Said the Lonely Christmas Tree
That brought the Merry Yule Tide,
"Didst thou wait 'til snowing came
To move me to the outside?
" 'Twas yesterday I stood adorned,
With bright lights and ornament.
And now my branches newly bare,
Are snow cold and rather bent.
"So, let's go back, what do you say,
To the way things used to be?
Dress me up with Easter Eggs,
Let me be your Easter Tree.
"I'll be warm and safe again,
Back inside that living room.
And you'll be envied by your friends,
When azaleas start to bloom."
- Kevin DeLeon Ammons
January 3, 2018
#ChristmasTree, #EasterTree, #NewYear, #Frasier, #Renaissance, #Rebirth, #Snow, #HolidayPoem, #Prose
Tyrants’ Tea Time
Two terribly talented tyrants took time to type tweets 'til twelve Tuesday, telling trillions to: tantalize toppled telecasters trying to trample Tucker Tapper's time-tested, trustworthy truth-telling talents; turn towards television teams telling technically true tales; take turns telephoning top trixters' telecommunication teams to trick traitors towards telling troubled teens taking treks to Texas to turn toward Trenton; text twenty-two travel trailer towing tips to Ted Turner's twin Tad; try to temporarily trap traveling transgender terrorists trying to trick tinklers 'til TSA trainees take technical training; trade Toyota Tundra trucks to tout tough, tax-tripling tariffs; then they took turns trading tremendous tryst tales 'til tea time.
Thanks, Lord, for bringing me here today. Lead me, for I know not the way.
The Mystery Train: A Stellar Bedtime Story
I just told my five-year-old son Holden a stellar bedtime story that started with the two of us buying "mystery destination" tickets for a train leaving Washington, D.C. We quickly learned from the self-writing, dry erase board in our car, that we could travel anywhere we wanted to if we put on the magic goggles after the first train whistle blew.
Dad: Holden, where do you think the train will take us?
Holden (without hesitation): Africa
When the whistle blows, we don the goggles, and a giraffe with a British accent sticks his head in the window and asks if we might have “a bit of leaves”? We didn't have any leaves, but he seemed to enjoy the pretzels Holden fed him and his son. Soon a slaughter of giraffes was running beside the train, until the Baboon with the pink helmet came loudly speeding by on a pretty sweet dirt bike.
Wanting to stop and take a look around outside, and since the train was driven by our individual imaginations; we opened the door, and saw the largest lion we'd ever seen standing outside. In a very deep, rumbling voice, he asked if we had "the book"... which we did, because the dry erase board had instructed us not to go outside without it.
The large lion led us to a pride of fifteen other lions, where I was urged to , "Read the story". So, I commenced the story of Happy Birthday, Leo.
Almost all the way through it, a cub jumps up from behind his mother and exclaims, "I love this part!"
Holden finds out that the cub is turning six, and (in real time, puts two and two together), and suggests," Wait, the lion cub is turning six, and Leo in the story is turning six. The story is about the lion cub; the lion cub is Leo!"
"Finish the book," the Daddy lion sternly suggests.
I continued reading, "…and Leo blew out the candles, and everyone enjoyed the best Antelope cake they had ever eaten... the end."
With that, the entire pride literally became party animals in a wild, birthday celebration. Holden and I stepped onto the moving sidewalk leading back to the train, not wanting to appear rude for not eating any antelope cake, which looked as disgusting as it sounds.
Back on the train, we felt far-off thuds (which shook the earth) getting closer. A few minutes later, what looked like an elephant trunk was nosing its way into our train car through the open window.
"Got any peanuts?" the voice inquired.
"No peanuts in here," I replied.
Then, the Daddy, Mommy, and baby walked past the window, shaking the car with each step.
(In real time Holden adds): "…then, a kangaroo in a blue shirt goes hopping by. And they weren't elephants they were heffalumps, and that was Roo!”
"What a great place to stop for tonight, "I said. "Tomorrow we can follow Lumpy and Roo into Hundred Acre Wood and Heffalump Hollow.
