A Slow Boat to China

The seagulls called the ship out to sea. The S.S. Majesty answered with three blasts of its horn. It was the ship‘s final call, urging the passengers to board before she packed up.

From the ship’s, Alice searched the crowd for John. “He will not come. I knew it.”
As she was about to give up and leave the cruise, she spotted John getting out of a cab. He paid the cab driver and grabbed his luggage.

She ran down the gangplank and called out to him, “I’m over here.”

He saw her and lugged his suitcases toward the ship.

“Hurry,” she said.

She wrapped her arms around and gave him one of her best kisses. “I didn’t think you’d be able to get away. But you did.”

“There was no way I was about to miss going away with you.”

She laughed, her anxiety slipping away. She glanced at his luggage. “You have everything?”

“I don’t need much.”

“You got your passport?”

“Passport?”

“Yes,” she said.

“I don’t have a passport.”

“You don’t have a passport? Get out of here. You have a passport.”

“I don’t.”

Alice looked at John with amazement. Alice pushed him away from her. “I’m leaving. I thought you were coming with me.”

“I am.”

“But you don’t have a passport.”

“We can go to Canada.”

“You need a passport to get into Canada.”

“Mexico?”
“Got to have a passport.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

She shook her head. “I’m leaving.”

Alice turned and boarded the ship. On the deck, she watched John slip away into the crowd.

A tall handsome man with the deep blue eyes sidled up to her. “I have a passport.”
She looked up at him. For approximately ten seconds, she was ready to swoon, then she came back to reality and stiffened her back. “You’re not my type.”
“What do you mean I’m not your type? Just what type do you think I am?”
“A man.”

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Spoiled Rotten

Madeleine Snipe was one spoiled rotten little girl. I’m here to tell you she was spoiled rotten to the core. So spoiled she’d get down right persnickety if’n a body called her Maddy. It was Miss Madeleine to regular folks, and Madeleine to her nearest and dearest, thank you very much. And what Miss Madeleine wanted Miss Madeleine got.  ‘Cause her daddy was the richest man in five counties. Come to think of it, he was the richest man in the whole darn state.

When Miss Madeleine was nigh on three years old, she decided she had to have a tricycle. And not just any tricycle. It had to be a hot red tricycle with a motor on it. She didn’t see the need in peddling. That was a complete waste of her time. Peddling was for them who needed their exercise. Being she had the waist of a goddess, why would she be in the need of exercise?

When she started school she demanded a servant to follow her around, carrying her books and such and responding to her every need. Not just any servant either. He had to be a tall, dark and handsome fellow. And he wasn’t about to wear any old thing. He had to wear a tuxedo. This, she believed, would make others mind her status as someone who was to be looked up to. Then, from her pedestal, she could give out her blessings upon the truly deserving.

And talk about snooty. She was not about to attend the Debutante Cotillion until she was crowned its Queen. She drove up to that Cotillion in her bright red Ferrari. When she stepped out of that Ferrari, she walked onto the red carpet being rolled out just for her in her Pierre Cardin gown. As she walked up the steps to the ballroom, the carpet was rolled up behind her. It was her red carpet, and she darn well was not going to share it with anybody. 

When it came to marrying, she would only marry a blue blood. To be her dearly beloved she hitched up with Beau Beau Beauregard, of the Louisiana Beauregards, not the Mississippi Beauregards. It didn’t matter that he had fallen out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. The Louisiana Beauregards were descended from royalty. If Miss Madeleine cared about anything, she cared that one and all recognized her for the blue blood flowing through her veins.

Her Daddy, being happy when his precious Princess smiled upon him with those teeth of hers that were the best that money could buy, gave her a mansion on a hill for a wedding present. And it wasn’t just any mansion. At first, she insisted on the Taj Mahal. But she changed her mind when she found out the Taj Mahal was a mausoleum. For you folks that don’t know what a mausoleum is, it’s where you put dead people after they’ve died. So she had to settle for the Versailles Palace. Anything for his one and only darling daughter.

