Robert Fulghum, author Robert Fulghum's official web site
Journal Mender of Destinies Books Artshow Plays About the Author
JOURNAL

Colored Man

No Borders. . .

Looking Up - Thinking Out. . .

The People of the Edge

The Midnight Ride of Charley, the Juice

Players

Vintage Brew

Talking Turkey

Storytime

Playing With Fire



Finally, the English Edition!
Third Wish
A NOVEL IN FIVE PARTS

Order from Amazon

click here for the details
Robert Fulghum Speaking Engagements: Contact http://BrightSightGroup.com
Please Note: This journal contains a wide variety of stuff -- complete stories, bits and pieces, commentary, and who-knows-what else. As is always the case these days, the material is protected by copyright. On the other hand, I publish it here to be shared. Feel free to pass it on. Just give me credit. Fair enough?
January 22, 2015

\Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
Mid-January, 2015
Residual snow and ice just about gone.
Increasing mud and mushiness and road ruts.
The Great Horned Owls have started their horny mating calls.
“Who, who – who-who.” – a late night sign of early spring.
I never hear a response that sounds like “Me, me – me-me.”
But I assume the messages that are sent are received, and owl
hide-and seek-is going well in the trees down by Pack Creek.

Here’s a line of thinking as a follow-up to last week’s posting about using the right crayons to color inside or outside the lines of a picture.
It’s a re-considered and revised version of a story that was added
to the 25th anniversary edition of my Kindergarten book.
It seems relevant to our current cultural churning.

COLORED MAN

In the summer of 2010 I learned that I am now “White.”

Awakened from an afternoon nap by my wife’s voice talking to someone on our front porch, I called out in sleepy stupor:
“Who was that?”
“A lady from the Census Bureau of the United States of America.”
“Did she ask about me?”
“Yes. One question was: ‘Does anybody sleep on our couch?’ and I told her that would be you – and she could view you in place at the moment if she wished.
She declined.”
“What else?”
“You might be interested to know you are White now.”
“Not Caucasian?”
“No. White. Caucasian is not a racial category anymore.”

This is good news. I never really liked being Caucasian.
That’s someone whose racial roots are in a mountain range in the middle of the former Soviet Union - the Ukraine, maybe.
A Caucasoid.
Not me. Never was.
I feel better being declassified by the government.
But not so good about being re-classified without my consent.

White?
That’s a color, not a race.
I know. It just means ‘of European ancestry - Europoid.
But Europeans aren’t White, either.
The last time I was in Europe, I looked around..
Mostly pinks and browns and grays and yellows.

If skin color means something, we ought to be accurate, don’t you think?
The next time the census people go to work they ought to bring a color chart like the ones used in paint stores.
You could pick your color by holding your hands and face up to the chart.

That seemed like such a fine idea that I made a special trip to a paint store to test the method and check me out.

(I emphasize here that just considering hands and face won’t do.
They are the color most affected by sun and use.
They don’t really match the rest of you.
Next time you’re naked in front of the bathroom mirror, check you out carefully.
You’ll see.
The truth is that the area most original in color is your butt.
Even that’s not White, in my case - more the pale color of aging vanilla yoghurt.
Overall, my skin coloration could be a pattern for nursing home camouflage.
But in the paint store I just looked at matches for what could be exposed in public - hands, face, legs, backside of arms, and cautiously, my stomach.)

The paint samples most like colors of me ranged from “Walnut” at the dark end to “Candle Light” - with areas in between of “Vegetable Patch”, “Melon Cup”, Cappuccino”, “Orange Creamsickle”, “Honey”, “Rose”, “Ivory”, and a few spots of “Aubergine”, “Magenta” and “Pennies From Heaven.”
That news ought to impress the census taker next time.

My wife is a professional artist, and when I asked her what colors she would mix up to paint me, she looked me over and said, “Umber, yellows, reds, blacks, blues, and even a touch of green.”
“No white?”
“Well, that would be the base to start with, but there wouldn’t really be much white showing when I finished. I don’t care what the census lady said. You’re not White and never will be.”

In truth, I am a Colored person - a mongrel mutant - mostly blotchy beige.
Easily mistaken for lumpy pillows on the couch.
And it was just as well that was the case when the nice lady from the Census Bureau of the United States of America came to call.
The category, “Colored” is not in her manual.
And I don’t think she would have been open to the reality of me rising up off the couch to express my argumentative opinion.
Even if I showed her my butt.

