Tag: writer


Woodruff strummed his fingers against a wooden countertop and looked listlessly out the front window at Bob twirling an arrow-shaped sign in a circle.  A cold breeze blew in through the door that was propped open by a giant horseshoe.   Bob tossed the sign in the air and tried to catch it behind his back.  Quickly, he scooped it off the ground from where he dropped it as a car zoomed by.  Woodruff sighed.

“Bob!” he called.

Bob continued to spin the sign while he jogged across the tiny parking lot.

“What’s up, partner,” Bob said, as he poked his head through the front doorway while keeping the sign spinning just outside.

“It’s been three days.”

“Technically, it’s been two business days and five hours.”

“Nobody’s coming,” Woodruff replied.

“Don’t lose faith,” Bob said.  “You’ve got to believe.”

“Oh, I believe,” Woodruff said.  “I believe nobody’s coming.”

Bob stopped twirling the sign and stepped inside the lobby.

“Do you think we need a new sign?” Bob held up the blue arrow-shaped sign.  The white letters read ‘SHABBY MARES THIS WAY’.  Bob looked down at the sign and back to Woodruff.

“It’s not the sign,” Woodruff said.  “It’s the service.”

“Our service is first rate,” Bob said.  “The best in the world.  That’s what our website banner says.”

“We’re the only ones in the world.”

“That’s why this is going to work.  We’ve already cornered the market.”

“There is no market!” Woodruff threw his arms in the air and gestured to the empty lobby and parking lot.

“Every visionary entrepreneur has had moments of doubt,” Bob said.  “You think Alexander Graham Bell didn’t worry about his new lightbulb store?  You think when Papa John invented pizza that he didn’t wondered if people would like it?  Fact, when Apple was founded in 1976 Steve Jobs didn’t sell a single iPad in his first three days, not one.”

“We’re not Steve Jobs or Papa John…”

“You’re darn right, we’re Woodruff and Bob,” Bob interrupted.  “And we paint horses!”

Bob stood triumphantly with his hands resting on his hips and looked up into the far corner of the lobby.  Woodruff followed his gaze quizzically and turned back to his friend’s unearned victory pose.

“We haven’t painted a single horse,” Woodruff said.

“Not yet.”

“Bob, nobody wants their horse painted.”

“We just need to get the word out,” Bob said.  “They don’t even know they want it, that’s how revolutionary this idea is.  A Horse of a Different Color LLC is going to change the world, one horse at a time.”

“You’re literally just quoting our website.”

“Well it’s true.”

“Unsubstantiated claims on the internet is not a business model,” Woodruff replied.

“Excused me,” a frail voice called from the doorway.

Woodruff and Bob turned their attentions to a short woman with curly gray hair, wearing a lavender dress and a matching shawl.

“May we help you?” Woodruff asked.

“Yes, I found you on the Google,” the old lady replied.  “I have an antique horse I would like to have painted.”

“Antique?” Bob asked.

“Yes, it’s an old rocking horse,” the old lady shuffled into the lobby with her purse cradled close to her bosom.  “My mother’s grandfather made it for her mother.  It’s been in the family for generations.”

“Please, come and have a seat,” Woodruff replied warmly, and hurried around the counter with a chair.

“I’ll handle this, Mr. Doubting Thomas,” Bob said.  “Why don’t you look back behind the counter and see if you can find your faith.”

Bob stepped next to the old lady and took her gently by the arm.  Very slowly, he turned her around back toward the front door.

“I’m sorry,” Bob said.  “We don’t do antiques.  We paint real live horses.  Why don’t you try asking the Google for a hobby shop?”

He gave her a gentle nudge beyond the threshold and the old lady turned around with a confused look on her wrinkled face.  Bob removed the giant horseshoe from the door and waved as it slowly swung shut.

“There,” Bob said proudly, as he placed the giant horseshoe against the wall.

“What did you just do?” Woodruff asked incredulously.

“Uh, I protected our brand.”

“That was a customer.”

“That was a confused old lady.”

“She wanted us to paint her horse.”

“Her toy horse.”

“What’s the difference?”

“We can’t just paint whatever gets brought in off the street,” Bob said.  “We are a horse painting business.  If we paint that old rocker, we’ll be no different than any other paint shop in town.”

“Every other paint shop in town has customers!”

“Exactly,” Bob said.  “We’ve just got to find ours.”

“We just had one!” Woodruff shouted.  “You literally just looked a gift horse in the mouth.”

“An antique gift horse,” Bob muttered.

“That’s it, I’m done.”

“Hold your horses, we had a plan.”

“You had a plan,” Woodruff said.  “I didn’t want to do this.”

“I’m doing this for you,” Bob said.

“What are you talking about?”

“Your bucket list.”

“I don’t think I had horse painter on my bucket list.”

Bob pulled a crinkled piece of paper from his back pocket and flattened it out on the counter.  With his finger, he tracked down the long list until coming to a stop beneath the first entry not crossed out in crayon.  He pointed to it emphatically.


Woodruff leaned over the list and trained his eyes on the words above Bob’s finger.

“Become a philanthropist?”

“That’s right, become a philanthropist.”

“How is this becoming a philanthropist?” Woodruff asked.  “Other than the fact we are definitely not going to profit off this venture.”

“That was the whole point,” Bob said.  “We just needed a never-before-thought-of innovation that would make us rich and famous.  Then after we’ve been interviewed on talk shows and in magazines, and after we got tired of yachts and lavish parties, we would have the money and fame to become world class philanthropists.  This was supposed to be phase one.”

Bob slumped onto a stool and hung his head.  Woodruff looked down at the well-worn list and back to his sulking friend.  He reminisced about all their adventures and all they had accomplished together.

“Maybe we just need an adjustment,” Woodruff said.

“An adjustment?” Bob asked.

“Yeah, you know, try something different.”

“You mean like horse racing?”

“Or something else.”

“Horse dancing?”

“We don’t have to decide that right now,” Woodruff said.  He came around the counter and took Bob by the arm.  Bob stood up and Woodruff walked him toward the door.  “Whatever it is, we’ll figure it out together.”

Woodruff pushed open the door and Bob picked up the giant horseshoe and followed him out into the parking lot.

“Horse dentistry,” Bob declared, excitedly.

“It doesn’t have to involve horses.”

“We could call it Straight from the Horse’s Mouth.”

“Let’s talk about it over dinner,” Woodruff said.  “You hungry?”

“I’m chomping at the bit.”

“What sounds good?”

“Anything really,” Bob said.  “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.”

Ain’t No Party

“We’re here talking to an unusual political candidate,” the blonde newswoman spoke into the camera.  “This first of its kind political team is running as a single entity for a seat in the state assembly.  Woodruff and Bob, thank you for being here.”

“Thank you for having us, Janice,” Bob said.

“It’s Suzanne.”

“Of course you are,” Bob replied with a wink.

“How did you come up with this unique idea?” Suzanne asked.

“Well, I’ve had political aspirations since losing out to Melissa Pennyberry for treasurer in the third grade,” Woodruff said.  “It was a total popularity contest.  I didn’t stand a chance again her sweet headgear and her wicked cool cross-eyed corrective lenses.  It was a landslide.”

“When Woodruff told me he was running I threw my hat in the ring as well,” Bob said.  “We have very different political ideals and I wasn’t about to let this country go to smell like a ham basket.”

“Do you mean, go to hell in a hand basket?” Suzanne asked.

“That doesn’t even make any sense,” Bob replied.

“Anywho,” Woodruff continued.  “Things got tense between us after that, so we decided we’d flip a coin for the sake of our friendship.”

“The coin landed in the gutter, straight on its side,” Bob said.  “We took that for a sign.”

“And here we are,” Woodruff added, he sat up straight and adjusted his bright red tie.  “Woodruff and Bob for the 53rd Assembly District Representative.”

“Tell us how you resolve those political differences.”

“It’s simple really,” Bob said.  “We agreed to give each other an equal share.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well if I start something, Bob finishes, and vice versa,” Woodruff explained.  “For instance, we’ve got to put a stop to the war on…”

“…hashtags,” Bob said.  “Hashtags are not only useful at grouping topics, but are a hilarious device in conversation as well.  The mean strain media wants to limit them to social media posts and news scrawls.  #freethehash.”

“That approach seems a bit unpredictable,” Suzanne said.

“Not if you know your other half,” Bob said.  “Like if I say, we have to propose a bill with common sense reform on…”

“…potato peeler thumb guards,” Woodruff said.  “One in six hundred seventy-five thousand Americans cuts their finger on an unguarded potato peeler even month and a half.  Twenty-three percent of those are children.  Suzanne, do you want your children to lose the top layer of skin on one of their precious digits because your politicians failed to act responsibly?”

“Uh, no?” Suzanne replied.

“Exactly,” Bob said.  “And even though I’m fundamentally opposed to government regulation in any form, I’m fine with his proposition because I started the sentence.”

“That makes some sense, I guess,” Suzanne said.  “Do you confer at all before commencing a statement?”

“We find it better to just start down a path…”

“…and let the drips fall where they may.”

“You mean the chips?”

“Why would you let chips fall?” Bob said.  “Chips are delicious.”

