Why Did You Shoot The Cow?

A Short Fiction by Bill Murphy 2021

As I’ve often said, I dream every night.  All of my dreams contain many people and places that I know… some from the past, others from the present.  But… fact and fiction (dream) are confusingly mingled.  Last’s night’s dream made a unique story, so I share it with you.

I found myself in a beautiful woodsy park, a state park?  Off behind me was a large rustic lodge.  It was obvious that whatever meeting or gathering was held there was over, as people were leaving.  I was there to pick up my Youngers daughter Molly, and two of her friends.  I saw them awaiting me up ahead, at the edge of large parking lot.  I pulled into a parking spot.

The girls all looked to be in their late teens.  I didn’t recognize Molly’s two friends.  The three girls were dressed exactly alike, in long red ‘costume like’ dresses, of the type that classical dancers wear.  They get into my smallish blue vehicle. 

It had been raining, and the ground was soft, wet and mushy.  I backed up while turning to the right, then pulled forward… and right into a deep mud-bog!  We were stuck.  Nothing I could do would free the vehicle.  I looked around, seeking help.  But the lot was completely empty!  From the back seat, one of the girls said that’d she’d call 911.  Fine by me!

Soon a policeman drove up.  He walked over to our vehicle and told us that he’ll have us out in a jiffy.  “I do this all the time,” he replied.  “Move over, I’ll take it from here.” 

I moved over to the passenger side, and the office got in.  He cranked the vehicle and moved forward no more that six inches, then reversed and backed up and equal amount.  He did this three or four times, inching farther and farther each time.  On the last time forward, we were free!  “See, I told you I’d have you out in a jiffy,” replied the officer.

No sooner than the words had left his mouth, when suddenly a large cow reared up on the side of the car, on my side.  Its rear feet were on the ground, and the front feet and legs stretched across the top.  Seeing what had just happened, the officer suddenly drew his weapon, and aiming across the front seat (and across me)!  He fired… striking the cow!  It let out one mournful howl and sank to the ground.

“W-w-why did you shoot the cow?” I asked.

“Well, it was blocking your exit,” he replied.  “Now you’re free to go!”

With that, he got out of our car and returned to his vehicle and drove away.

About that time, out of seemingly nowhere, a TV news crew of two showed up.  “We got it all on tape!” The news lady said.  “What made him shoot the cow?”

“That’s what I’d like to know,” I replied. 

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TOUCHER

WRITING, An intro

I love to write!  Does that qualify me as a writer?  Technically, when I write a grocery list, I’m writing, ergo, I’m a writer.  But I don’t write epic novels such as The Old Man And The Sea.  That’s best left to ‘real’ writers.

I write because I love to write.  I’m even compelled to write.  But I’m often questioned as to ‘where in the world did that come from?  Honestly, most often I simply don’t know.

Many of my ideas hit me in bed, usually in those twilight minutes between sleep and semi-wakefulness.

I seldom write what I dream.  And I’ve yet to master directing my dreams.  They simply have a life of their own.

I usually write from memories of events and locations, you know, time, people, and places.  But more often than not, these times, people, and places are a strange jumble and mix, throughly stirred by a large ‘what if’ spoon. 

I know, I’m beginning to sound as though I have no idea where my ideas come from.  I don’t.  And that’s the fun part.  I can sit back in total innocence… and write to my heart’s content!

TOUCHER

© 2020  Bill Murphy 

“Good morning everyone!”  It was the cheerful voice of Dr. Celia Burns, Chief Pediatric Resident of St. Clemson’s Hospital.  Across the city, thousands of other workers were greeting one another with typical Friday Morning cheer.  But at St. Clemson’s, TGIF had little meaning.  The hospital was a city which never slept and hadn’t since day one.

The cheerful doctor was striking.  Although in her late forties, she’d easily pass for the early twenties.  The long blonde hair and turned up nose gave her that Doris Day type beauty.   

The doctor made her way into the nursing station, picking up the day’s patient roster along the way.  At the opposite end of the long counter stood Harvey Goodwin, the Speech Therapist who came in three days a week.  She walked up to him, and placing a hand on his arm remarked, “Well look at you Harv! You got a new style haircut.  Looks nice.”  

The touch to the arm was not simply an act of familiarity.  It was a habit.  Celia Burns was a toucher.  All of nurses around the central desk received a light touch, as had elderly Mr. Bowman downstairs, the hospital’s ever present greeter.

“We need to talk Celia,” said Harvey.  The use of her first name was not a lack of respect, nor of misplaced informality.  It was simple friendship.  They’d long since gone beyond the co-worker point, to one of sincere friendship.  Or so she thought.

