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 “December, 2017”

Saturday Fiction Encore  – “Sluggo, Peeto, And No-Face Charlie” Part One

This piece was originally created as a performance piece. It was presented on several stages in the San Francisco Bay Area. Try to imagine it that way.

 

Saturday Fiction – “Sluggo, Peeto, And No-Face Charlie” Part One

 

Beaver Falls.

Beaver Falls was an interesting place to live.  Beaver Falls is located in Beaver County.  The County Seat of Beaver County is the Town of Beaver.  There is a river that runs through Beaver Falls called the, (EVERYBODY, NOW!) BEAVER! There are no beavers in Beaver Falls.  There haven’t been any beavers in Beaver Falls within living memory.  There aren’t any real falls either.  What there is in Beaver Falls are: five steel mills, air the color of peanut butter, and a gene pool just deep enough to reduce the risk of everyone being born with extra thumbs.

There isn’t a chromosome within thirty miles that hasn’t been put through a genetic meat grinder.  Those little strands of DNA twang like cheap guitar strings every time somebody announces their engagement.

Living in Beaver Falls was like a Near Death Experience.  Living in Beaver Falls was swooping down dark, sooty, streets like tunnels toward the blinding bright light of the blast furnace.  It was encountering the dark, smoky faces of people you knew who had passed on to old age too quickly.

“Hi, your Dad find work yet?”

“Hi, new shoes?  Wow!”

“Hi, did you see Sluggo and Peeto last night?  Christ, they’re both nuts.”

Sluggo and Peeto.

Sluggo and Peeto were brothers. Sluggo was a rather large man, a bit like a couch. Looking into Sluggo’s face was like looking into an open-face sandwich: meat, nothing but meat, with some kind of juice.  Brother Peeto was sans jus. He had a thin, pinched face with dark eyebrows and a vaguely pained expression which made ­him­ seem the brighter of the two.

Sluggo and Peeto seemed to be everywhere at once.  No matter what was going on in town they were sure to be there and somehow involved.  If there was an auto accident either Sluggo or Peeto would be on the scene, usually before the Police, standing in the intersection directing traffic.  They would direct traffic even if it wasn’t called for.  Those boys just liked directing traffic.

One autumn day, when the leaves were just beginning to turn the same reddish-orange as the glow from the mills, an albino owl, for its own reasons, decided to fly into town and perch itself on a power line crossing the busiest intersection in town.  It sat there looking down at the cars and at the pedestrians and at Sluggo who had seen his civic duty and was trying to direct traffic and look up at the bird, all the while smiling widely for the photographer from the local newspaper.  When the picture ran in the next edition it showed Sluggo grinning fiercely into the camera and, sitting neatly on his skull was, thanks to the acute angle of the shot, the owl.  Peeto was there too, glowering at them both, looking the second most intelligent of the three.

Sluggo and Peeto made the NBC Nightly News one time.

Back in the late 1960’s the New York Jets won the Super Bowl.  Joe Namath was the winning Quarterback and Media Darling.  Joe Namath is from Beaver Falls.

To celebrate the victory Beaver Falls threw a big to-do. A huge parade down the main street of town with Joe Namath sitting, triumphant, in the back seat of a new Chevrolet convertible supplied by the local GM dealer.  The same local GM dealer who had once had Joe arrested for being on his showroom roof at three in the morning and running his football pants up the flagpole.

That evening the whole nation watched the conquering hero’s parade. Joe, smiling, his dimples setting off his hawklike nose.  Joe, waving at the Beaver Fallsians as they waved back. Joe, recoiling in shock as Sluggo launched himself from the crowd onto the hood of the new Chevrolet convertible, waving wildly and mugging for the cameras.  He rode there on the front of the car for the rest of the parade while Joe kind of slumped back in his seat and remembered why he was now living in New York.

That evening, at a banquet held in Joe’s honor, Howard Cosell, who was there as an honored guest and had witnessed the Sluggo episode, took the dais and in front of the assembled masses called Beaver Falls a “One-horse tank town without the whole horse.”

