Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2019

Archive for the month “November, 2016”

I Am Leftovers

food1YOU WOULD THINK THAT AN ENTIRE WEEKEND would be enough time to recover, but I still feel like that beached whale. I am still giving thanks – only now it is thanks that I’m still alive, having survived my gluttony.

By this time of life I should know better and be more into a Zen-like state where I don’t engage all of my senses in a spate of overdoing it at the dinner table.

“Oh, Grasshopper, you are personally responsible for the famine in Asia. Because of you millions of people will go to bed without any pumpkin pie. The children will never know the meaning of Kool-Whip.”

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I Think I’ll Have Some More

foodA COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO I asked for suggestions about where we should go for a right fancy Thanksgiving feast. It has been our tradition to go out for our Thanksgiving dinner, but our usual buffet spot is closed for remodeling.

We got several good tips and a couple of wiseacre suggestions too – and thanks for the invitation to join you for dinner, but India is farther than I care to drive.

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Weekend At Fidel’s

castro1THE FIRST BIT OF NEWS I HEARD THIS MORNING was that Fidel Castro had died. At this point there has been no confirmation on that. What with all of the “Fake News” that is floating about on the Internet Castro could actually still be alive and dating Miley Cyrus.

When I think of Fidel Castro my memory takes me back to the late 1950s when he first showed up on the world’s radar screen. At first he played the role of Rebel Hero and only when he got the reins of power did he drop the mask and show himself to be your garden variety Despot with a taste for blood.

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Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole In After You – Continued

Fiction Saturday – Continued

pull-roseChapter Sixteen

 

Davis wasn’t late the next morning.  He showed up on time and he was carrying one white rose.  Laura blushed.

After another leisurely breakfast they walked down by the shore of the Bay.  The fog had stayed out at sea and the Golden Gate Bridge dominated the view, it’s towers vaulting into the sky.  As they strolled beside the magnificent sailing yachts and watched skeins of pelicans skim the surface of the Bay, these two transplants from other lives held hands and knew that something was happening that they hadn’t planned on.  And they let it happen.

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I Am Not A Firefly

oneIT’S COLD. IT’S DARK, AND MY EYES ARE WIDE OPEN. Why they are wide open at 6:15 in the morning is understandable, but not acceptable.

The body – my body, your body, anyone’s body, operates on a cycle of sunlight and darkness – activity and sleep. It is called a Diurnal Rhythm. It’s a Human thing.

There are some creatures that function in an opposite manner where they are active at night and rest during the daylight hours. They are called “Nocturnal.” Think of Bats, Fireflies, and Comedians.

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Happy Thanksgiving To You All

downloadHappy Thanksgiving to you all.

Today is a day to spend with Family and Friends.

Enjoy!

An Encore Presentation  – “Hey, Butterball!”

Throwback Thursday 3

On Wednesday . ..

From November 2015

 

Brace yourself, America! It’s that time of year again when,a39f71f4-51bf-4f24-8b9e-4fe70b5801cb all across the country, people will be preparing Thanksgiving Turkey Dinners by the millions.

For most it will be a joyous chore to feed family and friends, but for many it will be a challenge comparable to trying to fly to the moon in a lawn chair powered by some helium balloons from the dollar store.

Despair not, help is available!

This year, as it has for the past 34 years, the fine folks at Butterball will be running their Turkey Hotline to answer questions and help salvage those Thanksgiving dinners for the less than expert chefs. Not everybody can be Julia Child – nor would you want to be – she’s dead.

Over the past 34 years the folks answering the calls at Butterball from mystified cooks have had to both give clarifying information and not scream or laugh out loud at the same time.

“I carved my turkey with a chainsaw. Is the chain grease going to adversely affect my turkey?” The answer is YES, don’t serve it or it might kill someone. I can’t think of a worse way to top off Thanksgiving dinner than having the diners keeling over at the table.

“How do I roast my turkey so it gets golden brown tan lines in the shape of a bikini?” The recommendation was “strategically placed foil.” I really don’t want to know why they wanted this information. That is between them and their therapist or defense lawyer.

And then there was the man looking for a quick way to cook his turkey who put it in the oven in the self-cleaning mode. While that certainly would be quicker than recommended by Butterball, so would napalm or a thermonuclear explosion.

Finally, there was the woman who called the Hotline for advice on how to get her Chihuahua out of the turkey. Let’s not go any further with that one.

Most of the calls to the Hotline are, Thank God, rather mundane, such as:

“How long do I cook it?”

“How long does it take to thaw out?”

Thankfully, there are very few questions that are matters of life and death. But as one generation of cooks learns the ropes, along comes a new crop of would-be Emerils to pull the pin on a turkey grenade.

In the last decade or so the concept of deep frying the Thanksgiving turkey has caught on. Unfortunately, it seems to be most popular with men who think that, since they can change the oil in the pick-up truck, they can deep fry a turkey. It’s just a different kind of oil. Right?

