Category Archives: True Tales

Meta Mumbles on about a family pet named Chico.

While I was in grade school my grandparents had a rhesus monkey – there were times that they entertained the monkey, Chico, by sitting up a card table in the center of their living room and putting out on it a Sears and Roebuck catalog.  They would leave it there with the pages open.  That was a time when all sorts of things were for sale in their Big Book.

We would all sit around the room talking and watching the monkey browse through the pages.  He would turn each page and then carefully spread it out flat.  Then he would sit with his hands folded behind his back while exploring all of the photographs before him.  He would slowly look first at the left page from top to bottom and then the right, while chattering the whole time.

When Chico would come to the part where various breeds of dogs were pictured, he would get so excited that he sometimes flipped over backwards while he seemed to laugh – out – loud.  Then he would point to the family dog, Beau, sleeping at the feet of my grandfather.  Beau would quickly respond and go to the edge of the card  table poking his nose up by the monkey.  Chico would start pointing to a photo of one of the dogs, the breed would not matter, then point directly at Beau – back and forth his finger would go – apparently he recognized that they were all dogs – while laughing the entire time.  Beau would get excited and it seemed obvious to us, at the time, that they were communicating in humor.

And we want to think that we are the only ones that can make our thoughts known to each other.

The Doorknob Incident 1/28/2014

This incident took place a week ago Sunday.  The exact date would be January 19th 2014.

Meta had been made mention for some time that she was having problems with the doorknob, this particular door knob was part of the front door to our apartment.  She had stated, directly most of the time and indirectly on the rest of the occasions that the afore-mentioned doorknob didn’t seem to want to work, that it was sticking somehow.  In later discussions Meta would state that she had been having this for a couple of weeks or so.  Though it seems to my recollection that it was longer than that possibly a month maybe six weeks but I would be forced to acknowledge that the frequency of the incidents that she had been reporting had increased dramatically in the last two weeks.

I had no point of reference for what she was saying.  Better stated, I hadn’t experienced any problems with accused doorknob in any way.  I felt nothing when I turned the handle, no resistance and the door opened every time.  I did something I think my father would have been proud of, I chalked up the reports of her experiences as some form of female hysterical delusion lacking any resemblance to rationality.  This single mental act I had never done before.  When Meta told me something I always took it seriously previously, I may not have done anything about it but I didn’t just mentally blow it off and chalk it up to some weird assessment of female inferiority.  There could have been other reasons why the doorknob behaved when I turned it.  It could have been my massive strength being a he man and all,  maybe it was an  expression of my paranormal power, possibly some sort of spiritual blessing or odds are, just plain old luck.

I was operating from a deeply seated assumption that reality is some how intransient, unchanging.  This is an underlying operating assumption that I have been aware of in humanity for sometime and Meta and I had talked about it at some length several times in the recent past.  The phenomena, in the simplest terms, If I have an experience with the doorknob today and it works for me, indeed every time I use the doorknob it behaves accordingly then that is the way it is for every one all the time.  Its the empiricists interpretation of knowledge.

So it was sunday the 19 in northern Ohio during a january that is beginning to look a lot more like winters past.  Meta and I had decided to make a run for essentials, pop and cigarettes, we had everything else, before the weather turned again.  Rain and freezing rain over the next day or two followed by snow and a sudden impending cold spell combined with the lack of a car and the fact that neither of us are spring chickens anymore prompted us to move on a clear day in the middle 20s temperature wise.  She would run the errand and I would stay inside, I know, I am a lazy dog, but I can live with it if she can.  It was then that I experienced problems with the doorknob right along with her, it just didn’t seem to want to let go of the doorjam.  But we managed and it opened.  I stood in the hallway, we traded I love you’s and I told her to call me so that I could be at the down stairs door to carry up the supplies.  I watched as she headed down the hall and turned and began to descend the 44 stairs down to the street entrance.

It was then that I glanced down at the doorknob and turned it back and forth. It seemed ti me touch and my eye that it was working just fine.

“Should I leave it open until she gets back?” I thought to myself.

“You getting delusional now, hysterical maybe,” Stated another voice in my head.

(Don’t be alarmed, I am a schizophrenic and these types of strange mental activities are fairly frequent)

“Go ahead and close it, you can sit ’til she calls, be comfortable,” This was stated by a second voice.

“I don’t know if that would be wise,” I thought back, “I think there might be a problem with the door.”

“Don’t be a pussy, shut the door already,” Stated the first voice.

“Be a man and close the door, you look like a dufus,” That would have been the second voice.

I don’t know why, it seemed logical that everything would be just fine and the nagging sensation that maybe I had missed something was fading but not gone. This would be what NoahBoddee, my brother, would have refered to as a dumbass attack.  But the thing about dumb ass attack’s are that what everything has to be done first before you realize that every action was an idiotic endeavor.  Most of these last couple of sentences are reflections as I had put enough though into what I was doing.  It was just a nagging feeling so I shut the door.