With mouth agape, the newswoman shook her head and stared at Bob.  He smiled brightly back at her and pulled at the collar of his button-up shirt.

“At the end of the day, Suzanne, it’s our names on the ballot but this election is about the people,” Woodruff said.

“You two are clearly non-conformists,” Suzanne said.  “Is that why you started your own political party?”

“What’s that now?” Bob asked.

“Tell our viewers what the Yes, Please Party is all about,” Suzanne asked.

“Um, well,” Woodruff said.  “The application for candidacy had a blank next to party affiliation and Bob wrote ‘yes, please’.”

“We’re pro-party, all the way,” Bob added.

“Wait, so do you not know what a political party is?”

“Janice, the people are tired of the status quo in politics,” Bob said.  “This is a grass roots movement.  We used a tough blue-green Bermuda hybrid with shade tolerance and a wide range of mowing heights.”

“We’re pretty proud of our grassroots,” Woodruff added.

“Your opponent has said and I quote,” Suzanne looked down at her paper and read.  “The 53rd Assembly District has 99 problems and that campaign ain’t one, they’re two.”

“With all due respect to Mr. Z, who is a Sasquatch denier by the way, there’s actually three major problems in our district,” Bob began.  “First, low income households don’t have access to medicinal macaroons…”

“Medicinal macaroons?”

“Macaroons can treat a variety of maladies,” Woodruff replied.  “Irritable mom syndrome, chronic flat bottom disorder, not to mention the benefits to the gluten-free intolerant.”

“Nine out of ten dentists support our medicinal macaroon proposal,” Bob added.  “Secondly, this country needs to take seriously our mobile warming problem.”

“You mean global warming?”

“What’s global warming?” Bob furrowed his brow and squinted one eye at the newswoman.

“What’s mobile warming?” Suzanne returned a furrowed-brow stare.

“Mobile warmings is when your phone gets really hot,” Woodruff said.  “It’s fake news.”

“Denier!” Bob shouted.  “Ninety-seven percent of Americans carry tiny nuclear reactors in their pockets and it’s only a matter of time before we have a catastrophe.”

“Again, that’s not how phones work,” Woodruff said.

Bob shook his head and turned back to the confused newswoman.

“Janice, we need common sense cell control laws.”

“It’s Suzanne.”

“Right,” Bob said.  “If cell phone reform can save one life then it’s a no-brainer.”

“You’re a no-brainer,” Woodruff whispered.

“Yes, we can!” Bob proudly proclaimed, with a point to the camera.

“O-kay,” Suzanne said, with a sideways look at her cameraman.  “What was the third problem?”

“Migration,” Woodruff said.  “We need to build a wall.”

“You are in favor of building a wall to keep immigrants out?”

“No!” Bob replied incredulously.  “Why would we want to keep people out?  It’s awesome here.”

“We want to build a wall to keep residents in,” Woodruff clarified.

“Wait, what?”

“We lose eighteen percent of our population each summer to the Midwest and the Northeast,” Woodruff continued.  “Only to have them return in the more temperate months.”

“We propose building a wall around the district borders to keep people here year-round,” Bob said.  “If you want us at our best, you have to love us at our worst.”

“Polling shows that the majority of Americans don’t want to pay for a wall of any kind,” Suzanne replied.

“We don’t look at polling,” Woodruff said.  “Besides, voters aren’t going to pay for one single cent.”

“Then how do you propose paying for this wall?”

“It’s going to be made entirely out of recycled material,” Bob said.

“Recycled material?”

“Yep,” Woodruff replied.  “You know all that stuff that people list for free on Craigslist?”

“Yeah?” Suzanne answered quizzically.

“And when people put a couch or a dresser on the sidewalk with a sign that says free?”

“Uh huh?”

“Well, our friend Kenny has collected all of that stuff for years,” Bob said.  “He has committed to line the district boundaries with it, for free.”

“If his estimation is correct, he can build a wall six feet high and four feet thick by the end of our first term,” Woodruff concluded.

“You want to build a wall of trash around your district?” Suzanne asked.

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” Bob replied.

“That’s our campaign slogan,” Woodruff added, proudly displaying a red, white, and blue bumper sticker.

“Some estimates have you trailing your opponent by as much as ninety-four percent,” Suzanne said.  “How do you intend to close a gap like that?”

“We just received the endorsement of the local chapter of the International Lawn Care Society, who are a big fan of our grassroots,” Woodruff said.  “And our message seems to resonate with housewives, sidewalk musicians, and Latino males 41-42 years old.”

“It’s all going to come down to turn out,” Bob said.  “We’ve got one hundred percent of the vagabond American vote, so if they are all that turns out then we’ll win easily.  That’s just math.”

“I don’t know how to refute that,” Suzanne said.

“Why would you want to?” Woodruff replied.

“Do you have any parting words for our viewers?”

“Just two, Nutella toothpaste,” Bob winked at the camera and flashed a cheesy grin.

“Like I said to Melissa Pennyberry before the final results were read over the intercom,” Woodruff began.  “Win or lose, I’m probably gonna to cry.”

“Well, thank you for speaking with us today, Woodruff and Bob,” the newswoman turned to speak directly into the camera.  “I’m Suzanne Newsworthy and this has been a Naptime Network exclusive, you can now take your pills and drink your prune juice, Geemas and Geepas.”

All About That Bounce

“How much longer are we going to do this?”

“This is important, Bob.”

“Is it?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Is it?”

Bob laid a penetrating look on Woodruff, who ignored him.  The hum of machinery filled the massive manufacturing floor.  Workers scurried about, covered head to toe in bright white jumpsuits.  Woodruff pulled on a pair of latex gloves and carefully took hold of a pair of metal tongs.

“I don’t want to do this anymore,” Bob whined.

“Then go wait in the car,” Woodruff said, as he raised the tongs in front of him, with his eyes set on a caldron below.

“It’s cold outside,” Bob complained.  “Can I run the heater?”

“No, just use the blankets in the back.”

“They smell like llama.”

“I told you not that let him sleep back there.”

“Like I’m gonna tell a llama he can’t sleep on a comfy blanket.  I’m not a monster.”

“Well now you’ve got a blanket that smells like llama,” Woodruff replied, carefully studying the contents of the vat beneath him.

“Your blanket smells like llama,” Bob muttered.

“What was that?”


“That’s what I thought.  Now hush,” Woodruff said.  “I’m trying to concentrate.”

“Just pick one and let’s get this over with.”  Bob flailed his arms wildly and flung himself to the floor with his legs crisscrossed.

“You’re getting your jumper dirty.”

“I don’t care!  I hate this suit and I hate this place.  It makes my head itchy.”

“That’s because you don’t have any hair.”

“How dare you!  I have hair.”


“I’ll have you know this was a decision of function and fashion.”

“A decision necessitated by premature hair loss.”

“Balding by chance, shaved by choice.”

“The longer you distracted me the longer we’re going to be here.”


Bob drew his fingers across his lips in a pantomimed zipping motion.  Woodruff shook his arms and rolled his shoulders back, while turning his head from side to side.  He lowered the tongs and took hold of a lengthy green pickle.  Brine dripped from his selection as he pulled it from the vat.

“Oh that’s a fine pickle,” Woodruff said.  He gently placed the pickle in the palm of his hand with the tongs.

“Okay, you’ve got your pickle,” Bob said.  “Can we go now?”

“This pickle looks good, but looks aren’t everything.”

“That’s not what my agent says.”

“And how many gigs has he booked you of late?”

“That’s not because of these beauties,” Bob held up his hands and rotated them in a showy fashion.  “It’s because I have an undeserved reputation for being difficult to work with.”

“You’ve proved my point,” Woodruff replied.  “Looks aren’t everything.”

“Your looks aren’t everything,” Bob muttered.

“What was that?”

“I said your looks aren’t everything.”

“Wicked burn.”

Woodruff rolled his eyes and Bob stuck out his tongue.  Pickle juice covered Woodruff’s gloves and a drop fell to the floor.  Bob eyed the droplet contemptuously as Woodruff raised the pickle to shoulder height.  Like an MC completing a rap battle, he opened his fingers and let the pickle fall to the ground.  On impact the pickle recoiled and jiggled in the air for a few seconds before bouncing to a rest.

“That’s the stuff!”

“What was that about?”

“If it doesn’t bounce it’s not a pickle.”

“Says who?”

“The state of Connecticut.”

“The state of Connecticut?”

“That’s right,” Woodruff explained.  “1948, the people versus pickle packers.  Two men were arrested for selling pickles that were unfit for human consumption.  The Connecticut Food and Drug Commissioner, was called to testify on ways to check for good pickles.  He said that outside of laboratory tests you could drop it on the floor and a good pickle should bounce.  The pickle peddlers merchandise did not bounce and were declared unpickle-ish.”

“That’s not a thing.”

“Prove it.”

“You’re saying that the people told a pair of pickle packers they couldn’t peddler a pack of pliant pickles ‘cause the pliant pickles wouldn’t pop?”



“No, dill.”

“This is ridiculous,” Bob said.  “You’ve got your bouncy pickle.  Can we go now?”