Deep frying a turkey brings its own set of caveats, warnings and instructions, none of which bear any resemblance to servicing the Ford F-150.

The Butterball people list them on their website and instruction #1 hints at what must be a recurring problem among deep frying novices:

#1 – Before deep frying – take the wrapper off of the turkey!

Really? You mean I shouldn’t leave the little net bag and plastic wrapper and labels on the bird? Why not leave it in the plastic bag from the supermarket as well?

When you try deep frying your first turkey it is firmly suggested that you wait until the bird is completely thawed – unless you actually want a geyser of hot, and possibly flaming oil, launched over you, the kitchen and, eventually, the smoking ruins of your house. If this happens you might ask the firemen who will be putting out your house fire if they know the way to the nearest Denny’s or IHOP. Both places will be serving Thanksgiving dinner all day long.

7cc46167-02b2-499a-94b0-8a270c4202c1

Four Days In November

bf1NOVEMBER 22nd. To most people under the age of 60 this is just another day on the calendar. Another day lost in the buildup to Thanksgiving. To those of us over 60 this date is, and always will be November 22, 1963, a Friday – the day the President was killed.

I was a senior in high school.

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The Odds Are…Odder Than Most

ticket1Well, plans for Christmas are now in place. We will be flying down to Texas and spending  a week or so visiting with Family. I can’t think of a better way to spend the Holidays. OK – maybe hitting the jackpot on the lottery while there would be better, but the odds are not in our favor.

My wife, the lovely and optimistic, Dawn will go for a “Quick Pick” lottery ticket on occasion. She doesn’t do it all the time. She has standards – the jackpot has to be at least $100 Million Dollars or it’s not worth the investment of a dollar bill. I can’t argue with that. It really is a game of “Go big or go home,” so she goes big and then goes home anyway.

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Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole In After You – Continued

Fiction Saturday – continued

pull-dons-mansionChapter 15

The homes in the Hamptons are as close as one can find anyplace in this country to real palaces.  Size and ostentation were the bywords when most of the so-called “cottages” were built in the late nineteenth century.

The men sat in two soft, green leather wing chairs, facing each other.  Don Giani’s cottage was absurdly large and provided him with the aura of old money that he felt painted him with respectability.

The room was filled with too much of everything.  The Don had wealth, but not the taste to know when enough was enough.  Tables were crowded with small mementos and photos.  He kept an antique barber chair in one corner, ostensibly to remind him of his humble roots.  The reality was that he liked to sit in it during meetings.  It made him feel like a king on his throne.  There were at least a dozen pictures of his daughter at various ages.  She was his prized possession.

“Dominic, where is my daughter?  Have you found her yet?”

“Honest, Don Giani, I don’t know where she is—yet.  I traced her to Boston, but after that, nothing.  Do you think she might have gone up to Montreal, you know, to visit her people up there?”

“No.  Let me tell you something, Dominic.  I’m losing my patience with you.  I’ve got my own people out looking for her, too.  I already know about her car in Boston and the airline tickets.  She’s not in Montreal, or Miami.  I would have heard and she’d be back home by now.

“You have your people looking – I have mine,” continued the Don, his patience waning.  “I don’t care who finds her first, but if I find her first you are going to pay for my expenses on this.  I put the blame for all of this mess on your head.  So, you are going to pay for it.”

Dominic was starting to sweat.  Under his suit jacket, he could feel his shirt sticking to his back.

“Sir, I hear where you’re coming from, but since I don’t actually know why she took off, it may have nothing to do with me.  She may have just gone off on a vacation.  So, I don’t think, necessarily, therefore, and ergo, that I should have to pay for something you are choosing to do on your own.  I love her with all my heart and I’m scared for her.  I don’t know where she is and I want her home, that’s all.  Can’t you see this from my point of view?”

“Your point of view?  In this, you don’t have a point of view until I tell you to have a point of view.

“My daughter fell in love with you for some reason and wanted to marry you.  I wasn’t happy with her choice.  I always thought you were never going to amount to anything beyond a two-bit grift.  I was right.”

“I done all right,” protested Dominic.

“Don’t interrupt me.  You ‘done all right’ you say?  The only reason you’ve got more than two pair of pants to your name is because of me.  I give you whatever you have.  I have to order other people to throw some crumbs your way.  I protect your sorry ass. Without me watching over you, Beverly would already be a widow.  Dominic, you are nothing but a slow-witted, violent fool.”

Dominic’s fear was turning into a barely concealed rage.  His earlier decision to kill Don Giani, after first taking care of his wife, was feeling more and more like a very good idea.  But for now, he had to sit and take the insults.

“Don Giani, I thank you for whatever help you have given me over the years, and I’m truly grateful.  I really am, but I came here to talk with you about Beverly.  I didn’t come here to be insulted and called names.”