I stood there, hand open only inches from the doorknob and I could not take my eyes off it.  The fading nagging sound had become quiet loud again.  So I figured I see if I could open the door and put the noise in my head to rest.  So I gripped the handle and turned, first to the left and then to the right but the door would not open.  There was no lock on the door, other than a dead bolt.  I repeated the cyclic move several more times and regardless of how hard I pulled I could not get the door open.

It was then I realized that I had a dumbass attack.  That I was in fact something of an idiot.

I Freaked.

first I tried the old driver’s license/credit card trick, I had always been able to use this to unlock a door from the inside, not dead bolts.  Fail.  It seemed to me that the license and the credit card were too flimsy and it had been a while, maybe I was mistaken.  Next came a butter knife, I could not get over how stubborn the lock was, after all this was from the inside, I was trying to break out.  The idea of Meta being stuck in the hallway only added to my overall level of anxiety.  Then two butter knives, a flurry of action, metal clicking against metal.  Meta would later say that she could hear the noise those two butter knives were making all the way down on the first floor.

We had managed to make contact before she got home so that she would know the situation and the fact that I would not be downstairs to help her haul.

As soon as I am certain of the world it does something to remind me that I don’t know what I am doing, hell, I don’t know what I am thinking.

I played with the idea of taking the door knob off but I hesitated, our land lord is on good terms with us and I was planning to keep it that way.  It wouldn’t be until Meta herself suggested that I take off the door knob, after she had been sitting in the hall for nearly forty minutes.  I am not mechanically inclined, my brother constantly warns that I should never be allowed to handle tools.  None the less I found the proper sized Phillips and quickly removed the knob.  the internal workings would be different though as it appears the mechanism had sprung and had to be removed in pieces.

Meta would say later that evening that I should feel bad about the incident, that it could have happened to any one any where.  I don’t know about that.  It wasn’t until I explained that it wasn’t so much her being trapped in the hall or hauling the groceries up the stairs with out help.  It was because of the way I had blown her off, not taken her seriously.  I shouldn’t have done that.

I realize that this post is a little late.  I guess its taking more effort to get my sea legs back then I thought.

Remember, be blessed

Bagged Cat, Cat tales #3

I remember some time ago, while my mother was still alive, that my brothers and I use to, on rare occasion gather in the kitchen late at night and have a quiet party.  This would be myself and brothers 2 and 3 and long before brother 4 came along.

I cannot remember clearly if this was on the very first occasion that we did this, but I suspect it was earlier amongst these rare occasions.  Brother 2 or 3 would bring a bag of weed…you know, Mary Jane, Grass, dope, the happy plant or coffee or even chicken.  I wasn’t much of a dope smoker so I would bring beer.  It would be late, and any bags we might have would be tossed thoughtlessly on the floor.  Mom and Dad were well asleep by now but we kept the noise down to be sure not to disturb them,  We would smoke and drink, talk quietly and have a pretty good time.  It was one of these times when I first felt that all of us were all adults for the first time.  We were all in college, we all had jobs or one sort or another and the future looked bright.

I don’t remember what we talked about specifically but I do remember my attention drifting to one of the bags that lay on its side on the floor and I could clearly see the tail and hind quarters of Mrs. Fist or Fisty as she explored the bags interior.  I remember bringing up the subject of an old cartoon strip called “Fat Freddy’s Cat.”  A change occured in the conversation.  My brothers quickly caught on and before you could say Mixedpixel we had the cat, Mrs. Fist, trapped in the bag.  We were gentle with her and had managed to work the bag upright so that she was sitting on the bottom and she appeared to my eye as if she were about to lay down and take a nap.  Brothers 2 and 3 shot gunned Mrs. Fist two or three times each and laid the bag back down on the floor on its side and all three of us promptly forgot about it.  I don’t believe that Fisty or Mrs. Fist, which ever name you prefer, left that bag for the rest of the night.

It was some time later that we would get together a second time.  Maybe Mom was still alive and maybe she wasn’t as my recollections of what was happening in the larger world are a bit sketchy.  My brothers and I had once again gathered in the kitchen late one night with similar party favors and again began to enjoy each others company.  Once again the bags in which we brought the beer or the junk food were tossed on the floor and left there.  I remember there was a great deal of laughter.  We were still happy and still had a hopeful out look of the world, I think.

Again my gaze wandered and again I spotted Ms. Fist.  this time she was crouched in the bag in such a way that I could only see her part of her head and her huge hopeful eyes.  She stared at me and then her gaze drifted to first one of my brothers then another.  I pointed it out to both of them and I quickly became apparent to all of us that Mrs. Fist liked to party.  That is how the cat became bagged.

