Wordless Wednesdays – Basic Equations

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Judging by the Max Headroom head shot and the Gunstar from The Last Starfighter being clearly visible in this picture, I would have to say that this genius level math equation was solved sometime in the late eighties.

Makes that shit Matt Damon solved on the chalk board in Good Will Hunting look like my dogs figuring out that if they pee on there feet in the winter time it will freeze them to the deck.

This kid should have won the Nobel prize.

The Last Drop

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“You’re likely going to hate me.”

I could feel my left eye involuntarily twitch at the simple statement. A low throb had settled in at my temples from the idea I had just now contemplated and had confirmed. I sat dumbfounded looking over the crisp white sheets of paper in front on me. The instructions on them were as simple as I imagined they would be but the concepts were as foreign as North Korean stand up comedy.

“I know its going to rough for the first few weeks but if you are serious about the goals you have told me then I think this is the best course of action”

My head was swimming now in a haze of brown liquid. It jolted itself through the steps it had taken me to get to this moment as I tried to focus on the last few words written on the bottom of the first page.

From the race last year and my feelings of failure despite finishing quite respectably.

My fear over a diagnosis of being prediabetic.

A family history of massive heart issues.

An extended family full of men whose waist lines grew in almost exponential equations to the receding of their hair lines.

The numbers I saw every day when I looked at the scale that seemed to always hover around the same few digits no matter what I did or didn’t eat.

I knew I needed help but had no idea where to start.

I think in the last ten years I had tried every single workout program from P90X, a program I fully believe would keep anyone from being accosted in the showers in prison to wrapping my body in plastic wrap and running up and down the stairs at the boat launch. Every food craze from kale smoothies to raspberries ketones to squirrel intestines. Every health drink from protein shakes to frozen green tea, which has led to a jug in my fridge being constantly referred to as “Dad’s New Weirdo Health Thing”.

It shouldn’t be that hard. It shouldn’t require that sort of effort. It all seems so simple.

Eat sensibly, drink lots of water, train hard. Funny how easy that sounds.

After meeting a personal trainer, who despite being an amazing specimen had only yet another book to offer me as far as nutrition went, I decided to take a different approach. I had seen the sign for the office on my way to a meeting and a quick phone call led me to the moment of unreality I was now facing. Michelle, the nutritionist, sat across the table from me with a smile that never wavered. After taking my height and inspecting me like a 4H girl inspects a blue ribbon calf she motioned for me to step on the scale.

I unloaded even the lint from my pockets on to the table holding my keys, wallet and phone before with that levitating step on to the biometric scale. My weight was three pounds heavier at 220 pounds and a body fat percentage of 16 percent. I sighed and looked over at the nodding smile.

“You are actually in great shape for a guy with your muscle mass.” Michelle said as she made a few notes.

“Not where I plan on ending up.” I answered her unspoken question.

After a few more questions about my long-term goals, the printer beside her desk spit out the plan I now held away from my body like a distant aunt holdings a puking baby.

“Seriously?” I balked “No coffee at all?”

“Not for the time being, no.” Michelle answered as she settled her long frame back in her chair waiting for I am sure was the explosion she had likely seen more times than I have seen that video of the three puppies yawning in unison. My mind couldn’t comprehend the idea.

The other diet ideas were as basic as I imagined they would be. No breads, no grains and no sugars. It was the no coffee that struck me like a back-handed pimp hand. I love coffee with a devotion bordering on the obsessive. To the point where my eyes can’t even open in the morning until after my second cup. This was one of those choices that you never want to have to make. Like which one of your kids you love more or if you were getting bacon or sausage with your mountain of pancakes at Denny’s.

“Okay.” I sighed with a hitch in my voice not unlike saying goodbye to an old friend ” I will do it.”

“Fantastic. We will see you back in three weeks.” Michelle said as she stood and guided me out the door.

My resolve was firm though as are all peoples with a new set of instructions. That first initial step on the path to good health taken. What no one tells you is that while the first step is simple the actual journey is like walking the Boston Marathon with the road covered with oddly angled LEGO pieces.

The first sip of green tea, the only caffeine I was now allowed, the first morning nearly broke my resolve. There were so many great coffee shops along the way to the job site. Each of them promising to wash away the medicinal tea taste and the film my sludgy breakfast smoothie left on my tongue. But I held my resolve. At least until the headache started. The first signs of caffeine withdrawal setting in and the beginning of a six day headache that made even the smallest of things seem like Titanic scale disasters. All the while, coffee shops on every street corner with overflowing urns like Mrs. Potts in “Beauty and the Beast” singing their aromatic song that promised to take away all the worries I had in the world. A magic potion that would fix all my ailments.

But as I stood in my kitchen on the morning of the sixth day watching the kettle boil, I felt my pants slip off my hips and down over my butt. Not really an uncommon thing but never really happening while I wore a belt. I snickered as I pulled my belt into a spot it hadn’t been in a very long time. I had been skipping the heavy weights I always had used in favour of long runs and outdoor hikes in an effort to lean down. Clearly something it was working. It just wasn’t easy. It would have simply been easier to roll up to a drive through get an extra large Double Double to go with the dozen honey dipped donuts that had been haunting my palate for weeks. I just couldn’t shake the image of being one of those guys that sweats walking from my car to the front door of a fast food chain.

I had heard a quote that had really struck me and it was never more true than every time I watched one of the guys that work for me slurping down a giant chocolate milk while I sipped a retched vegetable based cleansing drink that tasted like a combination of rancid asparagus tips and Old MacDonald’s sweaty socks.

“Live one year of your life like no one should so you can spend the rest of your life like no one could.”

This thought was firmly in my mind as I walked through the doors of Michelle’s office a few days later to check in. Her knowing smile was confirmation enough that I had likely been through the worst of it. We chatted briefly about the mood swings that had my family wanting me dead and the restrictive plant-based diet.

“Let’s see how you did.” Michelle said as she motioned to the scales. That momentary lightning bolt of panic ripped through my brain with the same doubts I always faced when approaching the scales. Had I done enough? How bad had I done? What would happen if I had actually gained weight?

I stripped off as much of my clothing as the nutritionist allowed after trying valiantly to “drop some pounds” in her office bathroom before stepping on to the judgemental machine. I closed my eyes and waiting for the sigh that told me I had yet again failed.

“Holy shit.” Michelle blurted with a small laugh.

“How bad?” I asked with a tremulous voice.

“Bad?” Michelle snickered ” You’ve lost almost 13 pounds and 1 and a half percent body fat.”

“Is that good?’ I questioned in my incomprehension.

“It’s better than good. It’s great.” She replied as she jotted down the notes. I stepped down and pulled my shirt back on. I was dumbfounded. It had actually worked. I sat in almost silence as she went over the next phase and how I should expect my progress to slow down a bit. We talked about the pace I needed to set in order to get to my now much lower goal weight and how with proper diligence I could get there in the six month time frame I hoped for.

“You seem to be right on track,” Michelle said as we stood by the door to a completely new world ” What are you going to do next?”

“Well right now I am going to celebrate and cheat on my diet with a donut the size of a soccer ball and a gallon of coffee.” I said as I pushed the door open.

“I hate you.” Michelle laughed as she shoved the door shut behind me.

 

 

 

The Finish Line

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To say my life is busy is an understatement.

Over the last seven days, I have been either directly or indirectly involved with twenty-one baseball games. Mediated disputes over players. Eaten more white bread in the form of hamburger buns than I have in the past year. I have another week of games ahead followed by end of season meetings.

I have finished a job on a house that will forever be known as “Nightmare Mansion” based solely on the fact that the physical effort of finishing it nearly killed my whole team.

I have helped edit a piece of someone elses work when they were struggling to put its pieces together.

I have exercised less than I have in months and eaten worse.

So, I have been forced to make a decision.

Since the first day I started writing here, through the demise of my first blog, to getting featured on Freshly Pressed, I have held on to the goal of publishing a book in some format or another.

To that end, I will be taking a break from writing here until I have the book at least in the hands of my editor.

I have no desire to turn this place that I have laboured over for this long into a place where I simply whore out my book when finished. I will still be writing here but on a limited basis until the book comes out.

In the next few days, I will be unveiling the cover and the titles of the two super secret bonus stories I have written exclusively for the book.

Be excellent to each other.

 

Race Day

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After what has felt like months of training and suffering and more than one episode of soul searching, its race day.

On June 7th, I will finally be taking part in my first Spartan Sprint.

It has caused me to neglect a lot of things including telling my stories to all of you but in the end it has left me with a level of fitness I have never had before and the body to match it.

So, while I apologize for neglecting all of you, I will be back and hopefully in one piece sooner than later.

Thank you for not abandoning this blog as in the near future I have some super stupid great news to share with every one of you.

Sounds From the Baseball Field – Volume 2

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One of the true benefits of coaching sports, especially with the same group of young men and women over a nine-year span is you get to know them as both a teacher and a friend.

You learn their likes and dislikes. How they interact with others. Their hobbies. Their interests. Their dreams. Their goals.

You watch them grow.

You see them through birthdays and graduations. Through bad days and funerals.

You hear them sings songs of victory. You lift their chins in defeat.

What you don’t really expect to hear is –

“Dude, I know she’s your girlfriend but if she really loved you, she wouldn’t have given you chlamydia.”

They Call Them Shorts For A Reason

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The rain was hitting the wind roof so furiously, it sounded like a swarm of drunken hummingbirds. The rain the weather man had been promising for over a week but hadn’t delivered left the area with the worst case of humidity blue balls. Over the course of a single morning it had finally broke loose. It was raining in waves that soaked sun burnt skin but had done little to dissipate the humidity.

Having hastily waterproofed the house we were working on, we cleaned up our tools and packed everything away as the rain-soaked us to our skins. As I packed away the tools in our tool trailer, my brother Dart and Mindy hooked up the garbage trailer to take back to our yard. Rain had plastered Mindy’s blonde locks to her face and she yanked it back into a semblance of a pony tail through her ball cap.

“You want me to take the trailer back?” Dart asked as he shook out his jacket and pulled it over his sodden shirt. The first rumbles of thunder ominously echoed the buzzing of my phone and I answered the phone before I answered the hanging question. My shirt was as soaked as a bar stool on male stripper night and I pulled it over my head before answering.

“It’s just one stop.” My mom said with that tone that meant she was not really giving me an option. Dart threw his hands up in the air in the “It’s raining, what the hell are we doing?” gesture and I watched as rain bounced out of his palms. I waved him off derisively as I got the address from my Mom. I turned to ask who was going with me and saw the truck with the majority of my team already rattling down the road like a vibrator dropped on a hardwood floor.

I looked back over at my truck and saw Mindy pull her sweater over her dripping tank top and retying the drawstring on the basketball pants she wore over her shorts. I realized I was standing in the rain shirtless and while it may have looked good in The Notebook it wasnt going to work on a service call.

What?

Don’t act like you havent seen it.

I rooted through the back seat of my truck for something to cover my nipples with. The only thing I could find was a white wife beater tank top that my brother was fond of. The only issue was I think he may wear a youth extra-large with room for a bag of Skittles between the material and his skin where as I am better suited to a curve hugging men’s large. With a sigh, I pulled it over my head and glanced over to see Mindy snicker at the sight.

“You look like you should be on Jersey Shore.” Mindy giggled.

“Aren’t those guys fairly attractive?” I asked knowing full well that the men on that show were about as attractive as oral sex from a homeless guy.

Mindy continued to stifle her laughs as the rain-soaked through the white cotton making the red of my sun burnt skin show through pink. I avoided eye contact with her completely as I backed out of the driveway and headed towards the address waiting for us. The rain continued to pelt the truck and I turned the heat up to compensate for the rapidly dropping temperature.

The house seemed modest enough if you avoided the concrete slab step that was falling into a hole beside the entry way filled with stagnant water swimming with mosquito larvae. With a sigh I nodded to Mindy that she should stay in the truck until I figured out what was happening. I slogged across the driveway and reached over the Ninth Circle of Hell to rap solidly on the front door.

In no time it was answered by a woman on the borderline between old stripper hot and the club footed crossing guard with the overly muscled right arm. Her lank hair had been pulled into a loose braid that matched the loose-fitting shirt she had scavenged from a case of beer in the early Nineties. The shock of cold water had caused my skin to goose bump and my nipples to stiffen to the point I thought they would tear through the horrible fitting cotton. Her eyes darted over my damp skin and my brain played the refrain from a bad Ginger Lynn porn movie. As a consummate professional, all I could do was ask to be shown where the problem was.

“It’s right over here in the kitchen.” Beer Shirt said as she pointed through a Nascar memorabilia filled living room. I walked past what had to have been a life-size stand up of Jeff Gordon to see a man standing in the kitchen with a flashlight pointed at the water dripping leisurely down onto brand new kitchen cupboards.  Their newness was a stark relief to the rest out the outdated decor so I could see why she had called.

“I know you’re here to help,” the man said from underneath the combination of a matching set of unkempt eyebrows and ponderously huge mustache “But there’s really no need.”

“For shit’s sake, you are the one that screwed up the roof in the first place.” Beer Shirt said as she stomped over to stare at the water dripping the same way everyone in an elevator stares at the numbers. I saw the ceiling beginning to bubble and figured I should venture outside to see if anything could be done to at least slow it down. Mindy already was pulling the ladder off the truck and was walking towards the house as the home owners followed me out.

“It’s likely just on the flashing.” Bushy Brows grumbled as he slogged out after me ” I will fix it first thing in the morning.”

“At least let him look at it.” Beer Shirt scolded him as her eyes roved over my translucent shirt.

