Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Square Peg - Bingo Bob Does History

The Square Peg - Bingo Bob Does History
© S. Bradley Stoner

Monday evening. Duncan and I were surveying our hay-fields. You heard me. They aren’t lawns anymore. We could have put up at least eight tons of good grass hay by now if we hadn’t mowed every week. Between us, we could have grazed six head of cattle, two sheep, and a goat. Duncan even suggested it, but then conceded that the HOA would probably fine us twenty T-bones, seventy filet Mignons, six racks of ribs, two briskets, and enough wool to make a sheepskin coat. We decided it wasn’t really an option.

About the time we were commiserating about what the added precipitation had done for gas sales to keep our mowers running, we heard a roar from Bob’s house. Well, maybe not a roar, but it was pretty plain there was one heck of a commotion going on in there. Not that this is particularly a surprise, it happens on a fairly regular basis and nobody pays much attention. We have a lot of women with Latin blood in our neighborhood, and they can get hotter than a Ghost Pepper... and not in a good way. Bob’s wife is Italian... from Jersey. Need I say more? Duncan calls her Vesuvius after that volcano in Italy.

Duncan eyeballed Bob’s house and commented laconically, “It appears Vesuvius is erupting again.”

“Wonder what old Bob did to anger the goddess?” I rejoined.

It’s pretty common knowledge that old Bob can manage to tick off almost anybody, even when he doesn’t mean to. Some folks, like Duncan, Charlie, and me have gotten used to Bob’s ineptness with social interaction and pretty much ignore it... or make fun of it. It keeps our blood pressure down, even if it raises Bob’s a notch or two.

It was getting louder and Duncan said, “Boy, I hope Bob got rid of that hammer... remember what happened last time Vesuvius erupted?”

I had visions of Bob’s car after she got through with it. He showed us pictures. It looked like it been through a storm with hailstones the size of softballs. “Yeah, well that was Bob’s fault.”

“It always is, isn’t it?” Duncan asked.

I was about to agree when Bob’s front door flew open and Bob shot out of it like an ejecting pilot. It was pretty obvious from his stumbling who had done the ejection assist. As if to punctuate the act, we heard Vesuvius roar forth, “...and STAY out, you !@$^!@% uncouth lout!” And then the door slammed shut... hard.

“Whoa,” Duncan said, “that was kind of unladylike.”

Bob spied us. With his square jaw jutting forward, fists tightly clenched and fire in his eyes, he stalked toward us. This was going to have to be defused quickly before Bob exploded. And that’s not a pretty sight.

Duncan got to him first. “Hi Bob, how’s tricks.”

Bob snarled. I mean he literally snarled.

“Keep that up,” I offered, “and the ASPCA is going to pick you up and put you in a cage.”

“Very funny,” Bob replied, but at least his tone was civil.

“What’d you do to anger the goddess today?” Duncan asked.

“I swear to God that woman has no sense of humor whatsoever,” Bob whined. “None.”

“Give us the skinny,” Duncan demanded.

“Okay... so she was watching this documentary she recorded from that History Channel on this Egyptian king... Tutankhamen... you know the boy king they found with all that gold and stuff years ago.”

“Holy crap, Bob,” I said, “are you actually telling me you watched something cultural.’

“Nothin’ cultural about it... it was history.”

I let it pass.

“Anyway, they kept referring to him as Tut... you know pronounce like ‘hut’ only with a ‘t’ at the front. I just pointed out that they had been saying his name like ‘Too-tank-hamun,’ not ‘Tut-tank-hamun,’” he said, emphasizing the syllabic differences.

“Okay... so?” Duncan prodded.

“Well... I just suggested that maybe his peers called him ‘Toot,’ not ‘Tut.’ It just makes better sense. You know, like you say ‘Gene’ for Eugene, not ‘Gin,’ for crying out loud.

“That can’t be all of it,” Duncan pressed.

“I might have said that since he was a boy king, it would make him a little fart...”

“That’s a start,” Duncan urged. “What else?”

“I might have let a little toot of my own when I said it.”

Duncan busted out laughing. “There it is! Bingo, Bob!”

And all this time you’ve wondered how Bingo Bob earned his name.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Square Peg - Blitzkrieg

The Square Peg - Blitzkrieg
© S. Bradley Stoner

Well crap. We missed our annual HOA meeting. Not just me. Everybody. Yep, it didn’t get scheduled. This, of course, annoyed our HOA VP no end, and Pansy Kampfwagen immediately launched a blitzkrieg against our current president, condemning him for lack of attention to detail and the bylaws of the HOA. Now, it didn’t matter to Pansy that it is the responsibility of the management company to schedule the meeting and make sure everyone gets the annual report. Nope, Pansy, whose husband, Sig Kyle, was voted out last meeting, declared war on the President, chiding him for failing to read the bylaws and dereliction of duty.

