Catchy (Sitting 66) Please Remain Seated Until the Airplane Comes to a Halt… September 16th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3797)

Never had Matthew been so overjoyed to get to the company jet. He was exhausted.

Yet he was not plagued by the usual nagging doubts that accompanied such fatigue. Something had truly happened back at Milton’s house.

He refused to be one of those arrogant agnostics who, when confronted with the obvious power of faith, decide to turn to stone, bouncing testimonies off of hardened hearts.

What happened to him had nothing to do with Milton–or Jesus Christ, for that matter. It had erupted from inside his own being–a cry he had stifled for years and drenched in a baptism of alcohol.

Milton had succeeded in “undaming” Matthew’s own personal damnation. Once that was accomplished, the waters flowed. Matthew had no idea what any of it meant, but knew when the jet arrived in Las Vegas, he would need to do some soul cleaning, which would include his house.

But now all he wanted to do was sleep.

The jet had a lovely lounge area with four huge leather chairs which eased back to make wonderful surfaces for slumber. He asked the pilot if he had a small sleeping aid, to help him tone down of his jumpiness and hysteria. It was a bit unnerving that the pilot offered such a pill to Matthew.

Matthew inserted jokingly, as he popped the sleep aid into his mouth, “Now, it’s just me taking one of these, right?”

The pilot smiled politely, obviously having heard the joke many times before.

Taking a big gulp of tonic water–his new replacement for whiskey–he swallowed the pill, and before the plane taxied off the runway, he was gone. There were no dreams, just a blissful, cloudy darkness.

Matter of fact, Matthew didn’t move a single muscle until he slowly awoke, realizing that the plane had stopped. There was a presence in the lounge with him.

He opened his left eye by itself (which he was unaware he was able to do). In the blur of sleepiness, he saw the shadow of a person sitting across from him. He gradually teased the other eyeball to join the sight.

Without moving his head or flicking a muscle, he quietly intoned, “Is this heaven? Because I would swear that you look exactly like Michael Hinston.”

The “apparition” calmly replied, “Well, if it’s heaven that’ll be up to you, but I not only am stuck looking like Michael Hinston, I also am forced by birth to be him.”

Matthew jerked to attention, turned, and stared at his old friend. “I was pretty certain you were dead. Are you such a good politician that you found a way to cheat death?”

Michael laughed. “No, Matthew. There’s a lot to tell you. And they sent me aboard this plane so you wouldn’t be overwhelmed.”

This made Matthew burst into laughter. “Oh, I see,” he said. “Somebody coming back from the dead was supposed to be a calming influence.”

Michael stood to his feet, stepped over and gave his friend a hug. “Well,” he answered, “in the scheme of things that may be true.”

Matthew took a deep breath. “Well, I guess I should ask you how you survived not breathing.”

“The only way I know how to do that,” replied Michael, “is to escape not dying.”

Matthew just stared at him, perplexed.

“Let me give you the short version,” said Michael. “Maybe later on we can go into more detail. I was actually in the hospital, being prepared for surgery, when they discovered the pending indictments against me in Washington, D.C. A man walked into my room–you’ll meet him later–and explained my situation. He told me that I could give a piece of my liver to you, recuperate in the hospital and end up in a struggle over my Washington, D.C. indiscretions for the next five years until all of my credibility and the legacy of my life with my children was drug through the mud and hung up for everyone to see. Or…”

Michael paused.

Matthew jumped in. “You’re stopping the story now? Are you kidding me? Or what?”

“Or,” Michael continued, “I could come here. Fake my own death and continue my life, free of the obstruction and the criticism of those who were interested in bringing down the Jesonian movement.”

Matthew craned his neck and winced. “You can tell I’ve really been out of the cycle. I didn’t know we called it that.”

“It needed a name,” said Michael, “or it was going to become an orphan.”

Matthew, being an old advertising warhorse, nodded. After all, it was not nearly as important that gelatin taste good as it was for it to be forever referred to as Jello.

The two men sat for a moment, allowing the information to settle like dust in a storm.

Finally Matthew asked, “So how does one fake one’s death?”

“Well,” said Michael, “when they took the piece of liver from me for your recovery, they went ahead and removed my appendix, which gave them my DNA. They replicated that in a laboratory here on the grounds, and placed it in a cloned body, which ended up easily fooling the Las Vegas coroner.”

Matthew squinted. “So they made a clone of you, from your appendix, that was so good that they fooled the medical examiner?”

He sighed. “Is this going to get weirder?”

Michael thought for a moment. “No…but similar.”

Matthew reached over and downed the remaining tonic water. “Let’s start with where I am. Or is this Vegas?”

Michael shook his head. “No. This is not Vegas. This is… Well, there’s someone else here that wants to see you. I’m going to let her continue.”

Matthew turned his head to look behind him. It was Jo-Jay. He gasped.

He wasn’t just surprised to see her, but also to see her looking so well. The last time he had eyeballed her in Las Vegas, her countenance was ashen. But there she was–beautiful Jo-Jay–living and breathing.

She leaned down and hugged him, holding it for a long moment. Matthew began crying again, just like he had at Milton’s house. He was tired of holding it back. Hell, he was glad to see his friend.

But he was also growing impatient with being in the dark. Jo-Jay, as always, sensed his mood. She sat down in the leather chair across from him, took his hands and said, “You are sitting on the tarmac of a place called The Haven on the Mount. The description would be much too difficult, but let me just say that our benefactor bought four connecting mountains in the state of Montana, hollowed out the center and has constructed a small city. It’s on nobody’s radar. No GPS. No one knows it’s here. And I was allowed to come and be the beneficiary of research that is being conducted, which is in the final stages of finding a cure for cancer. I volunteered to be a guinea pig, and have been cancer free for thirty days. Not only cancer free, but rejuvenated–like I haven’t felt since I was nineteen years old.”

Jo-Jay burst into tears–not broken, but tears of gratitude for being given such an opportunity.

Then there was a third voice–another visitor.

“I guess that’s my cue.”

It was an older gentleman. He made his way into the compartment, holding out his hand. Matthew shook it, and the man sat down in another of the comfortable leather chairs. He was wearing a suit which had once been in style, and remained fashionable because it was so well-tailored. He carried a cane. He settled in and began.

“Mr. Ransley… May I call you Matthew?”

Matthew nodded.

“My name is Arthur Harts.”

Matthew laughed. “That’s odd. I once knew a billionaire who became my client after he died who had that very same name.”

The whole group joined in with a large chuckle.

Arthur continued. “You see, we had some experience with faking deaths because we had already done mine.”

“That’s right,” said Matthew. “I was there for your funeral. I thought it might help me get the money if I walked past your casket. You sure looked dead.”

Mr. Harts cleared his throat. “My scientists do wonders with cadavers.”

“Wow,” said Matthew. “I don’t even know what to say to that.”

“Let me explain it this way,” said the billionaire. “I was tired of being rich and not being able to make a difference. You see, as long as I was alive I was a business man–not taken seriously for anything else–and I was done with business. I was ready to try to make the world run more like Eden instead of doing its best impression of Hell.”

