300-500 Words

CRACKER JACK DAYS

When I was a kid growing up in The Bronx my favorite snack was Cracker Jack. It didn’t matter that the molasses-flavored, caramel-covered popcorn and peanuts got stuck in our teeth and remained there for hours; it was just too tasty to resist. My Dad used to say we were putting our dentist’s kids through college because we were there so often!

I’d run to the store with my allowance and grab the red, white and blue box with a picture of Sailor Jack and his dog Bingo just begging you to indulge in the sweet golden nuggets. That image of Jack popping a piece into his mouth made our tummies rumble and our mouths water. Back in 1960 a box of Cracker Jack cost 10 cents – one thin dime. In big letters was the message that made our little hearts flutter:

NEW PRIZE INSIDE!

We’d excitedly rip into the box wondering what we’d find. Would it be a decoder ring, plastic figurines, miniature notebooks, stickers, baseball cards or temporary tattoos? Once the surprise was revealed, we’d get to business gleefully stuffing our faces until our bellies hurt! My Cracker Jack treasures were stored in one of my mother’s large mason jars which I kept on my desk in my room; it was a clear vessel so I could easily see all my prizes – a plethora of multi-colored playthings and trinkets which to me looked like precious gems. Sometimes my friends and I would get together and trade prizes; the boys always wanted the baseball cards and miniature guns while the girls were more interested in the tiny baby dolls and jewelry. A big favorite was always the plastic whistle which we’d blow continuously while running around the house causing our parents to grimace and cover their ears.

Cracker Jack became so popular with people of all ages, it was even sold at the world-famous Yankee Stadium. A hot dog, a soda and a box of Cracker Jack – you couldn’t ask for more to make a perfect day with the Yanks – except a win, of course! You remember the old song, don’t you? I bet you’re singing it right now:

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I never get back!
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out
At the old ball game!”

Nowadays kids won’t find surprise toys and trinkets in snack or cereal boxes and that’s a damn shame. Those days are gone; I guess somebody decided those little treasures were a “choking hazard”. Funny how back then we never heard about anyone choking on a Cracker Jack toy, getting sick from drinking water out of the garden hose or crossing their eyes so much they’d get stuck that way. We’d do our homework right away so we could go outside to play with our friends instead of plopping down on the couch watching shows like “Felix the Cat”, “Sky King” or “The Lone Ranger“. When the street lights came on, we knew it was time to run home for dinner – and our moms never had to yell out the window for us to get home. Man, those were simpler times!

Today there are only a couple of surprises about Cracker Jack and they’re not very good ones: there are no more peanuts because too many kids have nut allergies; a box costs way more than 10 cents and you don’t even get a full box for your money. And the only message on the package is “CONTENTS MAY SETTLE IN TRANSIT”. What big change occurred in transportation to result in the “settling phenomenon”? Just one more crazy thing to ponder in the year 2021.

Boy, I sure do miss those Cracker Jack days.

NAR © 2021

Poems

WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND


WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND

Children are a blessing, a fact no one is denying.
They come into our quiet lives all wrinkly and a-crying. 

Parenthood’s a heavy task you never learned in school
And if you think it’s easy then you’re just a God-damn fool. 

You take them home as newborns not knowing what to do.
Warm their bottles, wash their clothes and clean up all their poo. 

Those little babes can tire you out and run you in the ground
And when bedtime rolls around you pray their sleep is sound. 

You do the very best you can to teach them right from wrong
And feed them milk and vegetables to grow up big and strong.

Some kids are such a pleasure, they warm their mother’s hearts.
All they do is such a joy; you can’t even smell their farts! 

They do their chores, their homework, too, and never answer back
And when it’s time to go to bed they jump right in the sack. 

Then there are the nasty ones who don’t do what they’re taught.
Like Harry Potter’s nemesis they act like Lord Voldemort. 

They’re mean to all the other kids like a dog without its bone,
A bunch of little shits who make life miserable at home.

They say that kids learn from their folks to live a proper life
So try to fill your child’s world with happiness, not strife.

