Rohingya refugees crossing into Bangladesh after massacres by the Myanmar military
Uncle Randolph made his living as an Interior Decorator, but it was after work that he really let the world know what he was made of.
As a boy, he was largely ignored by his parents, and if it hadn’t been for Grandma Marge taking an interest in him, he would have suffered terribly.
For a while, he tried running a kiddie amusement park, but then had some sort of of trouble with the authorities that was never quite resolved. Suffice it to say that’s been banned from being in unsupervised contact with children.
We had some foreign exchange students living with us when I was still at home, and Uncle Randolph got along with them very well. His delight in their company was totally reciprocated. The girl went on to be an important diplomat, and once invited Uncle Randoph to visit him at the United Nations building in New York City!
One day, Uncle Randolph simply disappeared. He didn’t show up for work, and all attempts to track him down came to naught.
We got a strange Christmas card from him last year, but it came with no forwarding address. Wherever he is, we hope he’s happy.
My older sister Natalie had absolutely no sense of humor, nor any interest in the arts. She was the hardest working scientist anyone had ever seen, and her advances in chemistry helped that discipline progress rapidly.
Our mother Eunice was no dope, but she never applied herself to more than the task of running our home and instructing the servants in their tasks. She envied her daughter the scientist, but never let on to that fact, and never really approved of her daughter competing with men in what was then a man’s world.
She enjoyed finding excuses to stay as far away from her husband as possible, and her interest in amateur archaeology gave a perfect excuse to travel widely. It was rumored that she also took lovers on these trips, and kept that fact a secret from my father. Everyone else knew, but apparently he was the only one left in the dark.
After my parents divorced, she moved to Paris and lived with an acrobat in Montmartre. My father cut her off financially, but she didn’t mind for she embraced the Bohemian lifestyle with the same vigor her daughter took to chemistry experiments.
Eventually, my father remarried, this time to a younger woman. She was as beautiful as she was vain, and caused him a much misery as she could during their few years together.
For the last six months of his life, he lived in the basement, creating and painting doll heads. It seemed to give him a great deal of pleasure to do so. The new wife took the remainder of his money and went to Hollywood, where she pursued an acting career, with considerable success.
I squandered my inheritance in ill-advised liasons with women who were ass attractive as they were mentally unstable. Oh well. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
It was a job, but that’s all it was. Not a vocation. No emotional rewards, no feelings of accomplishment. I escorted people who had never questioned anything, who had never had an original thought in their lives, and showed them a bunch of sleepy alligators. Nobody complained or asked for their money back, so I guess I did OK.
When I got off work I cracked a couple of cold ones and watched TV until I started to fall asleep. The next day was no different. I got to work at 1, when we opened, and already there was a line waiting at the ticket office. I knew what my goals were. I was going to save up for a flying car. Popular Mechanics promised that by 1990 they would be standard issue. I just had to keep working, keep saving money, and wait.
Every Saturday night, the wife and I would go to Bob’s All You Can Eat for stewed Troglodytes. They swam in their own gravy and you have as many as you liked. I always left with a full stomach. The wife would nibble off my plate, all the while saying she wasn’t hungry, but I think she put down as many as I did.
If we had people over, we’d show movies of our big vacation from three years ago, the time we went to Borneo, where the men grow tall as trees and the women prune them once a month. Our friends actually enjoyed seeing the same home movies over and over again, because it gave them a chance to rehearse their wisecracks.
Watching somebody else’s vacation photos is usually an exercise in tolerance, but we try to get creative when it comes to ours.
Before we send the gang home we crack out the tuna n’ waffles, which puts everybody in a good mood. It’s the most cost-effective and easy to prepare meal we know of, and that’s saying a lot.
He was a man who loved fondue too much. Not caring much for the company of others, he entertained himself by sitting in his own RV, parked in his own driveway, and listening to his eight track recordings of Wayne Newton’s greatest hits.
At one time he had been a lifeguard, and he was terribly strict in his control of the pool. No one could enter the pool unless first approved by either he or his twin brother. The two brothers admired all forms of extreme discipline, and in an earlier era would have certainly been enthusiastic members of the Nazi party.
He met his first wife Darlene at Sea World where they were both working as entertainers. She was every bit as physically fit as he, and the fact that she could entertain any crowd by dancing and telling jokes made her the object of everyone’s attention.
Soon married, they opened a restaurant which catered to over-eaters who cared more about quantity of what they ate than quantity.
They had a daughter who refused to learn to speak English, though she managed quite well in four other languages. She loved to disinfect things. Maybe working behind the counter at the restaurant had emotionally scarred her. Eventually she went on to share her father’s fondness for recreational vehicles, especially ones that never hit the road.
The Mrs. grew tired of family life and left both husband and daughter behind, moving to Las Vegas, to pursue a career as an exotic dancer. When demand for her services waned as she reached her sunset years, she enjoyed even more success as an event planner.