Political Dissident: Cat Tales #2

This story occurs, surprise surprise, in the kitchen.  In retrospect it appears that the kitchen was the heart of the house, though the may have been a second heart in the living room.  That second heart though, I believe was second in all ways. One of the larger groups of my memories always take place in kitchen some place.  I really like to eat or cook and to this day spend entirely too much time in the kitchen.

I want to say that this event took place in the later fall or winter as I remember my brothers and I in shaker knit sweaters.  They were popular at that time in the very early 80s under the name of Saint Johns Bay.  The design was simple, solid colors, blues yellows and greens.  Dad was in his overalls though which means it could have happened any time of year and I am just misremembering the sweaters though they weren’t actiually part of the story. The other thing that nudges my belief in sweaters and the cold season was that Mom had made a large pot of scalloped potatoes and ham.  This dish was traditional through the easter season.  Dad use to call this stuff farmer food, the meat, ham, and potatoes, sliced thick floated in a thick buttery cream sauce, believe me, if this dish is on your table you better plan on moving…I mean like running stairs, manual labor, shoveling snow. deep cleaning, scrubbing the tub or canning because if you don’t it will pile up around your waist faster than shit through a goose.  Needless to say it is still one of my favorite feel good foods.  It took me twenty years to figure it out.  I’m sure that seems strange to more experienced cooks.

As usual, we had all gathered, jockeying for postion so that we could race to our favorite chair in the living room in  front of the television.  Mom spent some time fussing with the pot.  Generally speaking, the men, myself included, were most patient with the pace of things when food was involved.  Dad was first in line, leaning over mother’s shoulder, which drove her a little nuts, practically drooling.  Myself and middle brother were back against the converted cherry gun cabinet bidding our time and little brother, arguably next in line had set his plate near the edge of the kitchen table.  Apparently it was too heavy for him to hold.

Now, Ms. Fist, or Fisty or for those versed in folklore, Scratch, was by no means the oldest cat in Mom’s troop of rescued felines, she wasn’t even the second oldest.  But Ms. Fist had the kind of curiousity, that. if she were human, would have made her perfect for the CIA.  She was absolutely with out fear nor any sense of rational bondaries.  Thus in her quest to know more she jumped up on the seat of a near by chair and brought her gaze close to little brothers unattended and empty plate.  At this moment my memory takes on the tone of a strong close up lens.  I can see her nose flaring with rapid little movements as she excitedly scented the air ever hopeful that something tasty had been left on said plate.  When little brother noticed the intrusion by this foreign intellegence agent he became visibly angry and cuffed Ms. Fist on the top of the head.  I want to sat cuffed but to me it seemd like a harder blow.  She crouched down on the chair staring up at little brother through narrow angry evil eyes, ears clearly flattened against her head.  Her tail lashed to and fro three times but she did not give up the chair until little brother uttered a curse under his breath and raised his hand.  Dad had already filled his plate and had began moving towards the living room.  I had lost interest in the food for I had seen Ms Fist in action in the past and I knew she wasn’t going to stand  idly by and do nothing, she was a cat of action and I was intent on watching.

Dad abandoned his plate on the dining room table as he needed to take a detour to the bathroom in an Ed Bundy fashion.  Little brother was busy at the pot, it was the delicious ham and scalloped potaoes that held his entire attention.  I let middle brother pass me, instead watching as the cat steadily approached little brothers favorite chair.

She was devious and cool as she jumped up on the recently reupholstered chair little brother had since favored.  She looked around making sure that there was no witness, at least no witness that would testify against her and finally she pissed all over the seat of this over stuffed chair.  At this point I must state that a cat contains an amazing amount of piss, especailly with such a little body.  She must have been saving up for a rainy day or maybe she was a moving extradimensional piss portal.  She could have put out a medium sized camp fire.  When she finished, her ears still angry but at mid elevation, her tale lashing, she surveyed the room one last time before jumping down to the floor and disappearing into the front hallway.  In my mind she most certainly headed upstairs where she could enjoy the spectavle and still avoid discovery.

Little brother, totally absorbed in his plate, walked in determined fashion to his chair.  He was agile and quickly turned round, keeping both hands on his plate and began to sit.  This was known as the hands free style of taking a seat or plopping.  His expression flashed with surprise and flushed with anger.

“Who got my seat wet?” He yelled.

I said nothing.

