Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Home for the Holidays

   Bing Crosby crooning the sentimental lyrics of I'll be Home for Christmas wafted gently in the background, blending with smell of banana bread baking in the oven. The natural gas powered fireplace appeared to be crackling beneath a mantle decorated to look like Santa's workshop.  All in all a very festive and holiday ambience surrounded Cheryl and me as we sat, trading sections of the Sunday Free Press and sipping our beverages; tea for her, coffee for me.
   Suddenly she lowered the section she was reading and looked at me. "Are you picking up Uncle Billy on Tuesday?"
   "No." I kept scanning the article about how the Lions playoff hopes depended on the game with the Giants this afternoon.
   "No? He is coming, right?" she asked.
   I lowered my section to look at her. "Well ... yes ... but he won't be here until five o'clock ... what made you think of that anyway?"
   "I was just reading this article about older people spending the holidays alone ... if you're not picking him up how is going to get here?"
   "You're not going to believe this, but he and Clara are volunteering at the soup kitchen on Tuesday ... from noon until four."
   Cheryl sat forward. "What?"
   "That was pretty much my response when he told me." I took a sip of my coffee.
   "That had to be Clara's idea."
   "You think?"
   "How in the world did she get Billy to do that?"
   "Must be love ... that's the only thing I can think off."
   She sat back, a contemplative look on her face. "Well, I knew he cared for Clara ... but love? I didn't know Uncle Billy was capable of it."
   I set down my coffee cup. "Come on ... you know he loves us."
   "Well, yes ... but it always seems a little more out of obligation than from the heart ... don't you think?"
   "That's just Billy's way ... he doesn't always show what he is feeling ... you know that."
   "Still ... you think he loves Clara?"
   "I do ... but he'd never admit it ... at least not to others."
   "Do you think he's told Clara?"
   "I doubt it ... but agreeing to volunteer at the soup kitchen has to be a clue for her."
   "So, is Clara coming for dinner too?"
   "No ... she is going to her son and daughter-in-law's ... she's going to drop off Billy on her way."
   "Hmmmm ... I wonder why Billy isn't going with her?"
   "He said he want's to spend Christmas Eve with us ... the tradition and all that."
   Cheryl smiled. "That's nice ... the boys do enjoy his company."
   "That's because they only see him once a year."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Financial Times


   I opened the door and saw Uncle Billy sitting in front of the television. “How come you have the door shut?” I asked.
   Billy waved a hand at me. “Shhh … I want to hear this.”
   A carefully coifed female talking head was saying something about the real estate market. “Are you watching the business news?” I asked.
   Billy waved his hand at me again. “Will you shut up?”
   I walked into the kitchen and saw a pile of dishes in the sink. “Is your dish washer on the blink?”
   Billy ignored me.
   The dishwasher was closed and locked. I opened it and saw the washer was full. “Are these clean?”
   “Yes … shut up.”
   I started to unload the washer. “What is so engrossing on the TV?”
   “You wouldn’t understand … this is business.”
   I shrugged. “Must be really interesting to cause you to let dishes pile up.”
   Billy clicked off the television. “What would it matter … I can’t watch this with you chattering non-stop.”
   “I’m sorry Uncle … I’ll be quiet … you go ahead and watch.” I started to unload the washer.
   Billy stood up. “I heard what I needed to … let’s get going … I want to get to the bank before it closes.”
   “This'll just take a minute … then you won’t have to mess with it when we get back.”
   Billy glanced at the clock. “Okay … hurry up … I’ll get my coat.” He walked to the closet.
   I put a stack of plates in the cupboard. “So, why do you have to go to the bank today?”
   Billy pulled his coat off a hanger. “What does it matter?”
   “I just wondered … you usually don’t go during the week.”
   He slipped his coat on and walked back toward the kitchen. "I have some business to take care of."
   I put the glasses in the cupboard. "Okay ... if you don't want to tell me."
   "I don't ... now hurry up."
   "Uncle, it's not even two o'clock ... "
   "I have an important meeting at four ... and I'd like to be on time."
   "A meeting?"
   "Will you just finish that up so we can go."
   I put the last glass away. "I'm almost done ... who's the meeting with?"
   "Mike Burczyk ... if it is any of your concern."
   "Mike Burczyk?"
   "Yes ... now let's go."
   I pulled a pan out of the dishwasher. "You're meeting with Mike Burczyk?"
   "Is there and echo in here?"
   "Here ... at your apartment?"
   "Do you want to know what I'll be wearing?"
   I put the pan away. "Okay ... okay ... it's none of my business ..."
   Billy opened the apartment door. "Good, we have that straight."
   "I just find it a little odd ... that's all." I started to put dirty dishes in the washer.
   "Can you do that later?"
   "It won't take long."
   Billy sighed. "I'll meet you in the parking lot."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bowling for Business

   I slid smoothly into the right lane from Back in the Day's parking lot. "You really want to go to the bowling alley before I take you to Manny's?"
   Uncle Billy nodded. "Yep ... I'm meeting Mike there."
   "Mike?"
   "Yeah ... the new guy with the D'Angelos."
   "Mike Burczyk?"
   "Yep."
   I merged into the left lane. "You're meeting Mike Burczyk at the bowling alley?"
   "Yeah ... he says he likes to get in a little practice before league play starts."
   "How do you even know him?"
   "Zac introduced him to me last week."
   "So, what are you meeting about today?"
   "Business."
   I glanced over at Billy. "Business?"
   "High finance kinda stuff."
   "The guy is a foreman at D'Angelos Concrete ... what high finance?"
   "You wouldn't understand."
   "And you do?"
   "Look, just take me to bowling alley ... you don't need to know everything about my affairs."
   "Uncle, you just met the guy ... you don't know anything about him."
   "So what? He seems like a nice guy."
   I slowed for a red light. "They guy is at least sixty and he doesn't have a gray hair on his head."
   "What does that have to do with anything? Lot's of guys dye their hair these days."
   "Maybe ... but I think this guy is hiding something."
   "You decided that because he dyes his hair?"
   "Well ... don't you find it a bit odd that he he moved here from Florida ... in December?"
   "He moved here for a job at D'Angelo's ... and a pretty good one, according to Zac."
   The light turned green and I accelerated again. "That's another thing ... are you telling me that D'Angelo couldn't find a qualified foreman around here ... they had to recruit all the way from Florida?"
   "Zac told me that he's related to old man D'Angelo ... a nephew or something ..."
   I looked over at Billy. "And that doesn't strike you as suspicious?"
   "No. Why should it?"
   "D'Angelo never hires family ... he doesn't want any of his employees to get suspicious of nepotism."
   "That's not true ... there are several D'Angelos working there ... "
   "Yeah ... but they are all founders of the company ... they all helped with the start-up ... and they are all named D'Angelo."
   Billy rubbed his chin. "Well ... now that you mention it ..."
   "I'm telling you ... there is something going on with that guy."
   "What do you know? You're just jealous that he didn't invite you to talk about business."
   "Zac probably told him that I don't have any money."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Ringer