Beau Beau and Miss Madeleine returned from their around-the world-cruise-on-the-Queen-Mary-2 honeymoon. They settled into their new residence as easy as slidin’ off a greasy log back’ards. The following Saturday afternoon the creme de la creme of American society came to tête-à-tête with our Miss Madeleine and her Prince Charming. It was a chance for the high societies to get by and say their howdies. Or else.

Of all the times God would have to be off duty, it just had to be that Saturday afternoon. Seems he was on the greens finishing up a game of nine hole with Arnold Palmer and the Archangel Gabriel. That had to be the only way a tornado could slip through and head straight for Miss Madeleine’s gathering at the Versailles Palace.

That tornado went through the Palace like a lawn mower. It hit half the houses in the state and then it gave the Palace a haircut, leaving nothing behind. Fortunately Miss Madeleine and her guests ducked for cover.

Unfortunately Prince Charming didn’t have the sense God gave a billy goat. He dashed over to save the Venus de Milo sitting out on a stand for show and gave it a grab. Just as he turned to join his beloved, that tornado picked Charming up into its arms and threw him right into the state capitol building butt last.

Well, you’d think Miss Madeleine would have gone into mourning from her tippy-tippy toes to her fake blonde hair and crying all over everybody. But she didn’t. She had always wanted an occasion to wear black, and now she had one.

Once they had settled Charming his last resting place, it was time to get down to brass tacks. Miss Madeleine did what she always did. She made her demands known. And her demands were that FEMA and the Federal Disaster folks replace her beloved Versailles, and not just as good as new. Better.

“No, no, no,” Mr. FEMA said.

“No, no, no,” Mrs. Federal Disaster Aid said.

“Oh, yes, yes, yes,” Miss Madeleine said.

“We have to take care of all those other folks who lost their homes,” the head of Homeland Security said.

“Now, y’all just don’t get it,” Miss Madeleine let them know.

And they didn’t. But the folks in that part of the state did. They knew they would never hear the end of it if Miss Madeleine Snipe-Charming didn’t get her way. She’d throw a hissy fit that would make the Civil War look like a hootinanny. They started a petition. And that petition went all the way up to the Oval Office in the White House.

The President took one little gander at the petition and said, “Doggone if’n we’re gonna.”

His Chief of Staff disagreed. He too knew that Miss Madeleine would come calling on him and bawl her eyes out, then blame him ’cause she was near blind. “Mr. President, please. ‘Cause you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew.”

The President looked over and saw the desperation in his Chief’s eyes. “Well, what about all those other folks?”

“I know,” Chief said, “and they know.”

So it was lickety split, and Miss Madeleine had her new Palace. Everybody else in that part of the country ended up living in tents.

Three months later one Wednesday night, a tornado, and I mean this one was a tsunami of a tornado, went blasting across the landscape. It picked up the new Palace and slammed it down hard enough to make folks believe it was an earthquake. Then it took off for only God knows where.

When the dust had cleared, folks gathered round and saw that a house had landed on the Palace, and on top of Miss Madeleine. All that was showing were her shoes. Out of the house stepped a young girl. She looked around at all the stunned folks, then she said to the puppy dog tucked in her arms, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

Special toes

The other day I was cleaning out my parents’ attic. It had not been cleaned out since God knew when. I knew my parents were not up to it. They were getting on in years and could no longer climb the stairs. So I took a weekend off.

I emptied box after box, making a list of items. My parents could choose what was to keep and what was to be gotten rid of.

It was late Sunday afternoon when I came across an old wooden chest filled with my stuff. A chest I had forgotten existed, packed with mementoes from my childhood and teen years. I unlatched the beast and opened it. It squeaked.

The chest was stuffed to the brim. There was all sorts of paraphernalia. A baseball cap and a trophy, my scout uniform and my high school yearbook and other treasures. Setting them on the floor next to me, I soon had a pile of yesterdays. I was almost through when I noticed a picture of a toe. How could I have forgotten that toe?

