Christmas Songs That Should Be Banned.

First of all, we need to stop calling them “Christmas” songs. Despite being about the Christmas, it ignores the other yearend celebrations and shows bias toward this blatantly Christian holiday. I suggest  “Popular Non-Religious,” “Holiday,” or “Winter Solstice” songs. To my knowledge, nobody has any objections to “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem (unless it has to do with contested borders or population counts in zero BC and what constitutes a “little town” … ie does that make it a “village?”)

434px-MerryOldSanta

WDOK radio in Ohio, USA, started this debate by deciding to pull “Baby it’s Cold Outside” from its playlist because a listener was offended by the lyric “say, what’s in this drink?” It could be nutmeg, but we should assume it is some type of drug, especially in the version where a woman is singing to a man.

Another writer, I’m not sure of the source, has begun a list of other songs of the season that should also be banned from the airways or if not, whenever you hear them you should put a finger in each ear and very loudly say “na na na na na na na” until the tune is over.

Here is what he/she suggested (with some editing by me) of which songs should be banned and why…

1. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus: Exposes a young child to adultery and PDA
2. The Christmas Song: “Folks dressed up like Eskimos?” Stereotyping Native Americans and making fun of their traditional clothing.
3. Holly Jolly Christmas: “Kiss her once for me?” Promotes unwanted advances
4. Santa Claus is Coming to Town: “Sees you when you’re sleeping? Knows when you’re awake?” The entire song encourages becoming a peeping tom and a stalker
5. Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Demands you “be of good cheer.” What about my right to be depressed during the holidays?
6. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Another sad tale of bullying in school with no punishment for the offenders.
7. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: Forced gender-specific gifts: dolls for Janice and Jen and boots and pistols for Barney and Ben. Why should Janice be denied an uzi for home defense if she really wants one?
8. Santa Baby: Paints a sexist picture of a woman as a gold digger and “Come and trim my Christmas tree” lyric…we all know what she is really suggesting.
9. Frosty the Snowman: Sexist…should be Frosty the “Snowperson.”
10. Do You Hear What I Hear?: totally ignores the deaf community
11. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas: “Make the yuletide gay?” Just because this time of year we like to dress up, decorate, and host fabulous parties…there is no need for labels…and they repeat it several times.
12. Jingle Bell Rock: “Giddy-up jingle horse, pick up your feet Jingle around the clock” Animal abuse!!!…forcing this poor horse to run for 24 hours without rest or food and in winter, yet. “Rocking around the Chrismas Tree?” Very dangerous and gets the kids all riled up when they are already too excited.
13. Winter Wonderland: Parson Brown asking if they are married…what business is it of his?  Invasion of your personal space. And “We’ll have lots of fun with mister snowman until the other kids knock him down.” Vandalism!

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Maybe if we changed the lyrics of these songs to more politically correct verbiage they would be more acceptable (and many more…probably all of them… need to be rewritten to the new standards).

Or we could just stop listening to popular Christmas songs and turn to Gregorian chants in Latin so we can’t understand the lyrics.

Or we could stop whining, evaluating, and assuming every word is sinister and just enjoy the music as we sit by the open fire (hopefully in a safe firepit on a non-windy day), roasting our chestnuts (is that dirty?), and toasting the new year (which has to be better than 2018) while enjoying our Hanukkah bush, Kwanzaa candles, and Christmas wreath, after donning our gay apparel (blame Deck the Halls).

In closing, Happy Holidays, May the Force Be With You, and finally, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

Ten things for which I am thankful 2018

As we approach Thanksgiving In this crazy modern world (and I know it is primarily an American holiday), I harken back to my youth, growing up in the 50’s a simpler, more peaceful, probably less informed time without the Internet, fake news, daily messages of violence, political/racial/religious hate, opinionated news media, constant war somewhere in the world, mass killings.

But were the 1950s really that great? Did we truly live a Norman Rockwell existence? There were the McCarthy hearings blackballing creative Hollywood “communists.” The cold war froze relationships between Russia and the USA. We lived in constant fear of nuclear war that would obliterate mankind, practiced hiding under our desks at school, built fallout shelters, and every day at noon and midnight the B-52s with those nuclear bombs inside took off from a nearby airbase rattling the dishes in our cupboard. We lived at ground zero.

