I’m an Idiot – August 21, 2020

This is not a rant.  It could be, I just don’t have the steam to put into it today.  If you’ve paid attention, you know my schedule changed dramatically this week to handle computer issues.  Beginning bright and early Monday morning, priorities had to shuffle and slide. Some normal but not essential activities were set aside to pay attention to regaining an electronic presence. 

One of the activities curtailed was my exercise routine.  Normally, that’s modest upper and lower body weight-work, good old karate warm-up stretches, and a decent sweat-producing run.  Driving back and forth to computer shacks and investing time in non-writing computer activities, there was no “exercise” until today, Friday. 

I’m an idiot.  Normally off on weekends, that made six days I’d been idle.  You know “idle” means I skipped my exercise program.  So, nearly caught-up, did I ease myself back into a routine?  Nope.  Went at it tooth and nail, skipped nothing, used the same weights, ran the same distance, and ignored my body’s complaints while stretching that some of the rubber bands were about to snap, joints were crackling, and if I didn’t mind P’s and Q’s, something would pop.

I’m a lucky idiot.  Nothing is broken for all the snap, crackle, and pop.  I’m going to feel some unfamiliar soreness tomorrow morning.  Mowing the lawn tomorrow afternoon, or Sunday maybe because of the rain, will be a challenge.

When I finished my workout around one in the afternoon today, I showered and thought I’d lay down for ‘just a little bit.’  The Bossmobile delivered the Boss home early.  She’s under direction to work no overtime.  Exigencies at the start of the week demanded overtime that dictated her week be finished early Friday.

This idiot was still snoozing.  After I woke and figured out who I was, where I was, and why I was, we chatted a bit, until the Boss excused herself to place a phone call to cancel an appointment.  At least, that’s as I understood it.

“…so, I don’t need to make an appointment,” she stated.

“You mean you don’t have an appointment to cancel?”

“That’s right.”

“Then why are you calling?  Um, lemme see.  You’re calling to cancel an appointment you don’t have?”

“Yes.”

“Um.  Nobody does that.  You don’t feel inclined to do something that was a ‘maybe,’ you just don’t do it.  It’s the American way!”

“I told them I’d call.”

“Doesn’t make any difference.  That’s even more so the American way.  You don’t want to do something that was a maybe, you just don’t do it. No explaining, no courtesy call, no nothing!  You spend the extra five now unallocated minutes of your life doing something important – like FacePages!”

That got me a ‘you horse’s ass!’ look.  Which was okay.  Because most of the time I am exactly that.  I got by with it in this case because the Boss knows I was wearing my cynic hat.   I’m usually either a cynic or flat-out caustic.  Because I have a poor opinion of people.

Lest you assume I think I’m not one of ‘the people,’ let me assure you I am painfully aware I am one of ‘the people.’  That scares the hell out of me.  It also drives me to improve.  That, I admit is not an easy task.  Never has been.  Never will be.  But I stay at it.  Focus.  One must remain focused.  One day, I will be able to believe I’m a shade better than most of the other ‘the people.’

But I will still be an idiot.

Heads-up.  There are two new “Life’s Like That” entries in the Writing drop down menu.  The first, a “Here’s the Deal” piece, “Chocolate Ice Cream” like today’s post, is rant-ish, but not a full-blown rant.  More a tongue-in-cheek poke at who we are, or who we’ve let ourselves become.  When I figure-out whether the reason things are the way they are is because we are lazy or because as a species, we are inherently evil, I may revisit the subject.  Then, there’s a “Five Minute Segment” piece, “Tire Pressure.” That’s just as the grouping suggests a bit of “Life’s Like That.”

Oh.  I apologize to my international readers.  In the “Chocolate” piece.  We’re still working with gallons here in the US.  Which is about 3.8 liters.  I expect you know that, and only mean to remind of the conversion.  I’ll bet you though, that most people in the US have no idea of liter/gallon conversions.   As a country in the last twenty-five or so years of the 1700’s we got so self-impressed here that we maybe took the “independence” thing to ridiculous extremes.  We’ve not fully recovered.  Except for gasoline (petrol) and a few other items, gallons are losing significance here.  “Chocolate Ice Cream” explains that.

Oh number two.  Those of you in the US who feel insulted over what I just said, yourself thinking people in the US more intelligent, more “international,” than I intimate, I’d suggest you look around you.  Carefully.  Good heavens: we are a country of boobs.

See Anything Different? – August 19, 2020

It did in fact happen.  My old laptop struggled to keep going but finally, collapsed gracelessly. 

On the last day, during the morning boot, I knew it was over.  I planned a trip to the local PC guru though I felt it really a trip to the coroner’s office for an official pronouncement.  The tech listened carefully to my explanation of symptoms. 

“Boots fine for me!” he declared from safely behind his PC-Laboratory high-front countertop.

“Run diagnostics,” I suggested, knowing the mere fact that it booted this time meant ab-so-lute-ly nothing.

“Okay.”  I was allowed into the O/R. Cables, cables, cables everywhere.  Only thing missing was an oscilloscope, but I’ve only known one tech in my entire life who could read anything significant from an oscilloscope. Probably none of the doodads were necessary, but dang, it sure looked official.

Diagnostics complete, there was a printout longer than the paper receipt from the American chain drug store notorious for six feet of receipt for a five-stick pack of chewing gum.  The word “fatal” occurred so many times, I was concerned the AI software didn’t devise a one-character symbol to replace the word. 

The tech and I discussed options.  (I hear snickering in the background.  Oh!  You’ve been there, right?)   I’d had a discussion with a super tech, an electronics wiz over the prior weekend, while my machine was limping along. I knew some of the “options.” 

Cloning the failed drive was possible.  Installing the cloned drive in my machine was not, except by the Mayo PC Clinic, at no small cost, taking at minimum six days, with zero guarantee that would be the end of my machine’s problems.  The tab for surgery was approaching the cost of a brand-new machine.  

No brainer.

A machine big and brute enough to be a server is not what I need.  I’m not a gamer.  Stats, math packs, and even program-designer graphic programs are no longer necessary.  Not for what I do now, which no longer includes software development of any kind, in any language, in any environment.

What do I need?  Well, since what I do now (see previous posts) is questionable, the best guess is that I need a word processing package, internet access, modest disk storage, and for my own purposes, a spreadsheet package, so I can track my finances, the money I don’t have.  That’s it.  There are probably cell phones or microwave ovens capable of that.  Hell, there are probably bio-monitor wristwatches that will do that. 

Brought the replacement machine home knowing there would be hours and hours of chasing passwords, downloading software, arguing with software vendors over licenses, and so on.  It wasn’t as bad as I expected.  It’s almost complete.  Cost me about a day.  One major package to settle-in.

