Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Square Peg - Bingo Boob

The Square Peg - Bingo Boob
© S. Bradley Stoner

I’d just finished my twice weekly battle with the green monster that is my lawn. Normally, this is a once a week affair, but the wet spring foiled my plans of leisurely weeks spent enjoying my yard. It has turned rogue on me. The bushes are crowding each other out and I know as soon as I get a reasonably dry couple of days that I am going to have to get out the hedge trimmers, the pole saw, the loppers, and the nippers. I also know that, since the majority of the shrubs out there grow thorns, it’s going to be a bloody battle. Especially when I tackle that overgrown Bougainvillea... that dang thing comes with three inch spears, and they’re everywhere on it. Oh, I know, I could hire somebody to trim them up, but I’m a little stubborn, not to mention a tad tight... the penurious kind, not the liquor kind.

Anyway, I had just finished putting away my mower... yeah, the old 3 HP gas job EPA wants to ban, but I keep it in proper working order so, pfffft! I was standing at the garage door, trying to catch the slight breeze to cool off a bit and trying not to drown in my own sweat. Humidity will do that to you... and we have no shortage of humidity, at least not this year. I hear footsteps approaching. I know it’s Bob. I’ve learned to recognize his gait. I thought about bolting and activating the garage door opener (actually closer in this case), but it was too far and Bob was too close. Damn!

“Hi Bob,” I sighed. “’Sup?”

Bob scratched his backside. That’s never a good sign. “Um... can I talk to you about... well, it’s kind of private.”

“Well, if it’s private, maybe you should talk to your wife about it.”

“Well, see, that’s the problem...” He paused and shuffled his feet before scratching his rear again.

Again, I wanted to run... far and fast, but I was kind of stuck. If I made for the door to the house, he’d just follow, figuring I’d invite him inside where private things can be discussed unimpeded by nosy neighbors. Bad plan. So I just said, “So?”

“It’s kind of about her...”

Oh great. I groaned mentally. I make it a policy to stay out of people’s personal problems, especially if they involve spouses. “Geez, Bob, I’d rather not get involved...”

“Oh, it’s not that!” he quickly replied. “The marriage is fine.”

I kind of wondered about that since I hadn’t seen Bob’s better half in over a week, which is kind of unusual. I thought of the old boy back in Montana who, when asked where his wife was, would routinely reply that she was in the back yard garden. Turned out he wasn’t lying... she was there alright, turning into worm and rose food. As I recall, they hauled him and his mistress off to the pokey for a very long time. I digress. Bad habit, I know. “So what is it then?”

“Well, um,” he stumbled, “I’m thinking maybe I should get her a lift.”

“Can’t she use the stairs anymore?”

Bob looked confused for a moment, then blurted, “Oh, not that kind of lift... she’s just getting a little saggy. You know what I mean?”

“Geez, Bob, what’s your wife... thirty five maybe? She doesn’t look like she needs a lift to me. Heck she barely has laugh lines.”

“Crimeny! Not a face lift, for crying out loud... she has a beautiful face,” Bob was getting loud. He does that when he gets frustrated sometimes. “Her boobs and her butt! Those just aren’t as firm or bouncy as they used to be.”

‘You might want to lower your voice if you don’t want her and the whole neighborhood to know what your contemplating,” I cautioned.

Bob’s eyes darted to the left and right, kind of like a burglar does when he’s worried about the cops. Satisfied that nobody seemed to be in earshot, he lowered his voice and said, “Look... I know you’re a biologist and I just wanted to know what the risks are. I figured you might be able to tell me.

“I’d say your greatest risk is what your wife might do when she hears this plan... she knows where you sleep, you know... and when.”

“Not me, dammit, my wife.”

“Bob, that’s something you need to take up with your family physician. First off, I really don’t know much about reconstructive surgery, butt lifts or boob jobs, and second I don’t want to be a principal in any lawsuits. Besides, what does she think about it? Has she been complaining, or is this a ‘Bob wants,’ kind of thing.”

