Tuesday, April 30, 2013

It's Just Business

An audio version of this post can be found at:

   "Are you sure you don't mind?" asked Clara.
   I watched Jason frantically pressing the buttons on the game controller. "No ... I've got the afternoon free."
   "Well, I surely do appreciate it," said Clara. "I've got to deliver this box of books to Alex before he heads back to Saginaw."
   I looked at the large box sitting on the table. "I understand ... those are for his stock?"
   Clara blushed slightly. "Yes ... seems that there has been a run on them since I did that signing up there last month."
   "Well, that's terrific."
   "Isn't it amazing? I guess young adult fiction is hot right now."
   "Grandma," shouted Jason. "I've made to tier three!"
, Jason," she said. "Why don't you show Mr. Hudson how to play the game this afternoon?"
   "Okay." Jason didn't take his eyes of the television screen.
   "Uh, that's okay," I said. "I've got plenty to keep me busy."
   Clara smiled. "I'm not much on playing those things either." She looked at the clock. "Oh ... I'd better get going ... I told Alex I'd meet him at 12:30."
   I patted the box of books. "Let me help you out the car with this."
   "Oh, would you mind? It's a little heavy for me."
   "No, not at all." I picked up the box. "Holy smokes ... how many are in here?"
   "Fifty," she said, reaching for the door.
   Before she could open it there was knock. She looked at me, slightly puzzled. "I wonder who that could be?"
   She opened the door and Uncle Billy stood in the hallway.
   "William?" said Clara.
   "Cheryl told me Chris was here ... I need a ride up to Manny's."
   "I'm watching Jason while Clara ... uh, runs an errand."
   "Why doesn't she take Jason with her? That way you take me to Manny's."
   "It's a lunch meeting," said Clara.
   "Yes ... I'm meeting with Alex Heath for lunch."
   Billy nodded. "I see ... and you don't want any kids around."
   Clara shook her head. "It's not like that, William ... it's a business meeting and Jason would be bored ... Chris offered to stay with him here until his mother picks him up at 2:00."
   I set a corner of the box on the counter to relieve some of the weight. "Why don't you stay here with us, Uncle ... you can play Zombie Army with Jason."
   "Ah, no ... no that's okay ... you come and get me when you're free." Billy turned to go.
   "Are you going to be at dinner tonight?" asked Clara.
   "No ... I've a business meeting," he said over his shoulder.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Double Play

An audio version of this post can be found at:

   Uncle Billy delicately balanced the food tray in his hands as he edged past the couple at the end of the row and slipped into his seat. "That was an ordeal."
   "You sure were gone a long time," I said. "You missed Miguel slapping a single to right to drive in Jackson."
   "Well, it wasn't by choice. The line at the hot dog stand was ten deep ... it took forever to get this." He handed me a hot dog and a wad of napkins.
   "I appreciate it, Uncle ... in fact I appreciate this whole thing."
   "Hey, it's not everyday I can help my nephew celebrate a birthday."
   I spread the napkins on my lap and set down the hot dog down. "This should be good series ... The Royals are gonna be tough this year."
   He handed me a beer from the tray. "Maybe ... but I couldn't pass up the deal ... Tony Swanson ... you know, the guy across the hall from me?"
   "He was gonna take his grandson, but the kid couldn't get out of school, so he gave the tickets to me."
   "Oh ..."
   "I thought, 'hey, it's Chris's birthday .. I'll bet he'd like to go to the game'."
   "Well, I appreciate it ... and these dogs and beer aren't cheap."
   He held up a bag of peanuts. "Neither are these ... good thing Tony had 50% off coupon for the food concession."
   A cheer went up in the stadium.  I watched Cabrera round third, heading for home. Martinez slid into second with solid double up the gap in right field.
   I set the beer in the cup holder in front of me so I could clap. "How about that?"
   Uncle Billy glanced at the score board. "We're only down three runs now."
   I sighed. "Well, I just want you know that I'm enjoying the hell out of this."
   "I'm glad you are, boy ... I appreciate all the stuff you do for me." Uncle Billy took a bite of his hot dog.
   I looked over at him. It was the first time, at least the first time I could remember, that he had openly acknowledged anything like that. "Gee, Uncle, that's mighty nice of you to say."
   Billy kept his attention on the field as he chewed. Dirks took a mighty swing at a big curve and struck out to retire the side.
   Billy swallowed and said, "Great ... we strand another runner."
   I ignored the hubbub in the stands around us as people started moving for the bathrooms and concessions. "It would've made mom very happy to know that you are so close to Cheryl and me these days."
   Billy took a sip a beer and stared off at the skyline behind centerfield.
   "You miss her, don't you?"
   Billy took another swig of his beer, sniffed and said, "Yeah ... but I've got her son and his wife to keep me company."
   "Gee, Uncle I ..."
   "Now, if Porcello can get his slider over the plate ... maybe we can stay in this ballgame."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bowling and Taxes

