Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ophelia

We ask you again to please submit your contributions to this blog. Poems, short stories, essays, whatever, and they will be posted. Send them to me at riart1@aol.com

And here is a short story I wrote a few years ago. If you have read Hamlet, you might enjoy it. And if you haven't, you still might like it. So here's


Ophelia

Jack Lippman

“Betty, I just cannot stand him any longer! One day he says he loves me, and caresses and kisses me. And the next moment, he turns his back on me, and mumbles curses about me. And calls me a whore. I just don’t understand. I don’t care what my father wants. I will not marry him! Even if someday he might be King. Sometimes I get the feeling he’s out of his mind and I don’t want a lifetime of that. And sometimes, Betty, sometimes, I think that I cannot live without his love.”

Elizabeth, Ophelia’s companion and handmaiden, turned to the distraught girl, stroking her hair. “Ophelia, I wish I could help you. But this is all between Hamlet and you. Oh, I too see him walking around dreamily, with that blank expression on his face, and I can understand how that puzzles you. But, you have to make up your mind. Why don’t you go for a walk by yourself and think it all out. It’s so nice and calm alongside the brook down past the elm trees, with the fragrant breezes wafting in over the water. Go for a walk, Ophelia. Maybe it will clear your head.”

Ophelia nodded, and with a wave to her friend, slowly walked down to the brook. But however peaceful it was there, the questions which perplexed her still had no answers. Removing her slippers, she stepped into the brook and let the cooling ripples flow over her feet. For the first time in weeks, she smiled, as the water acted almost medicinally on her being. She took another step into the water, and another. She was no longer thinking of Hamlet. The water was up to her knees now, as she waded toward the center of the stream, where the water might cover her completely and then she would not have to seek answers to questions any longer.

* * * *

“Ophie,” Dr. Strong replied. “Even if there were such a thing as reincarnation, and you had been someone else in another life, you wouldn’t be able to remember that prior existence. People who believe in reincarnation believe that some sort of life force continues on and on, but the people who have been reincarnated, are just incidental to the process. They are just vessels, carrying it, and don’t remember the prior vessels, or people, who may have carried the same life they are carrying, but with another identity in the past.” “But Doctor Strong,” the girl answered, “I feel so strongly that I actually am her!”

“Listen,” he continued. “Ophelia was not even a person. She was a fictitious character in a play by William Shakespeare. If you had been someone in the past, in another life, it would have to have been a real person, or living thing. Ophie, if there is such a thing as reincarnation, how can you be the reincarnation of someone who was never alive in the first place, and just a figment of a writer’s imagination?

“I don’t know,” Ophie replied as Dr. Strong got up and looked out of the window. “Shakespeare wrote about her four hundred years ago, and she is still with us, whenever Hamlet is performed, or someone reads the play. You know, Dr. Strong, thousands of students read that play every year, all over the world. Could it be that all of that attention over the years has actually given real life to her, even if the only birth she had was in Shakespeare’s mind? I often think about that. And I really feel that I am the original Ophelia, recreated in my twenty-first century body. And it so bothers me that nobody believes me. At least you aren’t laughing at me, Dr. Strong, as the others do.”

“I think you have been reading a bit too much, Ophie. How many times have your read Hamlet?”

“About thirty,” the girl responded, obviously getting no satisfaction from her discussion with her favorite professor at the college where she was a senior.

“Look, Ophie. It’s a lovely autumn day out there. Why don’t you just take a walk and try to think this all out. I was just glancing out the window and noticed the sunlight glancing off the ripples of the stream down past the elm trees. It’s very calm and restful down there and a walk in the brisk air might be all you need to clear up some of these ideas in your head. And I have to get to a class in about five minutes.

Ophie got up and with a farewell wave to her friend, left his office and slowly walked down to the brook. But however peaceful it was there, the questions which perplexed her still had no answers. Removing her shoes, she stepped into the brook and let the cooling ripples flow over her feet. For the first time in weeks, she smiled, as the water acted almost medicinally on her being. She took another step into the water, and another, and then suddenly, her reverie was broken by the sound of someone splashing into the stream behind her.