He took a breath. “So I decided to die. I found a place–this place–and I took my fortune, enjoyed some fruits for myself, but gave the abundance of the orchard into the hands of younger folks like you, who had a hunger and thirst to see the world become a more righteous place. Mr. Ransley–excuse me, Matthew–can I tell you? You have done an amazing job.”

Matthew was touched, befuddled and angry, all at the same time. Harts looked at him and continued.

“I built this complex–a city with about 20.000 people, and called it ‘Haven on the Mount.’ A place for researchers, scientists, musicians, artists, inventors and even prayer warriors, could come, free of harm, and work on one goal. It was the dream of Jesus–that God’s will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.”

Michael nodded his head. Jo-Jay welled up with tears. But Matthew cut to the chase.

“So why am I here today?” he asked.

“Well,” said Arthur, “you are here because you’ve done an outstanding job, as I said, and because you have found some peace in your own soul. At least, that’s what Brother Milton told me.”

Matthew leaned in. “You know Milton?”

“And he, me,” replied Arthur.

“So you know about our meeting yesterday?” Matthew inquired slowly.

Jo-Jay burst in joyfully. “We’re so happy for you, Matthew. You fought the good fight of faithlessness. Now, I guess the message for you is, you’re being given a chance to enter the joy of the Lord.”

Matthew leaned back in his chair, his eyes moving from one person to another, seeking sanity.

Harts laughed. “You are such a precious boy. I knew you would have doubts about this. We welcome those doubts here. Without doubts we would never have built this sanctuary for progress. It wasn’t constructed on faith–it was formed from our doubt.”

His eyes glinted. “We doubted the human race could survive much longer, wallowing in nothing but ignorance. We doubted our ability to change anything. We doubted that four mountains could be hollowed out to make living quarters for twenty thousand people to generate the electricity of renaissance. We’ve doubted every single thing, every step of the way.”

Matthew sat up in his chair. “But what about Jubal? Jasper? Sister Rolinda? And Soos?”

As he mentioned the last name, he glanced over at Jo-Jay.

Michael spoke up. “Matt–they are where they’re supposed to be. The world needs them right out there in the middle of the pot, making soup. Nothing could have happened without those four souls. If you remove them, perhaps nothing new will ever happen again.”

Matthew lightly smacked his head. “I almost forgot–Carlin. Where’s he?”

Jo-Jay giggled. “Oh, Carlin’s here. You see, Carlin is Mr. Harts’ grandson. He was…how shall I put it? He was this movement’s Paul of Tarsus…”

Michael interrupted. “I guess at that point, it would have been Saul of Tarsus…”

Matthew held up a hand. “You’re talkin’ Bible. I’m lost.”

Arthur patted Matthew’s knee. “Don’t worry about it, Matthew. God called Paul because the early church had begun to stagnate, and Paul came along to take the message outside the city of Jerusalem, venturing into the whole world. My grandson has a great ability to change the curtains in a room from blue to red without you ever seeing that he’s messed with the rods…”

Matthew nodded his head. “Damn. That’s a good description of Carlin. So he’s your grandson?”

“I have two grandchildren,” said Arthur. Matthew nodded, expecting to see pictures. But instead, stepping into the lounge was Leonora.

Matthew couldn’t breathe. His mind tried to gather fragments–thoughts that might provide some explanation. He stared, wide-eyed, as if struck by a bolt of lightning.

Leonora stepped up to him, bent down and tenderly kissed him on the lips. “I am Mr. Harts’ granddaughter. What I’m about to say will be confrusing at first, so listen all the way through.”

Matthew could only nod.

She continued. “I’m in charge of the Music Conservatory here. My grandpa asked me if I would go to Las Vegas to try to save your soul…”

“What the hell?” Matthew interrupted, in total disbelief. “You are the biggest, fat–well, not fattest–but largest atheist I’ve ever met.”

Jo-Jay stepped in and said, “They knew that if someone started attacking the work you had done in making Jesus popular again, you would defend it.”

Leonora continued. “That’s right. If I had tried to preach to you, you’d have run to the desert. You probably would have drunk yourself to death. But I was such an obnoxious disbeliever that it made you find the gold in your own movement.”

“Fuck,” said Matthew. “And I mean that as a prayer. You’re absolutely right–and I hate you for it. But you are right. So it was an act? Sleeping with me? Standing on our heads licking each other–that was all just a plan to get me to sign on the dotted line?”

Leonora moved forward and put her arms around his neck, kissing him. “No. Never. I never intended to fall in love with you. Just be an irritant to your spirit. But I did.”

“You did what?” asked Matthew, pulling away. “Are you saying you fell in love with me?”

He pushed Leonora away and looked her in the face. “You left me in agony–not knowing where you were–and that’s your way of expressing love?”

Harts interrupted. “What Leonora was trying to do…”

Matthew pointed a finger at the billionaire. “Shut the hell up, old man! This is between me and her.”

Matthew looked at her with hurt eyes. “If this whole damn setup here is just a plan to manipulate people’s lives, then God damn you all. Here’s what I tell you–I’d rather have a world filled with explosions, evil and demons than see goody-goody folks like you trying to control everybody by promoting a puppet empire of Jesus freaks.”

Arthur, not at all offended, clapped his hands slowly. “There you have it, Matthew. There’s the problem. When are we interfacing, interacting, and when are we interfering? It’s hard to know. That’s why we need you. You won’t let us become goody-goody puppet masters.”

Leonora couldn’t remain quiet any longer. “I don’t know where this is going to go. I’m not prepared to give up on us. If you stay, I will answer all your questions, and learn from your doubts. If you go, I will have to go with you.”

The billionaire sat up and said sharply, “I can’t let you do that, Leonora. I can only guarantee your safety here.”

She turned to her grandfather and said, “What part of ‘I love you, Matthew’ do you not understand? I already walked away from him once because you asked me to. I won’t do it again.”

Suddenly the room was still. No one moved. No one spoke. Everyone was waiting for Matthew to assimilate all the data. Arthur tried to speak, but stopped, realizing that it was ill-conceived.

Leonora held Matthew’s hands, looking into his eyes. Jo-Jay cuddled up next to Michael and closed her eyes in prayer.

At length Matthew spoke.

“Well, I never make a habit of landing somewhere without taking in a few tourist attractions. Is there a tour? And if there is, I demand a golf cart.”

 

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Catchy (Sitting 65) Just As I Am… September 9th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3790)

Matthew sat quietly in the rental car he had selected at the airport, having arrived early for a meeting with Milton Crenshaw–one he promised Jubal he would cover.

As he sat on the narrow thoroughfare winding through the trailer park leading to Crenshaw’s mobile home, he watched with great curiosity as a mama duck led her four babies across the road. She was so damn organized.

He suddenly felt very stupid because he envied her. She was just a duck–but she had a family. Matthew had no “honey” and no “sonny.” Just himself and a nice rental car. Oh–and of course, there was that little thing of being saved by his old friend, Michael Hinston and being given a second chance via a liver transplant.

Matthew knew he was an ungrateful son-of-a-bitch, but that didn’t make him any more thankful. When Soos called him that morning and told him it had been a hundred days since anyone had heard from Jo-Jay, he was concerned–but not engaged.

Likewise, it had been seven days since anyone had heard from Carlin Canaby. Matthew investigated, and discovered that Carlin had turned in all his rental properties and checked out of his suite at the Las Vegas casino. He was nowhere to be found.

