Thursday, May 31, 2012

Short Story: "Table For Three"

I know, I know. Another bleak short story. Sorry to be a gloomy Gus, but I just write what comes to me. Sometimes it's pleasant. Most of the time it isn't. If you have a twisted sense of humor like I do, maybe you'll enjoy it. If you don't, then at least try to endure it. I think you'll find there's an interesting twist in the end....

The old man tottered forward to the hostess station, looked up at the pretty young lady standing behind the counter, and grinned broadly.

"Yes, sir? How many in your party today?" she asked, returning the smile, albeit an insincere, plastered-on version of his.

"Table for three," the man stated, and nodded in agreement with himself. He looked behind him at nothing in particular, and nodded again.

"Okie doke," the young lady replied. She looked down at her table chart, circled a spot with her marker, and grabbed three menus before returning the man's gaze again. "Right this way, sir."

"Thank you, my dear," said the old man, doffing his hat and shaking a few lingering raindrops onto the polished floor below.

The pretty young lady extended her arm toward an open booth like a game-show beauty, and said, "Here you go, sir. When the rest of your party arrives, what name will they give so that I can direct them to your table?"

The old man sat down on the aisle side at the back of the booth and placed his hat on the table. "The rest of my party?" He looked befuddled.

"Well, yes, sir. You did say you wanted a table for three, right? And there's just you so far...." The young lady smiled politely.

"Of course, of course," replied the old man, nodding to himself. "You can't see them, can you? I forget that some people can't. Pity."

The pretty young lady looked quizzically at the vacant space beside the man and at the empty seats across from him at the booth. "Can't see who, sir?"

"This is Millicent," he gestured to the space beside himself. "And this is Karen." His outstretched hand pointed to the center of the booth across the table. "My ex-wives," he smiled sheepishly.

The young lady stared, somewhat amused but mostly saddened for the delusional old man. She pursed her lips as though to speak, but seemed to be at a loss for words. She simply nodded, and quickly walked away toward the safety of the hostess station.

The old man settled back in the booth and tried unsuccessfully to put his arm around the invisible "Millicent" just moments before his server approached the table.

"Good afternoon, sir. My name is Will, and I'll be taking care of you today. Can I get you something to drink?" The young man appeared to be college-aged, and was much more well-groomed than most "kids" these days, the old man thought.

"Why, yes, young man. I'll have a Diet Coke, and the lady will have –" The old man pointed toward the invisible "Karen," paused a moment, and continued. "A decaf coffee, black. And Millicent, dear, what will you have?" Again, the old man paused and looked at the blank space beside him before continuing. "Millicent will also have a Diet Coke."

With that, the old man nodded to himself and smiled up at the awestruck server. Will stood there for a second, unsure how to proceed, before slowly nodding his head and heading toward the kitchen.

A minute later, Will returned with the two sodas and black coffee that the old man had requested. The young man knew he was dealing with a loony, but he couldn't afford not to get good tips – not tonight. The rent was due tomorrow and Will barely had enough to cover it, much less any extra with which to buy food.

"Here you go, sir. Are you three ready to order?"

"You can see them?" replied the old man curiously, and grinned again. "That's wonderful!"

Playing along, Will stated, "Of course, sir. Now, let's start with you – what would you like?"

"I'll have the baked lasagna," said the old man cheerily, "Light on the cheese topping, if you please. Makes me constipated."

"I understand perfectly, sir," Will replied, scribbling down the crazy old man's order. "And for the ladies?" Will looked at the empty space across from the man, as though he actually expected to hear the voice of the unseen lady.

The old man looked across from him, cupped his ear as though to hear better, then looked back up at Will. "Karen will have the grilled sirloin. Medium well, with the baked potato and steamed vegetables."

"Wonderful choice, ma'am," said Will cheerily, trying desperately to keep the sarcasm from his voice. This old man better leave a fat tip for all he's putting me through, Will thought. "And for you, miss?" Will looked intently at the empty seat adjacent to the old man.

"Yes," said the old man, after briefly turning his head in her direction then back at Will. "Millicent will have the half-rack of ribs – with the spicy dry rub – with French fries and baked apples." The old man gathered the three menus and handed them to Will.

Will was surprised to see that the coffee mug across from the old man now sat half-empty. He had just brought the coffee to the table, and the mug had been full only seconds earlier as Will was staring at the empty seat to take the "lady's" order. Will shook his head in disbelief, feigned a smile at the old man, and turned back toward the kitchen.

When Will returned a few minutes later with the food, he was less surprised to find that both soda glasses and the coffee mug had been drained entirely. "Somebody's thirsty," Will teased the old man.

"Yes, we've been out and about all afternoon. Tends to dry us old folks out a bit," the old man said.

