Betty J. Slade

 

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    Sweet Al's Sandbox on the Blanco

    I was sitting in the dark with a cup of coffee enjoying 5 a.m. on the Blanco. I was rolling over in my mind a recent comment I heard.

    My Sweet Al rolled out of bed, turned on the light and said, “Okay. Now what are you up to?”

    “Only people over fifty read my articles.”

    “So.”

    “I didn’t want to believe it, but when my friend told me that, he planted a seed in my mind. Maybe, that’s my niche’, writing articles to an old people’s magazine about old people.  Do you think it’s come to that?”

    “It’s too early to think.”

    He didn’t need to think, my mind had been thinking for three hours. “Well, if that’s the case, what if I move your little sandbox on the Blanco to a bigger audience. I could develop a story and series around our fifty, sixty and seventy year old friends. A. A. Milne wrote Winnie the Pooh and he turned his one acre yard into a hundred acre forest. His little boy’s toys became his characters.”

    “Let me get a cup of coffee, I don’t know if I want to hear this.”

    “My writer friend says I’ve got to change my characters. If they’re fat, make them skinny, if they’re tall, make them short, if their red headed, make them blond. Otherwise I might get sued.”

    Al choked on his coffee. “Betty, listen to her, you could get us sued.”

    “Don’t call me Betty anymore, I am now Sophia Marie. In the Greek it means continuous wisdom.  Call me Sophy.”

    “I said goodnight to Betty and got up this morning with Sophia Marie and a Greek lesson. Who is this woman I married?”

    “Sophy! That’s my character’s name for my new series. Sophy is now a wild dyed redhead, whose hair turns purple in the sun. She’s a washed-up artist turned writer. She wants all her artist and writer friends around her and Sweet Al tolerates them. She’s had a few bouts with the church ladies and wants to live out her last days writing stories and learning Greek. When she meets Jesus she’ll speak Greek to him.”

    “Sounds about right.”

    “I’ll keep your name Sweet Al since I’ve already made you famous on Google. In my mind I was casting my characters this morning when you turned on the light.

    I think better in the dark when I’m alone.” I poured myself another cup of coffee, and looked at Al’s half-full cup. He was resting his head on the back of the chair, with his eyes closed and his mouth open. “I’ve already talked to an artist friend, but she gave me all these stipulations. She warned me, if I write anything mean about her she will sic her husband on me.”

    “You don’t need someone’s husband mad at you.”

    “I know. I killed that character in a hurry. The most colorful person in my life is my friend, Jubilee. She’s got to be in the story. I can’t disguise her. She’s perfect just the way she is. She’s bigger than life, has a generous smile and gigantic personality. She’s the new fifty who’s sixty, single, and fun. She definitely has to be one of the characters.”

    Al raised his head and looked at me, “You wear me out. Things you think are funny aren’t that funny to a lot of people. You have to be careful, you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.”

    “But people are funny. I’ll go easy on your friends. The two main characters will be you and Zoom. He reminds me of Winnie-the-Pooh, and you two are the best of friends in the whole wide world. You live next door to each other, retired, one wants to play all the time, and the other only knows how to work.   You play with your tractors and mowers in your twenty-five acre sandbox.  He sings to you in the evenings from his back porch. But, not on Fridays, he plays at the local pizza restaurant.

    I talked to him the other day. He said he trusts me and I could write anything about him. I’ll pepper in some of our other friends, like our go-to-Joe friend. I’ll end the articles with one of your thoughts. The story will be about…

    I heard snoring. I looked over. My Sweet Al  had fallen asleep in his chair holding his empty cup. I guess that’s his thought about it all.  I’ll have to work on my short stories.

    The day started with thinking about colorful characters, funny stories and a query letter I need to write to the different senior citizens magazines. It evolved into the afternoon and a phone call. Al’s eighty-one year old brother called. His gruff voice came over the phone, “Where’s Al?”

    “He’s up in his garage.”

    “When’s he coming to the house?”

    “When I ring the bell for lunch.”

    “Poor Al.”

    “It’s kinda like you, when you walk into a club, a bell goes off in these silly girls’ heads, they come running for a free lunch. If it’s the dinner hour, they get a free dinner and a glass of wine.  I hadn’t thought about it, but you’d be perfect for one of my characters. I’ll have to change your name because of all your girlfriends. I’ll call you Conrad.  Conrad sounds expensive. I’ll nickname you Con. Con will be whatever we want it to be. How’s that?

    “Whatever? I need to talk to Al.”

    “I haven’t rung the bell yet. For now you can call me Sophy.”

    “I dated a Sophy once. She was twenty-three…”

    “Hold that thought. Tell me later. If you want to talk to your brother I’ve got to ring the bell.”

    Final Brushstroke! Some people love telling their stories, some don’t. My daughter sent a quote to me, “A bad chapter doesn’t mean the whole book is bad.” We all have a few bad chapters and we’ve all learned to laugh at ourselves. But, by the end of our days we’ve written our story, and some of our lives make unbelievable funny award-winning stories. I might have found my niche’.

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