Good Adaptations

Blue appears the perfect color for the sky,

wings work well for the birds as they fly.

How then are the things of which I consist,

so inappropriate for a world such as this?

The powers that are vital here for success,

in me are wholly lacking or scarce at best:

The stress expected by our environment,

the drive to strive is not my native talent.

Oh! To live in a place I’m constituted,

of inner gifts and outer needs well suited.

Where I can lay aside my soul’s contortions,

myself within the world now well proportioned.

~FS

Like It or Not: Act 1; scenes 4 & 5

Scene 4: [City council chambers. Jace, the mayor, and Four Other Councilmembers sit at a long table in the front, facing the audience. The Three Peachsellers and others are in the audience.]

Jace:  Clearly we have a dilemma, and frankly I just don’t see a good solution to it. Those visitors have all the proper paperwork they need to legally sell their damn apples in Harmony. We need a miracle!

Councilmember One:  Does anyone know where they came from? Why are they even here?

Councilmember Two:  They have a right to be here, just like anyone else.

Jace:  Rights! Is it just me or is there just too many rights around here? It’s practically anarchy! Rights, rights, rights. It’s enough to drive one mad, all these rights everywhere. It’s damn inefficient!

Councilmember Three:  Mayor, I think it’s time now to open up for public comment. Will everyone who wants to comment please line up and approach the microphone one at a time. State your name and then you’ll have up to two minutes to say what you like. Please be respectful and don’t talk over one another. And please speak directly into the microphone but not too loudly, and try to enunciate clearly. Also, avoid saying your ‘p’s and ‘t’s right into the microphone, as that can be really annoying; especially the ‘p’s really can be grating, am I right?

Councilmembers:  Yes. So true. Uggh. Agony.

Councilmember Three:  I know, it’s like having someone reach inside your ears and start tapping your eardrums. P, p, p!

Jace:  Alright! Enough! Let’s hear from the public now. 

Peachseller Two:  Umm, my, my name is Pene, Penelope. Sorry, I’ll say it softer. Penelope Lind. Umm, I just wanted to say that I ate one of their apples earlier, and I wish I hadn’t. I got a terrible tummy ache, it’s been just dreadful. And, well, I think there is something off with the apples they are selling. And I think in the interest of public safety, especially for the children, I think it is incumbent upon the council to protect the people of Harmony, and shut down that apple stand!

Jace:  Noted! Did you get that down? [Looks toward councilperson taking notes.] That’s very important. Thank you Penelope for sharing that with us. I’m very sorry and I hope that you feel better soon. Let’s hear from the next speaker.

Peachseller One:  Hello dear.

Jace:  Strike that from the record. Please people, when you address the council, use formal names. We’re trying to run a city here, please!

Peachseller One:  Fine. My name is Jolene McCue, I’m the mayor’s wife. Coincidentally, I also had a strange reaction after eating an apple from the visitor’s new apple stand earlier today. I felt terribly nauseous and thought for certain I was going to pass out. I think we are risking something much worse if we allow them to keep selling those apples to unwary patrons. Not to mention the threat to our town’s reputation. I don’t think that is anything any of us want to risk.

Jace:  Excellent points! And I do hope you feel better right quickly Mrs McCue.

Peachseller Two:  Thank you Mister McCue, I am feeling quite well now I think.

Peachseller Three:  Testing, testing! Umm. My name is Tommy Collins, I sell peaches here in Harmony.

Jace:  Yes, we know who you are Tommy. It’s a small town. Get on with it.

Peachseller Three:  Right. Well, the funny thing is I also haven’t been feeling right since I ate an apple earlier today. But the fortunate thing is my cousin here, he’s right here behind me. Well, he’s, he works in agriculture testing, and he’s a scientist type you know. And he thinks those apples may have a lot of pesticides on them. Like too much, and that’s what is causing everyone to get sick, isn’t that right Duncan?

Duncan Collins:  [Leaning forward to speak into microphone.]  Yes, that is correct.

Jace:  Oh my!

Councilmember One:  That’s terrible.

Peachseller Three:  So you can see, it’s a real matter of public health.

Councilmember Three:  I had no idea. How scary!

Jace:  That settles it, I move that we shut that apple stand down, until further notice!

Councilmember One:  I second the motion!

Jace: All in favor?

Councilmembers:  Aye!

Jace:  Opposed?

Councilmember Two: No!

Jace:  Well, I’m sure you have your reasons. Can’t imagine what they’d be though. Anyway, the motion passes. Let’s get this thing written up and get on over there, and shut them down! Excuse me, Tommy. You’re cousin there, Dunbar is it?

Duncan Collins:  Duncan, mister mayor.

Jace:  Yes. Ha! Duncan, could you help us draft up a little notice to desist, or some such thing? Put in some sciency jargon like you people use and such, something about pesticide levels, that sort of thing? I think that will really help out. Come over here and take a seat! [Duncan joins the other councilmembers at the table. Jace gestures to Councilmember Three.] There we are, let’s bring him a glass of water. And put some peach slices in that, would ya?! We’ve got some work to do!

[End of Scene.]

Scene 5:  [Town square, market. Customers are purchasing from Peachsellers and Jean Arnaut’s group, and are milling about. The mayor and councilmembers enter.]

Jace:  Folks, folks! We’ve got some big news here. [Waving paperwork in the air.] It appears these apples are tainted. Several people who have eaten them have recently fallen ill. Yes, that’s right. Sickened!

