Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

Archive for July, 2015|Monthly archive page

ALLURE – POWER OF ATTRACTION OF FASCINATION – IMPLIED OR INDIRECT REFERENCE—

In Love, Poetry, Uncategorized on July 23, 2015 at 1:30 am

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When your laughter – that causes

Your lips to open and reveal one

Of the greatest minerals of

The soul.

— A pearl—

Laughing and crying are human

Emotions – letting hurt to

Show itself –

– to lament—

Your faith reveals the

Encouragement within

Thyself – to participate

In the things that

You love doing – (smile)

Walking – loving,

Smiling – laughing – helps

To release the joy within

Thyself –

To reflect on an

Imagination of your

Youth, while telling

A story of considerations

Laugh – Smile – Laugh

-Fred D. Street

Simple Story

In memoir, Prose on July 17, 2015 at 2:35 pm

 

roy rogers

As I sat down to try to write a simple story in my writers’ workshop, I remember in the 1940’s tenants’ apartments were like train cars — you had to go through one bedroom to another bedroom to get to the bathroom. I also remember, sometimes the bathrooms were in the hallway, used by 4 families. But they were clean all the time.

My grandmother and I slept on a bunker bed. I slept on the top and she slept on the bottom. I also remember having a small radio and listening to Roy Rogers on the radio. I sometimes wish I could go back to that time.

Sometimes there was no heat, so my mom had to bang on the pipes for heat.

My mom was a remarkable lady. All the Italian neighbors loved my mom. We were poor, but rich in spirit.

-Charles Borges

MY MUSIC BOX STORY

In memoir, Prose on July 16, 2015 at 1:29 pm

red music box

This story has three parts, so please be patient. But it is still a short story. Also, for those of you who know me, you will be seeing a different side of me. Please don’t judge me too harshly. That goes for those of you who don’t me as well. Like all my stories, this one is true in its entirety.

Many years ago, as far back as I can remember, my family, my immediate family, my mother, father, sister, and later on my two brothers, would travel every Sunday from our New Jersey apartment to my Grandparent’s apartment in Brooklyn. This was my mother’s side of the family, the Italian side. Uncles, aunts and cousins would join us there for my grandmother’s macaroni and gravy. I don’t know if it was the length of the drive and the ensuing anticipation, but my grandmother’s macaroni was the absolute best macaroni, until many years later, when my mother mastered it and took over the Sunday tradition. Now, my grandmother, who had the gravy cooking for hours when we got there, also had the pot of hot water on the stove ready to boil. At the point of boiling, she would add the boxes of macaroni to the water, and begin to stir. While she stirred, she would sing various songs in Italian. ‘Way Mari,’ ‘O Sole Mio,’ and the like. My absolute favorite was ‘Torna A Surriento,’ which means ‘Come Back to Sorrento.’ Whether it made the macaroni taste better or my grandmother was just so happy to have her family all around her that she had to sing, it didn’t matter. I would sit at the kid’s table, which I did even after I had come back from the Vietnam War, and listen and wait for the macaroni. Two quick asides, one my grandmother would always ask me if I wanted to taste the macaroni to see if it was done. I was too afraid of that responsibility, so I always refused. She would smile, give me a kiss, and say I was a good boy. The second aside, I have that kid’s table in my kitchen today, my grandparents have long since passed, and the table has been in various kitchens of mine for years. So, I’m still sitting at the kid’s table.

That’s the end of Part One.

Fast forward, a little over twenty years. I am in my forties, teaching seventh and eighth grade in upper Manhattan, and backpacking through some foreign country on my summer vacation. I would always bring something back for my mother from wherever I went. Usually, it was a small box or something that I could easily fit into my backpack, and not break.