“I don’t need any….” Brows trailed off as he looked over to see Mindy pull off her ball cap and shake out her blond locks. As she stood the ladder up, the accumulated rain washed down the front of her and she laughed a girlish giggle. She walked back towards the truck and held the door open with her butt as she peeled off her wind paints to reveal a pair of cut off jeans that barely covered her cheeks.

Bushy Brows stood transfixed. His breath seemed to steam out of him. I felt like Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage at SummerSlam when Miss Elizabeth dropped her skirt allowing the MegaPowers to get the win over Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant. I used Bushy Brows mesmerizing drool to go up on the roof and see that not only was the flashing kitchen vent leaking but the entire roof was a disaster. I headed back down the ladder but not before catching Mindy bending over the back of the truck to get a tape measure and Brows adjusting the crotch of his jeans.

After discussing what had to be done with Beer Shirt, I went back to the truck to see a fully dressed Mindy texting away on her phone and avoiding my pointed gaze. I had left the people my cell number to call me if they decided they wanted the job done.

“You did that on purpose.” I said flatly after a few moments of silence.

“It stopped that guy cold didn’t it?” Mindy asked just as blandly but with a slight smile that slid up to her eyes.

We werent a half a mile down the road when my phone rang.

“Sex sells.” Mindy said as she shook her reapplied blond pony tail at me.

 

 

 

One of the Boys

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The single line of text stared me in the eye every time I looked back over the file.

“Don’t rule me out just because I am a woman.”

It was a simple phrase that left me rubbing the back of my stubbled scalp and shaking my head.

Construction is as tough a job as any you will find. Add in the height element of roofing and even some of the toughest guys I know mysteriously find their testicles in the icy grip of paranoid fear. I had come back to this particular resume at least a dozen times as I sat pondering the applicants I had gotten them from. A polite and simple cover letter came with this particular one and I had skimmed through the listed experience before I even looked at the name. I was subtly impressed by the credentials and then saw the name.

I had already been through a handful of young men who had done less than stellar work in their brief auditions. One even went so far as to tell me the reason he was quitting on his very first day was the simple fact he couldn’t locate my office even using the GPS in his car.

I looked at the cover letter and its message was simple. Don’t rule me out. It struck me as particularly well-timed and funny at the same time. Why had I never considered hiring a woman before?

To be honest, not many actually ever apply for a job in construction. The ones that do are usually petrified of heights and want to hang around on the ground or are looking for an office job. Neither of those are an option. So I sat staring at a candidate for a job that had all the requirements I had asked for. Except one seemingly unspoken one.

The lack of a penis.

Put down the sexist chant sheets and your over full glasses of wine, ladies.

I have seen the heat and sheer heavy lifting nature of the construction industry break many a muscle-bound meat head so I was naturally concerned. My brother, Dart, had taken her resume when she offered it and he passed it along to me with a wry smile.

“I have no idea what to make of this one.” Dart said as he showed me “She’s literally half your size.”

The idea of a hundred and ten pound girl throwing around bundles of shingles made me snicker a bit as they would represent almost eighty percent of her body weight but then I kept going back to the single simple phrase.

Don’t rule me out.

I didn’t hesitate for a half a heart beat. I sent her an email asking when she could start.

My phone buzzed not long after with her response and a request to pick her up at the end of my street on her first morning as she wasn’t sure where my office was. She was already a step ahead of the last Dildo Factory reject.

I was a bit nervous as I headed out to the truck the following Monday morning. Dozens of thoughts were rolling through my head in regards to my job site handling of a girl employee.

How would my team of foul-mouthed miscreants treat her?

How could I make vagina jokes without offending her?

What if she didn’t like getting dirty? What if she had PMS? What if she had to poop?

I saw a blonde pony tail sticking out of a baseball cap framing a face wrapped around a mug of tea bigger than a mini keg of beer. She waved and I slowed the truck down. I swallowed hard and thought if I had any reservations this was my last chance to turn back. She was shorter and skinnier than my daughter and there was no way she was going to survive her first day.

“Jack?” she asked as she flung the door of my truck open and hopped into my coffee cup strewn front seat.

“Mindy?” I asked in reply as I extended my hand. Mindy smiled and gripped my tanned hand in her slim white fingers. She flipped her sunglasses down and they were large enough that they looked like a child playing dress up. She turned to look out the window and pulled her phone out. She was texting away at a rate my thumbs ached watching.

We got to my office and she hopped out before I even had the truck in park to introduce herself to everyone. My guys were mildly dumb founded but they welcomed her the same way they did all new employees by making her clean out my mess of coffee cups and protein bar wrappers from the floor of my truck.

The job site wasnt far from my office but the thoughts continued to percolate. First and foremost being how long it would be before she sued my company for some form of sexual harassment followed by what I was going to do when it got hot enough out for all my guys to start going shirtless and how I was going to explain to my insurance provider that I had advised her against it but she wouldn’t listen resulting in her having nipples so sun burnt that she could no longer breast feed the child she was planning on having in the near future.

“Are you ready?” I asked her as soon as we pulled up to the house we had started the previous day.

“Are you?” Mindy asked with an almost imperceptible laugh.

“Ready as I will ever be.” I replied with a sigh.

Mindy hopped out of the truck and saw where my guys were setting up. She grabbed a shovel and made her way up the ladder. Her safety boots seemed miles too big for her and clunked with every step.

“Where did you want me to start?” Mindy called down to me as I grabbed my own gear. She had made her way to the ridge of the house and thunked the shovel down like it was made of solid concrete.

“Right there is fine.” I said and turned toward the ladder only to see something I hadn’t quite expected.

Mindy attacked.

She started ripping shingles off like a badger with raging case of pink eye. What she lacked in size, she definitely made up in tenacity. I laughed as I watched her before the realization hit me that while she was small and testicularly challenged she was really just like the rest of us. All she needed was a chance to prove it.

Now all I had to figure out was what to do the first time she asked me to add tampons to the first aid kit.

 

 

 

Treading Water

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With my new-found commitment to exercising pretty much daily, I spend a lot of time running outside.

It really is a thousand times better than the severe boredom of running on the treadmill even if the new fashion trend at the gym is yoga pants so tight that a vagina looks like a McDonald’s cheeseburger on its side.

So when the weather is bad and the monotony of the cheeseburger watching starts to get to me, I take up the old past time. Swimming.

Remember as a kid how you could swim for what felt like hours, get out, suck down a sand coated piece of watermelon and keep going? Turns out that sort of energy fades as an adult.

So the answer to that is organized swimming lanes clearly marked like traffic lanes on the highway and God forbid you are swimming in the wrong lane.

There’s the Fast Lane.  This is for your serious swimmers. Competitive. Ruthless. They know how to do those somersault flip turns and wear Speedos that highlight how hairy their inner thighs are.

The ‘Medium speed swimming’ Lane. This lane is mostly full of ‘Fast lane’ rejects because everyone thinks they’re fast. They usually are for about the first lap and a half then tire out.

But these disqualified fakers got embarrassed out of the Fast lane by the really fast swimmers continually passing them.

The fast swimmers love this. They don’t actually say it but you know their thinking it…

“Lapped you again, fatty”

Now if a Medium swimmer doesn’t get the message and change lanes , they’re in for that special visit from the Lifeguard – the ultimate pool embarrassment.

Having been identified as too slow for the lane the authorities have now arrived because of the noisy environment the Lifeguard has to shout and everyone can hear….

“Sir, this is for advanced swimmers only! Please join the other Orcas in the Slow Lane”

“What?” they say, pretending not to hear.

“The Fast lane! You need to move over with these swimmers!”, the Lifeguard bellows, pointing at the slower swimmers of the Medium speed lane. Michael Phelps’ clones continue to rush by, doing those flip turns.

Humiliated the demoted swimmer slips under the lane rope, back to their own people,…..the medium… the mediocre…..the un-Speedoed.

Finally, there is the slow lane.

Usually renamed with something like “Leisure Lane” because it wouldn’t be nice to call someone slow.

These swimmers don’t put their heads in the water. They paddle their merry way along, usually in the standing position, some have that neon pool noodle wrapped around them or a floatation belt that lets them appear to be doing it on their own but much like a push up bra you know those things aren’t floating up that high on their own.

Every ounce of energy used to keep that head above water and after 5 minutes and no forward movement, they’ll reach over and start pulling themselves along with that lane rope. Back on sturdy ground, they go back to what they know….the Therapy pool.

Easily the most popular destination in any gym, it’s a haven of warmer than normal water designed to ease strained muscles and relax the mind and yet it constantly is full of elderly women with their asses pressed directly over the jets of the heated water pretending we have no idea they are doing it and diapered children trying valiantly to hold in the poop they told their parents they had to take a half an hour ago before their Soccer Mom parked her ass down beside the other iphone wielding debutants all looking to “Lol” at the text they just got from the boyfriend their husbands don’t know about.

Peeing in the Therapy pool is popular as well. Statistics say 70% of swimmers admit to peeing in the pool.

With these kinds of numbers supporting peeing in the pool, why continue ignoring the issue, instead we should embrace it.

Now a days, with all these water park features… Surf riders, slides, lazy rivers and wave pools, maybe we could invent toilet pools.

Toilet Pools, a new exciting experience for swimmers, while they relieve themselves. With that new pee sensing agent changing the color of the pool, It would have a realistic ‘Toilet Blue’ color.

Every few minutes the Lifeguard could reach up and pull this giant chain, starting the whole pool swirling round like a whirlpool to simulate the adventure of being flushed down a toilet. Forcing the young and old a like to swim as fast as they can against the on rushing swirls and suction out a tube in the bottom of the pool, through a drying tunnel and depositing them into the gym.

Directly onto a treadmill.

 

Occam’s Razor

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Occam’s Razor is a theory that states that taking everything into consideration the simplest answer is almost always the correct one.

I could hear the rhythmic thumping of my dog’s foot pounding the floor in the bathroom as I rounded the corner into my bathroom. His vacant childlike expression of question was the first thing I noticed. He had been digging at his ear and I could see flecks of blood down the side of his snow-white fur.

“Winter, come here baby.” I playfully called him to me but he resumed his digging and I sat down on the mat beside him. I turned the faucet on in the tub and dampened a soft cloth before wiping down his neck and ears. He hard parked himself in front of the toilet and I noticed flecks on the side of the bowl as well. His stubby boxer nose with its single black spot nuzzled my hip looking for the hug he usually gets after I have done anything he deemed unnecessary.

“Hang on.” I laughed as he whimpered a bit to get my attention. I grabbed some toilet paper and dried out his ear which led to a vigorous head shaking. I laughed as he looked like Dumbo preparing to lift off for his first flight. I lifted the lid of the toilet and was puzzled to see the bowl already full of blood.

The simplest answer is always the correct one.

“Fred?” I called out to my daughter “Where you cleaning the dog up or something?”

There was no response so I walked across the hallway to her bedroom. The flecks of blood on the top of her green and purple duvet had my brain reeling as I didn’t remember the dog being in her room at all. I pulled the cover off her bed and saw matching stains with larger smears across her bottom sheet. I pulled all her bedding off with a grumble under my breath about keeping the door shut so the dogs couldn’t get on her bed. Especially when Winter had been digging at his ears.

The simplest answer is always the correct one.

I started gathering up dirty laundry as it was strewn down the hallway. I figured if I was going down stairs, I might better take every thing I could. There was a ball of Fred’s clothes tucked under some towels and I pulled them apart and my heart stopped cold in my chest.

No way.

The simplest answer is always the correct one.

I stumbled down the stairs in that numb state parents find themselves when a child fails a grade or dings up the car the first time they take it out. The door was closed to the downstairs bathroom. I dumped the laundry across the hall and took a deep breath. This was a moment I had hoped her mother would deal with when it happened but here it was quite literally in my hands.

I knocked softly on the door. That quiet knock you give when you are terrified of what was waiting behind the door.

“Fred, it’s okay.” I started really not knowing what else to say “I mean it was going to happen. I just hoped it would be five or seventeen years from now.”

“It’s fine , Dad. We learned all about it at school in health class.” Fred responded through the door that seemed to be a barrier between us that had simply sprung up by her growing up. I rubbed my head and felt the stubble. I was due for a shave so I put my hand against the door briefly before taking it away like there was a fire behind it and not my no longer so little girl.

The simplest answer is always the correct one.

There are moments every man has to face at least once in his life. Moments where his courage and resolve are tested. Moments he will be a better parent for.

Standing in line at the pharmacy with an arm load full of every size and shape of pad produced in the known world for his twelve-year-old daughter and a can of shaving cream is one of them.

I nearly swallowed my tongue when the girl at the check out smiled and asked if “That would be all?”

“Just double bag that please.” I implied with the same wary eye that guys use when buying a porno magazine at a new store. Not that I have ever had that experience either.

The walk up the driveway felt like the longest fourteen steps in history. My brain kept wandering thinking about where I had missed all the day of her life that got us here. I thought about her sitting in the driveway drawing little stick princesses in side-walk chalk and me drawing giant Great White sharks eating them. I thought about the first time she rode her bike to school and I counted the seconds until I saw her turn the corner towards home.

None of those moments were gone but they would be replaced with the anxiety of boys (which are still thankfully gross) and friends and all the things that come with having a teenage daughter.

I noticed her door to her bedroom was shut . I inched down the hallway and hung the bag on her door. It felt like it was heavy enough to pull the handle off. I stepped away from it like it was a bag of poisonous snake.

“I left some things on your door for you,” I said softly “Just let me know if they are the right……things….”

