Category Archives: Human Interest

Dumb Stuff with Tommy McGee – 5

Dumb-Stuff

Hi. Welcome to Dumb Stuff.

I’m Tommy and this is what I think about stuff that’s mostly dumb.

Today…white people.

Dammit, white people, what is your problem?

Hold on. Maybe I jumped the gate there a bit. Let me back up a step.

I’m an American. I’m a white guy. This was not my choice of course. It was just the universal flow of things ordained by whatever cosmic dust gathered the moment I was conceived and born into this world…and here in America.

Despite the current state of things, I’m generally proud to be an American and whatever comes with that. I’m also good with being a white guy. What’s my option? I can’t change the facts of my existence, nor do I disavow what or who I am. I suppose, if I felt awful enough about it, I could move or I could go about appropriating someone else’s culture, but that seems like a lot of work considering I will always be found out to be a white American male. Anything else is just…phony.

Let me say too, that I feel I work hard, that I have my struggles and challenges the same as anyone else and that I am a good person at my core. It has never been a goal of mine to hold power over, or oppress another for any reason, personal gain or otherwise. I feel we are all just trying to get through it the best we can.

However, the recent flare-ups of truly awful behavior from people whom I’m categorized with, causes me great distress and great embarrassment, forcing me to ask what’s up with the white people.

You’re calling the police on others who are doing nothing wrong at all beyond being different than you. You’re calling people out or physically attacking them for expressing something related to their personal heritage or whatever because what…they stepped on your delicate sensibilities?

There are real crimes being committed in this country that require the focused efforts of dedicated police forces everywhere. A family having a cookout, a kid cutting grass, an elderly man taking a walk, a women wearing a t-shirt that shows the name of some other country on it and the like are not crimes. These aren’t even things that should draw your attention. If they are, you should take a moment to determine what sort of jacked-up thinking is going on in your head to make you so mad and irrational.

And…as if that weren’t enough when you aren’t calling the police, you’re attacking these people (verbally and otherwise) yourselves… in public… because I don’t even know why. Some sort of superiority complex? Some sort of inferiority complex? Plain old numb-butt ignorance?

This is just dumb. I thought we were all better than this.

Now, of course, this does not apply to all white people, so don’t lose focus and spin-off on that. But as you lump, so you will be lumped and there are enough white people doing enough dumb things to make us all look bad and that should be generating a sense of grave concern among us.

You see, what I have learned over the years, is that while I may not recognize it or feel as though I propagated it, or have in some way seen a direct profit from it, I am likely the beneficiary of what people call the “white privilege”. We all are.

Get clear on this. The notion of white privilege, or anything that serves to put one person or group over another, is not a good thing. It doesn’t make you superior to anything or anyone. And should you decide to act as though it means something, the only thing that “white privilege” has done is make you an asshole.

If you judge someone else to be so different from you that you are compelled to call the police, or try to impose your will on them, or are going out of your way to tell them, whom you don’t even know, that they are bad, or don’t belong, or are destroying the fiber of whatever and should go back to their own country and whatnot, you are not being a good person. And you pretty much miss the point of whatever they taught you in Kindergarten and the very essence of what America is supposed to be about…entirely. And you should shut up. Because your ignorance is showing. Hell, it’s not just showing. It has crawled into the tiny driver’s seat of your consciousness and has taken over to make you do stupid things.

It makes the rest of us feel like we have to apologize for a drunk uncle who shows up to a wedding with no pants on, who then tries to make out with the bride and finishes with a face plant into the cake…every day.

There is no good reason for this behavior. We are supposed to be an evolving species that strives to be better. You are not helping. And if you can’t help, seriously, at least try to do no harm. Try to use any privilege you may have, perceived or otherwise, to lift someone up, not tear them down. Think before your act. Take some deep breaths. Count to ten or one hundred and ten or whatever it takes for you to chill out a bit. Everyone has a camera these days. We know who you are. We see you and you reveal the truth of your ugly self to everyone. Is that what you want? I hope not.

We all come from somewhere. Remember that.

If you can’t, it’s just gonna more of the same old same old. More dumb stuff.

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Dumb Stuff” entries, search for Dumb Stuff at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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Dumb Stuff with Tommy McGee – 4

Dumb-Stuff

Hi. Welcome to Dumb Stuff.

I’m Tommy and this is what I think about stuff that’s mostly dumb.

Today…all the rage over comedy.

Go ahead. Pour yourself a fresh one, grab a bowl of pretzels and get settled in. This nut takes a hot minute to crack, but I’ll try to get at it as simply as possible.

Lately, there seems to a lot of uproar over the things we hear from comedians and their related comedy.

Over the course of human history, leagues of comedians have been labeled offensive. Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison, Sarah Silverman, Joan Rivers, Ricky Gervais and more have all been labeled offensive or worse at one time or another. As some would have you believe, they are dangerous to all that is good and holy in our delicate society. While that is some serious bullshit, the ultimate point is that offensive comedy is nothing new. Technically speaking, neither is our love/hate relationship with offensive material. While a lot of it seems like bravado, we seem very easy to offend. But, come on…really? I can think of about a hundred things that upset me way more than the comedy stylings of the offensive.

Now, I want to be extra careful about saying what is offensive, because ultimately, the definition of offensive is subjective.

I don’t know a good definition of comedy off the top of my head. I can’t tell you, from a textbook point of view, what the value of comedy is to our society, but I’m pretty sure we need it.

Comedy is a reflection of who we are in our moment in time, presented to us in often disruptive, outrageous, inflated and absurd ways. It needs to cut through our common sense defenses to get to our more primal selves in order to elicit a response. The desired primary response is laughter and levity. The secondary desired response is some level of awareness, a chance to reflect on who we are or what the message is and why certain things are funny to us.

While we may think the times we live in are the very darkest and most troubling, so did our fathers and our father’s fathers and so on. Everyone lives through the worst of times depending on how they see it. Through all that struggle, there is a human need and desire to laugh, if for no other reason than to forget for a moment about how freakin’ miserable things are and the need to just blow some steam.

As times change, our sensitivities change. What we laughed at years ago, may be unacceptable material today and that is OK. There is plenty out there to make fun of. It’s a live and learn thing. The challenge we face now is that virtually everyone in the world has access to everyone else in the world and we all have the ability to label something we experience as “offensive” – based on our own biases – and can propagate that belief, incite rage and all kinds of things – globally – in an instant.

So what’s offensive? I laugh at a lot of stuff because funny is funny and I’m not that easily offended by comedy because I believe I understand the intent.

My friend Jeggs says everything – e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g – is funny, all the time…until it isn’t. I think I understand that, but it’s probably more complex than I imagine.

What we sometimes get caught up on, is the difference between the comedic message and the messenger. That, and this herd-level, bandwagon mentality where we demand instant “justice” for things that upset us without really doing the work to define intent.

Like I said, comedy is supposed to make us see how ridiculous we can be. Our common understanding of how silly we are as a species is what makes comedy work. So the message of comedy – the content – is the social commentary, the mirror we hold before ourselves so that we may better understand our shortcomings and learn not to take ourselves so seriously as we try to work through them.

Comedians, and their associated vehicles, like TV sitcoms or a live performances, are the delivery systems for that social commentary.

Let me be clear that I’m not advocating or approving hateful, inflammatory material that has the intent of shredding the moral fiber of our existence, intentionally causing pain or intentionally causing damage. That is not comedy. And there are plenty of tone-deaf jokes which can be found offensive, or at the least insensitive, and miss the mark on delivery. But while the intent may be to shock, it is rarely to do harm. Comedians feed off laughter. There’s no value in your ire.

Like an actor, or a singer or whatever, there should be a clear delineation between what a person does as a person and what that person does in a profession. I mean, we don’t consider an actor to be a Nazi, or hold them accountable for Nazi beliefs or hate crimes, just because he is cast somewhere in the role of Hitler. It is a representation of information with the intent of getting some kind of awareness into the social consciousness.

We need that. We need different ways to learn about what we do as we trip through our daily lives. We need to know when we are doing something stupid, dangerous, insensitive and needs to be changed and we need to be able to celebrate when we discover we might be doing something right. That is the beauty of art in all its forms, whether it pokes at your delicate sensibilities or not.

Now, if that actor who played Hitler goes home after work and in his own time and space, and in the skin of being regular old John B. Actor, hits the couch to start spewing his personal beliefs which are racist, hateful, divisive, threatening, harmful and more on social media or wherever, there is a problem.

That person can’t hide under the loose protections that comes with being a social commentator because instead of making a point through content, it is a reflection of that being’s personal belief system which they need to be responsible for. They still have the right to say whatever stupid, vile garbage they want. That is the right we get for living here. But they can’t expect that others will not want to respond in some way or that there could not be repercussions, like being called out on it or being fired from the company or group that they may represent or be associated with.

It is definitely a very fine line and the shades of gray that shift between dark and light can turn on an instant depending on who seems to be defining what is offensive in that moment. Generally, if you give it a moment, it will change.

Correction is good. We make course corrections in our lives every day, probably subconsciously, to make sure we continue going in what we perceive to be the right direction. But waging an all out assault on the notion that making fun or providing social insights through comedy with a coating of laughter to soothe the delivery are dangerous waters to tread.

Ultimately, comedy is like music. Some of it is offensive. To you. Or me. I have my preferences and you have yours. Who is to say which is correct? If you don’t like it, turn it off. Don’t listen to it. But you can’t make that judgement for everyone. Nor should you.

These are delicate times for everybody. Personally, I want to laugh as much as possible because it gives me hope that we aren’t as far gone as I fear. The moment we start taking ourselves too seriously, we are truly doomed. I hope we figure that out.

Till then, it’s just gonna more of the same old, same old – more dumb stuff.

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Dumb Stuff” entries, search for Dumb Stuff at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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Dumb Stuff with Tommy McGee – 3

Dumb-Stuff

Hi. Welcome to Dumb Stuff.

I’m Tommy, and this is what I think about stuff that’s mostly dumb.

Today…political zealots.

Let’s get at it.

My friend Louis says there are basically two things that guide him along his path and they have never let him down. They are common sense and beer.

If something doesn’t make sense to him, he works on it until it does. If it’s something doesn’t make sense and it’s beyond his control, he finds the best way in his mind to cope with it. It’s sort of a zen-like “let it go” philosophy because basically, it doesn’t make sense to him to waste energy grinding on it, especially if he can’t do anything about it.

He sees common sense as anything that can be figured out in a hot minute and that under the same circumstances, and with the same set of considerations, anyone else (in their right mind, as he puts it) would come to the same logical conclusion.

If you take a bite off a slice of pizza that just came out of the oven you are bound to torch the roof of your mouth. Anyone knows that. It’s common sense. If you know that and you do it anyway, Louis would say you are probably not right in your mind, because again, it’s common sense.

What stumps Louis these days, and me, and several of the others I speak to or hear from regularly is what seems to be a large step away from common sense. It’s evident in a  lot of things but most clearly illustrated by the latest wave of political vitriol generated from hardcore, short-sighted, mean-spirited, uninformed, under-informed, pig-headed, irrational, party loyalists who spew venom and ignorance as if it were their right, ordained to do so by God.

Now, we crawled around on that for a bit, because we all believe people have the right, at least as outlined by the constitution, to speak their piece, no matter how ignorant others may deem them to be. Intelligence, perceived or otherwise, is apparently not a condition for gaining the right to speak freely.

However, Louis will tell you that an ignorant man’s desire to speak his truth is like having the desire to dress a rhino in a tuxedo. While you may have the right and the notion to do it, it makes no sense and no good comes from it – for him, for the tuxedo or for the rhino. Louis is a Class A bar stool philosopher for sure.

Of course, all this comes at the risk of judging others. Which we know we should try to avoid. Then again, somebody has to say something.

I don’t really care much about what people have to say. As crazy as it gets, most of the time if you let them say it, they get it out of their system and go away. I don’t have to agree with them and if they say things that are offensive to me or to my people, I have the choice to go away myself, or handle it in a way that diffuses my frustrations.

What I care about is when actions overpower conversations. My granddad will tell you that a bad conversation is better than no conversation at all, because at least you are talking. And if you’re talking, and listening, there is a pretty good chance that the conversation will turn into something positive. Eventually.

What we are seeing in our politics today is actions overpowering conversations. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of words being said, but few actual conversations are taking place. The intent of the words are less about achieving anything and more about spewing anger, ignorance, self-righteous ideology and negativity. That all spoils the ground for fertile conversation.

