The Magic Soap

The weekly prompt from my Florida writers’ group was to imagine we have some sort of magic soap, and write a story about what it might wash away. This is my response to that prompt—

“Mike Eruzione?  No way!  Grandpa wasn’t that good a hockey-player.  No way he played with Eruzione!”

“He says he assisted on Eruzione’s game-winning goal against the Russians.”

“That game was played in 1980!  Grandpa was born in 1935, so he’d have been…let’s see…he’d have been forty-five by then.  If he had played in that game, that would have been the miracle on ice!”

“Well, he says that’s what happened.”

[The five grandchildren, three young women and their brothers, are sitting by the fireplace in the parlor of their grandfather’s home while the old man is napping upstairs.]

“Grandpa says a lot of things these days, most of which never happened.  He told me a week or so ago that he helped Paul McCartney write Hey Jude while he was on vacation in England in 1968.”

“Grandpa’s never even been to England!  Do any of you believe that story?”

[A chorus of disbelief flows from the other four.]

“Nah.”

“Nah.”

“Nah.”

“Nah.  No way!  I know it’s his favourite song, but no way he helped write it!”

“It’s getting to be a problem, this story-telling.  I think he really believes what he’s saying.  You think it’s…y’know, dementia?  Or Alzheimer’s?”

“Maybe it’s just bragging.  Trying to make himself sound more important to us than he really was.”

“Yeah, maybe.  Like Baron Munchausen.”

[The other four glance quizzically at each other.]

“Who?”

“Baron Munchausen.  A German storyteller from the 18th century.”

“Nah, Grandpa’s never been to Germany, either.”

“That’s not the point.  He could be telling tall tales like…ah, never mind.”

“He told me a while back that he was on the bus in Birmingham when Rosa Parks refused to get off.  Said he got up and gave her his seat.”

“See, that’s another crazy story!  That happened sometime in the mid-fifties.  Grandpa would’ve still been in his teens.  And she wasn’t told to get off the bus, she was told to sit in the back.  And it was Montgomery, not Birmingham.  Grandpa’s never been to either of those places.”

“He gets things all mixed up now, which is how you know he’s…well, either lying or just mis-remembering.”

“Yeah, he sounds like Forrest Gump, right?  Thinks he met with famous people all through his life.”

“Yeah, but at least Forrest Gump was real!”

[Four of the grandchildren stare in bewilderment at their brother before one of them carries on.]

“He tells me these sorts of stories, too, but I never know what to say.  I don’t wanta hurt his feelings, but I don’t wanta act as if I believe him, y’know?  What do you guys do?”

“I laugh if he’s laughing, I’m serious if he’s serious.  I just go with the flow.  What harm does it do?”

[The five of them sit silently for several moments.]

“It’s too bad there isn’t some sort of cleanser for the brain, something that would wash away all his faulty memories and leave the good ones.”

“Not just good ones, but correct ones.  All memories don’t have to be good ones.”

“Right, yeah, that’s what I meant.  We need some sort of soap for his brain so we could just wash away all the mixed-up memories.

“You wanta brainwash Grandpa?”

[Everyone looks at the speaker, aghast.]

“No, not brainwash him!  That’s not what I mean.  I just meant some sort of magic soap—maybe he eats it, or we mix it with his cocoa at bedtime, and all the cobwebby stuff in there gets cleared up.”

“Just don’t suggest Ivermectin!”

“Speaking of cobwebs, he asked me this morning where his Spiderman suit is.  Said his spidey-sense is tingling.”

“Omigod, now he thinks he’s a super-hero?”

“So, what sort of magic soap do super-heroes use?”

“There isn’t one, not for Grandpa’s problem!  His problem can’t be fixed.”

[The five grandchildren stare into the fire, at a loss.]

“He is sort of funny with all his stories, though.  Right?”

“Yeah, he does make me laugh.”

“Me, too, so why are we talking about cleaning out his brain with some sort of magic soap?”

“Right, I agree.  As long as he’s no danger to himself or anyone else, who cares?”

[A loud, clattering sound is heard outside, and one of the grandchildren goes to the window to investigate.]

“Omigod!  It’s Grandpa!”