"I hear ya," replied Will, and set the first of the three plates down on the table. "Okay, we've got the half-rack of ribs with fries and apples." The old man slid the plate across to where "Millicent" sat. "Then we've got the baked lasagna." Will put the plate down in front of the man. "And the grilled sirloin, baked potato, and steamed veggies." He took the plate from Will and set it down in front of "Karen."

"Thank you, young man," the old man smiled.

"Of course, sir. Will you be needing anything else right now?" Will inquired.

The old man glanced over at "Millicent" and then at "Karen" before answering. "Karen would like some Heinz 57, if you please."

"Certainly, sir," Will answered, and dashed off to the kitchen. When he returned with the Heinz 57, Will was shocked to see that "Karen's" steak had been cut into bite-size pieces, the baked potato dressed with butter, sour cream, salt, and pepper, and half the steamed veggies had disappeared, apparently eaten.

Will set the Heinz 57 down beside the plate and glanced over at "Millicent's" plate. Half of the half-rack had already been broken apart, and two slurped-clean rib bones lay on a napkin beside the plate. Someone had made a dent in the French fries and apples as well. Meanwhile, the old man sat deliberately forking through his plate of lasagna. seemingly savoring each bite. "Did everything turn out  alright, sir?"

The old man looked up from his food, apparently not having noticed Will approach. "Oh yes, everything's quite wonderful. Karen said the steak was cooked perfectly. Her compliments to the chef."

Will stood dumbfounded. "I will certainly tell the chef," he stammered, and walked back to the kitchen.

As Will made the rounds of his other tables, he periodically glanced at the old man's table and now found it perfectly logical that each plate was gradually getting emptier and emptier by the minute.

The old man was rail-thin and very frail-looking. By all appearances, one would hardly expect him to finish one meal, much less three. But that had to be the explanation for it. Nothing else made sense.

A few minutes later, Will stopped at the table of the old man and his imaginary "ladies" one last time. "How was everything, sir? Ladies?"

The old man swiveled his head toward "Millicent," then back to "Karen," then looked up at Will. "Everything was just fine. Thank you, young man."

"Certainly, sir," Will smiled insincerely. "Will this be all on one check today?" He felt stupid for even asking the question.

"No, sir. It'll be three separate ones, if you please." The old man looked questioningly at Will's blank stare. "Is that a problem, young man?"

"Of course not, sir," replied Will, awakened from his stupor. "I'll be right back with those checks."

When Will returned to the table with the checks, the old man stood and pulled him aside. "Listen, young fella," the old man said. "I know what you're thinking, right? How ungentlemanly of a gent I must be, taking my two best gals out to dinner and making them pay for their own meals." He paused for Will to reply.

Will acquiesced with a curt answer: "Yes, sir, that's exactly what I was wondering."

"Well," continued the old man. "It's not that I wouldn't be willing to pay. It's that they won't let me. Seems Millicent and Karen are a little miffed at me these days."

"Really, sir?" Will was fascinated at the man's story, despite himself. "Why is that?"

"Well, young man, it seems that womenfolk don't take too kindly to being killed," answered the old man, matter-of-factly.

"Killed, sir?"

"That's right," said the old man. "You see, I am responsible for both of their deaths. Millicent there – I stabbed her eighteen times one morning when she was about to get into the shower. She hadn't done anything particularly offensive. I had just gotten tired of looking at her."

Will gulped deeply and simply nodded, as the old man continued.

"And Karen over there – well, I strangled her to death. One afternoon when I got home from work, she had the nerve to tell me that she didn't like my tie, and – well – I just couldn't help myself." The old man patted Will on the back reassuringly. "But you don't need to hear all this. You're a young man. You've got plenty of time to learn the ways of the world."

"Yes, sir," Will stammered. "I guess you're right." He looked briefly into the old man's eyes – which seemed much colder now – before looking away nervously. "Here are the checks, sir."

The old man took the checks from Will and returned to the table. As he walked away, Will glanced back over his shoulder and saw the man placing the checks in front of his unseen ladies.

Walking directly to the time clock, Will punched his card, removed his apron, and headed out the back door. He didn't care about the tip, or even his job anymore.

Will had learned plenty about "the ways of the world" in the past few minutes, and he didn't intend to learn anything else today.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Things I Find Fascinating: Words You Can Make Using Letters From The Word "Presidential"

1)  REPTILIAN:  (a) Belonging to or pertaining to the Reptilia.  (b) Groveling, debased, or despicable; contemptible.  (c) Mean; treacherous; harmful.

Objects in photo appear sharper than they actually are...

2)  SAINTLIER:  Holier, more virtuous, and more benevolent.

Cue the "Hallelujah Chorus".....NOW!

3)  SIDELINER:  A person who is on the sidelines and does not participate in an activity or situation.

Ron Paul: Lonely, friendless, but plotting...

4)  PLASTERED:  Being in a temporary state in which one's physical and mental faculties are impaired by an excess of alcoholic drink; intoxicated; drunk.