Jubal felt that he should take over some of Carlin’s duties, so he asked Matthew to take the weekly meeting with Milton.

Matthew had been very reluctant. There was no real reason for it. Well, he didn’t like trailer parks. Or old men. And he wasn’t particularly fond of fat people–especially if they were “preachers of the Gospel.”

Overall, he just felt ill-suited for the task. However, the ducks completed their journey across the road, so Matthew decided it was time to go meet Mr. Crenshaw. Like a boy called to the dinner table on broccoli night, he took his time, dragging his feet. He trudged to the door, knocked, and a voice from inside bellowed, “Come on in. It’s open.”

Matthew stepped through the door. Sitting in a wheelchair was a big fat man with a grin. The fellow reached out a hand and Matthew took it. He then offered Matthew a seat. Matthew sat down and declined coffee, breakfast and water–he wasn’t staying long.

Milton waited for a moment and then realized that Matthew had no intention of starting the conversation. So he launched. “You’re a talkative one, aren’t you?”

“No disrespect, sir,” answered Matthew, “but you’re a stranger to me and I’ve never been particularly fond of strangers…”

Milton interrupted. “Especially big fat ones that preach the Gospel, right?”

Matthew was taken aback by the bluntness, but managed to reply, “Oh, no. Nothing like that…”

“So are you tired?” asked Milton.

“My flight wasn’t that long,” began Matthew.

Milton interrupted again. “I’m not talkin’ about your damn flight. I’m just wondering if you’re tired of dodging and trying to escape the obvious.”

“What is obvious?” asked Matthew.

“What is obvious?” mulled Milton. “Well, how about this? We’ve tried for several hundred years to live in a world where everyone is allowed to believe anything they want to, do anything they want to, and even form governments around that thinking, without any objection.”

“That’s what they call freedom,” inserted Matthew.

Milton laughed. “‘Freedom’s just another word, for nothin’ left to lose.’ That’s from Bobby McGee.” He peered at Matthew and added, “I’m sure thqt was before your time.”

Matthew sat up in his chair and stated, “Well, if it’s conversation you want, and you want it to be honest, I would just love to receive this report I’m supposed to collect and get the hell out of here.”

Milton smiled. “Well, I see you have some backbone. That’s good. So you want my report? Here’s my report. I’m sitting in a room with a man who has been blessed–who is so ignorant that he feels he has the God-given right to question the logic of the universe. How’s that for a report?”

“I don’t like you, Mr. Crenshaw,” said Matthew. “And it’s not because you preach the Gospel or because you are heavy-set.”

“You mean fat?” Milton interrupted.

“Your word,” countered Matthew. “It’s not because of that. It’s because you’ve eye-balled me ever since I walked in, as a potential conquest for your ego-stroking evangelical need to save the world, one damnable sinner at a time.”

Milton lurched back in fake horror. “Oh, my God! I don’t want you to get saved! Then you’d be my brother in Jesus and we might have to work together! I’m just pointing out that you find yourself to be so intelligent and erudite–yet the obvious continues to escape you.”

“Okay, I’ll bite. What is the obvious?” asked Matthew.

“I didn’t say I’d tell you,” replied Milton. “I don’t usually waste my time sharing valuable information with those who are determined to be ignorant.”

Matthew stood to his feet. “And I’m not accustomed to hanging around to be insulted. I’ve had enough of this. I’ll just tell Jubal that it was great and you were super-fine. How’s that?”

“Sit down,” demanded Milton. Matthew didn’t move.

“Please,” added Milton with some tenderness. Against his better judgment, Matthew sat back down.

Milton paused. His demeanor changed.

“My dear friend,” he began gently, “if the human race does not find a common cause, a common kindness and a common appreciation, we’re just gonna fuckin’ kill each other. I hope you don’t mind me using that word. I don’t very often, but sometimes it’s the only one that grants correct emphasis on the desperation and futility of a situation.”

Matthew jumped in. “My problem with you is not that you say ‘fuck.’ My problem with you is that you’re a big, fat fuck.”

Milton laughed. He roared. He slapped his chubby thigh and he rolled his wheelchair closer to Matthew.

“That I am,” he said. “Do you know why?”

Matthew shook his head.

“It’s because while you deliberate two inches of rope to determine its strength, the world is hanging itself by the remaining length. Please understand–I don’t follow Jesus because I’m a religious man. Hell, I had a porn addiction at one time in my life. I had to fight it off like crazy. I’m not a good man; I’m not a pure man. Morality is not my primary concern. It’s common sense. You see, the reason they killed Jesus of Nazareth is because he was sensible. And the reason the church today does not preach Jesus is because it’s afraid their people will not tolerate the simplicity of ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ It’s much easier to play the organ, the guitar, preach the sermon and feign worshipping the heavens with candles and eucharist. But meanwhile, the world keeps dividing into smaller and smaller groups. And the smaller the groups are, the more dangerous they become. Organization becomes easier. You see, it would take China months–maybe years–to get agreement to destroy the world from all its various leaders. But sixteen fanatics in a garage in Syria, with a dirty bomb, could pull off tragedy before the weekend.”

“If we don’t come up with a common message–a common goal, a common sense–we will kill each other. And you see, Moses won’t do it–he believed in killing. As did Mohammed, Buddha and all the religionists throughout history. Jesus never killed anyone. He never recommended it. He said God is your Father, nature is your Mother, I am your brother, and the whole world are your cousins.”

“If that message doesn’t permeate our society in the next twenty years, we will have diminishing results, which will end up in a foolish decision to prove some asinine point.”

Matthew was stunned, but didn’t want to act like it. “What gives you the right, Mr. Crenshaw, to make decisions for everyone in the world?”

Milton leaned forward and said, “What gives you the right, young man, to deny that the decision has already been made, the price has already been paid–and all that remains is for each one of us is just to walk into the wisdom of loving one another and being kind and tender-hearted?”

Matthew laughed. “And you think you’re kind and tender-hearted? You think the way you treated me this morning is the spirit of love? If your attitude is Jesus, then you can stick the motherfucker right back up on the cross as far as I’m concerned.”

“Very dramatic,” said Milton. “I can see why they asked you to take on this mission. You have the power of your convictions even when they’re wrong. You started out your life–you wanted to be funny. You are funny. You wanted to have your own business. You do. You wanted to be successful. You are. You wanted money. God knows you got that. You wanted people to look up to you. Accomplished. Yet you sat in your casino suite and nearly drank yourself to death. How gentle do you think I should be with such arrogance?”

All at once Matthew broke. It really wasn’t anything Milton had said. It wasn’t a conviction from the challenge. But tears filled Matthew’s eyes. Not the usual weeping, where he conjured self-pity over some perceived injustice to his character. These tears were coming from another place, out of his control, streaming down his face, though he willed them to cease.

Matthew wept. Then he sobbed. And then he cried out, “Oh, my God! Oh, my God!”

Milton backed up his wheelchair and turned away to give Matthew a private moment.

Matthew was moved–but angry at the same time. He didn’t want to be some common, everyday sinner, repenting and weeping over evil actions. He hated himself for being weak.

But none of that stopped the tears.

