Scene One – THE FINEST SILVER – Dubai, United Arab Emirates, City Centre, September 1980
A delicious odor of roast goat overwhelms the fragrance of cardamom infused in my Arabic coffee. “Ah, Friday morning in the souk offers unusual pleasures.” Moussa leans across the table and flicks an ash from his Turkish cigarette. “I observed a herd of fine beasts on my way to meet you. Today is their turn.”
I shift position on a wood shipping crate that serves as my chair to move deeper into the shade of a red frayed canvass awning. Indeed. Like the goats, will today be my turn?
Moussa sips the remainder of his coffee, raises an arm, and waives the empty glass. A café server bows with a scimitar filling his glass. Moussa nods. “Ah, Mr. Robert. I mean no offense. Today is goat. Tomorrow maybe rugs, and the day after, Inshallah, if God wills it. Merchants arrive at the market with similar wares on the same day. Do you see that ship in the harbor?”
I look beyond Moussa’s outstretched arm toward the Persian Gulf. His gaze returns. “Tomorrow will bring many choices. Shoppers will have a better chance to bargain a good price because there will be more items to purchase than buyers. But you are concerned with today. So, how can I help you Mr. Robert?”
“Moussa, please call me Bobby.”
“Very well Mr. Bobby. May I be of service?”
“Silver,” I say. “I was shown a beautiful bracelet you crafted for my associate’s wife. Hamid said she was pleased with your work and you might make two similar bracelets for me.” Moussa’s eyes drift back to the ship in the harbor. I realize my bracelets will be very expensive. How expensive I will learn much later.
“Yes, that is possible,” he replies. “Please, may I show you materials and discuss how you wish your bracelets to be designed?”
I feel a hot desert breeze on my face. “That would be good.”
He reaches below the table and lifts a black leather valise. A gleaming silver ingot, the width of a fine Cuban cigar, is placed on the table. Alongside he lays a hand-tooled, red leather sketch book, and a number two Ticonderoga drawing pencil.
I reach for the silver bar and pause. “May I?”
“Of course.” Moussa leans back on his crate. “The finest silver from Morocco.”
“The finest silver from the north of Spain,” I say.
He flashes a quizzical look, “No sir, Morocco.”
I grin at Moussa, “I’m having fun with you. The finest silver from the north of Spain is a lyric from a popular American song by the band Looking Glass. Brandy you’re a fine girl. What a good wife you would be.”
“I’m sorry Mr. Bobby, I don’t know this song. Is one of the bracelets for your wife?”
“Yes, Sally is my wife. Please inscribe Sally with love on the first bracelet and Monica with love on the second.”
Mousa’s eyes lift from his sketch pad. “Ah, very good. Is Monica your daughter,
grandmother, or some other family member?”
“Not exactly.” A cloud blocks the searing desert sun from my face. “She’s my girlfriend.”
He looks back at his sketchpad exhaling through pursed lips. “This maybe none of my business, Mr. Bobby. Do you think similar bracelets for your wife and girlfriend is a good idea?”
“Not to worry Moussa. Sally lives in Milwaukee and Monica lives in Chicago.
They will never know.”
Scene Two – BOTH WAYS – Middleton, Wisconsin, January 2019
“Bobby, this is the craziest story you’ve written.” Dan pushes the draft of my first science fiction story across the table in the booth we share at Prairie Café. “I’m not sure if I love or hate your premise.”
“I take that as a compliment,” I say. “How long have we been writing buddies?”
Dan’s voice softens. “A long time, ever since you and Sally split, I guess.”
I lift my pages from the table. “What do you love and what do you hate?”
Dan grins. “I love how you’ve taken a personal story and made it universal, to another planet and solar system. I hate that the story is unrealistic. I’m reminded of when you gave similar bracelets to your wife and girlfriend. What was her name?”
“Monica.” I lean back rubbing my forehead. “I loved the freedom I had with Monica and I treasured family life with Sally. I wanted the best for each so I gave a bracelet to both. As it turned out, I gave them my worst.”
“How so?” Dan sips his coffee.
“You know the story. Monica discovered my deception and dumped me. Sally –
well, she was on her way out anyway.”
“You can’t have it both ways,” Dan sighs.
“Yes.” I raise my head. “Failure to choose isn’t a choice.”
Scene Three – FOR YOU – High Noon Saloon, Madison, Wisconsin, February 2020
“After my wife Sally left me, I realized love is a choice.” I play a four-note riff on my piano. “I started to compose twelve-bar blues music. I wrote the next song in B flat major, For You, for a new love.”
A silver-haired man in the front row wears a faded t-shirt, honoring John Lee Hooker, the acknowledged master of twelve-bar blues.
“Sing to us, Bobby,” he yells. I raise my microphone and lean in.
“I don't want to keep you baby.
Think I'll have to tell you maybe.
Always running down the line.
Drinking, smoking, all the time.
When I met you, you were fine.
Now I never have the time,
“Now I'm taking Al-Anon.
Hoping problems will be gone.
Mama says you’re smoking less.
Papa says you did confess.
And, you’re home by ten each day.
Thinking I will find a way,
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Creativity Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
Richard Wilberg writes fiction, creative non-fiction, self-help, and career counseling articles. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.