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 – 2018

Archive for the tag “Terre Haute”

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES. Some are pretty obvious from the outset. With others it can take some time before we realize that we have stuck our foot in it. I have been collecting a few examples of some wildly errant boo-boos that deserve retelling.

One of my favorites dates from 1959. The fine folks in Ottawa, Ontario were gathered to celebrate the grand opening of a new modern terminal at the Canadian Capital’s Airport. Everyone was having a great time…until it all fell apart.

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Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Part Two

Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Part Two

Staying up in the tree once he knew that I was up there seemed silly to me. I climbed down. The Monk had moved back to his spot – my spot – by the riverbank. He didn’t pay any attention to me. I stayed by the tree trunk not knowing what to do next. He told me.

“Come and sit down. It’s a beautiful riverbank you have here.”

I went and sat down next to him by the water’s edge. He ignored me.

“You’re a Monk aren’t you?” As soon as I said that I knew it was a silly question.

“Yes, I am. Are you a farm boy?”

“Yes, I am,” I said, but being here in the middle of all the farms around here and with me looking like I do, his was a silly question too.

“What does a Monk do, Sir?”

“There is no need to call me ‘Sir.’ And as to what a Monk does it is really very simple – we pray.”

“What do you pray for?” I thought that was a reasonable question.

“We pray to understand.”

“To understand what?”

“To understand why we are here and what we should do to be worthy of this life, this river, this conversation we are having.”

“You must pray a lot,” I said to him.

He began to fiddle with his red sash. He took out the twine and the fishing hook.

“Yes, I pray all the time.”

“You don’t look like you’re praying now. You look like you’re going to try to catch a fish.”

He tied the hook to the frayed end of the twine.

“Fishing calls for a lot of praying, my young friend.”

He dipped the hook into the water and sat quietly. At least he got that part right. After a few minutes I had to say something.

“You really are going to need to pray. You don’t have any bait on that hook. You won’t catch any fish that way.” For a man who looked so smart he seemed pretty dumb when it came to fishing.

He looked at me and smiled.

“I’m not trying to catch a fish. I am waiting for the fish to put himself on my hook. It has to be his decision. It is his life and I cannot take it. He must offer it up.”

I couldn’t help but laugh.

“That’s asking a lot of a fish, Mr. Monk.”

“Very true. I have a life and so does the fish. Our lives are of equal value. They both came from the same place – from The Creator. I want to eat to stay alive and so does the fish. My hook has no bait because that would be cheating, tricking the fish.

“The fish and I must negotiate and debate about whose need is more important today. If we agree that the fish is more important today – who knows what lies just downstream for him, then I will go hungry today. If what lies down this path is more important for me, then the fish will take the hook and I will eat. Do you understand?”

He turned back to focus on his empty fish hook and I looked at him and then down into the water. There was a fish looking at the hook, but he didn’t look convinced.

“That must be why my father says you Monks are always begging for food. You can’t talk a fish into biting on an empty hook.”

“Your father is a wise man,”

We sat there, silently, for quite awhile. It was a nice day and I was enjoying my time with the Monk even though I really didn’t understand him a lot. Before he came down the path I was just sitting here daydreaming. Now I am, thinking. I’m not used to that. He had me thinking and climbing a tree.

“I saw you coming down the path for a long time. Where are you going?

“Nowhere. Here.”

“What does that mean?”

To Be Continued…

Throwback Thursday from September 2015 – “Don’t Panic! OK, Go Ahead – Panic!!”

Throwback Thursday from September 2015 – “Don’t Panic! OK, Go Ahead – Panic!!”

 

THERE ARE SOME THINGS that Mankind should just not tinker with – Forces ofgiphy-6Nature that, if disturbed, can have cataclysmic repercussions. It is foolish to think that you can control the weather or the motion of the planets. We have tried to go against Nature with things like The Designated Hitter in Baseball or continuing to bankroll Adam Sandler movies and the results have been appalling.

This morning it happened again. I got up, abluted, dressed, made tea for my wife, the lovely and sound asleep, Dawn, and then I headed off to St. Arbucks. When the young barista handed me my coffee she said something that chilled my soul.

“The Power Company has to work on the transformer on the pole outside, so we are going to be without power. We will be closed for about a half hour.”

“When, for God’s sake? When?” I asked her calmly.

“In about three minutes.”

Why not just try to reverse the rotation of the earth like Superman or rewrite the first season of “Sherlock”? Empty the fish bowl and tell the goldfish to chill out for a half hour. Mess with Texas.

There are some things you just don’t do! Don’t spring things like that on me.

With no other choice I skulked back to the car. I sat there as the lights winked out and a poorly written sign was taped to the door. I sat there and sucked on my straw. It helped me to not hyperventilate.

I had my first coffee. I would survive as long as I didn’t panic-sip and “Empty the Venti.” But what about those other poor souls who didn’t get there on time? I sat there in the car and watched a procession of vehicles pull into the Drive-Thru Lane only to see another sign saying, “Closed. You killed my father. Prepare to die!”

Well, maybe it just said, “Closed for thirty minutes. Sorry,” but after seeing the word “Closed” the rest of it must have looked like a death threat.

In just five minutes I saw about 40 cars and trucks pull in expectantly, and then leave looking dejected and desperate. It was more than I could take.

In an effort to save myself I took emergency measures – I went across the parking lot to Kroger’s and did some shopping. I needed some distraction. I took my coffee with me. I wasn’t going to leave it, visible and unguarded, in the car.

When I had made my pedometer click enough, I “self-checkout-ed” and slowly approached St. Arbucks from the rear. It had been thirty minutes at least. It felt like a week chained to a prison TV showing only Benny Hinn.

The lights were still out. “And darkness came over the whole land.” – Mark 15:33.