As for race, we know now from DNA and genetic testing that most of us are
a mongrel mix.
The categorical imperatives of the Census Bureau just aren’t accurate.
Despite their good intentions, some further revision is required.

I’ve lived long enough to remember being alive and aware growing up in the South
when there were separate restrooms and water fountains and entrances
marked “For Colored.”
For the sole use of those forced to live their lives inside the lines drawn by the law and cultural discrimination.
We were segregated and separated by color as an indicator of race.

Things have changed – improved a lot – but the work remains unfinished.
Essential to progress is a personal mindset:
I think of myself as a colored man now.
All of us – all of us - are colored.
In the many shades of the human race.

I repeat – I am not White – I am Colored.
If you want proof, I’ll drop my pants for you.

https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum

link to this story




January 18, 2015

Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
Snow still melting – an ongoing warming trend makes for red mud and black ice.
Yet, out of the mush, the willows pull life up and out into buds.
It’s still cold and clear at night – but the pussy-willows are in a defiant mood.

NO BORDERS . . .

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who would not color inside the lines.
She was supposed to do that – but she did not.
She could have failed kindergarten.

Her teacher handed out white paper with line drawings on them.
For example: a picture of cowboys and Indians and horses and buffaloes.
“Neatness counts,” the teacher said. “Be careful to stay within the lines.”
She added: “And use the right colors.”

The little girl’s colors obeyed no lines or borders.
One color blended into another – colors were even applied in layers.
Indians melted into buffaloes - as did cowboys and horses.
The sky was shades of green - fading into turquoise plains.

When the teacher came around to collect the assignment, she asked the little girl, “What’s this? What have you done? What were you thinking?”
The little girl was too young to know the words to explain her art.
She could only smile.

This went on for weeks.
Line drawings of boats and trains, dogs and cats, even the American flag.
Colored outside the lines – in colors outside the borders of rules.
Her sky was always shades of green.

The teacher also noticed that the little girl had scratched out all the names on all the crayons in her box.
“Why?”
“Colors don’t have names,” she explained.

The child’s concerned parents and teachers considered the possibilities:
Maybe she had some kind of psychological disorder – a mental syndrome.
Perhaps there was something wrong with her eyes – a vision problem.
Or just maybe she was rebelling against authority in a very subtle way.

None of this applied – and there were no other signs of deviations from the norm.
The parents and teachers accepted what they could not change or understand.
Wisely, they chose not to interfere with the little girl’s style of art.

They decided to wait and see – they waited – and the child continued to see – all
coloring assignment as an opportunity to express herself in her own way.
So it went - all through elementary school.
She remained the little girl who did not color inside the lines.
She never said why.

I know this story because the kindergarten teacher told me.

* * *

It’s OK to be different – but being different is never easy.
Especially if you want to keep your difference inside yourself.
Keeping secrets in a private life takes strength of character.
I think of all those who grew up knowing they were gay or lesbian, for example.
Who had to live inside the lines in a world that could not accept or understand.
Knowing you are not quite like everybody else can be a great sorrow.
Or, perhaps, a secret pleasure – as with the little girl who would not color
inside the lines – and only smiled when asked why.
Who can say how she privately thought about herself and the world?
Her inner solitude was a safe refuge from the tyranny of lines.

* * *

One September afternoon in the years when I was an art teacher, a young woman came to see me in my office at the end of the school day.
I had not seen her before – because, as I learned, she had just enrolled.
Nothing particular in the way of her dress or appearance set her apart from the rest of the student body.
But if I could have seen inside her mind, I would have known she was not the standard high school sophomore.

She said that because I was the Chairman of the Art Department, she had a proposal to make – especially in light of the school’s requirement for credit for courses taken in the Fine Arts.

She did not want to take art courses because she thought art was not something that could be taught.

(Really? Please go on . . .)

She said that she had always loved drawing and painting – but she did that on her own, and didn’t want to have to submit her art for judgment or grades.
She did want to know more about the work and life of some famous artists, and she wanted to have suggestions about artists to study that she didn’t know about.

She proposed a tutorial – in the style of English universities.
She would talk to me about her views and understanding of artists who interested and inspired her.
And she would study the artists I recommended and discuss them with me.
She did not want to write any papers – because she thought most of what was written about art was meaningless.

(Really? Please go on . . .)

She wanted me to give her course credit based on the quality of her thinking as expressed in our conversations.
She realized she was asking for special consideration, but she was willing to do the work, and I could be the judge of the quality and merit of what she did.
If she deserved course credit, fine – if not – well some things don’t work out.

