Monday, April 28, 2014

The Mushroom at the Bar

This is copied from my daughter Kris' blog site, Playing in the Dirt. I loved the things she wrote about.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Mushroom Walked into a Bar...

...but the bartender wouldn't serve him. "We don't serve mushrooms here," he said. Dejected, the mushroom walked out. He came back in the side door, strolled up to the bar whistling, and ordered a gin and tonic. "I'm sorry," the bartender said, "but we don't serve mushrooms here." Even sadder now, the mushroom walked out of the bar and came in the rear entrance. He sidled up to the bar, keeping as much of his face turned away from the bartender as possible. Before he even asked for the drink, the bartender said, "Look, it doesn't matter how many times you come in here. I'm telling you, we don't serve mushrooms here."

"Aw, c'mon," the mushroom wheedled. "I'm a fun-gi!" (read: "fun guy")

Yes, folks, it was a bad pun, but I was attempting, in my lame way, to prepare you for the horrific picture you are about to see. You know how, when people talk about death, taxes, and other unpleasant subjects, they try to make a joke about it to ease the tension? It's sort of like that.

So okay, enough of the pleasantries and joking--let's get to the fearful topic of...fungus. You'll see I've included a picture at right of a mushroom that has been growing in my yard all summer. We had a couple of 'shrooms last year (please let me reassure you at this point that we are NOT eating them, and if you have anything remotely resembling the pictured fungus growing in your yard, I wouldn't recommend adding it to any dishes), but nothing like this one.

This fungus, dubbed the Voracious Mutant Rock-and-Leaf-Eating Fungus from Outer Space and viewed with great trepidation, has evolved into an amorphous blob of spongy goo. I dared touch it, and the slick, glistening surface is actually dry and smooth. You can see hints of mushroom texture on the outer edges of this fungus blossom. Please note that the rock and leaves are STUCK--no amount of tugging would release them in one piece. I think the fungus is actually consuming them. I carefully placed a quarter in the upper right quadrant before taking the picture (which has not been photoshopped other than to simply be resized to fit the blog) so you could get a sense of the gigantuhugimammothian size.

All I can say is I am glad I am moving. I do not wish to be caught in the house unawares when this glistening, slavering beast darkens the doorstep.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

An Iowa Blessing

Book Review

An Iowa Blessing

This is a story of the life of June Disney, a woman blindly running away from a tragic situation. She was desperate to find a new life, or maybe she was just running from her old life. This is a story of hope and unexpected love. It happens in a place she never expected to find herself, far from her Minnesota roots. This story will make you laugh, and cry, sometimes at the same time. But for sure, it will tug at your heartstrings. This is a great read for romantics. I heartily recommend this story.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Love Wish

People often as me, "What is your best romance novel?" Well, I truly don't know the answer to that question, but I will say that this story is right there in the running with my very best stories. The good news is that it is available in either soft cover or as an e-book on Kindle or Nook.

If you hunger for a real-life kind of love story, you have to read this book. You will not be able to lay it down until you have read the last sentence. It is that compelling.

The Love Wish

Paul R. Meredith

Linda Folger had always dreamed of growing up and finding her prince charming, marrying him and having two or three children. She wanted to live happily ever after with her little family in a house in the woods with a white fence around it. That was it! That’s all she ever wanted from life.

She suffered through a rocky period when her love wish seemed out of reach, but then her life took an unexpected turn for the better. Suddenly she had it all in the palm of her hand, and she thanked God for all that He had done for her. Then, as life often does with each of us, Linda’s life took another turn, and she was dealt a situation that took her in a totally different direction, a situation that we all fear could someday happen to us.

This is Linda’s story—of how she handled both the ups and downs. This is the story of Linda’s Love Wish.