It was then I remembered that I had received a call from my pharmacy telling me that they had a prescription refill ready for me. Never was I so happy to get more meds to swallow. I have downed enough Potassium Chloride to perform a dozen lethal injections. And now I was going to pick up another month’s supply. Oh, Happy Day!

This time when I returned to St. Arbucks I could see from a distance that THERE WAS LIGHT, and parked cars, and a long line in the Drive-Thru Lane. Life as we know it had returned.

I wept a little.

I took my last sip from my original coffee and went inside to claim my refill. It was Ambrosia. It was Nectar of the Gods. It was Iced Coffee, a splash of cream, but unsweetened – the way Nature intended.

I wish that they had posted a warning about this shutdown a week or so ahead of time. I could have prepared myself – driven to the Auxiliary Chapel in the south end of town, or taken a sleeping pill to just miss the whole thing.

Plans are already being made to deal with a scheduled two-week shutdown in November when they close for remodeling. So far, the best option for that time is a two week sabbatical to Seattle.

Thanks For Playing Our Game!

 

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THAT SO-CALLED “NO CALL LIST?” We have been getting about a half dozen telephone solicitation calls a day lately.

If I am not deranged I am sure that a few years ago there was a legislative stink that resulted in a “No Call List” law that was set up to stop all of these annoying and unsolicited telephone calls.

It didn’t work, did it?

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One Way To Ruin My Mood

 

I CAN UNDERSTAND THAT DESPERATE TIMES sometimes can call for desperate measures, but…

The other day while I was going up and down the aisles at my local Kroger supermarket I was confronted with just such a situation, or at least that what I was supposed to think.

As I was pushing my cart up the aisle past the pickles I saw a man with a cart coming the other way. His cart was empty and he was pulling a small wagon behind him. In the wagon was a small child, a toddler.

When the man (in his 30s I’d say) pulled up next to me he asked me if I had a dollar and could he have it? This guy was rolling through the store panhandling.

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Thanks For Asking

WHEN I GALUMPHED OUT TO THE MAILBOX THE OTHER DAY I noticed that mixed in with the usual bills, ads from politicians and “You may already be a winner!” junk was a card from my old Alma Mater.

At first I thought it was another begging notice asking me to include them in my will. Lotsa luck on that. This card was something else – it was an invitation. I was being asked to come to my 50th college class reunion. Considering that I had never gone to any of the previous reunions I think that this invitation was a real long shot.

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Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Part One

A Conversation By The River

The banks of the river are my favorite places in the whole world. In the afternoon after my chores have been done and I’ve finished my studies too I go to the river.

The river is not very big, but it has come a long way. From high in the mountains the river has wandered down through forests and the hill country, by the city where the Emperor lives, and then to us and our farms. I have been told that, eventually, the river ends as it flows into the Great Ocean. Someday, when I am grown, I would like to make a boat and sail it down the river all the way to the sea. But now I just go to the river and sit by the water and dream.

Yesterday I was sitting on the grass by the river. I was watching the fish swim around in the water. The sun was still hot and I had found a spot underneath one of the big trees. Its leafy branches kept me from the heat of the sun and made it the perfect place to be.

From my place under the tree I could see down the dusty path from our village and, in the other direction, I could almost see the hazy shape of the mountains to the west.

As I looked up the path I could see someone, a man, walking slowly in my direction. As he got closer I could see the little clouds of dust that his sandals kicked up with each step he took. In the bright sunlight it looked like he was dressed in a golden robe. When he got closer I could tell that he was dressed in yellow with a red sash around his waist and over one shoulder.

I have seen men dressed like him before. My parents said that men dressed like that were Monks, holy men, who travel throughout the country. My mother said that they bring good luck. My father said that they were pests, always begging and wanting food for free.

The Monk was coming toward me down the dusty path. I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t have anything to give him, so I decided that the best thing for me to do was to hide. I climbed the tree and hid myself in the branches.

I could see the Monk clearly as he got close and, instead of passing by and going toward the village, he stopped and sat down under my tree in the very same spot where I had been. I watched him. He didn’t make a sound. He sat there with his eyes closed.

The Monk was bald. There was not one hair on his head and he was clean shaven like my father. He sat with his legs folded up underneath him and his hands rested in his lap/ I didn’t move either. I didn’t want to make any noise that would tell him where I was hiding.

After a few minutes the Monk opened his eyes and stretched out his legs. He took off his sandals and dipped his dusty feet into the water of the river. He sighed and smiled. He had a kind face.

He undid his red sash and unfolded it on the grass next to him. He had several things, but not a lot, that he carried with him.

I saw a spool of twine and a fishing hook, a small knife – not big enough to scare anyone, a book not much bigger than my hand, a flint, and a cup. That was all he had. He was not a rich Monk like my father said that they all were.

He took his cup and bent over to get himself a drink of water. Even though it was a hot day the water in the river was always cool having come down from the mountains.

He drank his cupful of water and then he did something most strange. He bent over again very close to the water. It looked like he was talking to the water, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying. When he finished talking he put his hand onto the surface of the water, like he was petting an obedient dog. That made no sense to me. It was like he was thanking the river for the water he had taken,

The Monk sat quietly by the water for a few minutes and then dried his feet, put his sandals back on, and stood up. I thought that he was going to leave and continue walking down the path. Instead he walked over to the trunk of the tree and, without looking up, he spoke.

“Why don’t you come down? I won’t bite.”

That startled me and I almost fell from my place in the branches.

“Come down and we can talk.”

To Be Continued…

Holy Batcave, Krafty!

THINGS ARE BEGINNING TO GET SCARY AROUND HERE. Indiana State University has started playing football again, St. Arbucks is playing Dean Martin ballads at 6:30 AM, and now Terre Haute (That’s French for “Is that really ‘Amore?”) is being beset by sinkholes.