This particular summer, I was in Italy. And this part of the story begins when I’m in Venezia, Venice. I had just gotten off the train and now in a line to change my traveler’s checks into lire. From behind, somebody pokes me. Being a good New Yorker, I first feel for my wallet, just to be sure. Then I turn and see some guy, roughly my age, but shorter. He asks ‘Are you American?’ Obviously he has seen my passport which I was holding in my hand, so I can complete the money exchange. He seems pleasant enough and not shady at all. So despite my disappointment that it’s not a beautiful woman, I say ‘yeah’. He tells me his name and that he’s from Iowa and that he’s has been it Italy for two weeks and hasn’t really talked to anyone, especially in English. He then asks if we could hang out just for a while. So, I say ‘okay’.

We start walking, along the canal, passing open-front shops, talking about nothing in particular, and sort-of souvenir shopping. After a half-hour or so, something in one of the shops catches my eye. It is a small, four by six inch, red lacquer box. I pick it up, and then I open it. It was a music box, and ….and, it’s playing ‘Torne A Surriento.’ I am positively ecstatic. But I don’t show it, and actually feign indifference. I know that I’m going to have to bargain the price. But I also know that I must have that music box for my mother. She will be overjoyed, I just knew it. So, I ask the proprietor ‘How much?’ I know the box is worth about twenty-five dollars. But if I have to go to forty, I would still have to buy it. So he tells me what is the lire equivalent of seventy-five dollars. I say ‘no, I’ll give you twenty.’ He again says ‘no, seventy-five.’ Now I’m starting to get a little upset, but I offer ‘twenty-five’. Again he says ‘no, seventy-five,’ spitting the words out like he’s angry. I ask him if he bargains. He says, ‘Sure, seventy-five.’ Now I feel like he’s taunting me. And I don’t like it. So now I’m really pissed about the whole thing. But I do want that box. It was perfect. But I know that I am not going to pay seventy-five dollars, especially to this arrogant SOB. So I walk away. Iowa follows me. We walk about a half a block, and I stop.

I tell Iowa, ‘Listen, we’re going back to that store. I want you to go inside, where he has the chess sets in the back and ask to see a set. Then I want you to drop one piece on the floor. Let him pick it up. ‘What for?’ Iowa asks. ‘Just do it’ I tell him and that I’ll explain everything to him later.

So, we go back to the store. I wait outside and off to the side. Iowa goes inside. I see him talking to the guy, but the guy isn’t reaching for one of the chess sets. I wait, nothing. I wait a little more, nothing. So, I have to make my move. I grab the box. And I start walking away.

I haven’t taken five steps and the guy is out of the store. He yells to me ‘Hey, you stole that box!’

I think quickly, I got two choices, bring the box back, or run with the box. I figure that the guy isn’t going to leave the store unguarded and chase me. It’s a box, a twenty-five dollar box. I quickly stuff the box in my back pack and I run. He starts running after me. He’s not going to run too far from the store I think, and keep going. So does he. And now we’re running, really running. I’m big, he’s small. I’m in my forties. He’s in his twenties. But I play handball, and I’m in good shape. So we keep running. He can’t catch me, I’m taking long strides. But I can’t lose him either. And we’re running. Over the canals, through narrow streets, behind houses, in alley ways. Then he starts yelling. ‘I’m gonna catch you.’ I yell back, ‘what are you going to do with me if you do? I’m too big for you to handle.’ ‘I’m going to get you anyway.’ ‘People are stealing from your store’ I yell back. We keep yelling back and forth, and keep going. I have no idea where I am, or how to get back to where I was. But we keep running. Now the streets are getting more and more narrow. I know that I’m going to wind up in a dead end, with no place to go. Then, I’m going to have to fight this guy.   I know I can take him, that’s not the problem. The problem is, do I want to?

He has been about ten yards behind me the whole trip. So, I stop. I take the box out of my backpack, place it on top of a garbage can, and start running again. I go about twenty yards and turn. He’s standing by the garbage pail, with the box in his hands. ‘I’m going to get you’ he yells. ‘What are you going to do with me? I’m too big and too strong for you. I’m running with a backpack and you still can’t catch me.’ He turns and walks away. I half follow him back. I have to. I would have been lost there forever.