Everyone is dug in and polarized. These hard-charging nubs seem so embedded and invested in their political rhetoric, and I mean dug in deep, that the opportunity for consideration, cooperation and rational, productive discussion is being extinguished like a lit match trapped under an inverted bar glass.

There is a clear “us versus them” mentality coming from both sides. Louis calls them Demi-don’ts and Republi-can’ts because they each blame the other for all the bad going on, promise the stars and moon in the spirit of change and accomplish absolutely zero. It makes no sense and it’s just dumb.

I liken this widespread, communally ignorant behavior to that of the Zax in the story by Dr. Seuss. Look it up. Two creatures intent on going to their destinations and getting their way in doing it without giving a single thought about the other. They end up blocking each other’s path. They are stubborn, unwilling to learn or change or even make a small adjustment to their mindset or process because of the entitlement they feel to self-actualize. It’s just blind, dumb ignorance for the purpose of principle.

And this is where the problem is. We can’t seem to suss it out. Common sense dictates this is an unhealthy and ultimately, self-destructive behavior. It’s behavior we would admonish our children for and yet these folks see no problems with it, or are at the very least, aggressively comfortable with settling into their ignorance and sharing it broadly.

Common sense dictates that someone along the line is gonna have to blink. They will have to set pride aside and suggest there may be a better way to achieve resolution beyond demanding everything go a certain way – because that’s the way they want it –  and undermining everything that may crimp the pure crazy.

America was built on compromise and cooperation. There are good people here who work hard to get through the day to day they best they can and would rather not have to deal with the philosophical zealotry that ultimately makes their jobs harder and provides fewer rewards. It’s frustrating and it’s soul-crushing to know that there are people out there, people with power and influence that would rather serve an ideology than to put the energy into honestly working for the common good. If everyone could see that and maybe try blinking, just a little bit, and take a little step back toward common sense, we might be able to see the bigger picture and paint it properly.

Till then, it’s just gonna more of the same old same old. More dumb stuff.

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Dumb Stuff” entries, search for Dumb Stuff at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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Dumb Stuff with Tommy McGee – 2

Hi. Welcome to Dumb Stuff.

I’m Tommy and this is what I think about stuff that’s mostly dumb.

Today…the Biden/Trump fight.

As you probably heard, both Donald Trump and Joe Biden have taken turns telling the press that, at some point or other – based on whatever the other has done – that each is confident he could and would give the other a solid beat down in a physical fight – to teach him a lesson.

Did you get all that?

Let’s face it, the whole kerfuffle is dumb! They can talk like that because they each wallow in the safety of being out of range of each other. Just like you putting stuff on the social media about folks you don’t like. You probably wouldn’t say it face to face, because if you did, someone might slap the shit out of your head.

These two nubs are never gonna fight. This nonsense is just taking up space that could be better used for the bigger stuff we should be talking about. I mean, it’s more embarrassing than amusing. It’s stupid.

However, I would be lying to you if, when I first heard this bubble up, that there wasn’t a small part of me that would actually like to see these two suit up and crawl into a ring somewhere. I mean, I’m not condoning any violence here (not that they could muster up enough energy to produce even minimal levels of violence) and I don’t believe there is any element of sport involved, but, if anything, the notion is so bizarre that for a moment, I thought, “Yeah, we should have them do that.”

I mean, it keeps coming up and they won’t let it die. Apparently, they are just not capable of moving on to the point that “threats” have been made or “gauntlets” have been thrown down. It’s like when you bump into that drunk guy in a bar – absolute mistake – totally innocent – could happen to anybody – but you caused a little bit of his drink to spill and instead of his hearing you say your very polite, “Gee, man I’m sorry,” (which is what I said, Louis) he hears you say, “Watchitdick!” and now wants to kick your ass.

It must have something to do with their perception of manhood, or manliness, or virility, or reliving some golden moment of their youth when maybe they could deliver a punch or two -or something other like that – that pushes them into this ego-driven, moronic, blind rage…or in this case, ego-driven, moronic, blind bravado. I wonder if they actually hear the words that dribble out of their mouths.

Look, not to take anything away from them, but these are not young men. They are older men who, instead of embracing the dignity and wisdom of their elder years, are acting like tired children who played outside too long on a hot summer day, but who are still so jacked up from all the Kool-Aid®, they can’t think straight. Maybe they need a nap.

These are supposed to be our esteemed leaders. The ones who we task with setting a vision for the country and leading us into a better future. Instead, they are embarrassing themselves and proving to be an embarrassment to all of us, partly because they are actually saying these stupid things out loud and partly, and probably more importantly, because I think we can all picture how it would go in our heads. The vision is…disturbing.

My mind instantly conjures two, slow, sweaty, puffy (one puffier than the other for sure), winded, crepy, veiny, elderly men standing opposite of each other with boxing gloves on bigger than their heads. They wear giant pairs of shiny boxing shorts that start at their armpits and end at about mid-calf. They glare at each other with angry eyes that make statements and professions that their bodies are just no longer capable of delivering on. And should they start an actual bout, all you would hear is these wheezing gasps for breath in between the soft pat, pat, pat of feeble punches. I’m pretty certain they could each muster up the intent to do the other one harm, but the delivery system just doesn’t exist.

When my Uncle Larry got old to the point where he started talking crazy, saying stuff like he wanted to punch the paperboy to teach him a lesson for always tossing his paper into the hydrangeas or his wanting shoot the squirrels in his backyard because they ate too much of his birdseed, we took his car keys away and made sure he had more company to keep an eye on him. Is anyone keeping an eye on these guys?

Like I said, a lot of this is bravado. Bluster and noise wrapped in the notion of teaching someone else a lesson on how to behave (note the irony). And despite the intentions, these are actually prominent displays of old-school, bull-headed mindsets of men who appear to be incapable of taking a more enlightened approach to resolving even the smallest of issues. If you want to teach someone a lesson, I think leading by a better example or setting a higher standard is the way to go. The knock your block off stuff is counterproductive and like I said…just dumb.

Thanks for listening, – Tommy

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Dumb Stuff” entries, search for Dumb Stuff at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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Bon Mots and Sprinkles

Bonmots Sprinkles

Able was sad to rebuff the minotaur who came to his door trying to sell a box of safety flares, but he learned that while the creature’s features were strong, harsh and disturbing, he had surprisingly minty fresh breath.

I just realized that it’s the first day of summer and also the longest day of the year. Now I’m trying to purge the image from my mind of a giant, full-body, communal, sunscreen dip vat. Shivers

I never considered the potential legal ramifications of having popular, ironic and funny t-shirt designs and slogans done in braille.

Hey chicken lovers, heed this warning! Without explicit permission,  the “finger licking good” thing at KFC is restricted to your own chicken and your own fingers… exclusively. They mean it.

I had this really great idea while giving blood the other day, but then it vanished.
I was totally convinced that it drained out of me at some point during the donation and that it might be swimming around in the blood bag. Despite my pleading with them, the people at the blood bank wouldn’t let him have it back – even for a second – so that i might get the idea – or at least a glimmer of the idea – back by holding the bag up to against my head. or something They just offered me an extra cookie and asked me to leave.

Jax climbed the mountain seeking wisdom from the man at the top. Sadly, it was the wrong mountain. The man at the top was not wise, but a “wise-ass” who berated him with witty, stinging commentary and smart remarks until Jax left.

Tilken opened the note from his hamster. It read, “Dear Tilken – or Master – whatever you prefer, Please remove the wheel from my space. This morning I realized that no matter how hard I work, how hard I try or the strength of my convictions, I will never get anywhere on it. Now, it just reminds me of all the things I’ll never be and it makes me feel inadequate. Please replace said icon of doom with a tiny futon, some high-speed, wireless Internet and a bit more alfalfa. I love that stuff. Thanks – Yours in a cage, Mott”

Tommy tried mowing the lawn in the middle of the night – blindfolded – just because he could, but n the morning, he found that most of his neighbors were very upset with the noise and the random spots in the grass that he missed appeared to spell out something obscene.

I was walking along yesterday, minding my own business when I happen to stumble across  an ounce of prevention. Which made me wonder…id this eve legal? How much trouble could I get in if someone fInd out about it? And as I rolled it around in my hand for a moment I thought, is this really worth a whole pound of cure?

I’m a bit depressed over the notion that the year is speeding along and I have crossed so few items off my personal “to do” lis for the year. I mean, I’m thrilled with the progress I made on New Year’s resolution 57 – get rid of that truck load of iguana pelts – but the rest of it has been a real struggle.

Denton worked hard to write his own words as a means to inspire others without having to rely on apt quotes from those more recognized than he (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Today he writes: “If wine be food for the soul and the burden I carry is wine, let me drink to unburden my cart and my soul, may it gift me the courage to vanquish my foes and summon words to convince this kind Officer Bentley to loosen these handcuffs that I might find my clothes.”

I was invited to take an adventure tour this summer to obscure, yet exotic fishing locales around the globe in search of the rare Marubian Platter Trout. But it looks like there might be some good TV on this summer and anyone who knows me knows I don’t eat from the water.

Dan spent the better part of his life searching for the keys to the mystical crystal palace, but after finding them recently, he cast them back out in to the world, for he realized that he would be now surrounded by nosy neighbors and crystal, being what it is, would force him to spend a fortune on drapes – for he is modest. Thus he asks that you choose your quests wisely and be careful what you wish for.

I never really expected such a backlash. I mean, I never imagined such an impassioned response. The comments clearly unearthed, and eventually laid bare, the emotional and philosophical divisions that lie between us as we, on the surface, politely tap out our glib impressions of a daily life that never really matches our deeper thoughts, hopes and dreams. All I said was that I liked the rain…and I don’t mind the word “moist”.

When you have so much pudding that you spend time trying to come up with “alternative uses” and then you glance over at the tub…stop. You have too much pudding.

Dotson fell, then got up, then fell again, and got up, then fell, before deciding to stay down for a moment or two to contemplate what it might be like to be a doormat. The ripples and grooves in the ceiling above him revealed the likeness of the French researcher François Poulletier de la Salle and he smiled.

Burke saw a sizable rabbit wearing a Panama hat waiting for a bus in the pouring rain. On the lapel of his jacket was a button that read ‘Free Mandela’ and he was jangling the loose change in his pocket over and over again. Rude.

I’m starting to wonder if trying to collect hail in a paper cup is worth all the pain and aggravation.

Dan noticed a bug with his voice recognition software. Now the computer only responds if he uses a Scottish and accent and calls it “Baby.”

Janks retold that story about how we all burst through the door of that small camper with Old Bill screaming, “What in the fuzzy nubbins are you doing to that cat!” Our eyes grew like saucers, it was tense and everything was pretty sticky, but eventually cooler heads prevailed and now we laugh about it. Most of us laugh about it. Not the cat.

Cory finally ended his long-standing feud with the Druids of Persipia. He will grant them safe passage through the Valley of Dread and they will return the carrots… all of them. Who knew it would take so long for such a simple resolution?

Diesel held his breath for a really long time. Eventually he began to see beautiful colors, and tall, nearly translucent, ethereal beings who stood before him in timeless, pinstriped suits. They told him all the bad things that could happen if Bailey Tinn were to become president – in iambic pentameter –  they then handed him a sizable, chocolate eclair. When he woke up it – was Thursday.

I just created an app that turns any cell phone into an awesome paperweight.

Bernard decided that every time the government shuts down, he’s shutting down. Just like them, he will sit with his arms crossed and pout and maybe hold his breath some until he gets his way because that’s what his elected officials have taught him. He may then go kick in an anthill, for his elected officials also taught him that their will is law and masses are pawns at their mercy. That is the game. So who cares what they have to deal with?

Jenk learned that squeezing a tomato can help you determine freshness, but that squeezing them too hard just destroys them…and that squeezing a dozen or so too hard will get you an invite to leave the store immediately – generally followed by a security guard.

After a few tests, Carl found that you actually catch more flies with a dead squirrel than honey.

Know that the second you say, “I don’t want to be that person, but…” – you are that person.

I sent my DNA sample to one of those places that trace your ancestry and was a bit disappointed. All this time I thought I was hardcore Scottish. Come to find, I’m just from New Jersey.

I got a new medic-alert bracelet and wore it on a trampoline. I’ve fallen. I’m back up. I’ve fallen. I’m back up. I’ve fallen. I’m back up. It was fun, but I felt a little bad for the guys from the squad who walked up my driveway, then back to the truck, then up my driveway, then back to the truck.