Sluggo and Peeto were – funny.  Funny “Ha-Ha,” and funny in the sense that one sidesteps a strange dog in the streets.  The town laughed but never had them over for supper.

At least they had each other.  “No-Face Charlie” only had himself.

“No-Face Charlie” was a man in his forties who, when he was a teenager, according to the local legend, flew his kite into some high tension wires.  He climbed the pole, reached for the kite and slipped. He was badly burned but somehow survived.  His face took the brunt of the damage, leaving him without a recognizable nose, lips or eyebrows.

The accident happened back in the 1940’s and those who were around then said that the state of the art in plastic surgery wasn’t up to the task of giving back to Charlie a face that he could live with comfortably.

He lived alone in a small house way out in the sticks, about 10 – 12 miles outside of town.  His baby sister looked in on him twice a week to bring groceries and books and to serve as his conduit to the world.

He stopped attending school after the accident. From the age of fifteen Charlie had educated himself.  He read voraciously.  He read anything his sister could get for him.  By his twenty-first birthday he had run through just about every book in the Beaver Falls Public Library.

Charlie supported himself and lived in relative comfort on royalties from his small, but impressive, list of inventions.  Charlie held patents on close to two full pages of the Lillian Vernon catalogue.

Charlie was the inventor of the “Reusable ‘Beauty-Gel’ Facial Pack”.  Charlie was the inventor of the “Danish Wrap Electric Hot Towel”.  Charlie was the inventor of the “Gentlemen’s Rotary Nose Hair Clipper”.

His first invention, the “Hollywood Contour Bath Pillow”, patented on his seventeenth birthday, sold several hundred thousand units and continued to generate enough income to pay the mortgage on the seventeen acres of land around his house that served as a buffer zone between himself and his neighbors.

Very few people in Beaver Falls knew any of this.  The rumors said that Charlie got by on a small pension from the government.  The rumors also said that most of the missing dogs and cats in the area were his doing and that they were just delicious, Thank you.

One of the few things that people knew for sure about Charlie was that he liked to take long walks at night along the quiet country roads near his home.

In Like Flynn

 

CAFFEINE. NO CAFFEINE. Most days it really doesn’t matter all that much. Today it matters.

I’m sitting here sipping on a cup of decaf coffee – by choice. In a few hours I will be going into my Cardiologist’s office for a Blood Pressure check and a blood draw. A load of caffeine won’t help my BP reading and the free donut I was just offered won’t look pretty on the analysis of my Type “O” Negative.

Such fun.

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Throwback Thursday from Dec. 2015 – “What Is That Smell?”

 

 

Throwback Thursday from Dec. 2015 – “What Is That Smell?”

 

toxic AvengerI’M A PRETTY EASY GOING GUY – at least I try to be. I’m a firm believer in a “Live and Let Live” approach to life. That said, there are some people I want to take outside and pound the living crap out of.

The one who comes to mind is a complete stranger.

As you have already figured out, if you have followed this blog for more than a week or two – I start off too many days down the street at St. Arbucks having my morning coffee. I look upon that time as precious to me. It is a time for me to creep, unassailed, into the day. Recently my time for quiet reflection and contemplative folderol has been attacked by one particular yutz.

The Yutz of whom I speak comes into the sacred Chapel of St. Arbucks carrying with him a toxic cloud of the “Cologne From Hell.” I thought things like that had been outlawed decades ago by The Geneva Convention, along with Mustard Gas and Chlorine Gas.

When he comes through the door my eyes begin to water, my lungs burn and my chromosomes start to reshuffle the genetic deck.

I cannot imagine that he thinks that his choice of Cologne actually smells good. Birds fall from the sky when he passes. Kittens are born with extra paws. Cacti curl up and die.

One day he passed within mere feet of where I was sitting and, I swear, his vapor trail changed the prescription on my glasses.

After he leaves with his coffee I have seen people crawl to the door on the opposite side of the building, gasping for air like a Carp that has been left on the shore for 20 minutes. It is not pretty.