“You’re no help at all,” Bob’s mood soured. “I might as well be talking to a brick wall.”

“Well, you could always ask Duncan. I’m sure he would have an opinion of some sort.”

“Are you out of your ever-lovin’ mind? I might as well get on a P.A. system as ask him,” he growled and stalked off in the direction of his home.

I don’t suppose Bob thought about me being a writer. And, after all, he did say only that the subject matter was private... and I don’t recall a thing being said about confidentiality. On the other hand, I probably ought to come with a warning label.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Square Peg - The Shocking News About Texas Worms

The Square Peg - The Shocking News About Texas Worms
© S. Bradley Stoner

It poured rain yesterday. I’m talking buckets of rain. It filled up my fountains. It made a river of our street. Cars got stuck in underpasses due to high water. It was a mess. Consequently, I had to do my three miles inside the house. I’m kind of worried about that. I’ve had to do my walking inside about six days this past two weeks. I’m afraid I’m going to wear a rut in my carpets. After all, there’s only so many ways to vary a path inside a house, and three miles is a long way when you’re confined. It’s a wonder I didn’t drop over from dizziness. Thank heaven the rain stopped last night. While it was still cloudy, the weather was passable and I didn’t need rubber boots and an umbrella to take my walk today.

Duncan Donutz had a look of consternation on his face as he joined me on my walk this morning. It was easy to spot. Duncan’s emotions read like a book on his face. Obviously something was bothering him. For a while, he walked beside me without saying a word. Didn’t even say, “Hi, how are ya,” like he usually does. Yep... something was bugging old Duncan.

“So, what’s new?” I asked without breaking stride.

“Do you get worms?” he blurted.


“Worms... do you get ‘em after a rainstorm.”

“Um, have you been drinking rainwater again?”


“I mean, that’s about the only way you’d get worms,” I rejoined, “unless you’ve been eating poorly cooked pork.”

“Not those kind of worms,” he shot back. “The red, squirmy ones that crawl onto your sidewalks and porch after a big rain.”

“Oh. Sure, everybody gets them. The ground gets so soggy that they’d drown if they stayed there. That’s normal.”

“Ever pick one up?”

Suddenly I knew where this was going. “Yeah... what’s your point?”

“Anything happen when you did?” His question was a bit tentative.

“Like what?” I actually knew what he meant, but, frankly, I wasn’t going to say it first.

Duncan looked around to make sure nobody else was nearby, then whispered, “Like giving you a shock.”


Let me explain. We have these small, red worms that come out by the thousands... well, that’s probably an exaggeration... a big one. Okay, you get them in the tens. They crawl onto your porch or almost anywhere there isn’t standing water. Then, if you don’t move them, they desiccate and become glued to your pavement... and they leave a brown-black stain that’s only removable with a pressure washer. So, you move them. Only, I use a stick and a piece of flat plastic to pick them up now. Twice picking them up by hand taught me my lesson. My youngest was the first to try that. He reached down, pinched one gently with his thumb and forefinger, then suddenly let it go, jumped back and yelled, “[expletive deleted].”

I gave him a quizzical look. “What?”

“That damn thing shocked me.”

“Oh, come on,” said I. “It’s a freaking worm, not an electric eel.”

“You try it,” he said.

Nonchalantly, I bent over and plucked a worm. It immediately went into crazy gyrations and, sure as I’m typing this, delivered a potent little shock. It wasn’t lethal, but it wasn’t pleasant either. To me, this was a biological conundrum. Earthworms aren’t supposed to do that. I hit the computer and Googled it with every descriptive combination I could think of. I Yahooed it and I Ask Jeeves-ed it. Nothing. Finally, I visited the Texas wildlife site. They didn’t have anything on worms except that they were an acceptable bait in Texas waters. Apparently nobody here wants to admit to electric worms officially. But almost everyone down here knows they exist.

I’m thinking I might be able to do a monograph on them... you know, all scientific and documented and stuff... If only I could get my hands on one without getting bejeesus shocked out of me. But back to the conversation with Duncan.

“They zap you too?”

