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Monday, June 30, 2008

An Old Film

I saw an old movie called ‘Breezy’ not long ago. Clint Eastwood directed it, with William Holden and Kay Lenz in the starring roles. The plot involves a man in his fifties who gets involved with a young woman in her late teens he picks up hitchhiking. She seduces him, and although he reluctantly lets her, he feels appropriately odd about it. I remember seeing the 1973 movie a couple years after it came out. When seeing it in my twenties, the thought of this fifties something guy with a woman barely above the age of consent didn’t give me much of a yuck factor. Now I’ve made it into late fifties-something realm, the movie gave me a Twilight Zone type reaction. In this age of rainbow virility pills, such relationships could be common place for all I know.

Realizing the breadth and depth of the chasm between twenty-something people and fifty-something people, the movie gave me the creeps. What does this have to do with anything? For one, it was written by a woman screen writer, named Jo Heims. She also wrote the screenplay for another Clint Eastwood directed film, called ‘Play Misty For Me’. It was said her script for ‘Breezy’ made the relationship believable. Seeing it now at my age, it just seems creepy. :)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Reunion

How about a whimsical look at reunions this writing weekend. :)

Dressed in a three piece charcoal gray suit, the man sat behind the steering wheel of his rental car wondering what in the world had possessed him to travel across the country to a high school reunion. Forty years ago, he had sat in his car in this very same parking lot, doing last minute cramming for an English final. His hand reached hesitantly for the door handle, grasping it, and then letting it go. I can call this a family visit, he thought, I did stop in to see my older brother’s family, and the graveyard. I could leave now. No one would notice.

He yanked the door handle irritably as if it had some part in his wavering resolve, and pushed the door open. The man paused, gazing around the parking lot with a couple hundred cars, and people exiting their vehicles experiencing the same tense, nervous regret he was. If I recognize five people after forty years, it’ll be a miracle. Many glanced in his direction and at each other, the darkness relieved slightly by dull yellow lot lights around the parking lot perimeter. Some formed groups, laughing and talking as they walked toward the building, natives and still area residents the man figured speculatively. They had watched each other’s attrition slowly gray their hair, widen waists, and bend backs over the many years.

“You’re not thinking of backing out now, are you?” A soft lilting voice called out from behind the man, as he had been contemplating exactly that.

He turned, startled at the realization he recognized the voice. It held the same promise, and humor it had forty years ago, as if she were laughing at him provocatively. She stood in the darkness, a few feet from the trunk of his rental. She tilted her head speculatively, the light at the man’s back shadowing his features, while not quite illuminating hers.

“Tim Benson? No… too tall for Tim… ah… Brad… oh, who the hell am I kidding,” she laughed. “I don’t know who the hell you are. I see you’re alone. Want to walk in with me?”

“Sure,” he agreed, closing his door.

It was then as he turned into the light, she recognized him. Four decades fell away in seconds, with accompanying cascades of memories causing her to momentarily reach out and steady herself with a hand on his car trunk.

“Jim… Jim Randal… it can’t be. You… you’re dead,” all humor and ease gone from her voice, leaving only wistful uncertainty.

Jim Randal stepped toward her but stopped when the woman held up her other hand in a warding off gesture.

“Kate, I…”

“Give me a second, Jim… just stay where you are.”

Jim did as ordered, seeing Kate straighten away from his car and take a deep breath, letting it out with a sigh.

“Well, that’s a little too much excitement, even for a reunion,” Kate proclaimed, holding out her hand shakily. “Nice… nice to see you.”

Jim clasped her hand firmly for a moment, feeling the coolness of her skin, unaffected by the hot muggy air of a Midwestern summer night in June. He held on, his memory of Kate’s face fast forwarding to the lined older version of reality before him under the yellowed haze of light. She pulled her hand free, turning away abruptly.

“Don’t… I know what you’re thinking,” Kate giggled, sending memory chills lancing through Jim’s consciousness. “It’s not fair. I…I’ve had no time to prepare. You just show up out of no where in time to see me old and gray. Thanks a lot, pal.”

“Pals don’t care about small stuff like that,” Jim said, putting an arm around her shoulders. “What, you think I still look eighteen?”

Kate turned to face him, reaching up with her hands on his shoulders, turning Jim into the light, first one way, and then the other. Even in the dull light, she could see his short bush cut hair was all white, and his lean face lined with age. A scar ran from his left lower eye socket down to his jaw line. He felt like granite under the suit.

“It doesn’t feel like you’ve been behind a desk all your life.”

“You either,” Jim replied, smiling as he placed his hands at Kate’s waist.

“I’m an old, overweight frump.”

“Are you fishing for compliments, Kate?”

“Maybe,” the lilting tone was back in her voice, as she took his hand and pulled him to the front of his rental. “My knees are getting sore. Help me up on the hood.”

“We could go inside,” Jim countered, lifting her up on the hood with surprising ease.

“We’re not going anywhere. I want to know everything, and I won’t be interrupted,” Kate stated firmly, crossing one nylon encased leg over the other and leaning back with her hands splayed behind her on the hood.

Jim nodded, liking the simple black skirt and sleeveless burgundy blouse she wore.

“You’re checking me out again, and I’m getting nervous.”

“You don’t look frumpy to me.”

“Thank you. Now, where the hell did you go?”

“The service,” Jim shrugged.

“You’re not going to make me pluck bits of information from you like lint on your suit, are you? I heard you died overseas.”

“It was a mix up. My family knew it was a mistake. I came back a few times to visit while my folks were alive.”

“You didn’t call me. I thought we were friends.”

“You were married, and I…”

“I married Don because you left,” Kate cut him off indignantly. “You could have married me before you went in the service.”

“No, I couldn’t,” Jim replied, noting the conversation taking a dive back into the archives of lost discussions. “My draft number was eighteen, and like I told you then, I wanted to make it back in one piece before marrying you.”

“So leaving me to think you were dead was…”

“Why didn’t you contact my folks? They could have…”

“I figured they’d be devastated, and I’m not much at consoling people. I couldn’t even console myself,” Kate interrupted again, uncrossing her legs and sliding to the ground, shrugging off Jim’s attempt to help her. “You should have called me.”

“Yea, I should have done a lot of things,” Jim retorted. “You went to the prom with Don. I figured…”

“You brat!” Kate gasped. “You signed up to work as a damn dishwasher on prom night.”

“I needed the money,” Jim muttered guiltily.

“For the trip to California with those two buddies of yours,” Kate poked Jim’s chest, backing away when she noticed people looking over at them curiously.