We climbed into our train car bunks, (listening to the real-time train on the bedside sound machine)... and I noticed Holden seemed to be moving around a lot, and "what was that that kept falling from the bed"? I asked myself.
Turning on the light, I peeked into the bunk below to discover every stuffed animal that Holden and his sister MK owned collectively, covering the bunk. Holden explained that in trying to get to sleep, he longed for one of his stuffed animals from home, but could not decide which one. The mystery train had gladly catered to every whim of his restless imagination, and things were getting crowded in our little car.
I turned out the light, and two minutes later, there a knock at the door... of a moving train.
"Now who in the world could that be knocking on the door at 9:40 at night?" I wondered.
Navigating through several dozen stuffed animals, I made my way to the door, and could not believe my eyes.
References to Heffalumps, Lumpy, Roo, Hundred-Acre Wood, and Heffalump Hollow are fictional creations of author A.A. Milne; copyright Disney.
Make Me Laugh
"Do y'all want anything to eat?" Timmy's mom asked as she opened the French door to the den.
There I sat, one sock from naked, on a hand-painted foot stool, holding two two's, two three's, and an Ace; and praying she wouldn't venture around to my side of the table.
"No Mama, leave us alone! Wait, can you pour me some Pepsi?" he asked.
"Yeah. David, Kevin, y'all want Pepsi, Kool-Aid, milk, or...?"
"Pepsi's fine," I interrupted, attempting to keep her as close to the door as possible. David ordered Pepsi, and we resumed our game.
As the door closed, I asked Timmy, "Are you crazy? Now, she's definitely going to see me."
"Don't blame me 'cause you suck at poker," he replied.
In what seemed like fewer than ninety seconds, she was back with three red solo cups of Pepsi, and a brand new can of Planters peanuts. "Can't play cards without peanuts," she informed us. "Kevin, do you need one of Timmy's T-Shirts to sleep in?"
"No Ma'am, I have one. I'm just trying to cool off," I reassured her.
"OK. Y'all don't stay up too late," she warned, and headed off to bed.
Of course we were staying up late. It was December 9, 1983, and the network television premiere of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video would be shown on NBC's Friday Night Videos, to the majority of Americans who were not fortunate enough to have seen its debut a week earlier on MTV.
"It's only 11:00. What are we going to do for an hour and a half?" I asked my mostly-dressed, twelve-year-old compadres.
"Let's play Make Me Laugh," Timmy suggested. I was delighted. Timmy suggesting Make Me Laugh was like John McEnroe saying to Jimmy Connors, "I don't know, wanna play tennis?" We were both seasoned professionals.
"We should play Strip Make Me Laugh," I joked, "I guarantee y'all there is absolutely no way I'm losing at that game!"
As the game got underway, Timmy and I sat straight-faced on the couch as David wrapped a thin, red blanket tightly over his face, and began howling at some pretend moon, somewhere. I really hadn't noticed how beak-like David's nose was until then, and its prominence became undeniable. Then, I yawned.
"Time's up," Timmy said, "my turn."
David took Timmy's place on the couch, and neither of us had any idea that we were about to witness history in the making.
As the intro to Late Nite with David Letterman played on the TV in the corner, Timmy opened with a series of close-up, rhyming, nonsense words, strung together and delivered with maestro-like timing, "Lay, Tay, May, Say, Fay, Jay, Vay, Tay, Day, Pay, Jay, PAY-DAY, KAY!"
David snickered, but managed to not break a smile. I remained stone-faced, and quite frankly, unimpressed. Although I had never heard that bit from such proximity before, it had certainly lost its edge since originating in my backyard months earlier.
"You're going to have to do better than that," I thought to myself.
As if reading my mind, Timmy grabbed the black, knit tie he had worn to the middle school band, holiday performance hours earlier, and tied it around his head. He then yanked off his sweat pants, and launched into his best Olivia Newton-John impression. "Let's get phys-i-cal, phys-i-cal. I wanna get phys-i-cal, Let's get into physical." and as he gave David what we would years later refer to as a "lap dance", he continued, "Let me hear your body talk, your body talk. Let me hear your body ta-halk."
