"That's the last one," I said as I set the grocery bag on the counter.
Clara paused from putting away the groceries I'd already brought in from her car. "Thank you, dear. I really appreciate your help."
I noticed a stack of her books on the table. "Are you going on another book signing tour?"
Clara open a cupboard and started putting in cans of tomatoes. "Oh, no ... those are for a book club that has agreed to review Star Crafters."
"Mary Fowler's club?"
"Do you know Mary?"
"Yes, she's Eb's mother."
"He's a friend of Uncle Billy."
"Really? Funny, Mary never mentioned it."
"No kidding? I wonder why?"
"I guess it just never came up." Clara started stacking cans in the cupboard again.
I picked up one of the books and leafed through it. "So, are these for her club?"
"No, her club already read it ... I got some wonderful reviews from them."
"You've lined up another club to read your book?"
Clara shut and started folding up the grocery bag. "Yes. It's a club from the Sterling Heights Library."
"How'd you get hooked-up with them?"
"They approached me after I'd given a talk at the Library."
"You gave a talk at the Library?"
"One of the patrons is a Facebook follower of mine ... she set it up."
I set down the book. "How many Facebook followers do you have?"
Clara started folding another bag. "I don't know ... around a thousand, I think."
"You have a thousand followers?"
Clara blushed. "Something like that."
I shook my head. "Well, I better get going ... Billy wants me to take him up to Manny's."
"You know, I could take him to Manny's."
"I know ... I guess it's just a tradition ... I've been taking him there every Thursday for years."
Clara stuffed the folded bags into a slot next to the refrigerator and followed me to the door. "Well, thank you for helping me with the groceries, Chris."
"Timing is everything ... I'm just glad I ran into you in the parking lot."
Clara smiled. "Tell William I'll see him at supper."
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
“I thought we were going to the ball game,” asked Uncle Billy.
“We are,” I answered.
“Then why are we turning here?”
“I have to stop at the post office.”
“What for? We’re gonna miss batting practice.”
“It’ll only take a minute … I have to mail a package.”
“What is so all-fired important that I’ll miss Cabrera knocking taters into the right-field stands?”
“You won’t miss him … I have to mail something I sold on Ebay yesterday.”
Billy glanced over at me. “You’re an Ebay tycoon?”
“I didn’t say that … I just sold something, that’s all?”
“A 1941 souvenir cigarette case from Myrtle Beach.”
“You’re kidding … someone bought an old cigarette case?”
“People collect all kinds of things … you’d be surprised.”
Billy shook his head. "How much did you make from that, Donald?”
“You’re going through all this so you can make ten bucks?”
“I’ve all ready got the money … I was hoping to make a little more, but that’s what it sold for, so I have to deliver the goods.”
“What made you think that?”
“Some of those cases go for several hundred dollars.”
“Yeah … I saw some of the sterling silver cases in the two to three hundred dollar range … there was even one going for over a thousand.”
Uncle Billy stared out the window. “You know, I’ve got a cigarette case that my father gave me … his father brought it back from Europe after World War One.”
“You wouldn’t sell that, would you? That has to have a lot of sentimental value.”
“If I thought I could get a thousand bucks for it … it’s gone.”
I glanced over at Billy. “Seriously?”
Billy glanced at me. “A thousand bucks for a dust collector that I haven't looked at in years? You help me sell it and I’ll give you ten percent.”
“You got a deal.”
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Uncle Billy shut the dishwasher and started it. “Is there an echo in here?”
“You were in Branson, Missouri?” I asked.
He walked over to the television and flicked it off. “I’m pretty sure that’s what I said.”
“With Alma Beeler?”
He grabbed the Free Press off the couch and tossed it on the kitchen table. “I think I said that, too.”
“How did you happen to go to Branson with Alma Beeler?”
He grabbed his jacket off the back of a kitchen chair. “She asked me.”
“When was that?”
“Remember when she stopped by the bowling alley …”
“Yeah, the night that Hank just missed rolling a two-seventy.”
“What a putz. I couldn't believe he missed that strike …”
“Uncle, how did you and Alma end up going to Branson together?”
“Well, when we were done bowling, she asked me to have a drink with her …”
“In the bar at the alley?”
Billy looked at me. “No, at the Brown Derby.”
“Okay, so you had a drink with her … what happened?”
“Nothing … she just told me that she had tickets to see the Oak Ridge Boys in Branson and wanted to know if I’d join her.”