“We were going in the service and wanted to see something besides our own backyard before shipping out,” Jim countered, smiling as the two of them stood nearly toe to toe, arguing like the prom had taken place four days ago instead of four decades. “You didn’t know it, but Don took you to the same restaurant after the prom I was washing dishes at. I saw you hanging all over him.”

“I was…!” Kate looked around, realizing her two word outburst had again attracted attention. She waited for a moment, turning away from Jim with her arms crossed over her chest. “I was drunk, and pissed off at you. The next day you were gone.”

“We headed out for California the morning after the prom,” Jim explained quietly, remorse kicking in at having needled her about an event long ago he should never have let happen. “I was a self-indulgent prick, but the Marines corrected that character flaw a long time ago. I went to California because we were fighting all the time, and…”

Kate twisted around, the anger contorting her face giving Jim pause.

“I hated you,” Kate whispered, the rage draining from her when she saw the concern etched in his features. She looked away. “You owned me, every touch a seduction, every kiss a… I had college… and obligations… and…”

“I know,” Jim said, putting his arms around Kate, gently hugging her to him. “You didn’t come with anyone. Are you alone?”

“Yes, I’ve been…”

“So am I,” Jim interjected, whispering only inches from Kate’s ear. “Maybe we could have a private reunion.”

“No… we should… oh…” Kate demurred weakly, Jim’s lips on her ear as he traced a path to Kate’s neck, inducing a shiver of anticipation. “Hell… I…I didn’t want to attend this goofy thing anyway.”

Friday, June 27, 2008

Return of The Captain

I heard someone cussing up a storm across the street yesterday, and saw the Captain sitting in the middle of the sidewalk, with his tied together shopping carts, I’ve dubbed the Good Ship Lollipop, docked a couple houses down. Our first encounter was blogged here http://bernardsblog.blogspot.com/2008/06/captain.html He didn’t have his eye patch on today, so I figured he had hit the ship’s store of rum pretty heavy, and decided he needed both eyes to navigate. I was being careful so as not to disturb the Captain; but in doing so, I missed a shot of the Good Ship Lollipop. I’ll have to post it at a later date. As entertaining as I’m sure our conversation would have been to blog about, it’s not nice to make enemies of the 38th Avenue denizens. Although my neighbors look out for my shop, they can’t guard it 24 hours a day, nor can I. The Captain rearranged the contents of his garbage bag, and then steered his shopping cart ship out of sight while I was handling a customer. We have a nice neighborhood here compared to a decade ago, so we all have to keep an eye on our more noteworthy wayfarers, like The Captain. :)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hurry Up

I’m writing in the back room this morning, while waiting for my first appointment to show up, when I hear the trusty motion detector, and see the front end of a car easing into the shop. The driver beeps the horn immediately. As I’ve stated in previous blogs, there’s nothing like being summoned by a car horn to get me ready for the Prom. I approach the car with measured steps, which doesn’t sit well with the young man sitting behind the driver’s wheel. He gives me a quick second beep, and holds up his hands in a ‘today, Crosby, today’ type gesture. This really makes me hot for the dance.

“Can I help you?” I ask. Hurry Up hasn’t moved from his seat.

“How much to throw some tire fix in my front tire?”

“I don’t fix tires here,” I reply, knowing even if I did, it wouldn’t be a spray goo fix. “Big O tires…”

“What?!” Hurry gasps in shock. “Man, what the hell do you do here?”

Okay, I’ll play for a couple minutes.

“I do general repair on all American and Asian vehicles, with the exception of transmission rebuilding, and alignments. I do some exhaust work, but I’m not competitive with the chains except with late model catalytic converter replacement,” I rattle off the facts politely.

“But you can’t do a tire… shit…” Hurry clucks at me disparagingly.

“I can do tire repairs. I choose not to.”

“Make an exception.”

This is getting interesting.

“No. Go down 38th, turn right on Foothill Blvd., Big O tires will be on your right,” I direct him, as his face grows more petulant. I say petulant, because if you’re a young no-it-all punk, that’s as close to menacing as you get.

Hurry Up glares at me petulantly for another fifteen seconds, and I start grinning. Hurry shakes his head in disgust.

“You ought to hire a mechanic,” Hurry prods me as he starts his car, and puts it into reverse.

“I’ll make a note.”

I hope having a beep-beep come in this morning brings me good luck. :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hard-head

I'm almost finished with the new erotic paranormal urban fantasy in 3rd person POV (hi Raine), which will be hitting the rejection trail soon. This is a gritty, 1st person POV, hard boiled, noire I'm trying out. If a cold blooded, violent type hero bothers you, go no further. If you don't care, and want to take a look, read on, and please comment. Even if you think it sucks, just say so. Believe me, you can't hurt my feelings. :)

He hit me a glancing blow, I pulled away from. His follow up round house kick I deflect with my left wrist. All the time, I’m watchin’ my man. Tommy gives me the signal to go down. I take a hard right, slipping it a little, and drop to my knees. My opponent, big, dark, with a gold tooth, smiled down at me. He’s sweatin’ in the heat. I’m a little hot myself. We’re throwin’ hands and feet in the middle of around thirty well dressed men and women. Tommy’s makin’ bets for us. I’m a big guy too, six foot five in my bare feet. My weight runs around two fifty, so this guy I’m tusslin’ with has about thirty pounds on me, and maybe an inch.

How I got to doin’ what I do is a long story. I spent time in uniform, and six years in special ops. In younger years growin’ up, my old man and me had to travel a lot. He whupped me good and often. Only thing was… I got to likin’ it… not so much the beatin’ as the pain. When I hit fourteen, we lived in an old shack of a place near the Mahoning River in Leavittsburg, Ohio. My Pa came home drunk, decidin’ it was time for another beat down. It was. I broke his jaw, and then his arm. While he lay screamin’ in pain, I kicked him right in the nuts as hard as I could. Pa quieted down then.

I took what money he had, some clothes, and his car. Heading South, I found a place down in Texas called Plano, where I hired on at a fast food joint, and stayed in the back of an old man’s junkyard. Pete, the junkyard owner took a likin’ to me. He helped me get a driver’s license and birth certificate. That’s when I became John Harding and a very young eighteen year old. Pete told me the service would be a good place to get my GED and some money saved. The Marines needed a few good men. They took me anyway. Nothing much was happenin’ back in 1997; but I went Recon and saw some neat foreign places: Kenya, Kosovo, and the Phillipines. Nine eleven hit about the time my four years were up. At nineteen, I was in Afghanistan. Being a vet by the time they started doing special ops in Iraq, I thought it best to hone the only damn skills I’d managed to attain.