   The crash of pins was louder than usual and Eb, Hank and I turned to see the source. Two alleys over we saw three of the guys on D'Angelo Concrete high-fiving each other. The forth, a tall, thin man with slicked back dark hair, stood in the alley.
   "Who's that?" I asked.
   "Mike Burczyk," said Hank.
   "He's the new guy with D'Angelo's, eh?"
   "Yep," said Hank, "a ringer that Zac brought in."
   Uncle Billy stopped his approach and turned toward us. "Do you mind? I'm trying to pick up this spare."
   "Sorry, Bill," said Hank.
   Billy made his typically abbreviated delivery and held the finish as the ball rolled down the alley. We all watched it curve ever so slightly toward the four pin, then miss it by a fraction of an inch.
   Billy turned and walked slowly toward us. "I might of made that if you ladies would shut-up for a few seconds."
   Another loud crash came from the D'Angelo alley. The man with the slicked back hair appeared to be admiring the particularly violent strike he'd just thrown.
   Billy stopped and turned to look. "Who the hell is that?"
   "That's what Hank was just telling us," said Eb.
   Billy walked over to the bench and sat next to Hank. "Well?"
   "His name is Mike Burczyk," said Hank. "He's a friend of Zac's ... that's about all I know."
   We turned and looked at Burczyk as he released another ball toward the pins. The ball rocketed down the alley with amazing speed, curved into the pocket and scattered the pins in a wild explosion.
   "That's a turkey, isn't it." I watched the other guys on Burczyk's team shake their heads and laugh.
   "It is," said Hank.
   "It looks like D'Angelo's is tired of bringing up the rear," said Eb.
   "Don't they know they can't bring pro's in?" said Billy.
   "The guy's not a pro," said Hank.
   "I thought you said you didn't know anything about him," said Billy.
   Hank shrugged. "Well, I know he's not a pro bowler."
   "How do you know that?" asked Billy.
   "Zac told me he just moved from Florida to work as a foreman for D'Angelo."
   "Moved from Florida ... in the winter? What is he ... nuts?"
   "Could be ... but from here, it looks like he's a hell-of-a-bowler," said Hank.
   Billy stared over at Mike. "Yeah ... it does."
   "Hank ... you're up," said Eb.
   "Oh ... yeah,"said Hank.
   "And no more seven-ten splits, there, Ace?" said Billy.
 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Music to His Ears

   The melodious strains of Street of Dreams by the Stan Kenton Orchestra wafted out into the hallway. I walked into Uncle Billy's apartment and turned down the volume of iPod docking station.
   Billy, sitting at the kitchen table, looked up from his smart phone. "Hey, why'd you do that?"
   "All of your neighbors may not be Stan Kenton fans, Uncle."
   "A classic like that? With Art Pepper?"
   "It's good ... but too loud for you to be playing with your door open."
   "I'm just trying to educate the stiffs around here," he said.
   "They might appreciate it more if it's not in their face," I said.
    Billy leaned back and looked at the clock on the wall over the sink. "Well, it's about time you got here."
   "Gee, thanks ... I'm feeling much better," I said.
   Billy reddened slightly. "Oh, yeah ... I forgot you were sick last week ... what was it?"
   "An inner-ear infection ... at least that's what the doc said it was."
   "Bummer ... but at least you're better now, right?"
   "Yeah ... more or less ... I'm not at one-hundred percent ... but getting there."
   "Well, that's good ... I wasn't sure I could depend on Clara to take me to Manny's this week."
   "Is she out of town again?"
   "No ... but you never know with her ... she's always peddling books somewhere."
   I nodded. "My hat is off to her ... I wish I had her drive."
   "Well, at least you can drive me to Manny's."
   I shrugged. "Yeah ... I can do that ..."
   Billy stood and walked over the docking station. "I wanna hear some decent music on the way."
   He disconnected the iPod and grabbed a set of ear buds from the counter.
   "Uncle, I can play whatever you want on the car radio."
   He disconnected the iPod and grabbed a set of ear buds from the counter. "Maybe ... but I'm not taking chances."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Usual Business

   The quarter ended with the Lions down by eleven. The bar buzzed in nervous anticipation.
   "That didn't go so well," said Mary.
   Hank shook his head. "That's an understatement ... we looked terrible out there."
   Dottie changed the subject. "So, have you heard anything from the newlyweds, Mary?"
   "Just a couple of text messages ... they were having a terrific time in Brimley."
   "I hope they don't blow all their wedding money at the casino," I said.
   Mary laughed. "Well, if Eb was there alone, I'd be worried ... but Becky is pretty level headed ... she'll keep a lid on it."
   "Hey," said Hank, "look who finally showed up."
   We all turned at looked in the direction he was staring to see Uncle Billy making his way toward the table.
   "You missed the whole first quarter, Bill," said Hank.
   Billy pulled out a chair and sat down. "I saw it."
   "On the shuttle?" I said.
   "Yeah ... the guy sitting next to me had it on his iPad. He insisted on sharing the bloody mess with me ... along with a running commentary that was almost as bad the as the Lions defense." He looked around for a glass. "Can a guy get a beer around here?"
   Hank flagged the waitress as she walked by. "Nancy, can you bring a glass for Bill?"
   She nodded. "Sure thing, Hon."
   "So, Clara couldn't come, Uncle?" said Cheryl.
   Billy shrugged. "Book business, I guess."
   "On a Sunday?" asked Dottie.
   "Yeah ... she's doing another one of those signing things in Saginaw this afternoon."
   "At Alex Heath's book store?" I asked.
   Billy nodded, "Yeah ... she said it'd been scheduled for several weeks."
   "Oh, well I'm sure it's just business," said Cheryl.
   Nancy walked up an
d placed a glass in front of Billy. "Here ya go, Sweetie."
   "Thanks," said Billy. "Now, will someone send that pitcher over here?"
   "Ya'll need anything else?" asked Nancy.
   "Maybe another pitcher?" said Hank.
   "Right away, Hon."
   I watched Billy poor beer into his glass. "Your not worried about Clara and Alex, are you Uncle?"
   Billy set the pitcher down, picked up his glass and took a long swallow. "Ahhh ... I've been waiting for that all morning." Then he set the glass down. "Why should I be worried?"
   
   

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Whose Chicken?



   The dance mercifully ended and several small children were rolling on the floor, laughing at the extravaganza of spazmatic movement they had just witnessed.
   "Did you know that's called the Chicken Dance?" Cheryl asked Uncle Billy.
   Billy nodded. "Of course I did ... I see them do that at the ballpark all the time."
   "Yeah, it's a riot," I added.
   "But they usually do it better then the folks here did it," said Billy.
   "Oh, I don't know," said Clara, "I thought they did a splendid performance."
   Billy made a face and was about to say something, but stopped when he heard Spike Jones's version of Cocktails for Two boom from the hall's sound system. He smiled and started tapping his hand on the table. "Now, that's music," he said.
   Becky approached the table. Her bare shoulders were glistening with perspiration from participation in the fowl dance. "Okay, Mr. Tysinger ... it's your turn to cut a rug."
   Billy recoiled from her slightly. "Oh no ... "
   Becky grabbed his hand. "Come on ... Eb said this was your song."
   Billy glanced at the wedding party table and saw Eb laughing heartily. "You ... " Billy sputtered.
   Becky pulled harder. "Come on ... it'll be fun."
   Billy kept resisting. "I can't ... it's ... it's this old war wound."
   Becky let go of his hand. "Oh, I'm sorry, Billy, I didn't know you were a wounded veteran."
   "You never mentioned that, William," said Clara.
   "I never knew you were a purple heart recipient," said Cheryl.
   "That's because he's not," I said.
   "What do you know?" said Billy. He bent down to pull up his pant leg. "See that?"
   Everyone at the table leaned to get a look at a barely visible three inch scar on his calf.
   "Uncle, you're not trying to claim that was a combat inflicted wound," I said.
   "Of course not," said Billy. "But it did happen in the service ... and during the Korean War."
   "Really?" said Clara.
   "Yes ... but it happened in Hawaii when you tripped over a barbed wire fence trying to steal pineapples," I said.
   "Benny and I were waiting for deployment to Korea and we got bored ... anyway, I spent a week in the hospital."
   "In Queens ... in Honolulu, because the base hospital was full of wounded combat vets."
   Clara pushed Billy's shoulder. "You get out there and dance with Becky."
   Billy slowly stood up and looked around the table. "Okay ... okay ... but if I have a relapse, it'll be all your fault."
 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Calling Doctor Bill


