Author: Aaron Blaylock

Nothing But Nest

“Is that the last McGriddle?” Woodruff asked.

Bob dug through the wadded up napkins in the greasy bag, until he found the bottom.  He looked at the breakfast sandwich, wrapped in yellow paper, and then back at Woodruff.  With a solemn nod of his head, Bob confirmed the awful truth.

“I’ll play you for it,” Woodruff said as he waved his putter at Bob.

“Oh, now you want to play golf,” Bob said.  “Two minutes ago you were all ‘You can’t play golf in Central Park, Bob.’  And now…”

“No, I said there’s not golf course in Central Park, Bob.”

“Ba!” Bob scoffed.  “That doesn’t matter.”

“Uh, I think it does.”

“Look at all this grass,”

“And people.”

“And trees.”

“And people.

“It even has water hazards.”

“And people!”

“No problem, before you hit the ball just give one of these,” Bob said as he turned and cupped his hands around his mouth.  “Fore!”

Several pedestrians ducked and look frantically in Bob’s direction.

“Would you knock it off,” Woodruff said.  “You’re going to give somebody a heart attack.”

“You can’t give somebody a heart attack,” Bob said.  “You can cause a heart attack.  I’ve done that.  Six times.”

“You’ve caused six heart attacks?”

“That depends, are we talking strictly about people or are you including raccoons?”

“Let’s include all living things with hearts that can be attacked.”

“Oh, then I’ve cause eight heart attacks.”

Woodruff shook his head at his friend, who sat next to him on the park bench.  Two blonde women jogged by in matching pink outfits and smiled at Woodruff and Bob.  Woodruff waved at the joggers as Bob began to unwrap the McGriddle.

“Hey!” Woodruff protested.


“We haven’t decided who gets to eat that.”

“You were serious?”

“Yeah, I’ll play you for it.”

“You know the old adage,” Bob said.  “Never mess with a lumberjack when pancakes and sausage are on the line.”

“But you’re not a lumberjack,” Woodruff replied.

“Ancestry DNA says I’m 0.000017 percent lumberjack.”

“I’ll take my chances.”

“Your funeral.”

“How is losing a breakfast sandwich my funeral?”

“Have you ever been to a funeral?” Bob said.  “There are zero breakfast sandwiches.”


A brisk breeze blew an empty coffee cup down the cobblestone walkway until it lodged between the curb and the bench across from Woodruff and Bob.

“Okay, we’ll go shot for shot until somebody misses,” Bob said.  “I’m going across the cobblestone and into that cup.”


Bob squinted one eye nearly closed and lined up his put.  He drew in a shallow breath and struck the ball.  It danced across the old stones in the sidewalk and slid right into the cup.

“Boom!  That’s how it’s done!”

“Calm down,” Woodruff said.  “Watch this.”

Woodruff produced a florescent orange golf ball and placed it at his feet.  He surveyed the cup for a moment and checked for passersby before he looked back up at Bob.  With a grin and a wink, Woodruff smacked the orange golf ball, while keeping his eyes on Bob.  The orange blur went shooting across the cobblestone and careened into the Styrofoam cup on top of Bob’s ball.

“Daaaaang, Woodruff!”

“That greasy McGriddle is as good as mine.”

“All right,” Bob said with a bow.  “After you then.”

They let a second pair of joggers pass by and retrieved their golf balls from the cup.  Woodruff hurried up the walkway with Bob on his heels.  They stopped at a fork in the path.  One fork led out to a large pond and the other bent back toward a grassy knoll.  A mischievous smile spread across Woodruff’s face.

“Time to take this game up a notch.”

“I’m ready.”

“Okay, down this path, off that turtle shell, and up into the trash can.”

“No way.”


Woodruff dropped his ball and hit it before it came to a rest.  The ball raced down the path, straight for the turtle that was resting on the bank of the pond.  There was a loud crack as the ball bounced off the shell and looped back into the trash can.


The startled turtle began to retreat into the pond.

“Yeah, the turtle’s leaving!” Bob cried.

“You’d better hurry then.”

“That’s not fair.”

“All’s fair in love and pancakes.”

Bob quickly squatted down and placed his ball on the ground.  He plucked a blade of grass and dropped it gently in front of him to gage the wind.  The turtle had just reached the edge of the water when Bob stood up and whacked the ball down the path.  It slowed in the mud only slightly before striking the turtle shell and popping up and in the trash can.

“Booya!  Beat that!”

“That was impressive.”

“Impressive?  I hit a turtle fleeing into the water.  That’s nearly impossible.”

“Nah, I once shot into a kangaroo’s pouch at a hundred yards, and she was hopping away from a dingo.”

“Why would you shoot a golf ball at a kangaroo hopping away from a dingo?”

“Everyone knows an adult dingo cannot swallow a full sized golf ball,” Woodruff explained.  “She used it as a choking hazard and got away.”

“Clever girl.”

“Your turn.”

After retrieving their golf balls, Bob followed the path that led around the grassy knoll.  He picked a spot just clear of a grouping of large maple trees and held up his fingers to form a square.  Bob peered through his finger square and panned from one end of a long walking bridge to the other.

“Over the bridge, off the park bench, nothing but nest.”

“Let’s see it.”

Bob settled over the tiny white ball and swung his hips from side to side.

“Be the ball,” Bob whispered.

With a deep breath, he closed his eyes and drew back his club.  A swing and a clack sent the golf ball flying into the air over the gothic bridge.  The sound of a ping echoed back under the bridge as the white sphere hit the iron park bench and flew high up into the old maple tree.  It landed softly in an abandon nest of twigs and leaves.

“Nice shot!” Woodruff said.

“Thank you,” Bob replied with a deep bow.

“That’s going to be tough.”

“Tougher than hitting a hopping kangaroo at a hundred yards?”

“No,” Woodruff smiled and dropped his ball in front of him.

“Hey!” a deep voice shouted as Woodruff drew back his club.  Woodruff looked up at the shouting man, who wore a suit that matched his jet black hair.  His swing sent the ball flying toward the man in the suit.  The man ducked and the ball hit the lamp post behind him and flew over the bridge and up into the nest.  “What are you doing?”

“Uh, playing for the last McGriddle,” Bob said.

“And you totally yelled in my back swing.”

“Yeah, uncool.”

“You can’t play golf in Central Park,” the man in the suit protested.  “Your gonna hurt someone.”

“You really should have yelled fore, Woodruff.”

“My bad.”

“You guys are nuts!” the man in the suit waved his arms in disgust and walked back under the bridge.

Woodruff and Bob shrugged their shoulders and wandered into the grass.

“Okay, my shot.”

“Nuh uh, you lost.”

“Did not,” Woodruff argued and pointed up at the old maple tree.  “Nothing but nest.”

“Over the bridge, off the park bench, nothing but nest.  Not over the yelling guy, off the lamp post, over the bridge, nothing but nest.  Doesn’t count.”

“Well last round you hit the mud before you hit the turtle.”

“So we’re both disqualified then.”

“Fine, so who gets that delicious breakfast sandwich?”

Bob looked over at a row of park benches.  An old man, with holes in his shoes, was sleeping under a newspaper.  Bob looked back to Woodruff, who gave an affirming nod.  Gently, Bob nudged the sleeping man with holes in his shoes.  The old man stirred and sat up.  He looked down at the yellow wrapper in Bob’s hand.

“Excuse me, sir,” Bob said.  “Would you hold this for me while I race my friend down to the pond and back?”

Woodruff turned and bolted up the path.

“Winner gets the McGriddle!” Woodruff shouted.

“Cheater!” Bob cried.

The man with holes in his shoes watched as they raced away from him.  When they were out of sight he unwrapped the greasy sandwich and took a bite while he perused his paper.

Raiders of the Last Gardyloo

A white mist covered the top of the waters as the skiff sailed forward.  Even without the fog, their visibility would have been limited by the thick leaves crowding the narrow waterway.  Woodruff leaned over the bow and peered through the haze.

“You ever wonder what they do with the sleeves from sleeveless shirts?” Bob asked, leaning comfortable on the boat’s dormant motor.


“The shirt sleeves, what do they do with them?”

“On a sleeveless shirt?”


“I don’t think they were ever there.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“How come?”

“Because shirts have sleeves.”

“Not sleeveless ones.”

“Sleeveless what?”



“What are you talking about?”

“What’s the difference between pants and shirts?”

“You where pants to cover your legs and shirts to cover…”

“Your arms, right?”

“And your torso.”

“But your pants could cover your arms and torso.”

“No, there’s no hole for your head, no collar, and the legs aren’t cut to fit your arms.”

“But your shirt could cover your legs?”

“I guess, as long as it had sleeves.”

“Exactly, so a shirt has to have sleeves.”

“I’m not following you, Bob.”

“All’s I’m saying is that if it didn’t have sleeves, ever, it shouldn’t be called a shirt,” Bob replied.  “It should be called a torso covering with arm holes.”

“I’m not going to argue with you,” Woodruff said.

“Because I’m right.”

“Because you’re crazy.”

“You’ve never wondered what happens to the sleeves from a sleeveless shirt?”


Bob slumped his shoulders and pouted.  Woodruff shook his head and turned back to the bow.  The gentle sloshing of the water and the distant chirping of insects was the only thing cutting through the silence, which loomed as thick and heavy as the fog.

