Things I Learned from R. B. (June 14th, 2020)

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4433)

Episode 19

It came in the mail.

I was very surprised.

I had never received anything postal from R. B., even though there were times we’d been separated for years. Not one letter or birthday card had ever come my way.

I didn’t expect it. He was a single guy, singularly focused on his own efforts.

So that’s why I was so bewildered by the arrival of this big, fat envelope. It was normal business-sized—but stuffed to the edges, nearly ready to burst its seal.

I opened it and pulled out what ended up being, after careful count, sixteen yellow legal-size pages, with R. B.’s scrawlings and notes.

At first, I could not identify what I was holding in my hands. Then I concluded that he had sent me a play, formatted in his own imagination.

It was entitled “The Reveal.”

A quick look-over told me there were three characters: Robbie, Papa and Len.

I found a quiet place, sat down and started to read. I don’t know whether I was preoccupied or tired, but I found it difficult to get through the entire piece. Finally, after two or three attempts throughout the evening, I finished it.

It was a rather simple story, about a young fellow who wanted to join the Boy Scouts. So he came to his father, who was a very austere man, and asked if it was okay. His brother, Len, came along, hoping that if Robbie was allowed to join, maybe he could be included.

The response from their Papa was very unusual. He began to pontificate about how difficult it was to be a young woodsman, and that if Robbie wanted to be a Scout, he would have to be tough.

At this point the piece took a bizarre turn. Papa asked Len, who was sitting and listening, to come over and punch Robbie in the stomach as hard as he could. Len was resistant and Robbie was startled. So when Robbie objected, his father scolded him on the dangers of disobedience—and how being a Boy Scout required him to always be prepared.

Even though Len did not want to punch Robbie in the stomach, at the father’s insistence, he did—once, twice—a total of four times. Robbie winced, buckled and finally cried out in pain, causing Papa to shake his head in disgust.

Then the patriarch asked Robbie to punch Len in the belly, but Robbie was unwilling to do it. Len seemed glad, but was concerned that if Robbie failed, there would be no Boy Scouts.

The father harangued them both, challenging their manhood in its boyhood form.

When I reached this point in the story, the writing stopped. Inserted were the words, “To be continued…”

Attached to the little play was a note:

“Jon, I know you put on plays for people. Would you help me put this one on?”

I had no idea what to think.

I was impressed that R. B. had found an envelope and managed to stuff the pages in. I didn’t want to say no. I also didn’t want to say yes—especially since R. B. had run out of money, was living on credit cards and certainly required a job.

The next morning the phone rang, and it was R. B. He wanted to know if I had received the package and what I thought about the play. I asked him what he wanted me to do with it.

R. B. matter-of-factly responded, “Produce it.”

My mind went haywire. I thought of a hundred things I needed to say to him about plays, productions, actors, theaters and advertising, but everything was so negative—and I just didn’t feel like throwing water on the only fire I had seen in him for months.

I agreed.

I agreed to do it.

I even agreed to fund it.

I told myself the only reason I would even consider being agreeable to it was that I knew it would never happen.

I did question why the play was incomplete. He said he would have the rest of it finished by the time it premiered.

I couldn’t help myself. I chuckled.

R. B. actually advertised for actors.

He held auditions. He picked two people to play the brothers, and he decided to play the papa himself.

He scheduled a table reading and brought about seven extra pages, continuing the story, though it was still not done. He made it through the table reading without directing the volunteer actors too much on what he expected them to do.

He even went out and found one of the old warehouses in Nashville which they had begun to transform into little theaters for productions just like “The Reveal.”

Matter of fact, R. B. got all the way to the fourth rehearsal. He hit two problems:

The actors had learned all he had written and needed more pages, which he was unable to supply.

But worse—the young man playing the part of Len started offering opinions on stage direction, and even some suggestions on the structure of the lines.

I was there, sitting in an advisory position (a name R. B. had come up with for my non-involvement involvement).

The conversation became heated. I wanted to interfere, but two parts of me refrained.

First was the promise I had made—to be solely an observer. And second—well, second was that I didn’t care enough to want to see the whole thing come to fruition.

But there, before my eyes, R. B. ran the gamut of his emotions.

First, he was calm.

Then he was offended.

Next, he was angry.

