The Speedo Tool Belt—Redux

Thank you for joining me for the summer redux series. I will be 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 “Speedo Tool Belt” posted back in June 2012. It’s been embellished a little since then.

* * *

The winter season changed in Western Washington from heavy rain to rain with an occasional bought of sun breaks. The mercury rose to 50º F. The indigenous population celebrated the warmth by stowing their mental umbrellas, because no sane Washingtonian would use an umbrella or they’d have to surrender their wool socks and sandals.

The fishing village of Gig Harbor, the gateway to the Olympic Peninsula, in the shadow of Mount Rainier, forty miles south of Seattle, no exception.

* * *

Richard and I missed out on our honeymoon because the sale of the company Richard worked for forced him to go to Omaha the day after our wedding or loose his job. We promised ourselves we would make up for it by going to Northwest Trek, a wildlife and adventure park near Tacoma. We’ve been trying to go for three years.

This drizzly Sunday morning was the day we would finally cross Northwest Trek off our bucket list.

* * *

“Fannie are you ready to go?” Richard asked, waiting by the garage door.

“I’m almost ready,” I called from the bedroom, pulling on my wool socks.

The telephone rang in the kitchen. Richard answered the phone.

“Richard, I’m so glad I caught you before you left,” said Aunt Verla in a rush, her clipped tones loud enough Richard held the phone away from his ear, “we need help and quick.  Uncle Carl is out in the garage trying to drain what’s left in the hot water tank.  Our garage is flooded and we need as many hands as we can get. When can you and Fannie be over here?”

Richard said, his voice determined, “We were just leaving for Northwest Trek, Verla.”

“I know. You can go to Northwest Trek anytime. We need you here now. The rest of the family is on their way,” Aunt Verla said, taking a breath. “Oh, and bring as many rags as you can get your hands on, we’ve got one heck of a mess.” Click. The phone went silent.

Hanging up the phone, Richard said, “Fannie, our plans have changed. We’re going over to Carl and Verla’s. Their hot water tank burst.”

“That’s not good. But did you tell her we were going to Northwest Trek?”

“Yes, she said she and Carl needed the help now.” Richard said, walking into the bedroom, his voice resigned. “The rest of your family is on their way.”

“We’ve waited this long, we’ll pick another weekend and try it again.” I said, exchanging my sandals for boots. “Let’s go see how we can help.”

The February drizzle fell from the sky as we approached Aunt Verla and Uncle Carl’s dark brown condo. A hot stream ran down the driveway from the garage. Each raindrop causing steam to rise.

Uncle Carl, soaked to the knees of his tan polyester slacks which clung to his slightly sagging muscular frame, held the hose attached to the drain valve directing the water away from their garage. Aunt Verla, her Betty White wig slightly askew, wielded a push broom, chasing water out of the garage like a demented garden gnome, only she was a bit taller than a gnome.

Richard parked the Love Wagon next to the driveway behind Uncle Carl’s silver Buick Regal.

“Hi Uncle Carl, Aunt Verla,” I said, walking up the driveway, my short arms loaded with rags. Unlike my aunt, I just scratch five feet tall.

Aunt Verla trotted out of the garage. “I see you brought the rags. Help me move the boxes from the shelf over here and we can start drying up this mess.”

Richard and I moved the boxes to the only dry spot in the garage. My parents drove up in the mobile land yacht. My sisters, Eleanor and Lenora Jane with her husband, Steve, in the back seat. My sisters and I share about a quarter inch difference between us. No one wore heels today.

“Fannie, Richard, what are you doing here?” my mother asked, annoyance creeping into her tone, “I thought you were finally going to make it to Northwest Trek.”

“Aunt Verla called and said she needed the extra help,” I said, setting the box down, pushing my brown bangs off my face.

My mother wheeled around on Verla, her younger sister. She rose to her full four feet ten inches, towering over her sister by one massive inch. “Verla, you’ve got more than enough family here to help and you know darn well they’ve been trying to go to Northwest Trek for three years now. They didn’t get a honeymoon and now this?”

“Velverlorn, we needed the help,” said Aunt Verla, her back stiffening, her hands on her hips. “What’s done is done.”

The drizzle subsiding, my cousins, Butch and Bud, drove up and parked behind my parents’ car. Watching from the safety of Butch’s Chevy pick-up as their mother squared off with mine.

“Well, let’s get this mess cleaned up then shall we,” my mother said, surveying the silent crowd. “And Verla, you may want to straighten your wig.”