With a quickness that belied his years, Don Giani Montini reached out and slapped his son-in-law hard across the face.  The sound cracked like a small caliber gun and Dominic’s cheek reddened immediately.  Dominic restrained his reflex to return the blow, to beat his father-in-law to death.

“You useless little piece of trash,” the Don said softly.  “Get out of my house and don’t come back without my daughter.”  He looked at Dominic like he was something he had stepped in.  “I ought to just kill you myself, right here, right now, but you are still, much to my disgust, family.”

Dominic stood up, adjusted his lapels, composing himself, and headed toward the door.  He was quiet.  He didn’t want to say anything more.  He would get his satisfaction from seeing Don Giani’s eyes staring up at him from the gutter, dead.

“Dominic, remember this.  If you have harmed my child you will beg me to let you die.”  He lowered his head and closed his eyes.  A major headache was starting to gather.

As he opened the door, Dominic turned and faced Don Giani.  It was time to twist the knife a little.  He couldn’t resist the urge.pull-beverly-as-child-copy

“Don Giani?”  When the older man looked up, Dominic reached out to the small table by the door and picked up a framed photograph of Beverly as a child.  With his ice cold eyes fixed on his father-in-law, Dominic kissed the image of Beverly’s face and then tossed the picture to the carpet.  He smiled as he walked out and closed the door quietly behind him.

Don Giani watched the door close and made a decision.

noir-man-at-big-windows

 

Maz, The Mick, And Me

ball1IT IS APPROXIMATELY 4 ½ MONTHS BEFORE BASEBALL SEASON BEGINS AGAIN. Until then the skies will be overcast, the winds will blow cold and nothing in the Universe will be quite right.

But, don’t think that I miss it all that much.

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Making Out My Christmas List

catalog1WHILE THIS IS THE HOLIDAY SEASON, a time of Joy and Happiness, there is one thing that always mars that sense of glee. Seeing our USPS Letter Carrier (aka The Mailman) lumbering up the street. This time of the year he is toting a bag filled with tons of Christmas Catalogs.

Yesterday we found six different catalogs and a couple of bills stuffed into our mailbox like a blivet. Look it up. Some of the catalogs were from companies we had never heard of before.

Only one item missed being put immediately into the recycling bin and that was because it was one of those catalogs that offered items that have no good reason for even existing.

Answer me this…

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The Untied States Of America

queen1IN THE MIDST OF ALL THE CHAOS and bitterness of the recent election season I came across one little item that, while not true, sounded plausible and not a bad idea.

Some clever Wag, I’m not sure if he or she is from the US or England, floated a big news story that Queen Elizabeth II had made a proposal.

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Let’s Do Lunch

deer2WHAT’S FOR LUNCH TODAY? If you’re anything like me it is a last minute decision about some form of organic matter on a plate. After a quick scouting mission through the kitchen I usually end up with something that falls under the general heading of “Leftovers” – also known as “Muzgos,” – as in “If we don’t eat this today – it Muz Go.”

This morning while driving down to St. Arbucks Sunrise Service/Brewing I heard something on the radio that might change the concept of Lunch for millions of people.

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Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole In After You – Continued

Fiction Saturday 

Chapter 14 – Continued

pull-coffeeThey sat there looking down at the waiter’s tip, tucked under the edge of a plate, knowing that if they got up from the table now it would be over.  The ease and promise of the evening would simply sputter out like a cheap candle.

They sipped at their cooling coffee as the waiter paced, wishing that they would leave so he could get a fresh couple in place.

After a silence, Davis mentally conceded defeat and set down his empty cup.  Laura smiled and opened the door to the future.

“You know, Davis,” she began hesitantly, “I’ve had a really nice time tonight.  I’ve needed something like this.  It’s been a long time.”  She smiled at him and meant it, really meant it.

“I’ve enjoyed it too.  I don’t want it to end, but I know it has to.  Can we do it again?” he asked.  “Can we do this again?”  He was feeling surprisingly shy.

The ball was in her court.  If she said no she would be back where she started, in her apartment and alone.  If she said “Yes”…who knows where it might take her.  But it would take her someplace.  That much was sure.

“Yes, I’d like to do it again, but next time it’s my treat.  I insist.  Fair is fair.”

Davis nodded in agreement.  “If that’s what you want, I’m okay with that.  What about lunch tomorrow?

Laura thought for a moment before speaking.  “What about breakfast?  There is a place down on Chestnut.  They make great omelets and…”

Davis interrupted her.  “I know the place.  They have some tables out on the patio? Yes, very good, super French toast too.  Breakfast tomorrow?  What time?”

Almost laughing at herself for her forwardness, she asked him, “Is seven-thirty too early?  I like the early morning on the street.”

“Seven-thirty it is.”  He was hoping for something a little bit later.  He was going to be up late tonight, working, but he smiled and agreed to meet her there.  She insisted on that condition, yet again.  “First one there chooses the table,” he added.

