Caught Cheating While Playing (on) the Field

He that will cheat at play, will cheat you any way.” –Dutch proverb

**********

Lance sat on his couch and stared past the television.  If this were a normal Saturday night, Lance would be watching the game that was playing out on the screen.  The announcers were excited and a flurry of activity was occurring on his five-foot, HD display.  There was much cause for enthusiasm and uproarious behavior.  Yet, Lance couldn’t focus on the players.  He had heard about a game that had happened earlier in the week, and he had been obsessing over it ever since.

A series of knocks roused Lance from his brooding.  He got up from the couch, trudged over to the door, and opened it.  Without a word or a look to the man standing on the doormat, Lance returned to the couch cushion that was still warm.  He took his beer from the cup holder and took a long, slow sip.

“Sorry I’m late”, Vince said as he shook off his coat.  “Traffic was out of control.  You’d think people had never driven in the blasted rain before.”  He tossed his wet attire in a pile by the hat rack, just as he always did.  “What’d I miss?”

Lance jerked his head in a way that drew attention to the screen in front of them.  “Game’s right there”, Lance replied.

“You mind if I have a beer?”

“You know the way”, Lance stated.

Vince, feeling unsure of his standing, headed to the kitchen, removed an aluminum can from the door, and headed back to the living room.  “You bettin’ on your team tonight?  Even though they’re favored to lose?”

“They’ll be fine”, Lance said quietly.

“What is with you?”

“Do you wanna talk, or do you wanna watch the game?”

“You just seem mad.  Trouble at work?  Are you taking out Cynthia grief on me?”

“Maybe I get annoyed when people talk during the game.”

“That’s not it.  You’re usually screaming at the dang thing.  Besides, there’re commercials.”

“This beer’s empty.  I need another”, Lance announced as he went to the kitchen.

“All right, that’s it.”  Vince ran to the kitchen and stood in front of the door handle.  “What is your beef?”

“You’re blocking the beer.  Move.”  The last response was more of a threat than an actual sentence.  Lance’s broad shoulders and jar-sized head seemed all too eager to punctuate any statements with violence.  Lance could do plenty of damage when he wanted too.  And at the moment, Vince thought his friend was too ready to attack.

“Not until you tell me what’s wrong”, Vince demanded.  He hoped that the bravado in his voice was effective, even though he strongly suspected that his bluff wasn’t entirely convincing.

“Why don’t you ask Burt”, Lance replied.

“What does Burt have to do with anything?”

“I wouldn’t know.  You’re the one that’s so chummy with him all of a sudden.”

“What?  Lance, I haven’t seen Burt in weeks.”

A massive fist zoomed past Vince’s head, narrowly missing him and landing full-on into the refrigerator door.  An intimidating dent was now present where Lance’s hand had landed.

“Lance!  What the-“

“Don’t lie to me!  You two were playing football just last night.”

“How did you-“  Vince stopped himself.  Somehow Lance had found out.  Suddenly the sullen mood made perfect sense.

“What am I, stupid?  Of course I found out.”

“You weren’t supposed to”, Vince replied quietly.

“Oh, c’mon.  Half our friends were there.  You wanted to get caught.”

“Why would I want that?”

“Maybe you’re tired of me and you’re just too gutless to say anything.”

“Lance, if I that were true than why would I be here?  I’m not tired of you.”

“But you are avoiding me.  You’re just here for the beer”, Lance replied.

“Now you know that’s ridiculous.  C’mon, we’re close.  You can’t pretend that we aren’t.”

“Then why?  Why would you claim that the game got cancelled?”

“I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”

“Uh huh.”

“Don’t be like that”, Vince said.  “Look, just because I spent time with him doesn’t mean that I’m done with you.”

“Is he better than I am?  Does he have skills that I don’t?”

“Lance, c’mon.”

“No, I’m serious.  Does he know tricks that work for you?  Are his moves sleeker than mine?”

“Lance.”

“And I’ve heard about that T.V. at home.”

“What?”

“Oh, the guys can’t stop talking about it.  ‘Look how big it is!  It’s so gorgeous!’   I’ll bet he lets you be in charge when you’re over there.  Does it make you feel like a big, macho man?  He just thinks you’re so great to be around.  If only he knew the truth.”

“The truth?”  Vince was tired of being on the receiving end.  He had played defense in college and was ready to dust off his old skillset.  “And what is the truth exactly?  That I put up with people who are abusive?”

“I’m abusive?  Me?  That’s a laugh.”

“Please.  Everybody’s seen it.  The way you treat people.  The pushing, the shoving, the name calling.”

“It’s football!  That’s how you’re supposed to behave”, Lance replied.

“Well, nobody else acts that way.  Just you.  And our friends feel the same.  Several of the guys actually asked me to talk to you about it.”

“What, their feelings are hurt?”

“And their backs, and their shoulders.  You don’t respect other people, Lance.”

“I don’t tow cow to whiny little twits with no drive, if that’s what you mean.”

“That’s what I’m talking about.  Why can’t you try to see it from their side?”

“Whatever”, Lance growled.

“All right Lance.  There are two reasons why I snubbed you.”

“Finally, the truth comes out.”

“First off”, Vince said as he jabbed his finger dangerously hard into Lance’s chest.  “You’re a cheater.”

“I am not!  I would never do to you what you did to me!”

“Not that kind of cheating you emotionally unstable nimrod.  You go out of bounds”, Vince exclaimed.

“You went behind my back!”

“On.  The.  Field!  You run out of the boundary lines that are there for a reason.”

“Oh”, Lance said quietly.  “That.  Well, that’s me taking advantage of a situation.  If a ref ain’t gonna call me on it, then I’m gonna do it.  Anything for a victory.”

“Yeah, well the guys have noticed.  So stop it.”

“And?”  Lance shoved Vince’s finger aside and took a step closer.  His beer breath was pungent and inescapable.  “What’s the other reason?”

“I’m really not supposed to tell”, Vince said reluctantly.

“I knew it.  What, you’re in love with him or something?”

“No, you moron.   Burt has pancreatic cancer, okay?”

Lance froze.  “Seriously?”

“Yes.  He has to get treatment, go to the hospital, post-op; the whole thing.  He doesn’t know when he’ll be able to play again and his team wasn’t up this week.  We used to be teammates.  We were something special before you came along and changed everything.  So he wanted to have one last round.  Him and I.  I didn’t think you’d understand.  So I didn’t tell you.”

“So it wasn’t that you’re dumping me, it’s that you were getting back together with your old partner.”

“Lance.”

“It’s the legs, isn’t it?  His legs are better than mine.”

“You aren’t as young as you once were”, Vince admitted.  “Plus you are gettin’ a few extra pounds around the waist line.”

“Wow.  Hurtful much?”

“Enough”, Vince said.  “You aren’t perfect, and I’m not perfect.  But you can see why I did it right?  Why I went behind your back?  I still love ya, you’re still my guy.  I had no choice.  I had to team up with Burt.  It was a onetime thing.”

“It would still appear that we need to work on keeping our lines of communication open”, Lance commented.

“Dude”, Vince replied.

“What”, Lance asked.

“That psychologist wife of yours is really changing you.”