All things considered I had been favored by the Gods, at least I saw it that way.  If my attention had been diverted and I missed the intial cuff I most certainly would have missed the silent sabotage carried out by Fisty.  It couldn’t have been chance as I watched attack and sneaky counter attack play out as if I was watching it on TV or in a movie.  I never dropped dime on Ms. Fist.  No one ever even thought to ask.  That was the moment I realized that animals in general are far more intellegent that we people give them credit for.  Is it simply that people aren’t really paying attention or maybe the Gods made no effort to show them.  They possibly lacked the patience to observe and enjoy.  That sounds pompous as hell.  At any rate, I learned that there are many ways to resist a stronger oppenent and for the most part they don’t require physical violence.

Cat’s Tale #1: Haunted Drawer

There was a time, mostly at my mother’s insistence that we eat sitting around the kitchen table.  This was all that she wanted, a proper family meal away from the distractions of the outside world and this was long before cell phones and the internet.  And it was so until the advent of cable.  There were other factors as well, Mom and Dad were both growing a bit older and getting progressively more tired with each passing week and even though there was cable in our little home town we didn’t actually subscribe until my junior year in high school which paralleled the level of exhaustion my parents were apparently feeling.  So the family meal had moved from the kitchen table to the living room with out a peep of resistance from my mother.  It is at this time when the odd story I am about to retell actually happened.

We would gather in the kitchen with plates in hand wandering with a strange order about the pots on the stove and the lonely kitchen table scooping food and finding silverware trying not to rush.  Sometimes the starch was potatoes or corn or lima beans and sometimes it was bread.  The bread was stored in the bottom drawer of the cupboard in which the great stainless steel sink was situated.  The whole unit was added when we remodeled just after the purchase of the house, I don’t think I was ten and when I say we I mean we.  My parents didn’t believe in  hiring people to do work that we, including the kids, could do.  So the cupboard we all knew very well.  It was when brother number three fished the plastic bag of nickles bread from the bottom drawer, finding a couple of pieces for his plate and repositioned the bread in the drawer that the incident occurred.  He closed the drawer but the drawer, you see didn’t stay closed.  It instead slide open slowly as if pushed by some strange force.

Brother number three pushed the drawer closed with his finger tips two or three more times over the course of dishing more food unto his plate yet the drawer resisted.  Then he tried with his toe a couple more times and still the drawer softly slid open.

This had never happen before.  The drawer when closed stayed closed.  I know I was watching, but I was so absorbed in the struggle between human and inanimate that I cannot say whether or not my mother, father of brother number two had seen any of it.  Brother number three was becoming more frustrated and the struggle pitched upward in energy moving his emotional stated to outright anger.  That was my family for you.  When normal people would be frightening or loose interest and move on we became violent, just a touch.  Finally he kicked the drawer and its response was to spring forward and outward with more energy than it had demonstrated to this point and a cat, Booger to be exact, slide out from behind the drawer like a snake out of its hole and out into the kitchen in something of a dazed panick.

Did I mention my Mother was a cat lover?

Dad, being Dad, and aware of my mother’s emotional state, grabbed Booger from the floor and held her clearer in his sight with both hands.  My father stood somewhere between six four and six six so you can understand how high off the ground Booger was. She, Booger, was also dazed and confused and apparently a touch Acrophobic and she did what any disoriented and frantic cat would do and latched on to the nearest object which in this case happen to be my fathers nose.  What proceeded belonged more in a three stooges short than  it did in reality much less the family kitchen.  Dad tried to push Booger off  his nose by extending his arms to their full and considerable length but Booger would not let go.  I could see that only one claw from each paw retained its hold, she would relax and allow herself to be stretched but she still clung to his nose as if her very life depended upon it.  It went on like that, some strange surrealistic rendition of an accordion the only sound to be heard was the laughter of my mother and third brother.

In the end it took the combined efforts of myself and brother number two to disengage the cat from my father’s face.

Is there a moral to this story?

Well, don’t in anger or under any circumstance, slam a door or a drawer because you can never tell what or whom may be behind it.

Cat Tales: The Mystery of Glass

My mother was a rescuer of animals, specifically cats, though she also saved dogs, birds, anything but rats. The word was, is important because she, my mother left this world back in 1988 at the age of 49. One of the things I remember throughout the years I shared with her was that she would rescue stray cats from the harsh realities of the outside world. Mom always looked at Cats as though they were Cats. They weren’t her babies or her Cat People. I guess it could be said that she had respect for the inner catness. As a child in this household I spent my first years surrounded by cats that were older than I was which at the time and in retrospect left a peculiar feeling with in me. Now cats live in our world, at least the domesticated ones and they seem to have an ability to relate to the big goofy humans in their environment. For my own sake as a growing child I realized that though cats were terrestrial they were also alien. I spent some considerable time watching them for in the simplest sense cats are more entertaining than television.