Outside the restaurant the sun had set and the fog was sending the temperature down.  Laura shivered as soon as they stepped out onto the sidewalk.

“Brrr.  It’s getting cold.  Laura, you’re going to freeze to death.  Here, take my jacket.”

He started to remove his sports coat in a very traditional gesture, but Laura stopped him.

“Don’t worry, I’m fine,” she said, trying not to shiver.  “I live close by.  You just go on home now and I’ll see you tomorrow morning.  Okay?”

“Are you sure?  I can walk you home.  Remember, this is a big city with some very nasty people.”  He really was concerned. And, he wanted to spend more time with her as well.

“Thank you, but I’ll be fine, really.  That’s very sweet of you.”

She leaned into him and kissed him softly on the cheek,  gently squeezing his arm. “Good night, and thank you again for the best time I’ve had in quite a while.”

With that, Laura turned and walked around the corner into the shady darkness.  The fog swirled behind her and she was gone.

Davis stood there, not really knowing what to do or how to feel.  Should I follow her and see pull-fogwhere she lives?  No, that’s stupid and juvenile, and besides she’d kill me if she caught me.  I like her.  She’s smart, a good talker – once she relaxes, and I think she likes me.

He started walking home.  It was only seven blocks.  He’d be there before he got too chilled.  He didn’t need to catch a cold or anything.  He had too much work to get done.

“Seven-thirty a.m.  Why did I agree to that?”

Laura moved quickly through the shadowy side streets back to her apartment.  On her way home she stopped several times, just to check and make sure that he wasn’t following her.

Once she was inside, with the deadbolt locked, she took a deep breath as she kicked off her shoes and sat on the end of her bed.

I like him.  He’s smart, he doesn’t talk too much, and I think he likes me.  She saw her image in the mirror on the dresser.  She thought her reflection was giving her a stern glance.

“What are you looking at?” Laura said from the bed.  “It’s just breakfast.  It doesn’t mean anything.  Nothing is going to happen.  He’s just a nice guy.  I’m not going to hide anymore, so I might as well have some company.”

 

***

The next morning came very quickly for Davis.  He had stayed up working on his client’s accounts until a little after two a.m.  Spending the evening with Laura just pushed everything back.  It was worth it, he thought.  With a few hours of sleep and a shower he’d be fine.  Why didn’t I suggest nine a.m.?

The morning was bright and sunny.  The fog held just offshore, obscuring all but the tops of the Golden Gate Bridge towers.  It left most of the bay clear with whitecaps glistening and the commuter ferry boats bouncing in the choppy water.  The large blue and gold ferries came into The City from Marin county and the East Bay communities. A steady stream of southbound cars and buses crossed the bridge, emerging from the fog and spilling onto Lombard Street on their way to downtown.  Just another work day in paradise.

Laura was up early.  Her hair took little more than a towel dry and a quick fluff.  The new look, being more casual, required less.

Anyway, this was just breakfast.

She slipped on the denim jacket, donned the floppy hat, her sunglasses and, with a sense of guilty caution, tucked the small revolver into her bag.  She felt that Davis was not a danger, but, as even he said last night, “It’s a big city with some very nasty people.”  She had already met one of them.

Taking her time and enjoying the walk, she spotted a flock of the wild parrots again, and heard the deep bellow of the foghorns from out by the Golden Gate Bridge.  She felt at ease and was looking forward to the day.  She half regretted bringing the gun.

Arriving first at the cafe gave Laura, by prior agreement, the right to pick the table. Contrary to her last visit, she chose one of the tables on the small patio.  The edge of the umbrella above the tabletop fluttered in the early morning offshore breeze.

Ordering some orange juice, she sat there, lifting her face into the sunlight rising higher over the East Bay hills.  The warmth felt comforting.  She closed her eyes and let it wash over her.  “Oh, God, this is good,” she said out loud.

“It’s fresh squeezed for every order.”

Her eyes snapped open to see the smiling young waiter standing next to the table holding a ceramic coffee pot, steam rising from the curved spout.  “Would you like some coffee?” he asked.  “We get all of our coffee from a roastery in Mill Valley.”

When her heartbeat slowed, Laura smiled back at him and lifted her china cup.  As he poured, the aroma of the strong Kenyan blend made her mouth water.

“I’ll be having a friend join me shortly.  He would love some of this.”

“Then I’ll just leave the pot for you both,” he said, and wandered away to greet some new arrivals.

pull-cafeSipping the coffee, with just a splash of cream, Laura saw a clock on the cafe wall.  It said the time was seven twenty-seven a.m.

By her second cup it was almost ten of eight and Laura was beginning to think that she had been stood up, when she saw a frantic looking man half running down the sidewalk.  He hurried up to the short wrought iron fence that bordered the patio.

