Chapter 2

For starters: Congratulations The Mountain Between Us. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Jessica Chastain in Molly’s Game. Such a great movie, too.

Best Actor: Bill Murray as Baloo in The Jungle Book. This is so far my favourite of the recent Disney live-action remakes.

Best Quote: “I’m your father. Trying to comprehend how much I love you would be like trying to visualize the size of the universe.” — Kevin Costner as Larry Bloom (father of Molly Bloom) in Molly’s Game.

 

Chapter 2

No!  Though it was an old car Brody babied it. Tune ups, transmission flushes, oil changes complete with high grade synthetics; yet, the Tribute wouldn’t turn over. It was as if there was nothing but grease and stale air under the hood. He just wanted to leave. That coffee conversation was more than just weird. The level of crazy those two are on… It wasn’t just the kind of crazy where you shake your head with a crooked grin like you do for tornado chasers, or people who belong to fanatical religious groups. No, this kind of crazy was the kind you don’t feel safe around. Like if you are listening to your religious zealot of an uncle ranting about his views and then realize he is carrying a gun in his jacket.

“Please Brody, don’t leave!” The older woman was standing in the parking lot a few yards away but in his view. It was like she was desperately pleading with him but respected him enough to give him space. Not so with Chester. He was at the passenger side door, palms on the window, and wide eyes.

“Brode! Ya gatta help us!”

Brode? Chester hardly knew him, what made him think he could move straight to nickname mode? That and the fact that he hated that unnecessary shortening of his name that for a second he’d forgotten his fear and shot the portly oddball the ol’ wtf stink-eye.

Then Brody looked again at Anita, and immediately regretted it. Oddly enough he felt bad for her. He saw in her pain, sorrow, and a vulnerability that one doesn’t expect to see in the eyes of a crazy person. And there was this odd feeling of responsibility for her, even love and loyalty, if she really was who she was claiming to be.

So tired. So annoyed. Somewhat still scared. But Brody found himself opening the door and getting out like a child who begrudgingly agreed to do what his parent asked. He stood and Anita approached.

They just stood for a few seconds looking at each other. To Brody it was hours. Chester stared unashamedly, waiting for what would happen next.

“Did you do it?”

Anita shook her head yes slowly.

“Do what??” interjected Chester, being soundly ignored.

Brody closed his eyes and exhaled. “This…” gesturing to the hood, “is my baby.”

“Oh the cah!”

“Yes, the CAH!” Brody mocked. “Forgive me for not wanting to be a part of your…witchcraft!” Witchcraft? It wasn’t the word he was looking for, but he was too shaken by the events of the last half hour to be flustered by poor word choice.

“Brody, we didn’t hurt your car. We just made it….not start.”

“Yeah, just for now,” added Chester.

“We need you to just listen. We will show you that what we’re saying is true and will keep you completely safe. Please Brody.”

Well, she had a way with words. In minutes they were back at their Denny’s booth. Coffee was cold, but no one was wanting any in the first place. They decided to start over and get to know one another a bit better. Perhaps that would help ease things a bit. Chester was a recent high school graduate who was adopted as a baby by an American couple in 1924. He lived through the great depression and the start of WWII. Like most young men his age he was sent oversees to fight the Nazis, and like most young men who were of Asian descent, he was sent on the front lines. He wasn’t as eager to join the fight as some of his peers. He’d even had a buddy join the Canadian army a couple of years prior to Pearl Harbour (This really piqued Brody’s interest.). Chester fought valiantly, but after a year and a half he died bleeding to death of bullet wounds, lying in the middle of a dirt road in Tunisia.

Chester seemed a little too matter-of-fact about his war experience and death, at least according to Brody. But Anita clarified. She explained how in what we call “the after life,” souls aren’t affected by the distresses and hardships of life on earth. And she spoke up at just the right time. It was her turn to share.

Anita was a happily married mother of three, grandmother of two and great grandmother of four. She was a high school math teacher who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on her 81st birthday. It was a scary time for her family, but by that time it was much easier to deal with the disease. Unfortunately it decided to return, this time to attack her lungs, a part of the body that scientists and doctors struggled to find cures for that had as good success rates as other types of cancer. She said she still misses her family, but in a different way than you do.

“Wait. You’re in your 90’s?” asked Brody incredulously.

“I died in my 90’s yes.” Knowing what he was getting at she added, “People live a lot longer in your immediate future. They also age slower. A lot of giant leaps were made in the field of medicine back in the mid 30’s.”

By now Brody’s nerves had eased enough for him to want to know more. It was time for him to ask some questions about Anita and Chester’s current situation.