Every decade has its ups and downs. Low points that everyone remembers and regrets, like Vietnam in the 60s for me and the military draft that could mean dying before you were old enough to drink, anti-war protests, Kennedy’s assassination.

But every Thanksgiving we would try to pause and reflect on the positive things in our lives for which we are grateful.  The 50s were a breather from the terrors of WWII, a time of unlocked doors, the birth of television, great prosperity, baby boomers, hot rods, flat tops, and sock hops. The 60’s were a time of discovery, race into space, the Beatles, personal freedom…the right to protest, challenge the status quo, free love, Hair. The 70’s brought us Punk Rock, Disney World, end of the Vietnam War, Deep Throat, the Godfather, Secretariat, Saturday Night Live, Elton John. The 80’s introduced personal computers, big hair bands, etc. You get the idea.

Today’s challenge…name ten things you are grateful for in 2018 (in the comments section). Could be big things that impacted the world or just your corner of it. Must be positive, not “I’m glad Hilary lost the election.”  Here is my list:

  1. My wife discovered cancer early and doctors were able to remove, leaving her cancer-free.
  2. My wife and I are finally seeing success in losing weight and keeping it off.
  3. Both our son and daughter found true love and got married this year. Both ceremonies went off without a hitch.
  4. We remain in remain in relatively good health and physically active, especially compared to many friends our age.
  5. We are retired and do not have to get up in the morning until we choose to do so (or to let the dog out).
  6. We are, at the moment, financially secure with a nice home in a nice neighborhood.
  7. I am free to pursue my “hobbies” of acting, music, and writing. This has been a good year for all three and I’ve even made a little money doing it.
  8. We bought our first new (used) car in fourteen years and got a hell of a deal.
  9. Because of the weddings, I got to see my brother and his family for the first time in five years; and my sister for the first time in 11 years.
  10. Thankful for those whose homes and lives were spared in this year’s California wildfires.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pepe

Here’s a short story I wrote that just won first place in the Annual Texas Short Story contest. It will be published soon with a dozen other award-winning stories as an anthology (currently in pre-sales).   https://books.txauthors.com/product-p/tass4.htm.

Pepe

By

Rich Allan

I don’t know how much time I have left. Doctors say they can’t stop it and my skin is already stretched to the bursting point. I resemble a hydroponic tomato overfilled with enough water to reach giant pumpkin status. Last time they weighed me, the truck scale read 1200 pounds.

The bomb squad used a crane when they placed me in the middle of our town’s little league baseball field and taped off an area large enough to keep people at a safe distance. Squinting my eyes, I can make out my crying mother surrounded by the curious and several fellow students from Monahans Senior High School. The number of people who have shown up is impressive; a bigger turnout than the Jaycee’s July 4th fireworks celebration. Maybe I should hold a flare in each hand to make my impending demise more entertaining?

I know I am to blame for my current situation, but I just couldn’t stand it any longer. The kids at my school picked on me constantly. Teasing me online, as well as to my face, with comments like, “Hey runt, stand up when you speak to me,” or “When did they start letting second graders attend high school.” With my tiny frame, bullies had no problem stuffing me into wall lockers or tossing me through the basketball hoop in the gym. I grew tired of always being the last one picked for sports and having girls laugh out loud when I asked for a date.

Jimmy, the bomb squad leader, who helped bring me to my final resting spot, assuming there won’t be enough of me left to scrape up and bury, shouted out, “Tom, how much longer? I’m due at my bowling league in twenty minutes.”

My stomach gurgled and my circumference increased four more inches. A button popped off my tent-sized shirt, flew toward the crowd, and almost put out a spectator’s eye.

I assured him. “Any minute now, Jimmy.”

But, before I leave this life…let me tell you how I got into this predicament. Just outside of my Texas town is the Monahans Sandhills State Park, featuring nearly 4,000 acres of sand dunes. When I am feeling particularly depressed, I go there with my one friend, Harry, to “surf” the dunes. Some students use a real board, but being poor, Harry and I share a cut-up cardboard box we swiped from behind the grocery store.