“You’re jealous because Suzanne won’t let you drink in your living room.”

“Can we just watch the game now?”  Vince felt himself pleading but couldn’t stop.  His wife would want to talk when he got home.  There would be forced discussions about emotions later.  Right now he wanted to watch large groups of men beat the ever-living snot out of each other.

Birth of a Daredevil

“There is danger, destruction, torment- what more do we need to make merry?” –Bernard Shaw

**********

There was only one activity that could satisfy Arnold.  Across the grassy lawn, he saw the object that he had heard so much about.  Breaking away from his mother’s secure grip, he ran across the playground at full speed.

Other children Arnold’s age were eager to try out the newest video game.  He had peers that thrilled at each baseball game that their families took them to.  There was Ralph; the boy who had been to seven different countries before third grade.  But in that one moment, the only thing at the end of Arnold’s tunnel-vision was the merry-go-round.

Uncle Barry had told Arnold about the wondrous contraption.  To some kids, going in repeated circles could come across as being rather boring.  Arnold was fascinated by the idea.  He would travel quickly on the limited path.  His rate of acceleration would climb greater and greater.  There had to be some sort of perfect speed waiting for him, and Arnold was going to attain it.

Public Domain in the U.S. due to age

With his mother following at a distance, Arnold hurried past the swing-set and the jungle gym.  He saw the disc-shaped attraction up ahead.  It was just as Uncle Barry had described it.  It looked like a giant metal coffee table fastened to the ground by one single table leg right in the middle.  Instead of boring old vegetables or some new casserole, the top was decorated with six or eight metal rungs that were welded in place.  As he got even closer, he saw that it was topped with a bumpy surface to assist with grip and traction.  Encompassing this grand piece of excitement and engineering was a thin pile of wood chips that was joined by patches of grass.

Three older boys were playing on the merry-go-round and Arnold looked at them with hesitation.  He wanted to try out this technological treat, but he also wanted to avoid being pummeled by these much older; and far bigger boys.  He turned back to his mother who nodded him on.

“I’ll be right here if you need me”, she called out.

Hearing the dreaded voice of parental authority, the three strangers put a stop to their adventure.  There was Arnold’s mother, keeping watch.  Seeing his opportunity, Arnold dashed up to the others.

“Can I play?”

The three boys glanced at each other.  Mischievous expressions were exchanged and heads were eagerly nodded.  They waved to Arnold, cheering and motioning the small boy closer.  That was all the prompting that he needed.

Safety and security were soon abandoned as Arnold saw his dream coming true.  He plowed through the grass and leapt onto the circle.  It groaned ever so slightly under Arnold’s Velcro tennis shoes.  The other boys rubbed their hands together and took their positions around the merry-go-round.  Arnold noticed what they were doing and hopped onto the ground.  He held onto a vacant bar and started to run.

The four boys began their first ring around.  Next came a second, and then a third.  The thrill was already growing in Arnold.  Faster and faster he went.  The other boys’ skill began to overpower him.  He had to scurry more than run in order to control his feet.  With each move he made it became less of a step and more of a leap.  Within a few more seconds, Arnold’s feet came off the wood chips entirely.

The elation that came upon Arnold was like nothing he had ever gone through before.  Half of the boy was terrified, knowing there was nothing he could do but hang on for dear life.  The other part, the side Arnold had never experienced before, was delighted beyond belief.  The force of being lifted off the ground was exhilarating.  The air rushed through his hair and t-shirt.   His fingers cried out for relief.  Arnold’s brain begged for safety while his adrenaline demanded more.  Suddenly his hands slipped free from their handhold and Arnold felt himself flying through the air.  He screamed in panic and delight.  Then, as the force of colliding with the earth kicked in, the world went black.

In the years that followed, Arnold would often think back to that day.  His mother remembered it well too; for it was the first time she had rushed her son to the emergency room.  Arnold got his first scar that day.  A thin line comprised of seven stitches adorned the middle of his forehead.  As he grew older, the bumps and war-wounds would only multiply.  The BMX bike would add a broken leg and three scars on his arms.  The ski trip in the winter break of senior year would throw in a concussion and a broken foot.  The rock climbing, the sky-diving, the high-dive into the waterfall that was surrounded by signs decreeing, “No swimming”; they all were influenced and inspired by that event early in Arnold’s life.  For as his mother sat there thanking God that he was okay, Arnold had only one question.

“When can I do that again?”

In the Blink of a Cursor

The trouble with worrying so much about your security in the future is that you feel so insecure in the present.” -Harlan Miller

**********

Thomas sat in front of his computer screen and pondered.  He knew what he wanted to do.  The computer screen glowed back at him, waiting expectantly.  Bandwidth was being used, but the keys remained idle.  Thomas clicked the mouse, typed in the proper command, selected the individual that was on his mind, and tapped the mouse button one more time.

“Are you sure?”  The screen asked what seemed like a perfectly benign question.  When the programmers created such a prompt, they surely only meant for it to be a double-checker.  Those nerds with their thick glasses and poor posture were adding one more layer of verification.  They had just been trying to prevent an accidental keystroke from bringing about embarrassment.  However, for Thomas, that was on more moment when doubt was allowed to settle in and take a nap on the couch in his mind.

He tried to tell himself that he was over-complicating things.  He knew what he desired to do.  Still, there were those times when what he felt like sharing and what he kept to himself were separated by only the narrowest of margins.

Thomas and Thelma had conversed over this matter many times, but never came to full agreement over the topic.  Thomas wanted to shout his feelings to the world.  Thelma was the cautious one.  If Thomas dared to click “OK” on the screen, there was a chance that Thelma wouldn’t like to his actions.  It might even start a fight.  But what if she agreed?  What if he could finally shout from the rooftops what he’d been clamoring to share with his friends for weeks?  Shouldn’t they know what had brought him joy and bliss all this time?  Thelma liked keeping her light under a bush, but that could only last so long.  People would eventually notice the fire burning and investigate, wouldn’t they?

Thomas couldn’t take it.  He had to at least try.  And with that, he set the pointer on his screen loose on its prey.  The white arrow of determination was pointed definitively towards its goal.  It was ready to act.  With a deep breath, Thomas tapped boldly and with emphasis.  The screen brought up a new message in confirmation of his deed.

“You have now listed yourself as ‘In a relationship with Thelma Thorpwite’”.  The secret was out.  Now maybe the hiding could end.  Maybe he could kiss his girlfriend when they left work together.  Perhaps they could go to parties together knowing that they had someone to arrive and leave with.  Thomas nibbled nervously on his fingernail.  The malleable material merely bent under the pressure his teeth tried to exert.  He had taken the first step in declaring his love out loud.  Now it was up to Thelma to respond.  Thomas hoped she’d publicly join hands with him, but she could just as easily shun his declaration of affection and ask him to tamper his enthusiasm.

Dating, Thomas thought to himself.  It’s a wonder guys have any hair left when we get married.  Thomas started thinking about his relationship with Thelma in the long run.  He started to let his mind wander to five, ten years into the future.  It was at that point that Thomas knew that, as was his nature, he was over analyzing everything.  There was a time and a place to think things over.  There was also a time to shut up, grab some potato chips, and watch television.  Thomas walked to the kitchen cabinet, happy that the remote was something he could still have complete control over.

