A late gift

bb-pickles

A late gift:

Five days after Christmas, Harvey Hopper had a terrible head cold. He was proud of his attendance record at the pickle plant and showed up for his shift, even though he had a drippy nose.

He  was a production line checker. This was a key position in the pickle plant. It was his job to make sure the correct amount of seasoning bee bees dropped into the swirling brine in  each jar. Harvey had to  put on a special pair of magnifying goggles, bend forward, and examine the jars as they went by.  

Harvey never realized that on this day, he was adding a little extra something to each container. Every time he hovered over the jars, mucus from his tripping nose dropped into the pickle juice. It met up with the seasonings, and vanished into the swirling briny depths. 

Perhaps the salty liquid or the vinegar acted as a foil to  his nasal run off. Nobody knows for sure. Yet, quite a few people with pickle jars at home, and who had had their flue shots, wee treated for flu symptoms by their family physicians.

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A man alone

stools

Ed Brinkman retired 14 years ago, and lost his wife two weeks later. Neighbors in his multi stored apartment building all called him “doc” because he held a PhD in sociology. Nobody gets lonelier than a man without children or family, especially during the Christmas holidays. He looked forward to the letter carrier coming by this time of year; many of his students still sent him holiday greeting cards.

Brinkman, like most folks in their early 70’s had to deal with a few health issues. He’d given up his daily ration of Maker’s Mark more than six years ago; except on special occasions when somebody came to visit. And that was very rare. In the cold light of reality, hardly anyone ever called in.

More than a few times lately, he’d press the button of his answering machine, just to hear a friendly vice. The message was always the same, “You have no messages.” Beep.

He wondered if his friend Harry was well enough yet to play cribbage at the senior center, two blocks down from his building. Harry had had what the docs termed a “minor” heart attack.

Ed looked at his laptop. He’d left it open on his kitchen table. He shook his head and thought, “Nah, too much crap going on. Nobody has anything nice to say anymore. And I’m sick of trying to sort through all the junk that’s tossed my way, from people who actually believe that what they say is correct.”

No, all he wanted was to hear some lively voices, have a chat with happy people, and quite possibly munch some snacky stuff and aw hell, celebrate the holiday with just one Maker’s Mark Manhattan.

He jumped an inch from his seat when his telephone rang, and he snatched up the receiver before the second ring finished,

“Hello?”

“Ed?”

“Yes. Is that you Harry?”

“Hell yes, who were you expecting to call, Santa Claus?”

“Ha.”

“Get you butt down to the center, Ed. I have two dollars that says I can take you in cribbage.”

***
Author’s note: I hope you liked this little snippet. It carries a moral for us all. Let’s take a minute and do something this festive time of year, for someone we know who is without friends or family. A brief chat and a happy smile, or even a quick phone call “just to check” will help dispel their loneliness, and put a little joy into their holiday season.

~And merry Christmas to all. (Ted)

It’s all in a name

pussy-aa

Wendell Beauchamps loved animals. He was very active in several animal rescue groups, and never missed a chance to attend one of the many monthly adoption events.

It was a nice in Griggs park today. Not too hot nor too chilly, and it was the time of the year he didn’t need to wear a jacket. He had only one animal in his adoption cage today, and he was determined to find it a new family and home.

 The cage was in the back of his PT Cruiser wagon, and he edged it out over the back bumper. Last night, he stayed up late and created a sign that he designed to fit above the cage for all to see. He had a good feeling about the hand-painted, wide, rectangular sign. “This is it!” He thought, this will get this animal a new home. Definitely.

 He waved to the young fella in a yellow vest, directing him to where he should park.

 His spot was in the shade of a tall oak tree, and there was plenty of room between his car and those abutting his space. Wendell opened the tailgate, adjusted the cage, and attached his big sign so it was easily viewable by all who passed by.

 Forty-five minutes later, the animal rescue coordinator came over to him and said, “Wendell, we need to talk.”

 “Sure Harry; what’s up?”

 “It’s your sign.”

 “Great sign huh? I stayed up late last night making it.”

 “You need to take it down.”

 “Can’t take it down yet, I haven’t sold the animal.”

 “Makes no difference; I’ve already had two complaints from two families with little kids. They don’t approve of it. You need to take it down.”

 “What’s wrong with it? It’s a good sign. I made it myself.”

 “Yes, you did a good job too. It’s just the way you worded it.”

 “What’s wrong with the words?”