I took the picture and studied it. Sure ‘nough it was Joey’s eleven-year-old toe.

Joey’s family moved into the house next door. From the first, Joey and I took to each other. All that summer we did everything together. Bike riding. Baseball. Glueing together model airplanes. Watching monster flicks while baby-sitting his little sister.

One afternoon we rode our bikes over to the swimming hole on the Rustin’s farm. We went skinny-dipping. Finally we crawled out of the water and laid out on the grass, looking at the sky, proclaiming what each cloud was.

As we went to pull on our socks, I looked over at his bare feet and said, “Wow, you have six toes.” I couldn’t believe it. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.

Joey quickly pulled on his socks to hide his extremities.

I grabbed his arm and stopped him.

“Don’t,” he yelled.

“B-b-b-but that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” I gazed in wonder at that foot. Then I realized he didn’t have an just one extra toe on. Both feet had six toes. “How come you have the extra toes and I don’t?”

“Usually kids laugh when they see my feet. You’re not laughing.”

“Laughing? Why would I laugh? I want extra toes like you. How can I get them?”

“Don’t know. I was born with them.”

When I got home that night, I asked my mother, “Joey has six toes on each foot. How come I don’t have six toes?”

My mom thought for a couple of minutes, then, “Joey’s special.”

“How come I’m not special?” I asked.

“But you are. Only in a different way.”

“I want to be special like Joey.”

When Dad got home, I confronted him.

He said, “Joey’s special in his own way. And you are special in your own way.”

I wasn’t satisfied. When I went to the pediatrician, I brought up the subject.

His answer, “You’re special the way you are. Joey needs a little bit extra to be special.”

“I want you to give me extra toes,” I demanded.

“I don’t have any to spare.”

I was not one to take no for an answer. I wanted to be special like Joey.

Joey and I spent the next month of Saturdays, scheming on how I could get those two toes I wanted. We thunk and we thunk as young boys often do. Finally we agreed that there was no other answer than digging up a kid’s grave and sawing off two of his toes.

Then we realized we didn’t have to do no digging. The following Friday night happened to be Halloween. We decided Halloween at midnight would be the perfect time to catch a ghost kid. We’d get one of the ghosts as they returned from their hauntings to the grave.

We arrived at the cemetery early. We were not going to miss our chance. The moon was out and it was showing its smiley face for all the world to see. We pulled out two brown paper bags of peanut butter sandwiches and a canteen of water and consumed the food. Then we watched.

Just about midnight the first ghost arrived and headed for its grave. It was a old woman. And she had big teeth. We decided this one was not the one for the toes. Slowly more and more ghosts passed us by. Now you’d think we should have been scared. But we weren’t. We’d seen enough haunted house movies to know just what to do if we had to take one on. We had more bravery than we had sense.

Finally a eleven year old kid came by us. Before he could slide back into his grave, we jumped him. He slugged me first, then Joey. I jumped back on him and Joey grabbed his skeleton arms.

“I got him,” Joey shouted. “Get the knife and cut off the toes.”

“No,” he screamed. “Please don’t. I have to keep my toes.”

Out of curiosity, I asked,”Why?”

“If I don’t return with my whole body, I can’t get back in. And you don’t know what it’s like when they don’t let you in.”

“But I need just two toes,” I said.

Just as I was about to slice the beasts off, he bit Joey. Joey let go of the kid and he was gone.

I began to cry. Joey joined me with my crying.

“What are you two doing here this late?” came a voice behind a flashlight. “Answer me.”

We told him about the toes I needed.

“Oh, I can fix that.”

The man grabbed Joey’s foot and took out a giant knife.

I jumped him and knocked the knife out of his hand. As he went for the knife, he released Joey’s foot from his hold.

Joey and I up and ran as fast as we could away from that cemetery. When we made it home, I said to Joey, “You keep your special toes. I think I’m special enough.”

