Down the Hall on Your Left

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

Archive for the tag “Writing”

Throwback Thursday from Feb. 2016 – Albert Einstein Meets The Bowery Boys

Throwback Thursday from Feb. 2016 – Albert Einstein Meets The Bowery Boys

IT SEEMS THAT EVERY DAY THERE IS A NEW INVENTION OR DISCOVERY that changes the world. I recently saw that scientists have discovered proof of “Gravitational Waves” that were mathematically theorized by Albert Einstein decades ago.

While that may rattle the tea cups of the scientific world, it really doesn’t impact our daily lives. Gravitational Waves are something on a Cosmic scale that may, at some date in the future, affect how or where people live. But, so far, it doesn’t alter what I’m having for lunch today.

With a minimum of research on my part I have uncovered one of those seemingly “little things” that are almost universally present, yet are virtually unseen. The Toothpick.

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I Would Like A Blizzard

IF ANY OF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A JOB – come see me. I know of a very special job opening that calls for a very special person.

Dairy Queen is Hiring!!!

Imagine being behind the counter at Dairy Queen with access to everything – Blizzards of any size and flavor at your fingertips. All of that and, to top it off, you are living in Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Put cheese on it!).

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Comrade Cotton-Eyed Joe

PARTIALLY DUE TO THE INCLEMENT WEATHER and the seemingly endless weeks of battling bugs of varying virulences we have been watching a lot of TV.

My wife, the lovely and the ultimate Amazon Prime Minister, Dawn, and I have gathered up blankets, Kleenex, and hot tea so we could do some serious binge watching.

With Mama in her kerchief and I in my cap we settled ourselves down for a long winters Ripping Yarn. Dawn had been scouting the terrain and had come up with a series that had six years of episodes in the can. We figured that should hold us until Spring. Well… After one week we are halfway through Season Four. Spring better arrive soon.

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Don’t Insult The Dog

 

IT SEEMS LIKE EVERYDAY THE HEADLINES ARE FILLED with the nefarious exploits of criminal sorts who – how shall I say this – think big? Not content with knocking over a bank they pull off a multibank swindle for hundreds of millions of dollars. Then there are the Bernie Madoff sorts who just feed on the greed of those people who think there are “Something for Nothing” ways to Riches and Rodeo Drive. These are Big City News stories, but I think that there is nothing that can compare with Small Town News. In the Small Town newspapers you are going to find stories that would never make the pages of the New York Times.

Where else are you going to learn about the woman who was arrested for barking at a Police Dog?

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Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Fifteen

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Fifteen

I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. The one man I felt that I could trust – “Pops” and his two big thugs walked me back to my little office. One of the big guys stayed outside the door. I guess “Pops” didn’t want any interruptions. They didn’t tie me up or anything. What was I going to do? Where could I go? I was trapped and I was alone. The only person within 700 miles or so that I felt I could even come close to trusting was a kid who had once tried to stab me. I was as alone as anyone could be.

“Timmy, I’m sorry you decided to show up here a day early. By tomorrow we would have been long gone and this place would have been a smoking pile of ashes – a black stain on the white salt flats. But, you did come early and I’m afraid you’re going to be a tragic victim of the fire. That’s too bad, I kind of liked you.”

I didn’t like being referred to in the past tense while I was still around. I had to speak up. I knew my goose was cooked, but I had to know…why?

“Can I ask you something, or is this a one-way street?

“Pops” chuckled like a grandfather talking to his little grandson.

“Sure, Timmy, we’re not going anywhere for a few hours. Shoot.”

I could have asked him a thousand questions, but the big one was – Why? Why are you betraying your country? What about Van Swearingin? You’ve known him for almost thirty years. You’ve been friends. Why?”

He pulled over one of the side chairs and sat across from me. He moved the big Russian over into the corner like he was a piece of ugly furniture.

“Let me give you a bit of a history lesson, young man, and then maybe you’ll understand who I am and what I’m doing.

“That is true that I’ve known Van Swearingin for a long time. We were both in the army during the first war. When the Armistice was signed he came home – the young hero. I stayed behind. The Army and the politicians weren’t done with me.