A firm hand grasped her around the waist and pulled her back toward the shore.
Ophelia looked at the young man who was now helping her onto the grassy bank of the brook. She was sure that she had never seen him before, but yet he was vaguely familiar.

“Ophelia,” he said with a smile. “I’m not going to let you do that again. You may have gotten away with it once, but I’ll be damned if I am going to let you do it a second time. You know, dear, that I love you.”

“Hamlet?” the dripping girl tentatively inquired, her voice quivering with a growing, almost electric, recognition of the fulfillment of four centuries of anticipation.

“You don’t recognize me, after all the happy times we’ve spent together, Ophelia?”

Ophie looked down. “Some of them were not so happy, Hamlet. You know, you can be quite cruel,” she answered.

“If I have been cruel to you, Ophelia, I am sorry. I have had a lot on my mind lately.”

And with that, Hamlet kissed her gently on the cheek. By that time a small crowd had gathered, and the wail of an approaching siren could be heard in the distance.

(What do you think happened? Did she drown and as she died, she imagined that Hamlet had come to rescue her? Did a passer-by rescue her, but in her mind, she believed him to be Hamlet? Or, was it actually Hamlet, or the reincarnation of Hamlet, rescuing the reincarnation of Ophelia, in which case it wouldn’t matter if the girl were alive or dead. That approaching siren might be an ambulance or police car, called to the scene of a drowning, or a near-drowning. It might help to ask the people in the small crowd whether the girl were alive or dead. But does it really matter, so long as in her mind, she was reconciled with Hamlet.)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Credit Cards, etc.

Here are some ideas on credit cards, as well as a "shortie" from Sid Bolotin. Remember that your contributions to this blog are always welcome. Just send them to me at riart1@aol.com.

Using credit cards (or debit cards for that matter … which are like writing an immediately- cashed check out of your checking account) costs money. Even if you pay your outstanding credit card balance in full each month, and presuming there is no annual fee for your card, you still are incurring a significant cost for the privilege of using the card. That cost is reflected in the increased price of merchandise which reflects what the merchant pays Visa, MasterCard, etc. to “belong” and the additional bookkeeping his accepting the cards entails. All of his customers, including those who pay in cash, pay about 3% more to cover these costs through his higher prices.

The rewards which accompany most credit card programs rarely come close to making up this 3% hit which purchasers pay. Those that offer apparently generous cash rewards usually do so for a limited period on specific types of vendor charges (5% reward for purchases at gas stations or drug stores from July to September for example) but are extremely skimpy on other rewards (for example, .01% on other purchases up to $1,000 a month, 1% over that amount) making up for their apparent generosity. I have a friend who carries around about half a dozen cards at all times, each with a piece of tape on it, indicating for what and during what period it should be used. He wears out his wallets frequently.

The best way to avoid the overcharges with which the use of credit cards has universally infected our economy is to pay cash and get a discount for doing so. Some restaurants do this by offering lower priced “specials” but on a cash only basis. Others publish 10% off coupons which specify “cash only.” Some do not accept credit cards at all, and hopefully, their prices are lower. But such generosity seems limited to the restaurant business. Nevertheless, it should not embarrass the customer to ask a merchant if the price for an item would be less if it were a cash sale rather than a credit card transaction.

And from Sid:

BLINK
Sid Bolotin

For a moment we are teenagers in love.
Then bride and groom.
Bursting into parenthood as mommy, daddy.
Suddenly we're in-laws, and
Now, grandma-grandpa.
Nearing the trail's end.
All in the blink of an eye.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Pogonotrophy in the White House

Until the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln as our sixteenth President, every one of our Chief Executives had been clean-shaven without moustache nor beard. From Lincoln on, however, with the exception of Andrew Johnson and William McKinley, all of our Presidents up until the election of Woodrow Wilson in 1912 displayed facial hair of some kind. Apparently, that was the style in the last part of the nineteenth century. Since Wilson, however, all of our Presidents have been clean-shaven, reverting to the pre-Lincoln fashion. Noting the number of beards and moustaches seen nowadays though, I wonder how long it will be before we have a President who once again practices pogonotrophy in the White House (and that ain’t a dirty word).