About Me

I feel the wanderlust and the call of the open highway. Which is good, because I drive cars for a living. But I'm a writer, and someday hope to once again make my living using my writing skills.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

DEATH IN EL PASO

It is Saturday, August 3 and I was driving a Cadillac to El Paso just this morning.  I was looking forward to seeing my good friend Pete who I had known for 20 years but had not seen in 5.  He is quite simply one of the best guys I have ever known.

If you read my stories, you should know that they are true but I always change the names to protect the innocent.  Whether I'm writing about a good friend or an eccentric oddball I meet in my daily travels, I make up fictional names so no one is embarrassed or doesn't appreciate any limelight.  Pete is just such a guy, and that is not his name, but today we'll agree to call him Pete.

When he was only a boy, his family moved from Juarez, Mexico to El Paso, just across the border.  Pete became an American citizen through the proper channels, and as a teenager began volunteering at reitrement homes to assist the elderly.  He worked a full time job while in middle school and high school, but still got good grades.  In college, he found a passion for helping immigrants to legally become citizens the way things were meant to be.  He counseled and discouraged people who wanted to come illegally from Mexico because he truly hated to see friends get caught and deported.  He joined the National Guard and spent a few years in Afghanistan.

Pete also was very involved with his church, and did everything he could to help get members to Sunday service when they had no transportation.  He used to work with the Big Brother's program, and went to orphanages to entertain by telling dumb yet funny jokes and play the guitar.  He was no Eddie Van Halen, but he was gifted and sang with so much heart.

Heart is the core of this good man.  When we first met, I was at the lowest point in my life, having lost my mother and brother in a car accident.  Our meeting was by chance, but he was actually able to distract me from my woes and got me back on a positive track.  He has inspired me to try to show kindness wherever I go and try to spread smiles around.  Pete will be the first to admit he ain't no saint, he likes his football rough and his beer cold.  We all have faults, but somehow his are super easy to overlook because he is so thoughtful and generous.

Earlier today, Pete took the youth group from his church to a Wal Mart in El Paso.  A shooter came in and began killing and wounding people randomly. It was a senseless, horrible nightmare and any life taken is one too many.  I know there are millions of people just like me out there who were praying or searching for answers.  But there is no answer, this and all the other recent shootings have no rhyme or reason, there is just a lot of hatred and wickedness and uber-crazy folks out there.

I am writing this on Saturday night upstairs in Pete's guest room.  He is downstairs getting a lot of love and hugs from his family, who are so thankful he survived.  When the shooting began, Pete took charge and firmly instructed the kids to follow him.  They got out a door in the back, thank God.  I send my own personal love and hope to all of the people who were impacted by the El Paso shooting.  But I am also thankful for Pete, who got those kids out safely so they grow up and have full lives.  We really need more good, caring selfless people like Pete in the world.  God bless us all.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

SNAKES ON THE BRAIN

I drove through a thunderstorm on my way to Columbia, SC.  I was going to deliver a slightly used Ford Explorer to a woman named Miss McDougal.  She sounded very high strung on the phone, but I was hoping for a quick and simple delivery drop.

The rain was letting up as I pulled into her short driveway just past 12 noon.  I got out of the car, and a lady came running out the front door waving her hands in the air. "Miss McDougal?" I asked.

"Snakes!  Snakes!" shouted the redheaded woman.

"Snakes?"  I was puzzled.

"Snakes in my house!  Right now!"

"Did you call someone to come get it out?"

"No, I was counting on you to help me.  You are Bill Thomas?"

"Yes I am, but I'm here to deliver--"

She interrupted me by grabbing my arm and tugging me into the house with her.  "I think it may be a rattler."

I stopped short.  "A rattlesnake?"

She pulled me even harder to get me moving.  "I have complete confidence in your abilities.  Hurry now, I'm afraid that snake may kill my dog Brutus."  She led me down a hall to a room with the door open, with a doggie gate in the doorway.  I saw Brutus, a Papillon dog, bouncing around playfully with his tail wagging.  "Oh look, poor Brutus is terrified!"

"Um, where's the snake?" I asked.