“The ink wasn’t dry on the Armistice papers in Versailles before the U.S. Army shipped me and more than ten thousand other men into Russia. We were there taking sides in their civil war. We were there to back the so-called ‘White Russians’ against the ‘Reds’ who had overthrown the Czar and taken power. We had no right to be there. It wasn’t our fight. It was strictly a Russian affair. I spent more than two years there fighting and killing people I didn’t have anything against.

“Like any war there is a lot of idle time. I got to know some of the Russians I picked up the lingo and I learned how the Russians felt having us and troops from other western nations, there tearing up their country. I came home in 1920 and I was a changed man.”

“But, what about your family and friends, “Pops?”

“They were still my family and friends. It was me who’d changed, not them. I was still the same man on the outside, but inside I was changed. I had been betrayed. Inside I became a Russian, an angry Russian.”

“But for thirty years? For thirty years you were what – a spy? A Saboteur?”

“No, Timmy, for almost thirty years I wanted there to be a payback for what we – what I – had done to the Russian people.”

He stopped talking and looked at me with a sad expression on his face.

“’Pops,’ if you were a part of all of this why did you tell me to call the FBI? I don’t get it.”

“Because my naïve young friend, you tell them what you see – or what I wanted you to see – then they tell you what they are going to do, and then you call and tell me everything. You were my spy inside the FBI.”

I stopped trying to ask him anything else. There was no point. He had been stewing over this for decades and I wasn’t going to change his mind sitting here in the middle of nowhere. I looked at “Pops’ and he looked at me. We both knew that any further explanations were useless. Neither of us was going to change at this point.

For about a half hour we just sat there, me, “Pops”, and the side of beef by the door. We could hear plant noises as people passed by my office or equipment was being moved.

A little before noon the big Russian said something. “Pops” answered him in Russian and the big man opened the door and left us alone.

“He has to go ‘Make a Russian River.” He’ll be back in a minute. One thing I can say about them – they are very loyal.”

I bit my tongue. I wanted to answer him with, “Not like you,” but what would be the point?

After another twenty minutes “Pops” began to look concerned. His large pet and bodyguard hadn’t come back. He opened my office door – the other man was gone too. It was just the two of us now – and my small personal revolver that I had taken to carrying again. “Pops” had been overconfident and never had his gorillas pat me down. I hadn’t seen any weapons on “Pops” so I kept mine where it was. I’d bring it out when it would do the most good.

“Pops” closed the office door. He was not happy. For the first time he looked a little scared.

“Stand up, Tim. Something is wrong. We’re going for a little walk-around. Come on.”

He still showed no weapons, just the threat of one. I came from behind my desk and together the two of us walked out into the plant floor.

We turned right. We were both nervous as we headed toward Van Swearingin’s office. We hadn’t gone five yards before we both saw a pair of shoes sticking out from behind a line of lathes. Two shoes – big shoes and they were attached to the Russian bodyguard who had been standing outside of my office. The big man’s brown suit coat was wet with blood. His throat had been slit and there was another damp area in the middle of his broad chest. I hadn’t seen anything like that since we crossed into Germany near the end of the war.

“Pops” stepped back and quickly looked around. There was no one else in sight. The plant had fallen silent. All of the machinery was stopped. It seemed like we were the only two people in the building – no longer counting the dead Russian.

“What’s going on here, Tim? Who? What is this?”

“The ‘Who’ is me.” It was Charlie. He stepped out from behind a large tool cabinet. He was holding his knife – the one I had told him to stop carrying on duty. There was blood dripping from the blade.

“And ‘What this is” – is the end. Your other playmate is back here. He won’t be joining us.” “Pops” was in a stunned silence. I wasn’t.

Next Week, The Conclusion –

Set It And Try To Forget It.

YOU CAN TELL THAT THEY MUST HAVE SKIPPED BREAKFAST. All those guys wanted to talk about was food. They started out comparing restaurants and moved on to recipes. These guys are eaters, not cookers. They could easily kill themselves if they went into the kitchen. They would either poison themselves or blow the house to Kingdom Come.