An audio version of this post can be found at:
   A cheer went up two alleys over.
   "Riley just rolled a turkey," said Uncle Billy. "Where the hell is Hank?"
   Eb was tying his shoes for the third time. "If he doesn't get here ... ," he looked at the clock over the bar, "... in the three minutes, we're going to have to forfeit."
   I spotted Hank coming in the door. "Here he comes."
   Billy turned to look. "Well, it's about damn time."
   We watched Hank pick his way past the ball racks and make his way to our alley.
   Eb jumped up to greet him. "Hank, where you been?"
   Hank set his bag down. Breathing heavy, he said, "Sorry ... I was with my tax guy and ..."
   Eb slapped him on the back. "We were getting worried about you ... come on, get your shoes on."
   Hank sat down, opened his bag and pulled out his shoes.
   "Tax guy?" said Billy.
   Still breathing heavy, he said, "Yeah."
   "Well? How'd it go?" asked Billy.
   Hank slipped off his street shoes. "It didn't go well."
   "That sounds ominous," I said.
   "What does that mean," asked Billy.
   Hank shoved a foot into one of his bowling shoes. "It means I owe Uncle Sammy."
   "How much?" asked Billy.
   "Come on, Uncle Billy ... that's none of our business," I said.
   Billy rolled his eyes. "Listen to Miss Manners ..."
   "Hank would tell us if he wanted us to know," said Eb.
   Hank was in the process of putting on the other shoe and he paused. "About eighteen hundred bucks."
   "Ouch," I said.
   "Eighteen hundred smackers?" said Billy. "How the hell did you end up owing that much?"
   Hank started tying his shoes. "Remember when I was slack last fall ..."
   "Yeah ... I remember," said Eb, "That was most of September and Oc ..."
   "Shut up, Eb," said Billy.
   Eb frowned.
   Hank smiled and patted Eb on the knee. "Anyway, I took a couple of side jobs ... Dottie's brother-in-law, Zac Wolensky, is a contractor and needed plumbers to work on an apartment complex he's remodeling, and ..."
   "You reported that?" asked Billy.
   "Had too ... Zac ten ninety-nined my wages."
   "Why didn't he just pay you under the table?" asked Billy.
   Hank finished tying his shoes, put his hands on his knees and looked at Billy. "He's gotta track his costs."
   "That makes sense," said Eb.
   "When I did side jobs, I always asked for cash," said Billy.
   I looked at Billy. "When was the last time you did a side job, Uncle?"
   Billy rubbed his chin, "Well, let me think ... "
   "What kind of stuff did you do?" asked Eb.
   Billy ignored Eb, so I answered for him. "He was a carpenter ..."
   "I remember," said Billy. "I built some displays for Carl Magliaro."
   "The car dealer?" asked Hank.
   "One of the biggest in southeast Michigan," said Billy.
   "Didn't that guy end up going to prison for something?"
   "Yeah," I said. "Tax evasion."

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Look at me when I'm talking to you!