 “Well, quite honestly Wendell, when people read ‘Get Pussy for only $25.00 right here,’ it kinda upsets some folks.”

 “That’s the cat’s name Harry, I didn’t name it. The homeless person I got her from named it when it was a kitten. The cat’s name is Pussy.”

 “C’mon Wendell, let me get you a cold drink, and we’ll discuss it further. Just lay the sign down for a while, would you?”

Celebration on the 17th floor

balcony

“It was hysterical I tell ya Margot! Totally like an old Laurel and Hardy movie…wait a minute, I need to blow my nose.”

 Pamela set her mobile phone on a table by a wide window, and snatched three tissues from a tall box.

 After a powerful nose blow, she gave her proboscis a couple of swift passes with bunched-up tissues, performed a rabbit-nose wriggle, and resumed talking with her girlfriend.

 “I still can’t believe it. The sun was beginning to set when a white-haired guy in a 17th floor apartment across from mine, slid open his balcony door and hauled out a Christmas tree, partially decorated. Hell, I thought for a minute he was going to drop it over his railing.

 Hang on, my throat’s dry, I need something to drink. I’ll be right back, I have a pitcher of Thigh Slappers on the kitchen counter.

 “Yeah, go ahead. You grab a mulled cider, and I’ll get a glass of Slapper. I’ll tell you what happened next. You won’t believe it. All the old man was wearing was a Christmas sweater, a pair of tall black boots, and a holiday stocking hat. AND, I could hear him singing, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.

“Yeah. Hang up. I’ll call you back in ten minutes or so.”

 Pamela clicked off, and walked to her kitchen.

 [To be continued.]

Behind a locked door

wal-mart-clothing

Melvin Pringle, 34 years of age, married, and with two children, decided to buy a new pair of jeans. He worked as an x-ray technician at three different hospitals. On his days off he liked to wear jeans.
 
On this day, he was in the store that’s famous for rolling back prices. He’d selected three garments from a vast selection, and now he was locked in the store’s fitting room. He’d narrow his selection down to two pairs of jeans.
 
The first pair of jeans he tried on were too tight; he could barely get them over his hips. “Must’ve put on a few pounds since I got my last pair,” He thought.
 
He tried on the second pair, and they were tighter still. The third pair hung on a hook on the back of the fitting room door and Melvin reached up and undid the top button of the garment, and worked the zipper up and down.
 
He was slightly myopic, and leaned closer to see the tiny label at the waist of the jeans. “Good,” He thought. “They’re a size larger.”
 
He slid the jeans he had on down to just above his knees and they bunched up tight. He lifted his left foot up and nearly lost his balance. The floor tile was slick, and his stockinged feed offered little grip. He extended his left arm, pointed the toes of his right foot down, and attempted to withdraw his leg from the jeans.
 
He fell with a muffled whooshing noise, and as he went down his right hand shot out and grasped the pair of jeans hanging on the door.The hook let go and with a louder crash, Melvin lay on the floor in a pile of jeans, his face buried in denim.
 
Now, with his eyes close up and personal with a shiny zipper, he grabbed the little toggle-handle, and when he slid the zipper shut, hairs from his neatly trimmed beard caught firmly in the mechanism.
 
Melvin took a deep breath, sat up, and leaned his back on the front of a built-in bench. He reached up with one hand, and grabbed the door handle. “I’ll lift myself up, swing my butt over and sit on the bench.” He told himself.
 
Halfway through this maneuver, his stockinged feet slipped again, and down he went, with his left elbow slamming hard into the bench seat.
 
Perplexed, he sat staring at the inside of a pair of jeans, with his thighs and legs entirely at the mercy of tightly coiled denim.
 
Knocking came on the door of the fitting room. A female voice called, “You alright in there sir? I heard a big noise.”
 
“I’m stuck. And I’m on the floor. Can you give me a hand?”
 
The door clicked, opened slightly, and Melvin saw a broad red vest, above which a pair of wide eyes looked down at him in wonderment. “Oh dear Lord,” was all he heard before someone speak into a hand-held radio, “I need security at the fitting rooms, in clothing… some guy’s got his face stuck in the crotch of a pair of jeans.”
 

Sour Pickles

sour-pickle

My lips get all twitchy when I think about just how sour a sour pickle is. They always react like that.