"That huge monster is going to destroy Brutus."

And that is when I saw the small black snake with a yellow stripe.  Poor Brutus looked less threatened and more playful with his new snake toy.  "OK, this shouldn't be a problem."

"Pick it up, for pity's sake. Save Brutus!" she shrieked.

I realized this was going to be a problem after all.  I like snakes almost as much as Indiana Jones does.  While I felt certain that the snake posed no threat, I wasn't crazy about the idea of picking it up with my bare hands.  "Do you have a pair of tongs?"

"Tongs?  No.  Wait a minute... yes!"

"Can you get them please?"

"Yes I will, but first I want you to get rid of that snake," she said.

"I need the tongs to get the job done," I explained.

She went from distress to hilarious disbelief in two seconds flat.  "Do you intend to cook the snake?"

"No ma'am, bring me the tongs and I'll show you."

She looked upset at me and bowed to me low and deep.  "Yes, your majesty, whatever you say."  She had suddenly developed a bad attitude aimed directly at me.  After going into the kitchen, she returned carrying the tongs with an air of grandeur.  "Here are the blessed tongs you requested, my lord."

I chose to ignore her sarcasm and took the tongs so I could grab the snake and pick it up.  Brutus seemed disappointed to lose his new plaything.  I went to the front door and tossed the snake gently onto the grassy yard.  Then I turned back to Miss McDougal and asked her to sign for the car.  She did so quickly and I said "Thank you."

"Oh listen, before you leave I have a real rat problem down in my basement."  Rats are my biggest fear, because of a serious childhood traumatic event that had to do with being punished by my mom.  "I need you to go down there and catch them just like you did with the snakes."

I waved at her and said, "Goodbye Miss McDougal."  I picked up my bag and started to walk towards a nearby city bus stop.

"Don't you dare leave before your job is completed.  I want those nasty rats out of my house, pronto!"  But I was at peace as I walked down the sidewalk, for I felt I had done my job and just a little bit extra.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

TOO DRUNK TO FALL

It was a bright, sunshiny day in Colorado as I was headed to deliver a brand new Toyota Sienna minivan to just outside of Cheyenne, Wyoming.  There was a new skydiving school that was waiting on their new minivan, which I had driven all the way from Atlanta.

I planned to arrive early when they opened so I could accept the ride they had kindly offered me.  This driving day had started at 5am, and I was tired already as I pulled into the entrance of Skippy's Skydiving.  It was way out in the country, and I felt especially lucky that I was getting a lift to the transportation hub of Cheyenne.

There was a long driveway winding up to the hangar where the skydiving office was.  As I came around the side of the building, I saw a man, a woman and a Pastor wearing the white collar.  The man and woman stumbled about aimlessly, as the Pastor flipped through his Bible.  The man was wearing a tall Cat in the Hat red and white hat, and had no shirt on.  He wore empty ammo belts across his chest, not unlike Chewbacca in STAR WARS.  And there were Ugg boots on his feet.  The woman had on short shorts and a tube top, and her belly proclaimed her tenth month of pregnancy.  She wore fuzzy purple house slippers on her feet.  I had to wonder what they were doing here, but decided to mind my own business.

Inside the office, I was greeted with effervescent enthusiasm by the owner himself.  "Are you Skippy?" I asked him.

"Nope, Skippy is my son, I named my company after him.  My handle is Skipper," he said as he marched up and gave me a hearty handshake.  "You must be Bill Thomas."

"Yes sir, I must."

He patted me on the back.  "So, where's my minivan?"

Just at that moment, the man and woman outside opened the door forcibly and loudly and practically fell in through the doorway.  "We are here!" the man shouted.

"I see that," said Skipper with severe hesitation.

"I am Jocko, and this little lady is my one and only, Deedee.  We are here to jump out of a plane and get married."

Skipper watched them, sizing them both up.  "Yes, I got the 30 messages you left on my answer machine last night."

"Nobody would answer the damn phone so I kept on calling."

"Yeah well, you two are not jumping out of a plane."

"That sounds like a challenge to me!" shouted Jocko.

"Not a challenge, just a fact.  You are drunk and you're not going up."

