Tales of Charm, Balderdash, and Yarns Somewhere in Between is a collection of short stories by Thomas Noel Smith. The tales range from the somber and the strange to the whimsical and wacky. Included in the collection are unique versions of Adam and Eve and Mother Goose tales. The tales are entertaining, captivating, and engaging. Thomas Noel Smith is a film actor in Florida, and he has also published four books of poetry.
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|Publisher:||Outskirts Press, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.45(d)|
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THE BLIND DATE
"What am I thinking?" Walter studied his face carefully, looking at all the wrinkles and sagging flesh that mocked him. His room was his place of security, where he could be himself. He could relax and not worry about impressing anyone. Outside, the street lights came on, and the hands of the clock seemed to be moving at double speed. Why couldn't Shirley have stayed out of his life?
"My girlfriend would be just perfect for you Walter. You two would make such a nice couple. How long have you been alone now? You really need a woman. Are you free Saturday night? I know Claire is." She went on and on and he wanted to tell her to shut up. He liked being alone, but she wouldn't take "No" for an answer. Why couldn't she understand that men just liked to be men? She'd been married for 25 years. Didn't she understand men yet?
There could be other things that he could be doing tonight. He could have gone bowling with the guys and downed a few beers. Or he could have watched O'Reilly. Dennis Miller was going to be on and he loved watching Miller.
This place was his own place and if a woman ever wanted to see it, he'd have to clean it up, mop the floor ... and what about chairs? Where would she sit? There was only one chair and then there was the bed. He couldn't ask her here for dinner. He'd eaten all his frozen dinners in bed. And he couldn't ask her to sit on the bed and enjoy Swanson's Sweet and Sour Chicken.
No ... a woman in his life would ruin everything. Sure, there were times he missed the company of a woman, and he'd sometimes considered getting one of those 'escorts' just to have someone to talk to ... but at $2.50 an hour who could afford that stuff?
There was something to be said for being alone. There was no one to tell you what to do ... no one insisting that you get a bigger place so she would feel more comfortable. There was no one bending over you when you didn't feel good, and if you had to go to the hospital there would be no one to visit you and bring you flowers and tell you how much they cared. ... Damn! What brought that on? That's right. There was no one. But what did he need anyone for? He wasn't going to get sick. He wasn't going to lie around in some hospital bed feeling sorry for himself ... but what if?
Maybe he would make a lousy impression on her tonight. He certainly hoped so. Shirley couldn't be mad at him if he screwed up, could she?
Oh, yes ... she would be furious. He knew it. He had to make a good impression on Claire even if he didn't want to. If he screwed up, he would never hear the end of it from Shirley. And that's all he needed — listening to that shrill, wheedling voice that she knew how to make when she was angry. How did women learn these things? Did his date for tonight know how to makes those sounds? Of course she did. All women knew. Their mothers taught them.
The telephone rang.
"Yes ... Shirley, I said I would go. No, I'm not going to back out of this. But please, no more blind dates. I'm happy the way I am."
Walter heard the click. Shirley had hung up. She wasn't mad, she just liked to cut him off ... that was her famous trait.
He went out to the balcony — his balcony. The city was alive and he was about to be so dead. He could call up and say that he had an upset stomach and he couldn't go and ... no Shirley wouldn't buy it.
He could quit the company and he wouldn't have to look at Shirley's face again. That's it. He'd quit ... find a new job somewhere. He could do that. He picked up the phone. His hands were sweating so much that he dropped the receiver. He sat down on the bed and buried his face in his hands. What would any woman see in him? He wasn't about to change his ways just to suit someone he didn't even know. And if they got serious, how could he bring her back to his place? She'd say, "Wally, we need a bigger place." That would mean that he'd have to get a better job or go in and beg his boss for a raise. But hold on ... Didn't Shirley say something about the boss looking at him very favorably? No ... that's not what he wanted. He didn't want to be stuck behind some typewriter all day long, answering the telephone and pretending to be everyone's best friend. He liked being on his own. He liked the fact that no one ever asked his, "are those reports ready?" He'd heard that question at least a hundred time a day from some fat supervisor who like to torment the workers. He could do the work, sure, but he never let anyone else know just what he could do. He preferred to empty the trash, get coffee for everyone, sweep the floors, and other things where no one ever paid any attention to him.
And now that big-mouthed Shirley had to fix him up with Claire.
It was seven o'clock. He was to meet Claire at Estrada'a at eight. They were going to meet and have dinner and get to know each other, and Marty realized that he had no idea what she looked like. Maybe she looked like a beached whale. He could see it now--a great sea of blubber smiling at him. That would be just like Shirley's sick sense of humor. "She's well versed in politics and literature," Shirley told him. Oh, that's great. Some raving activist who quotes Longfellow! Probably wears thick glasses.
Walter tried to tie his only tie but his fingers were wet with sweat. Maybe Shirley was right. Maybe ... just maybe ... maybe Claire could be the one. After all Shirley said we'd make a good couple. But what do you do on a date? What do you say? I'm not a teenager anymore. And I know I'm gonna screw up.