Yesterday I am at home minding my own business watching “Battlebots” on the “Science Channel” (Go figure that one.) when a Bulletin from the local TV station begins to crawl across the bottom of the screen like a drunk on Sunday morning.

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Throwback Thursday from September 2015 –”Downwind Of Upstage Is No Place To Be”

Throwback Thursday from September 2015 –”Downwind Of Upstage Is No Place To Be” 

 

 

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THERE IS A GOOD REASON my wife, the lovely and unfailingly perceptive, Dawn, calls my trips to St. Arbucks, along with, “The Usual Suspects,” my “Play Group.” I admit that there are some days when the maturity level drops below Pre-School closing in on Pre-Natal.

For several days now the main topic of conversation among the group has centered on the television western series, “Gunsmoke.” This show hasn’t been on the air since 1975. Why this has become important enough to warrant two days of conversation is unknown.

I understand the lure of nostalgia – the being able to share common memories with contemporaries who are now getting along in years. What I can’t understand is why it has become necessary to dramatize scenes from the show – right there in the corner of the coffee joint. It mystifies me and I think it scares some of the staff and other customers.

The conversation seemed to center around one character on the show: “Chester Good” – portrayed by Dennis Weaver, a mediocre actor at best.

“Chester” was the Deputy to Marshall Matt Dillon, played by James Arness and irrelevant to this discussion.

The character of “Chester” was disabled on the show. His character was gunned down in an early episode and for the rest of his time on the show he ran around with one leg, unbending, and stiff as a pool cue.

Week after week he would scuttle around, getting in over his head with the local bad guys. He would then run, after a fashion – stiff leg swinging out like the line on a weed eater, and yelling, “Mr. Dillon, Mr. Dillon, come quick.” Not exactly a showcase for Mr. Weaver’s acting chops, but it paid the bills.

How all of this was remembered by The Usual Suspects in 2015 is where things got dicey.

After describing “Chester” and his “mobility issues” it was determined by one Suspect that more was needed to illustrate his point (Whatever it was). He also thought that it would help if he performed Chester’s lines, but his recollection veered a bit from reality.

The Suspect hauled himself out of his chair and began to stiff-leg it across the floor. Then his dialogue came out, loud enough to reach the back row at the Hollywood Bowl.

“Holy Sh**, Mr. Dillon. Come quick. Holy Sh**!

It was at this point that I tried to hide under a table. I’m positive that “Chester” never said that on network television – ever.

This breach of nostalgia etiquette had the other Suspects trying to force him back in his chair.

“Sit down! You’re going to get us all thrown out of here!”

I peeked around and all of the baristas and other coffee drinkers looked like prairie dogs – alert with eyes wide open, wondering what was happening. Was the big guy with the bad leg going Postal? Was he a threat or merely nuts?

The answer to that particular question was: All of the above. But I’m not being judgmental.

Now, all of this could be written off as a quirky, one-time event, like Ross Perot or World War Two, except that there was an encore performance the next day.

When I arrived on the scene this “Faux Chester” was already wound up like a Joy Buzzer and moments later he was off and running, albeit with a significant limp. I was still near the door, so I just sidled over toward the recycling bin and pretended to be checking that things were being sorted properly.

If this was going to be a daily performance, I told him, he was going to have to join the Actors’ Equity labor union. It was either that or he was going to be hauled off for a 72 hour observation at the Bubble Factory. Personally, I’m voting for the 72 hour gig.

Most days at St. Arbucks are quiet, contemplative even, but this week it was more like being trapped inside bad Community Theater.

Is it Next Year Yet?

I HAVEN’T WRITTEN MUCH ABOUT BASEBALL THIS SUMMER. Why? Because it’s hard to keep from swearing while I have tears soaking the page.

It has not been a good season for my Giants. Things weren’t very good last year either, but with some sterling offseason acquisitions it looked like 2018 was going to have the Giants in the hunt for the Pennant once more. Appearances can be deceiving.

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I Love Television

I LOVE TELEVISION. It entertains me. It educates me. It enrages me. It wakes me up. It puts me to sleep. It’s a lot like most people I know.

My personal memory of Television goes back to 1952 or thereabouts. That was when my father came home with our first television set. It was a Philco brand with a 12 inch screen. Everything was in black and white and we had a whopping three channels to pick from.

It didn’t matter which channel you watched they were all pretty much the same – Old movies, Cartoons, News, Kids Shows, and Wrestling. Lots of Wrestling.

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Here We Go Again, And Again, And Again

 

JUST WHEN I THINK THINGS CAN’T GET ANY STRANGER…

I have taken our local newspaper to task (several times) for spelling, grammar, and just plain crazy mistakes, but now they have really screwed the pooch.

Last Friday’s edition of the “Tribune-Star,’ the only newspaper in America published by and for illiterates, ran a story about a fund-raising event for a worthwhile charity. The idea was to sell T- Shirts at a couple of local high school football games. They were hoping to raise money to combat pediatric cancer as well as to raise public awareness.

Selling the shirts seemed to be a good idea. Unfortunately, the Tribune-Star, still trying to decide if anyone should actually proofread the paper before sending it out to the world, took that local story and guaranteed that it would go viral.

On Page A – 4 they ran the story, but no one bothered to check the Headline.

I now present an electronic clipping from last Friday’s Tribune-Star newspaper. Uh oh, Oops, and Dang it.

The jokes began to fly thick and fast on the Internet. I won’t repeat them here. I don’t need to. Within five seconds of reading the above headline you had them all sitting on the tip of your tongue.

