|T.R.HART - Artist - Educator - Writer||
What happens when a Ornithologist Radio Show host begins to "talk" with birds. Stay tuned for the newest story by T.R.Hart. "The Bird Brain"
"Socks"- by T.R. Hart
Drinking and driving, one of the dumbest, no, THE dumbest thing that I have ever done in my life. Yeah, my wife left me, so I got hammered. Hell, I could've hurt or even killed someone. It was my first offense but I took out a few cars parked in Society Hill. If I did it in my own neighborhood I would have gotten off lightly…but still…no excuse.
I did lose my job… and my license. You can't be a roving reporter without being able to drive. I was lucky to find any job at my age, so I took a job downtown at a warehouse until I could get my license back. I hadn't worked evening shift since I was a kid loading trucks for UPS. I hadn't taken the bus since I was in high school.
I remember taking the bus to Catholic High every morning. Everyone was dressed up in business attire. The pretty young girls who worked in the offices downtown were dressed to attract the attention of a potential "Catch" while serious looking businessmen hid behind their morning newspapers. "Sheesh!", I was thinking, "people used to read the newspapers back then."
Things have really changed since then. Most people riding the bus have their heads buried in their cell phones texting or gaming. Some of the passengers just stare into space or sleep. Most just keep to themselves, but there were a few characters that I used to see on a daily basis that interested me.
There were two musicians, eccentric musicians, who always shared the ride downtown. One looked like a fatter older version of Elvis, (he played piano in a lounge) and a guitarist with slicked back hair and a pencil mustache, whom everyone on the bus referred to as Rudy. I guess he looked like Rudolph Valentino to them. An old woman informed me that he was an incredible flamenco guitarist…and a little nutty!
One of the people I came to know and like was a middle aged ex-boxer that everyone knew by the name of "Socks". He was tall and muscular for a man his age; friendly, soft spoken, and a little bit "slow".
"Socks" was the pride of his Polish neighborhood sporting a pair of red and white socks like the Polish Flag. He could have been a real heavyweight contender if his greedy manager didn't move him up so quickly to make the fast buck.
Socks wasn't ready for that fight. Sure, he was talented and fast, but not mean enough to take on an ex-con who could sneak a head butt, low blow or some other dirty trick he picked up on the streets. It didn't matter that Socks wasn't ready…all that his manager needed was a "white boy".
The fight was bloody, and Socks took a beating but refused to quit. His manager realizing that his fighter was getting killed was ready to throw in the towel. Socks let pride get in the way of reason and was too proud to stay in his corner. It was the head butt that wobbled him, but it was a vicious left hook that knocked him onto the canvas.
No one thought that he would make it. Socks was in a coma for what seemed to be an eternity. His poor widowed mother spoke little English, but her eyes revealed the anguish that she endured. Socks recovered, but he was never the same.
The Knockout Game
It was quiet on the way home each night. The regulars were sitting in a small cluster in the front of the bus quietly nodding off. Elvis was the most talkative of our little group.
"He knows everything there is to know about Dinosaurs. Right Socks?"
"Not everything Elvis, but someday I want to be one of those dinosaur scientists", he replied.
"Rudy" added: " They call 'em Palytologists."
"Paleontologists…thank you…very much", "Elvis" corrected him.
"Yep, someday I'm going out to the desert and find a Tyrannosaurus skeleton and quit my job…you can get a lot of money for one of them." Socks stuck his head back into his comic book. He was reading about…what else?...dinosaurs.
Shirley, our bus driver watched over us like a mother hen. She gave us advice that was often disregarded even if it was appreciated. One night she warned us to be careful.
"Listen up", she said with a stern stare in the rear view mirror, "Thars some little thugs goin' roun' punching people for no reason. Cops can't catch 'em because they sneaky and evil. I want all you folks to keep an eye out fo' them. They walk up and jus' knock you out with a punch. They think they bein' funny callin' it a "knockout" game."
Rudy made the mistake of talking too soon after the warning.
"Didya here what I said?", she barked.
"Yes ma'am!" he laughed.
Shirley gave a self satisfied grin and announced: "Okay now, you've been warned!" She turned the bus onto the expressway leaving the city for the way home. The warning was quickly forgotten and the conversations turned once again to more pleasant subjects.
It didn't make it on the news, but it was big news to us when Rudy stepped onto the bus one night after work sporting an ugly black eye.
"What the hell happened to you?" Elvis bellowed.
