What I did on my summer vacation. Not.

Since it’s back-to-school days, I’m thinking back to the Day. My English teachers, and I’m sure yours, issued the ultimate in essay assignments, “What did I do on my summer vacation.”

Unfortunately the essay gods were not kind to me. I had no answer to that question. You see, my summer days were boring as heck. So boring, I won’t even try to extrapolate on the boredom. Take my word for it. They were boring, and I didn’t want my teachers to get a case of the boredoms. Can you contemplate how many thousands of these exercises in torture the average teacher must have to endure?

Which left me no alternative but to be creative. And creative I became.

There are many forms an essay may take. The first year, following my new strategy, I gave my teacher a list. And not just any list. I gave her a list that would have made Alexander the Great proud.

Why would Alex be proud? I became him with a list of my conquests, beginning with El Gordo, the Gordian Knot. The pyramids, the Parthenon, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. I gave her the names of places she’d never heard of, like Akkad, Phrygia, Persepolis, Lagash and Memphis. And I don’t mean, Memphis, Tennessee.

The next year I went descriptive. I was Cleopatra floating down the Nile, watching the crocodiles crocodile and ibises ibis-ing. Then I saw Marc Antony on the shore. His nose would give any nose a run for its money. And man, he had one heck of a sword.

One year I tried out a Tom Sawyer and a Huckleberry Finn. After all, they’d put down their summer vacations as “The Adventures of–.” Any adventures of is a summer vacation in my book. I let the teacher know I had been such a good entrepreneur. I sold places to the paint-my-picket fence celebration. When it was finished, I had enough money to hire a raft and sail down to New Orleans on the Mississippi.

Another year I took on a Just-call-me-Ishmael and gave her my best Moby Dick impression. Then I related how I had done a Sherlock Holmes and solved the case of who ate Grandma’s apple pie. I cannot tell a lie. It was me.

Then one year I decided autobiography was the thing. I wrote about how I found my Uncle Ralph’s treasure trove of Playboy Magazines. I had never seen anything like it. All she had to say, “That sure puts the phrase ‘carpe diem’ in a whole new perspective.”

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Near 500 words:Elgar

The farm was dying. Elgar knew it. His wife, Beatrice, knew it. His son, Jock, knew it. The question was what to do with it. After all, it had been his great grandfather’s, his grandfather’s, his father’s. For three generations before him, the farm had prospered. Fed the family. Kept them happy. Now he had failed. But not one of his forebears had had to deal with the droughts of the last several years.

Elgar’s feet were rooted in the soil like a tree. Elgar wrestled with the what-to-dos like Jacob wrestling with the angel long ago. To pull up and seek a new life, Beatrice and Jock knew would kill Elgar.

The farm was dying. God had abandoned this land Elgar loved so much. As the other farmers sold out and moved away, Elgar became lonelier and lonelier. When you’re the last of your kind, it’s hard to avoid the isolation, the alienation.

The tall, thin farmer walked his land one last time. As he did, he came upon his father’s old tractor seat, that “seat of power” where Dad ruled his domain. If his father had taught him anything, it was not to dominate the land. But to be its steward. It was still not too late to return to his father’s ethic.

He reached down and took the seat from the tractor, raised it above his head and began to dance. It wasn’t a rain dance. It wasn’t a folk dance. It was the dance of a man who loved his land.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat

“But it looks like a storm,” Hank says to his wife.

“You need new clothes,” she says.

“There’s a storm coming.”

“I know how you hate shopping.”

“We can’t go out in that.”

“Let’s see. You need a new blazer, a parka, a sweatshirt, and a sweater. While we’re at it, we might as well get you some pajamas, undershirts, and socks. Some briefs too. And I need shorts. One of my old pair is beginning to look like boxers. I hate that.”

“It’s going to storm.”

“You’re such a wuss. Now get my purse and let’s go.”

Resigned to his fate, Hank gets her purse and follows her out. All the while, he gets in the last word, “But it’s going to storm.”

