RETURN OF THE DUSTMOP WITH LEGS

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FOR WHOM THE LEGS GLOW

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I’m a white guy. I mean I’m a really white guy. Oh I can get a tan on my arms, face and even my back, but not my legs. My legs look like they belong to some alien creature from a planet without a sun. I’m not joking. They won’t tan and they won’t burn. I think they reflect too much for the sun to penetrate. Maybe it’s a hold-over from my ancestor’s caveman days. Mine were the ones who lived in the deepest part of the cave–I’m talking miles below the Mole people– and didn’t get any sunshine.

Having white legs comes in handy sometimes. If I ever got lost in the woods, I can just raise a pant leg and soon black government helicopters will be hovering overhead to check out the strange light seen on satellite photographs. When I was camping out as a kid if someone needed to find something in the tent at night, I would just stick a leg out of the sleeping bag, and they could use the light to look for whatever they needed, while making sure not to look directly at my legs to keep from singeing their retinas. They were always appreciative, but the radioactive hum coming from my legs got a little annoying, and people passing by would occasionally call the fire department, certain that the intense blaze inside the tent could only be the result of a raging inferno.

There are of course disadvantages to having glowing legs. Whatever is radiating from inside my legs has killed off many of the hair follicles. Over the years huge bald patches have developed on my legs. My calves and upper thighs are without hair. Nair and electrolysis could not make those patches smoother or more hair free. I wouldn’t put it pass my wife to shave them in the middle of the night while I’m sleeping, but if she’s doing it, she’s been very consistent over the years.

My second toe is longer than my big toe. I think that is the way it is supposed to be–after all it is called the big toe and not the long toe. My stubby-toed wife, however, assures me it is not normal, so perhaps that also is a result of whatever is wrong with my legs.

After giving this extensive research and deep thought for thirty seconds, I know what the problem is. When I was young they were still doing above-ground nuclear testing, and my mother told me constantly not to eat snow because it was full of radiation. At the time I was a big fan of Spiderman and The Incredible Hulk; radiation turned them into superheroes. So I ate a lot of snow–especially the yellow stuff, because I figured that’s where the radiation was the most concentrated. It always disappointed me that I never developed superpowers, but maybe I did. However, Captain Lightning Bug just doesn’t seem to have that superhero ring to it.

County Ops: The Vengeance of Gable Fitzgerald is still just 99 cents at the Amazon Kindle Store.

 

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IT’S COMPLICATED

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The world has gotten too complicated, and when I say the world of course I mean my washing machine. When I was a kid my mother had a wringer-style washing machine with an On/Off button. She sorted clothes into whites and colored–just like the restaurants and bathrooms did in the South at the time. I wasn’t in favor of sorting people, but it worked out well for the laundry. It kept me from having to wear pink underwear if a red shirt was washed with them. It was a simple system, but it worked—okay, Mom would occasionally get her hand caught in the wringer, but she never lost a finger. Our clothes dryer was a clothesline with no buttons. The washing machine we currently have has seven buttons with five selections on each button plus a dial with five more selections that range from PERMANENT PRESS to FRILLY UNDERWEAR THAT NOBODY WEIGHING OVER A HUNDRED POUNDS WOULD EVER WEAR.

I wondered how many combinations were possible on a washing machine with that many buttons. After less than ten minutes with a pencil and paper I discovered that I stink at math, but I’m sure the number of combinations has to be in the bazillions. And my wife sorts clothes into that many piles when she does the laundry. She does whites, colors, permanent press, delicates, Catholic, Protestant, low-fat, sugar free and smoking and non-smoking. The clothes dryer has just as many buttons as the washing machine and a dial, and each load has to be dried in a different way. I think we were better off with just the On/Off switch.