The dunes average seventy feet high so it takes a while to wade through the deep sand to the top, but coming down only lasts a few minutes. Sliding is a lot of fun…unless you go on a windy day when the fine sand blows hard, stinging your face and body.

Anyway, we had made several runs and were getting tired, when I slipped off my cardboard sled, and plowed into the sand, banging my knee into something hard. Lamenting my injury, I figured finding the only rock in all this sand was exactly the kind of luck one should expect when residing at the bottom of the food chain. But as I sat there, the sun reflected off something metal, revealing the object that had caused my pain. I used my hands to dig out an ancient-looking brass teapot, similar to the kind vendors sell to tourists at the roadside stands near the Tex-Mex border.

Harry joined me to see why I was still sitting in the middle of the dune. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Look what I found.” I held up the teapot.

“What a piece of junk. The lid is rusted shut and the whole thing is tarnished. Throw it away and let’s do another run.”

“We might be able to get a few bucks for it. Let’s see if I can shine it up a bit.”

I used a corner of my t-shirt and began polishing the sides of the teapot. It started shaking as if it was alive, while smoke poured out of the spout, billowing upward like a miniature tornado. Next came a flash of lightning, accompanied by the rotten egg smell of sulfur, and then poof, out of nowhere, right in front of Harry and me, appeared a swarthy-looking man of Mexican descent, sporting a chipped tooth, a three-day growth, and wearing baggy pants topped off with a traditional red serape. “Gracias, Tom, for setting me free.”

Harry and I stared at the apparition in front of us as he pulled off his boots and poured out the sand.

“I hate sand. Two hundred years crammed into that teapot; it gets in your hair, your ears, up your el trasero, and worst of all between your toes…very difficult to scratch.”

I managed to stammer. “Who the hell are you and where did you come from?”

“From the teapot, mi amigo…and you can call me Pepe.”

I turned to Harry to confirm what I was seeing and hearing, but Harry had passed out on his back and had a dung beetle crawling across his face.

Pepe brushed the sand off his clothes. “Let’s get down to business. What are your three wishes?”

“Excuse me?”

“Didn’t your mother ever read the classics to you? Here’s how it works…you rub the magic lamp, the genie appears, and you get three wishes.”

“This is a teapot and you don’t look like a genie.”

“You want the wishes or not? I can always give them to Harry when he wakes up, although technically he wasn’t the one who rubbed the teapot.”

“Hang on.”

My imagination kicked into overdrive. Three wishes! I pictured all the usual dreams…big house, fancy car, hot girlfriend, millions of dollars, rock god…but then I thought about my miserable school life.

“For my first wish, I want to be big.”

“You mean famous like a movie star, captain of industry, or president?”

“No, physically big. I’m tired of being the smallest kid in high school.”

Pepe lit up like a migrant worker on a Saturday night; producing a multi-page contract and a pen from thin air. “Just sign your name at the bottom of page five.”

“What’s this?”

“A standard genie agreement that defines rights, warrants, representations, indemnifications, fornications, and so forth. Don’t worry about it, just sign.”

I didn’t hesitate. Harry, who had regained consciousness, watched me write my name with a flourish. As soon as I did, Pepe, the contract, and the teapot disappeared in another puff of lightning and smoke. We looked at where Pepe had stood, and then back to each other.

Harry said, “What about your other two wishes?”

I shook my head. “I don’t think he’s coming back.”

Harry looked around. “If he was ever here at all.”

As we walked back into town, we decided not to discuss what had happened, since we had no proof and knew our story would only result in more teasing. We wrote off our strange encounter as a result of too much sun and bad cafeteria food.

I went to bed early that night…right after supper. I tossed and turned, dreaming of a crazy Latino in baggy pants, with a chipped tooth, offering me three wishes and a large plate of rice and beans.

When I woke the next morning, I felt the same. Did I get my wish or not? I jumped out of bed and raced over to my height measurement chart.  I had been marking my growth progress on my wall ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil. Standing as tall as possible, I drew another line, looked at the new mark and hung my head in disappointment…sixteen years old and I remained only four-foot-ten inches tall.