Fighting for What’s Mine(sweeper)

Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.” –Rounders

**********

There are two types of people in this world; the kind that play Minesweeper for fun, and the kind that play it because they have no choice.  Oh sure, it started out as a simple office diversion for most of the world.  There’s that old story about a county that had to have the game removed from computers because productivity was going down.  Those are my kind of people.  They’re the ones that realized the sort of draw that that grid can have.  When the world’s serving up nothing but 8’s everywhere you turn, some of us stare the challenge in the face and defy it.  Some of us are up for the challenge.

Despite what your grandpa told you, there are plenty of ways to play Minesweeper.  I know, you think it’s just some little program that you can pull up and click away at your leisure.  If you’ve beaten the game once on “Advanced” then you think you’ve accomplished something.  Please.  Those folks will always be beginners to us.  Advanced is just the starting point.  There’re those of us that stay at home, designing custom grids, and running drills.  Any wrong box sends us right back to square one, yet we keep going for hours into the morning.

Pic from Wikipedia

The Minesweeper Underground Teams, or Mutts, started off with a simple challenge.  You set yours on Advanced, they set theirs on Advanced; the first person to clear the board wins.  And I’m not talking about the layout that they have now.  That stupid little sanitized blue-board with the countdown at the bottom of the screen.   No, I’m talking original, classic design.  We want the numbers ticking away in blood red and we want that little man in yellow to pop up and call you a failure.  Don’t bring that whitewashed, safe, welcoming game around us.  You’ll end up getting our typical treatment.  We truss you up, steal your watch, stomp on it, and shove you out the door with that watch superglued to your nose.  It’s the “Time’s Up” mark of shame.

Take Hanz, our inspiration.  No one knows his real name, but we all revere Hanz.  The man’s a legend.  Some say that he took the one hundred most called up permutations of the board and memorized them.  Others claim that they were present when he cleared the bombs in seventeen seconds.  There’s even a story that he knows the guy that invented the game, and the sunglasses are on that yellow face to hide the fear that the programmer had for Hanz.  I don’t know if I believe it all, but I do know that you don’t want to plant a marker on Hanz’s turf.

In his brilliance, Hanz hacked the classic MS and changed one factor.  For every bomb that you tag, another bomb shows up on your opponent’s counter.   It’s always a special treat for us when noobs play.  You should see their eyes twitch when three bombs add up on their total.  When we’re feeling bored, when the opponent is no challenge at all, we’ll spend a good thirty seconds just marking squares that are perfectly safe just to screw with their heads.  Watch a guy try to clear ninety-seven bombs in a one hundred square plot and you’ll know true joy.

I’m not saying I’m the best, but I’m no question-mark using poser.  I’ve tussled with Hanz and walked away with my dignity intact.  I have the standard calluses on the side of my thumb and at the base of pointer finger.  You don’t come around to the warehouse without being scarred by the game a little.  There’s a trick to it all.  If you’re walking into an unknown Minesweeper Club, or Miscy’s, you don’t want to play your hand early.  I mean that literally.  Any thug who’s guarding the door is going to check your hands.  If you walk in with some pansy wrist brace like a data processor that belongs in a button-up short-sleeved shirt and narrow time, you’re not going to get any play at all.  Yeah, hours of holding that mouse are going to do crazy things to your wrist.  Suck it up.  You gotta pay your dues and the game demands that you compensate all the way.

Don’t come around with any stupid ergonomics either.  Guys come in with their titanium cases pulling out their mice shaped like commas with buttons on the side and some trackball pimple growing out of the top.  “Best of the best”, they say with a grin.  “Allows for faster game play”, they gloat.  Not here it doesn’t.  Any self-respecting Mutt that sees that sort of garbage will slam their mouse against the wall, make the dweeb eat the trackball, and give them the proper “Time’s Up” exit.

So yeah, you gotta have a few bumps on your hand.  It comes with the life.  But if you got too many bruises, if your hand is too obvious, you’re not gonna be able to find a game.  Nobody wants to be the minnow to a shark.  We’ll take you down.  But at twenty bucks a bomb, the stakes add up pretty quick.  We Mutts save our bankrolls for real challenges.  Sometimes we just want an opponent that’ll make it easy for us to buy a new car.  It all depends on the player’s taste.

Then there’s this one chick; Celeste.  I’ve decided that when someone finally takes down Hanz, one on one, it’ll either be me or Celeste.  I’m good.  She’s art.  I’m not going to give away too many secrets, but I have my logical methods.  I operate off of patterns.  I know every move I’m making to at least three degrees.  Everyone has their favorite first-square to start with.  Mine has never failed me.  Nothing in life is completely random.  There are patterns.  And lemme tell ya, I’ve spent years finding all the patterns I can and using those to buy me some pretty nice swag.  That sports call with the shiny gray paintjob and the license plate, “ALLMINE”?  Yeah, that’s my ride.  Got a 60-inch, HD, 3D TV at home too.  You don’t get to carry around a wad of scratch in a leather jacket unless you’ve got the skills to bring ‘er home.  And I do.  I’ve taken my explosions, sure.  We all have.  Eventually life’s gonna blow up in your face; time’ll run out.  But I’ve taken my shrapnel and learned from my scars.

Celeste; she’s the opposite.  You look at her and you don’t see a threat.  She’s just around five foot, blonde, pretty cute with that whole glasses/librarian thing going.  She always has her hair pulled back in a loose ponytail.  Says she can’t afford to have it fall in her face when she’s in the zone.  For all her academic appearances, the woman’s an artist.

Celeste never plays it safe.  She plays recklessly.  I’ve seen her click through more failed screens than any four players combined.  But she’s fast. Wicked fast.  You should see her wrist.  She hides it well, wears long sleeves and has learned to hold it just right so that it doesn’t show.  But every once in a while, when she’s had one too many shots or she’s at the end of a forty hour session, it’ll come out.  Her right hand, especially her thumb, is permanently curved to cradle a mouse.

She’s fascinating to watch.  She claims that Hanz taught her how to play when she was a little girl.  It’s a nice story, just like the story of a guy who clicks once and the whole field of blanks clears away for him.  I don’t know if I believe the story.  But I do know that she and I have scrapped more than a few times.  We tangle almost every time we’re in the same Miscy together.  Once in a while we’ll tangle out in the parking lot too.  What can I say; we’re like oil and fire.  I’m slick, she’s hot; every once in a while we’ll let the inferno rage.  Regardless, she’s the one to beat.

You getting the picture yet, kid?  There are Miscy’s all around; you just gotta know where to look.  My suggestion?  Hang out around software and airplane guys.  It’s the engineers you want to tail.  What, you think engineers don’t want their kicks to?  You think it’s an accident that the fifteen biggest Miscy’s are all within two miles of airplane and computer manufacturers?  Those nerds with their pocket protectors are tougher than you think.  Their glasses make them look weak, but they’ll take you down and make you cry.

