The Railman and Involuntary Manslaughter: A Bit of Fiction, Perhaps Going Nowhere

Here is a bit of fiction I felt inspired to write. I bid you enjoy, or, if necessary, I apologize in advance. Thanks for reading.

When Ben Samson stepped into Lucky’s with his two compadres, it hadn’t been his intention to stick the place up. The mechanism on his belt was loose and it was clacking even louder than his spurs. He had been trying to tighten it up as Wiseman burst through the batwing doors. The hinges screeched and the heavy clomping of The Railman’s footfalls as he followed Wiseman undercut the shrill squeak with a menacing staccato bass. Samson barely noticed. He was accustomed to the brashness of the other members of his small posse. He continued messing with his mechanism, stumbling when the doors swung back and smacked him in the chest. He tilted backward; surged forward to regain equilibrium; shot through the doors clumsily, expecting tighter hinges. The toe of his boot caught in an uneven floorboard and he stumbled forward again, still fiddling with his belt. The latch on his calf released, allowing the barrel of his rifle to swing upward from its perch perpendicular to his leg. The barrel came to a rest jutting forward from his hip at a ninety-degree angle, driven and finally supported by the same infernal mechanism Ben had been performing maintenance on in the first place.
The man behind the bar was unaccustomed to being robbed. His establishment was not a bank, after all, but the severity of the trio’s entrance convinced him in an instant that a robbery was indeed occurring. He began filling the bar with anything of value he could find, spilling whiskey and beer over paper and coins in his haste to comply with orders that had not yet been given. He was so caught up in this task that he failed to notice Samson distractedly trying to wrestle his rifle back to its original position.
No one but The Railman noticed the batwings flying open again. He trundled forward noisily, drawn by the sudden movement. He now stood face-to-face with a tall, bearded man whose eyes widened at the sight in front of him. The bearded man drew a revolver from his hip and loudly ordered everyone onto the ground. What happened next happened so quickly that no one participant was able to recall the entirety of their own actions. The following account is pieced together from the combined memory fragments of everyone present, excepting, unfortunately, the bearded man:
The bartender ceased dumping valuables onto the bar. He froze in place with a bottle in one hand and a bowtie of bills crumpled in the other. Samson spun toward the sound and the rifle he had just secured came loose once again. It swung back up to its hip-fire position. The bearded man swung his aim from The Railman to Samson. Wiseman chortled and began digging through his pockets for his eyeglasses. The Railman swiveled to face the bearded man again and began to make a strange noise that was somewhat gurgle with a bit of wheeze thrown in. The bearded man’s eyes stopped bulging and his mouth dropped open. He flapped his lips a few times, but any words that may have been formed were lost in the growing noise coming from The Railman. It now sounded something like a tea kettle coming to a boil. The bearded man covered his left ear with his left hand. His right never wavered but held a steady bead on Samson who had once again nearly secured his rifle against his leg. The Railman’s whine increased steadily in pitch. Somewhere outside a dog yowled. Wiseman clapped his glasses across his nose then clapped his hands. The Railman began to emit a less ear-piercing but no less frightening noise that sounded like a train whistle muffled by dense fog. As he emitted this sound, a cloud of steam poured from his mouth. The bartender thawed out and hit the floor, his shirt sopping up spilled inebriants, his head and back assaulted by falling bottles. The steam hit the bearded man square in the face, reddening his skin and then peeling it back. It filled his open mouth and the screams he tried to scream were realized only in his own head. The bearded man fell backward. A bit of steam chuffed from his mouth and nostrils when his head bounced against the floor planks. His revolver fell from his hand and his overcoat fell open to reveal an iron star pinned to his vest. Wiseman stopped clapping. The Railman stopped emitting steam and his noises quickly cycled down to silence. Samson’s mouth dropped open and his rifle again sprang up to hip-fire mode. The bartender made a pathetic whimper and vomited, adding a new element to the soup of liquor and broken glass behind the bar. Samson passed out and fell backward, firing his rifle into the ceiling when his head bounced against the floor planks.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…watch for more of this if it was something you enjoyed. I may post future bits as I write them.

A don’t…hold your breath for the next installment. A lot of times my stories start out strong (meaning that I write a lot when I start a new story, not necessarily meaning that the stories themselves are strong), but peter out before I get to a conclusion.

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Perfection Mis-Realized

Human tendency seems to be to meddle with perfection. We find something great and we immediately begin to formulate plans to make it better. Take, for instance, my back yard. When we first moved in, it was perfect. My house sits on 3/4 of an acre, which isn’t massive, but it is fairly huge. The house is on a small hill that slopes away to a beautiful flat meadow of lush, green grass. A large pecan tree stands to the northwest of this, shading a bit of less lush grass which gives way to a stand of bamboo in the far corner. To the north of the meadow is a raised pond planted with waterlilies. Below this, at ground level, sits another pond with waterlilies and lotus flowers. It was beautiful.

