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.

Monday, December 31, 2012


I had the good fortune to get a plane ticket to Birmingham on Christmas Eve.  So one week later, I found myself there enjoying my home town for the holidays.  Since I lost my home there a few years ago and have not reestablished a residence due to my transient job, I had to stay with my good friend Frank Wilson.  He had a full house, but was more than happy to let me sleep on his couch.  Frank is definitely a "more the merrier" kind of guy.

My boss Riff called to tell me that there was a Ford passenger van to be picked up at a retirement home and then taken to Atlanta.  The name of the place was Virgin Pines, and it was in a nice section of town called Homewood.  I showed up at 8pm, hoping to hurry and get the van so I could go join Frank at the Viennese orchestral celebration at the Alabama theater.  I dearly love the Alabama, a grand old movie palace from days gone by.  And to be with Frank and his wife on New Year's Eve and have a champagne toast at midnight sounded mighty good to me.

After I met with the Head attendant on duty at Virgin Pines, I was given the keys and went out to look over the van and fill out the paperwork.  I came back inside and had the attendant sign and gave her a copy.  As I hurried out the door, I heard a voice call out to me.  "Excuse me, sir?"

I turned and saw an elderly woman in a wheelchair.  "Were you speaking to me?" I asked.

"Yes, could I please impose on you to help me?"

"What can I do for you, ma'am?"

"Can you please push me back to my room?  I just don't have the strength to get there myself."

"Don't people help you out around here?"

"Oh yes, they will.  When they get around to it, I suppose."

I smiled at her.  "I would be more than happy to help you."  I walked up behind her and began to push the wheelchair.  "What room number are you in?"


"Room one?"

"No.  It's one...  one...  one - 0..."

"One - 0?"

"Oh my goodness, you'd think I could remember my own room number.  I'm 96 years old, and I think my mind is beginning to give out on me.  That's a terrible thing, isn't it?"

I didn't know what to say to that.  "I'm sure we'll find it."

She was quiet for a few moments, then suddenly exclaimed  "One - 0 - nine!  That's it."

"See, you remembered.  You only temporarily forgot, and I do that all the time myself."

"You're very kind.  What's your name, young man?"

"Bill Thomas, pleasure to meet you."

"Well may I say that the pleasure is all mine.  I'm Hattie McLemore, and I'm 96 years old but still kicking."

"You certainly are."  We got to her room, and I opened the door and pushed her inside.  "Is this the place?"

"Oh yes, my humble abode."

"I hope you had a nice Christmas."

She rubbed her hand across her mouth.  "I've had much better holidays in the past.  This one was a little hard for me.  Just push me over there by the window, would you?"

I did as she asked, then sat down in a chair next to her.  "Did they have any festivities here at Virgin Pines for you?"

"They have all kinds of stuff, but I didn't want to participate."

"Why not?"

"All the other folks here had family come and visit, and it was just too depressing for me."

"Your family couldn't make it?"

She let out a sigh.  "My husband died ten years ago, and I've been alone since."

"Do you have any children?"

"Two.  David died over in the Viet Nam the year before the U.S. withdrew the troops.  He was too young.  That just left my daughter Diane."

"Are you two close?"

"We were very close.  I loved her very much.  But..."  Mrs. McLemore got misty-eyed.  "Diane died last March.  The cancer took her.  Her husband Jack never cared much about me, so we've lost touch.  She had twins, but they passed away when they were young.  Some form of leukemia, I think it was."

I felt deeply for this woman.  "That's really sad."

She looked up at me.  "Yes, it is.  But I have to go on, don't I?"

"Sure.  Of course."

"So this Christmas was not a very happy one for me.  I've outlived all the people in the world I cared about."

"Don't you have any friends here?"

"A few.  They all had families who came and took them out for the holidays.  It's just been...  It has been rather lonely."

"I can imagine."

"No you can't.  And I sincerely hope you never have to.  How are you spending New Year's Eve, Bill?"

"Going to the Alabama theater with my friend Frank."

"Oh, I used to love going to see movies at the Alabama.  You know, it's about as old as I am."

"It's great."

"Yes it is.  Well, I guess you'd better get going."

I got to my feet.  "Yes ma'am."

"It was awfully nice of you to push me to my room and talk with me.  It felt real nice, like someone cares."

"Someone does care.  God bless you, Mrs. McLemore."  I nodded and left, headed fast for the van parked outside.  I was running a little late, and knew that parking spaces downtown near the theater would probably be hard to find.  I climbed into the van and started the engine.  And then I felt a tug at my heart.

A few minutes later, I knocked on the door of room one - 0 - nine.  I heard a voice say  "Come in."  I walked in, and Mrs. McLemore asked me  "Did you forget something, Bill?"

"No.  I just wanted to see if you'd like some company to ring in the New Year."

She looked like she was shocked beyond belief, and then she sniffled.  "I would really enjoy that.  Very much."

I sat down next to her.  "Tell me how you and your husband met."

She smiled broadly.  "Well now that's a story."  And she began to tell it to me.

I thought she would fall asleep soon, but she was animated and wide awake.  She talked and talked, and before we knew it midnight was upon us.  I started off 2013 with Mrs. McLemore, and I really do believe it made her happy.  Isn't that what life is all about?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Two days ago, I picked up a vehicle to drive from Houston, Texas out to Pomona, California.  It was a bright red Lincoln Navigator, and it was going to a Mr. Lowman.  He had to have the car by Christmas Eve, and I was watching out for patches of bad weather as I drove west.

Just as I crossed the California state line, my cell phone rang.  "This is Bill."

"Bill Thomas, you fat-headed little elf."  It was my boss, Riff, and it sounded like he had been drinking again.

"Been dipping into the egg nog, Riff?"

"Egg nog is for sissies.  I just drink the bourbon raw."


"You heard me.  You gonna get that big old SUV to Mr. Lowman in Pomona on time?"

"Yes sir, I should be there in a couple of hours."

"Good.  He has already called me three times today stressing how important it is that he gets it."

"He'll have it, don't worry about it.  Have a Merry Christmas, Riff."  I hung up, and then popped in my George Strait Christmas CD.  I sang along, feeling the spirit of the season in my heart.

When I arrived at the mall in Pomona, I drove around until I found the back loading dock that Mr. Lowman had specified.  I parked, and then saw Santa Claus walking towards me.  Well, it was a "mall Santa", those who sit for hours and put kids on their knees to hear what they want for Christmas.  This Santa was carrying a guitar over his shoulder.  "Hello, Bill," he said to me.

"Hi, Santa."

"Jim Lowman, nice to meet you."  He stuck out his hand to shake with me.

As I shook his hand, I said  "You're Mr. Lowman.  My boss didn't tell me you'd be dressed as Santa Claus."

"I always dress this way at this time of year.  I have a little gift just for you."  And with that, he began playing his guitar.  He sang one of my favorite George Strait songs called THE CHAIR.  When he finished, I applauded him.

"That was great.  George Strait is my favorite singer."

He smiled and nodded.  "I had a feeling.  Well Bill, have you been naughty or nice this year?"

"I've tried to be good."

"Glad to hear it.  There is too much bad in the world these days, we need more good."


"So how do you get home from here?"

"I don't have any plans for Christmas.  My home is Birmingham, but its not very likely that I'm going to get a car today headed all the way back there."

"It's good to be home for Christmas.  With family."

"I don't have a family.  My immediate family are all gone."

He put his hand on my shoulder.  "I'm sorry to hear that.  But be of good cheer, this time of year anything is possible."

"Um... OK, well if you can just sign here then the car is all yours."

He looked over the paperwork and began to sign.  "Thanks for bringing a gift for Santa."

"You bet.  You know, I never thought about it, but Santa brings presents to kids all over the world, but no one gets a gift for Santa."

"You know what, Bill?  I think the fact that you try to help people wherever you go is a wonderful thing.  Working in a soup kitchen, giving homeless people a room for a night, leaving bonus cash you earned for a friend.  Helping out others is the best gift you could ever give to Santa."  He handed me back the paperwork.

