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.


On a cool, early autumn morning, two friends met for breakfast at a favorite local diner.  Dave wore his familiar red baseball cap.  John’s gray hair was combed straight back.  They were comfortable with the anonymity of middle-age.

Dave sat down next to John; secured his tan jacket on the back of the chair; doggedly ignored the elephant in the room.  On the counter, a  supermarket tabloid, flashed sensational neon headlines.

Tim Allen’s a Jerk.  What’s With His Hair?

Brangelina Frantic: I’ve Got Too Many Kids!

“John, why do you read this stuff?  It’s nothing but lies and half-truths.”

“I don’t know why Dave–it’s purely for entertainment.  I’m a people watcher.  Don’t you know there’s a kernel of truth in everything?  Even a broken clock is right twice a day.  I think Confucius said it.” John refreshed his coffee and turned the page.

Dave stared off into space, lost in thought.  Look out–here we go again.

Give Your Kid an Unusual Name.  You’re Just Asking for Trouble

John immersed himself in the article.  Found the equivalence of a  bubble bath among the words.  “That explains a lot,” He mumbled.

“Explains what?”  Asked Dave.  “That people who read supermarket rags are crackpots?”

“No, it says here that kids with unusual names are more likely to cause trouble.”

“You mean like “A Boy Named Sue?  That’s not so weird.  His daddy named him, so he’d have to be tough,” Dave replied.

“Not exactly–there’s more to it,” John answered.  “Girls can also have unusual names.  Have you ever noticed that girls named Kimmy have terrible tempers?”

“I think it has something to do with “Kimmy,” the cutesy name, given at birth.  These girls, named Kimmy, a derivative of Kimberly, are always struggling to be something they can never be. Because of inner conflict–they’re doomed.”

“Are you talking about Kimmy Dawson down at the DMV?  She’s always nice to me.  Maybe you’re too grouchy?  And, when did you become Dr. Johnny?”  Dave asked.

John plowed straight ahead.  “Our hypothetical Kimmy’s parents thought it was cute when she cried constantly and threw tantrums as a toddler.  Later, when she bit several kids at daycare, they began to realize their mistake.  Then, in public school, after repeated incidents of misbehavior and truancy, it was too late.”

“That’s a ridiculous story,”  Dave replied.  “Maybe you turned out the way you did because you were “Johnny Jerk Weed” in elementary school?”

“I could say the same about you Davey “The Loon” Muldoon.

“Are you guys for real?”  You’re arguing like two boys on school playground at recess,”  Said an annoyed female voice.

“We’re sorry if  we interrupted your breakfast,”  Dave apologized. “Don’t mind us–we’re really good friends.”

“And I hope you’re not a Kimmy,” John mused.

“No harm, no foul–my name’s Gina.  Call me for your real estate needs.  Here’s my business card.”

John and Dave watched Gina leave–both lost for words.  That didn’t happen very often.

Were things really what they seemed?  Had Aliens Settled in San Francisco?  Who knew the real truth?

Johnny “Jerk Weed” Snead dreamed on.  Davey “The Loon” Muldoon refused to believe.

tabloid 2


classic wooden boats

Sam was both tenacious and dignified.  He eschewed questions about past history.  He was the son of a charter boat captain from the Florida Keys.  Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolution put the kibosh on his father’s livelihood.

Sam took off his fishing hat, wiped the sweat away.  Gnats were terrible this time of year.  Near the cul-de-sac, trash was strewn everywhere.  Who’s the numbskull responsible for this?  If it was careless city sanitation workers–why was it only here?  

The hard-working citizens of Bluebird Lane deserved an answer.  Sam was up for the challenge.  He examined each piece of trash with an archaeologist’s precision.

A decapitated doll in a graduation gown lay sprawled on the pavement.  Nearby was the faceless head, with mortar board hat and tassel.  Was this a crude voodoo doll?  Did people still believe in that spooky mumbo-jumbo stuff?  Studying in school could be tedious and boring–that wasn’t a reason to want someone dead.

Three, sharp-pointed, yellow plastic stakes were splayed out in no particular order.  There was no blood evidence.  Had they been wiped clean?  The two, empty, five-hour energy drink bottles–what were they for?  Courage in a bottle?  The bottles were awfully small. Not much courage there.

The suspect had a sweet tooth, as indicated by a “Fruit Squirt” candy wrapper.  Maybe I should follow the trail of candy wrappers?  At last, a name–a public library internet access card with the name “Sherry” scrawled on the bottom.  Who’d throw away a library card?  That was a real head-scratcher.  

detective 3

Sam didn’t care about the internet.  He took notes, relied on instincts, and observations.  Libraries were full of classic stories– like Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.”  Julius Caesar, the poor sap–betrayed by his best friend Brutus.  It didn’t turn out so good for him.  

What about this Sherry dame?  Was she a crime victim?  Was the discarded automobile air freshener used to conceal evidence?  The most intriguing piece of evidence, a receipt from “Tommy T’s” on East Beach Boulevard, dated Sunday, the twenty-seventh at 7:40 AM.  I’d never heard of the place.  The clerk’s name was James.  James and I needed to talk.  

Beach bars came and went.  They were there to snag tourists and “lookyloos.”  Tourists in gaudy Hawaiian shirts sat in beach chairs, sipped fruity drinks, gawked at the water.  These weren’t watering holes frequented by working stiffs.  Most locals stayed away.

Sam parked his PT Cruiser and walked along East Beach Boulevard. I’m glad this is it-my dogs are barking.  Tommy T’s wasn’t much. The young man working the counter had more arm tattoos than a drunken sailor after a night in Tijuana.

“Where can I find James?”  Sam asked.

“You’re talking to him,” The young man answered.  “Can I help you find something?”

“No, I’m looking for someone.  Do you remember a customer from Sunday morning?  Her name  might be Sherry.”  James looked at the receipt.

James thought about it for a minute.  “I think I remember her–pretty college coed type with dark hair.  It wasn’t busy that morning.  She was alone and didn’t stay long.  Is she in trouble?  Are you the police?”

“No, I’m investigating a perplexing set of circumstances.  My name is Sam.  Sam S. if you want to get technical.  That’s all you need to know about me.  I’m the one that’s supposed to be asking questions.  As far as you’re concerned, I was never here.”

“Where’s the real action around here James?  Is it in the back–numbers, rackets, gambling, illegal hooch?  What’s the big boss’s name?

“Steve Davis is the boss.  He’s from somewhere near Atlanta.  There’s nothing else going on here.  Most of the time it’s pretty boring.”

I’d never heard of this Davis fellow.  The kid didn’t know anything.  He was too busy chasing skirts and watching beach bunnies .  It’s back to the scene of the crime. 

beach chairs

One of the neighbors was pulling weeds.  Sam stopped the car–hollered out the window.  “Rich, did you see or hear anything unusual early Sunday morning?”

“No Sam, I didn’t,”  Rich answered.  “I’m kind of busy right now.”

“I’ll only take a few minutes of your time.  Did you see who scattered trash all over the street this morning?  Who is Sherry?  Is she a new neighbor?  Have you seen her lately?  Sam asked questions in machine gun fashion.

“If I tell you, do you promise to go away and stop bothering me?”  Rich asked.

“It’s a deal.” Sam answered.

“Sherry is Jan’s college roommate.  She was here over the weekend–left for home early this morning.  Raccoons got in the trash cans last night.  One of ’em got hit by a car.  It’s in the road deader than a door nail.  Does that about do it for you?”  Asked Rich.

“Thanks Rich–that about does it.  It all checks out.”

And the purloined litter mystery ended without further ado.