Miracles

A construction truck loaded with gravel, piloted by Fred, with Al riding shotgun, growled around two uphill “S” curves that led into suburban Prestwick Hills.

“Remember the first time you tried skipping stones?” Al said out of the blue.

“What brought this on?” Fred, answered his question with a question.

It would be a good day if civilians stayed out of their way.  That was the only thing civilians were good for–getting in the way.  That and not being very smart.

Civilians were surprised when items were stolen from their unlocked cars.

They planted trees, shrubbery in utility right-of-ways.

They were surprised when unleashed pets disappeared from unfenced backyards.

Old retired people and young kids hung around—asked too many questions.

Highly polished, telescopic, hydraulic cylinders raised the truck’s dump bed.  Fred advanced the truck slowly to spread the gravel.  A skip loader redistributed the rest.  The dump bed lowered with a hiss, and thump.

Fred and Al caught up paperwork under a nearby maple tree, followed by a short break.

Boom!! Chunks of dirt flew, sparks and acrid black smoke ran along a nearby chain link fence.  Decorative fence caps launched into the air.  The old man gawking from Lot #17, looked a little sheepish.

Locating buried utility lines wasn’t an exact science.  The bulldozer operator severed a buried electric feeder cable.  Visibly shaken, but unharmed, he stayed with his machine, until the power company arrived on scene.

If any work got done after this, it would be a miracle.  Small miracles happened every day.

 

Weird Laws For $200, Alex…

A living trivia category for over thirty years, was the tiny hamlet of Paradise, located in a corner of Michigan’s upper peninsula.  Townsfolk could take social media publicity no longer.

A popular fishing and vacation destination, the “Please refrain from playing Jimmy Buffet music–thank you for your cooperation,” signs in store windows were hard to explain.  The law was impossible to enforce.

“I wouldn’t care if I never heard that “Cheeseburger in Paradise” song, ever again.  And I think most everybody here would agree with me,” Mayor H. Claven Clifford II said at the town meeting.

“If I get another request from a Hollywood media producer, to be interviewed about our being anti-Jimmy Buffet this or that–I’m gonna’ scream.  I swear, Buffet got more publicity from our denial, than he would have gotten otherwise.”

“My father, who was mayor at that time, is probably turning over in his grave.”

“Permission to speak?” Asked Councilman L. E. Muenster.  “Don’t you think it’s time we overturned this asinine piece of legislation?”

“Permission granted.  However, I would caution the councilman to watch his choice of words.  Did you wish to make a motion?”

“Yes, I move that city ordinance 192-85 prohibiting the playing of Jimmy Buffet songs within city limits be overturned.”  The motion passed, almost without objection.

In tiny Paradise, Michigan, it had been against the law to play Jimmy Buffet songs in businesses or public buildings.  It went back to the mid-eighties, when a merchant applied for a license to open a local “Cheeseburger in Paradise” restaurant.

Needless to say, Jimmy Buffet’s lawyers weren’t pleased; threatened legal action if the name wasn’t changed forthwith.  Mayor H. Claven Clifford, not to be outdone, sent a petition to Buffet’s people.  The village of Paradise wasn’t much of a competitive threat–he pleaded.  Paradise, MI was denied–left to its own fates.

Times changed–the years went by.  Most townspeople became indifferent to Paradise’s “Anti-Buffet” ordinance.  After all, Paradise was best know for “pasties”–tasty, homemade meat pies.  And Paradisians were satisfied with the fame that pasties brought their fair city.

Whitefish Point was nearby, and had a museum dedicated to Great Lakes shipwrecks.  Included in the exhibits, was a tribute to the wrecked, Edmund Fitzgerald.  The lake waters began to clear.

The Jimmy Buffet, “Cheeseburger in Paradise” debacle faded from memory.  Gordon Lightfoot, who popularized the “Ballad of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” although Canadian, remained as close to being a local favorite son, as anyone else would ever get.