“That was just a test pickle.”

“A test pickle?”

“Yeah,” Woodruff replied.  “It’s been on the floor.  I’m not eating that.”

“Then what are we doing here?” Bob shouted.

“I was testing the batch.  This batch is good,” Woodruff turned back to the briny caldron and studied the floaters.  He dipped the tongs back into the vat and pulled out a wrinkle-laden specimen.  “We have a winner.”

“Hip hip, hooray,” Bob replied, sarcastically.  “Let’s go.”

“We can’t just go,” Woodruff said.  “We have to pay for it.”

Woodruff placed the pickle into a plastic bag and returned the tongs to the stainless steel table next to the vat.  He peeled off his white jump suit and removed his hair net and booties.  Bob stood up from the ground and followed Woodruff’s lead, disposing of his suit in the nearest laundry hamper.  With plastic bag in hand, Woodruff walked to the manager’s office at the far end of the manufacturing floor and knocked on the door.

“Come in,” a voice replied from the other side.

“Hello,” Woodruff greeted a squatty office manager sitting behind a large desk.  The man was examining a single paper among the clutter on his desktop.  At the center of the clutter was a plaque that read Clifton King.

“Yeah,” the man behind the desk grunted, without looking up.

“Um, yes, Mr. King?” Woodruff began.  “I’d like to pay for my pickle.”

“What?” Mr. King replied, with a dazed look in Woodruff’s direction.  Bob entered through the office door and stood behind Woodruff.

“Hey there, Mr. King, sir,” Bob said.  “Uh, your majesty, uh, highness?”

“I need to purchase this pickle,” Woodruff replied.

“And one he through on the floor back there,” Bob added.

“We don’t sell pickles here,” Mr. King said.  “How did you get in here anyway?”

“Through the door, obviously,” Bob replied.  “You make all these pickles and they’re not for sale?”

“We sell the pickles, but you can’t buy them here,” Mr. King said, standing up and walking around his large desk.

“Oh, um, well this is the pickle I want,” Woodruff said.  “Where would I buy it?”

“Don’t forget the one you threw on the floor,” Bob added.

“You have to buy it from a store,” Mr. King said.  “We are the supplier.  You aren’t even supposed to be back here.”

“Understood,” Woodruff said.  “But since we’re already back here, what can I give you for two pickles.  And whatever Horacio ate.”

“How many pickles do you eat?” Mr. King asked Bob.

“No, I’m not Horacio,” Bob chuckled.  “Horacio is a llama.”

Bob pulled down on a cord, which raised the blinds to a window looking out on the manufacturing floor.  A tall gray llama stood over a box of pickle jars chewing slowly and looking back at the trio inside the manager’s office.  Mr. King’s face turned red.

“Get that animal out of here,” he demanded.

“Sure thing,” Woodruff said.  “What do we owe you for the pickles?”

“Get out!”

Mr. King pushed them through the threshold and slammed the door behind them.  The binds came clattering down covering the window.  Woodruff and Bob stared at each other with wide eyes.

“I think we’d better go,” Woodruff said.

“Come on, Horacio,” Bob called.  “Apparently this organization is llama intolerant.”

“They really should put up a sign,” Woodruff replied.

“Totally,” Bob said.  “You put a giant pickle over your building and people are going to stop for pickles.  That’s just human nature.”

“And llama nature.”


Woodruff, Bob, and Horacio walked through the giant bay doors out into the parking lot.

“The good news is you got your perfect pickle for free,” Bob said.

“You can’t beat a pro-bono pickle,” Woodruff replied.  “Isn’t that right, Horacio?”

The tall gray llama spit pickle juice on the asphalt in front of them.

“You can say that again.”

Died On The Vine

“Boom!” Bob slapped down a card on the cherry wood tea table.  “Draw four.”


Woodruff picked up a yellow pencil and began to sketch rapidly on a small pad of paper.  He scribbled out four separate images of rubber ducks and handed it over to Bob.

“Come to daddy, duckies.”

“Okay, my turn,” Woodruff picked up a handful of colorful cards and studied them carefully.  A wry smile broke across his face as he slowly removed a single card from the arrangement and laid it on the table between them.  “Reverse.”

“Crud,” Bob said.  “Uh, I mean, durC.  Um, esrever ni kaeps ot evah I od gnol woH?”

“Until I say so.”


“You’re the one who wanted to play no holds barred Uno,” Woodruff said.  “It’s a high stake, take no prisoners, game.”

Rows and rows of green bushes and vines stretched down the hillside from where they sat.  In the distance, a tall thin man in a black suit made his way up the hill.  The man wore a bowler hat and carried an umbrella in the crook of his arm.

“taht s’ohW?

“Dunno,” Woodruff shrugged his shoulders.

They watched the distinguished gentleman sail through the lush vineyard in their direction.  White billowy clouds hung in the blue sky, like heavenly spectators for their game of cards.  With the thin man still several yards away Bob turned his attention back to the tea table.

“nrut yM.”

Woodruff eyed the approaching stranger for another moment before turning to face his opponent.

“Whatcha got?”

“piks, peew dna ti daeR.”

“Aw man.”

The tall thin man ceremoniously presented himself and removed his bowler hat.

“Monsieur Woodruff et Monsieur Bob. Bonjour, je suis Alcott Stirling.”

“Bonjour,” Woodruff said.  “Parlez vous English?”

“Ah, yes,” Mister Stirling said.  “Actually, I’m from England.  But when in Rome.”

The tall thin Englishmen gestured to the green sweeping countryside surrounding them.

“ecnarF si siht, emoR t’nsi sihT,” Bob said.

“I beg your pardon,” Stirling said.

“Oh, uh, Bob I release you.”

“I said, this isn’t Rome, this is France.”

“Right you are, Master Bob.”

“How do you know our names?” Woodruff asked.

“I represent Hewing, Durker, and Crane.”

“The publisher?” Woodruff asked.

“Quite right,” Stirling replied.  “It took quite a bit of doing to track you down.”

“Track us down?”

“We are eager for a reply to their inquiry.”

“What inquiry?”

“I’ve left several messages.”

“I didn’t get any messages,” Woodruff replied.  “Bob, did you?”

“Yeah, I posted them on the grapevine.”


“I put them back over there on the grapevine.”

Bob rose from his chair and pointed to a red brick wall, with a waist-high hedge running along it.  Strewn across the lush green leaves were several small white papers tucked between long tangled vines.  Woodruff walked further up the hill to the nearest piece of paper and loosed it from the grapevine.

“Mr. Stirling called again about Salubrious Women,” Woodruff read aloud.

“Your blog has gained quite a following,” Stirling explained.  “Despite not posting for nearly a year, your following has reached quadruple digits.  Everyone is wondering what happened to Coleen and Sheila.”

“We don’t do that anymore,” Bob said.  “We’ve moved on.”

“But there is clearly an audience clamoring for your advice,” Stirling said.

“How did you find us, anyway?” Woodruff asked.  “We never used our real names.”

“The IP address for your postings led to an encyclopedia shop in the United States,” Stirling began.  “An irritated gruff woman name Carmela told us who you were.  From there, we searched your last known address and next of kin.  The firm dispatched a private investigator who ran across a homeless man who gave us a Google phone number you use in case of emergency.”

“Homeless man?”

“He means Kenny,” Bob said.  “And the term is Vagabond American, Mr. British K. Snooty Pants.”

“We have an emergency phone number?”

“Uh, yeah we do.  Like we’re just going to go parababooning in the south of France without an emergency contact.”

“Para-what?” Stirling asked.

“Parababooning,” Woodruff replied.  “It’s basically skydiving with a baboon strapped to your back.”

“It’s next level parachuting,” Bob added.

“Bob, why didn’t you tell me about these messages?”

“I put them right here for you.”

“On the grapevine?”

“Yeah, what’s the point of staying in a vineyard if you don’t use the grapevine?”

“How does that make any sense?”

“It’s a grapevine, you know, I heard it through the grapevine.  I put all your messages here.  On the grapevine.”

“All my messages?” Woodruff looked down the vine at a dozen other pieces of paper.

“Yeah,” Bob walked down the vine and pulled off a slip of paper.  “Like this one, from your sister.”

“I don’t have a sister.”

“Oh right, hold up,” Bob ran down to the far end of the row.  He plucked the first note and hurried back to deliver it to Woodruff.

“Woodruff, Ancestry DNA is trying to contact you about your sister,” Woodruff read aloud.  “Bob!”


“You didn’t tell me I have a sister?”

“I did!”

“You didn’t!”

“I did, through the grapevine!”

“Excuse me, gentlemen,” Stirling interrupted.  “Perhaps this is not the best time.  May I call on you tomorrow in regards to our proposition.”

“I’ll stop you right there, Redcoat,” Bob said.  “We’re out of the women’s health game.”

“If you would just hear our offer, it’s very generous.”

“Pass,” Woodruff said.  “Besides, last time I was propositioned by an Englishman in a bowler hat I ended up crew captain for a Somali pirate warlord.”

“I miss Abshir,” Bob said.

