Gary Little has been stringing letters into words for seven decades. From sermons, for a very short time, to forty years of writing low-level system software for computers, to finally writing what he wants to write. Widowed and living in Las Vegas, Gary manages to knock out short stories and irreverent gedankens on an irregular schedule.
“I ain’t got no stinking bookshelves,” sang the curmudgeon in an off-key baritone, as he opened the refrigerator to see what was for breakfast. Standing there with the refrigerator blowing cold air up his pajama shorts and chilling his nether regions, Charles “Chuck” Magnus pondered the possibilities.
“Ok, no pizza. I had that for lunch yesterday. So . . . milk?” he mumbled to himself.
He shook the milk carton, heard it was nearly empty, opened it and sniffed. Wrinkling his nose he said, “Ugh . . . no milk.” That eliminated cereal. He dumped the odious liquid into the sink, ran water and threw the empty in the trash. Leftovers? Yeah, last night’s meatloaf and the roasted Irish potatoes. “A breakfast fit for a curmudgeon,” Chuck mumbled and shoved the afore mentioned items into the microwave.
Noticing the fluffy head with two big black eyes at his feet, he said, “Well, Charlie, is it time for you to eat as well?” A quick wag of a tail, a whine, and a turn about answered that question.
While his breakfast was being irradiated, Chuck cleaned the dog dish, prepared Charlie’s food, and sat it down for his friend.
Chuck slid the bedroom closet door to the side, and discussed his sartorial choices with Charlie. “How about a blue polo and jeans? Like that Charlie?” Charlie agreed with a brief tail wag. Chuck pulled a dark blue polo off a hanger, over his head, hand combed the errant follicle over his bald spot and patted his belly. “Not bad you old fart,” he said glimpsing himself in the bedroom mirror.
He looked at the fluffy face that had just dropped the ball at his feet. “Charlie, that’s why I like talking to you. You either agree with me or bring me the ball to throw,” which is what Chuck and Charlie did for a bit.
Once again he echoed the nonsense tune that had become an earwig, “I ain’t got no stinking bookshelves.” Those weren’t the words, but that’s what he heard, and that’s what he sang.
“Well, Monsieur Charlemagne the Third, shall we go see if we can give that old biddy a happy day?” Julia Rudd, the old biddy, was the community’s reigning blue-haired monarch of fundamental holiness . . . according to her. She was there to greet you when you moved in, and there to see what you left behind when you were carried out. It was, after all, a retirement community.
She and Chuck did not see eye to eye, on anything. It began with the Pledge of Allegiance at the first community meeting he attended. As was his want, he did not say under God. She was standing near him, must have had her hearing aid turned up, because she failed to hear those two words.
After the meeting was over she accosted him. “Mr. Magnus, you did not say the pledge correctly.”
“I beg your pardon,” Chuck said, a bit startled.
“It is properly said one nation, under God.”
“Uh, no ma’am, it is not. That was not added until the mid-fifties. I learned it one nation, indivisible, and that is how I say it.”
Julia being Julia, always requiring the last word, she could not let that go. She huffed and puffed, and said, “What are you? One of those godless atheists?”
“No ma’am. Godless atheist would be oxymoronic. I am an atheist, and atheism, by definition, recognizes no god. I am an atheist who sees no reason to be a godless anything.”
Julia choked, and looked down her nose at him. That was not difficult. His drivers license said he was five feet two inches—he had worn his cowboy boots the day he got his license. Julia was the type that could, and would, look down her nose at anyone that had the audacity to express a differing opinion. Chuck turned and left Julia sputtering and speechless, to the wonder of the rest of the residents in Elderberry Park.
“Did he just call Julia a moron?” queried one of the blue-haired brigade.
It just went downhill from there.
He found one of her posted quotes from her pastor about the Bible being “absolutely mathematically correct.” She did love her adverbs. He posted a reply and quoted 1st Kings 7:23; wherein David built a molten sea ten cubits across, five cubits deep, and thirty cubits around. “Absolutely mathematically incorrect,” Chuck quipped in a reply on her Facebook page.