Quietly, Milton spoke–nearly under his breath. “Just as I am, and waiting not, to rid my soul of one dark blot. Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me.”

Through a gushing of tears, Matthew squalled, “Why did they kill him?”

Milton paused and turned slowly to Matthew. “Because they foolishly thought it would stop him.”

This brought an even greater torrent of mourning. Milton eased his wheelchair over and put his arms around Matthew, who laid his head on the old man’s chest and cried like he had lost everything.

No one hurried the moment. No one spoke again. Neither Milton nor Matthew knew exactly what it all meant.

Yet something was different.

 

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Catchy (Sitting 61) M, Leo and the First Meeting…August 11th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3762)

Grateful he was.

Matthew sat quietly in his overstuffed and overpriced first-class seat on the midnight flight from Washington, D.C. to Las Vegas.

The plane was dark. It was quiet. Most of the passengers had taken their tiny element of a sleeping pill and disappeared into slumber.

That was also true of Leonora, who quickly explained that she was exhausted from the audition and needed to get some solid airplane z’s on the trip because she had a meeting the next morning with the symphony coalition, to discuss health benefits.

Her excuse, like every performance in her life, was well-rehearsed and inadequately presented.

As Matthew had gotten to know her, he liked her less and less, and so found himself burying his interest and passions into their sexual adventure.

She was opinionated. Matthew had always viewed himself as open-minded–easy to get along with–but in her presence felt defensive. He hated it when she insisted he start calling her “Leo,” because she viewed herself, in the realm of business, intellect and art, as a lioness.

“You are what you claim to be,” she mouthed.

Matthew nodded, quite certain that many claims were being made every day by mortals which made the heavens laugh.

What really troubled him was when she started calling him “M.”

Just the letter “M.”

When he asked her why she was doing that, she said, “I’m encouraging you to grow. You need to realize that you’re on a journey to fill out your name.”

Matthew didn’t know what the hell that meant, but was in no mood to have it explained further and end up with more dents in his body work. He was also afraid that if she started in trying to become his psychoanalyst, he would have to be more forthcoming and tell her that she was much less than she presumed.

Her oboe playing had never been great, but had become even less proficient as she started to complain about the fellow-members of her quintet and the unwillingness of the symphony conductor to listen to her suggestions on seating and tone.

She viewed Matthew as an ignoramus, even though he had spent many years enjoying classical music, and had a very good friend at the university who was an oboist. Matthew kept his mouth closed except when they were kissing.

It was especially difficult that day, when she met him at the airport, explaining that the audition was long, she had to wait, and then it turned out that she had some sort of microscopic, tiny split in her reed, which prohibited her from gaining the full height and depth of her range. She requested another time to audition but the committee refused. So she failed because they were inconsiderate.

Matthew listened to her rail for a solid hour–against the walls, the furniture, the paint and the chairs that surrounded her, blaming everything she possibly could for her setback–except for the fact that she was insufficient for the moment.

It was the strangest relationship of Matthew’s life. There was a deep-rooted part of him that loved her madly; an exotic jungle passion that nearly left him breathless. But as a human being, she had selected the portions of intelligence that she revered, while ignoring the virtues that make such knowledge applicable.

Matthew remained silent.

Sitting in the darkness of the airplane, glancing over at his sleeping lover, he began to cry. It actually turned into a tiny sob, which he hoped nobody else heard.

He was so embarrassed. He was ashamed–but also enraged, because here he was, with a defunct liver in his body, battling for his life, simultaneously apologizing for breathing.

How in the hell had it gotten so complicated? What was he going to do?

He reached into his pocket and pulled out his own remedy for insomnia–a tiny flask of a brandy which included a shot or two fo sherry. He downed the remainder of the contents and put his head back. Sleep still refused to come–so he cried.

Matthew finally dozed off, with tears streaming down his face.

*****

The following morning, in Washington, D.C., Soos decided to get started on her project.

She thought she had the easiest assignment of all. Michael Hinston, who had been a Congressman, wining and dining lobbyists who were salivating for his vote, now had a humble one-room efficiency at the YMCA. His marriage to the Lutheran minister had been annulled when she discovered all the trials and tribulations chasing him, threatening to destroy his life. She loved him, but she still wanted out.

So he was alone with his twin bed.

Soos called Michael and he agreed to meet with her at ten o’clock A.M., at a little diner he claimed had the best waffles and scrapple on the East Coast. Soos explained she had never eaten scrapple–avoiding it because the ingredients seemed to be the rear-end of every barnyard creature. But Michael said she would probably enjoy this batch.

Arriving at the diner, they found a booth in the back. They embraced–the kind of embrace that merged “old college friends” with some tenderness of man and woman, and a huge immersion in fellow-travelers of faith.

As Michael pulled away he had tears in his eyes.

“Why are you crying?” asked Soos.

Michael chuckled. “Because I can–and I am the luckiest man in the world to be able to cry this morning.”

Soos took the next ten minutes to explain to Michael what had transpired with the abduction and the request made to her–to contact him, the goal being some secret discovery about his involvement, which was beyond her comprehension.

“Well, since neither one of us know what it means, or have any idea of the significance, I think it’s good that we came to eat waffles,” said Michael.

And eat they did. Soos ended up actually enjoying the scrapple, though she thought it was a little salty.

They just talked. It was a conversation that would be difficult to explain to a stranger, so filled with tenderness that it would always be remembered as priceless.

“There was a time in my life,” Michael said, “when if you had told me that some organization or guy had chosen me for special attention, I would have assumed it was just great foresight on their part. I wasn’t just arrogant–I was religious about my arrogance. I actually believed that God wanted me to be the best father in the world. The best husband. The best extra-marital lover. The best Congressman. And of course, the best cheater in Washington, D.C. Sometimes when you’re going for the best you forget that it has to begin with good. You know–good, better, best?”

Soos smiled. She had always loved Michael because he was clever. Unfortunately, cleverness could have dangerous blow-back.

Michael continued. “I almost lost everything. Let me edit my own statement. I did lose everything–but I never actually had it. I just pretended. I pretended so hard that, honest to God, I could not imagine what was happening when my first wife left me for a Lesbian and my second wife left me because I was a criminal. Everybody leaves me.”

He grinned. “And I really can’t argue with them. They’ve got really good reasons.”

“So I don’t know why anybody would want me to do anything. I did fix the radiator in my room, so when winter comes I’ll be warm. That was pretty nifty.”

Michael paused.

“Will you talk to me about Matthew?” he asked. “I don’t think I ever loved a man as much as I love Matthew. I don’t think I ever told him that. I was afraid he would make fun of me.”

Soos giggled and spit out a little bit of her coffee. “He would have.”

Michael chuckled. They sat for a moment. Soos reached over and took his hand.

“He’s dying,” she said.

Michael lifted his head, shocked.

“Not quickly,” she explained. “But his liver is shot to hell, and gradually, he’s just poisoning himself. “And he has a new girlfriend that has the personality of a prickly pear.”

Michael laughed. “What you’re saying is that she is difficult to sit down on and talk to.”

For some reason, Soos found that statement hilarious. She laughed and snorted, gaining the attention of half the diner. A dirty look from the proprietor finally made her sober up.

