So Now You’re A Senior

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You’ve done it!

You lived long enough to be called a senior citizen. Congratulations! It’s better than the alternative right?

Here’s your official cane. Now, I’ll walk you through what it means to be…a senior.

  1. You can accidentally (or intentionally) go to the supermarket with your house slippers on, and no one will even notice.
  2. You’ll get discounts at most restaurants, stores, and movie theatres.
  3. It’s your right to spoil you grandchildren.
  4. It’s your duty to spoil pets, especially little dogs that bark a lot.
  5. It’s easy to get someone to do your lifting.
  6. Clerks will offer to walk you to your car, and will put your purchases in the backseat, or trunk. You get to pick.
  7. Your children will realize you knew what you were talking about when your raised them. (Hopefully.)
  8. You’ll have more time to take about the good old days to anyone who’ll listen.
  9. The older you get, the better chance you’ll outlive your enemies.
  10. You have to retire your bikini.

Even with all the aforementioned perks, you have to realize that your body is falling apart, and you’re going to have mystery aches and pains. Old injuries will remind you of when you were young and active.

As for your memory. It may be slipping a bit, but that’s okay. There’s always lots of people younger than you with bad memories. It’s just part of “The Merry Game” as my grandfather use to tell me.

As It Stands, there’s no such thing as growing old gracefully. Grace has nothing to do with it.

 

 

The Bigfoot’s Baby

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Deep into the Okefenokee swamp a race of creatures have lived undiscovered by mankind for 6,000 years.

Somewhere in the peat-filled wetland straddling the Georgia-Florida line, they’ve managed to survive against all predators, living in crude shelters made from mud and sticks.

The creatures called themselves the Ibi. The males average height is eight-feet tall. The females average seven feet. They all have extremely large hands and feet and are heavily muscled. They’re also all covered in hair from head-to-foot.

Over the eons when a human ran across one of the Ibi they called them names like Sasquatch, or Bigfoot. The Okefenokee Swamp is the largest swamp in America. To this day, no one has fully explored the roughly 700 miles of wilderness.

Not even the “Swampers” can lay claim to being masters of the Okefenokee. Due to the relative isolation where they live, modern-day Swampers, who are overwhelmingly of English ancestry, still use the same Elizabethan phrases and syntax that their ancestors in the colonial period brought from overseas.

They have their own world, and their own beliefs.

Abitha was busy gutting an alligator in her front yard when it swooped in and took her! The creature’s foul smell was overpowering as it held an enormous hand over her mouth and face. When she fainted it threw her over its shoulders and plodded away into the dense swamp’s interior.

Meanwhile her husband, Gideon, was in town having a few beers with his friends. As it grew dark he became hungry and parted ways with them.

“By your leave, gentlemen.”

When he got back to his shack his wife was nowhere to be found. A partly gutted alligator was spread out in the front yard. Abitha’s knife lay nearby. He studied the ground for tense minutes trying to read what happened.

“I’ll find her,” he stated with a cold certainty.

That night.

Abitha woke up and saw that she was inside a large crude mud and stick hut. On one side someone was laying down and moaning. Someone kneeled nearby making soothing sounds in the dimly lit space.

She realized that she was laying on a mat of dry grass. She was unharmed and not restrained. It seemed odd. Why was she brought here? The bulky shapes on the other side of the hut were huge.

She slowly sat up. One of the shapes moved over to her. “Hep!” it grunted and pointed to the other shape laying down. Whatever they were, they could communicate with her. She felt a sudden sigh of relief. She understood now why she was brought here.

She nodded her head affirmatively, and moved over to the reclining figure. It was quickly apparent that it was a female and she was in labor. Abitha’s instincts took over. She’d seen many a child born. Some with complications.

Positioning herself between the female’s legs she carefully examined the situation and discovered the baby was in the wrong position! She gritted her teeth and went about repositioning the child. The mother was apparently worn out and barely able to push.

After a short time she knew there was only one thing to do. She would have to perform a Cesarean procedure to save the infant and the mother. Something she only saw once. She turned to the other creature and said, “knife.”  It looked puzzled. She made a cutting motion and it caught on.

The hairy creature quickly disappeared and returned with a crude knife made from flint. She eyed it dubiously, but had no choice and took it. With time running out she made the cut and gripped the head of the baby, pulling her out and immediately clearing her airways.

She handled the hairy little bundle to the gentle giant waiting nearby, then cut the umbilical cord, and tied it into a knot.