And at length, he was nasty.

The young man finally grew tired of spitting at the brick wall of R. B.’s resistance. He walked out. This scared the other actor, who explained that he was not accustomed to such conversational brutality.

R. B. made fun of his weakness—and in doing so, caused the young gentleman to quit.

Remaining in the room were R. B. and myself.

He looked over at me for comfort, support and a bolstering “attaboy” for standing his ground.

I found a chip in a nearby floorboard and stared at it silently, waiting for the moment to pass. After a while, R. B. rose, apologized and left.

I never heard another word about the event or the play. I never knew how it ended. The subject was just dropped.

About four months later, when I worked up the nerve to ask him about the experience, he stared at me as if he didn’t even know what I was talking about.

I did not pursue it.

For some reason, this little manuscript was written but would never be produced.

The importance of it lay deep in the soul of R. B., who apparently was still trying to overcome his father…and that punch in the gut.

 

Catchy (Sitting 29) Prayer Do Well … December 31st, 2017

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Matthew had finally gotten the hint.

After pursuing Michael Hinston for nearly three days, it had become completely obvious that “Mikey” was avoiding him. The latest evidence was that Matthew found Michael in the lobby of a hotel, and Michael feigned having an anxiety attack, pleading to go to the hospital and therefore refusing to speak to him. It was a scam. (Of course, it would be difficult to prove it, and certainly boorish to accuse.)

So Matthew decided to take two days off from trying to contact Hinston, and pursue a different approach. Via Michael’s Facebook page, he discovered that the Congressman was going to be meeting with some Boy Scouts from Ohio for a prayer breakfast on Saturday morning at some sort of local “Pancakes-R-US.”

Without any warning, Matthew descended upon the private affair. Upon walking through the door of the restaurant, put his arm around Michael and introduced himself to all the boys and men in uniform, as “the Congressman’s old friend from college.” As Matthew had anticipated, Michael was in no position to contradict him.

So Matthew sat through the entire breakfast, including the little speech offered by Hinston, waiting for the chance to corner him afterwards, with a series of questions which remained unanswered, festering in his soul.

As Michael stumbled through his little talk, which was half Biblical and half anecdotal, Matthew was astounded at how his dear friend had settled into a malaise of confused identity.

Matthew nearly chuckled aloud when Michael made some reference to Nehemiah. Nehemiah? How irrelevant was it to find the most irrelevant parts of an irrelevant book, to try to make an irrelevant point?

He stifled his giggle.

After an hour-and-a-half of too many carbs, too much sweet and a bounty of Bible, the meeting was over. Michael tried to excuse himself out the back door, but Matthew anticipated his selected exit and was waiting for him. As Michael exited the rear kitchen door, Matthew was standing there, waiting patiently.

“Not leaving, are you?” asked Matthew, stepping toward him and nabbing his arm. Michael lurched back in horror (the way cowards often do.)

“No,” said Michael. “I was just going to go look for you.”

Matthew smiled and decided to let the little lie wiggle away. He continued. “I just have three questions, Congressman–and knowing you’re a busy man, I will recite them to you all at once in their order of importance. First, what do you know about Jo-Jay’s condition, and why she ended up in the hospital?”

Michael attempted to reply but Matthew held up his hand to stop him. “No, no, no. I said three questions. Secondly, why are you avoiding me? And finally… Let me see. Yes. Where in the hell did you get that ugly tie?”

Michael squinted at Matthew and replied, “The tie was a gift from my children, and I would prefer you not let them know you think it’s ugly.” Michael actually smiled.

Matthew was relieved that underneath the crustiness of dried-up government red tape there might be a human being languishing in terror.

“Second answer,” Michael continued, “I wasn’t avoiding you. I was just busy. And finally, I don’t know anything about Jo-Jay. You remember, we weren’t exactly close. She was the one who came up with the awful nickname, Mikey.”

Matthew chuckled. “That’s just Jo-Jay. If she can’t get your love, she’s gonna get your goat.”

Michael bristled. “Always defending that pack of ne’er do wells, aren’t you?”

“Ne’er do wells,” Matthew repeated. “Are we going to continue the whole conversation in Olde English? Or betwixt will we return to the common man’s vernacular?”

