Working Holiday

I will be traveling for work for the next few weeks and away from the web.  Other than a post over at the BoFN next Tuesday, I’d like to share with you the view from here.

A January moonrise over Gig Harbor. Not bad for a cell phone photo.

A January moonrise over Gig Harbor. Not bad for a cell phone photo.

Enjoy your last few weeks of summer. Fall is just around the corner.



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Fannie Speaks Out on Chicken Conception—Redux

Thank you for joining me for the summer redux series. I am re-posting stories you may not have read, in the fashion of a summer re-run. We’ll get back to our regular posting schedule in a few weeks.

The original “Fannie Speaks Out on Chicken Conception” posted back in April 2011. It’s been embellished since then.

*  *  *

High, thin, pink clouds reflected on the calm, early morning waters in Gig Harbor, Washington, dotting the spaces between the boats anchored in the harbor. Cottages and mansions scattered across the opposite shore interspersed with hemlock and cedar.

Seagulls lined the roof of the marina near Jurasich Park. A flock of Canadian geese pecked the green lawn near the fisherman’s statue. Steam rose from a storm drain near the cross walk on Harbor Drive. The community bill board on the side walk next to the park entrance bore a sign announcing, “Only two weeks left to the Easter egg hunt”.

Richard parked the Love Wagon, a red Ford F150 with queen futon and disco ball in the back, on Pioneer Way outside of Pogey Baits. When I jumped from the cab, I could see my breath.

The window on the left side of the restaurant filled with rows of colorful hard candy, salt water taffy, jaw breakers and enough chocolate to make Willy Wonka weepy. Above the candy, a picture in the manner of a Norman Rockwell painting of a smiling, freckled boy with short blond hair, holding a spoon ready to dive into a banana split. Through the right window, bright red vinyl table cloths covered round tables, white vinyl table cloths covered square tables. White bistro chairs with red and white vinyl seats surrounded each table.

The smell of pancakes, maple syrup, hash browns, eggs, bacon, old-fashioned buttermilk biscuits, and sausage drifted out the door. The sign next to the door, “Seat Yourself”.

Five tables of regulars scattered across the dining room. Richard waved. My pre-coffee,  morning wave—in the manner of a puppet on a string.

I grabbed two menus from the bin at the end of the counter on our way to our favorite table next to the pale yellow, red and green, old style jukebox.

Richard towering above the jukebox, pushed up the right sleeve of his black and white rugby shirt. He leaned down, primed the jukebox with a quarter, pressed A4. A metal arm placed the vinyl 45 on the turn table. “Blueberry Hill” poured from the speakers.

He danced his Fred Astair shuffle, ball, change back to the table.

Laughing, I handed him a menu.

Two elderly couples walked into the restaurant. They sat down at the square table next to the window.

In clockwork motion, we flipped our coffee cups right side up. Liquid gold filled our cups. Without looking up from the menus, Richard and I said, “Thanks, Jan.”

“I’m not Jan. My name is Ruby,” she said, her voice massaged the vocal range of a ten-year-old. “Jan’s back in the kitchen this morning.” She set the coffee pot on the table and pulled out her order pad from her red and white, wide-striped apron. She took the a blue, Bic, ball point pen from behind her right ear.

Richard and I dropped our menus.

Ruby challenged the five foot mark with her two inch heels. She would blend into a line up of the women from my family. Her red and white striped shirt made her look like the Skipper doll with black hair and blue eyes to match.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, running my fingers through my short brown hair, “we assumed you were Jan.”

“That’s okay. You’re not the first,” she said, rubbing the capped end of the pen against the side of her nose. “I’ve heard it every day since I started here on Monday.” She tilted her head to the left and sized up Richard and me for a moment.  “This morning my four-year-old son asked me how they got chickens into eggs.” She smiled. Her shoulders pulled back. Her eyes glowed with pride.

Richard and I glanced at each other. Did she really say that?

Her shoulders dropped. “I don’t know the answer,” Ruby said, her voice quivered. Straightening up, she asked, “Can you tell me how the chickens ended up in some eggs, but not in the one’s in the grocery store?”

Now mind you over the course of our lives some interesting questions crossed our path, such as “Can you walk to an island?” when there are no bridges present,  or “What does a hard drive look like?” or “Why do they put a cup holder on the PC, because if you spill your drink won’t it ruin the computer?” But asking us to explain how chickens conceive, new territory.

Ruby stared at us. She tapped her pen on her pad.

Walking encyclopedia stickers somehow gleamed from our foreheads.

“The rooster and hen had a good time,” I said, the grappling hooks reeled in my grin before it overshot my face.

The expression on her face exited the building, a blank wall stared back at us. Richard faced the jukebox, his shoulders jittered. I nudged him with my elbow.

She asked, “How come the roosters don’t break the eggs when they get fertilized?” Ruby chewed on the cap of her pen. “I thought they worked like salmon, where the boy salmon spreads its sperm over the eggs the girl salmon laid on the stream bed. Only in a nest.”

I blinked my eyes slowly.

Richard’s devilish grin spread across his face. Danger Will Robinson. I put my hand on his and shook my head.

Taking a deep breath, I said, “Ruby, the roosters mount the hens. It looks like they’re fighting for their lives.”

Richard and I looked around the restaurant. Most of the restaurant listened, either in amusement or real earnest.

“But it works the same way as humans. The eggs get fertilized, and then laid,” I said.

Richard, who spent a lot of his youth on his grandparents farm in Oregon, couldn’t hold back any more. His blue eyes lit up with the power of a flood light at a movie premier. He flapped his arms. He tilted his head back and screeched with the enthusiasm of a chicken getting laid.