If the Miscy doesn’t fill up a hanger or a warehouse, then it’s a rookie joint.  You want that place to be filed.  There are plenty of us Mutts and if we avoid a place, there’s a reason for it.  Some guys, Landminers, we call ‘em, they’ll rig the games.  The SWAT leader at each Miscy is supposed to keep things on the up and up.  But sometimes the SWATs get greedy.  Sometimes they hack a game and give their buds a field guide.  We don’t deal that way, nor do we deal with those kinds.  There’s no planting for real Mutts; we play it straight up.  You want the high walls of an abandoned building to be constantly echoing.  If you aren’t distracted by hundreds of mouse clicks resounding off the metal walls, men hunched over computers as far as the eye can see?  Well then you’re dealing with Landminers and you should get yourself to an honest Miscy with real Mutts.  Don’t waste your time on those loser L-M punks.

You know those corners that cause you trouble?  You’ve got all your known bombs marked, you still have two bombs left, but there are five spots all closed in and you just walk away and figure some miracle will fix it all while you deal with an easier section?  Not us Mutts.  We barrel through.  We get it done.  You go ahead and work up a sweat.  You worry about time running out as your fingers start to shake in fear.  When you’re ready for a real game, you can find us.  We’ll be only too happy to take your money and shove you back out the door.

**********

(P.S.  If you’ve never watched this 2 minute fake trailer, you should.  It’s my favorite.)  😉

Repetitious Excuses

Repetitious Excuses

It was the end of a VERY long day.” –Groundhog’s Day

**********

“I must have misheard you”, Patty said as she put her purse down on the kitchen counter.  “Say that again.”

“I thought I could go to Stephen’s gradation next time”, Lawrence answered.

“Next time.  Next time?  Lawrence, that doesn’t make any sense.  How could you miss your son’s graduation?  Your parents are still back at the high school looking for you!”

“Now, you claim that I skipped it.  That I’ll never know what it was like.  But that’s because you don’t know the whole story.”

Patty’s keys joined the purse as they skittered and slid across the marble surface.  Her hands were now free to cross in front of her white formal silk blouse.  As Lawrence looked up past her pearl necklace and her chin that was lightly dabbed in makeup, he was met with a distinct frown and severe eyes.  Glancing even further upward, he could see veins coming out of his wife’s head that were hidden to the casual observer behind her black bangs.  Patty was furious.

“You have five minutes.”

“Okay”, Lawrence said as he felt his feet moving back and forth underneath him.  He’d been wondering the whole time how he was going to explain what had happened.  He still didn’t fully grasp what he had gone through.  Regardless, it was time to try and figure it out.  A simple, “I’ll tell you later”, wouldn’t work today.

“I didn’t miss his graduation because I’ve already been to it.  I’ve been to it dozens of times; maybe even a hundred.  The tight shoes, the tie, your mom’s thick perfume attacking me in packed together folding chairs.  I couldn’t take it again.  I love our son, but once or twice is enough.”

Patty’s thin eyebrows voiced her disbelief.  “Exactly how many graduations do you think your son gets?  What is this nonsense you’re spewing out?”

“I get it.  I see where you’re confused.”  Lawrence studied his wife’s face again and corrected himself.   “Upset; I can understand why you’re upset.  And yes, Daniel only graduated high school once.  I’ve seen it over and over.  I’ve relived the event more times than I can keep track of.”

“How; try tackling that part of your story.  How?”

“I don’t know.  Somehow it’s all related to my toothbrush.  Every time that I brush my teeth, I get taken back to the bathroom this morning.  I work a full day, I survive traffic, I eat dinner, I go to the graduation, I come home, and I brush my teeth.  Boom.  I wake up to find myself in bed and then it’s morning.  Again.  This morning.  The same morning over and over.”

“Because you brushed your teeth?”

Lawrence heard the incredulity in Patty’s voice and started talking faster in hopes of beating her wrath to the punch.  “I know, it sounds crazy.  The only theory that I can come up with is that I was in some sort of dream.  Maybe there’s a vein near my teeth that controls my internal clock or my perceptions and it was inflamed just enough to be overly sensitive.  You know how the dentist always says she has to numb all these areas of my mouth simply to work on one tooth.”

“Your tooth is responsible for your brain time traveling back repeatedly to this day?”

Lawrence nodded excitedly.  He thought about a follow up statement, but knew that it couldn’t possibly help matters.

“Lawrence Edward Tonlin.  How stupid do you think I am?”

“Now don’t be like that.”

“Time traveling teeth?”

“Honey…”

“So, what, your toothpaste raises your I.Q.?  Einstein talks to you while you floss?  What?”

“Do you really think I’d make up something this ridiculous?”

“Yes”, Patty replied without pausing.

“Why would I do that?”

“I don’t know”, she answered.  “Why would you tell the kids that Santa got stuck in the chimney and that he could never come back here due to the lawsuit between his people and the construction company that built our house?”

Lawrence paused to laugh.  “Oh c’mon, that was genius.  We would have never had to Christmas shop ever again.”  Seeing his wife turn to the refrigerator for a drink, Lawrence changed his laugh into a cough, and then into a clearing of his throat.

“What did you do when you were supposedly too busy to spend time with your only son?”

“It really depended on the day”, Lawrence said as a flood of memories rushed around his head.  “There was the time I drove out to the lake and spent all day fishing and barbecuing.  I ran onto an airplane without a ticket.  I went bungee jumping out by the-“

“Wait, what?”

“Oh don’t be so shocked.  You know I’ve always wanted to try bungee jumping.”

“Not that.  Before that.  A plane?”

“Sure.  I ran onto a plan without a boarding pass.  Man, that day was fun.  Those ticket agents aren’t nearly as fast to grab their little walkie talkies as you would think.  The male flight attendant was trying to chase me down the tunnel thing.  Heh.  I had a head start and I didn’t have any luggage to slow me down.  They tried to shut the plane door.  Your old husband though, he’s pretty quick.  Still, I pitied the people that had to wait until the sky marshals arrived.”

“Sky marshals, Lawrence?”

“Yeah.  I tried to walk myself off after they closed the cabin door.  The officials wouldn’t let me.  They thought I was some sort of security threat and they wanted to search the entire plane even though I’d only been on the front part.  Can you believe it?  I felt kind of bad about that.”

Lawrence brightened up.  A twinkle in his look showed his mischievous side.  “Now, it never happened.  Those people made their plane.  Today’s a different version of today than that today was.  Today I never even went to the airport.  That today though; man.  Those sky marshals are rough.  And yet, I gotta say their holding cells are surprisingly comfortable.  They shouldn’t have loaned me a toothbrush, those silly guys.”

“You’re… you’re not making this up, are you?”  Patty had since turned around with a cup in her hand.  She had intended to make herself some tea to soothe her nerves, but her husband’s story had distracted her.  The dry tea bag flopped around in the porcelain cup, its tag bobbing along merrily with no water to weigh it down.

“Could I really make something like this up?”

“I don’t know.  You’re weird, but this is psychotic-break kind of weird.”

“Patty, I’m fine.”

“So you did go to Daniel’s graduation?”

“Many times.”

“What was his signature move at the podium?”

Lawrence rolled his eyes.  “He yells out, ‘Good Night, Vietnam.’  Darn kid.”

“Any one of your father-friends from the baseball team could have called you and told you that.”

“But they didn’t.”