(I remember feeling that my work, too, would be evaluated – by her.)

Her proposal was a worthy one – and a challenge for both of us.
I agreed – yes – I was willing to give her proposal a try . . . .

As she was leaving she said that one of her elementary school teachers knew me, knew that she was coming to Lakeside, and thought I would approve of the tutorial plan she requested.
Her teacher told her to ask me if I remembered her story about the girl who never would color inside the lines.

“Yes. Do you know her?”

“Yes, I do know her. That’s me.”

(Oh really? . . .Well . . . this is going to be interesting.)

* * *

“Is this story true?” - you well may ask.
Simply said, Yes.
As an acknowledged story-teller, I often write fiction or embellish facts.
But not this time. 
Of course, the process of memory over time has polished and shaped what I know.
And there are gaps in the story that I have filled for lack of knowledge – gaps filled by reasonable assumptions - so noted.
But the little girl who would not color inside the lines is real.

Sadly, for me, the young woman and I never engaged in the tutorial.
She didn’t even finish the first term – perhaps an academically rigorous curriculum
was not a good fit for her?
I heard that might be the case.
Perhaps she did not feel at home with her peers?
Possible.
Or perhaps it was because her parents were moving away because her father had been transferred.
That was mentioned as well.

I never got to know her.
And I never saw her again.
A great disappointment for me.
I feel I could have learned a great deal from her.

So what became of her?
I imagine that she took responsibility for her own learning all her life.
A formal college degree?
I doubt it.
But is she well educated?
No question.
And I am sure that her life has been a work of art.
I wish I had known her well enough to be an ongoing witness to the blooming of a flourishing life.

I tell you this story because I was recently in touch with a former student who knew the girl I’ve been telling you about.
He asked me if I remembered her.
Of course – what became of her?

He said he heard she had long been a senior administrator on the support staff of Medicins Sans Frontieres – Doctors Without Borders.
Now she was in Africa – Sierra Leone - in the fight against Ebola.
A very risky, dangerous place to be.
He hoped she was all right.

I guess she still uses all the colors in the box.
And some of her colors are not in the box.
They are in her mind – in her imagination and soul.
She’s still coloring outside the lines.
Her sky, like her life, is still shades of green.

https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum

link to this story




January 11, 2015

Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
Snow melting – a warming trend makes for black ice and red mud.
Cold and clear at night
New snow on the way over the weekend, so the weather shaman says.
Saturn is the morning star, rising just at dawn.
Jupiter is the evening star, rising after sunset.

The American Astronomical Society is meeting in Seattle this week. It’s called the “Superbowl of Astronomy” - because the event hosts more than 2,600 scientists from all over the world. All the big astronomy news from of the past year will be on review - along with all the proposals for going deeper into space.
How I wish to be there!
Just to see and hear all the men and women who spend their lives looking way up and thinking way out.

Seems like that hardly a week goes by without some startling news in astronomy.
Just a few days ago it was announced that two new planets have been discovered orbiting stars in the “goldilocks zone” where conditions are favorable for life on a planet like ours – even life just like ours. . .

Walking around outside last night, looking up and out into space, I imagined this:

LOOKING UP – THINKING OUT . . .

When I opened my e-mail this morning, I found this message:

!ereH no su morf sgniteerg, olleH.

The e-mail continued:

“No, there’s nothing wrong with your eyes or your computer.
This is a message from a representative of one of the new planets your astronomers have just discovered – labeled Kepler 438b by your scientists.
We speak the same languages you do, but we write and read from right to left.
So our message translates as: “Hello, greetings from us on Here!”
We call our planet “ereH” – that’s “Here” - because that’s where we are.
It’s only polite to say Hello – we use another word, but it doesn’t translate well.
It sounds something like ooowah or wahoo. (hawooo – oohaw)

The only other substantial difference between Earth and Here is that we are several hundreds of years further along the turning of the Wheel of Change.
It’s somewhat like our being identical twins – which are never perfectly identical because the fingerprints differ slightly, and over time, differences exist because of life experiences and environment. The older they get, the more twins differ.
This is the case with Earth and Here.

Because Here is older than Earth, our science and technology are much further advanced, so that we just recently have developed the ability to observe Earth in real time at a speed you cannot even conceive of yet – faster than the speed of light, actually.
Our present time and your present time are almost the same for us.

Granted, it’s exciting and a also a little scary for us to be able to reach out to Earth, especially knowing that Earth cannot reach back to us yet.
But we have decided to accept the possible hazards of the adventure and see what happens.
You would do the same, right?