"How dare you call us drunk, you don't even know me, us, me."

"I don't need to know you to know you're sloshed.  I could tell on your phone messages."

"You got no kind of good business acumenization!"

"You're wasted."

"Just what are you inseminating?  That we are too drunk to jump?"

"No, you are too drunk to fall."

"Look, I'm a grown ass man, no one body tells me what I can't and can't do."

Deedee spoke up.  "Mister, we wasn't gonna jump out alone, we was gonna hook up and skydive
tandem with your guys."

"When you are drunk, you are unpredictable, and could be a danger to my men."

Jocko was getting mad.  "You can't tell us what to do.  We had a few drinks overnight and decided we had to get married now, and we were gonna jump out of a plane first.  We got a preacher outside who is gonna marry us up as soon as we land."

"You're not jumping out of my plane."

"Make me!" screamed Jocko.  "I'd like to see you make me.  I'm a grown ass man and I do what I want to when I want to.  I pity the man who gets in my way."

Skipper walked me over to the door, and indicated for Jocko and Deedee to exit with him so he could lock up.  He was clearly the only one working there this early, but was being nice enough to close and give me a ride that would be an hour round trip for him.  As Skipper was looking over the minivan, the Pastor walked up to me.  "Hello, I'm Pastor Bob."

"Hello Pastor, I'm Bill Thomas."  We shook hands.  "I'm on the road a lot driving around the country.  You think you could throw some prayers my way?"

"Oh, gladly.  But right now, I'm a little confused as to why I'm here.  I got an emergency call during the night telling me that a couple had to get married at this address first thing in the morning.  I did not know untill I arrived that they planned to jump out of a plane first."

"I don't think that's going to happen," I said.

"No?"

Jocko walked up.  "Well, bad news Pastor Bill, we can't jump out of the plane."

"I'm Pastor Bob."

"I'm Bill," I offered.

"Who asked you?" snarled Jocko.  "So go ahead and marry us, Padre."

Pastor Bob smiled.  "OK, who has the marriage license?"

"The who?" asked Jocko.

"Marriage license.  You need it to get married."

"We can get it later, so go ahead," demanded Deedee.

"No, I'm sorry, it doesn't work that way," explained Pastor Bob.

Deedee was very angry.  "Look, I'm a grown ass woman, and if I want to get married dammit I'm gonna do it.  It's not like I haven't been married before."

"You were married and then divorced?" asked the Pastor.

"No, I didn't divorce Leroy, I just left his sorry ass."

"Then you are still married, and I can't perform the ceremony."

Jocko began walking in wide circles and cussing like a sailor.  Deedee began to plead with Pastor Bob. "I just got to get married, can't you see that?"

Pastor Bob looked sympathetic.  "I understand your situation.  When are you due?"

"Due to what?"

"To give birth?"

Deedee threw her head back and cackled.  "I ain't pregnant!  I just got a little beer belly."

Skipper motioned for me to come to the minivan, and as I stepped over to him, Jocko came up and grabbed me by the shoulder.  "Hey you!" he yelled at me.  "You've been awful quiet, I'd like to hear your opinion on all these goings ons."

"I don't have an opinion."  I turned to keep walking and Skipper walked towards me.

Jocko grabbed me again.  "Don't you turn your back on me!"  In an amazing fluid motion, Skipper used his leg to sweep Jocko's legs out from under him.  He fell hard onto his back, then began moaning,  "Baby, baby, I'm hurting."  Deedee rushed to his side.

Skipper and I climbed into the minivan.  "Thanks for the save, Skipper."

"He was getting way too aggressive so I had to put him on the ground.  Did I tell you I run a Karate school at night?"  We laughed and talked for the half hour ride into Cheyenne.  I found myself hoping that Jocko and Deedee would someday find their bliss.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

THE SILVER CROSS

"And another thing!" shouted my boss Riff over the cell phone.  "You need to start making better time in delivering cars."

"I've never been late, not once," I protested.

"Oh ha ha ha, very funny.  That's about as funny as a marshmallow cookie laced with rat poison."