He drank to "that", whatever "that" was.

5)  PRISTINE:  (a) Having its original purity; uncorrupted or unsullied.  (b) Of or pertaining to the earliest period or state; primitive.

Not a hair out of place. What else did you expect?

6)  SPENDER:  A person who spends, especially one who habitually spends excessively or lavishly; a spendthrift.

It's all about the Barackamins!

7)  PRETEND:  (a) To cause or attempt to cause what is not so to seem so.  (b) To appear falsely, as to deceive; to feign.  (c) To allege or profess, especially insincerely or falsely.

"I care about you. I really do. This is my
'genuine sincerity' face." ~ Mitt Romney

8)  EPISTLER:  A writer of a letter, especially of a formal or didactic one.

"Dear Santa Claus, I have been very good this year..."

9)  NASTIER:  (a) More offensive; more objectionable.  (b) More vicious, spiteful, or ugly.  (c) Harder to deal with, encounter, undergo, etc.

Mitt Romney, not using his inside voice

10)  ISLANDER:  A native or inhabitant of an island.

Lei'ed-back Hawaiian native Barack Obama

11)  PEDALER:  (a) A person who rides a pedal-driven vehicle, such as a bicycle.  (b) One who retreats from or reverses one's previous stand on a matter.

Young Romney, just a-pedaling away. Real men don't wear helmets.

12)  PARTIES:  (a) Groups of persons with common purposes or opinions who support one side of a dispute, question, debate, etc.  (b) Groups of persons with common political opinions and purposes organized for gaining political influence and governmental control and for directing government policy.

Democrat Donkey (left); Republican Elephant (right)

13)  STANDEE:  (a) A person who stands, as a passenger in a train, a spectator at a theater, etc., either because all the seats are taken or because standing room is cheaper than a seat.  (b) A large self-standing display, typically made of cardboard, promoting a movie, product, event, or person.

President Obama standee (not actual size)

14)  TRAILED:  (a) Followed along behind (another), as in a race.  (b) Followed, as if drawn along.

"I was THIS close....I think I need a hug." ~ Newt Gingrich

15)  READIEST:  (a) The most prepared – or in the most fit condition – for immediate action or use.  (b) The most duly equipped, completed, adjusted, or arranged, as for an occasion or purpose.  (c) The promptest or quickest in perceiving, comprehending, speaking, writing, etc.

"I am strong. I am confident. I am Romney. I have
'leadership' oozing out of every crevice of my body."
~ Mitt Romney

16)  DEARIES:  Persons very dear to another; dearly loved ones; darlings.

Sasha Obama (left); Malia Obama (right)

17)  NERDIEST:  (a) The stupidest, most irritating, most ineffectual, or most unattractive.  (b) The least popular.

'Nuff said.

18)  ELDEST:  Oldest; first-born; of greatest age.

Romney – for once – looking like the senior citizen that he is.

19)  LEARNED:  (a)  Having much knowledge; scholarly; erudite.  (b) Connected or involved with the pursuit of knowledge, especially of a scholarly nature.  (c) Of or showing learning or knowledge; well-informed.  (d) Acquired by experience, study, etc.

"Does me standing here holding a law book in the Harvard Law School
automatically make me smarter than you? Oh, yes, it does, my friend!
Respect the brains! Pay no attention to the mini-Afro." ~ Barack Obama

20)  PAINTED:  (a) Reproduced or represented in paint.  (b) Covered with a coating of paint.  (c) Unreal; artificial; feigned.  (d) Exaggerated or misrepresented.  (e) Covered with makeup, especially to excess.

"Everybody loves a clown, right? It's the American way. I think it's actually in
the Constitution, though I've never read that all the way through. But then again,
neither has my opponent. Anywho, a vote for Romney is a vote for clowns! Remember
that when you close that curtain behind you on November 6th!" ~ Mitt Romney

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

13 Poems For Your Perusal: The Other Half Of That Alpha Poetry Cycle From A Few Days Ago...

Nothing personal
Ever stays that way.
Not for long at least.
One person knows
And soon another will
And another, and another.
Soon all will find out
And that's the plan.
But it's not the time
The place, or the
Circumstances yet.
Wait. Just wait.

On my toes
Never knowing
What to expect.
You keep me guessing
Stringing me along.
I'm not complaining
Just pointing it out.
I look for clues, hints
Hidden meanings.
You told me they're there
And I'm searching
But it's not obvious.
If only I could
Translate you.
If only you would
Be more clear.
What are you expecting
Me to notice?

Penny for your thoughts?
But mine are expensive.
And expansive.
In more ways than one.
Pay me a dime
And maybe I'll talk.
Pay me a nickel
And surely I'll walk.
Pay me a dollar
And maybe I'll holler.
Pay me no mind
And I might shed a tear.
Keeping my thoughts
Will get me nowhere.