And then I decided we should drain one and fill it with sand to make a dig pit for my son. We threw up a swing set and a trampoline for good measure and I cleared off some beautiful grass for a garden. The garden is now a weed patch with a fence around it and it somehow sprouted a few vegetables. It looks like crap.

We mess with perfection. We find something nice and think “Hey, I can spruce this up a little bit.” And it ends up being crap. Either we are too ambitious and do so much stuff that the result is a cluttered mess of half-completed projects or we have no idea what we are doing and we end up turning something beautiful into an eyesore. This is the case with me, at least.

And this is the case with a certain shall-remain-unnamed chocolate sandwich cookie with mysterious white creamesque filling. These cookies have been perfect ever since I ate my first one at some tender young age I cannot quite fully recall. But I remember the cookies. And now they’ve changed. They’ve been changing and I hadn’t even realized it because I discovered the single positive change this particular cookie has made, the one which has been stuffed twice as full of the mysterious creamesque filling. I was buying some of those the other day and my laser focus was distracted for a moment by an equally addicted child asking if it would be acceptable to open the package in the car. I turned to assure him excitedly that we would most definitely be exploring the benefits of his amazing idea when I spotted the absurd abomination.

The white creamesque mystery ambrosia wonderful what-not pictured on the package adjacent to the one I wanted was a garish orange color and proclaimed to be candy corn flavored.

Why?

We have candy corn for candy corn flavor. Remaining unnamed chocolate sandwich cookies with mysterious white creamesque filling are perfect. We buy those when that is what we want. When we want candy corn flavor, we buy candy corn.

There are other abominations in the cookie world, but I am too disgusted to talk about them. The cookies were perfect. Why mess with them?

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…enjoy what you enjoy, even if it is an abomination.

A don’t…mess with something perfect. It cannot be made better and alterations take away from the original. It would be like cookie flavored pickles. We have two separate food items to fulfill both of those cravings. Eat the one you want. Exceptions are made for pregnant women or the severely depressed.

More Fishing Stories

I posted a few fishing stories last night. Remembering these events fished some older encounters up to the surface of my sea of memories. Here they are. Enjoy!

My brothers and I went fishing with our dad when we were teenagers. Dad is a singular individual, dissatisfied with relaxation. As I age, I identify with this. If I am not working in the yard, working on my course work or marketing my children’s book series (the first of which is called “How Sir Donkey Legs Became a Knight” and deals with a young boy who didn’t quite fit in until he accidentally “saved” a kingdom, and is available in paperback and ebook format from such reputable retailers as Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. You should buy the first, become hooked and wait breathlessly until I have enough money to publish the next installment, “Sir Donkey Legs Should Not be a Knight” which deals with the young knight’s sisters’ reactions to his erroneous accolades) I am not quite happy. As I lay prostrate in a hammock, attempting to forget the cares of a menial food service job, dad was above me in a tree, sawing limbs. We eventually burned them, but there were plenty laying on the ground for easy collection. I eventually had to get up, chased from slumber by the danger of falling branches. Later we traversed the perimeter of the lake so that dad could utilize his new net. It was weighted at the edges and had a retrieval line so that the fisherman could easily pull it back. Dad tossed it elegantly off a cliff, waited too long to pull it back, and it became entangled in submerged rocks. He stated his intention to not “lose my new net” and promptly stripped to his tighty whities. He then descended the cliff face hand over hand, dove, retrieved the net, ascended. It is bad enough when a  teenaged boy sees his father in wet tighty whities. Even worse when strangers pass by and he greets them heartily in his might-as-well-be-nude attire. How horrified I still am on so many levels, these many years later.

Once upon the same occasion, I, in a fit of woodsmanly premonition, froze mid-step with my foot hovering over a heretofore unseen baby copperhead snake. The youngster was coiled, ready to strike. I remained frozen, fearing the very worst. The snake, apparently a coward, suddenly slithered toward the lake…and my father. I screamed a warning and my dad, channeling a Comanche warrior, raised his small axe above his head and stood ready. As the offending bit of nature passed him he swung the axe with full force, producing sparks that, luckily, did not result in forest fire but could have. The snake escaped off of the aforementioned cliff with its head half-attached. It slithered in rather a funny way after dad had his way with it.

