Paul Thorner Collected Stories
© 2017 Paul Thorner. All rights reserved.

362.  9/1/2017

 Behave Yourself

A few weeks ago the rabbi congratulated me on my 95th birthday and at the end of his comments added "and behave yourself."  I know the rabbi and I'm sure the 'and behave yourself'' was just a humorous ending to his remarks. But, what if it wasn't? What could he have meant by 'behave yourself'?  I thought I always behaved myself. Was he suggesting my old behavior needed change and for me to behave differently now? Now that I'm 95 I shouldn't do the things I did at 94?

What does 'behave' really mean? I went to the dictionary and it describes 'behave' as  1: to bear or comport oneself in a particular way 2 : to conduct oneself in a proper manner. AHA! It's the second definition that people associate with the word 'behave' - to act in a proper manner, 'proper' being the key word. What does a mother mean when she says to her child 'behave yourself''? She means behave in a proper way, the correct way, the right way. Not in a 'particular' way. Leave it up to the child and his 'particular' way could bring the house down.

            So, from now on I'm going to behave myself. I've made the following changes:
                        · Only one glass of wine each night instead of the usual three
                        · Wash the dishes after each meal instead of the end of the week
                        · Change my socks every five days instead of every seven
                        · Shop before there's only ice cream left in the refrigerator
                        · Fill the gas tank before it reads 'empty'
                        · Don't pinch every pretty woman you see - pick and choose

It's been a week since the changes have gone into effect and things are going well. It's only one glass of wine a night now. I eat my meals out so there aren't any dirty dishes. I've bought four dozen extra pairs of socks. The empty refrigerator has room for plenty of ice cream. I call Uber and don't use my car. And I've found a very pretty woman who welcomes all my pinches. As you can see, I'm behaving myself.


361.                           8/17/2017


The scene opens with me sprawled in the shower. "Hello-o-o-o" comes the call from the front door. "I'm in the shower," I shout back. The EMS crew comes into the bathroom and one of them with a smile asks "What are you doing there?" So, let me tell you what I was doing there.

I had completed my shower and while drying myself on the outside mat I noticed I felt a little weak and whoozy. Not my usual self. I remained there for several moments to gather myself, then grabbed the powder container and stepped back into the shower. The powder slipped out of my hand, I bent down to pick it up, lost my balance and ended up on the wet shower floor with my legs in an awkward position. I figured it was best if I remain that way for a while, which is what I did. I felt better and tried to move about in an attempt to stand up. The floor was wet, there wasn't anything to grasp onto, my legs were bent in such a manner as to not afford me any traction. I found myself stuck and not able to extricate myself.

But, not really. Two years ago I had purchased an alert system for just such an emergency. It's a flat plastic communication device, about 1 and 1/2 by 2 inches, hangs around my neck and rests on my belly. It is comforting when I'm home alone and have no one to touch me. When you squeeze the two red buttons on the sides it sends a message that you need help. It goes out to 911, EMS crews in the neighborhood, any doctors driving by, the U.S. Army Medical Corps, and the Mayo Clinic, if you live in Ohio. In my case, EMS arrived in twelve minutes. I was lifted out of the shower, placed in a chair, my vital signs checked, given an OK and since it was 12:30am, advised to go to bed, which I did and felt fine the next day.

The moral of this story is everyone who lives alone should have a personal alert system. Imagine if I didn't have one. First, I could have been in the shower until someone  might knock on my door, which happens infrequently. Second, I wouldn't have written this story, which helps maintain the quality of the work presented in class. And third, without the alert, it is possible I could have been in the shower until the Christmas vacation, when the great-great-grandchildren come to Florida to visit their favorite GG Paul.

So get the alert. EMS will come and you won't scare the kids exhibiting yourself in the shower.


360 on order


359.                          8/17/2017

The Simple Needle

Last week I reached into my sewing box for a needle to sew a button on my shirt. There were so many of different lengths and thickness. Then the thought came to me - when was the first needle made, how was it made, what was it made of. What's the history of the needle?

I checked it out. The needle was one of mankind's first tools. Over the centuries it developed from a simple craft item to the precision tool for modern sewing machines. Some historians say the invention of the needle ranks in importance with that of the wheel and the discovery of fire. The wheel altered man's original mode of transportation to allow him to move the jugs of beer away from the ladies and have a private party in Omar's cave. Fire provided warmth and cooked food like pizza, spare ribs and French fries. The needle provided the means to survive freezing weather by stitching together animal hides for clothing and shelter and kept the ladies busy when they weren't skinning dinosaurs.