“I’m pretty sure they don’t discriminate. Seems a lot of folks I’ve talked to have experienced the same thing.”

“How come none of the eggheads know about this? I called the UT and the professor there just sort of laughed at me.”

“Maybe they don’t have ‘em in Austin,” I replied. “Did you try A&M?”

“No, but I will.”

Actually, I knew it was a futile chase. I’d already talked to their biology department and pretty much got the same response as Duncan did at UT. Yep... I’m thinking if I work it right, I can name the species. I’m thinking something like Lumbricina teslai stonerius... How’s that sound?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Square Peg – Bingo Bob and Der Uber Tuber

The Square Peg – Bingo Bob and Der Uber Tuber
© S. Bradley Stoner

It’s spring… which in Texas sometimes feels like summer everywhere else, especially up north. Whenever I talk to friends up there and the subject of weather comes up, they hang up on me. Maybe it’s the way I giggle. I don’t know. Anyway, I was out in that nice 70 degree weather doing some trimming on my bushes, blissfully unaware of anything else going on, when I hear this enormous KABLAM! I ducked. Any reasonable person would. I barely had time to turn around when this big chunk of thin rubber-like stuff floats down and lands on my Esperanza. ‘Uh-oh,’ I think, ‘is this another Roswell?’ Then I hear Bob. I should have known.

“I told ya to turn it off!” he screams as some phantom in his garage. “Geez, you’d have thought you could see how big it was getting.”

So I wander over to my Esperanza and pluck the odd-shaped piece of rubber from it. In crude letters I see the remnants of writing. “UBE” Of course part of the U and E were missing, but it was still clear. It’s puzzlement. I crossed the street to where Bob was still yelling at the phantom in his garage.

Bob looked up, saw the chunk I was carrying, and grinned sheepishly. “Uh, sorry. That wasn’t supposed to happen.”

I looked and the misshapen pile of rubber in his driveway. It was pretty easy to figure out what had happened. Obviously, Bob had bought a huge inner tube and was blowing it up. Heck, I could still hear the motor on his compressor working to refill the tank. In the shadows, I could see Bob’s wife, pale and shaken, just before she scurried inside.

“Good thing it wasn’t the whole tire on a rim,” I said. “It would’ve killed you.”

It was like Bob didn’t hear me. Well, he was closer to the explosion. About that time Duncan showed up. He was packing. He must have thought terrorists had hit the neighborhood. I mean, how many guys run around with a giant .50 caliber American Eagle on their hip for your ordinary criminal?

“Everybody okay?!” he demanded breathlessly. “That was a helluva bang!”

“Yeah,” I replied, figuring Bob was still too deaf to hear him. “Bob just blew up his inner tube.,, literally blew it up.”

“Holy crap, Bob,” Duncan said, eyeing the huge pile of wrecked tube, “were you planning on taking up the whole river?”

Now, one thing you have to understand is that Bob love’s water… well, he loves it for everything but drinking. I’ve mentioned Bob’s saltwater fishing boat before. I just found out he also owns a bass boat with a ridiculously large outboard to chase those fish down, two jet skis, and an ATV. I didn’t even know he had rented storage for those toys, not that I should. It isn’t any of my business. It just goes to show how much he’s into fun on the water. Something else you need to understand. We’ve been getting rain… a bunch of it that last several months. The lakes are full, the streams are full, and the rivers are full. The Guadalupe and Comal Rivers are close to San Antonio, and this year they are running bank-full.

Now, I recall running rapids in a whitewater canoe in Colorado and Montana. But that’s just not Texas. In Texas we have things like the San Antonio stroll… yep, you can wait in traffic while folks stroll across the street at the crosswalk. Sometimes it takes two lights for them to get to the other side. On rivers, we float… slowly… in inner tubes. You can kill an entire day just lazily floating down the Guadalupe or Comal. If you’re ambitious, you can do both, but you’ll get contemptuous stares from your fellow floaters if they know you’ve done both in a day. Heck, you don’t have enough time to do that… not and drink beer, which is the second greatest pastime of the float crowd. If you want to see beer hats and the variety of configurations they come in, take a float on the Guadalupe.

