Big Red

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Streetcar Diner about date unknown

IMG_3394Me, my dad, My mother in front of her Streetcar Diner, about 1942

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The rented house with the Big Red’s house behind.

My first grade was still months away when Mom bought the Streetcar Diner, about 1942. It was a 24/7 cafe located on US 71 in Missouri. It was a popular gathering place during World War II. Folks didn’t have much money, so they claimed. However, they had nickels for the jukebox that stood at the north end. I grew up to the voices of Jo Stafford, Tex Ritter, Bob Wills, and others I can no longer recall.

Mom rented a two-story frame house across the highway from the diner. Much to my delight a large red dog occupied the doghouse located in the back yard. For us it was love at first sight. Our relationship continued until Christmas 1945 when I was informed we were relocating to Southern California.

Coping with wartime rationing had prevented Mom from accumulating an abundance of personal possessions. Inside of a week things had been sold, stored, or given away. We were ready to roll. Unfortunately, I assumed Big Red would go with me – he was family. But an eight-year-old has no voice in such matters. My tears blurred my vision the morning of our departure.

Seventy plus Christmas seasons have passed since that morning, and I still miss Big Red. He was family.

Journal-keeping

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Journal-keeping is a large part of my daily life. For some thirty years it has been how I start my day, how I recall a situation. There are no dark secrets recorded therein. They are just ongoing brain-storming sessions – some abandoned, but still a crutch that is often beneficial when developing a fictional character or a sense of place. Therefore all my entries are recorded in #2 pencil. Always subject to change.

My entries began in spiral notebooks, and then computer files when the Commodore 64 became available. Situations were easier to research. But computer files didn’t seem to reflect all situations. Sometimes I move to the porch with a typewriter and hammer out six or eight pages before I nail down what I was trying to accomplish. Eventually, I went back to spiral notebooks and #2 pencils. Last year I began fabricating my own notebooks – 20 sheets of 8.5 x 11 copy paper folded and stapled with a 70 lb cover, dated. It fits in my pocket, my glove box, or a drawer.

For now that seems to work.

GIVE ME TEN!

Thirty years may have passed since I was on southbound motorcycle trip into California. I had stopped at the northern most rest area on Interstate 5 when an army van stopped. Five prisoners, four men and one woman got out, snapped to, and awaited instructions. From my strategic location I was fortunate enough to see one of the men grab the woman prison’s ass. The female MP saw it too.

“GIVE ME TEN!” she shouted.

I saw no remorse on the man’s face as he dropped to the ground and complied.

After the pit stop was complete everyone was ordered back in the van and they resumed their southbound journey.

Barb’s New Table Cloth

Barb's Table cloth

 

Last month I bought Barb a new dining table. It was larger than the one we’d been using so nothing fit.

Using the skills my daughters taught me, I rushed to Wal-Mart, bought several yards of fabric I thought she would like and spent the day on the sewing machine.

My best work yet.

The Lady In the White Dress

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Flash fiction – 228 words

Frank works in the northeast corner of an automotive shop. Off to the side of his work area is a sump recessed an inch lower than the surrounding area floor and covered with a heavy steel plate. A dozen square holes provide drainage. No one ever complained about Frank’s work. That is, until the day a tune up on a Ford LTD went sour.

Martha, the owner, returned her car. She is attractive in frilly, white dress with matching heels and purse. Today, however, she is angry, and yes, she will be waiting for Frank set it right.

Management does not encourage people to loiter in the shop, but she has created a scene, so the manager goes into his office and closes the door.

While Frank is on one side pulling the distributor cap, checking the points, she is on the opposite side giving him a piece of her mind. When he moves to the other side she switches sides and resumes her shrill complaints.

After the third time Frank is loosing patients. Rather than giving her time to move aside, he shoulders past her. In order to regain her balance, she steps back plunging onto the sump cover. Both heels break off in the drain holes as she goes over backward. Her dress flies over her head. By the time she finds a purchase and hauls herself back to a standing position she is livid. Someone is going to pay.

Making Friends

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Photo Source: Internet

In October 1956 I stumbled out of a Missouri corn field and enlisted in the Air Force. Unforeseen events occurred immediately.

Our physical examinations were conducted by an MD, an attractive young woman. We were naked and embarrassed beyond words. One-by-one we marched to her table and waited while she examined us. One poor soul had a gigantic erection. It was purple, matching his complexion. “Do you always go around like that?” she asked. His response was a grunting sound. After a brief pause she smacked it with her pencil and it went limp. I don’t recall ever seeing him again.

