Partly Cloudy with Possible Showers…

I’m generally a fairly optimistic person, basking in the glow of what I believe is the goodness of most other people and the customary beauty of the world around me. Because I tend to focus on the brighter side of things, I suppose it’s possible that my view of the world is impaired from time to time by a naively sunny outlook behind which there are issues I’m not used to observing. This is the point where someone might easily bring out a pair of rose-colored eyeglasses and ask, “Are these yours, John?”

In fact, I do feel indignation, even rage, at what goes on (or what doesn’t) in Washington, I despair at the suffering of the poor, the indigent, and the children and animals who seem to have no voice of their own. I’m not Pollyanna, and I could never have been an Eagle Scout without a special act of Congress, but I do try to be of use whenever I can. Today was one of those days when my hopefulness about things was bruised by a sequence of minor events that perhaps to other people might have seemed comically inconsequential.

When I started my car this morning, the radio was dead, which meant that I had to entertain myself by repeated singing of the only three songs to which I actually know the lyrics, Moon River (from Breakfast at Tiffany’s), There is Nothin’ Like a Dame (from South Pacific),and I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad from the first record I ever received as a kid, singing it around the house until my parents threatened to put me up for adoption. However, these songs get very old after about fifteen minutes, and even though I know the words to the most famous of all time-passing songs, I’ve been on too many buses for field trips even to consider singing or even listening to One Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall, unless I’ve drunk a few first, which works only if someone else is driving anyway, so I phoned the Honda dealer to make an appointment for my radio to be checked.

During my haircut this morning my barber pontificated about the Donald Sterling NBA scandal, blaming the whole thing on his ”vindictive mistress,” who, “set him up.” I reduced my take on the issue by saying that both Sterling and his girlfriend were idiots, who probably deserved each other, which seemed to shock Frank, who seems to worship anyone with enough disposable income to spend even a weekend in Atlantic City or Las Vegas. Nothing else I said dissuaded him from his certainty that it was “all the bimbo’s fault,” even if Sterling had really made the racist remarks he was accused of making. Our tiff didn’t seem that serious until I got home and noticed with a hand mirror and the bathroom mirror that my haircut was uneven in back, where the hairline appeared to have been done by a four-year-old child. When I drove back, Frank apologized and changed the line as best he could, with the result that I looked strangely like a mannequin whose painted hairline appeared not to have been quite finished. Nevertheless, Frank refused to recant his defense of Sterling, whom I had called a “moron,” much to Frank’s dismay.

When I got home, it was time for lunch, but I was already feeling sorry for myself and too lazy to prepare a meal, so I grabbed a jar from the pantry, opened it, and got a fork, going next to the den, where I sat watching absentmindedly the first program that popped up when I turned on the TV. Sitting on the sofa, eating Aunt Nellie’s Pickled Beets right from the jar and listening to a mindless episode of Gilligan’s Island, I began to realize I had to pull myself together to get through the rest of the day. Before turning off the TV, I rolled my eyes at the commercial that promised to deliver catheters discretely to my front door.

Then the phone rang, so I turned off the television, only to discover that the call was a salesman trying to persuade me to take advantage of a “once-in-a-lifetime offer” for discounts at hotels in Hawaii. The guy’s enthusiasm was impressive for a while, so energetic and filled with passion that I thought it might really be one of my friends playing a joke. Despite my saying three times that I had no interest in making a commitment to the offer, the man rambled on so poetically that I thought at last he should be playing Hamlet on a stage somewhere instead of doing this phone gig. Finally, not wanting to be overtly rude by hanging up suddenly, I told him that I was allergic to coconuts and pineapple, and that I was deathly afraid of Macadamia nuts. While he continued as though I weren’t there, I said, “Thanks anyway” before simply hanging up. I suspect he continued his speech to the end before noticing that he was onstage alone, the audience having left the theater.

Then the doorbell rang, causing my dog Dudley to begin barking. It was my next-door neighbor Mrs. Benson, who wanted to borrow some waxed paper for some maple fudge she was making. When I asked her to come in while I went for the paper, she shrieked, “Oh, my God, John! What happened to your shirt? Did you cut yourself shaving?”

Looking down at my shirt, I saw the large and violent streaks of beet juice that must have made me look like something from the ten o’clock news. Of course, I blamed it all on Aunt Nellie. Mrs. B thanked me for the waxed paper, promising before she left to bring me some of the fudge when it was done. As I closed the door and turned around, Dudley was staring up at me the way dogs often do when they are filled with understanding and deep sympathy for our pathetic behavior. He knew I was having a less-than-stellar day, so he went, as usual, into the den and onto the sofa, where I joined him, and he put his head on my lap, looking up at me as only dogs can, with all the wisdom of the ages, as though he were saying, “Yes, John, Donald Sterling is a big jerk, I don’t want to go to Hawaii, and I never really liked that shirt anyway.”      JB

About John

John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BA and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado. He spends his winters in Pompano Beach, Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on Amazon.com as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth and most recent book, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014.
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