“Oh,” Ruby said, her face color surpassed the rouge on her cheek bones.

Laughter erupted all around us. Jan poked her silver and blond head out of the kitchen. Two brown, greasy hand prints smeared across her otherwise pristine white apron. She threw us a questioning look.

Ruby looked around the restaurant. “I didn’t know. Thank you.”

Who knew we would give the bird half of the birds and the bees’ conversation—to an adult with a child—for an audience?

 *  *  *

My first and last attempt at cartooning. :)

My first and last attempt at cartooning for this blog. :)

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Farewell to the Bubblator—Redux II

Thank you for joining me for the summer redux series. I have been re-posting stories you may not have read, in the fashion of a summer re-run. We’ll get back to our regular posting schedule in a few weeks.

The original “Farewell to the Bubblator” story posted back in September 2011. It’s been embellished a little since then. The story was re-posted last summer, and here it is again like my favorite re-run of Gilligan’s Island . . . thanks Little Buddy. :)

* * *

The summer’s heat faded from the shores of Gig Harbor, Washington. The air crisp and yellowing leaves meant one thing, time to fire-up ol’ Betsy.

Her pilot light disappeared after several months of slumber.

“Richard, do you know how this thing works?” I asked, staring at the furnace, running my fingers through my short brown hair.

“Haven’t the foggiest,” he said, clearing cob webs from the outside of the pilot light housing. He wiped his hand on his faded blue jeans. It left a trail of dust and rolled cobweb on his right leg.

“Can you see instructions anywhere?” I asked, tugging up the sleeves on my favorite, faded forest green sweatshirt.

“Hand me that flash light,” he said. He pointed the beam inside the housing.  A spider commune and remnants of past feasts clung to the walls. “Nope, no instructions. Do you want to wing it?” he asked, winking. His devilish grin commandeering his face. His blue eyes twinkling.

“Yeah right. I’ll start calling contractors and see if anyone is available to help us,” I said, shooting him look number 10 from my mother’s arsenal—redirecting jokester husbands with a glance.

The Bubblator, located next to ol’ Betsy, burbled his agreement with a hardy, “blub, blub, blub.”

Fifteen phone calls later, my left ear resembled a cauliflower.  “Richard, I found someone who can be here tomorrow morning.”

 *  *  *

Erick, the contractor, in his well-worn, blue service coveralls, stretched a little too tight around his middle, stood in front of our vintage furnace—his eyes wide. He blinked in rapid succession. He shook his head. His fingers traced the name plate.

“I’ve been working in this field for over 30 years now and I thought all these had been replaced years ago. Look at this date stamp. It was manufactured in 1977,” he said, rubbing his chin.

The Bubblator gurgled his agreement.

Erick jumped backwards. The wall stopped him.

“What the . . . ,” he said. His chest pumped up and down. His breath in short spurts. He pushed his wire rimmed glasses back up his nose.

“That’s our hot water heater. He talks,” I said, smiling. “Bubblator meet Erick. Erick this is the Bubblator.”

“You have got to be kidding me,” Erick said, rubbing his right elbow. “Hot water heaters are only designed for 10-years of life.  This thing has got to be over 30-years-old. And it shouldn’t talk.”

Two loud glubs exploded within the Bubblator, followed by a series of small bubbles bursting, reminiscent of someone blowing a raspberry.

“See, what did I tell you,” I said, my hands on my hips.

Erick eyed the Bubblator. “That thing’s a hazard and should be replaced,” he said, the tone of his voice like a scolding great aunt.

From any room in our house the sounds of the Bubblator and ol’ Betsy—working away in cheerful mechanical harmony, bubble, bubble, chug, chug, whir with an occasional rattle thrown in for good measure—kept us company.

My Aunt Verla and Uncle Carl installed them both when my grandmother left them the house in her will. The Bubblator never leaked in his three-times normal life.

Very impressed with the craftsmanship and unintentional life span, I said, “Bubblator, you rock.”

Blub, blub, blub.

Erick took a step back.

“Come on,” I said, the tone of my voice filled with exasperation, “according to my Uncle Carl that’s what he’s supposed to do. It’s our first gas powered hot water heater, I assumed he made those noises because of the higher water temperatures.”

Richard—expressing his doubts for a couple of years now—said, “You can lead a horse to water.”

Erick tore Ol’ Betsy apart. He cleaned her and re-lit the pilot light. The house exhaled as it came up to temperature.

“I’ll be surprised if this furnace survives the winter,” he said, wiping his hands clean on a faded red shop towel.

My stomach dropped into my knees.

Not ready to fork out that kind of cash, we decided to wait.

Three days later, the pilot light disappeared in the manner of D.B. Cooper. We still didn’t know how to relight her.

 *  *  *

“Richard, have you seen the cats?” I asked, walking into the living room. My breath creating cartoon speech balloons. “I can’t find them.”

“Check the bedroom,” he said, his tall lean frame wrapped in his grandmother’s patchwork quilt. He sipped his coffee while tendrils of steam caressed his face. “I turned on the electric blanket for them.”

I called Erick’s office. “Could you give us a quote on a replacement furnace, hot water heater and a heat pump?” I asked, wearing the matching forest green wool hat, scarf, and gloves my mother knitted for me last Christmas.

Erick said, “I can come by in three days.”

I neglected to mention the pilot light issue. What’s heat when you have two orange cats coiled in your lap? What’s heat to native Pacific North Westerners? What’s heat to descendants of pioneering stock?

What’s three-days without heat?

Clank, whir. Burble, burble, burble.

*  *  *

Aunt Verla and Uncle Carl stopped by to pay their final respects.

