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.



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.”




According to statistical data, Earl was off the hook–he was from the tenth most obscure state in the nation.  That, in itself, was justification for leaving Christmas lights up year round.

Things hadn’t been the same, since Brother Dudley, down at the church, died.  Earl held on to beliefs; that someday, things would get better–but, they never did.

Heavy dew, dripped in mini-rainstorms, under long-leafed pines. Unfiltered anger came out in waves.

“Sumbitch, I don’t think I’m hip enough for this crowd,” Earl said, as he departed.  “I’m going back to the trailer park–cracking open a six-pack.  If this damned truck don’t start; I’m gonna’ shoot it.”

After the infamous, “Fluffy Buffalo” potato chip kerfuffle, and pinochle debacle at the VFW–Earl’s patience was worn thin.  He’d apologized–wasn’t sure what for.  Somebody else started the whole thing–he got the blame.

So, Hallelujah!  I’m their bum, bum.  What else was new?  It’ll be somebody else, next time.  Wrong place, wrong time–he figured.  When would Fred and crew, forget about the unfortunate event?  It was last October–for Cripe’s sake.

Bob “the biker,” pedaled his way to work.  “Movin’ Mary,” was on her front stoop, talking with neighbor, Marge.  Marge, talked with her hands.  Mary shifted, from one foot, to the other, as she talked; it was quite a picture.

Stan, the resident, recluse–aka, “the talker,” peered out from behind living room curtains, across the street. Could he be missing out on something?

Earl pulled down the visor to block the blinding sun.  Several scratch-off lottery tickets, fell to the floor.  If Earl couldn’t see the sunrise everyday–he may as well have been in jail.  Earl parked, held the storm door with his foot; opened the front door.

He collapsed on the living room sofa–switched on the television. Temptations resumed from the day before.  Earl continued the life, of someone, voted, least unlikely, to succeed.


columnist 2

As faithful “Around the Town” readers know, this is Monday, “Mailbox Day.” My favorite day of the week, since becoming a feature columnist for The Cleveland Daily Times. This letter selected, not because someone agreed with me, but quite the opposite.

For the record, I wasn’t happy about the Brown’s 23-7 loss to the Texans yesterday.  A reader took exception to last week’s column.  Everybody in this town has an opinion about Cleveland sports teams.  This letter was written by Mr. Tony Farkas from Shaker Heights. Expletives were deleted.

Mr. Charles “Skip” Dumas
Around the Town
Cleveland Daily Times
Cleveland, OH 44114

Dear “Skippy” Dum***s,

I’ve never written to a newspaper before. You stupid rat t**d! I’m so ********* mad, I could spit!  You can use my name–I don’t ******care! Because you probably won’t ******publish this anyway!

Your column this week belongs in the dumpster.  It smells bad, like ******Lake Erie.  I ought to come up there right now and give you an atomic wedgie–just like I did in seventh grade.  That’s right, you should know who this is.  Lucky for you, that day, the principal came along.

We’re not in junior high anymore. I’m a working stiff, trying to make a living. I’m my own boss–run an auto body shop.  My job is probably much different from yours.  I’ve never been a big shot with an office job.

But, that wasn’t what got me so ****** cranked up. How could you say, “The Browns stink and don’t deserve to be in the playoffs.” They’re no worse than a lot of other teams in the league.  Don’t they at least deserve wild-card status?

It’s mostly because of “Johnny Football” Manziel–the Browns new ‘Showboating’ quarterback. Manziel is a distraction–gets too much attention for a backup quarterback.  The latest–he’s carrying a torch, because Tiger Woods stiffed him on an autograph when he was ten.  Maybe he’s not worth the big bucks paid to sign him?

Who appointed you ******Judge Judy? You don’t know ****about running a team. And “Showboating?” You’ve got a short memory–if you don’t remember “Broadway” Joe Namath–the original “Showboater.”  He did a ****** commercial for *********panty hose for Heaven’s sake.

And furthermore, “Skippy,” you’re a distraction!  Our sports teams make this town a great place to live. They deserve loyalty and support–not half-baked, cockamamie bull-**** like this.  Give Manziel a chance!


Sincerely yours,

Tony “Big Tony” Farkas
DBA: The Auto Body Experience

Mr. “Big Tony” Farkas, I trust you’ll understand, when I say, no hard feelings.  Thanks for caring enough to read my column. And for expressing your opinion.  We’re not as far apart as you might think.

Sometimes I stick my neck out and take the unpopular side of issues.  Then, I’m the guy sweeping up after the circus elephants.  It’s a hard job, but somebody’s got to do it.

Next time you’re downtown, stop at the Daily Times building. Give me a ring, we’ll get together for coffee, and reminisce about old times.  And, yes–we validate parking.


produce stand 3

Oliver, the hookah-smoking caterpillar,  Elbert, Elmer’s best friend and neighbor, Lady Liz–better known as the Early Bird, And Ferd Doughty, proprietor of Doughty’s Vegetable & Worm Farm gathered under maple shade near a small gravestone.

The mood was gloomy as winter sky.  Elmer the Enchanted Earthworm, no longer graced the little roadside stand with the bright red trim.  Ferd, the only human in the bunch, spoke first.  “I learned a lot from that wise little worm.”

“He gave so much to us all,” Said Elbert.  “I feel the worst of all,” Said Lady Liz.  “I had no idea he was so special.”  “We don’t blame you,” Said Oliver–taking a puff.  “Through his death, he gave life.”

There wasn’t much more to say.  Ferd couldn’t bear being around the worm farm.  He buried himself in everything having to do with vegetables.  Seed catalogs were everywhere–on the kitchen table, in the bedroom.  Ferd closed up the vegetable stand, trudged toward the house.

Ferd looked at the Elmer’s familiar little work apron hanging on a nail–shed a few tears.  I’m going to raise the biggest, firmest, finest, most healthful vegetables to ever grace a table.  People will come from miles around.  Ferd bowed his head in reverence.  Ernie would want it that way.  He’d be so proud.

Then, one day a visitor came.  Ferd told me, that was how, his line of Ernie’s Enchanted Vegetables came to be.  It was because of Margot, a good witch, blown in on the West wind.  The same witch that granted Ernie, The late Enchanted Earthworm, three wishes.

“Ferd, don’t be so glum,” She said.  “Stories don’t always have happy endings.  I’m not supposed to interfere.  The Eternal Department of Legends, Fables, and Fairy Tales wouldn’t like it.  I’ll bet you didn’t know I was unionized,”  Margot said with a wink.

“There could only be one Ernie, The Enchanted Earthworm.”  Margot told Ferd.  “I’m only authorized one enchantment per species by the EDLFFT.  However, I do have a surprise.”  Ferd stood by in a slack-jawed stupor.

Margot clenched her fists, with opened palms to the heavens. “By Rite of East Wind,  West Wind–Elbert Earthworm I hereby crown you King of Worms.  You shall reign proudly above inchworms, bookworms, flatworms and all other worms–so, say I!”

produce 2

Under King Elbert’s reign, the veggies grew greener, more luscious, fresh and firm.  Ferd told me it was because of Elbert’s hard work and a special organic fertilizer.  “There’s a big future in worm poop,” Ferd said with a smile.