I walked silently across the hallway to the bathroom and closed the door. My breathing was starting to slow itself. I dropped my pants and sat on the toilet. I didn’t know it I was going to puke or poop first and I figured I would rather clean up puke off the floor before poop. I heard the snap and creak of Fred’s door followed by the rustling of the doubled up plastic bag. I could hear the shuffle of her feet across the floor.

The bathroom door flung open and Fred promptly strode the short distance to the sink and deposited the shaving gel I had bought on the counter. Winter followed right behind her and sat at her heel digging at his ears again.

“You know I am pooping right?” I asked as I covered myself as best I could.

“I know.” Fred said as she planted a kiss on my cheek “But now today is awkward for you too.”

 

Word Fatigue

psychological-effects-of-chronic-fatigue

 

There are times when I put my fingers on the keyboard and the words simply aren’t there.

Writing has become part of my daily routine but like every writer I struggle. What will I write today? How do I continue to feed the machine when inspiration is completely lacking? When my muse doth protest?

It’s a question the plagues me deeply.

There are so many days when the stories I write feel one note. Feel so similar to some other story I have written.

I mean, come on, how many times can I write about being literally caught with my pants down?

I see it more and more with writers not just here but every where I read. Brilliantly talented people who just hit that wall. Where the stories all blur together.

The wall where writing stops being fun.

I won’t lie. There have been times where I seriously contemplated giving up writing entirely. When I was tired of every word I was writing the instant it appeared on the screen. It wasn’t fun any more. I stopped loving it with the passion I needed in order to tell the stories I wanted to tell.

The truth is, many of us use writing as a crutch. As a coping mechanism. As a way to express the one thing that we can’t say to anyone else.

What happens when that thought is fully expressed?

When it seems like you have beaten that horse not only to death but through becoming a zombie and back through death again?

It’s at that point that so many great writers give up writing.

The way over that wall is as simple as it gets. Turn left. Turn right. Turn around. The wall isn’t the end of story telling. It’s just the end of that chapter.

Writing a running narrative like a blog is a lot tougher than it seems at first. The story is constantly being changed by the life you live. When writing becomes the only thing you have to write about it’s really only a matter of time before you stop completely.

For myself when I hit the wall, I took an on-line class in stand up comedy writing.

Was it inspiring? Not really. It did however give me an outlet to try something different.

When you stop living your life and stop trying new things your story will always be the same.

Don’t feel bad or guilty that you didn’t write today. Be glad you were doing something worthy of writing about.

When you get tired of the words you seem to use over and over its time to build a new vocabulary.

It’s your story after all. Use any word you like.

The Five Easy Payments of $29.99 Story

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I will be completely up front. I love infomercials.

There is just something completely magical about a blender that juices fruit, makes my teeth whiter, promises to grow my hair back, connect my iphone to other blenders around the world and trims my nostril hair. The fact Mr. T is endorsing it and sending it to my door for the low price of six easy payments of $29.99 unless I act now because they will reduce it to just FIVE payments is a no brainer for me.

At three in the morning and credit card in hand, I can get truly frightening.

After I broke my leg I watched my weight balloon to a point it had never reached. I rationalized it as best I could. That they multiple surgeries and doctors advice about my mobility were enough reason to scarf down whatever I wanted. So I did.

I didn’t realize how huge I had gotten until I saw a picture of myself and was shocked. The camera doesn’t add ten pounds, it adds a whole other person. I was heavier than I had ever been. With a family history of diabetes and heart disease I was quickly on the road to one or both of those.

I was standing in my living room when an infomercial came on that immediately caught my attention. It was for a brand new program called P90X. I saw the dramatic results these people achieved and was intensely jealous. Jealous enough that I knew I had to do whatever I could to get the body they had and I wanted. So out came the credit card.

The program was brutally intense and I think I shed as many tears as I did drops of sweat those first few weeks. I spent more time soaking sore muscles in the bath tub than I did even being awake until the first day it stopped hurting a little. Little by little, the weight came off.

Like any exercise program you do for a few months, things get stagnant. I was constantly looking for something new. Something different. Something to take the weight off faster and easier. Infomercial after infomercial. Program after program. Credit card bill after credit card bill.

It all worked to a point but it stopped being even remotely fun. There was no real goal other than to complete the next step with no finish line in sight. So when the chance came to run a five kilometer race at a ski hill came along, I jumped at it. I started running on a small island near my house and for the first time in a long time it stopped feeling like exercise. It was just running outside. As a kid I can remember running for hours and not even considering the fact I was getting tired. I was just having fun.

My mental informercial mindset has always led me to want to try new and trendy things. The newest trend is obstacle racing with the most revered of those being the Spartan Race. A three, eight or twelve mile obstacle filled battlefield. Mud pits. Rope climbs. Hill runs with sandbags attached to you. Sounds like fun doesn’t it?

I decided the best way to train for it was to split my time between the gym and running outside. The snow had finally started to melt and despite the chilly wind, I ventured out. I needed to somehow simulate the obstacles in a race so I planned a route that would take me through the tourist park and past the water treatment plant. The air was cold in my lungs with every breath but its cold fire burned along side my competitive nature.

The ran the length of the snow filled beach past the pavilion filled with picnic tables and chairs. I smirked at myself thinking it looked exactly like an obstacle I had seen in most race plans. I turned myself towards it and dove under the first table. The idea was to crawl under the tables in a manner simulating the crawl under barbed wire through a mud pit. The instant I knelt down I heard a tremendous rip as well as the icy fingers of wind on my butt cheeks. I froze face down under the table and reached back. I felt a small tear along the seam of my pants before touching chilled flesh.

The fact I never wear underwear now seemed like a poor lifestyle choice.

I made my way under the tables and ran towards the water treatment plant. I could feel the seam of my pants spreading wider but at that point was too far from home to turn back. It was actually a quicker and less populated way home if I continued on. The frozen wind lashed across my exposed ass like a whip.

I took the most direct way across the dam that lead to the treatment plant only to see a ten foot tall chain link gate in my path. I truly had no idea when they had put that up. The “No Trespassing” sign was also new but I really just take those as a suggestion. Besides, I had to get home with as few people seeing my goose pimpled ass as possible.

The gate flared out around the concrete sides of the dam like wide-spread arms. The barbed wire across the top seemed like a poor choice to try to scale so I made the decision to wrap myself around the sides of the fence and reach for the other side. Entwining my fingers around the links in the fence I shoved my foot around the other side. The instant I pushed off to reach around to the other side two very ill-timed things occurred.

First, the rip in my pants stopped from running down my leg and headed for my groin.

Second, my junk fell out the now gaping hole.

With no one else around it may have not been a big deal. I certainly have never shied away from public indecency. I have likely put the chemicals in my pool more times naked than I have clothed. The issue here was a basic scientific principle.

Wet exposed skin plus frozen metal equals adhesion.

To put it much more plainly, my sweaty balls were now frozen the a fence post.

I hung in mid-air above a raging waterfall hoping that a bolt of lightning would strike the fence and kill me. I closed my eyes and prayed to every God that ever existed that the sun would come out and melt my testicles off the chilly steel. Those few seconds felt like an eternity. I had a choice to make. Hope for a miracle or do the unthinkable.

I pulled as quickly as I could away from the fence and felt the elastic snap of my testicles slapping against me as I jumped to the dam again. Searing pain racked my system and my body temperature shot up. Sweat poured down my body and stung the now raw flesh bouncing out the bottom of my destroyed pants.

I jogged as tenderly as I could home. Fearful the whole way a bus load of nuns would drive by and see my junk flopping around like a child on a coin operated horse outside a grocery store.

I stripped down as soon as I entered the door. I flung my pants towards the trash and looked over at the television I had left on. An infomercial was showing the latest trend in hair removal and I busted out laughing.

Forget hot wax. If you want to take the hair off your groin just stick them on a frozen fence.

 

 

Behind The Scenes

Behind-the-Scenes

 

 

It would likely amaze you how many things go on behind the scenes here at The Things I See Up Here.

More often than not it directly and negatively affects the volume of time I can actually spend writing.

So let’s take a peek behind the curtain.

Based on my writing you may have figured out that I own and operate my own business but that’s really just the beginning.

Having two kids that play three different sports each, my intense desire to get to the gym enough to hit my own weight goals, training for an upcoming Spartan run in Toronto (trust me you’re gonna want to hear this story), organizing the local youth softball league (I truly believe far too few people give back to their communities), pounding on my fiction work in my ultimate pursuit of getting published (the results of which can be found at 69 Flavors of Paranoia) truly devour what little passes for my spare time.

However, this week has been consumed by hospital visits.

Pull back the gasps. There is nothing wrong with me.

This week has been devoted to my brother Dart who has welcomed his first child. Three days of waiting and texting and calling and running have led to the birth of another Prince into my kingdom.

Yes, you can “awwwwww” all you want.

Me?

I am just going to stand silently off to the side shaking my head.

Why? Why oh why would he have to be born a Ginger……….

Madness

Stanford v Texas

My heart was beating so hard I could feel it in my throat. Blood pounding in rushes so strong my ears flared red from the pulse. The clock was ticking down and the ball was moving through out stretched hands faster than the eye could follow. Bodies weaving in a dance set in motion by muscle memory and endless hours of practice.

I glanced at the scoreboard. It was going to be close. Up by five with under two minutes to play.

My team defending well but the ball is just moving too fast. Passed back to the outside. A shot goes up. Damn. Three pointer from the corner baseline. Only up by two.

March has always been the beginning of a season of renewal. The shackles of winter cast off by the warmth of a forgotten sun. Renewal of the trees as the leaves burst forth, renewal of the flowers as their buds scent the air, renewal of the taste of lawnmower emissions on steaks left beside the grill for a half a second too long and an over zealous neighbour.

Renewal of old rivalries.

It had started almost as a joke. My son, the Captain has always had a love for basketball. From his very first Fisher-Price plastic basketball net to the Reebok all black street hoop currently buried under a mountain of snow beside the driveway. He loves it in a way that baffles me.

I could have easily been one of those parents that drilled the things they loved into my kids. Instead, I let them find the things they love and just let them run with it. It might explain why my eleven year old daughter’s hair is turquoise after it was almost black with blonde highlights.

Back up the court and a turnover just past half. My team scrambling back to defend but a step too slow and inches behind as the easy lay up drops. Tie game.

The Captain and I were in the driveway shooting baskets for what felt like hours as he laid out the entire March Madness bracket system. I was really only half paying attention. I was much more focused on the fact I think I had dropped two of the three thousand shots it felt like I had taken through the mesh hoop.

“Who do you think will win?” The Captain asked as he rebounded yet another shot I had missed.

“Who is projected to go first overall in the NBA draft?” I asked as I watched him lay the ball up easily and catch his own rebound.

“Kemba Walker from the university of Connecticut.” The Captain answered in the same matter of fact tone he usually reserves for sports statistics. His knowledge of them baffles me at times. He can tell me the name of the kicker that kicked the winning field goal in the 1996 Grey Cup but can’t remember to put deodorant on after gym class.

“That’s my pick to win the whole thing.” I said with a half a smile. My knowledge of college basketball was limited to the sports highlights I watched over the top of a coffee mug walking out the door on the way to work in the morning.

“Wanna bet?” The Captain asked.

Inbound ball slips through the point guards hands and is shuttled to a streaking power forward who rockets into the air and slams the ball through the hoop. My team looks at each other in search of support and finds it lacking. Thirty-five seconds to play and down by a basket.

“Absolutely,” I answered “What are the stakes?”

“You picked a team so I will do the same. Whoever’s team makes it the farthest wins.” The Captain replied as he drained another long shot. The ball skipped out of my reach and rolled into the street. I stepped toward the ball but the Captain had already picked it up and was launching it toward the rim. It slipped through the hoop and whispered through the mesh.

“What are we playing for?” I asked.

“If I win, you have to clean my room,” The Captain replied with a sardonic smile “If you win, I will clean any room you want.”

“Deal,” I laughed as I plucked the ball from him and lofted it toward the net. It missed by a mile.

The clock ticks can be heard over the hushed crowd. Bodies fly up the court. Open hands are outstretched. Less than twenty seconds now. The defence seems impenetrable. The point guard dribbles hard to his left around a pick and sees the open lane. He drives his foot forward but glances at the time. He pulls back outside the three-point line. Pulls up. Shoots.

It was a tense few days of watching box scores and the non stop barrage of basketball on the television. I could have cared less who won.

The truth is, it was nice to bond with my son over something. As parents , we spend so much time working or doing laundry or getting groceries or worrying over bills that we forget that our kids see us doing everything but paying attention to them. The time they are kids is so fleeting that it slips by in a half a heartbeat. For those couple of weeks in March it was a constant conversation about who and what was happening in the tournament. A barrage of insults and jibes at each other that parents often forget bond you to your kids in ways we long for when they move on in their lives.

The Captain’s team, Duke University lost in the Final Four negating the chance of our teams playing each other in the final game but by that point neither of us cared. We watched the final game together as Kemba Walker led UConn to a national title on his path to being picked first overall in the draft.

Nothing but net.

I can’t say I am proud of it but I sat outside on the step laughing the entire time my son cleaned my truck. It’s always referred to as my office so I figured it was as good a room as any. I wasn’t laughing because he was cleaning out rancid coffee cups or sweaty clothes.

I was laughing because I had already cleaned his room.

An Age of Wonders

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I remember my first computer.

It was an absolute miracle of technology. It could do things I had never seen before.

It could play games. It could……. well that’s about it.

Over the years I have watched the technology advance to the point where I could play a game on my laptop while sending an email to a product distributor while bitching about a movie trailer and buying generic brand Viagra  from a company in Kuala Lampoor.

I have seen computes get faster and smaller to the point where the processor in my iphone has more power than the entire bank of computers that put the first man on the moon.