Now I’m out, and partyin’ with odd jobs. Tried gettin’ into the extreme cage stuff; but the referee was slow stoppin’ my first fight, and I killed a guy. Tommy saw the fight. He recruited me. Tommy Sands grew up in East LA. He’s the guy Barrack Obama says his grandma hides from on the street. Tommy and me hit it off right away, and he’s smooth with the side bets. Him and me have an understandin’. He knows the pain don’t bother me much, and I know he don’t mind watchin’ me take some.

I get up at a slant, sliding inside another kick. Stumbling around a little while my new buddy attacks, I keep Tommy in sight while I’m slippin’ punches and coverin’ up. Then I see her: Tess Connagher, my other sometime employer, and she ain’t happy. She’s standin’ with her arms folded across her chest in that ‘I’m irritated as hell’ look she does so well. Tess is about five foot seven, and a hundred thirty pounds of well educated Boston confidence. Long red hair, green eyes, and just a few freckles, Tess looks like just what she is: a lawyer. I throw a few left jabs to keep my sparring partner on his toes while I locate Tommy. I see him, and Tommy nods.

My left hook catches the big man coming forward, in the area called the diaphragm. His hands drop, and my right smashes him flush on the left temple. He crumples in a heap, rolling with sightless eyes to his back. The crowd is groaning, because I’m not the favorite. Tommy looks at the other fighter’s handler, and the man nods his head angrily. I stretch out my arms, watching the crowd closely. Every once in a while, one of our patrons gets upset at the outcome, and decides to change it. Tess is coming toward me, her body language announcing she’s upset with me. A thirty something, pasty faced guy in the front ring of people reaches into his suit. I have his wrist in my fist the next split second, having covered the distance while my eyes were still registering his movement. Tommy covers my play.

The man’s girlfriend, a nice dressed blonde starts screamin’; but Tess gives her hair a yank and she quiets down. Pasty face is on his knees, with his wrist in my vice when I relieve him of the Glock he was pullin’ on us. I hand it to Tommy, and let the man up. Tommy pops the clip and checks the Glock chamber before handing the piece back to the guy. He won’t be allowed in the circle again.

“You get our money, T?”

“Yea, John, hey, I thought I told you not to bring the girlfriend along when we’re entertainin’.”

“I heard that!” Tess calls over her shoulder as she gives blondie a helpful push toward her boyfriend, before walkin’ over to us. “You stink, Hard-head.”

“Sorry, Tess, I’ll use more Sports Stick next time.”

“Can we get out of here?” Tommy asks, pulling on my arm. “We’ll treat slinky to a coffee somewhere else, but I think we need to go now.”

“Slinky…” Tess starts in on Tommy, but we’re already heading away from the parking lot in the Embarcadero and Fifth Avenue area of Oakland, Ca. Tess follows, cussin’ out Tommy all the way over to our cars, with Tommy laughin’ at every jibe.

We all know each other. Tommy’s my manager and my agent. I hate the business stuff, and I’m no gamer. He knows my skills, and how to market them. Tess’s firm uses us when they need something more potent than a lawyer, or run of the mill PI. Usually, it’s protection, or a skip trace. I back their play while they do the investigations. When one of their clients skip out, they find him and I go get ‘em. I’m good at tactical stuff; and much to Tess’s dismay, Tommy’s real good at bartering for our fee.

I’m a killer. I don’t take life too seriously, mine or anyone else’s. Tommy keeps me in line like they used to in the service. Tommy trusts Tess to yank on my reins if I start gettin’ that look, Tommy calls the Vulcan Death Stare. Tess and me been around the block a few times. She’s seen the look. I don’t kill randomly, but I’ve killed folks no one knows I’ve killed. They were dangerous, and I’m not gettin’ paid to die. I listen to what Tommy and Tess tell me. I weigh the pros and cons. Then I take care of business. One time Tess had a client, some slimy drug dealin’ pimp, who wanted more from Tess than lawyerin’. When the firm kicked free of the pimp, Tess got her tires slashed, and weirdo calls, and then her cat Pretzel was gutted. The pimp came around the next day at Tess’s office askin’ how her cat was.

Tess loved Pretzel. She was real mad, and scared too. We’d worked together before, and Tess knew my background. She put me on the payroll through Tommy as a bodyguard. I do okay as a bodyguard; but I’m better at killin’. I gutted the pimp, quiet like, and heaved him over into a junk yard on East 12th Street. They didn’t find him for weeks. I liked Pretzel too. I was careful, and Oakland don’t have no CSI teams anyway. Tess asked me about it, and I shrugged like I had no idea what happened to the guy. She didn’t believe me, and her firm stopped using my services for a while; but like Tommy says, we’re unique. He can dress my white ass up in a tux, or put me in street clothes, and I blend real good in spite of my size. I secretly think Tess was mad because Tommy billed them for the weeks before they found the scumbag in the junkyard.

Tess and I slept together once. It was the second time working together. Her firm made bail for some gangbanger over in East Oakland, and he missed his court date. They sent a couple of those ‘Dawg The Bounty Hunter’ TV show types over. It didn’t work out. Tommy negotiated a nice fee for us. See, Tommy knows when they decide I’m their boy, we get double the standard fare. Tess insisted on doing a ride along. Tommy didn’t like it; but what can I say, I’m a sucker for redheads. I went in around two AM, told Tess to wait in the car, and brought the guy out sweet and easy. Only thing is, Tess ain’t in the car. Couple bottom dwellers spotted her outside the car, and decided to get lucky. They dragged her down the block between two houses. It’s quiet at that time in the morning. Although the lovers must have had Tess’s mouth covered, I still hear ‘em scufflin’ down the block a ways.

“Lucky,” I says to the gangbanger I have cuffed, “you wait in the car till I get back. Don’t make a sound or I’ll cut your nuts off and stick them down your throat. We clear?”

Lucky nods his understanding, and I go in search of the erstwhile redhead. Granted, I came up on the young men slow and careful. It wasn’t ‘cause I wanted Tess hurt. I wanted to get us both out without a body count. I didn’t trust Tess not to turn me in. I have trust issues, except with Tommy. So I’m standin’ over the lovers before they realize I’m there. One, I drop kick in the side, and I hear his ribs crack. Second lover pops up with some Bruce Lee crap, and we mix it up a little. He probably started eating whole food again a few months later. I pick Tess up, and she’s lookin’ pretty good, all mussed up, and bitin’ her lip to keep from cryin’ out. I like a woman don’t complain much.