Patty’s mood and posture had softened.  She was inquisitive now.  “What did we do?”

“Pardon?”

“What?  You’re telling me that of all those times that you supposedly existed in a repetitive cycle that you didn’t spend any of those with your wife?”

“I tried, but most times you were dead-set on going to Daniel’s graduation.”

“And other times?”

“It depended how I phrased it.  If I explained it just right, I could get you to stay home with me.  We’d go to the bedroom, have a little fun, and watch a movie.”

“Really?  That’s it?”

“Well, a few times I took you out to a fancy dinner.  But that gets old for a fellow rather quickly.”

“It doesn’t get old for his wife”, Patty declared with her tone as she poked her finger into Lawrence’s chest.

“Point taken”, Lawrence said as he raised his arms in surrender.  Patty snuck into his arms and put her forehead against his chin.

“So what did you do tonight?”

“Say again?”

“Tonight.  This time”, Patty said as she put down her cup and looked at the clock on the wall.  “You can do anything you want.  You partake in whatever fancy strikes you.  What’d you do this time?”

“Watched Die Hard.”

“What?”

“Y’know, Die Hard.”

“That’s what you did?”

“It’s a really great movie!  It’s not like I have time to read A Tale of Two Cities or anything.  A two hour movie sounded great to me.”

“Ugggh”, Patty walked away in disgust.  She still didn’t know whether to believe her husband, but she knew without a doubt that her husband was behaving like his normal self.

“Patty, c’mon”, Lawrence called after her from the kitchen.  “It’s Die Hard!”

The Petty Loss

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

The Petty Loss

The size of a misfortune is not determinable by an outsider’s measurement of it, but only by the measurement applied to it by the person specially affected by it. The king’s lost crown is a vast matter to the king, but of no consequence to the child.  The lost toy is a great matter to the child, but in the king’s eyes it is not a thing to break the heart about.” –Mark Twain

The small boy was instantly struck with fright
When his eyes were met by the tragic sight.
Warren came home and saw the door ajar
And worried his cat could be rather far.

His precious pet was the curious type
Its need for adventure was always ripe.
The family tried to keep the door shut
So the cat would be safe from any mutt.

Often Warren looked at the furry face,
Warning the feline of the outside place.
He liked the fluff ball to stay at his side,
Who knew what could happen to it outside?

Hours of searching with no cat around,
No paw prints to follow on the hard ground.
Calling out and searching were all in vain,
The parents called it with the start of rain.

So Warren went to bed, the time was late
He couldn’t believe his best friend’s new fate.
Tears flowed as he thought of his pet with dread,
Then he heard a meow from under his bed.

Pic from Best of Web

The boy sat up quickly, hearing the noise,
He cleared away all the mess and the toys.
And there, in a heap, just as sure as that,
Was the confused, still sleepy, pussycat.

Fresh as a Daisy (Weekly Writing Challenge)

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

(This post is once again made possible by The Daily Post.  Much thanks for the idea.  I like painting pictures with metaphors.)

Fresh as a Daisy

The path of a good woman is indeed strewn with flowers; but they rise behind her steps, not before them.” -John Ruskin

It had started off with the older males.  The retired fellows in the coffee shop would see her in line and call her “sweetheart” or “darling”.  They didn’t bother to ask her name.  They never introduced themselves.  The elderly fellows thought that their old-fashioned attitudes would somehow win a soft spot in her heart.

At first, Daisy did her best to brush it off.  The older gentlemen had their way of expressing their affection and she wanted to accept the compliment.  Yet, there was a limit to how many coffees these grandfathers could buy her.  In truth, the drinks (supposedly meeting every definition of a complimentary beverage) came at a cost.  “Give us a smile”, they’d goad.  “Hey Doll, how about giving us a peck on the cheek?”  Eventually, Daisy ended up buying a coffee maker and avoiding the affronts on her person.

Yet, it was the men that she worked with that created the most difficulty for Daisy.  She was raised to be kind and courteous to all.  With her pleasing curves and ready smile, many men interpreted her attempts at politeness as flirting.  Daisy tried to temper her natural tendencies towards being outgoing, but it was a delicate balance.  If she was too cheery, the men took it as an invitation to hit on her.  When she tried to be strictly business oriented, whispers circled around about her being “frigid” or “a tease”.  It didn’t matter what she wore or what environment she was in.  There always seemed to be one or two guys that took the whole thing too far.  Daisy was done with all of it.

On a Thursday afternoon, Daisy was putting together a series of reports that her boss had asked for.  Having previously requested a three-day weekend, the pressure was on to deliver all the work before the end of her work day.  The sooner Daisy finished, the more time she could spend in Hawaii celebrating her friend’s wedding.  She had tickets for an eight thirty flight, but she had hopes of making a six o’clock one.  All she had to do was complete the tasks that had been placed on her plate.  Of course, that was the time that Bradley showed up.

Bradley had been following Daisy for months.  Ever since she had been introduced to the staff, Bradley had gone out of his way to take Daisy under his wing.  In the beginning, his advice had been helpful and Daisy had appreciated how he went out of his way to guide her through the office floor plan, policies, and even the politics.  However, as time passed, Bradley kept talking less about work and more about his designs on her.  Daisy felt the muscles in her jaw tighten and her teeth clenched together.

“Hey there, Dearie.  How’s your wonderful self today?”

“I’m actually quite busy, Bradley.”

“Too busy for me?  I don’t believe it.”

“Well”, Daisy said without looking up from the papers, “it’s still the truth.”

“Look, Daisy.  We’ve been dancing this little routine for far too long.  Why don’t you just give in to me?  I’ll show you a real good time.”

“Three reasons, Bradley.  One, I like my boyfriend just fine.  Two, you started off using charming phrasing; now you’re crude.  Third, I’m busy.  So off you go.  Please.”

“Daisy, Honey, it’s dangerous to deny that which you clearly need so desperately.”

With that, Daisy snapped.  That little switch in her mind that she’d tried to keep her itchy trigger-finger away from for so long finally flipped on.  Her limit had been breached.  Throwing down a pile of papers with a slam, Daisy fixed her eyes on Bradley and stared him down with a determination that added a foot to her perceived stature.

Photo from Wikipedia

“Bradley, have you ever had a mole?”

“What?”  The formerly charming fellow was easily confused.

“A mole.  Not a little garden pest that can be turned into a cute creature in children’s books.  I’m referencing a growth or discoloration on the skin.  Got any moles, Bradley?”

“Uh, no.  I don’t think so.”

“See Bradley, moles sound all kinds of fun.  At first I thought that a mole would be a nice little addition.  You know, it would add a touch of character.  If my face was lovely before, wouldn’t the mole make things a little more interesting?  I could dress up the mole.  Take it out on the town.  People would notice my tiny tagalong.  When if first comes onto the scene, the mole is something to celebrate.  Ya with me so far here, Bradley?”

“I guess…”

“Great”, she continued.  “Next is the second stage of coming across this new mole.  It starts to become irritating.  One has to wonder if they should cover up the mole when they go out in public.  The mole thinks it has control of what the rest of you wants to do.  You go to wash up at the end of the day, and you wish you could just rub that silly mole right off.  The allure is gone.  The mole has started to grow hair.”