Our planet and its history is so identical to Earth that if you could have been here hundreds of years ago it would seem just like home to you in every way – except for the way we write and read, of course.
(Even we don’t have a good explanation for that.)

Don’t be too surprised or skeptical about what I am telling you.
Do the math – your Milky Way – galaxy - has at least 200 billion stars in it.
The odds are that there are at least 11 billion habitable earth-size planets.
And the odds that some of those are just exactly like Earth and Here are very high on a probability scale.
I write to tell you that it is not just probable, it is true.

The e-mail continued:

Being so far ahead of you we thought we would first give you the benefit of some of our experience that might be of use to you as you move into your future.
There’s way too much to share in one message, but here are ten thoughts for now:

1. The evolution of everything continues – change does not and will not cease.
Climate, culture, civilizations, living things – change is at the heart of the universe.

2. Life is everywhere in the universe, and always in flux.
Everything that is – is compost – part of the Great Cycle of Being.

3. On the other hand, basic human nature changes very slowly – we on Here are not all that different than we were hundreds of years ago.

4. Things will always get better and worse – often at the same time.
But every difficulty contains opportunity.

5. Earth and people can cope with evolutionary change, no matter how radical, because you and we have – for 200,000 years or so.

6. We have learned to “never say never” – but these things seem ever more improbable: Time Travel and Space Travel. There is no way to go backward or forward in time. There are limits to technology and resources. We are also limited by our physiology. But, we also say “you never know” because there still seems to be no limits to our capacity to wish and wonder and imagine and adventure.

7. We still are not in agreement about the existence of God in any form – faith and fact still conflict, but the good news is that we no longer try to settle our differences with violence. It’s likely that will happen in Earth, as well.

8. You might wonder about what lasts as time goes by. Love, sex, poetry, music, justice, laughter, dreams, hope – continue. AI - artificial intelligence - doesn’t and can’t replace these.
Of course, greed and corruption and ambition and violence are still in business, too, but we have a better handle on how to minimize and control those things.

9. Speed does not increase the quality of life – being on the receiving end or giving end of the fire hose does not enhance our humanity – (Yes, we still think of ourselves as human – namuh is our word.) We’ve learned that slow is better. The same is true for size – smaller is better, too.

10. All things considered, you will not come to visit us or we visit you. But we want you to know that there are already people just like you way out in space.
We think about you when we look out into space at night.
You are there.
We hope you will think of us, now and then.
We are Here.

And I bet you already know all ten of these lines of thought – we’re just confirming that some things hold true – so, be not of faint heart – going onward is worth it.

Enough for now – more later . . .

signed:. Muhgluf A. Trebor (coincidence! – almost the same name as yours)

* * *

So – could an e-mail like that really appear in my in-box?
Well . . . you can imagine . . .

* * *

Note:
This journal entry is not all my doing.
My son, Hunter, is an electronics engineer in his early fifties.
His lively mind and world experience make him a worthy companion when it comes to tossing ideas around.
He’s smarter than I am and knows a lot of things I don’t.
We collaborated on this piece of writing.
Thanks, Hunter.

For some relevant photos, see my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum

link to this story




January 04, 2015

Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
4 January, 2015
Snow still covers the ground . . .
Cold – down to zero last night – clear sky -
Full moon tonight.

Note, this web-journal depends on your having seen some photos introduced by a link posted on my Facebook page. Go there before you read on.
https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum

THE PEOPLE OF THE EDGE

Question: What’s the scariest physical thing you ever did on purpose?
I don’t mean the crazy things you did when you were a stupid little kid and didn’t know any better.
I mean the scariest thing you’ve done as an adult – on a dare or for a thrill or just for the bloody hell of it..

The question is a good for after-dinner conversation with guests – I’m always surprised to learn about the chances taken by people I think I know well.
Really? You did that and lived to tell the tale? Wow!

When I first saw the photos of the space-jumping-web, I sucked in my breath.
No way I would get out there, much less jump.
Catapedaphobia is the word for being afraid of jumping from high places.
I have that.

In truth, I was actually suspicious of the authenticity of the pictures – they could be a well-crafted photo-shop hoax.

But I asked around Moab at places where the hard-bodied, risk-taking adrenalin junkies hang out, and was told that the space web was the real deal.
Nobody wanted to talk much about it because there might be some problems with BLM permits and legal rights to the video.