An audio version of this post can be found at:

   "One grande coffee ... black," said the earnest, smiling server. "That'll be a dollar eight-six."
   I open my wallet and handed a couple of ones across the counter.
   The server took the money, made the change and turned to Eb. "And you, sir?"
   "I'll have a Hazelnut Frappuccino," said Eb.
   "What size?"
   "Oh ... make that a vente."
   "That'll be four oh eight, sir."
   Eb pulled out a five dollar bill and handed it to server.
   "Wow ... four bucks for a cup of joe," I said.
   Eb nodded. "It's a little pricey, but, man is it good."
   The young man handed Eb his change. "I'll have your drinks for you in just a moment," he said.
   As we stepped to the side to wait for our coffee, I brushed up against a leafy house plant in a ceramic pot sitting on the counter.
   I casually rubbed one of the leafs. "I wonder what this guy is thinking about."
   "It's a plant, Chris ... what could it be thinking?" said Eb.
   "Oh, I didn't mean thinking in the conventional way," I said. "I saw this documentary on TV last night about how plants communicate ... it was amazing ... these biologists think plants do more than just respond to stimuli ... they actually have ways of communicating with their environment."
   Eb looked puzzled. "Huh?"
   I smiled. "I know ... it was crazy ... they showed how plants that are under stress emit chemical responses that can provide self-defense ... it was some pretty wild stuff."
   "Yeah, they showed this one plant ... I think it was from the desert somewhere ...  whenever it is under attack from a type of caterpillar, it sends out a chemical SOS to bugs who feed on the caterpillar and ... "
   Uncle Billy walked up. "Who's sending out an SOS?"
   "This guy." Eb pointed to the plant. "Chris was just telling about a show he saw on TV that showed how plants communicate ..."
   "One Hazelnut Frappuccino," yelled the server.
   Eb held up his hand. "That's me." Eb reached for his coffee,
   Uncle Billy looked at the plant. "So, Eb has finally found someone can talk to, eh?"

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What a Tool

An audio version of this post can be found at:

   "Ouch!" The heavyset actor withdrew from under the sink, squatted on his knees and put his hand to his mouth.
   "That looks like a nasty nicked knuckle there," said a voice from off the screen.
   The actor dropped his hand and looked up. "Who said that?"
   "I did," said the voice.
   The camera pulled back to reveal a medium-height, slightly pudgy, round-faced man, with graying temples, dressed in khaki-pants and red-flannel shirt.
   A cheer went up around the table.
   "You the man, Irv!" said Eb.
   "Shush," said Cheryl, "I want to hear this."
   "... are you?" said the kneeling actor.
   "I'm the Drudgeless Tool Man."
   Another round of cheers went up.
   "He's the Toooool man," said Hank.
   "Will you be quiet?" said Becky. "We're trying to listen."
   Tool Man held out his hand, which was clutching an odd-shaped instrument. "Try the Drudgeless 200 Faucet Wrench," he said.
   The kneeling actor took the proffered implement. "Wow, this should do the job!"
   Uncle Billy snorted, "Hire a professional plumber ... that'll do the job."
   Cheryl glared at him and he sank back in his seat.
   "... and no more busted knuckles," said Tool Man.
   The man on his knees held the tool up. "Thanks, Tool Man." Then he ducked back under under the sink.
   The camera panned in on Tool Man's face. "When you need the right tool for a job ... remember Drudgeless ... the tools that make work easy."
   The scene dissolved to a graphic of the logo's for several retail stores and a narrator said, "You can find Drudgeless tools at these fine establishments ..."
   The focus at the table shifted away from the TV.
   "How cool is that?" said Hank.
   I smiled and nodded. "Ol' Irv has done well for himself."
   "What's his name?" asked Becky.
   "Irv Nesbaum," said Cheryl. "He used to live across the street from us."
   "He worked at Home Depot until he hit it big with his book about tools."
   "No kidding?" said Mary.
   "No," I said. "I guess all that time in the hardware department qualified him to be an expert on tools."
   Uncle Billy grinned, "That's a fact ... he sure is one."