 Strains of Pachelbel's Canon were echoing throughout the church when Uncle Billy and Clara appeared in the isle.
   I grabbed Cheryl's arm. "Well, look who just arrived."
   Cheryl turned to see them. "I thought you said he wasn't coming?"
   "I didn't say that ... I said I didn't know if he was coming ... he didn't want me to pick him up, so I just assumed he wasn't coming ... it never dawned on me that Clara could drive them."
   Cheryl waved so they could see us. "Doesn't she look beautiful?"
   I nodded. "She does ... and Uncle looks pretty regal in that double-breasted suit."
   Clara waved back and they started moving toward us.
   "When did he get that?" asked Cheryl.
   "I have no idea ... he didn't ask me to take him shopping."
   They approached the pew and Cheryl stood to hug Clara. "Clara, you look absolutely stunning."
   Clara blushed. "Thank you dear ... so sorry we're late."
   Cheryl gave Billy a hug and a peck on the cheek. "You look handsome, Uncle."
   I couldn't tell, but I swear Billy blushed too. He looked at his shoes and said, "Thanks."
   I stood so they could slip by to the seats next to us. As Clara passed I gave her a hug. "Cheryl's right ... you'll steal the thunder from the bride."
   Clara blushed some more. "I hardly think that."
   As Billy passed I grabbed his hand. "You sly old dog ... you brought the belle to the ball."
   Billy shook my hand. "She didn't have anything else to do today."
   "If that's your story ..."
   "It is." He continued on past Clara and sat next her.
   Cheryl squeezed past me so she could sit next to Clara.
   I sat down and leaned toward them so I could hear their conversation.
   "I'm so happy you came," said Cheryl.
   "Me too," said Clara. "I always enjoy being around William's friends and family."
   "When did he ask you to come?"
   Clara shot a glance at Billy, who was staring at his smart phone. She looked back at Cheryl. "It was several weeks ago ... I told him I'd be happy to come."
   A woman sitting behind Billy cleared her throat and said loudly to the man sitting next to her. "Don't  you think it's rude when people use their electronic devices at social functions?"
   Cheryl leaned over Clara. "I think she's talking about you, Uncle."
   Billy looked at Cheryl and then turned to the woman behind him. "Madam, I'm a heart surgeon, and I just got word that replacement donor for one of my patients has died ... I was making arrangements for operation."
   The woman gasped briefly. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Doctor ... I wasn't talking about you."
   Clara put her hand on Billy's arm and whispered. "Maybe you should turn that off, William."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

There's Always Next Year



   We sat in disbelief as Shane Victorino's big fly settled in the outfield seats. A two to one lead was erased as three runs crossed home plate in front of him.
   After a few seconds of stunned silence, Hank said, "Hey, it's only the seventh inning ... we still have a chance."
   "Sure," I added.
   "Well, you Pollyanna's can delude yourselves all you want," said Uncle Billy. "The series is over."
   Mary looked at him. "I don't know, Bill ... we have two more innings."
   Billy snorted. "You think we're gonna score three runs in the next two innings ... what game have you been watching?"
   Eb nodded. "I hate to say it, but I think Bill's right ... our offense has been a little weak."
   "Weak? That's an upgrade," said Billy. "And we haven't had a decent closer since Willie Hernandez."
   Hank shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know ... seems to me that we've had a good team ... playing in the American League Championship ... we must be doing something right."
   "Yeah," said Hank, "for the third year in a row."
   I raised my glass. "Now, that is something to celebrate."
   Mary and Becky raised theirs.
   "Here's to the Detroit Tigers," said Becky.
   "They've got a long way to go," said Billy.
   "Why can't you just enjoy the success they've had so far, Uncle?"
   Billy frowned. "They've broken my heart too many times."
   "Sure, we've had some disappointments," said Hank, "but we've had a lot of highlights too ... that's baseball ... you win some and you lose some."
   "We've had some pretty good seasons, lately," said Eb.
   "That's a fact," added Mary. "We were in the World Series last year."
   "Yeah, and what happened than?" said Billy. "They were swept by San Francisco."
   Hank sighed. "But we got there ... and took down the Yankees on the way ... that was pretty cool."
   "Now, you have to admit that ... right, Uncle?"
   Billy shook his head. "They got lucky ... that's all. When the Giants called their hand, they got caught bluffing."
   "Bluffing?" said Hank. "How many other teams made it to the World Series?"
   "Why can't you just enjoy the great season of baseball they gave us this year, Uncle?"
   Billy took a sip of his beer. "You're right, Chris ... they gave us a great season of baseball."
   Hank slapped Billy on the back. "That's the spirit, Bill."
   Billy ignored him. "Too bad they screwed up the post-season."

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

So Long Rick


   I open the door and strains of 'You Always Hurt the One You Love' by Spike Jones filled my ears.  Uncle Billy, wearing his jacket, sat in his easy chair watching the crawl from CNN on a soundless TV.
   "You can turn that off," he said, motioning to the iPod docking station.
   I turned it off. "Are you ready to go?"
   He flicked off the TV. "Yeah ... been sitting here for twenty minutes waiting for you ... I couldn't listen to anymore of the idiot news."
   "So, you were just watching it?"
   He stood up. "I didn't want to get sucked into a movie or anything ... in case you actually showed up."
   "I'm sorry I'm late, Uncle ... I just received an email with some bad news."
   Billy looked at me. "You look a little down ... what was it?"
   "An old friend of mine ... Rick Massoll ... passed away last week ..."
   "No kidding ... I remember him."
   "He was a one of my closest boyhood friends ... we spent a lot of time together all through school."
   "I remember ... didn't he live on Donald?"
   "Yes ... just a block away."
   "What happened?"
   "Don't know exactly ... he wasn't in the best of health and they found him in his condo ... last week."
   Billy shook his head. "That's too bad ... when was the last time you saw him?"
   "That's just it ... we drifted apart years ago ... and I hadn't seen him in about fifteen years ... I really regret that we never seemed to be able to hook up."
   Billy put his hand on my shoulder. "It's tough to lose an old friend ... I know."
   I was a little surprised by Billy's show of empathy and compassion. "Thank you, Uncle."
   He abruptly pushed me toward the door. "Now, let's get going before Manny's closes."
   I sighed. "How many times do we have to go through this? Manny's never closes."
   "That's what you say ... but you just never know."
 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Phone Envy

If you'd like to hear an audio version of this post, please click on the following link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7JAg6aSihM&feature=youtu.be


   "Look at this one." I pushed the Sprint flyer across the table so Cheryl could see it. "An HTC Evo Shift 4G ... whatever that is," I said.
   Cheryl set down her paper and studied the ad for a moment. "It says it's pre-owned ... that's not so good."
   "Yeah, but look at the price."
   "A hundred and twenty bucks," she said.
   "Well, compare that to some of those other phones ... look, that LG Optimus G ... it's Five Hundred and Forty-nine."
   She took a sip of her tea and looked at me over the paper. "Haven't we been over this before? How much does the service cost?"
   I nodded. "Yeah ... that is the problem ... you have to get data service with those things and our monthly bill would double."
   "And tell me again why you think you need one of those?"
   "Well ... I could get emails wherever I am."
   "That's worth a hundred bucks a month?"
   "And I could access the Internet whenever I wanted."
   "And that's important because?"
   "Well ... suppose we were on a road trip and needed to find a hotel ... I could search on-line for a deal."
   "When was the last road trip we took?"
   I thought for a moment. "Okay ... it's been a while ... but you never know when the opportunity might crop up."
   Cheryl pushed the flyer back toward me and picked up the section she had been reading.
   "Hey, what about checking the weather radar when we we're camping," I continued. "You have to admit it would be nice to see what's coming."
   "Yes," she said without looking at me. "But do you really think paying an extra hundred dollars a month for the next year is worth it? If we really needed a weather report when we're camping, couldn't we just run up to Joe's Friendly Tavern and watch the weather channel?"
   I sighed. "Well, Uncle Billy swears by his smartphone ... he says its the greatest thing since television."
   Cheryl took another sip of tea. "Maybe ... but Uncle Billy spends hours online with his Facebook and Twitter accounts ... are you going to be doing that?"
   I shrugged my shoulders. "No."
   "Look, you can do whatever you want ... I'm just repeating the same arguments you gave me when I suggested you upgrade to a smartphone last month ... you said you just needed a phone to make calls and check your voicemail ... that was it ... you didn't want all those extra features ... right?"
   I nodded. "Yeah ... you're right." I pulled out my new flip phone and looked at it. "This is just fine."
   "Now, why don't you use that thing and call Clara ... I want to know if Billy asked her to go to Eb and Becky's wedding with him."