Where does he buy this cologne? I think it is called “Eau de Beelzebub.” I’m sure that I have never seen it displayed in any store with one of those little free sampler bottles. One spritz of that and the store would call in a Haz-Mat team. He must get it online from somewhere in North Korea. No friendly nation would ever send it across our borders.

I’d wager that this walking Zone of Death must live and work alone. Who would ever, in a million years, move in with him, let alone work with him? All I can think of is that he must live under a bridge somewhere near the sewage treatment plant and work as a telephone solicitor.

At the beginning I said that I wanted to take him outside and throttle him – that is not true. I have a life that I would not want to jeopardize by possibly making actual physical contact with him. Getting too close or, Heaven forbid, actually touching the skin that has been toxified by his cologne must be the equivalent of stuffing a thousand pounds of nuclear waste in your trousers and then rolling around in a wading pool filled with Mountain Dew.

Like I said, I’m a gentle soul and easy going guy, but whenever I see that guy coming I want to call in an airstrike.

Someone told me that I should say something to him about the…stench is too mild a word…the…Instant Gag Reflex Trigger, tell him that it is a bit strong. I would be willing to do that if I didn’t already know that, in close proximity to him, I lose the ability to speak. All I can manage are incoherent squeals and glottal spasms.

Being the peaceful person that I am I have, so far, resisted the effort being made by some others to raid the “tip jar” and hire a hitman.

All I can say is that this fellow is becoming the Johnny Appleseed of Civil Unrest and Coffee-Loving Vigilantism. Pray for us.toxic cloud

Back To The Future

 

THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I DON’T NEED RIGHT NOW. I may be wrong, but given the fact that I feel like crap right now, I think that I have a bit of a cold. My nose is running more than the Olympic track team, my head hurts, and my stomach is upset to the point of making me want to skip eating until further notice.

I’m hoping that I can shake this quickly because I have to be flying in a few days and I don’t think anyone on the airplane will want to see me galumphing down the aisle with a handkerchief pressed over my nose and mouth. I know that I wouldn’t want to see someone like me coming in my direction.

Oh, well.

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Where Is Mr. Miyagi When You Need Him?

OUR LIFE IS BUSY ENOUGH THESE DAYS what with family business, New Doctors, Old Doctors, and the Christmas holiday season swirling about us like a ten speed blender with the lid off. We don’t need gnats.

Gnats, those little itty-bitty flying critters that come out of nowhere, annoy the heck out of you, and then fly away before you can get a good swat at them. I don’t know how they got in here, but I can tell you where I’d like them to go.

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Merry Christmas! 

 

Merry Christmas To You All Around The World !

christmas

 

 

 

Enjoy this day with your Family and Friends!

 

Fa, la, la, la, la.

Fiction Saturday – Boxer – Conclusion 

 

Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Conclusion

Boxer

by John Kraft

 

“What about…” He looked at Gloria who had walked into the room and was standing by the kitchen door with her arms crossed. “Our two – visitors?”

“They’re, uh, in the trunk.” Walker leaned forward ignoring the pain.

“What trunk? My trunk? The Cadillac? You put those dead bodies in the trunk of my Cadillac?” Gloria stood up straight.

“Dead bodies? What dead bodies? She asked. Her words stuck in her throat. “Terry, what dead bodies? You didn’t say anything about dead bodies. Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus.” She hugged herself and started to rock back and forth. She was already on the verge of crumbling. “Oh, Terry.”

Walker lost it. “Shut up, you stupid Gin Blossom! Terry, shut her up. I need to think.”

“Gloria, please. He needs to think. I’ve messed things up. I’m sorry.”

Gloria looked at Terry. “You’ve messed things up? What about this jackass sitting on our couch? He’s the one who’s messed things up, not you.”

Walker picked up one of the small pillows from the sofa and threw it at her.  “Hey, Blondie, shut up. Get out of here. Go do something useful. Go slit your wrists.”

“Do something useful? I’ll do something useful right now.” In two steps she was in front of the sofa and she delivered a sharp left jab onto Walkers bandaged shoulder. He let out a short scream before he passed out. “Now that’s something useful, you, Mr.’My Cadillac.’”