Jean Arnaut:  Impossible!

Jace:  It just makes me sick too. Nobody should get sick from fruit bought in Harmony. I take it personally, though I’m not responsible for it in any way, note that. Still, my heart bleeds for the innocent victims. And we need to put a stop to it! Read this! [He hands the paperwork to Jean Arnaut.]

[Hugh enters.]

Jean Arnaut:  Pesticides! That’s impossible. No, all of our fruit is completely organic. There are absolutely no pesticides on any of our apples! This is a mistake. [He hands the paperwork back to the mayor.]

Jace:  ‘Fraid not, my friend. That’s official correspondence there. You keep it and mull it over for a bit. Says you folks are selling fruit, high in pesticides, and you are hereby ordered to cease and desist.

Jean Arnaut:  There’s no proof. I don’t believe it.

Duncan Collins:  We’re getting proof. We are taking samples and sending them off to the lab. [Councilmembers gather up apples and place in Ziploc bags.] It should take a couple weeks to get results, but in the meantime you are not allowed to sell any of your produce, by order of the EPA, FDA, CDC, and the city of Harmony.

Jean Arnaut:  I protest! I appeal. How do we appeal? Is there no due process?

Jace:  In matters of health and human safety due process always takes a back seat, dear man. Lives are at stake here. Don’t you understand that? If you want a-peel, cut up one of your apples! Ha, ha! Just a little pun. Folks! It is important to keep things light in times like these. We don’t mean anyone any harm here, we just want everyone to be safe and healthy!

Hugh:  This isn’t fair! I myself have eaten many of their apples. Nearly a dozen of them. [Aside to Jean Arnaut.] My dear Chloe did not accept our gift. But more about that later. [To the crowd.] I tell you all, after eating a dozen of these apples I am no worse than before I ate them.  In fact, I think I’m much the better for having eaten them! I feel as strong as an ox.

Jace:  Son, you’re young! That’s no big surprise. But trust me, if you really ate a dozen apples earlier today, then you’ve got some surprises coming soon! I wouldn’t stray too far from a restroom, if you catch my drift. Ha!

Jean Arnaut:  Listen to Hugh. Our apples are fine, there is nothing wrong with them.

Jace:  Just tell that to the three folks who got sick eating them. Now let’s move on, take your apples and go back to wherever it is you all are staying.

Jean Arnaut:  I want to talk to the people who got sick from our apples. Who are they?! Let me talk with them.

Jace:  That is a private matter. We can’t go sharing information like that at the drop of a hat, my friend. That would be anarchy. Sick people have a right to privacy.

Jean Arnaut:  Healthy people have a right to justice!

Jace:  Justice is determined by those who make the laws, friend. You should remember that! Now don’t go testing the graces and the patience of the powers that be; ’cause that be unwise. Just go now, and make it easy on yourselves, and on all the rest of us.

Jean Arnaut:  This is not over! Our apples are organic and perfectly healthy. We’ll be back!  

[The Visitors collect the apples and their things and exit. The Well-Dressed Man enters with Matilda Hawkins.]

Well-Dressed Man:  I’d like to collect a sample from each stand, and then compare those results to the original peach that my wife purchased earlier. Hopefully we can determine which stand that peach came from, and then I can then contract with them in confidence for our future purchases.

Matilda Hawkins:  Don’t worry, my lab will definitely be able to get to the bottom of this for you. Let’s begin here, and then we’ll visit those other two stands across the way. Can we get one peach, please.

Peachseller Three:  With pleasure. Only one? There are two of you. Take more.

Matilda Hawkins:  One will be fine, thank you. It’s for testing, we won’t be eating it.

Peachseller Three:  Testing?! Am I under suspicion?

Well-Dressed Man:  Only suspicion of excellent produce! Take it easy. I just want to determine without a shadow of doubt which of you sold my wife that peach the other day. We want to make one of you here, a very wealthy person. But they’ve got to be the right peaches. Trust me, if you knew my wife; they’ve got to be right!

Peachseller Three:  Absolutely! Here, take another one just to be safe. Test away!

[Well-Dressed Man and Matilda cross to the other peach stands. Peachseller Three motions to Duncan to join him, Duncan walks to his stand.]

Peachseller Three:  That woman over there is a scientist like you. She’s testing our peaches.

Duncan Collins:  Let her test away! It shouldn’t be a problem. Just keep her away from the apples.

Peachseller Three:  Are you certain your lab will find the pesticides? We don’t want those gypsies back again.

Duncan Collins:  Keep cool, stay calm. Our labs will find exactly what they need to find. We have all the protocols in place. It’s legit, it’s believable, and it’s scientific.

Peachseller Three:  Not everything scientific is believable. I’d like better assurances.

Duncan Collins:  Why worry? Look how smoothly shutting them down was; keeping them shuttered will be even easier. Trust me.

Peachseller Three:  You’re right, of course. To be honest, it almost seemed too easy. But it does get me to thinking.

Duncan Collins:  About?

Peachseller Three:  What if something similar were to befall our friends over there? Just imagine, what if Jolene’s pesticide levels were also a little too high? Or if Penelope’s peaches somehow came down with a fungus? I’m just saying, that would be a shame, if they had to close shop for a while. Maybe mister big-shot over there, with the lady scientist, might have no other choice but to buy our peaches; and sign that big fat contract with us.

Duncan Collins:  Yes, that would be a shame for them. I see where you’re going with this.

Peachseller Three:  Is it possible?