Anyway, back to Bob and his tube disaster. Turns out, old Bob wanted the biggest, baddest inner tube on the river… he’d even named his behemoth. DER UBER TUBER. Only now, the proud name he’d painted on the side had been shredded. With my piece, it now read, ‘DE UBE TUB.’ Nobody knows where the two missing Rs and E went to… probably the next county, given the amount of air ol’ Bob pumped into that tube.

“Now I gotta go buy another one,” Bob said miserably.

From the house, we heard, “If you do, you’re cooking your own dinner and sleeping on the couch for a month!”

Bob looked up and shook his head. “Damn, I think she means it.”

Duncan looked at me. “Gotta go.”

“Yep… me too.”

“You guys suck,” Bob called after us.”

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Square Peg - Oh No... Itchy Fingers Too??

The Square Peg - Oh No... Itchy Fingers Too??
© S. Bradley Stoner

Well, my lawn is mowed, this year’s seedlings started, everything is trimmed... what the heck am I supposed to do now? Watch the grass grow? I don’t think so. It does just fine on its own, thank you very much. It doesn’t need any help from me just at the moment. What to do? More importantly, what to do that won’t get me in trouble with my better half. Hmmmm....

I’ve had itchy feet for the last couple of months. I’ve planned and replanned trips to the coast with my favorite fishing tackle. There are problems with this. First, I’m a goer, not a planner. It seems things always go awry when I plan. When I just pick up and go... no problems. But, it was giving me something to do in my spare time, and I did get all my tackle repacked. Heck, I could be an advertisement for one of those fishing shows now... well at least my tackle box could be. I did have to get rid of some of my plastic frogs, though. Texas heat melted their legs together and they no longer “swim” right. A fellow might as well plunk a chunk of green cheese in the water as use leg-welded frogs.

Back to the planning part. After weeks of rather unsettled weather, the good old weatherman confidently reported that a high-pressure system was settling over the state after predicted storms on Wednesday this week. The weather this weekend was going to be “GREAT!” Perfect for Fiesta, which started this week, and for a three-day trip to the coast and my favorite fishing spots. Right. Thunderstorms hit last night. Not predicted. I looked at the weather... the predictions had suddenly changed. Today will be nice... at least until around midnight. Then thunderstorms Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Same on the coast. So much for the itchy feet. Crap.

This leaves me with time on my hands... and that makes them itch. Itchy feet and hands? Oh man, that’s a dangerous combination. That’s about the time my itchy feet walk my itchy fingers to the computer keyboard and, voila!, as if by magic boat plans appear on my monitor. And they’re free! My mind runs wild. Pontoon boat... that looks interesting, but it’s no good on the bay. There’s a small cabin cruiser that looks interesting, but where the heck am I going to get a 1953 Ford engine? Yeah, folks... the free plans are old plans. Plans from a time before consumer driven boat builders started pumping out fiberglass, aluminum, and plastic cookie cutter craft.

I really do like that cabin cruiser. Granted it isn’t a luxury boat, but it has a Vee hull, room to sleep four, a cool looking wheelhouse, and room for a fighting chair on the fantail. I check out the materials list. This little sucker is economical... at least it was in 1960. I cross check with current prices. WHOA! Inflation. What cost a mere $900.00 in 1960’s dollars now runs a whopping $4,389.86, not counting tax. Geez. Maybe I need to set my sights a little lower. Well, there was that modified punt. I could do that for about $250.00. I pulled up those plans. Yeah, it might not handle the bays along the gulf, but, hey, there’s plenty of lakes in Texas. And, I could build this in a mere week and a half. I printed out the plans and made a list of materials I’d need from the Home Depot.

I was happy... right until my better half spied the plans on my desk. “You know,” she said, “I need to park my car in the garage. Where were you planning on building this thing?”

Damn. All my tools are in the garage. If I built it on the back porch, I’d have to carry them around the house and then back every night. “It’d only take a week and a half,” I plead.