The thing is – they are making me hungry and I’m stuck with them, sitting in the corner at St. Arbucks.

I think that part of this discussion of theirs has its Genesis in their desire to break out their backyard grills and destroy some perfectly good meat while they are popping open enough beer to get them all arrested for BUI – Barbequing Under the Influence.

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Throwback Thursday from February 2016 – Don’t Blame Me

Throwback Thursday from February 2016 – 

Don’t Blame Me

 

IT’S NOT THAT I’M NOT A ROMANTIC – I am. I blame it all on the vagaries of the calendar. Is it my fault that Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday this year? I was perfectly satisfied with the old calendar, but back in 1582 the powers that were in Europe decided that changes had to be made – and came up with the Gregorian Calendar. I was not consulted. Some people really took umbrage with the change. Turkey held out in a significant snit until 1927. Booking a hotel room in Ankara must have been a real crapshoot.

Only marginally better was the British Empire (including the American Colonies) which clung to the older Julian Calendar until 1752. Seeing that France jumped onboard in 1582 I can speculate that the French and Indian War may have been nothing more than a severe scheduling conflict.

However…

I have had people ask me why I have not posted anything about Valentine’s Day. The short and artificially sweet answer is that I FORGOT! It is a busy world and, being retired I have the time to look around and see it. Add on top of that my Kroger Runs for the Victuals of Life, the never ending appointments with a collection of Indian physicians, and Cable TV, and you can see that some things are going to fall through my temporal cracks. I completely spaced out and missed part of the Super Bowl and National Croissant Day. I think I need a personal assistant.

I feel bad that I missed Valentine’s Day, valid excuses or not. Missing it goes against my grain as a Card Carrying Romantic. I can get all mushy inside while watching the Hallmark Channel. I can even tear up in public if we are watching a “Chick-Flick,” like “Taken 3.”

There are some people out there who would condemn me for this chronological slip-up. To them I say, “Go bite yourself.” My credentials as a Romantic have a flawless pedigree. I went to see Lily Tomlin’s “Search For Intelligent Life” stage production. I read “Love Story” without becoming diabetic, and I do own a Josh Groban CD. It don’t get no bettah than that, bro.

I don’t feel distraught over messing up and losing track of one day when I think about the people around when the Big Calendar Change took place. Can you imagine trying to plan your days when, all of a sudden, your calendar jumps from October 4, 1582 to October 15, 1582. What the f… You just lost 11 days and you’re not getting them back. If you had a birthday in there – too bad, so sad. Gone. If your payday was supposed to be on October 8, 1582 – tighten your belt peasant. No pay for you! So you can see why I’m not all worked into a lather about this Valentine’s Day boo-boo. Blame Pope Gregory XIII. It was all his idea. This may be the reason you never see the Pope on any Valentine cards.

I propose that, when something like Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday, all of us verifiable Romantics be allowed to celebrate/honor/participate on the following Monday without punitive grief. I think that Hallmark and Mrs. See’s/Fanny Farmer’s Candies wouldn’t object. And I don’t care what Pope Gregory XIII thinks. So –

“Happy Day After Valentine’s Day!!”

 

I’ll Never Do This Again – Until Next Time

WHAT WAS I THINKING? I know better than to behave like that. Alas, I will end up paying for that the next day and for several days after that. It was stupid – legal, but stupid.

Just about every Sunday we – my wife, the lovely and theologically eloquent, Dawn, and I go out for lunch with friends. After church we gather our amiable selves and head off to the preselected dining destination of the day. Our Sunday choices range from small neighborhood cafes where the chef looks like everybody’s Grandmother and no two plates match up – all the way to those Monster All-You-Can-Eat Buffets that always charge too much.

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I Think I Remember…

PASSWORDS – LOVE ‘EM, HATE ‘EM, CAN’T REMEMBER THEM. All I can do is forget them.