“We should open a sleeve shelter,” Bob finally said.  “Where we find loving homes for unwanted sleeves.”

Woodruff turned around and opened his mouth to speak, but words failed him.

“We could call it Forsaken Sleeve,” Bob continued.

Woodruff just stared blankly at his friend.

“Our slogan could be Tanks for your chari-Tee.”

Before Woodruff could respond, the skiff crashed into something and flung Woodruff overboard.  The off balanced vessel also tossed Bob into the murky water.

Bob quickly rescued his brown fedora from the drink and swam to Woodruff.  He held his head up out of the water and paddled back to the boat, with Woodruff in tow.  They both grabbed hold of the side of their watercraft and looked to see what had struck it.  Rising out of the mist was an ancient stone wall with green moss growing through the cracks.

“We’re here,” Woodruff said.

“So cool.”

With Woodruff pulling from the bow and Bob pushing from the stern, they followed the stone wall to a grassy bank and climbed ashore.  Woodruff squeegeed his wet pants while Bob shook water to all sides like a dog.  The mist dissipated as they climbed the stone steps that led up the hill, next to the towering wall.

“How do you know it’s here?” Bob asked, as he flopped a sopping wet fedora on his head.

“In the tenth century the Queen of Sheba traveled to Jerusalem to seek the wisdom of King Solomon,” Woodruff began.  “Her son Menelik is said to be the fruit of that meeting.  The legend says when Menelik left Jerusalem, to return to the country of his mother, he and his party took the ark with them.  It is said to have rested here ever since, guarded by celibate monks who vow to protect the ark for as long as they live.”

“Wow,” Bob said.  “Where did you learn about all that?”


They were met with a rod iron gate at the top of the hill, where the mist parted and the sun shone down on the structure like a heavenly spotlight.  Beyond the gate was a beautiful garden, surrounding a circular structure made of wood and stone.  A lone figure in a dark robe approached them.

“I am Father Haile Silas,” the man in the dark robe said.  “How may I help you?”

“Hi, I’m Woodruff and this is Bob.”

“We’ve come to see the ark.”

Woodruff shot a reproving look at his over anxious friend.  Bob raised his arms and, with his mouth opened slightly, shook his head back at Woodruff.  The monk stood silently and did not address Bob’s declaration.

“Yeah, um, we…” Woodruff struggled to recover in the face of the hooded gatekeeper.

“You know, the one that was on Indiana Jones,” Bob continued.

Woodruff again turned back to Bob with an earnest non-verbal petition for his silence.

“Do you get movies out here?” Bob asked the monk.  “You know, Doctor Jones.  Adventure archeologist.  The whip, the fedora.  Nazis.  Nothing?”

The monk gently removed his hood and peered at the two visitors.

“I am the guardian of the ark you speak of,” Father Silas said.  “Only those who have been anointed and taken an everlasting oath to protect it are permitted to see the ark.”

“Cool, I’m down.”

“Bob, he’s serious.”

“So am I.  This isn’t our first everlasting oath.  We signed that non-disclosure with Crayola and they don’t mess around when it comes to protecting their color palette.”

“The anointed have been brought up and prepared for the express purpose of bearing this glorious burden, passed down for thousands of years.”

“So that’s a no?”

The monk simply stared back at Bob with a resolute expression on his face.

“Bob, we should go.  Sorry to have disturbed you.”

“You’re giving up, just like that?”

“You heard him, we are not permitted to see it.”

Woodruff turned back to the monk and bowed.

“Again, we are sorry to have disturbed you.”

“Yes, totally.  Sorry to disturb, but could we use your bathroom before we go,” Bob said.  “That wat I had for breakfast is not agreeing with me.  Ya know, curry does a number the old bowels.”

The monk raised an eyebrow and examined Bob carefully.  Woodruff grinned uncomfortably as the trio stood in silence.

“You know, the little explorer’s room?” Bob explained.  “The restroom.  The outhouse.  The water closet.  The powder room.  The John.  The toilet?  The loo?”

After another long pause Father Silas produced an old skeleton key from beneath his robe and unlocked the gate.  He pulled it open and gestured for Woodruff and Bob to enter.  Once inside, the old monk closed and locked the gate and led the way down a small footpath, away from the circular stone church.

“What are you up to?” Woodruff whispered.

“I’ve got a plan,” Bob spoke through grit teeth as he smiled at the monk, who momentarily turned to observe them.  “I’ll distract him and you run over to the church and get a look at the ark.”

“I’m not going to do that.”

“Fine,” Bob whispered.  “You distract him and I’ll go.”


The monk stopped in front of a small wooden structure and gestured into the dark opening.  Bob bowed as he passed by Woodruff and entered the outhouse.  Inside, he discovered a long rectangular window at the back of the facilities.  Bob tossed his fedora through the window and quickly squeezed himself through the opening and let himself down the back side of the outhouse.  There he found the old monk waiting for him, with Woodruff standing off in the distance with his arms folded.

“Oh, uh, yeah, funny story,” Bob stammered, as he scooped up his fedora.  “I was, uh, just…”

“We have guarded the ark for over three thousand years,” Father Silas said.  “You think you’re the first one to try the old bathroom ploy?”

“Can’t blame a guy for trying,” Bob grinned sheepishly and fidgeted with his hat.

Father Silas escorted Woodruff and Bob back to the iron gate and out of the sanctuary.

“Again, so sorry for all this,” Woodruff said.

“Do you have like a gift shop where we can buy a survivor or something,” Bob said.  “You know, just to prove we’ve been here.”

The solemn monk turned, without a word, and began to walk back toward the old church.

“It could be anything really,” Bob said loudly.  “A brochure, a commemorative coin.  The latch of your saddle, the sleeve of your shirt.”

Father Silas turned back and smiled.

“Under these robes we do not wear shirts,” the old monk replied.  “We wear a torso coverings with arm holes.”

“See?” Bob said.  “These monks get it.”


“What day is it?” Woodruff asked.

“It’s Saturday,” Bob said.  “Or Monday.  I’m not sure.  When did Oceanic 815 crash on the island?”

“Uh, I think we started LOST on Friday.”

“What episode are we on now?”

“The Lighthouse, I think.”

“Oh, um, that’s one hundred and eight episodes at forty-four minutes a piece,” Bob calculated.  “Factoring in pauses for potty breaks and to pay the pizza delivery guy…”

“And the Uber driver with our takeout from Jade Palace,” Woodruff interrupted.

“Right,” Bob said.  “Um, well, it’s probably late Monday or early Tuesday.”

Woodruff stood up from his seat and stretched his arms high above his head.  He yawned and scratched his back, as he walked over to the drawn curtains.  Bob picked at the popcorn kernels scattered over his blanket and smelled his old blue t-shirt.  Woodruff pulled back the curtain and looked outside.

“It’s dark out,” Woodruff said.  “You think we should get some sleep?”

“But the smoke monster,” Bob said.  “And Hurley, and baby Aaron.  We’ve got to know what happens to baby Aaron.  What about Kate and Jack?  Are they going to get together?”

“You said the same thing about Jim and Pam.”

“And they did get together, you’re welcome.”

“And what about The West Wing?”

“What about The West Wing?” Bob replied.  “That was riveting television.”

“Yeah, SEVEN seasons of riveting television!” Woodruff exclaimed.

“Well, five and three-quarters were actually riveting.”

“And before that it was Arrested Development.”

“Those Peanuts call backs were hilarious.”

“And Breaking Bad?”

“How could he just watch Jane die?”

“And Gilmore Girls.”

“I still say Rory should’ve ended up with Logan, he challenges her.”

“And 30 Rock.”

“Liz Lemon proved you can have it all.”

Friday Night Lights.”

“Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”

The Great British Baking Show.”

“You loved Mary’s Bakewell Tart.”

“Yeah, that was delicious,” Woodruff nodded and looked dreamily at the ceiling.  He shook his head rapidly and looked back down at Bob.  “That’s not the point.”

“What’s the point then?”

“We said we’d stop after we learned who Don Draper really was…”

“I did not see that coming.”

“And then we said we’d turn it off after Titus and/or Kimmy found true love.”

“Hashbrown, no filter.”

“This all started because we wanted to know what the Stranger Things were.”

“I’m not going to fight again, Woodruff, Eleven would beat Matilda hands down.”

“Bob, how long have we been watching Netflix?”

“Well, let’s see, I got a 30-day free trial on New Year’s Day, when Will rode his bike home and got pulled into the upside down by the Demogorgon.”

Woodruff tapped on his digital watch and his face was illuminated in its blue glow.  His eyes grew wide as he stared at the digital display.

“Bob, it’s February!”

“That’s not possible,” Bob said.  “My New Year’s resolution was to be more physically active.”

Woodruff flipped the switch on the wall and they both squinted and blinked at the explosion of light.  All the counter and table top space was covered with pizza boxes and Chinese takeout cartons, and the floor was littered with empty microwavable popcorn bags.

“Oh boy, there goes my resolution to eat better.”

“How did this happen?”

“I don’t know, I blame David Fincher.”