The proud daddy, who she assumed he was, looked at her and said, “Ibi we. Las woman ere. She die. So do we. Gir born is good sign. Thak you.”

Anitha was exhausted and went back to the grass mat and fell asleep.

The next morning.

The creature led her back home and spoke one last time, “Ibis owe you much. No tell others. They come and kill us,” he said, sadly. He looked her in the eyes and she saw his gratitude.

Later that afternoon Gideon came back to the shack and was surprised to see her there.

“Wife!” he called out and embraced her. “What…?”

“I went for a walk yesterday and found myself turned around, dear husband,” she explained. “The good lord was with me, and I was able to find my way home.”

As It Stands, this is my version of a Bigfoot encounter.

A Private Conversation

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Have you ever accidentally snorted Kool aid?

I poured a package into my palm once and started licking it when, for reasons unknown, I inhaled deeply. Wow! What a rush! I didn’t see colors, like when I tried LSD years later, but there were lightning flashes popping behind my young eyeballs for a few moments.

I won’t attempt to count how many dumb things I’ve done in six decades. That’s not the purpose of this piece.

I’ll get right on track here, and take you down the line to enlightenment and sharing.

I talk to myself…a lot. You don’t have to reply. I’m just sharing a part of my life right now.

The thing is, I see nothing wrong with talking outloud, now and then, to stay focused on a subject. I admit I have to be careful or people will start looking at me. So I talk in a low voice. A compromise designed to keep me out of the looney bin.

Let’s skip the part where you think I’m crazy. You should know I’m not alone. Lot’s of people find some solace saying what’s on their minds out loud without directly talking to someone. To be sure, I’m not talking about constant conversations with yourself to the point where the real world is blocked out.

There’s a fine line, okay?

I can remember being in a position of extreme danger when I was only 16-years-old. I was alone and hanging on for dear life from the side of a mountain. Loose shale kept giving away causing me to slide a few inches. I sank my raw fingers into the dirt and slowed down enough to get ahold of a large Manzanita root. It held.

At that moment I didn’t pray (I wasn’t raised with religion), I started talking to myself. I asked myself if I was ready to die yet? The answer, of course, was no. I berated myself for getting into such a dangerous position, calling myself names like “moron” and “dummy.”

The one-sided conversation calmed me down, because after a while my heart rate slowed and I was breathing evenly. I don’t recall how long I hung there before attempting to climb back up the way I came.

The hot sun beat down on me, hardening the mixture of sweat and dirt caking my face and arms. Foot-by-foot, I worked my way upward, carefully seeking secure spots where bushes and roots protruded from the side of the mountain.

When I finally reached the top of the trail, I crawled a few feet and then sprawled out,  gasping for water. My whole body was shaking uncontrollably. I was so light-headed I couldn’t stand up for at least an hour. Time is a tricky thing when you look back in retrospect.

You may be wondering why I brought this incident up. It was my moment of enlightenment when I realized no one could help me but myself. I talked myself through a life-threatening experience.

Since then, I try to be discreet in public, and mumble when I’m carrying on a one-sided conversation. At home I can talk freely to myself, and get this; my wife understands!

As It Stands, this essay is all I have to say about that…right Dave?

The Thing In The Leech Line

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Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry

“I charge double on the weekends. Are you sure you want me to come out today?” Ollie Winters asked.

The voice on the other end rose an octave…“Yessss!”

“Well…okay then. What’s your address? Hmmmmm….you must be on the west side of town near the city limits. That’s about 45 minutes from where I’m at. Yes…I’ll hurry,” he assured the caller.

Grumbling all the way, Ollie grabbed his baseball cap and jacket and headed out. Because he was unfamiliar with that part of town he had difficulty locating the house. When he did, he quickly realized it was on the wrong side of the street to have city sewers.

The old house looked like a prototypical haunted mansion out of a horror movie. It appeared to be in poor repair from what he could see of the outside. The cobblestone walkway leading to the front porch was overgrown with weeds. Two faded wooden rocking chairs sat next to the front door, facing away from the house.

A couple of raindrops followed Ollie to the front porch. There was no light and it was getting dark.  Ollie was already regretting taking the job when the front door suddenly opened and an old woman came out. Her dress was something out of a Victorian movie.

“You’ve come!” she said dramatically.

“You said something about your toilet being blocked,” he reminded her.

Yes! It’s terrible! The bathroom is a mess!” she said, sounding a lot like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind.

“May I come in?”

“Of course. Follow me.”

