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 – 2021

Archive for the tag “Family”

Mipissssissippi, Misippiss, Mippiississ,…Texas

SOME DAYS THINGS WORK OUT FINE…and then other days – well…

Mipissssissippi, Misippiss, Mippiississ

I do believe that we have become “Snow Bunnies” of a sort. Consider that we have made three – count ’em, Three trips since October from our home in Terre Haute down to south Texas. It is only a two and a half hour flight, but we have done these trips earthbound. In these days of Nasty Viruses we feel better avoiding both Airplanes and Airports.

Driving to and from Hoosierland to the Coastal Territory near Corpus Christi, Texas is about 1200 miles each way. I say “about” because it depends on your route. You can save a few miles by driving through Arkansas and squeezing your nervous system through Downtown Houston. We have done that a couple of times and I will do almost anything to avoid doing it again. On this last trip to see the family and to NOT see Midwest ice and snow we followed a different route. It added about 100 miles each way, but it lowered my blood pressure and my heartbeat significantly.

Rather than drive through the Arkansas Pinball Machine of Route 40 where Big Rig Semis outnumber cars 25 to one and the speed limit is restricted only by Einstein’s Theory about the speed of light. Instead we cut straight south and went through the lovely State of Mississippi border to border.

Interstate 55 in Mississippi is my new favorite stretch of highway. It is well maintained, not overly busy, and goes through some beautiful countryside. They also had a Road sign that made my feeble mind drag up some old cliches and stereotypes. Hopefully, nobody will be offended, but if they are…too bad. I can’t let a joke get away from me so easily.

This is the sign that we saw posted every few miles.

What caught my jaundiced eye was the part about throwing trash on the highway. I read that and my twisted sense of tacky and tasteless humor kicked into high gear. It was a good thing that we made no stops inside Mississippi other than the obligitory rest stops to… relieve ourselves, shall we say.

As we plunged southward through the Magnolia State (As I learned from another sign) my mind concocted this short monologue.

“We were driving through Yalobusha County, heading south, when I saw a sign along side the road. Do you see that sign? The one about there being a $250 Dollar fine for throwing trash on the highway? Well, I saw it and it has brought back a sad memory that still haunts our Family to this day.

Seeing that sign made me remember about that unpleasant day when our beloved, though hard to live with, Cousin Billy Bob Beaureguard ran afoul of The Law. It was not that he hadn’t done the same thing dozens of times, but this time he got caught doing it in front of that State Trooper.

Billy Bob was caught up in a technicality when he was driving along and got into an argument with his youngest son, Jasper, and threw him out of his truck while driving down the highway just outside of Coffeeville. That boy, Jasper, was no good to begin with and everybody knew it. The Judge knew it too and instead of charging Billy Bob with any ‘Attempted This or That” he nicked him for that $250 dollar fine because everybody knew that boy, Jasper, was trash.”

You can see why I would not want to say that out loud in front of any Mississippians. They might either be offended by the cliches or upset that I was airing the Families dirty laundry in public. I thought of it and we wisely chose to continue driving until we were across the State Line.

(We are just skipping Louisiana here. I’m in enough trouble.)

 

 

 

 

 

There Has To Be A Better Way There

I MAY NOT KNOW WHERE I AM ALL THE TIME, BUT I’M NEVER LOST.

At least that is how I like to think I’m getting around in this world. One method that I use to find my way is with maps. I like maps. I love maps. I have always loved maps.

Maps are Functional Art.

Just before we started off on our latest One Conestoga Wagon pilgrimage to Texas I noticed that my Road Atlas was severely out of date. A 2015 Road Atlas ain’t gonna get me anywhere but lost. I needed an update. I toddled off to Amazon and ordered the 2021 edition of the “Rand McNally Road Atlas.” I was going to be up to date in The U.S., Canada and Mexico. All those maps would be like tossing candy bars in front of a crowd of kids. I wanted to curl up and look at them all, go over each page and imagine myself there. Did I mention that I love maps?