“I’m sorry…I’m sorry. I overslept and then I couldn’t find a clean pair of socks.”   She looked down and saw two bony ankles peeking out from under his chinos.  “I’m sorry.  I hope you didn’t think I forgot.”  He was panting.

“Take it easy, Davis,” she said, laughing at his discomposure.  “Come on in and have some coffee.”

Over Eggs Benedict and hot coffee Davis gave Laura a short primer on things to see and do in “The City.”  Some of the touristy things were worth seeing, others were not. There were some great little shops, cafes and vistas that must be explored and neighborhoods to experience.  He went on and on about the cultural glories of the Mission District and it’s “best food in town.”

She listened, enjoying his enthusiasm for his new hometown, only rarely interrupting him.

“It all sounds like so much fun, so much to see and do,” she said, “but what I wish you could really tell me is where I can buy some decent clothes.  I’m getting tired of wearing the same few things all the time.”

“Union Street,” he said, “is just a couple of short blocks from here.  Lots of nice shops.”  He pointed south toward the steep hills that set the Marina apart from the rest of The City.  “When we finish here we can stroll up there and you can check it out.  Okay?”

“Oh, that sounds good.  I really do need some new things and maybe I’ll buy you some new socks, you poor soul.”  She smiled and patted his hand as it held his coffee cup.

The waiter brought over their check and Laura handed him a crisp $100 bill.  She left him a good tip, thanking him for his attentive service.

“Now,” she said, “which way is Union Street again?”  She took his arm as they crossed Chestnut and headed south.

The shops on Union Street, a neighborhood called “Cow Hollow” from its rural origins, let Laura find the clothing and accessories that she needed to refill her closet.  It also lifted her spirits.  She didn’t feel so temporary any more.  Maybe things could work out for her here.

As they moved up the street, Davis found himself carrying shopping bags from several different stores, and loving it.  He didn’t know why, but he just did.

They stopped for a light lunch and then worked their way down the other side of the busy street, this time browsing in the overpriced art galleries and bookstores.

In the window of a real estate office, they ogled the pictures of the narrow Victorian row houses known as “Painted Ladies,” being offered for $1.7 million and a “fixer-upper” for a mere million.

“They have got to be kidding!” Laura exclaimed.

“Nope, and at that price, there’ll be a bidding war,” said Davis.  “Real estate here is insane.”

They were sitting in an ice cream parlor, enjoying a scoop of mango gelato when Laura noticed the time.  It was a little after three p.m.  They had spent the day – just spending the day together.

“Oh, Davis, I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to monopolize your whole day.”pull-union-street

“Don’t be sorry.  I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.  Even if these bags are getting a bit heavy,” he teased.

“Oh, again, I’m sorry.  I’ve used you like a slave.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Davis answered.  “I got breakfast, and a very nice new pair of Irish woolen socks out of it.  I feel fully compensated.”

As they left the ice cream parlor Laura looked at Davis struggling with the bags and said, “This has been a wonderful day and I have you to thank for that, but let’s catch a cab from here.”  With that, she stepped to the curb and let loose with an ear-splitting whistle. Two taxis came close to colliding trying to get to the curb first.

They got into the red and white “Veteran’s Cab,” the bags piled on their laps.

“Where to, folks?” asked the cabbie.

Laura spoke first.  “Where to?  I’ll drop you.”

She was not ready to let him know where she was living.  Realizing her strategy he leaned forward and told the driver, “You can drop me on Fillmore, down by the middle school.”  He was going to stop for a drink.  The cab pulled away from the curb, into traffic.

“Laura, thank you for today.  Dinner again tonight?”

She thought for a second and then countered with, “How about breakfast again tomorrow?  I’m exhausted.  Same place, same time tomorrow morning?”

Knowing that he couldn’t push her too hard, he agreed.

“Sure, only could we make a bit later, say, nine a.m.?”  He was going to be up most of the night making up for not getting anything done today.

“All right, 9 a.m., Sleepyhead.”  The taxi pulled over at the corner of Fillmore and Chestnut.

“Thanks again for a great day.”  He leaned toward her.  She met him halfway and they kissed.  This time her fingers rested on his cheek as she found his lips.

He got out of the cab and waved as it pulled away, executing an illegal u-turn and joined the flow of traffic on Chestnut Street.

He was not much of a drinker, never was, but he stopped at the little tavern a block up Fillmore.

Sitting on the stool, nursing a light beer, he went over the day, playing back the moments.  It was a good day with her, even though there were several things that struck him as–not odd, so much as mysterious.  When Laura paid for breakfast and for her purchases on Union Street, she paid in cash.  What woman doesn’t use credit cards?  And she paid for everything with hundred-dollar bills.  He saw the dress store clerks check them with their fraud pens, so he knew they weren’t counterfeit.  But who carries that many hundred-dollar bills with them to go out to breakfast, and why did she not want him to know where she lived?  She didn’t have a wedding ring on.  He had reflexively checked for that while they were both holding onto the ice cream in the Safeway.

