I reached puberty – another noteworthy moment – I misbehaved probably more than I was entitled to. My mother isn’t Jewish but she had a handle on using guilt to keep me in line. At the top of the list was her rant about the eighteen hours of labor she endured so I might have the privilege of misbehaving and driving her crazy. But I will have to admit, when she finished berating me, she would hug me so tight I would gasp for breath. Now that she has gone to her reward, I would gladly misbehave again for just one more of those hugs.
When I refused to eat my lima beans, she brought up the starving children on some far-flung island of despair. She ceased using that ploy the day I told her to go ahead and send the remains of my lima beans to those starving children. I still haven’t figured out what God was thinking when he invented those loathsome beans.
Puberty was a high-speed train wreck. The only sane thing I remember saying to my parents with my dwindling lucidity was – I was going to go crazy and would probably take them along with me. They laughed at the idea, but years later, they confessed – I had been right.
As the level of testosterone rose, I attacked anything that moved, but I was a gentleman about it. Love had nothing to do with it. Little did I realize that love, one of nature’s most powerful forces, approaches on its hands and knees until one day you wake up and you’re up to your neck – no, your eyeballs in love and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Tripping through the tulip patch of love provided invaluable learning experiences none of which I ever applied, and now that the testosterone level has dropped to almost zero, I have regained my sanity and write about love in the most glowing of terms. I live vicariously through the stories and characters I create, writing about the way love should have been but never was.
Sometimes the magic does happen. Just be sure you don’t let it slip away because it may never happen again. And, be careful not to trip over one of those nasty frogs lurking beneath a tulip leaf . . . causing you to fall flat on your face.
Alas, the storm has passed, sunlight once again illuminates my studio. I’ll wash my teacup and get back to my typewriter and, together with my muses, write another story of love and romance when everyone is young, beautiful, and happy.