The first copier I ever used had an On/Off button and a Start button. You put the original document on top of a glass plate, closed the lid and pushed START. The machine whirred and a bright light, like some alien sun, went back and forth under the lid. Pretty soon it spit out an exact copy–although only in black and white–and I was truly amazed. The last copier I used had twelve buttons not counting the Start or On/Off buttons. Each button brought up a menu with at least five choices and each choice had five more choices. Now we’re talking a gazillion or so combinations. I once tried to make a two-sided copy of a form. I studied all the menus, pushed the buttons I thought I needed and after about a half hour, I hit START. I know something happened because the machine whirred and the little sun went back and forth. I might have put a copy in the machine’s memory or faxed a copy somewhere or launched a missile strike on Lichtenstein. What I didn’t do was make a two-sided copy. Nothing came out.

I deal with technology because I have to, but I don’t like it. My wife likes it and can’t deal with it. Last week I threw away a VCR we’d had for fifteen years. In all that time my wife never learned to use it, and I’m not talking the complicated stuff like setting the time. Every time she wanted to record a program I would have to help her.

My wife looking at the remote as if it was a piece of modern art: How do I record on this thing?
ME: Push the RECORD button.
My wife: Which one is that?
Me: The one that says record.

Recently we got satellite TV. The remote has forty-seven buttons! My wife is constantly yelling at me from the other room that the TV won’t work. I go in and what is on the TV screen is something Charlie Sheen would see when he’s smoking the really good stuff.
Me: What did you do?
My wife: I just turned it on.
Me: It only takes one button to turn it on.
My wife: I only pushed one button…at first.

I need a TV remote with an On/Off switch and a wringer. Now that would be progress.

Just an update, I was half finished with the novel I was working on, and I started over. I had been writing it in first-person, and it just wasn’t working. First-person works well for short things like this blog, but I have trouble staying with the voice over the long haul. I’ll let you know how it comes out. By the way, has anybody heard from Lichtenstein lately?

COUNTY OPS on sale at Amazon for 99 cents

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THE SECRET TO WHY YOU ARE FAT

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Kids aren’t eating their school lunches because they taste bad. School lunches have always tasted bad. If you put ketchup on Styrofoam it would taste better than the fish sticks they served us. But now lunches taste even worse. I figured that would be a scientific impossibility, like going faster than the speed of light or understanding the lyrics of any song Bob Dillon sings. The problem is our first lady, Michelle Obama, has decided kids nowadays are too fat. I was skeptical at first, but after doing extensive research for five minutes I have to agree. The average enlistee during World War II weighed one hundred forty-five pounds, and that was before boot camp. I know a fifth-grader who weighs that much–and she’s not even the biggest kid in her class.

To combat this obesity, the first lady has been campaigning to reduce calories in the school lunches. For those of you who don’t know, calories are particles that make food taste good. The more calories you have, the better food tastes. Recently Mrs. Obama has discovered that calories not only make food taste good, but they also make people fat, so she is trying to reduce the calories in school lunches to less than 850. Since corrugated cardboard has 920 calories, you figure out what’s left for taste.

Now I’m not one to disagree with the first lady, especially when I have to file income tax forms, but something is wrong. When I was a kid I ate everything that didn’t move, and sometimes things that did move, and nothing was healthy. A large bag of chips was the single-serving size. Doughnuts came by the dozen because that’s how they were supposed to be eaten. Mom never cooked healthy things. She put a stick of butter or margarine in everything she made: mashed potatoes, gravy, a glass of milk… If we ate salads they were either potato salads with potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise and a stick of butter, or fruit salads containing enough sugar to give honey bees diabetes. And nobody was ever fat. Oh sure we had some kids who were chubby or plump, but never anyone obese. In fact most of the people we called fat would be nicknamed Slim or Tiny today.

When I was young I was always hungry. I guess it’s because I was always doing something: running through the woods, running after a friend when we were playing tag, running away from my older, mean sister because I’d dropped a night crawler down her back .

Today’s kids don’t seem to run as much. Usually they are sitting in front of a computer or playing Xbox or talking on their smart phones… A thought just occurred to me. I’m surprised someone hasn’t thought of this before. Today’s kids are fat because: all these electronics GIVE OFF FAT RAYS!