They can process data at an alarming rate.

They can hold more songs than I could listen to in any given week.

They can store a dozen movies on a microchip smaller than the hole you had to cover up with masking tape on a video cassette in order to illegally make a copy of it.

They can take pictures of such brilliant clarity that they dazzle the eye.

They can……well……they can allow your teenage son to make videos and directly post them to Youtube …..

Yes, an age of wonders.

An age where I will forever live in a Superman costume and an Afro wig.

I am seriously hoping time travel is right around the corner.

The Yes Movement

The simplest of words have always held the most power.

As writers we use a massive vocabulary of verbosity to voice our inner thoughts and convey the message we have to share. Yet all around us is a world of single words and slammed doors. Rejection at every turn.

From the earliest stages of our lives we learn to fear one word answers. From the “No” you get from your parents when asking for something to the “No” you get when you ask that girl you have had a crush on for as long as you can remember if she would go the dance with you there is nothing more crushing than a one word rejection.

We are conditioned to say “no” to anything that makes us feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable. We are taught to say “no” to the things that seem strange to us. We are taught to say “no” to anyone that makes us feel something we aren’t accustomed to.

Saying “no” limits us in every way. It argues for us to limit what we do or think or feel. When we argue for our limitations we get to keep them.

No. That’s too far to travel.

No. That can’t happen.

No. This will never work.

There is a reason that twenty thousand people want to chant a single word over and over at a basketball game. There is a reason people gathered together around the world can easily band together and scream at the top of their lungs. It may have started out as a gimmick for a relatively mid level professional wrestler but its power can’t contained to one venue. On street corners and in high schools. In churches and rooftops. People around the world are chanting a word we don’t hear very often in our lives.

Yes.

The most powerful word in any language is “yes”.

Saying “yes” opens doors to things you didn’t even know existed. Saying “yes” opens you to a world where you have no idea what’s going to happen, often with people and places you have never seen before. You are not in control. So say “yes.” If you’re lucky, you’ll find people who will say “yes” back. Now will saying “yes” get you in over your head at times? Will saying “yes” lead you to doing some foolish and dangerous things?

Yes it will.

But don’t be afraid to be foolish. You cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Cynics don’t learn anything. Cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no.

Saying “yes” begins everything.

Saying “yes” is how things change.

Saying “yes” leads to knowledge.

“Yes” is for young people.

So for as long as you have the strength to, say “yes.”

Say “yes” to a day spent in your pyjamas.

Say “yes” to sing a Britney Spears song at karaoke if you are a guy.

Say “yes” to dinner with your mom even though she picks at the waitress like a tag on a pillow.

Say “yes” some help even when you don’t think you need it.

The next time someone asks you to do something just that little bit outside your comfort zone understand that the magic words that make things happen are not hocus pocus or walla walla washington.

It’s just “yes”.

yes-man

 

The Memory Remains

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Fortune, fame, mirror vain, gone insane but the memory remains – Metallica

The tremors started in my hand when I heard the first scream.

It was involuntary and I reached into my pocket to dig my truck keys into my palm. Hoping in vain that the bright pain would stem the dark tide I could feel washing over me. The tingle of every follicle of hair on my body standing on end was as electric as the ozone after image from a thunder-storm. I watched my daughter and her friend run ahead of me screaming that care free screech of the tether being loosed on childhood. That scream that only two young girls can manifest when their feet are flying over solid ground.

Lights flashed in the periphery of my vision like flashbulbs and I briefly looked over my shoulder to see if the predicted storm had finally broke. A waving hand caught my attention and I turned back to see my daughter frantically motioning me closer. I passed booth after booth of garishly colored animals and mirrors reflecting the swirling bodies around me as I weeded my way closer to them.

The call of carnival barkers broken off by a derisive wave of my hand that I was trying to control in vain. Music pulsed at ear drum shattering levels that seemed to be in time with the pounding in my chest. My internal temperature dropped and I shivered despite the oppressive Indian summer humidity. The breeze kicked up long enough to dry the cold sweat that had broken out on every inch of my skin. A low animal growl of thunder in the distance broke my reverie and I made my way over to the impatiently bouncing girls.

My daughter’s smile briefly quelled the wave of anxiety breaking on the shore of my memory as I saw what she was pointing at.

” We are going in here,” She said in the tone she has that leaves no room for argument and had already kicked off her shoes . Her friend followed suit and I watched in near abject fear as they climbed inside the huge dome of the old-fashioned bouncy castle. It’s red and white stripes dulled by some many seasons of travelling from farmers field to farmers field. I reached out tentatively to run my hand over the mesh on the windows and pulled back as the texture of it felt like spider webs.

I felt the motion of the bodies inside it and heard the screams that you can never be sure are fear or laughter. I leaned my head against it and closed my eyes. The dream came back just as vivid as it had been when I woke violently from it the morning before.

The smell was the first thing I remembered. The musty wetness of damp ground as I walked  the stone bridge to the island I ran the trails on. The leafy canopy of the trees as you stepped on to it shielding me from the early morning spring sun. The trail feeling soft under my feet as I walked slowly towards the field where I always began running from. I started for a moment as I saw I wasn’t alone.

I saw her standing in the full light of day with the gossamer fluff of dandelion fronds dancing around her. Her tanned limbs stretched out to kiss the sun back. A smile broke on her face as she turned on her toes with a dancers grace. Her eyes lighted on me and I could feel my heart hold its breath.

“Chase me,” she called out and turned toward the lushly groomed trail.The turned her whirling hair into a blazing comet’s trail as she picked up speed. My heart leaped into my throat and I bolted after her braying for her to wait like a blood hound on a scent. My arms pumped furiously to drive my muscles to the breaking point and yet she seemed to be gaining speed. The ground felt at times insufferably muddy and other times as barren and harsh as the mountain tops. I chased her over vast fields grape vines and oceans of desert sand. Her musical laughter at my plight causing me to let loose the maniacal giggle that lay trapped behind my gasping chest.

The trees enclosed around the path again as the sun rose high over them. The oppressive humidity causing the air to hang heavily laden with moisture. The horizon I could just make out between the thick limbs began to darken as a storm was building drawn at a maddening rate by the thick air. I could see her toned limbs flash around every corner I passed and I redoubled my efforts.

I came up over a small hill to see a vast field spread out in front of me. Endless miles of wild strawberry flowers lay on the canopy floor giving the first hint of early summer. I saw the whisper of a gossamer shift flicker on the edge of my vision just as I felt a hand cup my own damp palm. My heart hammered once before freezing in that way things do when a moment holds its breath. Long fingers wrapped around mine and I turned my face to see a beatific smile. Her lips grazed over my jaw line and up to my ear where I could feel her heart pounding in the tight pants of her breath.

” Let’s go have some fun,” She teased as she used her nose tip to turn my face to see the huge dome of the bouncy house. It’s striped exterior giving a red tinged hue to its shaded interior. I felt the first drop of rain from the storm before the first massive clap of thunder shook the ground around us. Her smile and laughter dragged me towards the relative shelter as much as her tugging of my hand. Rain spattered the ground like crystal tears as the sun dipped over the tree line and the dark clouds enveloped the sky. Lightning arched through the teeming rain and I heard the same laughter that urged my frantic chase draw me inside the air-filled dome.

I felt hands on the side of my face and eyes lock on mine. I could feel my feet sliding on the wet surface but was held fast by a grip as sure as steel. I was pulled into an embrace that was as safe and warm as anything I had ever known despite the rain that continued to chill my soul. I looked out the spider web style windows to see the last of the fall leaves being lashed away by the gale force winds pounding through the clearing. Lips grazed mine on their way to my ear and a voice breathed over my brain.

“Miles don’t matter and time changes nothing,” Her voice echoed in every fibre of me ” But it’s time to wake up.”

I felt the embrace fade like a shadow in the sun and the rain turned to snow crystals on my eyelashes. I rushed to the woven windows to see her walking back up the path towards the trees. My heart exploded in my chest at the same moment the scream tore from my throat calling her back.

” You going in,” A voice gruff from years of smoking said blandly as I blinked the dream away.  I could hear my daughter and her friend laughing and screaming in that way kids do when they think no one is watching. My hands shook violently and I gripped my keys harder as I gulped down a breath. I shook my vision clear to see a young carnival worker gesturing towards the entrance of the bouncy house. The first drops of rain began to fall as the storm finally broke around me.

” No,” I answered in a near whisper ” Once was enough for me in there.”

It was true. Time does change nothing. The pain may fade. The heart does heal.

But the memory?

The memory remains.

The One For The Road Story

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The first warm day we had after a month of blistering cold and damaging snow storms had my phone going off like your dad does at his office work Christmas party after he’s had nine beer and found out the company wasn’t giving out bonus cheques this year. The accumulated snow leads to ice dams along the edge of the roofs which can lead to wide-spread leakage and damage if not attended to. The majority of people just leave the snow and let nature take its course but the best course of action is to at least remove it from the perimeter.

The first call of my morning was an overly long snow removal with a woman who grilled me so hard about what I was doing I began to get a Joan Crawford “Mommy Dearest” kind of vibe. I actually flinched when she went to the closet and pulled her coat off a wire hanger but when she followed me outside grilling me mercilessly about the rationale behind removing snow from a roof I realized she was likely just a lonely old lady who just beat her own kids with coat hangers.

Mile after mile, house after house we pulled literal tons of snow off buildings. The muscles in my upper back and shoulders were burning like a painful bowel movement brought on by a night of dollar store tequila. The temperature continued to drop and I was getting to the point where I just didn’t think I could do much more.

I checked with my office and there was a call for snow removal not that far from where I was so I figured I would do the responsible thing and attend to it. If nothing else it got me one step closer to soaking in my bath tub with my army of plastic sharks and Spider-man bubble bath.

The snow was piled up on the house in giant meringue puffs that likely tasted terrible but I set to work with my snow rake. Great lumps of the stuff fell around me and did nothing to improve my mood that was souring as quickly as milk left on a sidewalk in St. Louis in summer.

I made my way around the back of the house and just started pulling the snow off the low garage when I heard a laugh and a splash.

” Now that looks like hard work,” I heard a voice call out. I turned with a half-smile and a sarcastic retort hanging off my teeth that never made it to my tongue. In the midst of the snow drifts sat a steaming hot tub occupied by two gentlemen who had to easily be in their late seventies. Their white skin and even whiter chest hair stood out against the starkness of the landscape like a polar bear walking across the arctic if he was drunk and horribly lost. There was a litter of empty beer bottles strewn around the base of the tub and a cooler not very far out of reach. Both men beamed smiled as bright as the mis-aimed headlight in an 86 Hyundai.

“It sucks ,” I answered back as the laughter I had forced down bubbled up like a fart in a thong. Both men raised their beer and half saluted me before draining them and tossing the bottles into the snow.

” You really need one of these at home,” One of them called out across the yard and pawed drunkenly at the lid of the cooler. His grizzled mat of chest hair floated like angry sea weed as he splashed his way towards the edge.

” I wish,” I laughed as I thought about my sad little bath tub. I took a longing look at the hot tub and cooler. Maybe someday.

“Well, we are moving out tomorrow so at least stop over for a beer before you leave,” Chest Hair yelled as I moved further down the roof edge. I turned to answer him when I heard a splash and water sloshing onto the ground. My eyes stopped on a pale set of wrinkled ass cheeks bobbing up out of the water as Chest Hair stood to open the just distant cooler. He turned to hand his companion a beer and his junk flopped against his opposite leg like a dog shaking a sock with an orange in it. It was almost at perfect eye level with his tub buddy and it didn’t phase him at all.

They sank back down into the water and had an arm over each other as they each took a long draught from the newly opened bottles. I had now seen it all. I had tangled with a sunbathing cougar and now had run across two hot tubbing bears. Lions and tigers and bears my ass.

” Sure you don’t want one,” Chest Hair chided again waving a beer bottle in a manner far too close to the motion his old junk had just conjured up.

I stopped and in a brief flash I realized my day had essentially been filled with the same kind of people. From Joan Crawford chasing me through snow drifts too deep to beat me to death in to the drunken Grizzly bears. They were just lonely. Seeking the companionship that even a few simple words from a stranger or a hot tub reach around can give.

That brief moment of connection to someone else that lets them know that they are not completely alone. Hell, I was guilty enough of it but anthropomorphizing plastic sharks in my bath tub. No one really likes to be alone. If these people found comfort in each other then who was I too judge them and quite frankly the beer looked really good.

” I have time for a quick one,” I replied as I tossed the snow rake aside and reached for the still junk dangling bottle.

A Matter of Faith

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I don’t believe in a lot of things.

I don’t believe that the electric car isn’t a viable option but the big oil companies keep it suppressed.

I don’t believe that most people know how to properly use the word “awesome” because most of the things they use it to describe hardly inspire awe. “Awesome” describes seeing your first child born not the new sandwich at Wendy’s.

I don’t believe being older makes you any smarter. I know far too many older people who are still just as dumb as they were when they were younger but are now just more ignorant about it.

I don’t believe that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are training our kids for anything other than data entry jobs.

I don’t believe your friends should always tell you the truth because if you have to ask their opinion of what you are wearing you already know you look ridiculous.

Mired deep into the third month of what has to be the longest winter I can possible imagine, I don’t believe it will ever end.

Yet when I find myself frozen driving down a back road to another place hopeful to make enough money to make it through the week and doubting spring will ever arrive I happen upon something truly awe-inspiring.

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I don’t believe Mother Nature and I will ever see eye to eye but I will be damned if sometimes she doesn’t do something truly awesome.

Standing there watching them watching me I believe we both had the same thoughts. We were all waiting for Spring.