My Amazon order was not going to come in time for our Indiana to Texas trip so I had it sent to Texas for us to use – hopefully to get us a better routing for our way home. Driving from Terre Haute to just north of Corpus Christi is a little shy of 1150 miles and it’s not a fun drive. Our route took us from Indiana into Illinois, south into Missouri (boring), and then across Arkansas on the most crowded road I’ve ever driven on. Route 30 in Arkansas has about 25 fully loaded Semis for every car. The speed limit was…irrelevant. There were times when, just to keep from being run over, I was going close to 90 MPH. At that speed trucks with over-sized loads passed me like I was standing still. It was like being inside a Japanese Pachinko Machine.

My brand spanking new 2021 Road Atlas arrived the day after we arrived at our destination. For me it was an early Christmas Morning. My new toy had arrived!

OK…The way I look at it is that instead of driving through Houston again on the way north (Another Pachinko moment) and having to scream through Arkansas again like a .22 Caliber bullet in the middle of a Howitzer barrage we will drive East on I-10 into Louisiana and then north through Mississippi. It may add a few miles overall but it should significantly cut down on my stomach acid production and jaw clenching bad dreams.

Here’s Hoping.

Once our trip back to Indiana is complete I will report on how and if things went. I hope that there will be no “Film at 11!” links about our trip. It’s the Holiday Season and I don’t need any more Drama. I am already craving boredom.

Down at the end of today’s offering I have posted a link to a song that, to me, talks about maps and, again to me, about driving through Houston and Arkansas. It is called “Columbus” and is performed by an incredible Irish singer, Mary Black.

Merry Christmas! 

 

Merry Christmas To You All Around The World !

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Enjoy this day with your Family and Friends!

 

Fa, la, la, la, la.

We Have Ways Of Making You Jolly

Throwback Thursday – 12/31/14

Berlin_Checkpoint_Charlie_089

PART OF VISITING family for the Holidays is going to drop in on those relatives you don’t get to see very often. We devoted part of yesterday to that.

I must admit that Rose and Ray are the only people I know who actually live in a “Gated Community.”  Well, that is, if you exclude from “Gated Community” those places where the gates are topped with razor wire and all the residents have colorful nicknames. Rose and Ray don’t have colorful nicknames and I didn’t see any razor wire. But there was one disturbing element, not counting the fact that all of the homes inside the gates cost more than some U. S. Navy warships. Let me explain.

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Haven’t We Seen This Movie Before?

WE’VE BEEN WATCHING A LOT OF TV LATELY.

The movie theaters are closed and most of our favorite eateries are Drive-Through only again.

Like most people we have been grounded by this virus thingy. As a result my wife, the lovely and Queen of All Cable Channels, Dawn, and I have been living in our sedative chairs in front of the 40″ Flat Screen. I have to admit that I am not as savvy as I should be about navigating my way around all of the channels that are available. Therefore, Dawn is also wearing the Captain’s Hat. she hits a few buttons on the remote and about five million options appear. I sit in awe. The World is our Oyster Pizza.

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Driving, Driving, Driving

Driving. Driving. Driving. Changing Lanes. Changing States.

It’s a long drive from Indiana to Southern Texas and back to Indiana. We just finished making that round trip and we are about to do it again.

We break each half of that Great Circle Route into a three day journey. Long gone are the days when I could spend 12 hours behind the wheel. These days after about 300 – 400 miles my brain turns to fudge and my butt turns to cheap plywood. Going on a trek of approximately 1150 miles each way is not to be taken lightly.

Driving. Driving. Driving.

Day One: On the road from near Corpus Christi heading north. After a full day of playing Dodgeball with 18-Wheelers and “Wide Load” Haulers we are still inside Texas. We drive from Corpus north through Houston on a Sunday afternoon. The roads are jammed and beyond comprehension. When I realize that I am beginning to babble we stop for the night in Lufkin, Texas. That is all I can do with my Old Geezer eyes and reflexes.

Moments later, really after a number of hours sleeping in a strange hotel bed it is time to get up, get gassed up, and coffeed up. Pulling out of the parking lot we head North again then veer to the East into Arkansas. We are entering a different world.

Yesterday I was driving North through the skyscraper forest of Houston and today it is rolling past

(c)Ken Steinhoff 561-727-9645

small town America – places like “Cooter,” Missouri. I don’t know the story behind a town named Cooter, but I can imagine anyone bragging about being from Cooter.

Driving. Driving. Driving.