Besides, the people who were involved had all left town for the winter – for warmer climates and new thrills.
When I asked where it was because I wanted to go see it, I was told that it had been taken down and probably would not be constructed again in the future.
Nevertheless – the event happened – the photos are for real.
And the images stuck in my mind – set me to thinking . . .

What’s the scariest physical things I’ve ever done as an adult – on purpose?
Most took place many years ago in my younger days.
Mountain climbing free, without safety ropes.
Rafting through big rapids in a kayak.
Hang gliding.
Sky diving – just once.
Bull riding in small-town rodeos.
Jumping off a cliff into the sea.
I can’t believe I did those things – but I did.
As I say, all that was years ago.

What have I done recently that’s scary?
Not much.
As one ages, thrill-seeking diminishes in its attraction.
Just driving a car on a crowded freeway at 70 miles an hour is sufficiently scary.
I’m finally old enough to be wise about what’s dangerous and why.
It’s not a matter of fear – but of appropriate anxiety based on experience.

That line of thinking slides into the next question:
What am I afraid of?
Death? – no.
Spiders, snakes, the dark, the boogie-man under the bed? No
I do have emetophobia – the irrational fear of vomiting.
I say I have that fear, but apparently my body does not, because it does it when necessary, despite my pleading. No. . . No . . .  please No . . .
And I’m mildly claustrophobic – ill at ease in small spaces and big crowds.
But that’s about it.
I’m old enough to know that life is scary, and that it’s all mind over matter -
If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter all that much.

And you?
What are you afraid of?
Go to this web site to find a name for your fear: http://phobialist.com/
Whatever you fear, there’s a name for it – and you’re not alone.
Sometimes giving your fear a name and confronting it helps.
Remember the little boy in Sendak’s story, Where the Wild Things Are?
He looked into the yellow eyes of the monsters without blinking – and they did him no harm, just danced around his bed.

I took another look at the photos of the web-in-space again.
Those I’ve talked to about the photos all had strong responses:

Examples:
“Fabulous, where do I sign up?”
“Insane – those people are crazy.”
“Too bad all that creative energy couldn’t be better put to use.”

And, surprisingly, some of those in the extreme-sports category did not approve.
“It’s using the out of doors for circus acts.”
“Exhibitionists – they should have done it and kept it to themselves.”
“A nurse I know volunteered to go to Africa to fight Ebola – that’s the only kind of scary I respect.”

One friend said the web-in-the-sky photo connected him to the way he felt when he got out of bed some mornings – stepping into a hole in space – into the emptiness of his mind, his life, and the New Year.

And you?
What’s your response to the web-in-the-sky adventure?

* * *

Well enough . . . I leave this human conundrum in your hands.

There is no moral to this story.
No slam-dunk piece of profound wisdom to put the human race in perspective.
No advice, either – just a question:
Why is there no limit to what human beings will think of do next?
There’s no consensus on that.
So leave out the “why” -
And the question becomes:
Is there no limit to what human beings will think of or do next?
We don’t know – but so far, probably not.

So all that’s left is a simple declarative sentence.
There is no limit to what human beings will think of to do next.

There, that’s the truth about us – for better or worse – the truth.
We are the People of the Edge.
And we can’t seem to see the edge from where we are.
Onward!

link to this story




December 28, 2014

Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
Heavy snow from Christmas Day still on the ground.
– but cold and clear now – with more snow on the way tonight.

Tell me a story.
OK, what kind of story do you want?
One set in the time between Christmas and New Year’s.
Have I ever told you the one about the Midnight Ride of Charley, the Juice?
No.
It’s a bit long, but here goes . . . .

Charley Weatherby walked into the Moab hospital emergency room around midnight on Christmas Eve – mobile, but looking somewhat trashed.
A bloody handkerchief was wrapped around his right hand.
He said he thought he’d been hit by a train.
Which is hard to believe since trains don’t run through our town.

Sure, there’s a seldom-used track across the river way up on the north end, but it’s used to haul freight cars on a very irregular basis – and anybody would have to work really hard to get up there to get hit by a train.
Besides, Charley Weatherby is 95 years old and gets around on a bicycle.
It’s unthinkable that he was where he could be hit by a train, but that’s what he claimed – said it was an Amtrak passenger train.

No way. The nearest active railroad line is fifty miles away, with an Amtrak flag-stop at the old depot in Green River.
Was he drunk, over-medicated, going senile, delusional?
No – none of those apply.
What, then?

(Bear with me – the story is going to get a little crazy.)