“Be reasonable, we’re offering…”

“Bup bup bup,” Woodruff waved his hands and shook his head at Mr. Stirling.  “Nope!  The answer is no.  Coleen and Sheila are retired.”

“Very well,” Stirling said.  He returned his tiny bowler hat to his narrow head and tucked his umbrella under his arm, indignantly.  “Good day.”

“It is a good day,” Bob replied, matching his indignation.

The tall Englishman spun on his heels and departed the way he came.  Woodruff turned back to the grapevine and surveyed the varied messages.

“Book deal, book deal, home warranty extension, book deal,” Woodruff muttered aloud.  “What’s this?”

Woodruff pulled a note free from the vine and held it up to eye level.  Bob leaned in and read the hand scribbled note.

“Oh that,” Bob said.  “Your credit card company thinks someone stole your identity.”


“Yeah, apparently there’s been some unusual purchases.”

“Unusual purchases?”

“Yeah, a two-hundred-dollar pair of Oakley goggles, eleven crates of pomegranates, six cans of spray cheese, and a couple of baboon harnesses.”

“That was you, Bob.”

“Well I know that, but your credit card company thought it was suspicious.”


“They froze your account,” Bob replied sheepishly as he backed slowly away.


“You really should check your messages.”

Woodruff lunged forward, just missing Bob as he tucked and rolled down the hill.  Waving his hands high above his head, Bob sprang to his feet and dashed down a long row of grapevines, staying just out of reach of Woodruff’s long arms.

Before They Hatch

With tongue pressed to the inner wall of his cheek, Bob carefully painted a thick blue stripe down the center of a milky shell.  Woodruff proudly held his egg up to eye level and admired the precision of two parallel red lines, which circled the delicate sphere.


“That looks real good, Woodruff.”

“It does, doesn’t it.”

Woodruff gently placed the egg in a giant nest full of eggs.  The other eggs, that lay amongst the hay, sticks, and stuffing, were each adorned with numbers, lightning bolts, racing stripes, or stars.  Bob placed his decorative oval in the nest and stepped back with his hands resting on his hips.

“What’s next?”

“We wait.”

“For how long?”

“Well that depends,” Woodruff said.  “Chickens take about twenty-one days to hatch.  A duck can take up to twenty-eight, while a duck billed platypus only takes ten.  The turtles will take around seventy days and the crocodile is going to take eighty days.  And the python is longer than the duck but less than the turtle.”

Bob flipped a switch on the wall and four red lamps, hanging over the nest, blinked on.  With his index finger, Woodruff began to identify each egg one by one and whispered numbers as he went.  “Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen…”

“Whatcha two doing?”

Woodruff and Bob spun around toward the voice.  A scrawny young man, with a greasy tank-top, stood in the doorway.  He cocked his head to one side and scratched at the scruff on his chin.

“We’re building an empire?” Woodruff replied.


“We’ve invented a new sport,” Bob said.

“Crack and Dash!”

“It’s a race to find the fastest egg layers.”

“Oviparous Prime, if you will.”

“Bird, reptiles, mammals, fight it out on land and sea for speciest superiority.”

“It’s the sensation about to sweep the nation.”

They slid to either side of the nest and, with a grand sweeping motion, gesture to the eggs.  The scrawny young man furrowed his brow and looked from Woodruff to Bob to the nest and back to Woodruff.

“Uh, I meant whatcha doing here,” the young man said.  “In a storage closet.  Beneath the bleachers.  On a Tuesday.”

Woodruff and Bob lowered their arms in disappointment.

“Oh, um, well, we wanted our little oviparians to be born to run.”

“So we figured we’d raise them here at the race track so it’d get in their blood.”

“And we painted their shells for racing too,” Woodruff picked up an egg with a blue number four painted on the side.

“You know, crack and dash,” Bob said.

“Crack and Dash!”  Woodruff and Bob repeated in unison.

The young man stood as still as a statue and stared blankly at the excited entrepreneurs.  After several silent moments he sniffed and mindlessly wiped at his nose.  Bob looked over at Woodruff and nodded with a wink.  Woodruff watched apprehensively as Bob approached the beanpole blocking the doorway.

“Biff, may I call you Biff?”

“My name is Trevor.”

“Biff, you look like a man of ambition,” Bob continued, and put his arm around the young man’s bony shoulder.  “How would you like to get in on the ground floor of the next big thing?”

“I’m gonna have to report ya’ll,” Trevor replied.

“Classic Biff.  Listen, here’s the deal,” Bob went on.  “We need a place to hatch our little speed demons.  How about you forget you saw us and we’ll cut in it at four percent.”

“Are ya’ll really hatching demons?”

“I got this, Bob.”

Woodruff stepped forward and pried Trevor out from under Bob’s arm.

“Sorry about him,” Woodruff said.  “We know you’re just trying to do your job.  Would it be possible to rent this space from you for the next ten to eighty days?”

“Well, I dunno,” Trevor said and rubbed at the back of his neck.  “You can’t keep critters at the racetrack.”

“Critters?  I don’t see any critters.”

“Look at them things there,” Trevor pointed to the oversized nest at the far end of the room.

“Those aren’t critters,” Bob said.  “Those are eggs.”

“Eggs that are gonna become critters,” Trevor argued.

“Biff, I mean, Trevor,” Woodruff said.  “Have you ever heard the expression don’t count your chickens before they hatch?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well I don’t see any chickens.  Only eggs.”

“So them are chicken eggs?”

“And duck, and turtle, and platypus, and crocodile…”

“Crocodile?” Trevor exclaimed.

“Yeah, but we’re not sure which one anymore,” Bob said.  “It’s either the big one with the red racing stripe or the tan one with the yellow lightning bolt.”

“Or we’ll all just be surprised if a croc pops out from somewhere else,” Woodruff added.

“How you gonna keep a croc from eating the rest of them critters?”

“Biff, if they’re not fast enough to avoid getting eaten, they’re not fast enough for Crack and Dash.”



“Once again, ignore him,” Woodruff said to Trevor.  “We are going to keep them in separate pens.  Every species will enjoy their own habitat.  They’ll be treated quite well, I assure you.”

“You promise?”

“Scout’s honor,” Woodruff crossed his heart and raised three figures to the sky.

“Well, I reckon it couldn’t hurt none if ya keep your eggs in here,” Trevor said.  “Providing ya clear out once they’re all hatched.”


Trevor and Woodruff shook hands.  Woodruff wiped the grease from their handshake on the back of his pants and Bob stepped up to seal the deal.  He spat in his palm and extended his hand.  Trevor looked down on the offering in horror.

“What?” Bob said.  “Is that not cool?”

Woodruff covered his face in shame.  Trevor pouted and shook his head with his scrawny neck.  Bob wiped his spit-hand on his shorts and stuck out a closed fist to their new accomplice.  They bumped fists and Bob smiled.

“So what now?” Trevor asked.

“Well the platypus is going to hatch any day now,” Woodruff said.  “That means we’re going to have eleven days to convince him these are his brothers and sisters.”

“How’s your momma platypus impersonation?” Bob asked.

Trevor made a rapid clicking noise with his tongue.


Woodruff and Bob exchanged nodding smiles.


Bob pulled open the door and stepped to the side.  Woodruff cupped his ears with his hands.

“Why are you holding both ears?”


“Why are you covering your ears?”


Woodruff walked through the doorway and stepped into the cozy waiting room.  There was a counter at the far side of the room with a clipboard, next to a jar of pens, and a silver bell.  Bob leaned over the counter to look for a receptionist.  Hands still over his ears, Woodruff rang the bell with his forehead.

A short frizzy haired woman with a bright smile stepped out from behind a filing cabinet.

“May I help you?” the frizzy hair woman said.

“Yes, we called ahead about a removal.”


“Oh, yeah,” she said.  “Woodrow, right?”

“Woodruff,” Bob corrected.


Bob reached up and pulled Woodruff’s hands down to his side.

“Stop shouting,” Bob said.  “You sound like a crazy person.”

“I couldn’t exactly make out what the problem was on the phone through all the hysteria,” the frizzy haired woman said.

“First of all, Alice,” Bob said, reading her name tag.  “I wasn’t hysterical, that’s my emergency voice.  And second, my friend here has a coin stuck in his ear.”


“Why are you still yelling?” Bob said.  “Can you not hear us?”


“How many coins does he have in there?”

“Just one I think.”

“Fill out this form and I’ll be right back.”

Bob pulled a pen from the jar, took the clipboard from Alice, and found a seat next to an end table overflowing with magazines.  Woodruff stared at a stereogram picture on the wall and rubbed gently at his ears.

“Woodruff, do you have any allergies besides faux leather?”

Woodruff continued to stare at the picture.



“Okay,” Bob said, and continued to write.  “Allergies, none.  Reason for visit…”


“Coin in the ear.”

Bob completed the form and reported back to the counter.  With a great big smile, Alice accepted the clipboard and took a moment to look it over.

“All right, bring him on back,” Alice said.  “I’ll go get Doctor Professor.”

“Doctor Professor?”

“Yes, Doctor Daniel Professor.”

Alice opened the door to the right of the counter and Bob escorted Woodruff down the hallway, following the receptionist.  She gestured to an open door and swapped a green flag for a red one.  Woodruff sat on the elevated table at the center of the room and Bob took a seat on a round stood with wheels.

