Phone Your Friend (or, “Phone; Your Friend?”)

Well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?” -James Thurber

———-

PHNFGHT

In the battlefield of my mind, all army helmets look like turtle shells

There have been many phones over the course of my life.  I can count them all on one hand but the adventures we went through together are endless.  I was dragged kicking and screaming into the cellular age, and I am still wondering when one of the sides is going to win the conflict.

The first salvo was thrown in the form of a Samsung flip-phone.  This phone was forced upon me.  I have never seen myself as important enough to need a portable communication device.  However, as part of an upheaval at work, I was overruled.  As it was explained to me, it was desired that I be readily available “just in case”.

To ease the transition, the cost of the phone was covered by my boss and I was allowed to charge two-thirds of the monthly bill back to the company.  All that, and I was granted the request that I could keep my phone turned off on Sundays.  Honestly, it was a rather beneficial arrangement; even if it was hoisted upon me.

The phone itself was rather unassuming.  This was back in the days when small was the biggest selling point.  It did not matter that my coworker could not type in numbers on his phone without using the very tip of his fingernail.  He was proud that the battery was bigger than the phone itself, and that when the devil was all put together, it resembled a matchbox car.  Ah, the simpler times of early cellular phones.

My durable little Samsung was about the size of miniature computer mouse.  It fit neatly in a small pocket, and it survived a swim in Lake Washington.  For a first phone, it was benign.  That little guy was an excellent covert operative in the campaign to lull me into dropping my guard.

Then the RAZR marched in a set up camp in my life.  Now, I was not of the elite club.  I did not get my RAZR at the start when everyone else was getting theirs.  I believe I was invaded by the RAZR3.  When RAZR’s were starting to turn pink and everyone was starting to be drawn-in to the iPhone hype?  That was the time when I went “high-tech”.

Yes, this phone could take pictures!  Video too!  And the buttons were raised with glowing lines in-between so the whole keypad looked like an alien insect’s thorax.  Yes, with my RAZR (and the not-so impressive looking plastic case that hung loosely to it), I was ready to go.  800px-Motorola_RAZR_V3i_03I could now play Scrabble on my phone.  I could sneakily take pictures of my friends when they were drunk.  Later I would look at the low-resolution, poorly-lit images and shake my head.  I tried to remember which of my friends now resembled a dark smudge with the beer glass nearby.  The digital age had caught up with me and I was curious at what would come next.

Along came another Samsung product, the Glide.  (After the RAZR, it was nice having a phone that was named after an actual word.)  The Glide encompassed a higher-resolution camera, but it was an epic struggle to conquer it.

This phone was my introduction to commercial touch-screen technology.  I had used touch screen computers and registers, but never one so demanding.  Unlike the last two phones, this screen was uncovered.  Scratches and cracks were now an everyday threat.   No more could I defiantly slam the phone shut with a hinge.  No, I had to use up what could have been dramatic seconds to push my thumb to a button or a screen sector.  The only protective measure I could buy was a bulky rubber case.

800px-Samsung_Captivate_Glide_-_SGH-I927_-_011

brought to you courtesy of Wiki Commons. Specifically, these folks.

To my dismay, when I tried to take a photo my thumb had to go right in the corner, against the high ridges of the case, and try to tap that one little corner “just-so” where the button was located.  To say that the widescreen display and I had a hate-hate relationship is putting it mildly.  However the videos I played on my phone looked better, sounded better, and this phone had a slide-out keyboard!  Texting, by then a must-adopt form of technology, had never been easier.  The phone had a decent weight to it, like a grenade in my hand, waiting to explode.

After growing constantly weary of the bulk of the Glide (sliding keyboards take up valuable pocket space), I waited once again for my plan to expire.  Thus I met my latest attacker of my sanity, a smaller brand that goes by the name of… um… something.

The actual model is as forgettable as the company that sent it into battle.  I chose it because out of the three pages of phones my provider offered, it was the only one that was free and did not require an upgrade.  Despite all the glowing accolades my friends toss my way, I do not yearn for a smart phone.  The quickly-sapped battery, the fully-exposed screen, the double or tripling of one’s bill; it is not for me.

I would not say that this phone has been kind to me.  The receiver volume is far too low and I hunch over to hear what the other person is saying.  (I refuse to believe that this is old age setting in.  It cannot be.  The phone must be to blame.  It must!)  The camera is fine, the mini-keyboard is okay; it is, to sum it up, adequate.  I have a phone that I have no strong loyalty towards, and it clearly is plotting against me.

Why bring all this up?  Why relive a decade of phone usage and the quirks and trials we have quarreled over together?  Well, my biggest complaint about the most recent phones is actually something my provider has done.  At some point, “They” decided that my voice mail should be number one on my speed dial.  That was the cannon-shot that still resonates across the battlefield.

On my first two phones, my best friend was my number one speed dial setting.  I held down “1”, and soon I was directed to her inbox.  (Best friends understand when the other is too busy to answer.  Which for her, is always.)  She has always been number one. CELFGHT Ever since high school, long before “cellular” got shortened down to a four-letter word (in many, many ways), she was my comrade in arms.  She is the one I go to, the one who all “romantic possibilities” are judged against, and the one who knows all the dirt on me.

When a company turned combatant disregards that bond, they have committed a dishonorable affront.  “They” should be number two, not her!  Her birthday is tomorrow.  Can I really face her knowing that some group of satellite dishes and towers thinks she should be demoted the rank of number two?  (She might actually appreciate it.  If anyone likes a good “number two”, joke it’s her.  Potty humor; I tell ya.)

Still, I get my revenge.  The first call that I make when any phone is activated, the number that I have had memorized all this time?  It is her.  I call the best friend first, everybody else come later.  That is how it has been for almost twenty years, and that is how I like it.

Of course, in a cruel way of showing me I can only control so much in the cellular versus human conflict, the call inevitably goes to voice mail.