“We’ve, uh, we’ve got to get some sleep,” Woodruff said, rubbing his eyes.  “Or get outside.  We need to clean this up.  I gotta take a shower and get a clean change of clothes.  I need to call my broker and let him know I’m alive.  Oh my goodness!”

Woodruff drove into a pile of pizza boxes and started throwing them to either side.

“What?” Bob asked as he leapt out of his recliner.


“Lou who?”

“Lou,” Woodruff repeated.  “The iguana that followed us home from Jamaica.”

“Leaping lizards!” Bob exclaimed, as he began to peel through the cartons and boxes on the floor.

“Lou,” Woodruff called.

“Lou?” Bob cried.


Woodruff and Bob dug through the pizza box jungle as they made their way to the kitchen.  There they found a long green iguana lying on its back, on the linoleum floor, in front of the fridge.  His tongue hung out and his hind leg twitched.


The iguana’s head snapped up and he looked at Woodruff and Bob through groggy googly eyes.  Woodruff turned him over on his stomach and Bob laid a piece of pizza crust near his front claws.  Lou began to chew on the crust, listlessly.

“Thank Ted Danson he’s okay.”

Woodruff rinsed out a metal bowl and placed it on the floor.  Bob filled the bowl with what remained of a 2-liter bottle of Dr. Pepper and Lou began to lap up the room temperature brown liquid.

“Maybe we should get him something to eat besides pizza and egg rolls,” Woodruff suggested.

“Nah, you’ve got all five basic food groups covered.”

“That doesn’t sound right.”

“Bread,” Bob began, holding up his fingers as he counted.  “Pizza dough, boom.  Vegetables.  Cabbage, boom.  Fruit.  Pizza sauce, boom…”

“Pizza sauce?”

“Tomatoes are fruit.”

“Apologies,” Woodruff said.  “Continue.”

“Dairy.  Mozzarella, boom,” Bob said.  “Meat.  Eggs.  Plus, there’s pepperoni in the pizza and pork in the egg rolls, double boom!  Balanced diet.”

“But pizza is like loaded with carbohydrates, and egg rolls are deep fried.”

“Fact, everything is better when it’s deep fried and your body needs carbohydrates to live, look it up.”

“Can’t argue with that.”

“You could, but you’d sound like an idiot.”

Woodruff and Bob left the kitchen and made their way through the sea of empty popcorn bags, back to their easy chairs.  Bob shook the kernels off of his blanket and Woodruff plopped down on the cushion and held a half full popcorn bucket to his chest.

“We can’t go on like this, Bob.”

“I know.”

“This isn’t healthy.”


They sat and stared at the message on the screen.  Are you still watching “LOST”?  Woodruff picked up the remote and hovered between Continue Watching and Back.

“You know, we’re almost finished with the series,” Woodruff said.

“And it would be a shame not to see how this turns out.”

“We could just watch to the finale and then shut this thing down.”

“Totally,” Bob said.  “Although I did see that A Series of Unfortunate Events drops soon.”

“And we still haven’t seen The Crown.”

“Or Ozark.”

“Or House of Cards.”

“And I hear good things about Daredevil.”

Iron Fist looks cool too.”

“Don’t forget about Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.”

“Oh, and The Defenders!”

13 Reasons Why has an interesting premise.”

“Thirteen reasons why we should keep our Netflix subscription.”

“Okay, but right after Godless, Frontier, Marco Polo, and Master of None we are canceling.”

“No question,” Woodruff agreed.  “We catch up on the latest season of The Flash and it’s over.”

“You don’t want to give Supergirl a try?”

“Bob, be reasonable, know when to say when.”

“You’re right, Woodruff, you’re right.”

“And we’re going to make sure we take breaks to sleep and go outside this time.”

“For sure.”

“Come on, Lou,” Woodruff called back toward the kitchen.  “We’re about to find out what lies in the shadow of the statue.”

“I’ll get the lights,” Bob said, as he leapt up from his chair and closed the curtains.

Traffic Buster

“What’s the worst thing about traffic?”

“The stop and go, the delay, the cars, the people, the pollution, when your crayons melt from the heat.”


“What’s under the tarp?”

“It’s part of the presentation.”

“Your presentation just moved.”

“Bob, focus.”

“Uh, I don’t know, what’s the worst thing about traffic.”

“The view,” Woodruff said.  “All you can see are bumpers and brake lights.  It’s not just congestion of the roads, it’s congestion of the mind and soul.”

“That’s what my proctologist says.”

“Well, beneath this tarp is the cure.”

“For my colon?”

“For traffic.”

Woodruff tugged on the giant brown tarp with showman-like fashion and raised his arms as it floated to the ground.  “Ta da!”

“An elephant?”

“His name is Buster.”

“I don’t get it.”

“We ride Buster to work to avoid traffic.”

“I’m pretty sure taking an elephant on the Interstate is going to be the cause of traffic.”

“Don’t you see?” Woodruff said.  “With Buster we will be above it all.  No bumpers, no brake lights.  We’ll have a clear view in every direction.  Plus, we won’t be in the confines of a restrictive car.  We’ll be free.”

“I don’t know, Woodruff.”

“Just give it a try.”

Woodruff held up his right arm and made a waving motion with his left hand.  Buster knelt down on all fours and bowed his head to the ground.  Bob looked from the elephant to Woodruff and back to the elephant.

“Okay,” Bob said as he stepped on Buster’s leg and climbed unto his back.  Woodruff followed and squeezed between Bob and Buster’s large head.

“Hup hup,” Woodruff said.  Buster rose up and lumbered out of the hangar into the daylight.  “Buster, take a left on 29th and take I-95 South.”

Buster’s trunk tooted his reply and rapidly carried them up the road.

“I don’t have anything to hold onto, Woodruff.”

“Put your arms around me.”

“You’d like that, Sicko.”

The giant pachyderm shuffled up the onramp to join a slow moving caravan of cars, trucks, vans and semis.  A baby blue Prius honked at them as Buster joined the line.

“We’re tromping here!” Woodruff shouted.

Woodruff, Bob, and Buster were faced with a stream of red brake lights in front of them, which followed the highway up and over a bend.

“Wow,” Bob said.  “You were right.  This is already way better.”

“I told you.”

There was another series of honks and beeps from the baby blue Prius behind them as the traffic slowly pulled forward and Buster failed to pace.

“What is that guy’s problem?”

“It’s the congestion.”

“Hey Woodruff, look at that,” Bob pointed to his right.

Woodruff sat up straight and looked out over the rippling blue ocean.

“Beautiful,” Woodruff said.  “Hey Buster, look, you can see the ocean.”

Buster stopped and stood up on his hind legs.  Woodruff grabbed hold of Buster’s head and Bob grabbed hold of Woodruff.  A gentle breeze cut through the trio and another round of honking from the baby blue Prius disrupted their moment of Zen.

“Would you halt the honking!” Bob shouted.

“Uh oh.”

“What oh?”

Buster rocked back and a small tremor rippled through his body.

“In Pachydermish halt means make boom boom,” Woodruff explained.

Woodruff and Bob spun around and looked back as Buster dropped a steaming brown boom boom on the hood of the baby blue Prius.  The driver slammed his hands on the steering wheel with a disgusted look on his face.

“Run, Buster!”

The giant elephant bolted down the shoulder of the Interstate and knocked into a u-Haul truck, which nearly sent Bob sailing over the median.  He smashed two more side mirrors and tipped over a motorcyclist as he stampeded up the overpass.  A siren blared behind them and red and blue lights reflected off Buster’s gray body.

“Pull over, Buster,” Woodruff said.  “It’s the fuzz.”

Buster slowed to a stop and the police cruiser pulled up right behind them with its lights still flashing.

“No boom boom, Buster,” Bob said as he looked back of his shoulder at the perplexed patrolman.

“Is there a problem officer?” Woodruff asked.

The patrolman, in a black uniform, took off his mirrored sunglasses and put his hands on his hips.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?”

“Your honorable honorness, I didn’t know halt meant boom boom,” Bob said.  “But that Prius was begging for it.”

“What?” the patrolman questioned with a crinkled up mustache.

“I don’t think he knows about the pachydermy plop,” Woodruff whispered.

“Speeding?” Bob asked the patrolman.

“I pulled you over because you are riding an elephant on the Interstate.”

“There’s no law against that,” Woodruff replied.

“Actually there is.”

“Oh, well, uh…”

“What were you two thinking?”

“This is how you win at rush hour,” Bob said.

“What are you talking about?”

“You know how your colon gets congested and your proctologist gets all philosophical?”

“Are you drunk?”

“No,” Woodruff said.  “But Buster here is trunk faced.”

Woodruff and Bob chuckled and shared a high-five.

“This isn’t a joke,” the patrolman said.  “Do you want to go downtown?”

“We’re actually trying to get downtown right now,” Bob said.

“I meant to the police station.”

“No thank you,” Bob said.  “We’ve seen a lot of police stations.”

“Yeah,” Woodruff agreed.  “Remember Santa Barbara?”

“They were nice.”

“That blonde detective liked you.”

“Jules?” Bob replied.  “We still keep in touch.”

“Hey!” the patrolman interrupted.  “I’m serious.  I’m going to cite you two and impound your friend there.”

“Impound, Buster?” Woodruff said.  “More like imton.”