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tee Time

If you'd like to hear an audio version of this post, please click on the following link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkcVer3xvwk&feature=youtu.be


   "I wonder what's taking Eb so long?" asked Hank.
   "If he doesn't get here soon, we're going to miss our nine-forty tee time," said Uncle Billy.
   "What time is it now?" asked Hank.
   I reached into my pocket and fished out my new Kyocera Kona, and said proudly, "Well, let just check my new phone." I looked at the time readout.  "It's nine-twenty eight."
   Billy looked at the basic flip phone with distain. "That's a phone?"
   "Yeah ... I just got it yesterday ... I was overdue for an upgrade."
   "That's an upgrade? What did you upgrade from ... a Crosley Candlestick?"
   "No, I had that red Samsung ... you remember, I've had it for years ..."
   "Oh, yeah ... that piece of junk." Billy pointed at the Kyocera. "So, that is better, eh?"
   "Yeah, it's great ... good reception ... clear sound ... "
   "That's not a phone." Billy flipped open the holster on his belt and produced his Apple iphone five. "This is a phone."
   Hank whistled. "Wow, that's a fancy phone, Bill."
   Billy turned the smart phone over in his hands. "Yep, does everything ... except the dishes ... they gotta work on that."
   "Well, it's a little too much for me," I said.
   Billy ignored my comment and starting tapping the screen on his phone. "Check this out, Hank ... I can show you a satellite image of where we are standing right now."
   "Why would you want to see that on a phone? I can look around and see were on the first tee at Rouge?" I said.
   Billy ignored me again and held
the phone for Hank to see what was on the screen.
   "Wow, that's amazing," said Hank.
   Billy nodded and started tapping on the screen again. "Remember that great run that Reggie Bush made against Chicago on Sunday?"
   Hank nodded.
   "Well, watch this."
   Uncle Billy held up the phone for Hank to see. I leaned in to look too.
   "That is amazing," I said.
   Billy smiled and sliped the phone back into the holster.
   My phone suddenly rang.
   "It's Eb," I said and flipped the phone open. "Hi, Eb ... where are you?"
   "Just pulling into the parking lot," said Eb.
   "We're waiting on the tee," I said.
   "I'll be there in a couple of minutes."
   "Okay." I snapped the phone shut and slipped it back in my pocket.
   "Wonder why he didn't just text me?" said Billy.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

One Game at a Time

If you'd like to listen to an audio version of this post, please click on the following link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNyjZgxWwkc&feature=youtu.be


   The ball sailed up and over the net behind home plate, coming down quickly between an elderly couple in the next section. An alert spectator behind them reached up and grabbed the foul ball before it landed on the woman's head. The crowed cheered loudly.
   "Nice catch," said Uncle Billy.
   Cheryl thumped a fist into her black Rawlings glove. "Why won't one come this way?"
   "Probably because you're ready for it," I said.
   She frowned and exchanged the glove for the bag of cotton candy that had been occupying her lap. "Just once ... I wish I could get a foul ball." She stuck her hand in the bag and withdrew a wad of the sugary treat.
   I patted her knee. "You will ... keep the faith."
   There was loud crack and another foul ball whistled into the seats behind the visitor's dugout. Before anyone could even react, it hit a railing and bounced high in the air, arching down into the hands of a portly man, wearing an AC/DC tee shirt. Again the crowd applauded.
   "Wow, it's lucky someone wasn't killed by that missile," I said.
   Cheryl patted the glove in her lap. "I could have caught that."
   "Now, if Martinez can straighten out one of those and drive in Fielder, we might have a chance here," said Billy.
   "It's amazing, it seems like the last time you got tickets from Mr. Swanson, we were playing the Royals and struggling to close out a playoff bid," I said.
   Billy rubbed his chin. "You might be right ... anyway, these guys are always tough ... for us anyway."
   "Chris said Mr. Swanson gave you four tickets ... couldn't you find anyone else to invite?" asked Cheryl.
   Billy smiled. "You mean like Clara?"
   Cheryl blushed. "Well, yes, now that you mention it."
   There was another crack of Martinez's bat. The crowd gasped as it soared majestically toward the right field stands, then, and audible sigh arose when hooked just outside the foul pole.
   "Man, that was close," I said.
   "He's gettin' the measure of this guy," said Billy.
   "So, did you ask?" said Cheryl.
   "Ask what?" said Billy.
   "Clara ... did you ask Clara if she wanted to come to the game?"
   Billy grabbed his beer from the cup holder in front of him and took a long swallow. He wiped his chin with his free hand. "She was busy."
   "Oh, so you did ask her." said Cheryl.
   There was another loud crack from Martinez's bat. A screaming grounder headed between the short stop and second base. Alcides Escobar dove to his left and snagged the ball before it could reach the outfield. He rose quickly to his knees and flipped the ball to a waiting Chris Getz, Getz tagged second, whirled and fired a strike to Hosmer to complete a neat double play. Another audible sigh rose from the crowd as potential rally was snuffed out.

 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

When will I learn?

If you'd like to read an audio version of this post, click on the following link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9VPS3wKDIk&feature=youtu.be



   "Could I get a little more sauce for my spaghetti?" I asked.
   The waitress smiled and nodded. "Sure, hon," she said, then retreated to the kitchen.
   Cheryl ignored the exchange and continued with her questioning. "So what did Uncle Billy say?"
   "Will you hand me the parmesan, please?"
   She handed me the glass shaker with a sigh. "Will you just tell me?"
   I shook a generous portion of cheese on my spaghetti before answering. "What do you think he said?"
   Her gaze narrowed.
   I shrugged my shoulders. "He said it was none of my business."
   Her frustration was apparent. "You specifically asked him if he was taking Clara to Eb and Becky's wedding?"
   I dug a fork into the cheese laden noodles. "Yep."
   "And he said it was none of your business?"
   I paused before shoving the forkful of heaven into my mouth. "Yep."
   She shook her head. "I just can't understand ..."
   The waitress arrived with a small saucer of sauce. "Here ya go, hon."
   In mid-chew, all I could do was look up at her and smile.
   She smiled back. "Anything else I can get you?"
   I shook my head no.
   She looked at Cheryl.
   "Oh, no thank you ... I think we're all set."
   She nodded and walked off
toward another table.
   I swallowed. "By the way, guess who I ran into leaving Alma Beeler's house the other day?"
   Cheryl looked a me with anticipation. "Who?"
   I leaned forward, conspiratorially. "Mike Purcell."
   Cheryl leaned in, too. "Mike Purcell ... from across the street?"
   "Yep."
   "What was he doing at Alma Beeler's?"
   "He said he was helping her with a computer problem."
   "Why wouldn't she call Uncle Billy about something like that? He's really good with computers."
   I nodded smugly. "Waddaya think?"
   She leaned back. "Well, I'll be."
   "Now, don't say anything to anyone."
   She nodded unconvincingly. "Oh, of course not."
   "I mean it ... ... not even Jenny ... I don't want this going viral."

