The Passenger

It’s a lovely day the sun shining, the valley recently scoured of smog and the temperature is spring like. Sweetie says we’re a month ahead of schedule maybe two, here in the middle of February it feels like the middle of March or maybe  even April.

She’s agreed to follow me to the car dealership. There’s a recall, and there’s that screeching sound the belts make when we start the Elantra, and it’s time for a lube and an oil change. We don’t drive it too often it’s the backup, the second string behind our Subaru Forester, but you never know when it will be called up to transport us here or there.
She follows me; she sees me talking to the service representative she sees that it’s taking some time. She’s right when she figures they found a way to turn some adjustments some new belts into a major repair or perhaps it’s a minor repair with a major repair price. She’s right; they want an arm and a leg. Good thing the car has an automatic transmission and I’m adept at driving with one hand. But it’s not necessary.

She hasn’t moved from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat. I drive most of the time when we go somewhere together. She looks at me. She knows what I’m thinking. She reminds me she knows how to drive. She is a good driver. Why is it that I feel more comfortable driving myself. It’s more than that bit of ego we have that we’re always better than the other person when it comes to driving. It’s more than the if we get into a tight spot we want to be in control, though sometimes when you’re in a tight spot no one is in control.

And then it occurs to me. I remember my grandmother driving my grandfather for years when he was no longer a safe driver. A reminder that even though they both died years ago is repeated often. When I drive invariably, I’ll see an old women and what looks like an older man though they are probably the same age in the car next to me. She’s driving; he’s the passenger. Proof that he no longer is capable, and somewhere in the back of my mind I think that could be me. I could be feeble and unable to drive, and my wife will have to take over the driving duties.
But not yet. I’m not there yet.

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Is it You Dahle?

We have a dog, her name is Dahle, she’s a brown and white Shih Tzu.

Today my wife asked me if I would mind picking up the dog from the groomer. She dropped her off earlier in the day, and when they call, I’ve agreed, I will pick her up. It always makes me uncomfortable when I pick up the dog. It should be as simple as saying I’m here to pick up Dahle, and then they bring her to me.

But no, invariably they have the dog in a crate at the front of the store with other dogs, and they say do you see your dog, and they point at the cages. I look and there are two Shih Tzu’s our dog is a Shih Tzu and one of the two looks like our dog, but the grooming has changed its appearance. It looks different. Our dog may still be in the back, and this is just a dog that looks like ours. I worry about embarrassing myself. What will I say if I open the cage and the Shih Tzu’s not ours and bites me? Or what if it acts friendly and I take it to the car just as the real owner shows up and confronts me. Accuses me of trying to steal the dog, and calls the police. I agree it’s not likely, but it’s something I worry about.

I open the cage the dog just sits there, I whisper her name, she looks like Dahle, but she doesn’t wag her tail. I look for her collar and her name tag. I remember it’s in my pocket removed before the grooming and now replaced by a bandana decorated with butterflies and ladybugs and other harbingers of spring, though spring is still months away. I can tell she’s anxious to leave, but any dog would be anxious to leave it’s no guarantee she’s our dog.

I put a collar on her. She doesn’t seem to mind. I lift her and set her on the ground. I can’t tell for sure if she’s ours or just happy that someone is there to spring her. We walk out to the car. She looks back over her shoulder. I open the door, and she tilts her head to the side and looks at me askance. Is it because she doesn’t recognize the car or because she needs my help to get in.

I pick her up and place her on the passenger seat. I get in and start driving home. She seems happy enough. I pet her. She may know me, but she’s not giving it away. I’m pretty sure I have the right dog, but not 100% positive. What if I get her home and the groomer calls and asks what I’m trying to pull. What if my wife comes home, and looks at this dog, maybe ours maybe not, and says what the hell. The dog follows me upstairs and sits on a rug at my feet. I pick up a book and start reading I’m having trouble concentrating, my wife will be home any minute now.

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The Slingshot

The Blue Jay, a rare visitor to Salt Lake, has been seen at her feeders. The feeders are in her backyard. The gate is closed. We watch for the bird from the front yard without success. “I’ll ask,” I say, “the backyard is the key.”

I knock on the door, no one answers, there next to the door is a bag of sunflower seeds left by a birder, one who has already seen the Blue Jay. We turn to leave as she opens the door. We stop. She sees the sunflowers and smiles.

We heard about the Blue Jay coming to your feeders. “You’re welcome to look for it in the backyard,” she says. She motions, the gate’s round there. We follow the driveway along the side of the house and open the gate. Moments later the Blue Jay lands near the feeders We don’t even need our binoculars. The bird flies to a nearby tree and waits; we watch and then it flies to the west.

She comes to the back door and steps out on the porch. She is wearing a nondescript robe, maybe gray.
“Have you seen the Jay?” she says.
Yes, it was just here thank you so much for your hospitality. What a great backyard for birds. We chat one bird lover to another and then she says it, “I hate magpies.” I didn’t know what to say. The magpie is one of my favorite birds. I should defend it, but I don’t say anything.
“I saw one kill a baby bird,” she says.
I still can’t think of an appropriate response. Everyone needs to eat comes to mind, but I remain silent. Does she also think raptors should become vegetarians?

