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.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

MR. PUSSYKINS

"You will do as I tell you and transport both of them in their car to New Orleans.  Am I clear, you stupid sonuvabitch?" came the bellow from my boss Riff.

"I get it, but I don't understand."

"Don't try!  Don't strain your brain!  Just do as you're told."  Riff hung up first for a change, and I pondered his instruction.  He had told me to pick up an SUV and drive it and the lady who owned it to Louisiana from New Hampshire.  And she would be bringing her cat.  I love dogs, but I don't have the same loving relationship with cats.   Over the years, I have been bitten and scratched deeply by many of my friend's cats, and they can seem content being petted, then spin and surprise you with all claws and teeth.  The thing of it is, Drivers of America is not licensed to carry passengers.  Riff was getting a very good paycheck for this, and I was sure I wouldn't see any of it.  Nothing but the 40 cents per mile he normally paid me.

When I arrived at her house in New Hampshire on the day after Thanksgiving, she came out the front door and seemed very much in distress.  "Are you Bill?  You are late, we need to get going."

I checked the time.  "My boss told me to be here by noon.  It's ten till now."

"Don't be ridiculous, you're wasting time."  I followed her into the house.  "I am Doris Ooglerupe, and I will thank you to call me by my name."  She had a shock of red hair and a deeply wrinkled face.

"OK, Mrs. Ooglerupe."

She spun around and her eyes narrowed.  "That's MISS.  I earned that right by outliving my husband, the dirty bastard."  As I walked through her home, I saw huge piles of magazines nearly as tall as me everywhere.  There was also a very strange smell, and it wasn't a good one.  "You may notice that I save a lot of stuff, and some might be tempted to call me a hoarder.  But I hate those people.  Now I'm going to pack, why don't you go wash the dishes in the kitchen so we can get going."

"You haven't packed yet?" I asked, fearing it would heavily delay our departure.

"Don't be so nosey, and get yourself into the kitchen, those dishes won't wash themselves."  I went into the kitchen and saw dirty dishes stacked high in the sink, on the counter, everywhere.  I rolled up my sleeves and got started, because it would be better than sitting and twiddling my thumbs.  An hour later, I was just getting finished when Doris came in and told me it was time to pack the car.  I began the process, having no idea that she would have so much stuff.  After all of the bags and boxes had been loaded, she handed me a pet carrier with her precious cat inside.  "Your boss said he insists that Mr. Pussykins must stay in her cage while the car is moving.  Which is just silly and ridiculous, she does what she wants when she wants."

As we began our long journey, Doris began to poke me in the shoulder peridodically, sometimes saying "Slow down" and other times saying "Speed up."  I did not enjoy the poking one bit, but when I tried to politely tell her she began telling me stories about her years as a nurse in Viet Nam, and all the men she helped to save, and all the intestines she saw falling out onto the floor, and having to saw someone's arm off when they were out of anesthesia.  They were truly horrifying stories, full of blood and gore and human suffering, but she had a way of telling them that made them even more disturbing.

Doris began fiddling around in the back seat, and I thought that she was getting something out of a suitcase.  Then I looked over and saw she was holding her cat.  "Hey listen--" I tried to say.

"Somebody was lonely and wanted to come out to play."  She spoke in a nauseating baby talk.  "Mr. Pussykins wants to join the party.  She likes to have fun, too.  Let's have some music, shall we?"  She turned off the radio and began singing the cat food jingle  "Meow meow meow meow, meow meow meow meow."  The cat moved her head.  "Oh look, Mr. Pussykins is dancing.  She loves to dance."  Doris picked up the cat and began to make it dance.

I did my best to ignore them both, which was easier to do as we drove by New York City and down the Jersey turnpike, both swamped with traffic.  The cat crawled into my lap and put its paws on the steering wheel.  "Hey, this is dangerous" I protested.

Once again, baby talk from Doris.  "Oh look.  Mr. Pussykins thinks she can drive.  Isn't that just the most adorable thing you've ever seen in your life?"

"The cat must be put away," I said firmly.

"But Mr. Pussykins thinks she's a person, she wants to be out with us.  And I think we have to afford her all the rights and privileges of every other human being."

"But she is not human."

Doris looked thunderstruck.  "How dare you!  What a terrible thing to say."  She hugged the cat for a while and remained very quiet.  I was relishing this quiet time, and wondered just how long it could possibly last.  After an hour, Doris poked me in the shoulder and said,  "Mr. Pussykins has decided to forgive you.  You hurt her, but she has a sweet and forgiving disposition... lucky for you!"  The cat began to crawl all over the car, then got up on the dash and dropped some kitty crap.  Doris got very excited.  "Oh look, Mr. Pussykins brought you a very special present that she made all by herself.  She loves you!"

"Can you please clean that off the dash?"

"What's your rush?  Don't you want to appreciate your gift?"

"No, not at all, not for one more second."

"Somebody is a grumpy gus, isn't he, Mr. Pussykins.  Say, did I ever tell you that I was originally going to name my cat Morris, like the cat on the TV commercials.  But since my cat is a girl, Morris seemed like a silly name.  It's all wrong, it's a boy's name."   She suddenly stopped speaking and closed her eyes. I didn't know if she was just so tired she passed out, or if she was doing some type of meditation.  Either way, I was just glad for some peace for a while.

Two hours later, she sprang to life shouting "Mr. Pussykins!"  She didn't have to look far, the cat was in her lap kneading her woolen pantsuit.  It was scratched up beyond repair, but that was between Doris and her cat.  "Oh, Mr. Pussykins, I just had the worst dream about you.  We were surrounded by at least one hundred rabid dogs, and they were hungry for cat, but I wasn't going to let them take you.  I began to fight, and then Underdog and Mighty Mouse flew in and helped me, and we saved you my sweet little Pussykins."

"Are you OK?" I hesitantly asked Doris.

"Fit as a fiddle.  Did I ever tell you about my husband Horatio?  He was quite a character, and he hated cats.   None moreso than Mr. Pussykins.  He hated that cat since she was just a kitten, and he'd kick her out of the way and never ever pet her when she climbed up into his lap.  I kept on telling him that people who treat cats wrong sometimes wind up with poison in their apple pie.  He argued that he only liked peach pie, so I made him a peach pie."  She got a strange smile on her face.  "God rest his soul."

"What did he die from?"

"Undetermined.  Let's change the subject and talk about something merrier.  Like when Mr. Pussykins got pregnant and had to have an abortion."  That is when I stopped listening, and continued being tuned out all the way to New Orleans.  She kept right on talking, but I wasn't listening.

When we got to her place in New Orleans, she wanted me to unload the SUV that I had just loaded two days before in New Hampshire.  I did the work, and then walked far enough into her house to see it was just like the house up north.  Sky high stacks of magazines everywhere, newspapers from twenty years before, all matter of junk and paraphenalia.  A hoarders paradise.

Once I was done, Doris told me it was time to clean the kitchen and the bathroom.  "No," I said.

"No?"

"No ma'am, its not my job.  I did it in New Hampshire, but now the job is done."  I turned and walked out the front door..  I could hear Doris shrieking for me to wait, wait, please wait.

She came out the front door holding the cat in what looked like an uncomfortable position.  "Mr. Pussykins wants her kiss goodbye."  I held my hand up and waved as I continued heading for the sidewalk, where I'd make my way into downtown New Orleans and pick up my next car.  But as hard as I try, I still can't get that cat jingle out of my head...  "Meow meow meow meow, meow meow meow meow."

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

HALLOWEEN ROAD TERROR

Halloween 2017.  I just picked up a car in Plano, TX, on the northern outskirts of Dallas.  It was getting close to rush hour, and the customer strongly suggested that I stay off Central Expressway (75) if I was heading downtown.  He said that Hillcrest would be a much better path for me, so as not to sit in bumper to bumper traffic.