Duncan Collins:  Anything’s possible. I think it’s extremely likely.

Peachseller Three:  Highly probable?

Duncan Collins:  A sure thing. A statistical certainty!

[Hugh approaches Matilda and the Well-Dressed Man.]

Hugh:  Excuse me! Could you also test one of these apples?! Something’s fishy. I’m sure there aren’t any pesticides on these!

Peachseller Three:  Hey! Stop that kid.

[End of Scene.]

~FS

An Overachieving Slacker

My friend recently called himself an ‘Overachieving Introvert’. I hadn’t heard that epithet before, though maybe it was merely an adjectival phrase, but it got me to thinking about myself. While I also consider myself an overachieving introvert, I think a different moniker better applies to me: Overachieving Slacker. As in, “did you read what that Overachieving Slacker just wrote?” Or, “that Overachieving Slacker sure is incredibly lazy, but somehow he still manages to accomplish more than one would ever expect.”

I’ve always tried to subscribe to the words of wisdom: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” And the next part that comes after it makes my heart sing: “And it’s all small stuff!”  This proverb appears to give my natural inclinations full license to slack off, and I find this delightful. Were it not for other people, and their pesky insistence on tending to minutia, I’d blissfully take care of only the broad strokes of life, and leave ‘grinding out the details’ to the accountants; and there are an astounding number of ‘accountants’ in our world. They like to focus on all the ways things can be done better, more precisely, more completely, more perfectly, and God bless every one of them! But I prefer to focus on getting things done pretty nearly fine, and good enough, and that’ll do!

Weeds don’t bother me, rounding up or down is a joy, a little food stain on my sleeve? Fine, I can suck on it as a snack later this afternoon. Even so, I do actually like doing the laundry, and cooking meals. But in moderation, everything in moderation. My mother-in-law recently told me that her husband only cooked two times for them in their entire forty plus years of marriage. Now that is a bar that is set low enough that I could crawl over it. And I’m thinking this has to give me a little leverage with my wife, that man’s daughter. She can’t expect much from me, having grown up seeing the level of domestic engagement that her own dad performed. I cooked for us twice, maybe more, in just this past week. I’m wondering if this gives me a pass for the rest of our marriage.

Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? There’s a bit more to it, but it basically says that twenty percent of your effort will yield about eighty percent of your results. That’s a great ratio, I like it! But that means that the other eighty percent of your effort is only getting you another twenty percent. That’s a horrible return on investment! Think about how much more one could get done if they only apply twenty percent of their effort to everything they do, while they still get about eighty percent completion. The other eighty percent that one might still devote towards that same project, which may only yield a twenty percent improvement on that project, one can divert to other new projects instead. Eighty percent, that’s a B average, nothing to be ashamed of there.

Admittedly, I tended towards getting A’s in most of my classes, and certainly some things in life I want to spend a bit more time on to get just right. I once heard that the author Ursula K. LeGuin would spend years, perhaps decades, reworking her writing and she never considered it finished, she believed it could always be made better. My goodness, that sounds like my definition of living in hell. Let me write, as fast as I possibly can get the thoughts out of my head, and then maybe jostle them around on the page a bit to get them orientated a bit better, and then ship it out, and move on to the next project. I’m sure Ursula would call me a ‘slacker’, or maybe she’d find a different word for me, maybe a ‘hack’. But then she probably wouldn’t be settled on that word either, and would have to change it for a different one next year. God bless her!

There are few words that have more power to give me peace and joy than the word ‘No’. I love saying no when I’m asked to do things. As a child and young man I always tended to say ‘yes’ to nearly everything, in hopes that people would like me, and admire how much I could do, and respect how they could rely on me. I was the proverbial underachieving workaholic. I set the 80/20 rule on its head; I worked eighty percent to achieve twenty percent results. And was I stressed? You bet I was stressed! And I just kept grinding it out. But it dawned on me, fairly early in life that this is no way to actually live; doing all of this just so that people would consider me an accomplished hard-worker. I wondered, would it be so bad if I became a slacker? It turns out that it isn’t so bad at all. In fact it is pretty terrific! And by slacking in these special and specific ways, I am actually able to get a ton of things done, maybe not perfectly, but well enough. And that’s good enough for me!

~FS

Like It or Not : Act 1: Scene 3

Scene 3: [Hugh enters peach grove alone, carrying the basket of apples.]

Hugh:  I must be early, that’s good. I’ll hide this basket of apples behind this tree and when Chloe arrives I will first make her guess what I’ve gotten her. There. This will be good fun, let’s see if she can guess correctly. She is a very clever girl, and she knows me well. It won’t take her many guesses. [He climbs into the hammock.] I’ll just rest here until she arrives.

[After several moments, Chloe arrives and notices Hugh from a distance.]

Chloe:  Ah, there he is now, the dear. Asleep under the trees. He must have worn himself out looking for my gift. But where is it? It must be small. Oh! Maybe it’s a ring, and he has it in his pocket. That would be dreadful. He wouldn’t propose to me, would he?! How dare he even think of it! I wouldn’t like that one bit. But look at how peacefully he’s sleeping. He’s like a big bear. Look at that belly sticking out, eww, he should do more sit-ups. I’ll have to have him work on that. But these adorable cheeks, and this thick hair; yes, he’s the perfect one for me. Wake up, you!

Hugh:  [Startled.] Chloe! You’re here!

Chloe:  Yes, and I can’t wait to see what you’ve gotten me!

