Tag Archives: Humor

Out Damned Spot!

A woman who cleaned with great zeal

peeled back her Good Housekeeping Seal

to find the damn thing left a telltale ring

that diminished the honor’s appeal.

(Note: This limerick was written as a Writers Kickstart prompt on the topic Good Housekeeping.)

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That’s Rich!

“Anything good?” Freeman asked, while dumpster diving behind a splendid restaurant with best friend Mo and acting as the lookout.

“Dunno yet,” Moe said from deep inside the dumpster, “but something smells good.”

The two men were once neighborhood regulars in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, but increased drug trafficking, political demonstrations and drunken crowds from pro sporting events had chased them north along Aurora Avenue to downtown Everett in the vicinity of Hewitt and Colby avenues.

“Check this,” Moe said, handing Freeman a remnant of steak. “I think it’s filet mignon.”

“What’s that brown stuff on it? Mustard?” Freeman asked.

“No, I think that’s foie gras.”

“What’s that?”

“Force-fed goose liver. Popular in France. Rich people like it slathered on meat. Or a cracker. Kinda like caviar.”

“Don’t care for caviar,” Freeman said. “Too salty.”

“Give it a lick, and tell me what you think,” Moe replied. “There’s more here if you like it.”

Freeman ran his finger over the meat and then over his tongue.

“Tastes kinda rich, but not bad!” he said, savoring the taste for only a moment before taking a full bite of steak. “I do believe it adds something to the meat. And the beef ain’t half-bad to begin with.”

“Think so?” said Moe, still deep inside the dumpster and talking through his own mouthful of food. “Gotta watch myself. Rich food doesn’t agree with me. Got a fussy gall bladder. Heartburn troubles, too.”

Freeman was about to concur when a door in the alley suddenly flew open and a dishwasher from restaurant emerged with a fresh can of refuse.

“Get outta here, bum,” the worker called out as Freeman dropped the dumpster lid and sped away on foot. The dishwasher then muttered something about needing a lock as he lifted the lid and dumped the contents of his can on Moe before going back inside.

“Moe, Moe, you all right,” Freeman said after slipping back.

“Yeah, great,” Moe replied. “He got me good. Covered in bisque, crab and some other shellfish . . . Oh, my god, its oysters Rockefeller!”

“Save me some.”

“Would you like bread with that, Sir? Some salad perhaps? We have what once looked like a lovely Caesar here. Or a house salad with blue cheese.”

“Gimme the blue cheese. You know I don’t like Caesar,” Freeman said. “All that raw egg. Can’t be too careful about what you eat.”

“I hear you, man,” Moe replied. “Bad enough just eating the stuff you recognize. Even at that, I’ve read some food nowadays has crushed up beaver anal gland – castoreum they call it – mixed in as a natural flavor additive.”

Stop,” Freeman said, “you’re making me sick.”

“It’s probably the foie gras,” Moe replied. “It’ll pass. Just have a cigarette – although I hear there’s castoreum in ciggies, too.”

“Great,” Freeman said. “Next time I see someone coming, I’ll just slap the pavement with my tail.”

(Note:  This was written as Writers Kickstart prompt (500 words or less) on the topic, That’s Rich.)

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A Haunting Image

Funny sometimes how easy it is to get your buttons pushed.

Walking my dogs the other day, I got slightly wigged, passing a yard with a Halloween chicken holding a human limb in its beak.

Chickens kinda weird me out, especially big ones. Like to eat ’em, but don’t care to mingle with live ones. Touched on this previously in a prompt called Squeamish Scouts.

I can thank my mom for this phobia. She put the fear of God into me about chickens when I was a toddler. My folks were tenant farmers in Fort Ransom, N.D., when I was born, and my mom kept a flock of chickens as egg-producers and occasional table fare. The birds would rush to her in the yard, and if I was with her she’d always scoop me up for fear the birds would peck me in the eyes.  She told me that story many times when I was growing up to explain my general uneasiness about handling birds.

