Tomatoes: A Confession


tomatoplant

I have never been a big fan of tomatoes (at least in their raw form), but on one occasion, many years ago, I managed to find a good use for the produce.

The details of the following childhood event are fuzzy in my memory. I vaguely recall that I was in my backyard looking for something to do. The family dog at that time, a Siberian husky by the name of Teddy, was also in the yard doing what dogs normally do.  As I wandered aimlessly about, I came across the family vegetable garden. Growing in the back of that garden were plants that were taller than I was, and on them hung many red objects. The bright color of the fruit having caught my eye, I picked one off and examined it. Purely for experimental purposes, I threw the tomato at our fence to see what it would do. It exploded against the wood in a red, and quite satisfying, splotch of glory.

That was fun, my young mind reasoned. I hurried back to the garden and picked another tomato and hurled that at the fence.

SPLUT!

I did it again- SPLUT!

And again- SPLUT!

It was then that Teddy walked by…

I don’t know how my pea brain managed to conclude that playing dodge ball with the dog would be a good thing to do. Yet the next thing I recall, I was flinging tomatoes at my poor confused pet. There were tomato rinds all over my dog, the fence, and the yard. I was having the time of my life…then Mom came out. Enough said.

I’m sure Teddy held no grudges after that incident. In fact, I’m sure he had a ball licking up my homemade tomato paste for weeks after.

League of Unknown Presidents, Part Three


Pierce: Hey, I have a question. Why is Harrison always in charge of these meetings?

Harrison: Because I was the first President to die in office. It’s sort of an honorary thing.

Pierce: But you were only President for, what, a month? You guys make fun of my presidency, but what did he actually do?

Hayes: Well…he did have a catchy campaign song. (Singing) “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too. Yes, Tippecanoe and Tyler, too…”

Everyone (except Pierce): “And with them we’ll beat little Van, Van. Van is a used up man. And with them we’ll beat little Vaaaaaaaan!”

Fillmore: (Sighing) That’ll be stuck in my head for a week.

Hayes: Has anyone seen President Van Buren lately? He used to come to these meetings all the time.

Harrison: He had told me that he was feeling a bit over-committed. After all, he’s pretty active in the Forgotten Vice-Presidents group and the One-Term Wonders Club. I think he’s also planning to start a group for presidents who speak Dutch. But as he is the only one qualified, I can’t see how that can go anywhere.

Pierce: So you like Harrison’s campaign song. Fine. No one can top my campaign slogan though.

Hayes: “We Polked you in ’44. We shall Pierce you in ’52…” Okay, I’ll give you that one.

Fillmore: Yeah, it’s pretty clever.

Pierce: Thank you! Now can I leave this group?

Everyone (except Pierce): NO!

Harrison: (Rubbing his temples) Can we please continue with this meeting before my head explodes?

Fillmore: That’s what Lincoln said. Hey-oh!

(Fillmore and Hayes laugh and exchange fist bumps.)

Hayes: Well played, Mr. President.

Fillmore: Thank you, Mr. President.

Harrison: (Mumbling) What did I do to deserve this?

A King’s Rage


Disclaimer: accompanying photo from  http://pixshark.com/king-on-throne-images.htm. 

By Steven Dexheimer

I am a king.

I am the undisputed ruler of my domain. I took the throne at an early age and have ruled with power ever since. Some have attempted to usurp my authority, but none have been able to withstand my full might and wrath! No one knows the ins and outs of this kingdom as intimately as I do. You could say that I and my kingdom are one and the same.

However, I have noticed that, despite my best efforts, there are things that seem to be beyond my control. I want what is best for my beloved kingdom, but sometimes bad things happen, confusing things, frightening things. I rage and bluster at the disharmony that continues to inflict me. Yet, I am losing ground.

As I sit on my throne, pondering these things, a man approaches. I have never seen him before. There is nothing about this man’s appearance that strikes me…except for his eyes. They are piercing and seem to look deep within me. There is power there as well, and a quiet kindness. What is most intriguing is that he looks me in the eye as if we were equals. It is disconcerting, but I refuse to let it show.

“I have never seen you here before, stranger,” I say. “Tell me, what is your business here in my kingdom?”

“I have come to help you.”

This response is unexpected, and I cannot help but laugh. “You have come to help me?” I guffaw. “This is indeed a change! It is usually I who receive requests for help, not offers for it.”

“All the same,” he continues, “I wish to help, for I love this place as if it were my own.”

“What do you know of this place?” I scoff. “No one loves this kingdom more than I do.”

“I know,” he replies quietly. His calm demeanor is making me cross.

“You imply,” I continue haughtily, “that I need help running my kingdom. What gives you the temerity to say this?”

