Monday, August 22, 2016

Action Men and the Great Zarelda, Part 6

Continued from Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 ...

The two guys wheeled the box out on a dolly through the back door while I, unable to squeeze through the “pasta press,” went out the front door and met them in the parking lot in the rear. Together we put the box into the SUV, an Out of the Box Toys company vehicle.

“Do I need to sign anything?” I asked. “Do I get a receipt?”

“We've emailed the receipt to Zarelda,” said John.

With the box secured in the back, I got in the driver's seat and started to drive towards Zarelda's theater. I began flipping through the Sirius radio stations: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s … What decade did I want to listen to? Or did I want to listen to all Neil Diamond all the time or all Elvis all the time? Well, Elvis couldn't be so bad. He was the King after all.

It was one of his gospel songs that came on, a strange pick for me as an agnostic. “I don't know just where I'd be if the Lord wasn't walking by my side ...” It had a fun rhythm, and I didn't change the channel. Was the Lord walking by my side? Jack would say, not so much that He was, in my case, but that He would be if I let Him. “When I was drifting (I was drifting on a sea of despair,) and I was wondering (I was wondering if Jehovah's up there ...)” Well, that was true enough. Maybe it wasn't such a strange song pick for an agnostic.

I drove down Newark's Broadway, past a lot of small storefronts, some with security steel curtains rolled down, their business names spelled out on awnings.

“When Jesus found me …” Scratch. “(When Jesus found me in my sinful life...)” Scratch Scratch.

What was with the scratches? What sort of old recording was used for this song? An old vinyl record full of crackles and pops? Weren't there ways of reducing these kinds of noises on old recordings?

I turned the radio off. Scratch. Scratch.

“Oh great,” I said aloud. The noise was coming from the car. What was it? My brakes? One of the tires?

I pulled the car over to the curb and parked and turned the car off.

Scratch Scratch. I was still hearing these noises with the car parked and no longer running. And then there were more noises, bigger noises, like thumping. It was all very unnerving.

I got out of the car and walked over to the sidewalk side, a little nervous to be walking about in this neighborhood which was much more crime prone than my hometown.

Parrots! It's got to be parrots! But that box was empty! I resisted the urge to talk to myself aloud and give passers-by the vibe that I belonged in Bellevue.

I opened the back of the SUV and looked at the magic prop box. There were two swinging doors on the top side of the box over the chamber that John and Kumar had shown me was empty. I swung these open.

“Woah!” I said as I bent over and looked inside. “You guys are not parrots.”

I was looking down at two tiger cubs, neither of which was your typical black and orange tiger. One was albino, and the other was nearly all black. They were cubs, cute little guys really, but already bigger than any house cat. They were attached to oxygen – how thoughtful! – but the white cub seemed to find this plastic attachment to his nose annoying and was swiping his paw at the tubing and crying, sounding very much like a human baby.

“Somehow,” I told the tigers, “when I imagined becoming a father, it played out differently in my mind.”

I wanted to help the little guy, but I was afraid he'd mistake my hand for a steak. I could see now how this compartment had appeared empty to me just a little bit earlier. The tigers were behind an angled mirror. The mirror was positioned in such a way to make the compartment from my earlier perspective look empty.

“I think I'll name you Ebony and Ivory.” I had gotten carried away with myself. I had no right to these tigers, never mind naming them. I thought of the '80s song by Stevie Wonder and Sir Paul McCartney and started to sing, “Ebonyand ivory, live together in perfect harmony, side by side on my piano keyboard. Oh Lord, why can't we?” But since every song I sing comes out like a monotone
“one note samba,” I wasn't sure this was the best strategy for persuading them not to eat me.

I was admiring this symbolic microcosm of racial harmony when a man of the ebony sort, with bundled dreadlocks hanging down his back, walked past me on the sidewalk. I looked up, and he looked back over his shoulder at me, and we made eye contact. “Hey brother, you can't sing,” he said.

“I know.”

He smiled. “But I like your spirit. That really touched me … right here.” He tapped the center of his chest. He started to walk towards me, and I began to get nervous. Oh boy. Here it comes. He is going to hug me. He was a hugger, not a mugger. It was I who was the criminal, at least by appearances, with a car full of hot tigers, for Pete's sake. I backed away from him slightly, trying to position myself so that I shielded my illegal cargo from his view. As smooth as I tried to be, I stumbled a bit over the uneven sidewalk.

“Hey, relax man. I'm going to hug you, not mug you.”

Almost my own exact words! I quickly shot an arm behind me and closed the top swinging doors of the box. When Mr. Random Hugger approached, I was ready with open arms. It was a beautiful moment, and I could enjoy it much better now that I knew the box was closed.

“All right, brother. Peace out.” He thumped himself in the chest twice more, gave the peace sign with his fingers, and then Mr. Random Hugger walked off into the sunset.

I got back in the driver's seat. I had hated to shut the tigers once more in darkness, but it seemed it couldn't be helped. I couldn't very well let them wander freely around the vehicle. Maybe they would take the cue and take a nap … or maybe not. Soon, I could hear them both crying from the back. Perhaps, they were hungry.

To be continued ...

© 2016 Susan Joy Clark


  1. Close call! Loved it Susan.

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Heidi. I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

  3. Hi Susan!
    I just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for the Liebster Award. The information about the award is on my website.
    Don't feel obligated to pass it on if you don't want to. Congrats!