Aunt Verla’s hands flew to her head, color rose to her pale cheeks.

Butch and Bud, the taller, huskier version of my uncle, unloaded the new hot water heater they picked up from the back of the pick-up.

Thirty minutes later Uncle Carl finished draining the tank.  We, the women of the family, finished mopping up the garage.

“Bud, would you throw the circuit breaker to the hot water tank?” Uncle Carl asked, “we don’t want anyone getting a shock.”

Bud opened the control panel. Running his thick finger down the list, he located the breaker for the hot water tank. “We’re good to go.”

Butch and Bud removed the old hot water heater after Richard, with his towering lean frame, disconnected the fixtures on top. My father, brother-in-law Steve, and Richard moved the rest of the boxes out of the way.

Butch lifted the new tank onto the metal stand. Looking over his shoulder, he said, “Richard, hand me those straps, will you?”

Richard handed Butch the metal straps. Bud held them in place as Butch screwed them into the wall. Bud and Butch moved out of the way. Not needing a ladder, Richard connected the wiring and plumbing.

“Okay, shall we test the system folks?” asked Uncle Carl, throwing the circuit breaker.

We held our breath for a minute as Richard check the circuit.  “It’s working.”

“Conrad, since you’re next to the water valve, would you do the honors?” Uncle Carl asked, my father with a flourish and a bow.

My father, his gray horseshoe hairline damp from the drizzle, turned the valve. The water flowed through the pipes and splashed into the tank.

Bud examined the tank. “I don’t see any leaks.”

“Well, it will take a while for the tank to fill and the water to heat up,” Uncle Carl said, “who’s interested in a little lunch? My treat.”

*  *  *

The seasons changed in Western Washington from rain to less rain with an occasional bought of sunshine. The mercury rose to 74º F and the indigenous population complained of the heat wave when they morphed into gelatinous goo.

*  *  *

Richard woke up. The sun rose in a cloudless sky. “Fannie, wake up,” he said, shaking my shoulder, “we should go to Northwest Trek today. What do you think?”

I opened one puffy eye. Looking at him through the fog of early morning, I said, “give me one more hour of sleep and you’re on. Whatever you do, don’t answer the telephone. I really want to go this time.”

Two hours later we walked out of the house. Richard climbed into the cab of the Love Wagon, a red Ford F150 with disco ball and queen futon in the back. I grabbed the bar on the door frame and pulled myself in.

“Are you ready?” I asked, buckling my seat belt.

Richard gripped the steering wheel. “Yes, are you?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” I said. Butterflies danced the Hokey Pokey in my stomach.

Leaving the Olympic Peninsula we crossed the Narrows Bridge heading for the Interstate. The closer we got to the freeway, the more cars joined us. The interchange between Highway 16 and Interstate 5 filled to capacity as we inched our way toward the exit for Highway 7 and freedom.

“Did you expect this kind of traffic at this hour of the morning?” I asked, We exited the collector-distributor onto Highway 7.

“No, but it is our first decent weather of the summer and I think everyone has cabin fever,” Richard said, turning south.

Two miles later the car ahead of us slowed to a stop. A long chain of cars parked on the road ahead of us. Several drivers got out of their cars and walked around as we waited.  A police car, lights flashing, passed us using the sidewalk. Five minutes later a fire truck and aid car used the same route.

“Richard, would you turn on the radio?” I asked, “let’s see if they mention this on the traffic report.”

Richard turned on the radio.

“. . . and in the south sound, there has been a fatal car accident on Highway 7 near 176th St. E. The road will be closed for several hours while the State Patrol investigates. All of the side roads are congested and we suggest you avoid the area if possible. . .”

“Well, how about we turn around and head for home?” Richard asked, checking his mirrors.

“We’ve been sitting here so long it’s almost lunch time, why don’t we pick up something at the grocery store and surprise my parents on the way back?”

“Only if we can have chicken and potato salad,” Richard said his devilish grin spreading across his face. He inched the truck forward.

“You’re on,” I said.

The car ahead of us made a sharp right turn pulling into the empty northbound lane. It back up a few feet. Turning right again it drove out of the area. Richard followed.

Twenty minutes later we cleared the congestion.  We stopped at Safeway picking up a hot roast chicken, potato salad, and a few side dishes from the deli.

Ten minutes later we parked in my parent’s driveway. A neatly manicured yard surrounded a small white house with blue trim. I rang the doorbell.