The car thermometer says that the bright and sunny day is in the mid-80s, but for mile after mile along the side of the road it looks like there are the remnants of a wintertime blizzard clinging to the ground. It’s not snow that we are seeing but cotton. Along our route we have been seeing large trucks loaded with huge plastic wrapped bales of Cotton. For some reason the shippers have decided to leave the ends of each bale uncovered and the turbulent air along the highway plucks out a steady rain of Cotton onto the road.

Driving. Driving. Driving.

Most of our route is along the Interstate Highway System, but part of the way in Texas, Arkansas, and Illinois is on State Routes. That is where you can see the unusual and unique. Roadside attractions that are incredibly uninteresting. I’m sorry folks, but a historical marker and museum dedicated to an event or local hero I’ve never heard of just doesn’t make me want to pull over. To be truthful, the most unusual thing I saw along our trip was in Southern Illinois – a dead Armadillo belly up by the side of the road. I didn’t expect to see an Armadillo that far North. My guess is that it was hitching a ride on one of the Cotton Haulers and when he saw that he was heading toward Chicago he threw himself to the pavement in desperate attempt to avoid that.

It is a long drive from Terre Haute, Indiana all the way to Corpus Christi. I think the drive home is more difficult because of the curvature of the earth. Going from South to North is uphill. I wish that Carl Sagan was still around. I’d ask him about that.

“Billions and billions of bits of Cotton along the uphill drive through Texas, Arkansas, right past Cooter, Missouri, all the way to Indiana just made your trip seem longer.”

Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln…

Seven score and fifteen years ago (that’s 1865 in case you don’t want to do the math) Abraham Lincoln had a bad experience at the theater. OK…so it was a bad night for Mrs. Lincoln too, but at least she got to sleep in her own bed that night.

It was not the best of marriages to be sure. He was rather busy with that war thing and Mary, from all reports, was very loosely wrapped. A nineteenth century Dr. Phil might have been helpful, but Abe was 6’4″ and Mary was 5’2″ and they just couldn’t ever see eye to eye.

They did get together on one thing however – having children. They had four sons. Unfortunately only one of them lived to adulthood, Robert Todd Lincoln. The family line continued with Robert’s children and does so until today. I know this because I stumbled across a little news item about  this fellow.

 His name is Ralph Lincoln, an 11th generation Lincoln and a third cousin of Abraham Lincoln. This split screen picture (that’s Ralph on the left) does show a bit of a family resemblance but I don’t know if I wholly believe this. After all there have been mornings when, before my coffee, I think that I look a bit like that guy from Game of Thrones.

      Me before my morning coffee

People are always trying to claim a connection to famous people. There have been any number of people who will swear on a stack of bibles that they are descendants of the last Czar of Russia (and therefore entitled to a piece of the action.) The British Royal Family is always having to deal with “relatives” who pop up on a regular basis wanting a Palace and a Title.  My favorite connection to fame has to be the Barack Obama Plaza truck  stop in Ireland. I’ve been there and it’s a good place to have lunch and top off your tank. Rubbing gas caps with the rich and famous.

Back to Ralph Lincoln…

In the exhaustive research that I’ve done on this story (all 7 minutes of it) I read somewhere that there are no direct descendants of Abe Lincoln still alive…so, this means that Ralph is an “Indirect” descendant. He claims to be a third cousin of the late President. My guess he is one of those cousins who have been removed once too often. As far as that goofy picture of Ralph alongside of Abe is concerned all you need to do is put on a scruffy beard together with a soulful look and my third cousin Margery would look like Honest Abe.

I don’t know for sure if Ralph Lincoln if actually related to Abraham Lincoln. If he is he certainly has the makings of a unique pick-up line. “Hi, there, Gorgeous. How about if I Proclaim your Emancipation?” Of course, if he is not really related to our 16th President the only advice I can give him (other than “Don’t forget to take your meds) is “Don’t go to the theater. It’s a trap!”

Abbey Lincoln: has never claimed to be a cousin of Abe Lincoln

 

My Childhood In The Distant Past

Reluctant as I am to say so I must admit something: I am an old man. My youth was in a Post-World War Two 1940s and 1950s.