David burst into laughter as he forcefully, launched Timmy backwards, onto the floor beyond. Unfazed and quite aware that he had approximately one minute and fifteen seconds to make me laugh, he sprang back to his feet, and was in my face once again. This time he was yelling at me like a drill sergeant with just the right amount of spit turning into drool between commands, "Laugh Loser! When I say laugh, I mean laugh! You better wipe that smug look off your face and laugh!"
Admittedly, by then, the sight of an inch and a half stream of drool that intentionally clung to his chin, juxtaposed with the thought of a lispy drill sergeant wearing tightey-whities, black socks, and a headband was almost too much to bear.
And then it happened. With twenty-seven seconds left on the calculator watch timer, Timmy casually walked over to the poker table. Then, while standing directly in front of me, he pulled the yellow, plastic top off the Planters peanut can. He then ripped off the foil seal, opened up the front of his underwear, and emptied the entire can of peanuts into his fruit-of-the-looms. Then, placing both hands behind his head, and with Chippendale precision, he began a brutal barrage of pelvic thrusts. I glanced down at the timer. Each thrust seemed miraculously synchronized with the countdown of the remaining seconds, and I knew, as peanuts bounced across the hardwood floor in all directions, that the end was near. As one stray peanut somehow hit me in the forehead, I burst into some well-deserved laughter. I had just witnessed the most hilarious thing I would ever see.
Three words, barely audible amid the otherwise annoying crowd noise, was all it took to set the "I told you so" dance in motion. She was radiant in her gloating, and something told me to take note of her uncanny ability to read strangers. With my stomach still reeling from yet another triumph of my naiveté, earlier that day, I found comfort in her celebration.
"Ready for lunch?", Drew asked, stepping off the red, spiral staircase that led to the lofted area of the office where the contract draftsmen worked, and in Drew's case perfected the art of minesweeper.
It was a question I had heard many times over the two years prior to graduate school and in the two years since. "Yep, let's go."
"I'll drive," he said, and we headed for his white Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 pickup with an extended cab and camper shell.
"I still can't believe you bought this giant truck, when you know you're gonna be driving to Florida every other weekend to see your new woman. What's her name again?" I asked, trying to recall how long it had been since he informed me of his new lady friend. I hesitated to use the word girlfriend to describe Andrea, since Drew had to be well past fifty.
Drew and I had discussed many things during our lunches over the years, but for some reason, I'd never asked how old he was. He seemed to know a lot about everything, especially women. So, I assumed that the breadth of worldly knowledge demonstrated in his fantastic stories must have taken at least three adult decades to accrue.
“This one's special. Remind me when we get back to the office, to show you some pictures we took this weekend when she was in town.” He sounded almost giddy.
I could hardly wait to eat at Warren's Restaurant and Lounge. It was a manly kind of place. Bar by night, delicious buffet by day. Pork chops sizzled from the skillet in the DJ booth. The awkward journey from the vegetables, rice and fried chicken buffet across the dance floor, to pour yourself a styrofoam cup of sweet tea, was one I had made many times.
"I'm gonna miss this place," he said.
"What are you talking about? Where are you heading?" I asked. A necessary side effect of making three times more money than the architectural interns you worked alongside as a contract draftsman, was the inevitable fact of frequent, abrupt departures. Drew had twice before left and returned to our firm, with the ebb and flow of our workload. I assumed he was being re-assigned to another drafting gig.
"Chapel Hill," he replied. "I've been meaning to tell you, since I got back from Arizona. You've probably been wondering what these purple marks on my neck are all about.”
I had been wondering about the two giant hickie-looking marks on either side of his neck, but figured it best to let him explain them.
"I've got brain cancer, and I'm dying,” he said, and suddenly the delectable first bite of the disco pork chop I had been savoring seconds before became less appetizing. “I don't know if I ever told you, but my mother died from brain cancer, too."
