Monday, July 31, 2017


Greetings, WYMOP readers!

Recently, Handsome (my son) and Miss D (his girlfriend) had their first anniversary. If you’ve read my post about the break-in we performed last Christmas morning, you may have some idea what lengths Handsome will go to to surprise and impress the girl. He plans in advance, gathers his materials, makes sure of his timing, and executes. I sometimes help out in these little ventures: with regard to Miss D, I am the Robin to his Batman, the Watson to his Holmes.

So it was no real surprise to me when, for their anniversary, he had a plan. Since it was summertime they could spend the whole day together, followed by dinner at a local place they both like. After dinner the day would culminate in a romantic little picnic dessert at a nearby park with a public rose garden—dessert he would bake himself.
Most of the women reading this just made a little Aww sound, didn’t you?
The big day was on a Saturday, so the baking happened on Friday. It was my weekend off, and his mom was away, so it fell to me to make sure he didn’t burn the house down. Actually, all I did was sit at the dining room table and work on some editing while he destroyed the kitchen. Ingredients we had purchased and packed neatly away days earlier (none of that boxed shit for Miss D, no sir) came out and spread themselves around—sometimes way around. There were pans and pots and bowls and spoons—no two spoons used twice, apparently, just grab a fresh one—and, of course, food.
I did help out in the middle, when he needed an extra pair of hands. Hard to make three different desserts, pretty much at the same time, when you’ve barely ever baked before, in a small kitchen, all while thumbing rapidly back and forth between three recipes downloaded to a phone. He was doing it, though, so I helped out where I was asked, tried to get the pots and pans he claimed he was finished with into the dishwasher and out of his way, and went back to my editing.
I’m a pretty good sidekick. Narf.
By the time he was done, even with my efforts to tidy a bit mid-process, the kitchen looked like food had just had a frat party. The chocolate chips lay passed out on the counter with the baker’s chocolate, looking like one or both of them had a walk of shame in their future. The flour had thrown up on the floor. Twice. What was left of the eggs huddled, cartonless, in the corner like high-schoolers who’d crashed the party, realized they were in over their heads, and never made it out. The measuring spoons were assaulting the measuring cups, the tsp raised and waving in the air as the whole set let out a drunken “Whooo! Whooo! Whooo!”
In the midst of this chaos, however, on the counter beside the (nearly unrecognizable) stove, lay two pans and an egg carton. The pans contained two kinds of brownies (blueberry and frosted zucchini—and yes, the frosting was made from scratch), while the egg carton—aside from explaining why the eggs lay exposed on the counter—contained chocolate-filled strawberries, each nestled into its own little cup. The boy looked happy. The boy looked tired. The boy looked about the frat-party kitchen and his expression went a little less happy.
“Sorry, kid,” I said with a grin. “The cleanup is part of the process.”
I helped clean up some, right at the end. I’m still a good sidekick. Narf.
The next morning was the big day. I was writing in the dining room while Handsome played video games. Time passed. Handsome appeared at my elbow.
“D just texted,” he said. “Her mom should be dropping her off in about a half an hour.”
“Roger that.”
The boy jumped in the shower, got dressed . . . and then broke out a bunch of tupperware, a knife, some brownie pans, and the picnic basket. He’d done all the baking, then all (okay, most) of the cleanup the previous day, but neglected to cut up and pack away his homemade treats in preparation for the surprise picnic—something that might be hard to do once Miss D was actually in the house. He made two cuts, and popped out a single brownie.
“They’re here,” I said.
You know that thing you see in cartoons, when someone is surprised, and their eyes get so big they actually pop off their face? I had no idea that was a real thing.
“They’re here,” I repeated, pointing through the window to the SUV parked in the driveway, Miss D already slamming her door and waving goodbye to her mother.
Those huge eyes shot down to the knife, picnic basket, two brownie pans, and four tupperware containers scattered across the counter, then back through the window to where Miss D was running up the front stairs.
Panicked hilarity ensued. There was grabbing, there was tossing, there was desperate whisper-shouting. There was the juggling of tupperware and a quick sprint to his old bedroom, right off the kitchen, where everything wound up sprawled on his old bed and the door slammed. I stalled Miss D in the kitchen while Handsome washed brownie off his fingers in the bathroom. There was barely controlled breathing and Oscar-caliber acting while Miss D was greeted and escorted downstairs to watch a movie before they actually went anywhere.
I breathed a sigh of relief and got to work.
Ten minutes later the boy came bounding up the stairs. “I told D I had to use the bathroom,” he whispered as he passed me washing my hands in the kitchen. “Can you help? I have to get everything done before she comes looking for me.” He dashed into his old room. He came out a second later, looking confused.
“Where is it?”
“TV room,” I said.
He dashed into the TV room, then came out, still confused. “Where?”
I walked to the doorway and pointed in. “There.”
He looked over my shoulder, starting to sound a little panicked. “Where?”
I walked across the TV room to the corner where the couch and loveseat butt together, leaving a void. I pointed down. “There.”
Nestled into the void, invisible unless you were looking almost straight down at it, was a neatly-packed picnic basket full of tupperwared brownies. He looked down at it, then up at me. “I guess fourteen years of being the Easter Bunny paid off,” he said, and then he hugged me—and he’s a big kid, and an excellent hugger. “Thanks, Dad.”
And he went back downstairs to watch the movie, take his lady-love to dinner, and surprise her with a sunset picnic in a rose garden, said lady-love none the wiser.