Did it snow in Eden?

This one sounds like a theology question, doesn’t it? Yet here I am, throwing the question out there. I am here to say that perhaps it did.

Perhaps after all that garden tending and naming names business, the First Couple needed a little vacay. God decided, “Hey, guys, you just won a all expenses paid vacation to the North Slope.” Then He showed the two the resort virtual reality style without the headgear.

Unlike us, Adam and Eve didn’t need longjohns. They didn’t need to bundle up. They didn’t need ear muffs. None of that heavy winter clothes gig. They got the bennies of winter without the suffering through the downers. No heavy duty blizzards to suffer through. And when it came to skiing, they had perfect balance.

There was that time Adam was up on the slopes with Eve. They were in their Hawaiian garb. Shorts and Hawaiian shirts all decked out with flowers. They stood on the slope, skis on their feetsies.

“Shall we?” Adam asked.

“Race you,” Eve said.

So off they went. Faster than a speeding bullet. The snow was all packed down for a good ride. They came to a place where the land dropped fifty feet. Did they stop? Heck, no. Down they went and caught themselves standing. They were having one whissssss of a ride.

Up ahead there were some trees. Adam found that he was heading straight toward the biggest tree of all. It was like one of those Sequoias. Closer, closer, closer he came. He couldn’t stop himself. He made one last effort to turn. Didn’t work. He slammed right into the big galloot. Maybe the biggest Sequoia ever was. Splat!

It was one of those splats you don’t want to hear. Especially if it happens to you. It’s like Wiley Coyote slamming into the side of a mountain. A big ouch. That’s what it was.

Eve pulled up beside Adam. “You okay?” she asked the way she always asked.

“Aw shucks,” Adam said. The only injury he had was those big stars circling his head like they do in cartoons. After a couple of sips of hot toddy he was back on the slopes.

Talk about health insurance. Adam and  Eve had the best medical care that money could not buy. They had God. And God never let them down.

The Hound of Culann

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, here is an Irish tale. It is based on “Táin Bó Cúalnge”. In English, that’s The Cattle Raid of Cooley.

The Blood of Cu Chulainn

In the long long ago days before Patrick came to the Emerald Isle, before the Holy Man chased the snakes away, before the Blessed Saint converted the Irish folk away from their pagan ways, there was a mighty mighty man. Mightier than Hercules of the Romans and the Greeks, Mightier than Thor of the Norsemen. Mightier than Paul Bunyan.

His name was Cu Chulainn, the Hound of Culann. Known by some as The Cuke. For one thing, it was easier to pronounce. For a t’other, the mighty mighty man had a tendency to run amucksky from time to time. His amucksky was enough to throw the Incredible Hulk into a corner, crying for his mommykins. That’s how badass The Cuke was.

Now that we’ve met our hero, it’s time to meet the Villain. Notice I capitalize Villain. Her name was Medb, but we’ll call her Maeve. Take Catwoman, stir in a dose of Mystique, throw in a dollop of Bella Lestrrange, then toss in a dollop of Morgan Le Fay, and you’ve got Maeve.

Being bested in a contest could get her dander up. She did not take lightly to losing. Take the time she was runner-up for Miss Teenage Celt of Ireland. Miss Teenager Celt dropped dead the day after her coronation. Everybody said it was poison but they couldn’t prove it. There was no CSI in those days.

Before that, she was supposed to be Paris’ lady love. Maeve was none to happy that he ran off with Helen. Maybe that was why Troy ended up the way Troy ended up. And when Arthur came calling, then change his mind and went after Guinevere. Well, it was bye-bye-Miss-American-Pie for Camelot. As you can see, Maeve was used to getting her way. When it came to Maeve, it was like Nancy Sinatra sang. You didn’t want to go messing where you shouldn’t be messing. Just ask her four husbands. After all, she was the daughter of the High King of Ireland.

