Burn Billy Burn

Back in the day in your heyday in your thirties a wild man between marriages a disastrous first marriage married too young and so on and so forth and before you found S. you had friends and you had girlfriends you had the time of your life as the song goes and then yes S. the love of your life and marriage and thirty years of tumultuous but steadfast love through many family deaths mothers brothers only son and still together until the thunderbolt struck and S. was gone and you were alone and one by one for whatever reason the few relatives you had left and the fewer friends abandoned you and you were totally alone in an empty house with ghosts and Bella the cat a sweet companion but limited conversation and you knew that if you opened the back door she would be off like a shot bounding through the woods at the back of the house and you knew what you would do when the time came

you would open the back door and let the cat free and you would burn the house down

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The Fourth of Lonely


Every Fourth of July for thirty years I was with my wife — until her death a year and a half ago, so that makes the last two Fourths without her.

Alone on this Fourth and in need of human contact I played a little game with myself, almost as deadly as Russian roulette.

Whoever among the half a dozen extended family members I have left and the two or three “friends” I have phoned me on the Fourth would be my only true friend(s) and if no one called then I would have to face the fact that there is no one who thinks enough of me to pick up a phone and call. One rule — I wouldn’t phone any of them, since I was the one to call in recent, rare conversations anyway.


By midnight (I figured no one would call after 9 p.m. but I waited until the midnight hour anyway) the results were in.

[Drum roll please] 

One person phoned.

It wasn’t either of my two sisters-in-law, it wasn’t my brother-law, it wasn’t either of my two nephews, or my two nieces, or my cousin. It was none other than Renata de Dios, my wife’s colleague from when we all lived in Miami Beach in the wild Miami Vice 1980s and who I had lost touch with until a year ago when she called me out of the blue with condolences over the death of my wife. At that point she became my spiritual advisor and we kept in touch — albeit with little progress in getting me on that “road to God.”

I told her how much I appreciated her phoning me on the Fourth, that she was the only one who did, and she said, God could sense your loneliness and your need to talk to someone and He tapped me to make the call.

To which I replied, You know something, Renata, I’m beginning to think you’re onto something.

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