The UPS driver who dropped Charley at the ER was in a hurry – just said he had found Charley sprawled on his back in the depot parking lot in Green River.
He said Charley was on his back – laughing.
The UPS driver didn’t think Charley was seriously hurt or drunk – but his hand was bleeding and needed looking at, so he brought him to the ER.
The driver said he tried to get the story out of Charley, but Charley just kept laughing and said nobody would believe what really happened to him.
The ER nurse had the same experience.
Mr. Charley Weatherby just wanted his hand bandaged so he could be on his way.

Now you need to know that the hospital emergency room is obliged to report anything suspicious to the police or the sheriff – any accident or possible crime.
And that’s why the ER nurse called the Grand County Sheriff.

“This is not a 911 call,” she said, “but ‘Juice’ is in the ER looking a little bit the worse for wear. Maybe you ought to send somebody over to check things out and get the whole story.”
“Juice? You mean old Charley Weatherby? What did he tell you?”
“Yes, well, he says he thinks he was hit by an Amtrak passenger train.”
“Amtrak doesn’t run through Moab.”
“I know – he says it happened up in Green River.”
“How did he get to Green River?”
“He just laughs and says I wouldn’t believe it.”
“How did he get back from Green River to Moab?”
“Jack, the UPS driver, brought him – said he wasn’t supposed to pick up passengers, but Juice gave him a credit card and asked him to consider him a package and to deliver him to the Moab hospital ER – and here he is.”

“I’ll be right over.”

A digression for some background explanations.
Everybody in Moab calls Charley Weatherby –“Juice” - everybody knows him.
He’s lived here all his life.
Went to school here – played football in high school – worked as a miner, logger, cowboy, truck driver, handyman – a little of anything and everything.
Everybody likes him, too.
He can take over a party with his joke-telling or by playing his fiddle.
Whatever he does, he does it with such energy and enthusiasm that people always say he was the juice that made things go – not that he drank or was a wild ass – he was just always wired up and ready for action.

So – Juice was the name he has always been known by.
And even at age 95 the name still applies.

He was one of those people who never look or act their age.
He’s remained slim and trim, always wears jeans and cowboy boots, baseball cap.
Even now, with white hair and weathered face, he could pass for 65.
Juice never married – though he always seem to be a ladies’ man.
Said he could have married four or five women, but he dodged the bullets.
At his 90th birthday party he said he thought he must have a bunch of illegitimate
children and hoped some might show up for the party – that some might even be at the party now, but they just didn’t want to admit being kin to him.
People laughed at that – and then looked around, wondering . . .

He moved into senior housing because he said it was cheap and the food was good.
When a county snow-plow smashed his truck, he took up riding a bicycle.
But nobody in town has ever thought of Juice as a senior citizen.
He’s been so healthy he’s never been in the ER or the hospital before.
But now, here he was, on Christmas Eve - with a bloody hand and a tale about being hit by a train in Green River.
A mystery.
__________________________________________________________________

The story continues:

After his vital signs were checked out - all normal - and his hand was bandaged, the ER nurse told Juice that someone would like to talk to him in the waiting room.

“Hey, Juice.”
Grand County Deputy Sheriff McCarthy.
“Hey, Mac, what’re you doing here.”
“Well, we have to check out anything that happens in the ER that might have to do with an accident or any criminal activity – and the ER nurse called us over to get your story.”
“Well, I wouldn’t have called you myself. I’m fine.”
“What about your being hit by a train in Green River – want to clear that up?”
Juice laughed.
“OK, I’ll tell you the whole story, but you won’t believe it.”
Deputy McCarthy took out his notebook and pencil.”
“Try me.”

“Well, you know Christmas Eve at the Senior Center is a drag – they were going to play bingo with red and green M&M’s and have a singalong. Sweet Jesus! I mean how much bingo and old people’s carol wailing can a man stand? So I got on my bike and rode over to Woody’s Tavern – always something happening there, and I could use a little live action, you know – at least somebody to drink a beer with.”

“Not many people at Woody’s, but there was one nice looking lady sitting up at the bar. Not the usual tavern-trash at all – middle aged, grey hair, pretty face - not much makeup. She was wearing a dark green outfit, trimmed with white fur – with a green fur-trimmed hat to match – had a tassel and a jingle-bell on it, too.
This is a part you won’t believe, Mac, but I swear to God she looked like an elf. Not a little bitty one, mind you, but a full grown lady elf.
And she was sitting all alone.”