“I know of your fearsome power in this place. Yet…all is not well.”

I leap up from my throne, the anger growing within me.

“‘All is not well?’” I spit at him. “Now you presume to insult me by…”

“I mean no insult,” he calmly cuts in. “However, you have struggles, worries, and fears that assail you from all sides. I can help you to overcome them.”

I give him a scornful laugh. “You think that I have worries? You think that I am afraid? Do you know who you are talking to?”

“I do,” he says, looking at me levelly. “I know about your strengths and weaknesses, your triumphs and your failures, and your desire for something better.”

“I cannot tell whether you are a liar or a madman,” I growl, “but I will humor you just this once. Tell me, how would you help this kingdom?”

He answers me with a straight-face:

“Make me your king.”

“Impudence!” I roar in fury. I thunder down the dais and stand toe to toe with this…this…

“It can be the only way,” he replies unblinkingly. “Change cannot occur unless I have full control of your kingdom.”

“How…how dare you come in here and threaten to overthrow me!” I shake my fist in his unperturbed face. “I…am…the… king!”

“I do not wish to overthrow you,” he replies. “The change will have to come voluntarily through you.”

Give up my kingdom voluntarily? This man must be mad. Yet, despite my indignant rage, a curiosity comes over me.

“What,” I huff, “can you offer this kingdom that I can’t?”

“Peace,” he says, and somehow, deep within me, I know it to be true. He continues, “I can bring joy, and love, and hope, and purpose.”

With every attribute he mentions, I feel my rage seep out of me. I feel drained, empty, and weak. For the first time, I feel…unworthy. There is a long moment of silence before I am finally able to speak again.

“Who…who are you?”

He tells me his name. It is a name that resonates with power. It pierces me like his eyes. With a growing sense of humility, I remove the crown that had been resting upon my head for so many years. I hold it in my hands and study it before handing it over. I kneel before him.

“Hail,” I whisper, “King Jesus.”

Fast Food Fairy Tale, Part Ten


Disclaimer: As the title implies, fast food will be involved (health food nuts, you have been warned!). Many restaurant franchises are personified as characters in this story; some are good guys and some are bad. If you happened to be employed by any of these chains, please know that your character’s role is not a reflection upon the quality of your employer. In short, this is just a silly little story that I have been writing for the amusement of friends-try not to take it too seriously…and please don’t sue me…

~Chapter 16: The Troops Assemble~

Dust-covered and weary from travel, Portillo and In-and-Out pushed on throughout the day, reaching Holdermayo at dusk. After stopping at a tavern for a quick meal, the two continued on towards the White Castle. They halted their mounts before the guard house.

“State your business!” said the Captain of the watch, sauntering out and eyeing the two strangers with suspicion.

“We need to speak to the King,” Portillo replied. “It’s urgent!”

“It’s always urgent,” scoffed the Captain. “Be off with you!”

“Sir,” said In-and-Out, “the boy is quite right. We bring important news from the south. The King needs…”

“I said, be off with you!”

“If you could just hear us out…” In-and-Out tried again.

“No one sees the King at this time of the evening!” Roared the Captain; then after a pause, he added, “Unless of course you have committed a crime. In which case, you will be brought before the King to be judged.”

“I see,” In-and-Out mused. “And how quickly is a criminal brought to justice once a crime has been committed?”

“Why, immediately,” replied the Captain. “The Burger King takes great pride in dispensing speedy judgments.”

“So, theoretically,” continued In-and-Out, “if a crime were to be committed, say…now, would the accused see the King tonight?”

“That’s right,” The Captain nodded.

“Hmm…fair enough,” calmly replied In-and-Out. Then he punched the Captain in the face.

~

“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t throw all of you into prison for bothering me at this hour of the night,” yawned the Burger King as he slouched on this throne.

“This villain hit me!” The Captain grumbled from the non-swollen side of his face.

“Only because we needed to see the King immediately,” retorted Portillo.

“Well, that makes sense,” the King replied sarcastically. “You wanted to see me, so naturally you beat up my watchman.”

“Sire,” the Captain mumbled indignantly, “I was not beaten up. I was merely struck while my guard was down.”

“Admitting that your guard was down is not the sort of thing that inspires confidence in my Captain of the watch.” At this, the Captain had the good sense to look humble.

“Your highness, Wendy is in trouble!” Portillo finally blurted out. This got the King’s attention.

“Wendy? What has happened to her?” Portillo then related the story of Little Caesar’s plot, the kidnapping of Wendy and his friends, and his own near capture on the road to the White Castle.

“This is outrageous!” Yelled the King, echoing his son’s response to the news. “I will mobilize the army at once!”