Those of us who passed the tests assembled at Kansas City’s Union Station where we were sworn in. After issuing our service numbers the sergeant-in-charge turned us loose for about four hours, with a stern warning. DO NOT MISS YOUR TRAIN.

I didn’t know my way around Kansas City, but a new acquaintance, a stocky fellow in our group, said he did, so the two of us headed to the Missouri River bottoms to see if we could find a place that would sell us beer. One of the places we visited had a small pool table with bumpers pegs strategically located on the green. I’d never seen anything like it. I assumed my partner hadn’t either, the way he began asking questions – how it was played, how to keep score. An older guy, maybe 35 – one of several loitering about, started explaining how it worked and then challenged him to a game. Something was afoot, so I turned down my invitation.

My friend won a couple and lost a few. Pretty soon he was challenged to betting a quarter on each game. The onlookers now took an interest, placing side bets. The bidding went back and forth with time and the pot eventually grew to about fifty bucks, all hinging on the fate of the last three balls.

My friend cleaned the guy’s plow, as it were, and then grabbed all the money, even the side bets. I had no experience in such things, but I was a quick learner. We managed to slip past them and into the street, and beat-feet toward the train depot while three or four angry men were hard on our heels. Fortunately, we were younger and a bit faster.

Upon arrival, we melted into a throng of fellow travelers and stayed lost until our train was called.

WHO SAID THAT?

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The last few years before retiring I hired on to push a semi through the lower forty-eight states and Canada. Much is written about the romantic life of the road, the last of the cowboys, some folks claim. I suspect much of those statements were published by folks who never turned a wheel on a big rig. However, there were moments that stood out.

After a week off the road Barb and I picked up a west coast load bound for New York City. The long lonesome miles of the 11 western states were often enjoyable, but even those had their moments.

That Friday evening, the folks in Rock Springs, Wyoming sounded weary and irritable after a week on their treadmills, as it were. The CB channel 17 bickering reflected their attitudes.

Then: “All truck drivers are scum dirt!” someone shouted.

WHO SAID THAT?” someone else shouted.

The language quickly degraded as others promised to run someone over. We smiled at each other, wondering which voice had started the fracas. About 15 miles east of Rock Springs the last fragments of heated remarks were unreadable. I turned the radio gain down and we turned our attention to a Zane Grey audio book and we pressed on.

Two Unusual Libraries

Atlantic Monthly, the digital version published free of charge shared images of several libraries around the world. Two of them caught my fancy – a mobile library in Indonesia and a book exchange in London..

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Pen Pals

World War II was in full swing by the time I was old enough to sit up and take notice. I recall only potions of the graphics published in Look and Life magazines, and the Saturday night newsreels shown after Pledge of Allegiance at our Fisk Theater.

Four of my uncles were serving, all in the army, and we had four stars showing in our front window. Without fail, my mother wrote weekly letters to each – using cursive (printing had been abandoned alone with the first grade). Soldier Mail may be the source of Pen Palling. I was busy with a family, a job, and a mortgage, so I didn’t notice if she switched to Pen Palling then, or if she simply kept her foot in the door throughout her working life. It’s isn’t like the sounds of a blacksmith – the ring of a hammer striking an anvil. It was merely the scratch of a fountain pen on paper. A quiet endeavor easily unnoticed by the passerby.

Therefore, I’d forgotten about Pen Pals until my father passed and we moved Mom in with us. I was astonished how many of these pen pals she had going – round robins, handkerchief exchanges, doilies exchanges–. She gleaned a world of satisfaction from it. I recall her argument with the postal clerk when he told her that her letter to a school teacher whose address was Atlantic Ocean “will never get there,” he said. “But this one came to me,” she snapped, whipping out a letter from from her purse that was written by this woman and mailed from the ATLANTIC OCEAN. The clerk said no more. Instead, he affixed the correct postage and then set his gaze on the person behind her.

She kept a constant flow of cursive-written letters coming and going until her fingers forced her to an electric typewriter keyboard and two-finger typing.

Recently, these memories have grown more intense, as has the possibility of my using snail mail. Since she is no longer here to answer my questions, I turned to Google and pen companies. From these sources I discovered Mail Tag, Pocket Letters, Bullet Journals, and two or three others I can’t name, all of them relying on the postal service, or snail mail as the email fans choose to identify such an endeavor.

In my opinion, this is a worthwhile hobby.

Anyone care to add any thoughts?