I was a bit dazed.  How did he know all of this stuff about me?  "Mr. Lowman, I--"

He interrupted by handing me a sealed envelope.  "Here's a little Christmas thank you for getting me my ride so promptly.  I have to get going, got a busy night of work ahead.  God bless you, Bill."  He jumped into his shiny red Lincoln with surprising agility, and then yelled  "Ho, ho, ho!"  The sun was just about to set, and he drove into it so I had to squint.  I know my eyes were playing tricks on me, but for a second it looked like his car was lifting up off of the ground.  And then I lost sight of it completely.

I opened the envelope he had given me and found a one way plane ticket back to Birmingham.  I had the sudden feeling that I was experiencing my own little Christmas miracle.  And a very Merry Christmas to you all!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Just one week until Christmas, and its really in the air everywhere.  Each time I turn on the radio, I hear Christmas songs galore, and I can't help but getting into the spirit of things.  I don't know yet where a driving fool will celebrate the happy day this year, but I am anxious to find out.

I was given an order to pick up a Dodge Grand Caravan up in Vermont.  It was a difficult place to get to, and I had to take several buses, a taxi, and then a long walk in some mighty cold weather.  I was almost to the address, and stopped in at a small country store.  And elderly man smiled when I walked in the door.  "Hello there, stranger."  He had a thick New England accent.

"Hello sir, happy holidays," I said.

"Well same to you, same to you.  What brings you round here?"

"I have to pick up a car from a Mr. Pickering."

"Oh yeah, Quentin Pickering, lives just up the road a bit.  Its a dirt road, not too good for driving."

"Well, I'm walking there.  But its pretty darn chilly outside, and I thought I'd stop for a cup of coffee to warm up."

"Got something better than coffee.  Good hot apple cider."  Without missing a beat, he grabbed a mug and filled it with cider from a dispenser.  I took it gratefully and sipped on it.   "Good stuff, eh?"

I nodded.  "Sure is."

"Got a lot more good stuff here, too.  Ever had real Vermont maple syrup?"

"Sure, I've had maple syrup."

"Yeah, but not Vermont maple syrup.  This is the real thing, genuine original, sweet and sticky."

"Sounds delicious."

"Way beyond delicious.  Goes great on everything.  Waffles.  French toast."


"Pancakes.  Say, you ever had pancakes made Jamaican style?"

I smiled.  "No, but I've heard of them."

"You can marinate steaks in it.  Glaze a ham with it."

"Sounds like you can use it for a lot of things."

"Oh, I'm just getting started.  Mix it with greens.  Pour it on potatoes."


"Some folks like to pour it on their mac and cheese."

I could see this would go on indefinitely, so I drank down my cider and said,  "I appreciate the hospitality, but I better get on down the road.  I have a long drive ahead."

"Thought you was walking?"

"For now.  I'm going to pick up a car.  I'm a driving fool.  Thanks for everything."

"You betcha.  Want some Vermont syrup for the road?"

"Not right now.  What do I owe for the cider?"

"No charge.  Merry Christmas."

I left and hiked on another mile or so up to Mr. Pickering's house.  He was waiting out front, unloading some things from the minivan.  I smiled and waved.  "Hello, Mr. Pickering.  Happy Tuesday to you."

He glared at me with hatred in his eyes.  "What's so damn happy about it?  You are taking my company car away from me.  Now how am I supposed to get around?"  I looked down at my feet.   "You don't have an answer for that one, now do you?"

"My company told me to come and pick up the vehicle."

"Yes, and my company said I was out of a job, and by the way, we are taking your van back.  Leaving me stranded with no wheels.  How does that make you feel?"

"Not great."

He spoke with thick sarcasm.  "Oh yes, its a very Merry Christmas for me.  Ho-ho-ho, bull crap!  They don't care about what happens to me.  They don't care that my wife and kids left me six months ago, they don't care that I have a drinking problem.  They just want their van back.  And they send you, you little Nazi, to take it from me.  Well go ahead, take it!  I hope you choke on it."

I stumbled for something to say.  "I will think a good thought for you."

He came at me like he was going to smack me down.  "Oh no, don't you dare!  I didn't ask for your pity or charity.  Just take the van and go.  You'll find I left the tank on empty.  And you're welcome."  He stormed into the house.  I did a quick condition report on the vehicle, then climbed in.  It was a real pig sty, filthy and nasty.  There was trash everywhere, leaves and grass on the carpet, dried clay on the dashboard, and there was the strong odor of cigars.

I started the engine and pulled out of the driveway.  As I glanced at the dash, I saw that this older model had both a CD player and cassette player.  I mostly listen to CD's, and after a while I'd like a change of music.  I remembered I had a couple of older cassette tapes in my backpack, and grabbed one to slide it in.  When I did, nothing happened.  So I waited a little, then pushed the eject button.  After some hesitation, the tape came sliding slowly out, surrounded by a brown liquid that cascaded down the dash.  I touched it and held my fingertip under my nose.  The sticky substance smelled sweet.  It was maple syrup.  Most likely Vermont maple syrup.  The guy had trashed his van and poured syrup into the stereo as an angry response to losing his job.  Just when I think I've seen it all, something new surprises me.

Friday, December 7, 2012


Yesterday, I was on my way to deliver in Montana and had to stop to get gas and food near Springfield, Illinois.  I found a truck stop and went inside.  There my attention was immediately grabbed by an odd looking gentleman.  He was wired and bouncing from one foot to the other.  My first gut response was to stay clear of him, for this was just the kind of guy who would come up and engage me with some weird conversation.

The man was balding on top, but his hair was long and silver in the back.  He had it tied into some strange sort of pigtails.  And he wore pants that looked like a cross between blue jeans and sweat pants.  He was holding a coke and a bag of chips, and he came up to the line at the counter and looked disgusted at the prospect of waiting. 

"Hey," he said to the men standing in line in front of him.  "Hey guys?"

The other men in line turned to look at him.  One of them said,  "What do you need?"

"Are you a Christian?" he asked.


"Are you a church going man?  All of you.  Do you believe in God?"  They all nodded.  "Jesus loves you, can I please cut in line in front of you.  My old foot in acting up, and I just don't think I can stand for very long.  God will bless you for it."  The men in line sort of reluctantly stepped aside, and this nutty-looking fellow stepped right up to the counter.  I've seen a lot out on the road, and run into what I call "Bill's people" every single day.  But this was a new one for the books.  I turned and went into the adjacent restaurant, which was a Chester's Fried Chicken.

I stood in line and thought about Karen.  It had been just over a week since I was at her house, and I had been playing the scene with her in my mind repeatedly.  Wishing I would have handled things differently.  Wishing I hadn't said the things I said.  I wanted so badly to make things right.

I was next in line and getting ready for my turn to order.  The man I had just seen on the other side of the truck stop came striding into Chester's purposefully, and walked past the line and stepped right up to the counter.  "Is the manager here?  Excuse me, I need to see the manager."  The girl behind the counter stared at him, then nodded and walked into the back.  "God bless you, sweet gal."

A minute or two later, the girl came back, followed by a short, chubby black man wearing a tie.  "Someone here need to see me?"

The guy with pigtails leaned over the counter and said,  "Are you the manager?"

"Yes I am."

"Are you a Christian?"


"Are you a man of God?"

"Oh yes."

"Jesus loves you."

"I know he does," said the manager.

"He died for you on the cross."

"Yes he did," the manager enthused.

"I can see you are a good man with charity in your heart.  Can you give me some of those sweet biscuits that you make here?  I'm a little tight on funds, but I promised Phillip I'd bring him some biscuits.  And I might just eat one myself.  In the name of the Father."


"Amen, brother, amen!"

"I guess I could get you some biscuits."

"Hallelujah, I have found a believer."