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Looking For Quality

 

It may be the Christmas Season – Ho! Ho!, Ho! And all that. There may be mistletoe and holly, and oh, by gosh by golly, it’s time for something better than Hallmark Channel movies. Last night was such a time.

At my urging and only a year or more in the waiting, the TV was tuned to something different. Instead of sweetness and light the remote brought up the first of three seasons of “Mr. Robot.”

For those of you have never watched “Mr. Robot,” it is the story of a young Morphine addicted, delusional, and socially inept Computer Security wizard who lives in New York City and works for an IT Security company whose main client is, in his eyes, an International Monster.

How’s that for a setup?

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Throwback Thursday from Dec. 2015 – “I Go Out Wokking”

 

Throwback Thursday from Dec. 2015 – “I Go Out Wokking”

6a58f7ba-cc89-459a-a2a3-e2cb2c7a3cf0EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE I GET A CRAVING for Wonton soup, Pot Stickers or Sweet and Sour Something or Other. That is when I stage a full out assault on the “First Wok.”

First Wok is one of those small, family run Chinese Food To-Go shops that can be found in strip malls around the world.

First Wok may, or may not, be the first wok in Terre Haute (That’s French for, “My plastic fork is broken.”). They have some tables for those who want to eat there, but I’d wager that 90% of the customers get their General Tso’s Chicken To-Go in those little white paper cartons with the wire handles.

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When All Else Fails…

 

OK! OK! I KNOW WHAT THE DIRECTIONS SAY. I should always eat something when I’m taking my meds. On most morning my iced coffee is enough to buffer the effects of my handful of pills, but things have changed. I’ve started taking something new, on Doctor’s orders, and the game has changed.

My new Doctor has changed my medload and my body has yet to adjust to the altered chemistry in my tummy. When I take the new drug I have to eat something more than coffee or my gastrointestinal tract begins to re-enact the Charge of the Light Brigade.

“Half a league, Half a league, Half a league onward! Into the Valley of Death rode The Six Hundred.

“Cannon to the right of them. Cannon to the left of them. Into the Jaws of Death, into the Mouth of Hell rode The Six Hundred.”

Get the picture?

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I Can Change The Batteries

 

“Call me a mechanic!”

“OK. You’re a mechanic.”

“No! No! There’s a light on the car dashboard that says ‘Maintenance Required.’ Call me a mechanic!”

So goes the conversation inside my brain when one of those little lights comes on while I’m driving. It may have read “Maintenance Required” but in my head it was screaming, “Pull over immediately or you’ll die!”

Maybe I overreacted a bit.

The car is trying to tell me something I know, but I don’t know exactly what. I had the car into the Dealer’s shop a couple of weeks ago for an oil change and to get it ready for winter. They took care of everything, but the little orange light started flashing almost immediately. I wondered why. Everything should have been hunky-dory.

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Here We Go Again

I SUPPOSE THERE IS NO WAY OF AVOIDING IT. We are closing in on the New Year and along with that fact comes the inevitable question: Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions?” How I answer that depends upon who is doing the asking.

If I hear that question coming from someone on the TV I immediately ignore it and have a cookie. If I hear it from one of my doctors I put down the cookie. Casual acquaintances always ask and when they do I give them the Big Three Universal Answers: Lose Weight, Lose Weight, and Lose Weight.

I do that and they quit asking.

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Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Five

 Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Five

 

Boxer

by John Kraft

 

 

“I’ll let you in, but I don’t have to like it.”  –Gloria Dumbaugh

 

“No. No. No. Are you crazy, Terry?  What are you thinking? This man has been shot? He’s not a lost puppy You can’t just bring him home.”

Gloria was pissed.

“I don’t know what else I can do, Hon. He’s my Boss. Look, he’s out cold. I got something I gotta do. Just a few minutes. He won’t be any trouble, I promise. Just keep him on the bed.”

“Our bed you mean.”

OK, on the couch then. I gotta go. It’s important.”

“Terry, he’s been shot. What if he dies on me? What then?”

