The Battle of Evil against Good

my favorite color is octoberIt’s mid-October and lots of my bookish friends are reading scary stories or mysteries that have elements of the supernatural lurking about. In my 8th grade classroom, we read a short story recently that is classified as science fiction but in many ways represents the materialistic and selfish ways of many in today’s society, making it seem like realistic fiction.

Richard_MathesonRichard Matheson wrote many short stories and screenplays for two well-known television shows from the 1960s: Star Trek and The Twilight Zone. Edgar Allan Poe, Matheson’s favorite author, wrote many strange and creepy stories that gave Matheson the perfect basis for writing his own pieces of thought-provoking literature. In the science fiction short story “Button, Button,” the reader is invited into Norma and Arthur Lewis’s apartment to witness a marital argument over a button—just a button—which sits under a glass dome and does not appear to have a function or job.

Button, Button unitMatheson’s short story “Button, Button” did have a job, however. Using the story of Adam and Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden as his starting point, Matheson creates an allegory that clearly shows the reader exactly what greed and temptation can do to a weak person. Norma dreams of many things: a cottage on the island, a car, a better apartment, nicer clothes, a trip to Europe, a baby. Arthur keeps telling her these things will come in time; they will achieve their dreams together, but Norma can’t let it go. She is intrigued by the button and its immoral promises. She rationalizes and tricks herself into believing that pushing the button will bring them BOTH happiness, not just her. “It’s for us,” she says as she pushes the button.

st michaelIn the Catholic faith, St. Michael the Archangel was sent to defend Christians in battle with the devil. It’s a shame Norma did not know the prayer to St. Michael. Perhaps the warrior archangel could have stopped her from making the biggest mistake of her life.

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

St. Michael the Archangel, pray for us.

A Rose by Any Other Name . . .

My beloved 2001 silver Mazda MPV

My beloved 2001 silver Mazda MPV

After nearly eleven years of faithful service, my 2001 silver Mazda MPV finally succumbed, or should I say, we finally succumbed to the recent spate of repairs to keep it running. It was such a great car, bought used in 2004. It took us on college tours, back and forth to Pittsburgh for six plus years, countless errands, and back and forth to work five days a week. We were hoping it would make it until the end of my school year, so we could shop for a gently used car and make a rational decision rather than a rash decision to purchase a brand-spanking new car. Being a Catholic school teacher, who everyone knows is paid less than our public school cohorts, it is a bit unsettling to roll into school tomorrow morning in a 2015 bright and shiny new car. But, after a week of hitching rides to and from school (thanks, Danielle), which my beloved silver minivan spent sitting dormant in the school parking lot, my husband said on Saturday that we must go car shopping.

no-shoppingI don’t like shopping. Never have. I didn’t inherit the shopping gene from my mother; apparently it skips a generation, landing squarely on my older daughter, who coincidentally was named after my mother. I would not be sad if I never stepped foot in a mall again. If I can’t get Amazon to send it to me, I really don’t want it that badly to go and find it in person. With the exception of bookstores, I just don’t get excited about the retail experience. And, even then, I would much prefer to spend my time in a library, where all the books are FREE.

So, imagine how I feel about car shopping. Now, double that, and you will be in the ball park of how I felt on Saturday morning. It’s the end of the school year, end of fourth quarter, with final exams to grade. I just didn’t have time to spend hours in a car dealership. But, there was no escaping the fact that the time had come to get myself a reliable car.

The decision was made somewhat easier by the fact that I knew I wanted a Mazda, and I really wanted a newer version of my old silver minivan. I love the sliding doors. I love the fact that I sit a little higher and have better visibility than in a sedan. I love that I can put the back seats down and fill it with props and costumes for my theatre productions. So we targeted a dealership with several new and used current models of my old minivan, the slightly smaller Mazda 5. I wanted a silver car (change is hard for me, as you can see) but the new Mazda 5 in silver only comes with black interior. Not feeling the Johnny Cash, sorry. The much prettier “sand” interior only comes in the white model and the red model. Uh, no to the white, I told the salesman, because it gets so dirty, especially here in the northeast with the snow-mud-salt-dirtiness of our winters.

Roxanne_-_The_Police_(Original_UK_Release)As for the red, I always said I would never have a red car. I’ve just associated a red car with hookers (sorry for all of you out there with a red car, no offense).  I guess it all started with Sting and his song, “Roxanne”. “Roxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light, those days are over, you don’t have to sell your body to the night.” But, the red Mazda 5, sitting there glistening in the sun, was actually growing on me.

In the words of Sheldon Cooper, it was “zazzy”. So we took it on a test drive. It was very comfortable, and it handled nicely. It had everything I wanted, sliding doors, front seat warmers, Bluetooth, second and third rows that fold nearly flat for hauling theatre stuff, and a sun roof. So, I texted a photo of it to my two daughters and to my good friend, Danielle. All agreed. GET THE RED CAR, MICHELLE.Sheldon-cooper-hes-so-zazzy-ca-lKRi

I know it is popular to name your car. I have lots of friends who have done so, but I’ve never named a car ever. My new red mica Mazda 5 is my 8th car (and my 5th Mazda, my husband has had two of them himself) and none of them have had names. Until now. Standing there in the parking lot of the dealership, I decided to name that bright red car.

hurricane flossyRight before I was born, my mother asked my father what he thought they should call the new baby if it was a girl. My dad immediately said “Flossy”, after the hurricane which passed over the mouth of the Mississippi River near my hometown on September 24, 1956, just three weeks before I was born. My mother, thank God, vetoed Flossy (not a saint’s name, reason enough). My dad then offered up as a second choice what he said was his “favorite” name for a girl; wait for it, Candy Denise. My mother’s reply: “Absolutely not!” She put her little size 5 foot down and said that I should have a French name to go with my French surname of Blanchard, and she thought Michelle would be nice, as it was French and the female version of St. Michael the Archangel, so very Catholic indeed. Ann would be my middle name, in honor of my godmother’s middle name, with no E at the end since my first and last names were long enough michael the archangel

Years ago, when I first heard this story, I thought to myself that “Candy Denise” sounded like a hooker’s “professional” name. I’m sure my dad did not have that in mind, but he could never tell me what in the world made him come up with that for a name for his first child. I am forever grateful that my mother prevailed, however, because I do love my name, albeit hearing “Michelle, ma belle” screamed at me in middle school did grow a bit tiresome.

Me and Candy Denise

Me and Candy Denise

So, on Saturday, as we were waiting for my brand-spanking new 2015 Mica Red Mazda 5 to be driven to the front parking of the dealership, I decided to name my car “Candy Denise”, a “zazzy” name for a “zazzy” red car. It just seemed the right thing to do. And, I’m sure my mom and dad are having a good laugh about this up in heaven!