Didn’t See That Coming

The disease didn’t have an established ‘life-cycle’ if you’ll pardon the pun, it was more like walking under pouring water and as the water fell away I was changed, most particularly I no longer had to breathe and I had no pulse. I could think, I was aware, but the ability to react to my surroundings was dulled, no sense of touch, heat or cold, probably the no pulse thing. I could only speak accidentally, without breath to moderate them my thoughts were reduced to ragged grunts and strangled squeals.

All in all I failed to see how this recent change of circumstance should dampen my spirits. My wife, Karen, did not share my rosy outlook. My recent ‘up-cycle’ had spot-lighted a lack of communications in our relationship and she had taken the opportunity to take up with Chad, the next-door neighbor and owner of the most annoying animal in creation. Part Pomeranian and part Shih-Tzu, the thing was so ugly and deformed you could only tell one end from the other when it was eating. And while I am on the subject, who would intentionally breed an animal called a Shihtzuranian, and why would anyone buy one? Well Chad, of course. I don’t wish to be judge-y but Chad was the most useless person in the neighborhood with the exception of Larry the troglodyte at the end of the street, but I digress.

Things had come to a head between Karen and I the morning Chad’s dog had snuck in the cat door and tried to take off with my fibula, I had had enough. Karen burst into the kitchen as I was finishing him off and informed me that she was leaving with Chad and there was nothing that I could do about it. After twenty years of marriage this is what I get? What did Chad have that I didn’t? Skin? I was an apex predator by Rob! By the time Chad showed up to carry her stuff to the car I was over it, no matter how many times I told her ‘Wharr-blaaa commmbleragh’ she wouldn’t move. Chad bumped into me on the way out the door and I casually wiped some of the dog’s brain batter onto the back of his shirt. He didn’t notice, he just loaded her stuff in the trunk like it was any old day. Larry noticed, he was on him in less than a minute, whoopsy.

With Karen gone my days had settled into a routine and I used the time to reflect on things. I resolved that my dog-mangled leg would not be an impediment, it was not a disability, it was my swagger! And I was not alone, the woman who lived on the other side of me came out to mow her lawn regularly. She was a normie and had become adept at chasing Larry away with the mower if he was about, good for her. I was listening to the rise and fall of the mower’s vibrations, she was making good progress today, and then it stopped. I had to force myself not to watch her every time she mowed, because, creepy, but I had to wonder what the matter was.

There was a knock at the front door, that hadn’t happened in a while. I made my way to answer, making a mental note as I did, the swagger was really coming along. Oh my Rob!!! It was her! My mental excitation did not translate at all, several minutes of trying were required to get the door handle to cooperate. We had never been introduced but I had given her a name to pass the time, Maddy O’Doul-Apollongata, homey and down-to-earth with just a touch of hyphenated enchantment.

I had never seen her up close, she looked amazing. Such a wide forehead and a tiny nose, you know what they say, small nose, small sinuses, more room for you-know-what! I couldn’t help but wonder, I’ll bet they are big. Big and round, nice cleavage, shapely curves ending in a single, slender stem…

“I said, Excuse me!” She repeated. Oh my Rob, I hope she hadn’t caught me staring.

I said/She heard: “What can I do for you today?/Mrrflgoob”

“My mower quit, do you have any gas?”

I said/She heard: “Certainly, just inside the garage door./Grrnddgaabrainnnzzz” I pointed.

She leaned in a bit closer, “What was that?”

I said/She heard: “Would you like me to swagger out there and show you?/shluuudrabrainssss!”

I should have quit when I was ahead. Skinless fingers and polished brass door hardware make for a friction based disaster and I was it, in a pile on my front porch, Maddy long gone now. I don’t see this as a setback in our relationship though, we have time. I know I do.

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What A Picture Is Worth

The old man brushed stray grass clippings off of the front of his tan, short-sleeved coveralls, the unofficial summer uniform of all retirees, as he pushed the door of the shed closed on the still warm mower, the tick, tick of it’s cooling metal muffled now in a cocoon of weathered wood. A large, tangled weed grew out of the space between the shed and privacy fence, a space too small to get the mower into but too large to discourage this type of random renegade. With one leather gloved hand he choked up on the biggest of several stalks of the weed and wrestled it out into the light, uncovering an old wooden ramp and a flat, weather-worn basketball that had been sharing the space. In that particular moment the old man thought that he had uncovered a curious picture hidden behind that weed.

Flipping open the lid of the city can that held the grass from that morning his hands made short work of the dried, spindly weed, snapping it’s skinny branches easily and letting them fall into the can. He tossed the faded carcass of the ball onto the pile and paused, remembering the last time he had seen it, years before it had found it’s way here.

He was a rescue dog, left to fend for himself at barely a month old, if he had any hair it would have been black, mange had been hard on the little one. He didn’t appear particularly sickly otherwise but he did take his time getting up and around and that is how the pup got his name, ‘Old Jim’. He got big and he got strong and he loved to play. His favorite toy was an old basketball that the man had found somewhere, he loved that ball. He would chase it back and forth until he had worn tracks into the yard in several of his favorite places. Over the years the ball would get lost in a neighbor’s yard or lose a bit too much air and Old Jim would get just the right bite on it and tear a hole in it and then it would go away, a new one replacing it but Jim never seemed to notice the difference. The only thing the dog seemed to like as much as that ball was riding in the old man’s truck, the words ‘ball’ or ‘ride’ would guarantee Old Jim would jump up instantly, ready for action. Until the day that he didn’t.

