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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Welcome the Winter Sky--2015

Hello All:
Happy Thanksgiving and welcome to our annual publication of Welcome the Winter Sky. Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the winter holidays. And if you step outside in the evening, you can immediately recognize the beautiful, winter sky. That's why tonight is the perfect night to dust off the telescope or binoculars and head outside to see what the sky has to offer.
Happy Thanksgiving! If the weather permits, do step outside to check out the winter sky.

Welcome the Winter Sky--2015
Most people who observe the night sky plan on doing so in the evening. But for some extra credit; why not venture outside on the morning of Thanksgiving, before dawn, and view the Moon's occultation of the star Aldebaran? This is a major occultation as Aldeberan is a bright, red star in the constellation, Taurus. You won't want to miss it! The Moon will actually pass in front of this star.

Go back outside in the evening. The Moon's phase will just start waning from full on the night of Thanksgiving which means it will be approximately 99% illuminated. It will begin rising just a couple of hours past sunset, and will--unfortunately--interfere while viewing fainter celestial objects on Thanksgiving night. But don't get too discouraged. Viewing other objects in the sky won't be entirely impossible.
The waning gibbous Moon will be with us all night. Even a couple hours after sunrise, the Moon will still be visible in the sky. So if you're really into the Moon, Thankgiving night will be your night!

Although Mercury has recently transitioned to an evening sky object, any viewing will continue to be drowned by the sunlight. The planet will set below the western horizon around 4:30 in the afternoon. So I guess that means good luck with trying to see Mercury on Thanksgiving night! You might want to wait a few weeks when Mercury will be in an optimal viewing position throughout the Month of December.

Do you love Saturn? Everybody loves Saturn! Those glorious rings can be seen with a decent pair of binoculars. Unfortunately, Saturn is at solar conjunction which means that the planet will will mostly be hidden behind the Sun. Sure, you might be able to see it with some sophisticated equipment and discern the 1 degree separation imagery from the Sun. I won't be able to do that, and I'm sure the same holds true for many of you. Word of advice: Don't even try to view Saturn through a telescope on Thanksgiving night. You'll damage your eyes, and won't be able to see the turkey or pumpkin pie.

All hope isn't lost for planetary viewing on Thanksgiving night. Pluto doesn't set until around seven o'clock at night. But keep in mind that it's a dwarf planet and roughly 4.5 billion miles away. It takes much skill to catch a glimpse of Pluto through a telescope. If you can do it, then this challenge can be found somewhere in the constellation of Sagittarius throughout November and December.
You'll probably have better luck locating the outer heavenly giants, Neptune and Uranus on Thanksgiving night. Both planets rise in the early afternoon. Neptune will set around 11:30PM. Uranus will set at 3:00 in the morning. So there is plenty of time to view these wonderful planets. Neptune can be found in the constellation, Aquarius. Uranus can be found Pisces.

You can't go wrong with the king... the king of the planets that is! Jupiter never disappoints those who view it. Even in a pair of modest binoculars, one can see the bright colors and four of its orbiting moons. If you stay up late on Thanksgiving night, you'll be happy to know that Jupiter rises around 12:30 AM. Just look for the brightest star in the eastern sky. That should be Jupiter.

By predawn, Venus and Mars should be fairly high in the eastern horizon. Both planets are absolutely beautiful with the naked eye. They look even better through a telescope. Mars comes up at 2:00 AM; Venus comes up at 3:00 AM. 

We are still waiting for details on the exact position and location; but the theoretical planet, Nibiru, is supposed to near Earth some time in December. Planet Nibiru has been a concern for many people since its discovery. Some fear that it may one day collide with Earth. If anyone has any information on the whereabouts of Nibiru, please feel free to comment. Many would love to view this planet through a telescope.

There is still time to left to see the Summer Triangle!
If you get outside early enough--say around 9:00pm--you will find yourself in the very center of the autumn and winter sky with the famous Summer Triangle in the west and the winter objects in the east. The Summer Triangle is a beautiful right triangle in the sky that is formed by the stars  Altair, Deneb, and Vega. You can think of the Summer Triangle as an "unofficial" constellation as the bright stars belong to the individual constellations of Aquila, Cygnus, and Lyra. But how nice of these borrowed stars to be joined in a right triangle whose hypotenuse is formed by the vertices of  Altair and Deneb. Be sure to bid this beautiful, celestial summer shape goodbye as the sky will soon be dominated by the objects of winter.
In the east, the first thing you will probably notice are 3 bright stars with a patch of light underneath them.
As most people are aware, these belong to the constellation Orion as the belt. Take a look through your binoculars at this patch and you will be amazed. This is the Orion nebula, or what some people call it: the stellar nursery. At this moment millions of stars are being created and migrating their way out of this nursery. Our sun came from the Orion nebula.
Unfortunately you will not be able to see the intense red color as seen in the photograph. You will see however a hazy cloud surrounded by stars.

Now scan around the Orion belt. Above the belt and slightly to the left is the star Betelgeuse. You can recognize this as the star that glows with a dull red. In the opposite corner of the constellation, to the southwest is the star called Rigel. This is the brightest star in the constellation and has a mass estimated to equal 250 of our suns. The most recognizable feature of Orion is, of course, the three stars ( Mintaka, Alnilam, and Alnitak) which form the belt.

The famous Horsehead Nebula is immediately recognized by the striking resemblance of a horse's head as formed by a dark shadow. Not much further south of Orion is this famous nebula that might be a challenge to see in a telescope or binoculars  Of course the red color isn't seen from Earth. Long-exposure photography must absorb this light to reveal it--so beautiful.
Look for the recognizable, small patch of stars called the Pleiades. Sometimes beginning astronomers mistake this group of stars as the Little Dipper. It is not the Little Dipper, but it yields a spectacular view in binoculars. The Pleiades are a network of young stars which were formed together and still travel together. We know that they are young as evidenced by their blue color. One day they will change color and eventually through billions of years go in their own directions.
Looking above the eastern horizon is an unusual looking star that catches the attention of many people later in the evening. It appears to have a fluorescent glow when rising and is very bright. This is the star named Sirius and is the main star in the constellation Canis Major. Actually there is nothing out of the ordinary about Sirius. The only reason why it is so bright is because it is closer to us than many other stars. It is so bright, that star maps use it as a reference to compare large objects to. There is something interesting about Sirius. It has a small companion (invisible to Earth) that orbits with it. This star is called Sirius B and it plays a gravitational dance with the larger.
 There are so many objects to entertain us in the winter sky and we could never get to them all in one edit. If you do not go out on Thanksgiving night and look at all of this, at least venture out some time this winter and see what I am talking about.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Terror at the Public Storage Facility