“What are we going to do about Wendy?” Asked Portillo with some urgency. Just then, a man wearing glasses and a green shirt hurried into the throne room and approached the King.

“Jerrod,” said the King, addressing the messenger. “Have you brought news from my son?”

“I have,” replied Jerrod, handing over a scroll. The Burger King unrolled the message, read it quickly, and let out a small sigh of relief.

“Well, here is a bit of good news. It seems that Wendy managed to escape her kidnappers and made it all the way to Hardeeshire! She warned Prince Carl and he is assembling troops in the south.”

Portillo laughed.

“That Wendy is somethin’ else! Is there anything she can’t do?”

“Yes,” replied the King with a twinkle in his eye. “Stay out of trouble.”

~

Wendy stared into a fenced-in yard full of chickens.

“I don’t get it,” she said, turning to Colonel Sanders. “I thought you were going to show me your secret weapon for winning the battle.”

“And so I am, Darlin’,” the Colonel replied proudly, waving an arm toward the mass of clucking poultry.

“But,” Wendy said dubiously, “they’re chickens.”

“Not just any chickens, my dear,” continued the Colonel, unfazed by her doubts. “These are highly-trained birds of war!”

Wendy looked back at the pen just as a large hen near the fence relieved itself and then walked unconcernedly through the mess.

“These,” explained Colonel Sanders, “are members of an elite air strike team: Chicken Fighters in Local Airspace, but we call them the “Chick-Fil-A” for short.”

“But they look ordinary.”

“Ah, but we have a special diet that we feed the chickens prior to battle. You wouldn’t think it by looking at them now, but these beauties are capable of wrecking havoc on any invaders.”

“A special diet? What do you feed them?”

“I’m afraid that is top secret,” said the Colonel with a mysterious smile. “We don’t want this information getting to the wrong sorts of people.”

“It isn’t spinach, is it?”

The Colonel’s mouth fell open.

“Wh…What?” he stammered in shock. “Why did you…? How did you…?”

“I met someone in Port Plees-Comagin who said he fed his chickens with spinach, and they grew really strong.”

Colonel Sander’s face went from shock to a stony look of disapproval.

“Tell me, Wendy, honey,” he said gravely, “this person that you met. Was he squinty-eyed, smoking a pipe, and wearing a sailor suit?”

“Yes! That’s Popeye! Have you met him before?”

“I have,” replied the Colonel icily, “but I have not seen him in many years. You see, his real name isn’t Popeye. It’s Beauregard. Beauregard Sanders…and he is my son.”

League of Unknown Presidents, Part Two


Hayes: (To Pierce) I don’t know what you’re complaining about anyway. Personally, I’d rather be here than be in the League of Forgotten Vice-Presidents. I hear that’s a sorry group…

Fillmore: Hey! I’m in that League!

Hayes: (Gesturing to Fillmore) See what I mean?

Fillmore: I wouldn’t talk, Rutherfraud B. Hayes!

Hayes: (Jumps to his feet, pointing at Fillmore) My election was legitimate!

Fillmore: There were 4,287,670 Americans in 1876 who could beg to differ. Not to mention Samuel Tilden…

Hayes: I won the electoral vote!

Fillmore: (Also getting to his feet) Through voter fraud. And then an electoral commission was created to investigate. Eight Republicans, seven Democrats– yeah, guess who they gave the presidency to.

Hayes: Lies! I’m a model citizen. I don’t even drink!

Pierce: (Clearly enjoying the commotion) How do you live?

Tyler: (Raising his hand) Can I say something?

Fillmore and Hayes: No!

Tyler: (Quickly puts his hand down) Right.

Harrison: (Banging his gavel) Order gentlemen, order! This squabbling is pointless!

(Knock is heard at the door)

Harrison: (Shouting) WHO IS IT?!

(21st President Chester Arthur pops his head into the room)

Chester Arthur: Hey, could you gentlemen keep it down a little? We’re meeting in the next room.

Harrison: What meeting is that?

Arthur: (Fluffing his whiskers) The Presidents with Cool Facial Hair Society. President Lincoln is about to give a speech about beard grooming. Should be exciting.

Hayes: (Pulling on his beard) Hey, why wasn’t I invited?

Arthur: Beats me, Rutherfraud. Ciao! (Exits)

Hayes: (Angrily) Hey!

Harrison: Can we proceed now?

(General murmur of assent)

Harrison: Thank you. President Tyler, as League secretary, could you read the minutes of last week’s meeting?

Tyler: (Shuffling through some papers) Minutes…minutes…Ah yes, here we are. (Reading from paper) The meeting was called to order by President Harrison at 7:01 p.m. At 7:05, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Harrison then called roll. At 7:07, President Pierce made a motion that he be allowed to leave the League due to his popularity and good looks. No one seconded the motion. At 7:10, Harrison read the list of accomplishments of the Pierce administration. Five seconds later, the list was concluded…

(Fillmore and Hayes snicker.)