I am dying to find out how the fundraising effort went. I can just imagine the scene when you drop this kind of snafu in front of a crowd at a high school football game. Thousands of high school age boys are not going to let this go without a wisecrack or two. I couldn’t and I’m a lot older.

What causes such recurring foul-ups at our local fishwrap newspaper? I know that mistakes are inevitable, but –  really now! Doesn’t anyone look at the copy before pushing the start button on the presses? I guess not.

The faultline runs through several levels I fear. The person who wrote the initial story obviously thinks that Spell-Check is God. Either that or they are trying to see what they can slip past every other pair of eyes at the newspaper.

Somewhere along the line there must be someone who functions as a Proofreader. Given the long history of typos and other gaffes at the Tribune-Star I would think that somebody – anybody – would at least try to purge these errors.

Perhaps the newspaper should be adopted by the local high school newspapers as a class project. Have those kids act as real Editors and take a fine-toothed linguistic comb through the Tribune-Star to make it into something other than a laughing stock.

Do that, or simply admit that their Proofreader is actually Stevie Wonder.

Fiction Saturday – “Trapped” – Conclusion

Fiction Saturday – “Trapped” – Conclusion

Trapped

For five days I followed him everywhere. I saw nothing that said he was stepping out on his wife. The closest he came was some gentle flirting with his waitress over lunch. I think he spotted me a couple of times. My bruised face made me stand out, but I couldn’t help but get close at times. My hearing is not as good as it used to be.

I called the number Mrs. Tetley had given me and I told her that, as far as I could tell, her hubby was too busy with his business to be playing around on her. She told me to stay on his tail. She was buying my time and my lunch so I kept dogging her husband. She must know something about him that I haven’t uncovered yet.

It’s not much of a job, but it’s all I have. Once I can’t tail a sneaky husband any more all I’ll be good for is to be an Organ Donor…except for maybe my liver.

###

Ten days I’ve been tailing this guy and I’ve not seen him do anything out of line, except that I know that he made me once or twice. The other day he was heading out to his country club and I had to back down and give him more room on the less crowded road that leads out there. I lost sight of him and as I sped up to regain contact I looked in my mirror and there he was behind me. All I could do was break off and turn down the first road I came to. I called his wife.

“Look,” I told her, “ He knows I’ve been following him, so, even if he is playing around – which I don’t think he is – I’d never catch him at it now. Let’s just settle up and call it quits.”

“Maybe you’re right, Mr. Walker,” she said cooly. “Perhaps I’m just being a silly wife.”

I gave her a quick accounting of what she owed me for all of my wasted rime. I padded it a bit just to soothe my ego. She could afford it. We set up an appointment time for her to come by my office to give me what I had coming.

###

“I think I spotted your ‘Mr.Walker’ following me a couple of times. He looks like a bad prize fighter.”

“Oh, Nigel, be careful. He said he’d kill you. Can’t we just give him the money so he’ll go away?”

“Constance, if we give into him once he’ll never go away. I’ve got to convince him that he’s going after the wrong people.”

His wife looked worried. The cell phone in her pocket began to “ring.” It played a few bars from Aerosmith’s song “Janie’s Got A Gun.”

“Hello,” she said softly into the phone and turned toward her husband. “It’s him. It’s Mr. Walker,” she whispered.

“I see,” she said into the phone. “Yes, I have the money.” She went silent, listening to the voice on the other end of the line. She nodded as Nigel paced back and forth. “Maybe you’re right. Perhaps I’m just being a silly wife.” She looked up at her husband. “Yes, I’ll be there with the money.” She ended the call, slipped the phone back into her pocket.

“Well, you heard that, Nigel. He wants me to go to his ‘office’ he called it, in some building in the city. He insists that I come alone with the money. Oh, Nigel, I’m scared. What if he…tries something? He said that he has a gun.”

“Well, so do I, my Love. Don’t worry, you won’t be there alone. I’ll be there with you and I’ll take care of ‘Mr. Walker.”

###

The sun was going down when I left my apartment. I’d slept a good portion of the day away. There was nothing else on my calendar until the slightly paranoid Mrs. Constance Tetley was scheduled to meet me at the office to settle accounts. That was later, around eight. I had time to soak my still aching body. I headed for Koreatown and a hot tub and massage.

Ten days of Birddogging a man who was as boring as a paper napkin was not fun. He may be the richest man in this part of the state and undoubtedly into some shady business dealings, but his wife only wanted to know if he was bringing it all home at night. She wants her Hubby to give her what she wants and needs.

Me? All I want is paid for my work so that I don’t end up living under a bridge sharing a cardboard box with some guy named “Lucky.” I’ve given up on my dreams of becoming a rich and famous detective. I just want to have enough to keep body and soul together and, when I’m gone, to have a few friends left to share some good memories of me.

###

“What a dump. Are you sure this is the right place?”

“This is the address, Nigel, I’m sure – on the eighth floor,” she whispered as if anyone else was around to overhear them as they got into the elevator.

“He’s only expecting me, so I’d better go in alone. I’m terrified, but I know you’ll be right there.”

“I’ll be right outside the door, Constance. Here’s the money.” He handed her a white business size envelope with ten thousand dollars in hundred dollar bills. “He’ll feel the need to count it. That’s when I’ll come in, but if tries to get physical just yell and I’ll be there before he can do anything.”

“I know you will, Darling. It’s Eight O’clock.”

###

“It’s Eight O’clock,” I said to myself. I heard the elevator stop on the eighth floor. She’ll pay me and then I’m going home, after a drink or two. I’m glad that she’s on time.

“Good evening, Mr. Walker.”

“Good evening, Mrs. Tetley. Please come into my office so I can give you a receipt and so you can be on your way.”

“Is cash OK with you, Mr. Walker? I don’t want my husband to see anything on our bank statement. I’m sure you understand.”