When people began to wear clothing, about 60,000 years ago, they didn't sew it at all - they just enclosed themselves in leather or furs. Next they held the skins in place by wrapping themselves with string or leather cords. About 45,000 BC, when people began living in Central Asia, where it was colder, they needed warmer, stronger clothing. They started to use sharp pointed instruments, called awls, to poke holes in their clothes and then used the awls to push the cords through the holes and basically tie the pieces together. The awls were made of bone, stone, wood, ivory, antlers, tusks, plant material. The thread or cords were made of animal sinew, veins, gut, hair, leather and the clothing material was of furs and animal hides. Besides clothing, the skill was employed in making other items such as teepees, fishing nets, carrying bags, boat skins.

Then around 40,000 BC, it is reported that some gal, sitting home alone while her man was out playing paw-jongg with the guys, (the name was changed to mah-jongg when the ladies took it over), had the idea to make a hole in the end of the awl and thread the first needle. The needle's eye was created with a rudimentary stone drill used by the tribe's dentist in a nearby cave. This made sewing a lot faster and easier, and soon the idea spread to other cold places like northern Europe and North America. Wire-making technology appeared in the second millennium, which allowed the eye of the needle to be made by turning the wire back on itself. The next major break-through in needle-making was the arrival of high quality steel-making technology from China in the tenth century. It prospered in Spain because the Catalan furnace was able to produce reasonably high quality steel in significant volume. By the middle ages needles were treasured items and kept in safe places. The technology later extended to Germany and France. England began making needles in 1639 creating the drawn-wire technique still in common use today. By then needles weren't treasured so much. Black, left-handed ivory shoehorns became the craze. Historians have not been able to discover why.

There is evidence that needles were used not only to stitch hides together for warmth, but also sewing and decorating for social and erotic display. So, as both of you look in the mirror and glimpse at your expensive, designer gown and tuxedo before leaving for the Third Annual Sophisticates Ball in Trump Tower, remember Jane Flintstone, who initiated style and fashion when she sewed two pig snouts on her buffalo skin and won first prize at the Fifth Cavemans Gala and Ball held at Bob's Hole in the Mountain Bear and Grill at the corner of Dinosaur Street and Pterodactyl Avenue in Cavetown, South Siberia many, many winters ago.

358.                         8/17/2017


I met up with Marion Proweller last week. No, not in person. In my dreams. Why? I have no idea. Our last contact was 82 years ago when we graduated from P.S. 25 in Brooklyn in January 1935 and I hadn't thought of or seen her since. So, why last night in my dreams? I have no answer.

Not having an answer, I felt compelled to learn what dreams are and what they mean. Here's what I found out: A dream is a succession of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that usually occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep. Dreams can have various natures, such as being frightening, exciting, magical, melancholic, adventurous or sexual.

Opinions about the meaning of dreams have varied and shifted through time and culture. Many endorse the Freudian theory of dreams - that dreams reveal insight into hidden desires and emotions. Other prominent theories include those suggesting that dreams assist in memory formation, problem solving, are simply a product of random brain activation or that the events in dreams are generally outside the control of the dreamer. I believe that dreams are outside the control of the dreamer, but I take issue with the word generally. My feelings are that all dreams are random brain activities and the dreamer has no control over them. I never recall going to bed thinking I'll dream about something specific and it happened. Or that I had control over the events once the dream started. Just the opposite. I believe dreams go in all crazy directions.

So, getting back to my dream of Marion. It intrigued me. I searched the internet and found her son, Martin, who lives in Dallas, Texas. I called him, told him who I was and why I was calling and we had an interesting conversation. He gave me a rundown on his mother's life, which was typical of first generation Jewish middle-class Americans - high school graduation, employment, marriage, house purchase, children, grand-children, retirement, old age. Marion passed away at age 90.

As things turned out, I didn't get a chance to ask her if she ever dreamed of me. I know the answer. Why would she? That's my life. And death is a part of it. But, life goes on. And if I ever think of Marion again, I'll remember her as a bright, happy, young girl I knew from our eighth-grade class long, long ago.