“Fannie,” Aunt Verla said, in her clipped tones. She wore a floor length, dark-brown, goose-down coat, which on a taller woman would have ended at her shins. Her black boots lined with turtle fur. And an imitation brown fur hat—in homage of Zsa Zsa Gabor—in place of her favorite Betty White Wig, “they just don’t make them like that any more.” Running her gloved hand over the Bubblator. Glub, glub. “I tried to talk Butch and Bud into coming over so we could get a family photo, but they both have to work. Would you take our picture? I know you won’t mind. I brought over pictures of the boys so they won’t feel left out.” She drew a breath.

Uncle Carl wore a brown squall jacket and a fisherman’s hat. His smile plastered in an indulgence which did not match the smirk in his eyes.

Aunt Verla handed him the eight by ten head shot of Bud with Uncle Carl’s square head. Bud’s hair a wavy, slicked-back, dark-brown. The neck of a weight lifter, Uncle Carl’s smile and my aunt’s eyes. She held Butch’s photo, lean jawed, narrow nose, and thick, curly brown hair. The male version of my aunt.

The photo shoot took an hour. Ol’ Betsy and the Bubblator provided the musical entertainment.

Blub, Blub, Blub. Clank.

*  *  *

When Erick arrived, he asked, “Fannie, why are you wearing a coat indoors? Did the pilot light go out again?”

Shivering, I said, “I need a lesson in pilot lighting.”

Ol’ Betsy knew something was going on, because her motor would not turn off when we tried to relight her. Erick tore her apart again.

Two days later Erick faxed us the quote. And the grand total made a boing sound. Five minutes later he faxed over the rebate and tax credit information raising the quote to the much more comfortable ouch level.

Sticker shock is a terrible thing.

Armed with a butane camping lighter, I practiced my pilot lighting skills every other day.

We asked two other contractors for quotes. The boing sound we heard from Erick’s quote turned into the ping of a pin drop.

We hired Erick.

*  *  *

The alarm clocked sounded off at 6:30 a.m., followed by the Bubblator’s morning off-gasses and Ol’ Betsy clanking a pan.

“Richard, I think they know something’s up,” I said, pulling the cover over my head.

“Fannie, they aren’t alive, they don’t know anything,” Richard said, putting his left arm around me.


“But I could be wrong,” he said, laughing.

The fog lifted. Wisps still clung in the space between the giant red cedars highlighted by the early morning sun. The temperature dropped five degrees by the time Erick’s installers arrived with our much-anticipated equipment.

Richard put his arm around my shoulder when I photographed the Bubblator and ol’ Betsy, basked in sunlight. He handed me his handkerchief.

Burble. Burble. Purr.

They disconnected the Bubblator first. Water poured down the driveway in steaming rivulets. The house fell silent. Its voice lost.

Four hours later, volcanic-steam-vent-temperature water ran from the taps.

Ol’ Betsy emitted her last rattle, clank, and whir. A final farewell before the younger model replaced her—the second wife.

By the end of the first day, the house felt cozy like an Irish hand-knit sweater.

 *  *  *

Day two: Heat pump installation. A two-stage heat pump, this bad boy dwarfed me. Richard, a foot and a half taller than me, took a picture with me posing in the manner of Vanna White.

The job supervisor kept wringing his hands and repeating, “I’m so sorry it’ll be so noisy.”

He spent little time in the company of the Bubblator.

A technician charged the heat pump with refrigerant. He walked over to the circuit breaker panel.  With his pointing finger, he energized it.

The compressor roared to life with the ferocity of a sleeping field mouse.

We waited for the tell-tale sounds. Something to lessen the void. It hummed along in near silence.

After a few hours, the smell of recycled dust disappeared, along with the parched hints of Death Valley in winter. The living room invited warmth, no longer ice cold as though inhabited by the spirits of my dead relatives.

Two orange cats planted themselves on top of the sofa in the living room. They stared out the window they way first timers look at Crater Lake.

 *  *  *

The sinus headaches stayed for two days as we acclimatized. After that we didn’t even wake up in the middle of the night to pee.

Yet the silence felt strange with no Bubblator to keep us company.

Farewell Bubblator, we miss you.

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The Hippety Hop Dilemma—Redux

Thank you for joining me for the summer redux series. I am re-posting stories you may not have read, in the fashion of a summer re-run. We’ll get back to our regular posting schedule in a few weeks.

The original “The Hippety Hop Dilemma” posted back in October 2012. It’s been embellished a little since then.

*  *  *


“Hi Mrs. C.,” Zack said, walking up to the end of our driveway. His strawberry blond curls the perfect cross between his mom’s bright red curls and his dad’s California beach boy blond. He shared his parent’s height, towering almost ten inches over me. He wore a worn black t-shirt with white printing, ‘Geeks ride longboards’. “What happened to you? I thought you swore off mountain biking?”

“I did. But I didn’t do this mountain biking,” I said, smiling, wincing from the pain.

“What happened that you’re all scraped up like that this time?”

“If I tell you, you have to promise not to tell my mother,” I said. I shot look number 163—from my mother’s arsenal: commanding secret keeping from a teenager with a glance—at Zack.

“Not a problem,” he said, laughing, “you’re mother scares me. What about your aunt?”

“You can’t tell her either.”

“You can trust me Mrs. C.. I’m good at keeping secrets from adults,” he said, winking.

Laughing, I said, the tone of my voice touched only by a hint of sarcasm, “I’m sure you are.”

“And I promise not to steal any of your Halloween decorations this year either.” He shuddered. “It’s not worth it.”

“Yeah, your mom told me about that when she returned them,” I said, laughing.