One night, after playing a game of frisky with her fourth husband, Ailill, King of Cannaucht, the two got into an argument of who had the bestest–and the mostest–stuff. Laughing, she said, “I’ll show you.” So they jumped out of bed and had their servants bring all their treasures to the Great Hall: silver buckets, golden pots, rings, jewelry, sheep, horses and pigs. People were really into livestock in those days.

When they got to cattle, Maeve turned up one bull short. That just wouldn’t do. There was no way that the daughter of the High King was going to be one bull short.

Now she figured that since she was one bull short, why not get the best bull. She decided she wanted Donn Cualinge, The Brown Bull of Cualinge. But he was up in Ulster. There was nothing to do but go and get him. Unfortunately, the bull was guarded by none other than The Cuke.

Maeve called in all the favors owed her and Ailill. She sent messengers to the Four Counties. “We’re going to war.”

To ready herself, she gave her fashion designer, and all-around good dress maker, a hoot and a holler. He was someone who had dressed queens from one end of the planet to the other. You name the princess and he’d done her get-up. Now Maeve needed some get-up and go for her ownself. And she was about to get it. He had saved his best work for Maeve. After all, his blood bled green. “I have just the thing for you, dahling,” he said.

And it was just the thing. A silver helmet that left her long red hair free to flow in the wind. Golden armor that reflected the sun, and yet revealed the physicality of her physicality. In it, her curves had curves.

And the piece de resistance was her makeup. Her makeup artist painted her face with such war paint that it could’ve scare the bejeesus out of Hades. She looked her best kick butt. And, of course, her chariot was the Ferari of Chariots from none other than Chariots Ellite. It was the latest CE-337.

She seated herself beside her driver, then the chariot pulled out in front o her army. With her green eyes ablaze with war, she commanded, “On to Ulster.” Away she went, leading her troop to war. As they made their way through the countryside, people lined the roads to watch the parade go by.

Since every war needs a theme song, her men marched onward, singing, “Faigh scuab agus nigh do chuid fiacia.” Translated, it meant “Get a brush and clean your teeth.” Maeve was way ahead of her time when it came to hygiene. She showered twice a day. She’s the one who came up with “cleanliness is next to godliness.”

Guiding the way to Ulster was Fergus mac Roich. Once upon a time he was King of Ulster, but no more. Though he was on the outs with the current king of Ulster, he was still buddy-buddy with The Cuke. He secretly did a Paul Revere and sent his friend a message, “The Irish are coming, the Irish are coming.” Then he led the queen here, there and everywhere, but not to Ulster. To give his friend time to prepare.

“Fergie, what are you trying to do, Big Boy?” Maeve asked with her best Mae West. “Why’s it taking so long?”

“Well,” Fergus answered, “it’s a long way to Tipperary.”

“We’re not going to Tipperary.”

“That’s not what your husband told me.”

Ailill defended himself. “I didn’t say Tipperary. I said temporary. We’re going to Ulster, you goof.”

“Don’r call me a goof. Apologize or I’ll have you for lunch.”

Not wanting to distract from the current campaign, Ailill apologized.

“Just watch it,” Fergus said.

Queen Maeve was tired of the tit for tat. “We’re going to Ulster, and you are a goof.”

“Why didn’t you say so?” Fergus asked. “Ulster’s that way. At least, I think it is. Without the gps, I’m not for certain.”

“You’re just trying to put things off,” Maeve said. “Now let’s get to it before I turn you into a frog.”

“You can do that?” Fergus wanted to know.

“You bet your sweet booties. Now on to Ulster.”

“Would you like to go  the secret way? That way we’ll get the Bull without anybody knowing. And we’ll avoid The Cuke.”

“Cuke, smuke. We have an army. We have two armies Ulster will be no match for us. Besides they have the Curse.”

The Curse? you ask. Years earlier, a witch, one of Macbeth’s three-bies, placed a Curse on the Ulstermen. When an army approached, they would go off into a little snooze. Because The Cuke was a superhero, the Curse never affected him.