“Doctor Professor will be in to see you shortly.”

She closed the door behind her, leaving Woodruff and Bob alone.


“No, Doctor Professor.”





The door opened and a tall slender man in a white coat entered.  He removed his glasses and squinted down at the clipboard.  A grin broke across his face and he put his glasses back on.

“I see we have a classic coin in the ear situation,” Doctor Professor said.  “Usually this only happens with small children.”


“Forgive him,” Bob said.  “He can’t hear.”


“Okay, well, let’s see what we’re dealing with.”

The doctor pulled out a pen light and shined it in Woodruff’s ear.

“What kind of coin are we looking at?”

“Two pence.”

“Two pence?”

“Yeah, it’s a beautiful coin,” Bob said.  “Mint condition.  You know, before it was embedded in his ear canal.”

“How did he get two pence stuck in his ear?”

“The usual way.  A pretty girl, a magician, a volunteer from the audience, a random coin, it happens.”


“So he was the volunteer from the audience?”

“No, he’s the magician.”


The paper crinkled beneath Woodruff as he squirmed from side to side and watched Bob and the doctor.

“You know the old coin behind the ear trick?”


“Well that’s old news.  We wanted to do something different, something fresh.”

“Uh huh.”

“In our act the volunteer pulls the coin from behind the magician’s ear.”

“So how did the coin get in his ear then?”

“A magician never tells his secrets.”


The doctor shook his head and walked over to the workstation behind Bob.  He rooted around in a drawer for a moment and produced a long pair of tweezers.

“We’ll have that out in a jiffy.”


Ignoring his extra loud patient, Doctor Professor shined his pen light down Woodruff’s ear canal and carefully lined up the tweezers.  He reached in on pulled out a wax coated coin and showed it to Woodruff and Bob.

“Voila!” Doctor Professor said.


“Why are you still talking so loud?” Bob asked.


With a grimace, the doctor shined his handy pen light in Woodruff’s ear again.

“There’s something else in there.”

“There is?”

Bob failed to conceal a wry smile.  Doctor Professor eyed him skeptically before he turned his attention back to Woodruff, who was also smiling.

“What’s going on?” the doctor asked.

“What do you mean?”


Doctor Professor pursed his lips and shot a squinty-eyed look at the grinning companions.  He turned his attention, and his pen light, back on the blockage.  With precision, he grasped hold of the obstruction and pulled out a blue handkerchief.  The backend of the cloth diamond was still in Woodruff’s ear so he pulled again and out popped a yellow handkerchief, attached to the blue one.  This was repeated over and over as red, orange, green, and purple followed.  Finally, a pair of polka dot underpants slipped out of the previously obstructed duct and dangled from the end of the handkerchief rainbow rope.

“VOILA!” Woodruff said.

He hopped off the exam table and clasped hands with Bob.  They raised their arms in the air and took a deep bow.


“Why are you still shouting?”


“Are you telling me that you came here to do a magic trick?” the doctor asked.

“Sure did,” Bob said.  “We’re going to revolutionize the craft.”

“By doing unsolicited tricks for free to an audience of one?”

“That’s right.”

“Actually there’s a $40 copay,” Doctor Professor said.  “So this act is going to cost you.”


“It’s a neat trick, but how did you fit all that stuff in there?”


Woodruff raised his hands to the sides of his face and twinkled his fingers.

“All right, well, you can pay Alice on your way out.”

“About that,” Bob said.  “Would you accept coupons for half off admission to our next show?”

“Uh no.”



Doctor Professor shook his head and pulled open the office door.  Woodruff and Bob stepped out into the hallway and headed for the lobby.

“I think you were right, Woodruff.  Gorilla Magicianing is probably one of those ‘ahead of its time’ ideas.”


Pardon My Poupon

With a jackhammer like motion, Bob ran a large knife from one end of a cutting board to the other.  Tiny brown and yellow pebbles bounced in all directions.

“There, see?” Bob said.

“You’re not so much cutting as crunching,” Woodruff replied.

“They are cut.”

“More like smashed.”

“Well this is impossible.”

“I told you so.”

Bob laid the knife on top of the sea of little seeds and threw up his hands.

“If you can’t cut the mustard, then how does anything actual cut the mustard?”

“Because it’s just an expression, Bob.”

“Expressions come from somewhere though,” Bob said.  “There has to be a way.”

“Well, we’ve tried yellow mustard, mustard paste, mustard plants, and now mustard seeds.”

“I still say I cut that mustard plant.”

“Right, but how is that different from cutting a stalk of broccoli?” Woodruff said.  “The expression is ‘doesn’t cut the mustard’.  There’s got to be something that sets mustard apart.”

“What about poupon?”

“What about it?”

“Grey Poupon is a mustard, we could cut that.”

“How’s Grey Poupon different than yellow mustard?”

“It’s classier.”

Woodruff shook his head and looked on his friend with derision and disbelief.

“How did we even start down this path?”

“We were discussing who would win in a fight between a Griffin and a Liger,” Bob said.  “While the answer is clearly a Griffin, you said that a Griffin is mythical while a Liger is real and therefore the Liger would win by default.”

“Which is true.”

“I said that a Buzzfeed poll had the Griffin winning fifty-three percent to forty-seven.  You said that in terms of social science a qualitative poll doesn’t cut the mustard due to sampling bias.”

“Oh right,” Woodruff said.  “Well it doesn’t.”

“So then, smart guy, how does one cut the mustard?”

“IT’S AN EXPRESSION!” Woodruff threw his hands in the air, as if he were signaling a successful field goal.

“Fine,” Bob said.  “No need to get upset.  Let’s just go.”

Woodruff and Bob left the cutting board in the back room and headed for the lobby.

“Thanks again, Hank.” Bob saluted the security guard seated behind the desk.

“Any time Bobby,” Hank replied and returned the salute.

“Tell Barb we said hello,” Woodruff added.

“Will do.  Give my best to Kenny.”

“You got it.”

Bob stepped into the triangular opening and gave the revolving door a push.  He stopped suddenly just as Woodruff’s compartment was enclosed by the wall.

“What if we freeze it?” Bob asked through the glass partition.

“What?” Woodruff said pushing against the stopped door.  “Move!”

Bob turned and pushed the door forward at a run.  The rate of speed for the door made it difficult for Woodruff to escape the roulette death trap and he was forced to keep pace with the circulating doorway.

“We could freeze the mustard and then cut it,” Bob said as he ran against the glass door as fast as he could.

“Okay, fine,” Woodruff said, struggling to keep up.  “That will work.  Can we stop this thing?  I wanna get off.”

The revolutions of the door slowed to a stop as Bob and Woodruff tumbled outside.  Woodruff fell on his back, looking up at the National Mustard Museum sign above the revolving door.  Bob stagger forward and took a seat on the top step, next to the fallen Woodruff.

“We can cut the mustard,” Bob said with a smile.

Woodruff closed his eyes and waited for his world to stop spinning.

“Why are you the way you are?”

“My mom says it’s because I was born under a blue moon.”

A red and yellow wienermobile drove up to the museum and parked in front of the steps.  Woodruff sat up and looked down at the hotdog-shaped vehicle.

“You hungry?”

“I could eat.”



They descended the steps and walked up to the side window of the oversize hotdog van.

“Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?”

The pimply faced young man in the van cocked his head sideways and stared back at Bob with his mouth agape.

“Ignore him,” Woodruff said.  “We’d like two hotdogs.”

“Did you really not get that reference?” Bob asked the young man with the hotdog-shaped hat.

“Uh, what reference?”

“Grey Poupon,” Bob said.  “You know, the commercial?”

“Um, the only thing I poop on is a toilet and that’s white.”

“Not poop on, poupon.”

“Really, just ignore him,” Woodruff said.  “It’s better for everyone.”

“Grey Poupon Dijon.”

“Who’s Deshawn?”

“Not who, what,” Bob said.  “It’s mustard.”

“Oh, um, yeah, we’ve got that,” the young man pulled out a bright yellow bottle with red letters.

“That’s yellow mustard.  Dijon is a spicy mustard.”

“This is all we’ve got.”

“He doesn’t even want spicy mustard.  He just likes to make obscure references.”

“How do you know I don’t want spicy mustard?”

“Well, do you?”

“No,” Bob answered timidly.  “But you didn’t know that.”

“Two hot dogs, please,” Woodruff said to the young man.  “Ketchup and mustard.”

“No ketchup for me.”

“You don’t want ketchup.”

“I don’t eat ketchup.”

“I’ve seen you eat ketchup.”

“I don’t eat ketchup anymore.”

“Since when?”

“Since I watched that documentary on the tomato industry, Our Big Red Shame,” Bob said.  “The way they tried those poor tomatoes is inhumane.”



“To a tomato?”

“You’re one of those heartless tomato eaters aren’t you?”

“So are you!”

“Not anymore.”

“You are telling me that you object to ketchup on the moral ground that tomatoes are treating inhumanely?”

“If it’s bruised or mooshy it just gets tossed aside like garbage.”