I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth. Nothing prepared me for the person who stared back at me in the mirror…a teenager in jockey shorts looking like an elf-sized Santa Claus without a beard. I had grown all right…only out instead of up.

As I watched in amazement, my outline split, flesh blurred, shimmered like a spirit and shook like Jello in an earthquake. The two vibrating versions of me went in and out of focus, until they came rushing back together, like two randy cells under a microscope, merging to create an entity twice as big.

This pattern repeated itself several times during the next two weeks and despite hardly eating any food, boot camp style exercises, visits to the doctor, and trying all the fad diets…grapefruit, low-carbs, jellybeans…I kept gaining weight. Sometimes the shifts were violent, like David Banner turning into the Hulk, splitting out my clothes, and leaving me naked…one time much to the amusement of my coed gym class.

Freak got added to the name calling, along with balloon boy, hippo, tons-of-fun, and so forth. When I outgrew my Dad’s clothes, my parents began buying stuff from the big and tall shop. After I outgrew those, Mother would make my outfits from scratch, buying material in large rolls, because I could change up to two sizes in a single day. Mom practically lived at the sewing machine trying to keep up.

I quit going to school because I couldn’t fit through the front double doors. It got to the point I couldn’t walk, sleep in a bed, or live in our garage. The fire department kindly decided to let me stay in one of their large bays, reclining on a flatbed tractor-trailer covered with several mattresses. I don’t even want to talk about the problems that occurred when I had to go the bathroom, but a fire hose and a dump truck was involved.

Finally, fearing the end was near, they towed me to the baseball field and lowered me gently down… covering the entire infield, including all the bases. Right after arriving, my stomach flip-flopped, my body shimmered, and I expanded another two inches. I could hear the ooh’s and ahh’s from the crowd that had gathered to witness my latest transition. I held my breath and closed my eyes because I did not want to see myself pop like a balloon, scattering pieces of me in all directions.

A minute went by, then two. Nothing happened. I cautiously opened one eye and looked around. The onlookers had covered their ears and were slowly backing further away. The TV crews and paparazzi had their cameras raised in anticipation of capturing the precise moment I exploded…damn piranhas. I just wanted it to be over.

“Hola, Tom,” a familiar voice whispered in my ear. A man stood beside me…clean shaven, a perfect sparkling smile, dressed in Armani and looking like a movie star.

My stomach gurgled. “What happened to Pepe?”

He laughed. “Pepe is only one of my characters. You probably know me better as Diablo.”

“I’m in trouble here. Where have you been?”

“Rooting for the bulls in Mexico City.”

“Help me.”

“You don’t want to be big anymore?”

“What do you think?”

“Is that your second wish?”

“For goodness sakes, yes.”

He crossed his arms across his chest, blinked and nodded. “I always wanted to do that…every since I saw an episode of “I Dream of Jeannie.”

The crowd gasped, as I instantaneously shrank from blimp-size to ant-size and disappeared somewhere near the pitcher’s mound. Diablo knelt down. “You okay there, Tom?”

I push aside a dandelion stem and addressed the giant face above me. “You tricked me.”

“One more wish to go. Make it a good one.”

“Just put me back to the way I was when we first met.”

Diablo smiled, snapped his fingers, and I returned to normal, spitting out some grass that I had almost swallowed during the transition. The crowd once again shouted and clapped their approval.

“No more wishes, Tom.”

I sighed. “So, I’m right back where I started.”

“Not exactly. You signed a contract.”

“What does that mean?” I yelled at him as he disappeared in a flash of lightning and a puff of smoke, leaving behind only the smell of sulfur and a trail of wicked laughter.

*   *   *

The unusually short old man came out of the confessional at the same time as the priest.

“That’s quite a story, Tom.”

“I swear it’s true.”

“I worry about you. Are you eating properly? You look so skinny.”

Tom glanced around the church. “No matter what I eat, I can’t gain weight and everything taste like rice & beans.”

“Are you hitting the sauce again?”

