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.