The Great Bandini had to disband his troupe of amazing dancing monkeys. And while he’s sad to see them go, he takes comfort in knowing Mr. Bangles and Coco will have a safe new life at the Erie County Aquarium and Taco Bar and he knows the fabulous Miss Effy Proust will see great success in her new one monkey stage show in Vegas. And the rest? Well, he knows they will land on their feet…or their hands…depending on how they jump.

Jack is celebrating the one day anniversary of yesterday. He’s so grateful for all the magic and wonder the day held, he’s sending out a special thanks to everyone who helped make it great – the mailman for leaving no bills, Creepy Tommy on the corner of 5th Street and Purchase for not spitting on him, to Burger Tzar for the free pickles and for the Lenny the Mime for pretending to pull a live chicken out his ass…the extended version. He holds such fond memories of the day and was sad to see it go.

I found an old can of whoop-ass in the basement. I’m afraid to keep it because its way past its “best by” date and you just can’t have a random old can of whoop-ass exploding in your living room. I mean, think of the mess. On the other hand, I’m afraid to get rid of it, because you never know when you might need a can of whoop-ass.

Cal was sad that his idea to cut a hole in the debt ceiling to install a debt skylight didn’t get broader consideration from Congress. It provided the stability of a firm structure with the flexibility of breaching the limit as needed. His other ideas that Congress rejected included the debt refinished basement, the debt lawn sprinkler and the debt margarita cabana station with an express mini taco bar.

Tan is working on a book of inspirational sayings and motivational thoughts to help people maneuver the murky waters of this modern day life. Chapter 83 begins with, “Embrace the things you can’t change. Hold them close…tight…really tight…until they stop kicking. Then, bury them in a neighbor’s yard or under some loose tar in the parking lot of an abandoned factory. Then…finally, you can renew your focus on the things you can change.”

Sure, having three bird feeders is excessive, but it makes it so much easier to shoot the birds.

Jerry danced the fandango in a mid-sized tub of tapioca pudding, but it didn’t go well. The pudding was not at the optimum temperature for dancing in.

Today’s post is brought to you by the letters F and U.

Teddy learned the hard way that it’s inappropriate to put on a big smile and do “jazz hands” after giving someone really bad news.

It’s always best to check the status of the roll of paper before committing to the deed.

Nobody cares if the thing stuck in your teeth looks like Marylin Monroe. Just get it out of there.

You know you’re in trouble when your credit card bill comes delivered with a giant bouquet of flowers and a handwritten Thank You note.

There’s no point in having a staring contest with a dog, nobody wins and it just annoys the dog.

Despite his joy over the effectiveness of his time machine, Dil still had to figure out why his pants disintegrated on every trip. lt was getting harder and harder to explain.

For lack of something better to do, Jax finally cracked open the keg of the thick, snot-like artificial drool left to him by his Uncle Bob and found it was great for grossing out kids at the mall and for winning bar bets.

While cleaning up, Chester decided that looking for truffles is not as easy as he imagined and he now has a new found level of respect for the pig.

Hal discovered the hard way that it’s wrong to be a volunteer fireman if all you want to do is wear the hat and ride in the truck…even if you make a good siren noise with your mouth.

Mert thought he wrote the next greatest protest song until the letter came from the record company that said a) the unethical treatment of unicorns is not enraging people these days as much as he imagined b) Finlandia is not so much a place as it is a vodka c) BP is not likely drilling for oil in Finlandia – see “b” d) We can’t prove Sarah Palin was an alien space baby despite what he claimed to be “documentation” e) black holes were not created by the government f) it’s 38 minutes long.

Billy pulled the bag from the freezer. As he looked down, his brow furrowed.
“What the hell,” he muttered to himself while inspecting the bag further. He yelled out, “Jason?”
“What?” Jason bumbled down the stairs to the kitchen where Billy stood with a puzzled look plastered on his face and a bag of frozen hot dogs in his hands. “Those are mine.”
“Yeah,” I gathered Billy said. “Am I seeing these right? Do they all say, ‘Exclusive Property of Jason Schwartzman’ on them?”
“Oh, yeah.”
“Each one individually?”
“Yeah.”
“Why?” Billy asked.
“They’re mine.”
“I get that. It’s clearly indicated on each and every hot dog that they’re yours. How did you do that?”
“With a Sharpie®. I started with a plain one, but then I switched to the fine point. That made it much easier?”
“Why?”
“Duh, the fine point is not as thick, so the letters look better.”
“Why did you use a Sharpie® at all?”
“Well, I figured they would work best, they‘re permanent and non-toxic.”
“No. Why did you feel the need to write on the hot dogs at all?”
“They’re mine.”
“Right, fine. They’re yours. I’ll get to that in a second, but wouldn’t it have been easier just to write on the bag?”
“Well…I didn’t want you to get confused.”
“What, in case some hot dogs I might have somewhere infiltrates your bag somehow and we can’t tell them apart?”
“You don’t eat hot dogs.”
“Which makes this even more bizarre.”
“But yet, here you are in the kitchen hold my bag of hot dogs.”
“Do you really think I wanted to eat your hot dogs? I was looking for something else. I saw these and I clearly remember thinking, ‘What the hell?’”
“I don’t see how it’s so bizarre. You write your name on stuff so I don’t get confused. You have a carton of eggs in there you marked as yours.”
“Right, but you have your eggs and I didn’t go through and mark each one the “Exclusive Property of William Jennings Cooper.’”
“Of course, not.”
“You see my point then?”
“Yeah, you prefer ‘Billy.’”

I’m probably not being followed. That’s paranoid. But it seems like there is a guy with a schedule very similar to mine, who goes the places I go, but is always just a little bit behind me.

Nate is working hard to clean up chunks of the Earth after reading this story about some jerkweed who killed all the Truffula Trees to make something or other. Killing all the trees rippled out to the Bar-ba-Loots and the Swomee Swans and it was just a mess. He also found that while Bar-ba-Loots are terrible house guests, they make great drinking buddies.

Corbin found that beer goes down a lot easier with a beer chaser followed by vodka, then scotch, then beer.

Alex tried hard to get in touch with his feminine side, but when he did, he found she was a big girl with giant hands who was very rough…and a little mean.

Hank really thought the multi-barreled hot dog cannon would generate greater interest. After all, it can shoot piping hot, hot dogs at a rate of 124 wieners per minute – up to 300 feet away. He’s perplexed. Was it because it doesn’t shoot buns too or was it the unfortunate moment when Rodney took one to the eye? Look, he said it wasn’t even his favorite eye.

Gil found out during trick or treating last night that kids are not the least bit interested in bobbing for hot dogs.

Bren spent the evening calibrating his blender to international industry standards so that he might both create smoother pureed beets and a better margarita. Then he thought…what about a beet margarita?

Bill spends a lot of his extra time perfecting his recipe for turning sugared cereals into beer. Imagine for a moment, Froot Loops Lager, Apple Jacks Pale Ale, or Quisp….beer. Anyhow, He plans to promote it as the getup and go morning beverage of choice for movers and shakers.

Dex learned the hard way that it’s inappropriate to put on a big smile and do “jazz hands” while stuttering through “Th – th – th- that’s all folks!” like Porky Pig after hearing the news that someone died.

Tad experimented with the various fountain soda and Slurpee options at the local gas mart to the point where he created an icy cold beverage that tasted just like a roasted turkey sandwich.

*Editor’s note:
To read the latest entries, search for Bon Mots and Sprinkles at the top of the page.
Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS
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Dumb Stuff with Tommy McGee – 1

Dumb-Stuff

Hi. Welcome to Dumb Stuff.

I’m Tommy and this is what I think about stuff that’s mostly dumb.

Today…the gun thing.

And before you get your shorts in a knot, it ain’t the current attention over guns that’s dumb. That’s important. The dumb stuff has everything to do with people and their current “response” to the gun thing…of course.

There’s a lot of money,  paranoia, misunderstanding, a whole lot of misinformation, a lot of rage and a bunch of other stuff that continues to take this issue way off the tracks.

Thing is, I don’t think we’ve seen all the dumb stuff related to this come to surface yet. There’s more to come for sure. But it don’t take a genius to know we’re doing it wrong.

Here’s the bit. We got a problem with guns here. You can say we don’t, but that would be blind ignorance talking. But instead of looking at it directly and naming it what it is, people are calling it a lot of other things like it’s bad immigrants or crazy people, not enough God, political philosophy, or drugs, or the decay of our collective moral fiber and all kinds of things. But when you boil it right down to the bones, it’s guns. Technically, it’s guns mixed with a double scoop of stupid…and bullets.

I grew up around guns. Not military grade weapons and the like, but still…guns.

I had some pretty shitty days growing up.

Still, I can’t recall one time when I ever thought of fixing my shitty day by running home and grabbing me up some guns…and bullets.

Why? Lots of reasons. Maybe, after a moment to consider my situation, my shitty day may not have been as shitty as I imagined. Maybe I’m not that kind of crazy. Perhaps it’s my practical understanding that shooting people is bad and that prison sucks pretty bad and it is not the place where I want to end up spending my time. As far as guns go, once you shoot them, you gotta clean them, so maybe I’m just lazy. I generally don’t carry around that kind of hate for people, despite how awful and dumb they can be and despite how much they might piss me off. Not on my worst day. But, that’s just me.

So, why do other people do it?

Well, we still need to think on that one. Super bad days? Mother issues? Father issues? Bullying? Feeling of power? Lack of belonging? Futile outlook? Some sort of supremacist, anti-establishment bull shit? Tiny genitalia? God told them to do it? Satan told them to do it? To be determined.

The dumbest thing of all is that we can’t get to the bit and fix the problem.

The gun people say there ain’t enough guns. They say everyone has a God-given right to have all the weapons they want and that the world’ll have to pry those weapons from their cold dead hands to get them. That seems to cover everything from a tiny pop gun to an all-out urban assault vehicle…and beyond.

The anti-gun people say the only way to solve the problem is to flat out get rid of all the guns. The end.

There’s a group that says if you take away all the guns, the people intent on doing others harm will just weaponize something else – like their cars or something. Then they ask, “What are you gonna do then? Outlaw cars? What then?”

Some nub in Kansas named Tyler Tannahill, is giving away the same type of assault rifle used on those kids in Florida as part of his Senate campaign. He says it’s OK though because he planned on giving that gun away before the shooting took place and he sees no reason to change the plan. Good call Tyler. You’re gonna fit right in. It comes off a bit tine deaf to the situation though.

No longer relevant Washington nub, Newt Gingrich wants to give guns to teachers. Apparently, that nub Trump thinks that’s a good idea too. Bite into that one and taste it for a minute. They say it would come in handy if another shooting occurs. You know, it’s just for self-defense and protection of others. Like that could never go wrong. First, neither of them had Mr. Terriman for eighth-grade English. That dude was itching to bring a little old West justice to the classroom…ass. Plus, solving the gun problem with more guns just doesn’t seem to make good sense on any level. Has anyone suggested the answer to the opioid problem is giving people more drugs? No? Of course not, because people understand that’s a dumb ass idea,

The nubs in the Florida legislature voted down having a conversation to consider an assault weapons ban. In the same afternoon, they declared pornography a public health risk. You read that correct. Whatever you happen to think about pornography and what it does to folks, I have yet to hear of how it was used to extinguish the lives of innocent people. Did you ever hear of a  porn massacre? Of course not. It’s more like an individual sport. Dumb.

Finally, after a whole bunch of useless posturing and bluster comes the great debate – which is a dumb thing – because there ain’t a real debate, just a bunch of noise and finger pointing with pointed fingers that look like guns.

A real heart to heart needs to take place between folks who can step away from the pandering,  look at the issue clean and who can generate some kinda solid, workable solution.

We’re not gonna get that.

We’re gonna get four giant truckloads of stupid from every political blowhole that cares less about the issue and more about how they look on TV and what their polling numbers say. We’re gonna get rants from our goofy friends on the fringe who have no idea what they’re talking about but parrot rage just the same about losing their second amendment rights. They don’t really know what that means of course. Before now, they thought the right to bear arms meant they could cut the sleeves off all their t-shirts without government interference.

It’s a sad state when the bulk of us, the ones who are just trying to get through the day to day the best way we know how without losing what we have worked hard for, to sit in the middle of this tempest of stupid and know that whatever happens – we’ll have to pay for it. We got kids acting like adults and adults acting like children and common sense is getting lost in the noise.