I was born in 1946 in Cleveland and raised in a small town in the hills of Western Pennsylvania and, in many ways, I lived a childhood rooted in the 19th century. Whenever I tell someone of my daily life they react as if I was telling them a story about an earlier time. They find it hard to believe when I tell them that my mother bought her fruits and vegetables from a man with a horse drawn wagon, we had bearded hobos knocking on our door for a handout, and quarantine signs on our front door whenever a kid got one of the many childhood diseases.

When I moved from The Valley to go to college in The Big City people were amazed and amused when I told them about The Pony Man.

There were few times more exciting for the neighborhood kids than those days when the old wooden wagon piled high with fruits and vegetables and pulled by a pinto pony came down the street. The Pony Man’s name was Carmine and the pony was Tony. My mother would make her selections and drop her money into the basket that sat on the seat next to Carmine. Business concluded Tony would move on to their next stop. Tony knew the route by heart.

A remnant of the Great Depression were the Hobos who “Rode the rails” from coast to coast looking for work. Many of them had been wandering for decades unable to leave the life on “The Road.” Our house was just two blocks up from the river and the main railroad tracks that carried passengers and

freight up and down the Valley. It was not unusual for a Bearded Hobo to knock on our back door looking for a handout and/or an odd job. My mother was a soft touch and handed out a lot of sandwiches. I once found this symbol scrawled on a tree near the house. It meant that a nice lady lived there.

There were also “Tinkerers” who would walk through the neighborhood shouting out “Knives sharpened! Pots Fixed!” Tinkerers were itinerant repairmen, the original “Jack of all trades” workers. They would help the neighborhood Mothers by pounding out dents in their pots and pans and grinding the kitchen knives sharp again. Those were not throw-away items.

Given recent events in our world most people are seeing the word “Quarantine” for the first time. I grew up seeing that word a dozen times a year.

In the 1950s there were a number of highly contagious diseases that were often called “Childhood diseases.” Measles (3 different versions), Mumps, Chicken Pox, and others would sweep through every

year and the local Board of Health would try to control the diseases by posting “Quarantine” signs on our front door. It meant that no one got in or out of that house until the disease had run its course. My father had several bouts of staying in local motels while I and my brother were sick.

In the Summertime the Quarantine was sometimes violated on purpose. When the word got around that a kid had measles or whatever the neighborhood mothers would throw a “Measles Party” to deliberately expose their kids to the disease just to get it over with before school started again in September. It was somewhat perilous, but effective.

A child’s life in those days in my small town was certainly different. It was a much simpler time in many ways than today. However, it also had its own terrors that no longer exist. Every Summer there was the looming fear of another epidemic of Polio, a disease that is rare today thanks to two men names Salk and Sabin.

I could tell you more stories of my childhood in the time-warp Valley where the modern world collided with earlier days when everyone knew everyone else, your child’s milk came to your door in glass bottles and three cents would send a letter across the country.

Perhaps I will. Let me know what you think I should do.

Survivors!

WELL, I’M GOING TO ASSUME THAT, IF YOU ARE READING THIS, YOU ARE STILL ALIVE. In some cases I know that that may be a bit of a stretch, but it does look as if you made it through another Christmas.

Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Christmas Dinner – and then there is a day of Christmas Leftovers and Batteries not included. That seems to be the Order of Battle

For me that day after Christmas usually involves multiple trips to the supermarket for a can of this or that and a Dollar Store Safari for batteries of the size I failed to buy before Christmas. How was I to know that nothing uses “D” size batteries anymore? If you ever find that you need some “D” batteries let me know because I have a boxcar load of them out in the garage. Most of them may be thirty years old, but they can be yours at a reasonable price.

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Merry Christmas To You All!

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Enjoy this day with your Family and Friends!

 

Fa, la, la, la, la.

We’ve Made It This Far

 

OH, MY GOODNESS! HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

It’s Christmas Eve already? The calendar says so, but I never completely trust those calendars anyway. Those are the crazy things that claim that March 21st is the First Day of Spring and I can usually look out of any window and see a foot of snow.

No, I realize that this is Christmas Eve by looking around this old house in Texas and seeing all of these people (half of them kids) gathered about awash in gifts and wrapping paper. That, not a calendar, tells me that it is Christmas Eve in Texas.

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“Gramma’s House.”

 

WE ARE BACK IN TEXAS AGAIN. We come down here every Christmas as the entire family gathers at the Family homestead.