Quit while you're ahead.
You're fighting
But it's a losing battle.
Fighting doesn't
Make you brave.
Giving up doesn't
Make you cowardly.
There's no shame
In defeat, as long as
You don't feel defeated.
Don't let it get to you.
There is so much
Worth crying over.
This is not. Surrender.

Rain on my parade!
Smile turns to frown
And joy becomes joyless.
I was so excited. But
When you weren't – 
When you said
What you said
When I'd said
What I'd said
And I heard
What you said
I was sunk.
Thanks a lot!
I was counting
On you for support.
Now I'm counting
The days till
It's done.

Special delivery –
Is this for me?
I didn't order it.
I wasn't expecting
To receive anything.
I placed an order
Long ago, but that one
Was canceled.
Apparently, they
Were out of stock
Or it had been shipped
To the wrong address
Or something like that.
But this? Now?
Are you sure you've
Got the right house?
I can see that it 
Has my name on it
But I don't know
Why they've sent it.
I guess I shouldn't ask
That question. I should
Take what I've been given
And simply say "thank you."

This is me
Acting natural.
As though
There's nothing
To hide.
As though
It's all
Out in the open.
This is my clown mask
Meant to distract.
Are you distracted?
This is my poker face
Meant to confuse.
Are you confused?
This is the substance
Of things hoped for.
Do you believe?

Uphill battle
Raging on
Can't yet see
The top
Pressing forward
Ever climbing
Hoping not
To stop.

Vague references to
What, exactly?
I see what they're
Trying to say – 
Sort of. It could be
Much clearer
But then again
I don't think that
They want it to be.
A little mystery
Goes a long way
Towards frustrating
And alienating all.
I doubt that that's
What they're intending.
But then again
Who knows?
We'll see how it goes.

When all is revealed
Will you even care?
Or will you just pretend
That I'm not even there?
When it's all on the table
What, then, will you say?
Congratulations? Sorry?
Or will you simply walk away?

X raided the fridge
To feed his hollow leg.
He wasn't particular
He'd eat anything – 
With or without a face
Green, red, or lavender.
If it had calories
And preferably grease
He'd have seconds
And maybe thirds.
X wasn't the healthiest
Fellow you've ever met.

You can say that again –
No, really, say it again!
I didn't hear you the first time.
Well, actually I did, but
I just wanted you to repeat it.
Hearing it out loud 
Makes it seem more real.
Whisper it this time
Where only I can hear it.
Yes, that's it. Once more?
Thank you! There's so little
Good news these days that
I'll take all that I can get
And I'll never tire of reruns.

Zero tolerance for stupidity.
You're old enough to know better
To act better – to be better.
Act your age, not your shoe size.
While you're taking responsibility
For your actions – I'll be over here
In the corner, holding my breath.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Words I Wish I Wrote: 25 Memorial Day Quotes

1)  "And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.~  President John F. Kennedy

2)  "Americans never quit."  ~  General Douglas MacArthur

3)  "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."  ~  Nathan Hale 

4)   "Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of men who follow and of the man who leads that gains the victory."  ~  General George S. Patton

5)  "I have long believed that sacrifice is the pinnacle of patriotism."  ~  Bob Riley 

6)  "Patriotism [is] a living fire of unquestioned belief and purpose."  ~  Frank Knox

7)  "Duty, Honor, Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be."  ~  General Douglas MacArthur

8)  "True patriotism isn't cheap. It's about taking on a fair share of the burden of keeping America going."  ~  Robert Reich

9)  "Better to fight for something than live for nothing."  ~  General George S. Patton 

10)  "Duty is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more; you should never wish to do less."  ~  General Robert E. Lee

11)  "A man does what he must - in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures - and that is the basis of all human morality."  ~  Winston Churchill 

12)  "Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory."  ~  General Douglas MacArthur

13)  "Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death."  ~  General Omar N. Bradley

14)  "History has taught us over and over again that freedom is not free. When push comes to shove, the ultimate protectors of freedom and liberty are the brave men and women in our armed forces. Throughout our history, they've answered the call in bravery and sacrifice."  ~  Tim Pawlenty

15)  "Only those are fit to live who are not afraid to die."  ~  General Douglas MacArthur

16)  "It's my firm conviction that when Uncle Sam calls, by God we go, and we do the best that we can."  ~  R. Lee Ermey

17)  "This is as true in everyday life as it is in battle: we are given one life and the decision is ours whether to wait for circumstances to make up our mind, or whether to act, and in acting, to live."  ~  General Omar N. Bradley 

18)  "The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war."  ~  General Douglas MacArthur

19)  "The power of noble deeds is to be preserved and passed on to the future."  ~  Brigadier General Joshua Chamberlain

20)  "It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."  ~  General George S. Patton 

21)  "It doesn't take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.~  General Norman Schwarzkopf