"Call you back once I have delivered, Riff."  I hung up before he could say more.  I knew it was all crap he was saying, but his words and his tone affected me much more than usual.  It was my birthday last week, and the only call I got was from my Cousin Chris.  For a guy who has over 100 good friends nationwide and sees most of them several times per year, I felt very forgotten.

But I am growing older, and find that my friends who had kids now also have grandkids, so no time for Bill Thomas.  Normally I would think of this as a pity party, but I know myself well enough by now to realize that I chose not to get married and have kids.  So as I age more, less folks have time to spend with me.  It recently led me to a dark place in my mind that I've been trying to climb out of.  Cousin Chris suggested that I talk to someone about it, but also said I can always speak to God.

I have prayed hard every single day that God would guide me, lead me on the right path, and show me the way.  Now I grew up going to church every Sunday, but when I got into college I sort of drifted away.  I never stopped believing in God, or that He created us and loves us.  Just feeling so alone and not good at all with getting messages from God.

As I drove to Santa Fe I had made some calls and found that there was a counseling clinic that could take me that very afternoon as a walk-in patient.  The Toyota Camry I was driving was going to a man in Santa Fe, but he couldn't take delivery until tomorrow, so I would have time to get counseling, get dinner, get a room.

The sun was burning brutally hot in the New Mexican skies.  I neared Santa Fe and started paying close attention to the audio directions given to me by the GPS.  Traffic got very bad, as it was the beginning of rush hour.  Every city has a rush hour.  But today it was getting on my nerves more than usual to have people cut me off then slam on their brakes.  Or forcing me to stop suddenly because they are coming into my lane beside me.

I found the counseling center and went inside.  I felt like I was about to start crying, and it takes a lot to make me cry.  When I got to the Doctor's office door, I opened the door only to find a strange woman on the other side of the door fighting with the doorknob.  She came along with the door as I opened it.

Spreading my arm out to gallantly offer her the road, I said  "I've got the door for you, ladies first."

"What exactly do you mean?  That since I'm a woman I can't open doors for myself?  You only want doors in this world so that you can lock women away and live in your misogynistic chauvinistic world.  Am I right?"
She spit at my feet and stormed off, so I guess she had some issues she was working through.

I walked up to the reception desk.  A bright and perky young lady smiled and said,  "Welcome, I'm Corky and how can I help you today?"

"My name is Bill Thomas, I called ahead and was told to come in."

"OK, now are you a regular patient?"

"No, I'm just passing through town."

"How long have you lived in Santa Fe?"

I shook my head.  "No, I don't live here, I'm just visiting."

She looked perplexed.  "You are a resident of the state of New Mexico, aren't you?"

"No ma'am--"

"Please do not call me ma'am."

"Sure, well I'm really down and needed to talk to someone."

"We are all down and we all need someone to talk to. Unfortunately, this is not that place.  At least not for you."

"Why?"

"Don't be silly, you know why.  You are not a resident of this state, and you don't have an appointment."

"The lady on the phone said that y'all would take me as a walk-in."

"Are you pulling my lariat?  No one here would tell you something like that.  Now I have an opening one week from today..."

"I won't be here then."

"Where will you be?"

"Driving somewhere in the USA."

She scratched her head with her pen.  "Gee, that's a little vague.  Sorry honey, guess you'll just have to suck it up and try to move forward."

I stared at her slack jawed.  "That's your psychological advice for me?"

"Gosh no, I'm no psychiatric.  Sugar, I barely made it out of high school.  Good luck to you."

As I walked away from her desk, I was feeling defeated and forlorn.  My legs wobbled and I felt dizzy headed.  I decided to sit in the waiting room for a second before going back out into the intense heat.  My cheeks felt warm and I felt a tear rolling down my face.  I closed my eyes and said a prayer, trying like crazy to hang onto my faith.

Ten minutes later, I got up and walked out the door.  I felt a strong hand grab my shoulder from behind.  I spun around expecting trouble, but it was an elderly hispanic gentleman.  "Hold out your hand."

"Beg pardon?"

