Rarity of Quiet

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It starts at 6 a.m. with the alarms that wake us up.

Then the television goes on for the news, because so much has probably changed in the four or five hours that, maybe, I’ve been asleep. The coffee maker gurgles and burps in the background. The toaster pops and the skillet sizzles. The child groans and complains in an effort to resist getting out of bed, once she is up, fed, and  dressed,  I exchange a brief goodbye with my wife I open the door with a creak. I walk to the car, my daughter in front of me, shuffling her feet across the pavement.

The car rumbles to a start, the heater roars as it blows the still cold air through the vents. My daughter asks me to listen to the radio so I tap my phone to life and turn on the app to bring up her favorite station. Soon enough They Might Be Giants are singing an upbeat tune about the sun and the car’s wheels roll down the driveway with a soft crackling sound.

The traffic of the morning rush is heavy and the other drivers whoosh past me in their vehicles. A semi thunders past, causing the SUV to rock slightly in its wake, and I can finally turn into traffic, the wheels barely miss traction and the tires let out a short squeal as I punch the accelerator. It doesn’t take but a few miles before one driver blares their horn at another for not quite hitting the gas fast enough when the light turns green.

Turning into the residential area that the school is in and the birds are chirping amid the thrum of cars riding over speed humps. The door of my Highlander opens when I stop in the traffic loop, children are laughing and chattering on the way to class, in the distance the bell chimes telling me we were running a little behind.

I arrive back at the house, greeted by the barking of the dogs. I retreat into the bed room to lie down, the whirring vibrations of the washer and dryer disturb my rest through the wall. I pretend to drift off, maybe I really do I can’t quite tell, reflecting on how most of this will be replayed in reverse when I come to pick the girl up from school later in the afternoon.

My evening is spent yelling to be heard over the clanking of pans, the rattle of plates being stacked and unstacked, and the calls of the other cooks; beyond it all is the incessant, maddening, rhythmic throb of the exhaust hood. Throughout the night I am bombarded with the empty chatter and inane, superficial questions of those around me, and who can not stand the thought of finding themselves with a moment to think. When the last dinner is served and things begin to die down the crew blasts their musical selection while we clean and close the kitchen, something electric and loud and grinding.

Finally at home, things are still. The dogs and child are asleep, my wife on the back porch listening to the computer through head phones. I sit and the click-clack of the keyboard is my companion for the remainder of my night. Finally I go to bed.

The silence rolls in. My mind wanders for a few moments, then I fall asleep.

It starts at 6 a.m with the alarms that wake us up.

Image cropped from Quiet Goes Noisy By Nicholas Noe CC BY-NC 2.0
This was written in response to a Weekly Challenge.

A Cynical Cook’s View of Valentine’s Day

Ah, valentines day. A truly special and unique event for many. A day for the celebration of the affections we feel that special someone. No one knows what a bunch of hooey that is like the men and women of the service industry. I have, in some way or other, been a member of this select group for close to half of my life, and let me tell you nothing says cynicism like a forty-year old line cook.

Just like Christmas, Valentines Day is a big deal because it is a day of consumer spending. The retail industry has a pretty good strangle hold on your wallet for both events but, about thirty-five percent of you suckers are going to try to buy your way into someone else’s pants with nice dinner on February 14th.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you’re in this for that whole romantic love thing, that’d sure go a long way explaining the Trojan you got tucked away in your wallet there Sonny Jim. You shouldn’t feel bad about it, just be honest with yourself, after all most people, about 85% of men and women, are expecting to get some on the big day; I mean you might want wait til dinner’s over to approach the subject, but chances are if she’s agreed to go out with you half the work is done for you already.

All in all I guess my Valentines Day isn’t going to be much different then yours.

I got this really hot date.

With twenty burners at probably close to 28,000 BTU’s each, this little hottie will be ready to put out put out. I swear that’ll be the second to the last time I make a sexual reference towards a stove, or any other kitchen implement.

She may not look like much to you but put her in something pink and we're good to go.

She may not look like much to you but, put her in something pink and we’re good to go.

The advantage of my companion for the evening is that she’s easy to turn on and won’t break up with me if I don’t get her a gift. A fun fact is, 53% of women say that they’ll end a relationship if they don’t get anything for Valentines day. Something tells me that they don’t mean one of those boxes of the little hearts made of some chalk like substance, so you did the right thing by taking her out.

It might as well say "Poor Planning" or "Lonely Night"

It might as well say “Poor Planning” or “Lonely Night”

I’m looking forward to a fantastic dinner for two…

And then two more, and then two more, and then… I can keep this up all night. Come Valentine’s Day I’m going to have to because we’re hoping to turn a table in about forty-five minutes or so, and we have a lot of tables to get to. So it’d be nice if y’all could make a decision, limit the special, orders and not run your wait staff around all night.

Alright people lets move it out of the damned window, I got a couple dozen of these romantic dinners backed up and waiting to be plated.

Alright people lets move it out of the damned window, I got a couple dozen of these romantic dinners backed up and waiting to be plated.