“Ha!” Bob laughed.  “Nice one.”

The patrolman chocked his head and placed his hand on his hip.

“He doesn’t get it.”

“You know,” Bob said to the unamused patrolman.  “Pound.  Ton.  ‘cause elephants are heavy.”

Buster tooted his trunk in a laughing fashion and the corners of the patrolman’s mustache turned up in a smile.  The traffic moved slowly by and a baby blue Prius with elephant poo on the hood rolled up.  A hipster with a brown beard stuck his head out the window.

“Haul them off to jail!” the hipster demanded.

“Did he say halt?” Woodruff asked.

Buster raised his tail and the hipster quickly rolled up his window and sped forward, colliding with the pickup truck in front of him.

“Move it along,” the patrolman said the Woodruff, Bob, and Buster.  “It’s citation time.”

“Hi ho, Buster, away,” Woodruff called and they rambled up the Interstate.

“Best commute ever!” Bob said as he held tight to his friend.

The Last Jedi Review

I won’t keep you in suspense.  I did not like Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  I did not like it a lot.

I have seen the film twice now, my small contribution to its massive financial success.  My hopes were high on opening night, as my brother-in-law and I took our seats and basked in the glow of the famous opening crawl.  However, there was an immediate disturbance in the Force and by the end credits I felt betrayed and bewildered.  How could this story have gone so horribly wrong?

I spent much of the weekend trading messages with my friend, and fellow Star Wars fan, about how disappointing and distressing The Last Jedi was.  After picking (and nitpicking) at the details and overall tone of the movie, I began to think I was being overly critical.  After all, there were parts I enjoyed very much.

I took my sons to see it a few days later.  This time I gave myself license to enjoy the movie for what it is, a Star Wars film for a new generation, but as I sat through this dumpster fire once more it reconfirmed everything that felt wrong, from the tone, to the plot, to the characters.  I left the theater and mourned all that might have been and everything we lost with The Last Jedi.

WARNING: Beyond this point there be spoilers!

From the opening scene I was bothered by the tone.  Don’t get me wrong, I laughed.  The prank call from Poe to the First Order was hilarious.  What bugged me though was that it undercut an already thin villain, in General Hux, and completely negated any tension built from the crawl of the desperate escape.  Then, just minutes after the yucks on Hux, we are asked to care about nameless bomber pilots, and their sacrifices, when they attempt to destroy a battleship that is so formidable that it is ill equipped to deal with a single X-Wing fighter, or a squadron of bombers, or able to target a base or a starship in a timely manner.  Not to mention the fact that you can’t drop bombs in space, there’s no gravity!

Smash cut to Ahch-To where we pick up right where The Force Awakens left us, Rey standing in front of old Luke Skywalker.  We’ve waited two years to hear what Luke will say or do when he is presented with his father’s lightsaber.  In some ways we’ve waited 30 years for this moment.  And what happens?  Luke literally, and figuratively, throws it away.  Both times I watched it, several people in the theater chuckled, but I was deflated.

We were ten minutes in and it was clear that Rian Johnson was set to throw away everything that had come before.  The question that I still have is, why?  JJ Abrams proved you could make a Star Wars movie for a new generation and still deftly use the building blocks, and characters, from the original films.  To a truly spiteful level, Johnson had no interest in doing that.

Say what you want about The Force Awakens, three intriguing questions came out of it.  1) Why did Luke go into hiding and what will he say?  2) Who is Rey, who are her parents and why was she abandon on Jaku?  3) What is Snoke’s story?

Johnson’s answers in The Last Jedi?

1) An eternal optimist, who never gave up on his father (a genocidal maniac, who cut off his hand), was going to murder his nephew in his sleep for having bad thoughts.  So he went into shame hiding and renounced his religion because he couldn’t keep an emo kid from succumbing to a bad influence.  If every father (or father figure) did that there wouldn’t be enough weird rock beehive huts on Ahch-To to accommodate us all.

Oh, and what will he say?  Nothing.  He’ll toss the lightsaber away and lock himself in his room, because that’s exactly how any of us would react if a young lady showed up at our doorstep with a family heirloom and a distress message from our sister.  Then Chewy, who was dramatically underused, beats down his door and Luke learns that this girl arrived in the Falcon.  And here Johnson throws another middle finger at Abrams and cuts away instead of showing us Luke’s reaction to learning that his old friend and brother-in-law was murdered at the hands of his own flesh and blood, and Luke’s former pupil.

Oh yeah, Johnson throws more shade at The Force Awakens, and the Skywalker dynasty, by having the tantrum-throwing Ren destroy his helmet in the elevator.  This helmet was a physical manifestation of his connection to his grandfather and, just like a lightsaber toss over the shoulder, it was discarded.

Immediately following that we watch Kylo struggle with the decision to kill his mother.  In an intense and emotional moment he chooses not to pull the trigger, only to have his colleagues destroy the bridge and we watch Leia get sucked into space.  She is floating in space, Guardians of the Galaxy style, before she wakes up and space floats, Mary Poppins style, back to the exploded bridge.  Because, the Force, that’s why.

Speaking of things the Force has never done before, back on Porg island, while Rey patiently waits for her ungracious host to finish fishing and milking alien sea cows, she gets a ForceTime message from Kylo Ren.  Yeah, that’s right, they can talk to each other and even see each other, but not their surroundings.  ForceTime, available on iOSnoke 17.  Rey shoots through the stone beehive hut and we are treated to these bizarre fish nuns and now must grapple with the fact that Luke hasn’t been living in seclusion but in a Cod Commune.  I’ll just leave that there for the moment.

Now things really go off the rails.  The B-storyline quickly devolves into a slow speed space chase where the First Order, who can now inexplicably track ships at light speed, can’t catch up with a ship that is right in front of them.  And this same organization who turned a planet into a weapon that could destroy other planets across the galaxy, can’t build a cannon that can reach a ship which they can see with their eyes through their front window.  They could literally step out on the deck and hurl rocks through space at the fleeing Resistance ship, but it was out of range of their guns.  If that wasn’t ludicrous enough, we have to endure a side mission (by two woefully unqualified side characters) to find a code breaker/thief who can get them on a ship to disable the miraculous technology that can be disarmed by a maintenance worker and that every janitor is privy to its location.  BOO!

While we’re on the subject, why was maintenance girl sent on this mission instead of the best pilot in the galaxy?  Maintenance girl could have stayed back and stalled and then it would have made sense for them to withhold the plan from her.  Also, why was maintenance girl allowed to pilot the speeders in the finale when there were clearly trained soldiers just sitting it out in the foxhole?  Her whole character was so contrived and this whole storyline asinine.

Switching back to things we actually cared about, Luke sneaks on to the Millennium Falcon, during a really funny exchange between Chewy and his dinner.  Luke is reunited with R2D2 and I start to think this movie might yet be redeemed by a touching tender piece of nostalgia, but immediately we are treated to more hilarity “Hey, sacred island, watch your mouth.”  This was so out of character for this version of Luke that I wanted to throw the middle finger to the screen.  You can either go with old cynical jaded Luke who has lost his faith in himself and forsook the Jedi order or go with playful banter between a droid and his master, the faithful steward and last protector of a dying religion.  You can’t have both.

So Luke decides to teach Rey a lesson (three of them actually, but she only gets two lessons).  Not how to be a Jedi but why she shouldn’t want to be.  Luke says the Force is not light or dark and does not belong to the Jedi, which is actually really well said.  I always assumed that to be true, from Obi Wan’s original explanation of the force as the thing that binds us, runs through us, and connects us.  At no point did I feel anybody laid claim to the Force but if that’s how Luke needed to teach it then I’m fine with it.  When Rey shows sensitivity to the Force and awareness of the dark side of it, Luke loses his cool again.  Rey trains herself with the lightsaber and disturbs the fish nuns again (eye-roll).

We flash back to the gamblers paradise where Finn immediately shows he cares as little for the mission as we do.  They give BB-8 some funny things to do and a whole bunch of I-Don’t-Care happens.  Poe is at odds with an interim Admiral who I can only describe as “Wouldn’t it be cool to have Laura Dern in a Star Wars Movie?  But how would that work?  Who cares, get her a purple wig and we’ll figure it out.”  Purple-hair Laura Dern doesn’t share her master plan, because reasons.  Her master plan, by the way, is to cruise by an uncharted planet with an old rebel base on it and send out cloaked ships while the First Order continues to follow their RV that’s about to run out of gas.  Did I mention they have cloaking devices now?  The First Order designed something that can track a ship at light speed but not a scanner that can sweep for escaping vessels right in front of them.

So Rey goes into a Dark Side Funhouse and then Luke catches her Force touching with Kylo Ren and loses his junk.  Rey and Luke stick fight until she takes him down and threatens him with a laser sword.  Yeah, Luke called it a laser sword.  Boo!

She tries to convince him that there is good in Kylo but Luke, who made the same argument for his youngling murdering father, would rather just lay there in the rain than trust hope.  When Rey finally sees what a disappointment Luke is, she leaves.

