What’s in a Name?

By any other name

She got hired!  It was an office full of good looking people, purely by co-incidence. Of course they were highly qualified and skilled at their jobs. The only detractor to what would appear to be a bunch of superior office workers was that they all had funny names. They were the sorts of names that could get a kid beaten up.

For example: Her bosses name was Peter Dickey.  He was truly the most beautiful man over 50 that she had ever met. He was like a George Clooney without the pugnacious insincerity.  Peter Dickey oozed sincerity. He had the most gorgeous voice. For the first three days of meetings her panties were wet.

  “Don’t worry; the effect of his benevolent beauty will wear off soon. Most of the women here and some of the men had this experience. You will simply adjust and it will no longer affect you. I can only wonder about the woman who had the good fortune to call him son. It must have pained her to have to wean him from her breast”, Umu, the woman in the cubicle across from her said. She smiled in a way that made it clear she was joking. Umu was as beautiful as any Nubian princess ever born.  Her skin shone like polished ebony; her accent, more a choice of words than any slanted version of them, was charming. She was warm without being familiar and was as calm and as quick as a cobra. Her full name was Umu Mumu.  Ms. Owen choked on her coffee when she read the name plate on Umu’s cubicle wall. 

“Ethiopia, if you were wondering where I am from.”

“Oh, no, I mean, yeah, I figured East Africa. My grandfather was from Tunisia. You have a lovely accent.”

“It’s is you who have the accent, and odd choice of synapse.” She smiled a pearly white smile and winked.

Sing Song, the tech support person walked by and gave them a wave. 

“Umm, Umu, have you noticed that all the people working here are extremely attractive?”

“I am not looking in this fashion, however, everyone here is very healthy, strong, hard working and qualified.”

“Okay, well, don’t you think some of the people’s names are funny?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, Peter for example.”

Umu held up her long supple arms, palms facing the ceiling in an expression that conveyed, you’ve lost me, or I give up, or what’s the joke?

“Never mind”, Ms. Owen said and she went back to reviewing the reports that would be due later in the week.

She had met Harry Wacker, Anita Hoare, Haywood Jablome and Abbie Birthday.  Later that day she would be introduced to: Hank Erchif, Harris Gray and Pat Butt.

Her husband’s name was Allyson. Ms. Owen knew it was a tricky business talking about funny names with him. He was tortured as a child for having a girl’s name. He would tell people his name was Ali like Mohamed and they would make even more fun of him because he wasn’t black and as far from being a boxer as, well, as she was. 

She couldn’t help it. She thought she would explode if she didn’t talk about it.  That night she told him about how everyone in the office at her new job had a funny name.  She neglected to tell him that they were also gorgeous. That was Allyson’s other sensitivity.  He was a smallish man and he was very skinny. He was going bald and he wasn’t yet thirty. He had a Welsh accent. He didn’t think himself attractive.  He was terribly jealous as a result and for some reason he thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world and that every man would be trying to steal her.  Love is blind she thought.

She loved him.  She couldn’t seem to help herself.  People, including her family would say, “What do you see in him?” and she would tell them that he completed her. When he asked her to marry him it was the second happiest day of her life, the first being the day she became Mrs. Owen. “It was as if I was incomplete before.” She would say.

“So what you are saying is you find it hilarious, all these people with funny names?” Allyson narrowed his squinty eyes from behind his thick glasses and glared accusingly at her.

“No! Oh Allyson, I just find it odd that every one of them has a funny name.  There’s not a normal name in the bunch, well except for me.  Even with my mixed race I ended up being the only un-funny name in the bunch.”

“Well, your first name is a bit out of the ordinary…”

“My mom picked it; it’s Indian, like the dish.”

“Well didn’t you get picked on for it?”

“I guess.  I never really minded.  I was a happy kid. I had a positive attitude and I was always quite fearless, like I am now!”

“I wish I knew you when you were a little girl. I just have the feeling I would have loved you even then. I must be the luckiest son of a bitch in the world!  You saved me when you married me, Arhar!”

Arhar Owen: Our Heroine, bad, I know!!!!

Activities to Beat the Winter Blues

#4. Not drinking alcohol and eating nothing but oatmeal and vegetables for a week so you can go crazy on Christmas because you didn’t take back that new dress and you don’t think you can let it out yourself.

Okay, at first you will feel sad but if you remember WHY you are suffering you should feel a bit better.

I like oatmeal with a bit of cayenne pepper and cinnamon. Yes! It’s true. I’m wacky like that!

References to “Johnathan Livingstone Seagull”

Hurricane Shuffle

It had rained a lot in the night, but now the sky was a brilliant blue. Every day in the summer Martin—Marty they called him—shuffled down the hill to the boardwalk where all the tourists hung out. 