Paul R. Meredith

Sunday, April 20, 2014

My Goat Cart

My Goat Cart

During the four nearly four years I carried the evening newspaper in Decatur, Illinois, it was really tough for me to do all the bike riding or walking in the winter weather when there was snow and ice on the ground. One fine spring day my Uncle Harley told me he was going to build me a goat cart to ride my route and haul my papers. Dad had a nanny goat that he kept for the goat milk he needed for his ulcers. The billy goat was there to keep the nanny happy.
            Uncle Harley said, “We may as well put that billy goat to some use.” So he brought his tools and some lumber and started building the goat cart. He told me, “This will really help you. It should cut down the time it takes to run your paper route by at least half. You won’t have to make any trips back to get more papers; you will ne able to take all of them at the same time.”
            My uncle worked building the cart out in our partially-built garage. It only took him two or three days to build the frame and the riding box, and then he went out and purchased some old leather reins and harness from a farmer he knew. He cut the harness down to fit the goat and to fit me. He had bought two used bicycle wheels and somehow found an axle that worked.
            Several of our close neighbors came to watch the project take form, and after it was ready to take for a trial, they all gathered to watch. One of our good neighbors just across the street from us on the west corner, John, kept his yard immaculate and dropped his yard work to come and watch the trial run.
            Another neighbor suggested to Uncle Harley, “You will need a carrot on a pole dangled in front of old Billy if you want to get him to move.” He was right, so Uncle Harley decided to wait until the next day so he could build one. But John said, “Why not allow me to do that? I can have one ready in fifteen minutes. I have some long cane poles I once used for fishing; one of them will be perfect for that.”
            “Great, John, go ahead if you have the time,” my uncle told him.
            John scampered across the street, and in less than the time he said, he was back with a long cane pole with some string on the end holding a dangling carrot. He had me sit in the wagon box while he made an adjustment to the pole length.
            Soon I was ready. Billy was all harnessed up and Uncle Harley was holding him steady until all was in place. He told me, “Now just pull on the left rein if you want Billy to turn left, and if you want to go right, pull on the right rein. Are you ready, Sonny?”
            I looked around at the crowd watching me; there must have been twenty of our neighbors, plus all my family, including most of the aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandpas. Suddenly I was very nervous, but after a few seconds I said, “I think I am ready.”
            Uncle Harley told me, “For this first trial run, just go around the block and come back here so we can see how everything worked. Go ahead.” He turned Billy loose to let me start the great adventure.
            Suddenly, Billy took off with a mighty lurch that nearly sent me over the back of my seat, but I recovered and tried to guide him out of the driveway where we started. But old Billy had a mind of his own and he ran right straight through the side yard, destroying Mom’s large bed of petunias. Billy ran after that carrot as if there was nothing to stop him. He carried me through our front ditch, across the road and directly into John’s beautifully landscaped yard, tearing huge ruts as he went. I cried for Billy to stop. “Whoa, Billy, whoa!” I screamed, “Billy won’t stop!” Billy ran through John’s tulip beds and then across the yard and into the front ditch, which was much deeper than the other ditches in the area. Billy ran one wheel over the end of the culvert at the corner and the other wheel fell into the deep ditch, upsetting the entire cart and breaking the boards that held the harness in place. Billy was also dragged down into the ditch where he fell onto his side. I fell out of the seat and was tossed a few feet away onto the softer edge of John’s front yard.
            As soon as I recovered and sat up, I saw that Uncle Harley, Dad, and several neighbors all ran over to help me. “Are you hurt, Sonny?” Dad asked.
            My feelings were hurt, but I answered Dad, “I think I’m okay, just a little sore.” I had landed hard right on my rump and it was barking at me. Dad helped me up while Uncle Harley and John tried to get Billy up. Billy was lying on his side, but he did accomplish one thing; he got the carrot and was happily eating it. I looked over at the remains of the goat cart; it was in shambles, completely destroyed. Wood was all over the ditch and part of the street. Both of the wheels were badly bent and some of the spokes were out on the ground.
            A little later Dad, some of the neighbors, and Uncle Harley had the various pieces collected and brought them back to our garage. Dad turned to Uncle Harley. “Well, it was worth a try, but I don’t think any of us thought about how Sonny would stop Billy. There were no brakes he could apply, and I guess goats don’t follow the same rules as horses.”
            Harley looked across the street at John’s yard. “I’m just glad Sonny wasn’t hurt worse than he was. Now I wonder what I will have to do to help John get his yard back in shape.”
            I forget what the result of tearing up the two yards was, although I knew Mom would get her petunia bed back in due time. I’m pretty sure John took it all in stride and went about rebuilding his beautiful yard. Maybe Uncle Harley offered to help, which it seems he did, but how that all worked out, I long ago lost the details from my memory.

Here is a rough sketch of the goat cart. I am not good at drawing goats.

The End

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The SWOB Affair

This local mystery thriller continues to be one of my personal favorites. I wrote it several years ago when I was involved in a local creative writing group. It is based on a story that really happened in a different state where I once lived, but of course the names, locations, and much of the rest of the story was fictionalized to localize it to this area. I hope you enjoy this short start of The SWOB Affair and decide to download it for your reading pleasure.

The SWOB Affair
Paul R. Meredith

Chapter I

It was just another day in Paradise. The beach was littered with tourists and a few of the “locals” were soaking up the sun’s rays. The temperature was comfortably moderated by a soft westerly breeze off the Atlantic. It was truly Paradise in Ormond Beach…or was it?
The small group of writers who met regularly at the Ormond Beach Senior Center had just ended their Tuesday afternoon meeting at four o’clock. The SWOBs, as they called themselves, was simply an acronym that stood for Senior Writers of Ormond Beach. They had concluded their discussions regarding recommended changes to chapter nine of the mystery novel they were creating as a group effort. Sharon Newlin had been especially active in her part of the project over the past few weeks as the novel slowly took shape.
Sharon announced as she left the meeting earlier than the rest of the small group, “I’m sorry to leave a few minutes early, but I have to make a stop at Wal-Mart for some groceries and an oil change before going home. I only have a sitter for the kids for two hours after school.”