Our final tale comes from a former co-worker of mine. He said he had a friend who once rested a shotgun barrel on his boot-toe. An unintentional jostle resulted in the loss of the poor man’s big toe. A few years later, my co-worker and his friend were fishing from a boat. His friend fell off the boat, sliding chest first along the hull in the strangest version of falling off a boat ever. The man emerged from the water a short time later, screaming. When they asked what was wrong the man screamed, in a family-unfriendly display of angst, “I cut my titty off!”. And when the man again boarded the boat his friends found that, indeed, his nipple was missing. As he slid bare-chested down the hull, his nipple had caught upon some bit of roughness, excising the minute appendage from its natural perch. I asked my friend if he was still in contact with this man. He replied that he talked to the one-nippled, one-big-toed individual on a very occasional basis. I then asked if the man was now any more than a living nub and inquired as to whether or not the man had been successful in obtaining life insurance. No answers were forthcoming.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…exercise caution when engaging in any endeavor. Danger and humiliation are just around the next tree or bend in the river. Or, perhaps, just over the edge of the next cliff.

A don’t…forsake the outdoors. The clear and present dangers can sometimes provide stories that keep you and your wife awake at night with unbidden giggling.

Chickens and Volcanoes; The Donner Party Goes to Dinner; Baklava Re-Imagined and Staying Unfit: A Few Unrelated Thoughts

In the past I have posted about opening a horrible restaurant with dishes whose names are subtle puns. The dishes are guaranteed to inspire vomiting and a general hatred of me on the part of whoever falls victim to them. I’ve come up with a new dish; although it is more fit for outdoor eating than for faux fine dining. To make this new dish I’ll have to go to Hawaii. I’ll obtain hundreds of chickens and throw them into a volcano. Then I’ll invite hundreds of people over for baklava. When they show confusion at being served heavily charred chicken rather than a sweet and flaky dessert type item, I’ll explain the reason for the name. “When I throw the chickens into the lava”, I’ll explain, “they scream ‘Bok! Lava!'”

Now that that is out of the way, have you ever imagined the Donner Party going out to dinner in modern times? I imagine it this way. They arrive at an elegant restaurant with a long wait for a table. They sign in. Donner; Party of Eight. They sit on the benches provided and the hostess periodically checks on them. The wait is long and as the hostess prepares to call their name, she makes eye contact with the party members…”Donner; party of…seven?” She questions. The Donners follow her to their table and she dismisses any concern. It is not unusual for a member of a group to grow weary of waiting and walk away. The party is seated and menus are issued. Dear Daddy Donner subtly takes note of the disclaimer at the bottom of the menu: “6% gratuity will be added to parties of 6 or more.” By the time dessert is served, the Donners are a party of four. And so on until there is only one remaining Donner. I apologize that I can come up with no more reasons why a cannibal might eat a friend at a restaurant. Perhaps you can supply your own fates for the remaining 3.

Now on to the unfit portion of the post. A coworker got beeped at by a thing on her wrist the other day and began walking in place at her computer. She explained that it was a “fit-bit” and told her when she needed to move more and raise her heart rate. I don’t want that. I want a fat-bit. Or, if you prefer political correctness, an unfit-bit. I want something on my wrist to tell me I’m moving too much. I want something to tell me to sit down and watch tv because I’m burning too many calories. I want my unfitness to be justified by some doohickey on my wrist.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…enjoy the traditional version of baklava. It is delicious and no chickens are harmed in the making of it.

A don’t…go out to dinner with the Donner party. Unless that’s your thing. Do your thing.

Reflections on Death and the Burial of a Strange Man

My wife and I spent the weekend visiting the graves of our respective grandparents for some reason. It got me to thinking about a lot of things. Mainly, I considered the death traditions we celebrate and the secondly it got me to thinking about the manner in which I’d like to be laid to rest. If you are sensitive to conversations regarding death and interment, you might want to seek reading material elsewhere. My sense of humor is less than sympathetic in this regard. I think it’s a coping mechanism. Still, it could be offensive. Consider yourself warned. Proceed at your own risk.

It is strange the way we commemorate our dearly departed. We generally either put them in a box in the ground with a stone to mark the spot or burn the body and dispose of the ashes in a treasured location or store them on a mantelpiece. We visit the resting places of our relatives to reflect and place tokens. It seems, to me at least, a more meaningful tradition is to visit the places my loved ones lived and laughed and loved rather than the plots in which they were buried. My wife and I did this, also, on the way to the respective cemeteries. We drove past our grandparents’ old houses and various other places of interest in their lives. I found this much more satisfying than marveling at the fact that I soon stood over the resting places of their remains. I suppose I can see how being close to their mortal leavings can provide a sense of closeness with their eternal being.

All that aside, I began to think that if people are going to visit my resting place after I’m gone, I’d like to give them a show. I want my sense of humor to live on despite the death of my body.