Terry ran his bandaged fingers through his hair. He wanted to run away. “He won’t die. Doc patched him up. See all that tape? He’ll be good as new in no time.” He set the shirtless, unconscious man on her couch. “Hon, I really gotta go. I’ll bring you back some ice cream.”

“Terry, No, you can’t…” She stopped. She knew it was useless. “Butter Pecan.”

Terry took the Cadillac. He wished it was his. Maybe someday. He parked in the alley behind Walker’s office, right back where it had been before all this mess started.

Inside Walker’s office nothing had changed. The dead guy hit with the shotgun was still dead and was going to stay that way. The Fat Guy by the door was…where was he? Terry started to sweat again and talk to himself.

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A Head On Crèche

 

ISN’T CREATIVITY A WONDERFUL THING? At this time of year the Muses are just busting through the doors and inspiring people in all sorts of ways.

I wish they would stop that.

Every year people with Inspiration, but no talent, go down to their local Crafts (No relation) Store armed with a credit card and an idea. What they “create” is then foisted on the rest of us.

I will now present a collection of the Christmas Season’s crop of horrible bad taste masquerading as Art. In absolutely no particular order.

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Throwback Thursday from Dec. 2015 “$65K A Month Should Be Enough”

melanie 1

OVER COFFEE I SCANNED THE CELEBRITY NEWS to see if Ihad been nominated for something – nothing again this year.

Failing to score any Oscar or Golden Globe nominations I shifted my focus over to the “Splitsville” column where I learned that Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas are divorcing. Que Lastima!

In La-La Land this Splitsville stuff is a big money world.

With the Miss Melanie and “Zorro” Banderas rupture the dollar amounts got my attention. It seems that Antonio agreed to a settlement whereby Melanie gets 65K PER MONTH for living expenses.

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What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

NOT LONG AGO I WAS CHATTING with one of the younger members of the family. She is in the sixth grade and turning into an interesting human being. She is past that Baby stage and is thinking about her future.

I asked her if she had given any thought to what she would like to be when she grows up. She answered me. 

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Here’s Looking At You, Kid

 

IT MAY HAVE SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME, but who would want to get a tattoo on their face? It seems to be a permanent response to a temporary thought. And its gotta hurt.

Getting tattooed, at least in Western cultures, used to be solely in the realm of sailors and cheap crooks. Not any more. These days millions of people get a little butterfly or whatever inked on their body usually in a location where only a lover or a doctor would ever see it. However, there are people who just don’t know when to say “Enough.”

The idea of getting facial tattoos still remains largely in the prison/criminal gang subculture. There are others who get facial “tats” who are not criminals. I would put them in the file drawer under “I didn’t know I could drink that much” or just plain “Nuts.”

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Where Can I Get Some 3000 Year Old Pants?

 

MY BACK IS UP AGAINST THE WALL. It is the Christmas Season and everyone will be in a cheerful mood and dressed for the occasion. You know – family and all that. I am being given subtle signals that I will need to dress more like a mature man. A man who isn’t still dressing like he did in 1969.

And I hate going out shopping for clothing. Going into a store and having to deal with some clerk who asks me the one question I really hate to answer: “What is your size?”

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Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Four

 

Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Four

 

Boxer

by John Kraft

 

 

“Mr. Walker? You’re bleeding.”

“Yeah, I know, Einstein. My arm. I need to see Doc. Can you drive?”

“Sure. Keys?”

“In my left coat pocket. You’ll have to get them. I’m parked in back – dark green Cadillac. Let’s go.”

“What about them?” Terry asked, pointing with the baseball bat at the two men on the floor.

“Later. They don’t look like they’re going anywhere soon. C’mon, help me up.”

Terry picked up the dead man’s pistol and set it on the desk. Walker slipped it into his right coat pocket.

 

“You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.”  — Al Capone

 

Doc shook his head. “I can’t do that. Not here. You need to go to the hospital.” He looked pale and hung over. That explained again why he never finished medical school.

“Doc, you gotta do something for him. He’s been bleeding all over the place. He passed out on the way over here.”

“Oh, Jesus, Terry, I can maybe try to stop the bleeding, but that’s about it.” Doc gave the unconscious man a quick eyeball check. “That slug is still in him. Probably stuck in a bone. I can’t deal with that here.”