My mother answered the door in her blue summer housecoat and slippers. “Fannie, Richard, what are you doing here?” she asked. A smile spread across her face.

“We tried to go to Northwest Trek today and didn’t make it,” I said, laughing, “since we were in the neighborhood, we decided to stop by for lunch.” I held up our picnic.

“That is so thoughtful of you.  Come in,” she said, opening the door for us. Leading us down the narrow hallway to the kitchen, she said, “it is so hot, I don’t know how you can handle it.”

“Where’s dad?” I asked, looking around.

My mom pointed with her thumb over her shoulder. “He’s in the backyard trimming the hedge. Why don’t you go get him while I set the table for lunch.”

Richard and I walked out to the back yard.  It sported a twenty foot long strip of grass bordered by 15 foot high Arborvitae. The yard empty.

“Maybe he walked around front to the garage,” I said, “why don’t you go that way and I’ll walk around this side of the house.”

I walked out of the back yard. Following the path on the side of the house I exited into the front yard. Richard met me in the driveway.

“Now that’s weird, did you see him?” I asked, looking back over my shoulder.

“No, do you want to try it again?”

“Sure,” I said, following the same route.

Meeting Richard in the back yard, I shook my head. My father, a stickler for project completion, never left a task before it was finished. He once made me remeasure the den with him three times before we installed wood paneling with the precision of an archaeological dig. If my mother said he was trimming the hedge, he was trimming the hedge.

“Dad, are you back here?” I asked, looking around.

The Arborvitae on the left side of the yard moved.

“I’m over here,” the disembodied voice said.

Scanning the hedge, I asked, “Where are you exactly?”

“I’m in the Arborvitae. Give me a few minutes and I will work my way back out,” he said, the plants rattling with a snail’s urgency in succession.

Richard and I glanced at each other.

“What are you doing in the Arborvitae?” I asked. The hedge shuddered.

“It’s so hot, I got worried about the fire hazard and nesting rodents,” my father’s voice said. “So I decided to cut out all of the dead stuff in the hedge. One thing lead to another and I ended up down here.”

My mother stepped out onto the porch, “what’s taking so long? Where’s your father?”

“I’m over here, dear,” my father said. He emerged from the hedge.

My mother gasped.

Richard and I took a step backwards. Laughter erupting from our bodies.

My father’s pot belly hung out over a red Speedo bikini, twigs and dirt clung to his skin. Sweat acted like an adhesive allowing the bikini to defy gravity. The bikini hung low supporting a hammer, a tape measure and two clippers.

“Conrad,” Richard said, gasping from laughter, “I must say that is the most creative use for a bikini I’ve ever seen.”

Laughter shaking my body like a cheap motel bed and one too many quarter, I said, “Oh my god, dad, I’ll be scarred for life,”

My mother’s jaw hung open.

“Hey, it’s hot out here and I wanted to be comfortable. I wouldn’t be out of place . . . say in Florida.”

“Conrad, you may have the perfect marketing idea for Florida, the Speedo Tool Belt, comfortable, fashionable, and versatile.” Richard laughed on the verge of snorting.

 *  *  *

Two years later I visited Northwest Trek with our neighbors from Texas, George and Bunny.

Richard and I still haven’t been there together yet, but the way I figure it, we will get there way before we get our honeymoon.

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Carew Papritz, Cowboy Author

Fannie Cranium:

This month’s contribution to the BoFN. Our first cowboy author, Carew Papritz.

Originally posted on The Blog of Funny Names:

There comes a time in every funny names aficionado’s life when you come across a person so well named, so compelling named you need to talk about it. This is one of those times.

I’m sitting in the Writer’s Cafe at a writer’s conference doing the “writerly-thing”—figuring out what session I’m attending next. Halfway down the the page, a session called “How Do I sell a Million Books and Never Leave the Author’s Cave?”

Score, I’m all over it.

Then I see the presenter’s name.

Meet Carew (pronounced cah-roo´) Papritz author of “The Legacy Letters” and a bona fide cowboy to boot. He’s no Alfalfa Desperado.

Carew introduced himself as a renaissance man in an age that lauds specialist. Wearing a cowboy hat, vest, large belt buckle on his blue jeans and cowboy boots, he spoke to our writerly souls—addressing a group of writers, an audience separated by large…

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The Caber Toss—Redux II

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” story 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. 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 never taking a breath, “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 his arm between the board and vacuum.