Now, you’ve heard me talk about all the great things our new president has done for the neighborhood... the great functions he has organized, the nice work he’s done in upgrading the entrance to out little subdivision and his efforts to get everybody involved in an organization that was essentially dead on arrival before he took the reins. I suspect that, more than anything else, is what has Pansy pissed off... not to mention that replacing Sig kind of broke up the ruling triumvirate.

Three months ago, Pansy swore off posting in our neighborhood web site because people got tired of putting up with her rants... and told her so. It didn’t last. She was especially peeved at one fellow who had the temerity to attack her pettiness directly. Boy, did he pay for that. Power is a dangerous thing. He started getting hit with fines from the HOA. He got fined for taking his power washer and inscribing Happy Anniversary to his wife on his driveway. This is, apparently, a violation of the HOA rules. Then he got nailed for having a bush that overhung the sidewalk by about an inch. Yep... Pansy was rolling.

You need to understand, however, that folks in this neighborhood are not easily steamrollered. We fight back. The President fired back a comical response on missing the rule in the bylaws, stating that he would reread the bylaws during his criminal incarceration for failure to follow the rules. This was lost on Pansy, who indignantly pointed out that no rule for “criminal penalties” existed in the bylaws.

This prompted a response from Frank Furter who declared that he was going to buy out the management company and “run it right.” I’m not sure what that means. I don’t think anybody does, but look for a requirement that everyone has to own a Harley and ride it every weekend. Udn, udn.

Then Bingo Bob came up and said that we were all going to protest these unfair rules by putting our garbage cans on the curb every Monday morning, to which Pansy responded that it wasn’t much of a protest, given that Monday is garbage pickup day.

Duncan joined the fray, adding that we’d put our recycle bins out en masse on Wednesday night, hoping to elicit a similar response since they collect recyclables early Thursday morning. Pansy didn’t fall for it a second time. She just asserted that nobody was taking the discussion seriously, and that was too bad, because this was serious business. Whereupon Charlie replied that it was hard to take it serious when a fellow could get fined for wearing white after Labor Day. Pansy was taken aback, and promised to reread the rules because she knew of no such provision.

All of this prompted Patti Peeksalot to come to Pansy’s defense. “People are just mean,” she wrote. “Pansy is a great person and just wants to protect our neighborhood.”

“Not to mention that she’d make the trains run on time even if it meant running over everybody,” another wag fired back.

“I don’t know who came up with this HOA idea,” Col. Duffer penned, “but it just seems un-American to me. Nobody should be able to tell a man what he can or can’t do with his own property.”

Hear, hear, Colonel. Spoken like a true patriot... and Texan. I could almost hear the explosion in Pansy’s house... and she lives several blocks away... thank heaven!

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Square Peg - Hobbled, But Not Corralled

The Square Peg - Hobbled, But Not Corralled
© S. Bradley Stoner

I finally wandered out to get the mail this morning. Bob was out in his yard trying to decide if he wanted to hay his grass or let it grow a bit more. He looked up and saw me gingerly making my way to the bank of mailboxes and came trotting over.

“Hey! Why are you gimpin’,” he asked.

I just pointed at my ankle, which was about the size of a baseball.

“Wow... you got an infection?”

Only Bob would ask a question like that when seeing a blue-black-purple-yellow bruise.

“No,” I grimaced, “I have a sprain.”

“What’d ya do? Trip over the furniture again?”

Let me explain. We have this thing in our family. It happens about once every two or three months. One of us will stub a toe on some piece of furniture. It starts a cycle of toe stubs, and each one of us does that in turn. It doesn’t even matter if we’re all in the same place or not, one of us stubs a toe, then another does it, and another. Out of the blue, we once got a call from our oldest who lives several hundred miles away.

Without ceremony, he asked, “Okay, which one of you mashed a toe?”

Right then, I knew what was coming. So it goes. I’m not sure if it’s empathy or a curse. And we’ve had some dandies. One month I’m pretty sure everybody broke one toe or another. I mean, when we stub toes, we don’t mess around. And we don’t have that dainty Queen Anne furniture... we have end tables it took a forest to build. We’re talking massive here. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to hide it when one or another of us stubs a toe. We tend to gimp for about a week while it heals. We don’t complain, it’s just one of those things we have to deal with on occasion.