I see Iowa when I get back. I ask him, ‘what happened?’ He says I didn’t know you were making me part of a caper. I say, ‘You’re not a good partner.’ That was the last I saw of either of them.

That’s the end of Part Two. Part Three is short, so please bear with me.

I spend the next few weeks, visiting Rome, Florence, and Pisa. All the while, I’m looking for the box. And growing more and more disappointed for the last part of my trip to Italy. I’m going to the ‘Isle of Capri’, to see the ‘Blue Grotto’. It’s magnificent, by the way so was Italy. But that’s another story.

My jumping off point, for the Isle of Capri is Sorrento. I arrive late at night. From the guide book, the cheapest hotel in Sorrento is fifteen dollars. So, that’s where I go. In the lobby, it smells like they’ve been painting. But for fifteen dollars, and its late, I don’t complain. I get up the next morning, and it still smells of paint. I tell them at the desk, ‘it stinks here.’ The desk clerk says ‘It’s not the hotel; it’s the factory next door.’ I’m like ‘whatever’ and I leave. I’m standing outside. I know I have to walk to get to the boat. But something tells me to go look in the factory. So I go. The closer I got to the factory, the more it stinks. I open the door, and what do I see? A few thousand of the same music boxes, but in different colors. I see a guy working and I yell to him ‘you got any that play ‘Torno A Sorrento’? He says ‘Yeah, I got about five hundred of them on that table.’ ‘How much? I ask. ‘Twenty-five dollars’ he says. ‘Good deal’ I say.

I never told my mother the stealing part of the story, only the ending part. She would have broken that box, even though I hadn’t stolen that one. But she did love it. And now, so do I.

 -Charles Moonjian

A Cup of Chai

In fiction on July 1, 2015 at 2:36 pm

AQ Cup of chai2

-Illustration by Annie Quintano 

There was nothing Ms. Gant would like better than to take the hours between three and four and carefully guard them for herself as a time when she could take her tea in the backyard amidst the flowering lavender, as seasons allowed.  But today, and likely tomorrow it would be impossible.

The blood they had found on her doorstep –found by accident when the UPS man who delivered her package and happened to have been a retired policeman- caused enough concern and suspicion that Chief Schutters and the three nice young detectives, barely out of high school she imagined (herself being this side of sixty) had wrapped the front porch in bright, yellow police tape.

She insisted she didn’t know how the blood got there and most certainly had no idea whose it was, much less why the blood drops ran the entire length of the old porch which wrapped around the cottage.  The trail of blood ended just below the bedroom window which once belonged to her brother, Frederick. Frederick was no longer there for reasons she seemed unable to explain to Chief Schutters who stood with his felt fedora shoved high and back on his head revealing a pencil lodged over his ear, another in his hand as he stood poised to write, if only Ms. Gant would be forthcoming.

She had lived in this cottage for the past forty three years and witnessed the slow deterioration of the building during which time she, along with the house, aged.  Her body grew less strong, less able and her mind was given to periodic lapses and thus she became unable to maintain the house, nor, some would suggest, herself.

The village had tried to condemn the house and young Philip Rainer who coveted the property had created assorted lies and half-truths, substantiated them by forged and phony documents, all in an attempt to sway the town meeting in his favor so that he might seize the property from Ms. Gant.

At just such times as these town meetings, Ms. Gant was somehow miraculously able to overcome the ravages of age that left her so frail and would bellow refutations and angry slurs and some very vile accusations his way, all the while swinging her cane so wildly that those seated in the folding chairs around her ducked this way and that to avoid any inadvertent blows.