He clutched his tool box tighter and followed the old lady through the parlor and to a small hallway that came to a dead-end with a door. The odor emanating from the room was foul. She sniffed in distaste and said, “I’ll leave you to it then. Let me know if you need anything.”

Hesitantly, he opened the door and saw raw sewage seeping out of the toilet. It occurred to him that not being on the city sewer line meant there was a leech line somewhere near the house with a septic tank that must be overflowing.

That settled it. He couldn’t work on it while it was raining. Besides it would require help pumping out the septic tank. Feeling relieved, he went back out into the parlor looking for the old lady…and heard voices and music coming from the living room.

Perplexed he followed the voices. When he saw a group of men and women decked out in antique clothes dancing and socializing while an old-fashioned record player sang “Bird In A Gilded Cage,” he became confused.

How could this be happening he wondered? As far as he knew, it was just him and the old lady. Where was she anyway? And what was with the period dress? Nothing made sense. No one seemed to notice him standing there with his white jacket that said “Ollie’s Plumbing” on the back.

He carefully backed out of the room and headed for the front door. Just before he got to it the old lady suddenly reappeared in front of it. She saw the look of mounting terror in his eyes and tried to soothe him, “It’s going to be quite all right good sir. Just a little case of time shifts. Happens all the time,” she said reassuringly.

Ollie tried to say something. Instead he let her lead him up the ornate stairway to the top floor. He felt like a zombie. Part of his mind said this wasn’t happening. The other part was panicking because it recognized a line in reality had been crossed.

She led him to a window and pointed down at the yard. A flash of lightning lit the yard up for a moment illuminating a giant tentacled nightmare with large baleful eyes crawling out of the sludge from where the leech line was.

“There’s the problem,” the old lady said conversationally, “That thing is mucking up my bathroom. I have a hunch it’s going to take more than one of those snake things I saw in your ad in the phone book, to get rid of it.”

Ollie dropped his tool box and backed up against the wall. The thing down there was something out of an H.P. Lovecraft tale.

“Why were you leaving when the job wasn’t done?” the old lady interrupted his thoughts.

He found himself explaining to her that he had to get a special truck to pump out the waste in the septic tank, and that it wasn’t  a one-man job.

In the blink of an eye they were back in the living room…alone. No signs of the party remained. He heard the rain increasing in intensity outside.

“Damn time shifts!” the old lady groused. “Oh! Pardon my language sir! Allow me to show you out.”

Ollie dumbly followed her out to the front porch. His eyes scanned the yard fearfully as she spoke, “I do hope when this rain stops you’ll come back and help me kind sir,” she said.

He nodded, and tried to speak, but she was already back in the house. That was the moment Ollie decided he was going to retire early.

As It Stands, have you ever wondered how you’d react to a supernatural experience?

Dog Boy’s Dream Come True

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You can also listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry

Manuel “Dog boy” Gonzales came into the world on January 15th, 1928, in Alabaster, Georgia.

His parents both took hard drugs, resulting in a rare condition for their child. He had Acquired hypertrichosis. In layman’s terms, he was very hairy everywhere.

He became a ward of the state when his parents were busted with a large amount of heroin in the car, discovered under Michael’s baby blanket in the back seat. He wasn’t in a booster seat. He was in a box, and the dope was his mattress.

Manuel, renamed Manny by his custodians, was adopted by a couple when he was three years-old. They didn’t mind that he looked like a little werewolf. Both had worked hard to retire in their early 60s, and wanted a child to dote on. But they found that it wasn’t easy to adopt a child at their age.

They never gave up trying. When they saw Manny sitting on the floor playing with a rag doll, their generous hearts melted. The fact that the staff didn’t think he’d ever be adopted, made them want him even more.

Bill and Lucy were unable to have their own children. Manny was a God-send to their way of thinking. His uniqueness touched them and they wanted to protect him from the world. They were thrilled when their application was approved.

As the years went by Bill and Lucy were faced with some harsh realities. No school wanted Manny in its student body. He was too much of a distraction. They took him to parks so he could play with other children, but were dismayed by their treatment of him. The other kids called him Dog boy, and mocked him by barking at him.

Lucy took it upon herself to teach him how to read and write. Bill took Manny on outdoor adventures like fishing and hiking. They did everything they could to make his life as normal as possible.

Still, it was hard on Manny who dreamed of traveling and seeing the world that he only experienced through books thus far. He was an intelligent young man, who at 18-years-old deeply loved his adopted parents, but thirsted for adventure.

One of the many things he wanted to find out was if there were other people like himself. It would help him feel less alone in the world by just knowing that.