My dad contributed to the mystique by saying Mom’s birds were like pets and a bit on the aggressive side. In my mind, my mother’s chickens were all monster-sized, as big as I was. Quick fuckers, too. Quicker and faster than I was. Never mind flying monkeys, these were winged nightmares with claws and bird brains tuned to only one station: peck-and-kill . . . peck-and-kill . . .  peck-and-kill.   The giant two-headed bird from “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” movie (1958) creeped me out worse than any snakes or spiders. All I could  do to sit through Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” too.

My Uncle Ole raised chickens in a big way and once took me into his bird barn that housed something like 600 birds in a single room.  Still haunted today by memories of the half-dozen birds in that room at the tail end of the pecking order.

Not so many years ago, a good friend  had a fighting cock as a pet, and no dog was ever a better watch guard than that feathered little fuck. He didn’t fly well, but he flew well enough to perch atop a swing set in the yard, and I swear that he laid for me every time I visited.  If he wasn’t on the swing set, he’d come a runnin’ when you drove up and try to peck your ankle as you stepped from the car.  I threatened to punt the little pecker into the next county on a number of occasions, by my pal always sided with his bird and made me behave.

Geese were also a bitch for me while growing up because I’d seen them chase people, bite them and beat them with their wings. Turkeys weren’t so bad, but peacocks always gave me the willies, and still do in stalking mode.  I don’t really mind birds so much any more. But let’s just say I’d be in the last in line to pet an emu or ostrich.

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Welcome to the Fun House

My greyhound BB has a recently adopted sister named Jane, who since leaving the Greyhound Pets, Inc. kennel  has started publishing a blog (crackerjacjane.com) about off-track living.

Now BB wants to write a blog, too, and I told her, “Cut out eating poop in the yard, and we’ll talk about it.”

So I have that going for me while addressing other behavioral issues.

Having raised one daughter and six other adopted greyhounds,  all girls,  I thought I knew a few things about females (not all of which pertain to my wife, who remains a wild card).

Here’s BB’s mug shot from the GPI lineup. Her racing name was Bouncing Body.

My credo:  Spoil ’em but try to keep ’em in the yard. I had just three responses to my daughter as she was growing up:  Yes! Hell, yes! And, well . . . OK!  Then again, I worked nights, so my wife did most of the hardcore parenting. Thank goodness my wife was there to blow the whistle and throw an occasional penalty flag. Can’t be so lenient with BB or I might wind up with another Goth phase on my hands. BB already is black, and so are her lips and nails. We met halfway on a black collar with red  polka dots. No spikes or chains allowed, and we don’t use the muzzle for a fashion statement.

BB, age 3,  came to us as a special needs girl with traits in the doggy autism spectrum, including social deficits, communication difficulties, and stereotyped or repetitive behaviors.  She was useless as a racer and was farmed out for adoption with two of her sisters when they were just  one year old, about the time that most racers begin training.  Unlike most greyhounds, all three of the sisters were extremely timid with other dogs, combative with each other  and shied from any human contact. When I first brought her home, BB would  have nothing to do with anyone or my older dog Chatterbox and preferred the sanctuary of a dog crate in my living room.  I had to pull her from the crate to get her to go outside for turnouts, and when loose in the yard she’d pace the fence line incessantly and run from any human contact.

I think she knew her name. But come when you’d call? Not a chance. Unless you’re my wife, who could coax a nut from a squirrel. Squeak toys worked best to get BB’s attention and entice her back into the house.

We adopted BB because GPI needed to clear space for new dogs coming,  most other potential adopters prefer dogs they can at least touch, and my wife loves a greyhound challenge.