22)  "Freedom is a right ultimately defended by the sacrifice of America's servicemen and women."  ~  Arnold Schwarzenegger

23)  "Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness."  ~  Napoleon Hill

24)  "They died hard, those savage men - like wounded wolves at bay. They were filthy, and they were lousy, and they stunk. And I loved them."  ~  General Douglas MacArthur

25)  "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate -- we cannot consecrate -- we cannot hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
 ~  President Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Drabble On And On... -- Three Kitchen-Themed Drabbles


Heinrich Zwangerschap knew he was taking a chance by sticking his hand in the cookie jar. He wasn't afraid of upsetting his mommy -- Heinrich was forty-five years old, and his mother was in a retirement home. No, Heinrich was taking a chance because the cookie jar was swarming with fire ants. How they got there was a mystery to Heinrich, but they had to go. In his hand, he held an ant trap. All he had to do was drop it. The first sting told him he was far too slow. Anaphylactic shock is a bad way to die.


I was just curious. This metal box always produces such interesting smells. The lady had left the door open, so I decided to do a little exploring. Inside, hundreds of blackened crumbs awaited my sniffing nose. A few less-burned bits seemed worth a taste. I bit into one, but quickly spit it out, shaking my head to emphasize my displeasure. Suddenly, the lady appeared in the doorway, placed a pizza on the shelf above my head, and closed the door. The pitch blackness did not last long. Orange lights illuminated behind me, and then things really started heating up.


Dora Terhesség had been making authentic gulyás since her childhood in Hungary. The family had emigrated to America when Dora was ten years old. Mama Eszter had taught her to make the stew "the family way," using freshly harvested potatoes, fresh-ground paprika, and garden vegetables. Meat was harder to come by in the Old Country. You cook whatever you can kill, Mama had told her. Papa's job here scarcely afforded them a better life than in Hungary. But they always had their gulyás. No one noticed that the Terhesség's neighbors kept mysteriously disappearing. Now, Dora's roommates kept leaving, too.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Childhood Memories: Pantyhose Rocket Ship

So, my wife Mary and I were talking just this morning about our paternal grandmothers, and how much they were alike in many ways. If they'd ever known each other -- which they didn't, since they'd always lived nearly three hours away from each other -- they would likely have been BFF's. Nanny Cobb (Mary's grandma) was an avid gardener, adept at country cooking, and her home was Ground Zero for all things in the Cobb family. My Grandma Hill also liked to work in her yard, loved to cook, and her home was a gathering place for the Hill family. It was also a great place to hang out during the summer when I was out of school and my parents were at work.

Up until the time she passed away when I was thirteen years old, my Grandma Hill was my closest family member outside of my parents. In truth, she was probably my best friend -- no exaggeration. I have many fond memories of spending the summers with her. Being an only child, I had my share of toys and books and other things that interested me. I wasn't spoiled, mind you, but I was far from destitute. Often, I would take my favorite toys or gadgets or whatever to Grandma's house so we could play together. She wasn't a stuffed-shirt granny, the kind that pats you on the head, maybe even gives you a hug, but won't get down in the floor in the middle of the living room and play with you. She'd do that in a heartbeat. But when I would stay at her house, whether for the afternoon, all day, or occasionally overnight (her house was right behind my parents' house, so sleepovers weren't quite as common), we didn't really get around to playing with my toys all that much.

You see, my Grandma Hill was the creative type. Why play with a toy you can buy when you can make a toy you can play with? Why settle for the toy your parents bought you, when you can add to it and make it even better? That was her style, and when I hung out at her house, that was my style too. Her playful, inventive nature probably contributed to my already creative instincts, and helped shape me into the creative person I am today.

One of the most inventive things we ever created was a L'eggs Eggs rocket ship. Remember these?

The hosiery was packed inside a plastic egg which sat in a little cardboard box. The eggs came in a variety of colors, depending (I suppose) on what color the pantyhose were. My grandma must have been wearing these things for years, because she had tons of empty L'eggs Eggs under the sink in her bathroom. When you took the egg apart and turned the bottom part in on the top part, they stacked quite nicely.

One day, in search of a new toy to play with, I started stacking the eggs haphazardly till I'd formed a wobbly plastic tower, of sorts. When my grandma saw what I had done, I thought she might be a little annoyed with me for messing around with her Eggs without asking. But, as usual, she was not. Instead, she suggested that we keep going.

A lot of the L'eggs Eggs that she had were silver in color. Their shiny, reflective surfaces would make a great rocket ship, she suggested. Being a wannabe astronaut as I was, I thought that this was an excellent plan. But keeping the Eggs together was a bit challenging. Nothing a little duct tape couldn't fix, my grandma said. (She was well ahead of her time. Nowadays it's well-known that duct tape can hold the entire world together if you need it to.) Plus, with the duct tape being a silvery color itself, it would match well with the silver-colored eggs.