Michael attempted to pull away from the hold Matthew had maintained on his arm. “I think I’ve answered your questions.”

Matthew laughed out loud. “To those people in there you may be Congressman Hinston, but to me, you’re the goddamn little twerp I used to send on beer runs. So don’t get uppity. I’m not in the mood for it. Jo-Jay is in a hospital, quarantined with an Amazonian virus, and all the clues point to you.”

“What clues?” demanded Michael.

“I guess I overstated my premise,” said Matthew. “Just one huge clue. She wrote your name on the mirror of the compact I found in her purse. She’s either really horny for you or she’s trying to let us know that you’re mixed up in her trouble.”

Michael frowned. “You are a foul spirit.”

“Back to the Olde English,” Matthew noted. “And thou art a fuckin’ liar.”

The moment froze in its heat. The two men might have gone to blows had it not been for a ten-year-old Boy Scout who came out asking for an autograph.

Michael stared at Matthew. “I should probably sign this young fellow’s menu, don’t you think?”

Matthew shook his head, released his hold on Michael’s arm and stood back, patiently waiting for the ceremony to finish. But instead of signing the boy’s paper, Michael put his arm around the little scout and walked back into the restaurant to join all the others who still remained.

Matthew felt angry, foiled, trapped and foolish. He walked back to his car. On the way, he noticed a black SUV, which he assumed belonged to the Congressman, since most of the cars in the parking lot had Ohio tags. Matthew leaned down to the back tire on the driver’s side, stuck a toothpick in the plug and released the air until it was flat. He rose to his feet, walked to his car, climbed in and headed off to the hospital.

It was a childish thing to do–letting the air out of the tire–but it brought him a strange sense of satisfaction.

As he drove to the hospital he received a text from Walter Reed Medical Center, pleading with him to come as quickly as possible. A chill went down his spine. Why would they send such a text? It had to be bad news.

Matthew felt one of those urges that occasionally overtake the human spirit–to just drive on, change his name and start over again. But he was needed.

So he parked at the hospital, jogged inside, went up to the quarantine level, and as he stepped out of the elevator, a doctor grabbed him by the coat sleeve, pulling him down the hallway.

“What’s going on?” asked Matthew.

“It’s too hard to explain,” replied the doctor.

They arrived outside Jo-Jay’s room, and through the door Matthew could see, much to his surprise, that standing next to her bed was Jubal Carlos. It seemed he had slipped past security, into her room, without anyone being aware. He stood there, holding her hand and talking to her.

Matthew turned to the doctor. “What’s happening?”

“Hold on,” said the doctor, pointing back into the room. “Look.”

Matthew turned, and as he did, he saw that Jo-Jay had shifted in her bed and was sitting up, talking to Jubal.

“Oh, my God.”

That’s all Matthew could say. The doctor just shook his head. “Honestly, there wasn’t anything we could do for her. This fellow came in the room, and the next thing we knew, she was sitting up, talking. Just like that.”

“Can I go in?” asked Matthew.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” replied the doctor.

Matthew didn’t wait. He opened the door, walked inside and Jo-Jay gave him a smile.

“What are you doing?” Matthew addressed his question to the entire room.

Jubal started laughing. “Well, I would like to tell you that I came in here and laid hands on her, prayed for her and she was healed. But the truth of the matter is, once I got in here I turned into an absolute chicken and stood about seven feet away, trying not to breathe the air. I was about ready to pass out from a lack of oxygen when this little princess woke up on her own, looked at me and said, “Where in the hell am I, and why in the hell are you here?”

Matthew looked back and forth between Jubal and Jo-Jay to see if they agreed on the story.

“Are you okay?” he said to the frail patient laying before him.

“No,” said Jo-Jay. “I was kidnapped, abused, and dumped in the Amazon Jungle. How have you been?”

“Better than that,” said Matthew.

Jubal interrupted. “Now, we’re not gonna do something weird and pretend that she was healed by me, right? I realize you’re promoters, and that’s the kind of thing you do.”

Matthew shook his head and Jo-Jay replied. “The last thing I remember was getting on a plane, and the next thing I knew, I was staring at you, and you looked scared.”

Jubal smiled. Matthew smiled. Jo-Jay was all business.

“Have you talked to Mikey?”Donate ButtonThe producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

 

 

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