With an explosive huff of disgust, and having said her piece, she would leave the meeting and angrily trod home, refusing a ride offered her by Randolph Mirer, a nearby neighbor who drove a blue pickup truck as if he was still the young farmer he had been some fifty years ago. Once home she made her way to the kitchen, to the kettle, to that tin of the dry black loose leaves with which she would brew the tea that would re-establish her equilibrium, her sanity and the sense that the world was good.

Now, with her home increasingly wrapped in wads and wads of yellow tape, she was denied access to the white and blue porcelain tea pot, the tea cozy that had once belonged to her favorite Aunt Violet, and thus was she cut off from everything that made her life make sense.

The three detectives –all of whom seemed to merge together as one to her-sandy hair cut too short, faces so young they seemed always clean shaven without the benefit of a razor, and suits that floated liberally about their torsos though the sleeves were a few inches too short divulging tattle-tale grey cuffs-wandered through her cottage in search for whatever it is that policemen usually search for.

Because the detectives all merged into one, she offered them only one chair upon which to sit. She felt a certain motherly inclination toward them. Her dear neighbor Meena Shetty, knowing of Ms. Gant’s inability to get to her kitchen, brought over a thermos of hot chai, the milky sweet brew of which she was so fond. Ms. Gant offered it to “the Three” at the same time, explaining as best she could the origins of tea in general and Meena’s tea in particular. “It was all wrestled from the English, you know, this huge continent of India. It was over tea, Assam, I think or Nigiri, or maybe it was over salt, or cotton.” She closed her eyes in momentary befuddlement. “You know, the bald headed dark little man half naked spinning away at the cotton.  And that is how it came to be: Meena with her thermos of chai.” She was oblivious that it made Meena visibly uncomfortable to be spoken about as such, or to have her country relegated to an obscure tiff over cotton or tea with Gandhi.  But she bore it all gracefully because of her affection for her long-time friend, Ms. Gant, whom she so hoped to one day bring to India for a visit.

Ms. Gant settled in after flitting about absent-mindedly to enjoy the hot milky brew and confide in the three young men toward whom she felt such a strong urge to be forthcoming.

“Frederick was a terrible bossy, irritable, unhappy curmudgeon” she had admitted. “He wouldn’t let me do a thing.  Virtually locked me up. Oh, not with a key or anything like that.  With those eyes!  Those mean, threatening eyes of his challenging me to defy him.  I had to, you see.  I had to first get rid of those eyes.  Shut them.  Rather permanently, don’t you know? That’s the only really efficient way” she whispered leaning in towards the three who, rather than choosing lots for the one chair, had remained standing. “Otherwise he will just wake up the next day with those ‘don’t you dare’ eyes of his. It had to be permanent you know- over and done!” She moved her hand as if dusting them in finality. Finished with what she considered a sufficient amount of sharing to set the matter of Frederick’s murder straight, once and for all, she sat back comfortably.

A uniformed officer fluttered about the cottage and the back yard. As they poked in the garden she stood up and went to the window. Ms. Gant shook her head at their misdirection watching them search as if it would turn up Frederick’s body. She turned from the window to the three detectives.  “Oh, no you see. They’re looking in the wrong places. I couldn’t upset my garden.  My lovely lavender.  But Meena didn’t mind about hers. She had already harvested the coriander, and the eggplant –aren’t they a lovely shade of purple? -so digging there wouldn’t upset anything and we planned anyway to plant stinging nettles on top. Now, nettle tea is good for asthma, you know but we had no intention of harvesting it in case all the nasty cigar smoke of Frederick had seeped upwards from him in his little grave into those roots and then right into the leaves.  Are you sure you don’t want to sit.” She chatted on. “You know you mustn’t whisper a word of this to Chief Schutters. He’d be so upset.”

Detective numbers one, two and three were smiling with amusement. Number one remarked, “I don’t quite believe you, Ms. Gant.  The records say Mr. Frederick was a rather large man and if you don’t mind me saying you are rather small.”

“Oh, thank you so much.  But have you seen Meena? Quite an ample woman she.”