One of the cats Mom had adopted (Rescued from the street) was a small dirty white and brown female the She had named Ms. Fist or Fisty.  Regardless of what common popular culture may believe this name implies, it is actually a play on one of the many names for the Devil.  Scratch, Hobbs, Old Hobbs, Mr. Fist are all names for roughly the same place in time, back when there was still a culture in the western world.  Ms. Fist’s first litter, (surprise surprise), came very late that following winter or early spring.  There was one male and five females, brother and sisters if you will.  Now my brothers and I thought the Darth Vader would be a good name for the male and that should give you a good idea about when this all took place.  Mom on the other hand didn’t feel that Darth suited this particular cat and being that Mom had the only veto power in the house at that time, she chose the name, Twerp.  Twerp or Twerpy seemed an all around poor name and I looked at the unsuspecting cat feeling what only a boy could feel about such naming misfortune.  But it would become obvious by that summer that my mother was something of a prophet.

As early Spring became late spring Ms. Fist or Fisty, Being the representative of Satan in the neighborhood left her kittens, not yet weened, with the old family mutt Pooch or Poochie.  Pooch was a grey muzzled mostly Bull Terrier, Dashund and god only knows what else mix, who spent most of his time escaping from the backyard.  This may seem strange but Pooch, as far as I can tell, liked baby sitting six Kittens whose legs were strong enough to wander though they never went far from the old dog.  Ms. Fist would show up now and again to make sure that babies got feed but like any mother of six, she preferred to be elsewhere.  I’ll come back to this later.

The Kittens, under Pooch’s watchful eye and with Mom’s help pretty much weened themselves and my mid summer were pretty much grown and free range cats.  Now I can’t say when this first happened, I can only relate the first time I saw it happen.  It was after my birthday so it would have been later in July.  I was sitting in the living room one summer day watching television, before cable, sort of in my own thoughts.  I was in my father’s chair with my feet up on the ottoman when for some reason I looked to my left down the long hall to the front door.  It was a warm bright day so the door had been left open.  The bright outside could be seen through the lower glass pane in the storm door.  That pane was always hard to keep clean between the mud of winter and the buggy grit of summer and in no way would I describe it as like crystal.  In the hall a few feet from the door sat Twerp looking out studying the outside.  There is this thing with cats that under general circumstances you can never really tell what it is thinking or planning.  To me it just appeared that Twerp was looking outside then sort of drifting off looking at the floor and wasn’t planning anything in particular.

The cat, Twerp, Jumped, much to my surprise, head first into the window, hard.  Glass and skull, cat skull to be specific, make a strange tinny sound when they collide.  The Cat fell back to the floor and ran up the front stairs and out of sight.  I figured that Twerp had encountered the mystery of glass and learned the same lesson that many of us do and that should be that. He had his first class in the school of hard knocks and I was sure he had passed.  I was wrong.  With in a fortnight, I was in the Kitchen and it was again a bright warm day so that the door was open leaving only the storm between us and the outside and again the bottom pane of the storm was glass.  The screen was in the top pane to let the fresh air in.  I was siting at the kitchen table secretly snacking on Dad’s treats that he took  for his lunch break at work and there again was Twerp.  He was again studying the outside through the glass pane.  What’s to think, I was just looking at the cat then SMACK!

He jumped, his head hit the glass and he dropped to the floor though this time he landed on his feet.  He must have been practicing.  To say I was surprised would be an understatement, I was stunned, my attention riveted on the cat.  Twerp’s ears fluttered between flat and fully upright as he circled looking outside, eyes narrow.  If I were to guess what he was thinking or feeling I would put it somewhere between mad and confused as if he were the victim of a truly sick joke.  He circled, walked away, walked back to the door, looked out side, smelled the fresh air, eyes narrow and ears fluttering the whole time.  Now I was figuring that he was beginning to figure out that there was something between him and the outside, a thing we human’s refer to as glass.  I mean really, isn’t twice enough?  It seemed to me that he was stuck in some weird holding pattern circling, approaching, backing away and I felt that this could go on all day.  I was about to return to my snack when Twerp, from halfway across the floor, took off at a run and took a truly magnificent leap.  The form and energy expended displayed his conclusion.  obviously he hadn’t jumped hard enough or high enough and thump.  Really it was more of a bang, I guess Twerp was truly an American Cat. Again he landed on his feet and after looking around, you know to see if any other cats might have seen, he sulked of, head held low and tail dragging.

