This story first appeared in Reflections Literary Journal, Volume VII, 2005, 95-98.
“Stanley, it’s perfect! Right here.” Mary sets the head of Buddha on an antique walnut fern stand in the corner.
Stanley looks doubtful. “I thought we were going to put him in the living room. Somehow I just don’t see Buddha in the den.”
Mary laughs. “You never see anything in the den but the TV. Besides, he’s behind your chair. Let’s just try it for awhile. We can always move him.”
Stan flops into his taupe leather recliner, puts up the footrest, and picks up the remote control. It’s the middle of the Women’s Midwest Regional Championship-Duke trying to make the Final Four for the third time in a row, Minnesota trying to get in for the first time ever. On one side of the stadium, a cheering, screaming mass of fans in maroon and gold jump up and down. Across the court, a swaying throng in blue and white stamps and tries to out yell their opponents. Two head coaches-both blondes, wearing makeup, dark suits, gold necklaces, earrings-protest the calls and yell at their players. Whalen passes and slashes and fouls. Currie hits the hardwood. She misses both foul shots and the Duke fans moan.
Choice and intent are more important than outward deeds, thinks Buddha.
Bolton breaks for the basket and fouls. Beard makes both shots, whittling down the Minnesota lead. A female commentator says, “Stretching themselves, performing under pressure, that’s what college is all about.” Sweaty bodies run, jump, slam each other. “They’re pressuring the heck out of Schonrock, trying to keep her from shooting threes. Her 83-year-old grandmother is here tonight to cheer her on.” The camera pans to a tiny, gray-haired woman in a gold T-shirt emblazoned in maroon, Minnesota on the front and Schonrock on the back. She’s wildly waving a gold pom-pom.
Minnesota wins by seven. Two Duke players weep on the sidelines. In a post-game sound bite, the Minnesota coach and her star player, Whalen. say they are proud.
Impermanence is a quality of all things.
Mary calls Stanley to dinner as a man wearing ’50s clothes and an imbecilic grin leads a congo line across the screen. Bob is “living large” because he takes a prescription drug for “natural male enhancement.”
To avoid suffering, avoid inappropriate craving.
Buddha is alone with the TV. As the coverage switches to the Stanford/Tennessee game, he blinks once. The TV clicks to a nightclub scene, two men in suits talking to a scantily-clad young woman with big hair. She says, “Rachael wouldn’t do anything illegal. She was straight as an arrow-unless she got a couple of martinis in her.” A stripper falls off the stage into the arms of the middle-aged detective. The speaker giggles. “Suzie has a daddy thing.”
Refrain from inappropriate sexual relationships.
The scene shifts to people working in cubicles. The detectives haul an unprepossessing young man to his feet. “Do we have to do this here?” he asks. The scene shifts to the station house. Lenny is in the suspect’s face, yelling, deriding him.
Avoid all evils of the tongue.
Ed starts playing the good cop, questioning him quietly. The suspect says, “I had a sense-in my head-I saw her lying dead in an alley. I went to the alley to look.”
Lenny says, “What, you’re psychic?”
The man looks up defiantly. “It happens.”
Ultimate truths are within reach of anyone willing to pay attention, right in front of you, within yourself.
A kaleidoscope of commercials flashes across the screen. Zero to 60 in 5.6 seconds. Seventy-five billion dollars in illegal drugs come into the U.S. every year. Operation Swordfish. Terror is closer than you think.
Have compassion for all sentient things.
A series of headshots of beautiful women come on as a silky voice intones, “Everybody who’s anybody is having something done. Get the Avon 2-step facial at home.”
Meditative discipline identifies and neutralizes sources of anxiety and uncertainty.
A melodious crooner sings “Call Me Irresponsible” while people famous for servant roles have a pool party, high diving, drinking, losing bathing suits in a hot tub, free because they use the Swiffer duster.
Proper attitude is balancing one’s attitude toward work.
Buddha blinks. Click. A man in a white shirt says, “Doctors, teachers, engineers-their degrees mean nothing here.” A black woman is peeling red potatoes, dropping chicken breasts into plastic bins. In Nigeria, she owned restaurants and ran a cooking school. Now she works three part-time jobs as a cook’s assistant. “I must put food on the table for my children.” The scene shifts to a Palestinian woman applying for work in a shelter for battered women and at the University of Chicago Department of Middle Eastern Studies. Both interviewers say she must improve her English. She smiles. “I have to change.”
Everything depends on measured responses, a habit of discipline, and a keen awareness of one’s motivations.
An old woman looks out the window of a brick apartment building, at snow-covered bushes. “Back home I used to walk around, visit people. Here I just stay home and don’t do much.” Suddenly the screen is filled with children jostling in a school hallway, sitting at desks, reading books, writing. A teacher says, “They are very respectful children. I wish I had more of them.” American children make fun of the immigrants. “People have trouble with the names, with the accents. They label them The Africans.”
Hardship and suffering are a part of all.
A Middle Eastern family sits down to Thanksgiving dinner, the table laden with beans, turkey, stuffing, and more. A young couple pulls the wishbone. “We are in America and that is what they do.” A pretty girl laughs. “If we win the lottery, we’ll all go back home. And we will share.” Naima wears white robes and bows to the east. “If I had to choose between there and here, I would choose there.”
Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases.
Click. The screen goes black.
Stanley comes into the den carrying a mug of coffee and a piece of chocolate cake. “Hey! What the hell happened to the TV?” He clicks the remote repeatedly but the screen remains dark.
Guard the senses. Avoid the subtle corrosion of evil influences.
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