Hugh:  You’re in luck, it is exactly what you wanted, sweet and very romantic! Guess what it is.

Chloe:  [Delighted.]  Oooh! I know. Can I carry it?

Hugh:  Yes, you can!

Chloe:  Hmmm, do you put things inside it?

Hugh:  I suppose. Well, part of it.

Chloe:  It’s that cute handbag I saw at the market!

Hugh:  What? No!

Chloe:  [Aside.] It must be those cute shoes. The ones that girl was wearing at the market. [To Hugh.] Okay. Are they red?

Hugh:  On the inside.

Chloe:  Inside!? [Aside.] I suppose the soles are red. I guess that is also inside. [To Hugh.] Do I put them on my feet?

Hugh:  That’s strange! I suppose you could.

Chloe:  Well, yes or no, Hugh. It’s pretty simple!

Hugh:  I don’t know, that seems weird. But maybe…

Chloe:  Maybe?! Why wouldn’t you know if you put them on your feet or not?

Hugh:  You mean like at a spa or something? Like those cucumbers that people put on their eyes? Like you’d slice them up and put them on your feet?

Chloe:  Slice them up?! Are you nuts?

Hugh:  Okay! I don’t know!! I guess you could mash them up, for like a facial or something?!

Chloe:  Mash them?! Have you lost your mind?! Those shoes are worth a fortune!

Hugh:  What shoes?! What are you talking about!?

Chloe:  The gift you got me! Duh!!

Hugh:  I didn’t get you shoes!

Chloe:  What did you get me then?! I wanted shoes or a handbag!

Hugh:  [Gets the basket from behind the tree.] I got you these apples. They’re Hidden Rose. They look ordinary on the outside, but inside they are rosy pink! It’s a surprise! And they’re sweet and sour, like you! It’s romantic! But not too romantic.

Chloe:  No, it’s not! They’re not romantic. And what are you saying, I’m sweet and sour?! That’s what I am?!

Hugh:  They were supposed to say romance.

Chloe:  That’s just stupid, Hugh, they don’t say that at all. Do you want to know what they say? They say that my boyfriend, after all the years that we’ve been together, still doesn’t know me at all! They say that my boyfriend is clueless! That’s what these stupid apples say.

Hugh:  I wanted them to say that I love you.

Chloe:  How can you?! That’s why I was talking about the handbag and the shoes the whole time we were at the market. I was giving you hints the whole time! I was talking about them while you were there with me! I never talk about handbags or shoes when you aren’t with me, Hugh, you should know that!

Hugh:  How could I possibly know what you aren’t talking about, when I’m not with you? To know what you are saying when I’m not around would be difficult enough, but to know what you aren’t saying at all, when I’m not there, seems nearly impossible!

Chloe:  Well, you would know if you were paying attention.

[Silence.]

Chloe:  I think you need to think long and hard about what you’ve done, Hugh. I really don’t know if we can be together. [She starts to leave.] I don’t want to see you again until you’ve thought about this, and until you have a good answer for me! [She exits.]

Hugh:  A good answer? An answer to what? What’s the question?

[End of Scene]

~FS

Like It or Not  (A Comedy for the Stage.) scenes 1 & 2

Act I:

Scene 1: [A peach grove; late afternoon.]

[Enter Chloe and Hugh.]

Hugh:  What a great day! Chloe, I love being with you. I don’t want to be with anyone else!

Chloe:  Same here, Hugh. Being with you is like being alone.

Hugh:  That’s sweet of you!

Chloe:  And talking with you is almost as good as talking to myself.

Hugh:  What a nice thing to say! Why, I feel the same way.

[They get into hammock together.]

Hugh:  It is wonderful to be together, Chloe!

Chloe:  I always say that anything one does, will be made much better when you share it with someone else.

[Each grabs their phone from their pocket, takes a selfie and sends it to their friends.]

Chloe:  Sometimes I feel sad, when I think about all the people who have never met me; and of everyone who may never meet me at all. Ever. I’m so interesting. I mean that in a very humble and simple way, of course.

Hugh:  Of course. Why, you’re the humblest person I know.

Chloe:  And you are by far the simplest, Hugh. I consider that among your very best traits. Complicated people are so…complicated, and not very enjoyable to be around. Although they are fun to talk about, when they aren’t present.

Hugh:  I find that nearly everyone is more fun to talk about, than to talk with. Talking to people can be very tiring, but talking about people is always entertaining.

Chloe:  Speaking of that, have you seen the new people who’ve set up tents outside of town? A whole group of them are camping out there. Nobody knows who they are.

Hugh:  Interesting. I love camping.

Chloe:  Yes, but not all the time. It’s no longer camping if you are doing it all the time. Living in a tent all the time just seems selfish and inconsiderate.

Hugh:  It’s possible they don’t have a choice; I mean financially speaking. Or perhaps they like it; maybe they prefer it.

Chloe:  Like it or not, I think it’s very rude of them. And it makes me wonder why you would defend them. And why you would bring up the topic of money as well; that also is very rude. If they don’t have money, then they should keep their poverty to themselves, and not wave it all about for everyone to see. It makes people uncomfortable.  Poverty, like wealth, should be a private matter, in my opinion.

Hugh:  When we’re married Chloe, if we’re poor, I promise to never tell you.

Chloe:  That is certainly for the best. But let’s be wealthy instead, I think I’ll much prefer that. As a matter of ethics and morality I think one should always prefer to be wealthy, it makes it so much easier to be good. Don’t you agree?