“So, when you’re, um… in heaven,”

“Heaven!” Chester repeated with a smile and laugh you’d expect to see on an old man.

“Yeah. Well, what do you call it?”
“We don’t call it anything,” offered Anita. It just seems impossible to get used to people calling this “after life” or “heaven.”

“But it is ah-some!” said Chester. “That’s how we found you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Anita knew from her mom’s stories that you were a boxing fan and that you’d been there for the Puri-Stone fight of 2025.” Chester made ‘boxing’ sound like ‘baxing.’

“So you guys can time travel and go wherever you want?”

“Yes, but there are rules. Just like in natural law, no one really sets the rules. They’re just there. For instance, I can’t just say to myself I want to go to the local grocery store of my childhood on May 1, 1973. But if there is a specific notable event, one that lives in the minds and  hearts of souls, living and dead—especially one’s own—it’s easy to get there.”

Brody was unaware that his mouth was open while he listened, nor how big his eyes were, nor how his head was cocked to the right, which made Chester giggle a bit.

“That’s amazing.”

“And how!” said Chester. Geez, listen to this guy. He really is an old man.

“So that trick you did with my coffee cup…” Anita’s facial expression made Brody decide not to ask any more questions about the afterlife and his new friends’ apparent ‘superpowers.’

“We can fill you in more later Brody, but for now, we really need to get to a shower. Can we use yours?”

“You want to take a shower?”

“No no, not take one,” Chester interjected, “Clean as a whistle we are. We do still need your show-ah though.”

Brody was back to feeling nervous again. There’s something about bringing someone you just met to your house so they can use your amenities that feels a little off. Chester seemed to notice this.

“Tell you what, I’ll make you a deal. We get in your cah and you let me do the driving, and I promise you we’ll get you home safe.”

“What, you guys can teleport?”

“Something like that.” 

More out of exhaustion than anything Brody agreed to the deal, but he couldn’t possibly have been prepared for the car ride he was about to take.

Pick your movie of the week: Idris Elba! (June 30-July 6/19)

Idris Elba has been a new face to me in the last decade and I’ve become a kind of fan. He’s good, and his movies tend to be as well. So out of these three of his, which do you think is more deserving?

The Jungle Book (2016)

The Mountain Between Us (2017)

Molly’s Game (2017)

Working on a short story…

Movie of the week: No Country for Old Men

I don’t have a title yet, but I’ve been thinking of a story along these lines for a long time  and thought this would be a great place to try and get it out of me. It’s a bit on the long side for a blog post, so I’ll start with the weekly award winners:

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Kelly MacDonald as Carla Jean Moss in No Country for Old Men. She was SO good in this movie, I wish she was in more. She did voice Merida in Brave, however, which is cool.

Best Actor: John Turturro as Pete Hogwallop in Oh Brother Where Art Thou? I love the classic Coen Brothers comedy in this movie!

Best Quote: “That rug really tied the room together.” — Jeff Bridges as The Dude in The Big Lebowski.

Congratulations No Country for Old Men. This is your week.

And now for our story…

Chapter 1: An Unforgettable Cup of Coffee

The night of the big fight was notable for so many reasons. Sangeet Puri knocked out Scott Stone for the heavyweight championship in six gripping rounds, each one seeming to have its own sub-plot for this ultimate underdog story. Yet, even though that fight would dominate newspaper headlines around the world, it wouldn’t be the most notable thing to happen that night for Brody Toombs. Oh, he was there! He was one amoung the countless pairs of eyes that could not pull themselves away from that tiny square in the center of the arena. The muted punch-thumps set the mesmerizing rhythm of a seesaw battle that would be talked about in barber shops for decades to come.

But Brody’s experience was far more important, even though not a single person in that place knew it was happening. And it started out so simple: two strangers standing and waiting for him in the arena parking lot next to his faded copper 07 Tribute.

He thought maybe there was a fender bender they had to talk to him about, but quickly realized that wasn’t it when the woman looked him in the eyes and uttered his full name. She had the look of a school teacher who was ready to retire in about ten years, depending on whether she really ready yet to stay home doing nothing. She wore a long sleeve blouse with blue jeans and sported a pixie-cut hairstyle that couldn’t seem to decide if it was blonde or white. The guy standing with her looked like a schlubby university sophomore who would probably graduate, but not without a good fight from late night gaming sessions, a piss-poor diet, and a string of C-’s and D’s. His face said he was of Korean descent but his voice argued that he was a southern Maine fisherman, as Brody would soon discover.

“Brody Toombs,” she said with a smile and extended hand. “How are you?” She looked happy to see him, but nervous.

“Um, I’m good,” he replied, trying to guess what’s going on. “Can I help you?”

