Saturday, December 23, 2017

My Favorite Christmas Story

Before I knew it, Christmas season was upon me, and as usual, Dad annoyed me. Whenever I asked him what he wanted for Christmas, he would grin and burst into song: "All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth," 1946's favorite tune. 
Dad was the worst person to give a present to. Whenever he wanted anything, he just went to the store and bought it instead of giving us a big hint and waiting. That's why he ended up with such a huge tie collection.
After I heard about those two front teeth a dozen times, I asked Mama to help me. She took me downtown to the dentist's office, and we talked the dentist out of two real front teeth. I wrapped them up in pretty paper and put them under the tree with Dad's name on it.


The sun wasn't even up when my sister Margery woke the folks. They came grumbling out of their bed, pulling on bathrobes. Dad went downstairs and flipped on the Christmas tree bulbs showering light all over the piles of presents on the floor.
Daddy's hair was all tousled, but he was grinning. "Now you each get to pick one present to unwrap while your mother turns on the coffeepot." Soon all of sat on the floor, pulling out presents and looking at name tags. I kept looking for the little package, green paper with pine cones on it, the package with the two front teeth in it, but I didn't see it for a long time. So small, it just slipped down between the other packages.
When I did find it, I grabbed it and gave it to Dad. "This one's for you."
I watched the perplexed look on his face when he saw the teeth. He whooped. Sang "All I Want for Christmas" and whooped again. Later, when we both were standing, he gave me a hug. I watched him put those teeth in his pocket with his silver dollar. 

Thirty years later, standing in the mortuary after Dad died, Mama called, "Here. You might want these."
I turned. In the palm of her hand lay Dad's "two front teeth."
"He still had them?" I picked them up, marveled at them, and stuffed them in my pocket.
Mama nodded. "That's where he kept them, in his pocket with his favorite silver dollar."


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Missionary

A wind gust twirled my pink poodle skirt around my knees as I ran down the Kansas City street to the youth conference bus. Kids poured in. "Hurry up," one called, but I was last to board the all-night ride to Kearney, Nebraska.

I saw an empty seat to my left, but next to it sat a horrid dark-colored old man who leered at me. The Missionary from some faraway country. The Church expected us to like him, but I didn't even smile. I just pushed ahead to find a seat with the kids.

Only one seat remained empty in the packed bus, the one by the Missionary's side. My heart slipped down.

"Come on," the driver grinned. "You can sit there." He pointed at that awful empty seat.

The Missionary's smile seemed stuck to his face. So I smiled, sort of, a thin smile that said, "I see you but I don't like you." And I sat. The bus roared onto the highway.

I scooted to the front edge of the seat and twirled my poodle skirt to have something to do. I bounced my feet up and down. My saddle shoes needed polishing. The toes were roughed up.

The Missionary looked out the window. He smelled funny, not bad, but an odd woody smell. After a while, I edged back into the seat. Outside the black landscape zipped by.

I felt tired. Two whole days of singing, dancing, Bible verse studying, and listening to the men talk, all of them better saved than us. That's where I'd first seen the Missionary, on the stage, his hands spread out, praising the Glory of God. Then my eyelids got heavy, and after a while, I slept, my head bobbing on my bosom.

I woke to feel something stuck between my back and the chair seat. I tried to sit back, but the Missionary had pinned his arm between me and the chair, and his hand curled around my side, pressing my breast.

I leaped from my seat, nearly falling with the bus's swaying. I ran into the back, hoping in vain to find someplace else to sit. Tears blinded me, so I grabbed a pole and swayed.

I heard male voices in the front of the bus. Then the driver stopped the bus and walked back to me.

"Come on," he declared. "You can't ride like that. It's against regulations. You've got to sit down." 

Having no choice, I sat beside the missionary, scooting as far away from him as I could.

"I won't let him hurt you," the driver snorted. Then he put the bus in gear and roared back onto the highway.

I didn't dare sleep, so I just stared at the Missionary during the long hours until we disembarked.

I was the first one off.

Mother picked me up, and I thought about telling her what happened, but I didn't. I was afraid she'd figure it was all my fault. So no one ever knew but me and the Missionary—and maybe the bus driver.

written for:

a JoLt of CoFFeY 
 An Intermittent Newsletter
by Marilyn June Coffey

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Roger and the Cat

I could hardly believe my eyes. There stood that nasty creep Roger, the bane of our grade school class, and he held a kitten.