The manager was getting fired up.  "Yes you have.  I know you have."

"Praise, praise!"  This man lifted his hands towards Heaven and closed his eyes, looking a lot like he was about to cry.  The manager hurried into the back, then came out with a bag full of biscuits.  "You will be blessed, God will shine his light on you."  And with that, this man grabbed the bag and went out the door.

I ordered my food and sat and ate it.  Frankly, I was grateful that the man didn't interact with me.  Because I am usually a magnet for these semi-crazy folks.  When I was done, I went to the bathroom, then out to my car to get some gas.  While I was pumping the gas, I heard a voice behind me.

"Are you a Christian?"

I turned and saw that the man had found me.  "Yes, I am."

"Are you a man of God?"

"I believe in God."

"No, that's not what I asked you.  Are you a servant of the Lord Almighty, do you have love in your heart?"

I didn't know how to proceed.  I did not like what this guy was doing.  So I stuck my hand out to shake with him.  "My name is Bill Thomas."

"Brother, I didn't ask your name.  I asked if you're right with God."

"I believe."

"And what do you believe?"

"John 3:16.  Its the foundation of my faith."

The man began to laugh heartily.  "Oh my, my, my.  That is just the tip of the iceberg.  If that's all you believe in, you are in big trouble, my friend."

"I have faith."

"Then prove it.  God wants you to give me $20 to help me get down the road."

"Funny, God didn't mention that to me."

He looked like I had slapped him in the face.  "Don't you dare blaspheme!  The Lord will surely smite you."

I finished pumping my gas and put the nozzle back into its cradle.  I said nothing.

"I'm speaking to you sir, I expect the courtesy of a reply."

"No, I won't give you $20."

"You are a sinner!"

"I'm pretty sure we are all sinners."

"How dare you!"

"Really?  Listen pal, you've already got to cut in line and a free bag of biscuits.  I'd say God has been pretty good to you today.  But I have a car to deliver, and I don't have time for you anymore."

He pointed his finger at me with scorn.  "You are turning your back on God's commandments, you will burn in a lake of hellfire."

I shrugged.  "That's your opinion.  Keep right on doing what you're doing, and someday you may have a conversation with God about it.  Meanwhile, adios!"

I got into my car and drove away.  He began cussing at me, but I quickly tuned him out.  I think that everyone believes something different, and I think we all have a right to our opinion.  But it seemed a lot to me like this guy was trying to use God to get what he wanted, and that just rubbed me the wrong way.

Friday, November 30, 2012


I woke up and stared at the ceiling.  I did not know where I was or what day it was.  My head was light and felt like it had been spinning endlessly.  I was extremely disoriented and felt very unsure of myself.  I looked under the sheets of the bed and saw I only had on a pair of underwear.  On my job, I sleep in many beds in many different cities, but I don't usually wake up feeling quite so strange or concerned.  What happened last night?

Karen, my ex-girlfriend from high school days, came into the room.  She was bustling around quickly, and did not appear to be in a good humor.  "Good morning, beautiful," I said to her.

"Oh, really?  Is that all you've got to say for yourself?"

I sat up quickly, and my head began to spin again.  "Wait, what's the matter?"

She shook her head and continued hurrying around the room, picking things up and trying to make it tidy.  The room was a huge mess.  Something was obviously bothering her, because we normally get along great.  "You need to get up and get ready."

"What is going on?" I asked.  She simply kept on moving, as if doing so would avoid further questions or conversation.  "Hello?  Karen?  You there?"

"Shut up, OK?"


"Do you even remember yesterday?  Let me refresh your memory.  It was Thanksgiving, and you came to spend it with me."

"Today is the day after Thanksgiving?"

"Wow, how did you figure that out?  You had a bad headache, so I gave you one of my pain pills, and you got totally crazy."

"Prescription pain pills?"

"Yes," she replied.

"Was I drinking?"

"Just wine, don't you remember?"

I hung my head.  "No, not a thing.  Pills and wine are not a good mix for me.  In fact, extremely bad.  What did I do?"

"Not so much what you did as what you said."  With that, she marched out of the room.  I had to look around to find the various pieces of my clothes.  I loved this girl more than any girl in the world, how could I have so alienated her?  What was going on with me?  A few minutes later, she came back in and laid down a plate with a sandwich on it.  "You never ate your meal yesterday.  There's a turkey sandwich, eat it while you're dressing."

"Why are we in such a hurry for me to leave?"

"WE are not, I am.  I have to fly back to Indy.  Cheryl is very sick and she needs me."

"Cheryl?"  I sighed.  Cheryl was Karen's ex-lover, and I had trouble dealing with the lesbian issue.

Karen pointed her finger at me and her bottom lip quivered.  "Don't start this again.  This is how it all began last night.  You started getting all jealous, then announced how deeply in love with me you were, and how you want to marry me and spend the rest of your life with me."

I dressed slowly and listened to her, feeling sheepish that I had said so much and had no memory of it.  "What else did I say?"

"That I was the love of your life, the stars in the night sky, all this poetic crap.  You just really went way, way overboard."

"Did I?"

She snorted, not happily.  "Yeah, you did."

"Anything else worth mentioning?"

"You threw stuff all over the room.  And you shared all your fantasies about me, in lurid detail."

"I went too far?" I asked.

"It was...  it's just that...  Bill, it was overwhelming.  I expected to have a nice, quite little Thanksgiving, just the two of us.  This was my first one alone without Cheryl, so..."  She came and sat down on the bed next to me as I pulled on my socks.  "You freaked me out a little bit."

"Just a little?"

"Maybe more than a little.  Come on, get ready, I need to catch a flight in just under two hours."

"I can take you to the airport."

"No.  I mean thank you, that's very sweet, but I need some time alone to process all of this."  I had put on my shoes and was picking up my wallet and cell phone.  She grabbed a few tissues from the night stand and wrapped the turkey sandwich in them.  "For the road."

I accepted it gratefully.  Then I walked to the front door with her close behind.  As I was walking out, I turned and said,  "Karen, I am so, so sorry about all of this.  Whatever I said or did, it wasn't me.  I should have warned you not to feed me pills and alcohol."

"I didn't shove them down your throat."

I nodded and smiled.  "I wasn't swinging from the chandelier, was I?"

This made her laugh.  "No, nothing like that.  It was just stuff you said."  She grabbed me and kissed me on the cheek.  "Come back soon, we'll talk."

"I love you, kid."

A tear rolled down her cheek.  "Me too you."

Monday, November 19, 2012


Only a few weeks ago we were collectively celebrating Halloween.  I was driving as usual on that special day, and had just dropped off a car near Baltimore.  And I got a frantic call from sweet old Mrs. Sherman, who said she needed me to pick up her car as soon as possible.  I've driven her car from the north down to Florida and then back up for several years, but word usually comes from my boss Riff.  I tried and tried to call him, but no luck.  So I made my way up to her house via commuter trains and buses.

When I arrived at her house, she opened the door to greet me.  She looked a little bit surprised to see me, and said,  "Well hello, Bill, this is an unexpected pleasure.  Please do come in."

As soon as I walked in the door I could smell the strong odor of gas.  "Mrs. Sherman, do you smell gas?"

"I'm 94 years old now, sometimes I don't fully digest and break wind.  I took my Beano.  Or maybe, yes, it must be the oven, I am cooking a big batch of...   now wait a minute.  What am I cooking?"

I hurried over to the oven and could see it was set on 450 degrees.  I opened it and the smell of the gas was much more profound.  I quickly turned the oven off, and then looked to find how to turn the gas off.  "Your pilot light went out, Mrs. Sherman."

"The lights are going out?"  She scurried over to a drawer and pulled out a large box of matches.  "Let me just light a few candles while we can still see."

I quickly took the matches from her.  "No ma'am, you don't to be lighting any matches right now."

"Well, OK, but its going to get very dark in here when the lights go out.  By the way, Happy Thanksgiving to you!"