“Cash is fine. It’s my favorite actually. It never bounces the next morning.”

When we were both seated she reached into her purse and pulled out a white envelope. It looked chubby. While she did that I took the holster with the .38 revolver off my belt and set it on the desk. “I guess I won’t be needing to carry this around anymore. Hopefully for a long time. Personally, I hate the things. They’re nothing but trouble.”

“Here’s your money, Mr. Walker. I’ve put in some extra as a bonus for all of your hard work.” She was smiling like she just scratched off a winning lottery ticket.

I opened the flap on the envelope and saw Ben Franklin and his whole family staring back at me.

“Mrs. Tetley, this is way too much. I appreciate your gratitude, but this is…

Her smile disappeared as she jumped to her feet knocking over her chair.

“What do you mean it’s not enough?” She was yelling. “I won’t do that! No! No! Don’t point your gun at me. Help! Help! Nigel!”

She had flipped her coin in two seconds.

“Mrs. Tetley, what’s wrong? What’s going on here?” I picked up my gun. I didn’t want her grabbing it. “I’m not pointing this at you.”

She is screaming. I’m confused and my office door flies open and Nigel Tetley comes in with a big .45 caliber pistol in each hand. His wife stepped back away from the desk and plastered herself up against the far wall.

“So, ‘Mr. Walker’, you pull a gun on my wife? First it’s blackmail and now what?”

I was barely hearing him. All I could do was look at those two cannons pointed at me. The .38 in my hand felt like a cap gun.

“Blackmail? What are you talking about? She hired me too…”

“That’s a lie, Nigel. He showed me those ancient pictures of me and demanding money – and now he points that awful gun of his at me and tells me to undress for him.”

“I never said that. What is this?” I was getting scared. This was falling apart all around me.

“The pictures weren’t enough, eh, Walker? You wanted the real thing. You…” He lifted thee .45s and two red laser dots lit up on my chest.

I may be getting old and slow, but I’ve been shot before and it’s not fun and with his two pistols I wouldn’t have a prayer. My brain shut down and instinct took over. I dove to my left trying to get my body behind my file cabinet. I pulled my trigger. Nigel Tetley did the same. I felt the impact on my thigh. The pain would come along soon enough. My ears were ringing from the roar of the gunfire in my small office. I was on the floor. I was waiting for him to come after me – to finish me off. I would try to return the favor if I could.

Nothing was happening. When my ears opened for business again everything was quiet. I decided to crawl out of the corner to see what was going to happen next.

The first thing I saw was feet. They were attached to Nigel Tetley and I was seeing the soles of his shoes. Both .45s were still in his hands, but they were on the floor too.

I was able to pull myself over to my desk and into my chair. The pain was starting up big time. When I looked at the rest of Nigel Tetley I saw that he was missing an eye. My one reflex shot had hit home. Tetley was as dead as a man could ever be.

“Nice shooting, Walker. Lucky, but nice.”

I turned my head toward the sound of that voice. It was Mrs. Tetley, still standing by the wall. She was smiling again.

“What just happened here?” I asked her or anybody else in the room who could still talk. “Why is he dead and I have a hole in my leg?” I was still holding my gun.

“What just happened, Mr. Walker, is that you just made me a very rich gal – and put away that popgun of yours. You won’t shoot me. You need me. I’m your only witness. You shoot me and your next stop will be Death Row for a double murder. With me still alive I can swear it was self-defense. My crazy, jealous husband followed me here. I came here to hire you to follow him, just like I really did. So don’t threaten me with that pea shooter. You’ll never get off two lucky shots tonight. And now I’m going to call the police.”

She took out her phone, dialed 911 and gave a performance worthy of a Hollywood Star.

I was trapped. She had me in a cold corner. There was no way out for me except through her and she knew it. I knew it, but I didn’t understand it.

“What if your husband had killed me?”

Oh, the same story only reversed. I was hiring you, he followed me, came in. You pulled your gun. He pulled his. Bang. Bang. You’re dead and I tell the cops my hubby shot you in cold blood. He goes to the Gas Chamber on my eyewitness testimony and I am the tragic, but very wealthy, widow. Either way – I win.”

“And I lose,” I said. “I lose again, just like every other day.”

She stepped over the body of her dead husband and sat down again across the desk from me. She reached out and picked up the envelope with all the cash and put it back in her purse.

“No sense on wasting this on you, Mr. Walker, is there?”

I could hear the sirens even from up on the eighth floor. They’d be coming through the door in a couple of minutes.

“Why didn’t you just divorce him?”

“Pre-nup. I wouldn’t get squat. I figured this was my best option.”

She was probably right.

I had no good options. I was sitting in my chair bleeding out, dead broke, and at the mercy of this tall, leggy…there is no word for her in my vocabulary.

I was at a loss. What could I do? I never felt so lost – so trapped. I saw no way out.

###

“This is the Police. We’re coming in and I want to see everybody’s hands in the air. Do you understand me?”

“Come on in.”

There was a single shot.

Reading Can Be Dangerous

 

DON’T BOTHER ME. I’M READING. Boy, am I reading. I don’t know if I have enough time to write these words with all of the reading I have to do.

Ever since the invention of those small, book size electronic readers (Nook, Kindle, and about a dozen others) I have been reading more and my back feels better. Now, instead of lugging around a bunch of actual books with me I can carry my reader and have my entire library with me.

Last week I was sitting outside enjoying the warmth and sunshine and I reached down and took my Kindle out of my “Of Mice And Men” tote bag. I watched joyfully as it downloaded my most recent book purchase – adding it to the electronic pile in the virtual corner…my pile of “BYTR” – Books Yet To Read.

I took the time to count them. How many books do I have stacked up waiting for my eyes to devour them?