As much as I have struggled through the depths of winter I will always believe that things are going to get better.

It’s really just a matter of faith.

 

You don’t have to call it God or Jesus. That’s religious humbug to a lot of people, but you’ve gotta believe that nature and spiritual things surround us. That is what put us here! I thank the universe for that every day of my life.” Jack Lalanne

Ordinary Heroes

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The small face pressed up against the glass greeted me with a wan smile before vanishing.

I knocked on the door and was almost taken by surprise as the door almost imploded inward. A young woman held the door open and I could tell by the pallor of her skin and the blush on her cheeks that the temperature was dropping rapidly in her house. The same ghostly little face appeared from behind her and smiled a little before bolting to a low couch across the room and submerging in an ocean of blankets. The slow creeping frost on the interiors of the windows was as thick as the frost on the outside.

” I guess I don’t need to ask if its cold in here,” I started jovially but instantly regretted it as the woman pushed a strand of her hair back behind her ear. The almost imperceptible flash of indignation that crossed her chilled skin told me that my usual humorous banter was unnecessary.

” The wind last night knocked our chimney over and the wood stove is our only source of heat,” She said ” I called a chimney company but they said if I needed any new parts to fix it that it would take over two weeks for them to get them and get here.”

” That seems a bit long to go without heat ,” I answered her unspoken question ” Let me see what I can do.”

The strong wind gusts and a mountain of falling snow had ripped the steel chimney out of its housing and crushed the top of it. I sighed and rubbed my scalp as I looked at it. I wasn’t confident it would go back together but as I stood there looking at the crumpled remain I felt a gaze falling on me. I looked at the window again and saw the same pallor and flushed cheeks on the boy whose image greeted me. He waved quickly and disappeared in a whoosh of blankets not unlike a cape unfurling.

I stared at the chimney and felt the cold wind blow around me fluffing the fine dusting of snow that was falling into my eyelashes. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t really have a choice.

I ask myself every day ” What makes someone a hero?”

I look at the men and women who rush into burning buildings to rescue something as relatively trivial as a set of glasses for an elderly woman or the people brave enough to take up arms for our freedom when others just as easily turn a blind eye. These are the people we know to be heroes.

But what about the ordinary heroes?

The moms who work a double shift at a factory then finds time to make a Halloween costume the morning of the a theme party.

A dad who sits on a frozen bench in a sub-zero arena watching his daughter fall over and over trying to figure skate.

The people who volunteer their time at no kill pet shelters cleaning up dog poop.

To me, a hero is anyone who goes out of their way to make a difference to even a single person and asks for nothing in return.

It took four trips to the hardware store and a second ladder borrowed from a neighbouring farm-house over the course of four hours in arctic level winds but I fixed the chimney. After putting all my gear away and trying in vain to shake the cold from my limbs I knocked on the door.

” Can I use the stove now ?’ the woman said as soon as the door opened. I could hear her teeth clicking as she turned and looked over her shoulder at the blanket wrapped boy. I nodded and smiled. She practically ran across the room and started stuffing huge hunks of wood in the black monster as fast as her hands could move. I stood with the bill I had written out in my hand watching her and I cleared my throat as the first sparks caught fire to the kindling she had laid across the logs.

” My son thinks you’re like Superman,” she said with a warming smile as she turned and reached out for the invoice I had in my hand. I burst out laughing. I think I actually had my Superman underwear on underneath my Superman thermal pants. I saw a wide smile peek out from beneath the pile of blankets and I laughed even harder. The little boy popped up from the couch and put his hands on his hips to proudly show me his Superman t-shirt. I handed the young woman the bill and told her she could just drop the money in the mail. Warmth had already started to spread through the room as I stepped outside into the cold.

I would have loved to have seen her face when she opened a bill that read ” No Charge”.

 

 

 

A Matter of Perspective

Working construction in the winter is its own little slice of Hell.

Nothing ever seems to go the way its supposed to and making a single dollar is a fight.

There is more than a passing thought that this way of life is simply not worth the effort.

That there has to be an easier way to make a living.

That maybe those corporate sales yes men have it right with their hundred thousand dollar a year jobs and six weeks of paid holidays.

Then I stumble across something like this.

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I may have a shitty job or I may be having a shitty day.

This guys job is just……….. shit.

Keep your shoulders back and your chest out. Be proud of what you do.

Cause in the end you aren’t getting paid to stick things up your ass.

Precision Timing

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Why is there always that one kid?

Why is there always that one kid at a birthday party?

Why is there always that one kid at a birthday party at the gym that needs to eat his hot dog and everyone else’s?

Why is there always that one kid at a birthday party at the gym that needs to eat his hot dog and everyone else’s along with an entire family sized bag of chips and the remainder of the five and a half-foot sheet cake that’s more icing than cake?

Why is there always that one kid at a birthday party at the gym that needs to eat his hot dog and everyone else’s along with an entire family sized bag of chips and the remainder of the five and a half-foot sheet cake that’s more icing than cake before running screaming around the pool area?

Why is there always that one kid at a birthday party at the gym that needs to eat his hot dog and everyone else’s along with an entire family sized bag of chips and the remainder of the five and a half-foot sheet cake that’s more icing than cake before running screaming around the pool area getting himself so worked up that he pukes not only in the lap pool but the therapy pool as well?

Why is there always that one kid at a birthday party at the gym that needs to eat his hot dog and everyone else’s along with an entire family sized bag of chips and the remainder of the five and a half-foot sheet cake that’s more icing than cake before running screaming around the pool area getting himself so worked up that he pukes not only in the lap pool but the therapy pool as well while his step mom that is only ten years older than he is and has a typical white trash name like Becky-Lynn is not paying attention to him while texting her friends about how much she hearts things as the older divorced moms make snide comments about her yoga pant and UGG boots combination that draw the attention away from her obvious new boobs?

Why is there always that one kid at a birthday party at the gym that needs to eat his hot dog and everyone else’s along with an entire family sized bag of chips and the remainder of the five and a half-foot sheet cake that’s more icing than cake before running screaming around the pool area getting himself so worked up that he pukes not only in the lap pool but the therapy pool as well while his step mom that is only ten years older than he is and has a typical white trash name like Becky-Lynn is not paying attention to him while texting her friends about how much she hearts things as the older divorced moms make snide comments about her yoga pant and UGG boots combination that draw the attention away from her obvious new boobs at the exact same time that a lifeguard pulls the kid from the pool permitting him to projectile vomit all over the pool deck?

Why is there always that one kid at a birthday party at the gym that needs to eat his hot dog and everyone else’s along with an entire family sized bag of chips and the remainder of the five and a half-foot sheet cake that’s more icing than cake before running screaming around the pool area getting himself so worked up that he pukes not only in the lap pool but the therapy pool as well while his step mom that is only ten years older than he is and has a typical white trash name like Becky-Lynn is not paying attention to him while texting her friends about how much she hearts things as the older divorced moms make snide comments about her yoga pant and UGG boots combination that draw the attention away from her obvious new boobs at the exact same time that a lifeguard pulls the kid from the pool permitting him to projectile vomit all over the pool deck at the precise moment I have decided that I need to work on my cardio by swimming because my body hurts from head to toe from shoveling snow off roof tops for more than six hours a day for the past week and I get splashed with frosting blow back all over my feet and legs making it look like I had stuck my lower half into a unicorn’s vagina?

More importantly, why is that kid always a Ginger?

Worth a Thousand Words

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“A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense and is thereby a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.” 
― Ansel Adams

There are some images we see that move us so much we have no choice but to put pen to paper. Document those emotions with prose just to stop the bottled up emotions from spilling over. Images of such beauty and intensity that we wax poetic just to share the vision with others. A thousand words could easily become ten thousand from a single photo of a child’s first smile or a loved one’s last.

Some images burn their way into our soul that we are left with no choice but to write to purge the feelings that cause our hearts to swell and our nerve endings to tingle. That rush that brings blood to your cheeks and that warmth to your fingertips. Tongues dance with verbiage and raise voice to spread truth.

Yet some images evoke such power we are left with but one word to describe them. A single utterance so fitting that it is a moment of perfection. The moment where vision and language meld together in such symbiotic harmony that they will forever be linked. A single etching of time that will be spoken of among peers until the end of days.

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Shit.

Interlude – The Wisdom of Age

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Based on my family history and genetic predisposition to having every type of ailment from heart disease to athletes foot, the chances of me living to what most people refer to as the golden years are fairly slim.

That’s not to say I won’t be trying hard. I eat well aside from a crippling addiction to Diet Pepsi in a can. Exercise fairly regularly around the schedule of two very active children and a pair of dogs that think that me in the down dog position during yoga equates to my wanting either their face in mine or up my ass. I seldom drink as I have a tendency to go from showing off to loving everyone in the room to sappy mushy tears in a very short time frame.

The truth is I hope I reach the age where I can do or say whatever I want and people will chalk it up to the eccentricity of old age. I see it all the time in customers of mine that have reached the point in their lives that the filters aren’t just shut off but nonexistent anymore.

The first blast of winter rolled into our area and stuck around like a fat aunt at a buffet that someone else is paying for. The first snow had turned into a layer of ice but that doesn’t ever seem to stop houses from developing roof leaks. It slows down the process of getting work done as we have to shovel everything off and let it dry before we can start working.

As the rest of the team worked on removing the ice and snow, I knocked on the door and waited. After a few minutes, I knocked again only to hear shuffling steps towards the door. Slowly, the door opened and I was greeted by the wizened yet still smiling face of the shrunken elderly home owner. We had met a few weeks previous but at the time she wasn’t wearing a house coat left over from the morning Canada officially became a country.

” Good morning,” I said as she recognized me ” We are going to get started in a bit but I just wondered if you needed your car out of the garage.”

” What are the roads like?” She asked me in quick response.

” Not great,” I replied ” There are some spots of black ice and some drifting snow.”

” Then no,” She stated flatly ” I guess I won’t”

” Alright then, but if you change your mind it’s really no issue to move our equipment,” I said as I pulled my gloves and hat back on before returning to my team.

” May I ask you something?” the home owner called out before I could cross the driveway.

” Of course,” I answered as I turned back to face her.

” I am eighty-six years old. I am partially deaf in one ear and wear trifocals all day. I wobble from side to side when I walk. It takes four seconds for the thought to travel from my brain to my feet to tell them to move or stop which means I shouldn’t be driving in the first place. I just got the fireplace going and have a pot of tea brewing. The roads are obviously terrible and I am a hazard on them anyway. Why the fuck would I want to go anywhere?” She asked with a serene smile.

As I barked out a laugh all I could think was I hope I get to the age where I can swear and people think its cute rather than swear and people tell me I am making a scene.

The Bump in the Night Story

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” Dad, there’s a monster in the garage !”

Every parent at some point in time has dealt with the monster in the closet, hiding in the shadows or under the bed scenario more than once. Personally, I wanted to scream ” DON’T TELL HIM I AM IN MY ROOM!!!” but eventually you man up and deal with it. I think I slept in a chair outside my daughter’s room for a couple of months straight at one point just to be ready for whatever scared her in the night but I had thought those days were long behind me.

We had just gotten home from a late evening gym visit and as usual the front yard was littered with bicycles, sidewalk chalk and busted water balloons. Garage door wide open and the contents of the recycle bins looking like Godzilla had just anal raped a Chef Boyardee factory.

” For God’s sake, you guys,” I groaned ” Have I not ran over enough crap in the yard already?”

” I just had my bike,” my nine-year old daughter, Fred, replied with the rising pitch in her voice that immediately indicated she was being less than honest. It was the same tone she had in her voice when I drove over the bicycle she left laying down in front of my truck that was pulling about three tons of waste from a previous job.

” She had my bike out too,” my teenage son, The Captain, continued with a finger-pointing at his sister as we exited the truck. Never mind the fact I had run over a dozen golf balls he had chipped in the front yard with the lawn mower the previous week, all that mattered was blaming his sister for anything that got him out of four seconds of work.

” Please just put the bikes away,” I said with a sigh as I opened the front door and dumped my gym bag on the floor just as I heard Fred scream. I bolted back out the door to see her and The Captain standing near the edge of what little light was cast from the flickering orange street light on the corner.

” Dad, there’s a monster in the garage !” I heard Fred cry as I heard the first hissing shuffle of something from behind a couple of sheets of plywood leaning up against the inside wall of the garage. I actually jumped back as whatever it was scuttled quickly from one end of the short span and back towards me.

” Go grab me a flashlight, Fred,” I said in a voice I hoped conveyed parental strength rather than the actual truth that I think I actually pooped a little when the scuttling stopped and the hissing started all over again.

Fred bolted across the driveway and into the house leaving The Captain and I to face whatever beast had taken up residence in the sports equipment strewn bowels of my garage. The scuttling increased in speed as the monster shot from one end of the garage to the other in a few hissing seconds that left me fearful of what we were up against but also a bit confused as to what exactly it might be. I heard the front door slam and saw Fred emerge from the house.

Click.

BADOOPADOOPBADOOOOOO!!!!

I turned to see her holding a small cow flashlight she had been given a few years ago the made a ridiculous sing-song noise every time you turned it on. It also shut off after about three seconds. The pale yellow glow only illuminated a small circle of the ground but it was going to have to do. I grabbed a baseball bat from just inside the door and handed it to The Captain. He clutched it like Arthur wielding Excalibur and nodded that he was, if nothing else, ready to defend himself.

” Just smash whatever the hell it is when I flush it out,” I said as I grabbed the cowlight from Fred. The scuttling grew louder and the hissing had increased in intensity as I stepped into the garage. The strange cacophony of sounds was like the background music of the dumbest slasher movie ever conceived.