 

http://www.jeopardy.com/–

 

Stone and Silk (Marvin & Janie)

My tarnished love story, written three years ago.  Because I believe none of us are perfect, and therefore, neither are our relationships.

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I was a dumb cluck from cornfield country.  She was a stone-cold beauty from the East Coast.  Now, there’s a pair for you.

Why he liked her so much was hard to figure.  She was mean–hard to get along with; demanded Marvin’s full attention, morning, noon, and night.  Marvin brought Janie flowers, pretty things, but, it never seemed to matter.  At work, Marv was always borrowing money; because he never had any.  Maybe he thought that was the way relationships were supposed to be?

God forbid Marvin ever looked at another woman–even, for  a casual glance.  When he did, Janie pummeled his arms and shoulders with flailing fists.  He had to have a high tolerance level.  Was Janie that insecure–jealous of other women?  There’s supposed to be someone for everyone.  What had Marvin done to deserve her?

When Marvin worked late, Janie was a nervous wreck until his car pulled into the driveway.  He always called home before leaving work.  They fought like cats and dogs, but when Janie was sick, Marv was always there by her side.  Nobody knew what went on behind closed doors.  Their private lives were kept private.

The Revelation:  Janie had been a former Vegas “showgirl”–if you could call it that.  “The Swan” was a seedy, obsequious dive bar–with obligatory flashing lights, plenty of cigarette smoke and loud music–hidden in the bowels of Las Vegas.  It was just close enough to the strip, to siphon off drifters from the mainstream and stay in business.  Christened, “The Swan,” because the managing partner’s name was Schwann, not because it had anything to do with Swan Lake–or anything cultural.

The Miracle:  Was, that they ever got together in the first place.  Janie danced at The Swan, because that was all she had.  The shame, less important than necessities of life, she desperately needed.  She lived a distorted, Machiavellian, nightmare of what life should be.

Through thick-bottomed drink glasses, Janie was every guy’s ideal woman–worthy of stuffed, sweaty, dollar bills, donated by countless, faceless, nameless men, ascending/descending from emotional highs and lows–in various stages of self-control.

Marvin nodded off into semi-consciousness that night, until his head hit the table.  Then, he became just another bottom-feeder, milked dry, tossed out and left for dead.  “Nighty night–sleep tight,” The bouncer mocked.

The next thing Marv remembered was waking up in the back alley.  “I know I heard “Jingle Bells’ playing somewhere,”  Marv said.  “Or, more likely, it was my throbbing head.”  That’s when Janie walked out the back door.  Marvin’s clothes were damp, dirty, and disgusting.  He was pitiful in a sad, floppy-eared puppy dog sort of way.

She took pity on me–bought me a cup of coffee at the diner across the street.  She told me right up front, it wasn’t going any further.  I asked the same question, she heard every night in the bar.  How’d a pretty girl like you, end up in a place like this?  She turned the question right around.  How had I ended up thrown out of a Vegas bar in an alley?

I answered, It was because I was a hopeless screw-up.  It was a moment of brutal truth–the first time I’d been honest with myself, or any one else, in my life.  The funniest part–we toasted, first to mutual failures, then to hopeless screw-ups.  I didn’t have a dime to my name, but I sure felt better.

We had a lot in common, as it turned out.  She was running away from abusive home life with an alcoholic father.  I’d been kicked out of the house, by my father, at nineteen to sink or swim.  At that moment, I knew I loved Janie.  If given the chance, some day I’d ask her to marry me.

From what Marvin told me, their courtship was a bit like a Hollywood movie script.  The bar’s owner didn’t want Janie to quit; had her followed–made life miserable.  I suspected there was more to that part of the story and he wished to keep it secret.  Love always found a way, so they met secretly at different locations; like underworld spies, or refugees from a war-torn world.