A scream ripped down the walls. I ran into the hallway.

“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 older sister, Lenora Jane with her husband Steve, and my younger sister, 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’s chest 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. 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.

The conquerors returned home.

Aunt Verla never mentioned it again.

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Llama Poo Day Redux

Thank you for joining me for the summer redux series. I will be 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 “Llama Poo Day” story posted back in May 2012. It’s been embellished a little since then.

* * *

“I want to thank everyone for coming to this year’s garden party and plant sale,” LuAnne said, waving lavender-colored garden-gloved hands wide like she was hosting an elegant dinner party. “Before you leave I have a gift for each of you. Follow me.” She waltzed to the back of her yard. Leading us to the light-gray, 8-foot by 12-foot garden shed with hand stenciled daffodils on the walls. She opened the sliding glass door. And pulled out a 32-gallon trash can filled with llama manure and earthworms.

“Everybody grab a container. I’ll shovel it in for you.” LuAnne plunged the shovel into the trashcan loosening the rich nutrients. A scent filled the air. One part earthy, one part decomposition, one part strong manure. “Fannie, grab an extra bucket, I want to give you and Richard one each.”

“You know LuAnne,” I said, my eyes watering, my throat catching, “somehow thank you doesn’t quite cut it. So in the immortal words of your father, ‘I wouldn’t normally take crap from anyone, but for you, I’ll make an exception.’”

“Well, you won’t thank me if you don’t get the lids locked down before you put it in the truck,” LuAnne said, laughing.

Richard, my six-foot five-inch husband with crystal blue eyes, grabbed the forty-pound bucket. At a towering five-feet tall, I lugged the 30-pound bonus pack. Stopping twice, bruising my shins twice, and stubbing my toes twice on the way to the Love Wagon, our red Ford F150, with queen futon and disco ball in the back. Only we removed the futon to haul plants this trip.

“Fannie, this is great,” Richard said, placing the bucket into the back of the pick-up truck. “We can work the poo into the soil today. I can’t wait to get home.”

Handing him the bonus pack and wiping the sweat on the sleeve of my black and white striped rugby shirt, I said, “Well it shouldn’t take more than an hour to get home from here unless the traffic is backed up.”

Richard secured the plants we purchased and bungied the buckets.

The May sun warmed the air and the truck canopy. The aroma filled the truck cab. Merging onto Interstate 5 in Seattle, we rolled the windows down, preventing Niagara Falls from pouring out of our eyes and filling the cab.

“You know what my favorite part of llama poo day is?” I asked, trying to distract myself from the stench.

Richard shook his head.

“When we’re finished and the squirrels roll all over the ground like they just ate catnip and coffee beans.”

Laughing, Richard said, “If we only had a camera to film it.”

Forty minutes later we rounded the Fife curve heading into Tacoma. The Tacoma Dome came into view.

Just ahead of us, a white 1995 Cadillac DeVille drifted into the next lane clipping the front of an old blue Ford Ranger. Cars swerved out of the way. The sedan spun around ripping off its front bumper and clipping a black Suburban sending the Suburban across three lanes of traffic. It shoved two compact cars ahead of it like the cattle guard on a train. The cars and Suburban hit the median. The Suburban popped up. It straddled the on-ramp median. And crushed the trunk of one of the compacts.

The 1965 red Ford Mustang coming down the on ramp side swiped the Suburban, striking the lead compact car sending it spinning around to face on coming traffic.

“Richard, watch out,” I said, my voice reached a falsetto pitch that should break glass. I grabbed the dash board. My heart punched my ribs trying to get away.

Richard slammed on the brakes and swerved to the left, missing the spinning bumper as it dashed across the lane into the railing. The plants and forty pound container broke free of their bindings and hurled into the cab wall with a thud. The thirty pound container followed crashing into the forty pound bucket. A lid burst. Manure exploded into the canopied area.

Clearing the accident Richard pulled over to the side of the road.

“You okay?” Richard asked, shaking.

“Yeah, you?” I asked, my heart slowing now attempting to exit my throat back into my chest.

“Yeah, but I don’t even want to look in back.” Richard ran his fingers through his short, thick brown hair.

We looked over our shoulders.

“Oh god,” I said.

Ten pounds of manure repositioned itself across the back of the truck.

“Can you tell if any of the plants were damaged?” I asked, craning my neck.

“I can’t tell from here. We’ll have to wait until we get home.”