Hugh:  I’ve never given it much thought. Though I suppose one could be good whether they are rich or poor; and one could also be very bad in either of those conditions.

Chloe:  You’re being very bad yourself, young man.

Hugh:  Why? How!?

Chloe:  You haven’t kissed me in nearly ten minutes, and you know how much I like to be kissed.  [They kiss.] That’s much better. I forgive you for all that talk about money. Let’s talk about something more interesting; like, what are you going to buy me when we go into town tomorrow?

Hugh:  Are we going into town? I didn’t know that.

Chloe:  It’s peach season, silly. Have you forgotten? Everyone will be there to buy peaches; and not only the other islanders. People will also be coming from the mainland as well, in their boats, and wearing their finest summer clothing. We can’t miss that!

Hugh:  Peaches are okay.

Chloe:  Okay?! Peaches are delightful; they’re delicious. They’re divine!

Hugh:  They’re peachy!

Chloe:  They’re more than that! My mother tells me that peaches pay for everything around here.

Hugh:  Okay then, they’re peachy-keen!

Chloe:  You know our town motto, don’t you Hugh? “Peach season, is the reason!” It’s true; without peaches, this island would be uninhabited. There would be no town of ‘Harmony’. You and I would never have met.

Hugh:  I’d probably be living in a tent!

Chloe:  Shush! That is not the least bit romantic. I desire romance, Hugh. You must get me something very romantic in town tomorrow. Something very romantic and very sweet. Of course, getting something is very wonderful, but giving something is so much better. That’s what they always say, and I think it is certainly true. That is why I want to give you the opportunity, to give me something delightful and romantic tomorrow, while we’re in town.

Hugh:  Chloe, that is very kind of you, and thoughtful.

Chloe:  It’s because I love you, Hugh. [They exit.]

Scene 2: [Town square, market. Two peachsellers set up their stands side-by-side, and set out their signs with products and prices listed. When each other isn’t looking, while the other is setting up, each take turns putting their sign in front of the other’s; and then increasing the prices on their competitor’s signs, finally one writes ‘free’ on their competitor’s sign. They argue and agree to set the same prices. Just then a third seller arrives with a much lower price than the price set by the two sellers; just as all the customers arrive, who see the prices of the three stands, and all flock to the third seller, leaving the original two sellers without any customers. They quickly lower their prices to match the third seller.]

Customer: [To Peachseller Three]  What kind of peaches do you have?

Peachseller Three:  We’ve got Babcock, these here are Melba, some Snow Beauty over here.

Customer:  Uhh, no. Do you have any that are more like…

Peachseller Three:  Oh, and those right in front are Doughnut.

Customer:  Really?! Do they taste like donuts?!

Peachseller Three:  Well, no…they’re peaches. But they’re sweet like donuts.

Customer:  I don’t really like peaches, do you have any that taste more like pears? Or maybe like apples?

[Two Friends cross to Peachseller One’s stand.]

Friend: [To the other.]  I actually don’t know why I came to this peach market, I hate peaches!

Peachseller One:  Would you folks like some samples?

Friend:  Are they free?!

Peachseller One:  Of course!

Friend: [Grabs several pieces, with both hands and eats them.]

Other Friend:  You just said you hated peaches!

Friend:  I do. But I love free stuff!

[Hugh arrives and talks with Peachseller Two.]

Peachseller Two:  Hello young man, can I interest you in some peaches?

Hugh:  I have to buy Chloe something romantic.

Peachseller Two:  Nothing says romance like a freshly baked peach pie!

Hugh:  I don’t know. I was hoping for something a little different.

Peachseller Two:  A peach pie is different! It’s not chocolates or roses. It’s not boring like those. It’s unexpected, but not too unexpected. You don’t want that, trust me. Be different but not too different, Hugh. Remember that, it’s important. With matters of the heart you’ve got to walk a fine line; be exciting, but not too exciting. Get her a peach pie, it will tell her you have flair and you’re a true romantic, but you are also dependable; and you can be trusted.

Hugh:  Really?! It says all that? Maybe that would be a good surprise.

[Chloe enters.]

Chloe:  Hugh! I’m glad I found you. Isn’t this wonderful? I love our peach festival, everyone is dressed so brightly and look so nice! Have you bought me anything yet?

Hugh:  Still looking. But I have lots of good ideas. I think you are really going to like it.

Chloe:  I rarely like good ideas. They make me think, and that usually bothers me. Plus, ideas demand attention and that makes it so much harder to be distracted. Distractions are much more enjoyable. Oh! Look at those, cute shoes! I’ve got to get some of those!

Peachseller Two:  I can’t agree with you more, young lady. The best things in life are distractions, and nothing distracts one as well as something sweet to eat. How about some peaches?

Chloe:  Oh! They do look good. They are all so pretty, aren’t they Hugh? It almost doesn’t matter if they taste sweet or not; as long as they look sweet.

Peachseller Two:  But they do taste sweet.

Chloe:  That’s good too, of course. But what if they looked bitter? Nobody would want to try them. You wouldn’t know if they tasted sweet or not. You’d assume they’re bad and throw them away before trying them.

Hugh:  That seems a little unfair. It’s like judging a book by its cover.

Peachseller Two:  Some ugly peaches can taste very good. But mine are all pretty.