I’m inspired by some inappropriate 1800’s era tombstones from New England I read about in a book call “Weird New England”. If you enjoy the thought of someone’s body spending eternity underneath a stone engraved with insults, you should check it out. If I’m cremated when I die, and you should stumble upon my urn, you’re likely to read on the side a saying such as “They burned me, then urned me.”, or, “I was incinerated; my mortal remains herein incarcerated. My soul is gone, my ash remains; if I should spill I’d likely stain.”

If I should be buried and I die in some horrific fashion, a photorealistic engraving of my expression at the moment of death will adorn my stone. With or without the engraving, my casket will be buried in quicksand with a thin layer of false turf covering it. There will be a fine-print engraving to encourage one to step closer to read it. The resultant motion of the person thrashing about as they sink into my grave will activate a recording of me either screaming an ear-splitting, pterodactyl-reminiscent scream or moaning a loud and disorienting zombie-esque moan.

Burial or cremation, one thing is sure; you should probably avoid me in death as much as in life unless you enjoy heartless and narcissistic pranks perpetrated upon your person. My poor wife. She’s going to have to be buried next to this.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…think often of your lost loved ones, as they were as well as as they are.

A don’t…feel compelled to visit my grave. You really don’t deserve that.

Cow Patties for Dinner? It’s Not As Bad As It Sounds

I eat cow patties. I eat them as often as I can and I am not ashamed of it.

After reading the previous statement, I find it highly likely that you think me bereft of any sort of sense. In fact, the opposite is true. My mind is quite sound.

To explain my position simply I’ll say that the term “hamburger” in no way describes the food that we accept that it does. If you were to bring a pre-hamburger individual into present times and offer him a “hamburger” sight unseen and without any explanation as to the makeup of the offer, he or she would likely think one of two things.

Either

 A: You were offering to introduce him or her to a resident of a burg called Ham

Or

B: You were offering him or her some sort of ham based dish, perhaps one in which bits of a resident of a burg had been mixed into.

Paradoxically, both of these ideas are true and false. “Hamburger” does not mean a round chunk of ground chuck. “Hamburger” means the things I previously described. A more accurate name for a round chunk of ground chuck is cow patty. A shaped chunk of ground material is called a (whatever material was used) patty. Therefore a patty made of cow is a cow patty.

I eat cow patties.

I am not ashamed of it.

I will continue to do it.

I am not insane.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…feel free to join this etymologically correct movement if you wish.

A don’t…ask for a cow patty should you attend a barbeque thrown by a rancher or farm hand. You’ll certainly be disappointed, disgusted and laughed back into the city.

 

Defining Grilled Cheese: Some Tasty Food for Thought

Let’s journey together through the culture surrounding some popular foods, pizza, chicken fried steak and grilled cheese.

I recently came to the conclusion that a grilled cheese sandwich is a sandwich, containing nothing but cheese, that has been grilled. If you add anything to it, it becomes  a grilled (whatever you put in it) sandwich. After all, many hot sandwiches contain cheese, are grilled or otherwise heated, and are not called “grilled cheese”. Consider the Philly Cheesesteak. The meat, toppings and cheese are grilled and generally served in a toasted bun. Not a grilled cheese.

Pizza supports this claim. Unless you are the sort of person who cannot or will not eat cheese, your pizza will have cheese. If the pizza only has cheese, it is a cheese pizza. If it has anything else on it at all, pepperoni, ham, onions, olives, what have you, it is no longer called a cheese pizza. It is called a (whatever you put on it) pizza.

I understand that what is true for one type of food may not be true for another. I heard it posited this evening that what makes a sandwich a grilled cheese is the way it is cooked (to a toasty, crunchy, golden brown) and the pull of the cheese as you bite into it.

I see what they did there and I don’t buy it.

I attack this claim with chicken fried steak.

Chicken fried steak is usually beef that has been fried in the same manner as chicken traditionally is. It is still steak. Frying it like chicken does not cause people to call it chicken simply because it is cooked like chicken. The same should apply to so-called grilled cheese sandwiches. You are basically breading and cooking whatever filling you’ve chosen as if it were a grilled cheese sandwich. Therefore a pulled pork “grilled cheese” sandwich, for example, should be called a grilled cheese cooked pulled pork. Granted, this is an awkward order to place, but we should follow the logic used with other foods.

You may ask why I would even consider this a problem. To support my indignation, I submit the devolution of the English language. If everyone were able to use words willy-nilly and we didn’t have the good old Oxford’s English Dictionary and multiple learned scholars preserving “Proper English” we would soon become unable to understand people from outside our own social circles.

In other words, it is ok to fry steak as if it were chicken and grill pork as if it were cheese, but if there are no watch-dogs we would soon be unable to order in unfamiliar restaurants due to the inaccurate naming and/or descriptions of foodstuffs.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…call food whatever you want. But follow the logic to prevent food related foul-ups.

A don’t…pay too much attention to this post. It’s just food for thought.