It’s taken several months, including three with BB living in the crate, but she’s made great strides in sociability.  My wife and I can pet her now, although BB remains easily spooked and skittish around other people, including my daughter and her boyfriend.  BB and Chatterbox get along just fine, and we now bring an occasional third dog into the mix by dog-sitting other greys.  BB and Chatterbox both prefer napping on our bed and both like to sleep with us at night, although we usually invoke the three-body, eight-leg rule in bed, unless there’s a thunderstorm or fireworks going off in the neighborhood.

Having Chatterbox in the house to speak dog and communicate telepathically has greatly aided BB’s adjustment. Still, the new dog is easily frightened by any strange noise or movement. My daughter equates BB’s existence to living in a carnival fun house, with a potential scary surprise lurking around every corner.  It’s a slow process with frequent tests of patience, but we’ve managed to gain trust. BB’s not much of a kisser, but nobody minds that because of the poop thing.

Who knows,  if BB gets past the poop eating and starts blogging, I might even soften up about the spiked collar.

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Inner-Tube Baseball

Long before there were video games or paint-ball guns, my buddy Gale and I developed a game of our own called inner-tube baseball. It was an offshoot of Whiffle ball after our last plastic ball either caved in from overuse or got belted into the neighbor’s blackberries.

All you needed for inner-tube baseball was a wood bat and an inner tube like any of the ones we all used to float down the Pilchuck River in the summers of our youth. But the game was unique in that you could only play it in my backyard, because of the ground rules.

Muttsy was a pitcher’s best friend in inner-tube baseball, unless his chain on the drag wire cracked you in the head.

Pitching and hitting was  simple. You rolled the inner tube toward the batter, and he smacked it with the bat. Any tube rolling past the pitcher was a single. Past the pitcher in the air was a double. Past the pitcher and over my dog Muttsy’s elevated drag wire was a home run. The drag wire ran half the length of our backyard,  six to seven feet off the ground, between the garage and the catalpa tree,  just this side of the clothesline. The foul lines ran from home plate to the grape arbor in left field and from home to the corner of the chicken coop in right.  Home plate to the drag wire was maybe 25  feet. There were also two fielding hazards to consider: 1) a raised water spigot roughly 12 inches high in right-center, and 2) Muttsy getting excited by any passing person or animal and racing blindly across the field, pulling his chain along the drag wire and head-smacking anyone in the way.

There was no baserunning in inner-tube baseball.  Every swing was either a hit or an out. Any tube snagged in the air was an out, whether it cleared the drag wire or not, and anything smothered before getting past the pitcher was also an out. Two tubes hit foul or any tube that happened to strike Muttsy, fair or foul, also constituted an out.

And, as a carryover from plastic baseball, you had to announce who you were before every at-bat:  Mantle . . . Mays . . . Maris . . .  Yastrzemski . . . Frank or Brooks Robinson  . . .  Clemente . . .  Kaline . . .  Aaron . . . Alou (any of the three) . . .  Frank Howard . . . Boog Powell . . . Tony Oliva.  Gale favored the Giants and the Orioles, while I liked the Yankees and Twins. Gale’s dad once duck-hunted with Harmon Killebrew, so that made him a dual favorite in my yard.

It was mostly a game of strength, as you had to hit it well to clear the drag wire. Anything popped up was  caught, so you had to hit liners or launch like Willie McCovey. Grounders down either line had a chance to get through, but anything  up the middle on the ground was an easy out.

Being stronger, Gale had the upper hand from the start. Then my big brother Skip waded in to challenge the winner and he dominated.

“Way to go, dumbass,” he taunted me, “inventing a game that you can’t beat anyone at!”

That eventually spelled the end for inner-tube baseball. That and the drag wire getting broken or pulled down so many times that it no longer functioned as a measuring rod or a dog restraint.

Still, it was fun while it lasted. Even if I never beat anyone.

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Gator Baiter

It was a probably a bad idea in the first place for Ned “Buck” Tyler to flip off the impatient biker  trying to get around his shiny Airstream trailer with the “Buckeye Buck” banner on the gravel road leading from Gator Lake in central Florida.