And don’t forget in sixty years-time, give a year or two
It’s your kids who’ll be feeding you and cleaning up your poo! 

NAR © 2021

250 Words

MARCH MADNESS

It was one of those rare March snowstorms, the kind that sneaks up on you after a couple of really nice spring-like days.

Our boys were super excited to see the unexpected snow and ran out to build a snowman. Just as soon as they got outside, the girls who live in the house across the street came out and started building a snow-woman.

The boys decided their snowman would be a basketball player. They packed snow into a pair of shorts, slipped a LeBron James jersey over the figure, stretched a headband across the forehead and placed a basketball on the ground as the finishing touch.

The girls dressed their snow-woman in a cute little cheerleader’s outfit, boots and pompoms for arms. They used blue buttons for her eyes and Twizzlers strawberry licorice for her smile. 

The ’snow couple’ looked fantastic all decked out in their costumes and the neighbors came outside to take photos. It was a really fun day for everyone.

Well, it must have warmed up considerably during the night because the next morning both the snowman and snow-woman had melted.

The strange thing, though, was the inexplicable trail in the snow that led from our house to the house across the street. And strewn about the last remnants of snow were a discarded jersey, shorts, pompoms and cheerleader’s uniform.

There was just a little bit left of the snow-woman’s head but that gal was still sporting a huge strawberry smile!

NAR © 2021

250 Words

ARR, MATEY!

It was a beautiful Saturday morning when my son Tom called.

“Dad, Allie’s gone into early labor! We need you to stay with Molly.” He sounded excited and nervous.

I’m on my way!” I immediately answered.

As soon as I arrived Tom and Allie left for the hospital.

Grampy, can we go to the school fair?” Molly asked. “Daddy was gonna take me today.”

Sure, pumpkin. Let’s go!” I replied – anything to help pass the time.

The playground of Molly’s school, St. Cecilia’s Elementary for Girls, had been magically transformed into a carnival with food stands, games of chance and a giant inflated pirate ship.

Look, Grampy! A bouncy ship!” Molly tugged at my sleeve. “Can I go on, please?”

“You bet, honey! Looks like fun!” I gave my granddaughter a boost. I was half in and half out when the ship started bouncing, taking me for a ride I’ll not soon forget!

Well, a bouncy anything is no place for a 60-year-old man and 20 little girls. They were rolling all over me and every time the damn thing came to a stop, I tried getting out but kept losing my balance.

Then, just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, the pirate ship was surrounded by police. One cop with a megaphone shouted “Sir, this is for children only. You’re in serious trouble. Come out now or we’ll come in and drag you out!”

I finally managed to crawl my way out. My clothes were in total disarray, little girls were crying and I heard someone yell “You sick bastard!”

Arr! I made the news that night. My fifteen minutes of fame!

NAR © 2021

500-750 Words

EAT MY DUST

Particularly sensitive about her bright red hair, twelve-year-old Moira was constantly teased and ridiculed by the other kids in school. A day didn’t go by when she wasn’t under attack, either verbally or physically. The bratty kids would run after Moira, pulling her hair and calling her Devil Girl or Carrot-top. They’d force her off the bus and chase her home where she’d run inside crying, hiding in her room.

Moira’s mother begged the principal to do something but he claimed his hands were tied. “Kids will be kids. What do you expect me to do – expel all the students?” was his cavalier comment.

Aside from her cousin Andrew, Moira had only one true friend – a confident and strong-willed girl named Tanya, one of the few black students in their school. Tanya’s brother Justin taught her how to handle herself. She was no coward and would blast the other kids, making them back off. “Stick with me, girl! We’ll show those fools some day!” Tanya would laughingly say to Moira, putting her arm around her shoulder. Nothing seemed to bother Tanya but that was far from true. She felt the prejudice every day; she just never revealed her emotions and would wait until she was safe in her mother’s comforting embrace to vent her frustrations.