"Mmm Mmm… I told you so Rudy" Shirley chimed in. "You can't trust nobody no more these days."
Rudy was embarrassed and angry. "I didn't even see anyone. Somebody grabbed my quitar. I held onto it and somebody punched me from behind. Thank God that somebody seen it and yelled. I think they might have killed me for my guitar!"
"Honey, they kill you fo' a nickel these days", Shirley responded as she turned the bus around the corner.
"I'm getting a gun!" someone shouted. "Shoot one of 'em and the others scatter like rats!", shouted another rider. The conversations buzzed about how to prepare against these vicious attackers. Socks quietly read his comic book about dinosaur hunters.
Socks is on the News!
"Anyone seen Socks lately?" Annie the waitress asked.
"Honey, he's been all over the News. Doncha' watch TV?" Shirley yelled back.
Rudy's "incident" never made the news, but Socks had a bit of notoriety in Philly and the Press was quick to pounce on the story.
Socks was coming home one night after cleaning and closing up the nightclub where he worked. There are a couple of dimly lit streets that he had to pass on his way to the bus stop.
The thugs were out late that night…Hell…who am I kidding? They are out late every night. They don't go to school or work in the morning.
Rudy was quick to tell Annie what happened that night: " Socks was comin' home from work when he got surrounded by a buncha' punks like the ones that got me. You know Socks. He was probably not payin' attention and readin' his dinosaur books. Well, one of them tried to knock out Ol' Socks with a punch but only glanced him. Well, you all saw those big hams that Socks has for hands. He turned 'round real quick like a good boxer and punched that kid. He hit him so hard that he flew up in the air a bit and then came down and smashed his head on the pavement…killed him…yep, the other punks scattered like rats!"
"His momma never knew where her baby was…but now she know", Shirley moralized. "She know where he is now…she can visit him at the cemetery!"
There was a muffled cheering on the bus. This time the good guy won, but I could only think about Socks. There were no charges brought against Socks. We never saw him again. Somebody told me that Socks started to drink. It seems that the "incident" affected him so much that he lost his job. I hope he doesn't drink… and drive.
Who's Buried In The Ice?
"You'll never catch me Mike!", Eddie yelled as he flew down the slope.
"Don't want to…you're a maniac. See you at the bar!" Mike laughed trying to keep his skis from sliding all over the snow wet by the blinding Sun. "What a beautiful day", he thought, but within an instant all of that would change.
Within seconds of a loud rumble like he had never heard, Mike was inundated in a tidal wave of snow. He gasped, struggled to breathe, and frantically clawed his way through the snow. He managed to make a hole wide enough to stick his face through and cried out: "Eddie!"
Though it seemed like an eternity, Eddie was digging his friend out within minutes and with a great heave pulled Mike out of his wintery grave. "I owe you buddy…don't know how to repay you.", Mike gasped.
"You owe me a beer…can't take my eyes offa' you for a moment, can I?"
"Just think Ed, would have been real stupid to make it outta Korea to buy it on a ski trip." The men started to laugh quietly as they realized how lucky they were. Not far from a small group of pine trees, Mike noticed something sticking out from the snow.
"Eddie there's a hand sticking out of the snow. He might still be alive!"
"Poor Bastard!, Eddie replied. His hand is frozen stiff."
"He couldn't have just froze like that. He's been here a while. We better get the rescue team up here." The two men walked down the mountain and within a few hours a body of a bearded man more than six feet tall was retrieved and taken to the medical examiner.
It wasn't long before the whole town was buzzing with speculation about the man found frozen in the snow. There hadn't been any reports of a missing person for more than twenty years. Could it be "Big Bill Perez?" Bill was a local lumberjack who lived in the area. No one knew what happened to him since a lot of folks moved from place to place during the Great Depression looking for work, but he left his cabin just like he was going to come back at any time.
" Bill was an ornery brute", said the skinny old man smoking the corn cob pipe. "Wouldn't be surprised if somebody killed him!"
"Tough sonofabitch, but if you din't bother him, he din't bother you" replied the fat man with the hint of red in his white beard. " I remember the day some young punk was giving Ol' Bill the dickens. Got the hell beat outta him!"
The skinny man with the pipe remembered that the "sneaky rat" snuck up behind Bill and stuck a knife in his side. "Nearly killed Bill, but he wouldn't go to the hospital…he was an ornery brute."
Deputy Collins burst into the room at the American Legion post where all the townspeople crowded in to get the latest news.