Writer’s Digest(ion)

I will follow my instincts, and be myself for good or ill.”  -John Muir

**********

Consider this your first and only warning; if you are a person who finds that the sight of someone being sick makes you sick?  Then perhaps this story is not for you.  Hypochondriacs should take this as their cue to exit the story.  Should you decide that a story on nausea will not sit well with your stomach, I shall even give you the moral up front.  Ready?  It all comes back to the beginning.  The third part of a movie trilogy should make a reference to the first part.  Comic book origins will be retold (and in some cases retold and retold and retold; I am looking at you, Superman).  From the ground we come and to the ground we all return.  Food is no exception.

Consider yourself warned.  It's -that- kind of story.

Consider yourself warned. It’s -that- kind of story.

Happily, I tend to be like that episode of Seinfeld.  I throw up once every decade or so, usually less.  When folks ask why I do not drink, my hatred of puking is often cited.  Everything about vomiting sounds horrible.  There is the sight of one’s breakfast returned to them in the evening, the smell, and that tightening of the abdomen that you cannot control.  I do pretty much whatever I can to avoid that sort of occasion.  Still, even I get food sickness.  Again, I am fortunate enough that it does not happen too often.

The first memory that I have of such illness was in college.  I had been working as a cashier the night before and had been on a break.  I, much like Winnie the Pooh, had a rumbling in my tummy.  And the loading dock had a vending machine.  So, in all of my infinite wisdom, I put in my change, made a selection, and chomped away.

Now, in case this is not a lesson that you have learned already, let me make it abundantly clear.  Never, under any circumstances, buy meat from a vending machine.  Certainly not one at work that you know is only sporadically restocked with fresh product.  I know what you are thinking.  “Oh, but it’s vacuum sealed.  That means it’s okay, right?”  I am sure there is some scientific mumbo-jumbo we could throw back and forth, but here is my stance on the matter:  No.  Don’t do it.  Ever.

However, hindsight is twenty/twenty.  I was nineteen.  I was a silly college kid who was munching on two small logs of meat, enjoying the slightly spicy sensation in my mouth.  Had I known that I would soon be reliving that spiciness, I would have been less enthused.  (They later not only moved the vending machines, but they stopped carrying the meat sticks.  Still, whenever I see a vending machine of any variety, I approach it with a wary eye.)

Work ended, I slept, and the school day was upon me.  I was scheduled to perform some sketch in drama class that day, but my tummy was rumbling in a different sort of way.  (Instead of Winnie the Pooh, picture Tigger exercising his right to be “bouncy pouncy” over and over.)  I told the T.A. that I was not going to be up for assignment.  She told me it might affect my grade, and I nodded as I made my way out of class.

Right outside of the drama building there is a small patch of grass.  There are little concrete pathways around the perimeter, the brick building serves as a wall, and a tennis court is visible from its soft green terrain.  In the summer and spring quarters, it is not unusual for the students to set up a volleyball net and have a go at relieving their study-induced stress.  The grass is just big enough for the court and ten to twelve students, but no larger.  In the fall, the leaves lay happily on this patch of greenery.  It is, to put it simply, a pleasant escape from the large dwellings of academia.

I walked down the stairs of the drama building, and not ten steps into that grassy field, I fully embraced my own “escape” onto the grass.  Had I stayed in class five minutes longer I would have become the star of the day.  No one would have doubted my dedication to keeping an audience’s attention.  However, I was always more of a backstage tech than an actor, and therefore I was quite happy that my performance was seen by no one except whatever poor bugs were crawling around in the grass.  I groaned out thanks to God that my vomiting hadn’t occurred inside, and I made my way home.  That was my oh-so joyous food poisoning of ninety-nine.

It only looks like it's your friend.

It only looks like it’s your friend.

Flash forward fourteen years.  I am now an enlightened movie usher.  I know how my stomach works, I have control over my abdomen, and I had just taken the food handler’s permit test the week prior.  For the fourth time in a row, I had scored one hundred percent.  I was much wiser than the college-version of me.  I brought my food with me and happily placed it in the work microwave.  Being a professional food handler, I knew exactly why the instructions on my turkey pot pie warned me to make sure the food was heated to one hundred and sixty-five degrees.  Yet one of the many amenities you will not find near a work microwave (such as forks, napkins, plates, or canaries to sing you a merry song), is a thermometer.  I followed the instructions, thought the food was a little cool in places, but decided that everything would work out just fine.

Again we fast forward to the day after.  I was having a rather quiet day at work.  I had watched an episode of S.H.I.E.L.D., done some reading, and generally kept the store from falling into a state of catastrophe. The usual customers had come in, there was a sense of calm about the place; all was well.

Then I started to feel cold.  Then warm.  My temperature is always pretty steady.  I can wear shorts in the fall, flannels in the spring; I don’t suffer great shifts in warmth.  Yet, the store felt cold all of a sudden.  I looked at the thermostat panel and everything seemed like it should be fine.  A few minutes later I was still feeling odd.

I found myself light-headed even though I was sitting.  I hadn’t moved quickly and I didn’t feel overly feverish.  I started to wonder if the sickness that had been sweeping through my coworkers had finally decided I needed to be dealt with.  My stomach protested the loudest.  I acknowledged its grievances and took action the only way that seemed logical.  I headed to the bathroom.

Like this, but -cleaner-.

Like this, but -cleaner-.

Thankfully my store has a reputation for being clean.  Even the bathroom floors are clean enough to sit on without complaint.  I can now attest to that fact.  Sure enough, with a little effort, some “secret ingredients” that I’m hopeful that the KFC next door has never used were vomited up.  It took a few tries, but I got it all out of my system.  I was rather pleased at how mild a case it had been.  Honestly, an hour later I was feeling much better.  (Which should serve as a lesson on gluttony; never buy two pot pies, nor should you opt for the Hungry Man size.  And if you do, nuke the crud out of those things.)