HISS, HISS, HISS. Click. BADOOPADOOPBADOOOOOO!!!!

I reached for the sheet of plywood that seemed to be the only place that a beast this monstrous could hide behind. I smashed my foot against the end of it and the hissing and scuttling only increased but nothing emerged. I jammed the end of the sheet against the wall as the light clicked off leaving me in the dark with a plastic cowlight in one hand and some form of monster inched from me. I clicked the light back on and heard that cheerful tune that only further irritated me. The Captain had crept in close to the open end of the tunnel I had created for the creature and stood poised to rain aluminum death down.

The hissing ceased and with a rush of frantically pumping feet, the beast emerged from the dark. The three of us stood in disbelief as the biggest painted turtle I had ever seen scurried forward and peered at us. Fred laughed and clapped her hands to her chest and The Captain looked mildly dismayed that his wrath had been subverted. I reached down and picked the “monster” up and took him out in the light for a better look. I really had no idea how he had gotten into the garage but it was better than finding the Chupacabra I thought he actually was.

” We should keep him,” Fred said gleefully.

” Why exactly would we do that?” I asked as I turned the turtle over in my hands.

” Well, for protection I think,” Fred replied in a very serious tone.

” A guard turtle?” I asked with a raised eyebrow.

” It would certainly keep people away,” Fred countered ” You’re a big guy Dad and he scared the shit out of you.”

Interlude – Primary School Programing

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I believe that the formative years of public school shape not only our minds but our bodies as well.

I will take that statements a step further by saying I think it shapes our body chemistry as well.

Need proof?

Why is it that most people need to take a dump at exactly the same time every morning? Roughly in that 10 to 10:30 a.m. range?

Diet you say? Nope.

Too much coffee perhaps? Not even close.

The next time you see someone heading for the can around that time just remember that’s the exact same time recess was.

Need even more proof?

How many times have you seen someone put up their hand to tell you they were going to the bathroom?

Trust me, you will be watching for people to do it from now on.

No, I did not put my hand up today to tell my team I was going to the bathroom around ten this morning.

Shut up.

The One Point Twenty-One Gigawatt Story

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The saying ” Youth is wasted on the young” couldn’t be more wrong.

Youth is wasted on the stupid for the amusement of the rest of us.

As with most construction companies, our turn over rate is quite high on laborers. The truth is the job is physically demanding and most young men these days have a very quick time realizing they don’t want to do it for very long. The problem with that is that we end up with a new crop of high school drop-outs each season. Every once in a while we find one with some intelligence but they realize the job sucks and just as I get them trained they take off for greener pastures. That leaves us with our choice of tattooed juvenile delinquents that don’t know the difference between a reciprocating saw and a vibrator. Both make a lot of noise and confuse the shit out of them.

As fate would have it, this year I hired two new guys at pretty much the same time.

The first guy, Steve-O had been in business for himself for a while but with the economy being what it is had struggled for a couple of years and decided to look for something steady. An experienced guy with a decent sense of humor always helps especially around a job site as conducive to insanity as ours generally is. Aside from his habit of whistling the same annoying tune for hours on end, he fit in pretty well right away.

The second young man is literally a stereotype bordering on cliche for an entire generation of kids today. A body covered in tattoos ranging from bad catch phrases to an anchor beside his left eye supposedly symbolising his solid foundation ( yes, you read that right) and crowned by a blonde faux hawk that was likely on the first page of the hair style book inside the hair salon. Add this all up with a burgeoning rap career that can be found on Youtube that is basically him freestyling in his bedroom to what has to be an old eight key Casio keyboard and you have a fine young man we affectionately call Macklemore.

We had been working on a job just over half an hour north of our office and we hadbeen trying to leave earlier in the day to make up the time. Steve-O lived closer than all of us so he drove his beat up Toyota truck to the job and met us there. Macklemore had shown up that morning and seemed a bit on edge but I didn’t have the chance to talk to him about it before we set off.

We hadn’t been on the job site twenty minutes before Macklemore’s phone went off and he stepped away to answer it. When he came back to where we were working I asked him what was going on and he just shook his head.

” Car trouble,” Macklemore sighed and set back to work.

As the day wore on, his phone went off a handful more times and we could tell based on the pitch in his voice he was getting frustrated with whomever was on the other end.

” Something wrong?” Steve-O asked.

” Actually, yeah,” Macklemore answered ” My girlfriends car wont start and she is likely going to be stuck at school until I can get there.”

” Is it something major ?” I asked in follow-up thinking maybe it was something she could be talked through on the phone.

” It just won’t start.” Macklemore replied with a shake of his head ” We just bought it and had it safetied. All that it needed was a new battery”

” It’s a Toyota isn’t it?” Steve-O asked as he turned away and moved some metal flashing toward the wall we were finishing.

” Yes, but it’s an older one,” Macklemore explained.

” Huh,” Steve-O grunted in response” Did you have them check the flux capacitor?”

I couldn’t even look at him. I turned my back on both of them and tried to hold back the laugh I knew would explode at any second. I held my breath waiting to hear the response.

” No,” Macklemore answered almost apologetically ” I don’t even know what that is.”

I knew there was only one way to deal with this situation and as the owner of the company I had to set an example.

” You really should call them right now and have them tow it over to the garage you had it inspected at . I can’t believe they missed something like that. It basically controls all the electrical components in your car,” I said as straight-faced as I could.

” Absolutely,” Steve-O jumped right in after ” I have a Toyota as well and just had it replaced. It was almost three hundred dollars but its better than your car lighting on fire.”

” Can that really happen?” Macklemore asked incredulously.

” Fuck yeah it can,” I answered ” Especially if you drive it really fast. Anything between eighty-five and ninety miles an hour and the tires will literally light on fire.”

I had to look away at this point as I really was going to crack soon but like any good team-mate Steve-O picked the ball up and ran with it.

” Mine actually did that once when I hit eighty-eight miles an hour.” Steve-O explained as a chuckle bubbled up behind the dead panned explanation.

Macklemore scrambled his phone out of his pocket at that point and frantically dialed his girlfriend who then arranged to have the car towed. He told her at least six times during the conversation to have them check the ” flux capacitor ” as soon as they could.

The next morning we met up at the job site again and I couldn’t wait to see what had actually happened with the car.

” So,” I started as soon as Macklemore crested the ladder ” What happened with your car?”

” It was just a battery terminal ,” Macklemore answered before a stupid smile spread on his face ” You guys are fucking assholes.”

We all broke at that point and I laughed so hard tears rolled down my cheeks.

” You guys could have told me it was the car from ” Back to the Future”,” Macklemore scolded as we started working.

” Everything work out though ?” I asked sheepishly.

” I think so,” Macklemore sighed ” The mechanic says the car is putting out a perfect one point twenty-one gigawatts.”

A Legacy of Heroes

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I don’t remember the last conversation I had with my father.

I remember the last place I saw him and the expression on his face but not the content of what we talked about. I am fairly sure it was something about work or his grand kids but I left him sitting in his spot on the couch watching television and sipping a beer when I left my parents house that night.

It was the last time I saw him alive.

Every kid grows up think their dad is invincible. That he is literally super human. When you are raised on a steady diet of comic books and action movies, it’s even more prevalent in your life. My dad was a closet comic book geek for years after he had reached that grown up stage in his life where it was no longer socially acceptable to be a man of a certain age and still buy them. Luckily enough for him, I picked up where he left off and amassed a massive collection of comics. When comic books were twenty-five or fifty cents a piece, you could buy a boat load of them with a five dollar allowance every week. I never really noticed his subtle influence he had on my buying habits until he would ask about a certain book and then look a bit wistful when I told him I hadn’t bought it that month.

He would have categorically denied it but he read my comics but the truth was he liked them. He liked heroes.

His favorite was always Thor, God of Thunder. I think the fact the guy solved most of the problems he faced with a massive hammer was pretty appealing. For a roofing contractor, it kind of made sense. Every day of his adult life he swung that hammer to make life better but I think the entire mythology surrounding it resonated with him. His father created a legacy that he strived to uphold. When his brothers basically forced him out of a family business that he ran for years after my grandfather’s death he did the only thing he could. He struck out on his own. Picked up his hammer and set out to be worthy of wielding it.

Who so ever holds this hammer, if he be worthy….

After he died suddenly of a massive heart attack, I was lost. In one tragic moment I lost my father, best friend and mentor. I did the typical thing most people do when they lose a parent. I got drunk. I cried. I lashed out. I cried more. What I didn’t do was grieve.

The day after his funeral, I became a business owner with a legacy and reputation I had no clue if could ever be worthy of. So I took things to the extreme. I took on jobs I had no clue how to complete hoping things would just fall into place. I had a massive chip on my shoulder and a sense of entitlement to match. If I was going to pick up that hammer and be worthy of it, I had to meet or exceed the level at which my father did things.

I took a job on a massive water front condo complex that was as intricate as it was titanic. From the very first day, nothing went right. It was early spring and the morning frost on the roof was proving to be just as treacherous as the freezing rain that seemed to fall at the whim of which ever passing cloud decided to drift over us. After what seemed like an eternity, we reached the last day of the job. The weather started out cold and clear but the horizon hung heavy with dark clouds that approached like lions out on the open plains. The wind steadily picked up all day to the point where the gusts were almost dangerously strong. We finished the last few pieces of trim work as the wind became a howling beast and icy drops of rain splashed off our exposed skin like needles.

The building owner came around then and we laughed in that uncomfortable way people do when they are standing in miserable weather together. Just as we finished, a damaging blast of wind tore at the edge of the building and ripped shingles from the top capping we had just installed. I watched the look on the owners face go from one of pleased admiration to an eyebrow raised in speculation. All the emotion I had poured into finishing this job bubbled up in a barely contained scream caught in my chest. I threw my tool belt back on and climbed back up the ladder slipping on the rapidly freezing rungs. Inch by sliding inch I dragged myself up to where the damage was and steadily put things back together. Ice crusted on my hammer every time I sat it down and froze it to my hand every time I picked it up.

As I finished and looked back over the now once again completed work the wind died for a minute as a huge cloud bank boiled up from the edge of the water. A rumble of thunder hammered through the air and I knew I had to get off the roof soon. I pulled myself up to the ridge and tried to get my feet underneath me on the slick slope. Panic began to set in when the air literally hummed around me. The scent of ozone tingled my skin and I could feel the lightning the instant it slammed through the sky. I planted my feet on the ridge and stood up to face the storm as it raged in front of me. I reached down and wrapped my fist around my ice encrusted hammer as a second flash of lightning lit the sky in that negatively polarized way it does. For that brief moment I could feel my dad as the heavens touched the earth. The words echoed in the back of my head and I stood completely still in the hellish weather.

Who so ever holds this hammer, if he be worthy….

I knew my father better in that instant than I ever had when he was alive. How he must have felt facing the storms on his own. How scared he must have been to fail. How hard he must have fought to prove himself. All the rage and pain and fear I kept bottled up inside me over losing him boiled up in my chest and as the thunder growled in the clouds above me I tilted my head back and screamed. I knew I had proved myself and raged against the fact he would never see it.

Today is his birthday and that moment has been very present for me.

It gets both easier and harder every year that passes and I lose a little bit more of him. My kids know they had a grandfather but as my son was five and my daughter barely a year old when he died, they will never feel the loss. For that I am grateful but also regretfully pained. So I think the only way to deal with it is to take them to his favorite spot, the boat launch at the Landing, sit with our feet in the cold fall water, stick a Coors Light between my knees, listen to ” Bat Outta Hell” by Meatloaf and tell them a story of heroes and the legacy they leave behind.

The Long Arm of the Law Story

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” Bird, are you still fighting that arrest warrant?,” I asked quizzically as I walked across the roof.

The early morning frost had just begun to burn off and mist rose from the shingles we were in the process of stripping off. The unfortunate side effect was that everything we were working with was soaked and if all of us sat down we would have looked like a kindergarten class on a long bus ride following all you can drink chocolate milk day.

From where he was sitting, Bird looked back over his shoulder and saw the two police cars that had just pulled in disgorge their contents. Four of the largest, thickest, doughnut stuffed agents of justice we had ever seen rolled out of the vehicles with enough body armor and weapons on to ward off the zombie apocalypse. They looked each other over and nodded before circling the building we were working on. I don’t think they had really noticed us but Bird had certainly noticed them.

With a flip of his hands, Bird grabbed the sides of his Scooby-Doo balaclava and pulled the cartoon dog face down to hide his pale expression. Faster than you can say ” Ruh roh, Raggy,”, he dove over the other side of the building away from the non-existent stares of the police. I can’t really blame him. If I had been arrested for getting drunk and grinding up on a female police officer who was working security at an outdoor festival, I guess I wouldn’t really want to be on the end of her male counterparts batons.

The officers tracked around the building with military precision. They called out vehicle colors and license plate numbers from all sides. They questioned some of the maintenance staff that was doing some yard work and getting the grass cut about a particular vehicle. At that point , I realized they weren’t looking for us and decided to see what exactly was happening. I made my way over to the edge of the building so my shadow fell in front of the officer.

I won’t lie. I kind of felt like Batman just then.

” Can I help you find something, sir,” I called down to the startled officer.

” Maybe,” the officer called up ” We have had reports of a drunk driver in the building and we need to verify if he is inside.”

I actually snorted at that point. I looked around at my team who had come over to see what the fuss was about and I relayed what the police were looking for. To a man they all laughed or shook their heads and headed back to work. Please don’t misunderstand. I don’t condone driving while intoxicated an any capacity but you have to understand where we were working.

The police were searching for a drunk driver at a retirement home.