“OK.  What’s up?  Your place or mine?”

“Funny,” he replied.

“How about lunch, in the cafeteria?” she asked.  “I hear that the Hospital Board is making their quarterly rounds today, which means that I’m expected to follow all the rules, like taking lunch.”

“I see they have grill cheese and tomato soup on the menu today.”

“You know me well,” she replied.

“Good.  Then I’ll see you at twelve.  I’ll have it ready for you, hot and hot coffee too.”

With that, she turned and was off to make her morning rounds.

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The cafeteria’s intent was to divid the seating area between hospital staff and visitors. But in practice, with only one serving line, it had never worked out that way.

He found a table in the back, off to the side and near a window.  The surrounding tables were occupied by visitors, most with noisy children.  So much for the better, he thought.  When he saw her at the doorway searching for him, he quickly got up and took her soup to the microwave for a fast re-heating.  She arrived at the table just as he was returning the now steaming bowl.

“How thoughtful,” she remarked.

“You deserve it,” he replied.

“Now, what’s on your mind?  Just why, pray tell, do we need to talk as you say?”

“Eat up now.  We’ll talk afterwards.  We don’t have a lot of time you know.”

They ate silently.  And as always, the soup and sandwich were wonderful.

When they’d finished their meals, she sat back in her chair, ready to hear the mysterious what and why of her friend’s need to talk.

She reached her hand across the table with the innocent intention of touching his arm, as she had the habit of doing.  This time he surprised her.  Just before her hand touched him, he pulled his arm away.

Their eyes met.  There was question on her face… and shock.  She could not read his.

“What’s going on Harv?  What’s the problem?”

“It’s more of an issue… and issue with me.  I need to get something off my chest, before…” he paused for a long moment then began again, “before it becomes a problem.”

“Let’s have it,” she said, “And shoot straight, please.”

“OK.  Here goes,” he began.  “You’re a toucher.  And that’s Ok.  That’s you.  But that’s not the issue, not really.  The issue’s not with you, but with me.  

“Go on,” she said.

“I’ve known you for, what, almost two years now.  The amazing thing is, from the very first time I met you and you placed that warm hand of yours on my arm as you do… as you to almost everyone, I felt something.  I felt something wonderful, something special, something electric. 

“Wow!” Was all she could mutter.

“It was not like some school-boy who’d just experienced his first kiss… but it was close.  And the scary thing is, it’s happened every time since.  I’m not sayings its love.  It’s not and I know it.  But it’s something, something like it.  Celia, I’d be much more comfortable if it was something more… more physical.  Lust is something more common, more everyday, and perhaps, more controllable.  But this is different.  And it happens with every touch. 

She sat for a long moment, thinking.  But she was speechless.  She had no idea how to respond. 

“Why are you telling me this?” She finally asked.  “Why now?”

“Why? He asked.  “Why not.  I’m most uncomfortable about this.  I don’t want it to happen.  I certainly don’t need it to be happening.   I’m a most happily married man Celia, and I want it to stay that way!  But when that ‘tingle’ begins, I feel guilty… guilty when I shouldn’t be feeling guilt at all.  What I’m saying is, I’m just tired of all this stupid guilt, the needless guilt that I can’t understand.  And I’m tired of being afraid, afraid that I could be lying to myself and to my heart.”

BUZZZZ – BUZZZZ – BUZZZZ – BUZZZZ 

Harvey rolled over and fumbled for the button on the infernal alarm clock.  Finally the deafening noise stopped.  Daylight filtered between the louvers of the venetian blinds, illuminating the bedroom in the soft glow of morning.  He’d had that dream again, the dream he’d begun to call the Touching Dream. 

Polly didn’t stir.  Her auburn hair half covered her beautiful, sleeping face.  Saturday.  Good, it was Saturday, he remembered.  She didn’t have to work on Saturdays.  But this was the second Saturday of the month, and he pulled the morning shift every second and fourth Saturdays of the month.

He showered.  He shaved.  He brushed his teeth and dressed.  Then he made a quick cup of instant coffee, grabbed a pop-tart and his car keys, and was off to the hospital.  It wasn’t a long drive, twenty minutes at most.

He parked and when inside, saying hello to Mr. Bowman as he entered.  After a short elevator ride, and a shorter walk down the corridor, he was at work. 

“Good morning everyone!”  It was the loud and gravely voice of Dr. Celia Burns, Chief Pediatric Resident of St. Clemson’s.  

Here it comes, thought Harvey Godwin.  