Walter pulled his lips back revealing his teeth. Did I brush them tonight? And my breath? What if she wants a deep kiss? Do I remember how to do it?
Walter arrived at Estrada's at 7:30. "I'm not nervous. I'm not scared. It's just a blind date, that's all it is." He paced outside and watched as each car pulled into the parking lot. She would be wearing a pink dress. "What do I say to her? Do I take her hand to guide her inside? Oh, God! I'm such a klutz." At 5 minutes till eight, he said to himself, "She's not coming. It was a waste of time. She's not coming ... Damn that crazy Shirley. Damn her."
"You must be Walter," a voice behind him said. Walter turned and there was an angel in a pink dress. She said, "I'm Claire." She couldn't be 55, she just couldn't be. He stared at her eyes. They were big, vulnerable, and the most beautiful eyes he'd ever seen. "I'd recognize you anywhere", she said.
"My name's Falter" Walter blurted out and he felt the blood rush to his head. His tongue wouldn't cooperate with his mouth and he knew he was making a fool of himself. Claire didn't seem to notice. She took his arm and guided him skillfully toward the restaurant door. "Shall we go in, Walter?"
He nodded. The words didn't want to come out.
At the table he couldn't take his eyes from her.
They both ordered and the waiter brought their dinners, but he couldn't remember what he ordered or what he ate. He remembered talking but he couldn't remember what he said. He remembered that she laughed several times and her eyes were warm and alive.
And then he began to imagine a life together, and even more importantly, the heat and the passion that would come before commitment. He could see it in his mind and those wild nights alone with her in his room. He could feel the warmth of her body next to his. He could hear the sound of her breathing as he spoke tender passionate words to her.
"Walter. Walter?" His dream ended as he looked at her and realized that his own thoughts had carried him into another realm of consciousness.
"I'm sorry, Claire. I guess I was just lost in thought."
"It's okay. Sometimes I do the same thing. I just drift away ... especially when I'm thinking about the words of Yeats or Frost, know what I mean?"
He liked her ... and Shirley was right that Claire was a good woman. He wanted her to be the one. He never realized before now how hollow his room had been, and how much he'd missed the sound of a feminine voice and the smell of perfume. But could he say the right things? He knew nothing of Frost or Yeats or whoever else she might want to talk about. He was a common guy, and she was ... well, she was special. What could he give her? What could he offer her? What did she really think of him? He had to tell her.
His eyes began to mist over. "Claire, I'm a clumsy guy. I have only two years of college, and I'm not that smart. And I ... I ..." He reached across the table and touched her hand.
"Walter ... shhh. Not another word. I think I know all I need to know about you and I like what I know."
"I don't know what I'm doing here. And I'm the one who's supposed to have all the answers."
He opened the door and felt the cool air caress his face.
"Yes, please. I never got used to sitting at the counter. A table is more comfortable, don't you think?"
"Don't matter none to me."
If the bus hadn't broken down he would've been on his way to New York city. He was prepared to give his lecture on "Psychic Phenomena in Today's World." He'd sure worked on it long enough. He could've flown like everybody else but his 'feelings' told him that the bus was the better way to go. The next bus to New York, coming through this small dirt-water town, wouldn't be until tomorrow. At least he wouldn't miss the convention. That was something.
The diner looked like a condemned double wide, but at least it was a place to sit for a while. He watched the waitress waddle off toward the counter. He picked up the menu and looked over the selections of food, most of which, he thought, were probably unfit for human consumption.
The waitress came back with pad in hand.
"What'll you have?"
"I think I'll start with scotch on the rocks followed by the chef's salad, and for the main course I'll take the filet mignon, and for desert, I'll ..."
"You some kinda comedian, mister? I ain't got time for this. I'm busy. So, either you order or you get out. This table ain't fer bums."
"Listen, Gladys, I was planning to order it's just that I was overwhelmed by your plethora of tantalizing pleasantries."
"How'd you know my name was Gladys?"
"It's what I do for a living. I'm a psychic."
"I see into the future. I know about the past. For example, I know you've got a brother named Horace, and it seems like he got in trouble playing around with children, in, shall we say, an undesirable way. How was he when you saw him last — you did go to see him last Saturday, didn't you?"
"Look here, you been saying too much. I don't like it and I don't like you. You can get out or I'm callin' the sheriff."
"My name is Ben and all I want is a coke, and just to sit and relax for a few minutes. That's not too much to ask, is it?"
"You git outta here now, you hear?"
A big man walked over to Gladys.
"You got trouble, Gladys?"
"This damn Yankee has a smart mouth and he was jes' getting ready to leave, ain't that right, Ben?'
"Yeah, that's right, and you don't need Homer, here to help. I'll leave by myself."
"How'd you know my name, sissy?" said the big man.
"I told you, this here fellow has a smart mouth," said Gladys.