This time, however, my baseball-sized ankle wasn’t due to anything furniture related (I took care of that last month). Nope, this time it was due to wet grass. We had a brief respite from the rain Wednesday and, since the grass out front had decided ‘what the heck, I think I’ll grow another five inches,’ I decided to take the opportunity to give it a haircut. So, I gassed up old Greenie, checked the oil, pushed it out of the garage, primed the carburetor, and gave the old cord a yank. Old Greenie roared to life and then purred like a kitten. I figured the new blade I had installed would make short work of our rather small front yard. Did I mention I ruined the old blade by hitting a rock? No? Oh well, that’s another story.

“What’d ya do? Run over your own foot?” Bob asked as I retold the tale.

I just stared at him, trying to figure out how a person could run over his own foot with a mower you push from behind. Then I decided if anybody could do that, it would be Bob, so I answered, “No Bob, I’m not as talented as you when it comes to things like that.”

“Huh,” Bob replied. “So what did ya do? It ain’t like yer yard is terrifically steep or anything.”

So, I had to explain to Bob just what happened. I didn’t want to, but it was better than having him tell the neighborhood I ran over my own foot with my own mower, which he likely would have done without the explanation.

“Well, Bob, if you recall, it had been raining for four days straight until Wednesday when we got a break. I figured the lawn had dried enough that I could trim it, which I did. Unfortunately, over in that thick part, the grass was still a bit wet and the clippings kind of clumped after being cut. Since I could feel the rain approaching again, I decided to hurry up and get the lawn done. I was mulching the clumps when I hit one of them in full stride and started to slip. Anyway, as I put out my foot to arrest the slip, I rolled my ankle.”

“Ya know, when a football player does that, they just tape it up and send ‘em back in.”

“Hmm... too bad I don’t have a trainer on staff,” I snapped. “Heck, if I was thirty years younger, it wouldn’t take a week or more to heal. Speaking of football, I’ve got the Denver game recorded. I think I’ll go put my foot up and watch it.”

I turned on my heel, felt the pain shoot up my leg, and gimped back home. As I reached for the doorknob, I realized something. “Dammit... I forgot to get the mail!”

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Square Peg – Twyla Takes a Tumble

The Square Peg – Twyla Takes a Tumble
© S. Bradley Stoner

Well, after four straight days, the rain had finally abated for a while. I was out checking my lawn to see if I dared mow it. Nope, Old reliable would have just disappeared into the mud. Yep, it was that wet. Matter of fact, I darn near lost a shoe while I was checking conditions. I decided I’d better stick to the concrete before I got stuck in the mud. Oh, remember how the weathermen said a high was parked over Texas and it wasn’t moving? And how it was going to stay hot? And how we were about to enter water restrictions because the aquifer was dropping? Yeah… they lied again. Either that or they are clueless when it comes to predicting weather. Me? I go by the Old Farmer’s Almanac (not the new one… they can’t get it right either) and they predicted a wet summer. They were pretty much on target. We had like two weeks of what Texans consider hot weather, not that I’m complaining.

Anyway, there I am standing on my front sidewalk, looking at my lawn, when along comes Twyla Twaddle. I don’t see Twyla all that often since she rarely comes out of her house. Today, I didn’t see her at all. She ran into me. Literally. Yep, smacked square into my back, side-slipped, stuck a sneaker on my lawn, went skittering across the grass, and landed, kersploosh!, right smack dab in the middle of the soggiest part of my yard. For about a second, we were both too stunned to say or do anything. How she ran into me in the first place is a mystery… I’m pretty hard to miss.

Finally, I extended a hand to her and said, “Are you okay?”

Twyla looked up at me. I was horrified… her eyes were almost swollen shut, her nose was red, and her complexion was blotchy. I thought, ‘Oh Lord, I’m gonna get sued.’

“Dough, I’b not. I’b biserable. It’s da bolds… I’b allergic and da bolds are killing be.”

“It’s been raining, so of course the molds are going to be heavy. Have you taken an antihistamine? That should help alleviate the symptoms,” I said, helping Twyla to her feet.

”Dough, I dod’t take bedicine… I’b going to see Patti, she’s got a hobeopathic remedy that’s healthy. I wouldn’t touch adythidg from a pharbaceutical compady. It’s all bad for you.”

“Not all medicine is bad for you, and not all home remedies work. I found the cheap, generic antihistamines work way better than the expensive ones, good old chlortrimeton works best… the local supermarket just labels it HEB Allergy. It costs less than three bucks. You should try it.”

“Dough! I dod't take bedicine!”

Twyla stamped her foot to emphasize the point, and promptly landed on her kiester once more. I helped her up again and escorted her to the sidewalk where she straightened her clothes and resumed her trek to Patti’s with as much dignity as she could muster.