He took my hand and I allowed him to guide it to where he wanted it, hand open palm up.  He held his closed fist over my hand then opened it.  A silver cross on a chain fell out of his hand and into mine.  He smiled sweetly at me and said  "God is watching over you.  He's got you."  And then he walked away.

I felt like an enormous weight was lifted off my shoulders.  I felt  more free and joyful and alive than I have in months.  Because I came to see that even when things seem rough, I am never alone.  If there is such a thing as receiving a sign from God, I feel like I just got one.

Monday, March 4, 2019

FLAMING GIRAFFES

It was New Years Eve and I was headed to Florida to see good friends.  I had picked up a car in Beaumont, Texas that was headed to Daytona Beach, so my friend's beach house was not really out of my way.  It was just west of Mexico Beach, where a hurricane had all but wiped out that little town in the fall.  My buddy Chase has a real nice beach house, though I had only seen pictures.  And my good buddy Frank was coming down from Birmingham to meet us. Any excuse to go down to the coast of the Florida panhandle was good enough for Frank.

Chase had sent me a text with his address on it.  I entered it into my phone's GPS and got directions while I was still headed east through Alabama.  When I got off on Interstate 10 in Florida, I headed down a two lane highway towards 98, the coastal highway.  I knew all of the directions so far by past trips to Destin and Fort Walton but as I neared 98 I was not sure where to go next.  It was 5:30pm and I knew that Happy hour had started.  I wanted to get there in time for the big seafood fest I knew they'd be cooking.  When I consulted my phone, it was dead.  Not only could I not retrieve directions, but I had his address exclusively in my phone text, so I was basically clueless.

I turned right and drove for ten slow miles.  The speed limit was 55, but most vehicles were big trucks pulling boats or construction equipment and doing 40mph.  After ten miles, I turned around and headed the other direction.  Fifteen miles beyond where I had turned onto 98, there was a small town called Carrabelle.  The fifteen mile stretch had nothing but houses, which were a ways off from the highway.  So when I passed a bar in this little town, I guessed I better stop and charge my phone.

It was 6:45 when I walked into the bar, and was getting dark out.  I looked all over the place for an outlet to plug into but none were to be found.  I walked up to the bartender and asked her if she had an outlet I could plug into.  "It'll cost you a beer," she said, promptly opening a Busch and setting it in front of me.  I handed her my cell phone with the charger plugged in, and she plugged the other end into an outlet behind the extremely cluttered bar.

I walked over and leaned on the railing over `the water.  It was truly beautiful, I have always loved the Gulf coast of Florida and was soaking it all in.  And then I felt a peck on my back, and spun around to find a large green parrot standing on the table right behind me.  "Hello," said the bird.

The owner of the parrot was a large, burly, crusty old salt.  "That's Janie, she wants to see if you have a cracker for her."  I patted my pockets like I was looking for a cracker, then shrugged.  The man pointed at a bowl on the table full of packets of saltine crackers.  I reached over and picked one up, opened it, then looked at the man.

"May I give her one?" I asked.

"Well Janie is waiting on you."  I held the cracker near Janie, and she grabbed it in her beak and moved it with her claws.  "By the way, my handle is Teddy, but everyone calls me Skipper.  Watch your step around here."

"OK I will."

"Carrabelle can be a dangerous place if you don't watch out.  I gotta pee."  He got up from the table and left.  I walked down the railing to the other end, where a man stood shucking oysters to send to the bar or tables.

"Howdy," I said.  He said nothing.  "Are the oysters any good?"

"I sure wouldn't eat them."

"Why?"

"They are nasty," he exclaimed.

"Really?"  I love raw oysters with lots of horse radish in my sauce, and had never heard a man shucking being so critically blunt about his oysters.

"They aren't the good ones from Apalachicola, they are from New Orleans.  And they are all nasty."  Then he shut down and was completely silent again.  I sipped my beer for five minutes, and then he said "Giraffes."

"Beg pardon?"

"Giraffes," he repeated.

"What about them?"

"Watch out.  A giraffe escaped from the local zoo, and is running free down around these parts.  Also tigers and bears and elephants."