“So I went up to the bar, asked her if she minded if I sat down, and threw out the stupidest bar line I know – ‘What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this – especially on Christmas Eve? And she took the bait - hook, line, and sinker.
It’s a long story, she said – have a seat. Turned out she was a real good talker – a laugher – and a dancer, too – we got out on the floor several times. Never danced with an elf before, but what the hell . . .”

“She told me she had been fired from her job and was on her way to Denver.
What kind of job? And she said I probably wouldn’t believe her, but she had worked for Santa Claus Heavy Industries in the Accounting Division.
Her job was keeping track of who had been naughty and who had been nice - so Santa would know when he went on his rounds.
She said she had become very interested in the stories of those who had been naughty – they seemed to be having a lot more fun than those who had been nice – and she decided she should give naughty a try.
She told one of her co-workers, who reported her to Santa, and Santa fired her – said he couldn’t have anybody naughty on the payroll.”

“Really?” – said Deputy Mac, who had stopped writing in his notebook.

“I swear to God. Then the green lady elf asked me if I had ever been naughty – and I said I had a few times - I was actually pretty good at being naughty in my younger days. She winked and gave me a big smile - and asked me if I had any spare cash on me – she was broke and needed something to eat and a tank of gas so she could get on to Denver. And I said I was flush and would be glad to take her to dinner and buy her gas - but all I had for transportation was a bicycle – and she said no problem - we could go in her car.”

“So. We went outside. Her car was a big green Cadillac convertible – an old one in great shape – the kind we used to call ‘boats’ because they looked like they could be driven on water. I’d always wanted a car like that. You want to drive? she asked. And I said, well hell, yes, I do, and I got behind the wheel. Sweet! I drove out to the Denny’s on the highway – only place open all night – and we both had steak and eggs and hash-browns, with coffee.”

“When we went back out to the car she asked me if I would like to go for a ride.
Sure, why not? – beats going back to the Senior Center. I thought we might be going all the way to Denver – but what the hell, why not? I got nothing but time.
She drove and we went whipping along north on the highway, laughing and talking up a storm. When we got to I-70, she didn’t turn east toward Denver, but I didn’t say anything or really much care.
The next thing I know she pulled into the parking lot of a motel in Green River.”

“She said she was feeling naughty and would be right back. I’m still with the program – whatever. She came out of the office with a key and the next thing I know we were in the motel room.”

“She said she was going into the bathroom to freshen up and I should take off all my clothes and get under the covers and she would be right out. Well, hell, Mac,
what else could I do? In for a dime, in for a dollar, I always say. So I stripped off, got into bed, and waited.”

“She came back out – still dressed in her green elf outfit – and she said she was really sorry, but she had to get on to Denver – maybe she’d leave the car and take the train - and before I realized what was going on, she had scooped up all my clothes.  Just before she went out the door she said she had a pistol in her purse and I ought to stay put for a while for my own good – and out the door she went.”

“Stop laughing, Mac. It isn’t funny.
Here I am, 95 years old, naked as a jaybird in a motel in Green River on Christmas Eve – my wallet with all my money and ID went out the door when she took my clothes. Me, Charley, the Juice - sand-bagged and rolled by an elf – gives you something to think about. I just lay there a little while – maybe she had a pistol and maybe not, but I wasn’t in a hurry to find out.
Then I heard her car drive off. So I got up and peeked out the door. All my clothes were in a pile out there on the sidewalk, with my wallet on top. So I ran out and got my stuff and ran back in – thank God the door hadn’t locked behind me..
All my money was gone, but I still had my ID and credit cards. So I got dressed and thought I’d just walk over to the Amtrak station to see if she was going to try and catch the train – maybe I could go along. I know that sounds crazy, but, you have to admit she was an exciting woman, and see, I don’t give up easy on the possibility of being naughty – I still had enough momentum going to forgive her and go with her to Denver. Why the hell not?”

“Stop laughing, Mac.
She wasn’t at the depot – not her car, either – long gone - but I got to thinking that maybe I could flag down the train and ride to Denver anyhow. I know that’s crazy, but I sure as hell wasn’t going back the Senior Center – I mean, how was I even going to get back to Moab in the first place? Denver’s looking better and better.”

“I thought I heard the train coming and went out on the tracks and put my ear to the rail – you can hear a train coming a long way off if you do that, you know.
And sure enough, here it came – closer than I thought – like the cannonball express – not slowing down for the depot at all. Thank God I’m still fast enough on my feet to get the hell out of the way of an oncoming passenger train. That’s pretty good.”