"You folks ain't gonna' believe this!" he panted. "That man in the ice ain't Bill Perez. Hell, it ain't even a man. It's a female!"
"If that ain't a man, it's gotta be just about the ugliest woman I ever seen", cried Eddie. He got a big laugh out of that remark, but within a minute people were ooh-ing and ah-ing and speculating about the identity of the person in the ice.
A small, but dignified man walked into the center of the room and waved his hand into the air signaling to the crowd to quiet down…It was Doc Strickland, the medical examiner.
"It's true… I examined the body myself. It's Bill, or to be more truthful, Becky Perez. The scar that I stitched up that night he got stabbed was still there."
"You see…Bill, or Rebecca Perez, was born in 1890 to an invalid mother and a bum of a father. The only thing he gave her was his name before he left them to fend for themselves. Becky was born with a condition which caused her to produce androgens, a hormone that produced symptoms like excessive facial hair, and other masculine characteristics. "Bill" developed her muscular physique due to the hard life she lived in the backwoods. When her mother died she was all alone. That's when she assumed the identity of "Big Bill" the lumberjack. She managed to keep it a secret until that punk kid found out who she really was. Seems that "Bill" worked for a while in a freak show as a bearded lady performing feats of strength and chopping wood."
"Dang", said the old weasel faced woman in the dirty dress. "I sorta feel bad for all the things I said 'bout him, I mean, her."
"Well, that's it…now you all know why Bill didn't want to go to the hospital. It took a lot for me to convince him to let me treat the wound. That's the only time I think Bill ever cried. She begged me to keep her secret…and I did…for twenty odd years."
Candyland - by T.R. Hart
"I can't believe it. I gained another five pounds!" cried an exasperated Penny Mitchell. "Russ, I worked so hard at the gym this week to lose weight!"
"Don't worry Honey", her husband reassured. "You're probably gaining muscle."
"Russ, I was on the internet last night watching that weight loss guru Candy Starr..."
"That black lady with all the muscles and the blonde hair?" he laughed.
"I know, Russ, … I know that she is pretty intense, but, she used to weigh a hundred and fifty pounds more before she developed her diet program."
'I dunno Penny. Isn't she's the one that sells that candy that guarantees weight loss? …Another "magic pill" peddler!"
"Russ, please listen: I researched the Doctor who invented the drug that's in the candy. His name is Dr. Isoroku, and he is a highly respected Internist. We could at least give it a try dear. What could it hurt? I hate being known as "the fat couple!"
Russ had been through this scene many times before and knew that Penny would get her way in the end…so why not agree? He commanded a three figure salary as a computer analyst. There were no children to take care of, even though they had tried to get pregnant for the last three years.
"Okay Honey. Let's go meet Candy Starr.
An elated Penny gave her husband a big hug, even though neither of them could get their hands around each other's waist.
Within a few days of their decision, Penny and Russ found themselves sipping herbal tea and nibbling on some snacks in the "Candyland" waiting room.
Everyone that worked in the office looked like either an Adonis or an Amazon.Penny was intimidated, but Russ was oblivious to the perfect anatomies that zoomed back and forth from office to office.
They were assigned to meet with a "program specialist" named Zena. She explained ( in minute detail) the Candyland diet and exercise program, and the guarantee that they would lose one hundred pounds. Penny was enthralled and ready to sign on the dotted line. Russ wrote the check… and returned to his computer.
"We're ready to take your before picture" Zena said enthusiastically, but first you'll have to get into costume. Penny winced. She saw the pictures before of every fat person in a Candyland police uniform that had been on TV. It was humiliating she thought, but Russ laughed and said "look at me! I never thought I would be a cop!"
Russ smiled proudly wearing his silly, fake moustache, while Penny endured the humiliation in silence while attempting to smile.
The results could not have been more incredible. Within 6 months of taking the Candy supplement and eating normal meals, both Penny and Russ had lost a total of 220 Lbs. between them.
"Penny, you looks so beautiful!", cried Russ putting his arms totally around her waist. "I hope you don't run off with some bodybuilder type."
"Not a chance handsome", she giggled as they looked at themselves in the mirror. I think we might have won ourselves a ticket to Candyland.
We'd better get down to the center to get weighed to see if we won." They won… two tickets to Candyland!
The plane touched down in L.A. and it wasn't long before Penny and Russ found themselves at the gates of the Candyland ranch…and she, Candy Starr was there to meet them!