Talk to you later!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Ding-Ding Punching The Heat Miser

Greetings, WYMOP fans!
Okay, it’s July. It's been hot. And humid. And hot. And gross. And did I mention hot?
To kind of get our minds off all that hot humid grossness, I’d like to share an excerpt from one of my stories in the recently released anthology, Insanity Tales III: Seasons of Shadow. We were writing about seasons (hence the subtitle, duh Rob), and I happened to pen a winter tale, called “Tracks in the Snow.”
Snow, get it? No gross, humid, or hot.
So, to place you in this story, some schoolchildren have noticed a set of mysterious sled tracks on the snow-covered hill outside their classroom window, just two days before Christmas. They’ve brought them to the attention of their teacher, Mr. Garabedian—the oldest teacher in their school—and he’s settled in to tell them the story of the tracks in the snow.
~ ~ * * ~ ~
“Back in 1965—yes, ancient history, I know—before the hill even had a name, there was a little boy named Willie. He was eight years old, as I recall, and curious, as are most boys of that age. In his snooping about the house in the week prior to Christmas, he discovered a cache of presents his parents planned to give him on the morning of the holiday, and in among the other toys was a sled: a brand new Flexible Flyer.”
He shook his head at us. “You probably wouldn’t understand, with your sleds of today—flat sheets of soulless plastic—but the sleds of my boyhood were things of beauty, with bright red runners and the wood polished to a high sheen, a red arrow running the length of the deck and the words Flexible Flyer emblazoned across the steering stick in vivid blue. They were the kind of thing to catch the eye and capture the imagination, and for young Willie it certainly did both. Though he didn’t let on to his parents that he knew about his coming prize, it seems to have preyed upon his mind, and lured him into foolishness.”
He gestured toward Bobby. “Just like today, Mr. Urabus, it was two days before Christmas, and snow was expected in the night. I don’t know what’s going to happen this evening, but back in 1965, we got snow.”
“Wait,” I said. “You mean you’re from Willowdale, Mr. Garabedian?”
“Yes, Mr. Acadia,” he confirmed, mildly annoyed at my interruption. “I am. The snow started before Willie would’ve gone to bed, and it is presumed he lay there, awake, watching the world outside disappear beneath its own wintry blanket. The snowfall, combined with the draw of the beautiful sled, proved too much for the boy. One imagines him listening to the house fall silent as first his older brother, and then his parents, went to bed. He gave them enough time to fall soundly asleep, and then he was up and dressing, pulling on snow pants and winter boots, donning his parka, hat, and mittens, and sneaking into the basement to fetch his new sled and take it for a ride.
“He came to the hill you see right outside—it was one he knew, the children all went sledding here, even then—and it was far enough from his house he may have thought not to get caught. And right out there, in the dark of night, little Willie took his new sled for a test drive. And it was dark. I want you to understand that. The school did not look as you see it today: in 1965 there were no floodlights mounted on the building, illuminating the schoolyard and its environs through the night. And the neighborhoods to the far side of the hill, where many of you now live, did not exist. This school stood on the edge of town back then, and where now there are streets and houses, fifty years ago there was nothing but forest for miles. Willowdale has grown in the past five decades, and the forest has shrunk, but there was still quite a wilderness about in my youth.
“There was a great deal of discussion about it afterward, and a great deal of conjecture, but it’s assumed little Willie thought he’d be all right as long as he could see the school; he’d still be able to orient himself and find his way home.
“It was also assumed that, though Willie was aware of the snow, he was thinking of it in the same terms as our Mr. Urabus, here”—he pointed to Bobby—“as nothing more than a day off from school. He was not, we think, paying attention to the actual weather reports. What began as enough snow to sled in rapidly became what would eventually be called ‘The Blizzard of ’65.’”
He paused, staring out at the thin parallel tracks in the snow, and his blue eyes looked unfocused. “It was the worst snowstorm in Willowdale’s history,” he said, almost speaking to himself. Then he looked at the class, as if remembering we were there, and raised his voice again. “Whiteout conditions, the kind of weather where you can’t see your hand before your face. By the time he realized it, Willie must’ve lost the school. Rather than going home, he struck out in the wrong direction, found himself instead in the woods, and then became completely lost. When his family woke on the morning of the twenty-fourth, it was to find Willie’s bed empty and his play clothes and new sled gone.”
Mr. Garabedian paused, eyeballing us.
“He never made it home.”
~ ~ * * ~ ~
And things go downhill from there (ba-dum bum).
Sorry. I couldn’t resist.
But you see? Cold, wintry, snowy thoughts. Did it work? Did you feel the chill? Or do you still feel like punching the Heat Miser in the ding-ding?

Personally, I’d kind of like to ding-ding punch the Heat Miser. But that’s me.

Keep cool! Talk to you later.