The phone rang at Paul Wilson’s home shortly after seven. When Paul answered, a male voice spoke rapidly, “This is Gordon. Do you know where Sharon went after the writer’s meeting today?”
“I’m sorry; who did you say this is? I didn’t catch your name,” Paul said.
“This is Gordon, Gordon Newlin. I’m calling about my wife Sharon. Did she attend the writer’s meeting today?”
“Oh, yes, Mr. Newlin, she did. Why do you ask?”
“Because I got home a little while ago and she’s not here at the house. I’m trying to locate her. My children are hungry for their supper. The kids and their sitter said they haven’t seen her since they came home from school. I found your number in her address book. You are one of the SWOB meeting members, aren’t you?”
“So do you know where she went after the meeting?”
“I’m sorry, but no, I don’t,” Wilson responded. “Hey, wait a minute. Yes, I think I do remember now that she said she had to pick up some groceries. I think she said she was going to stop at the local Wal-Mart. She said something about getting groceries and an oil change. She left a little before four.”
“Yeah, I told her to make sure and get the oil changed. But did she say anything else? She should have been home long before now.”
“No, not that I recall. Maybe she stopped to see a friend or something. Have you tried calling around to check with any of them?” Paul asked.
“I tried everyone I could think of, but nobody had heard anything from her.”
“I wish I could help you, but she will surely show up soon. I’m sure she must have stopped to see someone on the way, or maybe she had some trouble with her car.”
“Yeah, I suppose. Okay, thanks. Sorry I bothered you,” Newlin said.
At ten, realizing something very weird was going on, Gordon Newlin called the police to report his wife was missing. They asked him to come in to the station early the next morning and make out the Missing Person’s Report.
“She’s never done this before,” Gordon told the detective at his desk the next morning. “I had to take the day off from work to try to find her.”
“Maybe she was upset and just wanted to get away from you and the kids a few days for a break,” the detective casually stated. “It happens all the time. Did the two of you have an argument?”
“No, we very seldom argue about anything. And I know Sharon would not just leave. She isn’t like that.”
“Did you try to call her on her cell phone?”
“She didn’t have her cell phone with her. She often forgets it. She left it at the house.”
“Okay, give me a description of her car and the license number. I’ll get out an APB to all the units so they can keep an eye out for it,” the officer stated.

A day later, on Thursday, Sharon Newlin was still missing. Per police protocol, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office was notified that a crime might have been committed. It wasn’t clear at the moment where jurisdiction might fall. The missing woman lived in Ormond Beach but depending on where, or even if a crime had actually been committed, any of the local police departments could possibly be involved. Normally the authorities of the area where the crime is committed take the jurisdiction in a case.

That morning, Ormond Beach Police Detective Sergeant James Calloway received a call on his cell phone while he was on the city’s north side. He flipped the case open. “Calloway.”
“We’ve found it!” the voice said.
“Found what?” he asked.
“The Newlin woman’s car. It’s in the parking lot at the Wal-Mart store on Granada. It’s on the far eastern end of the lot.”


Monday, April 14, 2014

The Mailbox

In a creative writing class I once took here in my city in Florida, all the attendees were asked to write a short paper on the subject of the mailbox. Often people think these are silly assignments to write about, but often they are extremely thought provoking, which of course is the idea of creative writing--to create.

My paper, after giving it careful thought, was the one below.


A mailbox in today’s world is nearly as necessary as the food we must all consume in order to maintain our general health. Eating the right foods is essential for a person to be healthy and even happy, while eating the wrong foods may cause a person to be unhealthy, and often add to their unhappiness. The receipt of positive types of mail from a mailbox might have similar effects on a person as eating the right foods, just as the receipt of negative types of mail could have the same effect as eating the wrong types of food. It all depends on what that mysterious mailbox container has in it when we open it to retrieve whatever it holds.

A common mailbox is often the delivery instrument of messages in a variety of forms—messages that can have different effects on different people. There are those who live for the moment the mail is delivered. They hunger to hear from a loved one, a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, and sometimes even hearing from a total stranger will suffice. Consider the case of a lonely person with no living relatives; think what a note of encouragement from a friend might mean to them, or a birthday card, a Christmas card, or just a card of thanks or one of friendship. A short written message or a thoughtful card is often all that it takes to brighten the day of a lonely individual. It may cause them to beam with happiness and have a smile for everyone they meet the rest of the day. Even junk mail may cause a very lonely person to have a better day, simply because he or she received something in the mailbox with his or her name on it. That piece of junk mail may have made them feel like a real person again for a moment in time.

On the other hand, consider what else a mailbox might deliver to someone. For a person without the discipline to handle money well, a mailbox could bring daily grief in the form of past-due bills and statements of money owed. Grief may also come through the receipt of a letter expressing sadness due to the death of someone a person loves, perhaps a relative or a close friend. A letter from a lover announcing the end of a relationship can often be so sad that it could devastate a person.

A mailbox may also contain unexpected treasures—perhaps photos of grandchildren, a check from a surprise source, or perhaps even a letter from an attorney disclosing one has inherited an estate from a deceased relative. Sometimes after many years a child raised as an orphan or by adoptive parents will contact a natural parent by mail.  

There are people who live alone and cannot get out to do basic shopping for some of the necessities of life such as clothing or medication. For them, a catalog received in the mailbox is sometimes a godsend. For those who have serious health problems, a mailbox is often the instrument used to send off an order for medical supplies, and then to receive those necessary life-giving supplies. Yes, a mailbox is sometimes even a lifeline.

Inserting envelopes with checks in them into a mailbox is a common method of paying bills and sending gifts of money for weddings, graduations, birthdays and other occasions. Delivering a message of condolence, a thank you, a get-well message, and cards for nearly any occasion may be done using a mailbox.

A beautiful mailbox does not always bring beautiful and welcome news; it may bring terrible and heartbreaking news, while the most mundane of mailboxes may deliver a most welcome and beautiful message.

A mailbox may come in many styles and sizes, be comprised of basic metallic content, or plastic, or almost any kind of material imaginable. A mailbox may even be in non-physical form such as an Internet or e-mail mailbox where one can compose and send messages electronically to people all over the world in the blink of an eye, as well as receive the same.