I started thinking about trick or treating as a kid, and how excited I was each year to dress up in a new costume.  Then I remembered my old friend Tony Vitale, a detective with the Tampa Police who I had known for years.  He said that Halloween looks fun from the outside, but there is truly a whole lot of crimes that go down on this scary night.  He always said stay home and stay safe.

Perhaps I was too deep in thought, because I pulled up to a light and noticed that the outside lane I had been traveling in was a right turn only lane now.  I slowly crawled the last fifty feet to the red light, and then it turned green so I hit the gas and shot over one lane to the left as I sped through the intersection.  I wasn't proud of this move, but I had left myself little choice.  I hated it when I saw other people do this move, but it was done and over.  Or so I thought.

I could see a car in my rearview mirror maneuvering wildly to catch up with me.  Apparently I had pissed him off with my unorthodox move, and I have discovered that often people who don't like your driving will chase you down to chew you out with a good tongue lashing.  I kept driving along steadily, and said a little prayer that God would send this person peacefully on their way.

When the other driver caught up and was right beside me, he swung his car over at mine, and I had to react quickly to swerve out of his way.  The car swerved at me again, and I had to go so far to the right that my tires skidded against the curb.  I started to speed up, and the guy quickly got in front of me and slammed on his brakes.  I turned my wheel hard left and went two lanes over to the left, confusing and no doubt frustrating this man who seemed to be trying to teach me a lesson.  He came after me, continuing to swing his car over at me.  I was convinced that if I didn't swerve out of his way each time, he would have happily smacked into me.

I'm no stranger to road rage, but this man seemed diligent and determined.  An old tactic I've used before is to go real slow, then the angry driver simply gets bored because you won't play with him.  Not this fellow, he sat right on my back bumper, and then he zoomed around in front of me and kept on tapping my brakes to irritate me.  Frankly, I was a lot more concerned than I was irritated.  This was getting interesting.

It seemed like this gentleman was going to get payback one way or the other.  But payback for what?  I hadn't been anywhere near him when I cut through the intersection, he had to catch up with me to start this misbegotten chase.  I sped up, and so did he, and then I could see through peripheral vision that he was leaning out his window, yelling and waving his arm.  I tried to ignore him, pretend I didn't notice him, but he wouldn't stop.  As much as I've learned to avoid eye contact with road ragers, I was so curious I just had to look over.  And that's when I saw him holding up a police badge. 

Suddenly I felt a sense of dread fill me up inside, and I felt like I was in big trouble.  I wondered why the guy wasn't in uniform and wasn't in a cop car.  I know there are unmarked undercover vehicles, but this looked like a 1990's model Pontiac which had not been taken care of, and that gave me further doubts.  I have heard lots of stories about innocent people being pulled over by a car carrying a badge or blue lights, only to discover that it wasn't a real police officer.  People have been robbed, raped, and killed in these situations.  Unless maybe this was an off-duty cop. 

It was time to take action and end this situation before it got worse, one way or the other.  As we got near the LBJ freeway, I hit the brakes hard and made a right turn on the feeder road and the other car flew by me.  Then the crazy driver made a U-turn and came back towards oncoming traffic so that he could follow me on the feeder road.  I saw in my mirror that he nearly slammed into two cars in an effort to catch up with me. 

"This guy wants me bad," I murmured to myself.

As I saw the Valley View mall on my right, I saw a big intersection at the entrance.  And then I saw
a boomerang lane, and I had my escape plan.  I call the boomerang lane and special lane to the far left where you can make a U-turn at freeway interchanges from the feeder road on one side to the feeder road on the other side of LBJ freeway.  There were three lanes as we approached, I got into the middle one and my pursuer was in the far right.  As we neared the intersection, at the last possible second I shot over two lanes into the boomerang lane, which is separated from the other lanes by a large concrete divider.  I looked in the mirror and saw the maniac climb on top of his car, waving his arms and screaming.  He looked like he was about to have a seizure. 

Once I got calmed down, I called my old buddy Detective Tony Vitale and told him about what happened.  He laughed and asked,  "What are you so upset about?  You got away didn't you?"

"Well, yes."

"He doesn't sound like a cop to me, and I know what I'm talking about."

"But what if he was by any chance?"

"Off duty means off duty.  A cop can't engage you in a high speed chase because he saw you do something he doesn't approve of when he's off the clock."

I found a party downtown and am about to go in and enjoy myself.  Happy Halloween!



Monday, September 25, 2017

LITTLE SHOP OF PORNO

I was driving, tired and dangerously distracted by my boss Riff yelling in my ear for so long.  "And another thing, pudgeball.  Why don't you ever get me a gift?"

"A gift?"

"What's wrong with a gift?"

"We don't have that kind of friendship.  I've never met you.  What would I get you besides Jack Daniels?"

"Are you insinusinuation that I drink a lot?" he slurred.

"I'm in Georgia on my way to Atlanta, and--"

"Lesbian erotica."

"Beg your pardon?"

"Books with stories about lesbians.  No pictures, just stories, so I can read them with my lunch.  Tell 'em that Riff sent ya."

"I'll call you when I deliver in Atlanta."  I hung up and put in a George Strait CD to listen to.  I had noticed a lot of the newer cars don't have CD players, so I guess my collection will become obsolete.  One half hour later, I felt the pressing need to find a bathroom, and began searching for an exit.  There were none, and I tried to recall on I 75 where the next one would be.  When things became more urget I saw an exit with one large establishment. I pulled off and pulled in, and saw the sign ADAM & STEVE ADULT ENTERTAINMENT.

I quickly jumped out of the car and walked in.  When I stop someplace just to use the restroom, I normally spend a little time looking around to be polite.  Or often buy a little something, though I had no idea what that would be here.  A very short man with a club foot came aggressively toward me.  "Hello hello, welcome to the Adult store, I'm Eddie, short for Edward, some call me Ed, and the ladies' choice is Eduardo."

"Hi, Ed."

"I prefer Eddie.  Now what can I get for you today?"

I saw the restroom in the back corner of this huge warehouse size store, and began to slowly move in that direction.  Eddie was right beside me.  "What city is this?  Just curious."

"We're not really a city here, just a dot on the county map.  In fact, we just opened up this store."

"It's your store?"

"Oh no, no, I just work here.  If it was my store it wouldn't be called Adam and Steve!  Sounds a little too homosexual to me, if you know what I mean."

"There's a chain called Adam and Eve, so maybe this is just a play on that."

"Yep, but I don't like gay play.  Or homo hijinks.  None of that!"

"So you don't sell gay material?"

Eddie shoved his hands deep into his pockets and sighed.  "Yessir, we do, but I don't like to talk about it."  My tummy started to rumble and I knew I needed to get to that restroom real soon.  The phone at the front desk rang, and Eddie began to rush for it.  "You just look around, I'll be back with you in a minute."  I walked quickly to the restroom, went inside, and took care of business.

I came out with a plan.  I was going to buy Riff the book he wanted and mail it to him, just to shock him.  He wouldn't be expecting that.  Or should I be buying porn?  Supporting the smutty industry?  Eddie came running up behind me as I came upon a wall full of magazines.  "Hey Eddie, there you are."

"Here I am, ready to serve."

"I wonder if you have any books about lesbians.  Oh, and I hope that doesn't offend."

"Offend?  Me?  I love lesbians.  I don't like those homo men, I don't trust them to stand behind me.  But lady lesbians, mmmm-mmmm!"

"Great."

"So you want a picture book?"

"No."

"Picture magazine?"

"No, a book, just writing, with a story."

Eddie rubbed his chin thoughtfully.  "No, nothing like that.  But if you like lesbians--

"It's for a friend."

