(Author’s note: I took a month off of writing completely. Things have been a little bit busy with work and I was in a bit of a jam writing-wise. The jam is slowly removing itself, and I am starting to get back into the swing of it with a 3 work-day vacation this week, a “use-it-or-lose-it” thing. Today’s last item caps off a year that was, in a lot of ways, not the best year for a great number of folk. But, take it as you will. Here’s today’s last Fictioneers of 2022.)
by Miles H. Rost
Granddad opened the Nicosean Bakery along Latrobe Street in 1927, before all the other Greeks came to Melbourne.
Visitors, tourists, and famous people would come in at various times for traditional Baklava, piping hot finikia, or even traditional raised and filled donuts.
Dad took over in 1974, and the institution served to the Greek Orthodox community every year with its specialty breads.
2021 was to be the year I took over. But that disease came, and the officials who bought our baked goods shut us down. “Safety” they said.
Dad lost his life soon after. Without work, he was nothing.
(NOTE: This story is fictional. Treat it as such.)
It was a calm day on the seas. Off the coast of Catalina, the yacht Isabelle was slowly making it’s way south towards San Diego. The drifting of the boat was enough to feel that there was movement, but yet it was slow enough that it wouldn’t go too far if someone fell off.
Mark Yulogh sat behind the helm of the yacht. He was dressed in a loud Hawaiian shirt that screamed “Magnum P.I.”. Clad in white shorts, canvas shoes, and with a pair of shades propped on his head, he looked like a typical boater and tourist. Though he made his home in Oceanside, he always loved taking the yacht for a ride whenever he could.
His girlfriend Jayna was sitting on the bow of the yacht, accumulating as much vitamin D as she could as she let the ultraviolet rays of the bright midday sun beats down on her. Wearing a white bikini that hid enough, and with a white wrap around her waist, she looked like a stereotypical “yacht girl”.
The seas they were on were very calm, with very little movement happening. The currents were not very strong this day, and the water glowed a brighter blue-green color. It was as if the day was a perfect one for just laying out in the ocean with no cares.
“Honey,” Mark called out, as he walked from the cabin to the bow, carrying two more glass bottles of Pepsi, “Do you want to have lunch off Catalina, or would you like to head down towards Dana Point?”
“Catalina sounds fine for me. I’m just about done with sunning, anyways. What do we have to eat today, anyways?”
“We’ve got some turkey and cheese hoagies, some wonderful home-baked potato chips with sea salt and pepper, and our cola.”
Jayna sat up and smiled broadly.
“Did you say home-baked potato chips?”
Mark winked at her, as he started to turn.
“Made them myself last night, and put them in an airtight container. They should be very crisp.”
The couple lowered anchor off the western coast of Catalina Island and enjoyed their lunch. As they were finishing the last of the chips, a small cruiser pulled up by them.
“Hey, ahoy there!” the officer on the police cruiser called.
“Ahoy, officer. Are we not allowed out here today?”
“Nah, just got a message here. You’re Mark Yulogh, right?”
“It’s a note from your parents. They’re flying into Lindbergh tonight.”
Mark sighed, with the weight on his shoulders.
“Thank you for letting me know. We’ll get on our way in just a few.”
The officer saluted and zipped back towards the northern coast.
“Looks like we’re going to have to make things official with them.”
Jayna looked up at Mark, and cocked her head to the side. A couple of her sun-kissed brunette locks fell down around her face.
He patted his pockets and smiled. He proceeded to pull out a small box, and kneeled down in front of her.
“For a very long time, Jayna, we’ve been together. I was thinking about doing this tonight after we got back to San Diego, but now is good of a time as any.”
Jayna gasped, as she knew what was coming.
“Jayna Brown, would you marry me?”
She squealed and jumped up and down.
“Yes! Yesyesyes! A thousand times yes!”
She proceeded to hug him and smiled at him broadly.
“I guess we should get back to port, eh? If they’re coming in tonight, that means we’re going to have to take them out to dinner.”
Jayna smiled at him and looked out over the ocean.
“After we get married, we should think about a long sail down the pacific coast. Maybe hit Cabo or San Salvador.”
Mark just smiled as he pulled up the anchor.
The couple walked into the cabin, and with a roar of the motor, they scuppered off toward home port. Fiancees on their way to give good news.
Yeardley’s Club was a place for lovers to visit, to eat, and to spend time with their mates. The owner, Bill Yeardley, had a habit of saying that Yeardley’s “is the place where parents can be married again.” Night after night, the main dining room would be packed with the soft sounds of dinner being served, the light sounds of a jazz piano or jazz ensemble playing in the background while parents relaxed. No expense was spared when giving the parents a time to rest.