The total came to 198.

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Throwback Thursday from September 2015 – “Oh, Baby, Baby, Baby”

Throwback Thursday from September 2015

Oh, Baby, Baby, Baby

say my name

I WAS JUST LOOKING AT THE LIST of the most popular names for newborn babies in 2014. For 2015 I assume we won’t know for a while what names will make the Top Ten.

When I first saw the list of girl’s names I was struck by how “traditional” and even 19th century many of them seemed.

Sophia? Emma? Emily?

I guess the trend of recent years for “new” names or names that had a more nontraditional flair has waned at last.

I know of two families that have daughters named “Brooklyn.” Personally, I would no sooner name my child Brooklyn than I would name her East St. Louis or Beaver Falls (The town where I grew up).

Names like Sophia, Emma and Emily carry elegance about with them. They conjure up a gentler, and more polite, time. When I hear Brooklyn I think of black and while newsreel footage of crowded streets and Ebbet’s Field – Home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. I can almost smell the cigar smoke and perspiration. (I’m gonna hear about this – I just know it.)

Here is the complete Top Ten List of Girl’s Names for 2014, courtesy of BabyCenter.com.

  1. Sophia
  2. Emma
  3. Olivia
  4. Ava
  5. Isabella
  6. Mia
  7. Zoe
  8. Lily
  9. Emily
  10. Madelyn

There’s not a Brooklyn or an East St. Louis among them.

I recall that a few years ago the name “Madison” was a very popular choice for both boys and girls. There are a number of names that do double duty, but the only reason this sticks out in my memory is that once, during an interview with some sportscaster, Giants’ Pitcher Madison Bumgarner mentioned that he once had a date with a girl who was also named Madison Bumgarner. He claimed that they were not related, but he grew up in a small town in North Carolina. I’m just saying…

Doubling up on both names just raises eyebrows and visions of children running around with extra thumbs.

All of these girl’s names are incredibly better than what Inventor and Aircraft Designer, Bill Lear (The Lear Jet) did to his daughter. He saddled his baby girl with the first name of “Shanda.”

10 Most Popular boy’s Names for 2014

  1. Jackson
  2. Aiden
  3. Liam
  4. Lucas
  5. Noah
  6. Mason
  7. Ethan
  8. Caden
  9. Jacob
  10. Logan

The one thing that leaps out at me about this list of boy’s names is that several of them are, what I would consider to be, last names or family names.

Nos. 1, 4, 6, and 10 are not first names.

Take no. 1 for example.

Let’s assume, for the sake of discussion, that little Jackson’s last name is “Thomas.” Years from now he will be asked to fill out some forms for a job or for some government program and they will ask that he do so “Last name first.” He will dutifully fill in the blanks with “Thomas, Jackson.”

I freaking guarantee that the clerk who is processing his paperwork will see that and think that Jackson is an illiterate fool and trashcan his application. He will not get the job, become disheartened, fall in with a bad crowd, and descend into a life of crime and despair. All because his parents got cute with his name.

Numbers 4, 6, and 10 – I’m sorry to say, but you’re screwed.

And number 8 – “Caden?” That’s not a name. It sounds like a dental term. “I’m sorry; Jackson, but you have a bad case of Caden. It’s going to be painful and expensive.”

Of course, as was the case with the girl’s names – it could be worse.

I do know of a young boy here in Terre Haute (That’s French for, “My first name is Pierre.”) who has the legal first name of “Buckshot.”

Is that a crime statistic in the making, or what? Why not just name the kid, “The Defendant.”

I do believe that parents should be able to name their kids as they like, but if you’re going to give your child a stupid name, I think that the clerk authorizing birth certificates should be legally empowered to take Daddy and Mommy out back and slap them silly upside the head.

Somedays…

 

“HELLO, MY NAME IS JOHN AND I’M A LUMP”

“HI, JOHN.”

That’s how I would introduce myself at a meeting of “Lumps Anonymous.” Some days are like that. Yesterday was one.

I don’t want to say that I had a lack of energy, but I felt the need to put a mirror up to my own mouth just to be sure that I was still breathing. Rolling out of bed was easy. It was the getting up off of the floor that took a while.

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It’s Labor Day – Take It Easy

TODAY IS THE FIRST MONDAY IN SEPTEMBER – LABOR DAY. It is a celebration of the Working Man and Woman in America. They are honored by having most people take the day off.

The first official Labor Day was in 1887 in New York City organized by a couple of labor unions. We still celebrate it today even though the number of people who are union members is a bit over 10% of all workers. That number peaked about 60 years ago when about a third of all American with jobs held membership cards in one union or another. The reasons for the decline are many and likely to get me beat up if I discuss them here.

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Fiction Saturday – “Trapped” – Part One

Fiction Saturday – “Trapped” – Part One

Trapped

I don’t care what they say. If you get worked over by a couple of toughs you are not going to get up and chase after them. You’re more likely to just throw up in the gutter and then go home and feel sorry for yourself.

At least that’s what I did yesterday.

Two pieces of meat working for a crook who is bleeding his own company dry and didn’t like me digging into the details. They knew what they were doing and they enjoyed it.

If I was a few years younger I might have been able to defend myself better and made those two muscle boys regret taking me on, but yesterday was not a few years ago and I’m the only one with regrets.

Regrets and, I think a couple of loose teeth.

When I took an early retirement from The Job I was feeling flush. I had a nice portfolio of tech stocks and my health. Five years later my tech stocks weren’t worth a dozen donuts. I knew the price of donuts all too well and, all of a sudden, I wasn’t a young stud any more.

Today, I’m lying on my couch and wishing I’d stayed on The Force. Then I had insurance and could afford to see a doctor. Now, as a P.I., all I can afford are some cans of chicken soup and a soda straw until the swelling goes down.