I figure this could probably be worked out over a couple of beers, a bowl of pretzels and a couple shots of “let’s get some stuff done” – if you turn the TV and the Internet off while the talk goes on, but that would be giving people a whole lot of credit.

Till then, it’s just gonna more of the same old same old. More dumb stuff.

Thanks for listening. – Tommy

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Dumb Stuff” entries, search for Dumb Stuff at the top of the page.

 

An open letter to America…and maybe the world

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Java typed with determination and focus, as she was prone to do in these situations…

An open letter to all Americans…and maybe the world.

Dear Americans (or…Worldians?):

You don’t know me…well, I suppose some of you do, but the bulk of you don’t. And that’s OK.

It’s been a hot minute since we last spoke and that’s on me. It seems that the latest presidential election threw me for quite a loop. Not like a “damn, I didn’t see that coming” kind of loop, but more of a “KER-POW”, tiny cartoon mouse clobbers the cartoon cat so hard with a giant frying pan that his head flattens out kind of loop. And when I sat down to write to you all about it, to try and “work through it” as they say, I found the only things coming out of me were just awful. Anger and frustration bubbled up in me in such a way that I just could not put something down here without it turning all bad, just counterproductive maniacal ranting really. Who needs that?

So I stepped away for a piece. Took a moment to search for that inner calm, many of us seem to seek out so regular. I unplugged my TV. I read a couple books and learned some new things. Did you know there are over 40,000 different kinds of rice? News to me too.

Eventually, I felt the harder edge of my frustrations dull a bit, at least to the point where I could consider a different perspective. After a while, I did plug my TV back in and I took a “baby steps” approach to reacquainting myself with what the world was becoming. And through my calmer, deep-breathing induced, more rational state of mind, I realized – the world is a mess and we made it that way.

It’s awful to say, but that realization is not the culmination of frustration and vitriol as much as it is just an acknowledgment of the fact that, collectively, we have lost our way. We are on a path that needs to change or we will do great and eternal harm and it seems like we just don’t care all that much.

My friend Stella likes to say over and over that, “the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one.” She says it a lot. Like a parrot. But there’s truth in it. We have a problem, and by a problem, I mean a whole slew of them.

I’m not talking politics here, although politics surely feed the beast. I’m talking about how we seem to have stepped away from our lofty, yet primary objectives that define us as a species. Where is our decency, our compassion, our interest in helping others up so we can move forward together, or our interest in making a better world over slowly destroying it?

Understand that I am not so newly enlightened and calm that I believe we can all get along all the time and gather in some sort of eternal kumbaya moment like the Whos around a Christmas tree – nice as the thought may be. I mean, there are long-time neighbors and blood relatives that can’t stand to be in the same room together. Everybody has their shit and everybody loves their drama. But over the short term as those types of things work themselves out, or don’t, our job is not to proactively make things worse when these situations arise.

First, do no harm, right?

If you are a stranger to the obvious, let me share some of the things I’ve learned in addition to that tidbit about rice. We are divided. We are selfish and self-serving. We don’t listen. We are unforgiving. We are unyielding. We are inflexible. We are demanding. We are intolerant. We are irrational. We are easily amused. We are easily manipulated. We are lazy. We prefer style over substance. We go for the popular and discard the less so. We strive to be adequate. We spend billions on things that don’t matter. Comparatively, we spend little on what does. We gather and hoard. We crave fame and notoriety. We want to see and be seen. We are superstitious. We are frightened. We are weak. We are fragile. We are damaged. We are damned lucky to be alive at all and more.

Remember when I talked about stepping away from our lofty, yet primary objectives? That’s probably wrong. Truth be told, we probably never embraced the concept of those objectives. They are merely platitudes. We talk about how we should live. We have A LOT to say about how others should live, but we can’t keep up. The real work is hard. Too hard maybe, since we can’t seem to commit to it.

Now, I’ve heard people say, we all aren’t all those things and that it is unfair to use such broad and negative generalizations. You may be right. But we will be judged by who we are as a collective society, and not by the actions of our singular heroes.

We’ve had centuries to try figure out how to get along with each other and we can’t manage it. We keep making the same mistakes. The more people we squeeze onto the planet, the bigger those same old mistakes become. We progress far slower than our full potential because the masses rely on the work of a few to get things done for everybody.

You want an example? Pull up to the corner of virtually any intersection, look down at the curb, then count the cigarette butts you see sitting down there.

Even one is one too many. And that’s my point. We know smoking is bad, but people do it. We know littering is bad, but people do it. We know bombs are bad, but we keep making them and we keep using them. These are not the unfortunate byproducts of things beyond our control, like mold after a flood or whatever. These are things well within our control, but not within our immediate interest or sphere of caring. So as long as there is a person out there who feels it is their God-given right to smoke and flick cigarette butts out the window, or blow something up every time there is a disagreement – everyone else be damned – we will be a lesser species.

So what then? What happens now? What do we do? Whatever we can.

We have one world to live on and Heaven help us and whomever, if we find another one out there we feel we have the right to mess up. If you aren’t helping, you’re hurting or hindering. You’ll say no, but inside you know it’s true.

Think. Breathe. Get involved. Demand more from others, yes, but demand more from yourself first. Be humble. Be understanding, Let go of the anger and whatever else pollutes your day. Try.

Good luck to us all.

Your friend in the cosmos,

Java

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Something to Ponder” entries, search for Java at the top of the page.

An open letter to all American voters

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Java typed with determination and focus, as she was prone to do in these situations:

An open letter to all American voters – Dear Voters:

You don’t know me…well, I suppose some of you do, but the bulk of you don’t. And that’s OK.

You see, we don’t need to know each other on a super personal level to know that we are all part of a giant community of Americans who share the most important, and some might say daunting task that is electing our new president. That’s right, come November, we – collectively – get to pick who is going to represent us, protect us, nurture us, guide us, promote us, support us, inspire us, engage us in combat, embarrass us and calm us over the next 4 years.

Thing is, as I watch you on TV and such, campaigning or protesting or sharing your views with the world as to which candidate you back and why, the thing I keep coming back to is the notion that very few of you – OK, very few of us – really know what we’re talking about.

First, understand that I want every able-bodied and capable American to vote in this election. It’s our right to vote and it’s important to participate in the process. Secondly, every able-bodied and capable American who wants to vote in this election owes it to himself, herself and every other American to do the homework.

You see, I don’t really care who you vote for if you come to a responsible, educated, well-informed decision that suits your personal ideals of where this country should go. But – if you’re gonna pick who you vote for based on your gut, what spews forth from whatever news channel you favor, who slips you a fresh $20 bill, what your mom tells you, what lies in the bottom of your tea-cup, what Ben Franklin told you in a dream, what way the wind blows or whatever other magical seventh-sense, mystical voodoo that motivates you, stay home. If you’re gonna guess, stay home. If you just don’t like the way somebody looks, or you just want to vote the way you’ve always voted, stay home.

If you feel all those things above, or you driven by spirits or whatever and you still want to vote, just go ahead and jot your choice down on a piece paper and cast it to the wind. I assure you that the magical elves of Clannor will gather up your vote and see that it gets where it belongs. No harm, no foul.

It’s like this. Let’s say you watch a thousand hours of a medical drama (or a combination of medical dramas – there are some great ones out there) how likely would you be able to safely and successfully remove somebody’s appendix based on what you’ve seen? I think most of us would see ourselves as absolutely unqualified no matter how many hours we’ve watched and would step away from the challenge entirely. Why? Because we know we would likely do more harm than good. We could kill somebody.

It’s not a sign of failure. It’s the human brain being reasonable. You realize that the only way you will likely, successfully remove somebody’s appendix is to actually learn how to do it. You need to understand the anatomy of the body, where to cut, what to take out, what to stitch up and a whole host of other things plus, you need to know how to react if something goes wrong. It’s complex. Body parts aren’t conveniently labeled.

Now, there are those out there who would take on the challenge and want to step up, grab that knife and give taking out that appendix a go. These are the truly dangerous among us and don’t kid yourself, these people do exist. They will push their way up to the body and maintain that not only do they know what they are doing, but they can probably do it better than most because they are just all that. Even when things turn sour and they find themselves in trouble, they will maintain they know what they are doing and keep at it rebuffing help and wisdom, until it is way too late. Finally, as the body cools after their tragic ignorance does its terminal damage, they will not take ownership of the loss. No, they will likely blame the darned fool who let them have the knife in the first place. They are forever and always without fault.

You see, the average American voter is lazy, yet pompous and full of bluster. They don’t want to do the work. They don’t want to invest the time to figure things out. Rather, they pick, they commit, then sit back and have a fit when things don’t go as they thought they should. They are ready to go poking around for America’s appendix without having so much as an inkling about what lies under the skin and we can’t afford that. The world is a complex place. The issues we face are complicated. You just can’t pick a stance out of the blue based on a headline. It just doesn’t work that way.

The average American voter stands solidly behind the candidate that tells them the prettiest story or stirs the greatest anger within them. They don’t allow themselves to believe that the stories are stories and that solutions are useless unless people work together to make them a reality. They refuse to understand and accept that the backstory of our decaying government was written by their own hands and that they made the world we live in by filling the government with people who sit under their favored label or are apt at stroking the voter’s frail and fragile ego.

You can’t invite separatists, extremists, isolationists, egotistic, narcissistic bigots and zealots into your government and suspect that things will go well.

You need to get at those folks who are willing and able to do the job and who actually understand that the job is doing the work of the people, for the people and not the just relentless task of constantly getting re-elected. Seriously, we have enough of those do nothing career politicians.

I truly believe people spend more time looking at a dinner menu than they do evaluating their prospective elected officials, their qualifications, or what they really bring to the table.

I hesitate to blame the politicians. They only do what politicians do and that is press their advantage. If they can get voters to put them into office with pretty words and platitudes, they’re going to jump on that opportunity like a crow on roadkill. However, their work is a matter of public record. You can see what they do and don’t do. They’ll tell you they’re doing the good work, but it’s easy to see there’s not much work getting done.

We are the ones that keep putting people into places they don’t belong. Then we expect that we will get some sort of magic out of them when they get into office. Like they really heard us or something. It used to be cute; voters being all naive and aw shucks and such. Now, it’s just sad.

It’s time for each and every American voter to get off their proverbial backsides and start rubbing some brain cells together. The bluster and partisan pageantry of the conventions are over and now the real work begins.

How loud you yell, doesn’t make you a good voter. The size of your sign doesn’t equate to how well you get the message. You don’t “win” by being able to shout someone else down. You don’t “win” by vilifying another because their beliefs don’t align with yours. You don’t “win” by voting for one because you hate the other.

This ain’t a TV show folks. Do the research. Check the facts. Demand information. Ask questions then shut your mouth, open your ears for a moment and listen. Resist the urge to attack and disparage the moment you think you hear something that bumps up against your tender sensibilities. Dare to hear and understand the debate that takes place on both sides. Dare to expect more.

I’m talking to you American voter. You’re never going to teach someone else a lesson by wasting your vote. In fact, every wasted vote, every voter who withdraws from the process or treats the right to vote as anything less than the real and sizable responsibility it is, is an insult, a slap to the face of every person who fought for, died for and still fights today for your right to continue to vote.

The world is watching. We can show the world we still know what we’re doing and that we do it with mindful purpose and intent. That we give the right we have to vote the respect it deserves by taking the time to push beyond laziness, ignorance, apathy, bitterness, dogma, prejudice, spite, anger and more to ensure that our decisions truly reflect and serve the needs of our people. Do the right thing the right way. See you in November.

Your friend in the cosmos,

Java

 

 

An open letter to the Republican party

As she was prone to do in these situations, Java typed with determination and focus:

An open letter to the Republican party – Dear Republicans:

You don’t know me, but I wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts with you that may well represent a portion of the voting population of the United States that you might have yet to hear from, or have not yet decided to tune into.

I grew up with a kid named Billy McCabe. For the most part, Billy was hands down the most hilarious person I ever met. He probably still is. I imagine him in jail somewhere for some reason, for the only problem I’ve ever know Billy to have is, he never really knew when to say when. He couldn’t recognize when perhaps the jokes had gone too far and his ability to wield the magical healing power of laughter turned from a relief and a blessing to a curse and an embarrassment. At times, he just got so deep in the ruse that he couldn’t see a clear way out of it, so he just kept at it.