"Not quite yet, today is Halloween.  In a few more weeks it will be Thanksgiving."

She looked perplexed.  "Are you sure about that?"

"Very sure."

"Well then, I guess we better get ready for the trick or treaters.  I don't have candy, I guess I can bake some cookies.  Or rice crispy treats.  What do you like, Bill?  A chocolate cake?  Or a cherry pie?"

I smiled at her.  "I like them all, but I don't think we should be baking right now.  We need to get some windows opened."  I went around the kitchen and living room opening windows.

"Don't you think its awfully cold to be letting the night air in?" she asked.

"We have to get the gas fumes out of here."

"Gas fumes?" she said with wonder.  "Oh, I filled up the tank of my car with gas, so it's all ready for you to drive to Florida."

I nodded.  "Uh, yes, but do you realize that I just drove it up from Florida a little over a month ago?"

She rubbed her chin.  "I see.  Well then there must be some mistake, it's too soon for you to take it back down there.  What made you think I was ready to move it?"

"Your phone call."

She hurried for the front door.  "There's the doorbell, our first trick or treaters are here."  But there was no doorbell, and when she opened the door she found an empty porch.  "Now where did they go?  Do you think they are pulling a prank on me?"

"Perhaps so," I offered.

"Bill, I am so glad you showed up.  I get so lonely here sometimes, its so good to see a friendly face."

"Happy to see you too, Mrs. Sherman."

The door from the garage into the house opened, and Mrs. Sherman's daughter Regina came rushing in.  "Mother, are you OK?" she asked.  Then she saw me.  "Bill Thomas, what are you doing here?"

"He came to surprise me," said Mrs. Sherman.

Regina shook her head.  "I don't understand."  She sniffed at the air.  "Do I smell gas?"

I held my hands up as I explained.  "Your mother called to ask me to come pick up her car."

"What?  No, no, it's not --  Oh Mother, what have you been up to?"

"I smelled the gas when I got here, and turned the oven off.  The pilot light had gone out."

"I was baking some... some... something delicious!" said Mrs. Sherman with pride.  She winked at me.

"The windows are open, I'm trying to clear out the fumes."

Regina walked over to me.  "Thank you so much for looking out for my Mother.  You are a very sweet man."

"No problem, ma'am.  All in a day's work."

We talked a bit longer, and then Regina called a taxi to come pick me up and take me back to the train station.  As I rode away from the house, I saw ghosts and goblins walking down the street carrying bags to collect candy.  And I felt good inside knowing that Mrs. Sherman would be alright.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I was talking to my miserable boss Riff as I approached my delivery address in South Bend, Indiana.  "Why are you always running late, you little pissant?"

"Riff, I'm three hours ahead of the deadline you gave me.  I drove hard to make it on time.  And I just had the car washed and waxed as you instructed."

"Well, you are in for a treat.  This lady sounds like a real piece of work.  Enjoy yourself.  And remember, do not accept a ride from her.  Its her company's rule."

"I already have my exit transportation all arranged."

"You'd better!"

"I do."  I hung up as I pulled into the driveway of Mrs. Edmonds.  She came rushing out of the house.

"Are you Bill?" she asked frantically.

I smiled at her as I climbed out of the car.  "Yes ma'am, Bill Thomas at your service."

"I was beginning to worry if you'd ever make it.  Punctuality is a lost art, I suppose.  What kind of car would you call this?"

I looked at the car.  "I'd call it a Chevy Malibu."

She shook her head.  "Oh gee, I was sort of hoping for a Cadillac."

I shrugged.  "Sorry, this is the car your company wanted me to deliver."

"Now did you wash the car?"


"That's not true, now is it?"

"Beg your pardon?"

"Can you prove the car was washed?  Do you have a receipt?"

"Yes, its right here."  I reached into my pocket, trying to remain calm and cordial.  I do not much enjoy being accused of lying.

Mrs. Edmonds snatched the receipt from me and looked it over.  "Oh no, this is from the car wash across town.  I would have preferred you use the car wash about a mile from here.  I know the people there."

"I had no idea."

"No?  Well I suppose that rings true.  Now how does the car run?"

"Perfect.  I drove it here from New Orleans, and didn't have any problems."


"Excuse me?"

"You just fibbed to me, that's quite obvious.  This is a used car, so its not perfect."

"OK, poor choice of words on my part.  What I meant to say was that its in very good shape for a used car.  I can promise you that it is my job to tell you if I find anything wrong with the car."

She eyed me sideways.  "Are you sure?"

"Yes, very sure."

"Did I get a fuel card, along with current registration and insurance?"

"You bet, its all in the glovebox."

"Prove it!" she said, pointing at me.  "Because that sounds like a tall tale to me."

"Mrs. Edmonds, is there some reason you doubt me?"

"You just sound like you're full of BS to me."

"Really sorry that you feel that way, but I'm being 100% honest with you."

"And you expect me to believe that?"

"I wish you would."

She walked around the car inspecting it with much more intensity than most customers do.  And of course, she had every right to do so.  I waited patiently for ten minutes.  "I do not like this car one bit.  But I suppose I have no choice but to accept it, do I?"

"I think you're going to like it."

"And I think you're wrong.  Now where do I sign?"  I handed her the paperwork and a pen, and pointed to the line with the X next to it.  She waved the pen in the air several times before she put it down on the paper and signed her name.  "Now I know you're going to need a ride, and I'm going to take you where you need to go, although I really don't want to."

"You don't have to."

"Well as I said, I don't want to. I'd rather not.  But I'll do it if I have to."

"Thank you kindly, but there's no need.  I have a ride all arranged."

"You do?"  She came over close to me and began sniffing around me.  "Do you smell smoke?"

"No," I said.

"I think your pants are on fire."

"My pants?"

"Liar, liar.  You don't have a ride arranged, do you?""

"I'm telling you the truth."

"OK, Mr. Truth Teller, if you are so honest then explain how you're getting out of here."

"I'm renting a car from Avis.  The agent at Avis said he'd come and pick me up."

"That's a big whopper.  Don't insult my intelligence.  I would appreciate it if you'd leave my property immediately, liars are not welcome here.  I will be reporting you to your company for this."

So I gave her a copy of the paperwork and started walking up the street to the major intersection where Avis had agreed to pick me up.  And that's the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Honestly.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


I got word that my bank account at a certain nationwide chain was changing my absolutely Free checking account to a $1500 minimum balance account.  They informed me that they had already subtracted the first monthly service fee, with many more to come.  So I chose to find a branch and close the account, because I never seem to have as much as $1500 ahead.

As I passed through East St. Louis, I got off the highway where Mapquest told me I could find the nearest branch.  It was in a very economically depressed neighborhood, in the lobby of a destitute grocery store.  I went in and stood in line, with five people between me and the head of the line.  First in line was a family:  a father who had lost his belt (I assume, because his pants were drooping to his knees and his underwear was in full view); a mother chewing gum and popping bubbles;  a restless girl of 5 or 6;  and a toddler in a stroller wailing and crying to beat the band.

I felt sorry for the small crying girl and smiled at her.  About that time, the father said to the mother,  "You better tell that little bitch to shut the hell up right now."

The mother looked down at the crying girl.  "You hear that bitch?  He says you best shut your mouth.  Don't make me tell you again."

But the crying continued, perhaps even louder now.  When the little girl looked back my way, I covered my eyes with my hand, then pulled it back quickly revealing my eyes.  A simple game of peek-a-boo, like I used to play with my friends' kids.  The girl stopped crying immediately, as she was caught off guard by me being silly.  I continued to do this, unnoticed by anyone but the little tyke, and she seemed fascinated.  Her mouth formed into a big "O" and she just stared and stared.  I added little flourishes to up the ante, and the more I did it, the more she liked it.