“Actually yes. I’m Anita and this is Chester.” The Korean Swamp Yankee gave a smile and a nod. “We have to talk to you. It’s urgent.”

“Ok… do we know each other?”

“No, but just give us a few minutes. I know you’ve got a long drive ahead of you, but I can’t overstate how important it is that we talk to you.”

Minutes later they sat in a booth at Denny’s, but Brody wished he could just get on the road. He not only had to drive all night, he also had to cross an international border. Growing up Canadian he had an appreciation for hockey, but it was boxing that took up all his time and attention. Ever since high school he would save all year long to join his friend from New York, Dekota, who had connections—namely a fairly wealthy and influential uncle—to get decent tickets for title fights. He’d usually spend a few days there, then leave shortly after the fight. By this time, he and Dekota had bumped fists and said their see-ya’s, and now Brody was tired. Tired but anxious to get home. This better not be all about a sales pitch, he thought as he eyed the two across the table.

“So,” started Anita. “You saw quite the fight!”

“Yup. It was pretty incredible.”

“Incredible’s not the word!” Chester broke his silence. “From what I’ve heard from Cable, this fight will be tacked about for at least a hundred yeeahs!” Anita shot him a disapproving and annoyed look.

Normally a statement like this would kickstart a rare and energized spirit in Brody and he would would discuss, speculate, and reminisce for hours. Only boxing could do that, but right now he just wanted to get the point.

“How do you two know me? And what is so important?”

Chester gave a quick glance at Anita, as if he was saying, How are you gonna answer that one??

Just then a waitress stopped by and took their orders. Black coffee all around. Though Chester snatched a fistful of sweetener packets from the little dish on their table in preparation.

“Brody, we’ve come a long distance to see you. We…oh it’s hard to know where to start.”

Awkward silence.

“We are stuck… in a way. We are here, but need to get… back.”

Back where? Spit it out!

At this point Chester proved to not be a bumbling side-kick. “Brody, we know you can help us get back. It is very dangerous for us to be here. We could be lost forever.”

That seemed like an odd choice of words.

“So… where are you from? Canada? I’m Canadian myself…er…maybe you already know that.” It felt a little unsettling to say that.

“No. In fact we’re from another world entirely.” Again Anita shot him the same look as before but with ten times the intensity and speed. Brody just stared at them incredulously. Soon, he thought, he’d be in his car heading for the border.

Their coffees came offering a brief respite to reality. Quick thank-you’s all around and the waitress hotfooted back to the kitchen.

“Anita, we have to do this!” He looked back at Brody. “Man, we really are from another world, and we can prove it!”

“So, like, another planet? You’re aliens or something?”

“Nu-no. We’re not little green men or nothin’,” chuckled Chester. “I’m from North Hampton, Mass. And she’s from Vancouv-ah,” he raised his fist to his chest with his thumb poking the air in Anita’s direction. “Nuthin’ weird. But we’re like from another dimension… kinda. Like, another time.”

Brody looked to Anita for clarification, his left eyebrow slightly raised. When she didn’t answer right away he thought about darting out of the restaurant and speeding down the 95 and never looking back. Then he saw something that made him freeze in place like he was made of stone. Anita held her hand open to the side on a table and Brody’s coffee mug slid itself twelve or fourteen inches into her hand. She stared at him with somber gravity and handed him his coffee.

“Brody, Chester here is old enough to be your grandfather. And I am… you’re actual granddaughter.”

“Yup. We’re pretty much dead, Brody.”

To be continued…

Pick your movie of the week: The Coen Brothers! (June 23-29/19)

I love the movies these two put out. They’ve made ho-hum movies before, but usually their films are at least enjoyable, if not great. I decided to leave out Fargo (1996) seeing as it’s one that often rises to the top when people discuss the Coen Brothers. Which of their following three movies would you pick for this week’s movie?

The Big Lebowski (1998)

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

No Country for Old Men (2007)

My Erika: “What she tackles, she conquers.”

The weekend is officially over and my baby girl has made the transition to a grown adult. She graduated and now starts a journey we have all started, at least those of us who are 18 and older. Once again I was given the privilege of giving a speech in honour of one of my children, so I thought I would share some of that speech with you, as well as a few other memories of my little chicken, Erika:

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for a family secret to be revealed. All the grades are in so it is too late to expel her, but my daughter Erika was born high! Though she wanted to stay in the womb for as long as possible, when she finally did decide to make an appearance she was too fast for the anesthesiologist to arrive. Since it was too late for the epidural, the doctor and nurses offered her a needle saying it would help. Joy didn’t want the needle but decided to accept the offer so they would stop talking to her during contractions. Sadly, the drug had no effect on Joy, though it had quite the effect on Erika!