At this writing I am forty seven years old and this story has stuck with me through all that time.  The thing is so odd that I just can’t shake it.  I wonder about Twerp today.  Remember their babysitter Pooch?  I remember one early afternoon that spring, stepping out to check on the animals which we did in order to keep a head of Pooch’s escape attempts when I noticed the old dog chewing on something.  Five kittens were visible and whatever the Dog was chewing on was a dark tiger strip.  Dogs aren supposed to hate Cats, Right, I mean that’s what everybody says.  Five kittens in sight, pooch chewing on something tiger stripped.  Oh my God he’s eating Twerpy.  I took of like a shot, Mom would never stand for this kind of behavior.  If Twerp was half digested then I’d have to hide the rest.  But what if Twerp weren’t ate yet, What then? I rushed to the rescue and as I got close the dog let go of the cat, looking a me panting wagging his tail, he was happy.  I leaned down to see Twerp, the fur of his head pasted down and slimy with dog slobber, eyes closed, purring loud enough that he could be heard from some few feet.  I should have known then there was something different about that cat.

By mid August the local downtown Gun Store whose name I can’t remember closed and auctioned of everything.  The Gun store had been there for a long time and in its possession were two large solid Cherry Gun Cabinets that each stood about thirteen or fourteen feet in height and fifteen or so feet in width.  The top, the largest of the two parts, had glass sliding doors and glass side panels while the bottom held sixteen drawers.  The unit broke into two pieces plus the sliding glass door for transport, thank the almighty, and my mother wanted, really wanted one of those cabinets, they were solid cherry after all, for the kitchen.  Now if the project was crazy and required a disregard for personal safety or rational spending habits then Dad was good to go.  Mom got her cabinet and that night, Dad and I hauled the bottom half into the kitchen and put it in place.  But it would be awhile for the top to find its way there as it was as tall as the door frame.  So it sat in the living room and the cats would wander around it and occasionally play around it.

Twerp had a sister that went by the name Booger due to a black spot on its nose.  My brothers and I, when seeing the Black spot saw a mustache and wanted to name the cat Hitler but mom would have none of it.  In hind sight Hitler might have been a better name.  Booger would literal antagonize Twerp.  Swat him, bite him, chase him around, push stuff on him til Twerp would get mad and come after Booger.  Booger took off like the wind running for her life through the house.  Now Booger was a longer leaner Jack rabbit looking cat and she could really get moving and she would eventually start to pull out ahead of her brother Twerp.  In variably Booger would run into the living room towards the gun cabinet with the glass side panels and as she approached the glass with Twerp just being able to see her,she would jaunt around the glass and into the cabinet where she would slow to a walk.  You can imagine Twerp’s excitement at seeing his tormentor slow and as he began to gain ground.  Twerp doubled his pace and ran right into the glass.  Booger would jog off while Twerp stood there, ears flat, low on his hind haunches shaking his head.  His tail would thrash from side to side as he studied the mystery through narrow eyes and careful sniffs.  This happened repeatedly, always provoked by Booger, until the cabinet was moved into the kitchen and assembled.  Maybe Twerp possessed some strange learning disability.

I would never learn if he ever solved the mystery as Twerp stopped coming home one late september day.  We never saw him again.  I don’t spend as much time wondering what happen to Twerp, that was over thirty years ago.  I do spend time remember Twerp’s struggle with the mystery of  glass for my own entertainment.  Some day it will teach me something if it hasn’t already.