Hello All:
What sort of vehicle does my fictional character, Daren, from the Mapleview series of novels drive? Now if you've read the Tree Goddess and Sex Magick, then you might answer that he actually has two vehicles. (Shhhh... don't spoil it for anyone who hasn't read these books.)
Okay, so you can quickly identify one of Daren's vehicles; but he does have a main vehicle used for business, and driving around town with his wife in the passenger seat. Might you know what sort of vehicle this is?
The truth is, I have never described this second vehicle, until now. In writing the upcoming Mapleview novel, House of Witches, it's disclosed that Daren drives a black Lexus IS250 with license plate that reads A554073. I'm not too familiar with the Lexus brand of vehicles. It's just that when asking myself what sort of car Daren would drive, I immediately answered a Lexus, of course. I guess characters come to life for a writer, and supply the writer with necessary information.
This morning I was commuting to work, and stopped at a red light. And right in front of me was a Lexus IS250. "Whoa!" I exclaimed. "It's a Lexus IS250! That's the sort of car that Daren drives!" It was an interesting moment for me because up until then I had never paid attention to the Lexus IS250.
So now you know.
Today's featured writing as an old, old story of mine that had been written a number of years ago. Are you fearful of being alone at public storage facilities?
Terror at the Public Storage Facility
It was just what newly weds, Andy and Trish, needed who moved to the beautiful and semi-rural town that seemed so isolated from the hustle and bustle. Andy had accepted a promotion which resulted in transferring out of state. In the new environment, Andy's work was now 45 minutes from the country-like setting, making it nice to come home to tranquility and after a stressful day. The only problem was the builders had yet to complete their new home! There was about a month left to go which forced Andy and Trish to live out of a hotel. Good thing the company covered job transfer expenses.
Living out of a hotel, it felt as though they were on vacation. Dining out every night and attending the various sources of entertainment in town, Andy and Trish took full advantage of their 100% covered living expenses while waiting for the home to finish. They simply kept all their furniture and other belongings at a public storage facility located on the outskirts of town. But this did present a small problem because they were inconvenienced with the need to get something at the garage from time-to-time.
And this is what led to their suspenseful moments late one Friday afternoon at the public storage facility. It was a strange place for a business to be located; making it necessary for Andy and Trish to drive about 15 minutes in wide, open, cornfield highway.
Suddenly it’s there, out in the middle of the open. The business was a state-of-the-art facility as it offered keyless entry, environmentally controlled garages and security cameras—not to mention the fact that everything was brand-new and well maintained.
Andy was a bit annoyed that he had to rush out to pick up a few odds and ends with his wife after a long day of work. "You couldn't drive out here today and pick this stuff up?"
But Trish was not easy with going alone. “Andy, I told you I'm not comfortable with these places, not after what happened to Lori years ago."
When Trish was younger, her best friend had been abducted. Her body was found with many others in a garage at a public storage facility. The tragic event caused Trish to pay attention to the many crimes that took place at remote businesses, and she learned to never trust them.
Andy sighed and maintained his patience. “Alright, fine; the house is almost done and soon we won't have to come here.” He realized it was a small inconvenience to put up with, and his wife's safety should have been a concern. Besides, the possibility remained that someone could, in fact, find his wife alone as a perfect opportunity to attack Trish.
“Awe jeez… I’m almost out of gas!” exclaimed Andy as they finally pulled in to the parking lot. The next opportunity to fuel up was 10 minutes away.
"Why don't you get yourself something more economical?" challenged Trish. "You drive 45 minutes to work each day and you do it in an oversized, gas-guzzling pickup truck!"
There wasn’t a soul in sight. The only thing that could be heard was the gentle wind blowing through the cornfield next door as they got their needed items from the rented storage garage. Andy locked up and made his way for the exit. But what they saw next was a bit alarming.
There was a very, large, dark SUV blocking the exit gate and parked at a diagonal as if not to let someone in or out of the gated premise. As Andy and Trish examined the situation more, they realized that the only way out was through the electronically, controlled gate which was now blocked by the large SUV. It was easy to conclude that whoever parked the truck there was making sure no one could escape.
"I thought they allow 24 hour access here?" Andy was searching for a rational explanation as to why the entrance was blocked.
Trish shrugged her shoulders and hoped, too, that there was some rational explanation for the exit being blocked.
But soon a rugged man who wore nothing more than suspendered-coveralls approached their pickup truck. He was nearly bald with a dirty, messy, red beard. We are often instructed in life not to judge a book by its cover; but in an isolated situation like this, Andy and Trish felt obligated to be fearful and mistrusting.
Trish begged her husband, "Andy, get away! Get away!"
Andy immediately put the pickup truck in reverse, and backed through the alley of storage garages until able to turn 180 degrees and go forward. “Call the Police!” He shouted at his wife as he realized this was a seriously, dangerous situation. He didn't care what explanation there was to block the entrance; this guy had no business locking them in the gated facility.
Andy made it to the main roadway of the property and could see the diagonally parked SUV at the entrance about a 1/4 block away. They were now as deep into the facility as one could go. Imagine pulling through the gated entrance and driving until reaching the other end of the property. This is where Andy and Trish sat parked, and the only thing behind them was a fence. For some reason Andy felt safe being able to see everything as his wife tried to call the police.
Trish began to cry. "Andy... there is no service out here! I can't get a signal!"
He yanked his own cell phone out and gave it to Trish. "What do you mean no signal? Try mine; not that piece of crap you own! We have to get the police here!" Andy was too busy to worry about silly, technical glitches as he needed to watch for their captor.
Trish grew increasingly hysterical with uncontrollable crying. “Yours doesn’t work, either! No Signal!”
He yanked the phone from his delirious wife who was obviously unable to work it properly. Those years of fear towards isolated businesses were having a serious impact on Trish. It was best that Andy remove her from the current situation as quickly as possible. But then Andy verified for himself that his own cell phone did not work, finally concluding they were in an area with no signal. He looked up and saw the creepy guy in suspendered-coveralls running up to them.
"Alright, we need to let this guy know we mean business." Andy floored the pickup truck and headed towards their captor, showing intent to run him over.
The man simply ducked in one of the walkways to avoid getting hit.
Andy hoped that the frightening-looking man received the message, and would move his SUV. He drove around the garages until back where he started, keeping watchful eye on the entire roadway and SUV blocking the entrance.
But moments later, the man in suspendered-coveralls emerged with a brick in one hand and a baseball bat in another. Andy had no items that could be used as a weapon in the truck which was seriously low on gas. Could he fight this man hand-to-hand? In his late-teens and early 20s, Andy studied the art of Jiu-Jitsu which offered some means of self defense. And perhaps if he was still 20 years old he would jump out of the truck and do some moves as Andy felt invincible back then. But there was something frightening about the captor, almost as if he had a strength that could out-smart and overpower the frightened couple. Aside from that, Andy was wiser and older than in his early 20’s. He decided that staying in the truck was much safer.
The creepy guy in suspendered-coveralls was in a furious psychosis while yelling out, "You son-of-a-bitch!" He hurled a brick which landed on the hood of Andy's pickup truck and cracked the windshield. That was Andy’s cue to floor the pickup truck and chase the man to a crossroad. The man desperately turned left to avoid the assailing vehicle, but Andy spun around in a donut maneuver which caused their captor to reverse direction. Andy’s defensive attack in the pickup truck looked like a mad bull chasing someone in circles.
And then out of the corner of his eye, Andy saw a child in one of the roadways, crying. He stopped and could hear the child screaming, “Daddy!”
Now Andy was confused as he watched the man in suspendered-coveralls run towards the crying child, scoop him up and hide in one of the walkways. Andy slowly pulled up to the walkway, but was still in battle mode and ready for another possible assault from their captor.
Andy yelled out his window, "What are you trying to do? Get your freakin' SUV out of the entrance so we can leave!"
The creepy guy in suspendered-coveralls held his crying child behind him and was prepared to spring out in attack. "You son-of-a-bitch; I have my kids here riding their go-carts around. You're going to run them over!"
It was a small misunderstanding that could have easily turned into a tragedy of errors as this man had brought his children to the public storage to ride their go-carts. Apparently he parked his SUV to block the entrance and monitor who was coming in, thereby preventing his kids from being run over by vehicles.
It was a very awkward 10 minutes. Andy exited the pickup truck while hearing the irate man cuss and yell. And through this, he attempted to explain the series of misunderstandings which led to the potentially, tragic event. Andy found out that their perceived captor in suspendered-coveralls was the actual owner of the public storage facility! He usually parked his SUV diagonally at the entrance every Friday afternoon so his children could cruise around the gated parking lot with their go-carts. His business was usually a ghost-town Friday afternoons; but today, Andy and Trish were there.
After the apologies were given and accepted, Andy drove to the nearest gas station while yelling at his wife for causing so much trouble!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Assault in the Furnace Room

Hello All:
I just had to share this photograph I took in the forest during a predawn hike. During this hike, I caught a reflection of the moon through a small stream in the forest.
The sight immediately called to mind my short story, To Draw Down Saturn. If you've read this story, then you can recall the way the main character caught reflection of Saturn in his backyard pond. A photo just had to be taken and shared with you!
Speaking of items such as the Moon and Saturn, Thankgiving is next week. And if you've been following the blog long enough, then you know that every Thanksgiving we serve up the annual Welcome the Winter Sky edition. In these annual updates, you can get the planetary forecasts for the winter months as well as some of the best objects to see in the sky this time of year. Traditionally, it's released on Thanksgiving morning.
Today's featured writing is a rework of an old classic of mine that was written in 2009. The story was in need of serious revision. And here it is for you to enjoy.
Have a great weekend! Stay out of those spooky furnace rooms.
Assault in the Furnace Room