Now the question you’ve all been wondering.  Why the sam hill am I telling you this?  Am I bragging that I’ve only had food poisoning twice?  Am I this desperate for a story?  Am I a masochist when it comes to masticating?  Nope.  I simply want to point out that what goes around comes around; food for thought, if you will.  And that will become clearer when I share the piece of information that I left out.

Let us revisit the vending machine that I purchased the meat from.  I told you that they moved it, but I did not go into details.  The truth is, they moved it only a few feet, just around the corner.  In its place, they put a filing cabinet.  And on top of that filing cabinet?  Why, they gave us a nice little microwave; the same microwave that I heated up my pot pie in.  I in effect poisoned myself twice; both in the exact same spot.  I returned to the scene of the crime, in more ways than one.  It may take fourteen years, but much like an ill-chosen dinner will prove; what goes around comes around.

The Trek to Oyster Doom

“There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness; that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.” -Theodore Roosevelt

**********

A friend of mine, let’s call her “Dawn”, often spoke of the wonders of a certain hike.  Dawn and I even had plans to travel the route with a group of our coworkers.  But as these things often go, plans fell apart.  A year or two passed without me ever seeing this mysterious Oyster Dome.  All I knew of this mysterious land was that Dawn and several other friends spoke of the plentiful joys that this scenic escape had to offer.

Now, given those accolades and emotional urgings to explore said land, what could I do?  Early this week I finally made the trip out to Oyster Dome.  However, after my adventure I have found a more appropriate name.  I choose to call that most “exciting” of places, Oyster Doom.

The warning signs were plentiful; I just chose to ignore them.  Caution flag number one was the drive there.  I tend to be a little frightened by detours.  I am sure that the folks who place those imposing and unyielding orange signs know what they are doing.  However I like my roads to run in a straight line.  Therefore, I had some trepidation about driving down a stretch of freeway where there existed an infamous gap in the road.  Oy.  I have issues driving where chunks of the road is missing.  Sure, it worked for Speed, but I was alone.  Sandra Bullock was not behind the driver’s wheel encouraging and coaxing me on to victory.  (A point which I happen to think is a cruel injustice.)

Oops.  But it's getting better?

Oops. But it’s getting better?

To be fair, the detour was just fine.  Personally I think a few more signs would have been helpful.  But when in doubt, follow the semi-trucks; works every time.  Thanks to those multi-wheeled behemoths, I was able to get back on the highway with no problems and two exits later I was cruising down a quiet little paved road looking for a place for the trailhead.

The guide book claimed that there would be parking along the side of the road.  The book and I disagree on the term “parking”.  When I think of parking, I like to have bold white lines spray painted on the ground.  Ideally, there are concrete blocks on the ground or some sort of barrier to ensure that one’s car doesn’t go out of bounds.

The “parking” here was a strip of gravel.  On the edge of a cliff.  With a speed limit of 55.  I’m sorry, what?  In every story I’ve ever heard of a car parking along the side of a lonely road, it tends to end up with some guy carrying an axe and chasing them into the uninhabited woods.  (Showing their courteous side, the planners of the park even gave the crazed woodsman a way to hide the evidence; simply shove the innocent hiker’s car off the road.  No railings to get in the way, just a nice steep drop and tall trees to cover it up for ya.)

You're a lumberjack?  Okay, but explain the mask...

You’re a lumberjack? Okay, but explain the mask…

Now, folks that know me will attest that I am a might stubborn.  I had already driven out to the park.  It was broad daylight.  And I had managed to find the tiny little path of dirt that was to be the start of my expedition.  I figured I’d roll the dice and take my chances.  That was when I came upon the next sign of impending danger, which was an actual sign.

The short version:  "Dangerously dangerous danger!"

The short version:
“Dangerously dangerous danger!”

After reading the entire notice I realized that I had no intention of hiking along the closed route.  Why would I add wet rocks, another cliff, and the threat of angering thousands of bats to the already treacherous day?  Still, the words, “close this area” effectively concerned me.

Having considered and dismissed all warnings, I hit the trail.  It hit back, hard.  I am a tall fellow, but those hills are not for the faint of heart.  Or knees.  Or ankles.  Or lumbar.  Uphill the path led and uphill I went.  As I crested the first ascent, I was greeted by another mighty mound of dirt.  Things tend to happen in threes and so another hill presented itself.  Of course, the more the merrier, right?  Bring another order of steep earth to table one!  Apparently Oyster Dome is one big block party and the hills are only too happy to RSVP.

To the park’s credit, there were plenty of trails.  At least, I think they were trails.  The first few miles were dotted with white splotches on trees.  I can only assume that those white blobs were meant to identify the route as correct and safe.  Of course, those markers were utilized when there was a massive hill or glacier rock on one side, and a steep cliff on the other.  It was much like walking down the grocery aisle and having a staff person ask that you refrain from taking your squeaky-wheeled shopping cart and leaping and bounding over the high shelves.  Further into the woods; when

For all I know, it was just bird poop.

For all I know, it was just bird poop.

the trails started to get confusing?  That’s when the white splotches conveniently disappeared.  (I maintain that the mystery guy from the horror movie is to blame, but I haven’t yet figured out how.)

With or without markers, the routes appeared regardless of my desire for them to c ease.  There was the aforementioned closed trail that didn’t need the professionally-made signs to ward me off.  I think there was a glacial view trail, but the word “glacier” invokes two mental thoughts to me; slippery and sharp.  Needless to say, I declined the invitation.  And then there were the little paths that sure looked like trails.  A patch of dirt here, a wide expanse of forest there; my fear of getting lost only increased the higher up I journeyed.  I prefer not to take the Lord’s name in vain, so I did my best not to mutter, “Dear God I’m going to die”, “Dear God this is terrifying”, and “What in God’s name were these people thinking?”  However, I assure you that statements very similar in tone to curses ran around in my head as I looked at each intersection with concern.