With the traffic stopped behind us, we pulled back on to the freeway and headed home.

“I hope we don’t see anyone until we get this mess cleaned up,” I said, when we drove down our street.

George and Bunny Gutierrez stood at the end of their driveway across the street from our house waving at us. We adopted them when they landed here from Texas. Bunny’s transition to the Pacific “north-wet” lifestyle akin to Dorothy visiting Oz. Richard pulled up beside them.

“Honey, I guess I don’t have to asked if you got your manure,” Bunny said, with her refined Texas accent. Her long blond hair swept back into a pony tail behind her head, crowning her statuesque figure. Her up-turned nose trying to crawl into her face. Her pony tail whipping flies.

“What did you do Richard?” George asked, with his soft spoken Texas accent. A contrast to the bass voice emanating from his lineman’s frame. A pencil-thin, black mustache and goatee framing his mouth. He waved his ham-sized hand in front of his face, “Fill the back end of your truck?” He nodded toward the manure on the windows of the canopy.

“We avoided an accident on the way home, but the plants and manure didn’t do so well,” Richard said, shaking his head. His tenor tones taking a step up the scale. His cheeks a fetching shade of pink. “Now we’re left with this,” he said, pointing at the back.

“Well, honey, let me get my dungarees on and I’ll be right over to help,” Bunny said.

Richard backed the truck into the driveway.

I hopped out of the cab. Standing on tip-toes, I peered through the side window. “It’s too dark to see for sure,” I said, biting my lower lip. “I’ll grab the coveralls and gloves.”

“I’ll get the shop vac and cleaning supplies,” Richard said, walking with me into the well-organized garage where even pine needles feared to tread.

Bunny arrived in time for the big unveiling. Richard opened the canopy door. The stench of hot manure wafted over us. We took a step back.

I experienced a sewer gas leak when I was a kid. My mom poured water down the pipe. No more smell. Mere water would not even come close to extinguishing this manure’s piquant flavor.

“Honey, that’s not for the faint of heart,” Bunny said, her eyes watering beyond onion tears.

Richard lowered the tail gate. Two tomato plants lay on their side. Part of their dirt spread out in a fan pattern. The rest of the plants snug in their cardboard containers pressed against the far end of the truck bed. A tie-dye pattern of manure covered the truck bed and canopy. A dozen or so earthworms squirmed along the bed.

“I guess it could be worse,” I said, tucking my sleeves into my gloves.

“How?” Richard asked, holding his nose.

“It could have been all seventy pounds,” I said, commandeering my husband’s devilish grin for the occasion.

“Fannie, honey, what is that?” Bunny asked, pointing to the small brown and silver object hanging from the canopy ceiling.

“That’s our disco ball. It looks like it could use a bath too,” I said, frowning.

Bunny looked from Richard to me, one eyebrow taking the street car to the top of her forehead.

Richard laughed. “Now that you’ve opened that can of worms Fannie, you may as well tell her.”

I took a deep breath. “We bought the truck for hauling and camping,” I said. “When we camp, we use a queen-sized futon, which fits perfectly. Richard christened the truck The Love Wagon. I told one of the in-laws about it. She and I decided the only thing missing was a disco ball. So she sent us miniaturized one. How could we not hang it?”

Laughing, Bunny said, “Well then we will need to make sure we get The Love Wagon clean enough for camping. I’m sure you’ll be able to restore the disco ball to its former glory.” Her refined Texas accent wobbling.

Bunny and I carried the plants and the unopened bucket of manure to the greenhouse.

Richard picked up each worm and placed them in the container. Using a hand trowel, he scooped the loose manure back into the bucket.

Bunny and I lugged two five-gallon containers filled with hot, soapy bleach water out to the driveway. Richard dipped rags into the water and passed them in. We scrubbed the interior of the truck until the earthy odor disappeared. Richard swiped Q-tips into every exposed crevice until they came out clean.

The disco ball soaked in its personal spa waiting to return to the spot light.

Disco Ball Day Spa

“Bunny, thank you for all of your help, it would have taken forever without you,” I said, sitting on the tail gate wiping sweat from my forehead on a clean dry rag.

“Fannie, honey, you two get into more scrapes than Tom Sawyer, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” Bunny said, grinning. Her pony tail wiggled. “What on earth is wrong with that squirrel?” Her tone implying it was tripping on drugs.