“So spill, how’d you get all scraped up and stuff?”

“There’s a reason people say history repeats itself,” I said, rubbing the bruise on my left elbow. “Have you ever tried something where you think nothing’ll happen to you when you do it, but it still ends in disaster?”

“Uh huh,” Zack said, tucking his strawberry blond curls behind his left ear the way his mother does.

“When I was a kid, Hippety Hops were all the rage,” I said, pulling the sleeve of my black and white rugby shirt away from the scrapes on my wrists.

“What’s a Hippety Hop?” Zack asked, shoving his hands in the front pockets of his jeans, “I never heard of it.”

“It’s a large rubber ball with handles. You sit on it and bounced around.”

“And that’s supposed to be fun?” he asked, looking at me the way you do when you’re around a crazy person.

“Go with me on this one, will yah,” I said, smiling, wincing.

“Okay, you sat on a rubber ball and bounced around, got it.”

“One year for Christmas my parents gave my sisters and me a Hippety Hop for a shared Christmas gift.” I said, shaking my head. Running my hands through my short brown hair. “You know what I’m talking about, the kind of day where high gray clouds covered Western Washington, the wet pavement covered in fir needles. A light wind blew the needles down the empty street. Giant colored bulbs decorated the neatly painted houses lining the street. The red bow wrapped around the lamp post fluttered.”

Zak nodded his head, the curls dislodged from behind his ear. He tucked them back with a quick swoop.

Rocking on my feet, I said, “At 10 a.m. we poured onto the street, bundled against the cold and wet, screaming and yelling. Santa delivered and new toys fluoresced.

Lenora Jane carried a large orange and black Hippety Hop out to the middle of the street, Eleanor and I trotted right behind her.

‘Since I’m the oldest, I go first,’ she said, with authority. ‘Then you and El get your turns. I’ll time it with my Cinderella watch,’ she said, holding up her arm and pointing to white watch with matching white leather band and a picture of Cinderella on the face, for the entire neighborhood to see.

She climbed aboard the large orange ball with black handles, wobbled for a moment, then bounced down the sidewalk. She traveled to the end of the block. On her return trip Annie, Tim, your Uncle Larry, your mom, and your Uncle Mark fell in behind her forming a Hippety Hop parade.

‘We should race,’ Lenora Jane said, to the crowd. ‘From the end of our driveway to the Newman’s lamp post and back. The first one to cross the finish line wins. Fannie, you line us up and start us. El, you run down to the lamp post and make sure nobody cheats.’

Eleanor sprinted toward the Newman’s on two little legs bobbling like a Weeble.”

Zak’s forehead wrinkled chased by his thin eyebrows. “A Weeble.”

“A kid’s toy. They wobble, but they don’t fall down,” I said.

Zack shook his head.

“What on earth did you play with when you were little?”

“Legos, Mr. Potato Head,” he said, shrugging.

Rolling my eyes because my face hurt to much for any other expression, “Any way. I was lining up everyone on the imaginary starting line, an orange, two red, two blue, and a green Hippety Hop squirmed for position.

“On your mark, get set,’ I said, raising my arm in the air, ‘go.’

Breath steaming from their mouths Lenora Jane pulled into the lead with Tim and Annie on her heels, your Uncle Larry, mom and your Uncle Mark, bumping into each other like a belly bucking contest, fell behind. Eleanor jumped up and down waiving her arms, letting loose a high pitched scream in all the excitement.

Lenora Jane, three years older than her nearest competitor, turned around first and hopped back toward the finish line. Tim grabbed his older sister’s hair pulling her backwards. Annie punched him in the arm knocking them both to the ground, followed by a melee of arms and legs as they wrestled. I ran out to stop Annie from killing Tim. Your Uncle Larry, your mom, and Uncle Mark bounced around us with syncopated movements heading toward the finish line.

Lenora Jane crossed the finish line. Parents poured from the houses to sort out the screaming, yelling, and punching.

Two weeks passed before either Eleanor or me rode the now confiscated Hippety Hop.

When not in use, it hung on a hook in the garage out of reach except by the aid of a parent.

That March, my parents decided to add wood paneling to the den. My father, the king of do it yourselfers, moved the mobile land yacht to the driveway, converting the garage to his workshop.

Lenora Jane volunteered to help my mother with chores and watch Eleanor thus by default volunteering me to help my father with the paneling project. To sweeten the deal, he said I could ride the Hippety Hop around the garage to bring him tools.

We carried two saw horses to the middle of the garage setting them about four feet apart. Two stacks of wood paneling lay on the floor of the garage next to the wall under the much-coveted Hippety Hop. On the opposite wall sat the highly polished black Craftsman work bench. Next to the work bench, sat a new Craftsman table saw.

My father pulled out a new bag of white shop towels and a bottle of Jubilee polish. With the passion of a maestro conducting a favorite symphony, he polished the table saw. After ten minutes the table saw gleamed in the incandescent glow of the bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling.

‘Fannie,’ he said, rocking on his feet, tugging on his belt, ‘always remember, if you take care of your power tools, they will take care of you.’ Patting the saw, the light bulb reflecting from his equally polished horseshoe hairdo, he said, ‘You can’t get anything better than a Craftsman, lifetime warranty.

He removed the Hippety Hop from its hook and handed it to me. ‘Go put this in the corner, out of the way for now.’

We moved the first sheet of paneling to the saw horse. He opened a box of nails and set them on the edge of the bench next to his hammer. Reaching for his measuring tape, he knocked over the box of nails scattering them over the bench sending several to the floor.

His shoulders slumping, he said, ‘I’ll pick up the stuff on the bench if you’ll get the stuff on the floor.’ His voice trailed off with the nails on the floor.