There were some nights when it was tense, with some parents that didn’t end up relaxing all that much and ended up in an escalating argument. For those times, Yeardley himself came out to the table and helped get them to a private table in a soundproof room where they could mediate their issues and still enjoy dinner. The atmosphere was still the same in these rooms, with microphones around the restaurant piping in the sound.
Most nights, however, were a delight for Yeardley and his staff of 25. They did all that they could do to make the patron’s experiences enjoyable. Not only would this get them to come back again, but it would continue to set their reputation as “the place to get away from the kids”.
This night, Yeardley sat back in a chair in a hidden area overlooking the restaurant floor. He would be able to see if there were any issues, and still enjoy his time. Since the staff were pretty well policed, he didn’t have to worry about major problems. About an hour into the Friday dinner “rush”, he decided to take a walk around the floor.
He walked around the tables, stopping every so often just to make sure that things were alright, and quickly moved on. As he was about to finish his walkaround, he heard the sounds of what appeared to be a couple in distress. He looked around and spotted the table. The closest waiter to him was summoned, and briefed him on what was going on.
“Alfonse, what’s going on at Table 15?”
“Looks like marital problem. I think it’s an affair from what I am understanding.”
“Get the special wine, do NOT charge them for it, and ready “the crystal”. I’ll go over and do the recon and see if we have to deploy.”
Alfonse did so, and Yeardley went over to the table to get more information.
“Good evening. I’m Bill Yeardley, the owner of the restaurant. Is everything going okay for you tonight?”
The young mother looked at him with a look of disgust on her face.
“We came out here to have a night away from the kids, and he decided to tell me he’s found someone new.”
The young father grumbled. Yeardley turned and looked at him with the usual kind eyes.
“Is that so?”
“It’s not that I found someone new, it’s that I’ve been contemplating it because we aren’t in love anymore.”
Yeardley chuckled at this. The young man did not look amused at the chuckling.
“My dear young man, one of the things to remember is that love isn’t a fleeting feeling. Sure, there’s the feeling of eros; the type of love that makes you all gooey inside and makes you put the wrong key in your door. That’s a form of love. But those who are married, and who have kids, it’s more than just that emotional and primal state of love.”
The young man just huffed at this notion, as Yeardley turned his eyes to the young woman.
“My dear lady, let me ask something. When you are at home because of the kids, and your husband walks through the door, what do you ask him first?”
She thought for a moment, and replied, “Can you help me with dinner?”
Yeardley looked at both of them, with a small bit of shock on his face at the obliviousness of the couple, and promptly snapped his fingers. Within seconds, Alfonse and two of the other waiters were at his hand.
“Deploy “the crystal”, Alfonse.”
“Right away, sir.”
Yeardley looked down at the couple, as Alfonse approached the stage.
“I want you to listen to the song that will be played first. Take the lyrics and apply it. I think you’ll understand things.”
Alfonse went up onto the stage, and smiled at everyone.
“If I may have your attention please! There are some points in time where live music is going to be necessary for increased ambiance. Sometimes, it is also for people to listen to something that may give them aid in issues that they may have. In these times, that is when we bring on a few of our better players to join in and play something for a certain couple who may need a little more assistance. For that, we bring on our resident jazz siren. Please welcome, Sugar Ruby!”
The applause from the people was strong, yet respectful as Sugar Ruby, the jazz/standards singer for the house, walked onto stage. With a count of four, her and the house band started into a nearly note for note rendition of Crystal Gayle’s 1978 classic “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue”.
As the couple listened to the song, the young man looked at his wife and sighed. He shook his head at himself, and he reached over to hold his wife’s hand. The wife looked at him and bowed his head slightly as she covered his hand with her other one.
Yeardley looked down at the couple again, and gave a satisfied smile. He waited back a ways from the table while they enjoyed the music.
After the song was complete, a couple of minutes of just plain, soft, piano music played as Ruby got herself some water.
Yeardley slid back over to the table and looked down.
“My good man, your wife loves you. Sometimes it may seem like there’s a lot to bear, being the man of the house. But remember something, she’s the one you’re supposed to protect. She’s your life. She isn’t disposable, and she loves you dearly. Try to work with her on things, and see how things can go.”
He looked back at the young woman.
“For you, young lady, the biggest thing that you can do for your husband when he comes home is to give him a kiss. It’s a small thing, and it may take two seconds, but instead of giving him a command that may turn him off, it’ll ignite his fire and maybe want to help you with cooking dinner.”
They both nodded at this.
“Your dinner for tonight is on the house. Stay as long as you like, order up a slice of “two-person cheesecake”. But promise me that when you get home, you’ll spend more time with each other.”