In summary, a mailbox is sort of an instrument of dichotomy in that it can be viewed as both a positive and a negative instrument at the same time—all depending on what type of mail content it delivers to an individual, or how that mail content is perceived. Often good news and bad news may come at the same time.
Paul Meredith

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Return of the Vigilante Goddess

This story stands alone as a great thriller for thriller lovers. But, for those who have read the first two books in the Vigilante series, this story picks up where the Rise of the Vigilante Goddess ended.

The Return of the

Vigilante Goddess


Esther Scroggins was a private investigator. While married to her first husband she owned a small investigation company. Then her husband died from a fast-acting form of cancer. After being a widow for several years, Esther itched for a change in her boring life. She was solicited and hired by a man she knew only as Sam Little. Her job was as a hired assassin, a position she never dreamed of ever accepting previously. But after hearing Sam Little’s explanation of why the job was so necessary, she bought into it wholeheartedly.
            While working for Sam Little, Esther met and secretly married Bruno Martini, a work associate also in Little’s employ. Bruno was a cheerful man unlike any she had known previously. Esther considered him a truly great lover. Bruno was portly, of Italian descent, balding, and a child of immigrant parents. Esther was a thinly muscular redhead, taller than her husband by several inches, and had rarely laughed until she fell in love with Bruno. They were truly opposites in almost every way imaginable, but for whatever reason, they worked well together.
            Bruno Martini met an untimely and unexpected death in a huge explosion and fire in the garage at their home. Esther was devastated beyond belief at her loss and cried nearly uncontrollably many times.
            She vowed revenge for her husband’s death. Knowing Sam Little was at the heart of the reason for his death, he ultimately died at the hands of Kate Sullivan. It was retaliation for the contracted death of her husband, Bruno Martini.
            Esther completely stopped working at her investigation business for a while until she recovered emotionally from Bruno’s death. She had truly loved him deeply. After returning to her office and working alone again, Esther quickly grew weary of the loneliness and the mundane tasks of investigating cheating spouses and doing background checks of potential employees for corporations. She longed to return to her part-time work as a paid assassin using her alias name of Kate Sullivan. It was a calling she found she could not ignore. Mistakenly, she felt it her duty to rid the world of certain types of criminals, killers who took innocent lives and got away with it. Due to the circumstances of the volume of work that eventually evolved, Esther found she needed help. After careful research she quite unexpectedly discovered a person she thought would fit the bill. That person was Brody Rogers, a police officer who was wrongly fired in Des Moines. Esther, through skillful negotiation, brought Rogers into the paid assassin work as her close associate. In time, after some period of equivocation of reason, she married him. Brody Rogers was her third husband.
            Then, quite unexpectedly, Brody Rogers was killed in a tragic vehicle accident one night as he was returning from the assignment of executing a woman the couple deemed dangerous to them. After a very short period of mourning for his death, Esther Rogers returned to her investigation business in Omaha, and ultimately to the type of work she had learned to love, that of being a highly-paid assassin of the criminals who escaped the proper justice of the courts for the crimes they committed.
            This story resumes where The Rise of the Vigilante Goddess ended.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

During a creative writing class a few years ago, each of our members was assigned to write facts about some everyday item in popular use. I chose to write the article below.

A Styrofoam Cup

Ah, here I am with an assignment to write about the old Styrofoam cup. Alas, there is no such thing. I bet many of you didn’t know that. Yes, it’s true. Styrofoam is a trademark of Dow Chemical Company, and according to Dow, you can’t drink from a Styrofoam cup. Styrofoam is used for insulation and floral foam, not for disposable food packaging, such as drinking cups.
A Styrofoam cup is actually made from a form of foamed polystyrene.        But that doesn’t keep it from being an excellent product. The cup has very good insulating abilities. Polystyrene is made of 95 percent air and only about 5 percent polystyrene molecules, according to the Polystyrene Packaging Council. It’s that 95 percent of the cup that does most of the insulating. Using more foam increases the distance through which thermal energy encounters the resistance of insulation and thus decreases the rate the energy can escape. The thickness of a Styrofoam cup will affect its ability to keep its contents hot or cold.

STYROFOAM Brand Foam is not used in the manufacture of disposable foam products, such as food packaging, cups, plates, coolers or egg trays. These disposable products are made of either molded expanded polystyrene beads or thin extruded polystyrene sheet, neither of which is manufactured by Dow in the United States.

Styrofoam, or more accurately, polystyrene cups are a better deal for the environment and has better biodegradability abilities than paper cups. Since 95% of the content is air, the cup will condense to 1/20th its size in short order when compressed by the garbage on top of it in the landfill. In fact, less than one percent by weight of the total municipal solid waste disposed is polystyrene.  Paper cups on the other hand, are made from trees that must be harvested, which hurts the environment, and because of the laws that govern landfills today, paper cups may never completely disappear due to biodegradability. Very little of the waste discarded in today's modern, highly engineered landfills biodegrades. Because degradation of materials creates potentially harmful liquid and gaseous by-products that could contaminate groundwater and air, today's landfills are designed to minimize contact with air and water required for degradation, thereby practically eliminating the degradation of waste.