Willy, slept soundly on an early, September evening that was becoming the first, cold night since spring. Before going to bed that evening, Father noticed that the temperature was dropping outside, and decided that turning on the furnace for the night would be needed. Tomorrow would, once again, go up to the mid-70s. But tonight, the outside was chilly, and it was beginning to be the same indoors.
Willy was startled awake by the recognizable smell of the furnace kicking on for the first time of the season. Ever since he could remember, the initial startup of the furnace for the year created a faint, burning smell that quickly went away. But that burning smell only meant one thing to Willy. The heat was now on, and he would have to deal with that dreaded monster along with the fears associated with what existed in the basement.
For Willy's parents, Michael and Sara, tonight was the first night that they had planned on resuming sex since the birth of their new daughter. Michael was really looking forward to the romance with his wife since their period of post-birth abstinence. He wished not to appear selfish; and attempted to be understanding that giving birth to a baby, along with dealing with a change of hormones, might have caused his wife to have no desire for sex. But after some time, he expected her to resume. He felt he had been patient enough, and the time had finally come to resume their sex.
"Mommy? I'm scared. The furnace is on."
Just as the two had begun foreplay, Willy entered the room which was most unwelcome for Michael.
Mother reassured her child, "Oh Baby, you don't have to be afraid. It's just the furnace. He's going to keep you warm. Why don't you go back to your bed and try to fall asleep."
Willy did as Mother asked, but just knew that the Straw Man would soon pay a visit. All he could do was lie in bed with his eyes intently focused on the heat register. The Straw Man often entered his bedroom this way by sticking a fiery hand through the duct work, past Willy's heat register, until it felt around for frightened, little Willy.
Soon a glow could be seen from behind the register. Much to Willy's horrible certainty, the fiery hand pushed its way through so that it now entered the safety of his bedroom.
The Straw Man was made exclusively of blueish, fibrous flames that danced a kaleidoscope of mesmerizing terror for any small child. And unlike a regular person's arm, the Straw Man could stretch its limbs up through the ductwork, and into Willy's bedroom, where it soon felt around for the terrified child.
The fiery hand was now halfway towards Willy's bed. Perhaps if Willy looked away, or covered his face with the blanket, it would disappear. Willy did this for about a minute, and then summoned the courage to ever so slightly pull back his blanket and check to see if the terror was gone.
But there it was, the fiery hand, just inches from his face with a melting heat that could liquidate his face. In a panic, Willy squirmed towards the edge of his bed, where the feet usually rest, and then jumped down; all the while the fiery hand followed. It was necessary for Willy to dodge the hand's constant nearing that almost burned him. And when at the threshold to enter the hallway, a relief of tears finally welled in Willy's eyes. He was only several feet from Mother and Father's room. He just had to convince Mother to let him sleep with her. Why was Father so harsh and cold?
Sara and Michael lay closely in the dark, kissing while Michael's hand began to fondle his wife's breasts. And that unwelcome disturbance for Michael announced itself at the foot of their bed. “Mommy, I'm scared. The Straw Man is in my bedroom. Can I sleep with you? I don't want to be alone in bed."
At this point, Michael was beginning to show some disappointment and impatience. And his wife, who really didn't want to have sex in the first place, decided she needed to cool his jets. "Michael, calm down! We're just going to have to wait. You know we have kids now, and we just can't do it whenever!"
Sara pulled back her covers and allowed her frightened son to sleep next to her. She wasn't going to let her son sleep alone when he was so terrified. She decided in the morning they would both go down into the basement for a full tour of the very room he feared. This, Sara hoped, would rid the child’s fears.
Knowing that Willy was frightened of the furnace, Sara switched the thermostat to “off” the following morning before waking her son. She waited for Michael to leave for work, and then woke Willy earlier than usual to get him ready for school. Sara had to work today as well, so she couldn't waste much time.
"Honey, Momma wants to show you something downstairs."
Willy was a bit frightened upon hearing anything about the basement, and physically going downstairs intensified that fear. But Mother was with him, holding his hand, which brought a sense of safety.
The Straw Man sensed the mother and child as they entered its realm and disturbing it from slumber. The child appeared wiser than the mother as he stopped and resisted any further approaches towards the dreaded furnace room.
She spoke so gently to the child, "Okay Honey, stand right here. I will walk over to the furnace room and turn the lights on to show you." She reached her hand deeper into the realm of darkness where the Straw Man lived. The Straw Man hated the light, and hated Sara who seemed to know that light was a disturbance.
Seething rage began to stir within the Straw Man. “When will that bitch learn her lesson? She seems to ignore all warning!"
The Straw man hated Willy, too. "What are you looking at, you little bastard?" (Bastard to mean a pesty, bothersome child. Willy was not born out of wedlock)The Straw Man looked out of the illuminated room at Willy, who gazed back into the furnace room. Both wondered how Mother could have done such a thing? Was she not aware of what resided in that room?
The room wasn't limited to just the furnace. It housed the hot water heater, water softener, humidifier and water meter. The walls were unfinished, and the floor was dirty concrete with stains near the drain where water sometimes dripped from the equipment. The only sound that could be heard was the high-pitched whisper and ticking from the water meter.
Willy took notice of the water meter and exhibited some fright and concern.
Mother rushed to his side, "Honey, what is it? What's scaring you in there?"
He pointed to the water meter. Although Mother wasn't able to decipher the high-pitched whisper, Willy understood that it was saying, "Get out while you can! The Straw Man is coming!"
As for the Straw Man, it sickened him to see Mother exhibiting such tender, nurturing love towards the little bastard-of-a-child as she reassured him, "That's the water meter. I know it sounds scary to you, but it does two different things. It lets the water in the house and then counts how much we are using. Right now the sprinklers are on outside and it's counting how much water we are using."
Sara looked at her son who continued to grow all the more fearful of the furnace room. She continued to explain, "Do you know what this stuff is, Willy? This big thing is our furnace. That's what you hear running on cold nights. This big, white can is our hot water heater. It makes your water nice and warm when you take a bath. And that big, white box makes sure the water stays soft for us." Then she stuck her hand back into the Straw Man's realm and turned the light off.
Funny thing: For some reason, Mother knew to get out of there as quickly as possible. 
Sara's younger sister, Lana, had just recently graduated high school and was now taking classes, part-time, at the community college. Since Sara worked part-time on the days that Lana did not have class, the two arranged for Lana to take care of the baby during those days for a small weekly salary. It was the perfect job for Lana that also gave her a chance to study as the baby would sleep or stay occupied herself throughout the day.
But today, Lana was feeling a bit naughty and mischievous as she pulled into the driveway of her sister's house. She carried her book bag inside and did the usual greetings with Sara. And then she watched from the window as both Sara and 6-year-old, Willy, drove off for the day. Lana was now alone, and didn't have to pick up Willy from school until 2:30 in the afternoon.
As for those naughty feelings; Lana waited for about an hour before following through with her plan. She reached in her book bag and pulled out a pair of cut-off jeans shorts that she wore as a freshman in high school. Obviously Lana had grown since then, and the shorts were extremely tight on her. If that weren't enough, Lana cut even more off the shorts so that it was close to revealing the lower cheeks of her buttocks. These were a very, daring pair of shorts to wear, and Lana was certainly bold to have put them on. I suppose it should be mentioned that Lana removed her panties before stepping into the shorts. And to make sure her naughty shorts did the job, Lana turned her back to the mirror and bent forward while looking at the mirror. Half of her buttocks were now showing, and the under-crotch was tight enough to leave much to one's imagination.
Lana then changed into a bikini top. The new outfit screamed for attention, and Lana had every intention of displaying herself to men who may very well not be able to control themselves. But where would she do such a thing? And how would she be bending over to display her half-naked buttocks?
Lana's sister, Sara, just so happened to had a jogger-stroller. Lana strapped the baby in this stroller, and left the house to go for a midmorning run. It was a beautiful sunny morning and not a cloud in the sky. A gentle, late-summer breeze occasionally stirred that although was warm, still gave a subtle hint to autumn's approach. And on such a morning, a college-age girl jogged down the street while slightly bent over to push the jogging-stroller. She was heading towards an area of the subdivision where some road construction was being done. She imagined jogging by the construction crew in her daring shorts and bikini top that screamed for attention while hearing whistling and yelling.
As she approached the area, she quickly came back to her senses upon realizing that the construction crew did not have the sort of men she had hoped for. She drove past the site many times when going to her sister's house, but this was the first time she slowly approached the area (at jogging speed instead of driving) and got to see the men in more detail. They weren't the most attractive men. She could see some fat guy sitting on a steam roller, and a couple other unappealing guys shoveling something in the street. Her construction crew fantasy was quickly falling apart.
Oh they noticed her, alright! As she jogged by, she could hear yells and a few low whistles. "Hey, look at that! What is that? Is that a MILF?"—MILF being an acronym for a Mother I'd Love to Do. Since Lana was jogging with a stroller, it was easy to believe she was a young, sexy mom out looking for attention.
Lana could feel the men staring at her. And all she wanted to do at that moment was quickly pass through and get out of there. She wondered how she came up with this idea and began to wonder if there was a difference between fantasy and reality.
Back at her sister's house, Lana quickly changed into her regular clothes while the baby was crying. Apparently her niece's diaper needed to be changed as evidenced by the smell, and it was time for the late-morning bottle. But Lana needed to get out of her naughty-clothes in case her sister or brother-in-law stopped in for a few minutes to check how things were going.
With everything back to normal, Lana changed her niece's diaper and made a bottle. It would be about another hour-and-a-half before the baby would take an afternoon nap, and Lana could do stage 2 of her naughty excursions for the day. Perhaps if she put the baby in the swing in front of the TV after drinking the bottle, she would fall asleep, and Lana could go back to her play.
It took about 15 minutes, but the baby fell asleep in the swing in front of the TV. Lana felt it was safe to go downstairs with her book bag and get out her toys for some more fantasies and play. She would most surely hear the baby if it started crying from upstairs and could quickly clean up if someone happened to come home.
Lana stripped down naked and pulled some silk rope from her book bag along with erotic toys. Then she entered the furnace room, shut the door and proceeded to lightly tie herself up against some of the equipment in the dark room. Although she was not impressed with men who yelled out to her in the street over an hour ago, Lana began to fantasize that they had taken her, and tied her up in some dirty machine shop and was about have fun with her.
Lana squirmed while being lightly tied up and pretended to desperately try to get away. Why were they doing this to her? Why did they see her as some dirty sex object to fulfill their wildest desires on? They touched her body all over and took the assault to an intrusive level as Lana reached for some of her toys.
The only thing outside of Lana's play that could be heard was the high-pitched whisper and ticking of the water meter in the corner. And suddenly, Lana had to stop. She felt a presence in the room that made her wonder if she was really alone.
"Willy, is that you?" Lana whispered. Her fantasy play was quickly forgotten, and replaced with an urgency to leave the furnace room.
Suddenly, the rope was so tight, and she was in such a small place. Strange; she didn't remember it being so difficult to get in this place. Why was it so hard now?
3:00 in the afternoon, Sara received a phone call at work.
"Mrs. Cunningham?"
"We have your son here in the office, and he's yet to be picked up from school. Did you have someone who was supposed to pick him up at the end of the day?"
Lana must have forgotten. "My sister was supposed to pick him up. I'll give her a call and find out call you back.
"Thank you Mrs. Cunningham. We'll be here until around 5:00."
How could Lana have forgotten? What was she doing? Needless to say, Sara was not happy. She called the house but there was no answer. She called Lana's cell phone; but again, no answer. Now Sara was getting worried. Did something happen to the baby?
In a panic, Sara quickly left the office and arrived at school to pick up poor, forgotten Willy. "Mommy? Why didn't someone come get me?" he asked. "Why didn't Aunt Lana come get me?"
"Honey, I'm sorry." apologized Sara. "But Mommy is going to get to the bottom of this."
Sara pulled into the driveway of her house several minutes later and could see her sister's car still in the driveway.
"She better have a good explanation for all of this!" declared Sara. She walked through the door with Willy trailing behind, and could hear the baby screaming. The baby was in the motionless swing while watching Judge Judy on TV. And her diaper needed a serious changing!
"LANA? LANA????? What the hell?"
Sara picked up her baby to comfort and calm her down. Then she dialed Lana’s cell phone which could be heard ringing in the basement. "What the hell is she doing down there?" Sara stormed into the basement with her baby in arm, and Willy following.
There was still no answer.
As she approached the area near the furnace room she could see Lana's book bag and clothes lying on the floor. "Lana, what are you..."
All Sara could do, next, was let out a shrilling scream as she looked at the naked and badly charred body of her sister tied to the hot water heater. Her baby joined her in a fit of tantrums and cries.
Willy stood there, dumbfounded, while looking at what used to be his Aunt Lana.
With her cell phone, Sara called the police.
Willy's little, baby sister continued to scream in a crying fit.
All through the noise, Willy managed to hear the high-pitched whisper and ticking of the water meter.
Very strange... the sprinklers weren't on outside, and there was no water being used in the house. What was Mommy's explanation this time for the warning made by the water meter?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Ghost in the Rocking Chair