“If it’s ripe, it gets eaten.”

“I knew it!  Tomato eater!” Bob pointed an accusing finger at Woodruff.

“So you won’t eat a tomato in any form?”


“What about spaghetti?”

“I take my pasta with alfredo sauce.”


“Pesto is better.”

“You’re insane.”

“You can eat what you like, I’ll have my hotdog without cruelty sauce.”

The pimply faced young man handed over two hotdogs, one with ketchup and one without.  Woodruff licked at the ketchup on top of his hotdog and took a deliberating large bite while staring directly at Bob.


“How can you live with yourself?”

“Do you have any extra ketchup packets back there?” Woodruff asked the young man in the wienervan.

He handed over a couple of ketchup packets and Woodruff tore them open with his teeth.  Ketchup oozed out onto his chin and dripped onto his shirt.

“You’re an animal.”

“Do I have tomato blood on my face?”

“I’ve lost my appetite.”

Bob dropped his hotdog on the pavement and walked away.

“Where are you going?” Woodruff called.  “What’s to-ma-toe with you?”

Woodruff wiped the ketchup from his chin with a mischievous grin.  He licked his fingers and devoured the remains of his hotdog.  As the Wienermobile pulled away Woodruff bent down over Bob’s hotdog.  He glanced to either side and, when he was sure no one was looking, scooped up the discarded dog and brushed some dirt off the end.  Woodruff took a bite and jogged after Bob with a ketchupless hotdog in hand.

Show Me

Putting one foot carefully in front of the next, Woodruff and Bob made their way slowly toward the back of a bright yellow van.  Bob signaled with his hands for Woodruff to move to the passenger’s side of the windowless vehicle, while he crept quietly around to his left.  The two moved slowly and silently, in parallel, until they reached the front doors.

Woodruff peered through his window and held his index finger to his lips.  Bob nodded back, from the other side of the glass, and mirrored Woodruff’s shushing motion.  Tentatively, Bob reached up and laid hold on the chrome door handle.  He looked across to Woodruff, who bit softly on his lower lip.  With his thumb, Bob gently pressed in the shiny metal button and there was a faint click as the door latch disengaged.  The sound was barely audible but both he and Woodruff winced at the minute noise.

Bob looked over to Woodruff for confirmation.  Woodruff glanced warily over each shoulder and nodded for Bob to continue.  His thumb was still pressed firmly on the button, but he had not moved a muscle since the tiny click.  He drew in a deep breath through his nose and held it for a few seconds.  Woodruff closed his eyes tight as Bob eased the heavy door open.  The hinges creaked and Bob froze.  A wide-eyed Woodruff shook his head and held his hands in the air to beckon him to stop.  Bob remained as still as a statue as Woodruff tip toed around the front of the van to joined him by the creaky door.

“What do we do?” Bob whispered.

Woodruff raised his hands and made a series of signals with his fingers.  Bob opened his mouth slightly and shook his head.

“You know I only know the sign for milk and yes,” Bob replied in his best library voice.

Undaunted, Woodruff gestured to the door and began to pantomime his communications.  He gestured toward the door handle with a closed fist and slowly opened his first with his fingers apart.  Bob carefully released his grip on the chrome lever and took a step back.  Woodruff slid between Bob and the slightly ajar door.  He laid his body flat against the side of the van and slipped his arm into the open crack, like a pair of tweezers fishing for the wishbone in a game of Operation.

“Careful,” Bob mumbled, in a barely audible voice.

Woodruff crinkled his lips, making the universal shush formation.  A gust of wind blew the door wide open with a creak and a clunk.

“Ah man,” Woodruff moaned.

“We’re dead,” Bob said.  “I told you.”

“We could have done it.  We almost made it.”

“No way.  It’s impossible to survive in A Quiet Place universe.  There’s just no way.”

“Especially if you don’t know sign language.”

“My lack of ASL skills did not kill us, the wind did.”


“We were killed by the wind!”

“Can I ask what you two are doing?” a deep voice, with a drawl, called from behind them.

They spun around to find a uniformed policeman standing with his hand resting on his hostler.

“Oh, uh, hi Officer…” Bob squinted to read his badge.

“McClusky,” he replied.  “I say again, what are you two doing?”

“We were seeing if we could survive in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is hunted to extinction by sound,” Woodruff said.

“Spoiler alert, we could not.”

“No we couldn’t.”

Officer McClusky removed his mirrored sunglasses and eyed them suspiciously.

“Is this your vehicle?”

“Technically, it belongs to our friend, Hands,” Bob said.

“Technically?” the policeman asked.

“Well it was left to him by his trainer,” Woodruff said.  “But legally speaking he can’t drive.”

“And why is that?”

“On account of him being a bear.”

“Your friend is a bear?”


“A bear who owns a van?”

“That’s right.”

The van began to rock from side to side.  Officer McClusky dropped back and loosed the clip on his hostler.

“What’s in there?”


“He chose to take a nap while we watched a movie.”

“He doesn’t like horror films.  Although I would argue it wasn’t truly a horror movie.”

“It was more of a suspense thriller family drama.”


“Are you telling me there’s a bear in that van?” Officer McClusky asked.  He pointed to the rocking van with transparent concern and aggravation.  A growling yawn emanated from the back of the van.

“Well it ain’t a chipmunk,” Bob said.

“He’s a little grumpy after naptime, so I’d put your weapon away,” Woodruff added.  He walked to the back of the van and pulled one of the double doors open.  Bob grabbed hold of the other door and heaved it to the side as the policeman shuffled between them.

Hands sat up and scratched at his protruding belly.  He blinked his big brown eyes as he strained to adjust to the daylight.  A pedestrian on the sidewalk tripped over the curb and fell on his hands and knees, never talking his eyes off the bear in the van.  Officer McClusky hurried over to the man and helped him to his feet.

“Is that a…a…a…,” the pedestrian stammered.

“Yes sir, that’s a bear,” Officer McClusky said.  “You’d better move along.  I’ll handle this.”

“Handle what?” Woodruff asked.

“The bear issue.”

“What issue?”

“Well for starters,” the policeman said.  “How did it get here?”

“It is a he and HE rode here in the back of HIS van.”

“Sounds like the issue here is bearism.”


“Yeah, the bearist fear and prejudice against large furry mammals.”

“No, the issue is it’s illegal in the state of Missouri to drive with an uncaged bear in your vehicle,” Officer McClusky said.  He got out a small ticket book and began to write.

“Uncaged bear?” Bob said.  “Do you hear yourself?  That’s the most bearist comment we’ve heard this whole trip and we’ve been through Kentucky.”

“And where are you headed on this trip?” Officer McClusky asked.

“Oklahoma,” Woodruff said.  “Hands is competing in a wrestling tournament, unless you’re going to tell us that’s illegal too.”

“Actually, I believe it is.”



“Well poop,” Bob said.

“You can’t say the p-word in Missouri,” the policeman continued to scratch out words on his pad.

“You can’t say poop in Missouri?”

“Nope,” Officer McClusky said.  “This is the Show Me State.  You start throwing words around willy nilly and it gets messy.”


“So, you’ve got a busted taillight, expired tags, an uncaged bear and two counts of using the p-word,” Officer McClusky said.  He finished writing out the ticket and handed it to Woodruff.

“Things escalated quickly.”

“That how it works in the Show Me State,” Officer McClusky snapped his sunglasses back on and scrunched his nose to push them up into place.

“This feels like the time we committed low treason,” Bob said.

“In my defense, I didn’t know she was a monarch,” Woodruff replied.

“How do you intend to get that bear out of here?” the policeman asked.

“Call him ‘that bear’ just makes you sound more bearist,” Bob said.

“Can’t we just pay the fine and drive out of here?” Woodruff asked.

“Afraid not.  I can’t let you drive out of here with an uncaged bear in the back.”

Through the trees, on the far side of the parking lot, Bob spotted a sign that read Pat’s Pets.  A smile broke across his face and he began to nodded rhythmically.

“I’ve got an idea.”


Minutes later the yellow van was motoring down the highway with the happy occupants signing along to the radio.

“I don’t wanna be your fool, in this game for two, so I’m leavin’ you behind.”

“Bye, bye, bye…”

“Genius idea, Bob.”

“The man wanted a caged bear, we gave him a cage bear.  Isn’t that right, Hands?”

Hand grunted and waved his cage-covered paw at the front seat.  The dome-shaped decorative bird cage fit perfectly over his enormous right bear paw.

“Might sound crazy, but it ain’t no lie, baby, bye, bye, bye.”

Simultaneously, they locked arms in a fist pump position and danced their fists across their faces in unison with the lyrics.

Con Permiso

Woodruff and Bob knelt over a long piece of paper, stretched out on a hot sidewalk.  A towering building rose up beyond a large grass-covered campus.  Bob grimaced thoughtfully, while Woodruff peered down at the drawings like an art critic.

“Okay, we have to stop with the revisions,” Woodruff said.  “This is it.”

“You think it’s ready?” Bob said.

“Totally ready.  Although I still say we don’t need the back patio cover.”

“Yeah, because I’m totally going to sit out on an uncovered patio.”