Detective #1 found Ms. Gant’s account particularly incredible and thwart with improbabilities.  He crossed her off his list of suspects.  “Not so quickly” Detective #2 had advised him. “You’d be surprised what little old ladies – even sweet ones –are capable of.”  He sweated profusely and wiped his brow repeatedly always taking the time to neatly and carefully fold his handkerchief eight times over until it was a compact little bundle.

“They could be covering up a suicide, you know.  Those church ladies would find such an event criminal and inexcusably sacrilegious.  They might well disguise it as a murder to save face.”

“To save face?” Detective #1 repeated, continuing in the vein of incredulity.

The three of them busied about the room and then left to find Chief Schutters with their full notebooks and disagreeable faces.

“I told them everything,” Ms. Gant confided in Meena as she poured the last of the tea.”

“Well, you did what you had to do,” Meena remarked understandably. Meena poured the last drop of tea and moved out onto the porch where the detectives huddled in a busy cluster.

“I am going next door to bring back the last of the chai and my fresh baked cardamom cookies – can I bring you gentleman back anything?”

They appeared a little skeptical and somewhat off-balanced. “Well, yes…er, no. But we do wish to speak to you, of course, upon your return.”

“Oh, most certainly,” she responded and left. They waited: the three detectives and Chief Schutters on the porch buzzing nonsensically at times about the game last night on TV, the serial killer who plagued the next county over, the terrible increase in the cost of food and now and then, as if choreographed, they would glance at their watches, and then over toward Meena’s house.

“I best check on Ms. Gant, I suppose,” offered Chief Schutters, a somewhat befuddled, wide-eyed man. “When I last checked she seemed to have developed quite an irritated cough – I guess from all that endless babbling of hers – and she also asked me if I couldn’t bring her an Alka Seltzer.”

When Chief Schutters reentered the parlor, little Ms. Gant was no longer seated in her brown wing back chair.  “Ms. Gant, Ms. Gant?” He called about and then approached the bathroom door.  He knocked gently “Are you alright in there?” He checked assuming she had tired of waiting for him to bring her the Alka Seltzer and went to fetch it herself.

He waited, then knocked again a bit embarrassed by what might be seen as intrusiveness. He was not at all sure about just how sensitive and patient it was required of him to be.  So he waited and he waited long enough that Ms. Gant, who had exited the house while the detectives chatted, had met Meena at the end of Davis Court whereupon they took off in Meena’s yellow Volkswagen bug and headed for the highway.

The local papers had a grand time of it, though the county Police Commissioner was anything but amused now that the old women were AWOL.  They began to dig up the gardens:  the rich loam under the leggy lavender where they would find nothing but the slow moving fat earthworms. And then they dug at the rocky clump of soil under Meena’s nettles.  The three blond detectives would stand expectantly watching the men with the shovels. To no avail.  They had not found the body.

Ms. Gant was a sweet old lady, to be sure, and really the same could be said of her dear friend, Meena Shetty.  “He was such a nice young man.” Ms Gant would often say to Meena of the detectives referring perhaps to one or to all three.  And Meena would nod over a cup of tea they shared on the Veranda. They decided then, that it would be sweet to send a postcard to them at the local police station back home.

The card arrived. It pictured an elephant bejeweled with circles of white about his eyes and chalky red and yellow streaks about his gravely skin. He bore a hat, of sorts, with gold fringe about it.  “Greetings from India!” it exclaimed in a scroll of white script across the face of it and the Hindi characters beneath it.  Chief Schutters shook his head at the card in disbelief and consternation and handed it to Detective #1 who read it out loud.

“Greetings boys!  Thank you for all your trouble.  We are well as we hope you are. The chai here is so delicious!”  Signed Ms. Louise Gant and Ms. Meena Shetty.  “P.S. you might try digging under the nettles in the front yard.”

-Written and Illustrated by Annie Quintano