I returned twenty-two nails to the box on the bench.

Taking the measuring tape with him into the den, he measured the height of the wall. Starting in the corner he read, ’96 inches.’

I recorded the measurements on the pad of paper he gave me.

He moved down the wall one foot and measured again. ’95-1/2 inches.’  We repeated this process around the room discovering the ceiling sloped down one and a half inches from the outside wall to the door on the opposite wall.

‘Measure twice, cut once,’ he said starting over from the beginning. ‘We are going to double check each measurement including the outlets and switches.’

After finishing our archaeological survey of the den, we returned to the garage to cut the paneling.

Using a carpenter’s pencil, my father drew the lines for his cuts. He walked over to the garage door and opened it about two feet to let in some air. We carried the panel over to the table saw. The blade ate through the wood the way I would eat through a fresh baked cinnamon roll. Using a punch and a hand saw, he notched out the hole for the light switch.

We carried the panel into the den. He nestled it up to the wall.  ‘Fannie, I want you to lean against this until I get a couple of nails in it.’

After it was secure, we returned to the garage for the next panel. While he measured the next set of cuts, I rode the Hippety Hop around the garage.

‘Fannie can you bring me the hand saw?’

I bounced through the saw dust to the bench. I retrieved the hand saw and bounced back to my father.

‘Set it on the panel for me,’ he said, ‘oh, and I need the punch as well.’

I bounced toward the bench. I heard a loud pop. Catapulted through the air in the manner of a human cannon ball in a seated position, I cleared the wood paneling and saw horse, but missed the ceiling. On my way back to earth, the garage door arrested my forward progress with a loud thud, my legs shot through the opening under the door. Gravity dumped me on the floor.

I sat stunned for a few moments. A dull pain radiated from my hips, up the trunk of my body and into my arms. The sound of my father’s laughter filtered into my brain as the fog cleared.

After he stopped gasping for breath he ran over to me. ‘Fannie, are you all right?’ he asked, wiping the tears from his eyes. Leaving trails in the sawdust which covered his face. Well the sawdust covered pretty much all of him.

‘I think so,” I said. The room still moved.

‘You should have seen your face, that’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen,’ he said, laughing. Becoming sober, he said, ‘You pinky swear to me you’ll never tell you mother even under torture.’ His face darkened and his eyes narrowed.

‘I swear,’ I said, still shaken. I held up my pinky.

‘It will be our little secret,’ he said, sliding his large pinky into mine.”

Zack laughed. “That doesn’t explain how you got the road rash now. You looked fine when I saw you on Saturday.”

“Zack, I want to make sure you understand why you can’t tell my mother.”

“Uh huh,” he said, “it may cost you.”

“It will huh, let me finish the story, then you can decide,” I said, shifting my weight to my lesser bruised right leg.  “You remember we picked up your parents on Saturday for the swap meet out at the Star-Lite. Did your mom mention what we found there?”

“No, but they were acting really weird at dinner that night. She and Dad would look at each other, he would hum this tune, I think from a Bond film. They would bob their heads then laugh. It was unnerving.”

“Glad to know I could provide the entertainment at dinner,” I said, laughing, my lower lip reminding me not to smile. “Remember me saying history repeats itself?”

Zack nodded. He shoved his hands back into his front pockets.

“We arrived at the swap meet, and paid our entrance fee.

Rows of booths filled the former drive-ins parking lot. Tables displayed merchandise of every description. Not far from the entrance a couple sold used DVDs and CD’s.  Richard and your dad, stopped at the table to pour over the collection.

While they shopped, your mom and I moved to the next booth. It contained vintage toys. Sling shots, Etch-A-Sketches, slinkies, a Toss Across, stacks of board games. And in the corner sat a faded red Hippety Hop with the words ‘Space Hopper’ emblazoned on the front.

‘Clarissa, they have a Hippety Hop,’ I said, dragging her into the corner.  ‘Do you remember the year we got these for Christmas?’

‘That was a great Christmas,’ she said, laughing. ‘Didn’t Annie give you a black eye?’

I crossed my eyes at her. I grabbed her arm. My palms sweaty. ‘Do you think they would let us try it out?’ My voice shook.

‘Are you sure you want to do that?’ she asked, looking from me to the Hippety Hop. She tugged on the string of her blue hoody with her free hand. Shaking her head, her curls freed themselves from her ear. ‘Remember what happened the last time you rode one.’

‘That’s ancient history,’ I said, waiving her off, ‘come on, like that would happen twice in one lifetime.  It couldn’t hurt to ask.’

‘Why not,’ Clarissa said, tucking her red curls behind her left ear.

The vendor listened to us. She offered Clarissa the Hippety Hop. ‘Go ahead, give it a try.’

Clarissa climbed on board. She hopped over to the both where Richard and Devon stood.

“Hey you two, you have to come check this out,” Clarissa said, bouncing on the giant ball.

Devon held a CD in his hand.  He looked at his wife, laughed, and said, ‘just a minute honey.’ To the vendor he said, ‘I’m interested in this CD, could you play it for me?’

‘Sure,’ the man said. He put the CD into his boom box. Duran Duran sang, A View to a Kill.

Clarissa hopped back to the booth. ‘Okay Fannie, it seems safe enough, it’s your turn.’

I climbed onto the Hippety Hop. Bouncing up and down filled me with nostalgia. I hopped toward Richard who towered over Devon—both wore their black Rainman Triathlon sweatshirts. They now watched with an unobstructed view.

. . .Until we dance into the fire, that fatal kiss is all we need. . .