In the end, I did the only logical thing I could think of.  I followed the slugs.  Come on, what animal looks like it prefers the safest path possible?  Slugs, that’s what.  A cougar, a bear; even snakes would have been wildlife that might have sent me packing.  But I am a Washingtonian.  Slugs are our friends.  If a path of dirt is deemed a suitable strolling area by a slug, then I am going to follow along.  Scoff if you must, but much of the success I had in getting up to that summit was from a slug pointing the way with its antennae and sage wisdom.  (And yes, a trail of slimy goo.)

At the end, I would say that I would make this trek again.  It really is not all that far from where I live and now that I know that the terrain’s grade is equivalent to trying to climb out of a well, I am prepared for the climb.  I have an idea of which trails will not lead me to my demise.

Also, I firmly believe that the view is worth it.  Or rather, I choose to believe that what should be the view is majestic.  I could not say myself.  When I got up to the top; when I finally broke free of the tree line?  I was met by a 180-degree view of clouds.  Add in a smattering of trees, some clouds, and then really smother that sucker with another layer of clouds; that is the sort of “picturesque” moment I experienced.

Obligatory scenic photo from early in the hike.  If somebody lugged a bench up that trail, you -must- take a photo there.

Obligatory scenic photo from early in the hike. If somebody lugged a bench up that trail, you -must- take a photo there.

I shall try again.  I was almost attacked by a non-existent axe-murderer, my knees are still sore, and I have never been so afraid of being lost in the woods as I was that day.  The moral in all this is that hiking buddies are highly underrated.  Take someone with you to take in all that nature has to offer; even if it kills you.  Because of Dawn’s recommendation, I have just the person in mind.  What better way to thank her than by taking her along?  No good deed goes unpunished, y’know.

A Four-Colored “Rest of the Story”

(I’ve spent much of the last few weeks listening and reading stories by Paul Harvey.  If you’re too young to know who that is; do some research.  For now, you’ll have to content yourself with a story I don’t think he ever told, but one that his nonetheless true.)

“Neither a man nor a boy ever thinks the age he has is exactly the best one- he puts the right age a few years older or a few years younger than he is.” –Mark Twain

**********

The world of comic books has never been an easy one to break into.  Oh, I don’t mean that comic book shops are frightening or that Archie Comics have disappeared from the checkout lines in groceries.  No, any person that wants to can quickly and easily immerse themselves in the four-color world which the professionals have created for them.

When a person tries to be a comic book writer or artist; that is when the real challenge began.  If it is difficult today, it was almost impossible back in the mid 1960’s.  Legendary creators like Neal Adams, Denny O’Neil, and Steve Ditko would be some of the first to start DC Comics as fresh new talent.  But James didn’t know any of that.  Or perhaps he did, and simply didn’t care.

James started out, as many comic creators do, as a fan.  He found himself with a stack of comic books, eagerly flip through each page, and became motivated.  It wasn’t long until he started creating comic books of his own.  He scripted them, drew them, and soon had a finished project.  Having successfully crafted his own stories, he thought they were suitable for publication.  So he did what any ambitious young fan would do.  James mailed his story ideas to DC Comics.

Nowadays there are policies.  Comic book companies typically do not accept submissions by mail.  Work that is sent in unsolicited is unilaterally returned.  The editors have their contracted staff that is already assigned their titles months in advance.  Big companies take care of their big-name properties.  Taking the time to read through work that they probably couldn’t read?  Well who has time for that?

72119809 But this was a different time.  In the mid 60’s comics were about to be surprised by Bat-mania and earlier in the decade the cover price had surged from a dime to twelve whole cents.  So perhaps editor Mort Weisinger was feeling reckless.  Perhaps he simply liked the conversations that he had with James through their letters.  Whatever the reason, Weisinger took the crude story that had been crafted and offered James a job.  The inexperienced fellow was now in charge of writing and drawing the Legion of Super-Heroes feature for Adventure Comics.

This was only the beginning of James’ career with super-powered heroes.  Not only did he have a successful run on Legion of Super-Heroes, but he also scripted Superman Family tales and in 1968 he would be the writer on the new Captain Action title.  He took a break from comics for personal reasons, but rejoined the industry in the mid-70s.  He wrote some more stories for DC Comics before he headed across town and signed on with Marvel Comics.  It was there that this previously rookie fan had the job that thousands of folks only dream of.  From 1978 until 1987, James was the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics.

Now, James had other things to do with his life.  He would eventually step away from comics and pursue other employment.  Still, back in 2007 he would return to the title that started it all and script one more run on Legion of Super-Heroes.

You might be thinking how impressive it is that this man could have such a lengthy career.  The 1960’s up until only a few years ago?  That’s quite a record in comic books no matter who you are.  However, James had a secret.  A secret that even Weisinger didn’t know as he communicated with the youth.  It wasn’t a terribly scandalous piece of information; there wasn’t anything the creator could have done anything about.  Yet, one wonders if he would have gotten his first job had his boss known the truth.

paulharveySee, Jim Shooter’s first foray away from comics; the one he took just as 70’s were starting off?  Well he took it just as he was graduating high school.  He used many interactions from his high school life to shape the scripts of teenage heroes.  For this man, this legendary weaver of stories that sent in his story ideas and received a job offer through the mail?  Well when he was first hired, he was only 14.

“And now you know… The Rest of the Story.”

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?”

A Single Gesture

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.

A Single Gesture

The Impartial Friend: Death, the only immortal who treats us all alike, whose pity and whose peace and whose refuge are for all–the soiled and the pure, the rich and the poor, the loved and the unloved.” -Mark Twain

Early in the morning, as the moon floated overhead and had its personal space intruded upon by loose clusters of wispy clouds, Scott saw his bus approach.  Every once in a while, Scott would burst out of his home, scurry to fit his keys to the lock, and then run for the door.  More often than not, this resulted in Scott arriving for the bus five minutes early, so he had recently adopted a different policy.  He would take his time and hope that the bus was not going to be too early.

