Puddin’

The house looked empty. There wasn’t a car in the driveway. No stirring. Taggert decided it was perfect. He’d do a run inside. Steal what he could take. Then he’d be out the door. And he’d do it in no time. It was still morning and everybody on the street seemed to have taken off for work. Taggert liked that. It made housebreaking easy peasy.

Little did Taggert know he was being watched. From the basement. Her name was Puddin’ and she was the house owner’s black panther. Mostly she was tame. The family had had her since she was a pup. I mean, kitten or cub or some such thing.

Puddin’ was harmless unless you want to call scuffling in the living room harmless. The family had declawed her so she wouldn’t scratch up the furniture. Now Puddin’ loved the family. She considered herself part of the family. So when she heard the back window open she just figured it was the man of the house playing a game. Puddin’ loved games.

When the family was gone, she had the run of the house. Every room was her castle. She ran into the bedroom. She saw a man coming through the window. He didn’t look like the man of the house. He didn’t smell like the man of the house. He was much shorter. Puddin’ figured it was a friend of the owners. So she hurried over just as Taggert was stepping down on the floor. She went to hug the Taggert and lick him on the back of the neck.

Taggert turned his head and saw the large black cat opening her mouth. He thought she was going to eat him.

Now Taggert’s heart was as healthy as a horse. But when you’ve got a grown black panther hugging you and trying to lick you, your heart just won’t hold out. And Taggert’s didn’t hold out.

Several hours later Rush and Laura came home. Rush headed to the bedroom. Over by the window, he saw Puddin’ licking a man’s face, trying to wake him from his eternal sleep.

The Three Monkeys

Marge looked at the three bronze monkeys her husband brought home and shook her head. “Just where are you going to put those?”

“In the living room?” Tiller had hope.

“Over my dead body,” Marge said, and she meant it. Ten years she’d been married to this fool and it was always the same. He’d find some piece of junk, bring it home and end up tossing it out because there was no way Marge was going to let the damn thing into her house. Just once, she wished he’d ask her first.

The thing was that this was one of the things she loved about Tiller. His attraction to odd ball things. Curioddities, she called them. Unfortunately, the curioddities were not something a woman would want in her house.

“But I paid good money for them.” Tiller thought he was using logic on Marge.

Marge wasn’t buying. “Get your money back.”

“I can’t. It was a no return policy. You buy it, you keep it.”

“Figures,” Marge said and went back into her kitchen.

She was baking bread, and the aroma of the bread eased out to the living room. Tiller loved Marge’s bread. Nobody could make bread the way Marge did. He sneaked up behind his wife as she was checking the bread and put his arms around her.

“Get out of here.” She turned and pushed him away. “You get rid of those monkeys or there’s no bread or anything else from Marge, you hear?”

Of course, he heard. He always heard. Just once why wouldn’t she give in?

Marge went back to her baking while Tiller lingered for a few minutes. Her back told him she meant everything she said.

But he wanted those monkeys. He wanted to keep them bad. What to do?

Tiller was not a man to give up on his dreams. That was how he’d gotten Marge to marry him. He’d wore her down with his persistence.

He went back into the living room, took another look at the monkeys and shook his head. Something must be done. That was when he made up his mind to do what he’d been thinking about for quite some time. It would be the perfect solution. He would have his bread and eat it too.

He went over to the front door and opened it. He stuck a chair under its knob to hold it into place. Then he walked over and picked up the first monkey. Damn, it was heavy. He lugged Monkey See out the front door. Then it was back for Monkey Hear and Monkey Speak. He carried them into the garage and closed the garage door.

Later in the day, Marge heard some banging from the back yard. She walked out onto the porch. Tiller was building something over in the corner of the yard. What was he building? A shed. Damn fool, she said to herself.

Marge was having none of this either. She hurried over and tapped Tiller on the shoulder. Her husband turned around to face his wife. She said, “Not in my back yard.” She went to turn but Tiller stopped her.

“It’s not in your back yard,” he said with a big smile on his face.

“What do you mean,” she said. There was no smile on her face.

“I mean it’s not in your back yard.”

“Of course, it’s my back yard.”

“No, it’s my back yard.”

Marge couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “What?”

“I bought the house behind us. And the shed is in my back yard.”

The Nature Walk

Elgar was always surprised when, only a few feet away from the highway, there was nature. Trees, a river and deer. At least once a month, he drove up to this end of the island, parked and walked into what he considered a painting. A landscape. Here it was autumn and nature was doing her nature thing as always. This was the last visit he was to make in a long time. If ever. The next Saturday he was getting married, then they were moving out west to California. He would miss all this. It was his little secret. He hadn’t even told Louise. He wondered why that was. Was he hedging his bets? Didn’t he think the marriage would last. He hoped it would.

It was quiet on the lake. He looked out and watched a fish jump. The birds sang their last songs as they prepared to fly south for the winter. The trees unburdened themselves of their leaves. It was going to be a good day for a walk among the trees. He felt like Thoreau must have felt walking the Maine woods.

As he sauntered along, he pulled out his sketch book. He wasn’t much of a draftsman but he always made out what was on the paper. He had what must have been hundreds of these pads. He saw a bird peeping down through the leaves, watching him. He stood still, very still. Only his fingers moved with the pencil. The bird seemed to be saying his goodbye too. He felt sad for them both. His eyes did not take their focus off the bird. A long time ago he learned to let his hand draw what he was seeing while he watched the subject. He smiled, thinking about that.

When was he going to show Louise all his drawings and tell her of his nature walks? He felt guilty. It wasn’t that he hadn’t tried. Every time he went to tell her something else came up. Should couples have secrets from one another? He wasn’t thinking of adultery or anything like that. He was thinking of something like his nature walk.