The finger from the Ohio State football junkie went up in answer to the biker’s shaking fist as the speeding motorcycle approached the diver’s side window of Ned’s scarlet and gray Suburban, en route to the OSU-Florida game in Gainesville after an overnight stop to buy booze, sex and some alligator meat. Ned didn’t actually intend to run the biker off the road, but he lost control a bit on the loose gravelGator face with only one hand on the wheel and drifted over enough to push the biker onto the soft shoulder and subsequently off the road and into a swamp water bath.

“Whoa, sorry there, pal,” Tyler uttered, although not sorry enough to stop, or even slow down. “That’s what you get for messin’ with the Buck.”

Buck Tyler always had an inflated image of himself ever since playing sousaphone in the OSU matching band and, more than once, getting to dot the “i” in the band’s script OHIO halftime maneuver. An insufferable Buckeye booster ever since, he bought the Airstream to supply home luxury at every OSU road football game he could get to, pulling into tailgate areas on Friday afternoons and usually staying until they threw him out on Sunday night or Monday morning.

He hit Gainesville right on schedule and made himself at home, cranking up the OSU fight song to play incessantly and setting up Lois, his bodacious Buckeye mannequin cheerleader with the nicest pompoms you ever saw, outside the trailer door. He then started to grill gator steaks, drink heavily and swap barbs with all the Florida fans within shouting distance, promising everyone a sound thrashing on game day.

The Gator baiting went on past midnight, when a drunken Buck finally retired for the night, unaware of the swamp-stinky figure that strolled into the tailgate area looking for the Airstream with the Buckeye Buck banner. Next morning,  when security was called to determine what had happened, funny how nobody had seen or heard anything.

They found the Suburban inoperable from a half-rotten gator snout stuffed into the tailpipe. Lois lay headless, armless and topless, wearing only a pair of men’s UF swim trunks with a cucumber stuffed inside the front, while her head, arms, cheer suit and pompoms smoldered nearby next to a half-can of kerosene.

There was a gaping hole in the back of the trailer, where someone appeared to have cut through with a chain saw, but there was no sign of Buckeye Buck.

“Hmmm,” the security chief muttered as he surveyed the damages. “Fella must’ve gone a little overboard with his partying last night. Gonna have to write him up for that open fire!”

(Note: This was written as a Writers Kickstart prompt containing the following elements: an Airstream trailer with back ripped off, a sousaphone, a rotten alligator snout, a half-can of kerosene and a headless, armless female mannequin in men’s swim trunks.)

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Taking Five

 “Jeez, I need a drink!”

“There, there, Annie, have some Kool-Aid,” June said cheerfully, as she filled a Dixie cup on the table in the bible school teachers’ break room.

“Jell-O shot would be more like it,” Annie shot back. “Where do these kids come from? Their parents must be zoo animals!”

“I hear you,” said Betty, holding a battery-powered fan near her neck with her eyes closed. “I got one boy who can’t keep his fingers out of his nose — unless they’re in his mouth. And he’s worn the same t-shirt for three days! Still has the grape juice stain from Monday, and here it is Wednesday! Who bathes this kid? Who dresses him?”

“Think you’ve got it bad? I’ve got pee stink,” chimed in Holly between puffs from a Marlboro, which she exhaled through a window. “Someone in my class wet themself, and it’s dried and I’m not sure who the culprit is. But in this heat, it’s like someone put a cat box under the table. Makes my eyes water!”

“Now, now, they’re just children. Everyone just relax and have a cookie,” June cooed.

“Children from hell!” Betty responded, with open eyes. “Snotty, noisy and stinky with the attention span of chickens. And I’ve got a whiner: ‘Everyone’s picking on me. Joey touched me! Trudy made a face!’  Little sniveler, I just want to tell her to shut up!”

“We’re just a free lunch and day care for most of these kids,” Annie added. “The parents don’t give a hoot about Christian education. Never see them in church. Just dump the kids off and don’t look back. Off to work – if they even have a job – or off to the salon, or the beach, or the couch or wherever there’s happy hour.”