“That’s my point.  I don’t think you’re going to sit out on a covered or uncovered patio.”

“Just you wait.  I’m going to sit the heck out of that patio.”

“That’s not a thing.”

“You’re not a thing.”

Bob rolled up the paper, like a scroll, and tucked it under his arm as he stood up.  Woodruff led the way up the wide walkway toward the front door of the towering building.  The reflection of the sun off the tall front windows blinded Bob and he raised the roll of paper to cover his eyes.

“That’s one thing I won’t miss,” Bob said.

“The glare from the sun?” Woodruff asked.

“Yep.  Good riddance.”

“Hear, hear.”

“No.  There, there.”

Bob squinted his eyes as he pointed to the sky.  Woodruff pulled open the front door and they entered an expansive lobby.  An oval desk sat at the far end, beneath a mosaic portrait of a rocket ship.

“How can I help you?” the perky brunette receptionist asked.  Her white toothy smile was so bright that Woodruff and Bob could not help but smile back.

“Yes, hi,” Woodruff said.  “We’re here to get these plans approved.”


“That’s right,” Bob replied.  “Which floor is planning and development on?”

“Uh, Research and Development is on level 4,” the receptionist replied with a furrowed brow.

“That’ll work.  Thank you, my lady.”

Woodruff and Bob marched toward the elevators to the left of the reception desk.  Bob adjusted the roll of paper under his arm and Woodruff pressed the silver button with a red light at the center.

“She seemed nice.”

“She sure did.”

After a ding, the elevator doors slid open and they entered the square compartment.  Woodruff pressed the button under the number four and Bob wedged himself in the back corner.

“What are you doing?”

“If the elevator plunges to the ground I want to brace myself.”

“The elevator is not going to plunge to the ground.”

“I’m sure that’s exactly what everyone who dies in an elevator thinks, right before it plunges to the ground.”

“How is standing in the corner going to help you anyway?”

“Having two walls to absorb the impact,” Bob said.  “Plus, statistically speaking the southeast corner of the elevator is the safest.”

“First off, that is idiotic,” Woodruff said.  “And second, that is the northeast corner.”

“Northeast is the second most safest.”

With another ding, the elevator doors slid open to reveal several rows of chest high cubicles.  Woodruff shook his head and held the door for Bob to enter the office space.  A man wearing a tie and a short-sleeved white shirt walked by, carrying a stack of papers.

“Excuse me,” Woodruff said, as he stepped out of the elevator to join Bob.  “We’re looking for someone to approve these plans.”

“Approve plans?” the man asked.  He shifted the papers in his hands and scrunched his nose underneath the weight of his horn-rimmed glasses.

“Yeah, we need a permit,” Bob said.  “You know, before we start construction.”

“A permit?” the man placed his stack of papers on a nearby desk and adjusted his black tie.

“Yeah, we’re just looking for a standard building permit.”

“Nothing fancy.”

“But this is NASA,” the man in the short-sleeved white shirt said.

“Right, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, we know.”

“Everything is up to code,” Bob said.  He unrolled their plan on top of the man’s stack of papers.  “We just need your okay.”

“Is that drawn in crayon?”

“Yep, hot blue magenta.  Bob made it himself.”

“The crayon?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What exactly am I looking at?” the man asked.

“These are blue prints, or hot blue magenta prints, for a summer home,” Woodruff replied.

“And why did you bring these to NASA?”

“Oh right,” Bob said.  He struck his own forehead with the palm of his hand.  “My bad.  We’re going to build it on Mars.”

“You’re going to build a summer home on Mars?”

“That’s right.”

“We were in Arizona last summer and it was so hot we just wanted to die.”

“Instead, we decided to build a summer home away from the heat.  After a quick Google search we found that the median temperatures on Mars beats anything Earth has to offer.”

“After that we audited a couple of Astronautical Engineering courses.  You know, to learn how to build a space habitat.  And then we designed a comfy summer home for the red planet.”

“I can’t give you a permit to build on Mars.”

“Well not with that attitude,” Woodruff said.

“How are you even going to get to Mars?”

“We’ve got that covered.  Woodruff has been lighting off rockets since he was eight.”

“I was in the Cub Scouts.  With Bob’s crayon experience, we just fashioned a giant molding and we’ll fill it with go-go juice.”

“You made a giant crayon molding and filled it with fuel to launch you to Mars?” the man asked and pressure his glasses back up against his face.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Bob said.  “But we’re going to test it first.  As soon as Zubu passes his pilots exam.”


“A friend of ours,” Woodruff replied.

“He’s a chimpanzee,” Bob said.  “Not to be specist.”

“We figured if they are good enough for NASA, they are good enough for us.”

“Let me get this straight,” the man in the short-sleeved white shirt said.  “Your plan is to fly into space in a Crayola shaped rocket, piloted by a chimpanzee named Zubu, and build a summer home on Mars?”

“That’s about the size of it.”

“Did you bring the designs for this death trap?”

Bob pulled a wad of toilet paper from his back pocket and unfurled it.  An image of a red crayon was drawn across the squares.   He held it proudly in front of the man with the short-sleeved shirt.

“It’s to scale,” Woodruff said.  “Each square represents a six foot section.  The crown is the cockpit.”

“What’s the diameter?”

“Nine feet.”

On his wrist watch the man keyed in a series of numbers and peered at them through his horn-rimmed glasses.  He made a face, like the one Bob made when he smelled Kenny’s belly button.

“Even if you filled the fuselage to the top you wouldn’t have enough fuel to reach Mars.”

“The fuel just has to get us out of the atmosphere,” Bob said.  “Our FCE will get us the rest of the way.”


“It’s a proprietary propulsion system,” Woodruff said.  “It runs off an organically fed, renewable source of energy.”

“What’s the source?”

“The makeup is 59 percent nitrogen, 21 percent hydrogen, 9 percent carbon dioxide, 7 percent methane and 4 percent oxygen,” Bob said.

The man tilted his head sideways and turned his eyes to the ceiling, while he processed the mixture.  His mouth fell open and he turned his gaze back on Woodruff and Bob.

“Are you telling me this thing runs on farts?”

“That’s right,” Woodruff proudly proclaimed.  “Our bodies will operate as zero waste facilities, turning beans into fuel for our Fart Combustion Engine.”

Woodruff and Bob high-fived each other and a low loud hum reverberated from Bob’s backside.

“Excuse me,” Bob said.  “That was wasteful.”

The man in the short-sleeved white shirt stared at them for a long moment, behind his horn-rimmed glasses.

“Well this I’ve got to see,” the man finally said.  He pulled a pen from his shirt pocket and signed their plan.  “Approved!  Let me know how that turns out.”

“Thank you, we will.”

Bob collected their plans and Woodruff pressed the button for the elevator.  The doors opened with a ding and they entered the compartment, leaving the man in the white short-sleeved shirt alone.

“He seemed nice.”

“He sure did.”

Idiom Proof

Woodruff and Bob sat on stools behind two large easels, which supported their own white canvas rectangles.  Green rolling hills stretched out for miles to the distant horizon beyond a wide open field.  A string of horses grazed quietly beneath the setting sun.

“This evening could not be any prettier, don’t you think?”

“Do you have a penny?”

Bob reached into the front pocket of his overalls and pulled out an old copper coin.  He tossed it to Woodruff, who caught it and slipped it into his pocket without looking.

“No, I do not think this evening could get any prettier.”

“How are you coming along with your painting?”

“Really good,” Woodruff said.  “It’s easy.”

Woodruff rotated the canvas toward Bob.  At the center was a triangular slice of chocolate cake on a silver platter.

“Nice cake,” Bob nodded his approval.  “Hand me the bucket of magenta.”

“I can’t,” Woodruff said as he pulled on the bucket in between them.  “It’s caught.”

“Don’t worry about it.  I’ve got some purple and pink I can mix together.”

“What are you drawing?”

“Words,” Bob said.  He turned his canvas around and presented it to Woodruff.  It was filled from top to bottom and side to side with words, painted in multiple colors.

“That’s a lot of words.”

“Yup, a thousand of ‘em.”

“How did you pick which words to paint?”

“I just painted a word for the stuff I can see.  You know, trees, the sky, Elvis, the yard of each neighbor…”

“The whole neighborhood?”

“Yep, every yard.  All nine of them.”

“That wind is chilly,” Woodruff said.  He ducked down beneath his easel.  “Oh, it’s a bit warmer down here.”

Bob reached down and waved his hand around.

“Yeah, I feel it,” Bob said.  “Should we head back and get out of this weather?”

“The last ferry boat for the day just pushed away from the dock,” Woodruff said.  “How are we going to get ‘cross the Tuit?”

“We can cross on that bridge over there.”

The two painter left their canvas’, easels, stools, and brushes and headed back to an old rusty pickup.  A tall, ornate, trailer was hitched to the truck with the word BAND painted on the side in yellow letters.  Bob jumped up on the back of the trailer and the wagon shook side to side.

“Don’t jump on that,” Woodruff said.

“What?  Why?” Bob asked.  “Everybody does it.”

“Just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s right.”

“Okay, mom.”

“Beating!  Come here, boy.”