That chicken soup’ll be all I’ve got if I don’t get off this couch and back to work. I’m too young for Social Security and Mums and Daddums have cut me out of the will.

Right. If it didn’t hurt I’d laugh at my own jokes.

Work. Office. OK.

It took me a while but I changed clothes, put a couple of band-aids on my once handsome face, and drove downtown to my office. It was a Saturday so I didn’t think I’d run into too many people before I got to the 8th floor. I was wrong.

“Geez, Mr. Walker, you look like you tried to French Kiss a train.”

“Yeah, that’s it, Pal. You got me pegged. I’m really into locomotives.”

That was down in the parking garage.

“Mornin’ Mr. Walk…Sweet Jesus, what did you do to earn all that?”

“I put insufficient postage on my tax return.”

That was from the Newspaper stand guy in the lobby.

Finally, Room 817. The stenciled letters on the frosted glass said, “Private Investigations and Licensed Security.” Down a line or two was my name: “John Walker”

A quick run through the mail informed me that I was up to date on the light bill, late on the rent, and I might already be a winner of something or other. The wastebasket was doing its job well.

I was sitting there behind my desk thumbing through a catalog filled with basic police stuff that I couldn’t afford when I heard the front office door open and someone, a female someone, call out, “Hello? Anybody home?”

I got up, brushed a few crumbs off my shirt, and checked my fly. “I’m here. One moment. On my way.” I opened the door from my office and I lost the power of speech.

She looked like a Pulp Writer’s cliché, straight out of a detective novel. Tall, slim in just the right places, legs that would take time to fully appreciate, and a face that made me want to ask her to the prom – or to Mexico for a weekend.

‘Are you Mr. Walker?” I liked her voice, mainly because it was talking to me.

“Uh…Umm,..Yes, that’s me… Him…John Walker.” I extended my hand like a paw. She took my hand and told me her name, “I’m Constance Tetley and I think I may need your help.”

“Well, if I can help you in any way…”

“Do you own a gun?”

That got my attention.

“Perhaps we should step into my office.”

I ushered her into my inner office, bringing up the rear to close the door behind us and to get another look at – well, you can figure that out. I may be getting old, but I’m not dead. She sat down in the chair in front of the desk. I went behind it to get to mine. She stayed silent so I figured it was up to me to get the ball rolling.

“So why so do you care if I have a gun? You want me to shoot somebody?” I thought that was a reasonable question.

“No, of course not,” she said, wiggling in the chair in discomfort. It made me uncomfortable too. “I ask because, well, my husband has a temper.”

“Your husband.” That was a statement and not a question.

“Yes. He’s why I’m here. I think he’s cheating on me and…”

“And you want me to take a few snapshots of him with whomever, and so on and so on. Right?”

“In a nutshell – Yes,” she said. Mrs. Constance Tetley, young, but not too, and as gorgeous a stack of new and crisp U.S. Grants, dabbed at the corner of her eye with a hanky. I saw no tear.

“Tell me about his ‘temper’ as you called it.” I needed to know how hot the water was before I dipped my toe in. I’ve been burned before.

For the next ten minutes she tried to sugarcoat her husband, Mr. Nigel Tetley, and his propensity to shoot first and skip the questions altogether.

“He’s a collector,” she added.

“Of what?”

“Guns. He has over eleven hundred of them.”

Somehow I knew it wasn’t postage stamps. She readjusted herself in the chair and my blood thinned a bit.

My better judgment screamed at me to call her a taxi and then go for a drink – alone. My less than better judgment wanted for her and me to both be sixteen and in the backseat of my old man’s Buick. What to do?

What I did was take her cash, get her phone number, and cleaned and oiled my five-shot Charter Arms revolver. I must be nuts.

***

He walked into their library and saw his wife curled up on the leather sofa. She looked like she had been crying. She looked up at him as a real tear rolled down her cheek.

“What’s wrong, Constance?” His voice filled with what sounded like genuine concern.

“Sit down, Nigel. I have – we have – a problem.” She reached for her glass on the coffee table and took a swallow as he moved closer.

“What kind of problem?” he said. “Let me take care of it.” He patted her knee like she was the young daughter they didn’t have. “Talk to me.”

She took a deep breath and dried her eyes.

“Nigel, there’s no point in pretending. We both know that I had ‘A Past’ before we met, that I…that I lived in the ‘fast lane’.”

“You were a Rock and Roll groupie,” amended Nigel Tetley. “Yes, I knew all about that when we first met. So, what’s the problem now? All of that was years ago and a lifetime away. What’s going on? It is all in the past, right?”

“Oh, Nigel. Yes, it is all in the past, the distant past. I swear. At least I thought it was.”

Her husband’s back straightened and his fists clenched. “Talk to me, now.”

“A man came up to me when I was at the Mall shopping today. He just walked up to me and said ‘We have some business to conduct.’”

“What does that mean? Was he trying to sell you something?”

“That’s what I thought and then he shoved a couple of pictures in front of me. Pictures of me, from long ago, from those crazy days.” She stopped and took another sip from her drink, cleared her throat, and continued. “I didn’t know these pictures even existed. He said that unless I ‘Came across’ with some money he would ‘show them to the world’.”

“Blackmail, that’s what this is,” said Nigel Tetley. “I’ve been expecting this to happen – for years. It was just a matter of time before some weasel out of the past would show up. Did he threaten you – physically?”

“Me? No. He said that if he didn’t get the money he would kill you. Oh, Nigel, I am so sorry. I don’t know what else to say or do.” She moved next to her husband and let him hold her in his arms, to comfort her.

“Don’t worry about this, Constance, I know how to deal with people like that, but I need to ask you a few questions. OK?” She nodded and buried herself in his arms.