Of course Luke’s first thought is “I should burn that old tree and those old books.  That will show the Force.”  Yoda shows up and I squealed a little.  They even brought back puppet Yoda, or CGI’d puppet Yoda.  Either way, YODA!  He delves out wisdom after conjuring lightning and cracking Luke on the noggin with his Force Ghost cane, which we can add to the list of things we didn’t know you could do with the Force.  How are these guys losing to the Dark Side?  I’m starting to think that Force Ghosts are selfish jerks.

Skipping the “Nobody cares about the mission to disable a tracking device that won’t matter because the plan is to abandon ship anyway” storyline, Rey jettisons herself from the Falcon in an escape coffin that can be piloted into Snoke’s ship.  Snoke shows how powerful he is.  He can move people and things around at will and connect them via ForceTime from across the galaxy.  He can even foresee the future, but he can’t see a lightsaber turning on the armrest next to him.

Who is Snoke?  Answer 3) You’ll never know, so shut up.

The fight scene that follows is really cool though.  Then comes the old “join me and we’ll rule the galaxy” invite.  Rey refuses and Kylo Ren tells her that he saw her parents through the Force and that they are junkers who sold her for drinking money and died penniless.  Answer 2) Well, that sucks.

Purple-haired Laura Dern tells the First Order to “Track This!” and crams her hyperdrive in the First Order’s Snoke hole.  That visual was dope.  So well done.  The audio space vacuum was amazing.  Probably the best Star Wars explosion and that’s saying something.  It almost redeemed the atrocious dialogue written for purple-haired Laura Dern.  “God speed.”  When in all of Star Wars history has God ever been mentioned?  It’s the Force.  You know, may the Force be with you.  Not God speed.  “No, don’t turn back.  Full speed ahead.”   Were they not going “full speed ahead” already?  Cause they really should have been, seeing how they were escaping and all.

I won’t even waste time and energy on the disposal Captain Phasma, since the screenwriter/director didn’t either.

The surviving spark that will light the fire that will… (too exhausted to care) lands on not-Hoth and holds up in the old rebel base.  The First Order slow marches from a distance to give Poe and company time to jump in old speeders and ramble out to battle.  Chewy, the Porgs, and Rey show up in the Millennium Falcon and lead the TIE Fighters away from the battle.  That was also outstanding.

Enter poorly thought out dialogue again “Concentrate all fire on the speeders!”  What were they concentrating all fire on before?  There are only 13 speeders, that’s been well established.  The reckless Poe calls for retreat, because Leia and purple-haired Laura Dern reformed the loveable scoundrel with secret admiration and stern reproving (boo!), but Finn charges forward anyway.  Only to be run down from behind by maintenance girl, who had retreated and then turned around to catch him from the side.  How?!  Was he not going full speed ahead?

The portable cannon, that apparently doesn’t work in space against a slowly fleeing space cruiser, blows a hole in the base.  The spark that will light the…(sigh) loses hope until Luke Freaking Skywalker shows up!  Wait, why is his hair shorter and his beard darker.  Something’s not right.  Oh well, Luke is here!  He kisses Leia on the forehead and throws 3PO a nod before walking out to face down the First Order with his laser sword.  In a dazzling display of pyrotechnics, Ren orders Skywalker blasted into salt dust.  Just For Men Luke emerges from the smoke and flames unscathed and Ren condescends to fight him.

The spark that…(head shake) follows the crystal foxes to the rock avalanche while Luke dances with Darth Poser.  Our suspicions are confirmed when Ren slices through the Force projection of Luke.  Another disappointment for what was a stunning visual.  After telling Ren that the Resistance was only beginning his projection fades away before we watch actual Luke fade away.  Because he was tired?

What a complete waste of Luke Freaking Skywalker!

Rey force lifts the boulders and rescues the spark…(growl).  Like a dozen people board the Falcon and escape.  Kylo Ren enters the base with salt troopers and finds the Falcon’s fuzzy dice projection, which somehow survives just long enough for Ren to see it, even after Luke has vanished.  When the Force awakened it must have learned new tricks.

Finally we are treated to indentured children from the B-storyline recounting the legend of Luke Skywalker facing down the First Order (even though they should be recounting how Leia used the Force to come back from the dead and fly through space) their taskmaster tells them to get back to work.  One of the boys Force fetches his broom and looks up at the sky.  Uh, I think we’ve already seen a young mistreated slave boy with Force powers.  Somebody take that kid’s midichlorian count, stat.

Unless you are a special little snowflake born in the last twenty-five yearss, this film was not made for you.  You might have enjoyed it, but this movie was the equivalent of Disney giving the keys to the car to an unlicensed Millennial, more interested in sending a funny SnapChat to his online “friends” in Asia than safeguarding the family vehicle, and he drove this piece right into a ditch.  Search your feelings, you know it to be true.

Help me JJ Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.

Ho Ho No

“So you’re saying they weren’t even there?” Bob asked.

“Scripturally speaking, no,” Woodruff replied.

“And the camels?”

“I’m afraid not, they are most likely representations that the men came from foreign lands to the east.”

“I feel so betrayed.”

“The nativity is really a combination of the New Testament account in chapters two of Luke and Mathew, but the shepherds are the only ones that we know who were actually there on that night.”

“What about the donkey?”

“There were most likely livestock, as the manger that the baby was laid in was for feeding them.”

“You’re blowing my mind.”

Woodruff and Bob continued to walk down the snow covered street, between the snow banks from the road and the recently shoveled driveways.  Bob fidgeted with one of the bags in his hands and Woodruff looked up at the starry sky.

“We don’t actually know how long it took for the wise men to find Jesus, after they saw the new star,” Woodruff continued.

“So Jesus didn’t actually get any gifts on His birthday?” Bob asked.

“After the angels left the field, the shepherds came and found the baby and worshipped him,” Woodruff said.  “The gold, frankincense, and myrrh came later with the wise men.”

“When we get home I’m going to put those three kings in the bathroom.”

“Why the bathroom?”

“I can’t think of a more foreign land than the bathroom.”

“Good point.”

The homes on the street were adorned with bright, multi-colored lights, wreaths, and snowmen.  Woodruff and Bob stopped in front of the only house on the street with no decorations at all.

“This is the place?” Bob asked.

“Yep, this is him.”

“You ready?”

“Let’s do this.”

Woodruff and Bob crouched down and snuck up the walkway to the darkened doorway.  Bob placed the bags on the porch next to the doormat.  Woodruff and Bob reached in together and pulled out a box, wrapped in bright red paper.  Woodruff nodded to Bob as they set the box gently in front of the door.  Bob checked to the darkened windows to the right and left of the door, and rang the doorbell.

“Run!” Bob whisper-yelled.

Bob ran back down the walkway and across the street, without looking back.  Woodruff scooped up the bag and followed quickly behind him.  When they were safely on the other side of the street they slid behind the snow banks and peeked back toward the old house.

“Do you think he’s home?” Bob asked.

“He’s home,” Woodruff said.  “He almost never leaves.”

A faint light from a lamp switched on inside the house, beyond the curtains.

“See,” Woodruff said.  “This is it.”

The front door opened and a skinny gray-haired man pushed open the screen door and looked down at the bright red box.

“This is usually where they try and stomp out the flaming bag,” Bob whispered.



The skinny gray-haired man bent down and picked up the box.  He looked out toward the snowy street and scanned from one end to the other.  The box began to shake and the skinny gray-haired man placed it back down on his porch.  He tore off the wrapping paper and pulled open the box.  Out popped a brown and white puppy, which jumped into the skinny arms of the gray-haired man.  The puppy licked the skinny old face of the gray-haired man, as he gently caressed its brown and white head and scratched behind its ears.

“This is what it’s all about, Bob.”

“Yeah, this is way better than a flaming bag of poo.”



Woodruff and Bob lay in the snow, behind the cover of snow, until the skinny gray-haired man took the puppy and the box into his home and closed the door.

“Now he won’t be lonely anymore,” Woodruff said.

“How do you know he was lonely?”

“For all the years I’ve lived across from him, I’ve never seen him have a visitor.”

“That’s sad.”

“I’ve invited him to dinners, and parties, and game nights, but he’s never come.”

“Maybe he doesn’t like you, or maybe it’s that shampoo that makes your hair smell like walnuts,” Bob said.  “It’s confusing and unsettling.”

“I know,” Woodruff replied.  “But I don’t think that’s it.”

Woodruff stood up from behind the snow bank and Bob joined him.  Woodruff led the way up his brightly lit walkway to his front porch, which was ablaze with blinking multi-colored lights.

“Do you think it’s because you’re so tall and he got a look up your nose?” Bob said.  “That happened to me once and I’ve never been able to look at you the same.”

“No, that’s not it,” Woodruff said.  “I think he’s agoraphobic.”

“He’s afraid of acorns?”

“No, he doesn’t like open spaces or big groups.”


They turned and looked back at the house across the street.  The silhouette of a skinny gray-haired man and a prancing puppy could be seen through the lamp-lit curtains.  Woodruff reached into the bag and pulled out a box, covered in shiny green paper with a red bow.  He handed it to Bob with a big smile.

“Happy Christmas, Bob.”

With a twinkle in his eye, Bob pulled the top off the box and pulled out a glimmering glass snow globe.

“Hey,” Bob said, looking inside the glass ball.  “It’s us.  Is that?”