The only thing that held him back was his parents age. They were both frail and in their eighties. He could not leave them alone. They meant too much to him. Instead, he made the best of his time with them, helping them get through the rigors of old age.

One night, Manny was awakened from a deep sleep by the sound of gunfire in the house! He sprang from the bed and ran out into the hall in time to see someone come out of his parent’s bedroom and dart into the living room.

For an instant he froze, deciding if he should go to his parent’s room or give chase to the invader. He went after the invader and managed to tackle him as he attempted to go out the wide open back door. Manny, who was strong for his small size, put a choke hold on the stranger, and squeezed with all of his strength!

Minutes sweated by as the life-and-death struggle continued. It finally came to an abrupt end and he released him, pushing his still-warm body away. His heart was still racing from the struggle when he got up and ran back to his parents room.

He saw Bill first. He was lying at the foot of the bed, still clutching half of his maple cane. A pool of blood was forming around his body as Manny looked on in horror. Tears were running down his hairy cheeks as he looked up at the bed. Lucy was propped up against the headboard of the bed staring blankly into space. Blood covered her torso.

He looked around the room and saw that Lucy’s jewelry box was lying on the floor. The closet door was open, and packages were strewn about like the invader was searching for something.

Manny was stunned. He simply didn’t know what to do. Hours passed as he sat on their bed and grieved. It was daylight before he stood up and went back out to the living room. The would-be thief was still lying by the open back door. A pillow case with his pilfered loot lay nearby. The gun flew out of his hand when Manny tackled him. It was resting on the wooden porch outside.

Two days later.

After hours of questioning the police decided Manny was within his rights to kill the intruder. The local newspaper had a field day with the double murder, and Manny killing the murderer. The photo that the newspaper ran wasn’t a very flattering shot of him, but sold newspapers like hotcakes.

He buried his parents in the same cemetery their parents were resting.

Manny could no longer stand living in the small community, and sold the house which his parents had bequeathed him in their will, and set out on the road. He bought a 1941 Ford, packed up his few belongings, and hit the road.

Months later, while he was in Florida, he came across his first Freak Show. As he paid admission the show’s owner came up to him.

“You wouldn’t be looking for a job would you sonny?” he asked, assuming Manny was just a boy because of his small stature.

“Well…” he stammered nervously, “I’m not sure.”

“What? You’re not sure? Then what are you doing here?” he asked, genuinely puzzled.

“Looking. I never been to no freak show,” he admitted.

“You paid your admission ticket…so enjoy. If you want to talk about getting a job afterwards, let me know.”

Manny went inside the tent and walked from attraction to attraction fascinated with what he saw. He wasn’t even aware at first that people were staring at him as much as the so-called freaks.

It was starting to get uncomfortable and he looked around for the exit when he noticed a group of people laughing at something. He warily made his way thought the group to see what they thought was so funny.

He got the biggest surprise of his life when he saw a bearded lady! She had a beautiful flowing beard that went down to her knees. She was telling bawdy jokes to the men gathered there. If she noticed Manny she didn’t acknowledge him and went on with her act until it was closing time.

He was ushered out of the tent with the rest of the crowd.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.

The bearded lady and Manny fell in love and got married in a raucous ceremony that featured all of the freaks in the troop. Manny did his part and joined the show where he was featured as the “Dog Boy.”

The irony of his stage name never escaped him.

As It Stands, I believe there’s someone for everyone, no matter how they look.

Flights of Fantasy

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“The next flight will be in one hour,” a man’s voice blared from the speakers in the small airport’s lounge.

“How did you find out about these special flights” a young woman asked the elderly man sitting next to her. He straightened up in his seat, and said someone – a stranger – gave him a free ticket when he was wandering around the streets looking for eats.

“I’m a traveling man,” he said, as he ran his thin fingers through the silver wisp on the top of his head. “Been there, and done that,” the old man claimed with pride in his voice.

“That’s funny,” the young woman said. “A stranger gave me a free ticket too.”

After that they sat in silence as more passengers slowly arrived. The plane only held twelve passengers at a time. They were all there when a green light above the outside door – leading to the tiny runway that led to the waiting plane – blinked on and off.

An airline employee opened the door and gestured for the group to come over and hand her their tickets. This was done quickly and efficiently. Fog was settling in as the group followed a waiting guide with a flashlight towards the plane. They could hear it’s props whirring in the growing dusk.

The passengers approached the temporary stairs leading up into the plane. Two workers stood on either side with flashlights, waiting to roll them away after the last passenger boarded.