We both paused in the school auditorium, he at one end of the highly polished floor, me halfway down the side. We looked like doubles, same height, all skinny legs and arms.

I watched Roger hurl that cat along the shiny floor. He must have practiced, for the kitten slid at high speed the full length of the floor and slammed into the far wall.

I reached the cat first, grabbed it, stood up, and wrapped the fluffy little white thing in my crossed arms.

"Give it to me." Roger's chin jutted out. 

"You crazy?" I backed away. 

Roger sneered. "I said give it to me. It's my cat."

"WAS your cat." I narrowed my eyes and glanced sideways at him. "It's mine now." I inched toward the exit.

"No it's not." Roger kicked my shin. I nearly fell.

As I straightened up, he punched my cheek so hard a tooth broke.

I'd never fought a boy before but I didn't hesitate. I kneed him in his stomach, elbowed his jaw, and stomped his foot twice hard. (Or something like that). Then I fled with the cat.

At home, Mother let me keep the kitten. Not too surprising. Her father, the local Burlington agent, collected cats dropped off by the train tracks and brought them home in his pockets. His record was 30 outdoor cats, fed and watered on his back porch.

The dentist had to extract my tooth, the one that Roger broke. My nasty classmate grew up to be an obnoxious newspaper editor infatuated with booze. He's long dead, so I guess I've won twice.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

In Pursuit of a Scone

In Defense of Garrison Keillor

What's that master storyteller's crime? 

Keillor, former host of  "A Prairie Home Companion," explained:

 "I meant to pat her back after she told me about her unhappiness and her shirt was open and my hand went up about six inches. She recoiled. I apologized. I sent her an email of apology later and she replied that she had forgiven me and not to think about it. We were friends. We continued to be friendly right up until her lawyer called."

On Nov. 29, the Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) fired Keillor, accusing him of  "improper behavior." Not 83 accusers like Harvey Weinstein. Or even 8, like Charlie Rose.

Chris Thile, who replaced Keillor, called the allegations "heartbreaking." But Thile noted the "harmful power imbalance that women have had to endure for so long in our culture."

Imbalance indeed. If I'd been able to turn sexual abusers into criminals like MPR, I could have fired a missionary, a national youth leader, and the director of Camp Comeca, all Methodists. And all by the time I turned 16. 

So why am I defending Keillor?

Well, it's not for his wry, sometimes dry, Midwestern variety program which he ran for 42 years. Not even for his popular monologue, which opened "It was a quiet week in Lake Wobegon" and resulted in an explosion of audience applause.

No, it's for his "Writer's Almanac" which appeared every morning in my email. I'd click it and read a poem, perhaps even a poem I liked. Then I cruised down Keillor's long list of tidbits, featuring the escapades of literary folk I often knew. An intellectual scone with my morning brew. What could be nicer?

But now it's gone, forever it seems. So even though Keillor may be impure in thought, and even in deed, still if I could make MPR re-hire the fellow, I would. I miss my morning scone.

written for:

a JoLt of CoFFeY 
 An Intermittent Newsletter
by Marilyn June Coffey

The author of:
A Cretan Cycle: "A single, sharp, funny story in verse" retells the Minotaur's myth 
Great Plains Patchwork: A lyric tale of the "wondrous strange" great plains
JackJack & JuneBug: A steamy, poignant love story (with Jack Loscutoff)
Mail-Order Kid: A popular biography of Teresa Martin, an orphan train rider
Marcella: A controversial, internationally published coming-of-age novel
Mas - tur - ba - tion: A rollicking tract on a "quite inexhaustible" subject
Pricksongs: A libidinous collection of tart poems from the turbulent sixties
That Punk Jimmy Hoffa: A memoir depicts how Coffey's father beat Hoffa
The Battle of Orleans: A documentary about a hotly disputed Marcella reading 
Thieves, Rascals & Sore Losers: Details the dirty deals that helped settle Nebraska

& publisher of Jack Loscutoff's latest books:
Aunt Gussie's Socks: A Russian-American based memoir (in fact and fiction)
A Line of Shorts: The breezy short stories and holy satires of an awesome wordsmith

Buy Coffey's & Loscutoff's books: 

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