The Asteroid Persuasion Society

Jane King

© Copyright 2010 by Jane King


Painting of an asteroid headed for earth.

I am submitting this story in honor of my mother who taught me many valuable lessons which have made my life an easier and happier one. She is a very special person.

My mother is kind of a funny person. Her name is Magnolia and it suits her perfectly. She is just like a transplanted southern magnolia, unable to make a smooth transition from the soft, rich fertility of her southern roots to the stark ruggedness of the Midwestern corn fields of Ohio.

Self service has always been a totally foreign and unacceptable concept to my mother. It's public enemy number one - to be avoided at all costs. Next in line is the word no. That's public enemy number two. She's one of these very charming people who fervently believe that other people should do what she wants…and gets them to do it.

One hot July night, my husband and I, our four children, my sister and my mother attended a crowded Fourth of July fireworks concert in Chicago. After seeing the long line of people ahead of us, Mom approached the usher with numerous requests for information. How long would the waiting period be? When and where would we be seated? Is it customary for people to wait this long? Would the concert most likely start before we were seated? How likely was this? Standing for any length of time is very difficult for senior citizens. Surly he must see that. And she could see that he was a fine, upstanding young man and she knew that he would do the right thing and seat us right away, preferably in one of the center stage seats in rows one to ten, as she had poor eyesight and poor hearing.

My mother, while explaining all this, smiled ever so graciously and engagingly at the usher who, thoroughly charmed, offered her his arm and escorted all eight of us directly to the fifth row- the best seats in the park. The audience watched in awe, as though the queen of England was making a surprise visit. I'm surprised the orchestra didn't play “God save The Queen." It seemed only fitting.

And her queenly perception of herself is also extended to her surroundings and even includes the neighborhood birds.

Mom has always claimed that the Claremont Avenue birds, particularly the 138 Claremont Avenue birds, (her address) are of a far superior quality to the birds on the surrounding streets, because they have better singing voices (silver throated flutes, she calls them) and because they have much brighter, more pluming feathers. She's proud as a peacock of her fine-feathered friends and preeningly insists that you can always determine the quality of a neighborhood by the quality of the birds who reside in its trees. The world according to Magnolia.

But my mother's world does have a poetic beauty, a cadence, an uplifting surge that somehow elevates all of us to a better place than we were before.

For instance, one of my Mom’s neighbors used to roam the street without a stitch of clothing on except for an unbuttoned raincoat, banging on doors and shouting out warnings that asteroids are rapidly approaching the earth and that we must do something right away. The neighbors reacted to this emergency news bulletin in a variety of ways: Some merely laughed and said that she was about one hundred years ahead of the times: Others slammed, double-locked and bolted their doors, fearfully anticipating that they would become the next enemy to be conquered.

My mother, always an independent thinker, invited the crazy lady in for breakfast and over bacon and eggs, explored various preventive measures to offset this up-coming disaster.

"I've got an idea," Mom offered hopefully. "Let's call the Asteroid Elimination Society."

"Oh, no!" the naked lady moaned. "The asteroids can never be eliminated. The only way they'll leave is if they want to go back to outer space." Mom, undaunted, plodded full speed ahead.

"All right." she counter-offered. "Let's call the Asteroid Persuasion Society and see if we can persuade them to persuade the asteroids to go home."

Mom then picked up the phone, dialed some random number, and explained the situation as tactfully as she could to the person who answered, feeling her own sanity go down the tubes. The somewhat startled but obliging person on the other end of the line, bless her heart, jumped right in and offered some emergency assistance.

She reassured our naked lady friend that she was absolutely right, that asteroids have been threatening the planet Earth but hear this… They are now setting off spray mists that will allure them back to outer space and keep them there. She then thanked my mother and her new friend for their concern and heartily wished both of them good luck. Each agreed that they would need it-for entirely different reasons.

After a while, our asteroid- conscious friend said, “You know, I think we’re safe now, so I guess I'll go home." End of the story? N0 such luck.

The evil asteroids came back on a number of occasions along with the naked lady, her unbuttoned raincoat and her cries of alarm to my mother, who declared numerous emergency breakfast meetings and requested repeated assistance from the Asteroid Persuasion Society representative. (That lady was really a good sport. She must have sometimes wondered how Mom ever came up with her number.) The APS lady always promised to immediately send out her magical spray mist that would simultaneously persuade both the asteroids and our naked lady friend to go home-at least for a while.

Was my mother behaving erratically? Oh, you think? But she was also showing great wisdom and compassion. Because there are times when we all need to be humored a little for we all have our own asteroids, our own demons that are chasing us: And if creating some Asteroid Persuasion Society relieves the misery of some paranoid elderly lady with asteroids dancing in her head, than let’s do it! We're all getting there. Thirty years from now, this could be us.

Mom has always firmly believed that anyone who says three Hail Marys a day will go straight to heaven. While I treasure her lifetime accumulation of Hail Marys, I also think that she'll go straight to heaven for other reasons. Because she does God's work. She comforts the afflicted. She shelters those who seek refuge. She feeds the hungry, not just a hungry body, but a hungry heart and soul as well.

Any guest in my mother's home will always be an honored guest, for God speak in miraculous ways through each and every one of us. We all have a story to tell…and she’s a great listener.

Speaking of stories, I heard tell that she was recently seen walking up and down Broad Street, carrying a huge pot of bright red azaleas and grinning ear to ear. Well, why not? We could all use some good cheer. And I guess that a pot of azaleas is just as good a thing to carry up and down the street as anything else. She probably provided a day brightener for lots of pedestrians and motorists-and for people hanging out of their office windows, too. She's outrageous. She's irascible: She's totally irresistible: She's my Mom!

Mom, when you get to heaven, will you save a place for me? And save a place for your naked lady friend and for the Asteroid Persuasion Society telephone representative. And the bridge club, the sewing club, your hairdresser, and for all the other wonderful, crazy people whose lives you have enhanced in immeasurable ways, simply by being wonderful, crazy you.

Mom, when it comes to you, there is only one thing I can say…HEAVEN HELP US!!

I have a BA in English and have been writing professionally for 20 years. I have written slice of live articles and  feature stories for newspapers and magazines and  award winning poetry as well as greeting cards for Recycled Paper Greetings and other companies. Writing and reading are my favorite past times. I also enjoy hiking, travel, and gourmet cooking.

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