I grew up close to a major thoroughfare that funneled traffic toward the center of the city. Buses stopped, on my side of an intersection, in front of Carbone’s store. This was the “go-to” place for pedestrians to buy newspapers, fresh fruit, magazines, candy bars, cherry Cokes, ice cream sundaes, and other treats. Bus riders bounced down the steps of the vehicle, and most filed directly into the store. The odor of diesel fumes hung around the outside of the shop, and the smells of fresh apples, oranges, and bananas greeted you the minute you stepped through the door.

Mr. Carbone lined up small sacks of peanuts in the shell, in a gleaming brass and copper peanut steamer, just outside the entrance to the shop. When the temperature inside the contraption rose to a certain point, pressurized steam carried the yeasty aroma of hot peanuts through a shiny brass whistle. Everyone within earshot of the screeching whistle knew that the peanuts were ready, and most of them bought a sack.

I really liked the store because of the sour pickles they sold from a huge barrel-shaped glass jar. The jar was located on a marble-topped counter in the rear of the store.

As soon as the heavy lid left its home on the pickle jar, everyone stepped back, away from the assault on their olfactory senses. Carbone’s sour pickles were no kin to the finger-sized pickles you buy at a supermarket. These babies were huge, fat, slippery, green bombs of whole, tartly embalmed cucumbers.

They stewed in pickle juice so tangy and sour that the clerk quit breathing as soon as he removed the lid. He’d ask, “Which one?” and then take a deep breath, and hold it, while he probed for your selection with long-handled tongs. He’d carefully raise my emerald beauty out of the jar, wrap it in waxed paper, and hand it to me. I’d thank him and, salivating nearly beyond control, pay for my purchase at the register by the front door.

Giant, old-fashioned, sour pickles magically lift your spirits, even if you’re feeling glum, sad, bereft, or just plain down in the dumps. When you bite down on one of these khaki-colored torpedoes, and the pickle-liquor squirts halfway down your throat, a bright flash of sour pickle reality suddenly imbues you with enlightenment, and the whole world comes into perspective.

I find it difficult to speak after I chomp the first few bites of a sour pickle. I don’t know why, but the pickle juice always starts a revolt in my mouth between my sense of taste and smell. It’s difficult to explain, but I can taste the smell of the pickle. The sourness of the fermented pickling liquid makes the inside of my jowls tingle. My lips get tight and tingly. They twist and contort into a great, tightly wound pucker. That’s a genuine conversation stopper. I’m always better off alone when I eat a sour pickle.

A sour pickle is a cooling treat during the heat of the summer. In the middle of winter, strangely, eating a sour pickle has a warming effect. A person can satisfy serious hunger pangs with a sour pickle and not yearn for food for at least four or five hours.

Sometimes, I laugh at how idiotic I must look when I eat a sour pickle. I wonder how anyone can possibly enjoy and savor anything so sour, not only once, but time after time. Sour pickle aficionados spend many years of their lives anxiously awaiting and preparing for the shock of their “first bite,” over and over again.

Carbone’s store is no longer there. I make my own sour pickles now, in a large earthenware crock, out back in the shed. I’m headed there now—for a pickle hit.

Note: The above is a short story taken from my book Sour Pickles, ANvils, and Union Suits.

Do writers need a web site?

website

Read on, if you wonder if having a web site is “worth it.”

 I’m a writer. When I powered on my web site last year, I was thrilled and bubbling over with excitement. That was short lived. And I wondered if I’d made a giant boo-boo. I constantly asked myself if my expectations were too high.

 It took me a while to come to grips with issues associated with owning my own domain. I had to learn the fundamental force that totally effects my site’s success, and that’s called my BOUNCE RATE.

 I’ll explain; when a visitor to my site begins to read the material, I have posted in my site, they either stay with their reading (find it interesting) or else give it a cursory glance and move on. The lower the bounce rate, the more time is spent on reading what’s in there.

 A bounce rate of 90% shows that visitors are simply passing through, and not paying much attention to the website material. A bounce rate of 75% is better than 90%, and indicates interest is gaining.

 Confused? Let me put it this way:

 * The percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page. A rising bounce rate is a sure sign that your homepage is boring or off-putting. [Google Analytics]

 I make it a point to check my web site every day. Guess what my bounce was today, and most of the past ten days? A tad up or below 7.64%! Color me pleased, and give me a minute while I do a happy dance.

 Thank you to each one of you who take interest in my writing. And to those who drop in on me at my web site, please continue to visit. I will be posting some unique material about my science fiction novel that is now in the hands of my editor.

 My web site door is always open, and I wholeheartedly welcome new visitors. In fact, here’s a key to the place.