Everyone calls it “Gramma’s House.” Married in 1941 just before the start of the Second World War the house finally got built in 1947 when the chaos subsided. It was a small house, but when the first baby arrived it was obvious that expansion was needed. When babies #2 and #3 showed up in 1949 and 1954 it became time for some serious additions to the original floor plan.

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One Stop Holiday Shopping

 

I LIKE TO EAT. I DO IT EVERY DAY. There are times when I do it too often and too much. My most dangerous times are the Holidays. I don’t mean just Christmas and Thanksgiving – those are holidays that have become celebrations of Gluttony. I’m talking about other holidays. I can do some serious eating during the festivities around Groundhog Day and the Commemoration of the Founding of the National League.

I don’t need much of an excuse.

One of the things that I really like (and in some cases dislike) are those special dishes that are only ever prepared for a specific holiday. I like Turkey and dressing in November. I do not like it in July. In July I like Hotdogs and Bratwursts. I do not want them at Christmas. I do not enjoy that quivering jellied mass of cranberry sauce (Which is not a sauce!) at Thanksgiving. It is an abomination and should be dropped into the depths of the Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States.

It is a day to be with Family and Friends.

Wherever you are – enjoy this day and we will see you tomorrow.

Saving Time For Something

 

EVERYONE SEEMS TO BE IN SUCH A HURRY THESE DAYS – even me who is a retired geezer and has a minimum of deadlines and other important urgencies in my life. Saving that extra three minutes seems to be critical even when the time saving actions have a lowering of quality along with the few saved ticks and tocks.

I’m not saying that saving time is a bad thing. It is just one way to have more time available to, hopefully, enjoy doing something else.

Like breakfast.

When I get up in the morning one of the first things I do is put on a pot of tea for Dawn. After that I head out in search of coffee. Until I have my coffee my day has not officially begun. Before I pour that first cup or two down my gullet everything I do is strictly muscle memory.

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Throwback Thursday From November 2016 – “Going Back For Seconds”

Throwback Thursday From November 2016 – “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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During the course of the day several hundred hungry Hautians (not Haitians) would show up and eat until they embarrassed themselves. I heard that the Chefs and Bakers were on the Weight Watchers hit list. (But that was just a rumor.)

I must admit that we did our part in this Festival of Gluttony. We gave thanks for all of the usual things, plus the fact that it came only once a year. Any more often and they could have just shifted it all to the nearest Emergency Room.

The hotel did put on a buffet for Easter, but it paled in comparison. It was like trying to compare two squirrels fighting over an acorn to World War Two. The hotel Thanksgiving buffet had become a family tradition.

turkey3But now…

The Hotel Corporate gods decided that our hotel needed renovation and expansion. Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Get me some carrot cake.) has a number of really fine hotels. The universities and larger businesses have a lot of people coming in and out of town all the time. In late May there is the Indianapolis 500 auto race and the Terre Haute hotels fill up with racing fans.

With the announcement of the coming hotel renovation our hearts began to flutter. How long will the hotel be closed? What about the buffet? It turned out that it was to be a two year long project. They pared the hotel down to the structural steel skeleton – no buffet.

Time to Panic!

Wherever shall we go? Whatever shall we do?turkey5

For our family the immediate solution was obvious – we got an invitation to dine with friends. That was last year. That invitation won’t be coming again this year. They are out of town, the clever devils.

What are we going to do? The local options are not up to snuff compared to The Buffet.

Some of the possible alternatives that have been discussed are:

  1. The Red Lobster – Thanksgiving must have turkey. Sorry.
  2. Taco Casita – Now, that’s not funny! Sorry.
  3. Bob Evans – I don’t know. I…
  4. Help!

So, you see our dilemma. I suppose we could put together a very nice Thanksgiving dinner at home. After all, we are bright, creative, and fully capable people, but it just wouldn’t be the same. After all, the hotel buffet has become our tradition.

I’m going to put on my Thinking Cap and investigate further.

If anyone has any ideas, short of going out and shooting a turkey, they would be appreciated. We do want to have our family dinner – and Marie Callender is not part of the family.

mr-bean-turkey-head-o

Our American Cousins…Kinda, Sort Of

THEY WERE HERE A MINUTE AGO…BUT NOW THEY’RE GONE. For the last three weeks we were a quartet, but now we are duet. Our Cousins from Alaska have left for home. They have abandoned Mountshannon, Ireland for the balmy weather of Anchorage, Alaska.