A brown and white shaggy dog came running through the field toward them.

“Here, boy!  Good boy, Beating, good boy!”

The dog charged right through a waist-high prickly bush.

“No, Beating!” Woodruff yelled.  “Around!  Go around!”

Four grey squirrels shot out of the bush in different directions.  Beating dashed and darted at the little forest rodents, as they danced around him.  The old dog chased one of the squirrels in circles at the base of a nearby tree.  When Beating was overcome by dizziness, the wily squirrel escaped up the tree and jumped to the canopy of an adjoining grove.  Beating recovered and began to bark frantically at the vacant treetop.

“You silly dog,” Bob said.  “That’s the wrong tree.”

“Why do you suppose your Uncle Billy named him Beating?”

“My guess is that it rhymes with bleating.”


“Yeah, you know, like the sound a goat makes.  Uncle Billy always wanted a goat.”

“Why wouldn’t he just name it Bleating then?”

“Uncle Billy has trouble with his L’s.”

“But his name is Billy.”

“Yeah, he was just fine until the hot potato incident.”

“This I’ve got to hear.”

“Well, one night at supper, Billy told Elvis to toss him a potato.  Elvis grabbed a potato out of the pot and it was so hot that he chucked it in the air, as a reflex.  Billy thought he was throwing it to him so he jumped over the table and caught it in his mouth.  The tater was so big that he couldn’t chew it and it burned his tongue.  Ever since then we all called him Unco Biwee.”

“So he named the dog Beating because he couldn’t say bleating?”

“That’s my guess,” Bob said.  “You got a better one.”

“No,” Woodruff said.  “That was for all practical purpose comparable to mine.”

Bleating turned his attention to the horses in the field and began to bray like a donkey.


“I know.”

“Has he always done that?”

“Ever since he was a puppy,” Bob said.  “Last summer, we worked with him on a whiney, but we couldn’t teach him.”

“Because he’s old?”

“Because he’s a dog.”

Bob raised an eyebrow and looked sideways at Woodruff with a slight shake of his head.  Woodruff craned his neck to mirror Bob, and bent his knees to match his eye level.  Neither wanted to concede the impromptu staring contest.  They drew closer and closer to each other until Woodruff blinked.

“Ha!  Winner.”

“Fine, you win,” Woodruff said.  “But only because I got a grain in my eye.”

“A grain of what?”


Woodruff rubbed at his eyes with the palm of his hand.

“Salt from your tears?” Bob mockingly rubbed at his eyes.

“Why don’t you just get the dog so we can go.”


He pantomimed rubbing his eyes again and threw Woodruff and taunting pouty face.  Bob walked around the truck, reached through the open window of the passenger seat, and pulled out a floppy hat.  He held it high in the air and whistled.  Beating stopped braying and snapped his furry head toward the hat.  Bob let the hat go and it fell to the ground.  He had no sooner done so when the dog made a beeline for the dropped hat.

“Works every time,” Bob smiled.

A stray cat wandered out from underneath the truck and surveyed the floppy hat.

“Uh, Bob…”

The cat poked at the hat with its paw and jumped back cautiously.  Beating kept charging toward his floppy prize.  Focused solely on the hat, the cat crept forward as if it was stalking its prey.


“I see it.”

Woodruff and Bob stood paralyzed by the anticipated collision as the cat slipped its head under the hat just before Beating claimed the object of his desire with a ferocious chomp.  He shook the hat back and forth before trotting to the back of the trailer.

“He kill the cat!”


“Curiosity killed the cat?”

“No, the cat’s name is Curiosity.”

Beating jumped up onto the trailer and placed the floppy hat on the floor of the wagon.  A disheveled and disoriented cat stumbled out from under the hat and waddled away.  Woodruff breathed a sigh of relief and pulled open the passenger side door.  The shaggy dog lay down on top of the floppy hat and closed his eyes.

“Ready to go?” Bob asked.


They both hopped into the pickup and slammed the rusty metal doors shut in unison.  Bob turned the key in the ignition and the engine chugged, sputtered and died.  He tried again with the same result.

“Pop the hood.”

Woodruff got out of the truck and Bob pulled the lever to release the hood.  A small plume of smoke raised up into the air.  One of the horses in the field whinnied loudly in their direction.

“I doubt that the problem is hay related, Horace.”

Horace snorted and stopped his hoof into the ground.

“Fine, I’ll check.”

Woodruff pulled the lid off the air filter and looked inside.

“Well I’ll be,” Woodruff remarked.

“What is it?”

“Horace was right.  The filter is filled with hay.”

The horses whinnied and pranced in a circle.  When Bob looked out at the prancing ponies, he saw a burly man in a purple and orange tie dyed shirt, sitting on a depilated section of the wood fencing.  The man smiled at Bob from behind an unkempt beard.

“Do you know what you’re doing?” the man in the tie dyed shirt asked.

“Not really,” Woodruff replied as he continued to pull hay from the filter.  He stepped back from the engine and rubbed his greasy hands together.  “Try it again, Bob.”

The engine sputtered and chugged but did not turn over.  The man in the tie dyed t-shirt grinned and scratched at his beard.

“Ya gotta hit it,” he shouted.

“The hay?”

“The filter.”

“Hit it?”


Woodruff stepped up to the engine and pounded on the side of the air filter.  Bob tried, unsuccessfully, to start the engine again.  They looked back to the man in the tie dyed t-shirt, who sat blissfully on the fence.

“Are you going to come and help?” Bob hollered.

“Haven’t decided,” the man said, rocking back and forth.  “The name’s Dave.”

“Hey Dave, I’m Bob.”

“And I’m Woodruff.  If you know anything about cars, we could use a hand.”

Dave hopped down off the fence and sauntered over to Woodruff at the front of the truck.  He reached down into the filter and dug around in the basin.  A moment later he pulled out a single straw of hay and displayed it proudly.

“Last one,” Dave said.  He returned the filter and fastened the lid.  “Try it now.”

Bob turned the key and the engine roared to life.  “Yawhoo!”

“Thank you, Dave,” Woodruff said.

“No worries,” Dave said.  He wiped his greasy hands on his tie dyed t-shirt.  “Happy to help.”

“So, what are you doing all the way out here?” Bob asked over the humming engine.

“Well, it’s a long story,” Dave scratched the side of his hairy face.  “I came up this way to visit a friend of mine, but I happened upon a young fella on the side of the road who was crying.  I asked him what was wrong and he said he lost his momma’s basket.  He was supposed to collect the eggs from the hens and bring them back to the house.  Turns out he placed them all in one basket and left them by the henhouse and they disappeared.”

“That doesn’t seem like a wise practice.”

“That’s what I told him,” Dave continued.  “But there’s no use getting all upset about something that is already done.”

“I was just telling Bob that this morning when he was crying about the milk I spilled.”

“Again, I wasn’t crying,” Bob said.  “You dumped the whole craft on my face.  I had milk in my eyes.”

“Anywho,” Dave went on.  “We went looking for his basket and found his neighbor had absconded with his eggs.  Crazy old coot was just sitting there in his rocking chair eating raw eggs.”

“That’s not healthy.”

“Right.  So we just watched from the bushes and waited for Mother Nature to do her thing,” Dave said.  “After a little while he jumped off his rocker and ran inside.  We ran up to the porch and grabbed the basket.  I spotted a comic next to the rocker, so I snatched it.”

Dave pulled out brightly colored comic book with Thor written above a muscle-bound figure, with long blond hair flowing from under a silver helmet.  He wore a red cape, and a held a giant hammer.

“You stole his thunder!” Bob exclaimed.

“I don’t know about that,” Dave said.  “Didn’t read it.  The picture on the front just looked kind of cool.  I took it to give that egg thief a taste of his own medicine.  Plus, I forgot to bring a gift for my friend.”

“Two birds,” Woodruff said.

“Where?” Bob asked.

“Over there, on that stone.”


“So the kids went home and I cut outta there real quick like,” Dave said.  “Then I saw a cloud over your pickup and thought I’d check it out.”

“We’re glad you did,” Woodruff said.  “If there’s any way we could repay you, let us know.”

“I could use a ride.”

“Sure thing,” Bob said.  “Where are you headed?”

“My friend Elvis has a place up the road a ways.”

“That’s where we’re headed,” Bob said.  “Elvis is my cousin.”

“How about that,” Dave said.  “Who knew there’d be a blessing under that cloud of smoke?”

“We can take you up to his place, but Elvis left,” Woodruff said.

“The building?”

“The farm.”

“We saw him back up that way on the other side of the bridge,” Bob said.  “He should be back soon.  Hop in and we’ll run you up there.”

Dave pulled open the door and slid in the middle, between Woodruff and Bob.

“You know you got a dog sleeping in the bandwagon,” Dave said.

“Just let him lie.”

Bob drove up the road in the rattling old pickup.  Dave pulled a handful of cards out of his pocket.

“You wanna play cards?”

“Is that all you’ve got?”


“You’re not playing with a full deck?”

“Nope.  I bought it off a hobo for an old prostetic arm and a chicken leg.”


Dave dealt out the cards as they came to the Tuit and crossed the bridge to the other side of the river.