Eddie winked at me.  "Yeah, right, so if your friend likes lesbians, you should get him a couple of these blow up girl dolls.  Then he can make them play and do whatever they want to each other."  Eddie's ears perked up, like a dog hearing a siren in the distance.  "I think I hear the toilet running."  He ran to the restroom and came out pointing a finger at me. shouting, "You used the restroom, didn't you!" It wasn't a question.

"Yes."

"You even admit it!  It is against Georgia state law to use a restroom in a porn establishment."

"I used one at the Lions Den up the road once before.  It was no problem."

"That's another part of Georgia.  Down here its a city ordinance."

"You said this isn't a city."

"County law, its county law!  All I know is you broke the law and I'm calling the cops!"  Eddie ran for the front desk, and I rushed out the door and got in the car.  I hated to seem like a getaway driver from a crime, all I wanted to do was use the restroom.

Friday, September 8, 2017

HARVEY, IRMA AND ME

Hurricane Harvey had hit Houston very hard, and the long journey to getting back to normal has just begun.  Then I started hearing about Irma as I delivered a car to Florida, and was eager to get out of the state just as soon as possible.

I was in Fort Lauderdale, headed upstairs in a building to pick up the keys to the car going to Chicago.  As I stepped off the elevator, my cell phone rang, and I answered only to hear the voice of my eternally grumpy boss Riff.  "Where are you, loser?"

"In Fort Lauderdale, at the pharmaceutical company, about to pick up the car headed to Chicago."

"About to, you say?  Which means you haven't done it yet."

"I'm going to get it right now."

"I am so tired of your shoddy showmanship."

"Showmanship?"

"You heard me, cupcake.  You may fool other people with your rich creamy filling, but I know you for the scallywag that you are."  A woman stepped up to me all dressed in white and seemed eager to talk to me.  She inched closer and closer to me, anxious for my full attention, but I was still talking to Riff.  "Are you still there, you ignorant sumbitch?"

"Riff, I have to go."

"Why, I'm not through talking yet."

"Because the woman is standing right in front of me."  She tapped a finger on her watch indicating that I should hurry.

"Who's more important to you, your sweet savvy boss or some slut you've never met."  That was the moment I chose to hang up.

"You are late, now come on."  The woman grabbed me by the shoulder and led me back into her huge office space and then down a long hallway.  This woman reminded me a lot of actress Jane Lynch, who played the coach on GLEE among other things.  "I appreciate you being here, but I abhor tardiness."

"I thought I was early," I said, looking at my watch.

"Listen, the only thing I hate worse that tardiness is lying.  Please don't add insult to injury."  She clucked her tongue disapprovingly and shook her head.

"I am genuinely sorry."

She shrugged.  "I suppose I can't expect everyone to be as on-point as I am. I'm Maggie by the way. Most people I find to be slovenly and unpredictable."  I kept on walking down the hall, and she had her hand around my upper arm guiding me.  When I started to walk past the door which was her private office, she dug her fingernails into my arm and pulled me back.  "Whoa cowboy, what's your rush?  We're in here."

Maggie led me into the office, but it really looked more like an exam room at a Doctor's office.  This did not phase me, for I have delivered cars for all kinds of people in various professions.  As a driving fool, nothing surprises me anymore.  "Do you have the keys?"

"Roll up your sleeves, please."

"Ok, what?  I need the car keys."

"I have no earthly idea what you're talking about, but we don't have any time to waste.  I need to get your blood pressure, take several blood samples, and I will need urine and stool sample from you."

"Stool?"

"Yes, right, number two.  You know, doo-doo."

"Yes ma'am, I know doo-doo.  But I--"

"No buts, you signed up for the program and its too late to back out now."

"Back out of what?"

"The drug testing program.  We have a new pharmaceutical product that has wonderful applications and benefits, but has a side effect of hallucinations.  We need to monitor these, it may be sort of like having a bad acid trip."

"I've never had an acid trip."

"Well, I'm certain you've had mushrooms, also known as magic mushrooms?"

I took a few steps away from her.  "I think I'm the wrong guy in the wrong place."

Maggie got very aggressive.  "Look here, Mr. Habib, I have had just about enough.  I've tried to be patient with you, but you agreed to all this when you signed--"

"No," I interrupted.

"No to what?"

I threw my hands up.  "No to so much.  No I'm not Mr. Habib, no I'm not here for your drug tests, no I'm not late..."

"But you are late."

"How could I be late if I didn't have an appointment?"  I wasn't getting anywhere, so I pulled out my driver's license and my paperwork to pick up the car.  Maggie examined my card.

"Wait, you're not Mr. Habib."

"Correct."

"Why were you pretending to be Mr. Habib?  Something doesn't smell right."

"I'm here to pick up one of your company cars to take to Chicago."

"Chicago?  The windy city?"

"That's the one."

She seemed convinced.  "Well if you're not Mr. Habib, why have you been wasting my time?"  Before I could answer, Maggie grabbed me by the arm again and led me out and down the hall.  Another woman came towards us, and Maggie shouted, "Jillian, I think this guy is here to see you about a car. I have to find Mr. Habib."

Jillian stepped up to me and smiled as Maggie walked away briskly.  "Hello, you must be Bill Thomas."

I smiled and nodded.  "Yes, that's me.  Hope the car is all ready to go."  We walked into a lobby area where a TV was playing a news update.

"The car is ready, but don't be in too much of a hurry."

"Well, I just want to get on the road before major evacuations begin."

Jillian smiled sadly and pointed at the TV on the wall.  I looked and saw traffic cams showing both Interstate 95 and the Florida Turnpike.  Both looked like parking lots, full of cars that were not moving.  "Looks like Irma may slow you down a bit."

"Or a lot.  No worries, that's my job.  I'm a driving fool."

I am actually writing this blog entry as I sit on the Florida Turnpike.  I've moved 5 miles in the past two hours, and so I wanted to share this story via talk to text.  Think a good thought for me and wish me luck!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

RHINESTONE COWBOY RIDES AWAY

It had been a pretty rough day driving.  I ran into a lot more traffic than usual as I drove through Tennessee, and my boss Riff kept on calling to chew me out about absolutely nothing.  Sweet old Mrs. Sherman had called me multiple times asking for the recipe for homemade ice cream.  And my counterpart driver Andy was making threatening calls to me, once again angry about the fact I pulled him from a burning vehicle and probably saved his life.  Andy is an odd duck.

Then I heard the news on the radio-- Glen Campbell had died.  My mind immediately went to my old high school buddy Steve, who loved the music of Glen since forever, maybe even more than I love George Strait songs.  I decided to sidetrack over to Kentucky because I thought for sure he could use a good friend right about then.

Two hours later, I walked into his little General Store, and when he saw me come in he broke down in tears.  I sang, "I've been walking these streets so long, singing the same old song."   Steve rushed over to give me a bear hug, and I said "I heard about Glen, and my car sort of headed in this direction."

"Thank you so much, buddy.  I can't believe you're here."

"Believe it.  Accept it.  And then move on."

He put his massive hand on top of my head and tousled my hair vigorously.  "Glen is gone, Bill."

"Yep."  He led me into the back room so we could sit down and talk.

"I feel like I've lost a member of my family."

"I completely understand."

"Do you remember on my 18th birthday when I came to your Mom's house, and you took me back to your room and played RHINESTONE COWBOY for me?"

"And then I gave you the cassette tape so you could wear it out in your car listening to it over and over."

Steve laughed.  "Yes, and I did wear it out completely.  I keep on thinking about all the milestones in my life that somehow were connected to Glen Campbell."

"You also wore out the LIVE FROM LONDON cassette tape I got you."

Steve had a faraway look in his eyes.  "I miss cassette tapes."

"I did too, but I got used to CDs."

"Yeah, but I read they are soon to be obsolete because of streaming and such."

"Is that right?"

Steve shrugged.  "That's what I read."

"Do you remember the prilgrimage we made together to Galveston when we were in college?"

"Yes, you knew how much I loved that song and you suggested late one night that we drive there.  We left home just before midnight and drove all night."