They were only going to be with us here for three weeks anyway, but it seemed to fly by. I’ve had weekends that lasted longer than their time with us. Dawn and I will spend these last two weeks in this house before we too pack up our bags and fly home.

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Notes On Cliffs

 

YOU WOULD THINK….AT LEAST YOU WOULD…I MIGHT NOT about what would be the biggest tourist attraction in all of Ireland. When I was asked that question the other day by one of the Alaskan cousins I had to stop and do what passes for thinking in my world.

“What is the biggest tourist attraction in all of Ireland, Cousin Krafty?”

Knowing these people as I do I immediately became suspicious. Was this a trick question? Was there a gag hidden in there somewhere?

“Biggest?” Did they mean the physically biggest attraction?

“Biggest Tourist?” Did they mean the attraction that would appeal to tourist who is the biggest? What would appeal to that 600 pound guy I’ve seen on TV?

“In all of Ireland?” Are they trying to trick me with world “All” in there? Do they mean the Republic of Ireland or are they trying to slip one past me by using “all” to include the counties of Northern Ireland?

Do you see my problem here? They are family and because of that I am almost obligated to be suspicious of them.

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Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Nineteen – The Conclusion

 

Part 19 – The Conclusion

This was always the best part of any movie. The climax where the bad guy and the good guy stare each other down. Gary Cooper in “High Noon,” Jimmy Cagney in any number of gangster movies, or even Marshall Dillon on “Gunsmoke” every week on TV. Those were fiction of course and nobody really got hurt. This was different. Nate was coming to kill me and I was going to kill him unless cooler heads could prevail, but there were no cooler heads.

Nate was outside and inside was me, Rocky the shifty lawyer, Nate’s weasely little spy the Jockey, and Hailey, the receptionist on what was her first and probably her last day on the job. Matt Dillon at least had Chester, his gimpy deputy, to back him up. I was as alone as I could be.

A lot of people had already died for no good reason. Actually, they had died as a distraction for a cockamamie reason that made less than zero sense. And now I’m roped into the middle of it all as the only person who fought back. More than the Middle – I was there at the Beginning back there in the Mall where I shot Timmy Whathisname, I’m not even sure anymore. I was held hostage by the Middle when that lovely, damaged, girl with a horror movie life, ended hers in my kitchen. Now this was going to be The End, the Third Act, before the last commercials aired.

I looked out of the window toward the van that Nate had used as his firing platform. He was standing by the rear door. He’d left the rifle behind and was carrying two heavy looking pistols – something straight out of a “Dirty Harry” movie.

“Do you feel lucky, Punk?”

I haven’t felt lucky since I was booted off the Force without being indicted.

The others in the reception area saw him too. Rocky tried to go back through the shattered door into his office, but I grabbed him by the collar.

“You’re not going anywhere, Chester. You’re going to try to convince him to turn himself in or die trying.”

The Jockey had crawled into a far corner behind a little makeshift fortress of aluminum and plastic chairs trying to make himself invisible.

The only one who wasn’t trying to hide was Hailey, the receptionist. She had moved back to her desk, sitting there with her bag in her lap. She had a determined look on her face. I imagined that she had lost a number of jobs before and after this one her choices were going to get even poorer. She was not going to make it easy for Rocky, Nate, or me. She was rooting through her bag like she was looking for a way out. She’s the only one I felt sorry for. All she wanted was a job, not playing anybody for anything.

Nate was walking across the parking lot on a beeline to our front door. He cut between the cars ignoring the moving ones, his eyes locked on us, me really, behind the glass. When he got to the last line of cars he stopped, raised both of his elephant guns and fired. The glass panes, weakened, finally shattered and crashed to the ground leaving just air between us now.

“Ellis!” he yelled. I could hear him just fine, even over the screams of some of the shoppers who heard the loud report of his guns and the crash of the panes of glass. “Ellis, you have screwed up everything. You took away my childhood when you took away my Father. When he was dragged away my mother walked away and I was put in an orphanage. An orphanage! I was the only kid there who still had both parents, but that didn’t matter to you, did it?”

