Tuesday, June 25, 2013


An audio version of this post can be found at:

   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

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   "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:

   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:

   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.