Before long, her older sister noticed me also, and she began to smile.  About this time, the younger girl began to giggle very softly.  And as I continued, her laughter grew infectious, and her older sis joined in.  They just thought this goofy older guy was the funniest thing they had seen all day.  They giggled and chuckled and gurgled, and I was glad I could make them happier.  Better a happy child than a screaming child.

About that time, the mother looked down at the tiny girl to see what she was laughing about.  She followed the little girl's eyeline until she saw me, and took a moment to watch what I was doing.  And then she spoke to me rather forcefully.  "Hey!  Stop making them laugh.  We don't like laughter."

I was both embarrassed and a bit confused.  But I did stop, immediately, and looked off in the other direction.  I stayed in line for 20 more minutes, and after I closed the account I was back into my car and on my way.  In a way, I felt sort of sad as I drove away.  I maintain that there is too much bad stuff in the world, and that we can use all the smiles and laughter we can get.  Guess not everyone agrees with that.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


I was driving down the highway in the Hill Country of Texas, and it seemed more than appropriate to be listening to George Strait singing SOMEWHERE DOWN IN TEXAS.  I was on my way to see Tom and Jenny at their ranch full of dogs, and I knew that the welcome mat would be out.  The last time I was there had been at Christmas, when they had just adopted the three little girls.

When I drove up to their house, I saw the girls playing out in the yard with the dogs.  Normally Jenny would rush out to greet me, but for the first time this didn't happen.  I felt concerned, but figured she must be busy inside.  I got out and said hello to the girls, and then went inside to find Jenny in the middle of a heated conversation on the phone.

"I'm doing the best I can out here!" she shouted.  "I have 40 dogs here right now, and I feed them and provide for them and do my very best to find homes for them.  I really don't appreciate you saying crap like that about me, and if you're going to, how about saying it to my face instead of posting it on Facebook.  And one more thing--"  Jenny stopped mid-sentence, and just stared at the phone in disbelief.  "I can't believe it.  She hung up on me!"

"Who did?"

"This dumb bitch named Heidi.  I had someone go back on a contract I had for an adopted dog, and she posted on Facebook that I wasn't doing a good enough job and that I should go and physically check out a home before I give a dog away."


She let out a sigh.  "I'm sorry, Bill, where are my manners.  Welcome home."  She threw her arms around me and squeezed tight.  "You're a sight for sore eyes.  I needed a good friend right about now."

"And you've got one.  Jenny, don't listen to that stupid woman, she obviously doesn't know what she's talking about.  You do so much for these dogs, you go way above and beyond.  Talk about pay it forward.  I seriously doubt there is anyone in the world that takes care of dogs or loves dogs as much as you."

"I don't know about all that.  Come here, I want to show you something."  She led me over to her computer, and turned the screen for me to see.  I was horrified by the sight of a dog with a huge fish hook in its snout.  "There are insane people using dogs as live bait to catch big fish."


"It's true!  This is absolutely unacceptable behavior and should be considered heinous cruelty to animals. I can't believe we should have to tell someone this is wrong."

"Holy crap."

"Can you even imagine the fear these poor animals must be in the last minutes of their lives."  Tears welled up in her eyes.  "No living being deserves to be treated and used this way!  Dammit!"  She plopped down in her chair, looking defeated.  "Sometimes I feel like with all I do, I am barely making a dent."

I gently rubbed her shoulders.  "Nonsense, you are wonderful.  You do so much good, I can't even begin to tell you.  The love you show, the sacrifices you make.  Listen, I brought beer and cigarettes and some thick steaks.  And a big bag of dog biscuits for the pooches.  I'm going to make you dinner and cheer you up.  Where's Tom?"

"He's over at the neighbor's again, that bastard is causing us trouble every single day.  Running customers off, building over our property line.  I think Tom may shoot him before long."

"Let's hope not," I said.  She got up and led me outside so we could check on the dogs and the kids.  I had to get the stuff I brought out of the car anyway.

Jenny stopped and did a head count.  "We have some new dogs.  That one is John Wayne, and that one over there is Mr. Tom Hanks.  The little one next to him is his brother Jim Hanks."

"You like naming them after movie actors, don't you?"

"Yep."  She smiled, then looked a bit worried.  "Where's Charlie?"


"Charlie McCarthy, he's a newcomer, a beagle.  You'll like him."

Right about then, Tom came sauntering up.  "Bill-doggie!" he yelled when he saw me.  "Come here, bro."  He grabbed me and hugged me tight.  "How's my brother from another mother?"

"Great Tom, how are you?"

"Ready for a beer."

"I brought a 12 pack."

He grinned.  "One of the things I love about you the most.  Hey, I was just talking to our asshole neighbor.  I think he makes his goal in life to harrass us."

Jenny interrupted.  "Tom, where is Charlie?"

"I think I saw him in the woods when I was headed over to talk to Mr. Asshole Watson."

"He didn't go over there, did he?"  Just as Jenny completed her sentence, we heard a dog yelp and cry from distance.  "That's Charlie!" she cried, and ran into the house.

"Where's she going?" I asked.

Tom shook his head, and in a flash Jenny came back out of the house carrying Tom's shotgun.  She ran past us at almost superhuman speed, and we ran after her.  About one minute later, we were at their property line, and Charlie was laying on the ground bleeding.  Their neighbor Watson was standing over the dog with a weed wacker, and Jenny took all her momentum from running and used the shotgun like a battering ram to knock Watson on his butt.  "What'd you do to my dog?"

Watson was on the ground, stunned but stubborn.  "He came onto my property."

Jenny was incredulous.  "He came onto your property?  Oh my God!"

"I had to teach him a lesson!"

"Did you?  Well I guess now I'll have to teach you one, too."  She pumped the shotgun and took aim.  In the blink of an eye, Tom disarmed her.  He swooped in and pulled the gun out of her hands, as Watson pulled himself to his feet.  Jenny was in such a fierce state of protective aggressiveness that she was caught off guard by Tom's actions.  She was a force to be reckoned with.  Talk about irrepressible and irascible!  When Watson was on his feet again, she shook her head no and hit him like a linebacker, knocking him onto the ground once more.  "You are so lucky that I have to tend to Charlie's wounds, but trust me you son of a bitch, this isn't over."  She picked up Charlie gently then began to run back for the house.

Watson got to his feet again.  "You need to put those dogs and that wife of yours on a leash, and--"

Tom interrupted, leaning menacingly into Watson so that their faces were just about touching.  "Shut your mouth!  You don't get to talk right now.  I can promise you that if this happens again, my wife won't be coming over here.  Because I'll be over here first and kill you myself.  Keep that in mind, you dirty son of a bitch!"

I followed Tom back home, and he dealt with the little girls to distract them so they wouldn't be frightened.  I went inside and did my best to assist Jenny in patching up Charlie.  Seems like Watson had cut the dog with his weed wacker.  When she got done, we all sat outside and had a beer.

"He's gonna be OK," Jenny told us.

"Yes, but are you OK?" I asked.

Tom chuckled.  "Damn, girlfriend, you were on fire."

"There's no excuse for what he did, no one should hurt a dog," she said

I nodded.  "You said earlier that someone accused you of not doing a good enough job.  What a load of crap.  Dogs are man's best friend, but no dog in the world could have a better friend or protector than Jenny."

"Amen," said Tom, and he took a long swig of beer.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


I had been working with Andy, the crazed paranoid driver, for a few weeks now shuttling cars from Florida to Texas and back.  Basically, I was serving as "chase" driver to Andy, following him one way then picking him up and driving him back for another pick up.  I did not enjoy his company one little bit, but the money was good so I couldn't say no.

He had just delivered a cargo van to Waco, Texas.  I was waiting for him in a minivan, which Riff had assigned to follow him.  He pulled into the parking lot where I waited driving a large truck, with a trailer attached to the back of it.  Andy got out of the car and swaggered over to me.  "Good morning, puss face."

"What's this?  Aren't you supposed to ride back with me to Ft. Lauderdale?"

"Change of plans, man.  I got this truck and trailer to take, so you just follow me back."