So, How does it look? Coming from a new machine, I mean? Does it look faster? Cleaner? Spiffier? I didn’t think so either. At least I’m back in the saddle. You know, I feel l am a week behind.  Be fun to see how long it takes to get back to speed.

No “creative” additions.  No “rant.”  Haven’t had the time.

High Summer – August 17, 2020

Or late summer.  I suppose there’s a difference.  Some people might take issue, being sticklers for exactness. That’s irrelevant. It’s not mid-summer, as next month, only a scant two weeks away, is September.  The traditional time for “fall” and heading back to school.

High summer. Time for bouts of insufferable heat.  Pop-up thunderstorms, which if running through evening hours, promise foggy tomorrow mornings.

Summertime.  Prime grilling time.  We’re fortunate here, that we can grill almost all year.  If one doesn’t (and I don’t) mind a little snow and cold that makes surplus heat from the flame feel pretty dog-gone comfortable.  But summertime is when grilling is best and almost expected.

That means steak – whether you favor ribeye, strip, filet, hangar, or some other (probably regionally named) cut.  Blessed with a long summer season, though you could, I don’t think anyone would really want to do steak or burgers every time they fire-up the grill.  “Every time: should be no less than four times a week. 

Perfect alternate choices for the main grill item are chicken, pork, (beef or pork) ribs, or when it’s available, good lamb, fish, and “dogs” of every description.  Real professionals, handily master roasts, and such.  In that respect, I’m still pretty much the novice, though more than once I’ve grilled a tasty pizza.

And there’s little reason to do the “sides” in the kitchen – corn on the cob, potatoes1, asparagus, and other vegetables all work on the grill with only the slightest change in technique.  One surprise though, is that vegetables usually require more time on the grill than meats.  Fine.  Sit back in a nearby chair with friends and family, chat, and if you’ve a mind, sip something more than refreshing.

Summer evenings.  Waiting on the Grillmaster to finish and plate dinner.  With enough light left, goldfinches and cardinals working away at denuding the zinnias and echinacea, first pulling off all the petals, then getting their fill of seeds.  Later, fireflies. An occasional mosquito.  As evening becomes real, swallows chasing whatever it is they chase high enough in the early evening sky they are invisible unless you know to look for them there.  Depending on your latitude, cicada, crickets, or frogs for background music.

Summer.  Sometime in summer, it’s time to plant garlic for next year.  Maybe it’s later.  I don’t know.  That’s a question for my younger “big” sister.  I’ll have to ask her.  I could look it up but it’s a good reason to telephone to remind her “I rely on you for expert advice.”

Of course, you have to travel summer to get to my favorite time of year.  Autumn.  The part of autumn that starts in the northern US when you can hear and smell the field corn ready for harvest.  Harvest you know is going to proceed the first early snowfall by only one or two weeks.

Autumn.  The hard gourds finally ready to pick.  Pumpkin, squash of a dozen varieties.  The hardy greens that love cooler weather and struggle through summer – Kale, cabbages, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, the last peppers.  Then the “holidays,” starting with Halloween.  Big sister’s favorite as “it’s the only holiday that unabashedly celebrates candy!”  Then Thanksgiving.  Christmas.  New Year seems not to make the official “I love the holidays” list.  At least for me.  Maybe because January declares spring with attendant muddy roads, winter refusing to give way to warmer weather, the struggle of another year.

But right now, it’s summer.  Only one or two hours left before I can go out to fire-up the grill.  Maybe fish tonight, with a nice mix of grilled vegetables.   Yes.  That sounds good.  I’ll check with the Boss.

*1 I’ve a grilled potato recipe that is unbeatable.  It’s so good, it runs a remarkably close second to “fully loaded” when it’s not fully loaded.  Not in the Foodie or Recipe Blog business, I’ll not bother to detail that unless someone really wants me to.  Also have a mushroom recipe for a superb accompaniment to steak or really any grilled main course.  Same deal: no one wants to know; I’ll not waste your time.

Occupation – August 14, 2020

Falling into the “to be or not to be” introspective mood that visits occasionally, I wondered just what is it actually I do?  That mood and needing to update my Linkedin profile gave me pause.  Together, they impressed upon me that I do not know how to introduce myself, for example, should I be out in public where someone who didn’t consider my appearance enough to repel rabid dogs and Democrats felt it necessary to make my acquaintance.

It seems there are a number of recruiter-types out there who clearly cannot understand from my tongue-in-cheek current job description, “Salvage operator at Independent Fiction Salvage,” or the fact that I’m old as dirt and probably as far as computers go don’t understand much any more sophisticated than patch-panel logic boards, I’m not suited to rodeo drag-and-drop software in today’s high-tech (snicker) “programming” environment. Then again, most of these are the same ones who are recruiting for jobs in an American workplace who cannot effectively speak or write the language that is and for a few years yet, anyway, will be used in a little more than half of American workplaces.

So.  When I update Linkedin, am I a writer because that is in fact what I do?  I admit the legitimacy and obvious non-marketability of my work might make that questionable.

So. Okay, am I an aspiring writer?   Probably also questionable.

I’ve heard “content writer” bandied-about.  You know, the ones who write intelligent copy for businesses and industry. I’m supposing to be effective there, one should be fairly-well an expert in whatever they are “writing content” for.  My expertise in any particular field is, um, well, lacking.  No, don’t think I’m a content writer.

Maybe I’m a blogger?  While it may appear so, I suggest it is not.  A real blogger, in my opinion, is focused on one subject vocationally, socially, artistically, or otherwise and thus can invest adequate time in research and developing and maintaining expertise in a narrowed area.  No, not a blogger.  Not right now.

Okay.  Not a writer. Not an aspiring writer.  Not a content writer. Not a blogger.

Perhaps a fool?

I don’t think that’s going to look too snazzy when I print new business cards.

Doesn’t do much for my ego either. And we all know that a writer of whatever standing needs a healthy ego.

PSA.  My computer is starting to complain.  It may be time to replace it.  On the other hand, the “who-shall not be named” operating system purveyor has been regularly updating my system the last few days.  That always leads to a boatload of problems.  If I disappear for a few days.  Take a wild guess.  And be patient.

PSA Number 2 (and okay, a little self-serving): For those of you who only ‘follow’ blog posts, you miss a significant part of spwilcenwrites.  On the home menu, there is a pulldown menu “Writing” allowing you to read posted creative pieces.  Limited time only – free.  For those of you cost-conscious – BOGO!  Try it.  You might like it.  If you do, tell me.  If you don’t, tell me and I’ll quit bothering you.

PSA Number 3:  For the benefit of those bored enough they already have browsed my “creative” posts, but haven’t peeked at the “Update” page in a while, under “Flash” there’s a piece posted August 13, 2020 which may appeal to those of you who like spy genre fiction, “Heartbeat.”  It is short.  Won’t take but a heartbeat to read.  It is, though, also NSFW for language and mild suggestiveness.