We drop Lucky off, and get his ticket. I buy Tess breakfast at an all night Denny’s, thinkin’ to calm her down. She’s pumped. Never seen anything like that. Thought she was goin’ to die. Yada… yada… you get the drift. I listen, drink my coffee, and nod at the appropriate times. Tommy says I can be real charming when I work a job. I take Tess home after the adrenaline rush passes. I walk her up to the two story she owns in Piedmont, and Tess wants to get romantic. I guess I shouldn’t have let her drink coffee. Anyhow, I ain’t a eunuch, and I like redheads. Some things I’m real slow with my hands doin’.

Tess starts callin’ Tommy, wantin’ me to meet her for dinner and such. See, I don’t talk on phones. I enjoyed my night with Tess, so I’m willin’. I agree to a meal over at her house couple nights later. Tess answers the door, already blushing. I like that. I kiss her, and we nearly don’t make it in to eat. The now deceased Pretzel came by to rub up against me and purr, recognizing me from the other night’s sleep over. Tess has the table all fixed nice with candles and everything, serves me and sits down. All of a sudden, it’s you need to answer your phone, and I’m not comfortable with this, and I never did anything like go to bed with a stranger, and I need to know more about what you do. Well, I ate my dinner, listened, nodded appropriately, sipped my coffee, and enjoyed her voice. Even when Tess complains her voice gives me chills, and there ain’t a whole hell of a lot in the world gives me chills of any kind.

“What do you think about what I said, John?” Tess asked finally, leaning forward as if anticipating some form of applause.

I keep it simple.

“I don’t answer phones. I’m sorry you’re not comfortable. No one will ever know what happened the night we picked up the gangbanger, not even Tommy. Your firm already has my stat sheet and qualifications. You have a beautiful voice.”

Tess blushes again. Sometimes I don’t blink or look away from people when I talk. It unnerves them, but I don’t mean anything by it. I find people interesting. She launches again, restating pretty much what she’d already said. Tess did add one thing I really liked. She told me no guy had ever made her feel like I did the other night. That was sweet.

“Thank you,” I replied, which caused Tess to get the little downturn at her mouth I think is cute.

“Don’t you have anything else to say?” Tess asked me with just the tiniest bit of irritation creeping into her voice.

“Sure, if it’s on a different subject.”

“I thought we… I mean… did you… think maybe we could continue this?”

“I like you, Tess. I enjoy seeing you,” I reply, hoping it’s enough. It isn’t.

“Some things would have to change if we continue seeing each other.”

“Think of it this way, Tess,” I try to reason with her. Yea, that’ll work for me. “We could try getting to know each other first before you try changing me. Maybe I’m not so hard to take like I am.”

“You won’t even talk to me on the phone!” Tess is getting excited, but not in a good way. “I… oh hell… I don’t know what got into me the other night. You’re dangerous, John. I’m not diving into a relationship with some leg breaker on a whim. I…”

“Why didn’t you say so,” I stand up, smiling to let her know my feelings aren’t hurt, or any other whiney metro-man crapolla I hear about all the time. “Calm down, Tess, I won’t stalk you or anything. Thanks for dinner. It was great. Maybe we can do business sometime in the future. No hard feelings, right?”

Tess runs around the table as I’m trying to make good my escape.

“Wait a second. I’m trying to be reasonable here. If you’d…”

“Tess,” I hold up my hands in surrendering fashion, which doesn’t help, “let’s part company as friends. Goodnight.”

After the set to at her house, I didn’t get a call from their firm for a couple months. Tommy and me managed a few extra pickup fights and handled the usual stuff from other bail firms and PI’s in the area who like me along for the ride sometimes. See, I don’t talk to no one, and I’m all business. Whatever they want done, they give Tommy the details and he briefs me, just like in the service. Then Tommy noticed Tess in the audience of our fight gigs, trying to keep a low profile. I thought it was kind a flatterin’. She came up real apologetic after a fight and asked if she could buy Tommy and me a beer.

When we were seated with a beer down at the ‘First and Last Chance Saloon’ in Jack London Square, Tess pulls a contract out of her briefcase. Tommy looks it over and laughs. This don’t go over well with Tess.

“It’s the standard fee, Tommy,” Tess tells him.

“That’s fine for standard work, but John here don’t do standard work.”

“Over half the time he doesn’t do anything at all,” Tess argues. “Your fee for a few hours work is too high.”

“Well then, thanks for the beer,” Tommy replies, and we all lapse into an uneasy silence.

“John?” Tess looks at me expectantly after a few moments.

“Tommy’s my agent, Tess. You know that. Sorry our way of doing business doesn’t suit your firm’s needs.”

Tess turns red in the face. She’s not blushing, but it’s cute just the same.

“Fine! What would it take to get an exclusive on John’s work?”

“We don’t do exclusive,” Tommy answers. “One job from your competitors would be worth more than any retainer you could offer. We work case by case. I’ll look over what you want done, price the job, and you decide yes or no, same as the last couple times we worked together.”

Tess grabbed the contract and stuffed it back in her briefcase. She took out a folder and handed it to Tommy. It was a skip trace on some guy named Ishmael Ali. They knew where he was, but they had no clue how to get him. Tommy laughed again.

“Your firm issued a bond on this guy?” Tommy asks incredulously. “Who the hell provided the collateral?”

“I can’t discuss that. I take it you are familiar with Mr. Ali.”

“Yea, he’s a stone killer and a psycho to boot. Anything he got caught doing is like a tiny portion of what he’s done.” Tommy took out his notepad and wrote down an estimate with his signature. He handed it to Tess, and she nearly had a stroke.

“That’s more than we make on the case!”

“Your firm made a mistake. We clean it up, and you pay the piper. You don’t like the tune, you’re free to shop it elsewhere.”

Tess stood up, gathered her things and walked out.

“That went well,” Tommy took a sip of his beer.

“We know where Ali hangs out,” I smiled. “It’s a good gamble, T. If they don’t find another taker, we’ll make a nice piece of change.”

“You can’t kill him, John,” Tommy said, leaning toward me. “We’ll never collect this playing ‘Wanted, Dead or Alive’.”

“I’d do Ali free,” which was true. I didn’t like him. We’d had words after a match he lost a lot of money on betting against me. Ali threatened me. Tommy intervened because he knows I handle threats on the spot, and he’d seen some of Ali’s crew coming up on us. I didn’t want Tommy to get hurt in some stupid crossfire so I let it go. Tommy was right as usual. Now I might get to play around with Ali and collect a paycheck for it.

“No you won’t, John. We don’t do anything for free. You’ll figure a way…”

“We’ll pay it,” Tess said. I had spotted her reentering the bar.