Fifteen feet from the truck a large gray squirrel rolled over three times. Pausing long enough to scratch its ear, it looked at us. Rolling onto its back it used its shoulders and hips to scoot back to its original location.

“I must have spilled some of the llama poo over there when I carried the container to the back yard,” Richard said, laughing.

Bunny’s pony tail bobbed. “Priceless.”

“Welcome to the best part of llama poo day,” I said, with a wink.

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That Little Raisin, Redux II

Thank you for joining me for the summer redux series. I will be 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 “That Little Raisin” story posted back in September 2011. It’s been embellished a little since then.

* * *

“Richard, there’s been an accident, I’m going to be late.”

“Are you okay?” Richard asked, worry tinging his voice.

“I’m fine, but traffic is going to be snarled for hours. You may as well go ahead and have dinner without me.”

“I’ll save something for you,” he said.

* * *

Richard drove to our local supermarket. He poured over each case in the deli. Guiding the woman behind the counter, he selected his favorite decadent morsels. In the wine department, he chose a bottle of Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon.

He passed the floral department on his way to check out. The clerk smiled at him. She dropped three dozen roses into a five-gallon paint bucket.

“Are you getting rid of those?” he asked, stopping in front of the bucket.

“I sure am,” she said, “they won’t last another day,”.

“Can I take them off your hands?” he asked, a smile touching the corner of his lips.

“I can’t give them to you. I would have to sell them to you. However, I’m going on break soon. I can leave them outside before I take them to the dumpster. If they aren’t there when I get back, I’ll assume someone took them to the dumpster for me,” she said, with a wink.

Richard grabbed the roses on the way to the car.

Once home, he rummaged through the linen closet for a table cloth. In the living room, he cleared the coffee table. He unfurled the red table cloth. It billowed in the air for a moment. He centered it on the table.

He raided the china hutch for plates, napkins and candles. For the final touch, a bud vase with a single rose.

Grabbing the rest of the roses, he started in the laundry room and left a trail of petals leading into the living room. With over two dozen roses left, he spread petals over the living room floor.

Hands on his hips, he nodded. A small smile touched his lips.

What to wear? Richard pulled a black button-down shirt from the closet, shook his head and threw it on the bed. He scratched his head for a moment. He pulled a black t-shirt from the top shelf. Scanning the closet he found his silver slacks.

His stomach growled. He grabbed a box of raisins from the pantry. Stepping on tip toes he crossed the petal strewn floor.

Lying on the sofa, he removed a raisin from the box, threw it into the air and caught it with his mouth. Two raisins took flight, one landed in his mouth, the other deflected off his chin onto his chest. Two more raisins flew, then three. With the box emptied, he rounded up the misfires, and ate them at his leisure.

One hour passed since the call.

Richard switched on the television. A lone raisin rolled down a wrinkle on his t-shirt and came to rest on his right side.  He leaned back on the sofa causing the raisin to follow the track made by his shirt toward his back.

Squirming, he laid down on his left side. The raisin moved with him. A fold formed on the back of his shirt as he scooted down the sofa. He fluffed the pillow. The raisin nestled into the middle of his back. He fell asleep.

The flash of headlights woke him. He removed the goody platter from the refrigerator and tip toed like the Grinch at Christmas into the living room.  He lit the candles, opened the wine, and cued up the stereo. He laid down on the sofa.

* * *

I entered a darkened house. The smell of roast garlic mingled with roses.  A trail of rose petals led out of the laundry room.

I followed the rose petals to the living room.

Nat King Cole’s voice floated through the air, singing “Tenderly”.

The heady perfume of roses permeated the air. Two wine glasses reflected a bottle of Cabernet in the candle light. A platter with sliced baguette, roasted garlic, paté, humus, sliced strawberries, and peeled grapes, surrounded by assorted cheeses. Linen napkins with brass rings lay upon two china plates.

Laying on the sofa, Richard said, “Welcome home, honey, I’ve prepared dinner.”

“Did I forget our anniversary? I know it’s not Valentine’s Day.”

Sitting up, he said, “Can’t a man make dinner for his wife?  Come on, sit down and enjoy.” He patted the seat next to him.

“Richard, this is so amazing, thank you.”

He spread paté on a slice of baguette. Offering it to me. I sucked some of the paté from his finger tips.

“I see you’re wearing my favorite outfit,” I said, leaning forward.

A wicked smile spread across his face, he said, “You noticed, huh.”

I smiled.