“We promise,” they said, in unison. They giggled as they looked at each other.
“And have a good night,” Yeardley finally said, completing his job for that time. As he walked from the table towards the kitchen, he looked at Alfonse, who was grinning from ear to ear at what he had seen.
“Al, this is what Yeardley’s is all about. Making sure that parents have a chance to get together, work whatever issues they have out, and to enjoy themselves while doing it. If I ever retire, I want you to remember that.”
“No chance I’ll forget, sir,” Alfonse replied, with a smile and a salute.
Yeardley laughed at the awkward pose, as he swung through the kitchen doors.
(Author’s note: For Clinton, my brother, a true man of colours)
I sat downstairs, and watched him as he spent the bright afternoon in the beautifully lighted parlor of his home. The natural sunlight was able to put a unique glow on the work of art he was doing.
As a young boy, I was not as interested in what my uncle did. I didn’t really care much as to why he did what he did. I knew he was a painter, and that he did his work diligently, even if he didn’t actually make that much money from what he did. After my parents separated for a time, it was felt that my uncle would take better care of me for a couple of summers. So at the age of 13, they sent me to his manor in the heart of the West Country.
The first few weeks I was there, I didn’t do much with my uncle. I was still a bit frazzled from what was going on with my parents. But, after those few weeks when I ran the grounds and did so much, I finally was able to take a moment and watch what he was doing.
My uncle Charles was a calm man. He barely ever raised his voice, and sometimes didn’t even have to speak to get his point across. He had a silent air about him, but one that allowed for great things to come forward.
“The creative spirit does not allow for anger to fester inside, but is allowed to be spread throughout whatever you work on. In my case, my anger and frustration is carried across the canvas,” he told me, the first day I became interested in what he did, “If you have passion for something, put everything into it. Anger, fear, love, trust, everything. It will come forth in beauty and love.”
That is what got me interested in his painting, and why I got interested in playing music later on.
I lounged on the chaise in the parlor, looking at him as he took a wider brush to a beautiful work-in-progress. It looked like the start of an outdoor scene, with pastel skies and deep green trees. I looked in wonder as he did his painting, marveling at the brushstrokes and how he was able to make a painting come to life before our eyes.
“Uncle Charles, why do you paint?” I asked him, as he worked.
“I paint because it is what I wanted to do in life. I keep my life in this paintbox. When I speak to this canvas, it tells me what it wants. And I follow what it says, because that’s how I work.”
I sat for another half hour while he changed his brushes around and continued to paint. After that half hour, he had me go into the kitchen ahead of him to get prepared for tea time. Margaret, the maid of the house, kept things organized as much as she could, and made the time for tea quite pleasant.
“Uncle Charles, why didn’t you marry?” I asked him.
“I did. Once. A very long time ago, before you were born. Alice would have loved to have seen you. It was very hard for us to separate like we did.”
“She didn’t want to burden me with her problems. She left at the time of her choosing, and went to get treatment for her disease.”
“I am not sure how it happened, or whether it was something like shame or the burden of leaving, but she did pass on half a year after leaving. Her heart just couldn’t stand things, I think.”
I just looked up at him, and saw the sadness in his eyes. It finally hit me that the pain of my parents’ separation was hitting him hard too, because it reminded him of his loss of Aunt Alice.
After tea, we went back into the parlor. The sun was in that special place in the sky where it seems to always be the most beautiful. That’s where his hands and inspiration took it’s flight. By the time the sun went down and the lights came on in the house, he had created what looked to be a beautiful meadow with a lone tree. Three people underneath it, one a small boy, or so as I could see.
“I…I am a man, A simple man, A man of colours. And I can see through the years, see through these tears. These are the tears and the years of a man, a man of colours.”
I never knew what he meant when he said it…but he said it in such a way that it seemed that I would finally figure it out down the road.
The artwork he made was given to my parents. When it was done, he gave it to them and told them to take a day and just look at the painting. He told them to contemplate it, and really get into it.
That fall, my parents came to pick me up. They told me that they were going to see a priest about getting things worked out. They wanted to be together, and not to experience pain like they had.
It has been many years since my uncle Charles passed away. He never remarried, but he made an impact on people that he knew. When we went through his things after he died, we found out that he had almost 200 paintings from when he was alive. 150 of them were donated to various universities and charities. The University of Buckingham even decided to keep 15 of his paintings up as a permanent exhibit. The other 50, according to his will, were to be auctioned and sold. I was to be the beneficiary of the wealth, his will stated.
I don’t think about the money, though. And when I go to Buckingham with my friends from college, we always stop by my uncle Charles’s exhibition. The world appreciated what he did. And I did too.