All six foot of Candy stood in front of them smiling with a warm wind blowing her wavy blonde hair. Penny couldn't help but thinking: "I wonder if she's wearing a wig?"
"Welcome to Candyland!" she shouted and hugged both Penny and Russ hard. Penny felt Candy's hard arm muscles with each embrace. "Wow!" she thought, "that’s the kind of arms I could only dream of."
"I am sooooo proud of you two!" said Candy. "Taking your candy twice a day and no more?"
"Nope, twice a day", Russ laughed. Penny cheated a few times but remained silent.
"Soooooooooooo proud of you two! Gotta little nip'n tuck for the winners this year to get rid of the extra skin", Candy whispered to them. Penny listened to every word and thought:"I 'm gonna win, even if I have to cheat a little bit."
"I know we can beat those couples", Penny thought to herself. "Gotta keep Russ on track. I saved some candy for the home stretch. Who knows if the other women haven't done the same? We're going to win this game. even if it kills me!"
It almost did kill her. Penny worked harder than she ever did in her life for the weigh in. One of the couples had kids and was homesick. "They're and easy out" Penny mused, " but that other couple is so competitive."
She was right. Sam and Bobbi were knocked out in the semi-finals. Now Cherrie and Doug were the only ones standing in her way. "I'm going to have to boost my metabolism this week." Penny reached into her socks and popped a candy. Her eyes looked sunken in. Both women looked emaciated, but hair and make-up would cover that up. Rouge on the cheeks, cover the dark circles under the eyes, and bright red lipstick would do the trick!
Cherrie gave Penny a "game on" look that worried her. "I'll just take an extra meta-boost candy each day. There is no way that I'm going to let her win after all that I've been through.
"Damn, she's down five more pounds than me!" Penny gasped as she looked over Cherrie's hardened deltoids at the numbers lit up in red on the scale. "Gotta take two more a day…the final weigh in is in three days.
Russ showered and sat on the couch. "I'm pooped Hon…how's about a movie tonight?"
"Not tonight Russ", Penny shouted as she headed for the door in her jogging outfit. " Cherrie is pouring it on and I'm too close to losing now!"
"But, Penny…". Too late…she was out the door.
Penny was too focused to notice the beautiful sunset on the beach but not too focused to catch Cherrie running like mad in front of her. Penny gasped and gave all she could, but the more she tried to catch up, the farther she was behind. "Damn, she's going to beat me. I have to use up all of my candies to win!"
Penny ran back to the hotel room after her run and looked for her candy. "It's gone!" She looked everywhere and couldn't find them. " I can't tell Russ", she thought…"He wouldn't understand. I have to find them before he finds out what I've been up to."
Just then Russ shouted to her: "Penny, thank God I got rid of all of those candies! I just got a call that Cherrie dropped dead. She had been taking too many of those candies. The contest has been called off and Candy Starr is nowhere to be found!"
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King and Cable Guy - by T.R. Hart
Henry Toody felt "different" that day while driving from work . He seemed to feel strange in his own skin. Maybe it was the Alabama heat that was making him feel weird. " Yep, I need to hydrate" he thought, and gulped iced tea from the gigantic cup that was always by his side.
It was a long day for Henry, but the weather gal was calling for storms and he knew that tomorrow would be a hell of a day for him. The old folks needed their TVs and went crazy when the service was interrupted. "Well", he thought, "can't do nothin' 'bout it 'til tomorrow…time to get some dinner at Lucille's." There wasn't a better diner to be found in Hainesville for a lonely bachelor. In fact, it was the town's only restaurant. The prices were cheap, and the food was good even if the company could be a little rough at times.
Henry always took a booth at the far end of Lucille's to distance himself from the noisier regulars. With a paperback as a his companion, his cap off and reading glasses on, he could have easily been mistaken for a college professor...except for the sleeveless shirt.
"Whatcha got on the menu tonight Lucille?"
"Your favorite, honey…southern fried chicken, biscuits, choice of potatoes and a vegetable."
Henry's reply: " You pick the vegetable, they're all the same to me!"
Suddenly, a familiar and unwelcome voice came from Harley, the town bully.
"Give Toody some grass … we'll milk Fatso later!" Laughter erupted from the Hee Haw crowd that sat at the other end of the diner.
"Shaddup Harley, or your ass will fly out of here courtesy of my foot!" Lucille yelled.