Lump of Coal – A Christmas Story

I Remember Christmas past this night. There were particular traditions in my youth with my family. On the 22nd of December there would be a small subdued celebration with my grandparents Armstrong, or Gampa and Gramma A as we use to say. Grampa and Gramma were snow birds and on their way south for the winter. To that Mecca of seasoned citzenhood called Florida and they would stop on there way to see my many Cousins down around Columbus and Cincinnati. We would wait up, it was in my years before becoming a fullblown teen, on Christmas eve for Mom to come home. She worked in a hospital as a pedatritics nurse in those years back when my brothers and I were part of the church’s boy’s choir. We needed to be at the church early to carol before the beginning of midnight mass. It was always a short night and the day following, Christmas, we would all find our way to grandpa and grandma Zeirolf’s, or Grandpa asnd Gramma Z’s for a christmas day feed.
Grandpa and Gramma were practical people so the gift was always a big box full of clothes for good. That’s how mom would say it, those clothes are “For Good.” Translation, for Church, School, Weddings and Funerals.
Grandpa would have spend some days before christmas making Peanut Brittle from an old receipe that had followed him from the farm so many decades ago. I don’t remember much about the process except for the part that involved a hammer. The old man literatally glowed when he said the words “Hard Tack” or “Peanut Brittle”. I can almost hear his voice in my ear now. He also spend some time with Gramma’s quiet ever patient assistance making Bourbon Balls. It is my belief to this day that Gramma, who did practically all of the cooking and baking was more than capable of this task but there always seemed to be some quiet dispute about the amount of liqour required. I am under the impression grandfather won as I can see Gramma right this instant with her fists planted on her hips, head tipped ever so slightly, lips bordering on a pucker as grandfather zestily poured more and more booze into the batch. At some point he would accuse her of useing too many eggs or milk or in some other way sabotagin’ the batch at which point gramma were softly buzz her lips, very close to a soft razzberry and join every one else in the living room. This series of events played out every year until my first year in college and to this day, in both grandpa and gramma defense I must add that outside of the two items mentioned and grinding horseradish, which is an experience in its self, grandfather only went in to the kitchen to ckeck his pyramid or to eat.
Gramma had undertook the herculean task of baking the weeks before creating cookies of everykind. Chocolate chip, peanut butter, sugar cookies shaped like stars and wreathes and a few sparse Santa’s, date bars, date nut wheels which to this day I have yet to reproduce successfully, Buckeyes, Gingersnaps, coconut cookies, snow balls, candy canes in red and white, anise and hazel nut and at this moment I can feel my stomach’s yearning. In my limited experience to date I have yet to encounter anything like those now ancient christmas cookies past. It seemes to be something more of legend than reality.
The house would settle by afternoon the heavy aroma of Kraut filling the air. It was Sourkraut and porkribs with thick knockwursts and hot dogs for those with weak hearts, pepperred with caraway and chunks of sour apples.  As far as Grandpa was concerned it was kraut for every major holiday except thanksgiving. Early yet on a very short day Gandpa would always gave his inspirational message for the new year. Ussually he would ask if myself and my brothers had been Good, always with a very thoughtful eyeing each of us like a skilled card player gauging his mark, to see if any tell might manifest, after which he concluded that we had been good, thou there was always room for improvement, he would announce “You’d better stay off the ball and on the stick and keep it that way.” With a “Little additional effort we could improve,” but, he would always pause and in his deepest and most menacing grandfather type voice he would continue, “Because if your bad you’ll get a lump of Coal!” This ussually brought sounds of disbelief and laughter followed by soft accusations of his veracity to which he would reliably reply, “You better believe it…It happened to me once!”

Grandpa held the tin, full of sticky Bourbon balls securly in his right hand, shaking it like a great rattle.  The heavily liqoured confections bounced within the tin as the old man looked over to my father, the other old man.  It was a long speculative look with a subtle air of question.  Dad would nod sticking his big hand into the tin to seize some of the alcoholic goodies.  The liquid booze wouldn’t enter the world until after dinner.  We all had some curiousity about those sugary confections.  Where they delightful to taste or exotic in their effect I would often wonder.  Judging from the hand full my father would pull from the can they must have been something truly magnificant.  Grandpa’s warning of the lump of coal would always simply end without elboration, that is, until my thirteenth Christmas.

I had started my freshman year in highschool the fall before and had been offered the oppurtunity to join the men’s choir at that time.  Choir was not the kind of thing I wanted to make a lifetime practice of, I thought ,and I declined.  Dad was siting, eyes bright and mood all around good, munching on his handful of alcoholic christmas tradition as Grandpa worked through his assessment of how good we had been that year ending with the haunted hollow warning of “The lump of Coal,” much like the ghost from christmases long past.  But this year there was a change, mundane as it may be on this holiday today, that night long ago it seemed dramatic.  First he thrust the tin of liqoured candies at each of the three of us one at a time.  Both of my brother’s wrinkled their noses, pursed their lips at the strong odor and shook their heads “NO!”  I took a few minutes longer eyeing the contents, the scent was strong enough to stand up on its own.  I wanted to try one of these things but I was having some indecision carefully looking for the smallest one I could find.  Grandpa shook the tin noisily.  To this day I believe that this action, the shaking of the tin, served the purpose of keeping life interesting.  Out of fear of appearing wimpy I grabbed one.  It was so sticky as to edge up on syrupy.  For at the moment I had found myself doubting my choice thrust apon the ridge of uncertainity.

My mother would clear her throat nervously hissing at her fasther.  “It won’t hurt them any,” Grandfather would assert in his own defense.

Grandpa hesistated making noises, a combination of thoughtful growls and grimaces indicating he was about to tell a story which was a rare thing indeed.  I was immersed in the challenge of the bourbon ball.  My Family always had one simple rule at the table, for any meal, if you weren’t going to eat it then don’t take it.  If you chose to fill your plate then finish it all.  The family was thick with farmers and wasting food was a big NO-NO.  What you don’t eat today will be made into something else tomorrow.

It was in the Summer, grandfather stated, when he was the same age as myself, thirteen.  There was a big reason why my brother’s and I had series doubt that grandpa had ever gotten a lump of coal because he had been distilling moonshine, his two eldest sisters, business partners as it were, had been running it all over west central ohio since he stood at the ripe old age of eleven.  If that didn’t get you a lump of coal what short of murder would?  It was the Prohibition after all.