“What does that have to do with me?”

“Maybe it will become clearer in phase three.  See, that’s when the mole has worn out its welcome.  The mole is now a worry-inducing pest.  Moles can show signs of cancer.  The bigger the mole is, the easier it is to see on your face, and the less you like it.  Even your coworkers start to mention things.  ‘I think that mole is diseased’, one gal says.  ‘I once had a mole like that.  I got rid of it and my life’s only been better.’  See, it turns out that moles are more trouble than they’re worth.  In the end, it’s really just best to excise them, forget them, and go find better things to occupy your time with.  Moles are nothing but an annoyance.”

Daisy looked back at her files and saw that she had nearly completed her work.  She only needed a little clarification from her boss and then she could finish quickly.  A glance at the clock confirmed what she dared to hope; that early flight was possible.  She’d have to call Joel and see if he was packed yet.  A charming boyfriend, Hawaii, and three entire days without work; it sounded like paradise indeed.  Daisy gathered the final piles of papers and made her way to the glass door with its ornate lettering.

“Wait”, Bradley called out as Daisy put her hand on her supervisor’s door knob.  “I don’t get it.”

“Neither does the mole, Bradley.  That’s the whole point.”

The Nanite Prophecy

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

The Nanite Prophecy

The city’s full of people who you just see around.” -Terry Pratchett

Those that came into contact with Jordan knew that he wasn’t quite well in the head.  Jordan knew it too.  He stood on the street corner and scratched the back of his ear.  There was something about the way that the sun shone down at twelve seventeen each day that made his head itch.  He had somehow developed this quirk over the years and couldn’t stop himself.  He lowered his head and saw his ratty shoes at his feet while his right hand went about its daily routine of attending to the irritated ear.

He often found himself muttering uncontrollably to himself and anyone who happened to be within range.  He heard secrets whispered on the streets and never knew if they were imagined or real.  Whenever he thought he could convince someone, he would stop them and tell them the unshared mysteries that were rattling around in his head.  As a man in a white polo shirt, khakis, and opaque sunglasses strolled down the street, Jordan decided that this stranger might comprehend a recent fact that the homeless man had learned.

“Sir”, Jordan called out as he stepped in front of the polo-man.  “I was wondering, I know that there’s, if you have a second to…”  Jordan felt his voice trail off.

The polo-man’s eyes were covered so Jordan couldn’t see what he was thinking.  There was no sneer or bearing of teeth, so Jordan cleared his throat and tried to collect his scattered thoughts.  He saw that his arms had been wildly gesticulating in front of him, reaching too close to the polo-man.  With effort, Jordan was able to pull the arms down to his side.  He had seen totem poles before, in the life that he could only remember in patches.  Jordan recalled that the tall wood creation had inspired awe and prominence, so he pulled his hands close to his sides and held them there.  It was his belief that this stiff form was more respectable and less threatening to others.

“Could you; if you have the time, I want to talk to you.”

The polo-man looked at his watch.  “I don’t know.  I really am on my way to-”

“It’s important!”

Jordan stopped.  He hadn’t meant to yell.  Again, he found his arms stretched out towards the stranger.  He realized that his actions suggested that he wanted to strangle the polo-man, when that was the last thing he wanted.  He shoved his hands deep into his pockets.  So strong was his desire to control himself that he felt his pants slip lower from the hands’ downward pressure.  Jordan took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and focused on the sunset picture in the travel agent’s window that he passed every day.

“Please”, Jordan said with his eyelids still closed.  “I only want to explain something.”

When he returned his gaze to the polo-man, Jordan found that the stranger was taking him in.  His shoulders’ had loosened noticeably and he hadn’t run away like so many other people did.  Now polo-man was looking at Jordan with one eyebrow raised over the sunglasses’ lens in curiosity.

“Okay”, polo-man replied.  “What is it?”

Jordan clapped his hands in glee.  Finally.  Someone would understand him.  There was a person in the world who would listen!  Once he got this man to understand, then he would join him.  The two of them would form a group, which would branch into other groups; soon their numbers would be legion!  There was hope!  The world didn’t have to turn out so sad!  Jordan pictured the polo-man as a giant teddy bear of happiness and managed to keep his hands in his pockets.  He needed to keep control.  That was what mattered.

“Have you heard about nanorobotics?”

“You mean, like tiny machines?”

“Exactly!”  Jordan couldn’t believe his luck.  This man really would get it.  “You see, the government has been working on nanites for years.  But not in the capacity that you think they have.  These… these these these things are being manufactured at an incredible rate.  They have; they… I should tell you about they.  No.  First nanites.  They make them self-replicating.  They make one, that one makes another.   It’s a house of cards but they’re all jokers.  Heh.  Joke.  So once they’ve got a collection of nanites, they can use those to make more nanites.  It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.  More begets more.”

Jordan paused to gauge the polo-man’s reaction.  So far, he was only nodding politely.

“Now, I know what you’re thinking.  I can see it.  See it clear on your face.  The part of your face that I can see.  Strange.  Your wearing glasses on a cloudy day.   Maybe sensitive.  Sensitive is good, right?  It helps you understand.  You can filter out the sun; filter out the junk.  Right!  Junk!  Garbage.  Garbage is where they’re getting all these nanites.  See, they set up their labs in or near junkyards.  Trash depots.  Who’s going to care if things go missing from a junkyard?  A dog maybe.  Slobbering dogs.  Sharp teeth.  Had one as a kid once.  Bit my leg.  Want to see?”

“No, thanks.”  The polo-man smiled.  It was an obvious show of kindness, but he maintained a safe distance between them.  “And where are all these nanites?  I mean, how many of them could there be?”

“How many he asks… millions!  Billions!  More than the sands in the desert or the stars in the sky.  That’s what The Bible says, right?  Which is more?  More sand or more stars?  Not a geologist.  Barely an astronomist.  Do like space though.  Quiet, serene.  Not like here.  Busy streets.  Lots of cars and people.  Oh, people!  On sidewalks, yes.  That’s where all these nanites are.

“See, the sidewalks and streets beneath us?  How they’re all new and clean?”  Jordan waited until the polo-man nodded his head.  “That’s just it.  They claim that they’re creating a new kind of pavement, and they are.  You have to… there’s a new quality about this pavement.  The top layer is all nanites.  The government, those elected officials; they’ll say that they have a reason for them.  Say that the constant movement of millions of pieces will create warmth and will reduce snow.  If snow and ice don’t stick to pavement, then less accidents.  They say they’re trying to help us.  They’re replacing salt and deicer with little nanites that can repair the streets after chains drive over them.  Or through them.  Moving means they’re too warm or too quick to let moisture settle.  Sounds good, doesn’t it?”

“I’d say so”, the polo-man replied with a chuckle.  “I hate driving in snow.”

“Right!  Right!  Causes problems.  People want less problems.  Less challenges.  Can’t handle the stress.  Well, they’ll have more than they can handle.  It’s the nanites, I tell ya.  The nanites.  They aren’t just covering every inch of the ground that you walk on, they’re covering the shoes that you walk with.  Think about it.  Nanites could cling to your shoes.  They could embed themselves in your rubber soles.  Then they’ll use your soles to track your souls.  Same word, but different.  Must be true.  They could use satellites!  Astronomists’ satellites!  Each nanite could send a unique signal.  Bond to shoes.  Shoes get tossed?  Make more nanites.  They’ll have an endless supply.”

