Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Square Peg - Bush Country

The Square Peg - Bush Country
© S. Bradley Stoner

I know this is Texas, but this isn’t about former presidents. I had to go to the hardware store yesterday. As I was driving out of the neighborhood, I noticed that everything suddenly looked a little fuzzy. Or should I say everyone? Well, okay, at least the men, or a majority of them. I won’t mention the women who looked a little fuzzy too... it isn’t their fault, but the men... it’s deliberate. I wasn’t sure why, but I meant to find out.

When I got back home, I looked up Bingo Bob. Turns out, Duncan and Frank had also looked him up. There were with old Bob in front of his house. Well, actually on his driveway, leaning up against his boat. Seems Bob was about to go on vacation, so it’s a good thing we caught him. Another six or eight hours and he’d have been gone. It takes Bob a while to prep for vacation and he always waits until the last minute. Even then he has to wait for his wife. She packs like they are going on a six-month cruise even if they are only going to the coast for a week. With all the luggage that gets packed into Bob’s vehicle, it’s a good thing he’s taking his boat. He wouldn’t have anywhere to store the fishing gear and beer otherwise.

Bob, on the other hand, packs light... except for the fishing gear and beer that is. I’m pretty sure he only takes one spare set of clothes... and that includes underwear. I think some of his cousin Slick must have rubbed off on him... and that’s not a good thing. Anyway, as I approached the intrepid trio, I noticed that they were all a bit fuzzy too. I mean like two day’s growth of beard, which is kind of weird since Duncan and Bob are almost always clean-shaven and Frank usually sports a well-groomed mustache that kind of sets off his pony tail.

Me? I have a mustache. With two brief exceptions, it’s been on lip since I was 20. We’re pals, my mustache and me. We don’t go anywhere without the other. Most of the time it’s trimmed, but there have been occasions in the past, and some more recently, where my lip plumage has gotten a little wild. When it does, it kind of makes me look like an old mountain man... or a homeless drunk, depending on your point of view. My wife talked me into shaving it off twice (that would be the “two brief exceptions”), but on both occasions it scared the bejeepers out of my boys and they insisted I grow it back. She was out-voted. But she drew the line at beards, no matter what the kids wanted after they saw that picture of me from years ago.

Bob looked up as I approached. “Yeah, I’m goin’ on vacation,” he aimed the statement in my direction. “What else ya wanna know?”

“Geez, Bob,” Duncan chided, “don’t be such an ass.”

“I just saw y’all hangin’ out and thought I’d come over and say hi. Don’t get so touchy.”

“Okay... well just don’t start in... I ain’t in the mood.” Bob reached up and scratched his stubble, which, quite honestly, looked like a poorly sown field with patches of growth separated by blank spots.

This caused Duncan and Frank to scratch their beards, which admittedly were in much better shape than Bob’s. At least they were even and reasonably full, even at this stage of growth. I felt an urge to scratch my face, but I had just shaved before I went to the hardware store, so my cheeks were smooth as a baby’s butt. It would have looked stupid, so I kept my hands in my pockets to resist temptation.

“What’s up with the facial fungus?” I asked.

“See what I mean?! Dammit!” Bob growled.

“Give it a rest,” Duncan admonished. “He deserves an explanation.”

“Okay,” I responded, “hit me with it.”

“We’re starting a protest movement,” Frank said. “I’m gonna put it out on the net.”

“What the heck are you protesting? Razor blades?”

“Exactly,” Duncan offered.

“Yep,” chimed in Bob. “We got most every guy in the neighborhood to join the shaving strike and we’re gaining adherents daily.”

“That’s right,” Frank added excitedly, “we’re sick of rising prices of blades. Have you looked at them recently?”

Now I have to admit the price of blades has gotten a little ridiculous recently. Heck even that bald guy on TV who owns a pawn shop is getting in on the action. He hasn’t boycotted shaving, but he is hawking good old fashioned safety razors as the smart alternative to those expensive multi-bladed razors that just get “clogged up” after a few uses. His shiny head and smooth face are proof of the effectiveness of the good old safety razor. Me? I’m not sure why they call it a “safety razor.” The last time I used one, I ended up looking like I just been in a duel with Zorro. No thanks.

“So whaddaya say?” Bob queried. “Are ya gonna join the movement?”

“I don’t think so, Bob. Criminy... it’s summer. A beard and 95 degrees at 80 percent humidity causes my face to break out. It’s horrible and it itches.”

“I’m bettin’ it’s ‘cause yer wife won’t let you,” Bob challenged.

“Well, she has said, ‘I know where you sleep,’” I admitted.

Bob’s wife, whom nobody had noticed had wandered out to put something in Bob’s pickup truck, called from the far side, “And so does your wife, Bob.”