“I don’t want to get you kicked out of your favorite diner,” she said.

Michael waved her off. “Forget about it. I waffle on my favorite diner.”

He smiled with the innocence of a ten-year-old boy. “What can I do for Matthew?”

Soos considered and then injected, “Got a black market liver in your pocket?”

Michael crinkled his brow. “No,” he said, “but I have a liver in my body.”

“Don’t you need that?” mocked Soos.

“Yeah, but not all of it. I could give him a piece of mine.”

Soos shook her head. “That’s ridiculous, Michael. Anyway, you probably wouldn’t be a match.”

“But what if I was?” queried Michael. “What if I held the key to Matthew’s life the way Jesus held the key for mine?”

Soos groaned, a little disgusted. “So now you think you’re a savior?”

“No,” said Michael. “That job is filled. It just seems like if you could save someone, why not go ahead and do it?”

A lightbulb went off in Soos’s head.

“Oh, my God,” she said. “Is it possible that your part in this, whatever…mission…is to help Matthew and bring him to Jesus?”

Michael teared up again. He took the final bite of waffle laying on his plate, seemingly deserted. He chewed, swallowed, and looked Soos in the eye.

“My dear sister,” he said slowly, “I can’t imagine a greater calling.”

 

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Catchy (Sitting 60) Debriefing…August 5th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3755)

Unable to get his head around Jo-Jay’s tales of abduction, Matthew made the decision to fly into Washington, D.C. and meet with five very confused but elated friends.

Each of them had purportedly encountered similar imprisonments, leaving them suffering from amnesia except for a very specific name, which each was intended to retain.

Matthew did not want to fly to Washington, D.C. by himself. Shortly before he received the phone call from Jo-Jay, the latest blood count numbers had come back from the doctor. They were not good. His liver was not repairing–actually getting worse.

This was probably due to the fact that Matthew was continuing to drink. When the doctor discovered that Matthew was not pursuing a tee-totaling lifestyle, he explained that it would soon be necessary to pursue a transplant–or Matthew would no longer be able to remain cynical, but rather, would be quite dead.

With that rattling around his brain, he did not want to be alone, so he asked Leonora to accompany him to Washington, D.C. She was completely unwilling–until he set up an audition for her as second oboist with the National Symphony. Even though Leonora hated not playing first–feeling that the classical masters chose the second oboe part to lose their inspiration, she still felt it was a good career move, and a good step for her in advancing her dreams. She agreed to travel along.

Yet she adamantly refused to attend the meeting with Matthew, Carlin, Jubal, Jasper, Soos and Jo-Jay, feeling she would be out of place, and that after the fiasco in the Las Vegas hotel suite, they might hold a grudge against her atheism.

Matthew assured her that they weren’t that type of people, and said she wouldn’t need to stay if she felt uncomfortable. To ensure she had autonomy, Leonora rented her own car upon arriving at the airport in Washington, D.C.

It was clear to Matthew that there were many roads of communication that needed to be opened in the days ahead if he was ever going to have this lovely woman as his partner.

The two Vegas souls arrived in time for brunch, which was beautifully set up at Jo-Jay’s house. It was light but delicious, tasty but small, and consumed in no time at all.

After a few moments of conversation, wherein all five Washingtonians exhausted all of their knowledge about oboes and double-reed instruments, Carlin spoke up.

“Matthew, we’ve asked you to come here because of a very strange set of events. Considering how this whole project has been tinged with the bizarre, isolating one thing as ‘strange’ might seem a little redundant…”

Soos broke in. “But honest to God, this one is strange. This is Twilight Zone freaky.”

Leonora furrowed her brow. Soos turned to her and said, “Do you know The Twilight Zone? You know–Rod Serling?”

Leonora neither acknowledged nor denied awareness. There was an uncomfortable moment while six people waited for one person to emote.

Jubal jumped in to fill the spot. “Well, it was. It was creepy. Let me summarize so I don’t bore anyone. All five of us…” He motioned his hand around the room.

“Yes, all five of us…Well, I guess I’ll use the word ‘abducted,’ though it wasn’t by aliens…'”

Jasper cut in, laughing. “Well, they were alien to me.”

Everybody nodded except Leonora, who was staring into her cup of tea.

Jo-Jay spoke up. “I’m not good at explaining things, but I have listened to everybody’s story, so let me summarize the details we have in common. Each of the five of us were taken against our will and flown by airplane to another location. We were given drugs which didn’t do any harm to us, but for some unusual reason, refreshed us. We were interrogated…”

Soos interrupted. “And this is where it gets different. For instance, I was interrogated by a woman in a clown suit.”

Carlin noted, “My guy was a fat Alfred Hitchcock-looking fellow wearing a ‘Casper the Friendly Ghost’ mask.”

“I was interviewed by a football player,” said Jubal, “with an unknown uniform–at least unknown to me–with a mask over his eyes.”

“Mine was a little kid,” injected Jasper.

“And that leaves me,” said Jo-Jay. “My interrogator was dressed as an angel. A very dark one, wearing a black hood. It was scary shit.”

A silence fell over the room which Leonora filled with a heavy sigh, shaking her head. Matthew realized he was losing the attention of the woman he loved–or at least lusted after. He thought about trying to include her, but decided it might be better to just hurry the meeting along so they could get out of there.

But before he could speed the conversation toward a conclusion, Leonora stood to her feet and said, “The food was delicious. I shall not stay for the stories. I have an audition in two hours, and I am going to go practice and prepare. I’m sure you understand.”

She turned on her heel, and without saying another word, walked out the door. Matthew wanted to follow her, afraid of the separation.

At that moment, Matthew hated all five people in the room, and counting the Father, Son and Holy Ghost–make it eight. He was extremely tired of the whole project. He was sick of being sick.

Carlin sensed his desperation. “We won’t hold you long, Matthew.”

He continued. “I was given a name. Terrence Eldridge. I have Googled him, studied and tried to get as much information as I could. Turns out he’s a fellow who has started a new movement in the black community, to escape what he considers to be the racist term, ‘African American.’ He wants to give his brothers and sisters their rightful place in this country. He wants to call them ‘Amerikin.’ From what I read, he is powerful, dynamic and completely unknown.”

Soos jumped in. “Believe it or not, the name given to me was Michael Hinston. You may not know it, but he was recently exonerated of all charges. He’s been given a clean bill of health by the Congressional investigating committee. His testimony before them was speckled with spirit and humility. He’s in a good place. For some reason, he is my mission.”

“Mine,” said Jubal, “is a guy named Milton Crenshaw, who lives in South Florida. That’s not the name I was given. I was given a word. ‘Jesonian.’ When I typed that word into Google, this fellow’s name came up–with a self-published book that seemed to have gone nowhere. So I assume I’m supposed to go talk to him and find out what he’s trying to communicate with his new word.”

Jasper laughed. “Well, of course, I was given the name of a comedian. Mickey Kohlberg. He’s a Jewish fellow who has taken it upon himself to take all the material of Jesus of Nazareth and rework it into a standup comedy routine, which he has entitled ‘Dying Laughing.’ So I’m off to see what he’s all about.”