The closest zoo that I knew of was in Tallahassee, but I couldn't imagine that all of those animals traveled this far away on their own steam.  Plus this guy didn't seem too credible.  I told him my situation and how I was trying to find my friend Chase.

"I know him."

"You know Chase?"

"Yep."  He gave me the address on highway 98, and I looked at my watch and saw it was 7:15.  That would have been plenty of time for my phone to charge, so I went to the bartender and she handed me back the phone and charger.  I hopped in the car and drove down the fifteen miles watching the mailboxes for an address.  Sometimes they were hard to see, because of monster size piles of debris along the side of the road that had been collected from the mess the hurricane left.

It was the very last house on the left before you reached a long stretch of bare beach with no houses.  The owner was in the front yard, and his name was Chase, but he wasn't my friend and he didn't know him.  I had hit the power button on my phone but had no reason to look at it yet.  When I did, I saw it still had no power.  I drove back very slowly to Carrabelle looking in every driveway for my friends' cars.  But again, this was difficult with the houses so far off the road and the pitch black night with a canopy of trees on either side of the highway.

When I got back to the bar, I found the manager and explained I needed to charge the phone.  He said he didn't know why it didn't charge behind the bar, but let me sit in the corner of the kitchen next to an outlet and charge my phone.  If I would buy a beer.  It only took twenty minutes to realize that my phone wasn't taking the charge so I was high and dry.

I should mention that I'm a lightweight and can't drink on an empty stomach.  It upsets my tummy and gives me a buzz.  So I was driving in the dark, only knowing that the house was somewhere on this fifteen mile stretch.  I want up and back that fifteen miles almost a dozen times.  By 11:45, I was starving and sweating and feeling desperate and dizzy.  I would look at each and every driveway but never saw either of their cars.  Addresses on the mailbox meant nothing at this point.and I had no idea where I was going.

And then a flaming giraffe ran across the road in front of me.  I've hallucinated before, but it was never so realistic and vivid.  I could actually feel the heat as I past it running down the side of the highway.  And that is when I saw what looked exactly like Chase's boat in front of a house.  I had seen lots of pictures of it on Facebook.  As I pulled slowly down the long driveway, I saw two cars but they were not Chase or Frank's.  I parked next to them and walked around the house on stilts.  I looked up at the two levels above, and saw no lights on in the windows.  This could not be the place, because I knew for sure that Frank and Chase would be up partying on New Years Eve.

In desperation, I walked a circle around the house shouting their names.  When I got to the front of the house, I heard a shout back to me from the back of the house facing the beach.  I ran to see if it was someone who could help me find them.  I looked up at the balcony on the third story and saw a figure in the shadows.  "Bill, is that you?"

"Chase?  Oh thank God its you, Chase."

"Meet me at the front door I will let you in."  When I got to the door, Chase and Frank were both there.

Frank greeted me with a headlock and noogies on my head.  "Bill!  Billy boy!  Can you bake a cherry pie, Billy boy?"

"I can bake a cherry pie, then I'll spit right in your eye."

"Where have you been buddy, we've been so worried."

"I couldn't find the place.  It's a really long story.  I didn't know the address so I was looking for your cars."

"I guess we both have new cars since you saw us last." replied Chase.  "We tried to call and text you a lot."

"My phone is broken.  So I had no address, no directions and no way to contact you.  But it's New Years eve, why were the lights out?."

"We gave up on you and went to bed two hours ago," Chase explained.

"On New Years eve?  Seriously?"

"There's no girls here, Bill."

"Yeah," agreed Frank.  "It's not a party without girls."  Frank is always the bartender, and immediately walked to the bar to mix us all a drink.  "You did get here just in time to toast the New Year with us.  And tell us your latest Driving Fool story, which sounds like it was tonight."

Chase patted me on the shoulder.  "Bill, did you see anyone burning those big piles of debris left on the side of the highway?  I can actually feel the heat in my car when I pass them."

And then it dawned on me.  I had only partially been imagining things. "Oh, that would explain the flaming giraffe."

"The what?" asked Frank as he put my drink in front of me.

Chase was also confused.  "You met a gay giraffe?  This oughta be good."