"I remember.  And I will never forget when you kept on hitting rewind, play, rewind, play on my cassette player and chewed up Glen's tape.  It was a goner."

Steve beamed and laughed out loud.  "Yep, and you buried him at sea."

"We were on that long bridge that goes for miles over Mobile bay, and I just tossed it ceremoniously out the window."

"And I screamed Gleeeeeeen!"  We both chuckled at the memory.  "Gosh, its good to see you, brother.  You're my only friend in the world who would drive to Kentucky to see me because you knew I'd be hurting."

"Well stop hurting, we shouldn't mourn Glen, we should listen to his music all night and sing along."  Just then the front door open, and the bright setting sun shining through made the man standing there nothing but a sillouhette.  But he was built exactly like Mr. Campbell, and he was wearing a cowboy hat that sparkled in the sunlight.  Rhinestones, perhaps?

Steve stared and his jaw dropped.  "Glen?"

"Yes?" came the voice of the man we still could not see.

Steve got very emotional.  "Glen?"

"Yeah, what?" said the man impatiently, walking inside so we could see him.  He looked nothing like Glen Campbell.  "I'm Glen Perry, have we met?"

Steve shook his head.  "No sir, my mistake.  How can I help you today?"  Steve finished with the customer and then we put on some Glen and sang our hearts out.  It's really good to have such good friends in the world to share the good times and the rough times.


Monday, July 31, 2017

DETOUR TO DANGER

It was Tuesday when I arrived in Idaho, and I was having a lot of trouble finding the delivery location.  It wasn't in a city, but way out in the country.  I had used Mapquest and my GPS, and neither one of them was precise or conclusive.  The customer had tried to explain to me on the phone, but I kept on hitting dead cell zones and could not keep a connection long enough to understand.

When I was at least confident I was getting close, I thought perhaps I could find someplace nearby to ask for specific and exact directions to the house.  It was frustrating not to be able to find any gas stations or stores or even a Cafe.  Then I turned a corner on the little two lane highway and saw the entrance to... something.  I could see a whole lot of warehouses on the property, each one rusty and in a bad state of disrepair.  At the entrance to the property, there was an empty guard shack and a truck idling on the right side of it.  I drove in on the left side of the shack, as there were no gates and nothing barring my entry.

I parked and got out and walked over towards the guard shack.  I could see that a man on foot was outside of the shack talking to the driver of the truck.  It seemed logical that the man was the guard, although he certainly was not dressed like one.  He was wearing camo pants, worn out hiking boots, a train engineer cap, and a T-shirt so small for him that his belly hung out of the bottom.

When he turned and saw me, he said,  "Whoa, whoa, no sir, you stop right where you are!"

I stopped.  "Hello sir, I just wanted to ask directions."

"Directions?  Are you kidding me?  Do you know where you are, ya stupid moron?"

"I know I'm in Idaho, but other than that I'm pretty lost."

"Ha ha, no one likes a smart aleck ass."

I shook my head.  "I wasn't meaning to be--"

"You are breaking the law, and you better get out of here now.  This is a government military facility."

"It is?"

"You know damn well it is.  Didn't you see the gates and the DO NOT ENTER signs?"

"No, no signs.  And there was no gate at all where I drove in."

"Gates are down for repair, but you just have to keep on picking at the scab, looking for some way to try to make a fool of me."

I was very confused.  "No, I promise."

"Promises mean nothing from a liar.  You could easily be a traitor or an Asian spy.  Now get out of here before I have you shot."

"OK, but if you wouldn't mind just pointing me in the right direction first?"

"Boy, you are pressing your luck, big time!"  He started to trot over towards me, but stepped into a small pothole and tripped and hit the asphalt face down.  I turned and made haste for my car.  "Look what you did to me.  If I had a gun I'd--"

But I was in the car and quickly leaving the property.  Ten minutes later, I passed a mailbox and a woman came running out from a grove of trees waving both arms at me.  After the recent events, I was a little bit wary of pulling over, but I decided to roll down the window.

"Are you Bill Thomas?" she asked me.

"Yes, I am."

"Oh good, I've been watching for you since we got disconnected for the dozenth time.  I was worried."

I pulled into the driveway and parked.  As I got out, I said, "I stopped to get directions at some top secret government facility down the road and nearly got into serious trouble."

"Government facility?"  I tried to describe the location, and she looked upset.  "Oh, that was not a government facility.  Years ago it was a factory, and then it closed down for good, and the the militia moved in there."

"The militia?"

"Private warriors, a bunch of crazies who feel like they will be in charge when the USA falls apart."

"I didn't know we were going to fall apart."

"Talk to them, they'd tell you all about it."

"No, I don't think so.  I got a bad first impression."

She snickered.  "Just imagine having them down the road as neighbors."  She looked over the car and signed for it, and then offered to take me to the nearest town as she had some shopping to do.  As we drove by the facility again, I saw the guard limping badly around the shack, and I found myself sliding down low in my seat.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

CARPORT OF THE APES

After delivering a car to Miami, my old chum John Hazzard offered me a ride to my next car.  He had an appointment in Apopka, Florida just outside of Orlando and said he would welcome the company on the ride up.  As for me, I was thrilled to get a ride with a friend rather than renting a car or taking the bus or Amtrak.  And John was always good company.

"This is a new kind of case for me, Bill," he explained as he drove north up the Florida Turnpike.  "A very poor family won the big lottery last week, and now they want to invest in property.  I'm supposed to offer them options, but frankly I don't know if they have the brain power to understand the most simple concepts."

"Really?"

"Sadly, yes.  I was talking about savings, and they thought I meant wood shavings.  I mentioned annuities and they thought I meant passing gas."

"Well that doesn't make any sense at all."

John smiled and nodded.  "And that's what we're in for in Apopka.  Do you want me to drop you off in Orlando first?"

"No, I would really like to come to Apopka and see what happens."

"Who knows, you may get another story from this."

"There's always another story."

When we arrived at the house in Apopka two hours later, we found it to be in very bad condition.  There was a very large yard strewn with garbage, and an elderly woman was running around in circles holding a BB rifle and shouting.  We both got out of the car in a hurry and rushed over to see what was wrong.

"They're here!  They're here and they're taking over!"

John tried to calm her.  "Miss Stalvey, please calm down."

"Did you hear what I said?  They've taken over and we are all in big trouble!"

"Who?" asked John.

"The apes!  There are apes in my carport, and they are big and mean and nasty.  They got them fangs."

A gentleman who appeared to be a few years older than Miss Stalvey came out wearing faded overalls but no shirt.  "Monkeys.  Um, they the rhesus macinow or something or other."

Miss Stalvey wouldn't calm down, she seemed incapable of anything but stress and screaming.  "They have taken over the carport.  What's next?"

The old gent held his hand out towards John and said, "I'm Henry, you must be the lawyer fella."

John smiled and shook his hand.  "Jonathan Hazzard, it's a real pleasure."

"Don't know if you heard or not, but there's been a population boom up in Silver Springs of these monkeys, and they're aggressive and not afraid of people.  Now they are migrating down our way."

Miss Stalvey pointed a finger straight at me.  "First our carport, then Orlando, and you know what will be next."  I shook my head weakly NO.  "Disney World.  Those damn dirty apes will invade the Magical Kingdom and then we are all doomed."

Henry cleared his throat.  "I think you're going overboard, honey bunch."

"Them dirty creatures aren't proper vaccinamated and can have them rabid rabies.  You ever seen their fangs?"

Henry tried to lead John away from the agitated woman.  "Let's talk some property and investing.  I was thinking I might like to buy a swimming pool.  A big one where the public can go swim, and I'll charge 'em money to swim in my pool."

John was perplexed.  "You know they have public pools where people can go swim for free."

Henry furrowed his brow.  "Now that don't seem right."