Polystyrene cups get the job done. They are:
* Versatile, practical, and convenient to use
* Maintain beverages at their optimal temperature longer
* Insulated foam keeps your hands comfortable
Ideal for hot and cold drinks
* Coffee, tea, cappuccino, hot chocolate, hot cider, juice, and soft drinks
* Sanitary, sturdy, efficient, economical and convenient

So next time you get a cup of java to go, remember, you can't drink coffee from a STYROFOAM cup - because there is no such thing!

Paul R. Meredith

Friday, April 4, 2014

An Iowa Blessing

I was born in Illinois and I lived in Iowa several years ago for over twelve years. I love the area and the people who live there. Much of my family still lives there today, so I am very intimate with the settings in this story. I believe anyone who takes the time to read this story will be touched in one way or another. I hope you will read it and agree with me. Following is a small portion of chapter II. Enjoy.

An Iowa Blessing

Chapter II

It was June’s habit to work each day and then go home and prepare a small meal to eat before she took off jogging for a few miles. Sometimes in the cold weather she chose to work out at the YWCA, but she preferred the roadwork to the inside exercise. The way she lived kept her in great shape, both mentally and physically. Now and then she would treat herself to a meal in a restaurant when she wanted to splurge a little, but she rarely ever went out with friends. She and Sara ate together less than once a month, even though they remained good friends and both were single women.
       Four months after meeting Allan for the first time, June walked into a restaurant in town for her weekly treat of eating out and was seated at a table near the front window. The waiter handed her a menu as he introduced himself. “Good evening, my name is Robert. I will be your server this evening. Can I get you something to drink?”
       “Just water please.” June opened the menu and perused through it slowly to see if anything particularly appealed to her senses. At the top of the right page she accidentally glanced over the top and saw Allan seated ahead of her with his back to her. He had been there when she walked in, but June failed to notice him when she was seated. She quickly got up and stepped over to his table. “Hey there, I just saw you. Are you eating alone, Allan?”
       Allan responded as he clumsily tried to stand and be gentlemanly, “Hello, June. Yes, I am alone, and you?”
       “Yes, alone as usual. I don’t eat out a lot, but when I do it is usually alone,” she said. “Would you care to join me? I’m sitting right behind you a couple of tables away.” As soon as she asked, she wondered what had come over her. She didn’t even like the man and here she was asking him to join her for dinner.
       Allan looked warily at her and hesitated before he answered. “Sure, I’d like that, if you’re sure. Let me catch my waiter’s attention and let him know I’m changing seats.”
       “I think you have Robert. This is his serving area. I have him also. Here he comes now.”
       Allan informed Robert where he would be sitting and pointed to June’s table. “She is a friend of mine,” he said to the waiter. Robert nodded that it was fine.
       As Allan sat, June asked, “Have you ordered yet?”
       “No, I’ve only been here a few minutes. The waiter stopped and gave me a menu, but I haven’t really looked at it that carefully yet. What about you?”
       “Same thing. I just got here.” June handed Allan her menu. “Here, we can share this one.”
       Allan dropped the menu on the floor as she handed it to him. “Oops, sorry,” he said as he leaned over to pick it up, June stood and tried to grab it. In that brief instant, June saw the handle of what she thought was a gun peeking out from behind his suit coat lapel. It momentarily stunned her to silence. She had a blank look on her face as he straightened up in his chair. “That was clumsy of me, sorry,” he apologized.
       June just looked at him with that blank look on her face as she sat down.
       “Are you okay?” Allan asked. “You aren’t feeling ill all of a sudden are you?”
       “Me, oh sure, I’m okay, why do you ask?”
       “I don’t know for sure. I guess I thought you looked at me kind of funny when I dropped the menu. It was an accident.”
       “No, actually I was thinking it was my fault it fell,” she lied.
       Robert soon returned and received their dinner orders. “These will be separate checks please,” June told him.
       “Yes, of course,” he replied as he left to place the orders.
       “I really would like to take the check, I think I still owe you a dinner,” Allan said.
       “You owe me nothing.”