Chloe:  Well, I always judge a book by its cover. The cover tells me everything I need to know. Besides, who has time to read anymore? So many words? A picture is worth a thousand words, don’t they say? So a video must be worth a million. Oh, I should Instagram this! [Takes out her phone and begins filming the scene.]

Peachseller Two:  You two should film yourselves eating some of my peaches, and you could post that. You can tag it, or whatever you do, call it ‘world’s most beautiful peaches’.

Hugh:  All the peaches here look beautiful. Those look nice too! [He points at the neighboring stand.]

Peachseller Two:  Oh my goodness. Don’t be fooled, their peaches are not very good.

Chloe:  But they look nice.

Peachseller Two:  Just between you and me, I heard someone got sick eating their peaches the other day. It isn’t common knowledge yet, but they are being investigated. Keep it quiet. But you may want to tell your friends, and anyone else who you don’t want getting sick. Keep away from those peaches!

Hugh:  That’s amazing, they look perfect. They look just like yours.

Peachseller Two:  Ha! Looks can be deceiving my boy. Never trust your eyes. Especially if you don’t know what you’re seeing. Trust me, I have been growing peaches all my life.

Chloe:  That’s true, Hugh. It is much easier to be told the truth, than to try to figure it out for yourself. Who has time for that?! She obviously knows what she’s talking about. You can tell just by looking at her.

Hugh:  I’m confused. She said not to trust my eyes, but then you just said that you can tell she’s an expert just by looking at her.

Chloe:  Oh, silly. Stop thinking about what we just said. You aren’t supposed to listen to people, who has time for that?! The important thing is that everything is good and we’re together, and we all agree that those other peaches are bad. You think too much sometimes.

[A very well-dressed middle-aged man enters, talking loudly on his phone.]

Well-Dressed Man:  I have no idea which stand you bought those peaches from! I’ve checked with them all…yes, I’m sure of it. No. Nobody seems to recognize that peach…I know. I know it’s disgusting. [He holds up a peach and looks boldly around at the three peachsellers. They all turn away to avoid him.] Anyone? Anyone of you sell these?! No honey, nobody seems to carry these! They’re all ignoring me! What dear? You want to buy more? But I thought you said they’re disgusting. Oh, they only look disgusting; they taste amazing?! Oh I see, well, no I was telling them all that you were very unhappy. I thought you wanted a refund. You what?! We want to buy how many more?! Are you serious?! For all of our restaurants, worldwide?! That would be thousands of peaches, dear, are you sure? [All three peachsellers listen attentively.] Well, okay. I’m not sure. Nobody seems to know, apparently none of them sold you this peach. [All three peachsellers rush towards him.] Honey, I’ve got to go. I’m being swarmed. I’ll call you back later. Okay, bye-bye.

Peachseller One:  Let me see that peach more closely, sir. I may have been mistaken, I think I did sell that one to your wife.

Peachseller Two:  Garbage! That’s not one of yours, I can tell by the smell and the color of the flesh, those are definitely from our farm. I sold that peach to your wife, sir. I’m certain of it.

Peachseller Three:  Not true! I’m all for a little friendly competition but I draw the line at boldface lies. That peach is mine, sir! I can guarantee it! I would stake my reputation on it!

Peachseller Two:  Then you’ve staked something that’s completely worthless.

Peachseller One:  Sir, everyone is always trying to take credit for what I’ve worked so hard to achieve. It isn’t fair, but that’s the way it goes. They know they can’t produce the quality that we do at our farm, so they pretend that our peaches are their own. Don’t fall for it, I would hate to see you fall for their lies. I know I sold your wife that peach, she had mentioned to me that she was going to send you back today. Now I remember her saying that to me. I don’t know why I forgot earlier, I must have been distracted and not remembering straight.

Well Dressed Man:  Well, I’m really not sure which of you sold us this peach. But I can tell you that whoever did, is going to be very wealthy in the near future. My wife wants to purchase your entire crop, and she will also want to contract exclusively with the seller of this peach for many years to come! We’ll just need to get to the bottom of this; which of you actually sold us this peach?! It’s quite a mystery. Solve that question and then it will all be easily taken care of. Simple as pie! Ha!

Chloe:  I love a good mystery, especially when tons of money is involved. Hopefully someone also will be ruined. That makes it even more exciting.

Hugh:  I wouldn’t want anyone to be hurt though. That would be a shame I think.

Chloe:  Not seriously injured, just ruined a little bit. Something dramatic that we can all talk about for years to come.

Hugh:  Just a little bankruptcy?

Chloe:  Yes, but not permanently. Just long enough to keep us interested for a while, until something new comes along.

Hugh:  And then they can get their money back?

Chloe:  Sure. Wouldn’t that be romantic? Riches to rags to riches again. I for one would be very interested if all that happened. It would be so exciting and heart-wrenching. In fact, the tragedy of losing all that money should include a death in the family, maybe a suicide.

Hugh:  But that’s so tragic.

Chloe:  Yes, but maybe it turns out that they had a serious illness after all and they were going to die soon anyway. I would be very entertained by that.

Hugh:  I’m not sure I’d want all that to happen to anyone that I know. It would be very hard on them.

Chloe:  No, but it would all turn out fine in the end, silly. I hope it happens to someone I know. Then maybe someone would interview me about them. Wouldn’t that be exciting?! I could say how I knew them, and it was so tragic, and it shocked all of us, and we never would have expected something like this to happen in our town, especially to such good friends, and such nice people.

Hugh:  It is always more tragic when tragedy happens to good people.