Maeve’s army came to a river. The heads of four of her warriors were facing her, sticking out their tongues.

“Who did this?” Maeve demanded.

“Only The Cuke could do such a thing,” Fergus answered the sixty-four thousand dollar question.

“We’re just going to have to whop up on this Cuke,” the queen said, and she meant it.

The great warrior Froech of the mac Fidaigs stepped forward. “Your majesty, I’d be pleased as punch if you would let me do the pleasure.” And off he went, taking nine buddies with him. The Cuke took them out like Captain America took out Red Skull.

Next up was another group of warriors with muscles up the ying-yang. The Cuke did a Muhammad Ali on them, KO-ing them like there was no tomorrow.

Over the next few days, The Cuke stacked up the bodies and begged Maeve to keep ’em coming. There was no way she was going to get past him if The Cuke had anything to say about it. Unfortunately he didn’t have anything to say about it. All the rough housing and beating the crap out of guys who wanted to be the next champion of the world had worn him out.

Maeve managed to sneak past him without her army. She picked up the Bull and slipped him past The Cuke. And then she took off, heading back home.

The Cuke gave chase. But it wasn’t much of a chase. His energy had sapped out and he dropped. That was when daddy showed up. Lugh was a god and he had come to get his boy back in shape. Fro three days and three nights, Lugh put his healing magic to work.

The Cuke recovered and chased Maeve and her army. Then he wreaked his vengeance on her men. Maeve begged for more folks to go out and take on The Cuke. “Are you crazy?” the asked, knowing that she was half cuckoo. She promised them gold and sex, and silver and sex, and sex and sex. She was very persuasive. So they went after The Cuke. They met him in the swamp known as Blood Iron. They did not make it back.

Finally she called for The Cuke’s foster brother, Ferdia. She promised and she promised and she promised. But he kept saying, “Ain’t no way, lady. He’s my bro.” Then she lied, “He said that slaying you would be so easy peasy.”

Ferdia had his pride. There was no way he was going to take that from anybody. Even a brother. So he armored up and headed down to the river.

“Bro, I am not going to fight you,” The Cuke said.

“You got no choice,” Ferdia said, no realizing he’d been tricked by the Wicked Witch of the West.

First it was short spears they fought with. The it was long spears. Then it was large stabbing spears. Each time The Cuke protected himself with a shield that would take three large men to lift. Ferdia was elegant with his shield maneuvers as well.The next morning it was stabbing spears. The day after that, swords were the weapons. After each fight, the two spent the night, reminiscing and toasting each other and feasting till their bodies were filled. Then they slept like logs.

Finally, on a bright summer’s morning, the two met for one last battle. They put on their best armor. Then, like Hector and Achilles, they charged each other. Ferdia swung hard, each swing barely missing. The Cuke’s temper got the best of him. He leaped in the air, brought the spear down, drove through Ferdia. Ferdia dropped to the ground.

The Cuke’s temper left him. All he was left with was sorrow. Uncontrollable sorrow. Holding his brother in his arms, tears ran down his face. Then Ferdia died. The Cuke lowered the limp body to the grass. Then he sang a lament.

The next morning he was joined by the men of Ulster. The Curse had been lifted. Then they went to battle. When Ulstermen went to battle, they really went to battle, slashing and bopping and cutting and thrusting and do all sorts of un-choreographed maneuvers that looked really cool. They fought the men of Connaught and they fought till the men of Connaught had no more fight in them.

Realizing the foolishness of it all, Ulster and Cannaught smoked the peace pipe. Fergus was the one who summed it up best. “What was it all about? A cow. Can you believe that?”

The Cuke joined in with the sentiment. “Let her have her stupid cow. Let’s go home.”

And for seven years there was peace in the land. And when men gathered around a fire, they sang of the Cattle Raid of Cooley. And remembered fondly the deeds of Cu Chulainn, the Hound of Culann.