Behind her back, everyone called Dr. Celia Burns, ‘Bigfoot Burns.’  The former farm-girl turned pediatrician could most probably lift a horse.  She was huge… in all directions!  About all that she lacked was a complete covering of hair!  Bigfoot Burns was a fitting moniker.

Here it comes! 

“Good morning Harvey,” she bellowed, as she slapped him on the back, almost knocking him across the room.

Nope.  This Celia was nothing like the Celia of his dreams.        

                                                     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A RECIPE FROM THE GRAVE

© 2017 Bill Murphy

My family has a long history of spiritual/ghostly encounters, and this somewhat spooky event is perhaps the most unusual – and the most delicious!

Pie 2

To most folks, they’re known as CHESS PIE. Mama Murphy, my Dad’s mother, called hers CORNMEAL PIE. Excuse the pun, but they really were ‘to die for!’ Her always from scratch Cornmeal Pies were the hit of every gathering.

Sadly, Mama Murphy passed away in the late 70s, as did her recipe! It wasn’t many months after her passing when cooks of the Murphy Family suddenly realized that no one had a copy of Mama Murphy’s recipe for this delicious Cornmeal Pie.

A futile search was made for the recipe, but none could be found. Mama Murphy had no need of a written recipe – for it was firmly engraved on her heart and mind – just as the sweet taste of that pie was solidly engraved upon our collective memories. For months, cooks of the family got their heads together to recreate the recipe. Dozens of version were attempted and rejected, but none produced the results that Mama Murphy achieved with each and every one of her pies. This failure was a major disappointment.

Perhaps a year had passed since the last Cornmeal Pie failure. And then one night, my mother had a dream.

In her dream, she was in Carthage, as she’d been so many times before. She was in the kitchen with Mama Murphy. And in her dream, she asked Mama Murphy to bake a Cornmeal Pie. And in this dream, my mother observed closely, taking note of each and every step, each and every item, and each and every amount of those elusive items. My mother was recording in her heart and mind the recipe that Mama Murphy kept recorded in her heart and mind. When Mother awoke, she wrote down what she had witnessed in the dream. And then she baked one. And yes, it was ‘the one’ and only – Mama Murphy’s Cornmeal Pie!

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MAMA MURPHY’S CORNMEAL PIE

2 egg yolks                  1 C. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla               3 heaping tsp. cornmeal

3/4 C. butter

Beat butter, sugar and eggs. Then add meal and vanilla. Bake in uncooked 8” lined pastry pan until thickened. Add stiffly beaten egg whites and 5 tablespoons sugar and brown. From my experience, I cook over a slow flame until well mixed and begins to bubble. Stirring almost constantly, raise flame a little and continue until mixture thickens or is done. At same time, bake pie shell. Empty into shell and brown.

 

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An Old Man

Arm 1

©2017 Bill Murphy

As Sgt. Joe Friday said on Dragnet, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

And the facts are that Ole Bill has ‘suddenly’ become Old Bill.

My birth certificate and today’s calendar hanging on or frig verify that I’m chronologically 76 years plus a few weeks old. The clock on the wall downstairs appears to agree with this much earlier each night, as does the radio/alarm beside the bed each morning. They’re conspiring against me.

No – ‘against me’ is far from the correct term! The alternative would be, well, you know.

Two things happened within the past 12 hours to bring me to the staggering conclusion that I’m aging. And both shed some fresh light as to why.

Last night was reclined of the sofa downstairs watching The Voice with Carol. I happened to raise my right arm and noticed how ‘loose’ the skin had become, especially on the inner area near the elbow. It was as loose and wrinkled as I remember my grandfather’s arms had been.

Then it hit me – I AM a grandfather. Correction: I am a GREAT-grandfather. Ergo: I have grand-father, great-grand-father skin. When did this happen?

Then this morning Carol was enjoying her usual early morning phone chat with her sister Mary Ellen. Carol was relaying her unusual dream of last night, and how vivid and detailed it was. That got the two sister’s talking about dreams.

I interjected that I dream EVERY NIGHT – and that most of those dreams are busy, active, work-filled dreams of past high-pressure jobs and projects – like ad deadlines at Jitney Jungle and whole notebooks of things to do for Lanny Wolfe’s Music Ministry Conferences. Mary Ellen then replied that I was actually LIVING TWO LIVES, one by day, the other by night!

So THAT too explains my aging process, and the visual effects thereof. I’m not 76 – I’m 76 x 2. I’m actually 152! No wonder I’m looking and acting old.

I feel much better about it now, for in truth, I’m not doing bad at all for a man of 152!

 

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