Most of the time, his taking things too far ruffled a few feathers, but on occasion, people got hurt. Not the kind of physical hurt where people need medical care, although one time Billy took a fairly solid blow to the nose that drew blood. No, this kind of hurt was personal, internal. It was the kind of hurt that you remember and it festers in your soul. It can shatter your confidence. It can fill you with doubt. It can create hate and bitterness over healing and compassion.

Now, I’m not saying that what you all have brewing is a joke gone too far, but when I look at it all – when I watch and listen – I can’t help but continue to search for the moment when someone in your group pops up, with hands waving in the air, yelling, “Ok, stop! It was just a joke. We’re kidding! You didn’t get it. No harm. No Foul!”

I mean…seriously?!

The initial set up looked like a joke. You had so many potential candidates, you couldn’t get them all on the same debate stage.

Hilarious!

The array of personalities were diverse, stark and bigger than life and when they all started talking about stuff…it was real ROTFL kind of material.

They were all calling each other names and poking at each other’s ideologies and records of achievement (or lack there of), making faces at each other, there was lots of aggressive pointing and other standard playground behaviors culminating in some real juicy, knee-slapping, good times. It’s kind of like you rolled up a limo at the premiere of the presidential election that looked regal and all serious, but when you opened the door out rolled this happy clump of buffoons. I swear, if any one of them could make balloon animals, you’d have a show ready to take on the road.

But now, things are getting serious, and as my grandmother Chamile used to say, “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.” My dear Republicans, you are in the dangerous realm of potentially losing that proverbial eye.

We’ve seen the Grand Old Party slowly, but surely degrade over the years. You’ve been so busy bullying, obstructing, posturing and promoting that you seemed to have lost touch with your political vision. You have such a splintered, distorted view of things, that I’m not sure you are even aware of how deep in trouble you appear to be. You’ve become a mockery of your former self, kind of like Vegas Elvis in the latter years of his career. You don’t know who to pander to, so you collectively to pander to everyone – well, everyone who you think will vote your people in. You can’t win on record or deed, so you inspire division and are stuck in the mud stubbornness.

Let me break it down for you. Your number one guy, the guy who appears to be your pending nominee, may be the very best thing for reality television, but the very worst thing for you as the leader of the modern free world. You have to see that, right? The sad part is, numbers one through four after him offer little else in the way of smarts or substance. It just makes us shake our heads even harder. You were so busy worrying about what Obama was up to and trying to put the kibosh on that, that you lost sight of what was going on in your own backyard. You hate what’s going on, but you have nothing brewing in your own kitchen to offer up as an alternative. Bad plan.

Now on the upside, Trump could win and you would have your guy in the White House once again. Then again, Trump could win and you would have your guy in the White House. I don’t get the idea he will be as easy to direct as the last guy you had in there.

Could he do an about face and start to genuinely care about the American people and working to make the country a better place? Sure, maybe. But I don’t think we’ve seen any evidence of that. And in the absence of that possibility, you must start to envision the probable. When you have your guy in the oval office and he starts enacting his particular brand of “presidenting,” and things really start to head south – guess who’s going to suffer? Trump? Nah. No matter how he leaves the office, he’ll say it was amazing and he was the best president ever. He’ll go back to his life, kick up the apprentice thing again and be none the worse for wear. You however, collectively, will likely have a lot of explaining, apologizing and rebuilding to do. And it might just turn out to be too much and your efforts will be too little, too late. At that point, you will be Billy McCabe.

Your Friend, Java

 

 

An Open Letter To Donald Trump

Java typed with determination and focus, as she was prone to do in these situations:

An open letter to Donald Trump –

Dear Donald Trump:

You don’t know me, and while the chances are greater that we might one day meet now because you are running for President, I’m not holding my breath. So, let’s just leave it at you don’t know me, and you probably never will.

Still, despite – at least based on my research – what appears a complete and total disconnect between us, I think it’s appropriate and important for me to reach out to you because of your interest in representing me, and the interests of our country, as the President of the United States.

You see – the job of President is a complex one. We the people need to respect the person who gets that job. More importantly, the person who gets that job needs to respect the job itself and the mantle of responsibility that comes with it. If you want to be my President, you better grab a seat and give a listen to what folks like me have to say.

Listening is a critical skill for a successful President. My mother always told me that the best way to listen is to keep your mouth shut so that the message you’re supposed to get comes in clear, avoiding anything your mouth might try to throw at it to confuse things. The second part of listening, is hearing – actually hearing the message that’s coming at you. Since you are everywhere these days I’ve had some good opportunities to watch you, and yes, listen to you.

Two things on that, first, as I listen to you, I hear what you’re saying. And while I’ve never been quite sure what a “bejeezus” is, I know that when I listen to you and I hear what you say, whatever bejeezus I have in me is scared shitless. Because when you boil it down, I’m not hearing much of value at all. Like a handful of those puffy cheese curl snack things, what you say lacks all kinds of substance. What I see is that you have throngs of people who do hear something in your words. I surely don’t begrudge them for that, even though I’m not clear on what it is they’re getting. To me it seems that on the surface, what they hear from you centers on, and seems to incite hate, violence, separatism, intolerance, misunderstanding, ignorance and a few other tasty negatives, which they appear to be OK with. The truth is, you have followers. Therefore, you have a responsibility to them and for them. You owe them the courtesy of your attention, your humility, your sincerity and your respect.

The second thing is that I’m not sure you’re listening or hearing. I get the feeling that instead of listening, you talk until you get tired, you pause for a bit, and then you spend your time looking for your next opportunity to speak out loud. Then when you do – BOOM – there goes my bejeezus again! It’s a terrifying cycle.

Look, I am one voter. While I have my doubts, they tell me my one vote counts, so like anything extremely personal to me, I’m very careful about where I put that vote. In my mind, it’s so much more than a single vote. It is an expression of who I am as a human being, as an American and it is a representation of what I stand for in my life. I don’t give my votes away. A candidate has to earn them. And I can tell you that no hot, steaming pile of rhetoric or reality show based shenanigans will earn my vote.

I’m a voter who needs solutions, solid ideas, compassion, a broad vision of the future, an understanding of the global circumstance, temperance, tolerance, empathy, strength, courage, common sense, a dash of humor, and a slew of other tasty attributes.

My hope is that you got into this because you are sincere in your efforts and intents to guide this country in a way that is beneficial to all. My hope is that you are not just some pot stirring, bile spewing, hate mongering, short-sighted, cartoon strip, ego driven, narcissistic, circus master who’s pulling his show into the center ring because he found someone who’ll shine a spotlight on him.

The fact that you are currently leading your party certainly says something about America. I’m not sure what it says yet, but it has a very sort of “monkeys running the zoo” kind of feel to it. It makes me sad in my soul. Don’t worry. While you are a huge part of that, the whole field of candidates seems lack a certain sense of…gravitas.

I’m thinking maybe you started this thing as a lark and it all got out of control and now you just don’t know how to get out of it. Mostly because you’re tossing some real doozies out there that make it feel like you are just begging someone to eject you from the game. For if they kick you out, you still win. You save face. You can say you didn’t quit.

Look, if you really want out, my first suggestion is to take a page from the Jeb Bush campaign. Look at that poor man’s face. Have you ever seen anyone who wants to be President less than him?

The long and the short of it is, you have yet to earn my vote. I don’t get the feeling that you truly respect the job or the responsibility that comes with it. You are welcome to prove me wrong. Should you do that, I am more than happy to make a full, fair and public apology for doubting you. Until then, it’s all just a big show, a big joke, a whim and a scam, but a scam with severe consequences. I urge you to dance on that line carefully.

Your friend in the cosmos, – Java

The Glorious Sunset of Taffeta Spaulding – Epilogue

“Will there be anything else ladies?”

Taffeta stirred awake from a light nap, as the waiter, whose name tag identified him as Damerae, placed their drinks on the small table next to their lounge chairs.

“Oh, no thank you,” Taffeta said. “This is fine.”

“Not right now Damerae,” Myrna said. “But don’t go too far. I never know when I might just feel like dancing.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Damerae said with a wink.

“Myrna?” Taffeta said, as the waiter moved on. “You are a shameless flirt.”

“I am,” Myrna said, settling deeper into her chair and her sense of self-satisfaction. “I don’t see any reason to change at this point.”

“I’ll drink to that,” Taffeta said, lifting her glass.

She let the cool, fruity concoction work it’s magic and closed her eyes again behind her large sunglasses.

In the dark, the shadows of the past rose up as they always do now. The imprinted residue of resilient memories that can’t be erased, but instead, must be endured until they fade away of their own volition.

A shadowy room materializes, strewn with the bodies of those unfortunates who lurked in alleyways and around corners waiting for a crack at an easier life, but always at the expense of another.

Bright spatters and dark puddles of blood broke up the monotonous, dusty grays and dingy browns. The smells of dirt, mold, decay and gunpowder mixed in a choking, nauseating haze.

Once again Myrna stands with her outstretched arm holding a smoking, hot Cora covered by a patent leather purse now with a sizable hole in the side. The long and broken couch. The money.

Yes. Even in the midst of chaos and fear and death, the siren call of money is strong and clear and seductive.

Once Taffeta and Myrna calmed themselves, Myrna was ready to go, to cut bait and run and just clear out and start the work of forgetting. But how does that happen? For all that went on in that room. The screaming, the fighting, the gunfire, they were still alone. They were in a place that nobody on the outside must have cared much about. When it was over, it was quiet. More than quiet. Silent. No sirens. No men with megaphones shouting “Come out with your hands up.”

Nothing.

It was just the two of them, the bodies and the money.

“Myrna, wait,” Taffeta remembered.

“Wait? Wait for what?” Myrna asked.

“Let’s…just see how much.”

“How much what? How much more mayhem we can get into? No thank you!” Myrna turned again to leave, but Taffeta held strong.

“The boxes. All those boxes must be filled with money. I mean, look at how much it is on the floor.”

“You’re kidding right? It’s bad money, Taffy. Blood money. Money from drugs and crimes and…”

Taffeta looked back at her friend. “And what if we call they police? What if they come and see what went on here. What do you think happens?”

“I’m sure I don’t know.”

“You do,” Taffeta said. “You know they will come and clean up the mess and lock everything up and that’s the end of it.”

“You want to take the money?” Myrna asked. “Really?!”

“Let’s see how much.”

“No. It’s blood money.”

“It’s lost money Myrna. It’s not like this is from a bank or something. I mean sure, some of it’s stolen, but you heard them, a lot of this money people gave willingly – stupidly, sure, but willingly. Just to get high or whatever.”

“It belongs to somebody,” Myrna said. “It always does.”

“Why not us?”

“What?”

“Sure, why not us?” Taffeta said. “We were kidnapped, victimized, harassed, tied up, probably traumatized for the rest of our lives and they were going to kill us. Can we just walk away from that? Can you just, forget all that? Forget it all and just move on?”

Myrna took another step toward the door and stopped. “I killed a man, Taffy.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not sad about it. He was certainly going to kill you and if it happened all over, I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

“But…”

“I don’t know. It feels wrong. The killing feels wrong even though it was the only thing I knew to do. Taking the money, just feels wrong.”

“I know. You’re right,” Taffeta said. “And we can leave right now and go home and call the police and let them deal with it all. And we will get on with the rest of our lives, however long that is, and try to forget it all and hope that we are stronger than our nightmares, because I don’t think this is going away any time soon. I mean, just look! I’m just not sure that’s how I want my ending to be.”

“How?”

“Alone in an empty house, making sure I’m up by a certain time so that I can take my medicine before my nap and be awake for my afternoon doses of whatever so I can do it all again tomorrow and the next day!”

“Taffy…”

“Myrna, we almost died here today. Right here in this horrible, disgusting, vermin-infested wreck of a place. Right here where we would be forgotten as soon as the next news story came along to replace the one that tells the tale of two stupid old women who got themselves killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time!”

Taffeta spun away from Myrna and stared into the shadows, at the bodies and the ocean of bills that poured from the boxes Petey tipped over.

It was some time before she felt Myrna’s hand on her shoulder. “Let’s just see how much.”

It took them a while, but they loaded quite a few boxes into the car that waited for them outside. There was too much to count right there. It was all sort of thrown together. And there was the matter of the three dead bodies. Once they decided to move on their idea, the ladies moved effectively.

For as troubled as he was, Danny Mackenoy, the New Capone, did a fair job of gathering up quite a lot of money. Who knows? If he stayed away from the drugs himself, it might have dawned on him that he was close to getting exactly what he wanted.

They took what felt right. Nothing more. It came as a silent decision between them after loading one of the boxes into the car. At one point or another, it just seemed like enough.