“I’ll come by and pick up our retainer tomorrow,” Tommy nodded, pissed Tess had caught him off guard.

Tess sat down again, looking at me. “Why the hell do you risk getting killed in those stupid street fights?”

“I can’t draw, write, or paint, and everyone needs a hobby,” I joke with her. At least Tommy laughs. “There’s no why. We make a lot of money, and I’m good at it.”

Anyway, since then, the three of us have an understanding. I went into the bar we knew Ali liked to frequent. I Tasered him, and knocked a couple of his crew down while Tommy showed the rest of them our equalizer: the riot gun. No muss, no fuss. Ali eventually came to saying he was going to kill my whole family, and we delivered him without incident. I gave Ali my Dad’s last known address in case he decided to make good on his threat.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tournament

I snapped this picture Saturday of my Grandson at bat in a T-Ball tournament (Coaches Pitched). It was over a hundred degrees in Sacramento, but the kids didn’t have much trouble playing in the heat. Us spectators were another story altogether. We sat in the shade under a tree, and it still felt like being slow roasted in an oven. In between the two games, the kids went swimming at a family’s house, while we visitors from another planet (the cool Bay Area) found a restaurant with Air Conditioning. By the end of the second game, the temperature had dropped from Seventh Level of Hell degrees to Sixth Level of Hell degrees. We went back to the Bay, which sported nearly frigid temps in the high sixties.

On Sunday, it cooled off into the low nineties for the kids, and my Grandson’s team won the tournament in their last at bats. Although my wife and I regret not being able to stay over in Sacramento, we had to leave the ‘Furnace’ for at least a day’s recovery before going to work today. :) In this slow period for even rejections, without any newly worded Agent form letters or publisher put downs to report, at least there was joy for the 'Mudville Nine' in the Sacramento Furnace this weekend.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Priorities

I had just serviced a 1998 Ford Aerostar for two very good customers, who are also comic book fans. They paid their bill. The three of us then discussed whether the new Giant Size Astonishing X-Men contained new stories or rehashes, out in front of their Aerostar, which was still inside the shop. We heard a woman screaming out insults down the sidewalk on the left, which unfortunately is not a terribly unusual occurrence near my shop. A heavy set woman comes into view, pushing what looks like a combination baby carriage and laundry cart, still screaming, with two small children plodding along beside her. Suddenly, she turns, runs out of sight to the left leaving cart and children in front of my shop. A second heavyset woman runs up from the right, past the children, just in time to meet up with heavyset #1 holding a mop handle. From what little I could decipher from the screaming, heavyset #2 nearly ran over heavyset #1’s child with her car, which she had parked out of sight on the right so as to answer #1’s screams. They’re warming up for a clash of the Titans, with #1’s small children clinging to the cart in wide eyed observation.

I approached from inside the shop with hands out in a calming fashion. The ladies looked up at me hopefully, as they wrestled against each other, mop handle clutched between them. They were beginning to see this incident with mop handle and children as a potentially disastrous no win situation, which is the only reason my interference worked at all. While #1 called for me to get the cops, I talked #2 into backing away while I convinced #1 to release the mop. #2 retreated to her car with #1 still wanting the cops, and started pushing her cart with kids toward #2’s car. I held the cart with kids in place until #2 drove away, trying to talk #1 into remembering her kids, and getting them home, instead of pursuing a street battle.

My reasoning behind this action is I knew #2 wasn’t cruising the streets, looking for kids to run over. #1 probably didn’t have her boy under control, and he darted in front of #2’s car, luckily escaping any mishap. I’ve seen people going by in front of my shop, with kids toddling along just past the crawling stage, allowing them to scoot past driveways and even across the street without holding on to them. #1 hurried off with the kids to seek justice, which I doubt was due or would come by way of Oakland police. Having had children narrowly escape getting hit by cars, I would have done a quick 'Thank You, God' and hugged my kid. I went back into the shop, and took up the cause of Giant Size Astonishing X-Men as a stand alone new book. Just one more story from the Naked City. :)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Anonymous

A woman dropped off her 2001 Mazda for an oil change. I began writing information down from the vehicle: mileage, license number, engine size, model, and vehicle identification number. She’s a new customer, and watched this take place with arms folded over her chest, along with unease lining her face. I turned to the woman, who I will refer to as Mye Address with a smile.

“Address please?”

“I’m not giving out my address or phone number,” Mye informed me, bracing for an argument. “I’m paying cash.”

This has happened a handful of times over the years, thanks to the infamous identity theft proliferation, and spammers. The state of California frowns on incomplete invoices, and they do send a guy around to look over invoices periodically. I figure her attitude is a direct result of hearing this from other shops trying to stay on the good side of bureaucratic state agencies. Since I planned on getting her signature on the invoice, I didn’t care.

“Can you make one up for me?”

Mye chuckled, surprised at the question. “Any address?”

“I’d prefer you make up one inside the state,” I add.

I get another laugh from Ms. Address before she gives me something to fill in the blanks on her invoice.

“Did you want to wait for the car?” I ask, after getting her signature on the estimate.

“No, my friend is outside waiting to take me to work. Can I pick it up at the end of the day?”

“Sure, will you call me in a couple hours just to make sure everything went okay?” I ask, handing her my business card and a copy of the estimate.

“I’ll do that,” Mye agreed, and walked out to the friend’s car.

No, I didn’t peek in the glove compartment for her vehicle registration or Google her name. :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Captain

Writing in the back room I heard the motion detector, followed by the sounds of a voice, and stuff on my work bench being moved around. First thing I see is the ubiquitous homeless shopping cart train (two tied together and loaded) blocking the middle of my big doorway on the sidewalk. Near my work bench to the right, the Captain of the ‘Good Ship Lollipop’ outside rummaged around my bench. He wore a full length raggedy trench coat, gloves, and stocking hat. It’s cool up here in Northern California along the coast in June, but it ain’t that cool.

“What do you think you’re doing, Bud?” I ask, having already stuffed my 900,000 volt stun gun into my belt at the back (I could use blog material, but I need to be intact in order to type).

The Captain whipped around, tilted his head, and gave me a surly look like I was the one rooting around in someone else’s shop. I notice he’s sporting a black eye patch; but it’s tilted up, revealing a good eye. Well… arrrrrrrhhhhh, matey. He flips the patch into place when I start smiling. The Captain then rapid fires forty seconds of gibberish, including hand waving, and facial contortions. I see his hands empty of booty, and coat pockets flat, so I gesture at the door with a wave.