“What?”

“It’s Grandpa, dressed in his Spiderman suit!  He’s on the porch-roof, trying to climb down the trellis outside!”

[The five grandchildren scramble for the door.]

Hot Off the Press

The latest full-length novel in my Maggie Keiller/Derek Sloan crime-fiction series is hot off the press and available for Christmas-giving!

Three decades ago, a predatory high school Principal in the Northern Highlands District School Board sexually assaulted a number of his female students, one of whom subsequently took her own life.  Despite the courage of one fifteen-year-old girl who reported the assaults to the Director of Education at the time, nothing was done to stop the Principal’s depredations.

Now, thirty years after the assaults were first reported, that former Principal is murdered in his home by an unknown assailant.  Within a week of his killing, two more men are murdered—the Director of Education who had done nothing about the original report, and the board’s lawyer at the time, who was complicit in the cover-up.  Police begin investigating the killings, and as usual, Maggie Keiller and Derek Sloan are drawn into the unfolding events.

This riveting story is set against the backdrop of a truckers’ blockade organized and funded by a coalition of western-separatist, white-supremacist groups, who seek to disrupt the flow of trade and commerce in Ontario and force the government to resign. 

In a heart-stopping finish to the story, Maggie and Derek are confronted by the vengeful killers at their home on Georgian Bay, and are themselves threatened with death as they try to protect the woman at the centre of everything.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

This paperback book is intended for mature audiences, and is available for preview and purchase at this safe site— https://www.lulu.com/spotlight/precept 

Or, you can visit the publisher’s bookstore at https://www.lulu.com/search?page=1&q=J+Bradley+Burt&pageSize=10&adult_audience_rating=&sortBy=PUBLICATION_DATE_DESC  

All my published novels and anthologies of tales are displayed on these safe sites. Once you’ve added any of the books to your cart, tap the cart icon in the upper right of your screen and you will be taken to a safe payment page.

If you have read any of the previous books in this exciting series, or if you are a regular reader of my blog, I know you will enjoy this book.

Lilt and Flow

There are few things I find more pleasurable than hearing the lilt and flow of poetry read aloud, especially if read by a skilled orator or by a loving family member.

My father was both, and it was he who read one of my abiding favourites, The Night Before Christmas, a classic tale by Clement Moore, on every one of the sixty Christmas times we shared before his death. Here are the beginning stanzas—

My siblings and I would lie in our beds, literally quivering with anticipation as we listened to that familiar tale, and I miss hearing my Dad read it to this day.

Another favourite poetic tale is The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes, which I first heard read aloud by a high school English teacher who loved her calling.  Here is the first stanza—

The final stanza before the coda sent shivers up and down my spine as I sat listening in the classroom, and so it still does—

That same teacher also introduced me to one of my favourite poets, Robert Service, whose rhythmic cadences entrance me even now, especially The Cremation of Sam McGee.  Here are the first two stanzas

So enamored am I of that rhythm and rhyme scheme that I have even written similar poems of my own, pale comparisons, but still a joy to read aloud.  Here is a stanza from one example, I Haven’t the Time

As a young father, I would often read this excerpt from Kahlil Gibran’s poem, On Children, to my own daughters as I tucked them into bed.  Although too young to grasp its full meaning, they seemed to enjoy the sound of my voice as I pondered the deeper implications of the verse—

I think my all-time favourite poem is When You Are Old, penned by my all-time favourite poet, William Butler Yeats. It speaks of the eternal nature of love and loss, and evokes in me both sadness and an abiding happiness each time I hear it—

I think I shall die before I am finished discovering more and more poetry whose lilt and flow lifts my soul, and I wonder if doing so will still be possible in the afterlife.  What joy I would find meandering the roads of eternity while listening to symphonic music from the maestri, and hearing great poetry from the masters read aloud.

And who knows, perhaps that is the way it will be, as this stanza from J.R.R. Tolkien’s poem, Roads Go Ever On, might imply—

Whether it will be so or not, I have always loved the lilt and flow of the spoken word. I hope you do, too.