Fortunately the friends had something in their favor: they were both incredibly beautiful. Unlike most redheads Moira’s creamy face had no freckles, her eyes were a bewitching hazel and her hair was straight and lustrous, not a shock of fire-red curls like Little Orphan Annie. Tanya’s complexion was like velvet, the color of hot cocoa. Her eyes were a glistening golden-brown and her jet-black cornrows were luxurious and silky smooth. Their exquisite good looks confused the fickle boys and threatened the jealous girls.

Tanya and Moira remained close all through their teen years. High school wasn’t a cakewalk for the girls; every day a new challenge would present itself and the friends would put on a brave face. Tanya became Moira’s coach, teaching her everything she learned from her brother. Slowly Moira’s confidence became stronger and school wasn’t such a living hell.

Not one boy had the guts to ask Moira or Tanya to the prom which was no surprise. “Screw it!” was Tanya’s reaction. “Who needs them?!” Moira came up with a wild idea and when she shared it with her friend, Tanya grinned and said “You’re on, girl. Let’s do this thing!”

On the day of the big dance the friends went to the salon for “the works” – nails, hair and makeup. When they were done they looked amazing and totally different, playing a crazy game of trading places.

The outcasts walked into the prom not knowing what to expect but once everyone saw them, all trepidation disappeared. The boys were dumbstruck, mouth gaping open while the girls stared, seething with envy. Moira was on Justin’s arm while Tanya walked hand-in-hand with Andrew.

They left everyone eating their dust.

NAR © 2020

500-750 Words

SCARY HOUR

We woke to a muggy summer day. My husband Bill was away on business so it was just me and our two rambunctious boys – Billy, who was four years old and David, two. 

At 6:00 AM on the dot the boys came racing into my room, screaming their usual “Mommy! Wake up! We want breakfast!” 

“No way!” and I greeted them with big hugs. “You should make breakfast for me!” They jumped on the bed laughing. “That’s silly! We don’t know how to cook!” 

The boys ran to flip on Sesame Street while I made pancakes. Billy asked if we could go to the beach. 

You know, I think the beach is gonna be really crowded today. How about we plan our own beach in the backyard with the the sandbox, pool, and lots of toys to play with … and we can even have a picnic! Sound good?” And they nodded approvingly. 

Around noon we headed out to our make-believe beach, carrying a basket of PB&J sandwiches. The boys played all day getting sufficient filthy. Before dinner we hosed off and ran inside to the bathroom for a proper washing. Billy showered while I bathed David in the attached tub. Grabbing a towel, Billy ran to his bedroom. 

Mommy, there’s a spider in here” Billy called out. 

“Buddy, I’m busy with David. Get a tissue and squash it’ I answered. 

“But it’s really big!!”

Thinking I better go in and check things out, I wrapped David in a towel and went into the bedroom where Billy was in his tent. 

“Where’s Spidey?” I asked. Billy pointed to his bed. 

Placing David with Billy I examined the bedspread until I spotted it – a brown recluse! Using my ‘Mommy Voice’, I told the kids to “stay put”. I raced to the kitchen, grabbed an empty mason jar, removing the cover and lid on the way back. I braced myself, then in one fell swoop I covered the spider with the jar. Reaching for the thin lid, I gently slid it between the bedspread and the jar, praying the spider would oblige and crawl down the jar. IT DID!! Placing my palm on the bottom of the jar, I carefully eased my other hand between the bedspread and the lid, turning the jar upright. I grabbed the screw-on cover, trapping the spider. 

Grasping the jar I slumped to the floor just as Bill returned home. “Where is everyone?” he called from downstairs. 

“Up here, Daddy! Mommy’s Wonder Woman!” 

“Is that so?” Bill asked

“Say ’hello’ to my little friend” I said as I raised the jar for Bill to see.  

Later we talked about how that brown recluse could have found its way to our Manhattan house. Then I said “Didn’t Jim borrow our suitcase when he went to Arizona? The little bugger must have crawled in while he packed for home.” 

“That suitcase is safely locked in the storage closet” replied Bill. “It better not have brought its family along for the ride! Tomorrow Jim’s gonna have some serious cleaning out to do.” 

.

NAR © 2019