"Wait a second, did Riff assign this?"

"No idiot, I got the order from another company.  We don't tell Riff about it, right?  Right?!"

"What do you think you're up to, Andy?"

"Shut up and do as your told.  And don't you dare bring my Aunt Bessie into it."  He poked his finger into my ribs.  "You know it was funny, and you know just what I'm talking about."

"It wasn't funny at all."

He poked me again.  "You have to admit, it was a little funny."

I stared at him with disgust.  "Andy, you mixed extra strength laxative in my drink.  I crapped my pants, then couldn't get far from a toilet all day."

He bent over and brayed with laughter.  "Hilarious!"

"No, it's a rotten thing to do to someone.  Especially someone like me who has digestive issues."

"Come on, don't be a prick, it was pretty funny."  He began to poke me in the ribs once again, but this time I grabbed his wrist and twisted it.  Then I spun him around, pinned his arm to his back, and slammed him face first into the side of the trailer.  "Hey man, be cool!"

I was trying to control my temper and spoke softly.  "I am very cool right now."

"No you're not, you're acting like a maniac."

I let him go and then pointed my finger in his face.  "Do not touch me again.  Got it?"  I turned on my heel and headed for the minivan.

"OK Sally, see if you are man enough to keep up with me.  I was up all night drinking, and I've had five cups of coffee and four of those 5 hour alert shots.  I am wired for sound, and don't you forget it."

I began to follow Andy as he took the back roads from Waco to Houston.  Once there, he got on I-10 east and we were headed for Florida.  I was listening to music and trying to relax, but was still tense over what he had done.  I tried to stay clear of this guy, but circumstances brought us together more often than I cared for.  He is so volatile and unpredictable.  And he brought out a side of me that I didn't like, a perfect example being me throwing him against the trailer.  That's not me, that is not the way I behave.  But he pushes me so far that I feel something akin to hatred for the guy.  He makes me nuts.

Suddenly, I saw the trailer fishtail.  Then the truck Andy was driving began to swerve.  Both the truck and the trailer were swerving, and each fishtail move made a wider arc.  I stared in amazement, wondering what this lunatic driver had done to cause the wild swinging to begin.  And then, the truck flipped, followed closely by the trailer.  It rolled several times before coming to a stop on its side, and I pulled off to the shoulder and quickly ran for the truck.

As I neared it, I could clearly see that Andy was unconscious inside the cab of the truck.  He had what appeared to be a burning joint hanging from his lips.  I could smell gasoline, and knew that disaster was just a whisper away.  I tried very hard to open the door, but it was jammed shut.  So I kicked the window until it broke, and then cleared away the glass so I could reach in.  By this time, a fire had started, and I was feeling frantic about getting him out and moving as far away as possible.

It was a difficult task, but I was able to pull him free of the burning truck.  That's when I first noticed that his head was bleeding profusely.  A woman who had pulled over behind me ran up with her cell phone to her ear.  "I'm calling 911," she said.

"Thanks, but I have to get him right to a hospital or I think he might not make it."

"There's one fairly near here.  Go down three exits, get off, turn right, and go about five miles."

"Thanks, thanks a lot," I told her.  I yelled out my name and my cell phone number as I carried Andy to the minivan.  The woman entered my cell phone into her own, so she could contact me or give it to the authorities who would be there soon.

I know that conventional wisdom would be to let the ambulance come and get Andy and rush him to the hospital.  But as a driving fool, I can promise you that I went faster and more skillfully than any ambulance ever could.  I was determined to save his life if at all possible.  Though there was absolutely nothing about this guy that I liked.  Not even remotely.

Just over ten minutes later, I pulled up to the Emergency Room entrance and carried Andy inside.  I had to wait five hours, during which time the police called me and then showed up at the hospital.  Soon after I finished my report with the police officers, the Dr. came out to tell me that Andy would survive, but he was going to need a lot of rest and rehab.  "Toxicology told us that he was as high as a kite," explained the Doc.  "That may be what saved him."


"He was extremely relaxed, so he didn't tense up on impact.  One thing is for sure, though:  if you hadn't brought him right over, he never would have survived.  He owes you his life."

Those were words I had never heard before.  Someone owes me their life.  But why did it have to be Andy?  I am quite certain that he won't be the least bit grateful, and that as soon as he fully recovers he'll be trying to slip me some more laxative, or worse.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I was sitting in the Diner watching a young waitress move about.  I don’t know how young she was, but I found myself hoping she wasn’t too young for me.  She had been flirting with me, no doubt about it, and I thought she was very attractive.  I kept on finding new things to order just so I could stay at my table and appreciate her.  She walked back over to me carrying a coffee pot.  “More coffee?” she asked.

“I don’t want to get too wired.”

“Right, all that energy and nothing to do with it.  Or is there?”

“You get right to the point,” I said.

“Life is too short.  You’re cute, I’m hot, why not?”

“How old are you, anyway?”

“Does it really matter?” she wanted to know.`

“My guess would be late 20’s, and even that might be too young for me.”

“Why?  Come on, live a little.”

I sighed.  “How old?”

“I turned 21 last Tuesday, so I’m legal.”

“Check please.  I’m not a cradle robber.”

“Even if I promised to make all of your most erotic fantasies come true?”

I paused, then said,  “I’m flattered that you’d even consider me, but… no.”

This beautiful girl shrugged and walked away.  I felt a hand swipe across the back of my head, and heard a familiar voice say,  “Just what in the hell do you think you’re doing, Mister Bill?”

I smiled warmly and turned to see Karen standing behind me.  The love of my life.  My soulmate.  My gay ex-girlfriend.  “Hi, Karen.”

She seemed stern.  “Answer the question.  Why did you come to my Café to hit on an innocent young waitress, way too young for you old man?”

“I thought I was in a Diner.”

“It’s a Café, and don’t try to change the subject.”  She had sneaked up on me, and now she came around to sit across the table from me.  “What’s up with you?”

“I came to see you, and you weren’t here.”

“So you decided to hit on my staff?”

“Don’t be mad.  I came to make peace.  I didn’t like how we left things last time I was here.”

Her face softened, and the smile that separated her lips was pure sunshine.  “I felt bad, too.  I didn’t mean to hurt you, and I sure didn’t mean to send you away without a meal.”

“It was my fault.”

“It was both of our fault, and you know it.  I can take some of the blame, too.”

“I was a jerk.”

“That’s enough, that’s in the past and the subject is closed.  Agreed?”

“Yes ma’am.  I will learn to be more understanding and tolerant of Cheryl.”

“There is no more Cheryl.”

“What?  Since when?”

“She’s gone, let’s just leave it at that for now.  We might discuss it more later.  Like over dinner tonight.”

“Just you and me?”

“Ask me out on a date, silly man.”

I felt a tingling sensation.  “Karen, will you go out with me tonight?”

She looked up at the ceiling as if she were thinking it over, then laughed and said,  “Yes, but you have to get me home by midnight.”

I felt so warm and good all over.  “I am really glad you’re not mad at me anymore.”

She reached across the table and took my hands.  “Listen here, you.  I love you, and I always will.  You are very special to me.”

“Can I be your boyfriend?”

She shook her head.  “One step at a time.  Dinner tonight, OK?  But one thing I know for sure is that I want you to be a bigger part of my life.  I need you, Bill.”  She squeezed my hands in hers.

I swallowed hard.  “I need you too, Karen.”

Friday, August 31, 2012


"I know, Riff, I know, but there is only so much I can do.  I'm only one man."

"A moronic man!" shouted Riff into the phone.  He was yelling at me as I drove to make my next car delivery, and I was growing very weary very fast of his grouchy demeanor.  My boss was not a pleasant man.  "You were supposed to be in Tallahassee to deliver that car two hours ago."

"Yes, but I ran into a huge traffic jam on Interstate 10 when I passed through Louisiana because of Issac."

"Issac?   Who is Issac, your boyfriend?"