The usual boarding routine was observed.  Scott stood back and let the somber man enter first.  Always carrying an overstuffed backpack, the somber man also carried a temperament that was determined to overcompensate for the compact man’s lack of height.  Scott had decided long ago that if getting a seat first was that important to the serious commuter, he could go ahead and have first rights.  Scott only wanted a quiet spot with a reasonable amount of elbow room.

Entering the bus, Scott greeted the usual driver with his standard greeting of, “Morning”.  She replied in kind as she reached for the long handle and pulled the double doors of her bus shut.  Scott put his loose and ratty backpack on his lap and did his best to encourage his sleepy frame to sit up straight.  The bench seats were built at a stern angle, but Scott’s back often answered the call of the slouch.  For the first few miles at least, Scott tried to adopt something resembling correct posture.  If nothing else he felt he should be in top form when he passed that one intersection.

Scott wanted to close his eyes and begin his quiet time of thinking things out and mentally preparing his day.  Yet he knew that the park and ride stop was still to come; followed closely by that certain intersection.  Scott’s peace would have been short lived anyway, for the park and ride group were numerous, and therefore a bit disruptive to the environment of stillness that often accompanied the moving vehicle.

Seven people mumbled greetings to the bus driver and swiped their cards or crammed their grimy bills into the pay-box.  The woman once again reached for her hefty door handle.  She gave one last look across the dimly lit parking lot.  She had been on the route for a while and knew what to expect.  Sure enough, as if responding to her greatest fear, a large woman came huffing and bustling towards the vehicle.  Her clothes and her bags leapt and jostled about as she did her best to arrive before the bus’s departure.  She almost fell as she threw herself in the door and tried to climb up the two steps.  The handrails congratulated each other on an excellent job helping out this Jane Doe in her time of need.  The driver greeted the woman with a simple, “Good morning”.  The large woman, still gasping, expressed her thanks for the professional person’s patience.

Watching the woman stomp down the aisle, Scott noted the presence of her items.  Everyone on the bus seemed to have their own way of packing for the day.  Some folks carried two, if not three carriers with them every day.  Scott did his best to keep his load light; sometimes transporting nothing more than what would fit in his pockets.  Middle-aged workers had swapped out simple satchels for backpacks with wheels.  Scott made mental judgments on those items based on his mood.  There were days when he shook his head in sadness, and others where he only wondered what had happened to the world so that backpacks needed to have their own wheels.  And of course, there were the phone addicts.  A large portion of the commuters didn’t put down their phone the entire trip.  Very rarely was there a phone call this early in the morning.  If there was, the rider could be assured that several heads would glare in that person’s direction.  Many times the phones were used to check e-mails or websites before work, but before sunup it tended to be the music-listening option that was most popular.  Scott had never been one for phones.  He figured if he was allowed to let his brain relax while he went to work, he would take the opportunity.  There was enough overstimulation in his life already.  He preferred to relax.  That calm time would have to wait a moment though, for they were passing the intersection.

Scott looked at a certain spot on the road, put his fingers to his forehead, saluted, and then very quietly said, “God speed, darlin’.  God speed.”  The bus wouldn’t stop unless the light demanded it, which was rare.  Scott watched the spot at the intersection pass by his window, and then he closed his eyes and went about his day.

There were people that wondered what Scott was doing.  They questioned his gesture and they felt uneasy at his waving when there was no one visible outside.  One or two folks slid to a seat further away.  Scott largely ignored them.  He had his reasons and that was enough for him.

Several years ago, the quiet bus stop had been a hubbub of noise and activity.  The city in all its wisdom had decided to spend a year and a half redoing the roads.  The lanes became a little wider, and the trees and grass that had been growing quite well had been ripped out and replaced with new grass and new trees.  Scott didn’t really see the point to it all, but he had long ago accepted the wisdom of the phrase, “And it came to pass”.  He let the construction companies toil away, using his tax dollars for a project that someone had thought was necessary.  Scott assumed that life would return to normal.  Except for one person, that hadn’t been true.

It had been a typical weekday.  A non-descript worker, someone Scott had never met, rode the early afternoon bus.  She probably liked getting home a little before the rest of her family.  The woman might have enjoyed avoiding rush hour traffic and having a bit of “me” time to run errands or straighten up her household.  Scott would never know.

What Scott was certain of were the events of that Tuesday afternoon.  Shortly after the bus had pulled away from that intersection, the woman had crossed.  She answered the summons of the white-light man who benignly assured her that all was well.  The woman stepped into the street and walked through the intersection.  Scant seconds after she had entered, a truck joined her.  The several-ton construction truck had turned right on a red light, which would have been entirely legal had there not been a small group of pedestrians in his way.

The collision occurred the only way it could.  The truck and all its mass came crashing into the people.  A short time later several victims would be admitted to the hospital, but one person would never be fully discharged.  There would be no front door to her house, no sliding doors at a hospital for her to limp across; the last doors that the woman would ever walk through were those double doors on the bus.

Scott felt that someone should remember such things.  There was a memorial stone on the side of the road after all.  The city had realized the tragedy of the event once upon a time, even if they had forgotten about it now.  Certainly the woman’s family hadn’t forgotten.  Scott felt that he could use the reminder to himself.  When he was driving, it served as constant prodding to always follow the rules, especially where traffic lights were concerned.  For the times when he was a pedestrian or a bus rider, Scott tried to remember that one never knows what comes next.

People could stare, people could whisper, but Scott didn’t listen.  He closed his eyes as the intersection faded away into the distance.  He had paid his daily tribute, and he didn’t need the approval of other people to tell him it was the right thing to do.  He simply knew that it was.  With that, as it did each morning, life went on as best as it could.

Projecting Sound (Daily Post 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 week’s writing challenge was to craft a story about sound.  So blame The Daily Post for what follows.)