POP. I launched into the air feeling like a bottle rocket, a human cannon ball, the stone meant to take out Goliath, or a person who should know that history repeats itself. Throwing my arms out in front of me, the world slowed down. I could hear Richard, your dad and mom all yelling, ‘No.’

Using my arms and face as a brake I skidded to a stop at Richard’s feet. My left hand landing on his right tennis shoe.

‘Oh god, Fannie, are you all right?’ Richard asked, rolling me over.

Blood oozed from the scrapes on my face, hands and arms.

‘I’ll be all right. It’s nothing a little peroxide and Neosporin can’t fix. But I’m gonna to be sore tomorrow,’ I said, groaning.

The vendor from the toy booth came out. She cringed. ‘I’m glad to see you’re all right, but now I’m out one Space Hopper.’

Your mom and dad looked at each other smiling.

Devon nodded. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll pay for it.’ To the guy selling the CD’s, he said, ‘I’ll buy that CD.’”

Several emotions flickered across Zack’s face. Laughing, he said, “Don’t worry Mrs. C., your secret’s safe with me.”

* * *

How about a little Duran Duran, here’s A View to a Kill.

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A Special Edition: Round Peg, Square Hole

After writing five posts for my day job, and one post for the BoFN this week,  I ran out of steam.

So I asked my cat, Olivia, to stand in for me.

How many cats can fit into a box of Christmas cards?

How many cats can fit into an empty Christmas card box?

It took her half an hour, but she did it. It’s the orange fur of determination.

Since this is a special edition, how about some music? A little vintage Tom Jones with “What’s New Pussycat”? (So wrong and yet, so right.) :-)

Take it away, Mr. Jones, if you please.

Until next week when we’ll return to our summer redux series.



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Galileo Galilei, Better Known as Galileo

Fannie Cranium:

This month’s contribution to the Blog of Funny Names. How well do you know Galileo. He wasn’t a Leo. . .

Originally posted on The Blog of Funny Names:

You'd look like this too if you spent house arrest without any electronic devices.

You’d look this happy too, if you spent the remaining years of your life under house arrest without any electronic devices.

Astronomer, astrologer, musician, mathematician, physicist, philosopher, engineer, and heretic. This man knew how to live.

Born in Pisa, February 15, 1564. He could have said, “Hi ladies, I’m an Aquarius, the sign of the scientist,” but he didn’t.

Instead he said, “You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.”

The first of six children. Three of his siblings survived infancy.

His father, Vincenzo Galilei—a famous lutenist and composer and music theorist—taught Galileo to play a lute, a healthy skepticism of established authority, and a relationship between music and mathematics.

In his youth he considered becoming a priest. His father encourage him to become a physician. And something that would never happen nowadays—one day he went to the wrong class. Probably on a…

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The Caber Toss—Redux

Thank you for joining me for the summer redux series. I am re-posting stories you may not have read, in the fashion of a summer re-run. We’ll get back to our regular posting schedule in a few weeks.

The original “The Caber Toss” posted back in January 2012. It’s been embellished a little since then.

* * *

“And for your wedding gift, I’m giving you my ironing board,” my mother said, three month before the wedding. “It’s stood the test of time. That should satisfy the something old and something blue categories. You know they just don’t make ‘em like they used to.”

She’d set her sights on a sleek five-pound ironing board.

“Richard will appreciate the luxury of ironed sheets,” she said, nodding her head. Her 1978-style Suzanne Pleshette wig tied into place with a pale blue silk scarf. It matched her pant suit and sandals.

The 40-pound blue-anodized aluminum ironing board circa 1947, with optional iron rest, arrived with my parents’ blessing, a large bow and a box of gilded thank you notes.

The next day the phone rang.

“Fannie, it’s been two days,” my mother said, “I haven’t seen a thank you note yet.”

I could feel the look travel through the phone lines from Gig Harbor to Seattle.  “Mom, I wrote it on the new stationery you sent me and mailed it the same day.”

The following day, another phone call.

“Fannie, I got your note, I’m so glad you’re enjoying the ironing board. It’ll last forever,” she said. She took a breath. “You know, your Aunt Verla gave it to your father and me as a wedding present.”

“Well, you can let Aunt Verla know we’ll take good care of it,” I said, running my fingers through my shoulder length brown hair, waiting for the the punch line.

“She’ll want visitation rights,” my mother said, no longer burden with custody of the gift.

Two days later the sympathy cards arrived from my sisters, rejoicing they dodged that particular bullet.

Richard read the sympathy cards. His forehead crinkled. His smile dropped about an inch.

“Fannie, I forbid you from ever ironing my sheets, ever,” Richard said, rising up to his full height, bumping his head on the door jamb. Ire flashed in his blue eyes. “And if a sheet looks pristine I’ll crumple it up on general principle.”

He kept his word.


* * *

One parking space remained outside of the pink and white building with the cursive sign reading Chantilly Manor, Gig Harbor’s best kept secret. Wigs of every description adorned the display windows draped with off-white lace. Large french doors with polished brass knobs crowned the entrance.

The buzz of two dozen women filled the lobby and salon. The smell of hair spray commingled with perfume.

“Fannie darling, I haven’t seen you in years,” Suzy said, wearing her signature pink and white smock. “Your mom and aunt I see regularly.” She stood behind the counter. Her blond beehive hairdo tied with a pink and gold scarf rolled into a tube.  “To what do we owe this unexpected pleasure?”

“Suzy, I’m getting married and I want you to do our hair and make-up,” I said, walking up to the counter.

“Oh, we love weddings here, don’t we ladies,” Suzy said, batting her over sized black lashes at me.

A cone of silence spread over the salon. The everyone nodded.

“We’re getting married up at the Salish Lodge in two months.”