Miss Stalvey pushed between them.  "But can monkeys swim?  That's what we really need to know in case we need a fast escape.  What happens when they learn how to use knives and guns?  And what if they learn how to shoot off one of them nuccular atom bombs?  Then what?"  She heard a noise behind her and spun around and started shooting the rifle.  I felt like diving for cover, even if it was a BB gun.

Then Henry began scratching his chin.  "What if I was to buy a cemetery?  Where the people are already mostly buried.  Would that be a good investment?"

Miss Stalvey shouted, "Of course it'd be a good investment cuz a lot of humans will need burying when the apes take over.  I can see an army of apes marching down the streets and there is nothing we human folks can do about it."

"We could fight back," I heard myself say, then wondered how I could be so foolish.  The look on Henry and John's faces said that they agreed with me about the foolishness.

"We'd lose!" she yelled.  "The apes were here first, and we evolutionized ourselves out of them.  So they know what we know and they are clever and wise and thrifty."

"Thrifty?"

"Is that the word I mean?" she pondered.  "Well, all that counts is that you know what I mean.  And you damn well do."  I saw one of the monkeys race across the back of the carport but kept it to myself.

"Maybe I could buy a zoo," said Henry.

"You do and I will leave you!  No more monkeys, and I'm gonna kill me some today and make monkey stew."

She marched off defiantly.  Henry turned to John and said,  "Well, that's what I get for marrying a child bride.  She's very willful."

"Oh, how old is she?" asked Jon.

"She's 35.  I married her when she was 14."

I was stunned.  This woman looked like she was in her 70's.  I guess hard living and booze and Camels will age you prematurely.  "You're a lucky man," I said.

"Well thank you sir, I feel special to have her.  She keeps me young.  Say Mr. Hazzard, what about if I bought up some churches?  Would that get me a good return on my investments?"

I stood by as John tried patiently to explain that the best tactic was for the law firm to put together a list of good prospects and let him look it over.  But the thing I will never forget from that fateful day in Apopka was the Carport of the Apes.

Friday, June 30, 2017

SPEED GOLF

It had been a while since I saw my good friends Tom and Jenny on their big dog ranch in the Texas hill country.  I passed through on July 3, and planned to stay until July 5 when I could deliver the car to the customer in San Antonio.

I got to the ranch and Jenny ran outside to give me a big hug, surrounded by nine dogs.  These were the house dogs, the ones who lived inside.  The other forty five dogs were in the huge comfortable dog warehouse that Tom had built.

Just then, Tom came running out of the house and said "Let's go, Bill-dog."  He grabbed me by the arm as he ran past and pulled me along.

"OK, but what's the big rush?"

Jenny smiled.  "Golf."

"Golf?"

"Golf," confirmed Tom.  "Come on, there's a course down near Lake LBJ and we can get there in time for 18 holes if we hurry."  We hopped into his truck and took off.  "Now we got everything we need here, I packed and planned ahead."

"That is so like you."

Tom laughed and reached over and tousled my hair vigorously.  "I've missed you brother, it's been way too long.  Jenny and I were just talking the other night, wishing you lived closer by."

"Me too.  It's peaceful out here."

"This is God's country."  Tom reached into his ice chest behind the seats and pulled out two cold beers, handing one to me.  He opened his, and I did the same.

"Are you sure this is OK?"

"Bill-dog, you are in the Texas hill country, things work a little different down here."

"So it's OK to have a beer as you drive?"

"Absolutely, just so you keep it down and don't draw unwanted attention."

We arrived at the golf course, and Tom jumped out and hustled over to the caddyshack.  He put his hand on a young man's shoulder and spoke for a moment, then hopped in a golf cart and drove it over to the truck.  "Everything OK?" I asked.

"Yes sir, we're good.  Grab that ice chest out of the back and load it in here."  As I did as he asked, he grabbed his bag of clubs and put it them in.  "Now we are on a time limit here, they close before we could possibly play all eighteen."

"OK."

"Now you have played golf before, right?"

"Miniature golf."

Tom threw his head back and laughed heartily.  "OK, well then we are gonna have to improvise.  We are about to play speed golf."  He jumped into the passenger seat and pointed to the driver's seat for me.  "Go, bud, go."  I put the pedal to the metal and went to the first tee off spot.  Tom got out and set down his ball and hit it hard without any hesitation.  Then he ran back to the cart.  "Go, go, go!"  So I went.

We found the ball near the green, and Tom quickly got out and hit it again without pause.  He followed it to the green and hit it several more times until it went into the hole.  He got back into the cart with me, and I said "So that's how you play speed golf?"

He pointed ahead and said "Second hole, move it."  As I drove quickly, he said  "Beer me."  I reached back into the ice chest and got him a beer.  He opened it and took a long pull from it.  "Hope you don't mind not playing, but--"

"Don't explain, don't apologize, I will do the driving and serving of the beer, you just play."

Tom smiled and nodded.  "That's the general idea."  He got out again and repeated the process.  Hit the ball quickly, hop in the cart, and roll fast to it, hit it again and again till it goes in the hole.  Then hand him a beer.  "Where's your beer, buddy?"

"I'm driving."

Tom snorted and reached into the ice chest.  "You're just gonna have to trust me on this.  Part of speed golf is beer consumption, so don't be shy.  Go with the flow."  And so I let the cold beer flow down my throat.  I don't usually drink, but it was a holiday and it was awfully hot outside.  We hit the third hole, the fourth, the fifth, drinking about one beer every other hole.  Tom was actually doing pretty darn good considering how fast we were going.

As I drove to the seventh hole, Tom reached into his bag and pulled out a towel, which he used to mop his face drenched with sweat.  He unzipped a side pocket and produced a small boom box, which instantly made me happy. "You brought music?"

"What, are you kidding?  Of course I brought music, but you're slipping up, you haven't been playing it and we are at the seventh hole."

"I didn't know you had it."  I turned it on and was pleased to hear The Eagles "LYIN' EYES".

He pointed a finger at me and looked deadly serious.  "No excuses, no regrets."  Then he broke into a grin and patted me on the shoulder, jumping out of the golf cart and rushing to hit the ball once more.  He came back to the cart saying,  "Let's go, move it you driving fool."

"I'm moving, I'm moving," I said as I floored it.

"Where's my beer?"  I reached back into the ice chest and grabbed one.  "OK, now where's yours?"  I held up the one I was still working on, as I could not quite keep up with his pace.  He was playing speed golf and power drinking all at once.

After we finished the tenth hole, I said, "This is amazing, its as if we have the course all to ourselves."

"We pretty much do, buddy."

"Oh boy, this is great!"

"Better than great.  Now open us both a cold beer, and I won't take no for an answer."

"Then I won't give you no for an answer."  We both laughed as I handed him another beer and opened a fresh one for myself.

Hole eleven.  Hole twelve.  Thirteen.  Fourteen.  Tom reached into another pocket on his golf bag and pulled out a fat joint.  "Time to get high."  He lit the joint.

"Where did you get that?"

"Hey, I come prepared."

"Indeed you do."  I was feeling very good and not a little lightheaded.  Tom tried to hand me the joint, and I waved it away.  "Buddy, I am pretty buzzed right now, if I start smoking that I may flip the cart."

Tom shrugged happily.  "If it happens it was meant to be."  He tried to offer it again, but I came to a halt at the fifteenth hole.  He got out and made his shot, and I couldn't believe how good he was doing without taking time to set up his shots.

When we got to the seventeenth hole, he hit the ball and then yelled "Crap!"

I was confused.  "Aren't you supposed to yell FORE?"

Tom pointed ahead, and I could see four men walking towards the green.  The ball went over their heads and landed just on the edge of the green.  He rushed to the cart shouting,  "Go, move, now, go!"  I took off and headed for the green, but he guided me to take the long way around the other golfers.  As they saw us going by, Tom yelled,  "Don't mind us, just playing through."  Then he turned to me.  "You know what I feel like?  A cold beer."  The other four men were shouting at us.