Marvin sat at a table near the entrance of one pre-determined location.  Janie came in a few moments later; sat at an adjoining table.  “You know–I once sprained my elbow,” Was Marv’s opening line.  It was finest cloak-and-dagger, old-time movie dialogue.  “Daffodils bloom in the springtime,”  Janie answered.  To which Marvin asked, “Did you know bats slept upside down?”  Janie opened her purse, took out a white handkerchief.  They walked out together, laughing at their private jokes–played out to perfection.

Their Escape:  Janie and Marvin’s escape from “Sin City” was, no less intriguing.  Highlighted by a two-day exile in an abandoned basement; hiding from some unsavory characters.  It ended with a four-day bus ride to middle Tennessee.  They didn’t know a soul there.  Marvin hoped to land a job at a nearby auto assembly plant.  Janie was hired to wait tables at a local mom and pop eatery.

Marvin and I started work the same day, working swing shifts as janitors, for a starting wage of 2.35 per hour–extra for nights and weekends.  It was good money for a couple of young guys with no experience.  What I learned about Marv and Janie, came from working together at Chrysler for 38 years.  There were occasional encounters with Janie at the supermarket.  They stayed pretty much close to home.

Both of them are gone now.  I feel their presence every day–especially when I see young couples in love, laughing at private little jokes.  Soul mates, lovers–whatever you choose to call them; neither, could have survived without the other.

My first impressions were very wrong.  Janie went first–passed away in Marvin’s arms.  Marv passed away nine years later.  I was there to bid my friend goodbye.  When death knocked at the door–theirs was the only way to go; surrounded by those that loved them most.

 

 

 

From the Abyss

“Water!  Captain, I need water!”

“Higgins, get this man some water.”

“There’s your water.  Now, get back to rowing.  You’d be wise to do what you’re told and not complain about it.”

“Aye, Captain.”

He’d learn a lesson right quick, if I tossed him down in the hold, the Captain thought. 

The ship’s rigging strained and creaked.  Sea water made the decks slippery.

“Higgins, see what the prisoners are hollerin’ about.  Be quick about it–unless you’re desiring to be down there with ’em.”

It had been a tough pathway from prisoner to deckhand.

Scattered about the ocean floor were the bones of those that dared break the chains of command.

 

Empowered

One too many skinned knuckles.  Too many stinging words from a boss that didn’t care about difficulties–they were just excuses.  Excuses crudely compared to anatomical excretory features, that every human possessed.

The tossed sledgehammer traveled in a steady arc, landed in a vacant lot with a dull thud.  Anger boiled over, settled to a steady drip.  It was February for cripe sakes, and he’d been sweating like a pig.  Larry looked around, embarrassed that anger engaged his persona for a few seconds.

“I’m going to get after it, today, Boss.”  Larry said that morning–before he left the garage.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Larry’s boss replied.  “Three rods in eight hours?  What was he paying him for?”

Empowerment was management’s favorite word.  What it really meant was-whatever happened, you were on your own to get it done.

All new subdivision homes required ten-foot ground rods for utility connections.  An easy task in soft soil.  These lots were back filled with a mixture of hard packed clay and slag from a nearby steel mill.  How could he have been so unlucky?  Things had to change in a hurry.

The answer came in the form of a mobile home anchor–a strong, thick steel rod, with an auger screw at the bottom, and a closed loop at the top.  By inserting a wrench handle through the top loop; adding a piece of pipe over the handle for leverage–the crude contraption worked slow, but steady, after breaking surface hard-pan.

It wasn’t standard issue tooling, but it was too short a walk from empowerment to unemployment.

Ghoulish specters of industrial waste lay hidden underground, ready to spring, without so much as a warning given to future generations.  Sacrifices made in the name of balance sheets and low-cost housing.

Twenty-First Century Good Fellas

“I really like you kid; in an appropriate, non-gender specific sort of way, of course,” Said Sal.

“Jimmy, you’re gonna’ go places if you follow a few ground rules.”

“What do you mean, Boss?” Asked Jimmy.