Favorite Insults – August 12, 2020

Favorite Insults – No. 4

Jess breezed through high school. She did well in traditional ‘college prep’ classes of the time – Advanced Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology, and Physics. With a logical and agile mind, she also snookered the eco-earth sciences, although at the time, some twenty-odd years ago, those studies were called agricultural or husbandry sciences. More-or-less bored with the ‘hard’ sciences, she overloaded her schedule when her counsellors allowed it, adding the less ‘traditional’ sciences. Simply because she enjoyed them and because, she said, “Well, you never know…”

Not what you’d call “bookish” if you were just looking at her, Jess managed it all, as you’d conclude from what I just said, handily. Except that she was the star forward on the girls’ basketball team, she’d also have held one of the coveted spots on the basketball cheerleading squad. Selected as varsity cheerleader, considering the hunks on the boys’ basketball team, and the proximity there, if I need to explain the significance to you, you’re not going to have a real appreciation for it anyway.

A smallish school system, the coaches and counsellors there were pretty hep characters. Through some minor rule-twisting, in football season, Jess was a varsity cheerleader. There was no girls’ football team; those teachers were cool, but not that far ahead of their time. Once again, if I have to stop to explain the advantages of being a varsity football cheerleader, you’re not going to understand much more when I get done wasting my breath than you do now. Suffice it to add a bit of color to Jess’s character, Jess and Barton Crutchfield, quarterback for the Polsten Polar Bears, were a pretty hot item from the end of Sophomore year up to graduation.

Barton was not, let me put this as tenderly as I can, academic. He got by. Largely because Jess beat most of what Barton understood into his thick skull. There were times Barton probably wished he had his football helmet over his ears when Jess went to work on him for upcoming exams. Yeah, Barton was not a scholar.

Lest you get all starry-eyed and think this is going to turn into a slobbering love-story or some silly romance, Jess and Barton grew apart. Did so rather quickly the autumn after high school graduation. Barton managed a full football scholarship at Greenridge College. Toughed it out and as an eleventy-sixth draft pick, which is just short of walk-on, went on to a less-than-sparkling two-year professional career. Barton Teaches Phys-Ed in Pistonville now; usually has a football team every year in the mix for state finals.

Those coals of romance were fairly-well peed-on autumn of high school graduation when Barton rode the bus for an hour to Greenridge and Jess, also on full scholarship, rode a jet for four hours back east to South Hempwich Institute of Technology. Hempwich is fondly called ACU or Atom Crusher U, because donnybrooks erupt when South Hempwich Alumni endeavor to otherwise abbreviate the school’s full name. The underlying problem is not that ACU folk have no sense of humor, but that non-ACU people can’t understand why ACU folk don’t get religiously incensed. Non-ACU people charitably fill the void as a public service.

Now we’re getting to the moral of this story. ACU studies were a little stiffer than those Jess put up with back in Polsten. She had to work some. Chasing undergraduate and master’s degrees simultaneously, when she finally hit stride last quarter of Junior year, she needed not one, but two electives to fill holes in her schedule! There were no “Western Beef Breeds,” “Endemic Wheat Disease in Southern Saskatchewan,” or “Pollution Control in Four-phase Irrigation Systems” for Jess to amuse herself. Art. And Humanities. Scads of art courses. Humanities too, probably, but art caught her fancy. Jess assumed she’d have to take five or six courses to occupy her time but on her academic advisor’s advice, took just three.

You guessed it, Jess fell in love with all things ‘artful’ or high culture. Painting, sculpture, music, poetry, basket-weaving – all of it. And not just a little bit in love. Insanely so. Her Momma had to enlist all Jess’s aunts, uncles, and old schoolteachers to convince her dropping out of science studies in favor of Art and Humanities then, so close to sheepskins, represented a poor choice. They managed to get Jess to graduation from ACU – BS and MS, double-majored – and honors to boot.

Which was good. Which came with a tiny bit of bad. At least uncomfortable. Jess sent her Momma a ticket to the big whoop-de-doo graduation ceremony in the big city back east. Scared the hell out of Jess’s Momma. Jess’s Daddy, you see, went to his reward Jess’s Junior year in high school. Momma was not ready to take her first jet ride, solo, to a city more populous than her home state. Long a widower myself, and not averse to taking-in the big city sights, I agreed to accompany Momma to the big deal. And it was a big deal.

With the “Pomp and Circumstance” organ stuff still in the air, Jess and Momma chatted afterward while I just took it all in.

“Momma, I’m not going home.”

“Jess! That job at the college! Why, what of that?”

“Already talked to them about it, Momma.”

“But in a few years, you’d be tenured. You could relax. Get married. Have children.”

“Momma, I’m going to get a doctorate in art studies. Maybe then, I’ll teach.”

“Art? How can you make a living with that? How can that be a legitimate study?”

“Momma, you need to come with me to the Metro to see the art. You’ll understand then.”

Which we did. The very next day. I’ll tell you straight-up, the Metro was amazing. Seeing old masters I’d only seen in books, I still cannot believe the difference it made in my opinion of different styles, use of color, subject matter, and interpretation. Then there were the statues, marble, bronze, ancient, simply old, and modern. Photography. Absolutely unbelievable. Frankly, there was a lot I didn’t understand as Jess explained it to her Momma and me. I couldn’t say then what Momma was thinking. She wasn’t talking much.

“Now, Momma,” Jess began at the entrance to the ‘Modern Modern!’ exhibit, “this is what made me understand my real love is not Applied Physics, but Art. This art, Momma! I’ll do my dissertation on this…”

The title was apt. No matter how deep your opinion is rooted in good or bad stereotype, ‘modern’ was there. I thought it impressive.

“What do you think, Momma? Can’t you just feel them?”

“What? Like that one?” Momma pointed to the centerpiece on one wall. “Those are not pictures. They’re dribbles, paint clots!”

“Why Momma! That’s Jackson Pollack, one of the most esteemed modern artists there is.”

“Modern, huh?”

“Yes, Momma. Abstract expressionism. See the raw emotion? The sensitivity? The wonderful use of color and texture?”

“Jess, dear, I have drawings you did in pre-school that show more emotion, more sense of color than that… that….”

“But Momma, surely you see…”

“Oh, indeed, Jess, I see. Looks to me Mr. Pollack got tired of trying, dropped his brushes, and went home. Whoever was supposed to clean-up after, didn’t.”

It was a quiet jet ride home. Momma was chewing big city exposure. For a good while after, the relationship between Jess and her Momma was a tiny bit strained.