As a word of advice, let her order first and pay attention. If she asks for light garlic for her Caesar salad you best not ask for extra onions with your meal if you want the night to end on a high note. Also if she orders the filet mignon or the sea bass, don’t go ordering a margarita pizza or the crab cakes appetizer for yourself to bring the amount check down. The damage has already been done and it only makes you look cheap.

I’ll be spending time with my significant other(s)

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These guys are special. They’re so special I want to buy them helmets.

I’ve been spending this holiday the same way, and largely with the same people for a good number of years now. Seriously, that level of commitment is a hard thing to find in a relationship. Maybe you’re looking at this day as the beginning of a great and lasting relationship. Facts are facts however, and a lifetime of personal observations, taught me that chances are the person you’re stepping out on the town this year, you will not be speaking with next year. In fact , there is evidence that relationships may be over twice as likely to end in the weeks surrounding Valentine’s Day, so you’re lucky you made it this far.

The sad part is I spend more time with the other cooks than I do with my actual family, you know the woman with whom I fell in love with and am raising a child with. I am fortunate that my wife is also a veteran of the restaurant industry. This means that by and large she has been so jaded by all these hallmark holidays that she really doesn’t expect too much in the way of romance just because the calendar has ticked over again. In fact I once arranged, with great difficulty, to have an actual Valentine’s Day off early in our relationship. Well to be honest I still had to work the lunch shift and then stay and prep the dessert special for the dinner shift, but that’s not the point.

The point is, her reaction was to simply ask me why I bothered, and we then proceed to spend the day doing absolutely nothing important.

That’s when I knew it was love.

Image Credit: Candy Hearts: Let's Kiss by Brent Moore CC BY-NC 2.0
              All other images taken by the author

I made reference of some statistics so here are the sources for what insignificant, lazy, half-assed, amount, of what might pass for factual research I did for this article:
          Valentine's Day, by the numbers, by Belle Reynoso, CNN.com, 2013
          Valentines Day Statistics, Statistics Brain.com, 2013
          Stats Show Valentine's Day is Bad for Your Relationship, by Amelia                                     Wasserman, Technorati.com, 2011
This article was written in response to a Weekly Challenge.

Accumulation of Hallowness

As children they came to skip a dance across the floor to the echoes of their songs upon the walls.

As they grew it would become a fortress, a castle or a cave filled with pirates to best, and monsters to defeat, treasures to win and princesses to save.

In later years, before they parted, they would meet here just away from the eyes of adults.  Intoxicated by their experiments with the spirits, and the bodies, and the hearts.

Since their leaving few had, on occasion rare, been called back home for a time. It is then they come to reminisce, of a youth misspent, of dragons slain, and freebooters repelled, captives rescued, and deeds of honor. Lamenting one last time for their adventures left unfinished, opportunities passed, and affections they had squandered.

Done with their visitations, the reverie  must end. They return to the emptiness that once they filled  in pursuit of the glories, and pleasures of an age gone by. Bemoaning all the comforts they have achieved and security they have bought, at the expense of their wild innocence.

Emptiness by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Photo by Cheri Lucas Rowlands (image used with permission)

Inspired by a Weekly Challenge.

Getting to Know Him

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Photos and scraps of paper peeked out from folders scattered across every surface of the small, dimly lit office. Jerry paced the room flipping through the file he was handed shortly after he arrived. “What am I supposed to do with this?” He asked the heavy-set man.

“Peter Maslow, that’s our guy’s name. That’s his life in there, well the good parts anyway.” Davis was leaned back in his chair , eyes half closed, with his feet on the desk. “That’s one you’re gonna go toe to toe with. That’s who we start with, so you better start learnin’ a little somethin’ about him.”

“I thought you said we already had this guy, that he was looking to get out.” Jerry tossed the file onto one of the piles. “We make him disappear, I take over for him right?”

The old man put his hands behind his head and shut his eyes the rest of the way. “Yeah, he’s lookin’ for a way out but, until we get you in position we can’t approach him. If you took the time to do your homework you’d see he probably ain’t bright enough to act his way out so we got to make it real for him.” Davis sat up and reached for a bottle on his desk, he waved it at Jerry who just shook his head at the offer. “How ’bout I give you the cliff notes, just to get you started.”

“His  family’s been middle management for some years now. He kinda just fell into it when his old man had a heart attack a while back. Kid barely finished the college degree that got bought for him and, bam! He’s swimmin’ with the sharks. He’s only got a basic understanding of what his dad was into and now he’s supposed to run the whole show. His mom’s not much help to him, when she’s not loaded up on Xanax, she’s in Miami doin’, well you get that picture. He’s come so close to exposing other people in their operation on a few occasions, including being put under investigation for a small time racketeering charge over an idiotic book-keeping error that he’s afraid he’s gonna get removed, and not the nice way. He’s probably right except they ain’t figured on who to replace him with yet; besides he’s still more valuable to them scared than dead, at least for the time being. So he’s faced with a long and miserable life under the thumb, or a short, messy and probably painful death if he screws up again. This poor kids life was ruined for him, comin’ outta the gate. Now here we are, coming to screw him over just a little more. It’s kind of sad, once you wrap your head around it. 