The discussion this morning at my Play Group (St. Arbucks morning coffee) was all about computer passwords and all of our problems with them. One of the Usual Suspects who shows up every morning for coffee and pointless conversation was wrapped up in mind numbing problems remembering his computer passwords. The ones he could recall were no longer in use and it was bringing his life to a screeching halt.

I tried to help. He’ll get over it and resume speaking to me eventually.

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Words? I Know Dozens Of Them

 

Oh, The Creative Process. It’s not as simple as those three little words might indicate. It is a delicate and fragile thing – a lot like a soufflé, one jarring moment and it all falls as flat as a three week old Dr. Pepper.

On a good day I can sit down and knock out enough to fulfill my daily blog requirement in less than an hour. I try to keep it between 500 – 700 words. That is enough to make my point (If I have one) or at least get to the punchline. That’s all I ask. I don’t try to push my Muse too far. Of course there are those other days when it all hits the wall like wet spaghetti.

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Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Fourteen

 

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Fourteen

 

Daily life at the Salt Lake Plant was much like the Salt Flats – the same no matter in which direction you looked. Any changes were hard to detect and if you weren’t careful you could find yourself hopelessly lost and looking Death in the eye. Out on The Flats you could die of thirst. Inside the Plant the biggest danger came from the steely-eyed Russians who were running the show even though Van Swearingin had his name on the pay envelopes.

Men came and went. The men who had been there all during the war were disappearing one by one. That old crew was being replaced with thick-necked men who never smiled and who never left the Plant. They had set up a barebones dormitory in a far corner of the building. Little by little a small part of Utah was being turned into a corner of the Ukraine.

Why I was still there and breathing mystified me. It also scared the daylights out of me. I was afraid to go there and mix it up with any of those Russians, and I was afraid to leave because of those FBI guys. Aside from their haircuts and dental work I didn’t see much difference between them.

It had gotten to the point that the only person I felt I could trust was Charlie, Mr. Van Swearingin’s younger son, who had once tried to knife me. I couldn’t really count on his Old Man even though he was the man who hired me for this job. I may have had a nice job title and a hefty salary, but I was really there to be his stooge. I didn’t appreciate that. I didn’t fight my way across North Africa and Europe to be under anybody’s thumb – American or Russian.

I was reaching my limit. I needed to confront Van Swearingin regardless of the danger. I had questions and I was going to demand some straight answers. When I would do that remained to be seen.

Damn it all.

XXX

 

I guess my idea of what constitutes “Soon” and how the FBI defined it went in two different directions.

It was two weeks later when I got back to Salt Lake. I went in a day early because of some possibly iffy weather and flying in that DC-3 was scary enough in good when flying over the mountains was just like the worst roller coaster on earth.

It was when I came into the Plant a day earlier than expected that I saw something new – and I wasn’t sure what it was that I was seeing.

Even though I had flown in alone Van Swearingin was already there. His office door was closed, but I could hear him and someone else talking – arguing really, with the other voice doing most of the talking. I couldn’t make out much of what was being said, but it was obvious that neither of them were very happy. I didn’t need any of the Russians seeing me outside the office door eavesdropping. I had enough trouble and I was there to stir the pot with the Boss.

I’d promised myself that I was going to confront Van Swearingin. I wanted some answers from him about why he didn’t stand up and be a man – instead of a traitor which is how he was looking to me – more so every day. I understood that his oldest son was missing and that maybe the Russians were holding him, but…

Sometimes you have to risk everything or you’ll be sure to end up with nothing.

It’s called courage.

I’ve seen it a number of times and there were those times when it cost a man everything, except the respect and honor of the men who lived to go home to their families.

Charlie was in my office when I got there. He still didn’t like being stuck in Salt Lake, but he was learning to do his job and to become a man. 

Against everything that the FBI had warned me about keeping my trap shut I felt that it was time to take Charlie into my confidence. He had as big a stake in all of this as I did – bigger even.

Aware that the office was being monitored I dug out the notepad again for our real conversation. Out loud we went over the daily log reports. On paper my words were right to the point.

“Charlie, do you have any idea what’s going on around here?”