"No Riff, Issac is the hurricane that hit Louisiana a few days ago."

"I think you mean tropical storm."

"Whatever you want to call it, people who left their homes are trying to return, and its a huge mess.  Look, I called the man I'm taking the car to, and he was very understanding."

"You're lying."

"No sir, I'm on the level.  Why would I lie?"

"I don't know, why would I screw my own cousin?" he bellowed.

I paused for a few seconds.  "Well I... you got me there, I don't have an answer for that one.  I'll call you once I've delivered."

Just under an hour later, I was pulling off the highway into the outskirts of Tallahassee.  I called the customer, Mr. Duffy, to say I'd be there in a few minutes.  He appreciated the heads up call.

When I pulled into the driveway, he came walking over to me from the front porch.  I got out of the car and introduced myself.  He reached out to shake my hand, which not all customers do.  "Got caught in that traffic in Louisiana, huh?"

"Yes sir" I said.  "I should have tried to go further north around it.

"Well, if you were coming from Dallas, it would have been a lot far north and way out of your way.   Doesn't matter to me if you are a few hours late."

"Thanks for understanding."

Suddenly, a young girl came running down the sidewalk at full speed screaming  "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!"  I winced as she ran into Mr. Duffy from behind, with both of her arms extended like a battering ram.  She looked to be about ten years old, but she was beefy.  Her father barely seemed to notice.

"So this is my new car, eh?  It's a beauty."

"Daddy!  Daddy!" she squealed.

"Its very nice," I agreed.

"Daddy!"  She began to beat on his back.  "Daddy!"

He ignored the girl completely and began to let his hand glide down the side contours of the car, as if checking out the areodynamics.  "Nice build, good shape.  I bet she just swims down the road."

"Swims?" I asked.

"Yep. Backstroke I'll wager."

"Daddy!  Daddy!"  The little girl grabbed onto her father's arm as if it were a thick piece of rope and began to hang with her full weight.  "Daddy!"

"Good gas mileage?"  he asked.

"Very good."

"Daddy!"  She began to climb up his arm, hand over hand.

"Please tell me it has a nice stereo?"

"I played my favorite George Strait CD coming across the panhandle of Florida.  Good sound," I assured him.

"Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!"  She came off his arm, then grabbed his left hand and began to chew furiously on the ends of his fingernails.  Now I've seen many people chew their nails over the years, but never once have I seen anyone chew someone else's.

Mr. Duffy looked at me very seriously.  "Now you did bring me the registration and insurance?"

"Of course, it's all here in the car's glovebox.  Ah, Mr. Duffy, I don't mind waiting if you need to see what your daughter wants."


"Who, her?  I don't care what she wants.  When the kids scream and carry on we ignore them.  That behavior is not how we operate around here."


"How many sets of keys do you have for me?" he asked.

"Two, right here."  And as I handed him both sets of keys and remote door locks, the girl turned and ran to the other side of the yard.  Then she turned around and rushed back towards us with both arms stretched out in front of her.  Just like when I arrived, only she was coming much further much faster.
And she was facing her father, and with her height, when she made contact it was in an extremely sensitive area.  Mr. Duffy bent over in pain, as he had been looking away and didn't see her coming.  I saw it, but what was I supposed to do, tackle the girl?

"Now you have my attention," he said to his daughter.  "You know that you never, ever hit Daddy in the jingle bells.  That is a no-no.  Even if the house is on fire, even if the dog is drowning out in the pond, no jingle bells.  Got it?"

"Yes, Daddy."

"Now you trot on into the house, we're going to have a conversation about this."

"No, Daddy, no, I don't want to have a talk.  You talk too long."

"Well now, maybe you'll think about that next time you go for the jingle bells."

"But I never, ever will."

"That's right.  Now go wait for me in my study."

The little girl skipped inside like she didn't have a care in the world.  I smiled and said,  "Kids can be so lovable."

Mr. Duffy looked at me with raised eyebrows.  "Do you really believe that?  You must not have kids."

"No, none of my own, but--"

"Neither do I.  That one and her brother are my wife's from a previous marriage.  Frankly, I could do without them.  I never wanted to have kids.  But, it came in the bargain with my wife.  The woman can be a holy terror sometimes, but buddy, that woman can do the polka."


"The marischino cha-cha."


He demonstrated the twist.  "You know, the tropicana tango."

"She likes to dance," I concluded.

"In the bedroom.  The horizontal mambo."

"Gotcha."  He signed the paperwork, I gave him a copy, and I was off to catch a city bus.  I assume he had a long talk ahead in his study.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


I was very excited as I saw the city limit sign that said I had entered San Jose, California.  I had brought this car from Georgia, and all the way across the country I was feeling giddy.  I kept on asking people  "Do you know the way to San Jose?"  Mostly, their reaction was just to stare at me.

But the main reason for my excitement was that I was going to get to stay over at my buddy Giovanni's house with his family.  He goes by "G" for short, and he and I are very close.  But with all the friends I stop off and see as I travel around the USA, he is the one I get to see the least.  In fact, the last time I had come here, he and the Fam were on their way to New York City.  Now I knew they would be home, waiting just for me.

I pulled into the driveway, and his beautiful wife Kim came running out to greet me.  She jumped in the air and I grabbed her for a hug.  "Bill!  I can't believe you're here."

"I can barely believe it myself."

"Listen, G is still at work, and I've got to go get the kids at their Preschool.  Go inside and make yourself totally at home, you know the routine.  I'll be back in a little while."


"Sorry, I have to rush."

"No worries, you do what you need to do."  And Kim hopped into her car and left.  So I went into the house, and was immediately wrapped up in warm memories.  I could feel a big smile on my face.  And I could hear my stomach growling, as it was 3pm and I had not eaten all day.  So I followed the enticing aroma I detected into the kitchen.  And there I found a plate full of big brownies.  I was just sure that Kim wouldn't mind, she had just told me to help myself.

As I ate, I concluded that this had to be the best brownie I had ever eaten in my life.  So much so that I soon found myself eating a second brownie.  I am sure that being hungry and then filling up on brownies is not the wisest choice I could have made, but... oh well.  The brownies left my mouth very sticky, and I noticed a cup of hot tea sitting ready on the counter.  So I picked it up and took a few swigs.  Then I blew on it, took a big drink from the cup, and washed it around in my mouth to clear up all those clumps of brownie crumbs.

I walked to the sliding glass doors that led out to the swimming pool.  I stared at the pool.  The more I looked at it, the more I thought that I could not ever remember it being so deeply blue.  Very unusual.  And then I made my way back through the kitchen.  I heard music, and felt suddenly compelled to find the source of the music.  It was maybe the best music I had ever heard in my life.  It started to go very slowly, and I was feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.  Oddly wonderful.

The next thing I can remember, Kim was standing over me asking what the heck I was doing.  I was crouched down on the floor in her coat closet.  "Bill, what are you doing in there?  I've been looking all over the house for you."



"Me?  Why?"

"Because I couldn't find you."  She pointed a finger at me.  "Bill, did you eat one of my brownies?"

"No, no.  I had two."

"Two?  Those are heavily infused with high grade pot and hash oil.  All pharmaceutical grade."

"Hash who?"

She headed for the kitchen, and I followed her like a lost puppy.  She picked up the tea cup which had a tiny bit of liquid left in it.  "Did you drink my tea?"

"Yes Mommy, I hope it was OK."

"Bill, that was mushroom tea.  As in magic mushrooms?  G and I got all this stuff to treat you with, we were going to surprise you.  We didn't mean for you to have it so soon, all alone."

"I didn't mean for me, either.  I didn't mean.  I'm not mean.  I'm lean."

Kim laughed.  "You're silly."  There was a knock at the front door, and I quickly bolted for the back bedroom and hid.  I remember trying to climb under one of the kid's beds.  To be honest, I do not have a clear memory of everything that happened over the next few hours.  Kim and G told me a lot of what I'll share here the next day, and showed me footage of me doing some strange things recorded by various Nanny Cams hidden around the house.  You have young kids, you use babysitters, guess you've got to have Nanny Cams these days.