© S P Wilcenski 2020

Wardlow and Spencer – August 10, 2020

Wardlow and Spencer are two likeable chaps with a problem determining which end of a stick is ‘up.’  Mostly well-intended, their unusual logic sometimes puts them in unpleasant situations.  Fortuitously, their follies rarely adversely affect others.  The following anecdote illustrates Wardlow and Spencer’s difficulty connecting the dots.

Two hours after lunch and hungry, I had two hours left on my shift.  The Trading Post convenience store was in my patrol area.  I thought I’d pop in and get something to munch.  Pulling off the highway, it looked that two cars had a territorial dispute; front ends mangled spitting steam into the sky.  Wardlow and Spencer were standing between the cars.  That promised something interesting if not problematic.  I stepped away from my unit and addressed them. 

“Wardlow.  Spencer. What’s going on here?”

Wardlow answered, “Constable Pilcher!  There was a robbery!  These are the guys. They’re both out cold.”

Two gents were sprawled at Wardlow’s feet.  “These men okay?” I asked.

“They’re just unconscious.  Seen it a lot when I drove the am-a-lance.”

I checked, taking a paper bag containing not a lot of cash from the larger man’s grasp.  I guess convenience store robbery doesn’t pay that well.  Rolling him over, I found an old military automatic pistol.  It’d not been fired.  Matter of fact, it wasn’t loaded, didn’t have a clip.  There was a glob of what looked like mustard covering his right eye. No blood except on the smaller man – a little cut across his chin.  I’ve done worse shaving.  Only half-believing the ‘robbery’ story, I cuffed the two men together anyway. I looked at Wardlow.  “Back up a bit, Wardlow.  Start from the beginning.  Tell me what’s happened.” 

“From the beginning, Constable?”

“Good place to start, Wardlow.”

“Well, you see,” started Spencer.

Wardlow interrupted.  “You keep quiet Spencer.  You was sitting in the car.  You don’t know the whole of it.”

Spencer acquiesced.  Wardlow continued. “Spencer and I are a mite low on funds.  We figured to hold-up the Trading Post. Not to take all the money.  Just enough for a couple weeks.  I was going in to get the money and Spencer was gonna wait in the car so we could get away if there was any problem.”

“I suggested,” interrupted Spencer, “long as Wardlow was in there, he could get two of them big frankfurters. With lots of mustard.”

Wardlow shook his head disapprovingly and resumed.  “They was nobody inside except McElroy.  Couldn’t see him but I hollered ‘Yo!’  He hollered back, ‘Yo!’  I was standing right by the machine that does those franks.  They smelled good.  Down to my last ten dollars, but I thought I was gonna take care of that pretty quick. I guess getting a couple of dogs, you know, for the road, wouldn’t be a bad idea.  I started fixing two dogs.”

McElroy interrupted Wardlow’s tale, coming out the front door of the store towards Spencer, Wardlow, me, and the two handcuffed strangers.  McElroy looked a little wobbly.  “You all right?” I yelled at him.  As he sat on a bench beside the door, McElroy nodded.  I yelled again, “You call the department?”  Nodding vigorously, McElroy bent over and grabbed the bench with both hands to keep it from throwing him to the ground.

“Okay, then what?” I prompted Wardlow. 

“Well, this big dude,” Wardlow nudged the bigger unknown with the toe of his boot, “came flying in through the door.  Nearly knocked the dogs outta my hands.  See, I couldn’t find the mustard.”

“Gotta have mustard,” interrupted Spencer.  That got another disapproving look from Wardlow, but Spencer added anyway, “Lots of mustard!”

“Yeah,” said Wardlow, shaking his head. “So, I yelled at McElroy, ‘where’s the mustard?’  McElroy didn’t answer fast.  Finally, he yelled, ‘Left end of the counter!’  And there it was.  So, I dobbed a bunch of mustard on one dog, not so much on the other, and went to pay.  Before I got there, the big dude here came rushing past me again.  Took another shot at messing up my dogs.”

“Then?” I goaded.  Spencer shrugged.  Wardlow took a breath.

“Got to the counter when I seen McElroy had his hands in the air.  Thought that strange he should know why I was there, but okay.  I put ten dollars on the counter and said, ‘That’s for the dogs, eh.’  McElroy stood there shaking, so I said, ‘You don’t need to keep your hands up.  Long as we understand, you know?’  He said, ‘We been robbed!’  No! I said.  McElroy said, ‘Yeah, that big guy just robbed us!’”

Sometimes you have to work to keep Wardlow focused.  This was one of those times; I said, “And?” 

“About then I hear tires screeching and a big thump.  Dropped the dogs and came running out.”

Spencer grinned and started, “I know this part.  I seen this big dude coming out.  I thought it was Wardlow.  I started driving the car to pick up Wardlow.  Except it wasn’t Wardlow.  The dude didn’t see me and ran smack into the side of the car.  Hard.  I tried to swerve but when I did, I hit the other car, the car the big dude was headed for.”  Spencer was proud of his contribution. 

Another Patrol unit arrived. We chatted briefly and they went to interview McElroy.  A third unit arrived and took the two unknowns, who were coming around, into the station.

“We under arrest, Constable Pilcher?” asked Spencer.

“Either of you have a weapon?” I asked.

“Nah.  McElroy knows us.  No need to embarrass him like that.”

“You didn’t rob the place?”

“No. We was gonna.”

“Those guys beat you to it.”

“Yeah.  Some nerve.”

Wardlow yelled at McElroy, “McElroy, we’re gonna get those dogs.  That okay, eh?”

McElroy nodded.

Headed to my unit I said, “Wardlow, make sure you pay for those dogs.”

“Yeah. Sure. Probably cold now.” 

I didn’t get anything to munch on.  For the paperwork, my shift ran a lot longer than two more hours. 

Favorite Insults – August 8, 2020

[Alert: language and scatology]

Favorite Insults – No. 15

As Mindenburg Oklahoma Mayor, Florence Nelson did not put up with any guff.  It took her about ten years to straighten-out the city of Mindenburg and Minden County.  Peeved at an unexpected property tax hike, young Florence determined to fight the ‘system’ from within.  She got herself elected to Metro Council, served one term, then ran directly at the incumbent mayor, a good-old boy, if you know the type.  Beat the pants off the man.  Then Flo commenced to clean house, one council seat, one Metro contract at a time.

Flo’s been mayor now fifteen years.  I’ve been her assistant since day one.  Her first order of business as Mayor saw her lock horns with the Metro Attorney.  She insisted on no-nonsense contracts.  That first showdown showed me who this lady was.

“Clinton, I want all that legal mumbo-jumbo out of the contracts.  Make them say exactly what the deal is, no more, no less.  None of this party of the first part, party of the second-part bullshit.  Understand?”

“Ms. Mayor, you can’t do that.”