Monday, December 31, 2018

JESUS MEET SANTA

I had driven a car from South Carolina to Phoenix and was supposed to deliver there the day after Christmas.  My boss Riff had been calling me constantly harrassing me, but now that it was Christmas Eve I knew he'd be drunk and the calls would stop.

I found a mall near Goodyear, AZ and went inside to see what movies were playing at their theater.  There was a Starbucks when I first stepped inside, and I got a coffee and sat down to make a plan.  There was Christmas music playing in Starbucks, and I busied myself looking up showtimes on my phone.

"Mind if I sit here?" I heard a voice say.  I looked up and it was Santa Claus, the one who works in the mall I assumed.  It was easy to see that there were not any seats or tables available.

"Who am I to say no to Santa?  Please sit down."  And so he did.  "I bet you've been working very hard."

"Not half as hard as I will tonight."

"Well I am off the clock until the day after Christmas, so I can relax and eat and catch some movies."

"Alone?"

"Yes sir, my home is in Alabama and I haven't been back in a bit."

"No one should spend the holidays alone.  But then again, you're never alone."

"I'm not?"

"No.  The reason for the season is Jesus, and he's always with you."

"Oh right, of course."

"Don't be dismissive, I'm serious."

"Not dismissive, not at all.  You just caught me off guard."

"In what way?" he asked.

"I was surprised to hear Santa talking to me about Jesus."

"And why is that?"

"I guess I always grew up thinking of Santa as the fun part of Christmas, and baby Jesus being the serious part."

"You miss the beauty of the situation-- we are both the good parts.  There's plenty of room for goodwill especially during the holidays, and we both provide."

I smiled.  "This is really intereseting, its a religious-Santa crossover."

He stroked his beard.  "Why do you assume that old Santa isn't a God-loving man?"

"I mean, I guess I don't, I just never considered it."

He winked at me.  "You need to talk to God more often, and maybe listen to the Bible on audio books
while you're driving.  Lots of good life lessons in that book."

I felt a little bit awed.  "OK Santa, I will.  Can I ask you something?"

"Sure, anything."

"Have you ever met Jesus?"

Santa let out a good jolly laugh.  "Of course I've met him, I carry him with me in my heart every day.  If more people did the same, it sure would be a better world.  I've got to get to work now, Merry Christmas, Bill."

I had a sudden sense of deja vu, like meeting Santa had happened to me before.  But the man who is the spirit of Christmas talking to me about the spirit of God was pretty inspirational.

Friday, November 23, 2018

VIKING CAT FUNERAL ON THANKSGIVING

Death was heavy on my mind on Thanksgiving day 2018, and I didn't know why.  I was pulling into Hattiesburg, Mississippi to deliver a Ford Escape to a lady named Billie.  I called her Miss Sullivan on the phone, but she kept on insisting that I call her Billie.  She was not the first customer who wanted the car delivered on the holiday, it was becoming more common than I liked.  But a lot of drivers want to be with their families for Thanksgiving, and I have none to be with.  My plan was to drop off the car, then rent a car at Hattiesburg airport and drive it home to Birmingham.  I was so happy that my great friend Frank had invited me to share a turkey dinner at his home.  They were eating in the evening, and so the timing was perfect.

When I got to the address, I saw that there were a lot of cars parked out front, as if some type of event was taking place inside.  A short, chubby woman waddled over to me and took me by the hand.  "Welcome, and please come with me to the service."

"Service?"

"You are very late, you know."

"No, I think there's a mistake--"

Her eyes narrowed into slits and she jutted her stubby finger at me.  "It's always a mistake when a precious feline dies!"

"Feline?"

"Come, come," she said as she rushed me around the house to the backyard.  And I was amazed when I got there at the sight.  Dozens of people stood around looking solemn and reverent in the huge space behind the house on the edge of a lake.  A woman resembling an older version of actress Jessica Lange came out into the backyard, moving with a great deal of style and grandeur.  She was wearing a red kimono and she glided dramatically across the spanse between us.  "Welcome to Billie's place, I am so glad you could make it to our little affair," she said, with a cigarette burning in her left hand and a glass of red wine in her right.  "What was your name again?"