“You could use that money to build me a new bookcase... and it could be built in the garage with enough room to spare for my car.”

“But you can’t use a bookcase for fishing,” I protested.

“On the other hand, I wouldn’t have to stack my books on the floor,” she countered. “And, it would do wonders for those itchy hands of yours. It is woodworking.”

Hoisted on my own petard. She had me there. I guess the boat will have to wait. I still have the plans for that Tardis bookcase... hmmm. Maybe when I get it done, the weather will be nice enough to go fishing.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Square Peg - A Little Piece of Heaven Right Here in Texas

The Square Peg - A Little Piece of Heaven Right Here in Texas
© S. Bradley Stoner

Apparently Duncan Donutz noticed I was gone on Sunday. Yep, I was. Funny, I don’t notice the comings and goings of my neighbors. I’m not sure whether I’m just not observant or I just don/’t care. I suspect it’s the latter. Matter of fact, the only time I notice my neighbors are gone is when they ask me to watch their property when they go on a trip. I’m happy to do that... we don’t get much crime in this neighborhood. Now, that may be due to the fact that we live in a fairly affluent area or it might be due to the fact that most of us own firearms and have concealed carry permits. In any case, hardcore criminals tend to find easier pickings elsewhere. The biggest incident we’ve had in the entire time we’ve lived here was when a bunch of kids slashed tires all over the neighborhood. I guess they didn’t have anything exciting to do that night. They skipped our house... I have motion sensor lights and I guess they didn’t want to be spotlighted. In any case, they got caught. End of problem. Back to Duncan.

“So, what were you up to?” he asked.

“My neck in alligators,” I replied.

“Ha-ha... funny. No really... where’d you go?”

“Oh, we decided to take a little drive. You know, we’ve been cooped up for a while and cabin fever was starting to set in. Besides, my feet were getting itchy.”

“They have a powder for that,” Duncan said laconically.

“Touché. I guess I deserved that.” I could tell he wasn’t going to let it go until I told him what I’d been up to... or at least where I had gone. Duncan can get a little peevish if he thinks he’s been left out of a golf outing or a fishing trip. “Well, we really were just out for a drive, but then we found ourselves on 35 north... and you know what that leads to.”


“Cabela’s... that nook of Nirvana for the hopelessly addicted outdoorsman.”

“Oh man,” Duncan said miserably, “I wish you’d have told me. The wife took me to the mall... and I hate the mall. Have you ever seen anything more miserable than a wife-towed husband in a mall?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “Me neither.”

Now, I could have commiserated with him, but that’s not my thing. Pouring salt in the wounds is my thing. “Aw geez, that’s too bad. Boy, we had a great time. You ought to see one of the big Blue Catfish they’ve added to the aquarium... I’m telling you, you could feed a family of five with just one of those.”

Duncan groaned.

“Then I hit the fishing department while the wife wandered over to the women’s clothing. I checked out the new reels... they’ve got some beauties... they’ve even got those geared saltwater reels like you see on that fishing show you like... what’s it called?”

“Monster Fish,” he whined. “Or Wicked Tuna.”

“Right... Wicked Tuna, that’s the one. Boy, those suckers are pricey though... some over five hundred bucks. It’s always nice to window shop, though. I kind of skipped through the fresh water section... I mean I only spent about an hour there. Then it was off to the saltwater section. I guess they’re a little too close to Austin and Dallas. They’ve downsized the saltwater gear. Oh well, there’s always Bass Pro Shop.”

“Hey, we could go there,” Duncan said hopefully.

“Maybe... but not today. Anyway, off I went to the gun section. I wanted to check out their black powder accessories, but what the heck? I took the time to get the feel of some of their handguns. They’ve got a nice little Taurus .38 I’d like to have. I used to own one... it’s easier to carry than my Security Six.”

“Bet yer wife hauled you out of that section quick,” Duncan said glumly.

“Heck no... didn’t you know she bought me my black powder guns and a nice over-under shotgun?” Like I said... salt in the wounds.

“I hate you.”