“Ladies, please!” said the matronly April Strutt, June’s mother and the bible school coordinator, entering with a rush that threatened to turn all into pillars of salt. “We’re just three days into this, with two more to go, and we can’t lose anyone at this point.

“I’ve been doing this for 27 years, and, believe me, I’ve just about seen it all. Cranky kids. Booger eaters. Pee’ers and snivelers. But you know what? They’re all God’s creations, and we owe it to them to try to bring a little bit of Jesus into their lives. The fact that all of you are here, grumpy or otherwise, testifies to His power to call us to service. Nobody says this is easy, at least no one who’s ever done this before. It takes a truckload of commitment.  But if you trust in God and pray for His assistance, you can reap the rewards of  . . .”

“Oh, please,” Betty interrupted, “don’t feed us that heaven stuff. I’m not in the mood.”

“No,” the older woman said. “I was going to say, mojitos at my place on Friday!”

(Note: This was written as a Writers Kickstart prompt on the topic Group of Five.)

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Dolan to Doubleday to Chance

It’s October, and I’m feeling a resurgence of baseball interest with the major league playoffs about to begin. I played baseball as a kid,  and, after overcoming fear of failure,  managed to gain confidence, if not athletic competence,  on the Little League fields of Snohomish, Wash., home of Baseball Hall of Famer Earl Averill and a half-dozen other big-league players. Farther from home, my wife’s paternal grandfather and two other relatives played pro baseball in the  early 1900s, and I’ve uncovered evidence linking her Irish immigrant great-great grandfather John Dolan to the national pastime as far back as 1861.

Records confirm that Pvt. John Dolan did two tours in the Union Army during the American Civil War, the first a three-month stretch in Company H of the 10th Pennsylvania Volunteers, which was mustered less than two weeks after the war’s opening shots at Fort Sumter on April 12. 1861. That’s about the same time of year that baseball season traditionally begins.

John Dolan

Known as the Allegheny Guards, the 10th became part of a 16,000-man force under Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson, ordered to occupy a force of Gen. Joe Johnston’s Confederates in the Shenandoah Valley in the vicinity of Harper’s Ferry and Winchester, Va., while the main part of the Union Army under Maj. Gen. Irwin McDowell attacked the main Confederate forces under Gen. P.G.T.  Beauregard at Bull Run outside Washington.  The idea was to keep Johnston from reinforcing Beauregard, but we all know that didn’t happen and Johnston’s arrival at Bull Run saved the day for the rebels and sparked a rout of the federals.

A regimental history of the 10th from Samuel P. Bates’ “History of Pennsylvania Volunteers” suggests the Allegheny Guards went through spring training with the Yankees but saw little live pitching until confronted by an occupied toll house near the Potomac River.

According to Bates:  “On Monday, the 24thof June, Capt. Doubleday, having completed an earth work, placed in the battery one smooth-bore 24-pounder and one 8-inch howitzer, and opened on the toll house, a stone building situated about 1 mile from the river on the Martinsburg Pike and occupied by rebel

Abner Doubleday

scouts. The first shot struck the corner of the building, driving out a party of about 20 of the enemy, who were just then preparing to partake of a bountiful supper. Unwilling to leave the savory dishes, prepared with much care, the party halted some distance from the house to consider the situation. But a well-timed shell from the howitzer brought the conference to a sudden conclusion, scattering the party in all directions, amidst the cheers of thousands of Union soldiers who witnessed the scene from the Maryland shore. On entering the house on the following day, the supper was found undisturbed.”

I love this story, because Capt. Doubleday was Abner Doubleday,  mythically portrayed as the inventor of baseball in 1832 but more accurately perceived as the man who fired the first shots for the Union at Fort Sumter, where he was second in command to Maj. Robert Anderson.

After an “0-fer” day batting leadoff at Sumter, these might’ve been Doubleday’s first hits of the war.