“I have a slingshot,” she says, “I shoot them.”

I remember my childhood and how cool a slingshot is. Maybe I shot at birds back then. I don’t remember. I tell myself that I’d remember if I’d killed one. I feel better.

I was about to ask, when she says, “I use marbles.” I’ll bet they’re cat eyes, I think. Lot’s of birds are killed by cats, and now she’s firing cat eyes at magpies.

The Blue Jay returns. We turn to look. It seems bigger than the Scrub Jays we’re used to seeing, maybe the white wing bar or the crest make it look larger.

We thank her again and leave. Driving away we see a couple of magpies. I roll down the window and shout a warning.

Watch out for the magpie assasin she has feeders but she also has a slingshot, and cat eye marbles and a cold heart. They bank to the left and head west away from the danger.

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She’s going through the closet. It’s Tuesday morning, the day she checks in for a pep talk and to take her turn standing on a scale. She says she’s looking for her skinny pants. It doesn’t mean what you think. The pants aren’t skinny, designed for a person with a slim build, but rather pants that weigh less than the others. She has two pairs, one in her left hand the other in her right, both on hangars. She like lady justice weighs them. I suggest she go in her bra and panties.

I would draw a cartoon if I could. It would have four frames. In the first frame, an overweight woman dressed in ordinary clothes, standing on the scale for her weight-watchers® weigh-in. Clothes, she could wear to work or to lunch with her friends. Clothes suitable for the entire day.

Frame two, the same woman but now in shorts and a sleeveless blouse. It’s December, and a push of arctic air has just arrived, but a little shivering is the price one pays. She would be barefoot, but weigh-in rules allow her to remove her shoes. She’ll weigh in but will have to change her clothes before continuing her day.

Frame three is the same woman wearing the panties and bra I suggested my wife wear this morning while she was weighing her weigh-in clothes.

Frame four, and yes the same overweight woman, the view from behind, stark naked. She records a new low for her weight – but what of next week.

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Black Friday

We seldom choose our last words to a loved one. They slip away when we’re not paying attention, like the setting sun. They’re part of our life, we feel the warmth of their touch, and then they’re gone. When Mom finally died she’d been gone for a long time, a series of mini strokes stole what made her ours, and we never got to say goodbye. The shell that remained was someone we didn’t know though it looked like her, a reminder of what we’d lost. Dad died suddenly on Black Friday on his way home from a cruise when his failing heart stopped beating. He was buried six days later on mom’s birthday. I didn’t choose my last words to dad not knowing they were my last, but I got lucky.

Dad had called me a couple of days before he left on his last cruise. The conversation was a familiar one. “Did you hear what Hillary said,” he asked.
“I don’t know dad, that everyone deserves healthcare,” I said.
“Nope, she said that businesses don’t create jobs.”
“And you heard this where,” I asked.
“Fox News,” he said.

He spent the next ten minutes catching me up on the world according to Fox while I shared my view of the world we live in. Dad liked to argue; he enjoyed the sparring. He knew he wouldn’t persuade me or be persuaded by me. He’d always chuckle and end the conversation in the same way.
“Where did I go wrong with you kids,” he’d say.

I wished him a pleasant cruise, said goodbye and then said, “I love you dad.” And he replied, ”I love you son.”

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Bird Doctor

Birder:[1] an observer or identifier of wild birds in their natual surroundings.

The UPS guy just delievered a package. I saw him coming and opened the door. He was smiling as he handed me the package. He tilted his head toward my car. He was looking at the license plate (BURDR). “Bird Doctor,” he said., his grin growing, like he’d just won the lottery. “Right,” I said not wanting to spoil his day. He whistled as he skipped and hopped his way back to the big brown truck.

[1]: “Birder.” Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary 2014. Electronic

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And I Hate Billboards

I believe; I do; that corporate America is slowly but surely adopting the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. The Ferengi, if you lack the requisite cultural knowledge, is a warp capable species of humanoids from the Alpha Quadrant. They may lack the ten commandments, but they have their Rules of Aquisition. Rule 97, “Enough is never enough,” and rule 239, “Never be afraid to mislabel a product.”

And I hate billboards. I hate the shape, a rectangle, like a football field, sometimes altered like the one I just passed, with a half moon atop and to the left side. It’s designed to accommodate the hair on the head of a woman, a shameless huckster.

The straight line of the rectangle is distorted, the head, or at least the hair on the head fills the half-moon poking from the top of the rectangle. It’s purpose to make the image of the woman more real, the woman holding or wearing, or pointing to the mislabeled product. A product that couldn’t possibly do all the things she claims for it.

I pine for the days of “just a little bit will do you.” At least it made a claim I could test. Now its more is better, a dose that is certain to kill if not the body then the spirit. And then, noticing the birds, I laugh. The birds that grace the top of her poking up head. She’s wearing a crown of starlings. I’ve already forgotten what she’s selling. I’m watching the starlings pooping on her head.

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