As many sunny days as cloudy, that’s all he could ask for. The cool breezes off the ocean were a gift, as were the tourists, coming from who knows where.

He kept his wagon in the rented shed he’d paid an arm and leg for; he had gotten too old to pull it up the big hill every night. It was full of colourful toys—marionettes and hand puppets—and none of the “thanks for visiting wherever” souvenirs that all the kiosks sold.  Marty didn’t believe in “place by name”. He believed in place by the smell of the salt in the air, place by the people you came to know, place by the memories you made.

“What is the point of buying some shirt just to prove you’re as stupid as the person who bought one before you?” he asked a family walking by.  The kids didn’t like what the Bed and Breakfast had to offer that morning and were searching for a MacDonald’s restaurant.  

 His customer service skills were not great.

While opening up the wagon’s compartments, setting up the supports for the extensions and then carefully arranging his dolls, marionettes and hand puppets on their posts, he remembered the smell of wood chips as he carved each block to form their heads. He could remember that joyous smell way back to his days as a boy when his dad taught him to whittle.  He was a lucky man in that he had had a happy childhood.  “It’s been pretty much down hill since then.” he said to his puppets.

Sometimes for a laugh he fashioned one in the image of neighbor that annoyed him. The winters passed this way; making dolls and puppets. The long days of what might have been loneliness filled with the growing number of these “friends”. In his small house, they ended up sitting around the furniture like a bunch at an Irish wake, flopped over and asleep with their eyes open.

The gulls, those darn dirty birds, were usually squawking out their patch of territory like carnies by this time, but they were not around, except for “Loser”, the flightless cripple gull that was fat from chips. He was there walking in crazy circles. Loser never left the boardwalk.  

Marty hated gulls for their capitalism, but he supposed the whiteness of their close-cropped feathers made a nice contrast to so much blue when they were flying. 

As far as capitalism went, his grand-nephew said he should have a website and sell “online”, but Marty was distrustful of such confluxes. The news show channel that came out from the city to interview him made him sound like a joke. He sold well that summer and had to replace all of dolls over the winter, which was a good thing because he preferred to be busy.

Some customers came back year after year, locals and foreigners, with stories about the joy his work brought some relative or friend. These people were the ones that “got it”. These people were like the stepping stones you find when you’re stuck on a rock. They get you back to the shore. In Marty’s case the shore was where he could still care about something.

He put his straw hat on and opened up his lawn chair. This was a good place, enough back of the impending crowd he could breathe but close enough to be seen without having to socialize with the other hawkers. They were like sea gulls without the nice feathers. He didn’t care if they hated him. If any one of them gave him trouble, they ended up with their head on a puppet! 

Howd ya like that, ya filthy carnies? he thought. His thought was directed at no one in particular.  He might have said it; he spent so much time talking to himself he could not be sure.

He stretched out his legs in front of him and lowered his hat a bit over his eyes, enough that he could close them from time to time but enough that he could open them too; keeping watch over his wares.  

The boardwalk seemed a bit empty, even for this early. Since the family of tourists he had not seen anyone. The sky had turned an ugly grey all of a sudden, as if the former blue was just some heavenly lure bobbing on the skin of the sky and this grey was now the truth closing in.

The wind picked up his hat and threw it, rolling it along the boardwalk.

“Oh for f**k sakes!” Marty said, wrestling his way out of his lawn chair to get up and go after it. 

“It’s a mite windy!” He yelled to the only other vendor who appeared to be locking up his booth for the day no sooner than he had opened up.

Marty saw his lawn chair flying over head as he shuffled along in pursuit of his hat. 

“Oh for f**k sakes!”

He had put the brakes on his wagon as always, but he let his hat and chair go and headed back towards it. His shirt and pants were glued to him by the wind and he had trouble keeping his droopy lids open to see his way.  His baggy face was billowing in the wind. It was hard walking.

“It’s a mite windy!” he said again, but he could see that his neighbor was gone, headed for cover. A few puppets had gone flying off their posts, and as quick as he could, he pulled the rest down and folded up the extensions locking the whole thing down. He started pushing it towards the public washroom, thinking that with all the concrete it was his safest bet.

“Oh for f**k sakes!” the doors were all locked. The best he could do was chain it to the rod steel divider in front of the barricaded window of the chip shop.  It was down wind from the washroom and easier to walk to. There was a lot of water coming with the wind now, and he had trouble getting the key in the lock for the chain but he managed.

How had this hurricane come up so fast? He forgot to listen to radio. Why was that? He wondered. Oh, now he remembered: he was going to sit with his coffee and listen to the weather report as always, but then he saw that stupid cat about to pee on his tomatoes again and he had to find the rake to chase it…

The wind was cruel. He was sure he wasn’t going to make it back up the hill to safety. 