Harrison: (Sighing) Please continue, President Tyler.

Tyler: Ah, yes. (Finding his place on the page) At 7:12 p.m., President Fillmore made a remark concerning Pierce’s mother. At this point, Harrison excused himself to go to the bathroom and did not return to the meeting. A heated discussion ensued thereafter in which many…unprintable words were exchanged. During the…discussion, Pierce referred to President Hayes as “Rutherfraud.” At this point, Hayes entered the discussion by punching Pierce on the nose. The discussion and the meeting were concluded at 7:26 p.m. when Fillmore threw a chair through one of the windows.

Fillmore: Humph. I see they still haven’t repaired that window yet…

Hayes: (To Tyler) Where were you when all of this was going on?

Tyler: Under the table taking notes.

Harrison: Your dedication to your office is commendable.

Tyler: Uh, thanks.

Fast Food Fairy Tale, Part Nine


Disclaimer: As the title implies, fast food will be involved (health food nuts, you have been warned!). Many restaurant franchises are personified as characters in this story; some are good guys and some are bad. If you happened to be employed by any of these chains, please know that your character’s role is not a reflection upon the quality of your employer. In short, this is just a silly little story that I have been writing for the amusement of friends-try not to take it too seriously…and please don’t sue me…

~Chapter 15: Sound the Alarm!~

“My friends are going to know that I’ve gone missing!” said Portillo defiantly. “And then they’ll just send someone else!”

“That wouldn’t be your little friends at the A&W Ranch, would it?” replied the large man with a sneer.

“What?” Portillo’s face fell. The large man laughed at the reaction.

“Do ya think we’re stupid? We know about your pals, and we rounded them up, so…problem solved.”

While the large man spoke, Crab Cakes produced a rope and leaned forward to tie Portillo’s unresisting hands together.

“Thass right, mate,” said the pirate, “you come along nice and easy with us an’ no one gets hurt.”

This last statement was apparently unsatisfactory to Sonic. In a flash, he leapt off Portillo’s horse and to the ground, where he found the closest leg of Crab Cakes’ mount. The pirate’s horse shrieked and bucked violently. Crab Cakes, who was still leaning forward, was head-butted by his horse, then thrown back over the horse’s rump to land in an unconscious heap on the ground. Meanwhile, Sonic had moved on to the large man’s horse. Although his horse went into a panic, the large man was ready for the attack and managed to stay on while his mount bucked. By the time that he finally got his horse under control though, Sonic had leapt back onto the old gray mare, and Portillo galloped off. However, it wasn’t long before the large man spurred his horse onward and was soon hot on Portillo’s trail.

The pursuer and the pursued flew along the road. Although he managed to keep his distance at first, Portillo knew that there was no way that he was going to outrace this man all the way to the White Castle. Still, without any other option available to him, Portillo continued to frantically urge his horse to go faster. However, she was beginning to quickly run out of steam. The large man was gaining with every stride, until:

WAP!

He was knocked clean off his horse. The man fell limply to the earth, unconscious. Portillo heard the smack and looked around to see happened. He saw a man with a large tree branch standing at the side of the road. Portillo slowed and turned his horse back. The man with the tree branch looked decidedly peeved. He seemed to be talking to the large man.

“I risk my neck spying for Jersey Mike, and do you know what he gives me as payment?” He thrust his hand into a pocket and pulled a wad of papers. “Coupons! Coupons for his restaurant! That was not what we agreed on!” Angrily, he flung them in the air, the little pieces of paper landing gently like fall leaves over the prone villain. The man then turned to face Portillo, smiled, and bowed slightly.

“In-and-Out, at your service.”

~

It was nearly dark by the time Wendy finally exited the woods and located the main road. She rode south until she located the trail which would lead her eastward. As night fell, Wendy grew more and more nervous. All the fields and woods she passed were gradually being swallowed by shadows. To add to the gloom, the sky was also growing cloudy, hiding the stars and making Wendy feel very alone.
“I wish you could talk, Horsey Sauce,” Wendy sighed. The horse nickered in reply. Leaning over, Wendy wrapped her arms around Horsey Sauce’s warm, broad neck. She remained that way, mile after mile. The sound of the horse’s breathing and the rhythm of his movement proved to be soothing to the red-head. By the time the first twinkling lights of the village appeared in the distance, Wendy was sound asleep. At the village’s outskirts, Horsey Sauce gave his head a gentle shake, rousing Wendy from her doze.