Projecting Sound

If it’s a good movie, the sound could go off and the audience would still have a perfectly clear idea of what was going on.” -Alfred Hitchcock

There are mechanical beasts in the world that should not be trifled with.  Sometimes they are monster trucks that drive over any obstacle in their paths.  Other times they are a massive train followed by a seemingly endless row of cars that could flatten a person in a second.  However, the best of the by-gone machines is the film projector.

Specifically, an IMAX projector from the late seventies is a prime piece of entertainment.  The metal panels are held on by screws which have been loosened and tightened many times over the decades in order to allow access to the inner-workings.  The two-by-two foot panels warble and warp, sending eerie reverberations as they try to maintain their shape when removed.  Even the fasteners that hold the metal to their bracing bars screech with protest when they are wrenched on as tightly as can be.

The separate sound reel adds to the fun.  With forty pounds of analog soundtrack, the long spoke turns and revolves the magnetic tape.  When it rewinds, the revolutions send out a low “whurrrr” until it reaches its peak speed.  Then the noise shifts to a whine as high-pitched emanations come from the metal disc whizzing along fast enough to knick one’s skin.  However, the real (or is that reel?) joy comes when the projector is in full operation.

It starts off quietly enough.  As the massive motor beneath the rotor starts to pick up speed, the sound echoes throughout the booth louder and louder.  “Chung chung chung”.  The film moves horizontally through the behemoth as it goes faster and faster.  Within seconds, the rhythm of the projector is joined by the almost-inaudible cry of the film as it accelerates to twenty-four frames per second.  A mile and a half of film zooms through in a brief forty minutes, the entire time the flashing pictures are accompanied by the comforting “thrumb” and chugging of the analog relic.

In theory, all goes just as it should.  The squawk of a walkie talkie produces an incomprehensible “skkrttch” from the usher below.  Quiet murmurings from the audience are heard through the booth walls and panes of glass.  The projectionist calls back down to the usher in his own voice.  That response also becomes distorted and muffled through the static as the electronic devices try to transmit across the short distance.

Suddenly the vexing and headache-inducing hum buzz of the overhead lights is cut short with a sharp snap as the breaker sends the world into darkness.  A lone thumb pushes against the starting button.  It responds with a satisfying “chunk”.  The audience falls into silence just before the screen grabs their attention and the speakers on all sides come alive with an increasingly majestic soundtrack.  That is, assuming everything goes as planned.

Every once in a while another sound or two might be heard.  Sometimes the film refuses to turn or speed up as smoothly as it should.  In that case, the horrifying sound of “CRRRRCKKKK” is bellowed across the room as the film rips itself in half.  Of course, one such noise wouldn’t be enough.  The platters that contain the film still want to keep turning, so there is the drone of those motors in motion while the loose ends dangle off the end, producing a “ka-flap, ka-flap, ka-flap”.  The rotor, used to being the star of the show, cries out louder than anything else, “KHKHKHKHKKKKKKKK” as it tries to chew through the film.  The existing perforations are soon joined by new, more ragged ones created by the sharp teeth indiscriminately piercing random spots on the film.

As the projectionist is brought to attention by the “crrrrrrckkkkk”, the “khkhkhkhkhkhkkkk”, and to a lesser degree, the “ka-flap, ka-flap, ka-flap”, he rushes forward and pushes several buttons.  The three previous noises slow as one or two “thunk” and “chck” sounds stop all operations.  Then the resonances of a projectionist’s cursing can be heard through the booth.  (We’ll let you imagine those words without any help.)  Hopefully it is confined to the booth, but the afore-mentioned windows sometimes allow the crowd to hear the hard consonants, which cause the younger attendees to giggle and squeal in delight.  Finally, as the projectionist surveys the sight before him, he uncontrollably lets out a whimpering sound.

There is much to be said for digital technology.  Yet it lacks the richness of sound that only an analog projector can provide.  With the newer generation of projectors, all one can hear is the constant, boring, droning noise of a fan cooling of the lamp.  But with an analog projector, a lonely projection booth can come alive with an endless array of sounds.  Even if those sounds are quite what the audience expected to hear.

The Father’s Sole Son

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 Father’s Sole Son

It is a wise child that knows its own father, and an unusual one that unreservedly approves of him.” -Mark Twain

Floyd felt the lateness weighing heavily on him.  He had arrived to open the movie theater at nine a.m. and it was now ten at night.  He wanted to go home.  His bed was waiting for him.  His cat was assuredly hungry.  The only thing standing between Floyd and his bus that would take him away were the last people that stubbornly refused to leave the theater.

If Floyd were being completely honest, he would have to admit that he hadn’t actually asked anyone to leave.  He knew that if it were he, a fellow movie nut, he would also want to stay through the end of the credits.  However Floyd was the one ushering tonight.  Floyd was the employee this time; not the movie buff.  He kept hoping that if he sent mental notes to the few guys left sitting in the theater that they would wondrously leave of their own accord.  As the credits for the soundtrack and locations scrolled by, Floyd realized that his powers of mind control were just not up to snuff.

Someone had to stand at the back of theater to make certain that everyone left and tonight that someone was Floyd.  He stood there, arms at their sides, nodding to each person as they left.  His role was that of a representative.  Floyd was not expected to smile or speak.  If he were to offer an occasional, “thanks for coming” it would be viewed by the common outsider as a nice thing to do.  Really though, Floyd was just a figurehead.  He was a reminder that yes, someone did work here, and that someone was probably going to have to clean up the bucket of popcorn that was kicked over twelve minutes into the movie.

A man briskly walked out of the theater.  He started to rush by, saw Floyd, and scurried over to him. 

“Bathroom?” 

“Up the walkway, to the left”, Floyd replied with a rehearsed simplicity.  He knew that any further directions would have been confusing.  And a man who had walked out of a three-hour movie did not have time to waste on details if he had a general direction to follow.