Months went by, trip after trip to the vet. The old man had built the ramp so that Old Jim could get into the truck, he could no longer jump and the old man couldn’t lift him. Months went by but in the end he had to say good bye. In the intervening times he had sometimes thought of getting another dog but knew that it was a long commitment, one that he wasn’t sure his body could honor. There were times like these when he would be presented with a picture of the past and he would remember that big, black dog fondly and the pressure would build in his chest until it felt like it would overwhelm him. It began again now and he began to smile, so great a kinship, a love, leaves a mighty vacuum behind, but it was only a reminder, he knew, and the pressure turned to warmth as he let the lid fall shut and he turned and walked back to the house. To the old man the memory of ‘Old Jim’ was not just a picture from the past, nor would a thousand words ever be enough.

Do I Really Need This?

“Hello?” I say into my headset. “Is this the main computer user of the house?” Following my script to the letter.

“Yes, it is.” A male voice answers.

“My name is Bob Smith from Microsoft, we have been noticing virus activity on your computer and I would like to help you to remove these viruses today.”

“‘The’ Bob Smith from Microsoft? Microsoft the very, very, very big computing company in the Redmond, Microsoft? Viruses, you say? That is no good! No good at all, we must removing them in an immediate way. Will you be helping me with this virus removing, Bob Smith from Redmond?”

I was sure that this was an American when he answered the phone, now he sounds more like my idiot cousin Najeeb from Mumbai! “I am here to helping you now sir.” Still following the script on my desk. “Are you where you can see your computer, sir?”

“I am seeing very much from it being right in front of me, yes.”

This guy is sounding like he is trying to speak with a mouthful of curry. “Is your computer on, sir?”

“It is very much on, it is on a table, a very good table. My wife bought this table for only a few rupees and I told her that I am sitting my computer on it and there will be no argument about the thing…”

“Can you turn the computer on, sir?” Najeeb is sounding smarter and smarter. I cannot believe that I gave up the Hot Curry Pedi-cab job for this, it is a hard way to make a rupee to be sure.

“The computer switch is being in the ‘on’ position now. Tell me, Bob Smith of Microsoft, how will we make the viruses to stop coming from the computer now?”

Finally he calms down. I am thinking that I am having a live one at last. “Can you see the box in the bottom right hand part of your screen, sir?”

“Is this the one where you get remote control of my desktop and download a virus onto it and then charge me to get rid of it?” The line goes dead, disconnected.

-sound of dialing-

“Hello, Najeeb? You must leave Mumbai at once. Come work with me at the call center, rupees are falling from the skies…”

Hello, My Name Is…

…Brian and I love to tell stories.   Short stories were my go-to companion from a very early age, no sweltering, noon hour naptime under the drone of a huge iron box fan or dreary, drizzly down-time sitting in a corner full of overcast spilling in through a rainwashed window was complete without a quickie from Ruth Rendell, Ray Bradbury or the like.  Living vicariously through the printed page, following word strings in and out and over and down wherever they led made me wish that someday I too could tell a tale and give back some of the wonder that I felt.  And then I got a job, got married, raised two wonderful daughters, and here I am still, I haven’t forgotten I’ve just been busy.

I look forward to meeting all of you.

What Do You Do For Sports?


I hate broadcast TV, 20 minutes worth of ads an hour, they never seem to care about the sports I am passionate about, just revenue. Then there is cable sports, cable was supposed to be the answer to broadcast TV because, no advertising. Well, that turned out well. I quit watching football, baseball, basketball, even bowling because of the ‘lets make this sport better for TV’ attitude.

12 years ago a partner and I were hired to video the local Junior A hockey team that was new to town. I was hooked. Let me tell you, there is no more exciting way for me to spend 3 hours than to watch people skate back and forth fighting over a rubber puck. Now I still get on the internet and watch snooker, UK Masters, World Championships, all of the opens, and all because of Ronnie O’Sullivan, I love the Rocket. I also enjoy the Spring Basho, and any tournament that is likely to crown a new Yokozuna, but my abiding love will always be hockey.

The owner of the team has decided to step away from the team and with him goes any hope of another season, that is not acceptable to me or any of the many other die-hard fans. I had to accept the fact that in order to feed my hockey jones I would have to subsist on substandard network feeds from the internet or the infrequent roadtrip to Dallas to watch the Stars from the nosebleeds.

I thought about this and decided that the alternatives were unacceptable. I had to do something. Crowdfunding. It was the single solution that would accomplish all of the goals that were needed. We would have the capital to show the league we were serious and could fund a team for the entire season. We could hire a coach in time to get the right players on the ice. We would be in control of the front office and able to correct the egregious wrongs that were done to season ticket holders in the past. But the most important goal of all, getting our players scouted by college teams. Over the years we have been able to get a large number of our players scholarships at Division I schools. Scholarships that changed their lives for the better in every way possible. This is the point. This is the purpose. The rest is just the mechanics of how to get them there. Altruistic, sure, I can accept that, but if that is what it takes then I will gladly take one for the team, our team.

How far would you go to save your local team?