I know what you’re thinking: This is a goofy idea, even for him. But stop and do some extensive research for a moment. Look at all the people with bulging beer bellies. What part of the body is the closest to the electronic devices? The stomach, right? It’s called a laptop because you set in on your lap when you’re on a plane or in a car, and when you play with your smart phone, it’s held down right in front of your belly. Those fat rays just keep swelling your stomach until it lops over the belt. And how many times have you known a woman to accidentally sit on her smart phone? “Whew,” she’ll say with relief. “I didn’t break it.” as if that is the worst thing that could happen–and we won’t even talk about the women who put their smart phones in their back pockets.

Okay, before a bunch of women start stuffing laptops in their bras, there are a few parts of my theory that need ironed out. If I can get a two or three million dollar government grant so I can go to Alaska for a couple months to do some extensive research and salmon fishing, I could probably come up with a solution, or at least a couple good-sized Chinook. Does anyone have the first lady’s phone number?

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TAKING A BREAK

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I made a vow a while ago to write something every week on this blog. Recently the hits have gone down drastically. I figure with summer approaching people have better things to do than read a blog that seems to wander aimlessly with no apparent reason or purpose. It is also possible that after reading a few posts, people are afraid of catching whatever it is I have and have decided to keep their distance. Anyway I am not going to post on any certain schedule for a while. It doesn’t mean I won’t post once a week, but it doesn’t mean I will either. Whenever the mood strikes me I’ll write something without any due date or regularity.
Since this will be my last post for a while, I’ll do a little promotion for my books.

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In The Sticks was my first novel and was published by Wings Epress. It’s a good mystery with many twists and turns and a lot of conflict between characters—I’m big on conflict between characters. The murderer changed three times while I was writing it, and the suspects changed constantly. It’s a well-constructed mystery with a surprise ending that I wrote when the novel was about halfway finished. The characters are all flawed. Most of my characters are flawed in my books. In real-life nobody is perfectly good or perfectly bad and everyone has those little flaws that make them unique. Perfect characters never ring true and tend to bore me, and once you reach that perfection level, people want to nail you to a cross. The two biggest comments I’ve gotten about the book are: it’s fast-paced and there’s more humor in it than you normally find in a mystery. I like to have something big happen in every chapter in at least one of the subplots. That always keeps things moving and makes the reader want to read more. The humor comes from the back and forth between the characters. You’ll find a lot of smart-alecks in my novels. I guess it’s because there is one buried in me. Wings Epress recently reduced the price of In The Sticks. The price was the biggest problem I had with that company, which is why I didn’t offer my second or third novel to them. I’m currently working on a sequel to Sticks, and since they have come down in price, I may offer it to them.

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Graves of His Personal Liking is my second novel. It was published by Whiskey Creek Press last November. I wrote it at the same time I was writing the rough draft of In The Sticks. It’s a western and was probably the most fun to write of the three novels—not the best, just the most fun. The love interests of Ben Cone play a big part in the story, but I wouldn’t call it a romance novel. It was nice while writing it not to have to worry about every detail being perfectly aligned like you do when writing a mystery. If I wanted to change the direction of the story, I didn’t have to go back and change everything that happened previously to make sure all the clues and back story fit into who the new murderer was; I envy non-mystery writers for that. Again the characters are flawed and John Wayne could not have played any of the parts–if he was still alive…and they made a movie out of the book.

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County Ops: The Vengeance of Gable Fitzgerald is my most recent novel. I had two literary agents express interest in it. They both finally passed on it. I never tried to get a publisher for it. I wanted to self-publish so I could use it as a promotional tool by reducing the price and drumming up some interest in my writing. It is not a true mystery—more of a whydunit than a whodunit. I call it a thriller but there are just a few tense moments. I like the relationship between the DCI agent and Gable Fitzgerald and the way their relationship changes. My wife didn’t like the way it ended when she read the first draft. I thought about changing it, but decided not to. I couldn’t think of another way to make the story end that I found acceptable. County Ops: The Vengeance of Gable Fitzgerald will be on sale for 99 cents starting Friday May 30 and continuing until June 5. If you haven’t read it yet, this would be the time.