Jo-Jay looked around the room. “Well, I guess that leaves me. I was given the word careless.’ Of course, dumb girl that I am, I thought it was the normal word, “careless,” but then I discovered there’s this consultant to the rich–a young man in his early thirties named Careless. His goal is to teach these very wealthy people how to redeem their sense of worth through giving–intelligently. I’m set up to meet with him next week.”

Matthew sat for a moment. Carlin started to speak, but Matthew interrupted.

“No, I don’t need to hear any more from you guys. You do understand, this just sounds like a crock of shit. The smartest thing I could do is run out the front door of Jo-Jay’s home and throw a hand grenade behind me and save the world a lot of trouble.”

“Now, I’m not much of a church boy, but I do remember that when the Apostle Paul was talking to a king one day, the monarch got done hearing him and said to the Apostle, ‘Too much learning has made you crazy.’ Do you see my point? You guys have gotten so involved–so convinced that you’re going to change the world–that you’ve just let your minds go nuts.”

Jo-Jay stood up indignantly. “You know me better than that, Matthew. You once called me the most level-headed person you had ever met. Not woman. Person. Sometimes, though, all the answers don’t fit into a bottle of booze.”

Carlin also stood to his feet and pulled Jo-Jay toward him. “That’s enough. We’re not here to hurt our friend…”

Matthew shook his head. “You’re not my friends. I could use some friends. Did you all even know that I have liver disease? Did you know that I need a transplant? That’s what they told me right before I came here. And if you did know, how much would you let that interrupt your lives as you try to save the world for Jesus?”

“Did you see that woman who left? I love that woman. At least I think so. If she weren’t so goddamn obnoxious, I’d tell her. But the way she is right now, she’d just use it against me. You guys don’t have an answer. She hates your guts.”

He shook his head. “I know what she’s going to do. She’s gonna ask me to make a choice. Am I going to be with her, or continue to be in this ridiculous adventure?”

“And what would you say?” Soos asked meekly.

Jubal countered. “Hush, Soos. That’s none of our business.”

Matthew stood and walked toward the door. He stopped short. “Jubal, you said a mouthful. It’s not your business. Not because I don’t care. Not because I don’t love you guys. But right now I need someone to love me more than they love Jesus. Do you fucking get that?”

Carlin nodded and said, “We do.”

“We do what?” asked Matthew.

Carlin smiled. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

Matthew craned his neck from side to side, relieving tension. “Listen,” he concluded. “I’m sorry. I’m not myself. It sounds like a great punch-line, but keep in mind–my liver is dying. And I’ve got a conversation waiting for me with a very angry, talented, intelligent, sexy woman. And I’m outgunned. I would ask you to pray for me if I believed those words would go any higher than the ceiling. So let me leave it like this–I’m gonna live through the next twenty-four hours. I’ll let you know how much damage was done.”

He turned, opened the door and was gone.

Five startled, loving, confused, bewildered, exasperated, terrified and worried people peered at one another, anxiously.

 

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Catchy (Sitting 55) It Wasn’t a Terrible Idea…… July 1st, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3720)

No plan is perfect–except in the minds of those who want to declare it so, to calm their nerves.

And certainly, this particular plot put together by Charmaine and Thomas was only functional if every detail worked in unison.

Trouble began as soon as they hit the hallway heading into the rotunda. Thomas realized how out-of-place he was in his cowboy hat and serape, fearing that they were in danger of jeopardizing the plan. So he quickly removed them, searching for a trash can as Charmaine moved briskly down the hallway in front of him.

Rudyard Simmons, a fifty-three-year-old guard who had served the Capitol for twenty-five years, found it a bit suspicious that someone was disposing of their clothing in the trash, so he eased over to speak with Thomas. Mr. Kinear sprouted some nervous energy, which made Rudyard even more suspicious.

Simmons was a fine, old, wizened civil servant, who actually had achieved his job because his mother had the good sense to name him Rudyard (after Rudyard Kipling) figuring that white folks, who might be considering hiring him some day, would be aware that at least name-wise, he had brushed up against European tastes.

Meanwhile, Charmaine turned around, aware that Thomas was not behind her. Seeing Rudyard making his way toward her cohort, she made a fatal mistake. She panicked.

She instinctively reached for her gun, and before she could cover it up, one of the guards spotted the weapon and screamed to the whole hallway, “GUN!”

When Rudyard heard this, he turned toward the sound of the warning, and Charmaine realized that the scheme was unraveling. She pulled her .38 calibre pistol from her holster and aimed at Rudyard, as several guards moved toward her.

Charmaine fired her weapon at Rudyard, but he, still possessing some cat-like reflexes, ducked, hitting the ground so that the bullet flew over him and struck Thomas in the chest.

Without missing a beat, Rudyard–who had never used his weapon during his entire twenty-five years; never even pulled it from its holster–yanked it out with all his might, swirled around on the ground, pointed at Charmaine and fired, striking her with a bullet in the throat.

The two intruders lay bleeding in the hallway of the Capitol Building while Rudyard’s heart pounded like a marathon runner’s. Charmaine lasted about two minutes before she completely bled out. She was barely able to form any words, but did manage to gush an anguished, “Sorry.”

Thirty feet away, Thomas was dead. Quite dead.

The hallway was now full, as the gallery stood by in stunned silence. Slowly, two of the Capitol armed guards moved over to help Rudyard to his feet. With horror in his eyes, he asked his friends, “Did I kill her?”

No one responded, but instead, took him to the nearby office of the Speaker of the House and sought a doctor to examine him for any wounds.

It really wasn’t a terrible plan. Charmaine and Thomas had conceived to capture the Speaker of the House and take him into the Chamber, holding him hostage until their demands could be met.

Thomas had become a “knight in armor” for millions of Americans who were unable to afford their medications due to the rising costs of drugs. Charmaine had joined him when her mother was forbidden a particular treatment because the insurance companies deemed it unnecessary.

Maybe the two of them should have sought more peaceable means of presenting their plight, but when there’s smoke in the air, it’s difficult to decide which fires to put out.

That night the President of the United States secured time on all networks to speak to the people, but CBS sent a request to have Jubal Carlos address the country, right before the President spoke.

They had no idea if they would be able to connect with him, especially since he had just finished the series in North Carolina with the reporter, Jennifer Carmen. Not only did Jubal take their call, but he agreed to fly to Washington to share.

The network asked him how much time he would need. They were a little shocked when he responded, “Four minutes.”

So five were set aside, just in case, and promptly at 7:55–just prior to the eight o’clock hour when the President was due to speak–Jubal sat on the steps of the Capitol Building with a single camera framing his face.

“Horrified. Shocked. Despaired. These are words that will be used for today’s events in the hallowed halls of our legislature. We should be upset. But in the midst of it, some very powerful and positive moments occurred. His name is Rudyard Simmons and he’s fifty-three years old, and you would have never have known him. Nor would I, had this tragedy not occurred. Had this attack happened five months ago, I’m not so sure Mr. Simmons would have been ready for it. Just because insanity has an agenda–one which is evil–does not mean good people are prepared to do their part. What has happened in our country over the past months has not only built up our love, increased our hope, but it’s made our faith more sturdy.