“I have no idea what you just said. Get out.”

“I’m lookin’ for scrap!” the Captain finds his communicator, but holds on to the attitude.

“I have a regular metal guy who picks up all my scrap, and he never walks into my place like he owns it,” I reply, still waving him to the door.

The Captain puts his head down, squares his shoulders, leans forward, and with his fists pumping downward with each step, walks toward the ‘Good Ship Lollipop’. He heaves ho, and overcomes his ship’s inertia, with hands at the rudder. The Captain casts his one-eyed salty look at me sideways before disappearing from view.

“$*%& you!” The Captain bids me adieu, and sails out of sight. :)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Liar's List

I read some unrelated stuff in the news this weekend, which prompted me to dredge up some thoughts about clich├ęs and misconceptions people have about lies, especially my kids. :)

  1. Lying is a victimless crime. Yea, right... I love you too. :)
  2. Lying takes imagination. No, lying takes a complete lack of imagination. Imagining how easily lying can make you look like a complete idiot creates truth tellers.
  3. Lying is a short cut to a life you’ve never lived. Try living the life you’re creating for yourself instead. It’s easier to remember the truth.
  4. White lies spare feelings. Try using your imagination to avoid white lies. For example, if a fat person asks you if a particular piece of clothing makes them look fat, say no. It’s the truth. After all, they were fat before they asked you, and they didn’t ask you if the clothing made them fatter. Keep the snappy answers to stupid questions to yourself.
  5. Liars will lie about even the small stuff they don’t have to lie about. I think this is because they need to stay in practice. Once a liar has told a thousand lies, the relief and euphoria of telling the truth can lead to an unraveling of their lives.
  6. Nobody cares about lies. Uh… yea… they do.
  7. Lies are the same as storytelling. No, writing entertaining fiction is not lying. Writing an autobiography using fiction is lying.
  8. One way to avoid lying in a situation where you think fiction will make you appear more appealing in the eyes of others is to simply listen, and keep your mouth shut. If you listen with concentration, the opportunity to tell a truth usually appears.
  9. Liars are funny. No, they’re pathetic.
  10. There are good liars and bad liars. Another lie. :)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

George The Alligator Returns

I mentioned George the Alligator in earlier Florida posts. My brother Jim sent me the picture of him I took of ‘King George’ with his camera. Moments after taking this picture, I tried going around the bush in front of George to get a face shot. It wasn’t one of my brighter moments; but I did find a break in the foliage where I could get almost a full frontal shot through the bushes. Seconds away from clicking the picture, George whipped around blindingly fast and plunged into the lake. Thankfully, George went into the water, and not through the hedge. :)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Divine Intervention

A rather miraculous fix happened for me on a 1998 Buick Regal with an ABS (Antilock Brake System) problem. Contrary to what most people think, ABS brakes only come into play on an emergency stop, metering hydraulic pressure to the rear brakes with Rear Wheel Antilock Brake Systems, or all four wheels with Four Wheel Antilock Brake Systems to prevent wheel lock up. The codes I scanned indicated problems with the ABS Modulator Motor Pack. I took the wrong note sheet in with me and ordered a Motor Pack kit from the Delco warehouse for the Traction Control Modulator Motor Pack. I had disassembled both units because sometimes the gears in the Traction Control Modulator Motor Pack cause a code indicating problems with the ABS Modulator Motor Pack. Since scanning for codes only points you in a certain direction, the mechanic has to cover all the bases.

Before the eyes start glazing over out there on this too much info moment, let me get to the point. I ordered the wrong motor pack, and was sent the right one. This small miracle allowed me to finish the job on time for the lady who had an appointment today at noon. Most would say, ‘oh… nice coincidence… lucky you’. Having worked in this industry for thirty-six years, I’m here to tell you no such lucky coincidence ever happens, at least not to me. When you call a parts person and order the wrong part, you get the wrong part. The resulting mess of a late finish on the job due out, and backed up appointments, reminds you for many years after to be more careful. Parts people make mistakes, but they’re never made accidentally in the shop mechanic’s favor. The chances of it happening rival getting hit by lightning. Only one explanation… divine intervention… amen. :)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Politico

A real nice guy in a business suit came by to see me yesterday. He wanted to put an Obama for President sign on my building. Forget the politics. It could just as easily have been a guy wanting to put up a McCain sign. Business owners are nuts if they put up political party signs. It’s one thing to vote, write blogs, write representatives, and profess your views privately; but business is business. Endorsing political views in the service or entertainment business is a dangerous move. A customer, reader, or movie fan may love the work done on their vehicle, book by an author, or movie starring a famous actor or actress; but that can change in a heartbeat with political advocacy. Profess publicly who you’re voting for in the next election, and you risk pissing off half your customers or fans. Anyway, the conversation in my office went like this after I invited him in, thinking he was there to make an appointment.

“Who are you voting for in the Presidential election this November,” he asked with a big smile.

“I don’t discuss politics here, Sir,” I answered carefully, because I’d never been asked the question before at the start of a customer conversation. “Can I help you with a car or truck repair?”

He nodded, glancing around at the pictures and licenses on the walls, looking for clues.

“You have a nice looking family.”

“Thanks,” I replied, wondering if the street had birthed a new con game.

“Would you consider putting an Obama for President sign on your building?”

“No,” I admit to some surprise, because his request is another first. I’ve been here since 1976, and no one has wanted to put up a political sign before. Maybe it’s my new paint job I had done a few years ago.

“Are you a McCain supporter,” Mr. Politico asks with a concerned look.

“I won’t be putting up a McCain for President sign either,” I counter truthfully. “Politics and the service business don’t mix.”

“Well, thank you for your time. Can I have one of your business cards for my records?”

“Sure,” I handed him one, and he left after a handshake.

In the Presidential race, my business property is Switzerland. :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Cynic

“I live just down the street,” the man in jeans and t-shirt informs me, pointing in the general direction he thinks will make us seem like neighbors.

I’ve found out through experience this line journeys down one of three paths from here: can I use your phone, can I borrow something in your shop, or a new in the neighborhood customer. Society looks down on the trait of cynicism, because cynics see the world through jaundiced eyes. The glass half empty outlook seldom appears mysteriously one day to steal away happy thoughts from unsuspecting optimists. It creeps into the mind over many years on spidery legs of disillusionment.

“Yes Sir, may I help you?” I’m a polite cynic. They see it in my eyes though, despite the interested tone.

“Can you loan me a jack? It’ll only take a few minutes. My right front tire’s flat. My jack’s busted and…” he’s blurting this out rapid fire, as if speed will bolster his case to the evil cynic guy, who can’t hide the weary recognition overcoming polite interest on his face.