“You mean with all those Russian gorillas around here? Yeah, I ain’t blind.”

“And why your father is allowing them to…to, let’s face it, Charlie, to steal whatever it is they are really making here?”

“It all looks like some Buck Rogers top secret gizmos of some sort,” wrote Charlie. I had to agree with him on that. The stuff they were making was unlike anything I had ever seen before.

“Has your father said anything to you, Charlie, about why he is letting them run the show?” I didn’t add my other question: “Why, for crying out loud, am I still here?”

Charlie grabbed the tablet and wrote quickly. “Boss, I don’t know anything about all of that. I know that I’m stuck here just like you I figure, and whatever they’re making must be something special or the Russians wouldn’t have their fat noses into everybody’s business. But there ain’t nothing I can do about any of it.”

I was getting angrier by the minute. I signed on to be here, but Charlie was little more than a prisoner. I kicked my wastebasket across the room. I picked up my pen again. “Charlie, I’m going to let you in on something, but you have to keep it to yourself or people will end up dead.”

Charlie’s eyes grew wide.

I ripped off the paper we’d written on. “Take care of this like last time. Got it?” He nodded. “You do that and I going to go talk to your Dad.

Charlie went one way to burn the evidence of our back and forth. I went in the opposite direction. I pretended that I was doing a plant floor walk-through, for all that was worth. I came around a corner near the machine shop and bumped into a familiar face – “Pops” Mulroy. I couldn’t tell you who was more surprised, him or me.

“Pops, what are you doing here?” I stammered, “You’re the last person I’d ever expect to see here again.”

He didn’t say a word. His surprised look melted away into one that told me we weren’t going to have a picnic in the park. It dawned on me that “Pops” was the other voice I’d heard coming through Van Swearingin’s office door.

“Tim, what are you doing here?”

“I might ask you the same question.”

Standing behind “Pops” were two large Russians. They were always easy to pick out of a crowd. They wore cheap suits and faces that looked like they smelled something bad. These two looked more like bodyguards – “Pops’” bodyguards. When he and I came around that corner and bumped into each other both of those sides of beef behind him reached into their suits. They were there to protect “Pops.’

“Расслабься, парни.”

That came out of “Pops’” mouth. His two shadows stepped back and pulled empty hands from their coats. “Pops” looked at me with a smile on his face.

“I just told these two boys to relax. I suggest you do the same, Timmy-Boy.”

 To Be Continued –

Buenas Dias from Thailand

IT WAS JUST THE OTHER DAY as I was driving down the avenue when I noticed that the neighborhood Taco Bell was undergoing some remodeling. I don’t know if they were merely repainting or going full tilt and adding a branch of the Poison Control Center.

While I am not a fan of Taco Bell (I prefer Mexican Food) they are very popular worldwide. The latest figure I could find said that there are 6, 849 Taco Bell restaurants strewn about the globe.

Doing a little (very little) follow-up research I have learned that the number of Taco Bells has grown by one. Last week the first of a planned 40 Thai restaurants opened in Bangkok. And it was a rip roaring success.

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Throwback Thursday from February 2016 – Wal-Mart Metropolis

Throwback Thursday from February 2016

Wal-Mart Metropolis

 

I WAS WANDERING THROUGH WAL-MART the other day and I was surprised at the number of people in there who looked like Hell warmed over. I’m not talking about the choice of clothing, if you could call it that, but their faces and the look in their eyes.

There is a line from an old Steppenwolf song about a man walking around, “With tombstones in his eyes,” and that’s what I was seeing in the aisles at Wal-Mart.

Maybe it’s a product of the mid-winter blues, or post-holiday letdown, but there were a surprising number of people pushing carts around who looked like they were ten minutes away from either collapsing or going zombie. They looked unfocused and exhausted with a look in their eyes that said, “Why bother.” I found it unsettling.

Not that I’m full of pep and energy, but these folks looked like I should try to recall my CPR training.

What caused this, and is this something new or have I just been out of the loop? It all reminded me of a scene from the classic silent film, “Metropolis,” with the legions of human drones slouching off to their next hopeless day.

