Hey, Sweetie, Guess What Followed Me Home?


1-16-14  Use the phrase “I never wanted that in the first place.”


I was bound and determined to do it, and Vera was bound and determined that I not.  So it goes.  We survived, but barely.

The first shipment took two weeks to arrive at the post office.  Mary called up to the house and asked that I come down as soon as possible, as the little critters were a bit noisier than the biddies they usually got in the spring, and the locals were getting curious and insistent.

I got down to the post office after supper time, and picked up the five boxes with the air holes in the sides and warning stickers saying “LIVE PRODUCT” on all sides.  As if you couldn’t tell from the sound and smell.  They went into the back of the pickup and all of us headed back over to the farm.  The locals were left in the dust, rubbernecking as a gang on the front sidewalk.

I had everything ready for the brood when I pulled in to the barn.  The cages had feed and water and litter and heat lamps.  It looked professional, alright.  I always said, if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth over-doing.

I dragged the first box to the tailgate, and carefully opened it.  Eighteen of the twenty chinchillas had survived the trip.  I felt bad for them having to travel with their dear departed brothers, but I steeled my soul for the commercial venture, and picked the little rodents up and put them down again, four to a cage.  I had to sex the little buggers as I went, which really meant just turning them over and squeezing a bit.  Boys in this cage, girls in that one.  I was hoping for a bumper crop of girls, cause they could have babies and the boys were along just to speed up the process.  As it turned out, the literature was right and I got just about even with the numbers.  Oh, well.

I had ordered a hundred of the little critters, and ended up with ninety two.  Pretty good, I thought.  With their gestation period, I would be okay within a couple of months, and I’d be in full swing by the October harvest season.

I made sure the cages were all secured and headed into the house.  Vera headed me right back out, and I had to shuck off out in the barn and put on the clothes she threw out to me.  She seemed to be in a bit of a pique.  Once formally attired, I took a second stab at it and made it to the laundry.  I didn’t ask permission, just went ahead with it and accepted the consequences.

Over supper, Vera and I discussed the economics of chinchilla farming.  I had memorized the contents of the brochures, and had a shiny blue binder they had sent me from the ad in the back of the magazine.  Vera’s arguments fell like dominos, and yet I had an unsettled feeling that it was all a set-up.  I was sure as I could be that this was the one that was going to put us over the top.  How could you go wrong supplying the furriers of New York with premium pelts?  The Russians had been doing it for decades with minks and sables and all that.  What made them better than me?  Nothing!

Come May, I had my first litter of baby chinchillas.  It was a good thing, too.  I was down to seventy-five of the little guys, and had spent a fortune on fencing off the barn to keep the foxes and fisher cats out.  Who knew?  The babies were little, but there were six of them and I was in business. They brought me back up to eighty one.  All I needed now was a continuous stream of girls chinchillas to give birth, and I’d be rolling in it.  I had the phone number for the furrier tacked up on the wall, just ready for the call.

I headed back into the house, and gave Vera a call at her mother’s.  She insisted she wasn’t coming back until I got a second washer and got a clothes line up.  I heated up a can of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee on the stove and fell asleep in the chair in front of the TV.

July was a hot one.  I lost a bit of the crop to the heat when they ran out of water by accident.  I rigged up a self-watering system for the little bastards, and hoped for another bout of births as soon as possible.  I drew some hope from the fact that I was still ahead of the game.  There were 157 rodents in the barn, and I was getting happy again.

Come October, I crated up the crop and drove them over to the processing center.  I squoze in between two semi trucks and stacked the crates myself.  There weren’t enough for a forklift.  I looked over my shoulder as I left, but just couldn’t get a tear to come to my eye. On the way back, I stopped down to the bank and then over to the mall.

Vera met me at the door when I got back up to the house.  Gee, she looked good.  She sure was surprised with the fox fur coat I got her as a forgive-me present.  “You’re forgiven, but I told you I never wanted that in the first place.  Now take me out to dinner.  There’s nothing in the house but Chef Boy-Ar-Dee.”





1-30-14 “What have I forgotten?”
Use this phrase for the narrator or character.


Target Ball

“Okay, let’s do the checklist. Glasses?”






“Cell phone?”


Why, oh why, did we have to go over this every time I left the house? I was a grown adult, and such attention was demeaning. You’d think that somewhere along the way I had started exhibiting symptoms of early-onset Oldtimer’s Disease. Linda always said it was just to be sure, and didn’t I remember that Thursday seven years ago when I forgot my reading glasses and was in a tizzy for hours? There must be something. What had I forgotten? I accepted it as a sign of her love and affection.

I actually did remember that useless information from seven long years ago, and couldn’t forget it even if I wanted to because it was the sole event that Linda could hit me over the head with to remind me of how feeble I was in my dotage. One of these days I’ll have to Google “dotage” to see if it’s still in the OED and in common use. I’ll also have to do the Vulcan Mind Meld on Linda to see why she thinks I’m still losing it after seven years. Till then, it’s easiest just to go along with it and get out of the house.

It was a quick trip to the mall to get a book and more bedside snacks. Nothing with too many crumbs, mind you. Although it was mid-winter still, crumbs in the bed would drop the temperature in the bedroom forty degrees in a second, and it would take smoochies from yours truly and a good hoovering to get the warmth back that I was used to and so deserved.

I parked the car and headed in to Target for snacks, then a quick browse through Best Buy and a stroll through the mall to see which stores had died recently. By the time I hit Penney’s, I was shopped out and decided to move on to the next big thing. I headed outside from the Penney’s end of the mall and strolled in the chill back to the car.

The car. I parked it near Target. I remember that I drove it here, got out, locked the door and headed in to get provisions. Ipso Fatso, the car is parked in the parking lot. And also following from that, here I stand in the parking lot and I should be seeing my car. Hello? Car?