“Why not, Clinton?  You can’t do it, I bet I can get one of the journalism kids at Central High to take a crack at it.  For free, Clinton!”

“Ms. Florence, you don’t put all the clauses and definitions and such in the document, why you’ll end up in court all the time getting things redefined by a judge.  Time. Money.”

“Clinton, you horse’s ass. You put all that claptrap in the contracts now and we still end up in court half the time.  Now, we do it my way.  Save a lot of paper and a hell of a lot more time!”

Florence prevailed.  The first test of the streamlined documents came when lucrative contracts were let for expensive Metro Fairgrounds work.  Two good old boy contractors looked to maximize profit installing new lighting in the arena and re-paving parking lots.  Flo determined their work and materials less than contractual, when with a reluctant Metro Inspector in tow, she conducted an on-site inspection. 

Those contractors mistakenly insisted their work was per contractual spec.  Flo took the contracts, the specs, and the contractors to court. The judge agreed with Mayor Flo.  Said he enjoyed arbitrating a clean contract for a change, one with real teeth.  The contractors ended up agreeing after the teeth of those contracts bit them in the ass and they had to re-do most of their work and pay penalties.  

The mayor was not looking for free work.  What she insisted on was getting what Metro paid for. The Metro Inspector, incidentally, went looking for a new job.

Flo dealt with regular people the same way.  Not that she didn’t have a wicked sense of humor.  I thought for the longest time Flo got her humor and her steel from her momma, Julia Nelson, the widowed Nelson clan matriarch.  The ‘clan’ is now only Ms. Julia and her Honor the Mayor.  There was thought a few years back Flo might extend the Nelson bloodlines locally, but that frittered-out.

Ed Brewster, Mindenburg Chief of Police, a widower with two daughters just hitting teen years, was more or less “sparking” Flo five years ago.   The Mayor and I were visiting the Chief and had just finished hashing-out budget details, when out of the blue Ed asked, “Flo, have you given any thought to about, well, you know?”

I got the details later but leave it that, ‘well, you know’ was Ed’s proposal of marriage.  Flo, sweet as could be, faced Ed and said, “Ed, it’s a wonderful idea, but there’s the girls.”

“You and the girls get on just fine,” argued Ed.  “Be good for them to have a momma again.”

“No, Ed.  Those lovely ladies are almost women themselves now.  Bad time to have some other woman horning-in. They might not show it, but they’d resent it.”

“They’ll get over it.”

“Maybe, Ed, but the important thing is there are some conversations they need real soon with someone they really trust.  That’s gonna have to be you, Ed.  I mean, I’ll be on hand if need be, but they’ll listen to Daddy where they might not pay much mind to a momma trainee.”

Ed and Flo continued to date.  Maybe even getting more serious now that Ed’s youngest will soon follow her sister off to State University. We’ll see. 

Then there was Victor Stassen, Fire Department Chief.  Victor wasn’t brilliant but he was rock-solid about his business of putting-out and preventing fires.  His department was recognized by the state every year.  However the hell they determine that.  Mayor Flo had some new forms for Victor.  We took one of the stodgy, dependable, Metro motor pool boxes-on-wheels to deliver the forms and visit two Metro construction projects. 

At the main Fire Station, Victor chatted with us briefly.  His son, Cargill was inspecting a flowerbox at the edge of the station’s drive.  “Cargill!” yelled Victor across the station drive.  “Be careful!  There’s bees in those flowers!”

On cue, Cargill yowled, turned, and waved to Victor, then went right back to examining the flowerbed.  In a matter of minutes, young Cargill approached us.  His face was covered with bee stings, but the boy smiled happily as he opened his little fist to present a captured bee to Daddy.

The Mayor and I left Victor to his babysitting and bee-sting treating.  I delivered Flo to her office, directly across the street from her momma’s stately old house, a throwback to when a town’s doctors lived among the people they tended.  I walked with the Mayor to momma’s house.  As I started to take my leave, Ms. Julia spoke to me.

“Susannah, after business hours.  You care to stay for a bit of late afternoon refreshment?”

“No, thank you kindly, Ms. Julia.  Had iced tea all day at the office.  Pretty much had enough iced tea today.”

“Heavens no, child, it’s past five in the afternoon.  I’m talking Mint Julep.  I was raised in the real south you know.  Macon, Georgia.  Before I met Don and came out here and became an Okie.  Hot enough today, and it seems to me Mint Julep time!”

“Why that’d be nice, Ms. Julia.”

And it was.  Widow Nelson had ice, bourbon, rum, fresh mint leaves, sugar, and tall glasses ready on a little sidecar table on her porch, as if the Cotillion people had called to tell her Flo and I were on our way. She put together three.  We sipped sitting on the porch waiting for the first evening breeze.

“Momma, Victor’s gonna have his hands full with that boy of his,” said Flo.

“Cargill?”

“Yes, Momma.”

“Just like his daddy.  Victor wasn’t the fastest car on the track, either.  Took some energy keeping him out of trouble until his brains caught up to his body.  I used to sit the boy, Victor, back in the day, you know.”

“No, Momma?  You mean Victor was, um…”

“Stupid?”

“Well, yes, but there ought to be a nicer way to say it.”

“There’s not, child.  I’d seen telephone poles smarter than little Vic when he was a lad.  Guess Victor and his missus need to just work with Cargill until the boy grows some smarts.”

“Be a tough job, Momma.”

“First thing they need to do – what I did with Victor. Teach the boy to whistle, so’s he remembers which end to wipe when he finishes business.  Pretty much downhill after that.”

[Nod to NS of Macon, Georgia]

© S P Wilcenski 2020

Searching for the Cure – August 7, 2020

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, this is Harbin Factminder, here with this week’s edition1 of People Need to Know, brought to you by Azalea Toiletries, who remind you, “You may not look your prettiest, but there’s no reason you can’t smell good.” 

“Hold the bottle higher, Harbin!”

“I’m on camera, Giselle, you can’t just blurt stuff out like that.  People will think I’m an idiot!”

The name of the show is People Need to Know, Harbin.  People watch, they’re not clueless.  Hold the bottle higher.  Azalea is paying for viewers to see their product.  Sound and video are separate, Harbin.  We’ll edit later.”

“Oh.”

“C’mon, Harbin, you are on camera. We can’t edit your lips out all the time.  As much as we’d like to…”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“For Pete’s sake, Harbin, no asides!  Get the show moving! This isn’t Hollywood.”

“Today’s report comes to you from ED&GA Labs of Meccabuc Pharmaceuticals. I’m here with doctors Swartz and Lipscombe.  Smack inside the actual laboratory.  Just look at all the scientific stuff!”

Geeze…”

“Dr. Swartz, for our audience, can you tell us what ED&GA Labs does?”