“Fellahs, I think the Razor Rebellion is going to be short-lived. It’s going to get superseded by the Wifely War on Whiskers.”

“You’ve got a point,” Duncan said, “and they’ve got some potent weapons in their arsenals. Besides, this itch is going to drive me nuts.”

“Yep,” I agreed. “I give the Rebellion about a week.”

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Square Peg - Tyrone Toiler and the Big Bust

The Square Peg - Tyrone Toiler and the Big Bust
© S. Bradley Stoner

I was up at our neighborhood park just enjoying the evening as the air cooled with the fading of the sun. It was peaceful. The birds were flitting about and calling cheerfully. A squirrel was investigating all the nooks and crannies of a large live oak. Yep, it was nice. Then I heard Tyrone’s voice... and it was getting louder. I couldn’t make out what he was saying, but it was clear that he wasn’t happy. Then I heard Duncan Donutz and Bingo Bob chime in and poor old Tyrone just flat went ballistic.

Now, you have to understand, Tyrone is our neighborhood young urban professional... betcha didn’t think Yuppies existed any more, did ya? Well they do. Back in the day we used to refer to them as young bloods, corporate climbers, and other such descriptive titles. I’m not sure Yuppie is even in the lexicon of young folks these days. I don’t pay that much attention to the new slanguage, Retirees have their own cryptic conversation foibles. Cryptic because they belong to a past we all seem to embrace. Kids just don’t understand us, which kind of makes us even in that department.

Anyway, it turns out what has Tyrone wrapped around the axle is Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, like any of the rest of us really understand politics across the pond as the Brits say... or even give a royal howdy-doo. And, frankly, I’ve come the the general conclusion that “globalization” doesn’t really work for anybody but the people who embrace it. Frankly, it doesn’t even work for them... they just think it does. It’s fashionable. We old curmudgeons are wont to call a spade a spade... it’s socialism on a grand scale. And it is being orchestrated by the elites in business to their, not anybody else’s, benefit, no matter what the adherents might think. Sigh.. another rambling digression, but at least it sets my mood as the three of them approached,

“Frankly,” Duncan boomed, “I think it was the smartest thing the Brits could do. I can see where they’d get sick of the tail wagging the dog.”

“Nice metaphor,” I called from where I was perched on a picnic table. “Trite, but nice.”

“Oh great,” Bingo Bob groaned, “another frickin’ expert joins the discussion.”

“Hey, I was just enjoying the evening until you three showed up. I could hear you coming a country mile.”

“Well it’s serious business,” Tyrone squeaked. “Damn serious!”

‘Whoa,’ I thought to myself, ‘Tyrone must really believe that. He doesn’t swear. Ever.’

“Have you checked your investments today?” Tyrone challenged.

“Ah, so this isn’t really about the Brits... it’s about money,” I said.

“Durn tootin’ it’s about money,” Bob chimed in. “I lost more on my 401K in one day than I make in a month.”

“Me too,” Tyrone whined. “This is an IRA Armageddon, not to mention what it’s going to do to investment capital or my stock portfolio.”

Duncan glared at them. “I told you both months ago that you needed to take a less risky position in the market. This has been on it’s way for a long time. You had to have had blinders on not to see it.”

“You didn’t answer my question about your investments,” Tyrone persisted, trying to get me to reveal my strategy.

“My investments are just fine and dandy.”

“How is that possible? Did you even look at the market close today?”


“How on earth can you not?” Bob asked, wide eyed.

Even Duncan blinked.

“Let’s just say my investments are about as risk free as they can get. I never really cared to play with the market funny money. It’s 80% air and 20% bull crap. That’s why it can be gone so quickly.”

“Yeah, well don’t count on safe investments being safe,” Bob opined authoritatively. “When the market collapses, everything collapses.”

I just looked at him and said, “Not necessarily.”

“It’s old folks making decisions about how all us young folks are going to live,” Tyrone whined.

“See that on CNN, did ya?”

“NO! NBC.”

“Oh. That figures.” I stood up, readying myself to go. “Well fellahs, we sure as Sam Hill aren’t going to solve this, and the apocalypse really isn’t just around the corner. Take it from one of the old folks... Chicken Little was an alarmist... life will go on.”

“Who’s Chicken Little?” Tyrone asked.

“Talk to your mommy,” I replied. “Y’all have a peachy evening, okay?

“We may as well all walk together, I’ve got to get home,” Duncan said, “The wife want’s to see a show tonight.”

“Me too,” Bob added. “I’ve got beer coolin’ and steaks that need grillin’.”

Tyrone shrugged. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to spend a little time chilling.”

“So what are you gonna go see?” Bob asked Duncan.

“I dunno... probably some chick flick, but that’s okay. It keeps the little lady at home happy.”