Both Tom’s hands were shaking. He grasped the end of a pew to steady himself. “No more than I need. I keep catching glimpses of him…on the street, at the store…and hearing his creepy laugh.”

“Say three Hail Mary’s and two Our Fathers and you will be fine.”

“Will that give me absolution?”

“You didn’t sign a deal with the devil. You just had a bad dream.”

“For forty years?”

“Go home, Tom, get some rest. And for goodness sakes, eat something.”

Tom, unable to stop the cancer-induced series of hacking coughs, broke out in a sweat as he shuffled out of the church. He hurried down the street, his coat collar turned up against the wind and the cold. Pulling a key from his pocket, he entered the small apartment; ceiling and walls papered in pictures of Jesus and complemented with several large crucifixes. He locked the door behind him, turned the three deadbolts into place and fastened the double chains.

He sat down in his easy chair, turned on a small lamp, and began reading the Bible, as he did every night. Was it a dream? Harry died years ago in a car accident and his Mother insisted she never saw anyone standing near him on the baseball field. The doctors explained his weight “condition” had been caused by a rare gland problem that miraculously cured itself.

Tom put down the Bible and took a swig from the nearby flask. Another round of coughs racked his body, as he used a handkerchief to wipe the blood from his mouth. It wouldn’t be long now, ten days at most, and then he would know for sure…

Copyright Richard Allan Jones 2018

Rich Allan spent 18 years living in Dallas as a member of the DFW Writers Workshop, traveling around the state enjoying the bluebonnets, Cowboys, and BBQ. “Pepe” is a combination of classic children’s stories mixed with equal parts of Rod Sterling and Stephen King.  In addition, Rich is the author of two five-star rated novels, “Drafted,” — the comic adventures of a teenager drafted illegally into the U.S. Army, and an award-winning political thriller, “Identity Check”  – After his mother is murdered, college student Scott and his zany girlfriend Jessie, embark on a dangerous journey to uncover the truth. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and Lily the beagle. http://www.richallan.net/author.html.

 

50 States/50 Countries-Famous World Landmarks

Website TripAdvisor recently published a list of the world’s 25 top landmarks based upon votes from their millions of readers. We have been to half the ones listed (which means we have a lot to go!) and wanted to share our photographs with you, in order, from the top vote-getter down. How many have you seen?

St. Peter’s Basilica – Rome, ItalyPICT0018 (3)PICT0436 (2)PICT0438 (2)PICT0430 (2)PICT0433 (2)

Duomo di Milano – Milan, ItalyPICT0034 (3)

Alcatraz Island – San Francisco, CaliforniaDSC02714 (2)Australia Dec. 2008 305 (2)

Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco, California177770941

Notre Dame Cathedral – Paris, FranceNotre Dame2PICT0793 (2)PICT0795 (3)

Eiffel Tower – Paris, FrancePICT0816 (2)

Tower of London – London, United KingdomPICT0473 (3)Acropolis – Athens, Greecetravel photos 063 (2)

Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho) – Bangkok, ThailandFAR EAST 2009 ALL 567 (2)

Mutianyu Great Wall – Beijing, ChinaFAR EAST 2009 ALL 1076 (2)

Sydney Opera House – Sydney, AustraliaAustralia Dec. 2008 169 (2)

One of the great world landmarks left off this list is the Great Pyramid & Sphinx near Cairo, Egypt which I think has to be included…

PICT0133 (3)

What other sites would you add? Here are some of my suggestions…

Cairo Mosque?PICT0156 (2)PICT0165 (2)

Peterhof Palace & Gardens?DSC01869 (2)

Giant Buddha – Hong Kong?DSC03328 (3)

Happy travels!  Rich

 

 

50 States/50 Countries-Russia

DSC00582 (2)(Russian battleship Potemkin)