The thing was that he spent most of his time in the rough and tumble world of business. Managing a store was a 24/7 job and he had bought into the bargain. If he had not had these occasional excursions he couldn’t have survived it. He thought about the move. It was to the company’s headquarters to take over a division. It would be quite a bit more money. Louise liked the idea of moving out west. She had wanted to live in California for a long time. And he was sure there were places like this one out there. Well, maybe not like this one but natural places.

Jack loved the city. Its hustle and bustle. The people. But this was where he came to refill his tank. There came a point when he just felt drained. He remembered reading a book about John Muir. How he spent much of his time in the wilderness. Theodore Roosevelt got away from his political life and went out to Wyoming. These were great men who did great things. Now all the great ones did was go play golf. That was no way to relax. When he played golf, he became very competitive.

He finished his drawing, saluted the bird, and moved on. He saw a large rock and went over to it and sat down. He reached into the canvas pack at his waist and pulled out a paper bag of sandwiches. They were peanut butter. He uncapped his canteen and drank a swig of water. Sitting there, his teeth tearing into a sandwich, he realized what a happy man he was. And how fortunate. He had a great job. He had Louise. He had his health. He had enough money to live on and raise a family. So why was he feeling such trepidation. Why?

He remembered the first time he saw Louise. A friend had invited him to her recital. Afterward he walked over, and in his own quiet way, he congratulated her on her playing and her choice of music. He thoroughly enjoyed it. Then she surprised him, “Would you like to get a cup of coffee sometime?” He surprised himself. “How about now. I mean, after you’re done here.” She thought about his offer. “Why not,” she answered. “I just have a few more people to see, then we can go.”

The crowd thinned out, she picked up her purse, and she walked over to him. “I’m ready.”

They spent a couple of hours with that coffee. They talked about the weather and the stock market. She was an analyst. They talked politics. She was a conservative. He was a liberal. Neither of them were very political. They voted but they didn’t attend rallies or campaign for a candidate.

After three, four dates, they had sex. It was good sex. Not great but good. They enjoyed each other’s company. They went to the opera. She was into the opera. They went to baseball games. He was into baseball. It had taken six months to date eight times. His schedule didn’t make it easy. Though he enjoyed his work, it left little time for a personal life. That was the reason for the move to California. When he was offered it, he called Louise and asked her what she thought.

“You would definitely have more us time,” she said. “I’d like that a lot.”

The next time they went out, he proposed marriage. He was surprised that she said yes, But she had.

A deer watched him from a distance behind some trees. He finished his sandwich and slipped his pad and pencil into his hand. Slowly he sketched, trying not to scare the deer. The deer seemed to understand that she was in no danger.

You just can’t win

An argument with myself

There is nary a cloud in the sky. Well, maybe a few. Not enough to need an umbrella. Still maybe an umbrella is needed.

Naw, be brave.

What if it rains?

You know it’s not going to rain. No rain in the forecast.

That’s true but I don’t know.

Even if it does, you’ll get a little wet. Water never hurt anybody. Now did it?

What about the wicked witch of the west?

Yeah, well she deserved it. You’re not her. You’re not going to melt. So forget the umbrella and get on with your walk.

I’m getting my umbrella.

What, and look like a fool.

Those are big clouds.

And they are not rain clouds. Admit that. They’re nice clouds. The kind of clouds you want on a summer’s day.

Still. I should carry my umbrella.

People will laugh at you.

If it rains, I’ll be the one laughing.

Okay. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Then again maybe you’re right.

I walk a half mile and it starts raining.

See. I told you that you should carry an umbrella.

Cause for celebrating

They’re all on their way to work. Some translators. Some teachers. Some work in banks and some don’t. They all have one thing in common. They’re on the way to a job.

They catch the Emerald City Express from the Yellow Brick Road to Wiz Blvd. They all work for the Wizard. They are the happiest of people. Well, most of them are. Some still have a hangover from last night’s partying till all hours.

They partied to celebrate Dorothy’s return to the Emerald City. She was gone for sixteen months. Doesn’t seem like much but Oz had gone to hell in a handbasket since she took off for Kansas. Now she was back, and already she had reasserted her position as the Go-to Kid. She had taken care of the Wicked Witch of the North.

Three months ago, WWN, better known as Hissy Fitt, came down from the North. She had revenge on her mind. She’d made a bid for the Munchkin Sock franchise and lost it to Snow White and the Seven Sneezes.

As she rode her broom into town, she kept saying, “Winter is coming.” Can you imagine? “Winter is coming.” What in the name of the long legged frog was that all about?

Hissy took the Emerald City in three seconds flat. Oztown didn’t have a clue what hit it. It had no defenses to speak of. Before you could say, “Before you could say,” the City was snowed in. The Munchkins were freezing in their little booties. Oz was affright with fright. There was snow everywhere.

At first, there weren’t any complaints. The kids got some time off from school. The workers got to stay home and drink eggnog. A month later and all the workers had used up their vacation and sick leave. The kids were driving their parents nuts because they were downright bored. “Enough of snow ice cream and snowball fights. We want to go back to school and play with our friends,” the kids said in their high-pitched kiddie voices.

And there was no break in the snow. It just kept coming down. The roof of the stadium dome was weighed down with snow. So much so, the roof came crashing down upon Oz’s Green Mealies, the Wiz’s own Quidditch Team. Just when they were about to give up hopeski, Dorothy’s house landed on Hissy’s head and killed her. Only her pointed ears could be seen. And quickly they melted.

At that moment, the snow went away. Suddenly it was springtime in Alaska again. So, as you can see, there was cause for celebrating. For now, they suffer through the hangovers and get back to what they do best. Their jobs.