It worked! When we were done, we had made a L'eggs Eggs rocket ship that must have been all of three or four feet tall (which is saying something considering a complete egg is only about four or five inches high by itself.) The finished product looked great, but wasn't all that practical as a toy. When you tried to lift it to carry it somewhere, even with the duct tape securing it, it tended to wobble. You certainly couldn't blast the rocket ship off into outer space by attaching fireworks to the bottom of it. I suggested this as a possible option, but Grandma rebuffed this suggestion. She was creative, not reckless.

So there it sat in the middle of the bathroom floor. Later, we carried to the middle of the living room floor where any and all visitors could more easily admire it. All who saw it -- which probably only included my parents, Grandma's two sisters who visited often, and maybe my uncle, aunt, and cousins -- were duly impressed. This was just one of the many inventive toys we made out of whatever was lying around.

At the end of our toil and play, Grandma would reward us both with a couple of mini Snickers bars that she always kept in the refrigerator. Those little things were hard as bricks when you first took them out of the fridge, but you couldn't help but try to bite into them anyway. After a few minutes, they were a little softer -- if you hadn't eaten them already.

They probably don't even make these L'eggs Eggs anymore, and that's a shame. Because thousands of kids everywhere are missing out on a wonderful, if totally impractical toy. I sure loved the one my Grandma and I made.

There will likely be more of these "Childhood Memories" to come. Mary will probably be contributing some of her own memories, in her own words, here in the coming days and weeks as well.

Friday, May 25, 2012

10 Reasons Why You Don't Read This Blog

1)  You don't have a whole lot of free time these days, and you certainly aren't going to waste it reading such mindless drivel as this. You could just as easily find entertainment as good or better than what you find here on your favorite reality TV program, and you don't have to be glued to a tiny monitor to see that.

2)  You never know when I might write something about God again, and you don't want to hear any of that junk. If you wanted to be preached to – which you don't – then you'd go to church – which you don't. It's all well and good for people to believe whatever they want to believe, just as long as they don't talk about it. And if they choose to do so anyway, you certainly don't want to be forced to have to listen to it.

3)  You've read posts from this blog before, and they just weren't that interesting. Nothing to write home about, that's for sure. No earth-shattering truths or revelations to be found here. No self-help mumbo jumbo, no celebrity gossip. There's hundreds of better, more interesting sites on the Internet that are well worth looking at, so you simply don't bother with this one.

4)  If you've seen one list of (supposedly) funny pictures or things, you've seen a thousand of them! What's so exciting about looking at one more? You figure that I probably copied and pasted the whole thing from somebody else's blog anyway. You know you've seen something exactly like this before somewhere else, so why waste your time on a cheap imitation?

5)  You thought I was a "good Christian" till you saw that one post where I said I liked to listen to "Christian rap" (an oxymoron – there's no such thing!). Then you saw that other post where I actually had the gall to link videos of the "Christian rap" songs and you – not knowing what you were getting yourself into – were duped into clicking on a couple of them. Once you realized you'd "violated" your ears with that "devil's music" masquerading as "Christian music" (and you use the term "music" very lightly), you had to go take a shower to wash off the filth. You see who I really am now – a hypocrite who listens to "devil's music," and you don't want any part of that.

6)  You just want to be entertained. You don't want to read any actual "literature." So when you see the link for the post and its title starts with either "Flash Fiction," "Short Story," or "Poems For Your Perusal," that's all you need to know. You are not interested, thank you very much.

7)  You've read enough of this blog in the past to know that I can't write worth anything. You know good writing when you see it, and this is not it! You would rather spend your time reading the works of much worthier writers, like James Patterson, Nora Roberts, John Grisham, and Nicholas Sparks.

8)  A blog post every day for a year? Get real! There is no way that somebody can come up with something interesting to blog about every single day. It's just impossible! Oh, you might read one every now and then just to see if your suspicions are correct. But you're certain that after this many days in a row (what's it been, like five months now?), I must have run out of things to say by now.

9)  You have no earthly idea who I am. Maybe we're "fringe" Facebook friends because we happen to share an interest in the same bands or authors. Maybe we met one time at some social event and afterwards we "friended" each other. But that was years ago, and now you can't for the life of you remember where you know me from, or if you even know me at all. Either way, why should you take the time to read the blog of a person you hardly know (and maybe don't even know at all)?