Imagine the rebel scouting report from the toll house: “Watch yourselves, they’ve got a cannon out there in center.”

Or consider the lingering banter from the Union side, perhaps by Pvt. Dolan himself:

“Ah, Cap’n, those were a fine couple o’ balls ya pitched at ’em the other day. The first one might’ve been a wee high, but ya sure knocked dem buggers off da plate.”

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Squeamish Scouts

How many boy scouts does it take to kill a chicken?

Just one if he has anything but sand in his scrotum. Trouble was, my buddy Gale and I both showed a squeamish side at our first Caveman Cookout as members of Troop 50 in the woods of Camp Sevenitch.

We were town boys, 12 or 13 at the time, and we came fully prepared with the limited gear allowed to each two-man team: our sleeping bags and rain ponchos, one shovel, a compass, three matches, our pocket knives and the clothes we wore. Oh, and they gave us each a raw potato to go with our live poultry.

We had no trouble hunting down our hen by following the compass directions given to us. The bird was right where it was supposed to be, tethered to a tree, where there was no escape unless cut free by an imbecilic scout who failed to hold on.

We left our hen tied as we built a fire and fashioned a lean-to from our joined ponchos. Some scouts would wrap their chicken in leaves and cook it by burying it under coals, along with the potatoes. We weren’t into that. We thought roasting on a spit was the way to go, once the chicken was dead.

“You do it,” I said.

“Naw, go ahead,” Gale replied.

Older scouts had told us the best way to kill a chicken was to simply hold the head, spin the bird a couple times and then snap the head off with a quick jerk. But that didn’t fly with us, as jerking  the head off seemed about as civil as biting it off.

“Tell you what,” Gale said after protracted deliberations. “I”ll cut the damn head off if you’ll just hold him.”

“Fine,” I said. “You kill it and I’ll clean it.”

The act should’ve been routine. But when the chicken began flapping and squawking as Gale started to saw through the neck, I lost my nerve, and grip, and the bound bird flopped to the ground, still very much alive.

“Geez, couldn’t you just hold on for a few more seconds,” Gale said.

“No,” I said. “I have this thing about live chickens. It’s all I can do to even touch one.”

The second assault involved the shovel, swinging it ax-like. But the chicken refused to lie still and play Marie Antoinette. The result was a badly beaten, but still breathing bird.

Cutting to the chase, we then used the tethering cord to hang the hen like a horse thief, before Gale finally did what was necessary, using gravity to maintain stretch while sawing though the neck.

Plans to roast her on a spit fell through when we had trouble pulling all the feathers. An attempt to burn off the feathers begat both a bad smell and a blackened bird, which was only partially consumed – with raw potatoes – before all leftovers were cremated.

(Note: This was written as a WritersKickstart prompt on the topic of Roles.)

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Unsupported Amusement

It took her years to get the joke, but that only made it more amusing.

My wife saw a recent Facebook posting from a childhood friend, who was a buddy of her younger brother, and it reminded her of a long-ago summer at the New Jersey seashore where she picked up on a verbal chiding that the boys often would holler when a cyclist rode past: “Hey, why ride a bike, when you can wear one?”

She didn’t get it, but it sounded good at the time, and she whole-heartedly joined in the fun. All summer. And from time to time from then on.  Never really gave it much thought.

Wasn’t until 12-13 years later, while working in newspaper advertising and retrieving an ad proof from a sporting goods store in Fairbanks, Alaska, that she noticed BIKE athletic supporters in the display case. Suddenly, she was 13 again, and seeing bikes on the boardwalk.

Red-faced,  she phoned her brother in Philadelphia to share the revelation and got the horse laugh along with the admonition, “I thought you knew!”

Silly girl. Product of Catholic grade-schooling. Probably never heard a limerick with “Nantucket” in it, either.

Her brother is now gone, but the memories remain sweet and precious. No word yet on the friend’s recollection.

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