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Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

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Windy Tom       Apparently “windy” status is not confined to Tom’s speeches …

Clearly the man at the podium is nervous.

“Nervous” is 10 levels below the present anxiety of this gent, assesses Screen One.

Agreed, agrees Five, agreeably. I would rate him at ballistic, perhaps thermonuclear.

“Guys,” I silently plead with the chattering screens, “I’m trying to listen to Tom Martin. Please, knock off the ratings and help me absorb these words.”

The “Tom” to whom I listen – or try – speaks about being “Forever Crazy in Love,” making the most of marriage. His preparation and precision are evident.

“The one thing you need to remember is pep,” says Tom. “That’s P-E-P, which is an acronym for priorities, expectations and practices.”

Fan the flames, mocks Three. Woo and pursue. Men are from Mars.

“The decisions we make today determine our relationships tomorrow.” Scribble, scribble. “Mutual submission is the glue in all great relationships.”

You will need to write more swiftly, coaches Four. This Martin chap is a volcanic eruption of wisdom.

Tom and GayeRomantic love looks for what it can get,” Tom continues, unaware of the cerebral battle raging just a few feet away. “Unconditional love looks for what it can give.”

The flow abruptly stops. “Gotta tell you,” says mindful Martin, glistening droplets beginning to unite forces on forehead, “this is my first time of giving such a talk in front of all of you. When I had my own business as a tennis pro, I just talked people through things I demonstrated to them on the court.”

Tom corrects himself. “Well, there was the time I gave a presentation to my industry peers.” He frowns in remembrance. “The topic is cardiocybernetics – ”

Did he just curse? gasps Two.

“ – and I speak while wearing a heart monitor as a tie-in to the way stress can negatively affect our performance. Thing is, the sound men want me to wear a mike, and in those days, there are no wireless versions.”

Ah, notes One, nodding, the Dark Ages. We remember.

“I say no, but don’t finish even the first sentence when a man shouts, ‘Can’t hear you in the back!’ So the sound guy reappears and straps a tethered mike on me. I drag that around the stage like some big snake, which only adds to my nervousness. Then I drop my notecards, which are not numbered.”

Tom’s face glistens, the mere memory making more moisture materialize. “Worse, while I’m speaking, this loud, distracting pounding is happening. I glance down at my heart monitor, which everybody in the audience can see because cameras are focused on it – 210 beats a minute! Humans die at 220. The loud pounding is me!”

While six screens laugh at Tom’s predicament, I am aware only of my own shirt becoming moist.

“Moist” is one of America’s least-liked words, states Three authoritatively. So is “smooch.” And – hey, Boss, are you drifting away?

“So, Mr. Blackwell,” says the older man seated among an audience of 70, “you’re saying anybody is eligible for this special program at your school?”

We know this fellow, somehow, murmurs One uneasily. But unable to “pull him back” to memory more clearly, I nod in answer to his question, saying, “Yes. Just about.”

Finger points at Blackie“Ladies and gentlemen,” says the man, voice rising in anger and volume as he gains his feet, “I say to you, this Mr. Blackwell is a liar.” Fingers thrust skyward. “For I applied to the program, was accepted and then he” – multiple fingers shakily point my way – “heartlessly turned me down.”

Bristles Six, You turned him down only because he hid three violent felonies from you during the application process! See if the man stands so righteously when you tell this crowd about his past!

The most heinous of the three crimes crawls onto my lips for Blackwell broadcast, but Two gently says, He has suffered enough, Black. He did his time, losing both years and family amid the indignities. Do not put a man back behind bars for the sake of your ego. Leave to him what little remains.

I study the man’s face, his eyes fearfully widening as he understands I now know who he is. But the swayed crowd claps as I apologize, “Sorry that happened to you … didn’t understand certain program parameters at first.” His Broadway-worthy exit captures the audience’s attention and I wind my talk down, heart racing at all I could have said and did not.

My painful reverie of the past is broken as Tom’s voice in the present penetrates my memory, my embarrassment, my tribulation. He concludes, “For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.”

And a man who shows love for a “neighbor,” whispers One, does the same.


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Postscript: In the last two weeks, you learned next-youngest brother Ted survived his Mazda RX-7’s crash off a very high interstate bridge in West Virginia … then rode the back of my 650cc Yamaha Heritage Special motorcycle.

Which I flipped while gunning a steep hill.

Knievel has nothing on you, cheers Screen Six.

Thor in helmet - notI comfort myself in having provided a helmet for Thor’s deeply wounded head prior to the cycle ride. But my brother views that kindness in a slightly different way …

Thor: IF ONLY readers could have seen a picture of the helmet Blackie found in the shed behind his West Virginia home. It was SO filthy, flea-filled, dusty and dirty that Blackie actually decided it was “too disgusting to wear.” So he went in his house and brought out a clean bandanna for me to apply before I put the helmet on. Only brothers think that caringly about each other.

Blackie: I see by your words, beloved brother, that you are overcome with emotion at my tender treatment of you. Count on me, Thor, to be there in your “darkest hour.”

Screen Three (laughter): Probably because you created it, Black.

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