The Issue

A sage once opined that when we persist in arguing over and over again with a stupid person, we reveal ourselves as the stupid one.  Nevertheless, I have long engaged in fruitless discussions with an old-time friend, to the point where I’m beginning to suspect the adage is true.  I’m the stupid guy.

The problem I have is that this friend always strays from the issue at hand, deflecting my well-reasoned arguments by taking us off topic.  For instance, if I were to suggest to him that it’s raining outside, a fact easily verified by looking out the window, he might well claim he sees no one with an umbrella.

“That’s not the issue!” I would protest.  “You’re changing the subject.  Whether or not you spy an umbrella has nothing to do with whether it’s raining or not.”

He would probably just smile and ignore my argument.

Or if I were to offer an opinion that wages for the working-class haven’t kept pace with rising costs, his comment might be to tell me he has more money at hand now than he’s ever had.

“That’s not the issue!” I would probably object.  “You might well be better off than ever, but that doesn’t change the fact that costs are rising.”

He’d likely smile again, placidly this time, and not concede my point.

Perhaps I wouldn’t find this habit of his so maddening if it didn’t seem to me that he blithely assumes he’s had the better of me when these discussions happen.  Without ever directly rebutting something I’ve said, he inevitably counters with a peripherally-related argument, thereby appearing to satisfy himself that the matter is settled.

And yet, stupid me, I keep arguing with him.

A while back, we were talking about whether or not the scarcity of cold and ‘flu medicines on drugstore shelves is a problem.  “I’m told it’s a supply-chain issue,” I stated.  “And that’s exacerbated by a heavier-than-usual demand for the stuff because of the prevalence of illness now that school is back.  So, it’s a real problem right now.”

“I don’t use over-the-counter remedies,” my friend said.

“Yeah, but that’s not the issue,” I replied.  “The issue is that there’s a shortage of those products at a time when people need them.  That’s a problem!”

Another casual shrug was all I got.  And that smug smile.

We’re both aged athletes with an abiding interest in sports, and while watching a televised ballgame together a few nights ago, I said, “Boy, the Blue Jays look really good tonight.  It’s only the fourth inning, and they’ve already got seven hits and four runs in.  They’re hot!”

My friend replied, “Yeah, but they’re not playing the Yankees!”

“That’s not the issue,” I exclaimed, maybe a bit heatedly.  “So what if they’re not playing the Yankees?  They could be playing Casey at the bat in Mudville, for all I care.  They’re playing really well tonight.”

My friend shrugged as if it didn’t matter.

More recently, we were talking about the government’s removal of masking requirements for air-travel.  “I think they must consider the pandemic over,” I complained.  “They figure no mitigations are needed now, but I think that puts all of us at risk.”

“I don’t fly,” my friend said.

“That’s not the issue,” I fired back.  “Lots of people don’t fly.  But for those who do, the issue is they’re being placed in harm’s way.”

My friend shrugged off my assertions.  “But not if they don’t fly,” he said.

“That’s not the issue…” I began, before giving up.  How stupid can I be?

Yesterday, over a couple of beers and Reuben sandwiches, I decided to tell my friend why, during many of our conversations, his continual diversions from the subject at hand are bothering me.  “It’s almost as if you’re ignoring my point,” I said, “as if what I’m saying doesn’t matter to you.”

“Why would you think that?” he asked, squarely on point.  It caught me by surprise because I’d expected him to offer one of his usual non sequiturs.

“Well…you never seem to respond directly,” I stammered.  “You usually mention something only superficially related to whatever I’ve said, and then assume you’ve won the argument.”

“Argument?” he repeated.

“Well, not argument,” I demurred.  “More like discussion.  And you ignore the points I’m making.”

“And you think I’m doing that in order to win…what, exactly?”

“The…the argument.”  I smiled weakly over my beer at the absurdity of it all.

My friend smiled back.   “Did it ever occur to you that I might be conceding your point in these discussions, agreeing with you, and simply offering up another thought to keep the conversation going?”

Drawing a deep breath, I said, “Oh!  I guess not, no.  I sort of assumed you were just trying to one-up me and win…you know, the argument.”

“Well maybe, that’s the issue then,” he said.

And at that point, we ordered another beer and moved on to a much less-stupid, more pleasant conversation, all issues set aside.