Once they were loaded, they made certain they had all their belongings, and they crawled into the car and headed home – at last.

About halfway home, they found a payphone and called the police. They didn’t know that address specifically, but they gave the general area and expressed concern over what they were certain was gunfire before hanging up.

Once at Taffeta’s house, they ate and had a good sleep before they started rooting through the boxes of money in the front room. With few expectations, it just became clear that it was a lot. Anytime they came across a random pill or other chemical, they promptly flushed it down the toilet.

They split the money into two piles then sat down looking at them for the longest time wondering what next.

They watched television news for any information on their story from the other perspective and it was as it was expected, “Three unknown victims were found dead in quarantined building, two from blunt force trauma and one from multiple gunshot wounds. Along with the bodies, police found a variety of prescription drugs and a large amount of money, possibly related to a recent string of thefts from several local pharmacies. Police suspect gang and, or drug related violence as the cause, but continue to investigate.”

Two days later, the story all but evaporated from the headlines, due to a warehouse explosion on the other side of town with the potential of releasing toxic smoke that posed a danger to the local population.

Then things got quiet.

Taffeta called Angela Deffert of Deffert, Smith and Deffert, blah, blah as her brother did some time ago. Proper and professional, Miss Deffert acknowledged the memory of working with Taffeta’s brother and the firm’s handling of his affairs, including the distribution of the various crates that he left in his will.

Miss Deffert confirmed that Taffeta’s brother had indeed secured their services, not only because they were a top ranking firm, but for their reputation for being discreet.

In short order, Taffeta and Myrna had set up the money in a living trust with conditions suitable to their liking. They arranged for the pick up, delivery and possible long-term storage of a certain crate, which now contained a well cleaned, well oiled and well packed Cora along with the remaining ammunition.

They each sold their houses and pretty much everything else they had short of their most prized possessions and made the plan to head some place, “South. Tropical. Caribbean.”

“Well, I do declare,” Myrna said, in what was the very passable, if not stereotypical accent of a Southern belle. “Why, with all this heat I fear that I am fixin’ to perspire!” She leaned over and tapped Taffeta on the shoulder stirring her again, from her visit to the past.

“I’m heading inside to take a shower before we go to dinner,” she said. “Don’t stay out here too long now, ya hear? Why, you’ll just bake!”

“Go!” said Taffeta, laughing lightly. “Get out of here, you loon!”

“Seriously, you don’t want to burn.”

“I’ll be along,” Taffeta said, downing the very last of her cocktail. “I don’t want to miss the sunset.”

Taffeta shifted in her chair and draped a towel across her legs. Her gaze moved along the beach and out across the water. She squinted and pushed herself to see as far as she could, far beyond the horizon and up into the sky until the very essence of her soul seemed to melt into the churning warm hues of the evening sun, set to drop away to mark the end of another day.

THE END

The Glorious Sunset of Taffeta Spaulding – XI

“The other one was going to let us go,” Taffeta said softly.

Myrna’s hands squeezed hard into her arm as the words left her mouth. She could hardly believe she spoke out loud. She wasn’t thinking about talking, but there were her words, cutting through the silence like a hot knife.

While she tried to look away when the one continued to drive the head of the man with the hammer over and over again into the floor, there was no way to shut out the horrible noise that came with it.

Then, out of the blue, she spoke, as if in a dream.

Danny looked up from his seat on Hover’s body.

“Excuse me?” he said.

Taffeta gave Myrna a quick reassuring look, took another deep breath and turned back. “The man who got hit with the hammer, Petey? He was going to let us go.”

“Yessss,” Danny hissed softly. “And you can clearly see where that got him.”

“The point is,” Taffeta said, pressing on. “He realized we’re not a threat… to him, or to you or to whatever you have going on here.”

“Well, lady,” Danny said shaking his head. “All that seems to have turned into tough shit for you now, considering that your benefactor seems to have had his brains scrambled. And whatever it was you didn’t see before. Since then it seems to me that you’ve both seen quite a bit more. I mean, look around you. We’ve got bodies now. This is what they call, a bona fide shit storm.”

Whatever it was that had bolstered Taffeta’s confidence, faded quickly as a smile crawled across Danny’s face and he began to climb off Hover’s body.

“Now, you look like a couple of smart ladies to me,” Danny said, trying again to wipe the blood from his hands as he gained his balance. “Although, how smart can you be really? I mean look at where you are.”

Taffeta leaned back into the couch.

“Just a bit ago, whatever Petey there was feeding you, was still pretty fresh and I guess, not far from the truth. But now, he’s dead. Hover there is dead. They spilled my money all over the place while doing the dance of the idiots. And, now I’m left with you two. And, you think I should let you go?”

Taffeta cleared her throat. “Yes,” she said. “You should let us go.”

Danny began to pace, laughing to himself before turning to face the old woman. “You…,” he said, pointing with a dramatic flair. “Make a very compelling case. However, I can’t let you go. You know that, right?”

“You’re a horrible human being,” Myrna said, lurching up and throwing herself into the mix.

“Yes,” Danny said, feigning reproach. “I’m sure you see it that way. But you see, none of this was supposed to happen!” He went back to pacing and sliding his bloody hands across his shirt. “I mean really, look at this mess!”

“This isn’t our mess,” Myrna shouted back. “We’ve had just about…”

“SHUT UP!” Danny shouted, spinning around and ducking down to get into Myrna’s face. And while it may have been the rest she got after Danny knocked her out, or she may have just reached her limit, Myrna didn’t flinch and she didn’t waiver. She set her one good eye sternly on his gaze and they stared at each other, each one not daring to flinch.

“Let us go,” Taffeta said softly into the heart of the stand-off. “Let us go and we won’t say a word. I promise.”

The silence flowed between the three of them with little resistance, like a barely there summer breeze.

Danny blinked first. Breaking the stare down with Myrna, the turned his glance to Taffeta. “You’ve got guts lady,” he said, before reaching up to pat her cheek with a smile. “Both of you! You’ve got a lot of guts.”

He kneeled down before them to finish the work Petey started, untying their legs and tossing the ropes aside. He stood uneasily before them. “Hell, if my mother or grandmother had half the guts you two have, who knows where I’d be today.”

“Thank you,” Taffeta said, reaching down to rub at the spot where the ropes nibbled into her ankles.

“The sad thing is,” Danny said as his smile melted away. “Guts can make you stupid. They can give you a false sense of right and wrong, and of power. They make you careless. If I let you walk out of here, we both know where you’re gonna go. And I can’t have the police showing up here. Not before, at the very least, I get a chance to spruce the joint up a bit.”

He looked around his domain almost sensing the possibilities that could come with a good cleaning.

“No,” he said. “You’re going to leave all right, but you’re not going home.”

Again, with an unsuspected speed and seemingly peculiar strength, Danny lunged forward grabbing the front of Taffeta’s coat, and jerked her up and out of the couch to stand before him.

She let a small whimper slip as her legs wobbled and tingled a bit from sitting so long.

Danny looked into her eyes with a dark determination and he spun her around to drag her from the room.

“Wait!” she cried. “Please! Wait! Just let me say goodbye.”

Danny paused, letting the words sink in. The day was getting long and his patience thin, but a quick goodbye seemed reasonable. He spun Taffeta around like a giant doll and without letting go, leaned her out toward her friend.

Myrna reached out. Taffeta reached out. Their hands met and clasped around each other.

“I’m sorry,” Myrna said as tears trickled down her face. “I’m so sorry.”

“Shhh,” Taffeta said, closing her eyes softly and shaking her head ‘no.’ “I love you. You know that right?”

Myrna shook her head, squeezing Taffeta’s hand.

Taffeta squeezed back as hard as she could. “Myrna,” she said, searching for her friend’s eyes. “Don’t worry about me. Do you hear me?” She started to cry. “You can get out of this thing. You get out of this thing and you get out of here and you go far away where it’s safe. Do you hear me?”

Myrna gave her an obligatory nod, holding back a sob.

“Ok,” Danny said, pulling at Taffeta. “That seems good enough.”

“You get out of here,” Taffeta urged. As Danny pulled their arms stretched between them, but their hands held tight.

“You do what you need to do!” Taffeta shouted, fighting to stay with her friend. Danny pulled again, finally breaking the link between them and trying to spin the old woman away and into the shadows.

“You get free!” Taffeta yelled. “You let Cora protect you!”

Taffeta pushed back as hard as she could, but Danny held tight. She bounced around as he fought to control her. She tried to point at Myrna. “You get Cora!”

“SHUT UP!”

Danny pulled Taffeta up in front of him with a hearty shake and a head-jarring jerk that stilled the fight in her. He stared directly into her eyes, again silently communicating all the seriousness he was about to bring down upon her.

“The show’s over lady!” he spat.

Taffeta stared back for a moment before squeezing her eyes shut as tight as she could make them.

Two seconds later, the room exploded.

Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop!

Holding her eyes shut, her ears began to ring as the sound of Cora’s report filled the small room like thunder. Wood, glass and molding drywall shattered around her making the air thick with dust and debris. She felt her captor wriggle and shake. She heard him grunt and howl, but his grip held tight through the storm.

Thirty shots later, with a soft click, it was over.

An aggressive silence sought to recapture the space, save for a few bits and pieces that had yet to find their way to the ground.

Taffeta, with a measure of hesitation, slowly opened her eyes.

Danny face filled her vision. His eyes darted across her face showing anger and hate and fear and finally, emptiness. Like she has seen in Petey’s eyes, Danny’s life slipped away from him. One single, small smile crossed his lips before he loosed his grip and crumbled to the floor in front of him.

Taffeta took in a huge breath, and tried to blink away her tears. As he eyes adjusted, she say Myrna standing before her. Myrna’s arm stretched out. And at the end, where one would have expected to see her hand, Taffeta saw her purse. Coming from a dark black, powder-burned hole in the side of the purse, a thin, delicate stream of smoke rose up into the sky.

Myrna sobbed.

“I heard you!” she said. The words poured out of her like water from a rusty bucket. “I heard you and I didn’t think I knew what you were telling me, but then I realized. Then I couldn’t get it out. The gun got stuck in the bag. I tried to get the safety off and I really wasn’t sure if it would work because I couldn’t see.”

Taffeta walked to Myrna as she spoke, smiling and wiping away the tears that streamed from her eyes.

“Then I pulled the trigger and just hoped,” Myrna said. “And it did, but then I couldn’t aim, and you were right there and…”

Taffeta reached up slowly, felt into the bag and softly urged Myrna’s hand to let go. She hefted the bag with the gun off her hand and set it on the floor. She moved Myrna’s outstretched arm down to rest at her side.

“…and you were right there. And my God, what if I had killed you? But he was horrible and he said horrible things. And the way he kept slamming that other man’s head over and over. He was never going to let us go he…”

“Sh, sh, shhhh,” Taffeta said, moving in to hug her friend in earnest. “It’s over now. It’s ok. It’s over.”

Myrna kept talking, kept saying every word that came to her head until there were no more, and the trailed off into the dark silence. They stood together, hugging each other, rocking back and forth ever so slightly and assured themselves that they were both alive and that everything was ok.

A long while passed before they moved. Eventually, Traffeta broke from the embrace, pulled a pair of tissues from her pocket and offered one to Myrna.

Together, the wiped their eyes, gathered their wits and calmed their souls.

“Such a mess,” Taffeta said first. “Such a waste.”

“They were horrible, right?” asked Myrna. “I mean, I killed…”

“Sh…,” Taffeta cut her off gently. “Don’t.”

Myrna drew another breath and nodded. “I want to go home.”

“Me too,” Taffeta said.

“Can we just…go?” Myrna asked. “Are we allowed to just…leave?”

“I guess.”

“What about…”

“I don’t know.”

Myrna reached down and took Taffeta’s hand. “Then let’s go. Let’s get out of here before something bad happens.”

Myrna stopped. Her brain caught up to what he mouth just said and she couldn’t help but giggle. “Before something bad happens. Did you hear that?”

Taffeta nodded.

“Let’s go!” Myrna said. “Medication be damned, I need a drink!”

She held on the Taffeta’s hand as she gathered up her own purse and moved to maneuver around the bodies and to the door, but Taffeta pulled at her.

“Myrna, wait.”

The Glorious Sunset of Taffeta Spaulding – X

Taffeta stared down into Petey’s eyes which in almost the same moment, popped wide with the realization of what Hover just did to him, then dimmed as his consciousness, and his life slipped away from him.