“You like the Oak Ridge Boys?”
Billy looked at me again. “Do you think this was about the Oak Ridge Boys?”
“So, you spent the weekend in Branson with Alma Beeler?”
“Hey, the tickets were free.”
I shook my head. “Well, you could’ve said something … nobody knew where you were.”
“I tried to text you.”
“You know I don’t text.”
“I sent you a Tweet, too.”
I looked at Billy. “Clara called me when you didn’t show up for breakfast on Sunday.”
“I thought she was up in Saginaw with that four-flushing bookworm.” Billy slipped on his jacket. “Come on, let’s go, I want to get to Manny’s before it closes.”
“Manny’s never closes.”
“It might by the time we get there.”
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
The sharp grounder off Santiago’s bat was fielded cleanly by the Royal’s second baseman, who started a neat double-play that ended the Tigers chance at a comeback. There was a collective sigh throughout the bar.
“Damn it,” said Eb’s mother, Mary.
“What’s that now … nine losses out of the last twelve games?” asked Becky.
“Yep,” I answered.
“Man, those guys can’t buy a hit … I think the sports press much too much pressure on them so early in the season.”
“That’s what Billy said,” I added. “They should never have anointed them AL Central champs before the first pitch of the season was thrown.”
“Oh well, it’s early … there’s a lot of baseball to be played before magic numbers are thrown around,” said Mary. “By the way, where is your uncle? I thought he was going to join us here?”
“I don’t know,” I answered. “I thought so, too.”
The waitress came to the table. “How’s everyone doing here?”
“Why don’t you bring us another pitcher,” said Eb.
“Eb, I thought we were leaving after the game,” said Becky.
“We are,” said Eb.
“Well?” asked Becky.
Eb glanced at the images of Tiger announcers Mario Impemba and Rod Allen on the television screen above the bar. “Just as soon as the post-game analysis is over.”
Becky put her head in her hands and sighed.
Eb looked up at the patient waitress. “One more.”
She smiled and walked away.
“So, Mary, how do you like that Kindle Fire you got?” I asked.
“It’s great. I’ve been reading more now than ever. The rest of the book club loves it, too.”
“What are you reading now?”
“Star Crafters, by Clara Rickenbacker.”
“No, it’s a great young-adult novel about …”
“I know what it’s about … Clara is friend of mine.”
“Really? You know Clara Rickenbacker?”
“I’m surprised you don’t … she’s a friend of Uncle Billy’s, too.”
“You know, I thought that name was familiar … but someone else in the club suggested it.”
I shook my head and took a long drink of my beer. “Any chance of getting one of my books reviewed by the club?”
“I don’t know, Chris … they might be a little out of our milieu … but I’ll ask at the next meeting.”
“Thanks, Mary, I’d appreciate that.”
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
“You have three-hundred and forty Twitter followers?” I gasped.
Eb blushed a little. “Well, a lot of them are from work. Becky says …”
“Will you two shut up,” interrupted Uncle Billy.
I looked at the little crowd that had gathered around our lanes. Hank was carefully wiping off his bowling ball, his face was grim. He was about to roll a frame that could give him a score of two-seventy, a personal best and the best our team had ever registered.
“You can do it, Hank,” said one of the earnest spectators.
“We’re with you, buddy,” said another.
“I guess we better watch this,” I said.
Eb nodded and slipped his phone back in his pocket.
Hank took his stance, eyes narrowing as he stared at his target. The crowd grew quiet. And then he was in motion, arm back, ball released and hooking nicely into the pocket. A crash of pins, nine falling immediately, one, the ten-pin, wobbled gracefully for moment, then settled, standing upright. The crowd groaned. Hank’s shoulders sank.
“Nice try Hank,” said one of the spectators as he turned to walk away.
“You’ll get ‘er next time,” said another.
Billy shook his head, “What a putz.”
Ed stood and walked over to Hank, putting his arm around his shoulder. “Well, we’re proud of you any way,” he said as he gently guided Hank back to his seat.
I spotted a familiar figure walking down the isle toward our lanes. It was Alma Beeler.
Billy spotted her too and slid over closer to me. “What the hell is she doing here?”
“What’s going on?” asked Alma as she walked up. “I saw a big crowd down here.”
“Hank just missed rolling a personal best,” said Eb.
“Well, that must of been exciting,” said Alma.
“It was … until he whiffed the strike,” said Billy.
“Oh, hello, Billy,” she said, “I was hoping I’d see you here.”