If he was forced to list everything he knew about her, it would be a very short list, indeed.  He took out his pen and jotted on a bar napkin.

  1. She has a New York accent, although it sounds like she’s trying to hide it.
  2. She pays for everything in cash.
  3. She is afraid of someone named Dominic.

After that…nothing you could say for sure.

Oh, yes, he thought, and added another item to the list.

  1. He was falling for her.to be continued 1

The Early Bird Gets The Coffee 

write1I LIKE THIS TIME OF DAY. The sun is not up yet. The only sounds I hear as I step outside are a few birds that are bothered by my presence as I bustle about opening and closing doors and starting the car. I try to be quiet. We do have neighbors after all. 

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Going Back For Seconds 

turkey1A CRISIS HAS ARISEN.

For a number of years we have gone out for the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner. With just the three of us doing it all at home seemed to be more trouble than it was worth.

When we dined out we headed to a local hotel that put on a buffet worthy of the Roman Emperor’s Palace. There was enough of everything edible there that it would make the Front Line of the Chicago Bears faint dead away.

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It All Depends On…

time1IS LIFE A SERIES OF EVERCHANGING ILLUSIONS? Can we ever be certain that things are as we perceive them to be? I’m not all that sure, Buckaroos.

When I was a kid, when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, Time seemed to move much slower than it does now. Back then the span of time from Monday until Friday seemed to take forever. Each school day stretched out endlessly.

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Meanwhile …Down At The Mini-Mart

pickle2I STOPPED IN AT THE LOCAL GAS STATION/MINI-MART the other day. I was on a mission from Dawn. My objective was your standard 739 oz. size Dr. Pepper.

As I stood there waiting for the cup to fill my attention wandered like a fruit fly. Down near the bottom of the large cooler case, alongside all of the cold beverages, I spotted something I had never seen before – a display offering me a snack item that promised me that it was, “The perfect junk food alternative with no calories, no carbs, no cholesterol, gluten-free, and absolutely no fat!”

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Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole In After You – Continued

Fiction Saturday – Continued

pull-scotts-seafoodChapter Fourteen

 

The fog was in and the dusk was stealing the colors out of the day.  The neon signs in the Marina cast a fuzzy light.

By 7:45, most of the tourists had retreated back to the Fisherman’s Wharf area where the huge restaurants were shoveling frozen crab and other dubious bits of overpriced seafood into the folks from Iowa.  The Marina was now safely in the hands of the locals. Herbs and spices were mating to produce wondrous flavors that the tourists would never get to taste.

Dinner was scheduled for eight p.m. Davis had called Scott’s restaurant from the Safeway parking lot and made the reservation.  He didn’t want any snags.

He couldn’t explain it, but he felt like a teenager again.  He hadn’t been this excited about going out with a girl since his junior year in high school when one of the cheerleaders finally said “Yes.”  He hoped tonight would go better.  He double-checked the seams on his trousers, just to be sure.

It had been almost twenty years, but he could still feel his face redden at the memory.  It leaves deep and permanent scars when the seat of your pants splits open in the middle of a Bob’s Big Boy Restaurant on a busy Saturday night.

Why not just kill yourself and get it over with? he thought then.  You have embarrassed yourself by showing off your boxers in front of every kid in the school.

His date, the gorgeous cheerleader, was embarrassed because she was with the doofus who had just flashed his ass at the world.  Of course, everybody in the place had  laughed, partly out of all teens’ inborn sense of cruelty and partly out of the self-conscious knowledge that it, just as easily, could have been him or her with their polka-dotted butt hanging out for all to see.

Davis checked his seams one more time.

***

Sitting in front of her tiny makeup mirror Laura prepared for her new birthday dinner date.  Date?

“My God, am I going on a date?  No I’m not!  It’s just dinner.”  She shook her head, pushing the idea of a date out of the picture.  “It’s just dinner.”

She dressed in the nicest outfit she could put together from her shallow closet.  She wanted to look good for a dinner in a nice restaurant.  It was going to be a bit chilly out with the fog being in, but she refused to wear the denim jacket.

It was only a short stroll from her apartment to Scott’s restaurant, so she felt no need to rush.  She didn’t want to get there first.  She didn’t want to appear too anxious, although she was, terribly so.  It would be good to let him cool his heels for a few minutes.  He had made her break into a sweat in the supermarket, so a little turnabout would be fair play.  Let him think he’d been stood up.

No, she decided, he seems like a decent guy.pull-revolver

She flipped off the lights as she closed her door, checked the lock twice, made sure the safety was set on the revolver, and started toward the restaurant.

It’s just dinner.

***

 

He picked at his Dover Sole and she herded her scallops around the plate like they were little breaded sheep.

“Are the scallops okay?  We can send them back and get you something else,” said Davis, noticing her lack of interest in her dinner.