With a soft grunt, he tipped forward dropping his head into Taffeta’s lap, then slid down from her knee and along her calf as his body slumped to the floor.

Taffetta’s breath caught as she tried to pull her eyes away from mound that was Petey, or at least tired to squeeze them shut, but they would not comply. Instead she slowly lifted her head tracing the room until her gaze fell upon Hover. Her face twisted in to disbelief and fear.

“Dammit!” Hover shouted, dropping the sledge to the floor. His body grew rigid as his hands clenched into and out of frustrated fists.

“Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!”

He stomped around in a small circle as a child might while having a tantrum, shaking his fists and at one point, raising them up to hit himself in the forehead several times in quick succession.

“Dammit, dammit, dammit!”

He kicked out at Petey’s lifeless body, catching him in the leg and making the body shift with its force.

“You stupid son of a bitch,” he said, grinding his fists harder into his head. “You couldn’t just leave it could you? Could you?”

Taffeta stared at the building, brooding mass of anger and frustration before her, her heart beat rising in pace with the escalation of the situation which had quickly deteriorated from a moment of hope and possible escape to…this.

Whatever this was now, whatever their situation had become, it came with a heavier weight than anything up to this moment, as her husband might say, “This was the shit and they were up to their armpits in it. Time to do, or be done in.” She missed that about him.

When Hover kicked out at his associate’s corpse, the alarms screeched through Taffeta’s head.

She burrowed deeper into her friend’s side trying in earnest to elbow her awake, but without drawing attention.

“C’mon, Myrna,” she shouted silently in her head. “C’mon, c’mon. I need you now.”

For the first time since plopping her into the dilapidated sofa, Myrna uttered the very softest of groans causing Taffeta to jerked her head toward her friend’s face.

“That’s it,”she dared to whisper. “C’mon Sweetie, wake up.”

Myrna uttered another soft and barely audible moan as her right eyebrow raised up ever so slightly.

Even that ever so subtle response set Taffeta’s heart to beating faster, but with a greater sense of comfort and relief than compounding fear.

Hover’s swearing boiled down to a base growl as he continued to smack and berate himself while churning in a small squall of a manic pace.

“Myrna,” Taffeta whispered, following another nudge. “You have to wake up now, but you have to be quiet…really quiet.”

An eyelid quivered, then lay quiet for a moment before both eyes popped open.

“What the…,” Myrna said, sitting bolt upright.

Taffeta grabbed the lapel of her friend’s coat and pulled her close to her.

“Sh, sh, sh,” she whispered directly into Myrna’s ear as loud as dared, but with the intention of being heard. “Keep calm. Keep quiet. We’re OK, for the moment.”

Myrna’s eyes shot around the room as her brain worked to put everything together as fast as she could. She remembered the…pharmacy, yes the pharmacy, they were going to get, but then there was that horrible, dirty boy and… She turned a face twisted with fear and a dash of panic back to her friend.

Taffeta raised her hands to catch Myrna’s face and made her focus on her. Her own face mimed deep, careful and calming breaths before she mouthed a long and silent, “Shhhhh.”

Myrna nodded, working to match her breathing to Taffeta’s. The two calmed each other to the point where Taffeta could finally hear something other than her heartbeat banging in her ears. At least until…

“Sweet Jesus! What the hell?!”

Hover stopped instantly, dropping his arms and turning to face the voice that blew out of the shadows like a child who got caught lifting the goods from the family cookie jar. Whether knowingly or by reflex, he took a small step to the side in an effort to block the greater problem, which was the slumping dead pile of Petey Chambers.

“It’s not what you think Danny,” Hover said, pleading his case. “He was gonna let them go.” He pointed accusingly at the ladies cowering on the dilapidated couch. “He was gonna let them go, just like that and you know they would rat us out! I mean he was untying them and everything! He…”

“SHUTUP!” Danny Mackenoy, leapt from the shadow swinging a fist wide and fast that caught Hover square in the jaw, knocking him to the ground.

“Just,” he said, through dangling, dirty strands of hair and a heavy breath, “Shut up.”

Hover lay on the ground rubbing the side of his face as a small tear welled up and dripped down to his cheek. Danny slogged forward, kicking as Hover scurried out of the way, clearing a path to Petey’s body.

“Jesus,” he said, leaning down to poke at the corpse that lay in the dark. “What the hell have you done? What the hell, Hover!?” He spun around and lurched toward Hover who tried to spider walk himself into retreat.

“Did you forget the plan?” Danny asked. “I made a plan! A careful plan that uses three legs of a stool made up of my brain, your flair for on the job security, and Petey’s gift for distribution, everybody playing to their strengths. But you, you with no brains what so ever decide that you will, kill our key to effective distribution!”

Danny’s words started clear enough so as to emphasize his point, but as his own words sunk in along with the realization that his plan, which worked perfectly up until this point, was now messed up beyond reasonable repair, his words grew tight and forced. He began to spit them out through gritted teeth. And as Hover tried to slink away, Danny inched ever closer.

“No distribution, no cash! It’s a pretty simple formula!”

Danny jumped forward grabbing Hover and dragging him across the floor to Petey’s body. “No distribution, no cash, Hover!”

He forced Hover’s face to the floor so that his gaze would have to meet Petey’s lifeless stare. “No cash, no plan!” He brought Hover’s face up to his own. “Did you ever think of that? Did you?”

“No!” Hover yelled, “No, I guess…”

Danny forced his head back into the floor. “Of course not!” He yelled. “You didn’t think!” He raised Hover’s head and forced it back into the dusty, dirty wood floor with a heavy thud.

“You never think!”

Thud.

“You aren’t paid to think!”

Thud.

“But I guess you wanted to give it a try anyhow!”

Thud.

“Now, look what we’ve got!”

Thud.

“No distribution!”

Thud.

“And, that means…”

Thud.

“No…”

Thud.

“More…”

Thud.

“Cash.”

Thud!

The last blow pushed Hover’s head in a way that his now similarly lifeless eyes stared into Petey’s. Danny sat, perched on top of Hover’s body, holding his one time partner’s head against the floor until the slight twitching in Hover’s left foot stopped completely. Then he slowly forced out a heavy breath before sitting upright and shooting his head back in a way that should have flipped his hair back and out of his eyes, but the dirt and sweat held it back. He brushed it away with a bloody palm leaving a smear of red across his forehead. He looked up.

“Ladies,” he said, matter of fact. “I’m sorry you had to see that. However, the poor behavior of my associates has brought us to a rather uncomfortable crossroads in our relationship.”

He looked down at his hands covered with blood. The tops. The palms. He clenched his fingers to feel the stickiness before dragging them hard across his shirt.

“Idiots,” he muttered to himself.

Myrna and Taffeta sat still, clutching at each other, trying to remain calm, in the face of this recent turn of events.

The Glorious Sunset of Taffeta Spaulding – IX

Taffeta managed to move Myrna across the sidewalk and into the passenger seat of her car near the door of the pharmacy. Not that she expected any help from the younger man who was causing her this pain, but it seemed worse to have him watch her struggle.

As gentle as she tried to be, Myrna’s head bobbed with every tug and pull. The whole left side of her face was swollen now, effectively closing her eye.

Once Hover emerged from the store, Danny crawled into the back seat slouching low and leaning into to the window. He pulled a pair of sunglasses from his pocket, slid them on his face and settled into the oncoming high. Hover jumped in next to him wiping the blood from the end of his sledge with some paper towels he pulled from aisle 4.

It was Hover who told Taffeta which way to go. Four miles down Wilkes, take a left, then a right, then two miles, then a right and so on. Taffeta aptly followed his directions, but was more concerned about Myrna whom after twenty minutes of driving still had yet to come to. Besides, she was pretty certain Hover was taking the long way around to wherever it was they were heading, just to throw her off.

Another fifteen minutes later, in a part of town Taffeta never knew existed, Hover had her pull around to the back of a series of brick row houses, mere shadows of what they once were, now boarded up and settling into at least a decade of decay.

“Pull up here and stop the car,” he said. Silently, she did as she was told while keeping one eye on Myrna and the other on any possible pathway to escape.

“Now get out, and get her,” Hover said, climbing out of the backseat and setting the sledge on his shoulder. Taffeta stepped out of the car then walked around to the passenger door. She opened it and leaned in to unclip Myrna’s belt, grab their purses and start to heft Myrna out.

“Hey, wait,” he said, just as Taffeta got her friend to stand limply beside her. “I don’t think you need the bags.”

“She has asthma,” Taffeta blurted out. “She needs her medicine. Doesn’t your mother carry a purse?”

“My mother never carried anything, but a bottle of whiskey and a grudge,” he said dropping the sledge to the ground. He stepped over to her and pulled one of the bags from her shoulder. Looking at her the whole time, holding her gaze, he yanked the purse open and reached his hand inside. His hand moved around the inside of the bag feeling for anything.

“Bah,” he said. “Asthma, my ass. You got nothin’ in there but a wad of tissues, a compact and a handful of candy.” He tossed the bag at her feet. “Pick it up, let’s go.” He turned to get his sledge and start up the steps to the first row house.

Taffeta retrieved Myrna’s bag from the ground, almost dropping her, but then righting them both to standing again. “Do you want to check mine too?”

Hover stopped and turned. He took one step toward her then stopped. He thought, then smiled shaking his head and keeping himself on task.

“Keep it up lady,” he said. “I got more things to do than to rustle around in a bag full of tissues and hairpins. Just get inside, huh?”

“What about him?” Taffeta said nodding her head back toward the car where Danny now slept soundly.

“What about him?” Hover said looking over at Danny. “You best mind your own. You don’t really want to be waking him up when he’s, you know…sleeping. Better for me that you just get inside. Better for you too.”

“You could let us go.”

“Lady…,” Hover said, shaking his head again. “Really, just get inside.”

Taffeta struggled to get them both up the steps and inside the dump of a house, again, without any help aside from Hover impatiently holding the door for her as she moved slowly past him. The house was dark, beyond whatever light found its way through the cracks in the boards that covered the windows. She squinted to help her eyes adjust so that she could get a better lay of the land. The smell hit her first, a hearty wave of rot mixed with a touch of urine. As she stood there she could make out a couch, a small table and a couple of chairs and the along the wall were stacks of boxes.

“Don’t just stand there lady,” Hover said, moving up behind her. “Go over to the couch and sit down.”

“Could you get me some water?” Taffeta asked. “For my friend.”

“This ain’t the Ritz, lady. Just sit down until Danny figures out what to do next.”

She found her way to the couch and slowly dropped Myrna into place first before plopping herself down tightly next to her. She could almost feel a cloud of filth, dust and debris billow up around her. Despite the lack of comfort and the layer of disgust, it felt good to sit. She was exhausted.

Hover came over with a hand full of rope and kneeled before her.

“You’re going to tie us up?”

“Shut up lady.”

“Is that really necessary?” Taffeta said. “I mean look at us. She’s not going anywhere, unless I drag her and frankly, dragging her here was more than I was made for.”

“Just…shut up.”

Hover tied her feet the best he could. Then he tied Myrna’s to hers then worked the rope to connect them both to the base of the couch. Then he left them.

Her first intent was to get free and get them out of there, but the distraction of another soft moan from Myrna, sent her into caring mode. She adjusted her friend to make her more comfortable. Then got herself as comfortable as she should. She stroked her friend’s hair calmly in the dark. Who knows what damage she suffered by the blow to the face. Whatever it was, Taffeta hoped it was temporary. It wasn’t long then until the excitement of the day took its toll and Taffeta herself drifted into a soft, uneasy sleep.

It was hard to tell how much time passed before Taffeta jerked herself awake. Myrna leaned hard against her shoulder, snoring, which was probably a good sign. She was sleeping. Not slipping away into a coma.

Worse still was that in the dimly lit room, she squinted to see Danny standing before her, still, stoic, and staring at them. His face was blank and emotionless. He just stood there drifting ever so slightly back and forth, his dirty hair hanging down across his face. A thin string of drool hung from his lip and stretched down towards the floor.

She watched him.

He stood there. An unnecessary standoff, between the victim and the vacant.

She had no idea how long he stood there before he moved, but when he did, he shook his head and squeezed his eyes as if he were trying to close off someone who might be talking to him. He raised his hand lethargically and waived the phantom voice, away.

“Shut up,” he mumbled, but it sounded more like. “Shuup.”

Then he staggered forward a step, then another, then managed to step slowly into the shadows.

Taffeta breathed out a hard sigh, dropping her head forward. She closed her eyes trying to calm the pounding in her chest.