Hello All:
The Ghost in the Rocking Chair: a spooky mystery that offers an important lesson to be learned. The short story was written a few years ago, and reminds me of a Goosebumps meets the Brady Bunch episode. As you'll find out, the Smith family is a totally normal family. Paranormal experiences will not happen in this family home! But what can be said of the spooky rocking chair in the attic with invisible ghost that sits in it?
The Ghost in the Rocking Chair
The Smith Family lives in two story home on a quiet street in the Atlanta suburb, Decatur. Husband and father, John Smith, works as an executive account manager for a highly established marketing firm. His wife, Mary, is a stay-at-home mom.
John and Mary have two children. They have a ten-year old son named Dan and a seven-year old daughter named Jill. Dan is in fifth grade elementary school. Jill is in the second grade.
It was a windy night in March when ten-year-old Danny was awoken from his sleep because of a banging noise. The banging noise seemed to be coming from upstairs in the attic. Curious of the noise, Dan got out of bed and quietly walked down the hall to the attic door. Opening the door provided an unfinished staircase to the attic.
The staircase and attic were pitch-black. This was certainly something that would have made a ten-year-old child uneasy. So before ascending the staircase, he switched on a light located on the wall which provided some crude lighting to the attic. Then he slowly and carefully ascended the staircase.
While climbing up to the attic, the banging noise got louder. Dan was scared! What could that noise have been? It wasn't until he reached the top step and looked over to the far wall of the attic that he could see what the noise was. Dan couldn't believe his eyes. An old rocking chair was rocking back and forth in the attic all by itself! Sometimes it rocked so hard that the top banged into the wall. That certainly explained the banging noise heard from the attic. But what could have possibly caused the chair to rock back and forth on its own?
There was only one rational explanation at the moment for ten-year-old Dan. He believed that an invisible ghost was sitting in the chair and rocking it.
Dan was terrified at the sight. He was so frightened that he ran down the stairs and closed the attic door behind him. But unbeknown to him, it didn't fully close. He also forgot to turn off the attic light. Dan jumped back into bed and pulled the covers over his head and tried to forget what he saw. But the rocking chair could be heard from upstairs in the attic. Dan put both of the pillows over his head to block the noise. It was some time before he could finally fall back to sleep.
The following morning was a Wednesday and certainly a school day, Dan dressed and went downstairs into the kitchen where Mother made breakfast and Father sat at the table reading the morning paper. Dan's younger sister, Jill, hadn't made it to the breakfast table.
Dan sat down in his seat and took a sip of his orange juice. From what he could see, it looked like Mother was making eggs for breakfast.
Just as Dan put his glass of orange juice down after taking a sip, Father lowered his newspaper and asked Dan a question. "Dan, I noticed this morning that the attic door was opened a crack and that the attic light was left on. Do you know anything about this?"
Dan was speechless at first and looked at the table.
Father didn't appreciate his son not being so quick to answer. "Dan, I asked you a question and I expect an answer. Do you know anything about that door being open and the light on?"
Dan hesitated for a second and shrugged his shoulders. "Well, I heard a strange noise upstairs in the attic last night and I wanted to see what it was."
"So you went up there?" Father asked.
"Yes." answered Dan
Father was puzzled and further probed. "Well why didn't you shut the light off and close the door?"
Poor, frightened Dan did all he could to hold back the tears. "I saw a ghost up there and I was scared. I really thought I shut the door, and I guess I was so scared that I forgot to turn off the light."
Father gave his son a very, strange look. "Dan, you know that there are no such things as ghosts. Why would you be afraid of a ghost in the attic? Ghosts aren't real. They are just a figment of your imagination."
"I know" answed Dan. "But I saw it rocking in the chair. I saw it with my own, two eyes."
Father took a sip of his coffee and continued. "Son, sometimes the mind plays tricks on us. Sometimes you truly believe in some circumstance or some fact that you actually think you see something that really isn't there. That's just how the mind works. Like I said, ghosts are just a figment of the imagination. You were probably half asleep and dreaming while up in that attic. Doesn't that seem like a more reasonable explanation?"
Just then, Mother walked over and put a scoop of eggs on Father's plate along with two slices of buttered toast. Then she did the same for Dan. She could see the pouty expression on her son's face and knew that he wasn't fully agreeing with Father. "Your father is right, Dan." mother reaffirmed. "Listen to your father. There are no such things as ghosts." Then she smiled at Father while walking away to check on her daughter, Jill.
Father took a couple bites of breakfast and wrapped up the conversation. "You don't still think you saw a ghost in the attic, do you?"
"No sir..."
"Good!" answered Father. "Now after breakfast, turn off the attic light and make sure the door is shut."
"Yes sir..."
After breakfast, Dan did as ordered and returned upstairs to the attic door. It was now morning, and not so frightening to reach his hand over to the wall and switch off the light. But he was quick to make sure the door was closed and maybe walked away a little faster than usual. As he believed, perhaps a ghost was behind the door and just seconds from opening it!
During the bus ride to school, Dan mostly forgot the previous night's experience. By midmorning, it was nearly purged from memory. But at recess on the playground, Dan spotted a plastic bag that had somehow blown into one of the branches of a tree. It was a gusty March morning which resulted in the bag blowing from side to side in the tree. It reminded Dan of a ghost and immediately called to mind last night's experience in the attic.
Now Father always stressed the importance of never standing out among peers or appearing different. Being different or having some unusual characteristic of uniqueness is not a good thing. This includes believing in things that go against the norm or what other people believe. As Father always explained to his son, it's important to be exactly like everyone else. That way, it will be easier to socialize and network throughout life and in a career.
But in that moment, Dan disregarded his father's wisdom and commented on the bag blowing in the wind. He pointed it out to his playground friends, "Hey, look at that bag! Doesn't it look like a ghost?"
All of Dan's friends laughed.
"Ghost?" asked one of Dan's friends. "You think that looks like a ghost? Everyone knows there are no such things as ghosts!"
Everyone agreed and chimed in laughter. Poor Dan was the butt-end of the joke for the rest of the morning. And it was a good lesson for Dan! He should have listed to Father and never said anything that might have stood out from the ordinary. Fortunately his ghost comment was forgotten by lunch.
The gusty winds of March died down and didn't return until Thursday evening. Dan was awoken late at night from the same noise of something banging in the attic. Despite the fact that Father advised him of ghosts being a figment of the imagination, a surge of terror rushed through him. As he believed, the ghost was up there and being just as noisy as ever.
At first, Dan pulled the pillows over his head to block out the noise. But for some reason, the sound seemed louder than on Wednesday and impossible to ignore. Lying there, Dan's imagination played all sorts of tricks on him. From what he believed, the ghost could easily open the attic door, come down the hallway and float into his room.
The dreaded fears were finally too much for Dan. He had no choice but to scurry into Mother and Father's room and whisper out to his father. "Dad? Dad?"
Father rolled over. "What is it son?"
"I hear that noise in the attic, again."
Father got out of bed and walked into the hallway. Sure enough, the banging noise could be heard from the attic.
"Hear it?" asked Dan. "That's the ghost rocking in the chair."
Father gave his son a strange look. "Now didn't I tell you that there are no such things as ghosts?"
Just then, Mother walked into the hallway where her husband and son stood. "What's going on?" she asked.
Father replied, "Dan woke me up because of a noise in the attic. I wonder what that is."
As the three of them approached the attic door, Dan's younger sister, Jill, quietly walked over in curiosity. Her presence startled Dan and momentarily caused him to believe that the ghost had vaporized through the door. He nearly screamed while quickly backing away from his sister.
Father was losing his patience. "Calm down! I don't know what's happening to you. See what I mean about your mind playing tricks on you? I'm going upstairs into the attic and get to the bottom of this so we can go back to sleep."
The family watched as brave Father opened the attic door, switched on the light and ascended the stairs. Banging could be heard, and Dan just knew that Father would finally see the ghost. But in a much unanticipated move, Father turned from the staircase and walked right over to the direction of the noise! Then he returned to the stairs and looked down the staircase to his son. "Dan, I want to show you something. Come up here."
Dan hesitated as he wasn't comfortable going up into the attic where he would encounter a possible ghost.
Mother encouraged her son. "Go ahead. Your father wants to show you something."
Now Dan knew that when Mother and Father asked him to do something, he was supposed to obey and do it. This included venturing into the attic where a ghost could be heard. Reluctantly, Dan ascended the stairs--maybe a bit slower than what he should have.
"Come on!" ordered Father. "I don't have all night. I want to get back to sleep."
Dan made his way up the final steps and took sight at what he believed to be the invisible ghost rocking back and forth in the rocking chair. Sometimes it rocked so hard that the back hit the wall.
Father gave his son a weird look while asking, "You don't think that's a ghost, do you?" Then he explained, "Now I want to show you something. See that window open near the chair?"
"I was up here doing work last autumn and opened the window to get some air up here. Apparently I forgot to shut it. The wind is now blowing through the window and rocking the chair." Father walked over to the window and shut it. Immediately, the chair slowed down and finally stopped. "There's your ghost. Mystery solved!"
Dan was in disbelief! All this time he thought that an invisible ghost was sitting in the chair. Instead, it was the wind. How silly of Dan!
The following morning was a Friday as the entire family sat down to eat breakfast. Mother made waffles with bacon--Dan's favorite. As he took a bite of crispy bacon Father cleared his throat to speak.
"So do we have the mystery of the rocking chair ghost finally solved?"
Dan nodded his head. "Mmm-hmm..."
"Good!" said Father. "And let this be a lesson to you. You can't always believe what you see and draw inferences to create facts. If something mystifies you, there is probably some fact or truth that you are not aware of. There is always a rational explanation for some out-of-the-ordinary experience and it's best to get to the bottom of things before jumping to conclusions."
Dan continued to eat his breakfast. But unlike Wednesday morning, he believed everything that Father told him. The mystery of the ghost had been solved by Father.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Miss Nelson is Missing -- review of a classic grammar school mystery