In days of yesteryear, before sue happy people, thieves, and lawyers combined to make all our lives miserable, this simple request might not have piled up on the rocks of cynicism.

“I can’t do that,” I interrupt the man’s spiel with a hand held up to add visual aid to my cold hearted refusal.

“Can’t or won’t?” The man’s eyebrows knit into exasperated disbelief at the abruptness of my refusal.

“Both actually,” I point to the large sign inside the door stating my policy of no tools loaned, and no use of my business phones permitted. “You missed the sign on your way in. I’m thinking of taking it down; because it would have to be the size of a billboard, blocking the entrance to the shop for anyone to actually read the thing.”

“But I live down the street,” he glances at the sign and pulls the neighbor card on me again.

“Look,” I begin my useless explanation, which I know never leads to understanding, “my liability insurance…”

“Don’t pull that insurance excuse on me,” the man cuts in with passion. “I’m only asking…”

“No, I won’t loan you one of my hydraulic jacks. Not going to happen, not if you live next door, not today, tomorrow, or next week,” the evil cynicism is often followed by tightlipped anger.

“Fine!” The man stalks off.

No, I don’t know when it happened. It might have been the dolly I loaned long ago to a man trudging down the street with a battery in his hands, that never returned. It could have been the heartfelt plea of an emergency to use my phone many years ago, which turned into a drug deal right outside the door to my shop. It may have been the jumper cables a guy pleaded to get, and returned a $5 cable set in place of the $20 one I loaned him. It might have been the pliers and wrenches I never saw again when my innocence was intact. The insurance man who asked if I loaned tools out of the shop, and told me if I did, my policy would be canceled, probably had a small part in it too. He agreed to my policy of loaning jumper cables, empty gas can, or battery pliers for a deposit, although he did point out if the man or woman hooked up the jumper cables wrong and the battery exploded, I’d probably be the one blamed. He was even more of a cynic than me. :)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Lost Tribe

Little did I know when typing my adventures from the terminal, waiting to leave Dallas International, they were just beginning. We few, we band of brothers (gender inclusive for literary effect), we exiled travelers in search of Oakland, Ca, plodded gratefully to the monitor near our scheduled gate, after many hours in the wilderness of boredom. The evilness of words splashed digitally across a lighted display assailed we band of brothers yet again. Flight to Oakland was departing at 8:00 PM, now departing at 9:20 PM. There’s some good news. We rush to ask why at our beloved gate D36 with parched mouths and swollen tongues. It seems, the nice lady informs us, a flight connecting from the East was delayed, and if our flight to Oakland left on time, it would strand those flying in from the East. Well, waaaaaahhhhhh… too bad you didn’t have the same compassion when we were circling your airport from the South twenty minutes before our connecting flight left for beloved Oakland. This crushing news is delivered at 6:30 PM, only an hour before what would have been our scheduled boarding time. Now the boarding time lies two and a half hours away from we, the new lost tribe of Northern California travelers. Standing amongst the lost tribe, we exchange glances of disillusionment, nod at one another, and trundle off with our pathetic belongings, knowing we do not endure this torture alone.

Spotting a few of my brethren near the holy place of Gate D36, staring up at the bank of monitors, around 8:00 PM, I join them, wondering what new scourge afflicts us. One mumbles they’ve changed the gate on us. I look up astonished to see we’ve been moved to Gate D31. You must remember, as a lost tribe, we have adopted the small Mecca of Gate D36 through the lonely hours, where we could congregate, and look longingly at our flight number and gate departure time. I hear a few sobs, and look around the tribe, only to see them staring in compassion at me. It’s me sobbing. I cough to hide my embarrassment; and we all agree to take turns on the monitor when we reach the new Mecca, Gate D31. Our monitor guard is to call out the code word ‘Oakland’ to gather the brethren in the event of news, since the airline has decided not to inform the lost tribe of gate changes on their sophisticated PA system. I begin to fear American Airlines has discovered too few spots on our flight to accommodate the incoming East Coast VIP’s, and have decided to lose a few of the lost tribe with unheralded gate changes.

I sit down near our foreign gate D31, a sense of loss enveloping me. Nothing seems the same. Colors near this gate appear bland, the chatter of voices more fearful and hushed. At 8:15 PM, we hear a strangled call from the monitor: ‘Oak…Oakland!’. We rush over where our vigilant guard points with shaking hand at the tyrannical monitor. Our gate has been changed again, this time to C21. We gasp together as if members of the Greek Chorus, heralding tragedies in Shakespeare’s Othello. We all know C means a different terminal complex. Confronting the wily D31 Gate person, a beleaguered black brother of the lost tribe calls out angrily, ‘what the hell are you changing the @$#*?&% gates on us for!?’.

“I’m sorry (she isn’t),” the gate keeper responds with her hands out in placating fashion. “I’m not in charge of that. Just walk five minutes down to the escalators, go up and walk straight over for three minutes, go down the escalator, and you’re in C terminal. Don’t bother with the tram (connecting rail car). It takes too long. Better get going.”

The tribe exchanges glances, and a lady says, “I don’t know about the rest of you; but if she says don’t take the tram, I’m taking the tram. I know where that is.”

Grunts of agreement ring out from the tribe, and we hurry toward the escalator to the upper level where the tram awaits. We arrive eventually at 8:45 PM in C terminal and locate Gate C21, hoping to be only minutes from boarding our escape craft. Moments after we seat ourselves near Gate C21, the dread cry of ‘Oakland’ rings out from our startled monitor guard.

“They’ve changed the damn gate on us again!” he greets us as we fling bags on our shoulders.

We look at the Gate C21 counter board, and sure enough, Oakland, Ca has been changed to Ontario, Ca. An older lady with a cane rushes the counter attendants, who do a quick two-step back as she swings it up, gesturing at them angrily.

“Okay… damn it… where the hell’s Oakland!?”

She has their attention. The two of them point down the terminal in sync to the left. “C…C 28, Ma’am.”

“It better be,” she states with an eerie smile as we gather behind her. “If it’s not, I’m coming back. Get on the damn PA and announce it, you $%^&#’s.”