 

 
 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Shack Attack

If you would like to listen to an audio version of this post, please click on the link below:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_GXKI2uNdI&feature=youtu.be


   Eb tossed a laundry bag into the back of my car. "Your Uncle was right, Chris ... you do take a lot of stuff camping."
   I laughed. "I think his actual words are, 'I don't think Shackleton was as well equipped as you and Cheryl are when you camp'."
   Eb paused, looking puzzled. "Shackleton?"
   "Sir Earnest Shackleton ... he was an explorer who led a famous expedition to the Antarctic early in the twentieth century."
   Eb nodded. "Oh, I get it."
   I wasn't sure he did. "Anyway, yes ... we do take a lot of stuff ... and thanks for helping take it to the laundromat."
   "Oh sure ... no problem." Eb started to toss another bundle into the car, but halted and said, "Do you think this will fit?"
   I tested the rear gate of the car to see if it would close. "Not much room to spare ... but it''ll fit."
   "Well, good thing this is the last one." Eb tossed in the bundle.
   Cheryl opened the door and came into the garage with two more full clothes bags. "Here's the last of it." She set the bundles on the ground at our feet.
   Eb and I looked at the two bundles and then at each other.
   "You're kidding," I said.
   "No ... that is it," she said.
   Eb picked up one of the bundles. "Maybe I should put this in my car and follow you to the laundromat."
   I picked up the other bundle. "No ... just stuff it in the back ... we'll make it fit."
   Eb shrugged his shoulders and stuffed his bag in. He held it with one hand while I stuffed in the other bag and held it with a hand.
   I reached up with my free hand and started pulling down the rear gate. "Okay, let go and I'll slam the gate shut," I said.
   We both pulled away our hands just as the gate came crashing down. The bags of clothes strained at the windows like dough rising from bread pans.
   Cheryl smiled. "Good job, boys."
   "I don't think Shackleton could've carried this much stuff, either," said Eb.
   "Shackleton?" asked Cheryl.
   "Never mind," I said.
   Cheryl shrugged. "Oh, Eb ... are you going to see Mary this afternoon?"
   "I'm not sure ... why?" asked Eb.
   "I've got some decorations to give her for Becky's shower."
   "Will they fit in my car?"
   Cheryl nodded. "Oh, sure ... it's just one box." She held her hands apart to indicate the size of it.
   Eb wiped his forehead. "Whew, I thought we might need Shackleton's boat."
 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Please connect me with your sales department.

You may have noticed ... but more likely did not ... that the Meat Sack has not returned. I don't know what the delay is, but most likely it is directly attributable to sloth. Annnnyywhoo, that leaves me in charge for another week. I know what you're thinking ... but no, I'm not going on an Internet bender ... I've learned my lesson ... I'm going to stay right here and go on a buying spree ... new memory chips ... a premier sound system ... maybe a hot new monitor ... hmmmm. Hope the Sack's credit cards hold up ... well, that'll teach him for being so lazy!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

When will I Learn?





Why, oh why, did I do that? I should have stayed home and studied my circuit board. Now I've got a massive surge and the Meat Sack's credit card is maxed out. Don't say anything when he get's back next week, okay?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Let's Get this Party Started




Okay ... the ol' meat sack is outta here for a spell ... that leave's me in charge of things ... anything you wanna do? No? Well then, I'm going for a cruise around the 'net ... with you know who's credit card! Wahoo!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Friend in Need

For an audio version of this post, click on the following link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XC-fn1qyqS0&feature=youtu.be


   "Just a coffee," I said.
   The barista smiled at me. "What size, sir?"
   "Oh, yeah ... I keep forgetting." I looked up at the menu board behind her. "Um ... what size is the grande?"
   Her smile faded slightly and she held up a cup. "This would be a grande."
   "Okay, I'll take one of those."
   She handed me the cup. "That'll be two dollars."
   "Put that on my bill," said Eb.
   I backed away so Eb could move in closer to the cash register. "... and I'll have a venti white chocolate mocha with a shot of espresso."
   The barista's smile broadened again. She was obviously glad to be dealing with a customer who knew the drill. She punched on the register and said, "That'll be seven dollars and forty cents, sir."
   Eb handed her a twenty. I shook my head, but stifled the desire to said something about the cost while the young lady made change for him.
   She wrinkled her nose as she handed him the cash. "Your order will be ready shortly, sir."
   I stared at my cup.
   Her smile faded again as she said to me. "You can fill you cup from the containers along that wall, sir."
   "Oh, yeah ... I keep forgetting ..."
   "You'll catch on eventually, Chris," said Eb.
   He accompanied me over to the large coffee thermoses. I picked out the house blend and started to fill my cup. "Well, thank you for the coffee," I said.
   Eb patted me on the back. "It's the least I could do ... I mean you driving me and all."
   I finished filling the cup and looked for the lids. "You know I don't mind ... this book signing is a big opportunity for you."
   Eb handed me a lid. "Well, I enjoy doing these signings, but I'm not sure this is any more important that any of the others."
   I took the lid. "Thanks ...  you know Perry Shire is going to be there."
   "You said that ... he's the reviewer from Bookread dot com, right?"
   "Yep ... and a notice from him would be big."
   Eb blushed, "That would be ..."
   "Your order is ready, sir," said the barista.
   Eb seemed relived for the interruption. He walked over to retrieve his drink. When he returned, he said, "Did you want to drink these here or take them with us?"
   "Let's take them with us." I lead the way to the door.
   An entering customer saw us and held the door open. I thanked him and then said to Eb as we crossed the parking lot, "When will you car be done?"
   "It was finished yesterday," he said.
   I stopped walking. "But Becky
said you'd need a ride today ... I thought ..."
   Eb put a free hand on my shoulder. "She didn't want me to be alone ... just yet."
 
 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Missing Man

To hear an audio version of this post, click on the link below:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOrQoi-Ket0&feature=youtu.be


   I stopped swinging my driver back and forth and looked at Uncle Billy sitting the golf cart. "That's nice of you to say, Uncle."
   Billy looked at the coffee cup in his hand. "Well, I know how fond Eb was of Brad."
   "Did you know Brad?" I asked, leaning gently on the golf club.
   "I met him once ... at Mary's ... he seemed like a nice guy." Billy took a sip of coffee.
   "He was ... he worked with troubled adolescents and he was very good with them ..."
   Billy nodded. "That's what Mary said ... guess she worked with him?"
   "Yes ... it's going to be tough for her at work."
   Billy shrugged. "No doubt ... it's not easy losing a family member."
   "And friend," I added.
   "I wonder when Eb will back?" Billy said. I wondered how long it would be before he broke the sentimental mood.
   I started to swing the club again, trying to loosen up. "I don't know ... he's pretty shook up."
   Billy put his coffee in the cup holder and slid out of the seat so he could stand and get a view of a golf cart making it's way along the path from the clubhouse. "Hey, that must be Hank ... look's like he is bringing a friend."
   I looked up to see the cart crest the little hill behind the first tee. There were two people in it, but I couldn't make out their features.
   As the cart came closer, Billy shook his head. "Damn ... it's Dottie."
   The cart drew up behind ours and Hank jumped out, beaming. "I told you I'd bring a replacement for Eb."
   Dottie Hamilton remained seated in the cart. She was wearing a pink Izod golf shirt and little white tam, tilted jauntily to the side of head. She was smiling broadly.
   "Hi, Dottie," I said.
   "Hi, Chris ... hi, Bill."
   Billy nodded. "I didn't know we were going to have a mixed foursome."
   Dottie's smile faded.
   "Dottie is a hell of a golfer," said Hank. "She'll have to give us strokes."
   Billy went to his bag on the rear of cart to pull out his driver. "I don't think that will be necessary."
   "Dottie is my partner, right?" I asked.
   "Sure," said Hank. "You don't mind dragging Chris along with you, do you Dottie?"
   "Not at all," said Dottie, "We'll be looking forward to taking your money."
   Billy laughed. "Obviously, you haven't seen Wonder Boy golf."