“Do what you can, Doc. I’ll take him to the clinic, I promise.”

“No hospital. No hospital.” Walker had stirred. He was awake enough to hear what was being said. “No hospital. They’ll call the Police.

“Mr. Walker.” Terry wiped his hands on his pant leg. He was sweating like he had gone fifteen rounds. “Mr. Walker, Doc says that the bullet is still in your arm up by your shoulder. No offense, Doc, but Mr. Walker, you need a real doctor.”

Walker was barely able to stay awake. He shook his head. His eyes were only half open. “No hospital. I’ve got two dead bodies in my office. How do I explain that?”

“What?” Doc took a step back from both men. “What? You two have to get out of here. If the police bust me I’ll die in prison. You have to go. Now. Get out.”

“Terry, he’s right. In my wallet there’s a card…a card. Dr. Wycoff. Call him. Take me there.”

“Wycoff? He’s a Veterinarian,” half shouted Doc, “A horse doctor.”

“Terry, do what I tell you. Call him. Call him and then I’ll…” He passed out again.

“Doc, what should I do? He’s my Boss. If he dies I’m out of work, but if I take him to the hospital we’re both in hot water. Doc?

Doc opened a cupboard and took down a box of latex gloves. “He needs a real doctor, but that Wycoff is an old drunk who’d kill him for sure – if he wasn’t dead by the time you got him there. Damn it. Let me see what I can do.”

The two men lifted the unconscious and bleeding man up onto Doc’s kitchen table. Doc took some scissors and started cutting off Walker’s coat and shirt. Terry moved back and stood there watching and worrying.

“I’ll try to stop the bleeding. That’s first, and then we’ll see if I can at least find that bullet. It’d be a snap if I had an X-Ray.”

Ten minutes later Doc had stopped the bleeding, and after poking around he could tell that the bullet fired by the dead man, the very dead man, still in Walker’s office looking for his face, was lodged in the joint where the upper arm connects into the shoulder.

“Well, Terry, that’s about all I can do. I can see where the bullet is, but…”

“Can you get it out, Doc? That would help him a lot wouldn’t it?”

“I said I know where it is, but it might as well be on the moon. No, I’ve done what I can here, Terry. Thanks to you he is still alive, but he needs more than either of us can do.”

“I think I’d make a good Corner Man, Doc.”

“Yeah, but nobody ever got shot at in the Boxing ring.”

Doc stripped off his latex gloves and tossed them into a wastebasket half filled with empty bottles. He looked at his unconscious patient and at Terry. Standing next to his Boss Terry looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.

“What to do now, Doc? My Boss needs an X-Ray and there’s two stiffs in his office.”

“Not good, Terry.”

“Yeah, Mr. Walker took out the one that shot him – with his sawed-off. It’s a mess. I got the other one, a big fat guy, with a baseball bat.”

“Oh, Terry, this is getting worse by the minute.’

“Could I just leave, Mr. Walker here for a while, you know…?”

“No. No way you can leave him here. Where does he live? Does he have a family?”

“Jeez, Doc, I don’t know where he lives. I’ve only seen him at his office or at ringside. Family? I don’t know that either.”

Lying on the table, Walker was coming to a bit. He was moaning. His arm and shoulder were heavily bandaged. He was drooling.

“Terry, you have to go, both of you. I’ll help you get him out to your car.”

 

A View From The Corner

 

WHO NEEDS TELEVISION? Who needs movies? Who needs any form of traditional entertainment when you’ve got people walking around? Every day, free of charge, there is a non-stop parade of the Human Animal passing by in all its variety. I almost said, “Passing by in all its Glory,” but Glory is rare in humanity. Variety is a better word to describe the people I see every day.

People Watching is more fun than Movies or TV. With the actors on the screen, who are always good looking and mouthing someone else’s words, they are following a Director’s commands. Their moves are predictable and rarely surprising. However, the folks wandering in front of my astigmatic eyeballs are anything but predictable and continue to surprise me on a daily basis.

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