“Would you like a glass of wine?” he asked, holding up the bottle.

I nodded. Richard’s eyes widened mid-poured.

“Is everything all right?”

“I’ll let you know in a minute,” he said. He thrust his hand into the back of his pants, fished around, smiled and drew out something small and brown. He popped it into his mouth and chewed.

My short brown hair stood on end, I asked, “Was that ah, ah, ah?”

I could not bring myself to say what I thought aloud. My stomach formed a Celtic knot.

“Yummy,” he said, smiling with his devilish grin.

“Oh, no, no, no, no, no,” I stammered. “You didn’t.” The knot in my stomach took the express elevator to my feet.

“I didn’t what?” he asked, arching one eyebrow.

“Richard, you just ate poop.”

“I did not.”

“You did too. I just saw you,” I said, my voice cracked.

“Fannie you should see the look on your face. By the way, I did not eat poop, as you so delicately put it. I ate a raisin.” Indignation flooded his voice.

“A raisin?” I asked, my mind reeled.

“Yeah, I was hungry and didn’t want to finish off our little meal here. So I ate a box of raisins to tide me over.  While I waited, I got bored and tossed them in the air and caught them with my mouth.  I missed a few times, but I thought I found ‘em all.”

“You just ate a raisin off your butt?” I asked, the color leaving my face and heading toward my stomach.

“That’s the beauty of it, the five second rule doesn’t apply.”

My hands clutching my stomach, I said, “I think I’m gonna to be sick,”

“It was just a raisin.”

“That’s not what it looked like,” I said, fanning my right hand in front of my face, warding off nausea.

“I think I finally bested you in our grosser than gross contest,” he said, pulling his shoulders back. His grin over running his face. “How many years have we been married?”

I stared at him.

“Never mind,” he said, his shoulders dropped. “Here, have a glass of wine. It will take your mind off it.”

I don’t remember drinking it. The candle reflected in the empty glass catching the rim of red liquid on the bottom.

“Do you want another refill?” he asked.

I nodded, unable to focus.

“I suppose this means we won’t be having sex later?” he asked, his face hopeful.

My lips pursed. Dark clouds formed between us.

“I’ll take that as a no,” he said, the tone of his voice trailed off somewhere between the sofa and the dog house.



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Ransom Eli Olds, Inventor, Automater: Darn, Did I Give That One Away?

Fannie Cranium:

This month’s contribution to the Blog of Funny Names. Sorry I’m late in responding to comments. I’ve been on the road. Safe travels everyone.

Originally posted on The Blog of Funny Names:

Some names speak greatness. Ransom Eli Olds is a doozy. Let’s take stock here. His father, Pliny Fiske Olds married Sarah Whipple and great things happened.

In 1889 Ransom married Metta Ursula Woodard. Off to a rolling start.

By 1894 Ransom claims to have built his first steam car and in 1896 he followed up with his first gasoline powered automobile.

Olds Pirate Racing Car driven by the man himself on a Florida beach. He could have said,  "Avast there matey. Get out of me way or I'll run ye over." Olds Pirate Racing Car driven by the man himself on a Florida beach. He could have said, “Avast there matey. Get out of me way or I’ll run ye over.” But he didn’t. He left them in his dust.

Ransom invented the modern day assembly line. I know, I thought that was a Ford invention, too. Ford borrowed the idea.

Watch out trivia night people, we’re just warming up.

He formed the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in Lansing, Michigan in 1897. Needing an infusion of cash, the company was…

View original 390 more words

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Bunny Meets Sandals and Sock, Oh My! Redux II

Happy 4th of July to our American readers. To those of you outside the states,  you might enjoy meeting Bunny not long after she and George moved to the Pacific Northwest. The original story posted in October 2011. It’s been embellished since.

 *  *  *

The mid-morning sun crested the giant cedar trees on Saturday, June 25th. It rays spread across Gig Harbor, Washington. Reflecting off the immaculate white cement driveway in front of George and Bunny Gutierrez’s home. Not a single speck of moss in sight.

“George, honey, what on earth are they wearing?” Bunny asked, with her refined Texas accent. Her long blond hair swept back into a pony tail behind her head, crowning her statuesque figure. Her eyebrows arching enough to cause her pony tail to go out of sync.

He scanned the street.

“Who, darlin’, are you talking about?” asked George, with his soft spoken Texas accent. A contrast to the bass voice emanating from his lineman’s frame. A pencil thin black mustache and goatee framing his mouth.