       “I know I at least owe you an apology. I have thought about how I noticeably turned you off several weeks ago when I was so rude about the introduction, and then there was the name thing between us,” he said. “I didn’t mean to be rude, but sometimes my approach to things isn’t as polished as it should be. I should have leveled with you, but I hardly knew you then.”
       “You hardly know me now,” she retorted.
       “Well, maybe a little better. Why don’t you try me again? Please ask your questions and I will try to be more attuned to you by giving thoughtful answers.”
       “How about truthful answers?”
       “Okay, thoughtful and truthful,” he agreed.
       “Really? Well, in that case,” she leaned forward and whispered, “why do you carry a gun?”
       The question caused Allan a mild surprise. “Oh, that, well, I can answer that, but not in here. How about a short reprieve for the answer to that question until we finish eating and can get away to the outside away from prying ears?”
       “Sure, but if you’d rather not tell me, I suppose that’s okay too. Actually, I suppose it’s really none of my business, especially since I don’t even know your name.”
       “It’s not that, but rather part of my business that I don’t care to broadcast to the people in a public place. I have no problem telling you that it is due to my work. That was another question you asked at another time, remember?”
       “Yes, but that was also none of my business. I was out-of-line asking those sorts of questions of you when we had barely met,” she said.
       The remainder of the time in the restaurant was spent eating and making small talk. Once dinner was over, they paid their respective tabs and left for a walk outside so Allan could respond to the question of why he was carrying a gun. As they strolled a short distance from the restaurant, Allan told June, “In the interest of wanting to make you my friend, I do want to level with you on a couple of issues.”
       “You don’t have to do that, really. You have a right to your personal privacy.”
       “Yes I do have to, if for no other reason than to attempt to gain some measure of trust from you. They call me Allan in my business, but that’s only a code name I use because of the nature of the work I do. My real name is Ralph Owen, but I will ask that for now you please continue to call me Allan so my identity isn’t blown. I’m a private agent at large, basically meaning that I do a lot of traveling. That’s also the reason I carry a weapon. For security reasons, I really can’t tell you what specific kind of work I do. I hope you can understand that without thinking I am being less than truthful, but that’s about as truthful as I can be right now.”
       “I can accept that,” June said. “That adequately explains what I saw back in the restaurant. So you do work that could cause you harm if your true identity were known?”
       “Yes, not only harm to me, but also to the people close to me. That is one reason I have hesitated to make many close friends here.”
       “I need to be a little bit nosier if I may. Are you a married man?” she inquired.
       “No, I have never been married. Once I graduated from school and went on assignment, I couldn’t stay put in one place long enough to develop a relationship that could lead to marriage. I’m thirty-three and single,” he volunteered.
       “What school did you attend?”
       “College and also the agency academy,” he responded.
       “Oh, so you graduated from the FBI Academy,” she assumed. “But now you live here in town, correct?”
       “I do live here, but it is more or less a transient type of living. I do not own property or maintain any kind of property that can’t be disposed of on short notice. The work I do demands that I be able to leave on extremely short notice and be gone for indefinite periods of time. That makes it difficult to own real property.”
       “May I ask what college you graduated from?”
       “That would be a breach of security on my part. I’m afraid I have to beg off answering that one for the time being.”
       They continued walking slowly for quite a distance as they talked. June said to him, “I can see how all that secrecy would make having personal relationships very difficult. But I guess I have to wonder what kind of life that is, unless a person is resigned to a life of loneliness.”
       “It is a very lonely life at times, but my wish is that I can leave this type of work behind at some point and fall into a more normal mode of living. Maybe I could actually settle down in one place and own a home. Even having a family would be nice,” he said.
       “The great American dream, huh? Well, I guess we all long for that to happen to us eventually. The trick is in meeting the right person to help it come true.”