Chloe:  I suppose the best tragedies are the ones that happen to the people you don’t like. If only it could always turn out that way.

Hugh:  Maybe it does, in a way. I suppose everyone isn’t liked by somebody. So every tragedy makes some people very sad, and others very happy.

Chloe:  That’s a strange thought. Oh my, look at her purse! I must get one of those. Isn’t it so cute, Hugh?!

[Jace, the Mayor arrives, with Councilmembers. Steps up onto raised stage in town square.]

Jace:  Folks! Folks! Please quiet down for just a moment. I have a few things I’d like to say. First of all, for any of you who don’t know me, I’m the mayor of this little town. But that’s unimportant, what is important is you! And I’d like to welcome all of you to our Sixtieth Anniversary Peach Festival! It is hard to believe that our little community of Harmony has been holding this festival annually for sixty years running! Amazing! Let’s hear a nice round of applause for that! And let’s hear an even bigger round of applause for our amazing peaches, the best damn peaches in the world!

Peachseller One:  Honey, don’t swear! [Crowd laughs.]

Jace:  Ha, ha! That’s my wife folks. I should be on better behavior. Ha! But seriously folks, take a look at the peaches over yonder at her stand, they are among the best of the best. And I’m not just saying that.

Peachseller Three:  Yes you are! [Crowd laughs again.]

Jace:  Ha! Well, they do happen to be my peaches also, that’s true. But I can’t help that. Look folks, everyone in Harmony grows good peaches, that’s just a given. Folks, try any of the peaches from any of the stands here, you won’t be sorry. But you might be sorry if you don’t try ours. Just sayin’. Ha!

Peachseller Two:  If you like indigestion, that is! [Crowd laughs.] And like spending time on the toilet!

Jace:  [Visibly annoyed.] Ha, that’s clever. Very funny. Yes. Very nice. Folks, peaches are incredibly important to the people of Harmony. And you’ll taste the care and love we put into every single fruit. Heck! I don’t need to tell you that, that’s why you’ve come here to buy our fruit. You know it yourselves. There’s nothing like a Harmony peach. A Harmony grown peach is a little slice of heaven on earth. Why, there ain’t a problem in the world that can’t be solved by a Harmony peach! Isn’t that right?! [Crowd cheers.] Ha, ha! That might be a little bit hyperbolic. But not by much! Ha! Thanks again folks, for coming to our little peach festival here in Harmony. You’re one of the family now, and while you’re here you’ll enjoy our small-town hospitality. We welcome everyone! As long as they’re buying our peaches! Ha, just kidding! No, you can buy whatever you want, it’s a free country. Do as you please!

[A commotion as a group of seven people arrive and set up tables, signs, and barrels filled with fruit for sale. They are selling apples.]

Jace:  [Approaching the group of arrivals.]  Friends! Welcome. Welcome, I see you are setting up shop. That’s fine…but apples? Come now! This is a peach festival after all. Ha, ha! Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to bring peaches for sale?!

Jean Arnaut:  You were just saying, it’s a free country, were you not?

Jace:  Well, yes it is! I was saying that. I was telling everyone they are free to buy anything they want, but I didn’t say we’re free to sell anything we want. That would be anarchy!

Chloe:  He makes a good point doesn’t he, Hugh?

Jean Arnaut:  I would think that free consumption and free production would go hand in hand. One needs the other.

Chloe:  Oh, an appeal to romance! I do love a romantic argument.

Jace:  Yes, I was merely jesting. But I’m afraid there is a long application process to get permission to open a stand in Harmony. And there are permits, fees…a business license. It is all so troublesome for folks like you, I should think. Perhaps you’d do better to move along and sell your apples someplace else.

Jean Arnaut:  [Shows the required forms.]  I believe everything is in order. We’ve paid our fees and have our license to sell.

Jace:  [Surprised, he grabs and reviews the forms.]  Damn! Who issued these?…those infernal people in permitting. Excellent! Wonderful! I see everything is here. [Handing the forms back.]

Peachseller Two:  Mayor, they can’t sell apples! That goes against everything we stand for. I won’t stand for it!

Peachseller Three:  I have to agree, it isn’t right! They shouldn’t be allowed!

Jace:  What can I do?! They have the paperwork. It’s out of my hands.

Peachseller One:  Dear, we’ll talk about it more when we get home!

Chloe:  [Aside.]  There’s the real mayor of Harmony.

Jace:  Folks, we’ll take care of this matter later. For now, just enjoy the festival, enjoy the day! We can all ignore this little distraction. It will take care of itself, trust me! Buy peaches! Please excuse me now, we have an emergency council meeting that I just remembered. Can’t be late! [Exits.]

Jean Arnaut:  Good people of Harmony, come taste the best apples in the world. We have free samples of everything today! [Crowd gathers.]

[Peachsellers talk among themselves.]

Peachseller One:  This can’t be tolerated. It’s a mockery of our festival.

Peachseller Two:  There must be a way to shut them down.

Peachseller Three:  I have an idea. It will require a little stretching of the truth.

Peachseller One:  The truth’s malleable.

Peachseller Three:  And we’ll need to stick together, no backstabbing, no going rogue. All for one and one for all.

Peachseller Two:  That’s less appealing, but it’s for a good cause. I’m in.

Peachseller One:  Count me in too. What’s the plan?

[The three lean in and hear the plan, and then disperse.]

Hugh:  It is good to see them all working together for a change.