“You don’t say,” Suzy said, leaning onto the counter, resting her chin on her interlaced fingers.

“I want to do something special for my mom and aunt to thank them for all of their help,” I said, grinning. “I would like to purchase two gift certificates for six wig stylings each, it would mean the world to them,” I said, reaching for my wallet.

“Fannie darling,” she said, “I’ll make you a deal and only charge you half.”  Using her famous stylized calligraphy, Suzy filled out the certificates.

“Suzy, thank you, thank you, thank you, this will mean so much to them.”

Facing the crowd, I said, “Remember ladies, this is top secret.”

Laughter followed.

Suzy looked into the crowd. “Trust me, no one will breath a word, or I’ll refuse to do their hair. You have my word on that.” The room went silent.


* * *

“Richard, I’ve got an appointment with the florist and the musician this afternoon, do you want to come?” I asked, putting on my rain coat and grabbing my purse and umbrella.

“No, I’ve got a bunch of stuff I’ve got to get taken care of for work so we can go on our honeymoon,” he said, kissing me on top of my head. “I trust your judgement.”

“I’ll be gone about an hour,” I said, giving him a hug.

Richard walked the five feet down the narrow hall of our new West Seattle apartment. He knocked over the forty pound ironing board leaned against the wall. It hit him in the thigh en route to the floor. The air in the apartment turned blue.

Hopping on one leg, he pointed to the ironing board. “You need to find a home for that or I swear  it will disappear never to be seen again.

“Richard, I’ll unpack the boxes in the hall closet when I get back so I can put it away,” I said, shaking my head. My guts hosted a brigade of butterflies. “We cannot get rid of it. It’s a wedding present. My family will not let us hear the end of it.”

Richard hobbled to the second bedroom where we set up his office the week before. The window faced a sixty foot high basalt retaining wall covered in English ivy. As I walked down the stairs below our apartment toward the parking lot, our phone rang over the sound of rain pelting my umbrella.


* * *

Richard stood in the living room when I walked in the front door. “Fannie, I have some news for you.”

“Richard, you look horrible. Is everything all right?” I asked.

Dark circles under his eyes replaced his mischievous twinkle. “My manager called from Omaha, our company has been purchased. They’re having a mandatory training session in three weeks. I have to go to Omaha or loose my job.”

My heart landed somewhere near my ankles with a hollow thud. “Oh my god, Richard, did you tell them we’re getting married in three weeks?” I asked, twisting my ring. “We’ve already paid for everything.”

“They’ve agreed to move the meeting out two days so we can still get married, but we can’t go on our honeymoon. And they won’t reimburse us for the costs. We’ll have to see what we can salvage if anything.”

“Well,” I said, giving him a hug, “who needs to go to Australia?” The ironing board landed on my heart—squish.

My mother and I spent the next two days canceling the honeymoon.


* * *

Eight years later we saved enough to buy a home. It coincided with my aunt and uncle downsizing.

“Fannie, Richard, we’re so glad you’re buying the house, I couldn’t bear it leaving the family.  You know your mother and I were born here.  Your Uncle Carl added a hook to the wall in the broom closet to hold your ironing board,” Aunt Verla said, in her clipped tones, “as our way of saying thank you.”

On moving day, four cars sat parked in the cul-de-sac waiting for the moving truck to arrive.
When we arrived, my family poured from their vehicles to help us move in.

Overwhelmed by the audience, one of the movers asked, “Would you please move out of the way so we can finish our job?”

Richard pulled one of the dining room chairs from the moving van. Aunt Verla blocked his path.

“Richard, have you seen the ironing board?” Aunt Verla asked, tapping her foot.

“Not since this morning when we packed it into the truck.”

“Well let me know the minute you find it. I want to see how it looks hanging in the closet.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Richard said, rolling his eyes as he went in search of the ironing board.

From the corner of the garage between aisles of stacked boxes, my older sister—the professional amateur detective, Lenora Jane, called out, “Richard, I found it.”

Richard pulled it from the corner. The family crowded him.

“If you give me some room,” he said, staring at me over their heads, his eyes pleading for help, “we can get this put away.”

My mother held the door open. Following my aunt, Richard entered the house. The rest of us filed into the cramped hallway.

My aunt opened the broom closet door. The hook waited for its prize. Richard placed the board on the hook while the women of the family held their collective breath. The board stayed in place.

Two minutes later a succession of tail lights disappeared down the street.

“Thank heaven that’s over with, now we can actually move in,” I said, wiping my hands on my dusty blue jeans.

“Fannie, some day I am going to get rid of that ridiculous ironing board,” Richard said, his jaw muscles tightened.

“You mean the 40-pounds of pure ironing pleasure that falls on you almost every time you get near it? If you do get rid of it, I want to be far, far away because Aunt Verla will birth a cow and two cotton kittens.”

Two hours later, the movers left, leaving a trail behind them.

“Fannie, I am going to clean up a bit of this debris. Have you seen the vacuum?” Richard asked, looking around.

“Yeah I put it in the broom closet next to the ironing board,” I said, opening the closet door, “I wanted to make sure we could find it when we needed it,” I said, exhaustion catching up to me.  “I’m gonna make the bed so we can fall in when we’re ready.”

Richard grabbed the vacuum from the closet hooking the bottom of the ironing board. The board tottered, slipped from the hook. He threw his arm out to catch the board pinning it between the board and vacuum.

“Would you get this bloody ironing board off me?” he asked, pain radiating across his face.

I lifted the board off him. We examined his arm.

“You’re gonna have one heck of a bruise but nothing else,” I said, relieved.