“No, Nate, it didn’t. It really didn’t. Your Father would have killed me if he could have and your Mother…well, that happens more often than you’d think, but I didn’t tell her to …” He squeezed off two more rounds. Plaster board wall panels got ripped apart. He still wasn’t aiming. Off in the distance I could hear some sirens. It was about time. I turned to Rocky. “Why are the cops just coming now? This shooting match has been going on for quite a while.”

He shrugged. “It’s a bad neighborhood. Nobody wants to get involved.”

Nate held his weapons down at his side as he crossed the last bit of pavement and stepped through the hole that once held a floor to ceiling pane of glass. We were now all together, the Jockey, the Lawyer, the Receptionist, the Ex-con looking for blood, and me, the guy with a history of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I was seriously outgunned in any way you wanted to look at it.

What we had there was the world’s worst “High Noon” showdown. We were no more than ten feet apart. If he hit me with one of those huge lead slugs it would rip me apart. If I hit him first he would go down like a rag doll. Either way it was going to be ugly. We stared at each other, waiting for some visible signal that one or the other was going to move. Nobody made a sound and I swear I could hear everyone’s heart beating.

“Draw!”

That startled us into action. It came from the corner behind the nest of chairs. The Jockey. Without taking his eyes off of my eyes Nate lifted the gun in his left hand and fired. That ended their friendship. That damned jockey was trying to get us to kill each other yelling out like that.

The silence that followed included a ringing in my ears.

We stood there waiting for the other one to make the first move. It was probably no more than ten seconds, but it felt like an hour. Then it happened.

“Enough!”

A single gunshot. It wasn’t mine. It wasn’t Nate’s. He couldn’t miss me being as close as he was. Whoever fired didn’t miss either. I saw the fatal surprise on his face as his brain made room for the piece of fast moving lead that had entered above his left temple.

Where? Who? It wasn’t me. It didn’t come from outside. The Jockey was out of the picture. Rocky hadn’t moved in minutes. A voice spoke up. It was Hailey. Still sitting at her desk she had a Smith & Wesson chromed pistol in her hand. A tuna sandwich wasn’t the only thing she had in that bag. She looked at me standing there with my mouth open.

“I’m sorry Mister, but I wasn’t going to let him or anyone mess things up for me anymore. I’ve had to deal with his type ever since I was sixteen. They don’t think about anybody or anything that isn’t them.” Turning her focus to a stunned Rocky, she pleaded, “Boss, please don’t fire me. I really need this job.”

All Rocky could do was nod.

This young woman, who’d gotten dragged into this picture in the last reel, took charge when the rest of us stood there looking at each other afraid to move. That’s the way these things go. Everybody knows that if they make that first, expected, move that they are likely to die in the process. It is the person who sees that their reality, their life, has been placed in jeopardy who says, “Enough!” and ends the nonsense. Hailey has been fighting all her life and she saw that today could be her last day on earth through no real fault of her own.

“Enough!”

That gal is my hero.

Three up and now three down. No more killing. No more terror.

No more.

Outside the broken windows three Black &Whites pulled up. When seconds counted they were just minutes away.

The End

(Next Week we will be taking a break until…?)

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Seventeen

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Seventeen

 

Part Seventeen

 

 

“What did he say he wants?”

“Nate, my friend, he said that he wants to put you in the Gas Chamber.”

Nate Williams must have started yelling because Rocky pulled the phone away from his ear. I could hear him screaming quite clearly.

“What? He’s not a cop anymore. Tell him I’m on my way and that I’m gonna put him in his grave! You hear me, Rocky? Tell him!”

The shyster didn’t have to. I heard every word.

That’s about it. That was the conversation between Nate Williams and his weasel of a lawyer. I said that I wanted to find Nate and now he was going to find me.

Ever since this whole thing began, before anybody died, he’d been telling people that I was his ultimate target. Well, now his target was waiting for him. Unlike the other people who became his targets this target could shoot back.

I suppose I could have called Detective Martindale and had half of the entire Police Department down here when Nate showed up. I could have done that, but I didn’t for two reasons.

1) Nate wanted me and, damn it, I wanted him – For Leslie Ann if nothing else.

2) Martindale would take his 200 to 1 odds over Nate and somehow screw it up. More people would end up dead.

Rocky said that it would take Nate about forty minutes to get down to his office. I figured that was a lie and that Nate would make it in twenty. I had to get ready.