"Bill.  Bill Thomas.  I'm the driver you spoke to on the phone, I have your new car here."

"Where?"

"Right out front," I replied.

"I can't do that right now."

"You can't?" I asked, holding up my clipboard with the paperwork on it.  "Just sign here and I will be gone."

"But we are having a funeral here for the dearly departed Felix the cat."

"Felix?"

She was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion.  "I can't talk about this right now.  I am in mourning."  She spun around and appeared to sort of float away from me.  I walked down to the edge of the lake and found some men securing a raft upon which they laid a small box.  Presumably Felix in his coffin?  I saw her again and tried to move towards her.  I needed to get done with this delivery and head for Birmingham.  Right as I was approaching, she walked away towards the raft.

"Uh, Miss Sullivan?" I attempted.  But she raised her voice to make an announcement.

"Excuse me everyone, can I have your attention?  We'd like to get this started and move along.  Felix was with me for 18 years.  Felix the cat was a wonderful, wonderful cat."  I smiled to myself as those were the lyrics to my favorite childhood cartoon.  Billie saw my smile and pointed at me.  "Don't be ashamed to smile, Felix would have wanted you to.  Felix the cat would have wanted you all to be happy.  Just like he was, as he tore my furniture, brought dead mice and squirrels into my house as gifts.  He really lived an enchanted life, and now he is going to kitty heaven.  As is a tradition in my family for generations, we will send Felix on to the next plane of existence."  She stopped to light a match, then began sobbing.  "No, I can't do it.  Will you help me, Rock?"

Rock was a huge man who looked just like his name.  He leaned over and blew out the match, then he pulled a small portable blow torch out of his inside suit pocket.  He lit it up, then used it to light the raft on fire.  Rock and several other men pushed the raft out into the lake.

Billie spun around, now looking thoroughly joyous.  "That's it, everyone inside for drinks.  Let's get wasted."  Everyone made a bee line for the house, I guess they were all eager drinkers.  I hurried to intercept Billie, and she said to me "Oh, you again?"

"Yes Miss Sullivan, Bill Thomas."

"My name is Billie, and you should call me that.  Have you ever considered going by Billie instead of Bill?"

"Not really," I said, offering her the paperwork again.

"Well, that is just ridiculous.  What else you got, my wine glass needs a big refill."

"Just the car for you."

"You keep saying that same thing again and again.  What did you think of the funeral?"

"I liked the part about Felix the cat, the wonderful, wonderful cat.  Just like from the TV show."

Billie gasped and looked completely shocked.  "A TV show?  They made a TV show about my cat and I didn't even know about it?"  She seemed to be a bit loopy from the wine.

"No, it's--"

"How did they even film him without me knowing?  I never saw any men with cameras around my house.  The very idea."

"Billie, if you could just take a look at the car and sign for it, I will be on my way."

"After you have three drinks with me.  Three is my lucky number."

"No thanks, no drinks."

"You are a wet blanket mister, and that's for sure.  I think I would rather have you call me Miss Sullivan than Billie."

"OK, Miss Sullivan."

"That's Mrs. Sullivan to you!  I'm a widow, have you no heart?"  She clucked her tongue and said "I think I want you out of here.  Tell you what, I will sign the paperwork, but I refuse to go look at the car until you're gone."

"If you don't sign for it, you're accepting it as is."

"No, you are as is.  You are as is!  As in, 'as is' get out of here."  She grabbed my paperwork and signed for it angrily, then dropped my clipboard on the grass.  "Now leave, please!"  She flowed back into her house through an open sliding glass door.  I turned and was startled that the short lady who had brought me here from the driveway was standing right behind me.

"Time for you to go," she demanded.

"Yes, sorry, could you give Mrs. Sullivan a copy of her paperwork and keys to her new car?"

"Maybe I can and maybe not.  I will do it if you leave now."

I handed her a folded copy of the paperwork and the keys.  "I'm gone."  As I walked away I looked out at the lake and saw the burning raft floating away, I thought to myself, If there's a rock and roll kitty heaven, then I hope Felix is part of the band.