Monday, September 30, 2013

A Small Story About Big Things

Tape-Measure got his knick-name when he was very little, about eight or nine.  When he was that age he put a vinyl case on his belt and instead of a cell-phone, which he didn’t have, he carried a tape-measure.

He said he could see the invisible man.  No one believed a word he said.

“I can tell you exactly what is going to happen,” he said.

“Shut up Tape-Measure,” said Clarence.  Clarence was an older boy who said he was going to bust a light-bulb the next time there was a fire-drill.

“You bust that light bulb and you are going to get into trouble.”

“Shut up Tape-Measure,” Clarence said.  “You don’t know nothing.”

At the next fire drill, amid the noise and the students getting into their lines, Clarence broke the bulb on the small lamp that sat upon Mrs. Hendrick’s desk.  Of course Mrs. Hendrick saw, and Clarence was sent to the office.

Tape-Measure was also known to measure people.  Allison, who knew for certain she was four-foot tall, measured to an exact three-foot ten inches.  But after he pushed the button and the measure coiled itself with a snap, Tape-Measure told her, “Not really.  You aren’t really that tall.”

Allison swore at him and the other girls laughed.  Later, in the eighth grade, Allison got pregnant and left school.

Friday, September 27, 2013

CANCER UPDATE #4 - Halftime?

So, treatment #6 is eight days ago.  This puts me over half-way done with the chemotherapy… sorta kinda.  Halftime is a relative consideration.  The prayer and hope is that it’s half finished.  But one never knows.  Cancer is a cloud and walking from beneath is not a simple matter of foreseeable distance.  I won’t know until December if this first round, and what a long round it is, does the trick and/or, at least for a while.  If not, there will be another around and, perhaps, another.

Otherwise, things are the same.  No new side-effects except for this weird toe-blister.  They said splitting and cracking skin on the hands and feet might happen.  I’m hoping it’s just a blister.  And blah-dee-blah-blah…  That’s what I think of this whole deal.   But, hoping it’s half-time and all, I’ll try to be profound, or at least a bit reflective.

For you history nerds, this reminds me of the false peace that descended along the western European lines in late 1939 and early 1940.  The British and French wondered if there would be real fighting or if the invasion of Poland might be it.  So the troops sat there, deployed, playing cards and doing whatever else expectant troops do.  That’s me, Mr. Expectant and hoping nothing further goes on with the deal.  I guess that would make the part of my innards they cut out like Poland.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that there is no end of documents showing the cancer patient when he or she is supposed to die.  Innocuously, the words ‘survivor’ or ‘survivability’ or some derivative appears in the titles.  But, the predictors point in less optimistic directions.  There are bell-curves and rates and all kinds of end-of-the-line statistics.  Imagine a team in the playoffs constantly reading about when they are going to be done and how they won’t make it to the finals.  Such reading cannot be good for the fighting spirit.  I don’t read it any longer.

And then I came to this other realization, born of those vague emotions that sand-blast the heart on the day of diagnosis.  It takes a while to sort things out.  I’m still sorting.  But, here’s the thing:  the cancer patient is ultimately alone.  I mean, they bear the disease by themselves and either maintain or fail to maintain in the wake of the seismic shifts of emotion and spirit.  Yes, there are support groups (I’ve ever been a support group kind of guy) and yes, people are helping, and yes there are family and friends.  I know that.  But I’m talking about those quiet times, after I’ve talked with God for the last time that day (and God is there too, always, but the flesh is very weak at times), and I stare at the ceiling after the lights are out or when I drive along playing ‘what-if’ in my head, not paying attention to the road or much of anything else.  Some days have what feel are a hundred such moments when the isolation cocoons the patient and the tested breaking point is once again stretched.

Finally, remember how Spider man has ‘Spider-sense’?  Like when an anvil is about to fall on his head he dodges out of the way?  I think I’m developing ‘Cancer-sense’.  There have been times when I see a stranger and I’m sure that person has cancer.  We have an odd moment and then quickly slide our gaze to something else.  It may the tone of their skin or the way they walk or some baffled light in their eyes.  I haven’t tested this theory, but maybe I soon will.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Monroe Isadore

In which I grow perilously close to saying something political:

On September 8, 2013, 107-year-old Monroe Isadore, formerly of Pine Bluff Arkansas, was shot and killed by the police.  Mr. Isadore, I suspect you deserved better.
Before I say anything else, I completely understand a 107-year-old person is capable of pulling a trigger and of shooting someone.  I get that.  Thus, the defense of the police goes along those lines.  They were, perhaps, acting out of a protocol or a policy of some sort.  And hey, who doesn’t like a good policy or procedure?  They have their place and benefits.  This seems to be part of the problem, however, because a policy is little more than a way to avoid thought.  Someone enforcing a policy gets a pass and a purpose, all at the same time.  Going by the book is a way of saying, "I wasn't thinking.  I was doing what I was told."
Also, I wasn't there.  I don't know what when on.  But one thing I do know is that we will never hear  Monroe's side of the story.  That's the thing that happens when you are shot and killed, especially by the police.  Your side of the story goes in the casket with you.  Dead men tell no tales.  The sealed police records and the reluctance of the Pine Bluff Police Department to investigate the shooting help this.  Though now, a special prosecutor will investigate.