"Don't pay them no mind Henry. I'll get you supper in a jiffy, you're getting' a salad with your meal tonight."
"Yes Mom…oh, and a DIET Coke", he laughed. Lucille was the closest thing to a mother that Henry had since his passed away. He was lonely, a little bit shy, and food was his only comfort…and his only vice.
Henry buried his head in his book while he ate his meal. He was into the fantasy novels envisioning himself as the gallant hero rescuing maidens from all sorts of monsters and mayhem, lance ready and mounted on his steed.
Jane, Lucille's cleaning woman stopped by Henry's table for a moment, and noticed his book. "I read that one, Henry …you into fantasy too?"
"Yep Jane, let me know if you want to borrow any. I have a buncha them."
Jane smiled and thanked him. She was a plain looking woman, quiet, and shy, and interested in Henry . He liked her too but couldn't get up the nerve to ask for a date.
Engulfed in his reading while absent-mindedly bringing his fork to his mouth, the Cable Guy seemed to wince, rubbed his eyes, put his book down and stared into space. Cloudy images were transformed into people who crowded about him. Their clothes were from a former time and they seemed very anxious indeed scurrying back and forth in a confused state of mine.
"M'Lord, can you speak?", said an important looking man in a long robe.
"Sure as a cow can Moo", Henry responded as he felt himself being unbridled of his iron clothing. "Hell, looks like armor", he thought to himself.
"I knew that the joust was unwise", murmured another important looking man in a square cap adorned with precious stones. An older, but still beautiful woman hurried over to him instructing the others to carry Henry (which was no mean feat due to his weight) to a waiting carriage.
It wasn't long before Henry found himself in a large room with beautiful tapestries hanging from the from the ceiling covering the plastered stone walls. There were coats of arms, various swords and halberds and animal skins decorating the room as well. Henry was in a bed fit for a king. He sorta' felt like one too with all the attention he was getting.
Everyone was bowing and curtseying just like the people in the books he read. They talked funny too. "Hey, where can I get something to eat 'round here?" he asked.
There were a lot of shouts of "Yes, M'Lords this and M'Lords that, flying about sending the people went scurrying around again. The man with the square cap was doing the ordering around.
In an instant, a young girl was at his side with a silver plate filled with meats and fruit. She was panting like a puppy who had played too long in the heat.
"Well, thankee Darlin'! You need'nt rush for Ol'Toody. What's the damage?"
"The Damage M'Lord?"
"Damage…y'know, how much do I owe ya?" Henry laughed to himself…"M'Lord!"
"There is no Damage, M'Lord", the important looking man with the long robe said. The girl, the important looking people, the Lady, and the unimportant people looked puzzled at Henry as he ate his meal, talked about his job (he loved to talk about his job), and how he could set them up with cable for a good price since they were so kind to him.
Henry liked to talk about cars, planes and trains, and everything mechanical under the sun. It never occurred to him that there was no response to his chatter boxing, but there were whispers of "enchantment" and a blow on the head, but he never felt so good in his life.
"I'm feeling pretty good now" Henry exclaimed. I think my sugar might've been low. I better be getting' home now. Gotta' feed the cat!"
"But you are home, M'Lord", whispered the beautiful lady with a worried look on her face. "The servants will feed the cat for you", she winced at the other important looking people.
Henry felt "weird" again for a moment, lost focus, and then began to revive himself again.
He was at Lucille's surrounded by a crowd of happy looking customers and Jane, who was looking at him oddly…but lovingly.
"Dang, Henry, you sure do act nutty when your sugar gets low!" barked Lucille.
"You were wonderful Henry. You were my knight in shining armor!" Jane added.
"Seems that Harley got a little handsy with Jane here", said the Sheriff.
"You clobbered him pretty good Henry, but he had it comin'. I won't be charging you with assault, but using that mop like a lance could get you in trouble next time. Hey, what's with all the King and Ye this and Ye that talk? I think you're getting a little crazy with those books 'yer readin'"
Henry and Jane became an "item" shortly after what Lucille termed as "the incident". He lost 'bout a hundred pounds and opened his own business…Ye Olde Cable Company.
An interesting note: Scholars reported finding anecdotes from court officials of Henry VIII noting the King's jousting accident in which he was temporarily in a state of confusion. He had stated that there were boxes with people in them that could talk to you, carriages with wings that flew in the air, and iron horses that belched smoke and carried people in their bellies.
***************************** The End ******************************