“Yep,” Woodruff said.  “That’s us, standing on top of Devils Tower.  I had it made.”

“Cool,” Bob said.  “I love it.”

“I know you were disappointed we didn’t have a close encounter.”

“If I’m gonna climb to a laccolithic butte, carrying a keyboard, I expect to see some aliens.”

“I know,” Woodruff said.  “But it was a pretty epic day, anyway.  Like every day since we met.”

Bob smiled and they nodded at one another.  Suddenly, there was a prancing and pawing sound on the rooftop.

“A clatter,” Bob whispered as they both looked up at the ceiling of the porch.  They followed the sound of boots clomping across the roof, toward the chimney.  There was a whooshing sound down the chimney to the fireplace and a loud crash.

“Ho, oh, ow!” a cry came from inside the house.

“What was that?”

“Remember on your list, where you wrote you wanted to meet Santa?”

“Bob, what did you do?”


Woodruff threw open the door and turned on the lamp,

To find a stranger flailing, and dangling, with his foot in a clamp.


His world upside down, he looked jolly and weird,

From his chubby old ankles to his snowy white beard.


The blood rushed to his face, which was red as a cherry,

And he squirmed when he yelped, like a dog on the prairie.


His sack had exploded and burst on the floor,

As two friends stood gawking, by the chilly front door.


“Woodruff, meet Santa,” Bob boldly declared.

As Woodruff’s mouth fell open, half delighted, half scared.

Pain Does Not Exist

“Wua,” Bob said as waved his arms back and forth.


“Wa, ha, cha, wau, hu!” Bob ranted as he spun around with his arm flailing wildly and kicked at the air.


“Hiya!” Bob jumped toward Woodruff with a chopping arm motion and stopped just short of Woodruff’s neck.  Woodruff reached up slowly and gently pushed Bob’s hand away.


“Come on, Woodruff, I thought you said you wanted to learn karate.”

“And what makes you qualified to teach me karate.”

“A coupon for three free lessons at Sensei Tom’s Dojo says I’m qualified.  Plus, I’ve seen Karate Kid fifty-three times.”

Bob raised his arms to the side, above his shoulders, and stood on one leg with his knee toward Woodruff.

“Here in the park, in competition, a man confronts you…”

Woodruff grabbed hold of Bob’s dangling foot and pushed it up, sending Bob crashing to the ground on his rear end.

“Hey,” Bob protested.  “I wasn’t ready.”

Bob came to his feet and brushed at the grass that clung to his bum.  He raised his arms above his shoulders and stood, again, on one leg.

“Try that ag…”

Woodruff flipped Bob’s shoe up with one hand and sent him careening backwards toward the pond, where several ducks looked up at the standoff.

“Quack, quack-quack-quack,” the ducks taunted.

“Real tough when you’re with your flock,” Bob said, as he came to his feet and lift his arms defiantly.  “Come up and squawk that to my face.  Man to duck.”

A woman, pushing a baby stroller, jogged by and shook her head at Bob.  Woodruff covered his mouth to conceal a smile.

“Easy big fella, there’s just ducks.”

“They think they’re so cool with the webbed feet and their stupid bills.  You’re not cool ducks!”

“They’re not laughing, Bob, that’s just the sound they make.”

“I’d like to see how funny they are when a crocodile shows up and bites their little faces off.”

“I don’t think there are crocodiles in the park.”

“There could be anything in those murky waters.  Anything.”

“Okay, you’re right,” Woodruff said.  “Calm down.  Their bills are stupid.”

“All bills are stupid!”

“You’re totally right, now just breathe.”

Bob drew in and released a deep cleansing breath, as Woodruff patted him on the back.

“Sneak attack,” Bob said and spun around toward Woodruff, who calmly stepped to the side and tipped Bob over.

“You probably don’t want to announce your sneak attack.”

“You’re right,” Bob said, as he rested on all fours with his head hung down.  “Sneak attack!”

Bob shouted as he lunged at Woodruff’s feet.  Woodruff stepped back and shook his head.

“Why can’t I stop saying sneak attack?” Bob muttered.

“It’s okay,” Woodruff said.  “We can do something else.”

“No!” Bob yelped.  “You said you wanted to learn karate and I’m going to teach you ka-ra-tay.”

“Don’t say it like that.”

“You learned your first lesson, always be on your guard,” Bob continued.  “And you got lucky in your defense of the crane kick…”


“Now I will teach you how to defend yourself against an ambush,” Bob said, walking in a circle with his hands behind his back.

“Don’t try and ambush me, Bob.”

“On the contrary, Grasshopper, it is you who will be ambushing me.”

Bob turned his back to Woodruff and faced the pond.  Woodruff put his hand on his hips and cocked his head sideways.

“Come, Woodruff, attack me,” Bob yelled out toward the pond.  Woodruff exhaled and moved closer to Bob.  He pounced on Bob’s back and wrapped his arm around his neck.  Bob struggled, unsuccessfully, to free himself as Woodruff guided him gently to his knees.

“Hey!” a jogger called from back by an old oak tree.  “Let him go!”

“It’s okay, he’s teaching me karate.”

Bob still could not breathe, but gave a thumbs up to let the jogger know everything was all right.

“They have places for that,” the jogger said, before continuing his morning run.

“Do you give?”

“Mercy, is for the weak,” Bob gasped, as he slapped at Woodruff’s hands.

“You’re being ridiculous,” Woodruff said.  “Just concede.”


Woodruff release his friend before he passed out.  Bob panted for breath as he clutched his throat.  When he collected himself they both stood up slowly.

“Now you’ve learned your second lesson,” Bob gasped through whispered breaths.  “Stay calm and persevere in the face of defeat.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes, I’m serious,” Bob cleared his throat.  “I could have taken you at any moment.  Your approach was all wrong.  Your stance left you open for a counter and your grip was weak.”

“Is that so?”

“That’s so.”

“And you could do better?”

“I’d have you incapacitated in three seconds flat.”

“Okay,” Woodruff said as he turned his back to Bob.  “Show me.”

“Sneak attack,” Bob yelled and he leapt forward.  Woodruff caught him by the arm and threw Bob in the air, over his shoulder.  Bob came crashing down, face first on the ground.  Woodruff quickly circled around and drove his knee into his spine as he pinned Bob’s arms behind him.

“3, 2, 1,” Woodruff counted.  “I’m still waiting to be incapacitated.”

“Oh, you are about to be,” Bob grumbled with his face pressed to the grass.  “Starting now!”

Bob thrashed his body back and forth but was unable to break Woodruff’s hold.

“Starting now!”

Bob bucked up and down but Woodruff held tight, like a cowboy riding a wild bronco.

“Can we be done with this now?”

“You wanna give up?” Bob asked.  “I’m about to teach you a lesson.”

Woodruff plucked a blade of grass and wiggled it in Bob’s right ear.

“Aaaa!” Bob squealed and squirmed.  “Stop it!”

“I’ll stop it when you submit.”

“I’d rather die!”

Woodruff wiggled the blade of grass in Bob’s nose and Bob screamed and flailed about beneath him.  Out of nowhere a pink shoe stepped into view and a stream of liquid was shot into Woodruff’s face.

“Ah!” Woodruff yelled as he fell backwards off of Bob.  “My eyes!”

“Back off, jerk!” a woman’s voiced yelled.

Bob looked up to see a woman, in pink tennis shoes with a matching jogging suit, standing over Woodruff with a can of pepper spray.  Woodruff covered his eyes and rolled around in the grass.

“Are you all right?” the woman asked Bob.

“Uh, yeah,” Bob said, staring past the woman at his suffering friend.

“I’m blind!”

“Did he hurt you?”

“Uh, no,” Bob said as she helped him to his feet.  Bob looked down at the pepper spray.

“I carry this with me for creeps like this,” the woman said and kicked Woodruff in the side.

“I’m not a creep, I’m his friend,” Woodruff cried.

“I told you I was about to incapacitate you.”

“Wait, you know him?”

“I am teaching him ka-ra-tay.”

“I thought I was rescuing you.”

“Nonsense, I was in complete control,” Bob said.  “All you did was disrupt a lesson with your can of cayenne.”

The woman pursed her lips and scowled at Bob.  Before he could say another word she doused him with a stream of pepper spray as well.

“Ah!” Bob screamed.  He fell to the ground next to Woodruff and rubbed his face furiously.  “It got in my mouth!”

The woman jogged away, leaving Woodruff and Bob alone by the side of the pond.  They sat in silence for several minutes listening to the ducks quack away from just beyond the shore.

“Stupid ducks,” Bob muttered.

“Hey, Bob?”


“Can you see?”

“Just blurry water and grass.”

“Yeah, me too,” Woodruff said.  “This stinks.”

“Now you have learned your final lesson.”

“What’s that?”

“Strike hard, strike first, beware of a woman with pepper spray.”

“That’s the wisest thing you’ve said all day.”

Bob squinted through tear-filled eyes as another round of quacking exploded from the flock in the pond.

“You hungry?” Bob asked.

“I could eat,” Woodruff replied as he stood up and brushed the grass from his backside.  He helped Bob to his feet as Bob continued to stare at the quacking flock.  “What are you in the mood for?”

“Peking duck!” Bob yelled.  He dove headlong into the pond as the ducks scattered in every direction.