“Are we there?” Wendy mumbled sleepily. She rubbed her eyes and noticed the cluster of lighted buildings approaching. At a small building beside the road, a man with a helmet and spear emerged.

“Whoa there, young lady,” said the portly night watchman, stepping forward with a kindly smile. “And where might you be off to this time of night?”

“I need to see Prince Carl, sir!”

“Do you now? Awful late to be going for a visit.”

“It’s urgent! Please take me to him right away!”

“And who may I ask is requesting his majesty’s presence?”

“I’m Wendy, and…”

“Wendy?” The watchman looked shocked. “Not little Wendy from the White Castle?”

“Yes!”

“We expected your arrival, but not like this.”

“Please! We have to hurry. I’ll explain on the way.” Without another word, the watchman mounted his own horse, and together they made their way to Hardee Castle.

~

“This is outrageous!” Prince Carl, Jr. stormed as he paced his throne room. He was the spitting image of his father with the exception that the Burger King sported a full beard while the Prince remained clean-shaven. But Wendy had seen that similar glowering look that was currently on Prince Carl’s face. It was the same look the King had given to Wendy after the “sliders” incident. Had that been only a few days ago? Wendy felt that a lifetime had gone by since then

“And with it all happening virtually under my nose! I should be ashamed!”

“Oh, no!” Replied Wendy. “It’s not your fault! No one knew this was coming. My friends and I happened to be at the right place at the right time. The King doesn’t even know about what’s going on.”

“My father doesn’t know?” Prince Carl asked astonished. “Then he must be warned immediately! He must call out his army.”

“We did send someone to warn the King, but I’m not sure if he made to the White Castle. He might have been captured.”

“Just to be sure, we’ll send a message to the White Castle.”

“But how? Little Caesar has all the roads guarded. There’s no way we can get word to the King.”

The Prince smiled.

“Not all roads, my dear Wendy.”

The Prince led Wendy through a doorway and down a long flight of stairs. After opening another door, the two stepped out onto a dimly-lit platform. Alongside the platform was a road with two thin ruts cut down its length. Both ends of the road disappeared into dark stone tunnels.

“What is this place?” Wendy whispered in amazement.

“It’s a little invention that Father and I developed for secret messenger service between castles. We call it the Subway!”

“Subway?”

“Yes. It’s how Father and I keep each other informed on the goings-on of Dryvthru. We also use it to send belated birthday gifts, but that’s another story.”

Soon, Wendy heard rumbling coming from the tunnel on their right.

“Ah, just in time,” said Prince Carl as the noise continued to increase. Wendy couldn’t imagine what could be approaching. She didn’t have long to wonder. Out from the tunnel burst a strange-looking wagon. In the place of wheels, the wagon had two long pieces of metal which fit in the road’s ruts. Being pulled by the wagon was a large panda.

“What is with this kingdom and pandas?” Wendy said exasperatedly as the wagon came to a noisy, screeching halt.

“What was that?” The Prince yelled, cupping his ear.

“Nothing.”

From the wagon leapt a trim, bespectacled man.

“Jerrod!” said Prince Carl, “excellent timing. I need you to travel to the White Castle at once.” He produced a scroll with the information that Wendy had given him. With a smile and a bow, Jerrod took the scroll and returned to the wagon.

“Now,” said the Prince as the Subway wagon slid away into the opposite tunnel. “We must look to our own defense.”

“Do you have an army?” Wendy asked as the two climbed the stairs back to the throne room.

“We have a small standing army. However, it is most likely that we may need to call on volunteers to fill our ranks. From what you have described, Little Caesar will probably have a sizable force on hand.”

When they had returned to the throne room, Prince Carl called on one of his servants and told him to summon “the Colonel.”

“Who’s the Colonel?” Asked Wendy.

“He’s my military advisor, and a very wise man. If anyone knows what needs to be done, he does.”

After a few minutes of waiting, the throne room door opened and in stepped a bespectacled, white-haired gentleman wearing a dapper white suit.

“Ah, Colonel,” said the Prince with a wave. “We are in need of your services.”

“Well sir,” the Colonel drawled as he approached, “I am always happy to be of service.” He turned a grandfatherly gaze upon Wendy. “Now who do we have here?”

“Colonel, this is Wendy. Wendy, I’d like you to meet Colonel Sanders.”

“Well now,” Colonel Sanders beamed as he took Wendy’s offered hand. “With that lovely head of hair, I should have known. A pleasure to meet you, darling.”

“You know who I am?” Wendy asked, surprised.

“Oh my, the whole kingdom knows who you are!”

Wendy grinned. She liked Colonel Sanders.

League of Unknown Presidents, Part One


(A typical meeting hall setting. A group of lesser known U.S. Presidents sit around a table, talking among themselves. 9th President William Henry Harrison rises from his seat and bangs a gavel.)