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Swarm of Wasps

A Swarm of Wasps


Paul R. Meredith

It was a very warm summer in 1972 when a former brother-in-law of mine asked me to loan him a hundred dollars. He wanted to purchase a beat-up old snark sailboat that he discovered in the paper for $200. I went with him to check it out, and what I thought was an absolute piece of junk, he thought was a treasure he couldn’t live without. So we pooled our resources to give the man his price, which also included the trailer onto which the wreck of a boat was strapped.
            My then brother-in-law, who I will call Chuck, was a Decatur, Illinois city police officer. I had only known him a year or so, but he was a really great guy. Once we had the boat, he suggested we pull it down to Lake Decatur and launch it for a trial run. My car had the trailer hitch, so it became my responsibility to haul the boat to the launch ramp near the city marina on the lake. Chuck followed me in his car, watching carefully to see if anything fell off during the short trip.
            At the ramp, he talked to one of the marina officials he knew to see if it would be permissible to launch the boat, even though we didn’t have it licensed or registered yet. The man gave nodding approval, so we prepared everything to make the launch. He made sure to include the six-pack of Budweiser he brought along.
            I backed the boat trailer carefully up to the ramp and neared the water. I stopped the car and asked Chuck, “Don’t you think we ought to raise the sail first to make sure it works?”
            “No, we do that after we’re in the water. The wind could blow it over before we get into the water. It will be okay,” he assured.
            About that time I noticed two wasps flying around the bow of the boat as I unhooked the straps holding the boat to the trailer. Then I saw a few more wasps. Then I saw there was a very large wasp nest under the very point of the bow inside the boat. I ran a few steps away, not wanting to get stung by the wasps. “Damn, they are getting mad at us for disturbing their home,” I announced.
            Chuck also stepped back. “I know what,” he said, “I’ve got some Mace in the car. That should kill them.” He ran to his car in which he had followed me in to the lake and brought back his container of Mace. He sprayed the hell out of that wasp nest, deeply angering hundreds of the flying insects. They roared out of the mud nest and flew straight downwind from us as we stood and watched. A few seconds later there wasn’t a single wasp near the boat. Then suddenly we heard a loud shriek from a lady walking her dog down the way a hundred feet or so, and then we heard several more screams of panic from a group of people holding a picnic on a hillside nearby. The officer at the marina ran out to see what the screams were, and then he yelled, “Son of a bitch,” as he swatted several wasps from his body. One or more of the insects had just stung him. He ran back inside the building to protect himself, cursing loudly as he went.
            Chuck and I were never sure how many screams we heard that day, but we heard them from people as far away as at least a city block—maybe much longer. Oddly enough, nobody ever knew where the wasps came from. When Chuck sprayed the wasp nest, he was on the opposite side of the bow of the boat from the marina office and shielded from the view of the people inside the office. There were no other people standing watching us attempt the launch.
            Once the excitement settled down and we saw no other wasps in the area, we decided to go ahead and launch. I backed the car and trailer into the water so the boat floated free as Chuck held firmly to the rope. I then parked the car and trailer in the parking lot and quickly returned to the boat. I got in the boat while Chuck shoved us off. There was no motor power on the boat, so we paddled out a hundred yards or so toward the middle of the lake. We saw there was a slight breeze, so we decided to raise the sail. I untied the securing ropes and rotated the mast so Chuck could raise the sail. He hoisted it up to the top and tied the rope to secure it in place. I noticed there were many holes in the sail, some very large ones. It seemed pretty much rotten to me as fragments from the sail floated in the breeze.
            Just as Chuck finished tying the rope to keep the sail up, a slight crosswind caught the sail and the boat immediately flipped over, dumping both of us in the water. I hoped we wouldn’t drown. I tried to swim over towards Chuck and hold on to the edge of the boat, but as I tried, I inadvertently lowered my legs. I felt the soft mud of the lake bottom squeezing between my toes. “Hey Chuck, it is real shallow here. I can reach the bottom.”
            Chuck was struggling trying to keep his hold on the boat. He responded, “Yeah, I feel it too.” Then he disappeared beneath the water. Frantically, I tried to see if I could feel him with my now free hands. Suddenly he popped back up, sputtering.
            “Are you okay?” I asked.
            “Hell yes, but I can’t find the beer.” He had been diving to find his six-pack of Bud. He went back under five or six times, finally coming up with his precious beer. Suddenly as he held it up, the packaging gave way from being soaked with water and all six cans fell back in the dirty water. I tried to help Chuck find the beer, but after becoming totally exhausted, we had only been able to locate three cans.
            We noticed the boat slowly drifting into deeper water, so I told Chuck, “We had better hang on to the boat and walk it toward shore before we lose it altogether.” He stuck two of the cans of beer in his pockets and popped the top on the other and started drinking it. He pulled and pushed with one hand while I labored with all my strength. It was difficult because I kept sinking into the muddy bottom halfway to my knees, as he did also, but he kept drinking his beer.
            We eventually got the boat close enough to the launch area to see what we could do about getting it out of the water. The big problem was the mast had broken off when the boat capsized and it was hanging loose in the water. Chuck made the decision to cut the ropes that were holding it to the boat, which he did. Then we hoisted the two pieces up on the grass. A couple of guys helped us turn the boat right side up so it would partially float again, after which we started bailing out a lot of water with whatever we could find. I used a minnow bucket and Chuck had a can of some kind.
            At some point I told him, “Let me dry off a little and I’ll go get the trailer and maybe we can float the boat onto it.” It was so hot that wringing out my shirt and the legs of my shorts offered little help. I was sweating so bad the water continued to come to soak me from head to toe. I went to get the car and the trailer and started backing it into the water to retrieve the boat.
Finally, after some slippage of the tires on the wet dock, with help from the other two men helping push, we were able to slowly pull the boat out a foot or so at a time, letting the water drain as we did. It took a long time before we had the boat back on level ground, still draining water from the drain plug. It was very heavy, being completely waterlogged. I hoped I wasn’t hurting the car in any way, but it seemed to be alright. 
I was still trying to dry out standing by the care when I noticed the wasp nest was still partially in place under the bow of the boat. I dislodged it with the oar and tossed it out in the parking lot. It broke apart completely. Apparently that part of the bow was never completely submerged when the boat tipped over in the lake.
The marina officer saw the action from his window and ran out to see what I just did. He looked down and saw the remains of the wasp nest broken on the asphalt. “Chuck, you bastard, you were the one that created that mess, weren’t you?” I noticed he had two bad sting marks, one on his arm and one on his cheek.
“I didn’t cause it,” Chuck said. “We just squirted the nest with Mace. Apparently the wasps didn’t like it too much though.”
“Damn you anyway, we’ll probably get sued if those people ever find out where those wasps came from,” the officer said.
“Better not tell them then,” Chuck said, laughing as did.
We pulled the wrecked boat back to Chuck’s house and left it.

A short time later Chuck died from unexpected causes. His ex-wife came from Oklahoma with her family and attended his very large public funeral services. It was amazing how many cops from all over that part of Illinois came to honor Chuck for his police work. His funeral was the largest I had ever seen.
For whatever reason, Chuck’s ex-wife talked her current husband into buying and pulling the boat back to their home in Oklahoma. I never heard whether they made it all the way home before the boat totally disintegrated. The wood was so rotten it surely fell apart on the highway.

The End

Circa 1972 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The History and Mystique of Double-Talking


Paul R. Meredith

Two of my daughters recently asked me to write down the history and methodology of Double-Talk for them, for what reason I do not know for sure. But being an obliging father, I agreed to do it, so this is what I remember from the early times of the language conversion of English to Double-Talk story.