“Sure, Harlan…”

“That’s Harbin…”

“Yeah, right.  ED&GA stands for Epidemic Diseases and Genetic Abnormalities.  We profile certain very troublesome diseases, genetic makeup, life cycle, mutating tendencies, and so on.  So the biochemical side of the lab can effectively model and manufacture vaccines and treatment therapies.”

“Like the current Covis19?”

“That’s Covid19, Harlan.  Co-VID.”

“Harbin.”

“Whatever.  Yes.  Covid19.  And we’re close to nailing the full genetic profile of the little bas…”

Doctor!  We don’t want this to turn into a bleepfest here.  Remember we have cameras rolling and you represent Meccabuc Pharmaceuticals.  Keep it family, would you?  Crew, gimme a different camera on this so we can edit soundtracks around these two idiots…”

“Right!  Got it.”

“Yeah. Okay, Harlan.  We’re really close to a complete profile on Covid19.  Make it a cakewalk to produce a vaccine.  And a course of treatment for those who contract the disease before the vaccine hits the market.”

“Well that’s a noble cause, Doctor Swartz.”

“Not why we’re in it Harbin.”

“That’s Har…  Oh.  You got it right.  What do you mean, ‘not why we’re in it’?”

“Money.”

“Excuse me, Harlan, what Doctor Swartz really meant to say was…”

“That’s Harbin, Doctor Lipscombe.  What did Doctor Swartz imply?”

“Well, Harlan…”

“Harbin!”

“Yes, of course, whatever.  Doctor Swartz meant much of our energy and resources are being siphoned-off to solve this Covid19 thing.  Time and money we can’t invest now in other promising research we had underway when Covid19 came along.  Most of it in the Genetic Abnormalities areas.”

“I see.”

“The government insists, you know, Harlan, we really have no choice in the matter.  When all is said and done, for the money we’ve wasted for speed and diverted facilities, there will be little profit in any Covid19 vaccine or cure.  For example, here in this country, depending on the alignment of elections and marketable product, we may be forced to make our results available free to the public. Probably even pay for distribution.”

“That’s Harbin.”

“What?”

“Harbin, not Harlan, Doctor Lipscombe.” 

“Whatever.”

“What projects have been put off, Doctor Lipscombe?”

“Well, Har… whatever. We are so close to identifying the ‘Stupid’ gene.”

“What?”

“Yes.  Stupidity is caused by a broken gene.  What made it so difficult to identify is that it appears to have self-mended, but with something less than perfection, and is passed on to offspring. Can you imagine the financial gains for the country first making ‘Stupid’ vaccinations mandatory?  We’re not talking the sad cases of mental deficiency.  We may be centuries away there.”

“I don’t understa…. I mean, can you clarify for the audience, Doctor Lipscombe?”

“Like for example the thousands of people espousing law-and-order who use lawlessness to register their dissent.  Or the man sent grocery shopping, finding eggs at one dollar and forty-nine cents for a dozen or a dollar and fifty-three cents for eighteen, opting for the dozen because it’s cheaper.”

“I have a better example.”

“Yes, Doctor Swartz?”

“If we develop a ‘Stupid’ vaccine which even repairs damage post-inoculation, which seems doable, the parents who will insist their children not be protected.  Sadly, we are talking about an inherited genetic defect.”

We need a pause for commercial here…”

“We’ll be back with Doctors Swartz and Lipscombe after this commercial break.”

“Wow, doctors!  That’s interesting stuff.”

“That’s nothing!”

“There’s more?”

“I mentioned Covid19 was holding back a lot of research.  Here’s one for you.  You know the political party in control here today?”

“Yes.”

“That’s hereditary.”

“No?”

“And curable.”

Okay.  Now you need to pick up after commercial.  Ready?  We’re rolling…”

“So. Doctor Lipson…”

“Lipscombe.”

“Lipscombe.  Yeah. So, About the other side of ED&GA.  The ‘GA’ side. Anything interesting going on there you can share with viewers?”

“No.”

“No?  Doctor Swartz, do you have anything to add?”

“No.”

“I mean during commercial you said ED&GA was close on several…”

“Don’t remember anything.”

“Me either.”

1 – No such anything, folks.  This is all fiction.  Humor.  Satire.  Pay attention.

Favorite Insults – August 6, 2020

Favorite Insults – No. 3

[Sigh. Redacted. Pity]

Five-thirty Friday afternoon I climbed into my almost-classic Chevy headed home after a messy day at the yard. The ‘yard’ is a salvage yard. I own it. I run it. Daddy started it. He loved it. I saw the numbers and made it a real business just before Daddy passed. Because I actively run the yard, a day’s rust and grunge stained my ‘uniform.’ Grit, sweat coerced by an unforgiving September sun, and my disdain for mirrors at ‘the office’ meant I was probably a sight. I soon learned that.

Nearly out of the city, Luke tinkled my cell. Luke does a fair job as my husband of twenty-five years, headed comfortably to thirty.

“Sweetie!” I chirped.

“Ms. Folson…”

“Yes, Sugar.”

“Watersons. Dinner tonight. Remember? You said to remind you to get steaks.”

“Yes. I’m starved.”

“Good. Get good ones, Babe.”

“You betcha!”

“While you’re at it, Babe?”

“What, Hot Shot?”

“Get a good Pinot Noir. Beth thinks beer a little gauche.”

“Okay. Need to get her a sweat job so she can appreciate a good beer. Any suggestions?”

“Beer or a job for Beth? She’s a nurse, Babe. She probably knows how to sweat.”

“No, and no. Wine.”

“Get one you like. Be just fine.”

We did married-still-lovers goodbyes. I grinned imagining Luke, home early, sous-chef-ing, potatoes and corn-on-the-cob for his grill; meticulously laying-out ingredients for his trademark Folson’s Fungus – baby portobellos, walnuts, garlic, and basil to slow-sweat in olive-oil ten minutes before the main course. Luke would solo the kitchen and grill, while I enjoyed a shower and selected a seductive-but-company-friendly evening outfit.

Luke’s little sister Beth, and hubby Ben Mizipani would join us for dinner. The boys would abandon Beth and me immediately after, sneaking to the garage to work on and discuss Luke’s current restoration. Beth and I would argue politics or art after a little children and work talk. We relished our arguments. One of the reasons Ben and Luke snuck away the first few hours after dinner.

Parking quickly at Megagroceries-R-Us, against all odds I found an empty spot right beside those reserved for handicapped, expectant mothers, and we’re-too-lazy-to-do-our-own-shopping customers. Climbing out of my car, I noticed a biggest-there-is silver BMW idling just behind my rear bumper.

“Hey!” the ugly, expensively coiffed woman’s head sticking out the driver’s window literally screamed, “are you leaving now or what?”