I know that the economy is struggling. It is tougher here in Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Try again tomorrow.”) than in a lot of places and that can suck the life out of you. Is that it?

Not everyone in the store looked like that. There were a lot of other people there, dressed the same, filling their carts with the same items, who had Life just beaming from them. Seeing them all, side by side, made the contrast even sharper.

The idea that I was seeing a large number of people who were all stoned on drugs did cross my mind, but this was different. The eyes of the drug user have a certain agitated undertone that I wasn’t seeing in these folks. Here in their eyes there was a veiled weariness. I could almost hear a sigh of surrender.

When faced with bad times, personal tragedy, or a flat and empty future on the horizon some people fold up like a road map. I’m not saying that as a criticism of them, just as an observation. Others, faced with the same set of circumstances, find a steel that keeps them upright and moving forward. I think I was seeing both of these being manifested that morning at Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart is one of those places, like airports, sidewalk cafes, and sporting events, that is great for people watching. Just stay in one spot long enough and all of humanity will walk past. Unconsciously, I think that I was people watching as I walked through the store and I noticed the little differences in my fellow shoppers as they rolled past. Without urgent destinations or activities covering their facades the masks were down and how they were really feeling came to the surface. I got a peek behind the curtain.

What I’ve put down here is my interpretation of what I saw – or think I saw. Of course, however I might interpret what I saw is filtered through my own thoughts and feelings. Who knows what they thought when they looked into my eyes.

Here I am trying to describe what I saw there that day and it is not easy. At its root it’s a case of trying to describe what isn’t there rather than what is.

Paint me a picture of emptiness.

 

I Dare You

WHAT IS GOING ON? LIFE IS CHALLENGING ENOUGH. I don’t need people, most of whom I don’t know or couldn’t pick out of a police lineup, sticking their surgically modified noses into my world with “Challenges.”

The latest thing I’m having pushed upon me are these “Ten-Day Challenges” to convince me to eat better, exercise so that I too can have six-pack abs, or to transform me into a “World Citizen” – whatever that means.

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I Won’t! I Just Won’t!

 

THERE ARE SOME THINGS IN THIS WORLD I WILL JUST NOT AGREE TO DO. I have standards – they’re low, but they’re mine. A lifetime of making the decisions  that have kept me alive this long have proven to me that, as unlikely as it may seem, I must be doing something right.

For example:

No matter what the political climate I will not run for any elective office – not now, not ever. As far as I’m concerned the only office I relish is the corner table at St. Arbucks where I sit and write these…these…these things whatever they are.

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Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Thirteen

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Thirteen

 

For all of the care that the Government took to keep that Atom Bomb thing a secret I couldn’t believe that they didn’t know about all of those Russians in Salt Lake before I did. Did they trust Van Swearingin so much that they didn’t keep a closer eye on it all?

When I called into my contact at the FBI a couple of weeks ago I told them that the Russians were getting pretty cocky. They weren’t even trying to stay off the factory floor anymore. They were interfering in everything. More and more of the American workers were disappearing. The Reds had brought in some Muscle and whoever was left of the men I trusted were being intimidated and threatened. It was never a big plant to begin with, but now the number of Americans on the inside was shrinking. I didn’t know how much longer I was going to be able to hang on.

I contacted a couple of the Americans who had been fired or quit and they weren’t too eager to talk to me. They were scared. I don’t know if it was of the Russians or of me. They probably thought I was a plant – one of “them” – a traitor. None of them, not one, felt safe around me. One of the older men hinted to me that he knew a couple of the men who “quit” had actually disappeared. “Disappeared” – he meant killed and dumped out in the desert or up in the mountains. He wasn’t there when I went to his home a week later.

When I got back to San Francisco I walked over to Larkin Street, to the Federal Building. I didn’t think I was followed, but I couldn’t be sure. I had reached the point where I didn’t care anymore. I wanted out.

“You can’t leave now, Tim. Things are getting to a critical stage. We need your eyes in there.”