Now, my car is my pride and joy. I love my car. I would know my car from a thousand yards away. Yet here, standing on the sidewalk by Target, it seems that every resident of Hamster County has decided to go shopping, and spread before me is a sea of multi-hued steel. Big cars, little cars, SUVs, pickups, there was even a Megabus waiting for cheapskates going to New York. So what had they done with my car?

I’m an intellectual. I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable person, with a good education and a balanced world view. This was not a crisis. It was a minor inconvenience. And I most certainly had not forgotten something as simple as where I parked the car. There was a logical answer to this, and a rational method to solve the puzzle.

My first thought was that somehow, God had played Rubiks Cube with all of the cars in the parking lot and I just had to unscramble time and space to get home again. I did that reality check thing first, just to be sure that I was standing in my Universe, and hadn’t been beamed up to the Mother Ship. I did a 360, scanning my environs and confirming that I was on Earth. A quick glance at my watch confirmed the time and date. I had to trust that I had the year correct, because my watch didn’t go that far.

Action plan. There was this big red concrete ball outside the store that lets you know that you’re shopping at the right place. I stood upon the orb and did a slow sweep of the lot. Little car? Are you there?

No little car in sight. I figure I had wasted about forty minutes in my quest, and was ready for action. Being methodical, I started at the farthest reaches of the lot in which I could have possibly parked the car. I thought at first that I should use the spiral method and pick the geometric center of the lot and spiral out toward the edges until I had at last found my little car, but that seemed excessive. A row at a time would be tedious but probably best for all concerned. I started off. Up row one, employing pattern recognition to discover my very unique car. Down row two, up row three. There were a few thousand cars in this frigging lot, and it was my lot to look at them all. Down row four, and I had to back up a few cars because I had spaced out for a sec there and didn’t remember looking at the last four or five. Sue me.

Up row five, and the cars are parked almost all the way to the end of the lot now. Turn and head down row six. I was cruising along, single minded, and thought there was something out of the corner of my eye in the next row, but I was being methodical, and couldn’t stop. All the way down row six, and back up seven.
There! My baby, waiting for me between a pickup and an SUV that were looming over her like giants from Jupiter. Who were the morons who drove these behemoths? Why couldn’t everyone drive a nice sensible car like I did?

With a smile on my face, I headed out and back home. Along the way, I stopped for gas and checked the oil just to let her know that I was thinking of her. I headed back to my other sweetie, the one waiting patiently at home for the most important person in her life to return and complete her. I pulled in to the garage and shut the car off. I sat for a couple of seconds, just reveling in the pleasure of my car’s company.

I turned the key in the lock and walked in to the house. Linda was at the stove, cooking for yours truly. She makes the best black bean stew in the world. I take it as proof that she loves me almost as much as I love her. She turned and smiled at me.

“You must have really had a good time,” she said. “What book did you decide to get?”


The Insider

12-19-13 The prompt:
Three words drawn at random
Elegant, multiplies, suspension, trade one to the person on your right – state of mind

It was Friday evening, and I was wrapping it up at the office. It being the holiday season, I had received an elegant tie from the Director as a thank you for not killing the company in the past year. The last guy in my position had received a suspension for four weeks without pay for being there when three of his minions had swindled the competition out of $500 million through insider knowledge. Take that, said the Director. His minions, including me, were here to do the best for the company by doing their best, not their worst. The state of mind he was looking for was ‘ripening’, not ‘rotting.’ I got the hint with the very nice tie.

I was a salesman at heart, and strove to instill in my minions the essence of customer service. Remember that the person in front of you is a customer just as much as the guy on the other end of the phone with a checkbook in his hand. We’re here to serve, and we get paid a lot of money to do it. I headed downstairs to the waiting car and driver, and thanked the guy as he held the door open for me. The drive up to Westport would take an hour and a half at this time of night, and there was booze waiting for me in the car. The service was a perk for all of the upper minions. The Director would work an hour or two more and get a helicopter from the roof to take him to the East Side. Five minutes from home versus ninety minutes. It’s good to be the king.

I sat back and wondered about it all. We were headed up the East Side Drive, past Harlem, and I looked out at the city going by on the other side of the glass. Did those folks get good customer service today, or was it just another day of shafting the little guy? Competition at my level was $500 million in stolen money. Competition in the projects and tenements was a razor and a crack pipe. What was I doing?

Somewhere in my mind it was all going stale. I was tired of making money. I wanted to make something real. REAL real. Not moving numbers from one account to another because the interest rate was better for thirty seven minutes and I could get an extra ten thousand for it. Not being driven home at the end of a long day and wanting to take a shower just to get the thought of what I was doing out of my body.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out the tie. It was definitely a power tie. A deep royal purple. It said “I don’t care what you think. Whatever it is, it must be wrong.” I pulled off the club tie I wore just because I was lazy and didn’t want to think about what kind of power a tie had. I slid the purple beauty under my collar. It was thin enough at the small end to tie a Double Windsor. I could look like Prince Charles, poor old bastard.

The driver pulled up to the house by eight, after a long introspective drive, and I got out. Elizabeth met me at the door as the car drove off.

“Don’t take anything off,” she said. “We’re invited next door for dinner in five minutes. Great tie. Did it come with a year-end bonus?”

Nice. She knew it did. Elizabeth knew where every penny was, and anticipated even more pennies coming her way through me. I wondered how she would feel if I announced tonight over dinner that I was leaving to start up a non-profit in Budapest, and we were moving overseas next week?

I had a sudden urge to go upstairs and loop my shiny new tie around the upstairs railing and take a swan dive into the foyer. Swinging there as Elizabeth came to fetch me before we were too fashionably late for dinner. It would probably be the most productive thing I did all year.