"Me too."  I reached into the ice chest as he sunk his ball, and we moved on to the eighteenth hole.  "What's your score?"

"You haven't been keeping score?"

I was caught off guard.  "I didn't know I was supposed to."

He hit the ball.  "Oh no, now we have to start all over."

"Seriously?"

"No."  Tom chuckled and hopped in, and we went to the green so he could sink his final ball.  After, we drove back to the caddyshack and Tom said,  "You know how we celebrate finishing a game?  A cold beer and a shot of Jack."

"You have Jack Daniels in that bag?"

"Nope, but I've got a big bottle back home.  Let's go, Jenny should have dinner fixed by the time we get there.  By the way, nice driving."

"I've had a lot of experience.  By the way, nice golfing."

Tom opened two more beers and handed one to me.  "Speed golfing."  He raised a beer in a toast, and I joined him.  "To afternoon golf and beer and good friends."

"I will always drink to that."  And I did.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

BIRTHDAY TO REMEMBER

As I travel, I have had many memorable experiences, and some top notch birthdays on the road.  This year found me in Columbus, Ohio where my friend Smokey had just passed away.  He'd been fighting the cancer, but he went down fast at the end.  I got a car headed nearby a few days before his funeral.  I began talking to his Dad, who I had become very close with over the years.

After the funeral, I actually had a car I needed to deliver, and Smokey's father offered to follow me in his car and then to drive me back to his house to stay the night.  We both pulled our cars into the woman's driveway and it looked very much like no one was home.

I climbed out of the car and called the woman, and she answered her cell phone with a curt, "What?"

"Hi, this is Bill Thomas, I'm at your home right on time to deliver your car."

"Well I'm not there yet, so you'll just have to wait."

"Yes ma'am."  I hung up, and Smokey's father Ralph reached his hand out for the paperwork I was carrying.

"Can I take a look?  I've always been curious about what you do, how it all works." He took a long look over the paperwork and then "Hmmm'ed" to himself.

"What is it?"

"Well the name is unusual, not common.  Mackankowski."

"Not that unusual," I said.

"But far from common.  I used to have a man who worked for me by that name.  It's just a coincidence."

"I'm sure that's just what it is."  So we had a conversation about how Ralph started his company 45 years ago and had grown it into a mini-empire. We waited for 20 minutes and the woman finally pulled up into the driveway.  From the moment she jumped out of the car, it was clear that she was a nervous wreck, a stressed mess.

"Look I know I'm late but it couldn't be helped so just deal with it."

I shrugged.  "No problem here, just want you to look over the car and sign the paperwork and we'll be on our way."

"Oh, you have a ride out of here?  We are way out in the country..."  Just then, she looked at Ralph for the first time and said, "It's you!"

Ralph nodded.  "Hello, Martha."

"Don't you hello me, you cocky bastard.  You caused me so much trouble I don't even know where to begin."

"Calm down."

"I will not calm down!  You fired my husband for sleeping with his secretary, and it ruined my life.  I forgave him for adultery, why couldn't you?"

"His many affairs had nothing to do with his dismissal."

"Many?  He only had one."

Ralph nodded.  "Allright."

"So you fired him just because he was late two or three days every week?  And he missed days when he wasn't feeling well?"

"That's not why."

"Then why?  Why did you fire him?  What possible good reason could you have had for getting rid of him leading to us losing our home, then him hitting the bottle, and finally running out on me and my kid?"

"He embezzled over a million dollars."

"He did not!"

"He absolutely did, we caught him red handed with a paper trail."

She was quiet for a moment, and then said  "Why didn't I see any of that money?"

Ralph shook his head. "I couldn't tell you that, I just know that it was ill gotten gains and no one should have benefited."

"Says you!"

I held up the paperwork.  "So, if you could just sign here, I can go enjoy a birthday dinner with my friend Ralph."

She glared at me.  "Ask me if I care that it's your birthday."  She scribbled her signature and snatched the keys from me.  "Both of you get off my property before I call the law."

We got into Ralph's car and went out for a real nice dinner.  I've never had a customer and a friend crossover before, but it was a memorable birthday for sure.

Friday, May 26, 2017

SCRATCHING AN ITCH

I was driving across the Florida panhandle on Memorial Day weekend, and feeling extremely fatigued.  It had been a very long day, and the sun was beginning to go down.  I can drive long distances all day every day, but when the sun goes down so do my eyelids.  So I got off Interstate 10 when I saw a Love's truck stop.

One step out of the car and I could tell my left leg had fallen asleep.  I stomped on it to try to wake it up, and then I half limped over to the gas pump so I could fill the tank of this gas guzzling SUV.  Once I had topped it off completely, I went inside to answer the call of nature.  And that is when I realized I had a pounding headache starting, and it was a doozy.

There were very few people in the truck stop at this point of the evening, and I walked around freely without bumping into anyone.  I had a little bit of trouble finding the medication aisle, and when I finally discovered the BC headache powders they were in a remote corner of the store.  I stood alone and looked for the BC pack I wanted, and my butt itched so without even thinking I reached back and scratched it -- with my hands on the outside of my pants, naturally.

"How dare you!" screamed a woman, and I spun around quite startled to see this woman who seemingly came out of nowhere.

"I beg your pardon?"

"What you need to be begging for is my forgiveness.  How could you be so crass and crude?  Just because you had to itch that scratch on your big fat buns like a redneck neanderthal caveman."

I shook my head, confused.  "Itch that scratch?  I'm sorry ma'am, I didn't know anyone was around."

"And that's your excuse?  No one was watching so it's OK to display disgusting, nauseating behavior that would make a child scream with terror?"

I looked all around.  "What child?"

"Don't change the subject.  You have defiled my sense of morality, and I feel abused and traumatized.  So I hope you are proud of yourself."

"I assure you I am not."

"Well you shouldn't be.  I mean, why didn't you just pull down your pants so everyone could see your birthday suit while you were scratching?  Why didn't you just walk around swinging your weiner like a helicopter propeller?"

"I...I..."  Truth is, I didn't know what to say.

"You are a nasty, filthy man.  I advise you go home tonight and drop to your knees and pray that the good Lord will forgive you-- though I seriously doubt that He will."  She stormed off still spitting out hateful things, and I really didn't know how to feel.  I try to be nice to everyone and never wish to offend anyone.  But this woman seemed just a tad extreme.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

AN EASTER LIVING WAKE

I had been given a car to drive from Richmond, Virginia to Hays, Kansas.  I would be going right through Ohio on my way, so decided to call my friend Smokey.  I had been thinking about him a lot since I learned he had terminal, inoperable cancer, and was determined to get to Columbus one more time to see him.  But I couldn't get him on the phone, it had been very difficult to reach him for the past five months.

I called Smokey's best friend Dennis as I drove through West Virginia, and he sounded very happy to hear from me.  "Dude" he drawled.  "You picked the perfect time to come.  We are having a living wake for Smokey on Easter day."

"So tomorrow?"

"Is tomorrow Easter?  Damn you're right, seems like Christmas was just yesterday!  Anyhow, Smokey said he'd like to enjoy his wake while he is still alive."

"Sounds like a good idea."

Dennis went on to give me all the details, and when we were done I pulled into a Rest Area and stretched out in my seat to get some sleep.

I slept for seven hours, then I got out and used the restroom, then stretched my legs, and continued for Columbus.  I showed up at the bar Dennis had given me the info for, which just happened to be Smokey's all time favorite watering hole.  All of Smokey's friends were there, each one of them wanting to buy him a drink.  I walked up and gave him a big hug.

"Oh my stars," said Smokey, "Spanky is my special surprise guest star today."