She clearly had something uncomfortable trapped in her panties. It seemed she felt I was to blame. Or she felt I should cede my parking spot to her Beemer. Going with the parking-spot analysis, I wasn’t yielding my spot, despite her gracious personality. Her Beemer wouldn’t fit anyway. Her tirade continued. I work with men, cursing artisans, all day. I doubted the lady could teach me anything. I left her car and her mouth running and went after steak and vino.

Atchison, the butcher delightfully confirmed my steak choices. After a quick trip down Wine and Beer Village’s Pinot Lane, I luckily walked right into an open register and enjoyed lickety-split check-out.

Believe it or not, Ms. Beemer was standing outside her car, still parked just off my bumper. When she saw me coming, her mouth shifted into high gear. Her brain was not part of her vocal drivetrain.

Obviously a woman who spent a lot of time and money convincing herself she’s so-o-o much better than anyone else and not butt-ugly, she might have, but I doubt it, some room to argue the “better” part. She should ask for a refund on her “anti-ugly” expenditures. I didn’t see the “before” picture, so she might have brought home something for her money. Up close, and outside her Beemer, she was, as I’ve often heard men remark when they thought themselves discrete, so ugly she hurt your eyes.

“Would you mind moving your car so I can get out?” I asked in my best Junior League.

“When I’m damned good and ready. Nothing you can do about that, you filthy dirty person!” Her voice was barely less than a screech. “Haven’t you the decency to take a bath and put on clean clothes before going out in public?”

“Ma’am, please move your car.”

“When I’m ready!” She emphasized her resolve, placing hands on hips and doing that, banged her porcine thighs with a purse that probably cost as much as my car.

I popped the trunk of that car, reached inside, and pulled out a pretty good-sized maul. Setting the head on the asphalt and leaning in her direction on the handle tip, I said to Ms. Beemer, “I’m thinking you might want to move pretty quickly.”

“Why you filthy nasty woman! I should call the police.”

“Please do. Think they can get here before I remove your headlights and windshield?”

Ugly yes. Entitled, yes. But not stupid, she retreated to her Beemer.

“People like you…” she spluttered but wisely focused on getting inside her Beemer, keeping an eye on me.

While she opened her door I said, “I’m happy with who I am, dirty as that is right now. I do feel sorry for you. I mean, the disappointment you must feel realizing how ugly you are.”

“You nasty [*], coming here all [*] filthy dirty, and talking to me that way!”

I thought how nice it would be if I could have my guys snatch her BMW on the spot and toss it into the crusher while she watched. I settled for an insult I heard Daddy use once.

“See, the deal is, I can wash off the dirt, but you can’t wash off ugly.”

Her Beemer backed away. Sliding into my clunker, I scribbled Ms. Beemer’s license number onto my notepad. I’d give it to Luke. Ben and Luke are Highway Patrolmen. They’re not supposed to, well, you know. But they’re human. So am I. Then, steaks, two bottles of primo Pinot Noir, and I headed home to a shower, steak dinner, and a pleasant argument after.

© S P Wilcenski 2020

Original post to Prose July 20, 2020

Once Upon A Time – August 5, 2020

Boys and girls, I’m up to old tricks. Some might find this offensive. No sex. No violence. A questionable word or two and probably not completely PC. Up to you…

What you’re about to hear is not actually a ‘once upon a time.’  It was more the beginning of a second go at something that didn’t work out well the first go round.  The details even I find a little confusing, having just returned from a long stint out-country, so stick with me here.   

I saw an old school chum, couple of years younger than me, regally dressed, walking from the south drawbridge into the village.

“Yo, Fipper!”  I yelled at Philip across the village green.

“That’d be ‘Prince Philip,’ to you, bud!” he shot back at me before he turned to see who it was who’d yelled at him.

“It’s me. Chauncy Throckmorton.  You remember?  ‘Dragon Man’!”

“What it is, Throck?  I thought we’d lost you to one of those way-east dragons!  When’d you get back?”

“Couple of months, Phil.  Took some heat from one of those flamers.  Been recuperating.  About ready to go back to work.”

I realize, it’s not a guy thing, but though we were not classmates, we kinda saw eye-to-eye and were good buds years ago in school.  We hugged like two tournament jousters who’d just upset the favored home team.

With an undisguised frown in my face I asked, “Phil, baby, what up?” 

“What do you mean ‘what up’?”

“Aw, that’s a thing we say back east.  What I mean is, what’s happening? You don’t look so good.”

“I’m okay.  Just some stuff on my mind.” 

Prince Philip didn’t look okay to me, regal attire aside.  Not at all.  I hated to see a basically decent sort of dude with his feel-goods hurting.  I guess my concern showed.  Philip continued.

“I have to go kiss Beauty.  Wake her up again.”

“Wait a minute, Fip.  Back east word was that other prince, what was his name?”

“Handsome?”

“Yeah that’s the one. Story was, Handsome Prince woke her and they lived happily ever after.”

“Nope.  That was me.  And a big mistake too!”

“Give, man.  There’s some story there.  Can’t help if I don’t know, you know?”

“Well, Throck, everyone thought Beauty was under an evil spell.”

“She wasn’t?”

“No.  Beauty was such a bitch, even her daddy knew it and he contracted a spellbinder…”

“The ugly witch?”

“Not allowed to say that Throck.”

“The hag?”

“They prefer ‘spellbinder’ nowadays.  Anyway, daddy, the King, was tired of her nonsense and called in the spellbinder to put Beauty to sleep until he could figure out what to do about her ugly disposition.   It was a tough go, given Beauty’s aversion to chores around the castle and all, but her curiosity got her in the end.  There was a lot of talk about her industriously spinning away.  Actually, she was pestering the scullery maid who was, in fact, spinning.  Kind of fitting that spell.  When you think of it, all Beauty ever did was lay around until it was time to eat.”

“Who’d have known!”

“Then I came along and broke the spell.”

“Miffed daddy?”

“No.  And he understood why I delayed the wedding and all.  I mean daddy put her under for a thousand good reasons.  Beauty commenced making life miserable for daddy again, and now me. And half the kingdom.”

“But she’s asleep now?  Again?”

“Yeah.  I looked-up the spellbinder. Asked her to put Beauty under again before the marriage.  She agreed but said rules allowed as now maximum time was five years.  Then you know, there’d be an obligation.  Had a tough time with it too.  Beauty wouldn’t go near the spinning wheel.   She wasn’t as you’d guess too domestic to begin with.  Busy primping and all most of the day.  Putting on some chunk too. So the spellbinder got artichokes.  They have those pointy spines.  Spellbinder dosed them up.  Figured to capitalize on Beauty’s appetite.  Beauty wasn’t keen on them, but seeing the help enjoying them, she tried one.  Luckily, it was one of the treated ones.  It was gonna be tough around the castle for a while as two of the scullery wenches took the spell too.  That’s okay.  I knew what to do.”