Woodruff looked down at his soaking wet friend, up to his shoulders in mud and water.  The ducks flew up into the blue sky and continued their taunting calls.

“But we had Chinese last night,” Woodruff said.

The Twelve Days of Cajoling

12 Fun and Easy Ways to Support An Author.  Pick one or all 12!

List and links at the bottom.

On the first day of cajoling an author begged from me
A nomination for the Whitney’s (Nominate Crooked Top Mountain for a 2018 Whitney Award)

On the second day of cajoling an author begged from me
Two Facebook ‘Likes”, (“Like” my Facebook page or share it with your friends) and
A nomination for the Whitney’s (Nominate Crooked Top Mountain for a 2018 Whitney Award)

On the third day of cajoling an author begged from me
Three shared books (Share The Land of Look Behind, The Unsaid, and Crooked Top Mountain)
Two Facebook ‘Likes”, (“Like” my Facebook page or share it with your friends) and
A nomination for the Whitney’s (Nominate Crooked Top Mountain for a 2018 Whitney Award)

On the fourth day of cajoling an author begged from me
Four ebook’s read (Read one of my free ebooks or check out Crooked Top Mountain for just $0.99 cents)
Three shared books (Share The Land of Look Behind, The Unsaid, and Crooked Top Mountain)
Two Facebook ‘Likes”, (“Like” my Facebook page or share it with your friends) and
A nomination for the Whitney’s (Nominate Crooked Top Mountain for a 2018 Whitney Award)

On the fifth day of cajoling an author begged from me
Five Star Reviews (Review any of my books, it means the world to me, whatever the rating)
Four ebook’s read (Read one of my free ebooks or check out Crooked Top Mountain for just $0.99 cents)
Three shared books (Share The Land of Look Behind, The Unsaid, and Crooked Top Mountain)
Two Facebook ‘Likes”, (“Like” my Facebook page or share it with your friends) and
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A nomination for the Whitney’s (Nominate Crooked Top Mountain for a 2018 Whitney Award)

The Bobber They Are

“I’m Ashley Baker with Channel 10 Today and we’re here with a pair of record seekers, who set out to do what’s not been done before,” a tall blonde woman with long eyelashes spoke into a black microphone.  “What is your name, sir?”

“Sir?” Woodruff said.  “That’s very fancy, like a knight or Elton John.  Uh, my name is Woodruff, and that guy up there is Bob.”

Woodruff pointed over his head and the camera panned up to see a man in a harness, dangling from the end of a crane.

“Bob!” Woodruff shouted.  “Wave to the pretty reporter!”

Bob waved enthusiastically as he swayed gently in the breeze.

“Her name is Ashely!” Woodruff yelled.  “She’s with Channel 10 Today!”

“Hey there, Ashley!” Bob shouted back.  “Hi Channel 10 Today!”

“So, whatcha got going on up there?” Ashley asked and stuck the microphone into Woodruff’s face.

“Oh, uh, well,” Woodruff stuttered as he ran his fingers through his hair and rubbed the back of his neck.  “We, uh, are building the tallest tower of bacon in the world.”

“Woodruff!” Bob shouted down.  “Tell her about the tower!”

“I just did!” Woodruff yelled up to his dangling friend.  “And she can see the tower!”

Ashely giggled as she pulled the microphone back to her.

“And what made you want to build this bacon tower?”

“Woodruff!  Tell her it’s made of bacon!”

“She knows!” Woodruff shouted.  He turned back to Ashley and continued.  “We’re going for the world record.”

“Tell her about the record!”

“I just did!” Woodruff said.  “I got this!”

“Okee Dokee, Artichokee!” Bob yelled as he swung toward the tower and placed a crispy piece of bacon on the top.

“And what is the world record for a bacon tower?”

“Well, Bob figures the tallest one he’s ever built is about a foot and a half,” Woodruff said.  “But that was just him looking for a more efficient bacon delivery method.”

“And how tall will this tower be?”

“We’re going for fifty feet.”

“For gosh sakes!” the reporter exclaimed.  “That’s a ton of bacon.”

“Actually, it’s more like half a ton,” Woodruff said.  “It really lightens up when you fry it and blot the grease on a paper towel.”

Woodruff pointed over to a white canopy where a bearded man in a red beanie was frying bacon on a Coleman camping stove.  Next to him, a short stocky woman with a wispy mustache blotted the bacon on a paper towel.

“That’s Kenny, he’s a pro baconeer,” Woodruff said.  “And Carmela blots the bacon and gets it to Ruth to take it up to Bob at the top of the crane.”

The short stocky woman handed the blotted bacon over to a white and gray seagull, who flew to the top of the crane and delivered it to Bob.  With a big smile, Bob waved the bacon back down toward the camera.

“Oh for cute,” Ashley said.  “How’d ya train that bird?”

“Ruth?” Woodruff asked.  “She’s not trained, as far as I know.  She’s just helping us out.”

“Well I’ll be.”

“Yeah, she’s a good friend.”

“That’s quite an operation ya got there,” Ashley remarked.  “So Kenny’s a professional cook?”

“Nah, he’s a vagabond American,” Woodruff said.  “But he’s a bacon enthusiast, like me and Bob.”

“And Carmela?”

“She just loves to blot things.”

“Woodruff!” Bob shouted.  “Tell her about the gravy!”

“The bottom of the tower is solidified with bacon gravy,” Woodruff explained.  “We needed a foundation that would sustain the height but wanted to maintain the total bacon integrity of the tower.”

“And Martin County is just the perfect place for a bacon tower,” Ashley said.


“Did you tell her about the gravy?” Bob shouted.

“I told her!”

“It’s like cement!” Bob shouted, swaying back and forth.  “Made of gravy!”

“She knows!” Woodruff said.  “Anywho, Kenny has a cousin up here in Minnesota who let us borrow his camping stove.  So it kinda made the decision for us.”

“But Martin County is the bacon capital of the US of A, dontcha know.”

“It is?”

“You betcha.”

“Well, we didntcha know that,” Woodruff said.  “We didntcha know that at all.”

“How long ya been working on this tower?”

“Uh, we started on Tuesday,” Woodruff said.  “The first couple of days were slow going until we found out Bob had enacted the one for one rule.”

“What’s the one for one rule?”

“Oh, you know, one for the tower and one for Bob,” Woodruff said.  “Once he promised to stop eating the bacon our progress nearly doubled.”

“Woodruff!” Bob shouted.  “I feel sick!”

“And who’s fault is that?” Woodruff shouted back.

“Mine,” Bob said after a short reflective pause.

“Don’t you dare blow bacon all over this nice lady, and her cameraman!” Woodruff warned.

“I won’t,” Bob said, contritely.

“Uff da,” Ashley muttered.  “Um, when will the tower be completed?”

“How much further do we have to go?” Woodruff shouted at his skyward friend.

“About eight bacon lengths!”

“We should be done by dinner.”

“And are you planning on eating this tower?”

“It’d be a shame to let all this glorious porky belly go to waste,” Woodruff said.  “We figured we’d share it with the good people of Martin County.”

“How didya put the word out?”

“Oh, we figured it was like a Field of Dreams kinda deal,” Woodruff said.  “Ya know, if you build it they will come.”

“You’re just expecting people to find your tower of meat in a meadow in the middle of Martin County?”

“Well, you found us didntcha?”

Ashely looked back into the camera with a smirk.  “He’s got me there.”

“Hey Woodruff!”

“What?” Woodruff shouted.

“Look over there!” Bob pointed out beyond the white canopy.

Woodruff and Ashley turned around and the camera panned out over the tree line to their left, following the flight of the white and gray seagull.  A long line of cars could be seen in the distance, exiting the highway and turning onto the road that led to the meadow.

“Well I’ll be,” Ashley’s voice said, off-camera.

“We’ll all be, Ashley,” Woodruff said.  “We’ll all be, enjoying this delicious monument to meat.”

“Ruth!” Bob shouted.  “You better start toast’n that bread!  We’ve got company.”

“Jeet yet Martin County?”  Ashley said as she turned to face the camera and held the microphone directly in front of her smiling face.  “‘cause it looks like we’re gonna have an old fashion feeding frenzy with our new friends Woodruff and Bob.  I’m Ashley Baker with Channel 10 Today…”

“I’m Woodruff,” Woodruff said, leaning into the frame.

“And I’m Bob!” a voice called from above.

“Reporting live from the Martin County Bacon Tower, while it lasts,” Ashley signed off and the cameraman lower the camera from his shoulder.  “Thank you, Woodruff, that was great.”

“Thank you,” Woodruff said.  “I really enjoyed it.”

“Me too.”

“Hey,” Woodruff said, rubbing the back of his neck and looking sheepish.  “Do you have any plans for dinner?  ‘cause we’ve got all this bacon and…”

“Are you asking her out?” Bob shouted.

“No!” Woodruff shouted back up.

“Cause it looks like you’re trying to ask her out!”

“Well I’m not!”

“But you’re doing that thing where you nervously rub the back of your neck!”

“I have an itch!”

“Okay, my bad!”

“Anywho,” Woodruff continued.  “If you, and your cameraman, wanted to stay and eat with us, that’d be cool.”