Jordan saw the polo-man looking to his watch as he took small steps away from him.  Jordan was losing him.

“Look, they’ll track us.  They’ll be able to measure us by our weight.  Amount of pressure will change as we change.  Use that to charge us more for insurance.  If you have insurance.  Can send police after you.  Can find you.  You worry about police tracking with phone GPS?  GPS phones are nothing.  Nanites are everything.  Nanotechnology will tell them where we are at all times.  Build transmitters to record our conversations.  Shoes, socks, feet; the nanites won’t differentiate!  It’s only a matter of time before we’re all cyborgs.  Only one way to stop them.”

“And what’s that?”

“Extremes!  Got to embrace the extremes.  Walk around downtown with ice packs.  Tape them to shoes.  I can’t; don’t have any now.  Have run out.  But if those nanites tried to crawl upwards, they’d be frozen in the cold packs.  Couldn’t work.  Would die.  Problem sovled.  No cold packs with me.  Ran out.  Hold my feet over the campfire each night.  That takes care of them.  Extremes.  Too much hot, too much cold, they’re done.  Trust me, my friend.  Those feet of yours are in danger!”

The polo-man had heard enough.  “I’ll keep that in mind”, he said.  “Thanks for talking to me.”  With that, he continued on his path.

Jordan pulled his hands free of his pockets and rubbed them together in one big fist.  His fingers weren’t cold, but they were nervous.  Had the man believed him?  Surely he must’ve.  This had to be one of the stories he heard that was true.  The voice had said it was true.  It had been such a smart voice too; they had used big words and everything.  And if polo-man believed him, then others would.  Jordan decided right then and there; he would tell everyone he saw about the government’s use of nanorobotics.

The excited homeless man stopped intertwining his hands together and now clapped them in joy and exuberance.  He had a mission.  He had a plan.

Jordan was so excited that he hadn’t noticed the polo-man.  The stranger ducked into the doorway of a nearby apartment building.  From his perch, the polo-man could keep an eye on Jordan as he made a phone call.  His face had grown somber since passing by the homeless man.  Finally, the other party answered their phone.

“Sir, it’s Stevens”, the polo-man said.  “We have a serious security breach in the program.”

Samantha’s Suburban Surprise

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

Samantha’s Suburban Surprise

Today, the degradation of the inner life is symbolized by the fact that the only place sacred from interruption is the private toilet.” -Lewis Mumford

I know. This makes you think the story’ll be gross.
Just trust me.

Of all things in the world that work reliably, Samantha thought that toilets should be one of them.  She stood in front of the porcelain necessity and judged it as a failure in its workings.  The toilet in the main bathroom had always been a source of trouble.  For some reason that Samantha and her family had yet to understand, the toilet was low-volume and it often took several tries to yield any results.  Samantha in particular was often vexed at the appliance’s lack of functionality and often made her way to the bathroom in the guest bedroom just to avoid the battle.

Friday morning was no different.  At seven in the morning there were enough things on the mother’s mind.  Joel and Cassidy needed their lunches packed.  Joel had a science fair that was being judged in the afternoon.  Samantha wanted to be there.  In truth, she deserved a portion of whatever praise was heaped onto Joel’s final product.  It had been Samantha’s fingers that had been caked in glue and dirt as the two had tiresomely created a dirt base for Joel’s photosynthesis diorama.  At the end of the night, as her son’s freshly washed fingers and brushed teeth slept three doors down, Samantha had been convinced that it would have been easier and cleaner to take their garden to school.

As her mother put a sandwich in her lunch, Cassidy refused to change out of her dance uniform.  Her mother tried to explain that the recital wasn’t for another two days.  Cassidy adamantly stuck to her fashion decision.  She didn’t care that Samantha’s parents were coming to town just for the performance.

They claimed that they were going to be in the area anyways and that Samantha and Chuck shouldn’t make any plans for them.  They even offered to check into their hotel.  But Samantha’s mom had said it with that tone in her voice.

She had heard that tone when she had brought home her high school boyfriend; the one with the motorcycle and leather jacket, but no helmet.  She had heard that tone again when she informed her parents that she was going to major in Liberal Arts.  Should Samantha’s mother ever hear about the state of their toilet, Samantha knew that tone would come out again.  Somehow, even while smiling, the matriarch could communicate her distaste in a decision without actually putting it down.  It was this ability that Samantha feared would be used if Cassidy’s dress looked frumpy or, God forbid, torn.  Yet, with all the hustle and chaos of the day, Samantha decided the loud battle that would ensue with her daughter was not worth the fight, even if it meant a silent conflict with her mother.

In addition, Samantha had her review today.  If the paperwork had gone through in the way that it should have, the whole ordeal would have been wrapped up two months ago and Samantha would be at her son’s showcasing.  Instead, she had waited for her boss to return from his European vacation.  Then she had waited for him to get caught up from his time away.  And finally she had waited for the man to get through every other person in the office’s evaluations except hers, even though hers were overdue and theirs were not.  Samantha asked if they could meet a day later, but the boss had said no.  Today was the day.  After fifty-seven days of procrastination, the boss had put his foot down and didn’t care whose toes he stepped on.

With all that going on, it makes perfect sense that the toilet, an everyday annoyance at best, was shoved to the back of Samantha’s already crowded thoughts.  She looked across the table at her husband and tried to remember the last time the two of them had gone out together.  Maybe she could con her parents into babysitting.  Samantha’s mother might have the vocal talent of the family, but she was powerless against Samantha’s Bambi-eyes.

Later that night, the four members of the household reassembled under the same roof.  Samantha was the last to arrive home.  She was shocked to see her daughter running around in something other than her recital apparel.  Chuck saw her, put his hairy arm around her waist, and hugged her.  A smile came over her face.

“I convinced her that if she was a secret agent ballerina, then she would have to wear pajamas to go on covert spy missions and save persecuted kittens from enemy clutches.  Plus she could do somersaults as she evaded capture and clutched the fur balls close to her.”

“Whatever works”, Samantha said as she pecked him on the cheek in appreciation.  “You’re brilliant and handsome, and I’d only love you and your scruffiness more if you had been kind enough to cook dinner so I don’t have to.”

“Spaghetti”, he replied.  “I figured since we don’t have dresses to protect, we’d celebrate with sloppiness.”

“One of these days I’m going to show you my appreciation”, she said as she stroked the dark hairs on his forearm.

“I’ll hold you to that”, he grinned.  “Oh, but there is one more thing I need to tell you.”

“Can it wait?”  Samantha asked as she took of her blazer and headed towards the guest room.  “I really have to use the bathroom.”

“Yeah, it’s about that”, her husband called out.

“In a minute, Hon”, Samantha yelled as she locked the bathroom door and turned on the facet.  She had learned much since children had begun sharing the house.  Rule number one was that the door should always be locked.  Seven year-olds didn’t understand when Mom was unavailable to answer their questions.  They would enter without remorse, without hesitation, and no matter how much she reminded them; without knocking.