A small boy wandered out of the theater and found his dad.  His sleepy eyes widened as he looked at Floyd.  Floyd wasn’t sure what he had done to deserve the boy’s attention.  He hadn’t blinked, he hadn’t sneered; as far as Floyd knew he hadn’t even moved.  What reason could the boy have for taking notice of the non-descript usher?

The boy elbowed his father and looked down at Floyd’s feet.  The dad smiled.

“Are those shoes comfortable?”

“I think so”, Floyd replied.  “They do all right.”  Floyd still didn’t know what it was about his new shoes, but everyone felt inclined to comment on them.  Some folks had a pair just like them, only pink.  Some thought they looked space age-y.  Floyd had bought them because they were shoes, they looked comfortable, and they had been on sale.  He didn’t know why this stranger was asking, let alone why his son would care.

“They’re Salomons”, the man continued.  His tone implied more of a statement than a question.

“I think so”, Floyd said.  He honestly didn’t know, nor did he care.  He remembered the brand starting with an “S” and assumed this man knew better.

“My dad made those shoes”, the little boy beamed.

The smile on the boy’s face said it all.  It wasn’t specifically Floyd’s shoes that the boy cared about; it was the connection to his father.  He quickly took his dad’s hand and they scurried up the ramp.  The way the boy looked at his father made it all perfectly clear.

It didn’t matter what the boy’s father did for a living.  The man could have been a judge or he could have been a fisherman.  The head of the family could have sold beers at a stadium or been one of the players on the field.  Floyd knew instantly that the boy simply cared that someone was supporting his father’s work.  The boy had pride in his dad.  The smile that had popped out had said it all in one quick glance.  He was proud of his dad, and he loved him.  If he had to point at strangers’ feet to find an excuse to talk to people about how great his father was, then he would do it.  This was the man that took him to movies and worked hard to pay for their popcorn.  The son, as far as he was concerned, had the coolest dad one could hope for.

Floyd also smiled.  The affection the boy had on his face had infected Floyd.  He took it with him on the bus and carried it all the way to his home.  Even into the next day, Floyd kept thinking about the pair of movie-goers.  Any man that could inspire that much love in his son was a rather fine man indeed.

Words with Girlfriends

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.

Words with Girlfriends

My proudest moment as a child was the time I beat my uncle Pierre at Scrabble with the seven-letter word FARTING.” -Tina Fey

“’O’, ‘B’, ‘L’, ‘I’, ‘Q’, ‘U’, ‘E’, ‘S’.  Obliques.”

“I can’t believe you.”

“So that’s eighteen points, on a double-word square makes it thirty-six.  Then of course, it’s a bingo…”  Chuck let his voice trail off as he finished reveling in the victory.

“Really.  We’re done”, Kelli replied.

“…which would put me at eighty-six points.  If we were keeping track, that is.”

“I don’t think you should make that move”, Kelli said.

“Wait, why?  Because it opens up the top row for you to get a triple?  I think I’ll be okay.”

“No, I think for the sake of keeping your girlfriend happy, you shouldn’t move there.”

“What, are you joking?”  Chuck took his eyes off of the board.  It was evident by the way Kelli had leaned away from the board and crossed her arms that she was not kidding.  Her brows furrowed in a way that they met her ebony bangs just right and Chuck found it adorable.  However he didn’t feel that now was the best time to tell his significant other that her look of angry defiance was cute.

“You’re already something like seventy points ahead.  Now you’re going to win by one hundred and fifty.”

“I thought you weren’t letting me keep score?”  Chuck was confused.  He had a great fondness for the game.  He had it with him at all times.  He played it on his phone while waiting for the bus, he played it online against friends and family members; it was like the world needed more words to be spelled out and Chuck was only too happy to oblige.  Oddly enough, it was the physical board and tiles that he used the least often.

Kelli, his girlfriend of the last five months, was less enamored with the game.  It had taken some thorough cajoling to get her to play.  Backrubs had been promised, along with the solemn decree that no points would be written down.  Despite how it felt at the moment, Chuck’s intentions had been for this to be fun.

“I don’t have to use a pen and paper to figure out that you’re beating the pants off of me.”

“Now that’s an entirely different version.  If you want to start doing that, then I’ll definitely…”  Chuck stopped himself.  Kelli wasn’t smiling.  He wasn’t sure what a more severe version of a frown was, but Kelli had it.  Daggers were shooting from her eyes to Chuck, then the board, then back to Chuck.  If there was such a thing as an anti-laugh, that was what Kelli had on her face.

“Don’t try to change the subject.  You’re being inconsiderate.”

“How is that?”

“You should be letting me win.  It’s the chivalrous thing to do.”

Chuck had to shake his head and blink a few times.  “I’m sorry, I’m not chivalrous?  I thought I was all kinds of gentlemanly around you.  The flowers, the car door openings, the making of breakfasts?  When did I stop being chivalrous?”

“When you played that word”, Kelli replied.  “If you were a truly nice guy, you’d take that move back.”

“But”, Chuck stammered.  “That’s the best move to make.  If you can make a word with a ‘Q’, especially on a double word spot, and certainly when it’s an eight-letter word, then you make it.”

“I wanted to play there.”

“Okay…”

“Look”, she said turning her tiles to him.  “I was going to spell ‘SIN’.  I put the ‘I’ by the ‘’Q’ and the ‘N’ by the ‘U’.”

“I get that, by why not just put it at the bottom of ‘FIGHT’?  Or you can use just the ‘S’ and the ‘I’ and get a double-word out of ‘SIX’?  Why do you care if I use the ‘Q’?”

“I want the ‘Q’.  I like that word”, Kelli replied in a matter-of-fact tone.

Chuck waited in silence until he was sure no further explanation was forthcoming.  “That’s it?”

“Yes”, she said.

“You want me to cheat, to take back a word… just because?”