She must have nodded off again, for when her head jerked up again, another young man was kneeling before her, one she had not seen before.

“Hey lady,” the man said. “You want some water?” He held out a plastic bottle.

Taffeta reached forward slowly. Her muscles sore from hefting Myrna around so much moved under protest.

“Thank you,” she said softly.

The young man looked back and forth quickly before producing another bottle from under his jacket.

“What about her?” he said, reaching out again.

“Yes, thank you.”

“What the hell is this?” Hover said, stepping into the dim light of the room. “What are you doin’ Petey?”

The young man on the floor jumped up, “Nothing. Why? What do you care?”

“Seriously,” Hover said, pressing the other. “What the hell are you doin’? Danny aint gonna like this.”

“Danny doesn’t know what he’s doin.” Petey said. “What’s he thinking bringing two old ladies here?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Hover said. “It’s what he wants and he’s making the decisions. Maybe he wants them to clean up around here.”

“You’ve got to be kidding. We should be letting them go.”

Hover stepped closer to the other man, who held his ground.

“I said…we don’t make those calls,” Hover said. “You sell the stuff. That’s your job. The rest is all up to Danny.”

“Have you seen him? He’s really not looking his best today…or any day lately.”

“So?”

“So…,” Petey leaned in. “I’m making this call. I’m letting them go. They don’t belong here.”

“Don’t do it, Petey.” Hover swung his sledge up slowly to rest on his shoulder as his hands shifted along the handle to find the right grip.

“Screw you, Hover!” Petey said spinning around. “I signed on to this thing for one thing and one thing only – cash. Not kidnapping. Not murder. Just Cash.”

Slowly he stood. “I don’t know what you signed up for and I don’t care. Danny is losing it. He broke the first rule, stay out of the product, and now he’s just a mess. He’s sloppy, careless.”

“Brave talk, coming from a small time street pusher.” Hover said working his hands and training his eyes on Petey.

“Small time?” Petey laughed. “Maybe. maybe it started small time, but who is responsible for this?”

Petey lunged at the boxes along the wall and pulled hard, the first toppled to the floor breaking oven and releasing a spray of cash.

“Or this?” He grabbed another ripping at the flap which allowed more cash to escape.

“This wasn’t Danny. And it certainly wasn’t you! Anything we’ve built, I brought to the table. And this…,” he broke off pointing at the two women. “Is not what we do.”

Petey stood in a puddle of money breathing heavily with his arm stretched out and his eyes fixed on Hover.

“Now,” he said. “I’m making this call. You’d be smart to step back or crawl into whatever hole it is you call home and just let it happen.”

Hover shifted his weight, leaning his head back in consideration. His eyes thinned his stare at the other man and they stood quietly, until Hover finally took a single step back and gestured with one hand as if to say, go ahead.

Petey dropped his arm and nodded with relief at Hover’s slow but, ultimate recognition of what made sense here. He stepped back to the ladies, kneeled down and again, began to work the ropes.

“You ladies get out of here. Get right out of here. Get into your car and go home and for get all about this place and anything you saw here.” He looked up for a brief moment at Taffeta. “You got that?”

“No…,” was the only thing Taffeta had time to mutter.

Petey’s face shifted from contorted confusion at what he thought was Taffeta’s denial, to wide-eyed fear as the woman before him tried to recoil deeper into the couch. There was no time to turn, or flinch or duck for in between those taught seconds, Hover’s sledge found its next target and the aim was true.

The Glorious Sunset of Taffeta Spaulding – VIII

Despite whatever went on inside his drug addled mind, and despite the self-inflicted tattoo that boldly, yet sloppily declared himself the “New Capone,” Danny Mackenoy was small time.

On the surface, his story read like the pages of so many others; very few friends, bad in school, truant, fighting, petty thefts, stints in juvie and everything else that would lead one to believe his destiny was either prison or an early death caused by any one of his random acts of stupidity.

On a deeper level, Danny was his own worst enemy. He wanted to be bad. He boldly slapped away every hand that ever reached out to him in earnest with an offer of honest help or reform, opting instead to dive deeper into forming the skin of a big time, hard-core crime boss. The way he saw it, he had the brains, he had the guts and there was nothing but opportunity all around him.

If Danny had anything going for him at all, it was his recent string of pure luck.

His latest scheme involved a line of robberies aimed at amassing cash, for cash meant power and power meant Danny Mackenoy could do whatever he wanted.

The plan was simple enough, steal as much cash as possible or steal whatever he could easily convert into cash. After cracking into a few houses and a gas station out in Millersburg, Danny stumbled upon the notion that drug stores, especially older ones, could render even faster results. They had cash. They had drugs. The drugs could be sold for cash and whatever was left over could help him soothe away the worries of another hectic day. Win, win, win.

Smart enough to know he couldn’t take on such an enterprise without some help, he enlisted the skills of a low-level hacker and petty thief, Hover Johnston. He also brought Petey Chambers in as his primary sales associate to move the various pills and notions into the town’s dark crevices where the lesser knowns hungered for his brand of relief, at a cost, of course.

Once Hover disarmed the security systems, which he often accomplished with a sizable sledgehammer, if there was one at all, they could walk right in and take charge. Hover stood watch at the door, while Danny went to the back to “fill his prescriptions” and otherwise relieve the registers of the burden of their legal tender.

Danny kept an eye on a number of area drug stores, to see if he could tell when their primary shipments came in so they would be ripe for the picking. But it was less an effort to conduct concerted stake out and more an exercise in smoking and aimless loitering. His decision to strike rarely grew from his research, but more from boredom and a lack of patience.

When Cowell’s Pharmacy grew ripe and in his mind, was ready for the picking, Danny was going in shit be damned.

And though he would rather have had the store to himself, Hover was already in the back doing his thing when the two old ladies stepped through the doors. Flies in his ointment to be sure, but small, frail flies at that. Nothing he couldn’t handle.

A soft step or two and he was right behind them without so much as a sideways glance. Dropping his sizable mitts on the far side shoulder of each woman, he pressed them together and brought his face to meet theirs in the middle.

“Good morning ladies. Welcome to Cowell’s. Let’s go shopping!”

He held them there for a moment as his hands curled into a grip on the shoulders of each of their coats, then pushed them forward to walk an arm’s length ahead of him.

“Young man!” Myrna said in a huff, as she tried to keep up with the pace of the man pushing them. She linked her arm through Taffeta’s and they squeezed into each other for strength and balance.

“Shut up lady,” Danny growled at the back of her head. “Just shut up. Not a word from either of you, got it?”

He pushed them through the entryway and turned down the third aisle. Taffeta tried to keep her breath calm as she squeezed Myrna’s arm and caught the blur of the various items that seemed to whiz by them from their places on the claustrophobic shelves. Candy turned into socks turned into lotions before the aisle ended and they emerged on the far end in front of the pharmacist’s counter.

Danny pushed them forward hard into the edge. Myrna whimpered as she took the brunt of the blow. Her breath came heavy.

Danny loosened his grip on Taffeta long enough to reach beyond her and slam his hand down on the small bell that sat innocently next to the sign that read, “Ring for service.”

Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring.

“Hey!” he yelled.

Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring.

“Hey!”

His hand covered the bell. He lifted it up and threw it hard beyond the counter and back into the shelves with a crash.

“Hey, are you deaf back there or what? How ’bout some service?”

He gripped Taffeta’s shoulder again and shifted the ladies together along the edge of the counter so that he could see into the back better.

“Hey!” even louder. “My Nana here needs her medicine!”

The sound of some boxes falling rose up from the back, just before the disheveled pharmacist came stumbling out and into sight. Then he tripped and fell out of sight again behind the counter. Behind him, with sledge in hand, stood Hover Johnston.

“You’re not gonna believe this,” Hover shouted down to his partner. “But Doctor Drugs here was trying to sneak out the back door.”

He dropped the sledge, stepped forward and reached down to grab the pharmacist and heft him up, pushing him too, hard against the counter. A small line of blood slid down over the man’s forehead from a cut somewhere in the mass of his tousled hair.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” the older man spat out through heavy breath, his face held tight against the countertop by Hover’s arm. “How, how,” he huffed. “Can I help you?”

“Like I said,” Danny said, disgruntled at the lack of service. “My Nana here needs her medicine.”

“Which…,” huff. “Medicine.”

Danny stood tall, releasing his grip of the ladies and spread his arms wide before him. “All of them!”

In a swift movement, he stepped back then lunged forward up onto and over the counter landing right next to Hover.

“Keep an eye on ’em. All of them,” he said, before scooping up several shopping bags located behind the counter and stepping back into the promised land.

Hover released the pharmacist long enough to reach back to the floor and grab his sledge. Jumping back, he caught the man just before he slipped off  to prevent him from heading to the floor.

“Where you goin’ Pops?” he said, pushing the man’s head and face back into the counter. “That’s right. Nowhere. Nobody’s going nowhere.

The man on the counter moved his eyes up enough to see the faces of the two ladies. The three stared at each other, wordlessly, with faces aptly contorted to suit their circumstance .

It took three minutes, before Danny emerged with full bags of merchandise – hydromorphone, hydrocodone, oxymorphine and some others just because he liked the colors. All his favorites. His mouth chewed ferociously on some tablets that he tossed in for fun and one small white pill stuck to the side of his cheek for a moment before it fell free and tumbled to the floor.

“That’s it,” he yelled, spitting. “Easy as pie.”

His eyes grew wide as he jumped on to the counter and crowed into the empty store like a victorious warrior.

Then he stopped suddenly, shook his head to shift the greasy long strands of his hair from his face, turned back behind him and said, “Mr. Johnston, our work here is done. While the service here was shit,” he said screaming the last word down to the pharmacist. “We ultimately got what we came for. So, I will let it go…this time, but I doubt we will ever return, and I will be telling all my friends to take their business elsewhere.”

He kicked out at the pharmacist causing him to wince before jumping to the floor, back next to the ladies.

“What should we do with him?” Hover asked, “And the old ladies?”

Danny turned and looked at the three, his mouth gnawing at the last bits of the chalky medications.

“Damn,” he said. “Well, I’m in no condition to drive right now, so ladies – you’re with me. And as for that guy…I don’t care. I suppose the moment we leave he’ll try to call the cops so…whatever might fix that would be…”

“Now you listen to me,” Myrna said through gritting teeth as she stepped forward. “We aren’t going anywhere with you. You have what you want. Just go and leave us all alo…”

Myrna didn’t get to finish before a fist filled with the handles of a shopping bag filled with drugs caught her in the cheek. She fell back slowly into Taffeta, who caught her as best she could, but she couldn’t support the weight and they both fell backward hard into the wall of the pharmacy counter.

“Myrna?” Taffeta said, trying to calm the quiver in her voice. “Myrna, honey. You’re ok. You’re ok now. Myrna?”

Myrna mustered a grown that while soft and weak, was enough to quell the burning fear in Taffeta’s chest. They sat together on the floor  as Danny stepped closer to them and crouched down.

“Wham!”

The sound burst up from behind them, behind the counter followed by a retching scream as Hover’s sledge made sure the last thing the pharmacist’s fingers would do is dial a phone…or do pretty much anything else for a good long while.

“You hear that ladies?” Danny spoke softly. “That there is the sound of anguish caused by an utter lack of cooperation pure and simple.”

“Now, my associate is not very smart. He would be all too happy to make your day miserable with a little wave of his sledge hammer. And the only thing between him and you is me. So, while I like this store enough to fill my prescriptions, this is not where I planned the spend the rest of the afternoon. So if you would be-so-kind, would you get off your fat asses and TAKE ME TO YOUR CAR!”

Danny’s words were well metered until the end when spit filled with the crusty remnants of a handful of tablets splashed into their faces.

Danny stared at Taffeta. Taffeta stared at Danny. Myrna moaned softly as a harsh redness spread across her cheek where the skin began to swell.

Heavy seconds ticked by like minutes.

Then Taffeta blinked. She looked away and hefted Myrna in her arms.

“Come on sweetie,” she said. “We’ve got to go now.”

She moved and struggled until both ladies were standing, Myrna leaning heavily against her friend.

“Now that’s what I’m taking about,” Danny said standing. “Cooperation! After you, ladies.” He swung his arm low as he half bowed inviting the two women to go before him.

Taffeta hefted Myrna one last time to make sure she had a good grip. She settled the strap of her purse on the other shoulder and slowly stepped before their captor heading toward the pharmacy door.