“But you have to go wake Beauty… Again?”

“It’s time.”

“I’d be looking for Handsome Prince.  Turn the job over to him.”

“No.  He split.  Word gets around, you know.  The King’s kind of insisting.  Beauty is after all, his daughter.  And he has to put up with the Queen.”

“Maybe you can have the old hag, uh, spellbinder on hand when you do the deed.  You know, pop Beauty back off to sleep right away.”

“That spellbinder got some bad press.  Kinda wonder if the press just didn’t have an axe to grind.  Seems there were those Leiderhosen kids, Hanson and Gretchid…”

“Gretchid? Heck of a name for a kid.  Almost as bad as Threadbare.”

“Family name.  Some relation in politics.  Somewhere in the cold country.”

“Sweden?  Norway?”

“Nah, Michigan, I think.  Anyway, the spellbinder split. Met some weird dude with a big balloon and bigger plans.  Can’t reach her.  The thought did occur.  Shame too.  I was kind of digging that Rella lady.”

“Rella?”

“Cindy.”

“Oh, that one, Cindy Rella.”

“Yeah. Her ma got turned on by that Pied Piper guy, ran away with him to some commune.  Where was that?  Oh yeah, Oregon.  Odd place.”

“Never been there.”

“Sounds like a good place to avoid.  Anyway, she abandoned the child.  Her daddy took up with a really tough broad.  Did all right though.  Cindy got herself situated with an old biddy who really knew how to wave a wand.”

“Good looking?”

“Not the old biddy.  Told you she was old.”

“Nah.  Meant Cindy.”

“Kind of frumpy if you know what I mean.  Sure, Cindy really fills out a ball gown and all, but she’s got a face that needs some work.  Makes up for it in the kitchen.  Girl can cook!  Got other skills too.  You ought to see what she can do with a pumpkin!”

“Wand lady help with that?”

“Who cares?  But she’s hanging with that Charming guy now.” 

“Charming?”

“Prince.  Prince Charming.  Suspect his eyesight’s failing.  They seem happy.”

“Oh.  Didn’t Charming have a case for that odd girl with the pale skin?”

“Years ago. That was White.”

“White?”

“Snow.”

“Snow what?”

“Snow White.”

“Of course, it’s white.  Until you turn the dogs loose in the morning.”

“No.  Snow White.  Beauty’s Cousin.”

“I was poking at you, Fipper.  I knew who you meant. That’s the one.  The one who hung with the seven dwarfs.”

“Little men.”

“Well, of course they were little, didn’t I say ‘dwarves’?”

“You can’t call them that anymore.”

“Oh, that again.”

“Yeah.  You knew they were all from South Fairyland?”

“No, I didn’t.  Been away a long time.  Dragon slaying sometimes keeps you out of the loop.”

“And there were eight, you know?”

“Only remember seven.”

“Yup.  LeBraun had something of a reputation, so he didn’t make the cut when the documentary people came around a few years back.”

“Naw!”

“Yeah.  Bubba, BillBob, Hooter, Cooter, Shooter, Pooter, and Booger – you remember them as Lazy, Sleazy, Floppy, Cootie, Sloppy, Stinkie, and Booger did the show alone.  LeBraun, Tippytoes, the kids called him, got short-shrifted.”

“That’s a pun, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. Guess it is. Don’t let it get around.  We’d both be in trouble.”

“Shame about LeBraun though.  If it’s true, all of it, he’d get the starring role now.”

“Wouldn’t interest him anymore.  Opened a dress shop and professional wrestler’s boutique on the east side of Ogresville.  Doing well, I understand.  Odd market, really.”

“Times are changing.  Seeing that. Ain’t been back long, but already seeing it.”

“Yeah, and White’s nearly as good looking as Rella.  Can’t cook or anything.  More an artsy type.  That’s irrelevant now that Beauty’s back in play.  Beside she’s messing around with Prince Florian.”

“Stupid name.  Florian?”

“Reminds me.  Meant to ask you how you came to be called ‘Threadbare’ when we were kids. But being four years older, you took off on that big contract in, uh, where was it?”

“Mongolia.”

“Yeah.”

“Well, Philip, back then I hit a growth spurt.  Being one of the down times with dragon work and all for Daddy, we were poor.  My folks could hardly afford both armor for training and school clothes every year, so I had to get by with a lot of stuff Mom bought at the Renny Fairs.”

Prince Philip asked a few questions about my dragon work. I dutifully lamented the OSHA intrusions, the AFLDU – Affiliated Fully Licensed Dragons’ Union, and the difficulty of getting much done with social distancing and all. But I also pointed out some good was there – the benefits of flame-retardant requirements, which unfortunately has just been set aside by the DU. New rules in place for close-quarters fighting which take a lot of the fun out of work.  Old school dragons are with me on that, but it appears the new kids coming up are going to see the new rules stay.

Fipper was getting a little antsy, so we said goodbyes agreeing to “do lunch” one afternoon.  As I turned to head to the armorer’s forge, Fipper had one last idea, which he put to me.

“Say, Throck?”

“What, Phil?”

“Wouldn’t consider doing an old buddy a favor would you?”

“Sure, be gla… Whoa!  You don’t think I’d…”

“I dunno, Throck.  New face. Might be just the thing to turn Beauty around.  Beside she’s been asleep five more years.  She might see things a little differently.  Mend her ways.”

“No, don’t think so, Phil.”

“Yeah.  Bad idea, I guess.”

“Phil, with a dragon you pretty much know what you’re up against.  A mad princess?  Nope. I’ll take my chances with dragons and OSHA.”

Prince Philip and I went our separate ways.  The armorer’s shop was just across the green from where Fipper and I’d been talking.  I’m having one of those chain mail things custom made.  Lot easier to move in.  Got a new contract in Svenska, wherever the hell that is.  Somebody mentioned cold.  Might need to see about upgrading the lining.

While it might be interesting to hang around to see how Phil makes out, it’s probably a good time to beat feet.  His almost father-in-law, being King, liking Phil a lot, and understanding the kid’s predicament, might be up to some fiat declaring an odd mutual assistance for his otherwise soon-to-be son-in-law.   What with me being fresh in Phil’s mind, I don’t want him bending the King’s ear in such a way dragons look any more attractive than they do now.

It’d be nice if it were a ‘happily ever after’ for Fipper and Beauty.  But I don’t hold great hopes, judging from what Fipper had to say.   When I get back from Svenska, I’ll take a look.  Might let you know.  If you’re curious.

Reposted: Writings- Short Stories- Once Upon A Time- “Threadbare and the Three Princes