“Oh for f**k sakes!” He saw that screw ball sea gull, Loser walking in circles.  He imagined, it was swearing as much as he was. Marty had gotten himself tucked behind the restaurant wall and the wall next to the dumpster somewhat out of harms way and he hoped high enough that the waves which were now lapping over the boardwalk wouldn’t reach him. There were sheets of water flying horizontally through the air. Above the incredible sound of the waves, the wind and the rain he could hear the groaning of things that were meant to stay put changing their address.

“Oh for f**k sakes!” He ran a bit and grabbed Loser by the neck. Marty figured if he killed Loser accidentally with his heroics Loser would be better off, but he seemed okay when they got tucked in. The bird turned his head and put it under its useless wing.  Marty did something similar, squatting down and lowering his head. Loser was in his lap. When he noticed the warmth of piss running down his legs, he considered strangling him but he had to admit, he was so scared it might have been his own. 

 “ ‘To fly as fast as thought, to anywhere that is,’ he said, ‘you must begin by knowing that you have already arrived.’  -Jonathan Livingston Seagull”, Loser said.

“Oh for f**k sakes I thought that book was bullshit when I read it 30 years ago! Why are you quoting it to me now?” Marty was talking to Loser, the Seagull. 

“Marty, this is your life. You have no friends and now you are going to die, pitifully, behind a dumpster with piss and bird shit on your pants,” Loser said, his face was gleaming with a heavenly white and his beak was the most perfect yellow. Around him, the sky was bluer than any blue Marty had ever seen.

Puppets were floating by him, saying things like, “He’s right Marty, listen to him; he’s the only real live friend you have…”

“What do I do? What do I do!!!”

               “Recite after me, ‘there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…’ and after all this is over get that young nephew over with his computer and start selling online, maybe you could try some online dating too, you’ve been alone too long, oh, and KILL THAT FUCKING CAT NEXT DOOR. I hate cats!”

Marty woke up in hospital. It was a miracle he survived. His entire inventory was destroyed. He was going to have work all winter. When he got home, he did what Loser told him to do. He bought a computer and got his nephew to set up a website so he wouldn’t have to deal with the public and the weather. As for the online dating, he wouldn’t call it “dating” so much…

He has not, as of yet, killed the cat.

I started doing cross stitch to keep from eating in front of the television…

I started embroidering bookmarks, napkin holders and squares.  I got huge bags of multicoloured thread from the store I always said I would not shop at because they moved in and began putting all the Canadian versions of the same sort out of business.  They must put something in the company Kool-aid because I over heard a woman tell a sales person there that she loved her.

When it came time for the same person to help me I said, “I like you.  I can’t say I love you, yet…” and she responded, “I love you! Jesus loves you too!” 

I didn’t want to argue, she hadn’t told me where I could find the article I was looking for yet, but she was not creepy about the whole thing like some religious people are. Sometimes I think people go out of thier way to convert me.  I am constantly looking like I need to be saved I guess.   But in all fairness I invited it by trying to be funny.  Religion could cure me of my odd sense of humour. I have no doubt!

Any hoooooooooooooooo, I started to make squares with butterflies and then squares with flowers until I had a nice pile of squares.  Then came the suggestion: “Why not quilt?”

I am telling you, this is the road to addiction.  Start out with some harmless embroidery and next thing you know you are quilting!  (The other day I heard about tapestry making!)  Come to think of it, I do try to get other people interested and I’m thinking I could start to sell my patterns.  It’s not a grow op, it’s a sew op!

Or is it my salvation?  Scary!

I never made a toaster and I never tried, but I dreamt I made flour…

I  had a dream I was pouring the flour I had ground from the wheat I had sown into empty paint cans. (They were the only containers I had.) I was having a lot of difficulty because it was dark in the cellar I was working in.  I couldn’t find all the lids.  It was frustrating.  I had to walk further along a dark tunnel and at one point there was no light at all, I was feeling the walls to find the light switch but they were no longer stone but earth.

I bumped my head on a root from a tree.  I was still thinking about my flour, how it took so much effort I didn’t want it to spoil.  Soon I found I was in a cavern and aware that I was no longer safe, that I had gotten lost and infact, that I was going to die there and I was going to die at the hands of something terrible.

This is when, as so often in my frightening dreams, the ridiculous rides in on a unicorn.  Yes it was a Troll but one apparently I knew well and yes he had a unicorn with him, although he was not riding him.

So there you have it.  The story of my life:

Working hard in utter futility, getting into trouble because I wasn’t paying attention, rescued in the end by the ridiculous.