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fore!

For an audio version of this post, click on this link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLh37d0Eg0o&feature=youtu.be


   "That's your phone," said Cheryl.
   "Huh?"
   "Your phone is ringing," she said.
   The ring tone finally reached my consciousness. It was Uncle Billy. "Oh ... jeez ... what the heck does he want?"
   I rose up on an elbow and glanced at the clock. It read four-fifty AM. I reached out to the night stand and fumbled around until I found the phone.
   "What's up, Uncle?" I said, barely concealing my irritation.
   "I need you to come and get me."
   I sat up and swung my feet over the edge of the bed. "Why? What's the matter?"
   Cheryl sat up. "Is he okay?"
   "The cable is out over here," said Billy.
   I waved to Cheryl to lay back down. "What?"
   "The cable is out ... I can't watch the TV."
   "Uncle, it's four o'clock on the morning ... why are you even up?"
   "It's almost five ... the Open has been on for an hour."
   "What are you talking about?"
   "The British Open ... it's been on ESPN since four."
   "So what?"
   "So, I need you to come and get me so I can watch it
at your house."
   "Have you called the cable company?"
   "Of course I have."
   "And?"
   "They thanked me for reporting the outage ... when can you get here?"
   "I'm not coming to get you at five in the morning so you can watch the British Open ... just go back to bed and your cable will probably be back on when you get up."
   "I'm not going back to bed ... I've been up since three ... I've had four cups of coffee already."
   "What were you doing up at three?"
   "Waiting for the Open to start ... waddaya think?"
   "Do you have to watch every minute of coverage?"
   "Of course I do ... I wait for this all year."
   "I know you do ... but you're going to have miss some of it this year ... I'm not coming to get you so you can watch golf over here."
   "Who gave you that high-def TV for Christmas last year?"
   "Come on, Uncle ... that's not fair ..."
   "I'm just saying ... " he paused. "Oh, never mind, the cable is back on."
   "What?"
   "The TV is back on ... I don't need you."
   "Oh, for crying out loud ..."
   "Don't forget ... today is the day I go to Manny's."
   "I'll see you this afternoon." I snapped the phone shut.
 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mystery Guest

For an audio version of this post, click on the following link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUZohYId7qE&feature=youtu.be


   I set my tray on the table and slid into the booth across from Clara.
   "So, tell me ... what is the latest on Eb's uncle Brad?" she asked.
   I lifted the lid off my coffee so it would cool more quickly. "Not much change ... he seems to be a little more aware ... his eyes are following noises and movements ... but he is still not showing any signs of recognition."
   Clara frowned. "That's terrible ... Mary must be beside herself."
   "She is ... it's a tough thing to go through." I picked up my cup and blew gently on the surface of the coffee.
   "And how is Eb taking it?" she asked.
   I took a sip of coffee before answering. "He's pretty upset ... he was pretty close with Brad."
   Clara shook her head gently. "That's what I heard."
   I took another sip, then asked, "Speaking of Eb, has Uncle Billy mentioned anything about his and Becky's wedding to you?"
   Now Clara paused to take a sip of her coffee. "No, he hasn't."
   "Hmmmm ...." I unwrapped my breakfast sandwich.
   "Why would you expect him to?" Clara asked.
   "Oh ... no reason ... I was just wondering." I took a bite of my sandwich.
   Clara looked at me suspiciously. "You're wondering who he is going to ask to go with him, aren't you?"
   I chewed slowly and swallowed. "Oh ... no ... I just thought he might have mentioned it to you, that's all."
   "Look, Chris, I don't care if he asks me or Alma Beeler or anyone else ... it makes no difference to me ... I just hope Eb and Becky have a lovely wedding."
   I flushed slightly at the mention of Alma Beeler. "Honestly, Clara, I don't even know if Billy is going to the wedding ... I just thought that maybe he might have said something to you about it."
   Clara took a sip of her coffee and glanced out the window. "Well, speaking of the devil ..."
   I followed her gaze and saw Uncle Billy crossing the street on his way to the restaurant. "He said he might stop by when I told him I'd be here for breakfast."
   She watched him walk across the parking lot. "Did he know I was going to be here?"
   I flushed again. "Ahh ... I don't think I mentioned it ... but I'm sure he'll be glad to see you."
   "I wonder."
   Billy open the door and looked around the restaurant. I waved so he could see me. He nodded and walked to our table.  He seemed slightly surprised to see Clara.
  "Oh, hi," he said. "I didn't know you were going to be here."
  Clara hadn't moved, so I slid over so Billy could sit down.
  "I was just finishing my coffee," she said. "I've got some errands to run ... I'll let you two eat in peace."
   Billy slid in next to me. "Don't go on my account ... I've got nothing to talk to Wonder Boy about that you can't hear."
  "Hey, Uncle, have you heard any news about Eb and Becky's wedding plans?" I asked.
  "I'm going to go get some coffee." Billy slid back out of the booth a stood up. "Don't let me keep you from your errands, Clara."

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Rocket's Red Glare

An audio version of this post can be found at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYD8npfVe7w&feature=youtu.be

   "This potato salad is delicious, Cheryl," said Mary.
   "Why, thank you," said Cheryl, "it's my mother's recipe."
   "I'd like to get it," said Becky.
   "Any more beer?" asked Hank.
   I pointed to a cooler sitting next the deck railing. "In there."
   Hank walked over and pulled out a bottle. "Anyone else?"
   Uncle Billy raised his hand. "Right here."
   Hank pulled out a second bottle. "Anyone else?" Not getting any response, he closed the cooler and came back to the table. He set a bottle in front of Billy.
   "Thanks," said Billy.
   "Say, where's Eb?" asked Dottie.
   Mary put down her fork. "Oh, he and Becky are still at the hospital with Brad ... they're coming here  as soon as visiting hours are over."
   "How is Brad doing?" I asked.
   Mary's
face saddened. "Well, he's out of any immediate danger with the heart issue ... and he is awake and looking around ... but he is still not responding to any requests, like squeezing my hand or blinking his eyes."
   "You must be concerned," said Cheryl.
   Mary nodded. "I am ... we just don't know what to expect."
   Billy took a swig from his beer and set it on the table. "Well, we're all pulling for him."
   Mary smiled. "Why thank you, Bill."
   Billy continued. "Yeah, Eb's been next to worthless since his uncle has been ill."
   Hank shook his head. "Jeez, Bill ... what's the matter with you?"
   Billy shrugged. "What? I'm just saying ..."
   An early firework soared above the tree line beyond the deck, bursting in brilliant colors and followed by a loud bang.
   A startled Dottie looked up. "Wow, that was loud."
   Cheryl laughed. "That's just the beginning ... when it gets darker you won't believe the firework displays in this neighborhood."
   A few lessor reports could be heard echoing in the distance.
   "Yep," said Billy. "I come here on the Fourth every year ... it's a lot less congested than going to a park to see a municipal display ... and it's louder and lasts and whole lot longer."
   Another rocket bloomed over a house down the street.
   Hank raised his beer. "Well, here's to the Fourth of July."
   Mary wiped her eyes with her napkin. "Too bad Brad couldn't be here ... he loves fireworks."