Chloe:  But is it a change for the better, or for the worse? I’d prefer they all stay the same and remain not so good all by themselves, rather than change and become very bad all together. Now Hugh, when are you going to give me my gift?

Hugh:  Don’t you want it to be a surprise? How can I get it for you if you’re with me the whole time?

Chloe:  Yes a surprise is better, much better. If you give it to me now, and it’s a bad gift, then my whole day will be ruined. But if I can imagine now that you will be giving me a good gift later, then my whole day is spent in wonderful anticipation. But when will you give it to me?

Hugh: Let’s meet again, this afternoon at one, at our hammock. I promise to give it to you then.

Chloe:  Don’t be late! [They kiss and she exits.]

[Hugh crosses to the apple stand and works his way to the front.]

Jean Arnaut:  You look perplexed, is it so difficult to pick a fruit?

Hugh:  To find the fruit that says all the right things, it is.

Jean Arnaut:  I see. Well my friend what does this fruit you are seeking have to say?

Hugh:  It must speak of love, and of romance, but not speak of these things too loudly, I’m told. It must whisper loud enough to be heard, but not scream so as to frighten.

Jean Arnaut:  Very poetic. We have Red Delicious of course, but that is too straightforward it would seem. Too direct and forward, we don’t want to scare the lovely lady off, right at the start. But what about a Cameo? No, too subtle, you are the lead in this romance, not merely making a brief appearance. Pazazz must certainly be too ostentatious for your purposes, and Pink Lady is perhaps to cloying. Ahhh, this may be it: the Hidden Rose! Is your lady a bit sweet, but not too sweet?

Hugh:  Yes, that is certainly her.

Jean Arnaut: This one has a sharp flavor with a hint of sweetness, and the flesh is a rosy pink.

Hugh:  That is her too! She also has a rosy, pink flesh.

Jean Arnaut:  Now, that is not something I hear every day! Your love has a rosy pink flesh. Very well, you have a refined eye, as well as a classical tongue. I perceive you’ve spent some time reading the poets.

Hugh:  A little, though they are hard to understand. 

Jean Arnaut:  No harder to understand than our present times, I propose. 

Hugh:  Yes, our present times are more perplexing, you’re right!

Jean Arnaut:  And less edifying for the effort.

Hugh:  Again! You are right! What is your name? I enjoy conversing with you very much!

Jean Arnaut:  Likewise. I am called Jean Arnaut. I am the de facto leader of this small conclave you see here selling apples.

Hugh:  Glad to meet you, and I am Hugh. I have no claim to fame.

Jean Arnaut:  And it is no great accomplishment being the leader of this little group either, believe me! But they are generous, and courageous; and humble, I will give them all that. And for some reason, they follow me.

Hugh:  Excellent! I do hope we’ll all become friends.

Jean Arnaut:  We already are! I have a sense for these things.

Hugh:  Now about those apples, the Hidden Rose. I’m afraid she might prefer peaches. I don’t want to make a mistake and get her the wrong gift.

Jean Arnaut:  When it comes to fruit, Hugh, it is hard to go wrong with an apple. The apple is epic in the story of man and woman. True, it had a rather ignominious beginning back in Eden, but it has since overcome that original stigma, and is now a herald of true love.

Hugh: Give me a dozen!

Jean Arnaut:  And I will include a little basket to carry them. No charge for that. Eight dollars for the apples. [They exchange money and the basket.] She is going to love it!

Hugh:  Yes, it suits her perfectly! She’ll be very surprised, I think I’ve really done it this time! Thank you Jean Arnaut, thank you. [He exits.]

[To Be Continued]

~FS

Blurry Days

On a clear blue day,
sometimes I’m not ready,
to see and to be seen.
Give me one that’s gray,
soft and somewhat blurry,
to ponder and to dream.

And let it rain a lot,
in buckets and in sheets,
and wind buffeting the windows.
Lost within my thought,
tucked deep beneath my sheets,
I’m careless which way the wind blows.

Sunny days can be very fine,
But rainy ones are quite sublime.
Though clear blue skies are delightful,
Cloudy days are more insightful.

~FS

Hope, In Times of War

In times of war, there are no rules.

We justify ourselves.

Rules may be recalled later, discussed by history;

Examining ourselves through hindsight, judging by a peacetime morality.

Not now, not yet!

Now is the time for power.

Our every action is now justified by desire:

By need, our greed, and because…

Because they were unfaithful first, we have become unfaithful.

Because everyone is doing it, it has become our ethics.

Because we killed God, God is dead, so we shall erect our own Gods.

Because we know no truth, we will make our own.

Because they are not us, we will hate them.

Because they don’t do as we do, we will fight them.

Because they have what we want, we will scheme and steal.

Because we’ve been hurt, we will hurt.

Because we do not agree, we will not agree!

Because the past was evil, we will make the present even worse:

We will envy, we will kill, we will destroy, and we will lie,

and lie, and lie, and lie.

Because it is war, and we can do it.

Will anyone stand for goodness?

Only goodness, simple goodness.

Does anyone hear its tiny voice?

See it crying in the rubble.

Calling, calling quietly?

I envision someone purely good;

This makes me cry.

I cry for the beauty of the goodness;

And I cry again for its rarity.

Who will love in wartime?

Who will lay aside ‘because’?

Who will resist their ‘Cause’?

And stand for simple goodness;

A universal goodness?

For kindness, gentleness,

And self-control?

Are any of us strong enough,

To be at peace in time of war?

~FS