“First of all, you can’t go around cracking coconuts; like you did with Herman the German.  These are our clients; even if Herman’s Grocery doesn’t sell sustainably produced agricultural products.  Why, in the old days I woulda’ head-slapped you already.”

“Thanks Boss,”  Jimmy answered.

“Don’t thank me.  Thank Big Eddie for bailing you out.”

“Eddie, what the hell are you doing?  Are you going to sleep on me?”

“No Boss, I was meditating,”  Eddie answered.  Sal’s face was beet red.

“Do your meditating somewhere else, on your own time.”

Big  Eddie hadn’t been the same since bariatric surgery.  Last night, he ordered vegetarian lasagna at Luigi’s.  Lucky for Big Eddie, Sal didn’t know, he now practiced yoga.

“Don’t neither of you lugheads get too comfortable.  I’m not done talking.”  Sal was on a roll.  Big Eddie craved a smoothie in the worst way, but kept quiet.

“The business has changed.  Think of what we do as, Sal’s Security Services.  I want you guys to become marketing experts.  Instead of gourd cracking, you’ve got to play to people’s fears and anxieties.”

“It’s like being a bartender–saying things like, ‘How ya’ doin’ Pal?’ ‘That’s a tough break–I’m here for you.’ Listen to people–be sensitive to their needs.”

“They serve salty snacks at bars.  And how about salty, movie theatre popcorn?  Do You two knuckleheads have any idea why they do that?  Sorry, that was insensitive of me.  Do you two gentlemen have any idea why they do that?”

“So they can sell more drinks, Boss.”  That’s right Jimmy.  Keep thinking that way and I’m going to keep you around.  Think of people’s fears as salty snacks.  We will quench their needs for security, just like those 64 ounce, refreshing, cold drinks.”

“Big Eddie you’re looking good.  You dropped some weight, got those double chins tightened up.” “Thanks Boss,”  Answered Eddie.  “I’ve still got a ways to go.”

“Jimmy, stop wearing that stupid baseball cap turned around backwards.  At least, wear nice slacks and sports shirts.  We’re professionals–we want people to like us.  Next week, you’re both going to anger management and sensitivity training.”

Jimmy and Eddie looked as if they’d been shot.  Sal fractured many bones over the years–none of them sensitive.

Sal, alleged, but never convicted, wise guy, became Sal, mentor, philosopher, proprietor of Sal’s Twenty-First Century Security Services.  Jimmy and Eddie looked spiffy in their new, dark green, embroidered uniform shirts.  Eddie sighed, contemplated going home after work to play with his new boxer puppy.

 

 

Missing Woman Found Living Under Back Porch

Sheriff’s deputies answered a disturbance call in Clarke county, West Texas, only to find a squatter residing under a back porch.

There they discovered a sizeable room with borrowed electricity, crude storage tanks for water.  The walls appeared to be constructed from pallets, scrap lumber, and cardboard.  Packed clay made up the floor, which had been excavated; allowing a person of short stature to stand.

Shirley Fineguard hadn’t been seen for a number of years.  It was assumed she moved away after a local textile plant closed.

“We were completely shocked the way it turned out,”  Said homeowner W. E. Sandiford of Metford–a small town near Amarillo.

“I thought it was critters,” Said Mrs. Sandiford.  “My Lord, why would somebody want to live like that?  You know how hot and dusty it gets around here in the summer.

“There are good folks here–church going people.  We would have helped her.  Well, in a way, I guess we already did; Miss Shirley lived on our property, used our electricity.”

“We’re not going to file charges as long as this young lady gets some psychological help,” Said Mr. Sandiford.  “I’m going to keep the shrubbery trimmed from here on out.”

“If I wasn’t so clumsy, and hadn’t dropped something, they’d never have caught me,” Ms Fineguard said to reporters.  “I wasn’t hurtin’ nobody.  The Sandifords should be thanking me and Mugwump for keeping the rattlesnakes away.  Mugwump’s my gray tomcat.  With all y’all around, he’s probably headed for the tall timber.”