She kept pretending to be exotic, from some Pacific Island nobody had ever heard of, but I heard she actually came from outside of Omaha. Her father worked in meat packing.
I first met her when she was just a kid. Always scraping her knees on my sidewalk and hoping I would invite her inside to perform first-aid. I was too shy to do so. By the time I grew up, she was already on her way to Hollywood.
There, she made quite a splash. She changed her name from Dorothy Klinger to Fifi La Zoom, and ran with a fast crowd that included several young men who once showed promise but amounted to nothing.
Me, I became a magician, and had an act that toured Lutheran churches. I would submerge a volunteer from the audience and turn her into a chimpanzee. It was strictly an amateur enterprise, and often the chimpanzee wasn’t real, just a stuffed doll.
Eventually, I moved to a former Soviet republic where I got a job as a fashion designer. I was finally in my element! People liked my style and my creations flew off the shelves of many a collective farm variety store.
Unfortunately, my success aroused envy in the local officials, who I refused to bribe out of a misguided sense of propriety. I ended losing everything, but I got to keep my life.
I moved across the world to Asia, where I became a hit as a character actor. Strange how life works out. You never know what’s in store for you, do you?
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Tests show that the fungus has invaded every part of your body, even crossing the blood/brain barrier. Frankly, we’re surprised you’re still lucid and ambulatory. Most people in your condition are already on life support.
Maybe your fungus is a more benign variety than the ones we’ve seen in the past. You also seem to lack to characteristic odor of bitter lemon that was so evident in the others who suffered from your condition. Fortunately, most of the time their period of suffering was brief. In one case, death followed diagnosis within hours!
But again, my goal is not to alarm you or make light of your plight. If there were a proven treatment, we would try it, no matter how slim the chances of success. But there is no such treatment. The fungus always wins. We can only urge you to get your affairs in order while you still have the strength to do so.
The fungus is intelligent. Do not fool yourself into thinking that you can outsmart it, for it has resisted all treatments and man-made remedies for eons. Like slime mold, it is more than a single organism. It is a community. There is a single slime mold in British Columbia that is almost one thousand square miles in size. We’re not sure about the scope of this fungus yet, but there are signs that it communicates with its own kind, planning and creating strategies that cannot easily be understood or countered. It is one cunning fungus.
Resistance is futile. Acceptance is the answer. If the fungus knocks, let it in. Its clammy embrace may ensure you a better future.
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There’s absolutely nothing to be afraid of here. This place is as safe as anywhere on the planet. You will be allowed maximum freedom, but you won’t be coddled. No one will take care of you, or make your path an easy one. To do so would be to insult you, depriving you of your dignity.
Here, you are free to change your mind, make mistakes, accomplish absolutely nothing for days at a time. You are free to reap just what you sow. If you are easily bored, you will be even more bored than usual. If you can entertain yourself, your time here will be well spent. A few small challenges will keep you busily occupied. Solving problems builds character.
There are others here who will be like you. If you are especially active, or popular, they will see you as a threat. They will strive to cut you down to size. Others will try to inspire pity in you, to entangle you in their chronic problems. If you are wise, you will avoid them. Do not give advice. Do not take anyone under your wing. You have no wings.
You’re simply an inmate like everyone else here. Accept that fact and your life will be easy. Fight to achieve distinction and your life will become a living hell.
I’m waiting for the phone call that will change my life. The one that comes from an entirely unexpected person, the one that will finally make most of my problems disappear. That one.
OK, it could be an email message, or arrive on Facebook messenger. It will be surprising and it will change everything. All the issues I’ve been mulling over, worrying and fretting about will suddenly be moot.
Can’t pretend to know when this will happen. I’ve already been waiting for years, so it might be a bit longer. Every morning I arise and think “maybe today is the day they’ll call!”
Will the caller be a man or a woman? Young or old? Hip or square? Will I recognize it as important and life-changing when it happens, or will I find it just another irritating invasion of my privacy?
THE PHONE JUST RANG! But I missed answering it before the ringing stopped. They left no message. Maybe they’ll call back. Or maybe it was a mistake. Living in a foreign country, it’s a common occurrence. I answer the phone in English and I hear someone mutter something in another language and then hang up.
There’s a strange scent in the air, it smells like burning wires. People riding bicycles pass by the front of our house. Often they are whistling as they ride, and the tune they whistle sounds menacing, at least to my ears.
At night I see red laser beams scan the neighborhood. Are these coming from assassin rifles? Sometimes I hear the squawk of a walkie-talkie coming from the bushes. Are these real, or simply a neighbor’s television show. My hearing is not so good anymore.
When the good news arrives I will finally be able to relax. The world will no longer seem as sinister. It’s just a matter of time. Just around the next corner.