“What? Now you want me to feel sorry for this jackass?” Jerry shrugged, he gave into the temptation and poured himself a drink.

“Kiddo, how you feel ain’t got a damned thing to do with what I want,” Davis answered bluntly, raising his voice a couple of notches, “or what you have to do. I’m just sayin’ you get a guy like this, you know; well-connected, raised in a family that’s been basically morally bankrupt goin’ on three generations, only marginally intelligent. How’d you expect him to end up.” Leaning forward he squared his face up with Jerry’s “What I am saying, is before we make a decision on how you’re gonna to deal with him, we all need to take some time; watch him, listen, ask few quiet questions about him. Try and get up a long side him and find out who he really is, and how he thinks, and what other people think about him.”

“Alright, alright, I get it.” Jerry said picking the folder back up “I’ll look it over and take some notes.”

“Good, be quick about it kiddo, your boots are on the ground in a couple of weeks. This Maslow guy is the weak link, if we don’t compromise him it’s only a matter of time before someone else does.” Davis sipped his bourbon and smiled. “Still go ahead and take a couple of days to read that through, really get inside his head. ”

Jerry nodded, slammed his drink, and headed for the door.

NEXT

Inspired by a Weekly Challenge

Accident at Second and Union

I was holding my daughter’s hand, waiting for the traffic lights to cycle, at the corner of Second Avenue and Union Street, downtown. It was a clear and all to sunny day, the reflecting light from the store windows making me squint and wish I was enough of a jerk to not have given my sunglasses to the little darling when she asked for them; still sacrifice is the cornerstone of good parenting, so I’m led to believe, and she looks more adorable than me in them. Accepting my fate I lifted my free hand to my forehead to shield my vision as I impatiently scanned east and west along  Union. There was a break in the traffic and I was debating to myself whether or not to continue being a good example or just cross the damned street, walk signal be damned. The rest seemed happen all at once.

A bicycle, complete with helmeted rider jumped the stop light and flew into the section. From my blind spot I heard the sharp blaring horn and I snapped around, instinctively and most likely futilely attempting to yank my child away from the side of the road as I did so. A pick up, wheels screaming through the intersection the burning of it’s brake pads filling the streets with the aroma of death, or something close to it. It was a dualie, an F350 extend cab, Wedgwood blue; covered with dents and scratches, like hash marks, tallying up its previous victims automotive and pedestrian alike. Today it was out for blood and claimed one more. My sunglasses clattered onto the sidewalk as I pulled her face into my stomach, trying to prevent her from seeing his inevitable doom.

A dull thunk, barely audible over the behemoth’s horn and skidding tires, was almost anticlimactic; or would have been if the cyclist, his red and black jersey pegging him as a deliver of sandwiches, had not flown up off the seat of his fixie and rotated ninety degrees; then, as if in a tribute to Gregg Louganis, folded in half, spun backwards before hitting his head on the hood of the truck before sliding sideways to bounce from the bumper to the pavement. With the last of his momentum his body rolled onto his back, moaning, his helmet cracked and scratched the plastic falling away along the rear right side  where he made impact with both vehicle and street, exposing the gray foam padding beneath.

The F350 veered left, skidded and came to a halt, and by some small miracle managed to avoid crushing the prone cyclist; thought I have doubts as to the fate of his bike, or the sandwiches. The door of the truck creaked open and a large woman with the type of build you get from dealing with livestock on a daily basis, half fell out of the driver seat. She was hanging onto the steering wheel with one hand to steady herself while the other clutched the cellphone, from its speaker could be heard another woman’s panicked voice, “Louise? Louise, y’all alright? Answer me girl.” Louise was too dumbfounded to answer, she just stared at the glowing screen on the device and making a slightly inquisitive whimpering noise. Her temple and the driver’s side window both had small smears of blood, the one on the side of her head getting slowly larger as the seconds ticked on.

It being middle of downtown, and lunch hour, there was no shortage of gawkers and rubberneckers gathering around for a good ogle at the carnage. A few of them, not clutching a six-year-old protectively while she tried to peek at what was happening, pulled out their phones; some of them even called 9-1-1 instead of instagraming the event. A few onlookers with quicker brains came to the apparent aid of the fallen bicyclist. “Don’t try to move man, don’t move.” chanted one dreadlocked African american youth, as he stood over the man. One budding paramedic was waving his hands in front of Louise’s face. “How many fingers am I holding up lady?” he kept asking of the stunned woman.

Soon the intersection was a tangle of emergency vehicles as, thankfully, the police arrived. Statements were taken, which confirmed the fact that none of the witnesses had seen the same accident happen and soon my daughter and I were on my way home. We walked a short distance to a bus stop where I sat down shakily. As I tried to steady myself to phone my wife and tell her what happened my daughter hugged me and asked, “Is the man dead?”

“No honey, they took the man to the hospital.”

“Is he going to die.”

“I don’t know Kate.” I replied still rattled

“He’s probably going to die.” She stated calmly, her eyes clear and innocent. She reached out and handed me my now extremely scratched sunglasses.

Sometimes kids are kind of creepy.

This fictional account was inspired by a Weekly Challenge.