These three short stories started off as simply intriguing titles which I'd culled from common road signs. They turned out to be – especially in the case of the last story – oddly humorous tales of which I'm rather proud. Hope you'll enjoy reading them as much as I did writing them. ~ JH
BEWARE OF DOG
My dog chowed down on some chili beans up in here last night, so I wouldn't be hangin' around him too close, if you know what I'm sayin'. I ain't mean for it to happen. I had got up to go to the bathroom and when I came back, like two seconds later, he had his face all up in them mugs, just chompin' away. I about took 'em away from 'im, but then I was, like, this junk could be hilarious! I could catch him on my camera phone cuttin' the cheese or somethin', and send it in to one of those funniest video shows on TV, and win some money, yo! But he ain't pooted so far, least not where I could tell – and them was potent chili beans, so I'm pretty sure I woulda noticed, like even if I was sleeping I woulda noticed. Anyway, like I was sayin', you best keep your distance unless you wanna be skunked. Don't say I ain't warn you.
My favorite books are the kind where everyone dies in the end. It's crazy, I know, but I just love getting emotionally invested in a character, or even better, in a bunch of characters, and then seeing them killed off, one by one, like it was a zombie apocalypse or something. Except, unlike a zombie apocalypse, they don't come back to life later on. Maybe this is why I don't read too many book series. In a series, you always know that, no matter how bad the situation is, the main character is going to survive, because Book 2 is on the way, and Book 3 isn't too far behind it. No, I'm not a fan of serial novels, or book series, whatever you want to call them. Give me a cleanly written, self-contained book where bad stuff happens to likable characters and everyone dies by the last page. That's my kind of story!
SPEED CHECKED BY RADAR
I'm cruising down the interstate at about a 90 mph clip the other day, when all of a sudden, I see flashing lights in the rearview. Crap, I'm thinking, I'm busted now. The weird thing is, the lights aren't red and blue like on a normal cop car, or even orangey-red like on a tow truck or an ambulance. Oddly enough, they're green flashing lights. But flashing lights are flashing lights, and they only mean one thing: I'm in trouble.
So I pull over to the side of the road and stop the car. The green-flashing-lights car pulls in behind me, and – I'm watching all this in my rearview mirror – out steps a diminutive figure in green army fatigues. That's a little strange, but this is a rural area, so I'm thinking maybe the cops here have their own style of uniform that works for them – whatever. As the cop, or sheriff, or whatever he is, approaches the car, it strikes me that he looks very familiar. Where have I seen that face before, that little green hat, those Coke-bottle glasses?
The peculiar-looking man appears in the driver's side window and, in a rather high-pitched voice that I can't mistake for anyone else's, states, "License and registration, please."
I cock my head to one side and raise my eyebrows in astonishment. "Aren't you...?"
The man puts on an unconvincing stern face and repeats, "License and registration, please, sir."
I turn to retrieve my registration card from the glove box, fish out my license from my wallet, and hand them both to the man. He studies them carefully, distracted for the moment, so I try again. "Aren't you that guy from that TV show? MASH, the one about the Korean War?"
"Yes," he mutters quietly.
"Excuse me?" I say.
"Yes, I am," he answers.
"Oh, wow, you're Gary Burghoff. You're Radar!"
"Yes," he repeats. He hands me back the license and registration card, still mock-frowning.
"Do you realize how fast you were going, sir?"
"A little faster than I should've been, I'm assuming, Mr. Burghoff."
"Officer Burghoff," he says, in that unmistakable Radar voice.
"I'm sorry, Officer. I just can't believe it's you. You're a cop!"
"Law enforcement officer," Radar corrects me.
"Yes, of course, Mr...Officer Burghoff."
"Speeding is a very serious crime, you know," the famous actor warns, still trying to look tough, but looking oh-so-Radar-like instead.
"Yes, Ra...yes, officer. I'm very sorry about that."
"I'm going to have to ticket you."
"I understand, sir. Mr. Burghoff...I mean, Officer...would you also mind signing this for me?"
"A basketball, sir?" Radar inquires.
"Well, it's the only thing I have in the car," I note.
"Wait a second," Radar falters. "I didn't pick up on the name at first, but your face is unmistakable. Are you the LeBron James?"
"Yes," I answer.
"Well, this is just incredible!" the little man exclaims, suddenly animated.
"It is pretty crazy," I comment.
"Hang on a second, Mr. James, I'll be right back."
Officer Burghoff scampers back to his car like a schoolboy and returns with a pair of handcuffs, and hands them to me.
"Whoa, whoa, what's going on here?" I ask.
"It's my spare pair," Radar answers.
"Okay...so what am I supposed to do with them?"
"Sign them...please, sir. I have a Sharpie right here," he adds, and pulls one out of his pocket.
I shake my head in amusement, then I sign the handcuffs and carefully hand them back to him. "What about my basketball?" I ask.
"Oh, of course, sir, Mr. James, sir," he says, sounding more and more like Radar all the time.
I hand him the basketball and his Sharpie and he signs it for me – "Gary 'Radar' Burghoff" – just like that.
"Thanks, Mr...Officer Burghoff," I smile. "Well, it was good to meet you, sir." I turn the key in the ignition and start my car.
"Hold it right there, Mr. James!" Radar shouts, and places his hand on my left arm firmly.
"What's up?" I ask.
"There's a matter of a ticket to be settled," he replies.
"I thought we just settled it," I say, and smirk just a touch.
"Not at all, sir! The law is the law, and my job is to enforce the law, no matter what!" Now he sounds like Barney Fife.
"Seriously?" I ask, incredulous.
"Seriously," he counters calmly, and – with his signed handcuffs tucked under one arm – fills out a ticket and hands it to me unceremoniously. "Have a nice day, Mr. James. It was a pleasure meeting you also."
I watch in the rearview as the famous little man saunters back to his cop car. I put my car into drive and pull back onto the highway, unable to do anything other than laugh my fool head off.