Hello All:
Now the middle of November; if you happen to live in region that is graced with four seasons such as Chicago, then you know that winter is just around the corner. And winter means a number of things like plenty of snow, dirty slush, and salt sprinkled on sidewalks or parking lots. You do what you can to ensure that that these unwanted things are not tracked into your home. Boots with dirty snow and salt can certainly damage your carpeting and even hardwood floors.
But what about your vehicle?
Have you ever considered protecting the interior of your prized car or truck from winter's damage? Dirty snow, slush and salt can damage a vehicles interior carpeting, forever!
So what can you do?
Well, there are products such as WeatherTech that are custom made to fit the interior of your vehicle. They protect the carpeting from dirt, spilled drinks, dropped food, and other damaging chemicals. But perhaps you’ve noticed that these sorts of products are not cheap!
The cheap alternative: for a little over ten dollars you can purchase self-adhesive, carpet protection film--the same stuff that home builders
or Realtors place in the walkways of homes for sale so that interested people can tour without wearing out the carpet. Just before autumn turns to winter, put aside about an hour (shouldn't take that long) to install the self-adhesive protective film as shown in the photos. I did this on Sunday afternoon after washing my car and detailing the interior.
A few pointers to help you out with installation:
·        Pull the car in the garage or someplace where there is no wind. Carpet protection film is impossible to work with when blowing in the wind!
·        To manage the application with as little trouble as possible, simply cut strips of the film about a foot in length and then carefully apply to the carpeted area. Add one foot at a time until the entire area is covered. Longer strips tend to fold and stick together--very frustrating to work with.
·        Use a sharp razor blade to cut the strips. Dull blades won't cut very well and will only tear the material.
·        I actually applied the film to the bottoms of the seats to protect them from people who sit in back and possibly make contact with dirty
boots. You might want to do this as well. And be sure to get those "humps" that are in the middle of the passenger areas as well.

It takes work and some patience, but you'll get a good feeling knowing that your vehicle's carpeting is protected for the winter months. Be sure to remove once spring arrives. It's advised not to leave carpet film applied for too long.
Does anyone remember the grammar school story book, Miss Nelson is Missing? Today we give a little review.

Miss Nelson is Missing -- review of a classic grammar school mystery
A few years ago, one of  my daughters witnessed the termination of her social studies teacher. The event came as quite a surprise as this was in the middle of the school year. Details of the firing were not very clear.
I wouldn’t say that my daughter and fellow classmates were traumatized by what happened. But one could easily see that the event had stirred up some theories and wild speculations as to what happened .
I  suggested to my daughter at the time, “You should go to the library and get a copy of the book, Miss Nelson is Missing. Do they still have that?”
Immediately she laughed while affirming that the recent event certainly reminded her of the book.
Surely now a grammar school classic that is enjoyed by children and adults, alike; Miss Nelson is Missing calls to mind our tendency to take for granted those things that we should otherwise appreciate in life—mainly those who are close to us.
In the book; the main character, Miss Nelson, is a grammar school teacher who unfortunately must endure the shenanigans of her rowdy students. They make funny faces, throw paper airplanes around the classroom, and get out of their seats—pretty much everything that a bad group of students do. It’s clear that they take the lovely Miss Nelson for granted and neglect to appreciate her kind and benevolent nature.
Then one morning, the students are surprised to discover a mean witch of a woman named Miss Viola Swamp. It’s interesting to consider the possible psychology behind the name of this character. The viola, in case you don’t know, is a stringed, musical instrument just between the violin and cello. It produces slower mid-tones as opposed to the lively, higher toned violin. Combined with suggestions of the swamp, I suppose we can conclude any number of things. Maybe once upon a time Miss Viola Swamp was a young and beautiful, lively woman whose life might have matched the vibrant, tones of a violin. Now past the age of menopause, her voice is gruff and slower. And she matches the ugliness of murky swamp. She simply doesn’t care about beauty and kindness. She’s a mean substitute teacher who specializes in disciplining students and assigning them overwhelming amounts of homework.
Soon students begin to long for Miss Nelson. How foolish of them to take for granted the wonderful teacher they once had. At some point in the book the students craft all sorts of wild speculations on her disappearance—the most memorable theory of being carried off by a swarm of butterflies.
The disappearance of Miss Nelson further brings to light a child’s need for consistency and security in life. For small children, a teacher is often considered an extension of mother as she is nurturing while promoting the mental growth of her students. Because of this, a grammar school teacher is typically loved by her students. How traumatizing it must have been for the students in classroom 207 to have suddenly lost their lovely teacher.
Do the students ever see the return of their young and beautiful Miss Nelson? Can they endure the mistreatment of the cruel witch, Miss Viola Swamp? These are answers that can be found in the book Miss Nelson is Missing by author Harry Allard—illustrations by James Marshall.

I give the book nothing less than five stars! I still recall the day that my mother received this book in the mail for me. Finally, I had my own copy in which I could read it again and again. Miss Nelson is Missing is truly a classic and can be found just about anywhere that books are sold.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Behind the Gardens-Behind the Wall-Under the Tree