Apparently, the Pine Bluff officers were called in for an aggravated assault that had taken place in Isadore's home.   In his own home assaulted he them.  Can we think possible self-defense?  And, by the way, hat is off to Mr. Isadore.  I hope when I am 107 I can push two people out of my home if I don't want them there.  The two people were not initially identified, though they had the wherewithal to call the police.  I'm also wondering if they were bothering the man with something like a piece of paper they wanted him to sign, along the lines of, 'It's time for you to stop living by yourself?' and Mr. Isadore just wanted to be left alone and most certainly didn't want to sign that there piece of paper.  We'll probably never know.
Next, when the police arrived and made their presence known, Mr. Isadore shot through the door; fault, Mr. Isadore.  Shooting at the police is something few people live to regret.  The officers called the SWAT team, and what community can do without a SWAT team?  I'm smelling more policy.  The SWAT team is at the residence for some hours.  They use 'negotiating tactics'.  They use a sneaky-snake camera to see Mr. Isadore and that he has a gun.  They try gas.  They try more than one flash-bang grenade.  Mr. Isadore shoots, they shoot, and Mr. Isadore is killed with multiple gunshot wounds, inside his own home.

Again, I wasn't there.  But here are a few things I didn't read about the stand-off.  The two individuals in his home are not identified.  I'm thinking bureaucrats or people Mr. Isadore didn't like (perhaps I repeat myself).   The man had three sons and seven daughters, 27 grandchildren and etc…  As far as we know, the SWAT team did not call in friends or family of Mr. Isadore.  Nor did the SWAT team appear to want to miss supper because, after several hours, they resorted to the gas and the flash-bang grenades.  Why stay up late when you can flush him out?  Never mind the camera that could tell them when Mr. Isadore nodded off.  That would have been the perfect time for the SWAT Ninjas in their black armor and face-masks to subtly enter the residence and go from there.
Again, Mr. Isadore probably deserved better.  Then again, maybe at 107, this is a better way to go out than the nursing home.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Morning Television


Here's  how it ended:  Mel racked the twelve-gauge and blew the television and some of the wall behind it into tiny pieces.  He never could convince anybody about why.  After the evaluation they let him go home, but they kept his gun.

     It started when the handsome morning news show announcer of indiscriminate late middle-age said, "Later this morning, after the break, we'll be interviewing Betty Booboobsky."  Betty was the star in a zany new comedy about drug trafficking and prostitution.  There was a nude scene and they were going to ask her about it.  The announcer told people they didn't want to miss the interview.  The same parent company who owned the morning news show's network also owned the movie company that helped propel Betty to fame.  If she survived, in about six years Betty would bemoan the fact that there were so few roles for mature actresses.  In the meantime, and in the remaining few days before the release of the movie, the viewers at home would be kept up to date on Betty's fashion choices.  Betty would try to help leggings and short scarves make a come-back.  Mel knew the choices weren't really  hers.  Her style consultant received freebies and checks from a clothing designer with tie-ins to the movie producer.
     After the interview with Betty, the morning show had a segment about the dangers from some type of bat in Baja California.  The morning news show went out to the entire nation.  But there was no reason for people in places other than those two towns in Baja California to worry about the bats.  The station pushed fear the way a casino-man pushed plastic chips.  There was a lot of fear in the world that didn't have to be there.
     Mel watched all this thinking about the topics the morning news show didn't report. Why didn't they talk about the NSA an how every email, phone call, and bank transaction from every person in the country were being logged and recorded and, on occasion, simply looked through by some employee somewhere?  And why didn't the morning news mention the spate of mob violence in five major cities over the weekend or about how more people died in the streets of Chicago  during the last three days than American soldiers died during the last three weeks in Afghanistan?  And how come, to hear it from the broadcasters, the nation was in the throes of early 1960's Selma, Alabama-style segregation and racism?  On it went.  These were some of the things Mel knew.
     When Mel told people these things they mostly looked at him and secretly wondered why he was such a critical man and how come he couldn't just relax, even in the mornings.
     He liked it quiet in the morning.  But his wife had it on for the noise; she had to have the noise.  "How about some music instead?"  She ignored him.
     He picked up his plate with the toast and with his other hand carried the cup of coffee to the living room where he could still hear the morning news show but at least he didn't have to see it.  They started an interview with some expert explaining how taxes were going to have to be raised in order to keep critical serves operating for the next five  months.  Mel thought of waste.
     He finished his toast and coffee and returned to the kitchen.  Some boy-band was playing on a stage outside the broadcast studios.  They wore ridiculous fedoras and strange combinations of facial hair.  They dressed in what looked like pajama bottoms and sleeveless vests.  They sang about having sex with teen girls.  The words were a bit lofty, but that's what it was about.
     Mel sat his plate and cup in the sink and went to the bedroom and took the twelve-gauge from under the bed.