While we hurry toward Gate C28, a hesitant voice announces the gate change on the PA system. Reaching Gate C28, we find the beautiful word Oakland on the gate board, along with our flight number, which not surprisingly begins with a 13. The tribe gathers around the counter, daring them to change our gate again. Instead, one of the counter creatures announces we will be late boarding, because the East Coast VIP’s are only now taxiing into the terminal area. The tribe continues staring silently at the board. These creatures have trapped us in this maze, watching us scamper around Dallas International for over eight hours. They’ve run us from gate to gate like we were victims of a kidnapping, rushing the lost tribe from phone booth to phone booth for new directions to regain our pathetic lives. If they change the board, there will be violence. Twenty minutes late, they begin boarding us. On the plane, lost tribe members glanced around happily at each other, like the freed captives from the ‘Raid on Entebbe’. We had overcome the last sandstorm in this desert of agony. Touching down at Oakland International near midnight will live on in my magical moment’s list.

I learned as a writer, I do have limits to my creativity while in captivity. Yes, anger, noise, mind numbing boredom, and fear do derail creativity. This morning, blogging my final Florida chapter, I am again invigorated here at my little auto repair shop. Although dramatizing slightly the trials and tribulations of The Lost Tribe of Oakland, the details of what befell our stranded band are all too true. It’s funny today; and rest assured, I laughed my ass off writing this chronicle. :)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Homeward Bound?

I rose very early this morning, hoping today would be a trouble free flying day, and I would be home by two PM, California time. My brother-in-law took me to the airport at 6:15 AM, and I was on my way. ‘Indiana Jones’ airline delivered me in ‘Bogata’ Miami International Airport without a glitch. Then the fun started. American Airlines loaded us all on the airliner right at scheduled boarding time. I’m feeling confident, California is right around the corner. No such luck. One of the plane crew informs their trapped audience the pilots were inbound, but had not arrived. I thought put a fork in me, I’m done. The pilots never arrived, and American Airlines sent over a replacement crew eventually. We left an hour late, flew into Dallas International an hour late, ten minutes past my connecting flight to Oakland’s departure.

Does American meet us with a team of people to guide their lost sheep through this miserable flying snafu? Hell no. AA ignored the connecting flight mishap. A flight attendant finally helped direct me in the right direction. The happy news started in earnest then. The next flight to Oakland would fly out of Dallas at eight PM, nearly seven and a half hours from when I’m standing there stunned at my good fortune. Adding insult to injury, the guy looking at my fate on his monitor tells me I’ll have to go out of the secured area, get another ticket issued, and then return through their security check point… oh joy.

Did American call forward to their ticket people telling them to set up a line specially to speed the victims of their screw-up forward? Hell no. It did pass some time, since I stood in line with travelers on their way overseas for over an hour. Now I’m not causing any ruckus at all; because it won’t do any good, and it isn’t the ticket people’s fault. The lady who helps me sees my look of glum acceptance as she confirms eight PM will be the soonest I escape wonderful Dallas International. ‘It’s all we can do, Sir’, she states, as if readying herself for battle. I wondered if maybe she wanted me to apologize. I take my ticket, wave and walk away. At the time all I could think of was beating the backed up overseas travelers to the security line. I didn’t. Happy days though, I got wanded by security, where you stand with your feet spread, and hands straight out as if you’re pretending to be an airplane. My older brother Jim told me they wanded him in Atlanta, so it was good to keep up our new family tradition. I again throttled my first impulse to stand there with my arms out saying, ‘on the streets they call me the Jackal’, deciding a nine-thirty PM arrival in Oakland greatly surpassed an over-nighter with Homeland Security.

So, here I sit, in Dallas, writing once again to pass time and smooth over another of life’s rough spots. I will hopefully end this journey tonight. :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Maggie

My sister Janet and her husband Don own a border collie named Maggie, or she owns them. After watching Maggie in action, I admit to some confusion as to who owns who. Mottled white shaggy coat, with a black face, Maggie fetches. It’s what she does. You can stay on her good side if you toss whatever she brings you stat. If not, Maggie will place squeaky stuffed dinosaurs and boomerangs closer to you, up your lap, and in your mouth if need be. As the ‘Borg’ used to say in ‘Star Trek’, you will be assimilated. Older brother Jim, wife Maria, and I have already been Borged by the relentless Maggie. We are all trained to throw squeeze toys from the moment we walk through the door at the dog’s whim. An annoyed “Maggie” will ring out from Janet and Don in hopes of rescuing a relative trapped within the drone training session. Maggie hunkers down for a moment with a quick “grrrrrowwwwf”, which is Maggonese for piss off. The drone training session usually starts again forty-five seconds later. There is one visitor immune to the border collie’s hypnotic eyes: sister Cheryl, who stays in the ‘Big House’ with Janet, Don, and ‘Mech’ Maggie. Sometimes known as the witch who escaped the house in ‘Over the Rainbow’, Cheryl freezes the dog’s blood with but a single glance. If she adds a finger shake to her withering gaze, Maggie drops down on her side and plays dead.

George the Alligator visits different lawns bordering his kingdom. He has even taken a siesta next to my sister’s screened in pool patio. Unknown to George, his kingship of Sarasota’s beleaguered food chain on the Condo lake front rests with Maggie. Maggie is not an alligator menu item. She has a name. If ‘King George’ ever forgets that fact, I’m afraid his reign supreme will end abruptly with a large, gunpowder propelled round right between his beady little eyes. My sister doesn’t miss. Note to George, if you hear a squeak toy on the lawn where you’re napping, go back to sleep, buddy. :)

I journey aboard ‘Indiana Jones’ airline early tomorrow morning for the first leg of my flight into ‘Bogata’ Miami International, heading home.

Monday, June 2, 2008

George The Alligator

Sitting here at dawn on the balcony of where I’m staying, watching an alligator named George drift over the lake water surface below, I drink my coffee in uneasy harmony. Most Condo complexes here in Sarasota, Florida have a connecting series of small lakes. Alligators, ducks, lizards, turtles, and big billed birds of all kinds parade, float and squawk past. Occasionally, Wild Kingdom erupts as the top of this curiously civilized food chain bumps into and eats one of the other rungs on the eating ladder. The people living down here in this beautiful Florida patch of paradise refrain from naming all the denizens stopping in and around the Condo complex lake for good reason. Seriously, who wants to watch the usually punctual Tommy the Turtle become a happy meal right in front of their eyes. Should we hold a wake when the formerly paddling princess, Daisy Duck decides the scaled log in the water looks like a great place to rest those tired webbed feet. What about when Big Bird takes her newly named feathered offspring, Bitsy and Bondo down to peck at the water’s edge, unaware nature has decided to teach its first and final lesson of who’s who on the alligator menu. In reality, only one of these characters acquires a name: George the Alligator. In his defense, George never objects when someone cutely names his lunch; but mostly, the observers of this daily dilemma realize menu items should remain anonymous. :)