It was the Summer, Granfather repeated, before the early havests started. That Summer he had been engaged in mortal combat with a young mustang stallion.  Great Grandfather had bought or traded for the horse and grandpa would get that far distant look like remembering a place so different than this very day that it could cause one to doubt that it was ever real.  It was a beautiful horse, prefect, fast, strong, smart with coal black fur.  Spirited Grandpa would say.  You couldn’t get it to take the saddle and it wouldn’t stay in the corral.  This horse roamed freely around the twelve hundred acre farm.  The old man, then a boy no older then myself saw this as a challenge.  After some thought and when there was available time from the massive chore work load as the farm was without mechanization of any sort, he put his plan into action.

There was a large orchard on the property, diverse in the fruit and nut trees that lived there, though most were apple, cherry and walnut. Remember Walnut, it is important later in the story.  So he found himself a tree that in his estimation, his word not mine, was high enough so that the horse could easily pass under and enough leaves to hide his presence from the ever alert mustang.  It would only be a matter of hours before the beautiful black horse would calmly wander under grandfather securely hidden in the tree.  The trap would then be sprung and he would drop out of the tree an onto the horse’s back.  The Mustang did what mustangs do, he took off like a shot not bucking like you would imagine but at a dead on run.  Grandfather hung on sans saddle and lacking bridal certain he had the horse right where he wanted him, Again grandfather’s words.  His face took a child like glow smiling to the point of laughter. The Mustang, it seemed was far smarter than grandfather had first thought.  Rather than running wildly around the 1200 acre farm the horse stayed in the orchard covering the ground at an unnatural speed until he found a low hanging branch on a cherry tree of just the right height.  Continuing the pace the black mustang took the farm boy under the tree, the branch sweeping the rider from its back and tossing him into a painful heap on the ground.

“I’ll be Damned if it didn’t happen,” Grandfather stated, a religious man, he rarily swore and such a statement was serious.  Yet he was laughing nearly to the point of tears.

“That Damn horse was standing not twenty feet away looking at me like I was some sort of a dummy, its head bouncing up and down snorting as though it were laughing at me,” he finnished now laughing so hard it would be minutes before the story would continue.  I, on the other hand still held the bourbon ball.  Feeling that this was as good of a time as any it took a half bite.  Compared to the men in the room it was a nibble.  I can’t describe the flavor.  It was terrible, much like I’d imagined the combination of brimstone and paint thinner.  My face must of had a most intense expression as Gramma offered to get rid of the rest for me.  Gramma was always there when life presented such seasonal difficulties.  We had completed the hidden hand off before grandfsather continued the story.

It would seem that the mustang and my thirteen year old grandfasther were as they say…”ON”.  Thus when ever Granpa had the time the battle would repeat.  He would drop from a tree, never the same tree.  The Mustang would dislodge him with a low hanging branch, rarily the same branch.  Of course this is only half the story.  The other half starts when a couple of boys form a nearby farm, (translate two miles down the road) actually witnesed an episode from this epic battle of wills.  One in particular by the name of Cleophis found the entire episode so entertaining as to edge to the brink of ridicule.  No one really knows how often Cleophis witnessed the spectacle but at one point he decided it would be even funnier it they set up an ambush.  As the story goes it was Cleophis and another boy who remains to this day unnamed, probably still in the witness protection program, who happened to be present on one occasion as the mustang again swept grandpa from its back.

This time though, they had equiped themselves with an arm load of green walnuts.  The branch took granfather of the horse’s back, he hit the ground hard probably resulting in a less then agreeable mood.  When he finally got back onto his feet and the ambush was sprung.  Cleophis and his companion started to unload the green walnuts like the german’s at Omaha beach.  Grandpa was surprized, at the very least, as a walnut impacted, I say impacted because these were farm boys that worked the field before tractors were available, they were extremely strong, so it was a hard blow to the side of his head.   Thank goodness Grandfather possessed a hard head.   Now grandfather was pretty quick on his mental feet and reacted instantly.

“I ran off towards the barn screaming bloody murder, like I might die at any minute,” I remember him smiling as he described this, “I was hoping they’d follow to finish me off.  So when I gets in the barn I find a two by four and hide just inside the door.”

I always imagine it as a chunk of wood a few feet long, he wasn’t specific.

“When Cleophis stuck his head inside the barn door to see where I was…Well…I hit him.” Grandfather spread his arms appart, “BANG…I put everything I had into it.”

Apparently they had to call a doctor.  You know how the story ends I guess.  That Chriustmas Grandpa didn’t get a new clean shirt or a freash orange like usual.  Instead it was a lonely lump of coal in the bottom of his stocking and now you know why.  I think Cleophis survived the ordeal only slightly worse for wear.  And The Black Mustang…Well I don’t believe they ever did get that animal to take a saddle.

Just keep that lump of coal in mind, before things really get crazy.