"How long have you known?" I managed to inquire.
He went on to explain how he'd been referred to specialists in Chapel Hill six weeks prior. They recommended aggressive triangulated laser treatment on his lymph nodes, to try to slow the progression of the cancer, hence the bruises on his neck.
As we ate, he told me he was not afraid to die. Just as age seemed something that we need not have discussed during our many lunches together; faith and belief in a higher being was something we’d had no trouble foregoing, in lieu of more entertaining subjects, until now. Now, it seemed entirely appropriate that we were discussing the afterlife, at our table under the darkened mirror ball, which assumed the instant metaphor of an electric life eagerly awaiting its next and potentially final spin.
Drew was an odd dude. I knew that. He loved ballroom dancing, and was ostensibly very good at it. Far be it for a virile, straight, twenty-eight year old intern architect to enjoy hanging out with a fifty-something ballroom-dancing gentleman, except for the fact that he assured me it was merely a great way to meet women. I relished the stories of adventurous women he had entertained on and off the dance floor. With each potentially true, always entertaining account, I would learn a little more about my peculiar friend.
However, I had not anticipated his belief (and apparent participation) in astral projection. He explained, with measured delivery, how he had traveled in several spiritual realms with his ex-wife soul mate. The two of them had been together many times throughout history without prior knowledge of what the arrangement would be going forward.
"Sometimes, she comes back as the man, and I am the woman. Sometimes, we're both women. We both trust that our souls will arrive in the designated realm that we're destined for. So, you see, I don't fear dying, because that sends me on my next journey with my soul mate. I didn't bother questioning why his current ex-wife soul mate and adult child chose to live five hours away in Raleigh, and seemed to want nothing to do with him. I had heard enough. Drew was indeed an odd dude, and at this point, I was willing to forego the banana pudding in exchange for the quickest journey back to the office, astral plane or otherwise.
I took the opportunity of the ride back to the office to discuss how Andrea had taken the news. He informed me that she had been supportive, and was prepared to stick by him. Back inside, Drew invited me to follow him up the red spiral staircase to his workspace in the loft. Not wanting to deny him the pleasure of showing off his new acquaintance, I proceeded upstairs.
On his monitor, his screensaver revealed a middle-aged woman with short dark hair in lingerie standing in the foyer of his townhouse and looking back at the camera.
"Nice," I exclaimed.
"Do you like that?" he asked, hinting that there were more photos to view.
"Yeah, Drew. I like that picture. You did alright this time," I replied in the best "buddy" response I could muster.
"Oh yeah? What do you like about her?" he went on.
At this point I started to wonder how he’d been able to have a scantily clad “woman of the night” as his screen saver without any complaints from the women in the office. "She's got nice legs," I said, as I turned to go back to my desk downstairs.
"We just need to stop by Drew's on the way. I need to borrow his external hard drive. It shouldn't take long," I told Wendi, as we made our way to lunch on Saturday.
Although I had never been there, Drew’s townhouse was immaculate. Every wall seemed to be adorned with tasteful artwork celebrating the female body, including an oversized image of his red-headed ex-wife reclining, above the couch.
Fortunately, with Wendi in tow, the tour of my friend’s humble abode was appropriately short lived, and we were able to quickly retrieve the component we had come for from the spare bedroom/home office.
It was there, in the opened closet of that second bedroom, that I spotted five identical outfits of khakis and blue oxfords, and nothing else. It was a striking visual reminder of Drew’s theory of uniformity which asserted that such a spartan wardrobe eliminated the need to decide what to wear every morning, which resulted in heaps of time saved time over the years.
“I’m amazed at how clean Drew’s place was,” I said to Wendi as we drove away.
“Yeah, that dude is walking around in women’s underwear, for sure,” she stated rather emphatically.
“What?” I objected, “Drew is the most heterosexual man I know.” It was all I could do to keep from sharing all of the insight that Drew had shared with me about women over the years.