"Okay fella, what else do you know?"
"Are you sure you want me to tell you, Homer?"
"You'd better damn well tell me, if'n you want to leave this place walking and not carried out."
Gladys folder her arms across her chest, glaring at Ben. Her hair looked as red as the fires of hell. "That's it," he thought, "I'm in Satan's favorite restaurant."
"Okay, Homer, but just remember that I warned you about what I'm going to say."
"Go on, you little runt," said Homer.
"You've got a sister. Her name is Mary Sue. She's a real looker. But it seems that a couple of months ago you took Mary Sue to Citrus Junction to meet with — what's his name? — oh yes ... Doctor Calvin. Its seems that you and Mary Sue were getting friendlier than brother and sister should have, and of course Dr. Calvin helped you get rid of the mistake ..."
"What's he talkin' bout Homer? I thought you was always true to me. And what's this about you and yer sister? Homer ... you didn't!"
Ben found himself suddenly suspended in mid-air with Homer's hands clamped around his neck.
"I just wanted a coke" Ben managed to squeak out. "Tell him Gladys"
Gladys said nothing.
"Okay, fortune teller boy, what you see happenin' next?"
"I see that you're going to be a really nice man and let me down."
"You should retire from this stuff, boy. You got it all wrong."
"Give it to him, Homer," said Gladys.
Darkness descended on Ben like a thick blanket.
* * *
Ben opened his eyes. Bright lights shone down on his face. The room was cold and he was lying on a bed, a white sheet covering him. A woman in a white uniform looked down at him and smiled.
"Where am I? In heaven? I must be because you look like an angel."
The young woman laughed. "No, sir, you're in Mantusa Memorial Hospital. You're lucky to be alive. If the sheriff hadn't got there when he did, who knows?"
"The sheriff has him in the county jail. But the sheriff told me to tell you that you'd better leave as soon as you're able. Homer has some good-old-boy relatives and ..."
"I get the picture ... You know the funny thing? All I wanted was a coke."
A Fatal Adventure
Earle flushed the urinal and listened to the sound of the water washing away what he had done. He flushed it again just to be sure. You couldn't trust anyone, or anything. They might be watching. There might be a camera focused on him right now. Even in this great amusement park there might be hundreds of them. The spies were everywhere. He went to the sink and placed his hands under the water. Soap ... must not forget the soap. He walked out into the bright sunlight. Perspiration formed on his brow.
It could be anyone--the couple sitting on the bench appearing to look like young lovers--or those kids looking at him. Yes, they were staring at him. Spies, watching him. He had to keep moving. If he could make it inside that great silver ball just ahead of him he knew that there would be someone there to help. He had to get away before they caught up with him.
It had all happened so fast. He had been watching his television set, enjoying reruns of "Gunsmoke". And then that stupid poodle came bounding into the room, jumped in his lap, knocking his pills out of his hand and spilling his glass of water all over the rug. He wanted to curse the stupid mutt, but Pete the poodle looked into his eyes, and he couldn't get angry. He looked back at the TV. "Gunsmoke" wasn't on anymore. There was a man in a dark suit staring directly at him and shouting "Leave. Leave now. They will come after you. They will try to get you to go astray. Go now. Look for the signs that are not of this world." The man went on, and Earle listened. He wished that he hadn't dropped his medicine. His nerves. Yes, he was very nervous.
"Oh, Pete ... why'd you have to jump in my lap like that? I dropped everything."
"It's not my fault you're such a klutz, Earle."
Wait! Wait ... had Pete just answered him?
"Pete, I didn't know you could talk."
"There's a lot of things that you don't know about me, little buddy." And with that Pete went outside and relieved himself on the magnolia tree.
Earle remembered the words of the man "Leave now."
He knew they were communicating with him just as much as he knew that were others who were watching him, but where could he go to get away? There must be an escape route, someplace he could go and find his way to another place where on one would know him.
Pete, the poodle, looked at the sky and barked.
"That damn dog. Won't he just shut up?" It was then that Earle recognized it. The barking came and regular intervals. Of course! Pete was a spy and he was sending his report in code. He recognized the pattern. What was it saying? Yes ... now he understood it. "Come get Earle. Kill him. He knows too much."
Earle walked over to Pete. "Pete, old boy, I'm going to have to go somewhere this afternoon, so I'm going to leave you with Steve. He loves poodles. Okay?"
"You can't get rid of me that easy, you paranoid schizo."
"Pete, I don't want to get rid of you. I just have to go somewhere this afternoon."
Steve said that he would be glad to take care of Pete, and Earle was sure he could trust Steve. Steve wasn't that bright.
Earle's red Volkswagen bug started up right away. Earle waved good bye to Steve. He took one final look at the house he'd called home, and he knew that he would never be coming back.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Tales of Charm, Balderdash, and Yarns Somewhere in Between"
Copyright © 2018 Thomas Noel Smith.
Excerpted by permission of Outskirts Press, Inc..
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