I was in high school during the early fifties of the last century. I had a couple of close friends I spent most of my free time with, doing what high school boys do, whistle at girls, admire cars, sneak a smoke now and then, and in general be pests to most of the girls we would like to date. One of my friends said to me one day as we tried to whisper about a pretty girl in the hall, “I wish we could talk without the girls knowing what we’re saying about them.”
            “Yeah, that would be cool,” I responded, continuing to watch the attractive girl walk down the hall. “So why don’t we just invent our own secret language that nobody else can understand? That way we could flirt with the girls and they wouldn’t have a clue.”
            “Yeah, right,” he said as he snickered.
            “Seriously, I think I will work on it tonight,” I told my friend. I worked a full shift at the hospital as an orderly each weekday evening from four-thirty until one in the morning. I was busy most of the time at work, but there were a few times I could think while I waited on somebody to bring oxygen, or wait until someone finished using a bedpan so I could empty and clean it, or most any one of several other different things that happen with an orderly in a hospital setting. That first evening I had no ideas come to me regarding the secret language.
            The next day as I talked with my friend, I told him I thought we could either shorten our words in some fashion, or maybe elongate them. He thought it was a dumb idea, so we sort of dropped the idea for a week or two.
            One night at work I dropped a bedpan as I went to empty and clean it. “Damn, damn, double damn,” I said aloud. It was sort of my way to say things as I was attempting to cut down on my cursing at the time. But then it hit me like a ton of bricks as I started to clean up the horrible mess on the marble hallway floor. Damn, damn. I thought that maybe I could double up on the syllables and change a letter or two to confuse anyone listening to the point they would have no clue. I played with my idea that evening as I worked. At the end of the night I had worked out the start of my conversion of English into a complicated version of what I would eventually call, Double-Talk.
            My thought was to make the first syllable of a word end with a common letter. After some attempting of several letters I arrived at the letter l to use in this manner, and start the syllable again with an f. then repeat the syllable to end with the correct last letter (i.e., the single syllable name of Paul would still be Paul), but then repeating the syllable using the changed first letter but ending with the correct last letter (i.e., Faul). In Double-Talk, my name is PaulFaul. I worked with this idea for a day or two. It was quite a challenge to say a word with multiple syllables. In the case of my name in the foregoing example, the syllable never changes until you repeat it the second time, adding to the confusion. The word Mississippi for instance could be a nightmare to say in Double-Talk. I tried it a few times and eventually decided there had to be an easier way to invent a secret language, but in the end there was no easier method I could think of at the time, nor still today. While I won’t attempt to spell out the Double-Talk version of Mississippi here, I will tell you I can say it and you will be able to say it after a bit of practice, although it is a little tricky to do.
            I lived near my friend who initially agreed we should invent a new and secret language and we met at his house on Saturday, me with a pad of paper and a pencil in hand. We sat out in his dad’s garage, and before an hour passed, we had agreed on our new secret language. My method was exactly what the two of us agreed on and started putting into effect. I will attempt to explain it as simply as I can, so bear with me because it is a little shaky in spots.
            But first allow me to tell you that my friend and I started using Double-Talk the very same day we agreed on how to talk it. At school when we talked Double-Talk, the other students would stare at us as if we were speaking Greek of French. The girls would stand around to listen to us, my friend and me, as we talked it with each other. After a few days we practically left real English behind and used Double-Talk almost exclusively, except of course in class with the teachers present. They would likely have tossed us out of class had we tried to use it in the classroom.
            I will add that, while I can’t say my use of Double-Talk was the reason, my dating activity started to pick up, as well as that of my friend. 

Now, let us get back to Double-Talk. Take a word; let’s say the word is recall. So the word recall has two syllables to make this as simple as I know how. We take the first syllable, re; add an l sound at the end making it become rel. Now we double the same syllable and start it with an f, making it relfe, but now drop the l on the end. Next address the second syllable of call. We use the same process as before ending with callfall. When you put both syllables of the word together as Double-Talk, you say, relfecallfall. 
See how simple it is.
            An even easier word is the simple word, a. To convert to Double-Talk, the rules are the same as before. So the single-lettered word a becomes alfa in Double-Talk, making sure a is always pronounced as a long a.
            But of course, nothing is ever as easy as it first seems, so we have to address longer and more complicated words. Let us use the word, Saturday, and say it in Double-Talk. Here is my version in Double-Talk: Salfatulfurdalfay. Spelling words in Double-Talk can be a very complicated and even controversial topic at times. I don’t pretend to be an expert in this area.
            Now let us graduate to an even more difficult word, using the word, remuneration. Here we have five syllables, so it makes the conversion several times more difficult than the first words we used, which was recall and also a. Applying all the same rules as we did in the first word we used as our example, the word remuneration becomes relfemulfumelferalfatiolfion when using Double-Talk.

Admittedly it takes practice to make perfect as you attempt to use this new way of speaking to others, but if parents have children and they want to talk private matters in their presence, the use of Double-Talk can be a real handy tool for the parents. That is, until the kids start to catch on to the secret language, just as some of my own children did. A few of my children actually spoke Double-Talk around the house with me
            Another point I should make is that this Double-Talk method of conversing is much easier spoken than written, so if you have a mind to write with Double-Talk, I would encourage you to relfethilfink the situation over real good. You may discover that speaking Double-Talk will come easier over time while writing it will most assuredly never become easy. A really long word can be a difficult challenge to say in Double-Talk, so be careful what words you attempt at first. But eventually even the long words get relatively easy with practice.

I will say that I have used Double-Talk many times over the years with great effectiveness. Some of my children can speak some words of the secret language even today, many years after first hearing it spoken in the home.

There have been times in my life where Double-Talk was not a good choice for me to use. When I traveled in foreign countries where I didn’t speak the native tongue, I got along quite well with another language I invented. I created a one-hyphenated-word language that I used fairly effectively in several of the countries I visited. I call this my new universal language. It will cross almost any language barrier. That one word universal language was, Miko-mico. Try it sometime and see for yourself how well it works.

The End

Circa 1983