“What about you?” Bob asked looking at me.

“Oh, I don’t know, probably just read or write if the mood strikes me. Now, tomorrow night is a different story.”

“How so?” Bob’s interest hiked up a notch.

“Because tomorrow night is B Movie night.”

“You watch those?” Duncan asked in a slightly astonished tone.

“Not on purpose. But it is my wife’s night to pick the movie.”

They had a good laugh on me. As we rounded the corner, I thought with satisfaction, ‘Yep, everything is back to normal... apocalypse averted.’

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Square Peg - It's now a book

Well folks, I know my blogs have been a bit sketchy over the past few weeks, but there's a reason. There always is, isn't there? And it isn't really an excuse. I've been busy. Somebody, and I'm not mentioning names here (DL Keur) suggested that I compile the Square Peg blogs into a book... so that, among other things, is what I've been doing. I've also been editing a book for a fellow author, working on the start of yet another book, trying to get one I've had in the works done... and, oh yeah, trying to keep up with my out-of-control lawn and bushes.

Anyway, if you have a notion you might want to check out The Square Peg Book go have a look at:


Okay... now I have to go see what the guys and gals in Mr. Codger's Neighborhood have been up to while I've been working.

Y'all have a really nice day now, hear?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Still Cookin’... It’s a Cornspiracy

The Square Peg - Still Cookin’... It’s a Cornspiracy
© S. Bradley Stoner

Another hot day here in Texas after a pleasantly cool morning. I figured I’d get a little outdoor work done before it got blisteringly hot, so I cinched up my shorts put on an old religious tee shirt (yep, that would be the holey one), and commenced to collecting the tools I would need. I was fixin’ to trim my bushes when that sicky sweet smell punctuated my smeller. Okay, that’s enough with the local lingo.

Now, I’ve traveled through the Kentucky backwoods, the Tennessee hills, and lived in the south long enough to know what sour mash smells like. It’s just that I didn’t expect to smell it in my own neighborhood. Usually that is reserved for the hinterlands where it won’t attract revenuers. I got curious, so I followed my nose. Sometimes it’s as good as a blood hound’s. Sometimes it can’t sort sh%t from Shinola. It just depends on the day. Today, the old smeller was working extraordinarily well. Maybe it was the cleansing alcohol in the air. I don’t know.

The scent of that good ol’ mountain dew led me straight to Bingo Bob’s. Go figure. Anyway I did something I normally don’t do. I tiptoed up to Bob’s fence and peeked through a knothole in the cedar. Yep... the old smeller hadn’t deceived me. There on his patio extension was a pretty, new copper still. And it was cookin’. Bob was squatted beside it, tinkering with some copper tubing. So intent was I on perusing this scene that I didn’t hear Duncan come up behind me.

“Whatcha lookin’ at there, Snoopy?”

That caused a startle reflex that put splinters in and a nice bump on my forehead.

“You okay?” he asked as I turned around rubbing the bump and picking out wood.

“You could have waited until I backed away,” I groaned.

I don’t know whether Bob heard Duncan or heard me smack the fence. Doesn’t matter. He heard us and came out of the side gate. “Hey guys... you gotta come see this. I got it working!”

Duncan and I followed Bob in a line, sort of like ducks, as he led us through the gate.

“You got that....” Duncan started to say.

“SHHHH... don’t broadcast it,” Bob cut him off.

My head swiveled to look at Duncan. “You knew about this?”

“Yeah... we went halvseies on it. We’d have asked you, but you said you don’t drink anymore.”

“Well, that’s true. Besides, the last time I tried White Lightning, it damn near killed me.”

“You gotta get the mix right,” Bob said trying his best to sound like an expert moonshiner.

“Or cut it with distilled water,” Duncan added, making him sound like a drug dealer, which was kind of funny considering he’s a retired cop.

“Hope you checked the regulations on how much of that stuff you can make,” I said.

“Just for personal consumption,” Duncan said knowingly. “But we don’t want it to get out or we’ll have people wanting to get some for free.”

Bob’s eyes lit up like a pinball machine. “Hey... maybe we could sell some... who’d know?”

Duncan gave him a hard stare. “Don’t go stupid on me, Bob. You can go to jail for that.”

“How come those guys on TV can get away with it.”

“That’s a show, Bob... it’s not real even though they call it a reality show.” Duncan eyed the clear liquid dripping out of the bottom spigot into a jar. “Hey, can I try a little?”

“Better wait until the third run,” Bob replied. “This is only the second. It won’t get good flavor until the third. That’s what the book says.”

“Where’d you guys get this thing?” I asked.

“Amazon,” Duncan replied. “They sell almost anything.”