Richard glared at the ironing board for a moment. His shoulders stiffening, he rolled the vacuum down the hall. He disappeared around the corner. The vacuum roared to life. I made the bed.


* * *

The telephone rang somewhere in the house.  The clock read 6:18 a.m..

“Don’t answer that,” I said, rolling over.

“It’s either your mother or your aunt,” Richard said, sliding the blankets off me.

“Exactly, don’t answer it. We will call them back at a decent hour. Besides, do you remember where we put the telephone?” I asked, pulling the blankets back up.

Ten minutes later the phone rang again.

“I’m unplugging the phone,” I said, staggering out of bed. My hair mimicking Phyllis Diller, my eyes looked like puffed up prunes.

I made it as far as the hallway when the doorbell rang.

“This is a nightmare,” I said, stumbling toward the door, “we are going to have to set some ground rules.”

On the porch stood Aunt Verla and Uncle Carl. His cheeks bright pink. He could not look at me.

“Fannie, when you didn’t answer the phone we decided you probably didn’t have it hooked up yet. I couldn’t wait to tell you the news. So we decided to come over and tell you in person. We know it’s not your turn, but you and Richard have been nominated to host the next family holiday,” Aunt Verla said, in her clipped tone, pausing long enough to draw a breath. “Your mother and I were discussing it this morning and thought it would be a great way to host your first open house welcoming the family.”

She stopped long enough to allow me to respond. I stood there staring at her.

Looking at me for the first time since I opened the door, Aunt Verla said, “Fannie, you look a mess, you’re not even dressed yet. The day is already half over, what’s the matter?”

Taking a deep breath,  “Good morning Aunt Verla, Uncle Carl.” I said, nodding to them. “We were up half the night unpacking and decided to sleep in.  The phone is plugged in. However, we are not going to answer it until after 9 a.m..

If you decide to call before then, you will have to wait until that time for a response. Additionally, after this we won’t be answering the door until after 9 a.m. unless we are expecting you. So I request you call first instead of assuming you can just barge in anytime you want.” For the first time in my life, I’d adopted my mother’s “my word is law” tone.

Aunt Verla stiffened and Uncle Carl turned away so she wouldn’t see him laughing. Her jaw pumped up and down a few times but no sound followed.

Pouncing on the moment of silence, I said, “We would be happy to host, we will send out formal invitations once we’re settled in. I’ll be serving coffee and danishes at 10 a.m., and you’re welcome to come back then. Now if there is nothing further, I’m going back to bed.”

“We’ll see you at 10,” Uncle Carl said, grinning, guiding Aunt Verla back to the car.

“Wow, Miss Spunky, I didn’t know you had it in you,” Richard said, putting his arms around me when I climbed back into bed. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard your aunt quiet that many seconds in a row.”

“It may not happen again for a while, you better enjoy it while it lasts,” I said, “they’ll be back over at 10.”

“Who do you think the other caller was?”

“My mother. I’m sure she will hear all about it before I call her back. She’ll be so pissed Aunt Verla beat her to the punch,” I said, laughing.

My parents’ mobile land yacht pulled into our driveway at 9:45 a.m., followed by Aunt Verla and Uncle Carl at 9:55, my sisters, Lenora Jane and Eleanor, arrived ten minutes later.

The coffee and danishes disappeared followed by a group unpack.

Uncle Carl grabbed the box knife from the kitchen counter. He reached for a box on the kitchen table. My mother carted a twenty pound bag of rice, headed toward the pantry. They collided midstream. The box knife pierced the bag. Rice spilled to the floor.

Aunt Verla, ready to save the day, dashed down the hall. She grabbed the vacuum from the broom closet. Richard exited the guest bathroom adjacent to the closet.  Aunt Verla jump. She yanked the vacuum cleaner from the closet. The vacuum’s canister caught the ironing board pulling it out, hook and all. It clattered to the floor falling toward Aunt Verla.

She screamed as the board hit the vacuum. The vacuum pushed her into the wall. She grunted. The ironing board rebounded onto Richard forcing him backwards into the door with a loud thud. Air rushed out of him.

He gasped for breath. Pain spread across Richard’s face with the speed of a wildfire. Everyone froze.

“Richard, Richard, are you all right?” I asked, adrenaline pumped into my veins.

“I’ve had it with this board,” he said, his voice low and steady. “I should have done this a long time ago.”

He picked up the board. He headed toward the garage.

Stepping in front of him, Aunt Verla asked, “Where do you think you are going with that ironing board young man?”

Richard looked her in the eye. His eyes went flat. Rising up to his full height he towered over her. Aunt Verla bit her lip.

“I’m doing what should have been done a long time ago, I’m getting rid of this monstrosity.”

Pushing passed her, he charged into the garage. The family followed the pied piper. He carried the board to his car, threw it into the trunk—crash, slammed the lid, rounded to the driver’s side and got in.

I claimed the front passenger seat and every male member of the family squeezed into the back seat.  He threw the car in reverse, gunned the engine, the tires squealed.

No one spoke. Squealing tires on pavement, our accompaniment.

Eight miles of back roads and six minutes later, we arrived at the dump. Paying the ten dollars, he backed up to the stall indicated and opened the trunk.

The men poured from the backseat. I stood next to my father.

Richard ripped the ironing board from the trunk, ran toward the garbage pit, let loose a blood curdling scream, and heaved the board over the top of him like a caber.

The caber tossed through the air, end over end, crashing on the bottom of the pit, metal to concrete. The legs splayed in odd directions.

After a moment of silence, wild cheers and applause broke out. Everyone clapping him on the back. He hugged the air out of my lungs.

We returned home.

Aunt Verla never mentioned it again.

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