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JUST TO BUG YOU

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When I was young I had an agreement with the bees. They would sting me and I would scream, cry and run around in circles as if someone had just dropped a hot rock down my back and I was trying to get away from it, all the while holding onto the stung body part. I know the deal sounds one-sided, but bees are tough negotiators. There was a period of about ten years when I was stung at least once every year by a bee or wasp. (Wasps fill in for bees when they’re on vacation or have to take a sick day and someone needs stung.) Once, I was walking with a friend through a street carnival where there were about five hundred people milling around, when a bee suddenly buzzed by us. “I bet I get stung by that bee before the day is over,” I said. My friend laughed, but within an hour I was running around in circles holding my hand. If I had been in Las Vegas and made a bet that the bee would sting me, at five hundred to one odds, I would have collected a huge sum of money. Or my friend would have. I would have been busy doing circles.

For a time I thought my granddaughter would take over the family tradition. One time we were up north fishing when she got stung by a bee. She started screaming and carrying on, crying and running around in circles hold onto her hand. She had such a fit I checked to see if the bee had been carrying a miniature chainsaw and cut off one of her body parts. After a while, to calm her down, I said in my most sympathetic grandfather voice, “Suck it up, Buttercup.”  I know that sounds cold and callous since I did the same thing when I was young, but the difference is back then bee stings really hurt. Today’s bee stings have lost some of their potency, and they don’t hurt as much. I blame global warming.

I don’t know why the bees were after me. I’ve never pestered them or thrown rocks at their hives, and I don’t even like honey, but my wife does. My wife LOVES honey. She eats it every chance she can… But this all happened years before I ever met my wife, so I can’t see any reason how it could be her fault, but give me some time and I’ll figure out a way.

I haven’t been stung by a bee or wasp in decades now. I think they sold my contract to the flies, because flies bother me constantly now. I’ll be in a boat with a group of people fishing, and the biting flies will be on my legs like my brother at all-you-can-eat rib night at the Sizzler. Everyone else will be relaxed and having a good time while I’m slapping my legs like they were Bongo drums. If I’m at a picnic, a black swarm of flies hover over my head like a cloud waiting patiently for their turn to crawl in my ears and up my nose. Of course nobody else is having a problem.

I thought for a while that maybe there was something wrong in my head, and the flies were just imaginary like the pink bunnies and Miley Cyrus. My wife assures me the flies are real. I told her it was probably because flies, like bees, are attracted to sweet things. She pointed out that bees do not sting honey or flowers, and flies are also attracted to manure and rotting dead things, and maybe if I were to shower more frequently…

sticks    gohpl   NEW 1

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MY TIME MACHINE

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Recently I bought a new time machine. My old one broke so I had to get a new one because I need a time machine. My new time machine was cheap. When you go through a lot of them like I do, you can’t invest a lot of money. The one I have now is adequate. It tells the date along with the time and even has a chronograph that I never use. It’s held on my wrist with a Velcro strap and has a button to push if you want to see what time it is in the dark.

You didn’t think I was talking about a Marty McFly-type time machine, did you? I can’t afford a DeLorean. I’d have to make payments even if Dr. Brown made one out of a Ford Pinto. I’ve often thought it would be nice to go back in time, but just for a short visit. No matter what they say about the good old days, they were tough. But if I could go back in time to at least change things in my life, I think I might. For instance, I would change the first girl I ever kissed.

The first girl I ever kissed was a pudgy little blond fourth-grader named Nancy. I lived in South Dakota at the time. One day Nancy and I were walking home from school together, because we lived in the same direction. We were engaged in a probative, intellectual discussion about whether Dick and Jane were actually symbols of President Eisenhower and Secretary Khrushchev which would of course make throwing the ball a euphemism for a nuclear missile launch (RUN, SPOT, RUN!!), or maybe we were giggling about Whitey Thompson eating his boogers in class– it has been a long time so I’m not sure. Eventually we came to Frost’s diverging roads. Nancy had to turn north to go home while I continued west to my own house.