Russia…The Soviet Union…The Cold War. Friend? Enemy? As a person who grew up in the 50’s, I never thought I would ever get to visit this country of 6.6 million square miles, the largest country in the world, twice the size of the United States. Allies in WWII, relations have been on and off again ever since. Now once again they are accused of using propaganda to try to influence our elections. Regardless of your politics, our visit to St. Peterburg revealed a friendly people (Russian Wedding)DSC00701 (2) and some amazing art and architecture.DSC00499 (2)Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. A magnificent church on a canal.DSC00479 (2)Saint Isaac’s Cathedral…largest dome in the world. DSC00617 (4)DSC00518 (2)Bronze doors reminded me of the ones on the baptistery in Firenze.DSC00531 (2)The Winter Palace of the Czars which in addition to being a beautiful palace, contains the Hermitage Museum and several famous paintings and sculptures.DSC00681 (2)DSC00412 (2)Can you identify the following three artists?DSC00668 (2)DSC00666 (2)DSC00667 (2)

1. (La Danse) Henri Matisse 1909; 2. Vincent van Gogh 3. Paul Gauguin

DSC00387 (2)One of the most beautiful palaces is the Peterhof, a UNESCO World Heritage Site166 (2)known for its location (right on the Baltic Sea), gardens, and fountains…DSC01869 (2)My wife & I shot all the pictures you see above. Enjoy! До свидания (Da svidania) & happy travels!  Rich

The Entertainer Blogger Award

The Entertainer Blogger Award

 

entertainerbloggeraward-copy

Thanks so much to Ana Rocha from https://cookthebeans.com for nominating me for this award. Please visit her blog If you want to know more about travel, food, vegan cooking & eating, and recipes from all over the planet. Very educational and entertaining.

Why did you start blogging in the first place? 

I have always been a writer. Professionally for many years as a journalist and in public relations, but also writing fiction on the side, short stories and eventually two novels (working on the third). I also love to travel and take photos. One of my blog series is call 50 states/50 countries and it gives me a chance to share photos from around the globe.

What is your favorite book?

Love to read. Got my first library card in the 4th grade. Beyond the Hardy Boys, one “adult” book got me hooked and remains a favorite…A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

What do you dislike the most?

People arguing politics on Facebook.

What is your favourite food at the mall?

Has to be sushi.

What is your favorite pastime?

Three main areas would be: writing/photography; playing bass guitar & singing with my 60’s cover band, Revolution Road; acting on stage, TV and film.

MY NOMINEES

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/49427495

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/58570484

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/29801870

 

Congrats to all nominees 💚 Can’t wait to read your replies.

📍Rules

  • Thank the person who nominated you add link to their blog
  • Add the rules, so others can follow
  • Nominate people who you find fun, inspiring and entertaining!
  • Answer the same questions
  • Include the graphic in your post

Pepe-Part 3

DSC00535 (2)

Here is a short story I wrote awhile back and recently updated. I’ll run it in three parts. Let me know what you think.

Pepe (part 3)

By

Rich Allan

I went to bed early that night right after supper. I tossed and turned, dreaming of a crazy Latino in baggy pants, with a chipped tooth, offering me three wishes, and a large plate of rice and beans.

When I woke the next morning, I felt the same. Did I get my wish or not? I jumped out of bed and raced over to my height measurement chart that I had drawn on the wall ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil. Standing as tall as possible, I drew another line. I looked at the new mark and hung my head in disappointment…sixteen years old and still only a paltry four-foot ten inches tall.

I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth. Nothing prepared me for the person who appeared in the mirror…a teenager in his jockey shorts looking like an elf-sized Santa Claus without a beard. I had grown alright…only out instead of up. As I watched in amazement, my outline split, flesh blurred, shimmered like a spirit, and shook like Jello in an earthquake. The two vibrating me’s went in and out of focus, until they came back together, like two cells under a microscope, joining to make a larger entity twice as big.

This pattern repeated itself several times during the next two weeks and despite hardly eating, boot camp exercises, visits to the doctor and trying all the fad diets…grapefruit, low-carb, and jellybeans…I kept gaining weight. Sometimes the shifts were violent, like David Banner turning into the Hulk, splitting out my clothes, and leaving me naked, one time much to the amusement of my coed gym class.

Freak got added to the name calling, along with balloon boy, hippo, tons-of-fun, and so forth. When I outgrew my dad’s clothes, my parents started buying stuff from the big and tall shop. After I outgrew those, Mother started making my outfits from scratch buying material in large rolls because I could change up to two sizes in a single day. Mom practically lived at the sewing machine, trying to keep up.