Getting critical?” I just shook my head. These FBI mugs were killing me. “Men are dying out there. The Russians have completely taken over and I don’t know why I’m still alive.”

“Van Swearingin is protecting you, Tim.”

“Van Swearingin? He can’t protect himself or his own kids. You told me that they’d snatched one of his kids and I’ve got the other one working with me. No – I’m done. I don’t care. If you don’t do something now, today, I’ll walk out of here and then you’ll have to look for me too.” I got up to leave.

The G-Man got up from behind his desk and got nose to nose with me. He was as old as my father, but he was still solid muscle. He stuck his finger in my face like I was a ten year old.

“Listen to me, kid. Don’t you even try to quit now,” He growled at me. “Too many good and brave men have already died out there, more than you know. We are just about ready to come down on that whole operation. Do you think we are stupid? Do you think that we don’t already have that place and everyone there under a microscope?” His face was turning red. I was getting pale.

“I promise you this, Tim, if you foul this up because you’re scared I’ll make sure – me, personally – I’ll make sure that you disappear out there on the Salt Flats too.”

Without another word he grabbed me by my throat, kicked my ankle and dropped me to the floor. The business end of his pistol was on my forehead before I even saw him reach for it. His eyes burned into me.

“Do I make myself clear, soldier?”

I know that I was followed when I left Larkin Street. I don’t know by whom, but he sure didn’t look friendly.

XXX

The sun was coming up over the mountains as the plane dropped down to Salt Lake. The DC-3 flew in with just two passengers – me and Van Swearingin. Neither of us said much. I felt like I was the first prize in a turkey shoot. Win, lose, or draw I was going to end up dead. He looked like what was left of last year’s turkey shoot. That plane felt like it was a hearse.

The usual Lincoln limo met us at the airport and drove us out to the plant. The driver was new. He gave us a fake smile and said, “Good morning, Gentlemen.” He had an accent that sure wasn’t from Georgia – at least not our Georgia.

When we got to the Black box out in the middle of nowhere the shifts were changing. The few Americans left were checking in and the men who were leaving were all climbing on to a bus. That was new. The Russians didn’t even trust their own workers.

When I opened the door to my little office I saw that Charlie Van Swearingin was sitting at my desk. I’d made him my foreman for whenever I was away. He was young, but at least I knew him. He had once pulled a knife on me, but he was the only one I felt that I could trust.

“What’s up, Charlie? Anything new?”

He nodded slowly and held a finger up to his lips, saying nothing until the door was closed. When I sat down next to the desk he started to scribble on a note pad as he finally started to talk.

“No, Boss, same old, same old,” he said as if everything was hunky-dory. On the note pad it was a different story. His pencil scratched out, “This office is bugged. There is a microphone in the ceiling light, I think.” I looked up at the light fixture. I don’t know what I expected to see. Charlie started talking again.

“It’s been pretty quiet. We had one man quit though – Martin, that machinist, the old guy.” He wrote at the same time. “Martin is dead. He got into it with a Russian and backed into a couple of knives out behind the building. They don’t think I saw him get it. It was murder.”

“That’s too bad, Charlie. I liked him,” I said for whoever was listening. “He was a decent guy.” I took the pencil from Charlie and wrote while I asked him about the weather.

“Keep your eyes open. It’s all about to hit the fan. Don’t take any chances.” I underlined the word “any.” Charlie nodded. I kept writing while he ran down the personnel schedule. “Burn this paper and three sheets underneath it. Don’t give them any excuses to take us out back. I’m going to talk to your father.”

 To Be Continued –

Eat Quickly, We’re Closing.

 

THEY COME, THEY GO…THEY COME AGAIN. Restaurants that is. I can’t think of any venture tougher than the restaurant business. I read somewhere that 50% of all restaurants go belly up within their first year.

I’m not surprised.

What brings this whole thing to mind is that about six months ago a new eatery opened up near us and, based on good reports from some friends, we were planning to drop by this weekend for lunch. I found out this morning that it had been sold and that there was a “Coming Soon!” sign in the window. Dang! We are just going to have to eat quicker.