My Black Thumb

 With Spring coming on, I thought this would be the perfect piece to welcome her.

In the long, long time ago, I thought it would be nice to grow some flowers. So I chucked down to the local nursery and asked what would be a good flower to plant. I was overwhelmed with suggestions from that crew. It was like going out to dinner with a bunch of friends. Eight to be exact and they’re all saying, “You gotta try this. And this. And this.”

I mean the staff at the nursery went on and on about annuals and perennials. They suggested hibiscus, azaleas, roses, zinneas, periwinkles, begonias, rain lilies, magnolias, camelias and  all the kinds of flowers. They just knew they’d spiff up my lawn.

Little did they know that my lawn eats cats and dogs for breakfast. I have seen the neighborhood cat running forty miles an hour just to get away from the darn thing. But I didn’t want to disappoint them. So I didn’t share anything about the villain.

I didn’t plan to plant the flowers anywhere near the lawn. I bought several earth boxes and took some of the flowers with interesting sounding names. Begonia sounded Irish, so I took the potential begonia along with a periwinkle and azaleas. The staff threw in an hibiscus for free and I was a happy camper.

The nursery gave me instructions on how to plant, nurse and grow these little cuties into big adult flowers. The instructions came in a roll as long as a roll of toilet paper. I also bought some accessories like a little shovel to dig a hole in the dirt.

It cost me a big chunk of change but it was worth it. I mean, when I left that place, I was a ready teddy. And I was feeling good about myself. I was ready to beat that global warming single-handed and with one hand tied behind my back.

I got home and set the earth box out on my porch. I put it in a spot my lawn couldn’t see just in case. I got out my tiny shovel and dug holes in the dirt and planted my flowers. I watered them nice-like. Then I went back in my house, got myself a beer and settled into my nice comfy chair. You wouldn’t believe the smile I had on my face. I had done a good day’s work and I couldn’t have been happier.

Well, over the next few weeks, I watered them flowers just like the instructions in Chapter 32 of my roll said. I did not feed them the cheap plant food. I gave them the Good Stuff. Day after day, I did this for about two weeks.

Then one night I woke up to the weirdest sounds. It sounded like the noise was coming from the earth box. I ran out to the flowers and all of them were choking. They were having trouble breathing. Several of them had gone to the Big Flower Box in the Sky. One of the periwinkles choked out, “Water, water, water.”

I ran and filled the watering can. I got to the box. The periwinkle said, “Not tap water. Bottled wa–” and he died. It was the end of my flower-planting career. I asked my neighbor what had happened. He said, “So you thought you had a Green Thumb. Well, guess what. You and I both have black thumbs. The best thing you can do is go down to that nursery. Start dating the first single woman you meet there. Then marry her. That way you’ll have a Green Thumb in the family.”

And that’s exactly what I did. She has a way with flowers. And my lawn loves her too. Her name is Petunia Tree.

A guy doing a videocast

This guy is standing in his living room, talking to the camera for his Youtube video: “I’m here to tell you I can smoke wherever I please. It’s my constitutional right. And it’s in the ten commandments too. Where does the city get off telling me I can’t smoke where I want? Next thing I know they’ll tell me I can’t take a piss. Who do they think they are? I have the right to have lung cancer if I want to. Just like I have the right to have a heart attack. It’s my body, so stay the damn way out of what I do. I ain’t harming nobody. Oh, they say I am harming my body and I will die younger than I should. How do they think I got this far anyway? Smoking and taking a piss. I tell you the next thing I know they’ll be sending their goon squad to take my guns away. Chuck Heston was right. Over my dead body. They didn’t get his guns and they’re not going to get my guns. Could you wait a minute? There’s somebody at the door.”

Fifteen minutes later, the guy comes back to the camera: “I can’t believe it. Two young punks broke into my house and stole my guns. I just called the cops. They’re on their way. And the punks took my cigarettes too.”