“Constance, did this man give you his name or a way to contact him?”

No, he said that he would contact us, but if we called the police he would kill you. A name? Yes, he said I should call him ‘Mr. Walker.’ He was a mess. He looked like somebody had beaten him up. He was all bruised.”

“Walker?”

“John Walker.”

***

I figured the only way I was going to see if Constance Tetley’s husband was stepping out on her was to shadow him for a few days to see if he does have a “hottie” stashed away. If he does it shouldn’t take long. He’ll want a taste or two soon enough. I follow him; hope for a convenient window or open door – snap, snap – and the wife and her lawyer have their evidence.

It may not be a pretty way to make a living, but unless you can get a contract with some big company to run their Security Setup, you have to eat. The way things have been going for me I haven’t been doing much of either. No work, no money. No money, no reason to feel hopeful and you take any job.

I don’t usually carry my weapon with me. Most of my jobs have relied on my research and computer skills, finding lost or missing people and money, but after the Lovely Lady with the Long Legs told me that her hubby was better armed than most countries, I figured I better dust off my belt holster.

Over the years, on The Force and now as a Freelancer, my stomach has been my own Early Warning System. Putting the gun into the holster made my stomach clench up, but I put that off to the working over I’d just absorbed.

I did a little research into Mr. Nigel Tetley – born in England, and wealthy – very wealthy. The source of his money is a bit obscure hidden in a number of overseas ventures and commercial properties in this one.

He was known to have an explosive temper. There were tales that he pulled a one punch knockout on a “Capital O” Official from the Commerce Department who dared to question his business practices.

Online sources says that Tetley has two passions: Guns and his wife, Constance. Eleven hundred guns and one very special wife. The scuttlebutt has it that a number of his guns have a dirty past. The same could be said of his wife.

Constance Tetley, nee Bosworth came from small town Texas and by the age of sixteen was on the road touring with a well-known Rock and Roll Band as a backstage groupie and main squeeze of the lead screamer.

She met Tetley at a backstage party when she was 22 and he was 40. He wanted her and what he wanted he got. They were married and she disappeared behind The Wall of the Very Rich.

Now, according to the Mrs., Mr. Nigel Tetley is, or might be, cheating on her and she wants me to tell her yea or nay.

Next week – The Conclusion of “Trapped”

All Hail The Fighting Sycamores!

 

ONE ADVANTAGE TO LIVING IN A “COLLEGE TOWN” is all of the activities that are open to the “Townies” – That’s us. There are Concerts, Plays and Recitals all the time. And Sporting events too. It’s the last item there that has just swung into action.

Football Season is here!

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Throwback Thursday from August 2015 – “When It Comes To Wasting Time I Am Self-Taught”

Throwback Thursday from August 2015 – 

 

When It Comes To Wasting Time I Am Self-Taught

Kite with keyWHILE HANGING TEN OFF MY KEYBOARD today I bumped into a tidbit of info that is, perhaps, the most Obvious, Redundant, and Dumb As a Sackful of Hammers thing I’ve seen in quite a while.

The University of Pennsylvania, Department of English, is offering a course with the title of, “Wasting Time On The Internet.”

Well, yeah. And your point is…?

I’m guessing that the course is being offered through the English Dept. because Kenneth Goldsmith, the alleged instructor, either lost a bet or was so strung out of Red Bull that it seemed like a good idea at the time – or even just an idea.

I would think that such a course would be truly inter-disciplinary. It could easily fit in the Depts. Of Philosophy, Economics, Gender Studies, Computer Sciences, Phys. Ed., and/or Early Childhood Development. I stopped there because I realized that it could probably fit anywhere except the Library and the Student STD Clinic.

It is also fitting into the Tuition Billing Statement sent to Parents each term. One look at Junior’s course load and Daddy is likely to suffer a TIA episode and start calculating the drive-time to the nearest Community College.

The course is described thusly: “The class will, ‘Explore the long history of recuperation of boredom and time-wasting.’”

There is a more “in depth” (aka “piled higher”) description, but I’m not going to type it all out. I tried, but my Spell Check began to giggle. http://www.english.upenn.edu/courses/undergraduate/2015/spring/engl111.301 

Upon clicking on the Instructor’s link I learned, in spite of it all, that he has also taught another course called, “Uncreative Writing: Robotic Erotica/Erotic Robotics: Scribing a Non-Expressive Sexuality.”

(Batteries extra?)

Why am I not surprised by this?

His Bio blurb says that he has published ten (count ‘em 10) books of poetry and has a list of credits that provide a comfortable living.

I don’t begrudge it to him at all. To paraphrase another showman – a fellow named Barnum – “There’s a new one born every minute.”

“Wasting time on the Internet”

I’ve always thought of it as something that one does by instinct, not needing to be taught. Even as I’m writing this I am getting the feeling that I am doing it quite well. And I’ve never had a lesson in it in my entire life.

Maybe I should start freelancing a bit and teach others to do what they already know how to do. I could expand my course offerings to include:

“Breathing 101: How to Inhale and Exhale on a Regular Basis.”

“Recognizing the Differences Between Up and Down.”

“How to Lie Down – Without Holding On.”

I wonder if Mr. Goldsmith ever took the class called, “The Difference Between the Tenure Track and the Railroad Track.”  One can take you somewhere and the other can run you over. It can be tricky telling them apart sometimes.

The University of Pennsylvania was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1749. One of the more clever and witty men of his age I think he might be amused by “Wasting Time on the Internet.” He might even sign up to take the course. Maybe, but he was also a very practical man who might read the description of the class and turn to Mr. Goldsmith and say, “ Next time you’re trying to fly a kite in a storm– learn to let go of the key. It’ll reboot you something fierce.”

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