“Rudyard Simmons saw something that didn’t look right–a cowboy hat and a serape in the Capitol Building being thrown away by an anxious stranger. He wasn’t judging cowboys nor Mexican immigrants. He moved decisively to find out if there was something that needed to be done. Over the past years we have lost our boldness. We nibble at each other. We fuss like little children. But today, a real man boldly walked over to ask a question, and in doing so, threw a wrench into a plan to silence our government.

“I don’t know what the President is going to say. You know I am not a political person. But tonight I am grateful for the boldness of Rudyard Simmons, and more than that, I am thrilled that his faith, along with his works, made sure that there weren’t many dead.”

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Catchy (Sitting 53) Assigning Blame… June 17th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3706)

She birthed triplets.

Jenesca Bradbury, in a matter of just a few minutes of time, brought three living souls into the world.

There was no father present–matter of fact, no father was ever brought up or even mentioned. Just three little boys and their mother.

She named them Jubal, Jasper and Jamison.

They were born into poverty, they learned to live in poverty, and most importantly, Mother Jenesca made sure they were happy, though poor.

For the first two-and-a-half years of their lives the boys lived in Salinas with their mom at their grandmother’s house. It was difficult. The house was small and Grandma was sensitive to too much noise.

So one night when Jenesca wiggled a furlough from the house for some private time, she sat at a bar and met a man named Roy.

Roy Carlos. He was a farmer from Clovis, who spent all of his time planting, picking and selling fruit.

After the second–or maybe it was the third–drink, Roy suggested that Jenesca pick up her three boys and move down to Clovis. He had an old Amish barn about four hundred yards from the main house which could be fixed up and turned into living quarters for her little family. He promised her work, pay, and a way to keep the kids busy with chores, which would provide a legitimate form of daycare.

Maybe it was the alcohol. Maybe it was the tugging emotions from the pedal steel guitar in the country music playing in the background. Maybe it was a young woman who was just tired of living with her mother and pretending she was dead. Whatever the reason, Jenesca agreed.

In less than a week, she, Jubal, Jasper and Jamison ended up on Roy’s farm, fixing up the loft in the barn, trying to turn it into something that resembled a home. Some folks from the local church brought in furniture and managed to hook up a stove and refrigerator to make it seem more functional instead of just a hair-brained scheme.

Like many women before her, Jenesca decided that this was what she was going to do and she would find a way to be content with it.

Roy was a happily married man, and his wife tried hard to be tolerant of the new young hen who had crept into the barnyard. Still–Mrs. Carlos was suspicious. Roy kept his distance, and Jenesca tried to be good, but within a year’s time they were lovers.

They were very careful to keep it quiet, and had all of their rendezvous at the Holiday Inn in Fresno. But Mrs. Carlos was always aware that when a teenager was hired to watch the three boys, it meant there was a party in the making.

Amazingly, it didn’t change anything. Maybe Mrs. Carlos was tired of Roy, or Roy had some magical personality that he unleashed on his wife at just the right moments. No one ever knew how the situation worked. After a while the gossips got tired of chatting about it, and accepted the fact that three young men were growing up in a barn, and three grown-ups were practicing what might be considered to be barnyard morality.

There was always work, and because of this, money was available. Not much. Mother Jenesca referred to it as “aggravating dough.” Just enough cash on hand to make you wish you had more.

The boys never enrolled in school. Although Jenesca was of European descent, all three of her sons had golden brown skin, leading everyone to believe that Jenesca had welcomed immigration. She wasn’t comfortable with her fellows being away from her, so she taught them. She taught them everything she knew, everything other people thought they should know and a whole lot of things from the Bible that she considered necessary.

They did attend church–one that mingled Baptists and Pentecostals who agreed to participate in each other’s activities to keep peace. All three boys were born again at the age of twelve. All three felt the God was calling them to do something other than pull rotten peaches from baskets. And all three of them had stars in their eyes while simultaneously surrounded by very dark nights.

It came time for Mother Jenesca’s birthday. The boys were fifteen years old and decided they wanted to do something special. She had never been on a trip. She cleaned up, dressed up and acted like she was going to Paris every time she drove down the road to Fresno with Roy.

Jubal, Jasper and Jamison wanted to send their mother on a trip to New York. They priced it: $823.

Jasper had an idea. There was a convenience store in Clovis. Out behind the store, surrounded by weeds, was a Camaro. It was ugly, but still in solid enough shape that it could be fixed up and sold to folks who liked such vintage wheels. Jamison got pen and paper and figured out that it would take about a thousand dollars to fix it up if they did all the work themselves. Then another thousand would be needed to put tires on it and give it a good paint job. Finally, a thousand dollars for the trip to New York.

So the three boys figured if they could get three thousand dollars out of the car, they would be coming up with the best birthday gift ever. They were told by those in the know that such a vehicle would actually garner about five thousand dollars.

There was only one obstacle. Could they talk the manager of the convenience store into letting them have the Camaro? After all, it had been growing with the sucker-plants for at least a year.

It was decided that Jubal would speak for the trio. They were completely delighted when the owner said if they could get it out of there, they could have it.

A time was set to meet with the store owner to sign the title over and for them to pick it up. Jasper borrowed the truck from Roy and headed out for the store.

They were all ready to collect their prize, but the owner was very busy. Matter of fact, they ended up sitting in the truck for three hours, until it was time for the store to close.

Then everything seemed to go just fine. The title was signed over, and they started removing the car from its buried condition. The owner left the store and drove away.

About fifteen minutes later, while they were hooking chains onto the car to pull it out, a Clovis police car rolled in. Jubal quietly and slowly got out of the truck and walked to the middle of the parking lot with his hands held high. Jasper followed Jubal’s lead and did the same.

But Jamison was stuck under the Camaro, trying to hook the chain onto the drive shaft. He didn’t see nor did he hear the police arrive.

So Jamison slid out from under the car and came walking up from the darkness with a big wrench in his hand. The young Clovis policeman was surprised. He had already pulled his gun to ensure there would be no trouble. When he saw Jamison emerging with the silver tool, he fired at him.

It was an accident.

He didn’t even know he had pulled the trigger until Jamison was lying on the ground bleeding. The two brothers ran over. Jamison had taken a hit between the eyes. There was no life; no movement.

It crashed into their minds that suddenly the three had become two.

******

This ended the essay written by Jennifer Carmen and delivered on Monday morning at the NBC affiliate. When she first arrived, there hadn’t been much interest in her presence, nor the project. Obviously, Raoul had not promoted the idea to the management.

But Jubal, anticipating the situation, had arrived with ten copies of the essay and passed them around to secretaries, copy writers and bosses.

As Jen chatted with a couple of sales people, suddenly the room was filled with moans, groans and tears. One of the big-wigs emerged from his office and said, “Who in the hell wrote this?”

Jen sheepishly raised her hand.

He continued. “Is this real? Did you get this story from Jubal Carlos?”

Jen nodded her head and answered, “Yes. That and many more.”

“So he has a twin brother?”

Jen nodded but added no further explanation. The next thing she knew, she was called into the office and given a contract for a nine-part series to be shared on the nightly news.

The boss introduced himself as Mr. Wiggens. Mr. Wiggens just sat there and shook his head, glancing over the piece one more time.

“I know they say this all the time, but this is gold. Hell, this is gold.”