Rocky picked up his bag of liquor and scurried into his office. I went back to my car to make myself survivable. Nate was younger, probably better armed, and nuts. I was more experienced, afraid to die, and probably nuts too.

I stuck two extra magazines in my back pocket. If things got to the point where I needed them I would know I was in big trouble. I expected this thing to end in a matter of seconds, one way or the other. I opened the trunk and took out one of the few things I never returned to the Force when I retired – the body armor that most people call a “Bullet Proof Vest.” The truth is that it’s not a vest. It’s more like a straight jacket, and it certainly isn’t “bulletproof.” It will stop most lower caliber slugs from entering your chest or belly, but not without knocking you on your butt, and making you helpless if the other guy aims for your head. The outdated model I had was pretty much useless against some of the big hand-cannons that were on the streets now. It wasn’t perfect, but it offered better protection than my “Bud Light” T-Shirt.

It was getting warm, uncomfortably so, or maybe it was just me, so I walked back into the lawyer’s storefront. Hailey, the new Receptionist, smiled and waved at me as I went past her and into Rocky’s office. He was stashing his booze supply into his desk. He looked up, saw me standing there and almost dropped his bottle of Rum.

“Oh, no, no no. You get out of here. Go outside. I don’t want you dying all over my rugs. These things are genuine Persian and cost me a ton of money. I don’t want you bleeding everywhere.”

I sat down in one of his nice leather chairs.

“It’s getting hot outside, Rocky. You wouldn’t want me to get heat stroke and pass out in front of your door, would you?”

Rocky was starting to look like he might be the one passing out.

“Don’t you get it? Nate is coming down here to kill you. He’s crazy as all get out. I’m his lawyer, he likes me, but even I’m afraid of him. When he comes in here he’ll start shooting at anything that moves.”

“Then don’t you think you ought to tell Hailey out there in the waiting room to go to lunch or something?” Rocky was no humanitarian.

“She’ll be our early-warning system. I was going to fire her anyway.”

“Rocky, you’re all heart.” I walked out to the empty reception area. “Hailey, get your purse or bag or whatever you’ve got and get out of here. Go to lunch, anything, but do it now. Things are going to get ugly here in a few minutes.”

She looked at me standing there in my “vest” with my weapon in my hand. She didn’t need a second warning. She grabbed her tote bag and was out of the door in seconds. That girl was smarter than she looked.

When I turned around I saw that Rocky was trying to “Get out of Dodge” too.

“Hold on there, Rocky, you’re not going anywhere.”

“Wanna bet? I told you that Nate is a Looney Tune. I don’t want to be Collateral Damage when he blows you to bits.”

If you take one more step, Rocky I’ll ‘Collateral Damage’ your ass all over your Persian rugs. You are staying here and you’re going to try to talk Nate into turning himself into the Law.

“You’re out of your mind. Nate won’t listen to me. He won’t listen to you either. He only listens to the voices in his head and they’re telling him to blow your brains out.”

“We’re going to try, Rocky. We’re going to try or somebody will die here this afternoon.”

We went back into Rocky’s office. I closed the door behind us. Now it was a matter of waiting. We didn’t know if he would come through the door shooting or what.

It was going to be just me, Rocky, and the door to his office between Nate Williams with his craziness and the M.E.’s autopsy table.

I took the leather chair from in front of the desk and placed it in the middle of the room facing the door. When Nate would open that door he would be framed in the light – if he came in that way.

“I meant to ask you this before, Rocky, knowing how deceptive you are, but where is your back door out of here?” He pointed at the closed door that led to his file room. “Get your liquor bottles, Rocky. We don’t want your client sneaking in on us, do we?” He shook his head without making a sound.

We quickly piled up his fresh supply of wine and other hooch right by the door that opened out into the trash and dumpster area behind the office. We spread the bottles around so that if he tried to jump over them he was likely to kick over one or two of them and give us a warning.

I returned to my chair facing the door. Rocky moved his desk chair back a couple of feet so he could dive under his desk if things went south.

We sat there like two statues for what seemed like an hour, but were most likely no more than five minutes. That was when we heard a car door slam shut right out in front. There was a short moment of silence then the front door into the waiting area opened. It squeaked. So did Rocky.

 

 

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