I was surprised by how gaunt he looked since the last time I saw him.  We talked and caught up, but were constantly interrupted by friends insisting on buying him a cocktail.  I excused myself and went into the restroom.  When I came out, I nearly ran into an odd looking woman.  She was a brunette, and her hair was crazy frizzy as if she had stuck her finger into a light socket.  She had a patch over one eye and a large green parrot on her shoulder.  "Hey you!" she barked at me with a twang.

"Me?" I asked.

"No I meant you.  Have you seen my pirate hat?  Someone stole my damn pirate hat."

"No, sorry, I haven't seen it."  I began to walk away, but she grabbed me by the shoulder.

"Wait just a second.  You tell me you haven't seen my hat then you just walk away?"  The bird pooped and it hit the floor.  "You haven't even met my bird Thor yet."

"I think Thor needs to go potty."

She pointed to the floor.  "Are ya blind?  He already did take a crap."

"Take a crap, take a crap," said Thor.

"I'm looking for my soulmate, have you seen him?"

"I don't know who he is," I said.

"Neither do I," she said sullenly, and walked away.  Thor dropped another load. I went and found Dennis and the other boys in the band and told them about her.  I wondered if she knew any of the gang, and they all confirmed they had never seen her.  They did question the wisdom of bringing Thor into a bar.

I started back to the bar to speak to Smokey, and she stepped in my path again.  "By the way, I never introduced myself.  What's your name?"

"I'm Bill Thomas."

She nodded and jerked her thumb towards her bird.  "This is Thor."

I nodded.  She walked away, and Thor dropped another load.  I walked up to Smokey and he said to me "Just in time for shots.  Where have you been, off spanking the monkey somewhere?"

"No sir."

"Yeah, I'll just bet."

I saw her step up to the bar and she yelled far too loudly.  She could be heard over the music playing and over all the conversations in the place.  "What should I drink for an infection?"

The Bartender regarded her with trepidation, and asked what he could get for her.

"I want a drink, something to kill the infection," she shouted.  "I got a cyst in my vaj."

The Bartender clearly couldn't believe what he'd just heard.  "You're a who?"

"You heard me, I got a cyst in my vaj.  You know, my flower?  My special lady parts?  I want to drink something strong that will kill the infection."

The Bartender stared at her and didn't know what to say.  "We don't serve penicillin here.  And we don't serve birds, either."

"Don't be an idiot," she screamed.  "He's not a bird, he's Thor."  She turned and looked at me, and made a beeline for the end of the bar where Smokey and I were standing.  She marched right up to him and put her hands on her hips.  "Hello Thor, meet Thor!"

Smokey stared at her.  "Excuse me?"

"My friend riding on my shoulder is named Thor.  But you ought to be Thor, and I'm betting that just happens to be your God-given name.  Cuz you look just like him, tall and rugged and long flowing blonde hair.  You could be a demi-god."

Smokey shrugged.  "I've never been called that particular name."

She wagged her finger in his face.  "You had better get used to it if you're going to hang out with me.  I'm looking for a soulmate, are you interested in the job?"

Smokey smiled.  "Uh, no thanks."

"But how can you say that, you don't even know me?  You think I'm some kind of batshit crazy?"

"Batshit crazy" echoed Thor.

"I've taken enough abused since I arrived here.  My pirate hat was stolen, people keep on complaining because Thor is pooping everywhere.  Uh, hello, it's natures way.  When you gotta go, you gotta go.  I mean, when you have to do number two, do you clench your butt cheeks?  No sir, you find the nearest pot you can piss in and sit right down.  Am I right?"

Smokey shook his head, confused.  "Well, I--"

"Am I right?"

Thor dropped another load.  He must have had a very big breakfast.  The Bartender pointed at the lady and said, "You're going to have to take that bird outside now, he's making a mess everywhere."

"That bird has a name, he is Thor, the god of lightning and thunder and rain and sunshine.  You don't mess with Thor."  She was working herself into a frightening frenzy.

Smokey put his hand on her shoulder.  "Take it easy."

Then she completely flipped out, eyes bulging out and shouting at the top of her lungs.  "No, that's it!  I will not be treated this way!  I'm down and I'm thorough."

"Down and thorough?" asked Smokey, just as Dennis stepped up.

"Yes it's over, and I mean it this time!  I am down and thorough," she shrieked.

Dennis scratched his chin.  "I think she means done and through."

She turned on Dennis and seemed horribly mad at him.  "Don't you tell me what I mean, I mean exactly what I mean, and you do not want to see me when I'm mean!"

As she stormed out, Thor said "Crazy bitch.  Crazy bitch," and he dropped one last load.

Dennis held his bottle of beer high.  "OK folks, let's raise a glass to our friend Smokey, who has touched all our lives one way or the other.  And mostly for the good."

Smokey laughed at that one, as did most of the crowd.  Dennis had a way with humor and public speaking.  He would have made a good stand up comic, but chose instead a path of rock and roll.  I took a good long look at Smokey and wondered if I would ever see my friend again.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

SUNRISE DOG CHASE

I got the chance to deliver a car in Birmingham, my old home town.  It was great to be back, and my boss Riff had called to say there was another car to pick up headed for Boston.  So my long time buddy Frank picked me up when I dropped one car off and took me to get the Boston car, and then I went to his place to spend the night.  He cooked out on the grill, we had his world famous cocktails, and then I crashed on the couch because I had to get an early start.

I got up at 5am the next morning and showered and ate a bran muffin.  I was dressed and out the door at 6, and the first thing I noticed was a beautiful sunrise and the mist in the air.  Frank lives up on a hill, and it is a steep grade down to the street.  I was hurrying down on the grass, which was covered with dew and quite slippery.  Then I hit a super slick spot and had to run to keep from falling on my face.  Momentum always seems to keep me on my feet in those situations.

As I neared the car by the curb, I heard something from behind rushing towards me.  It was two large Rottweiler dogs, and they were open for business.  They were growling, snarling, and rushing towards me at alarming speed.  I absolutely love dogs, but when they look a tad vicious and are rushing me, I can get a bit nervous.  I jumped on top of the car, and they both jumped on the car, their claws scratching the paint pretty thoroughly.  The dogs' owner came ambling down the hill from the house next door.

"What the hell is going on here?" he demanded.

"I think your dogs are upset."

He grabbed both of them by the collars and yanked them back.  They fought him and still lunged for me, whining as they did so.  "Can you blame them?"

"I didn't do anything."

"Didn't do anything?  Bubba, let me give you a slice of advice for the future.  For one thing, next time you are getting up to leave, wait another hour before you come outside."

"I've got a long trip ahead and need to leave now."

"Well, I don't think waiting till 7am is gonna make that much a difference.  This is the dog's time of day, time that they can come outside and roam free in the neighborhood and do as they please without worrying about human people.  See what I mean?"

I nodded.  I also noticed that from this angle, I could see for the first time their yard was strewn with junk.  It would make any junkyard envious.

"Now here's the other advice for you.  Whatever you do, don't run outside.  It inflames the dogs."

"The grass was real slippery, and I was running to avoid falling on my face."

"Much better to fall on your face than to piss off these dogs.  Now go on, get, and remember the lessons I taught you.  And you are welcome."

I got into the car and left as quickly as possible.  Later that day when Frank called to see how far I'd gotten, I told him about the incident.

"That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard," Frank told me.

"I'm telling you the honest truth."

"Oh, I have no trouble believing it.  That guy has been a thorn in my butt since we first moved in here.  Did you see all the junk laying in his yard?"

"Not until this morning.  I couldn't see it from your house because of that new wooden fence you put up next to the driveway."

"And why do you think I put the fence up?  To block the ugliness when I walk out my back door or look out my kitchen window.  And it still isn't high enough.  I wish that fence could be so high that I could only see his yard using Google Earth."

I chuckled.  "Well, he sure did think he was giving me good advice."