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Throwback Thursday from January 2016 – “Am I Religious?”

Throwback Thursday from January 2016

Am I Religious?

WHAT KIND OF A QUESTION IS THAT TO ASK? Before I’ve had my coffee even? After all, what makes a person “religious?”

If there was to be a survey taken I couldn’t accurately predict the outcome. Yeah, well, maybe I could, but it wouldn’t really matter.

You see – God and I have this arrangement. Actually, it’s the same arrangement He’s made with all of us. All that God asks of me is that I give Him a respectful nod for who He is and what He has accomplished and that I try to get along with the guy who lives next door. I mean, is that too much to ask? I think not. It is simply worded without any “whereases,” “wherefores,” and “party of the first part” stuff to gum up the works. Neat. Clean. To the point. No trap doors. I think it all boils down to, “Don’t be a jackass.”

I do go to church on Sunday, although that is really just a one day a week expression of an everyday thing – but with music and lunch afterward.

Another thing that is part of my “Arrangement” is that I try not to make too many demands on God. After all, I am not the only person who has His personal number.

There have been times when I have said, “God, please let that guy score from third base. It is really important.” It is at times like that when I am reminded of the meaning of the word “Important.” It will be three days later when that guy on third base finally scores, when the score is already 17 – 0.

It is then that I look up and say quietly, “God, I don’t want to complain, but why couldn’t you have helped out three days ago when I asked?” And God says to me, “Three days ago? I was busy, and besides, your batter can’t hit a slider to save his life. Some things are beyond even Me.”

So much for that.

The world being what it is, I’m sure that there are some people out there who will complain that I refer to God as “Him” or “He.” Why do I do that? Because that is what I have done all my life and God has not told me to change it. Also, it is less cumbersome that saying, “He, She, It,” each time I refer to Him. See? There, I did it again. If you are offended, outraged, or miffed that I do that – all I can say is, “Is that the biggest fish frying in your pan? Get over it. If you want to call God, “She” or “It,” – go right ahead. It’s no big thing to me. Take your complaint upstairs.

Marvin the Martian

If there are beings living on some other planet I’m sure that God has made His presence known in one form or another. He may have even helped that guy score from third on their world.

So, am I religious? I think so, sort of. There are a lot of people who would disagree, but that is their problem, not mine. Some of them I would not want living next door. I have my arrangement with God, and, so far, He seems to be OK with it too. I try to give Him that nod of appreciation and recognition, and I try to get along with my fellow humans. It’s not always easy. Can we agree on that?

All in all, I think my biggest challenge in keeping up my end of the Arrangement is this: “Don’t be a jackass.” God help me.

Icy Roads And Hot Soup

OH, SWEET JESUS IT IS GETTING UGLY. Last weekend that was a phrase I said several times. I said it usually right after I looked out of the window. Weather conditions were deteriorating at a rapid pace.

I did not like that.

It was Friday evening and the predictions from the various weather networks, websites, and TV Weather Dudes told us to expect snow and ice – anywhere from one inch to two feet. Don’t you just love such precision?

These predictions of doom and gloom had been coming all week. The forecasts were all over the place. One person would say that it was going to be nasty in northern Maine, but not bad at all in Indiana where we are. The next person would say that Indiana was going to be wiped from the face of the earth. The third source was saying…Somewhere in between.

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Oh, Deer Me!

WINTERTIME IN INDIANA – ICY COLD, SNOW UP TO YOUR VASECTOMY SCARS, AND DEER EVERYWHERE. You can’t do much about the cold temperatures and it is pointless to worry about the snow. It is all of those deer that make things scary. They are everywhere and they all seem to be part of a suicide pact.

Maybe all of the 87 million deer within the Terre Haute (That’s French for “Look out, here they come!”) city limits have reached their own personal breaking point and have decided to end it all by leaping into traffic.

The number of deer/motor vehicle collisions around here is just plain ridiculous. The result is measured in bent metal insurance claims and venison hot links.

Zero wins – Two losses.

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