We all headed down off the roof to grab a coffee when we heard a whirring noise and watched the police form up ranks like spartan warriors defending ancient Greece. They stomp stepped around the edge of the building and we watched as the suspect rolled down the street. I could lie and say I didn’t bust out laughing when I saw him but I couldn’t stop myself.

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The octogenarian pulled his scooter in line with all the other electric vehicles at a bank of outdoor outlets. He stepped off the ledge gingerly and pulled his paper bag full of sloshing cans after him. A wide smile creased his face as he saw the police descend on him. His speech was kind of slurred but I couldn’t be sure if it was the pale ale or palsy talking but his eyes sparkled deviously as boldly strode toward the officers. His body swayed a bit as he tried to straighten up to his full shrunken height.

” Help you?,” the old guy slurred as he tried to peer around the cop at the distance to the door.

” We have had a report that you have been driving under the influence sir,” the officer barked glowering down at the man.

” Not really a crime to have a couple of beer is it?” the old man shot back.

” Sir, it’s 9:30 in the morning,” the officer sighed.

” I don’t ask what you have for breakfast,” the old man countered.

” Sir, I really don’t want to have to arrest you but if you continue to operate your vehicle while drinking, I will,” the now frustrated cop said with a visible grinding of his teeth.

” I may need a snack later,” the old man haughtily replied ” Who knows what I may want. I may have to go get a pizza.”

The officers assembled were now bristling at the old guys attitude and I just continued to smile wider. One had moved toward his vehicle and pulled up to block the old man’s exit if he decided to make “run” for it.

” Sir, if you could just give me your keys to the scooter I will give them to the staff here and you can have them when they are certain you are safe to drive,” the officer said with some finality in his voice.

The old guy shifted his beer filled bag from one arm pit to the other and stiffly handed his keys before shuffling around the officers and heading for the door. He banged the door shut behind him for emphasis. We headed back to work and watched the officers move toward their vehicles. The sound of a very loud lawn tractor revved up behind the maintenance shed and we watched in disbelief as the old guy roared out in a cloud of burning oil and gas fumes. He had his hat pulled down over his eyes as apparently that’s an effective disguise. He rocketed across the road and towards the decommissioned rail roadbed that was now used as a walking trail.

As the police officers watched as he puttered up the trail, the old guy raised a beer to his lips and took a very long sip. Shaking their heads, the officers started off towards the trail and the fleeing, drunken rebel.

” You know that’s you in like fifty years right?’ I asked Bird as he nodded his admiration at the old man.

” Fuck that,” Bird said with a wistful look in his eyes ” I just figured out how I am getting home Friday night.”

 

 

 

The Leap of Faith Story

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The rain had been teeming down for hours and we had been caught out in it. The shingle job we had been working on was closed in literally seconds before the first fat drops of rain hit the roof around us in a drum beat staccato. In no time, our clothes were all soaked through to the skin. The wind began to lash at us like an overly aggressive dominatrix and the resulting chill set into our bones quickly.

I stop at the top of the ladder and felt every drop of the violent torrent run down my chilled skin. I pulled my sodden shirt over my head and made a half-hearted attempt at ringing some of the water. As the rest of the team was hurriedly putting the equipment and tools away, I heard my phone buzz like a vibrator in a bath tub and realized it was in my very wet pocket.

” Jack!!!,” the panicked voice screamed in my ear,” We have a huge problem over here!!!”

I looked at my phone and realized that it was the maintenance man from a large factory we were scheduled to do some repairs on in a few days. The building hadn’t had any work done on it since my mom’s womb had a closed for repairs sign on it after expelling me.

” What the hell is going on over there, Tim,” I yelled back as most people usually do when someone is yelling in their ear.

” There’s water running down the wall faster than the buckets can keep up,” Tim was practically bellowing in my ear.

I assured him I would be there as quickly as I could be and threw my soaked shirt back on before looking around the job site for a warm body to go with me. It just happened that Moose was loading gear in my truck. I gave him a quick run down of what was happening and we took off at a dangerously rapid rate of speed. The rain continued to pelt down on the wind shield of the truck making visibility nearly impossible.

We slid into the parking lot and pounced out into a seemingly endless wall of water. Well, I pounced, Moose just kind of rolled. The wind whipped the door of the truck shut behind me in a yank that felt like an atomic wedgie. Thankfully, the factory had roof top access through a walkout door so we didn’t have to risk putting up the ladder and have it blow down. I have been on the wrong end of that more times than you can possibly imagine.

We rushed through the building past huge steaming machines grinding out fabric at an alarming rate. Middle aged women stood stock still staring at us as we rushed by before I looked at Moose and realized he hadn’t put a shirt on before following me in. I giggled a bit as a woman old enough to be his grandmother stared at him like package of jumbo hot dogs.

It didn’t take long to find the problem as water was sloshing down a concrete wall reminiscent of Niagara Falls. It was dangerously close to an electrical panel so I knew we had to figure something out. I bolted from the factory and ran to the truck as inspiration hit me like a sucker punch in the dark. I left Moose standing goggle eyed as the older woman put a hand on his freckled back and directed him to the door way that would lead to the roof.

I laughed in almost hysterical fashion as I sped down the road to the building supply store and laughed even louder when I told them what I needed. It was your typical request from a contractor especially in my business.

The instant I was back at the factory, I leapt from the truck and slung the bags I had just bought over my shoulder. I met Moose at the door and his eyes looked incredulously at what I was carrying.

” Here,” I yelled just a split second before throwing a thirty pound bag of kitty litter at him.

” What the fuck are we gonna do with this'”  Moose yelled ” I know I took a dump behind the shed at that last house but I buried it with leaves.”

” It’s either going to work or make a big mess but we gotta try something,” I called back over my shoulder as I hurried out the door and back into the storm. It didn’t take long to find the source of the problem as the entire edge of the building had begun to collapse in under the flashings. I ripped a bag open with my teeth and filled in the holes as Moose followed right behind me and did the same. Within seconds, the grey sandy mixture turned into a gelatin that spread into the cracks and to both of our wonderment slowed the water from its entry into the building.

We stood looking at each other in amazement as the rain poured down and the wind began to really howl. We started cleaning up the mess we made and make our way towards the door as a massive gust of wind hammered around us and heard a metallic slam. I looked up just in time to see the access door close. It was great that we hadn’t had to put up the ladder but the door had a slight issue. It didn’t have a handle on our side.

We pounded on the door for a couple of minutes before it became apparent that no one was coming to get us. We began to look around the outside edge of the building to see if anyone was in the parking lot. It was full of cars but no people but one thing did catch my eye. A garbage dumpster was wide open and appeared to be full of cardboard boxes. It was only about six feet down off the edge and right up against the building so it seemed like I would have no problem easing my way down on to it.

” I’ll run through and open the door ,” I said over my shoulder, shouting to be heard over pounding rain. Moose nodded his head and the rain came off him like a dog shaking excess bath water off. I hung my feet over the side and with a push dropped down onto the wet boxes. As soon as I touched them, they disintegrated under my weight and I slid further into the dumpster up to my chest. I laughed at the absurdity of it until something cold and slimy shifted against my stomach. As thrashed trying to get myself free, more small orbs slid across my clammy skin. A shock of fear rolled through my stomach as I sank deeper and deeper . I reached down beside me and felt one of the slime crusted objects squish under my fingers. I struggled against the slow decent and pulled myself over to the side of the dumpster.

I looked back and saw what I had been trapped in. Under the cardboard was hundreds and hundreds of fake boobs. The kind girls stick in their bras to give them a more shapely appearance. I had just nearly drowned in rubber tits. Some of them even had nipples on them. I dragged myself over the side and climbed out hearing several dozen of the wet boobs slap the pavement in a sound reminiscent of motor boating a stripper. As I would later find out, the factory we were working on not only made the fake boobs but also the bras to stuff them in so I was lucky not to be tangled in a spider’s web of bra straps as well. Unhooking those things has always been an issue for me. I looked back up to the roof and saw Moose with a smile on his face and I laughed as the single thought crossed my mind.

At least it wasn’t dildos this time.

The Darkest Day Story

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The noise from the road construction below us was steadily rising to an eardrum shattering level. A crew of workers had been slowly digging up a large section of an intersection and had just begun moving truck after truck of gravel in. Over the course of the morning they had removed and refilled the massive hole they had dug at least twice. Traffic had been moving at that grinding sputter that always seems to compliment the already inconvenient rerouting of so many vehicles.

The medical clinic we had been working on had steady traffic going through it for most of the day. Mostly senior citizens that were locked in that perpetual cycle of doctors visits and prescriptions but a few young parents as well. Each group seemed equally fascinated by the small group of half-dressed sweaty guys trying their best to not have every other word be a curse word.

The heat and humidity had risen just as quickly as the noise. Each person that crossed the parking seemed to almost sigh in relief as they entered the climate controlled building and would wilt a little as they emerged into the oppressive air. My dad had made the decision earlier in the day that even in the heat we had to get as much done as we possibly could before the threatening thunderstorms that were to buffer the area later that evening could roll in. The skin on my back practically sizzled from the blazing sun. Every drop of my sweat had dried into a salt crust that felt like fine grain sand paper being run over my body.

From across the street, a lanky, elderly gentleman clad in slacks and a burgundy buttoned cardigan was eyeing us and an almost wistful smile crinkled the corners of his mouth. Straight grey hair with an almost yellowish cast hung down over his forehead. His thick black framed glasses gave him an almost owlish appearance. He passed through the increasingly crowded intersection despite the objections of the road crew working there. He barely even seemed to notice the large machines moving earth and slabs of broken asphalt.

” I used to be in the roofing business,” He called out as he got closer to us. It’s a pretty common refrain for almost everyone we have ever met of his age. Everyone seems to have tried it at some point and realized that there are easier and more temperate ways to make a living.

” Yeah?,” My dad replied as he leaned over the edge ” You looking for a job?”

” Good God , no,” The gentleman replied with a dismissive wave of his hand and a short laugh. He brushed his sweat matted hair away from his eyes so he could look up at us once more before he made his way inside.

As the road crew began to close in one completed section of work, they started ripping up another area of the intersection. Traffic had now ground to a complete halt and cars began driving over curbs just to avoid the haphazard mess. Commuters began openly screaming at the road crew. From our perch above it all, we laughed at the interplay of hand gestures that almost always ended up with someone giving someone else the finger.

The gentleman exited the building and looked back over his shoulder at us before turning to face us fully. That wistful look was back on his face that screamed of stories to be told. An entire generation of tales waiting for the right audience.

” If you change your mind about the job, we will be here tomorrow,” my dad yelled out as the gentleman began his shuffling walk towards the intersection. This brought an abrupt halt to the man’s cantor and he turned his face up towards us.

” Gotta get my tickets at the store over there,” He responded, ” When I win the big one tonight, I wont ever have to think about money ever again.” He cackled out a laugh at his own joke and headed directly through the signs stating ” Do Not Enter” and made his way into the corner store. Several large gravel trucks had become snarled up in the now deadlocked traffic. Drivers were turning their heads in whiplash inducing frequency to see if even a single moment would afford them a means of escape.

The heat had risen up to a level just below volcanic and we started to close the job site up for the day. I looked up to see the older gentleman emerge from the store with his sweater draped over his arm. His light blue button down shirt was plastered to his back. He walked at an unhurried pace to the corner and waited for the light to change. With a snarling growl, a gravel truck accelerated into the intersection around a stopped bus and hopped the curb. I looked back a half a heartbeat later to catch the last flash of light blue as the gentleman that had been just seconds before standing on the corner was dragged under the truck.

” Jesus,” I heard me dad whisper behind me as time stood still. The sounds of the traffic muted completely as my vision began to darken around the edges. I held my breath hoping it was simply a trick of the hazy afternoon light. The truck bumped over the curb completely before grinding to a noisy halt. The driver jumped out of the door and immediately laid down on the road to look under the truck.

I bolted for the ladder as fast as I could and slid down the rungs hitting the ground in full stride. Weaving around the cars in the parking lot with my dad hot on my heels, I made it about ten feet into the intersection before I noticed the blood. A wide smear followed the tire marks over the corner. At least a dozen people were now running towards the truck and its driver who simply sat on the road beside his truck. The truck had traveled less than a dozen yards up the road but based on the sheer volume of blood it had done so with the gentleman crushed beneath it.

” Don’t look,” My dad pleaded from beside me ” Jesus Christ, don’t look.”

The driver of the truck was now openly weeping, his hands numbly folded in his lap. The wail of emergency vehicles broke the hollow echo of silence and sound crashed back around us like a wave. Road crew workers were screaming at each other to try to find some way to lift the truck but it was an empty promise of salvation. I stood frozen as if watching it play out from a distance. Two lives ruined in the blink of an eye. The older gentleman never to see if he had won the lottery and the driver never to be the same again.

You might be wondering why I chose to share this story. The truth is I see as much bad as I do good from up here. I have seen street fights and drug deals. I have seen parents slapping kids and kids kicking parents. I have seen buildings flooded and homes burned. I have even seen life ended.

The existence of such darkness makes you seek the warmth of life.

It makes me want to tell the stories I know people will laugh at.

Revolution

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“A great revolution in just one single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a society and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of humankind.”
― Daisaku Ikeda

By it’s very definition, a revolution is simply a desire for change.

A while ago, I wrote a post about awards and how I felt honored every time I received one. Since then I have received several more and I plan on responding to them as quickly as possible but I have spoken to several bloggers who read the post and they felt almost shamed in a sense for not responding to the awards they had been given.

That got me thinking. Thinking of a way for the citizens of this online world we have created to honor each other without having to schill ourselves out to anyone else. Why not change the very essence of an award?