"Oh wonderful.  The junkyard hillbilly neighbor is dispensing wisdom.  That guy has some nerve to let those dogs run free and tell you that you shouldn't come outside when they do."

"I don't blame the dogs at all.  I think this is bad judgement on the part of the owner."

"Bill, I couldn't agree more."

And I continued my long drive to Boston.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

WALKING DEAD FOOL

I was driving into New Haven, Connecticut to deliver a car.  My cell phone rang and caller ID told me it was my never cheerful boss Riff.  "This is Bill," I answered.

"That's your opinion," he grumbled.

"How can I help you?"

"Did you deliver the car to Seattle yet?"

"I'm in Connecticut."

"What?  That's the whole other side of the country."

"I'm not taking the Seattle car.  Remember?  You reassigned it.  I'm delivering to the man who has been on vacation for two weeks."

"Maybe you're right.  But still..."

"Still what?" I asked.

"Still birth, that's what your Mom should have done when she had you."

"What does that even mean, Riff?"

"It means get the car delivered, my little jelly filled donut."

I hung up and consulted my GPS.  I knew that I was getting close, and I had a genuine concern.  I had spoken to Mr. Clarkson the day before and told him that I would be delivering today.   But I had called as promised today to give him 30 minutes notice and he didn't answer or return my call.

I found the house and pulled into the driveway.  I saw that the man was hard at work in his yard, being industrious and building.  I parked and jumped out of the car.  "Hi sir, I'm Bill Thomas.  I tried to call but you didn't answer."

He didn't even look at me, but kept hard at work.  "Can't you see I am busy?  Been busy all morning getting ready."

I took a good look around, and noticed that what he had completed thus far looked like a strong fortification of security.  There were sharpened spikes jutting out at a deadly angle all the way around the front yard.  And there were booby traps and snares galore.  "Ready for what, sir?"

As I stepped forward, he yelled  "Stop!  Do not move another inch."

I froze, scared and unsure why it was so imperative that I stop.  He tiptoed over to a large pile of leaves spread out in front of me and kicked a few back, revealing a pit he had dug deeply.  The leaves provided cover that hid it well.  "Thanks."

"Watch yourself," he warned.

"Are you expecting company?"

"We all are."

"We are?  Who?"

"Zombies.  Walkers.  The living dead."

I chuckled, but the man looked at me contemptuously.  "Don't laugh.  Don't you dare to laugh."

"I'm sorry, were you serious?"

"As a freakin' heart attack.  The apocalypse is upon us, and most people will die or be converted into zombies themselves.  But I will be prepared and I will survive."

"How?"

"Preparedness.  Ready to do whatever it takes, whatever is necessary.  Get it?"

"Sure."

"No sir, they won't be eating my brains anytime soon.  The traps I'm setting will help, but eventually I will be trapped inside my house.  I'm convinced that I can hold out indefinitely on the second story of my house."

"How will you do that?"

"As you well know, zombies can't climb.  That's a given.  So I just sit up there with my rifle and pick them off one at a time."

"Don't you think that the gunshots would attract the other zombies and then your house would be surrounded by hundreds of zombies making escape impossible?"

"Bring it on!" he bellowed.  "Clearly you know nothing about the walking dead.  You should watch THE WALKING DEAD."

"The TV show?"

"More like a documentary to prepare us for the inevitable."

"The inevitable zombie apocalypse?"

He glared at me.  "You scoff, I can tell you're a scoffer.  But you'll be laughing out the other side of your ass when they start munching on your brain.  You are incredibly naive, I got no more time for you."  He marched off down the street.

"But sir, what about your car?"  I stood and watched him walk away from me.  I guess I had said something wrong, but I didn't know whether to let him walk and have his personal space or if I should follow him.  While I was waiting to decide, a minivan pulled into the driveway.  A large man climbed out and stared at the yard.

"What the hell..." he mumbled.  "Who are you?" he asked.

"Bill Thomas, I'm here to deliver a car to Mr. Clarkson."

"I"m Tim Clarkson, we spoke on the phone."

I was very confused.  "You're Mr. Clarkson?"

"Yes I am, and I know exactly who did this to my yard.  Ralph Edison, my neighbor behind me.  He has been bugging me for months to fortify my house along with him for some zombie apocalypse.  Then he waits for me to go out of town and does it himself?"

I shrugged.  "I just came to deliver your new car, and I can tell you its a nice one."

"Did Ralph bother you?"

"No, he was somewhat informative."

"Yes, in a very insane way.  You got paperwork for me to sign?"  I handed it to him and he signed.  "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go have a conversation with Ralph."  He started to march across his yard, and I shouted a warning before he stepped on the leaves covering the pit.  He shook his head in disgust.  "This is just crazy!"

I felt the same way as I picked up my bag and walked away.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

POLAR POP NEW YEAR

I was getting tired as I neared Tallahassee, Florida on Interstate 10. I had driven all the way from Dallas, Texas and was feeling burned out.  I still had 200 miles to go, and decided I need some refreshment.  So I got off at the Thomasville Road exit and soon found a Circle K mini mart.

I parked and got out of the car, stretching my legs and doing some squats, and hearing some cracking noises in my body as I did so.  I walked inside and could immediately see the massive soda pop station, with a wide variety of choices of sugary drinks.  Filled my styrofoam cup with crushed ice and Dr. Pepper, then headed for the counter to pay for it.

The Cashier was a bright and cheerful little spark plug of a woman.  "Hi, how are you this evening?"

I smiled.  "Just fine, thanks.  And you?"

"Can't complain, can't complain.  Well, I could, but nobody would listen."  She howled with laughter.  "Carol's the name, and Circle K is my game."

"OK Carol, just let me buy this large Dr. Pepper and I'll be out of your hair."

She waved me off.  "You're not in my hair, and you're not a bother.  But what does bother me is that you got a Polar Pop."

I looked down at my cup, confused.  "Why?"

"Because there is nothing in that cup that's good for you.  Sugar and chemicals and God only knows what else."

"I'm tired, and I can use a boost."

She put both of her hands palms down on the counter and leaned towards me.  "A temporary boost!  An artificial boost!  And then you will come crashing down."  She picked up two handfuls of M&M bags and threw them down hard on the counter to demonstrate a crash.  "Do you want that?"

"I don't know," I said, unsure what was coming next.

She looked at me knowingly and smiled.  "How about a banana instead?"

"No thank you."

She pointed to the basket with several fruits just to the left of her counter.  "Fresh fruit, it's God's natural laxative."

"Nope, not today."

"How about an apple?"

"No, no apples."

"You don't like apples?'

"I love apples."

She grinned.  "You ever had an apple fritter?"

"I sure have, they are delicious."

"But have you actually tasted one?"

"Yes Carol, and that is how I know they are delicious."

"I'm not kidding you, they are so good.  Try a bite."  She reached below the counter and pulled out an apple fritter with a large bite taken out of it.  "Come on, try some."

"No, none for me."

"Don't be shy, have a big old bite."

"Not really hungry right now."

"Don't be silly, it's not like I have some horrible STD or something."  She looked at me very slyly.  "We hope."  She winked broadly at me.

"I'll pass."

"What is your name, sir?"

"Bill."

"Your momma didn't give you a last name?"

"Thomas.  Bill Thomas."

"Well Bill, you are being ridiculous and missing out on a real treat.  This might have been your one chance to find out what an apple fritter tastes like.  And you blew it."

"I didn't mean --"

"You blew it.   You'd rather pour poison soda pop down your throat than eat a healthy and nutritious apple fritter.  All I can say to you is please pay and get out of here."

The drink was 79 cents, so I put a dollar down and started to walk out of the store.  I figured she could keep the change.

As I reached for the door to go out, I heard her say  "The kind of guy who thinks he can just put his money down and walk out the door.  The kind of guy who thinks I want his charity.  Low down bastard."

And that's the life of A Driving Fool in 2017.