William Henry Harrison: All right gentlemen. I now call tonight’s meeting of the League of Unknown Presidents to order. Let’s begin by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

(All rise, except for one man, put their hands over their hearts, face the American flag that is standing in corner of the room, and recite the Pledge.)

Harrison: (Retaking his seat and looking at the man who remained seated) Excuse me, sir. May I ask why you didn’t stand up for the Pledge?

John Macdonald: Oh, was I supposed to do that as well?

Millard Fillmore: Of course! All presidents should honor their country and flag.

Harrison: If you pardon me for asking, have you been to one of these meetings before?

Macdonald: Erm, no.

Harrison: What is your name, sir?

Macdonald: Uhh…John Macdonald.

Harrison: (Flipping through paperwork) Hmm…I don’t see your name on the lists of Presidents, known or unknown.

Macdonald: Yes, aboot that…

Fillmore: Aboot?

Macdonald: “About!” I said “about!”

Fillmore: (Standing up and pointing at Macdonald) No, you didn’t! I heard you! You said “aboot!” You’re a Canadian!

Harrison: Sir…are you, in fact, Canadian?

Macdonald: (Throwing up his hands) All right, yes! I’m Sir John A. Macdonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada.

Harrison: What are you doing here?

Macdonald: Well, the Canadian Prime Ministers don’t meet like this, eh?

Harrison: Please leave.

Macdonald: (Standing) Right. Sorry. (Leaves)

Harrison: All right, now that’s settled, we’ll take roll. (Looks down at a piece of paper) 9th President William Henry Harrison…I’m here, obviously. 13th President Millard Fillmore…

Fillmore: (Raises a hand) Here.

Harrison: 10th President John Tyler…

John Tyler: Present.

Harrison: 19th President Rutherford B. Hayes…

Rutherford B. Hayes: I’m here.

Harrison: 14th President Franklin Pierce…

Franklin Pierce: I protest!

(Everyone grumbles)

Fillmore: (Sighs) Not again…

Pierce: I shouldn’t be here!

Tyler: You’re an unknown President.

Pierce: Not true…I am known as the handsomest President ever!

Tyler: Who told you that?

Hayes: His mother, probably.

(Everyone but Pierce laughs)

Pierce: I also played a crucial role in the history of this county!

Harrison: (Pulling out another sheet of paper) Well, let’s just check your credentials again, shall we? (Reading to himself and mumbling for a few moments before looking up) Well, Mr. Pierce, I think your track record is best summed up by what Harry S Truman had to say, and I quote: (reading from paper) “He’s got the best picture in the White House…”

Pierce: (Smugly) Ha!

Harrison: (Still reading) “…but being President involves a little bit more than just winning a beauty contest, and he was another one that was a complete fizzle…

Fillmore: Ha!

Harrison: (Still reading) “…Pierce didn’t know what was going on, and even if he had, he wouldn’t of known what to do about it.”

(Everyone except Pierce laughs)

Pierce: (Pouting) Oh, what does Truman know? He’s from (sketching air quotes) “Mizzoura.”

Harrison: (Continuing to look at the paper) Now Theodore Roosevelt has this to say about you…

Pierce: (Throwing up his hands) All right! All right! You made your point…(under his breath)…for the time being.

Fast Food Fairy Tale, Part Eight


Disclaimer: As the title implies, fast food will be involved (health food nuts, you have been warned!). Many restaurant franchises are personified as characters in this story; some are good guys and some are bad. If you happened to be employed by any of these chains, please know that your character’s role is not a reflection upon the quality of your employer. In short, this is just a silly little story that I have been writing for the amusement of friends-try not to take it too seriously…and please don’t sue me…

~Chapter 14: The Hunter and the Hunted~

The first rays of dawn were just making their appearance as Portillo spurred the old gray mare northwards along the main road. Sonic lay comfortably curled behind Portillo, snoring lightly. Despite the urgency of his mission, the boy couldn’t help feeling relaxed. The early morning air was pleasantly cool. There was no sign of any other person on the road at that hour. He had the world to himself.

“This is the life, ain’t it, Sonic?” Sonic gave a snort in response and adjusted his position on the horse’s rump. “Yes sir, it’s one adventure after another.” Portillo began to whistle softly as the daylight continued to expand across the eastern sky. His reverie was interrupted when he saw a large man on a horse. The man was stopped in the middle of the road and looking in Portillo’s direction as if he were expecting him. Portillo let out a nervous breath and tried to maintain his carefree appearance as he continued to move forward. The man raised his hand when Portillo had moved to within speaking distance.

“Where you off to, kid?” The man growled.