I went back home after wishing them luck and looked up stills on Amazon. They had to have invested over $500.00 in that set up, not counting the fixings. At least the 20-gallon still would make 5-6 gallons of moonshine a run. If they kept it running, they could make a minimum of 35 gallons a week. That’s a whole lot of “personal consumption.”

Later this afternoon, I heard a loud bang. I went outside to investigate. Duncan was already at Bob’s yelling at him. Apparently Bob went in to take a nap and left the still running. You’re not supposed to do that. If something goes wrong, particularly if the pot overheats it will... well, you know. And it did. It blew the top right off that cooker. It was lying in the street along with fragments of condenser coil.

“Hey Bob!” I yelled. “Your secret is out... and all over the neighborhood!”

Bob and Duncan chorused back, “SHUT UP!”

Like I’ve said, I get that a lot.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Square Peg - Something Stinks or... Shhhh, Buzzards

The Square Peg - Something Stinks or... Shhhh, Buzzards
© S. Bradley Stoner

I had just gotten back from the store when I ran into the Bingo Bob and Duncan Donutz. They were in a heated discussion. I thought to myself, ‘Oh boy, here we go again.’ I figured it had to be over politics or politicians, and I didn’t want to get roped into either of those discussions, so I exited Lizzy with my bags and closed the door as quietly as I could and headed toward my front door. Out of habit, I pressed the lock button on my remote twice. The horn beeped. Damn, betrayed by my own security system. It isn’t supposed to work that way, is it? ‘Maybe,’ thought I, ‘they’ll see I’m burdened and just wave, giving me time to escape into the air conditioned confines of my castle. No such luck. I should have known.

“Hey!” Duncan yelled. “Hold up a minute... we’ve got a question for you.”

I groaned as they trotted toward me. Some days you can’t catch a break. I suppose I could have feigned deafness (and frankly it wouldn’t be hard... too many years of things going bang around my ears haven’t helped my auditory organs), but I’m not that rude. So I waited until they walked up my walkway to the porch where there was at least a little shade. I should mention that once the rain stopped last week, it started to get hot... Texas hot.

“Thanks for waitin’,” Bob panted, mopping his beet red face with an old bandana that had seen better days.

“What’s up guys?”

“Buzzards,” Duncan stated flatly, like I was going to instantly know what he was talking about.

“Well, they are birds,” I replied. “I rather expect they would be up.”

“No,” Bob gasped, “They’ve been flying really low over the neighborhood the last week. Something’s up.”

I thought Bob might flop over and considered asking them in for a cold drink, but that would have shot the afternoon and I had things to do that didn’t involve Bob or Duncan. “Well, yeah,” I returned, “Duncan just said it was buzzards.”

“Knock it off,” Duncan groused. “You know what we mean.”

“Well if you are implying what I think you are, it’d be more proper to say, ‘something’s down.’”

“Right,” Bob rejoined. “That’s what we think. We just finished walking the whole neighborhood looking for something suspicious.”

“That would explain your current state,” I said. “It’s 94 with 80 percent humidity. Did you find anything besides the fact that your sweat glands work?”

“Well, there seems to be a bad odor permeating the neighborhood,” Duncan said, “and there is a newly dug garden in Frieda Farquewark’s back yard, and we haven’t seen Farouk around in weeks.”

“Oh, Lord... Have you guys been talking to Patti? You know you can’t believe anything she says, right?”

“Good Gawd, no!” Duncan looked shocked. “We’re not that stupid... well, maybe Bob is, but I’m not.”

“Hey!” Bob tried to look hurt, but it wasn’t working. We’d both seen him chatting up Patti on more than one occasion.

“Anyway,” Duncan continued, “low flying buzzards usually indicate something is dead. Given they are circling the neighborhood at low altitude, it’s a safe bet something is rotten in Denmark.” He was doing his best impression of Kojak.

“Maybe you need to look there,” I suggested.

“Dammit, man, I’m being serious here!”

“I can see that.”

“Well, whaddaya think?” Bob asked. “Should we call the cops?”

“First off, Duncan is a retired cop, and even he knows that low flying buzzards and not seeing someone for a couple of weeks is hardly enough evidence to warrant an investigation.”

“That’s true,” Duncan admitted.

About that time the four preteens next door came boiling out of the front door, free of the fetters of school for the summer. Wafting behind them was a distinctive odor that I knew all too well.

Bob gave them a passing glance and demanded, “Well what do you think it is?!”

I wrinkled my nose, wiped a tear from the corner of my eye, and replied stoically, “Gym sox, shorts, and tee shirts that haven’t seen the inside of a washing machine for nine months.”

Duncan scratched his head, Bob blinked, and I inserted the key in my door. If I didn’t get the meat I bought inside, it would be more than dirty gym clothes attracting buzzards.