“Over there.” she said, pointing across the street. “Would you look at Richard and Fannie.  “They can’t seriously be going out in public dressed like that?”

“Well, it is a bit unusual, but I’m sure they have a good explanation,” he said, with his usual calm.

“Well I’m sorry, I can’t let them leave looking like that, it just isn’t right,” Bunny said. Her pony tail bobbing at an angle as though it took on a life of its own.

George put his arm around her waist and held her back. “You may not leave this driveway until you are rational. Don’t make me carry you into the house.”

“George, you wouldn’t dare,” Bunny said. Fire flared in her blue eyes.

“Bunny, I love you enough to keep you from making a spectacle of yourself in front of the neighbors. Now if you can calm down, we’ll both walk over and speak to them like the civilized human beings that we are.”

George let her go. Bunny stood tall. She measured him for a moment.

“Very well, George, follow me,” she said, her back stiffening.

Bunny marched across the street. George trotted behind her.

Before Bunny could say anything, George called out, “Hey y’all, where’re you headed?”

“We’re going to camp a couple days at Surprise Lake up on the Pacific Crest Trail. Thought we’d hike in and do some fishing,” Richard said, putting the tent in the back of the Love Wagon. A red Ford F150 sporting a queen futon and disco ball.

Leaning forward, Bunny blurted, “What on earth are you wearing?”

“Hiking clothes?” I asked, running my fingers through my short brown hair.

“I can see that. I meant on your feet,” said Bunny, putting her hands on her hips.

We looked at our feet. A smile possessed my lips.

“You’ve never seen sandals?” I asked, my evil twin taking over. “They don’t have sandals in Texas?”

“Fannie, do not toy with me, you know very well what I’m talking about.” Her southern lilt tilting.

“Bunny, it’s 65 degrees out here, it’s too warm to wear our boots. Besides, we may have to cross a couple of streams and our feet might get wet,” I said, “they’ll need to dry out.”

Shaking her head as if wagged by her pony tail, Bunny said, “Honey, I cannot in all honesty, let you all leave here wearing socks with your sandals. It’s just not done.”

Richard and I laughed.

“Oh, that’s what’s eating you,” Richard said, his tall lean frame making him look like a flag pole next to George. “I couldn’t figure out what you were talking about.”

“Bunny, you haven’t lived here long enough yet. It’s customary here to wear hiking socks with sandals because the weather can be very iffy,” I said, my eyes twinkling.

“Fannie, we have lived here for six months. I’ve never seen anyone in their right mind wearing wool socks with sandals,” Bunny said.

“Darlin’, remember when we were in Florida, we saw several people wearing socks with sandals,” George said.

“George, they were old and wearing trouser socks. Clearly they were suffering from senility.”

“Bunny, if I can prove to you I’m not making this up, will you calm down?” I asked.

Bunny stared at me for a few moments.

“All right, if you can prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, I will. But if you can’t, the socks come off,” she said, crossing her arms over her chest.

George leaned toward Richard. He whispered, “She better know what she’s doing or all hell is going to break loose.”

Richard smiled at George. He whispered, “Trust me, she does.”

“Bunny, would you please follow me into the house?” I asked, leading the way.

I fired up the Garronculator. I clicked on our favorite link. The video started.

Bunny’s jaw dropped to the floor.

“Bunny, darlin’, I don’t think I have ever seen you speechless before,” George said, shaking his head. To me, he said, “You know that wouldn’t fly in any other part of the country because no one would believe it?”

“Bunny, I’d be happy to get you the trading card if you want,” I said, suppressing the laughter.

Her jaw worked up and down a few times. She took the mouse away from me, scooted me out of the chair and started searching PEMCO’s website.

“This is a real company?” she asked.

“Yes, they are as local as they come,” I said.

“You’re not trying to pull one over on me?”

“No, they’re real. Go to the Better Business Bureau’s website if you don’t believe me.”

Bunny typed it in faster than I could say it.

“Honey, I can’t believe this, you’re not making this up.”


“Sandals and socks?”


“Fannie, honey, I’ll never be caught dead in sandals and socks,” she said, her pony tail vibrating, “and this will take some getting used to.”

“Trust me,” said Richard, “you’ll see a lot of people wearing them during the fall.”

“Un huh,” Bunny said, staring at the monitor.

“Bunny,” I said, my grin causing my dimples to double exponentially, “welcome to the Pacific Northwest.”

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