“No,” she replied.  “They’re fine.  I guess I’m just not as hungry as I thought.”  She looked at his plate.  “You’re not doing much with your sole there, I see.”

He looked at his fish and set down his fork.  “It’s really good, but I must not be all that hungry either.  Oh, well.”

Laura put down her fork and said, softly, “I want to thank you again for your help with that man on the street last week.  That took courage.  You didn’t know.  He could have been armed.  Thank you.”

Davis blushed a bit.  “I wasn’t raised to sit on the sidelines.  You’re welcome.”

“And…,” she continued, wanting to get all of this out, “I want to apologize for the way I treated you in the supermarket today.  I was rude to you and it was uncalled for.  I’m sorry.  Forgive me.”

She picked up her fork again and tasted a few grains of the golden saffron rice.  She avoided looking at Davis.  If she had looked up she would have seen him gazing at her with a thousand questions in his eyes.

“Laura, it’s me who should be begging for your forgiveness.  I should have just let you have that ice cream instead of making a federal case out of it.  I don’t know why I behaved like that.  I didn’t mean to upset you.  Please, accept my apology.”

Laura lifted her eyes to meet his.  “Apology accepted.  Now we’re even,” she said with a shy smile.  She shook her head and said, “You must have thought I was crazy.”

“Well, for a second there, I thought you were going to go postal on me,” he said.  She didn’t hear him.  Her mind was searching for the right words to explain to him what happened.

 “It’s just that – It’s just that I – I’ve had some bad experiences with men and I overreact sometimes.  I’m sorry.”  That was as good as she could allow herself to say.

“I won’t pry,” he said, “but if I can help in any way or if you ever just want to talk, I’m in the book.”

“I don’t have a phone.”  She had thrown her cell phone into a storm drain in Boston.

“Then,” he answered, reaching into his inside coat pocket, “here is my business card with my address.  I’m either there or at the donut shop on Chestnut, most times.” He extended his hand across the table.  Laura hesitated, then took the card and propped it up against the edge of her bread plate.

“Thank you.  That’s very sweet of you.  I don’t want to be a bother,” she said, looking at his card, noting that his address wasn’t very far away.

“No bother.  I’m a good listener,” he replied.

In an effort to change the subject, Laura slipped the business card into her bag on the floor next to her chair.  It leaned neatly up against the pistol.  She then turned the focus away from herself.

“Well, Davis Lovejoy, accountant and late night hero to damsels in distress, tell me about yourself.”  She smiled and reached for the bread basket.

“Me?  There’s not a whole lot to tell, I guess,” he said, and for the next twenty minutes he gave her his life story.  She stayed silent except to offer the occasional, “I see,” or “Really?”

pull-steel-mill-1Davis began with how he had grown up as an only child in a lower middle class home in Cleveland, Ohio.  His father was one of the last of the lifelong steelworkers, a man who went to work in the mills looking for a decent wage and job security.  By the time he was 55, there was neither for him.  Thirty-five years inside the hellish world of the mill had taken his strength and his health.  The only job he could do anymore was as an inspector and his failing eyesight was letting through too much flawed product.  By his fifty-seventh birthday he was on full disability and lost in the oddities of idleness.  By age sixty he was dead, in a sense by his own hand.  Because he could no longer produce, he consumed.  Alcohol finished the job that the Hot Mill had started.

Davis’s mother had doted on “her boys” for decades.  She loved her husband and missed his presence in her life.  She confided to her sister that she felt that she never saw her husband because of the hours he was working.  Later, when he could no longer work, she saw his body at home on the couch, but it wasn’t the same man she had married at St. Columbkille’s church when she was young and three months pregnant.

The Lovejoys were decent, hard working people, reliable to a fault.  They loved their son more than they had words to express.  They were determined that his life would be better.  That was the bedrock of their existence.

“No son of mine is ever going to set foot inside a steel mill,” vowed his father.

“I’d like Davis to be a doctor or a lawyer,” hoped his mother.

Dreams are promises chipped in whipped cream.

There was a needlessly long steelworkers walkout when Davis was 17 and a senior in high school.  The lost income was just that: lost, never to be recovered, no matter how good the eventual contract raises were.  The strike crippled the family’s finances.  Plans had to be changed, dreams deferred.

Davis had to get a job and the only work for a young man that paid above minimum wage was in the mills.

There were a lot of young boys looking for work with the steel companies, but having a relative already on the inside was the only sure way onto the employment rolls.

Four days after his eighteenth birthday Davis and his father went out for lunch and made two stops on the way: the first at the post office where Davis registered with Selective Service, and the second at the union hall to get his card.  A week later Davis was operating a ten-ton crane loading steel pipe onto rail cars and big rig haulers.  He was making fourteen times the wage his father had made when he’d first walked through the mill gate decades earlier.

On Davis’ first day, his mother saw her two men off to work.  She had packed them identical meals in their matching lunch boxes.