After a little while, Kim came looking for me again.  She was drinking a cup of tea herself, and munching on a brownie.  "You are high as a kite, Bill.  I can't leave you up there all by yourself, I'm coming up to join you."

"Then laugh!" I demanded.

"What?" she asked.

"Laugh.  Just laugh."  I began to sing.  "I love to laugh, loud and long and clear."

Kim smiled and shook her head.  "That's from MARY POPPINS, the kids love that movie."

"Yes!  Yes!  A spoonful of sugar!  MARY POPPINS and Uncle Albert and tea parties on the ceiling."

"OK honey, just calm down, I'll be up there soon."

"Your kids love MARY POPPINS.  Oh no!"

"What's wrong?"

"Your kids can't see me like this.  I think I may bees a little bitsy messed up."

"I think you're a lot messed up.  But that's why I took the kids to stay at my parents house tonight.  So we could all get messed up together."

"But, but, but I don't do this anymore."

"Do what?" asked Kim.

"You know, this?  Wait!  How did you get to Birmingham?  When did you arrive?"

"Bill, sweetie, we're in San Jose."

I began singing again.  "Do you know the way to San Jose!"

Things got even fuzzier in my brain after that.  I recall that I went out and felt that I must jump into the pool.  I guess I let out all of my breath so I could sink to the bottom, and finally Kim had to poke at me with the pool cleaning net to stir me so I'd come to the surface for air.

I kept on asking for more brownies, and Kim told me that I had eaten enough for a while.  The suggested dosage was half a brownie at a time.  Who knew?

Based on the footage from the Nanny Cam, after I dried off and changed clothes I began trying to do interpretative ballet moves to the beat of the techno music Kim was playing.  She seemed to be seeing streams go by, and tried to reach out and grab them.  And then I went down on the couch and began trying to burrow my head down deep in between the cushions.  You'd think by watching that I was digging for some valuable buried treasure.

I began to shout that I was hot, and Kim told me to go and stand in front of the big box fan in the living room.  I did so, and then pulled off my shirt and apologized for my bare fat belly.  And then I lay down on the floor on my stomach with my head just inches from the fan.  I do remember that, because when I closed my eyes and felt that breeze blowing hard on my head, I thought I was flying.  And I looked down and it seemed I was flying over a city that was made up of purple and green neon lights.  Those were the only two colors, and boy were they ever vibrant and bright.

When G got home, I wasn't really too aware of much anymore.  On the Nanny Cam footage, I saw I kept on hugging him and telling him that I love him.  And of course I do, but not nearly as much as I was professing at that moment in time.

The next morning when I got up, I went straight to the bathroom.  When I came out, G was waiting for me with a large mug of coffee.  "How you doing, buddy?" he asked.

"I'm not too sure."

He laughed.  "You were flat out tripping balls last night."

"I was?  I don't do this stuff."

"What stuff?"

 "All of this.  Pot, hash, mushrooms.  Any of that stuff I did is in the past for me."


"Heck yeah.  I don't think I can handle it, do you?"

"Yes.  And you ate another brownie and had another cup of tea."

"You've got to be kidding?"

"Nope.  I guess that's just standard practice for a driving fool."

Well, actually... not so much.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


I was on my way to deliver the car to Mrs. Sherman at her Maryland home.  My cell phone rang and Riff was on the line.  "Hello, Riff.  What's up?"

"Your time is up, that's what.  Why are you always late?"

"I'm due at Mrs. Sherman's in one hour, and I'll be there in half that time."

"You shouldn't show up too early, it makes us look bad.  Sets a bad standard."

"Whatever you say."

"Damn right whatever I say.  I'm the boss."  He paused.  "Can you get up to Boston to pick up a car headed to Miami?"

"Sure.  Is it ready?"

"Ready today, the question is whether you can make it in time."

"I will check the train schedule and let you know."  I hung up and concentrated.  It was early morning, so if I could catch an Amtrak train within the next hour or so, I should be in Boston before evening time.  First I had to drop off to Mrs. Sherman, and I knew from experience that her motto was  "I know you are a man of integrity, so I won't insult you by offering a gratuity."

I pulled into her driveway, and the 94 year old lady came out to greet me.  "Hello, Bill.  I'm so glad they sent you to pick up my car."

"To be honest I am delivering it to you, Mrs. Sherman.  I picked it up from your Florida home 2 days ago."

She held her hand up to her forehead and seemed embarrassed and a little lost.  "Yes, yes, that's right.  Can you please unload my car now?"  I would not do it for anyone else, and it is against company policy to touch any customer's personal belongings.  But this was sweet old Mrs. Sherman, after all.

When I was done, she handed me an envelope and said it was my tip.  "Please open it later."  Then she began to absent-mindedly sing YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE as she walked into the house.

I took a cab to the train station, and ten minutes after I arrived the northbound train came along.  I called my old high school buddy Justin Alexander up in Boston and asked him if he could pick me up at the train station.  Not only was he willing, but he said he'd drive me to Waltham where my pick up car was waiting.

Justin greeted me at the station, and we had fun catching up.  Last time I had seen him was at the 2011 New Years Eve surprise party thrown for me by my friend Lisa.  "You still manager at your company, or did they promote you?" I asked him.

"No, they let me go."

"Say what?  You've been with them for 18 years, how could they just let you go?"

"Good question."

"No seriously, I want to know."


"What?  You have to be kidding me."

"I wish I were."

"So what are you doing for money?"

"We're here, this is the address."  Justin had stopped the car, and nodded at the gate leading into the parking lot where a car waited to be driven down to Florida.  "Looks like they are about to close that gate and shut down for the night.  Get your car, then follow me home.  We can talk more there."

It was nearly 20 miles back to Justin's house.  His sweet wife Mary was waiting for us with a fresh cooked lasagna just out of the oven.  She'd also made a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, my favorite.  We talked about old times and laughed, and Mary reminded me that she had to warn me to behave myself when I was a groomsman at their wedding.  Back then, she was afraid I might come running down the aisle of the church pushing a grocery cart and yelling.  I used to do stuff like that, only in movie theater parking lots.  Never at a wedding.

After dinner, Justin and I sat alone and talked.  He really opened up to me about how hard things had been since his job ended.  "The tough part is having no benefits.  Mary was sick for a month, and she wouldn't go to the doctor because our budget was too tight and we don't have health or medical.  We owe so much for the kids' college educations, and we're just...  I don't know.  I'm trying to keep my head above water.  I don't think the man we have in the White House is helping matters much."

"I agree."

"Still, I have a good family who loves me.  And friends like you who make me laugh."

"Who me?"

"Yes you, you silly son of a bitch.  But when I'm alone, out there going for interviews, it gets me down sometimes.  You know, hard to keep my spirits up."

We talked on into the night, and finally he said he had to get to bed.  Since I planned to get up and be off very early, I needed the sleep also.  I was looking through my paperwork and I found the envelope Mrs. Sherman had given me.  I opened it and found two one hundred dollar bills inside.  Wow, good timing.  I had been short of funds and could really use the money.

The next day, as I was driving through Connecticut, Riff called my cell phone.  "What is it, Riff?"

"I got a call from Mrs. Sherman's daughter today.  She said that she thinks her mother may have given you an envelope with money in it that was meant for the landscaper.  You know anything about that?"

"No, not a thing."

"I thought maybe she gave you a tip.  She's a rich old broad, she can sure afford it."

"Yes, but she never does.  Tip me, I mean."

"Call me when you get to Miami."  And then he was gone.

About that time, I imagined Justin was in his kitchen and found the envelope from me with the note that said I AM YOUR FRIEND FOREVER AND I BELIEVE IN YOU.  HOPE THIS HELPS.  The $200 was wrapped in the note.