“Aren’t you going to kiss me goodbye?” she asked.

I was just at the point in life where I realized girls weren’t just long-haired, sissy boys who wore dresses, but I had never considered kissing one. I looked around and we were alone. If there had been so much as a stray dog to see I wouldn’t have done it, but I leaned over to give her a peck on the cheek when she wrapped her arms around my neck and gave me a lip lock that loosened two baby teeth. When I finally pried myself away from the little tow-headed floozy, I was gasping for air and sputtering, but somewhere deep in my brain the ember of a thought was kindled that maybe girls served some purpose other than to have someone to beat at Dodgeball.

Nancy giggled. “Now don’t tell anybody about this,” she said.

“It’ll be our little secret,” I said. “I promise.” Unfortunately I didn’t extract the same promise from her. By the time I got to school the next day, Nancy had told the World about the kiss: the girls, the boys, the teachers, the local paper, the three TV networks and even Walter Cronkite, And that’s the way it is. Our school didn’t have a resident leper, so I filled the shunning niche amongst the boys. When they did talk to me it consisted of ribbing and teasing. The girls on the other hand seemed somehow friendlier than before. The tormenting finally got so bad my family had to move to Iowa. My dad made up some cock-and-bull story about getting a better job, but everyone knew the real reason.

If I could go back in time, I’d have a different first car. When I was seventeen I had a driver’s license and no car–which is like having no legs to a teenager. Our local car dealer was clearing out their inventory of used cars. Walking by I saw a gray 1959 Dodge Pioneer with a push button automatic on the dash. “How much is it?” I asked the salesman.

“Fifty dollars,” he said. “Seventy-five if it starts.”

I let out a sigh. It would be a bit over my budget if it started. “Go ahead and crank it over,” I said. He did and the car started up with almost all the cylinders firing. My heart sank.

“I tell you what,” the salesman said, trying to find me through the thick cloud of blue smoke billowing out of the tailpipe. “I’ll let you have it for the fifty bucks even if it does run.”

Finally, I had my car. I called it the Gray Ghost because it sounded cool and because the car had died years ago but still moved around now and then and scared the bejeebers out of me–such as driving down the road and having the brakes go out.

The first girl ever to ride in The Gray Ghost was my wife. When she willingly got in it the second time, I knew it was true love, and I had to marry her. I’d never find another woman that brave again.

The car met its demise one night when the brakes went out at a T-intersection. It went into the ditch and rolled over. Halfway through the rotation, any thought of joining Joie Chitwood’s Thrill Show left me. You might say it scared the Chit (wood) out of me.

If I could go back in time and have a do-over, I’d start trying to get published at a younger age. By all statistics, someone who starts publishing at my age has a slim chance of ever attaining even moderate success. I wrote a Christmas play for my church when I was fifteen and didn’t try to publish anything else for the next forty-five years. If you have a couch and a psychiatric degree or at least a booth with a sign that says “psychiatric help 5 cents” maybe we can talk about it.

All in all, if I could go back in time and make changes to my life, I don’t think I’d do it because of a thing called The Butterfly Effect. It’s a theory by Edward Lorenz which says if you go back in time you’ll become a butterfly and immediately get splattered on the windshield of a Buick Skylark. Even if that rather silly theory isn’t true, who knows what major unwanted change might result from making even a minute change. If I hadn’t kissed Nancy, maybe we would have stayed in South Dakota and I never would have met my wife, and I wouldn’t have the kids I do. I like the wife and kids I have…most of the time. If I’d had some newer, sportier car than The Gray Ghost for my first car, maybe it would have been able to go fast enough to hurt or even kill me when I went off that T-intersection. Maybe if I had started publishing at a younger age I’d be a rich, famous, arrogant, conceited man who would want nothing to do with any of you, instead of the warm, loving, kind, generous and very humble person that I am today.

sticks        gohpl      NEW 1

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