Hello All:
There was a brief time in my adolescence when I actually listened to death metal. You’ve heard this stuff before, I’m sure. Accompanied by fast-paced drumming, and noisy guitars; the lead vocalist will usually scream at the top of his lungs something like, “Kill your mother, kill your father, drink their blood for dinner!” At the peak of this death metal escapade, there was a radio station in the 1980s called ZRock. If you live in the Chicago land area, and were alive during this time, then surely you remember it. At the frequency of 106.7 FM, the format offered the fine death metal from bands like Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax and the likes.
Then came the sad day when ZRock was pulled off the air. It was replaced by a new radio station: 106.7 the Wave. Completely the opposite from ZRock in terms of programming format, the Wave offered music of the 1980s new age genre.
“This shit sucks!” all of us death metalers who wished for ZRock to return would declare.
Sometimes I would tune the dial over to 106.7 FM in hopes that maybe ZRock had returned. But, no; it was still the Wave. One time I heard someone announced on the station, “In case you haven’t noticed, the wave has changed… 106.7 FM… the Wave… Just give it a listen… Just try it… You might find that you like it…”
I paused for a few seconds in confusion. It was as-if some spirit was communicating with me and insisting that I listen to the new radio station. Out of curiosity, I actually gave the station a listen.
“Hey, do you know what this is?” I asked myself after a couple of songs. “This is that new age music. This is that stuff that my church warned me not to listen to.” You see; as a teen, my church youth group warned us about new age; told us that it was witchcraft in disguise. It warned us about using quartz crystals, doing meditation, and listening to hypnotic, brainwashing music that aims to convert people into the occult lifestyle.
Growing all the more curious, I continued to listen to this music. 106.7 FM the Wave was now locked in to my bedroom radio. And when I went out with friends on Friday and Saturday nights, I was sure to bring my walkman  with headphones so I could sit in the backseat of a bong-smokey car and listen to that new age music. It was doing something to me. It was changing me. I was transforming into a new age freak! Of course my friends all thought I was totally lame for listening to new age. But I couldn’t help myself.
Are you not familiar with new age? Check out the You Tube video, below, from a master new age composer, Andreas Vollenweider. Back in the day, new age radio stations would have played this song.
Behind the Gardens-Behind the Wall-Under the Tree is a peculiar song. It starts off with what sounds like a girl laughing. But then it sounds like she’s crying. That’s when the melodic sounds of Andres Vollenweider’s magick harp begins. At some point in the song, the harp music makes you feel as-if you are going round and round in circles. One time I actually played this song while doing donuts in the parking lot. I highly recommend doing this. Yes, get yourself a copy of Andres Vollenweider’s Behind the Gardens-Behind the Wall-Under the Tree and play it in your car while doing donuts in the parking lot! As for the end of the song, it reminds you of a bunch of people out in nature who are performing some sort of ritual.
I give Behind the Gardens-Behind the Wall-Under the Tree five stars and I’m sure you will too.

Today’s featured writing is a new Cableman story. And in this story, the Cableman has flashbacks while listening to Andreas Vollenweider.
Have a great weekend! And just give that new age music a listen… try it… you might find that you like it…

Behind the Gardens-Behind the Wall-Under the Tree
It was a Sunday evening as the Cableman lay in bed while wearing a pair of retro noise-cancellation Panasonic headphones. The room was under the soft glow from the blue-colored light of the fish aquarium. As for the headphones; they were plugged into a nearby tape deck which played a classic episode of the weekly radio show, Musical Starstreams. The Cableman actually recorded it back in the 1980s as a teen. The weekly show at the time featured spacey, new age music; the sort of stuff that one would expect to hear while being abducted by aliens or having an out-of-body-experience.
Now make no mistake about it; the Cableman is a true 1970s rocker—always has been, always will be. He loves the music of Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd and the likes. But he has a secret ritual every Sunday night of popping in a cassette of an old Musical Starstreams show. This usually comes after taking a few tokes of marijuana from his bowl, or that fancy water bong with Kenneth Arnold flying saucer print. The new age music is a nice wrap-up to the weekend, and helps the Cableman prepare his mind for the week ahead.
The psychedelic, swirly, mesmerizing introduction to the show began. The dubbed-in voice of James Earl Jones calmly announced to all who tuned in, "Welcome... to new concepts in sound... from Musical Starstreams..." It was followed by the synthesized, mellow-textured Close Encounters five note call. You know the one, "Re, Mi, Do, Do, So..." Every week the show began with the same introduction. And if that didn't make one feel as-if the mother ship was about to land, then nothing would!
The Cableman relaxed every muscle in his body and prepared for his weekly two-hour journey into new concepts of sound... re-runs that is.
But what was this?
This particular show that the Cableman reached for played the music of Andreas Vollenweider as the opening track. It was the song, Behind the Gardens-Behind the Wall-Under the Tree. Those who are familiar with this song immediately recognize the peculiar beginning of what sounds like a girl laughing... and then crying. This song made the Cableman a bit nervous. Hopefully it wouldn't trigger a relapse and another bad trip.
"Bad trip?"—the reader might ask?
Yes, Behind the Gardens-Behind the Wall-Under the Tree actually brings back a bad memory for the Cableman. It was during a time when he was a young whippersnapper who had just started off with the cable company. The Cableman was pretty much the same person who he is now, just not as mature. At the time, he was taking classes at the community college. And that's where he met a girl named Euvita, a foreign exchange student from Bulgaria; looked like one of those eastern-European ice skaters—very pretty with a slim body.
As luck would have it, the Cableman actually convinced Euvita to go out with him on a date for a Saturday night. It was one of his first real dates with a girl since graduating high school. On this particular Saturday, the Cableman had to work. But by the later part of the afternoon, his route was complete. This left him some free time to cruise over to one of the forest preserves that was outside of the cable company's jurisdiction, and spend a little time in the woods... smoking weed! If you've come to know the Cableman, then you know that this isn't an uncommon practice for him. To this very day, he still makes trips to the forest preserve to "toke it up". Like I said, the Cableman was pretty much the same Cableman that he is today.
Now about that weed that he smoked: this was a peculiar batch that had an unusual, long-term effect on the Cableman. You see, since purchasing the half ounce baggie and smoking it, the Cableman had suddenly turned into a new age freak—straight out of the 1980s… but it was now the early 1990s. He wore a suede necklace around his neck with a large quartz crystal suspended from it in hopes that it would balance his chakras. And although he was a true 1970s rocker, the Cableman listened—exclusively—to new age music from the 1980s. But rest assured this transformation was only temporary. The Cableman eventually finished smoking the half-ounce baggie of weed, and the long-term effect of being a new age freak wore off.
On that particular Saturday in which the Cableman looked forward to his exciting date with Euvita, he toked and choked in the middle of the forest while getting higher and higher like never before. It was some really, good weed! And by the time the Cableman had finished smoking his second bowl, he was chanting the ending to Behind the Gardens-Behind the Wall-Under the Tree. Those who have heard this song will certainly agree that it sounds like a group of people performing a ritual out in nature. And this is what the young Cableman did in his mind while venturing back to the cable van. He was high on weed and singing along with imaginary people who thanked him for joining them, and bid him farewell until next time. Is it any wonder why the Cableman had gone through this sudden new age transformation? Magick, psychoactive potions and rituals performed out in secret places of nature with imaginary people who sing along with Cableman; wouldn't you enjoy the same?
And so that Cableman head back to the office that afternoon and clocked out for the day.
"Cableman?" called out the boss. It was the same boss who the Cableman has to this very day.
"Yeah, Boss, do you need anything?" answered the Cableman.
"I hope you remember that you are scheduled to work, tomorrow."
