Rhonda listened for her husband’s deep breathing and when she heard the familiar rhythm she slipped out of bed, carefully slid open the door and crept onto the balcony.
Tonight was clear and still with air so crisp you could almost smell the stars. Randall was perched on the railing in his usual spot waiting for her and staring straight ahead with his secretive eyes.
Rhonda reached into her robe pocket and pulled out a cigarette, stuck it between her lips, lit it and inhaled suddenly like a newborn taking its first breath.
“You ought to quit,” Randall said.
“Mind your own business, you dirty owl.” Rhonda snapped. Rhonda hated it when Randall complained about her smoking. She hated a lot of things about Randall — especially the fact that he was slowly convincing her to murder her husband.
“He’s the reason you’re always having panic attacks. Having to go to the hospital. Not being able to breath.” Randall raised his wings and fluffed his white feathers loudly. “You’d be better off without him.”
“Who. That’s my line.” Randall blinked. Then focused his gaze into Rhonda’s soul. “Don’t be obtuse.”
“I can’t do it!”
“Because I’m not a murderer!”
“Sure you are. You just need to get in touch with your inner murderer. Everybody’s got one. Given a certain set of circumstances, enough rage and a fortuitous blunt instrument, that is.
“You nasty snake eater! Just looking at you makes me want to take a shower!” Rhonda flicked a long ash off the end of her cigarette and aimlessly smeared it around with the toe of her slipper. “If I listen to you, I’ll end up on death row! You’re the one I should kill.”
“Ha! What’d I tell you? See how easy it is to get in touch with your inner murderer? It won’t be long now. I’ll bet you already got a gun. Maybe you stole one.”
Rhonda drew deeply on her cigarette then coughed out a harsh, smoky laugh.“Let’s just say I was able to get in touch with my inner thief.”
Someone was jiggling the balcony door. Randall took flight just before Rhonda’s husband stepped out onto the balcony.
“What the hell is going on out here? Christ sakes! Who are you talking to?”
Rhonda kept her cool. “Just having a cigarette, Robert.” She said not as pleasantly as she could muster, but pleasantly enough considering she was, after all, planning his murder.
Robert put both his hands on the railing. “Hear that? There’s an owl out there somewhere. I hear it almost every night. Must live up in one of these trees.”
A little smile crossed Rhonda’s face as she stubbed out her cigarette and tossed it into the darkness.
Of course everyone knows that St. Patrick is the patron saint of four-leaf clovers because he was partial to the color green. But there are other little known facts about St. Patrick that the average person might not know.
For instance, back in the days when St. Patrick was alive, they had a lot of snakes slithering around Ireland. It was really gross. The whole place just gave you the heebie-jeebies. As a matter of fact, that is why the Irish Jig was invented – to keep from stepping on them. But that’s another story I haven’t made up yet.
Anyway, St. Patrick, who happened to not like snakes very well, decided to take it upon himself to rid the entire island of them. He set about doing this by writing down some goals and sticking them up on the village mirror and by repeating them over and over whenever he had some spare time.
It must have worked because St. Patrick is credited, history-wise, with getting the entire population of Ireland totally onboard with Christianity, foods that are magically delicious, and snake ridding.
But it was the snake ridding that really got his name in print. The story goes somewhat but not very much like this:
You see, St. Patrick was nothing if not charming. He had it all, looks, a winning personality and a flashy carriage to cruise around in. This is a guy who had powers of persuasion in spades.
So St. Patrick, being a man of the cloth, (he had a huge and impressive cloth collection) decided that everyone hopping around all the time trying to side step snakes was depleting the citizenry of their usual vim. (Vigor hadn’t been invented yet.)
It was obvious something needed to be done, post-haste. And so he decided to “charm” the snakes out of Ireland.
He started by inviting all the snakes over to his house, under the guise of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and began charming the pants off them (In those days Irish snakes wore plaid pants with little matching berets.) He did this by slathering the blarney on pretty thick and following up with a plethora of pandering and topped off with a prodigious pitcher of empty promises. Pat was pretty proud.
Then, when he realized he was running low on straws for the rum and cokes, he quickly herded his limbless revelers outside and managed to lure them over the White Cliffs of Dover where they toppled, snake-like, into the sea where they became dead as doornails (Albeit very large doornails).
And of course, we all know what happened next. St. Patrick painted the White Cliffs of Dover green to commemorate the occasion.
So next time you have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day, you’ll know why.
Our story opens when George Washington’s father comes outside and finds that the cherry tree has been chopped down:
What the? George Washington come here right NOW!
Something tells me you cut down this cherry tree with the hatchet I got you for your birthday today! I knew you were too young for a hatchet! I knew I should have gone with your mother’s suggestion and gotten you a guillotine instead.
Father, please . . . I’m six! All the other children in the township got hatchets when they turned three! I mean, it’s downright embarrassing how long I had to wait to finally get a hatchet of my very own! And, besides, everybody knows guillotines are for babies.
Well look what happens. I finally get you a hatchet, and you haven’t even had it more than an hour and what’s the first thing you do? Cut down my prized cherry tree!
Well, I cannot tell a lie, Father. It’s not exactly the first thing I cut down.
Well now that you’ve brought it up, and since I cannot tell a lie, this might be as good a time as any to mention that first I cut down the apple tree, then I cut down the apricot tree and, lastly, I cut down the cherry tree — in addition to hacking up a couple of rose bushes.
That does it George, march yourself to the woodshed, I’m giving you a sound whipping’!
Father, as you know, I cannot tell a lie, so this might be as good a time as any to also mention that the woodshed isn’t as much of a woodshed as it used to be . . .
On no! Not another “I cannot tell a lie!”