The basic concept behind the awards passed around the blogosphere is simple. It’s a chain letter. You pass it off to others who then select a chosen few to perpetuate the cycle. It is a great way to help drive traffic from the blogs you have selected back to your own blog by making it part of the “rules” that the recipients have to link back to you.

Here’s the big issue with that. In the rules of most awards you have to select blogs within set parameters as far as number of followers or content in order to pass them along. If the concept is to drive traffic toward your blog, wouldn’t it make sense to simply find the blogs with the largest number of followers and bombard them with awards until they deemed you worthy of a link on their blog?

It stops becoming an award at that point. It becomes an incestuous little sphere of bloggers passing around two or three awards until it simply disappears. Most chain letters eventually do fade away overtime and I fear that will happen here as well. Why can’t I give the ” Blogger I’d Like to Fuck ” award to someone who posts photos of food they have cooked that looks so good I want to lick the computer screen? Why can’t I give the “Best Moment” award to someone who posts a video of their kid falling asleep on the toilet?

The answer is, as always, rules. So what if there was an award that didn’t require you to give it to seven or eleven or sixty-nine other bloggers? What if there was an award that could be given to just one blogger at a time that said to them ” You are truly extraordinary”? What if there was an award that could be given by any writer to any other writer, no matter what genre they fold themselves into,  to simply say ” Wow, that was awesome”?

This moment, as you read this is the birth of a revolution. We, as writers, literally shape this world we have created and a revolution begins with a single change. I want to change the way we think about each other and the way we appreciate each other.

It is my distinct honor to present a new award. An award to be passed like a torch to anyone whose work inspires us or changes the way we look at something. An award that only has one requirement to accept, pay it forward. No seven facts about your genitals or why you write or what you eat. Simply pay it forward to someone whose blog makes you smile or laugh or cry. Pay it forward to someone whose work makes you look at blogs as something extraordinary.

The very first recipient for the Revolution Award is Shadow Girl at Becki’s Book Blog. Her work at giving a voice to new authors who wouldn’t normally get noticed is beyond exemplary. She deserves great accolades for directing the paths of anyone who reads her work towards some of the best new indie horror I have ever seen. In a world where that bitch that cashed in on the Twilight franchise simply because soccer moms hadn’t yet been introduced to Fifty Shades of boredom, I feel it is beyond my honor to point anyone I can towards her work.

So to all of you reading this, pay it forward. Take this award as your own to bestow on anyone who inspires you. If they choose to honor you by telling everyone about you , so be it. I believe in the freedom to tell someone they are talented without having to list out the seven types of bowel movements you have had in the last month.

Welcome to the Revolution.

The Sudden Stop At The End Story

DSCF0494Everybody has that one friend who has no idea where the limit is. He or she is the person that says ” Yeah, its alright ,have that one drink too many” or ” Yeah, its okay to tie all those tents together and drag them behind your truck “. Right now, you are nodding your head thinking of which of your friends is that person. Everybody has one.

Mine is a plumber named J.P. that knows I have a severe weakness for a challenge.  One of the worst things you can say to me is ” You can’t do that” as I will then do everything in my power to either prove you right and fail spectacularly or actually accomplish said feat just so I can shut you up about it.

After much grumbling and whining, J.P. had finally gotten his boat in the water. No. Thats not a euphemism for anything filthy you perverts, he had purchased a boat off Ebay sight unseen and crossed the border into the United States to get it. Like all ” slightly used” purchases, it required a ton of work to get it sea worthy. Every time he got it back from the shop we would take it out only to inevitably break down leaving us stranded and forced to either paddle home or wave down another boat to tow us in.

One blistering afternoon,he proclaimed the boat ready to go so we set off wondering how long it would be before we ended up just floating around with no power getting drunk and sunburned.  We threw the ropes, tubes and boards in the boat and jetted off into the humid air and cool water.  The boat was humming at a quick pace and without warning J.P. buried the throttle and the boat shot ahead like a rocket.  We skimmed across the surface like a tossed stone before slowing down and setting up the tow ropes.

” Who’s first?” J.P. asked as he looked at the few of us in the boat. I had a life jacket on and was in the water before the words were even out of his mouth.

” Let’s see what shes got,” I called out as I pulled myself up onto the tube and grabbed the handles. Most people might sit inside the tube with their feet sticking out but where is the fun in that I ask.  Nope, I laid on that rubber rocket and held on for dear life as J.P. hammered on the throttle.  I could hear the water sizzling underneath me as the first few waves sloshed over me. I knew we were going fast but I had no idea how fast. After a few winding turns I slid of and smashed into the water. Pain lashed through me like I had been bullwhipped.

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” Holy shit,” I thought,” What the hell did I just hit”. Instantly I thought I had crashed into a submerged log or the Loch Ness Monster or something as my lower back and legs were on fire. I paddled towards the tube and laughed at myself. I was just being a sissy.

” You okay?” J.P. asked stiffling a giggle,” We can slow down if you like”.

I knew I had a choice here. The smart thing to do would have been to climb into the boat and admit defeat but what kind of guy would I be if I did that?

” Lets do it!!!”, I called as I hauled my battered carcass up onto the tube and held on even tighter. As I said, J.P. is that kind of friend that he simply wont stop until he has beaten you and before I knew it we were screaming even faster across the water. The spray coming off the rope and wash of the boat was as stinging as an ice storm but there was no way I was letting go.  Remember back in the beginning I talked about failing spectacularly? Its called foreshadowing.

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Before long we were moving so fast the force of the wind and the smashing of the waves were just too intense and I violently crashed into the water. I felt like I had been in a car wreck. Limbs flailing and body rolling over the top of the water like a giant floppy penis, I literally hung limp in the water.

Pain ran through my body and I didn’t know what hurt most. My shoulders were on fire from being wrenched out of their sockets and my back was aching from crashing into an oncoming wave. I knew I was hurt but had no idea if it was bad or not. The boat motored around towards me and I knew that I was defeated.

As J.P. and my family watched, I pulled myself over the side of the boat. I was in agony but was doing my best to play it down. As we motored around the rest of the day, I steadily got stiffer and ached more. My legs felt like lead and as we loaded the boat back on the trailer.  With a laugh and a cringe, we said our goodbyes and I headed for home. I felt like I had been raped by Kobe Bryant. You might not have wanted it to happen but it happened all the same.

The next morning I could barely move. My ass was so sore that even the thought of fabric touching it was torture. I walked into the kitchen and dropped my pants for my wife to see if I was swollen and she laughed and was shocked at the same time. My ass was literally purple. Don’t believe me? Judge for yourself…..

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Both cheeks were pounded like hamburger. I now know why some guys just turn gay in prison. It must beat having your ass look like this every day. Turns out that we were doing almost sixty miles an hour on the water. Falling off the tube and hitting the water going that fast was like jumping out of a moving car and hitting pavement.

The moral of the story here is pretty simple. When in doubt, don’t lead with your ass.

The Floor Pie Story

It really is no wonder that reality television has become so popular in the last decade.  I truly do get its appeal.  Realistically, everyone knows someone who either could have been on an existing show or should have a show of their own. I personally don’t know anyone who doesn’t think they couldn’t win ” Survivor” based on their perceived level of wit and charm despite the fact that for the most part they hate bugs, being cold or sand in their crotch.

As much as people might sneer or laugh or joke about how awful the shows are, people still watch them for the simple truth that there are somethings you see that you simply can’t look away from. Like fat people having sex on a beach. You don’t want to look but damn if it isn’t almost hypnotic seeing it.

A repair call came in one rainy morning and Dart and I headed out to see what we could do. It sounded like an older couple and based on the resigned tone in the lady’s voice when she called, they had already had some damage are were preparing for it to get worse. Given the volume of rain that was continuing to fall, I wasn’t sure what we could do but anything was better than nothing at this point.

A frail looking older lady met us at the door wearing a faded blue night-dress that had clearly been the height of fashionable night wear in the mid fifties. Her self colored black hair was pulled back severely away from her face allowing us to see the full range of panic in her eyes. Despite the rain, she stepped outside the point us towards low sloped garage roof indicating that water was pouring in around the posts of a roof top deck her and her husband had constructed on it.  Without delay, we stood the ladder up to survey the structure and see what we could do to at least stem the tide of flooding.

A poorly built wooden deck sitting on top of a rotting old asphalt roof was the least of the concerns we found. Deck posts had been driven through the roof and the header board was pulling away the wall flashing allowing every drop of water that hit the building entrance into the house. I grabbed my drill and sank a couple of screws in to pull it up tight. Okay. That even sounded dirty to me.

I hoped that would fix the problem but we took a size off the building and I worked out a price. I wasn’t going to charge them for the repair as they were a nice, older couple and Dart and I walked to the door to have a look at how bad the interior damage was. The lady homeowner met us at the door and beckoned us to come inside.

The first thing that struck us both was the smell. We both looked at each other to see if our senses were correct. It was musty basement, wet dog, dead flowers and fresh-baked cookies. A total nasal assault. A clinging wave of smell that you could actually feel in your eyes. We had only taken a handful of steps inside and it didn’t take long to see where the odor was coming from.

Piles of newspapers stacked head high. Every piece of mail the couple had ever received including cards they likely got for their wedding seventy years ago were piled amongst bills dating back to before I was born. Clumps of dog and cat fur clung to faded pastel blue carpet but there was no sign of an animal anywhere. Spider plants so overgrown they actually looked like they could crawl across the floor at you hung from every corner of the ceilings. The strangest thing of all was the baked goods.

On every surface we could see was some kind of cookie, cake or pie. Cinnamon buns on the seat of a chair. Date squares in a pan on each of the stairs climbing to the upper floor. Pies on the carpeted floor some of which had a single piece missing out of them. Cookies left in trails like a life-size connect the dots. Pastries and tarts piled on kitchen counters and end tables like pagan offerings.

” Dude,” Dart whispered from beside me ” This is an episode of ” Hoarders””.

He wasn’t wrong. You could barely move in the entryway let alone make your way up the stairs without tripping over some of fur covered bakery treat. We cautiously climbed around things into an even more cluttered dining room and I laid out the price for what it would cost to fix the problems. I didn’t notice but Dart had slipped out back to the truck leaving me alone with no idea of how I would escape this labyrinth of newspaper, fur and pie crust.

The gentleman home owner appeared from behind what could have been a wall but was most likely just more paper covered furniture to tell me that leaking had slowed and that we had probably found and fixed the source of the problem. When they looked at the price they shared a look that told me right away that they weren’t even going to consider it as an option as we had stopped the leak. The lady further went on to say they didn’t have much money and I wanted to say that if they saved up all the money they spent on baking they might be able to afford some home repairs but I didn’t.

The truth was, they had been likely living this life for a long time. They both seemed happy and healthy. They may have smelled like moth balls and cinnamon but they did it together. For a guy that more often than not smells like contact cement and sunshine I wasnt really in a position to judge anyone so when they offered to pay me with baked goods I answered they only way I knew how.

” Got anything with blueberry in it?”

The Last Day of School Story

If you have read any of my previous posts it would appear that over my years as a contractor I have grown into some of the embarrassment that has seemed to assail my career. Not so. At all.

From a very early age, I was truly destined for greatness. In the most embarrassing ways possible.

It was the first day of summer vacation in between graduating grade and entering high school and while all of my other friends were basking in the summer sun by cold pools while their parents made plans to get away to the cottage or some trendy vacation spot, I was awoken very early to head to work with my dad.

Being self-employed has very little upside as far as getting time off goes. Working six or seven days a week does not lead itself to many family vacations and as soon as you are of recruitable age in my family you usually find yourself sweating your ass off somewhere you know you don’t want to be.

All I needed to do that day was help my dad measure up buildings for a massive school board contract. All fairly simple stuff except the schools were almost an hour away from where we lived and it felt like it was a million degrees out.  After the first couple of buildings, I had resigned myself to the day being as miserable as possible. To counteract the heat, I was chugging as many bottles of soda as I could convince my dad to buy me ( Yes, that shows my age, wow, I miss glass bottles). I believe in literary terms that’s called foreshadowing.

The day was wearing on and as we neared the last of the schools we would measure, the need to pee was becoming overwhelming.  As we began to size the last few roofs we had to look at, I was nearly busting a kidney.  as my dad was checking the last few details on the paperwork, I bolted for the ground to find somewhere to pee.

As I bolted for the truck, I knew I couldn’t hold it any longer. I unzipped and instantly began peeing a stream that would have put out the Great Fire of Chicago. A shudder of relief flooded through me and I momentarily closed my eyes in bliss. As I blinked my eyes open in the sparkling sunlight, I realized that the sun was reflecting off the multiple panes of glass of a large auditorium whose curtains where rapidly opening.

There was no way I could stop peeing and I stood there, penis in hand as the entire student body and faculty of the school watched me pee beside my dads truck.

With a loud banging of the doors, the principal of the school barged out and instantly began to harass my dad about the fact that in their school board today, not yesterday, was the last day of school. My dad, to his great professionalism, took it all in stride and calmed the situation down. At least until we got into the truck upon which time I believe he called me everything but his son. I was so embarrassed, I literally had no words. embarrassed for me, embarrassed for him, embarrassed my penis wasnt bigger.

The drive towards home was silent for a while before my dad looked over and let out a laugh. ” Don’t worry,” He said, ” Next time, I will take a huge dump in the parking lot and let them all watch”.

He passed away almost eight years ago and of all the great things we did together this is the dumb shit I choose to write about. You never get over the loss a father, a mentor and a friend. Maybe someday I’ll get the chance to take that dump for you Dad.