"Sure thing boss. I'll be here early."
At around seven o'clock that evening, the Cableman drove in the company van to the community college to pick up Euvita. It was where she told him to pick her up. Perhaps Euvita didn't want people to know that she was going out with the Cableman on a date.
While alone, the Cableman had a cassette tape playing in the van; a recorded episode of Musical Starstreams from the 1980s (of course!). And what song do you think it was playing? It was Behind the Gardens-Behind the Wall-Under the Tree! And just to keep the mood right, the Cableman took a couple hits of that good weed. The windows were opened, and the cannabis smoke would have blown away by the time the Cableman reached the school.
On that night, the Moon was full and seemed to make the quartz crystal suspended from the Cableman's neck glow. And by the time the song ended, those imaginary people who did rituals with the Cableman out in the forest sang and chanted. They blessed him and wished him good luck with Euvita. It was going to be a good night.
"Alright, I better turn this stuff off." said the Cableman to himself while ejecting the cassette from the tape deck. "I'm not sure if Euvita will understand it. Let's see... what do they listen to in Bulgaria...? Probably some kind of polka music."
The Cableman pulled into the parking lot of the community college. And there at the main entrance stood Euvita as promised.
"Good evening!" greeted the young Cableman. He didn't bother getting out of the van and opening the passenger door for Euvita. Nerds did that sort of thing.
"Hello!" Euvita returned the greeting in her foreign accent while climbing into the cable van. "Did you just get off work?"
"No, I've been off for a few hours." answered the Cableman.
"And you're still in your work clothes?" asked Euvita. "And you're driving this thing?"
"Well I always wear my Cableman uniform." explained the Cableman. "And watch what you say about my van. It's a company vehicle, and I've got all kinds of tools, cables, filters, and converter boxes in the back. Hey, you never know if someone wants me to do a little side job and hook them up." The Cableman looked over to Euvita who sat in the passenger seat. She clearly did not appreciate sitting in a cable van. And if the Cableman didn't know any better, Euvita had some kind of chip on her shoulder just because he wore his cable uniform. He was so close to asking if she had problem—if she wanted to go home and call it a night. Instead, the Cableman remained nice and asked, "So are you hungry? Can you think of anywhere you want to eat dinner?"
"No, I already had my dinner." answered Euvita. I ate it while waiting for you."
"You ate dinner in the front of the school?"
"Yes, I packed some fruit in my backpack before leaving for the day. See, I only eat peaches and plums."
"Just peaches and plums?" asked the Cableman with a queer expression. "Nothing else?"
"Nothing else." confirmed Euvita. "I will not eat that junk food that you Americans eat—so bad for you."
"Oh..." answered the Cableman. "Well, maybe we can catch a movie and have coffee afterwards or something." The Cableman was disappointed to hear Euvita's attitude towards food. He was actually hungry, in the mood for some pizza. Maybe he could scarf down some popcorn and nachos during the movie and eat dinner, later. The Cableman forgot that European women simply do not eat. They starve themselves to be ultra thin.
As the Cableman drove to the nearest movie theater, there were a couple of minutes of silence until Euvita attempted some conversation. "So what kind of music do you listen to?" asked Euvita.
"Oh, lately I've been really listening to new age. It's seems that's all I listen to." proudly proclaimed the Cableman.
"Me too!" answered Euvita. "Garth Brooks... so nice!"
There were several seconds of awkward silence as the Cableman processed what Euvita had said. Garth Brooks? What in the world made Euvita think that Garth Brooks was new age? And her answer was so superficial, like she didn't know what she was talking about and suggested a musician who the Cableman might have liked. It was as-if she believed that all Americans simply listen to country music. It all sounds the same to those foreigners. They all think that American music is nothing more than twangy steel guitars and sad lyrics about the wife and dog leaving you.
Suddenly, there was just something about Euvita that the Cableman didn't like. She had a problem with the way he dressed and the cable van that he proudly drove. She didn't eat, and said that American food was just junk. And then she tried to say that Garth Brooks was new age!
"You stupid, European, superficial bitch!" shouted the Cableman. "You don't know what the fuck you're talking about, do you?"
"Okay, don't talk to me like that!" warned Euvita.
"I got a better idea!" answered the Cableman. He jammed on his brakes in front of a Walgreens. All the loose tools in the back of the van slammed around "Get the fuck out of my van!" he ordered. "I'm serious! Get the fuck out of here! Garth Brooks isn't new age!"
Euvita snatched up her backpack, hopped out of the cable van and stormed away.
The Cableman peeled off. The loose tools in the back rattled and banged around. "Try to tell me that Garth Brooks is new age..." commented the Cableman. "What, is she trying to say?—that new age is not any different than twangy, sappy, country music? Let me tell you, I'm a true 1980s new-ager; always have been, always will be. Why, I remember the first time I heard new age. My buddy from high school brought over a record on a Sunday afternoon from Yanni; his Optimistique release. And that title track totally blew me away. I never heard something like that before. Opens up with a helicopter like Pink Floyd's Wall, and then turns into some of the coolest shit you could ever hear. I was so blown away by the song that we both head over to the record store so I could get my own copy. And I played it over and over again, all night long. I couldn't even go to school the next day because I was so tired. My mom let me stay home. And all day long, I played Optimistique over and over again. That music burned in my head for days. I guess you could say I was truly converted over to new age. And then came Musical Starstreams."
After patting himself on the back and reassuring himself that new age music was the coolest thing ever, the Cableman finally declared, "So you can take your peaches and plums, your Garth Brooks, and your skinny-ass European woman attitude and stick it!"
The Cableman took a deep breath. "Alright, I need to calm down. I need to put my mind back in my happy place." He pulled into the parking lot of Seven Eleven. "I need some tea... That's what I need... some Red Zinger!"
Ten minutes later, with cup of Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger Tea in hand that he calmly sipped, the Cableman popped his Musical Starstreams cassette into the tape deck, and rewinded it to the beginning of Behind the Gardens-Behind the Wall-Under the Tree. "Now this song will take me back to my happy place." exclaimed the Cableman
But what was this?
As you know by now, the beginning of the song has what sounds like a girl either laughing or crying. And at that moment, the Cableman heard a girl crying. In his mind he imagined that it was poor Euvita crying. Her feelings were really hurt because of the way that the Cableman had treated her. Maybe the Cableman was a little too hard on Euvita. Maybe he overreacted just because she didn't understand what new age music was.
The Cableman tried to relax while cruising the evening roads in his cable van with Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger tea in hand. But wouldn't you know it? The marijuana that the Cableman had smoked that day actually synergized with the Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger tea and spiraled him into a really, bad trip. The music of Andreas Vollenweider was now freaking the Cableman out, really bad! And by the time the song reached its ending, those friendly imaginary people were actually harming the Cableman with their chanting. This time, the Cableman realized through the chanting that the whole new age scene was pulling him into a strange and mysterious world that he might never be able to escape.
"I'll never drink Red Zinger tea, again!" cried the Cableman upon ejecting the Musical Starstreams cassette.
Back in the present, the Cableman momentarily dozed off in bed while listening to his weekly pre-recorded Musical Starstreams show. Now in the astral realm, he ended up on the Arcturian Starship, Athena where he faced his guide and dream guru, Melissa. As you know, Melissa was once the Cableman's girlfriend before Tito had taken her away.
Melissa gave the Cableman a very strange and cryptic message. "1... All composite things are impermanent... 2... All contaminated things are unsatisfactory... 3... All deeds are empty and selfless... and 4... Nirvana is true peace..."
With that the Cableman awoke from his dream, removed the headphones, and sat up in bed. "Man, that Red Zinger tea from many years ago sure screwed me up! I'm still getting flashbacks from it." Then he thought about the dream of Melissa. "But what did Melissa mean?"
As always...To be continued...