I quit going to school because I couldn’t fit through the front double doors. It got to the point I couldn’t walk, sleep in a bed, or live in our garage. The fire department kindly let me stay in one of their large bays, reclining on a flatbed tractor-trailer covered with mattresses. I don’t even want to talk about the problems that occurred when I had to go the bathroom.

Finally, fearing the end was near, they towed me to the baseball field and lowered me gently down…filling the entire infield, covering all the bases and home plate. Right after arriving, my stomach flip-flopped, my body shimmered, and I expanded another two inches. I could hear the ooh’s and ahh’s from the crowd that had gathered as they witnessed my latest transition. I held my breath and closed my eyes because I did not want to watch my imminent death.

A minute went by, then two. Nothing happened. I opened one eye and looked around. The onlookers had covered their ears and were slowly backing away. The TV crews and paparazzi raised their cameras in anticipation of capturing the precise moment I blew up…piranhas. I just wanted it to be over.

“Hola, Tom,” a familiar voice whispered in my ear.

A man stood beside me, cleaned shaven, sparkling smile, dressed in Armani and looking like a movie star.

My stomach gurgled. “What happened to Pele?”

He laughed. “Pele is only one of my characters. You probably know me better as Diablo.”

“I’m in trouble here. Where have you been?”

“Rooting for the bulls in Mexico City.”

“Help me.”

“You don’t want to be big anymore?”

“What do you think?’

“Is that your second wish?”

“For goodness sakes, yes.”

He crossed his arms across his chest, blinked and nodded. “I always wanted to do that…every since I saw an episode of “I Dream of Jeannie.”

The crowd gasped as I instantaneous shrank from blimp to ant size and disappeared. Diablo knelt down on the grass. “You okay there, Tom?”

I push aside a dandelion stem and addressed the giant face above me. “You tricked me.”

“One more wish to go. Make it a good one.”

“Just put me back to the way I was when we first met.”

Diablo smiled, snapped his fingers and I returned to normal, spitting out some grass that I had almost swallowed during the transition. The crowd once again shouted their approval of the show.

“No more wishes, Tom.”

I sighed. “So, I’m right back where I started.”

“Not exactly. You signed a contract.”

“What does that mean?” I shouted at him as he disappeared in a flash of lightning, a puff of smoke, and the smell of sulfur, leaving behind only a trail of wicked laughter.”

*   *   *

The unusually short old man came out of the confessional at the same time as the priest.

“That’s quite a story, Tom.”

“I swear it’s true.”

“I worry about you. Are you eating properly? You look so skinny.”

Tom glanced around the church. “No matter what I eat, I can’t gain weight and everything taste like rice & beans.”

“You’re not hitting the sauce again?”

Both Tom’s hands were shaking. He grasped the end of a pew to steady himself. “No more than I need. I keep catching glimpses of him…on the street, at the store…and hearing his creepy laugh.”

“Say three Hail Mary’s and two Our Fathers and you will be fine.”

“Will that give me absolution?”

“You didn’t sign a deal with the devil. You just had a bad dream.”

“For forty years?”

“Go home, Tom, get some rest. And for goodness sakes, eat something.”

Tom, coughing up blood from the cancer racking his body, broke out in a sweat as he shuffled out of the church. He hurried down the street, his coat collar turned up against the wind and the cold. Pulling a key from his pocket, he entered the small apartment, ceiling and walls papered in pictures of Jesus and complemented with large crucifixes everywhere. He locked the door behind him, turned the three deadbolts into place and fastened the double chains.

He sat down in his easy chair and began reading the bible, as he did every night. Was it a dream? Harry died years ago in a car accident and his mother had told him no one had seen anybody out on the baseball field with him. The doctors explained his condition had been caused by a rare gland problem that somehow cured itself.

Tom put down the bible and took a swig from the nearby flask. Another series of coughs shook his whole body. He wiped the blood from his mouth with a handkerchief. It wouldn’t be long now, ten days at most, and then he would know for sure…

-The End-

 

Copyright Richard Allan Jones 2018