When they pulled the Dodge out of the driveway, she proudly waved goodbye to them.  When they turned the corner and headed down into the valley toward the mill, she went into the bedroom and cried like a new widow.

It seemed that, no matter how tight things got, the one bill that his father made sure got paid was the monthly premium to Met Life.  The insurance was always there, “just in case,” he said.

Davis stayed on in the mills after his father died.   He died in his sleep on the couch, in front of the television.

For the first time in thirty years in the Lovejoy house there was money enough to live on without worrying about strikes or imported Japanese steel souring the market.

Davis decided it was time to go to college.  His standing in the union and with the steel company helped him get reassigned as a “swing man.”  He became a part-time worker who would be called on to cover different jobs and different shifts as needed.  This would give him some free time to go after an education.

The idea of doing both things at once didn’t bother Davis.  Hard work was a family tradition.  Plus, he didn’t want to continue the other family tradition of being crushed and shattered by a lifetime in the mill.

His mother was proud and happy that he was going back to school.  It was the only part of her dream left alive.

Davis enrolled at Cleveland State University as a twenty-three-year-old freshman.  His plan was to major in Accounting.

He’d always seen the company’s white-collar employees going into the red brick office building just outside the mill gate.  When he saw them leaving at the end of the day their shirts were still white.

He imagined them to be the accountants and the metallurgists that were at the heart of the company.  He knew nothing about metallurgy, he thought, although most veteran steelworkers are practical metallurgists, almost chefs.  Making steel is done by recipe, adding specific amounts of this or that element to obtain the properties needed in any particular “heat” of steel.

The life of the accountant seemed more attainable.

In time, the concepts of credits, debits and creative mathematics took hold and his grades marched upward towards the Dean’s List.

The other students were curious about the “old guy with the filthy fingernails” who often came to class exhausted, but who always had his assignments ready, and who never whined about the workload.

During Finals Week,  just before Christmas, in the middle of his junior year, there was an accident at the mill.

Davis and two other men were loading oilfield pipe onto skids for shipment to Oklahoma.  One of his coworkers was a new kid, a local football “phenom” who had managed to flunk all of his classes at Ohio State.  He was so lost in the classroom that even the head coach couldn’t save his athletic scholarship.  Now the “phenom” was working in the mills, just like all the other men in his family.

The new kid was adjusting the slings on the crane that would hoist the forty-foot lengths of black, oil-covered pipe up and into position.  When it was ready, he gave the signal to proceed.  The steel lifted slowly and moved toward Davis, who would finesse the pipe into place.  Within seconds, the load began to spin slowly to the left.  The kid had not centered the load properly and it was starting to slide out of the sling.  At this point, there was nothing anyone could do.  Six forty-foot long steel pipes were going to fall fifteen feet to the concrete floor of the mill.  All hell was about to break loose.pull-steel-mill-2

Davis yelled out a warning and ran toward the young football star hoping to rescue him before it was too late, but flying steel blocked his path.  The nineteen-year-old stood transfixed at the sight of the tonnage now headed straight for him.  He never moved until the steel blasted into him, sounding like a million church bells.  He disappeared underneath what looked like a giant’s game of pick-up-sticks.

Davis went to class that night.  He had an exam to take.

He graduated with more than respectable grades, and was given a transfer by the steel company out of the mill, and into the red brick office building.  There he learned that there are other ways to die on the job.

He went to work every day in the Accounting Department doing billings on the steel pipe that he used to make.  He wore a white shirt and took care of his mother.  It was the hardest job he had ever had in his life.

After his father’s death, Davis saw his mother’s life unravel.  No matter how many people dropped by to visit her, she was by herself too often, and in the end, she died of loneliness.

For the first time in his life, Davis Lovejoy was on his own.  No one needed him.  There was no reason for him to hurry home after work.  There was no reason for him to go home at all.  There was no home.  There was only a house on a side street, in a neighborhood too close to the steel mills.

After one more bitter winter of being alone in his childhood home, shoveling snow and watching the old neighborhood rot, he decided to make another change in his life.

He wanted to be where the sun shined more, where there was air that didn’t carry warnings, and where there was no snow to shovel.  He used his vacation time to scout out likely cities.  When he got to San Francisco he felt comfortable at once.  The cool breeze off the ocean carried a salty tang and the warm sun let everything blossom.

So, at almost thirty years of age, Davis said goodbye to what was left and planted himself in the town that proudly referred to itself as “The City.”

“So, I’ve been here almost five years now.  I guess that’s pretty much it,” he said with a small shrug.  “I hope I haven’t bored you to death.”

“Not at all.”  Laura looked at him and felt safe.

“Now, let’s hear about you, ‘Laura Smith,Woman of Mystery’,” said Davis, a smile on his face and in his voice.

“Another time, perhaps,” she said.  “But, now, I’d like another cup of coffee.”

to be continued6

 

 

 

 

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