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Man Down

An audio version of this post can be found at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cjs6RVaiJwc&feature=youtu.be


   Uncle Billy looked at his watch. "Where the heck is Eb? We tee off in ten minutes."
   Hank stopped swinging his club and rested it on the ground. "Didn't you hear, Bill ... Eb's not coming ... he's got a family crisis."
   "What?" said Billy.
   "It's his Uncle Brad ... he had a heart attack on Sunday," said Hank.
   "Uncle Brad?"
   I set my coffee on top of the cart. "It's Mary's brother, Brad Marshall."
   Uncle Billy looked at me. "You knew about this?"
   I nodded. "Yeah ... I did."
   "Why didn't you tell me?"
   "Honestly, I thought you knew, Uncle."
   Uncle Billy put his hands on his hips. "Nobody tells me squat ... what happened?"
   "Evidently, Brad was on his way home from work and add the attack ... his car went into a ditch ... at a low rate of speed ... and some samaritan saw what was happening and called the police," said Hank.
   Billy leaned a hand on the cart and shook his head. "Holy smoke ... what happened then?"
   "Well, the police couldn't get a pulse, so they called the EMS ... after some effort, they managed to resuscitate him and get him to the hospital."
   "Jeez, the poor guy ... how is he doing?"
   Hank slipped his driver into the bag on the back of his cart. "Not good ... he is still in critical care ... no one knows what is going to happen."
   "Man, that is tough ... how is Mary holding up?"
   "She's pretty upset ... as you might imagine," said Hank.
   "Yeah ... but I think Eb is taking it hard too," I added. "He was pretty close to his Uncle."
   Billy looked at me. "Kinda like you'd be if something happened to me, right?"
   I smiled. "Of course, Uncle."
   "Well that's just terrible," said Billy.
   "Yes, it is," I said. "It's a real tragedy."
   Hank patted Billy on the back. "Did you know Brad?"
   "No ... I mean I'm really worried for Mary and Eb ... but ..."
   "But what, Uncle?"
   "But I was looking forward to taking your's and Eb's money today ... now we're just a threesome."
   Hank frowned, "Get in the cart, Bill."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bookin'

An audio version of this post can be found at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=votHik3_NK8&feature=youtu.be


   I watched Clara load a box into the trunk of her car. "Hi, Clara," I said.
   She turned toward me, slightly startled. "Oh, hi, Chris ... I was so absorbed in packing I didn't see you come up."
   "Sorry," I said. "I'm on my way to pick up Uncle Billy ... you know, our weekly trip to Manny's"
   She shook her head. "I don't know why William won't let me take him there."
   I shrugged. "Who knows? Maybe he's embarrassed to let you see him buying alcohol and lotto tickets."
   "I don't care what he does with his money," she said.
   "Well, I think it might be partly because it's a chance for me to spend a little time with him."
   She nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, I can see that."
   I looked down at the trunk and saw a suitcase sitting next to the box."Going on another trip?" I asked.
   "Yes, another book tour."
   "Wow ... another tour ... where to this time?"
   She closed the trunk lid. "Grand Rapids and Muskegon."
   "No Saginaw this time?"
   "No ... but the book stores I'm visiting are owned by friends of Alex's ... he introduced me to them when they were in town for that convention."
   "Boy, that is nice connection."
   She smiled. "It is ... you know, Alex would be willing to help you meet some book store owners."
   "Well, I'll be sure to make it to the next convention ... when is going to be?"
   "Next April ... but it's going to be in Chicago next year."
   "Chicago? Maybe I can talk Uncle Billy into going ... he'd like to go to the House of Blues."
   "Just don't take him to the Sunday Brunch," said Clara.
   "Oh, he told you about that."
   "Yes, he did ... he said that if he wanted to see a choir he'd go to church."
   "I don't know why he didn't like them
... they were great ... but, I'll just take him to see a blues act from now on."
   "I'm sure he'd appreciate that," she said. "By the way, how did it go at Reggie's the other night?"
   "You mean about the free dinner that didn't happen?"
   "Yes ... where his friends disappointed?"
   "Not really ... they've known Billy for too long."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lyin Lion

An audio version of this post can be found at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voWFb2hBg6s&feature=youtu.be

   "So, what happened?" asked Hank.
   Uncle Billy ignored the question and slipped into the empty seat next to Eb. "What's the score?"
   Eb looked up at the television screen above the bar. "Tigers are up ... four to two."
   I took the seat across the table from Billy. "What inning?" I asked.
   Again Eb glanced at the screen. "Top of the ninth."
   Uncle Billy looked at the TV. "Valverde is closing ... we're cooked."
   "Come on Bill," said Hank, "tell us what happened ... are we gettin' a free dinner or what?"
   Uncle Billy hailed a passing waitress. "Can I get a glass here?"
   "Sure, Hon." She sailed off toward the bar.
   Hank shook his head. "Guess that says it all."
   I looked at Billy. "Well, Uncle?"
   "You tell 'em, Ace."
   Everyone looked at me. "It wasn't a valuable antique after all."
   A collective sigh went up around the table.
   "Boy ... I was looking forward to that juicy hamburger," said Eb.
   "What?" said Billy. "You can't afford a hamburger?"
   "What happened, Chris?" asked Hank.
   "According to Clara, the appraiser said it was probably made around the turn of the twentieth century ... that artisans in India were making these things by the score to sell to unsuspecting tourists."
   "They said it was a fake," said Billy."
   "How much did you pay for it?" asked Dottie.
   "That not our business," Hank said.
   Billy shrugged. "Two grand."
   "Holy ..." Eb began.
   Billy continued. "I'm still not convinced ... that was just one guy's opinion."
   "Are you going to have appraised by someone else?" asked Becky.
   The waitress reappeared with glasses for me and Billy.
   "Thanks," I said.
   Billy took his and reached for the pitcher of beer. "Absolutely ... I'm going to take it that joint downtown that deals with this kind of stuff."
   "Dumouchelles?" said Becky.
   "Yeah ... and when they tell me the truth about that thing ... I'm buying."
   Hank glanced up at the television. "And Valverde will save this game, too."
   I looked at the screen to watch the winning run cross the plate for the Royals.
   

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lion in Waiting

An audio version of this post can be found at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83e1xPlYGIY&feature=youtu.be

   Uncle Billy set a plastic grocery bag on the table. "Here it is."
   "In that?" asked Clara.
   "Sure ... why not?" Billy opened the bag, pulled out a bronze lion statuette and set it on the table.
   "Well, it sure looks old," I said.
   Billy produced a small card with the title, Ramayan Arts. "See, it says right here, 'um ... Ma ... Mad ya ... uh ... Prah deesh ... Tribal Bronze, twenty-eight thousand years old.'" He held out the card for Clara.
   Clara set down her coffee and shot a look at Billy. "You mean, Madhya Pradesh?" She took the card. "Hmmmm ... it says, 'Bronze lion cast in the lost wax method'"
   I swallowed a bite of my hamburger. "Twenty-eight thousand years old? That might be a truly historic find ... to the best of my recollection, wasn't the bronze age about five or six thousand years ago?"
   "What would you know about it, Wonder Boy?" Billy took the card back from Clara. "The price tag is seven thousand, two-hundred dollars ... would they charge that kind of jack for something that wasn't old?"
   "Uncle, they could put anything on that card ... it doesn't mean it's real."
   Billy picked up the statuette and held it in front of my face. "Look at that ... it's the real thing."
   I set down my hamburger and took the lion from Billy. In spite of it's small size, it was hefty, surely made of metal, and it had a green patina that would indicate bronze or maybe copper. "It looks old ... but people have been making replicas of things like that for ... well, forever."
   "You don't know ... I'll bet it's worth every bit of seven thousand dollars," said Billy.
   I handed the lion to Clara. She turned it over in her hands, inspecting it. "How much did you pay for it, William?"
   Billy smiled. "The guy gave me a great deal ... seventy percent off ... only two-thousand dollars ... and that was thirty years ago ... it must be worth a lot more today."
   Clara set the lion in the middle of the table. "I wouldn't think thirty years is going to make much difference for something from antiquity ... if it really is."
   "Well, are you going to take it?" asked Billy.
   "Yes, I'll take it with me ... I don't really have anything else to be evaluated."
   "How did you get the tickets? I heard Antiques Roadshow only had something like three-thousand available ... and over thirty-thousand people applied," I said.
   "Somehow, Ellen Sunderland got two ... and her husband can't go, so she invited me."
   "That was lucky," I said.
   "I'll bet this lion will be the hit of the show," said Billy.
   Clara ignored Billy's comment. "Ellen has a painting by Jean Heyermans that she inherited from her mother ... she's anxious to get it appraised, but she didn't want to go alone."
   "Heyermans ... never heard of him," I said.
   "I think he was Belgian ... anyway, Ellen said that a painting by him was recently appraised at ten thousand dollars."
   "I'll bet the lion goes for more than that," said Billy.
   We both looked at him.
   "I'll tell you what," he continued, "if it comes in at anything more than five thousand, I'll buy everyone dinner at Reggie's."
   "Everyone?" I asked.
   "Well, you and Clara ... and maybe Eb and Hank, too."
   "How about Becky and Dottie?"
   Billy winced. "Well ...  okay ... if they order hamburgers."
 