“So I ran off the tracks to get the hell out of the way - and fell down in the parking lot – and then I started laughing – just lying there, looking up at the stars – no fool like an old fool, you know. I wasn’t really hit by the Amtrak train – just almost.
You might say that the train that ran over me was the lady elf.”

I was still lying there when the UPS driver found me.
“Juice, he said, what the hell are you doing here?– are you hurt or drunk or what?
And I told him I wasn’t drunk - but he wouldn’t believe it if I told him what happened - but I needed to get back to Moab cause I cut my hand when I fell down– and he said he couldn’t take passengers – and I said he could just wrap me up in something and consider me a package, and I gave him my credit card to prove I was serious. He was headed back to Moab, anyhow, so he said get in and took me along to the ER, and they looked me over and patched up my hand – just some gravel ground into it – and I was going home until you showed up and wanted to talk.
That’s it. That’s the story - hope you got all that down in your notebook.”

The deputy sheriff smiled and shook his head.
“Juice, it’s hard to know what to say or do. If what you tell me is true, then this is serious business. Kidnapping is a federal crime. And then there’s armed robbery and maybe assault. We could throw the book at her. If you’ll prefer charges, we can get the car and the woman’s description out – and I bet we’d catch her before she gets to Denver.”

“No. I don’t want that.  I won’t report any crime and I don’t want her arrested.”

“Why not?”

“Mac, when you get old everything starts slowing down – you run out of momentum – not a lot to look forward to. Sitting around playing bingo while waiting for the bus to take you to the dump is not what you thought you would get if you tried to take care of yourself and lived a long life. What good is that?”

“At my age I don’t expect much on Christmas Eve. It’s been a long time since anything interesting happened to me at this time of year. But, look at it from my point of view - I had a beer, a couple of dances, good conversation, lots of laughs, and a nice dinner with a mysterious woman who claimed she was an elf – one of Santa’s Helpers. Maybe she was. Who’s to say?
I also got to drive a great car – and I had half an hour roused up for being naughty.
I had momentum again. Something to look forward to for a little while.”

“It’s not kidnapping if I agreed to go along for the ride. And I agreed.
It’s not robbery if she just happened to help herself to my cash before I had a chance to give it to her. And I would have done that.
I don’t think she really had a pistol – I never saw one, anyhow.
She didn’t assault me – I fell down trying to flag the Amtrak for Denver.
No crime – no victim. Right?”

“And I almost went to Denver, too – something I would not have even considered doing if it wasn’t for that lady elf . . . What would I have done when I got to Denver? I don’t know, but just thinking about what surprises might wait for me in Denver was better than sitting around the Senior Center on Christmas Eve feeling sorry for myself.”

“And then I got delivered by the UPS to the hospital ER – some nice people fussed over me – and I got my hand taken care of – no big deal - and now I’m thinking about the story I’m going to tell at lunch to the old farts at the Senior Center tomorrow. Maybe I’ll add a few juicy details, you know? Decorate my cake a little.
They won’t believe it – anymore than maybe you do.”

“But I have no complaints – no harm done, as far as I’m concerned.
One of the best Christmas Eves of my life.”

“And. . . . by God, I’m going back to Woody’s Tavern on New Year’s Eve, too.
She might just show up again feeling naughty – you never know. I wouldn’t mind another ride.”

Deputy Sheriff McCarthy laughed, shook his head, ripped several pages out of his notebook and crumpled them up.

“Can I give you a lift home, Juice?”
“No, I’ll walk over to Woody’s and get my bike.”
“Are you sure you’re all right?”
“Well, actually, I’m feeling a little weird.”
“Why’s that?”
“Well, I must have got dressed in a hurry trying to get out of that motel in Green River, and I put my T-shirt and underpants on inside out and backwards – feels strange, you know what I mean?”

The deputy sheriff laughed again.
“Merry Christmas, Juice,” he said as he stood up and walked away.
“Merry Christmas, Mac,” Juice said, and he laughed - because he was thinking about the story the Deputy was going to have to tell when he reported back into the Sheriff’s office . . . .
Nobody was going to believe him..

But Juice believed the story – every bit of it.

_____________________________________

There. That’s the story of the “Midnight Ride of Charley, the Juice.”
And you?
Do you believe it?
Is it true?
Could be – should be – and some of it actually is.
You probably understand if you have ever thought of being naughty at Christmas.
You can imagine . . .

link to this story