One-by-one they walked up the steps and disappeared inside. There were no stewardess, or stewards. The pilot’s voice came over the inner com and asked everyone to buckle up their seatbelts. A moment later he appeared from the front cabin, closing and locking the passenger door.

“Seems odd that we’d take off this late and in the fog,” the young woman said out loud.

Someone in another seat said, “Don’t worry about it! It’s better than the alternative. Am I right?” he asked the passenger next to him, a frail man with nervous eyes.

“Yes…I suppose so,” the thin man meekly agreed.

“Doesn’t anyone wonder how we ended up here?” the young woman asked the old man next to her.

“Most know,” he replied. “Some are slower to accept what happened, however.”

“What happened?” the young woman demanded.

“That chap that gave you this plane ticket was death granting you a final fantasy before taking you forever into his gloomy realms.” 

“I still don’t get it. What’s my fantasy then?” she asked.

“The same as all of ours. To escape death even though we know we’re going to die someday. These flights of fantasy help keep us grounded up here,” the old man said, while pointing at his nearly bald head.

As It Stands, I think we all secretly harbor the fantasy we won’t die.

One Last Drink

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Bobby O’Reilly raised his shot glass of fine Irish whiskey and toasted the devil who wearily raised his in recognition, and tossed it down in one gulp. 

Being a clever lad, Bobby knew the devil was coming after him, and had come up with a plan. He may have been somewhat of a rascal, truth be told, but his superhuman ability to consume alcohol made him a legend in the local pub and around the countryside.

Bobby reasoned that the first place the devil would look for him would be the pub where he was known to spend most of his day drinking and gambling. When the devil showed up one muggy afternoon, Bobby waved and invited him to take the empty chair across from him at a table.

“A fine day to you Lucifer,” Bobby began, “I’ve been waiting for your sanguine presence. Bar keep! Send one of your lasses over here with another shot glass will ya?”

“Now, aren’t you a fine piece of work,” the devil chuckled. “Are you really so eager to forfeit your soul this day?”

“Not at all. I’m just a poor man wondering if you have the guts to make a deal with me? I’ll put up my soul. What will you offer, should I win?”

A bar maid set down a shot glass in front of the devil who was considering Bobby’s audacious offer. Bobby picked the bottle of whiskey up and poured the devil a shot. The devil tossed the shot down and then laughed so loudly everyone in the pub looked over at them.

“You know that’s an interesting offer O’Reilly. I enjoy someone who has the gall to try to trick me. But what’s to keep me from ignoring your offer and taking you to straight to hell with me right now?

Bobby poured himself a shot, and refilled the devil’s glass.

“Because I’ll pray to God to take my soul, and will confess and repent for all the evil I’ve ever done the moment you make a move on me.”

“There’s no guarantee it’ll work for you boyo. You’re quit the sinner. That’s why I’m here. But I’ll tell you what. To avoid having to wrestle with God over your miserable soul, I’ll take you up on your offer. If you win, I’ll take you off my list until Judgement Day arrives. At that time we’ll see what God decides to do with your wicked soul.”

“Fair enough,” Bobby agreed.

“What’s the challenge,” the devil asked.

“You have to drink me under the table. The first one to pass out loses.”

The devil raised his glass and casually tossed it down with a twinkle in his eye. They were still drinking after the bartender closed at 2 a.m. He left a light on near the two drinkers and hoped his friend Bobby would be okay as he locked the doors up and left.

To the devil’s surprise Bobby seemed to get stronger as the night wore on. He told bawdy jokes and rattled off limericks gleaned from public loos. When the bartender opened up the next morning there were empty whiskey bottles scattered around the floor and Bobby was opening a new bottle.

The devil was a little pale, but still smiling and listening to Bobby’s blather. The hours flowed by until it was dark again. Bobby was no longer telling bawdy jokes and the devil was starting to look downright haggard.

The devil got to thinking about how many souls he could have captured if he wasn’t locked into this damn drinking duel for the last 48-hours with this crazy Irishman. He decided Bobby wasn’t worth the effort right now. He knew he could outdrink him, but wasn’t sure how many more hours (and lost souls) he wanted to waste.

“That’s it O’Reilly! I’ve better things to do with my time. We’ll meet again somewhere down the road, I assure you. For now, your safe you weasel.”

“Oh, c’mon mate!” he mocked, “One last drink!”

As It Stands, this tale is a testimony for good Irish whiskey; my favorite liquor.