“Ahh,” stammered Portillo, almost forgetting what he was supposed to say. “My, uhh, parents. They sent me a message. They’re sick.”

“Is that right?”

“Yeah, they are. Both of them, and they want me to come home right away.”

The man let out a humorless laugh.

“I think we can save you a trip. Ain’t that right, Crab Cakes?” Sonic who was wide awake now let out a low growl as another horse and rider approached from behind. Portillo turned to look at the strange sight of a grimy-looking pirate sitting awkwardly on his mount. Clearly this was his first time on a horse.

“Blast ye!” cried the pirate, trying adjust himself comfortably in the saddle. “I told ye, me name is pronounced “’Rab ‘Akes.” The “C’s” are silent!”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah…” the large man said dismissively. “But his folks didn’t look too sick when we stopped in for a visit last night.”

The pirate laughed.

“Aye, but they sure looked scared witless to me!”

“What did you do to them?” Portillo said, alarmed at the turn of events. Sonic’s growl intensified.

“Nothin’. We just had a nice little chat,” the large man sneered. “And they told us all about how proud they are of their little Portillo. Funny, they never said nothin’ about sending you a message…”

“Ya wouldn’t be on another errand, would ya, boy?” Crab Cakes grinned, revealing a mouthful of gaps where a number of teeth had once resided.
Portillo gulped.

~

“Do you think Portillo is there by now?”

“Oh Wendy, it’s only been half a day,” said Baskin.” And come away from the window, your food is getting cold.” Reluctantly, Wendy returned to the table where the others were eating.

“Tell ya what, Miss Spitfire,” Arby said. “To help pass the time along, how ‘bout we go out to the corral, and I teach ya how to lasso a steer.”

“Really?” Wendy brightened as Arby rose from his seat and put on his hat.

“Sure thing. We can head out now if ya like.” Wendy leapt from the table and followed Arby to the front door.

“I suppose I would be wasting my breath if I told you to be careful,” Robin said rather sardonically.

“Yes,” replied Wendy, “it probably would.”

“Ah, youth,” Papa John said with a chuckle. “I wish I had half the energy of that child. But, as I don’t,” he yawned, “I think I will take a nap instead.”

~

“Ropin’ is simple,” said Arby as he and Wendy made their way to the barn. “It’s all a matter of timin’.” They entered the dimly-lit barn and Wendy breathed in the heady fragrance of fresh hay, horses, and newly produced manure. A nicker from one of the stalls drew the pair over. The head of Horsey Sauce appeared above the door. Wendy reached up and patted his broad neck.

“He might appreciate one of these,” said Arby, producing an apple from his pocket and handing it to Wendy. She took it and began to lift it toward Horsey Sauce’s mouth.

“Careful now,” Arby warned. “Ya wanna have your hand flat when you give it to him. You don’t want Horsey nibbling off one of your fingers on accident.”

Wendy did as instructed. Horsey Sauce lowered his head and snuffled the apple for a moment before plucking it from Wendy’s hand and crunching on it contentedly. Wendy laughed and rubbed the horse’s nose.

“You just made a friend for life,” Arby said with a grin. “Horsey’s a push-over for apples. Now,” the rancher said looking around. “Let’s find us some rope.”

The sound of distant hoof beats put an end to the search.

“Who is that?” Wendy asked. “Did Portillo come back?”

“I dunno,” said Arby, striding out of the barn to get a better look with Wendy at his heels. From the main road, a number of horse and riders were paused the ranch’s gate entrance. In the next moment, the horsemen were thundering down the path leading to the house.

“It’s them!” Wendy screamed. “It’s Jersey Mike’s men!”

“C’mon!” Arby yelled as he pulled Wendy into the barn. Quickly, he grabbed for a saddle and bridle, threw open Horsey Sauce’s stall door and threw them on. He then snatched up Wendy and placed her on the horse.

“What are you doing?” Wendy cried as Arby adjusted the reins and stirrups.

“Do you know how to get to Prince Carl’s palace from here?”

“I think so, but…”

“Hardeeshire is due east from here. Ya can’t miss it. Once ya get there, you’ll be able to ask for directions.”

“But I can’t…”

“Wendy, ya gotta go! Prince Carl needs to know what’s happenin’!”

“But what about Baskin and Robin? I can’t leave them!”

“There ain’t no choice! I’ll watch out for ‘em, but ya need to go now!”

Grabbing the bridle, Arby hurriedly led Horsey Sauce out of the barn, around the back, and towards a nearby grove of trees.

“Ride west through the trees until you’re out of sight of the ranch. When the coast is clear, turn and head for the main road, then ride like fury, and don’t stop till ya get to Hardeeshire!”

They could hear the riders pulling up to the ranch house, dismounting, and then the sound of someone pounding on its door.