10)  If you've read this far, you probably actually read this blog every day, or at least as often as you are able to. Maybe you didn't have the time to read it today (Friday), so you're reading it tomorrow (Saturday), or maybe even next Tuesday. But you are reading it – not because you have to, but because you want to. Maybe it's because you sort of like my writing, at least enough to keep coming back. Maybe it makes you laugh, makes you think, or maybe you just want to get to know me better. Maybe you're really bored, temporarily unemployed, or retired, and you have nothing better to do. Whatever the case may be, thank you for wasting your time here each day, or as often as you can. If you did read this far, you may have noticed that I didn't actually have 10 reasons why people don't read this blog. However, I think I probably hit the nail on the head with the 9 that I was able to come up with. Maybe this post comes off as an angry rant – it certainly wasn't intended that way. Maybe the tongue-in-cheek humor that was intended will come across, and I'll gain a few new readers, or regain a few old ones who temporarily lost their way (ha ha!). If so, great! If not, that's okay too. Thanks again for reading this. Y'all come back now, ya hear?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

40 Interesting Things About The Number 40


1)  -40° is the unique temperature at which the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales correspond. In other words, -40°F is equal to -40°C. Whichever word you use to measure it, "forty below" is really cold!

2)  40 is the atomic number of zirconium. Also known as the poor man's (or woman's) diamond. It does have a nice sparkle to it.

3)  .40 is a common caliber for bullets in firearms cartridges, most notably the .40 S & W.

4)  40 is the customary number of hours a full-time employee is expected to work in a week in the U.S. and other Western countries.

Um, excuse me, ma'am, but you misspelled "20"...

5)  In American vernacular, a "40" is a glass bottle that holds 40 fluid ounces of malt liquor. Malt liquors are commonly sold in 40-oz. bottles as opposed to the standard 12-oz. bottle that contains a single serving of beer.

6)  "4-0" (pronounced "four-oh") is derogatory slang for mall security guards and/or their vehicles. The term is derived from "5-0", a slang term for police officers and/or their vehicles.

7)  The average term of a pregnancy – counting from the woman's last menstrual period – is 40 weeks. How amazing that a brand new human being can come into existence in so short a time – though most women would probably agree that those are the longest 40 weeks of their lives!

8)  Turning 40 years old is seen by some as the entry to middle age, and one step closer to old age. Others (usually those who are actually turning the "big four-oh") contend that reaching 40 means that you are old enough to learn from your mistakes, yet young enough to chart a new direction in your life.

9)  In modern Christian practice, Lent consists of the 40 days preceding Easter. In much of Western Christianity, Sundays are excluded from the count. In Eastern Christianity, Sundays are included.

10)  Russian folklore contends that ghosts of the dead linger at the site of their death for 40 days.

11)  If you've been married for 40 years this year, then you are celebrating your ruby wedding anniversary. (Hint, hint, fellas!)

12)  Interstate 40 (aka I-40) runs from Wilmington, North Carolina, all the way to Barstow, California – nearly from one coast to the other!

13)  The word "forty," when spelled out, is in alphabetical order – for whatever that's worth.

14)  An ancient Arabic proverb states that "to understand a people, you must live among them for 40 days."

15)  To "catch 40 winks" means to take a short nap.

16)  Silly-sounding words that rhyme with 40 include: warty, corti, lortie, mortie, roarty, shorty, sortie, sporty, and torti. Move over, Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail! I see a brand-new rabbit story within this word list!


17)  In the Great Flood, rain fell on the earth for 40 days and 40 nights. As a result, all living beings on he earth perished, except those aboard Noah's ark.

18)  The Hebrew people roamed in the Sinai desert for 40 years before reaching Canaan, the Promised Land.

19)  Joshua, Caleb, and the rest of the Israelite spies explored Canaan for 40 days.

20)  The giant Goliath challenged the Israelites twice a day for 40 days before young David defeated him  with a rock and a slingshot.

21)  Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in the Judean desert, during which time Satan came and tempted Him. Each time, Jesus resisted the temptation and responded by quoting from the Scriptures.

22)  "40 lashes" was one of the punishments commonly meted out by the Sanhedrin. In actual practice, only 39 lashes were administered.

23)  The time period between Jesus' resurrection from the dead and His ascension to Heaven was 40 days.


24)  The year 40 B.C. was known as the "Year of the Consulship of Calvinius and Pollio." That year, Marc Antony (of Julius Caesar fame) married Octavia, sister of Octavian (aka Augustus, the first Roman emperor). Also that year, Antony's lover Cleopatra (the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt) bore twins, Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios – of whom Antony was the father. Tony, you got some 'splainin' to do!

25)  The year A.D. 40 was a leap year starting on Friday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the "Year of the Consulship of Augustus without colleague." That year, the Roman emperor Caligula started on a failed campaign to conquer Britain (though he declared himself victorious regardless), declared himself a god, appointed his horse Incitatus a senator, and ordered that all the heads of the Greek deity statues be replaced with heads fashioned after himself. Needless to say, Caligula was a tad cuckoo!

26)  "40 acres and a mule" refers to the short-lived policy, during the last stage of the Civil War during 1865, of providing arable land to black former slaves who had become free as a result of the advance of the Union armies into the territory previously controlled by the Confederacy. The combination of 40 acres (a standard size for a rural family plot) and a mule was widely recognized as providing a good start for a family farm.