About that time, Duncan wandered up. “Hey, can I borrow some of that allergy bedicine… the bolds are killing me.”

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Square Peg - The Bob Factor

The Square Peg - The Bob Factor
© S. Bradley Stoner

I just got a notice from the neighborhood association president... well, me and however many other homeowners there are in the neighborhood. The association is throwing a “Back-To-School Bash” at the park. There’s going to be water slides for the kids, pizza, and music and a family movie. That’s pretty cool. I’m pretty impressed with our new president. He gets things done and makes get-togethers fun. I brought this up to Duncan on our morning walk.

“Yep,” Duncan nodded, “he’s doin’ a great job. I worry about the bash, though.”


“Don’t ya remember the last park party?”

I got to thinking. I’d almost put it out of my mind. “Oh... you mean the ‘Bob’ factor.”

“Bingo,” Duncan jabbed the air for emphasis.

Let me explain. The last bash was a general get-together for all the residents. In addition to the music and the blow-up play house and slides, the party was billed as a free barbecue with hamburgers, hot dogs and sodas. Everybody was to bring some sort of side dish, making it sort of a potluck. Bob, being Bob, volunteered to get the burgers and hot dogs from the store, our president having paid for them out of the HOA funds. He also volunteered his barbecue. You know, the big one he can tow behind his truck. Yep, the one that puts out enough smoke to cause an EPA air alert.

Well, true to his word, Bob got the picnic meats and hauled old smokie up to the park, set it up, and piled in the charcoal and wood chips. Being as how he had to do this after work and only an hour before the party was to start, he kind of overdid it on the lighter fluid. He wanted to get it going really well before it was time to put the burgers on. When he touched it off, you could see the flash for miles. That was followed immediately by volumes of thick, black smoke. Now those of us familiar with Bob didn’t give it a second thought. Myra Muddle, who was out on her porch with her walker and cell phone, however, freaked and called the fire department to report that our park was on fire. Yep... the fire department showed up, sirens blaring and lights flashing. It was part one of the fiasco that day. Apologetically, Bob invited them to stay for the barbecue. They politely declined.

An hour later, Bob commenced to grilling burgers and hot dogs. Now, old Bob is pretty good with rib, brisket, and the occasional steak, but it was pretty obvious he didn’t have a clue on burgers and dogs. The first twenty burgers came out crispy and smelling like  petroleum products The first round of hotdogs were... well, they were split cinders. Basically that first run was inedible. Even the grackles wouldn’t touch them, and they eat almost anything.

Bob’s reaction? “Huh... that’s odd.” And he threw another twenty premade burger patties on the grill. “Better watch these a little closer.”

The association president, gracious though he was, looked forlornly at the pile of burnt burgers and dogs in the trash can and mumbled something about going over budget if he had to buy more. Duncan saved the day by running home and bringing a big package of frozen burgers from his freezer.

“I hope nobody is allergic to venison,” he said.

Yep, those burgers were from last year’s hunting trip. I thought they were pretty tasty, but there seemed to be a lot of wrinkled noses on the women and a bunch of partly eaten burgers and buns in the garbage from late-comers who missed out on the beef. Everybody just blamed Bob for bad cooking though. Bob didn’t care, though, he’d brought a cooler full of beer and was getting happier by the moment. He didn’t even notice when Duncan elbowed him aside and took over grilling duties. Somebody had to save what hot dogs were left from the ravages of the grill and an oblivious Bob.

After the meal, Bob decided he’d wander over and see how the kiddies were doing. I’m not sure if it was just the kid in Bob or the beer in him, but Bob decided it would be cool to go down one of those inflatable slides. Those slides are not meant for adult use. That didn’t stop Bob. Up he went to the top. Once there, he didn’t just sit and slide down... he launched himself and landed about a third of the way down the slide. There was a tremendous “BANG” and all the air went out of the slide suddenly, depositing Bob square on his rump from about four feet in the air. I wonder what that cost Bob. We never did find out.

Yep, the Bob factor at work.

As we stood there reminiscing, Bob wandered up. “Hey... whatcha talking about?”

Duncan, never one to mince words, instantly replied, “The Bob factor. You’re not cooking at the back-to-school bash, are ya?”

Bob looked downcast. “No... I volunteered, but the president declined the offer. Seems a shame to just let that big grill sit in my yard.”

“Did he also tell you to stay off the kiddie toys?”

“You know, you guys are mean... that was an accident.”

“Nope,” Duncan intoned, “that was the Bob factor.”

Bob just wandered off without saying another word.

“I think you hurt his feelings,” I offered.

“Not possible,” Duncan replied and then yelled, “Hey Bob! See ya at the bash!”

Bob waved, but he only used one finger.