At that point, the depths of downhill could not be plumbed.
This fine morning, he realized he had left the leash in his car. Picking Charlie up, he walked to the car, pulled the leash out of the glove box and snapped it onto Charlie’s collar. Charlie marked anything and everything, as was his want, all the way to the office where Chuck got the mail and slipped it into a hip pocket.
It must have been the random movement of fate affecting the bowels of a certain canine that lovely morning, for Charlie made a bee-line for a desert flower bed. There were no flowers, just pea gravel the size of cat-litter arranged in whatever pattern the gardener felt proper. Charlie was in full hunker when Chuck felt the tug on the leash.
“What . . .” he started, but he saw Charlie, and realized that no force known to man can pull a dog out of a full blown hunker. He reached for the plastic bags he always carried in his hip pocket for just such an occasion.
No bag. Now, what?
Charley finished his business took a step or two and did the flip male dogs do when completing said business. Chuck fumbled with the mail in the other hip pocket, found a long envelope, used it to scoop things up, and deposit it in a nearby trash can. Carrying the envelope gingerly, he and Charlie continued home.
“Bill . . . bill . . . advertisement . . . trash,” he said as he sorted the mail. “. . . What’s this?” It was the long envelope he had used to clean up Charlie’s miscreant bowel movement. “No, it can’t be . . .” Under the return address was a smudge of Charlie’s poop. Nothing remarkable in that, considering how the envelope had been used, it was how the human mind wanted to interpret that smudge.
Chuck smiled as he grabbed a plastic bag from the box he kept by the door, slipped the envelope in it length wise, and carried the envelope to the proper address. He placed it, still in the bag, in the message box each apartment had at the front door. He recalled she and her inner-circle were at a church convention until Monday. The envelope was from the First Holier-Than-Thou Baptist Church and addressed to Julia Rudd.
Tuesday morning dawned bright and clear. As Chuck walked through the commons to get his morning coffee, he over heard some interesting conversation.
“Did you hear what Julia had in her message box yesterday?”
“Yes, I did. An envelope with a picture of the Lord on it.”
“Oh my yes, but the picture wasn’t there when it was mailed. Pastor Fred has no idea how it got there. George the mailman told Harriet it wasn’t there when he delivered the mail Saturday. It is such a miracle. Julia said she’s framing it and hanging it in the church’s vestibule.”
“Praise the Lord,” was echoed by several in the circle there in the sitting room.
Charles Magnus sipped his coffee, smiled, and went home to take Charlemagne for a morning walk.
I liked this story best of any I read
Gary Little says
Thank you for the comment, Marilyn.
Jeane Rhodes says
Great story. You have conveyed the essence of two very real characters in so few words.
Gary Little says
Thank you Jeane.
Gordon Bell says
I liked the authentic feeling of self-righteousness found in the atheistic and the religious characters while they defended their positions and how authentic the space surrounding those juxtaposed belief systems felt, especially while Chuck and Julia Rudd sparred. Chuck’s life felt free and unencumbered. Julia’s life burdened. This could very well make a strong case for atheism. Just like the stodginess felt in the life of the believers of God could be seen as a case against religion. The story was light and airy. The ending quite defined – the joke is on the believers of a god. Fun story.
Maria Holding says
It’s a fictional story! It can’t make a case for either side. Also, as a Christian, I found this story discriminatory and rather ludicrous. I have never in my 57 years on earth met a Christian like Julia. I have, however, met several atheists like her. Enough said. God bless.
Twas intended to be ludicrous and discriminatory, so thank you for that assessment. In my 75 years, I have encountered both male and female Julia’s, many times. Also encountered a few Chucks, many of them former Julias.
Gary Little says
Gordon, thank you for reading and leaving a comment.
MC Dalton says
This is a story I could read a hundred tomes over. The humour, the way you portray the everyday life of your MC. To read your work is such a treat!
Gary Little says
As always, thank you MC.
Hey my names Anton and I love it
Gary Little says