Thursday, November 12, 2015

FSBO (Conclusion)

Hello All:
The other morning I was commuting to work and approached a stoplight. At that moment I happened to glance at the vehicle next to me and noticed a pretty blond woman with bright, blue eyes slowing down while approaching the red light along with me. I remember that she also had nice lips.
"Whoa!" I exclaimed to myself. "Check her out!"
But wouldn't you know it? The pretty blond woman with bright, blue eyes and nice lips was probably accustomed to men checking her out at red lights. This might have been why she stopped her vehicle at just the right spot so that I could not look at her.
"That's okay, Baby." I said. "That's why I have electric side mirrors." With the push of a button, I adjusted the driver-side mirror until it was angled in such a way to view the pretty blond woman with bright, blue eyes and nice lips.
"There you are you gorgeous thing." I said to myself. "Wow... amazing..."
But what was this? The pretty blond woman with bright, blue eyes and nice lips must have detected that I had the ability to see her through the driver-side mirror. She inched her vehicle up just a bit so that she was no longer in the reflection of the mirror.
It was no problem for me. I simply adjusted the mirror a little more so that she was, again, in my view.
At this point, the pretty blond woman with bright, blue eyes and nice lips had made eye contact with me through the mirror and didn't look happy.
Am I jerk for playing this game?
Then again, if she didn't want men checking her out, she shouldn't have made herself look so pretty.
Today we enjoy the conclusion to our FSBO series of short stories.
FSBO (Conclusion)
It was Thursday afternoon at 1:15 as Craig sat in his corner desk at the office, cold-calling FSBOs. Usually he had better luck in the evenings with FSBOs. But you see, Craig was developing an obsession with this new job that was turning into nothing less than a sexual game. At that very moment, he had an overwhelming urge to talk dirty to his collection of Fredrick’s of Hollywood lingerie models.
Jack Swieley’s secretary took a late lunch each day and had been gone for over fifteen minutes. As for Jack Swieley, he was handling a FSBO appointment which Craig had secured while cold calling the previous evening. Jack Swieley wanted to see if he could have better luck by himself. This now left Craig all alone in the office for some much needed steamy real estate chat with lonely housewives.
Craig dialed a FSBOs number which he had called a couple of nights ago. It was the blond in a matching floral bra and panties with glossy, red lipstick.
But what was this? A male’s voice answered the phone!—assumedly the husband.
“Yeah, where’s your wife?” asked Craig.
“My wife?” asked the seller. “She’s at work. And who is this?”
“I talked to her a couple of nights ago about the home for sale in the paper.” explained Craig “Does she have a number I can reach her at work with?”
“No, that won’t be necessary.” said the husband-seller. “It’s my house, too, so I can answer any questions you might have. Do you want to see the place?”
Craig was feeling awfully aggressive that afternoon and wouldn’t stand for a stupid husband getting in the way of his quest for a Fredrick’s of Hollywood lingerie model. “Look, I don’t have time for this.” answered Craig. “Just give me your wife’s number! I want to talk to her!” Craig nearly hyperventilated into the phone while giving these orders. His face was blood-pumped red. Working in the real estate business has certainly been known to trigger hypertension.
Just then, Jack Swieley entered the office.
Craig quickly hung up the phone and stood up. “Mr. Swieley! You’re back so soon!”
“Yeah, I’m afraid you got us another dud.” answered Jack Swieley. “It was another housewife. This one wore nothing more than bathrobe. And while touring her home, she touched the side of my head while giggling and asked if I wanted to fool around.”
“Wow!” exclaimed Craig.
“I don’t know what this world is coming to.” concluded Jack Swieley. Then he asked, “So what are you doing?”
“Oh, I was just cold calling FSBOs.” nervously answered Craig.
“Cold calling FSBOs?” responded Jack Swieley with a queer expression on his face. “You’re supposed to call them at night. Most of them are home then.”
“I know; but I thought I would try some of the ones who never seem to be home in the evening.” answered Craig.
“Oh, I see.” acknowledged Jack Swieley. “That’s a good idea. Make sure you talk to everyone and track them down with an obsession!”
Craig laughed. “I definitely do.”
Out of curiosity, Jack Swieley approached his apprentice’s desk and examined the collection of FSBOs in the Rolodex filer. “How is this Rolodex working for you?”
“Good!” nervously answered Craig. He never expected his boss to examine the collection of FSBOs on file.
And it was then that Jack Swieley noticed a cutout of a Fredrick’s of Hollywood lingerie model taped to the back a FSBO 3x5 file. She was a beautiful brunette in vegan leather bra and panties, complete with zippers to expose the playful parts of her body if needed. “Boy??? What is this???” demanded Jack Swieley.
“Um… Uh… Just a little motivation, Sir.” nervously answered Craig.
Jack Swieley didn’t appreciate his apprentice’s form of motivation. “Now I’m going to tell you something.” he began. “This is the twenty-first century. Things are a lot different, now, than when they were 30… 40… 50 years ago. Did I ever tell you about my father? He owned a mechanic’s garage, and there were plenty of pin-up girls all over the shop. Some of them were totally nude. Everyone would see them when visiting, but no one said anything because that’s just how things were back in the day. Men were expected to be perverts and look at women and hang nude photos of them in places of business. Even I used to have some nudey calendars in my office that loan officers gave me during luncheons. And back in the 1970s, I actually had Playboy bunnies host my open houses.”
“You did????” asked Craig so shocked.
“Absolutely!” affirmed Jack Swieley. I would have them show my houses and get extra friendly with the husbands. I’d get multiple offers on that house by the end of the day thanks to those Playboy bunnies. Some of them would sit on a husband’s lap while he wrote up an offer. The wife would get mad, but no one cared.  But, Boy, I’m going to tell you that things are different, now. Pin-up girls in places of business have pretty much been outlawed. Major companies throughout America have ordered that male employees throw away all their Playboy magazines. They get fired for having stuff like that. Why? It’s because women get offended—women’s lib and all that junk. They don’t want to be seen as sex objects. I mean you can’t even compliment a woman’s hair or the way she dresses without getting in trouble for sexual harassment. I say give it twenty years, and you’ll go to jail just for smiling at a woman. You’re not even supposed to look at them anymore. That being said, you cannot have these taped to the backs of your FSBO files. What if a client comes in here and sees that? Come-on, Boy, what’s wrong with you? Get rid of that stuff, and that’s an order!”
“Yes Sir!” acknowledged Craig. He quickly went right to work in removing his prized collection of Fredrick’s of Hollywood lingerie models off the backs of the FSBO files.
About an hour later—the secretary long back from her lunch break—a man entered the office and approached the front desk.
“Well hello there!” greeted the secretary. “Welcome to Jack Swieley Realty!”
“Never mind that!” snapped the angry man. “Suppose you tell me why your office is sending stuff like this to my wife!” He slapped one of Craig’s business cards on the secretary’s desk that contained a peculiar advertisement on the reverse side which was a full color image of Craig in the shower. He was lathered up in soap, and washing his hair. His nude body was exposed, enough, to show as far down to his navel. Written on the side of the image were the words, “For steamy real estate chat, be sure to call Craig!”
The secretary blushed upon seeing the image, “Oh my!” she exclaimed. Then she called out, “Craig, would like to come over here for a moment? This gentleman wants to have a word with you.”
Expecting to answer questions about buying and selling real estate, Craig approached the front desk with a hearty smile. “Can I help you, Sir?”
“Yeah, you can help me!” shouted the angry man. “Is this your business card with inappropriate photo on the back?” He handed the card over to Craig.
“Why, yes it is my card.” admitted Craig.
“Well what’s the big idea sending something like that to my wife? Are you trying to start something with her?”
By now, Jack Swieley had shuffled his way up to the front desk and stood next to the seller. He whipped the card out of Craig’s hand and shook his head in disbelief. “Boy, I have a good mind to fire you!” Then he looked at the irate seller. “Sir, I apologize for all of this.”
Jack Swieley gave his apprentice a good, swift kick to the ass and ordered, “Go wait for me in my office! You might not have a job by the end of today!”
“Again, I apologize.” said Jack Swieley to the seller. “And I think the best thing I can do to compensate you for this inconvenience is to offer you a discount rate to my services. Now, normally, I charge 6% of the sales price to market and sell your home. But because of what’s happened, I’ll knock two points off my regular commission. I’m offering 4% to list your home—MLS exposure, advertising, open houses. What do you say? Is it a deal?”
The seller signed, “Well… to be honest, lately I had been thinking of going with a real estate broker. The last person I would have chosen is you after what your agent sent my wife. But 4% is a great deal. Where do I sign?”
Believe-it-or-not, Craig managed to keep his job! But this grace wasn’t without a harsh scolding from Jack Swieley along with a serious warning to clean up his act. Sexually harassing female customers, clients and business associates is intolerable at the real estate office of Jack Swieley Realty.
But cold calling FSBOs the normal way was discouraging and terribly boring for Craig. How he hated calling them up under normal protocol and suggesting that he come over to give a listing presentation. And since Jack Swieley maintained the habit of examining Craig’s FSBO files on a regular basis, he could no longer have lingerie models taped on the backs. Was this the end to Craig’s winning streak of securing FSBO appointments?
That’s when Craig thought of a brilliant idea that would enable him to continue his obsession of engaging in steamy real estate chat with female FSBOs. Craig reported to the office of Jack Swieley Realty on Friday night around seven o’clock. By now the business was closed for the day. And Craig expected Jack Swieley to remain at home for the evening because it was Friday night. That’s right, most young men Craig’s age go out on Friday nights; not report to the real estate office for obsessive cold calling.
A few boxes were carried through the door and brought into the conference room—the very place where buyers often sat with Jack Swieley to discuss purchasing a home, or signing purchase documents. The conference room was idea for Craig on that evening because there was a door that could be closed. You see; no one who happened to look through the windows from the street should have been able to see the bizarre game that was about to be played.
And what was this game?
Well, by the time Craig finished setting up that evening; a pricey, life-sized, love doll with blond hair and glossy, red lipstick sat in one of the conference chairs. Craig purchased it from the sex shop at the end of town. The love doll wore nothing more than a matching floral bra and panties. Craig purchased the bra and panties at the Mapleview Fredrick’s of Hollywood. For all practical purposes, the lingerie model who Craig was obsessed with now sat before him, in person, for some steamy real estate chat.
Despite what Craig might have believed that night of his boss staying at home; Jack Swieley had actually gone into town with his wife for the Friday night fish fry at the Mapleview Supper Club. He was now returning home and drove past the real estate office.
“What the…?” exclaimed Jack Swieley upon seeing the lights on. “Now I told these people to make sure everything is off for the evening before going home! I don’t want to pay for electric that isn’t being used!” He looked over to his wife in the passenger seat. “Hang on Dear; I need to turn the lights off.”
Jack Swieley made a wide u-turn in his old Cadillac. By the time he pulled into the parking lot, he could see Craig’s car. Even more, it looked like Craig was in the conference room. “Son of a… Is he writing up an offer with a buyer? Now I told him not to try and do that stuff alone!”
Jack Swieley exited the old Cadillac. The shocks of the vehicle were immediately relieved of the overbearing weight. He shuffled as quickly as he could into the office. “What is wrong with that boy?”
But Jack Swieley had no idea as to what took place behind the closed door of that conference room! Inside, Craig had the female seller that he was obsessed with on the conference speaker phone.
“Yeah, I called you the other day, but your husband answered.” said Craig while stroking the love doll’s long, blond hair.
“You could have spoken to him.” answered the female seller. “He knows about this house just as much as I do.”
“But I didn’t want to talk to your husband.” explained Craig while fondling the love doll’s breasts through the bra. The love doll possessed life-like synthetic skin, so everything was real to the touch “I wanted to talk to you.”
The female seller laughed. “Wow! You sound like you really want to come over here and see me.”
Craig undid his pants and dropped them to the floor while listening.
“Are you sure this is about listing my house?” asked the female seller. “Or are you hard up to see me?”
“Oh, yeah…” answered Craig while opening the love doll’s sexy mouth that was capable of emulating oral sex. “I’ve got some things I want to talk to you about.”
Just then, Jack Swieley swung open the door to the conference room. “WHAT IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS UNHOLY?
“Mr. Swieley, Sir!” answered Craig while pulling up his pants. “I was just… just… talking to this FSBO on the phone.”
“Hello?” called out the female seller through speaker phone.
“Yes, good evening!” answered Jack Swieley. He kicked Craig square in the ass and motioned for him to report to his office. “And I’ll speak to you when I’m done.”
Twenty minutes later, after Jack Swieley actually managed to secure a FSBO appointment with Craig’s female seller of obsession, he sat at his desk and sternly spoke his apprentice. By now, Mrs. Swieley had entered the office. She sat in a nearby chair and filed her nails.
“Boy, I’m going to tell you; I’ve done a lot of things in this business that I’m not too proud of!” began Jack Swieley.
Mrs. Swieley glance up with a worried expression. Did she really want to hear that?”
“But I’ve never… NEVER did anything like that! You do stuff like that, and it’ll get you a one way ticket to hell in fancy hand basket!
Jack Swieley and his apprentice, Craig, are small characters who appear throughout the Mapleview series of novels. And don’t worry; Craig will manage to keep his job after all of this passes. Be sure to check out the Mapleview series of novels.