“Yes.”  Kelli’s voice had a dangerously calm tone to it.  She wasn’t merely explaining, she was stating.  Whenever she stated, it was a firm stance that she would not budge from.

“What happened to women being treated as equals?  Aren’t I supposed to give the same opportunities to both genders?  Do you really think a guy would get to tell me where I would play if we were facing off across the board?”

“We could play it that way”, Kelli said.  “If you want this relationship to go how it goes with your buddies, then we can do that.”  Leaning over the board that was between them and arching her back just enough to show her intent, Kelli whispered in Chuck’s ear.  “I don’t think you really want a ‘friend’ kind of arrangement here.  Do you?”

“You’re serious, aren’t you?  You want me to take that move off the board.”

“Yes”, Kelli replied as she returned to her side.”

“And you have no problem with me going easy on you instead of playing to the best of my ability?”

“Golfers have handicaps”, Kelli countered.  “You’re more of an expert at this game, so why not give me the edge so that I have a shot?”

“Am I supposed to double check every move with you before I play?”

“If you want”, she replied.

“That was a rhetorical question!”  Chuck was filled with disbelief.  “If anything you were supposed to say ‘no’.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t.”

Chuck stopped and fought off his urge to argue logic.  Kelli was the heart of the relationship.  She was the one who rolled around on the floor with her nieces, she was the person who would stop and ask the checkout clerk at the grocery store how they were doing, and she was the one that would run marathons for charity.

Chuck was the book-type.  He wanted precision and he wanted accuracy.  If they were leaving for a movie or a play at seven, he was in the car with his seatbelt fastened at six fifty-nine.  He always knew how to spend less on electricity.  He factored out which gas station would have the lowest price and whether or not its distance from Chuck’s residence warranted the cost of driving there.  Kelli wanted the world to be a better, friendlier place while Chuck wanted the world to make sense.

Somehow, their differences worked with the other.  Chuck’s attention to detail made sure that Kelli never felt forgotten.  Her birthday had been celebrated, he listened to gift suggestions and acted upon them four months later, and he worked to put her priorities at the top of his agenda.  In return, Chuck saw how people reacted to Kelli and was immensely proud to be with someone like her.  She always made him feel like the world was a decent place.  Some days Chuck couldn’t make sense of why things were happening or why people acted the way they did.  When he turned to Kelli, he saw a source of hope and he could believe that things would work out.

Now Chuck was analyzing the data put in front of him.  If he continued to play the way that he liked, then he would win and victory was his.  Even if he took back his move, Chuck was a sure bet.  Yet, if Chuck took back his move, Kelli would probably see it as a sign of affection.  He considered the act as something akin to giving her a boost when she couldn’t reach a tree branch.  Was it really so bad to let her have a leg up once again?

“All right”, Chuck said.  “I’ll capitulate.”

“What?  Is that like a catapult?  Are you going to throw your tiles across the room?”

“No, I’m just throwing the game off.”  Chuck flipped the tiles back into his fingers and made his move towards the other side of the board.  “’B’, ‘O’, ‘X’, ‘E’, ‘S’”, he spelled.  “BOXES.  There, now the ‘Q’ is all yours.  Happy?”

Kelli glowed with delight.  “Yes, yes I am”, she said as she put her three tiles down.  “Thank you for understanding.”

“Now hold on there”, Chuck said as he felt himself smiling along with Kelli’s infectious grin.  “This was a one-time thing.  If I get another good word, I’m going to play it.  Understood?”

Kelli leaned over the board and kissed him quickly.  “Yes”, she said as she put her hand on his cheek and rubbed it with her thumb.  “I still like the gesture, though.”

Kelli sat back down on the carpet as Chuck picked four new tiles out of his bag.  He cursed under his breath.  If he played his tiles correctly, he would be able to spell “SUBTITLE”.  At least it wouldn’t use a “Q” or get double word points.

An Electric Education

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.

An Electric Education

Children have to be educated, but they have also to be left to educate themselves.” -Ernest Dimnet

Gregory was an intelligent and accomplished man.  He had graduated college with a degree in engineering.  He had a nice wife and two precocious children.  While others were running out and buying mp3 players for their cars, Gregory built one out of a small hard drive and a power source that hooked into the vehicle’s cigarette lighter.  Yes, Gregory was a smart sort of fellow.  Of course, he hadn’t started out that way.

Gregory also had a brother by the name of Mort.  Mort was a year and a half younger than Gregory, so perhaps he thought that his older brother wouldn’t do anything to inflict any harm.  However, Mort operated off of the faulty assumption that Gregory knew what he was doing.

ImageThe two brothers got along well enough, but there were certainly visible differences.  Gregory was around ten years old, which naturally made Mort eight.  Gregory had already developed his fascination for electric things.  He played with LED lights, knew how to work a volt meter, and was only too content to spend hours working on his electric train set.  Mort was less engaged in technological things and was happy to spend his mornings reading comic strips.  When he heard Gregory mention the word “transformer”, Mort got very excited.  Of course, when he realized that his older brother was playing with some mechanical controller and not any robotic toy, Mort turned his attention back to the book he had spread on the floor.

On one seemingly uneventful day, Gregory and Mort were both sitting on the dining room floor.  Their mother was in the kitchen, but there was a wall between her and her two boys.  How was she to know that Gregory had absconded a butter knife and was looking at it in his hands?  She couldn’t have known that Gregory was holding Mort’s hand.  However she quickly was alerted to Gregory putting the butter knife into the electrical socket and shocking both himself and his brother.

Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt.  Granted, Mort saw a few spots in front of his eyes and Gregory’s hand tingled for a few moments afterwards, but they would live to cause trouble another day.  Gregory had learned the importance of using caution around electricity; a lesson he surely passed on to his daughters as they grew up.  The younger brother learned an equally important lesson which helped keep him out of trouble.  Mort found that there was a limit to how far he should trust Gregory whenever his brother had a plan.

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