 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Longer and Straighter

An audio version of this post can be found at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhukDSLoDJE&feature=youtu.be

   
   Uncle Billy stood up after teeing his ball, looked back at Hank and asked, "Who I'm going to ask for a date to Eb's wedding?"
   "Dottie was just wondering," said Hank.
   "Why would Dottie care about that?" asked Billy.
   Hank leaned on his driver. "She ran into Alma Beeler at the store the other day and ..."
   "She knows Alma Beeler?" Billy asked.
   "Well, yes ... they met at Reggie's on St. Patrick's Day."
   "Oh yeah, I forgot about that." Billy idly swung his club. "So, she asked Dottie who I was taking to the wedding?"
   "Apparently, inquiring minds want to know," I said.
   "I supposed she asked you, too?" said Billy.
   "Yes, as a matter of fact, she did."
   "Becky was kinda wondering about that, too," said Eb.
   "What the hell ..." Billy mused as stepped up to his ball and took a real practice swing. "All of sudden everyone is interested in my business."
   "You're a popular guy, Bill," said Hank.
   Billy shook his head and addressed his ball. "I'm glad I can provide some entertainment for your little minds." He took a swing and there was an usually loud sound when the club head met the ball. We all watched in surprise as the white orb soared in a majestic arc, straight down the middle of the fairway. It took a couple of bounces and rolled to stop, two-hundred and twenty yards away.
   The club resting on his shoulder, Uncle Billy posed for a few seconds to admire his handy work. "Got all of that," he said.
   "You sure did, Bill ... that was your best drive of the day," said Hank.
   Billy dropped the club from his shoulder. "Well, I don't know about that ..."
   "I think Hank's right," said Eb.
   Billy bent down to pick up his tee. "What would you know, Eb ... you've been in the woods on every hole."
   "Come on, Uncle ... we're all happy for you," I said.
   "Well, you make sound like I've been limping along."
   Hank stepped forward and bent down to tee up his ball. "Let's just say the driver hasn't been your friend today."
   "Oh ... okay, Arnold ... let's see what you can do."
   Hank shook his head, took a couple of waggles and unleashed a mighty swing. The ball duck-hooked into the bushes a hundred yards down the fairway. "Well, Bill, I'm glad you're my partner on this hole."
   "So, now you need me," said Billy.
   Hank sighed. "We're a team, Bill ... I need you every hole."
   I walked up, put my tee in the ground and balanced a ball on it. "Alright, Eb, we're getting back into this match."
   "Let's see what Wonder Boy has," said Billy.
   I took a rip at the ball and watched it soar in a line the exact opposite of Hank's shot. It landed with a splash in the pond on the right of fairway.
   Billy smiled. "Nice shot, Ace."
   Eb stepped up and teed his ball. "Where do we stand, Chris?"
   "We're down two ... with four to go," I said. "No pressure."
   Eb took a deep breath, drew back the club head and let it fly. There was a loud smack ... louder than then the one Billy got from his drive. The ball seemed to follow the same trajectory of Billy's, but landed ten yards past it and rolled to a gentle stop another fifteen yards beyond that.
   "Holy smoke, Eb ... where did that come from?" I said.
   Eb just stood there, staring down the fairway.
   "Must be the Viagra he's been taking to prep for his wedding night," said Billy.
 
 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Not Biting

An audio version of this post can be found at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JD_YynuROvc&feature=youtu.be


   I padded up the stairs and ran to the front door. Alma Beeler's smiling face looked at me through the screen. She was wearing a T-shirt, shorts and walking shoes.
   "Oh, hi Alma. How are you?"
   "I'm fine, Chris ... I was just out for a walk and saw your door was open ... I thought I'd stop by and say hello to Cheryl."
   "She's not here ... she had to stay late at work ... some sort of a conference ... come on in, anyway." I swung the door open."
   "That's okay ... I don't want to take up your time. I haven't seen Cheryl, and now that we're getting out and about, I thought she might want to join me in a walk."
   I held the door open with one hand. "I'm sure she'll be sorry she missed you. How far do you go?"
   "Oh, about two miles."
   "That's pretty good. Can I get you something to drink ... water?"
   "No thanks, I'm all set." She pushed out her hip and I noticed the nylon holstered water bottle.
   "So I see."
   Alma stood there looking at me. Finally, she said, "What time do you think Cheryl will be home?"
   "I'm not sure ... probably around seven or so."
   "Oh ... well ... maybe I'll catch up with her some other time."
   "Yes, I'm sure you will."
   She looked around for a second, then said, "Have you seen your Uncle lately?"
   "Billy? Yes, I just got back from taking him grocery shopping."
   "Well, that was nice of you ... how is he doing?"
   "Fine. He's going to the hockey game tonight."
   "How exciting ...  I didn't know there was one."
   I wasn't sure how she could have missed it. The local news sources had been covering the Red Wings non-stop since they defeated the Ducks to make it to the second round of the conference playoffs. "Yep, they're playing Chicago tonight ... his neighbor seems to have tickets to all the big sporting events, and I guess he had an extra one, so he invited Billy."
   "But he didn't have one for you, eh?"
   "Unfortunately, no."
   "That's too bad."
   "Yep."
   She stood for a few seconds, then said, "Is your Uncle going to Eb and Becky's wedding?"
   There it was. "I don't know, Alma ... he never mentioned it to me."
   "Really? Well, I was just wondering ..."
   "It's a ways off ... I'm sure you'll talk to him before September."
   "I'm not so sure ... I haven't heard from him since Easter ... I've been wondering what he was up to."
   "You know Billy ... bowling is winding down and the golf leagues are starting ... he's always got something going."
   "Yes, he's a busy guy."
   "Do you want me to send Cheryl down when she gets home?"
   "Oh ... no ... I'll give her a call later ... maybe we can hook up on the weekend."
   "I'm sure." I swatted at a fly buzzing through the
open door.
   "Well, I don't want you to have a house full of bugs ... I better get going."
   "Okay ... have fun on your walk."
   "Thanks."  She turned to leave.
   I let the door shut and watched her go down the steps to the sidewalk. She stopped in her tracks and turned toward me.
   "Oh listen ... will you let your Uncle know I have a new recipe for chicken cacciatore that I'd love to try out with him?"