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Catchy (Sitting 52) Jen… June 10th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3699)

Manning the desk as weekend program director at a television station is an honor for an up-and-coming reporter, but also an acknowledgement that this particular individual does not have enough seniority to escape weekend work.

At thirty-three years of age, Raoul Matteen was the youngest person to be given the position at WCNC, the NBC affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was permitted a skeleton work force of about seven other people, in order to, as they say, “keep the home fires burning.” But he was fully aware that if any home fires in Charlotte, North Carolina, actually did start burning, they would usher in the real staff.

Arriving back from lunch on Friday, Raoul, who insisted on being called Matt to simplify matters, was informed that he had a visitor. The receptionist rolled her eyes in a seductive way and announced that there was a tall young woman with long, brunette hair waiting to meet with him. Matt decided to act miffed, as he had seen his mentors do many times before. But after putting up the illusion of “being too busy,” he asked the receptionist to send the young woman in.

In walked Jennifer Carmen.

She was wearing a beautiful black dress and black patent-leather shoes. She had been in town for three days, spending most of her time out at the Soulsbury Campgrounds. (She had purchased three identical navy-blue jogging suits with white piping for her visit to the revival park, hoping not to draw too much attention to herself.)

Yet she needed to know. Or he needed to know.

At no time did Jennifer Carmen forget that she was really Jubal Carlos with an extensive–and expensive–makeover. He walked around for three days, greeting people, introducing himself as “Jennifer,” and was even able to pull off his disguise to people who should have known him–Jo-Jay and Soos, primarily, who just welcomed him as “another one of the girls.”

He was confident he could pursue his plan.

The idea was simple. He decided to go to WCNC on the Friday, knowing that the young manager would be willing to meet with Jennifer, and that he could make an impression as Jennifer, to set up a scenario to meet with the higher-ups on Monday.

When Jennifer walked into the room, Matt stepped back, a little surprised, his eyes widening. Jubal smiled inside. He extended his hand with as much feminine grace as he could muster, and daintily shook Matt’s nervous paw before sitting down elegantly in a nearby chair. The budding executive decided to speak first.

“My name is Raoul Mateen, but everyone calls me Matt.”

Jubal cleared his throat to ensure that the voice he had rehearsed was fresh and ready to go.

“Well, Matt, my name is Jennifer Carmen, but everyone calls me Jen.”

There was an uncomfortable moment of silence. Since Matt had never had a meeting with anyone, he wasn’t sure how to conduct one. Sensing his inexperience, Jubal (Jen) continued.

“I don’t want to take too much of your busy time, so let me cut to the chase. Please forgive me for saying that. It’s such a cliche. As a writer, I’m always fighting cliches. You know what I mean?”

Matt nodded his head, totally fascinated.

“Let me phrase it this way,” continued Jen. “Let me tell you what I have, which you might be able to use.”

Jubal purposely paused for a second to see the wheels turning in Matt’s brain. It was deliciously devious. He then commenced his ‘Jen plan.’

“I am good friends with Jubal Carlos. I have been since youth. We grew up in the same neighborhood. We were always best buddies, and I know him like I know my own soul.”

Matt leaned forward in his chair and picked up a pen, fiddling with it in his right hand.

“Why haven’t you come forward earlier?” he asked slowly.

“Jubal asked me not to,” replied Jen flatly.

“And why did he ask you not to?” asked Matt, doing his best to interrogate.

Jen crossed her legs, tilted her head upward as if thinking, took a Kleenex and dabbed at the corner of her eye.

“Because there’s so much to tell. It’s difficult to know where to begin, and often in the world of the press, if you begin and even tell it all, they think there’s something being withheld.”

Matt tilted his head to the side, then stretched his neck and nodded his head, agreeing.

Jen resumed. “What I am suggesting, in the light of the Soulsbury phenomenon, is a series of articles–interviews, if you will–between Jubal and myself, enlightening the American public about this secretive man who has come on the scene to bring music and joy.”

Matt scrunched his face in displeasure. Even to a novice such as himself, the whole thing sounded crazy and contrived. He decided to present Jen with what he considered to be an insurmountable difficulty.

“Tell you what,” he said. “This is beyond my pay grade. My instinct is that our station would want one of our top reporters to conduct the interview, since we know nothing about you. No disrespect. So if you just come back on Monday and ask for the program director, and present your case to him the way you have to me, we can see about putting one of our award-winning journalists on the matter.”

Jen smiled. “Did they train you to say that, or have years of caution made you careful? Is it because you’re a foreign national and you don’t want to make waves, or does your upbringing tell you to be nervous with the white elitists?”

Matt stood to his feet, pointed to the door and responded angrily, “I think I’m going to ask you to leave. If I have problems, they’re certainly not going to be discussed with some stranger walking into my office and insulting me.”

Jen remained seated, but lifted her hands as if surrendering. “I’m very sorry. I guess I’m a little bit energized with the possibility of seeing this story get into the right hands, and maybe a little jumpy, or shall we say, defensive, about it?”

Matt put his arm down and eased back into his chair. “What was your name again?”

“Jennifer Carmen, but you can call me Jen.”

“Jennifer,” Matt concluded, “I am just not willing to be the fool. Do you know what I mean? When you’re working your way up the ladder, it’s a dangerous thing to try to skip rungs to get to the roof quicker. That’s when your foot can slip. And if you slip, you fall. And if you fall, there’s nothing or nobody to catch you. I’m doing real fine without your assistance. If this is a great thing, let somebody else determine that. But if it’s a setup for an asshole, I am not interested in pursuing the position.”

Jen leaped in. “Exactly. I wasn’t asking you to make a decision. I was asking you to allow me to go this weekend to the camp, meet with Jubal, do an interview and bring it in on Monday morning and let you read it. And if you think it’s good, take it to your bosses and see if we can’t make a deal.”

Matt leaned forward. “Are you telling me that Jubal is in North Carolina?”

Jen replied, “I’m telling you that I know where Jubal is. I’m not about to tell you where he is until I can strike a deal on these interviews. Let’s just look at it practically. You want to do something good for the station; the station wants first dibs on a great story. Jubal has things to share with the country, and I want a Pulitzer.”

Matt laughed. “A Pulitzer, huh? A Pulitzer about a cabana-band-leader who travels the world, hyping joy and handing out hamburgers.”

Jen stood to her feet, as if to leave. “Laugh all you want, Matt. But he’s the one changing the world. Not you.”

Jubal headed to the door, confident that he had sunk the hook deep into the guppy’s lip. As he was about to step through the door, Matt rushed to his side.

“Listen, Jen. I think you’re reading me wrong. Yeah. What have we got to lose? Monday morning bring me in, uh-h…” Matt paused, thinking. “Let say fifteen hundred words. Let me soak it up, pass it around to some copy-writers. If everyone’s hot on it, we’ll take it to the brass. That’s the best I can do. I can’t pay your expenses.”

Jen turned slowly, stuck out her hand for the shaking, and inserted, “I didn’t ask you to.”

Matt reached out and shook her hand. Jen turned on her heel and walked out the door. Matt called after her, “Where are you staying? In case I want to get ahold of you?”

Jen kept walking and without turning around, threw over her shoulder, “I’ll see you on Monday morning.”

 

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