She was born passed out with a goofy smile on her face. When she gained some sense of consciousness she started to flirt with the doctor, something I did not approve of as her father.

However, Erika overcame the effect of the drug, attended a 12-step group, and promptly won all of our hearts. Like all my kids, Erika has made me super proud on countless occasions. Here are some of my favourite memories:

  • One year for Christmas her gift to me was learning how to play my favourite Christmas song on the piano: “I Saw Three Ships.”
  • Erika cares for people. She has no patience for words or actions that hurt others. For as long as she has been able to understand social issues to any degree she has believed staunchly in human rights, equality, dignity, and peace. She’s familiar with many of the stories of human cruelty and atrocities in our recent world history and understands the importance of “never forget” with regards to those events.
  • I’ve always said that our home has two very responsible parents: Joy and Erika. Much to my other two children’s chagrin, this is very accurate, not to mention fortunate considering who carries the title “father” in our house. She keeps us all in line. In fact, I might just get grounded for writing this post but hopefully she’ll go easy on me.
  • As a toddler Erika loved two things: being read to and wearing dresses. She insisted on wearing dresses to bed, especially princess dresses. There was no way she was going to let me make her change into pajamas! I chose not to mess with her lest she unleash her wrath.
  • In her pre-kindergarten year she came home from school quite put out with a male classmate who told her she was “seck-sy.” We just barely held back our grins and helped little Erika deal with this one.
  • One night when she was in youth group at our church they held a parent-teen night. One of the games we played was a kind of tweaked version of “The Newlywed Game.” Questions would be asked to the parents about the teen and vice versa. The object, of course, was for Erika and I to get as many answers the same as possible. They’d asked me what Erika’s favourite story book was. I knew this one! It was one I’d bought her for Christmas called “Annika’s Secret Wish.” I was so happy that we knew each other so well, and I believed we would win with this question. Well, I was actually wrong, but I was so humbled and thrilled to hear that her answer was “Cobbkin’s Wall.” This was a story I’d written and she chose it as her favourite.

Erika, we are so proud of you. In fact, those seven words don’t communicate their meaning well enough. Honestly, our lives with you have only just begun. We love you, our little angel.

Congratulations Erika, this is your life.

Congratulations Amadeus, this is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Elizabeth Berridge as Constanze Mozart in Amadeus.

Best Actor: Marshall Mathers (aka Eminim) as B. Rabbit in 8 Mile.

Best Quote:The sky belongs to the stars.” — Marshal Crenshaw as Buddy Holly in La Bamba.

 

We are also very proud to share that Erika has received multiple scholarships to the school she’s attending in the fall (Crandall University). At her graduation ceremony she led us all in the singing of our national anthem. Then she performed “Lean On Me” with a handful of her friends to the delight of the crowd. Eat your heart out Mozart.

Muppet Equivalencies

Kermit — John Krasinski.

He plays the lovable straight character, and though his sweetheart sometimes upstages him, his popularity is undeniable.

 

Miss Piggy — Meghan Markle.

She shows up at places where she is supposed to behave but instead steels the spotlight and sometimes throws a bit of a tantrum. Such a diva.

 

Gonzo the Great — Kanye West.

Yes, he’s talented, but most of us watch him to see him make an idiot of himself.

 

Scooter — Bill Gates.

He’s geeky, organized, and he knows things.

 

 

Animal — Donald Trump.

Loud and hard to control. Speaks in sentence fragments with limited vocabulary and demands attention.

 

Sweetums — Dwayne Johnson.

He’s bigger than life and when he shows up on screen it’s like, “Look! It’s that big guy! He’s awesome!”

 

 

Fozzi — Ricky Gervais. To some he’s funny, to others he’s annoying.

Beaker — Justin Trudeau.

He’s always nervous and unsure/unable to know what to say. He tries super hard, perhaps too hard, while everything around him explodes.

 


Statler and Waldorf — Simon Cowell and David Williams.

Funny critics with whom we have a love/hate relationship.

 

 

Sam the Eagle — Vladimir Putin.

A patriot with shifty eyes, very little sense of humour and what looks like a simmering plot to conquer the world.

 

 

Manna manna — BTS (K pop group). None of us know what they’re saying, but that’s some catchy stuff!

 

Congratulations The Muppet Movie. This is your week.


And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Amy Adams as Mary in The Muppets.

Best Actor: Michael Caine as Scrooge in The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Best Quote: “Kermit, does this film have socially redeeming value?” — Sam the Eagle, voiced by Frank Oz, in The Muppet Movie.

Joy and I saw Rocketman for our anniversary date, and we both highly recommend it!