“I think I’d like that,” Ashley said.

“If you’re not going to ask her out, can I?” Bob shouted as he swayed on the breeze.  “She’s cute!”

“She doesn’t want to go out with you!” Woodruff shouted.  “You smell like bacon and cheese!”

Woodruff looked back at the reporter and rubbed the back of his neck.  “Sorry about him.”

“No worries,” Ashley said.  “It’s kinda cute.”

“Maybe she likes bacon and cheese!” Bob shouted.

“She doesn’t!”

“Did you ask her?”

“Yes!” Woodruff shouted.  “She’s lactose intolerant!”

“Cheese curds!” Bob swore as he shook his fists at the heavens.

Woodruff grinned and the reporter and she smiled back.  “Right this way, I’ll find you a nice seat on one of the bacon coolers next to Carmela.”

“I have to go to the bathroom!” Bob shouted.

Woodruff ignored him and led the reporter, and the cameraman, back toward the white canopy as Bob continued to dangle from the crane.

“Woodruff?” Bob shouted.  “Woodruff?  I’m serious!  I need to go to the little Bob’s room!  Woodruff?”

Ruth flew over the crane and out beyond the tree line toward the long line of approaching cars as the sun hung low in the bright blue Midwestern sky.

“Never mind,” Bob’s voice echoed from the distance.

The Fowlout

“Tell me what I want to know or you’ll never see the light of day again!” the man with the sunglasses shouted as he slammed his hands down on the table.

“What do you want to know?” Woodruff replied as he clung to Bob.

“Yeah, we’ll tell you anything,” Bob said.  “In the third grade, I cut a piece of Missy Stewarts hair off.  I told my friends it was because she had cooties but I secretly liked her.”

“That’s sweet,” the man abruptly removed his sunglasses.  “And kind of creepy.  Is that your thing?  Are you a creep?”

“No sir,” Bob said.  “I’m told I’m more of a clown.”

“Well then, clown,” the man slapped back on his sunglasses.  “How ‘bout you make me laugh?  Who’s your dealer?”

“Dealer?” Woodruff asked.  “We don’t have a dealer.”

“You don’t?” the man in the sunglasses asked.  He stood up straight and scratched the stubble on his chin.  “An accomplice?”

“Bob is my only accomplice.”

“Yeah, without Woodruff I would accomplish accompless.”

“A target?”

“Like a bull eyes?” Bob asked.

“Exactly,” the man in the sunglasses said.

Woodruff and Bob looked sheepishly at each other.

“In my defense, the taxidermist said I could take whatever I wanted,” Woodruff said.

“I told you that was wrong,” Bob said.

“Now we’re getting somewhere,” the man in the sunglasses said.  “What do we got.”

Bob nodded at Woodruff.  Woodruff reached into his pocket, pulled out his keychain and placed it on the table between them and the man in the sunglasses.  On the end of the keychain was a dark black ball.  The man in the sunglasses recoiled.

“Is that…?”


“A bulls eye.”

The man in the sunglasses started to shiver and grin.

“That is disgusting,” he giggled.

Suddenly, he composed himself and adjusted his sunglasses.

“Put that disgusting awesome keychain away,” he ordered.  “That’s not what I’m after.”

“Well, what are you after?” Woodruff asked.

“Yeah, we don’t have a dealer, an accomplice, or a target,” Bob said.

“A conspirator, then?”

“Well, Bob is the conspiracist but never a conspirator.”

“Right,” Bob said.  “Was the moon landing faked?  Did Hoover order the assassination or JFK?  Why isn’t the McRib available year round?  McConspiracy.”

“You think this is a game?” the man in the sunglasses exploded.  He turned to the mirror at the far end of the room and adjusted the collar of his FBI jacket.  “Bert Macklin always gets his man.”

“Are you talking to yourself in the mirror?” Woodruff asked.

“I’m talking to the best darn agent the bureau has ever seen,” Bert responded, still looking at himself in the mirror.

“Yep, he’s definitely talking to himself,” Bob said.

“Tell me where you hid it and I’ll let you go,” Bert said, as he snapped his gaze back to them and abruptly removed his sunglasses again.

“Where we hid what?” Woodruff said.

“The merchandise,” Bert whispered.

“We didn’t hide any merchandise,” Bob replied.

“The contraband?”


“The intel?”

Woodruff and Bob just shook their heads.

“The hostages?”

“We don’t have any hostages,” Woodruff replied.

“Well what did you guys do then?” Bert asked.  He threw his arms up in exasperation.  “This is so hard and I’m so hot in this jacket.”

Bert slipped off his FBI jacket and tossed it on the table.  Then he loosened his tie and pulled his, still button, shirt off over his head.

“We’re not sure why we’re here,” Bob said.  “You don’t know?”

The door to the tiny holding room opened and a tall man in a suit entered, carrying a clipboard and a cup of coffee.  The man nearly spilled his coffee where he caught sight of the shirtless agent.

“Andy!” the man shouted.  “What are you doing in here?”

“Hi Agent Gallagher,” Bert replied with a sheepish wave.

“His name is Andy?” Woodruff asked.  “He said his name is Bert.”

“Not Bert Macklin again,” Agent Gallagher replied.  “Andy, I told you, it’s a felony to impersonate a federal agent.”

“But they were about to crack,” Andy protested.

“He’s not an agent?” Bob exclaimed.

“No, he shines shoes in the lobby,” Agent Gallagher replied.

“I started to suspect something was amiss when he took off his shirt,” Woodruff said.

“I thought we were going to go swimming,” Bob replied.

“Can we?” Andy asked.  He looked hopefully at Agent Gallagher.  Bob’s eyes widened with anticipation as he too anxiously awaited a reply.

“No, you can’t go swimming,” Agent Gallagher said.

“Aw,” Bob and Andy replied in unison.

“Get out of here, right now,” Agent Gallagher ordered.

Andy slumped his shoulders and began to leave with Woodruff and Bob standing up to follow him.

“Not you!” Agent Gallagher yelled and pointed for Woodruff and Bob to sit back down.

They dutifully obeyed as the shirtless imposter paused at the door.

“Can I stay, please?” Andy begged.  “I gotta know what these guys did, or it’s gonna drive me crazy.”

“They have the right to privacy,” Agent Gallagher said.

“We don’t mind.”


“Not at all.”

“Fine,” Agent Gallagher said.  “But you’re going to sit in the corner and be quiet.”

“Quiet as a library rat,” Andy said and took a seat in the corner of the room.

“And put a shirt on,” Agent Gallagher ordered.

Agent Gallagher waited and watched as Andy wrestled his still buttoned shirt over his head.  When he had finished, the agent turned his attention back to Woodruff and Bob.

“Your background checks came back with some high unusual behavior,” Agent Gallagher began.  “Founding a professional Tic Tac Toe League, Public Burrito Jousting, Horse Dancing in Tiananmen Square…”

“It’s called Dressage,” Bob interrupted.  “And it’s not a crime.”

“No, but you know what is?  Poultry theft, illegally transporting livestock into international waters, operating a sea craft without a license, and assault and mischief with intent to wedgie.”

“Your honor, I can explain,” Woodruff began.  “We weren’t stealing those turkeys, we were saving their lives.”

“Yeah,” Bob chimed in.  “We were just keeping them from the annual state-sanctioned turkey massacre.  Plus, we returned them on Monday.”

“And according to the Massachusetts charter of 1787 a citizen may leave port without consent or prosecution when providing refuge, escape, or asylum to a being foreign or domestic whose life is endanger,” Woodruff said.

“Furthermore, by edict of the East Indian Trading Company 1655, a person or persons who thwarts, apprehends, or bamboozles a pirate is entitled to twenty pieces of eight, a portion of rice and barley, and either a goat, a chicken or a monkey,” Bob continued.

“Not only have we committed no crimes, but you owe us a monkey,” Woodruff concluded.

“Oh wow,” Andy chuckled.  “Argue with that.”

The frustrated agent put his head in his hands and groaned.  Andy raised his eyebrows at Woodruff and Bob and gave them a thumbs-up.

“Okay,” Agent Gallagher sighed.  “Since the turkeys and the ship were returned, and the hours it would take me to research all that nonsense would make me late to karaoke, I’m going to let you off with a warning.  But know this, we’ll be watching you.”

“Who’s the creep now,” Woodruff whispered.

“Thank you, your eminence,” Bob said, bowing to Agent Gallagher.

“Do you validate?” Woodruff asked.

“Get out of here before I change my mind,” Agent Gallagher said.  He pulled open the door and pointed to the hallway.

Woodruff and Bob walked around the metal table and through the open door.

“You hungry?” Bob asked.

“I could eat,” Woodruff replied.

“Me too,” Andy said, as he scurried out through the door and nearly ran into them.  “Can I come?”

“Sure,” Bob said.  “Know any good places to eat?”

“There’s a pretty good crab and waffle place around the corner,” Andy replied.

“Drawn Batter!” Bob yelped.  “I love that place.  They have the best…”

“Banana pudding,” Andy, Woodruff, and Bob sang together.

“Last one there pays,” Agent Gallagher shouted as he ran by them out the front door.  The trio laughed and chased after the agent, toward a building topped with a neon crab holding a waffle in its claw.