Rule number two was that to these same kids, any bodily function was hilarious.  Running sinks wouldn’t mute all the noises that the human body makes, but they would more or less do the trick.  In another minute or two Samantha would face the quirks and surprises that her life provided in abundance.  But first she had business to take care of.  Samantha pulled her blouse loose, walked to the guest toilet, and sat down.  It was only seconds later that she heard a squeaking noise as something furry brushed by her bare skin

With a screech, Samantha stood up and scrambled to pull her clothing close to her.  She whirled around and saw the source of the noise.  There, swimming in the toilet, was a rat.

Hi! How’s it goin’?

“Chuck!”

“I tried to warn you”, his voice came from the other side of the door.

Samantha scrambled to unlock the door, her hands fumbling with the doorknob as her eyes continued to watch the beady-eyed creature at all times.  She knew that the moment she took her gaze from the rodent, that would be the second it would skitter off to some remote hiding space.

“You knew this thing was in our house?  And you didn’t do anything about it?”

“Sam…”

“You could have at least put something on the toilet seat lid!  One of those weights that’s cluttering up the garage; the one’s you never use.  Grab a potted plant from the back porch.  But don’t just leave it swimming in there!”

“Why not?  I think he looks rather cute.”

“Chuck!”  Samantha squeezed her husband’s bicep.  “Rat.  Toilet.  Not good bedfellows.  Did you try flushing it?  Making it return to the watery depths from whence it came?”

“I couldn’t do that to Joel.”

“What does our son have to do with that rabid creature with incisor-like teeth?”

“It’s his rat.  Or mouse.  I really don’t know.  Either way, he traded his prize money for another student’s rat.”

“What?”

“I could repeat that last bit, if you want.  It’s gonna be the same answer though.  Our son bought a rat.”

“And you didn’t stop him… why?”

“I told him we’d have to have a family discussion.”

“Ugggggh.  It’s a rat.  It’s filthy!”

“Actually, it’s not as bad as you think.  The other father assured me that they had taken all the precautions and that they are as healthy as can be.  He says they make pretty decent pets.”

“Then why didn’t they keep this thing?”  Samantha started to hop and skip around on the linoleum floor.  Her prior task was not forgotten, only temporarily delayed.

“Well, funny story.  It turns out they have five other ones at home.”

Samantha stood still and looked Chuck straight in the face.  “I don’t want to know that man’s name.  If we ever meet him and I know he’s the one with mice all over his house, I will scream.  Just assure me that we will never, ever, go to his house.”

Chuck only laughed in reply.  Samantha’s response was more dramatic.  She pushed her husband aside, threw the door open and hurried to the other end of the house.

“I thought we were talking”, her husband called out.

“Oh, we’re not even close to done”, Samantha hollered as she nimbly navigated her way around the floor-covered maze of toys and crayon drawings.  “But it can wait a few minutes.”

Samantha hurried to the main bathroom, thrilled to find it unoccupied.  She closed the door and sent a mental note of thanks.  She had never been so happy to see that wretched toilet in all her life.

The Christmas Caper

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

The Christmas Caper

The advantage of having many children is that one of them may not turn out like the rest.” -unknown

Where three or more are gathered, trouble is bound to ensue.  It wasn’t a guaranteed recipe for mischief, but the odds of a triad of youngsters behaving one hundred percent of the time were rather slim.  Honestly, Christmas wasn’t too far away.  How patient are kids expected to be?

The escapade occurred one year in early December.  Mom had left us alone to go buy groceries.  Or maybe she left us behind so that she could buy us more Christmas gifts?  A kid could dream.  The possibilities were endless to several children all under the age of twelve.  However one thing was certain.  We were alone in an unsupervised house.  We knew that mom always bought presents early.

My sister is the oldest and has a quiet streak to her.  What others call well-behaved, I label as a propensity for plotting.  She knew my mom’s habits better than anyone.  After all, she’d had the longest to observe her tactics and caches over the holiday seasons.  My brother was the middle child, and therefore is guaranteed to cause all kinds of problems.  I’m not saying he was wanted by the law or anything, but he did tape matches to a paper airplane and throw it off the balcony as it “flew” and melted into a fireball.  (Don’t worry, we lived in Seattle.  The ground was always wet.)

Then there was me.  The innocent one in this Ocean’s Three.  I was merely following in the footsteps of my older relatives.  Peer pressure in school is one thing, but I lived with these ruffians.  Imagine what sort of short-sheeting, snowball flinging, stuffed-animal-hiding payback they could have rained down on me.  Plus, they thought of it before I did.  I was inspired by their conniving nature.

We more or less had the run off the house.  There were no locked rooms, no areas fenced off for special occasions.  We had a way of tearing through most rooms of the house on a daily basis.  The living room was full of LEGOs, the family room had books and VHS tapes strewn about, and the vestibule was sullied with our tennis shoes and backpacks.  It wasn’t our parents’ fault that we had free roam; they were outnumbered.

My sister must have used her years of experience to determine that there was only one area that we never visited.  Our parents’ bedroom was a world of secrets.  It wasn’t like we could go in there and play tag at four in the morning.  Also, there wasn’t much worth our time in that room.  A dresser with clothes was boring.  The bed would have been all sorts of entertainment if we were allowed to jump on it, which we weren’t.  As for the record and CD collection; all I saw were classical music selections with old men and boring landscapes painted on them.  I do remember seeing a few Johnny Cash vinyl records, but it wasn’t until my twenties that I would find out how cool my dad was for having those.

However, every master bedroom has an adjoining area of mystery.  The eldest of us had read C.S. Lewis, so perhaps she borrowed the idea of secret treasures from Aslan-enhanced adventures.  Regardless, the children of the house were soon huddled on the floor of the closet.  It was a walk-in room with a shelf above all the hangers.  The taller members assured me that there was nothing worthwhile up high.  It was time to get down on our hands and knees.  In the L-shaped space, we all crammed into the corner as one big huddled mass of excitable giggles, arms, and legs.  Sure enough, just as had been foretold, the wonderful embarrassment of delights was contained therein.

We celebrated, we examined, and we ooh-ed.  Our mom didn’t wrap the presents until the week of Christmas, so all the toys and trinkets were there for our examination.  There may have been sweaters or socks for us in the pile, but I rather doubt it.  Who needs to hide clothing from children?  Toys, that’s what we were excited about.  We looked, we compared, and we managed to keep each other from opening up the packages and playing with them.

The plot of every heist flick always seems to go the same way.  At some point, the ne’er do wells end up coming “this close” to getting caught.  The warden barges in, the security feed blinks back to life, a stoolie rats out the prison escapees for an extra ration of cigs.  Well that’s why we didn’t have any accomplices.  It was us and us alone, and we got away with it.  No one was to know the wiser.

At least, that was the case until dinner time.  I don’t recall any nervous faces at the table.  The five of us all sat around as normal as could be.  It was a typical family having a meal together in true Rockwell-ian fashion.  But my family had something that you’ll never find painted in The Four Freedoms.  Our household, much to their amusement, had me.  So it was that in between bites of food, I turned to my mom and asked, “Which Care Bear’s mine?”

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