“Arby…I’m afraid!” Arby paused and gently took her hand.

“I know darlin’, but we need a hero real bad right now, and I think you’re the girl for the job!”

Now they heard the door bang open and the muffled shouts of the house’s occupants.

“How can I be a hero?” Wendy whimpered. “Heroes don’t get scared!”

“Course they get scared! Do ya know what makes a person a hero?”

“No,” Wendy sniffled.

“A hero is someone who looks their fear right in the face, and spits!”

“They…they do?”

The sounds of shouts and scuffling had now moved out into the yard. Wendy could hear the struggling of Baskin, Robin, and Papa John, as well as the men who yelled at them.

“We know you guys have a girl with you,” said one. “Where is she?”

Another one of the men shouted: “Check the barn!”

“We’re outta time, hon,” Arby said, turning the horse’s head in the direction of the trees. “You remember what I said about fear.”

“Look it right in the face, and spit,” Wendy said with a small grin.

“Atta girl!” Arby returned the grin. “Now you take good care of Horsey Sauce, ya hear?” With that, Arby slapped the horse’s rump and Wendy’s mount shot forward into the wood.

It took all of Wendy’s strength just to stay on Horsey Sauce. She bounced uncomfortably out of sync with the horse for a while until she was finally able to match the rhythm of his movements. Meanwhile, overgrown shrubs and low-hanging tree branches whipped and plucked at her as she did her best to dodge the threatening foliage. When Wendy was finally able to bring Horsey Sauce to a stop, Arby, the barn, and the ranch were far out of sight and hearing range. Now, Wendy wondered, how to find the main road. In the confusion, she had completely lost her sense of direction.

“Do you know where we are?” Wendy leaned forward to ask Horsey Sauce. As if in response, the horse whinnied and gave his head a shake. Wendy heaved a sigh. A couple of days ago, she was chomping at the bit for adventure, but this was more than she had bargained for. She wished she was back home at the White Castle and safe with her uncle and the King and Queen around to make the important decisions. Then Wendy thought of Baskin and Robin, Arby and Papa John, Portillo and Sonic. She thought of Popeye and the many people whose lives had been disrupted by the doings of Little Caesar, Jersey Mike, and Long John Silver. She thought of the kingdom and realized that if Little Caesar got his way, Dryvthru would only have one place to go for pizza. And if a kingdom didn’t provide its citizens with a choice in pizza, Wendy determined, it was a kingdom not worth living in.

“All right, Horsey Sauce,” said Wendy, gathering up the reins. “It’s just you and me, buddy. If something has happened to Portillo, then it’s up to us to save Dryvthru!” Before she urged her mount onward, she glanced back at the way she had come, where the bad men were, where her fear was. She spat.

Topsy to the Rescue


Disclaimer: This is an article that I wrote for the January/February 2014 issue of the Neighbors of Geneva magazine. The idea for it came from a previous article written in the Geneva Republican on June 3, 1993. Much thanks to Neighbors of Geneva and to the Geneva History Museum for giving me an opportunity to do some nonfiction work and to resurface a fun bit of local history.

001

Becker’s Salvage Yard (16 Ford Street), circa 1950. Man to the far left is unknown. The two men in the middle are Sam Becker and Officer Ruben Anderson. Photo courtesy of Geneva History Museum.

When one considers animal rescue, the prevalent viewpoint is that human beings are doing neglected creatures a favor by caring for them. That may be, but it should not be forgotten that animal rescue is a two-way street. Sometimes it’s the person who receives the greater benefit from the relationship. From the archives of the 1990’s Geneva Republican column “Old Timer’s Corner” comes the story of a little mongrel dog who proved to be worth his weight in scrap iron.

In the late teens and early 1920’s, “Topsy” found employment with Harry Becker and his salvage yard as a “chaser.” While Becker traveled the Geneva streets in his horse-drawn wagon looking for reusable metal materials, Topsy would follow behind, chasing off any would-be scrap thieves. In the yard, the feisty dog continued his guard duty, more than once driving away human poachers (and a number of rats).

When Becker switched from horse and carriage to a truck, Topsy still faithfully followed behind his master, though the increased pace took a toll on the poor animal’s paws. To remedy this, Topsy began using a rather unique trot. According to columnist Dick Shewalter, “instead of using all four legs all the time, he ran on three legs, first using one hind leg for a few steps, then lifting it and switching to the other.” Sam Becker called this strange maneuver the “put down three and carry the one” run.

In this way, the “scrappy” Topsy served his family for over a decade.

002

Cartoon drawing by John Jarvis for the “Old Timer’s Corner” June 3, 1993. Image courtesy of Geneva History Museum.