In fact, it would be more accurate, Dear Father, if we were to start thinking of the woodshed in terms of a rather large pile of kindling rather than an actual building in and of itself.
Oh for crying out loud! Well, I hope you at least saved the fruit so that your mother can bake us some pies . . . George? You did save the fruit from the trees didn’t you?
Oh that . . . well . . . I can cannot tell a lie, Father, for I surely would if it would spare you the heartache of telling you that I but finished off the last of fruit only seconds ago.
Ha ha! Well, you might be the naughtiest boy in the world but at least you’re honest George, my boy! I have a feeling you are going to grow up to be the very first President of the United States of America! Now off with you! Oh . . . and for godsakes don’t forget to brush your teeth again!
Happy Birthday George Washington! Wherever you are!
Welcome, Dear Readers, to this Sunday’s edition of Gregory’s Bible Stories.
Every Sunday Gregory attends Sunday school and every Sunday he comes home and retells what he learned.
Today Gregory learned about how God’s covenant with Abraham.
God Circum Sizes Up Abram
One biblical day, Abram, who was 99 years young, was sitting in the entrance to his tent, when God appeared to him so Abram bowed down with his face touching the ground.
God: Good news Abram! But before I tell you, you want one of my Cheetos?
Abram: Oh no thanks, they make my fingers orange.
God: Really? Anyways, Abram, I appeared because I’ve decided I will make a covenant with you and give you many descendants!
Abram: Wow! That’s so cool! Thanks God. What’s a descendant again?
God: Plus I’m going to change your name to Abraham. Because nothing puts the HA! in Abraham like many descendants, if you know what I’m mean?
Abraham: Not really . . .
God: And, check it out, AbraHAm. I’m going to make an everlasting covenant with you and your descendants. I will be your god and the god of your descendants. You likee?
Abraham: Likee? I Lovee! But first, refresh my memory. What’s a covenant again?
God: Plus I’m going to throw in this lovely land of Canaan in which you now reside even though you are a foreigner.
Abraham: Gosh! For reals?
Abraham: Thanks so much God. I guess I’ll get back to sitting in the entrance to my tent now.
God: Yes I’m going to give all that to you and your descendents, but first . . .
Abraham: But first what?
God: Well, you and your descendants must all agree to get circumcised.
Abraham: Oh. Now, what’s a circumcision again?
God: Sure you don’t want a Cheeto?
Abraham: No thanks . . . the fingers . . .
God: Oh that’s right. A circumcision? Well, hm . . . well, what’s your schedule like because it’s going to require a really long-winded complicated explanation and I know you wanted to get back to sitting in your tent entrance . . . Plus I’m almost out of Cheetos . . .
Abraham: Oh that’s okay, God! Don’t go to all that trouble! I’ll just agree to it.
Abraham: Hey where you going?
God: To wash the orange off my fingers.
Abraham: Love you God!
God: Love you too Abraham!
And there you have it, Dear Readers, please check back soon to see what Gregory learns next in Sunday School.
I’m not usually a lucky person. The slot machines I play are sure to be clinkety-clank-less, the numbers on my raffle tickets go unannounced, and, truth be told, I’ve never even had an opportunity to shout the word “Bingo” . . . unless, of course, it was his name-o.
So when I got kissed by Bill Murray at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am Golf Tournament, they had to call the fire department to get me down from Cloud 9.
The whole thing would have never happened had I not stepped on the toes of a good-natured, somewhat tipsy Englishman while trying to get a glimpse of Clint Eastwood at the fifth hole at Spyglass -; breaking the ice between the Englishman and I, while simultaneously breaking most of his toes.
Clint proceeded to hit a ball that landed squarely on the green. Now, for secretive, humorous reasons known only to the British, this sent my new Broken Toed Buddy into a fit of laughter and ear-splitting wise-crack-ery; the likes of which can only be achieved after enjoying a hearty three-martini breakfast.
Take a Mulligan, Clint!” The English One advised and began to chant. “Mulli! Mulli! Mulli!” Finally, Clint turned to him and assuming his famous Dirty Harry persona (at least that’s what I assumed he was assuming) replied, “Yeah, OK,” a comment to which the gallery responded with an explosion of laughter so uproarious, I was left to conclude that everybody there was British.
Then . . . suddenly . . . like a Cinderella story out of nowhere – weaving his way through the throngs to the tee—appeared The Great and Powerfully Funny, Bill Murray, Himself.
“Look! It’s Bill Murray!” I observed with all the subtlety of Lucy Ricardo spotting William Holden at the Brown Derby. My English Buddy didn’t miss a beat. “Hey Bill!” He screamed over the crowd. “This lady would like a kiss!”
Bill Murray responded by slowly turning around like he was Moe Howard hearing the dreaded phrase “Niagara Falls!” As he headed my way, the crowd was giddy with anticipation. I know it’s weird and maybe I’ve been watching too much I Love Lucy but what was running through my head at that exact moment was, “Wait until Ethel hears about this!”
Then, Bill Murray positioned himself in front of me and politely waited for the crowd to get their cameras ready and when the time was right . . .
. . . suddenly the AT&T golf tournament faded away, and it was just me and my lips and Bill Murray kissing me . . . with his lips. I don’t know how long we kissed. It could have been an instant or it could have been an hour or possibly four or five hours (but I doubt it) that I was suspended in the bliss of Bill Murray’s kiss.
On the drive home, I suddenly realized it was February 2nd which meant – that’s right – I got kissed by Bill Murray on Groundhog day. And in the immortal the words of Carl the Greens keeper — after he was granted total consciousness on his deathbed by the Dali Lama –I thought:
“So I got that going for me . . . which is nice.”
Until next time . . . I love you (and that goes double for Bill Murray)