“Do any of your other friends have statues of women in their house?” she asked.
“No, but Drew really likes women,” I responded.
“Because he wants to be one," she retorted matter-of-factly.
As we drove, I revisited the interior of his townhouse, trying to recall any other bit of evidence that might support her preposterous claim. “I did find it odd that his work clothes were in the spare bedroom closet.”
“That’s because his closet is full of women’s clothes.”
“Nah, you don’t know Drew like I do.” I said, refusing to buy into Wendi’s notion. “You don't know what you're talking about.”
Dave wasn’t a particularly chatty fellow, but when he returned from lunch at the Chinese place, he had quite the story to tell, and word of his Drew sighting quickly spread throughout the office.
It had been several months since he’d left citing health concerns, and no one had heard from him in the meantime. Dave assured us that he appeared to be in good health, and that he was considering coming by the office.
Dave encouraged us to prepare ourselves for what we were about to witness. Obviously, a lot had taken place since we had all last seen him. In fact, we probably wouldn’t recognize him.
“Did you talk to him?” I asked. “Is he wanting to come back?”
“I don’t think so,” Dave snickered.
“How did he look?” one of the principals asked.
And I’ll never forget what Dave went on to tell us.
I heard him enter the front door of the office, and I heard the amazement in the receptionist's voice. Surely, the old man would tell him to leave, as he passed the principal's corner office before he got to the studio.
I could not bring myself to turn around when he spoke to the architect whose office was adjacent to my workspace.
"Drew, how you doing, man?" Dennis said, in what could only be described as one of the most awkward exchanges I've ever overheard.
"It's Sage now," replied a soft, almost whispering voice.
And suddenly I was face to face with the amply-chested brunette stranger in a red blazer and white pants. A wave of gut-wrenching anguish swept up from somewhere deep in my stomach.
"Just keep on walking, Drew. I don't even want to look at you."
"I'm sorry," she said with tears in her eyes.
"Just keep walking," I said sternly.
"I'm sorry," she said again. "I don't recommend it unless you absolutely have to."
She made her way to Liz's desk, and Liz, to her credit, was much more cordial. Commenting first on her outfit, then on her fantastic boob job.
I grabbed my wallet and keys and left quickly for lunch, and never once did I consider asking Sage if she wanted to join me.
My stomach hurt for the rest of the day. Thank God it was Friday. Thank God Wendi would be on her way to Myrtle Beach in a couple of hours. Thank God, the white Dodge Ram was no longer in the parking lot when I returned to the office.
Why wouldn't he have told me he was thinking of becoming a woman?
Why did he lie and tell me he was dying?
Why would he lie about the marks from the surgery to remove his Adams apple?
Why did he share so many intimate stories about women with me? Was he tracking my responses?
Who in the hell was that in the photo on his computer?
When you eat lunch with a friend nearly every weekday for three years, you think you know him.
What happened to the Drew I enjoyed hanging out with? I guess he did die. The betrayal hurt the most. Three years invested in a relationship that was built upon a lie!
I've not spoken to nor seen the stranger since, as far as I know.
"Drew's a woman," I whispered loud enough for her to hear over the noisy, hungry crowd.
"I knew it!" Wendi exclaimed as she commenced a little dance. "How did you find out?"
"Well," I began, and thankfully the buzzer in her hand alerted us to the fact that this would be a dinner we'd both remember for a very long time.
Where the Snide Talk Ends
There is a place where the snide talk ends
And before the sweet begins,
And there the crass grows soft and light,
And there the fun turns dim sun bright,
And there the elephonkey rests from his fight
To cool in the overwith wind.
Let us leave this place where the joke flows back
And the snark street whines and wins.
Past the pits where the asshole powers crow
We shall talk with a talk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the alt-spite arrows go
To the place where the snide talk ends.
Yes we'll talk with a talk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the alt-spite arrows go,
For the children, they hark, and the children, they show
The place where the snide talk ends.