27)  South Dakota was the 40th state to be admitted to the Union on November 2, 1889. South Dakota's biggest claim to fame is that Mount Rushmore is located there. South Dakotans would also like me to mention that the Black Hills, the Badlands, Custer State Park, and the Crazy Horse Memorial – to name a few – can also be found in South Dakota.

28)  Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th president of the United States of America, serving two consecutive terms from 1981 to 1989. Personally, I thought he was a much better President than he was a film actor, but he was actually pretty popular in both professions.


29)  In Major League Baseball, each team is allowed to have 40 players under major-league contracts at any given time (not including players on the 60-day disabled list). However, a team may only have 25 on its active roster – with the exception of the period from September 1st to the end of the regular season, when teams are allowed to expand their game-day rosters to include the entire 40-man roster.

30)  In football scouting, a player's value – in part, at least – is determined by how quickly he can run a 40-yard dash.

31)  In tennis, the number 40 represents the third point gained in a game. A score of 40-40 (three points each) is called "deuce," at which time a player must score two consecutive points to win the game.

32)  The uniform number "40" has been retired by the following teams in honor of the following players for their contributions to the team and their respective sports:

* Baseball:  Houston Astros (Don Wilson); Pittsburgh Pirates (Danny Murtaugh).
* Basketball:  Atlanta Hawks (Jason Collier); Denver Nuggets (Byron Beck); Detroit Pistons (Bill Laimbeer).
* Football:  Arizona Cardinals (Pat Tillman); Chicago Bears (Gale Sayers); New England Patriots (Mike Haynes); New York Giants (Joe Morrison); Philadelphia Eagles (Tom Brookshier).

Bill Laimbeer (left); Larry Bird (right)

33)  The term "40-40 Club" is used to describe baseball players who have accomplished the singular task of hitting 40 homeruns and stealing 40 bases in the same season. This exclusive club consists (currently) of only four members: José Canseco, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Alfonso Soriano.


34)  "40 Days" is a song by Christian rock band Third Day from their 2001 album Come Together. Great song, in my opinion. But what do I know? Those of you whom I heard from regarding my "20 Worst Songs" post apparently don't think I have very good taste in music.  #justkidding

35)  "40 Deep" is a song by  Christian rappers  Lecrae, Tedashii, and Trip Lee. These three guys make up just a small part of a greater community of Christian hip-hop and rap artists who are starting to make some headway into what has historically been a very secular style of music. This song is talking about that very community of believers, describing their numbers as (at least) 40 men (and women) deep...and still growing. My favorite verse of the song is Trip Lee's, which goes a little something like this: 

"A clique of us is shining, rhyming, walking, talking, sharing Christ / Very hype, find us hiding behind Him, all prepared to fight / Very tight, fighting, trying to share the cross, He spared our life / We're living by the blood like we're parasites, get it right / My team carries a bunch of high-beam blaring lights / Might seem scary, but we nice, see we carry life / Light is seen clearly, man, we're glaring very bright / Check the fleet, man, we deep, so we might seem Barry White / Ever since we heard about the murder, how they buried Christ / Eyes upon the cross, even though that is a scary sight / But that was the merger we converted, now we very tight / He died for His bride, homey, how you like the married life? / Christ the name we calling on, can't wait till He calls us home / You know we be falling often, we can't walk it all alone / My crew's always roaming like some stalkers, we ain't stalking homes / Started with the cross and we continue with the cross alone..."

From left to right: Tedashii; Lecrae; Trip Lee; and Sho Baraka

36)  "40" is a song from rock band U2's 1983 album, War. This one's got some really good lyrics. See U2 performing it live at Red Rocks below.

37)  UB40 is a British reggae/pop band formed in 1978 in Birmingham, England. They are best-known for their #1 hits "Red Red Wine" and "Can't Help Falling In Love."

38)  The 40-Year-Old Virgin is a 2005 comedy film – starring The Office's Steve Carell – about a middle-aged man's journey to – well, let's just say, change his status. I've never seen the film, but it was pretty popular when it first came out.

39)  Rachael Ray, one of my least favorite television hosts of all time, once had a show on the Food Network called $40 A Day. The premise of the show was that Rachael would travel to a certain city – whether it was in the United States or some foreign country – and she had to eat all three meals of the day without spending more than $40 total, including tips. This was the only show of hers that I could ever stomach more than one or two episodes of without having to change the channel. Mainly because I'm a cheapskate and I'd like to know where I can get decent eats for not a whole lot of dough when I'm traveling to an unfamiliar city.

40)  This Sumatran toddler started smoking cigarettes when he was 18 months old, and had soon progressed to 40 cigarettes a day! The boy's father admitted to introducing the child to smoking, but insisted that since the child was healthy, why make such a big deal out of it?  #smh