Flash Fiction #290

PHOTO PROMPT © Brenda Cox

PARIS WHEN IT SIZZLES

I have the best anti-car-theft system.  I bought the world’s ugliest car.  Guys with BMWs won’t even park on the same block, lest parts fall off and hit their cars.

I combat Global Warming by installing an electric engine, but I can’t find an extension cord long enough to get to work, and out-of-town trips are impossible.

I ran it on flashlight batteries for a while, but cleaned out local suppliers.  Plus, there was the detour going home, to drop dead ones at the recycle center.

I added a Honda gasoline generator to charge the batteries.  Now it’s an eco-hybrid.

***

If you’d like to join in on the Friday Fictioneers fun, just go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site, and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100-word story.

’22 A To Z Challenge – C

 

 

I am green, but not with envy, when I can Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

Christian Apologists sometimes ask, even if the claims were false, what is the problem with believing “If it’s not hurting anyone?”  A YouTuber recently held up a newspaper headline – “Woman scammed of $160,000 by mother/daughter fortune tellers who promised to rid her of demons.”  There is no ‘not hurting anyone!’

Anyone who believes one thing without good reason, has a mental predisposition to believe other false claims.  Her Christianity had convinced her that angels and demons existed, and she paid the price.  That brings me, highly incensed, to the word

Crucible

a container of metal or refractory material employed for heating substances to high temperatures.
a severe, searching test or trial.

Arthur Miller wrote a book titled “The Crucible.”  It was a rebuke against McCarthyism in the early 1950s, disguised as a novel about the Salem Witch Trials.  There was only one death attributed to McCarthyism, a wrongfully-accused Senator who committed suicide.  Scores of careers and lives were ruined.  In Salem, 24 people died.  19 innocent women were hanged.  4 more died from appalling jail conditions, and one man was tortured to death – all because of lies and fake news, gullibly believed.

Lightening up just a bit, I’m going to recycle a story about a friend who also reused  and recycled by melting down beverage cans, and broken lawn furniture and storm doors in small crucibles which he purchased online, to produce little aluminum hexagons that he used to pave a portion of his back yard, around the barbecue pit.

That whine which you may have heard when you arrived, was not a quad-copter drone, providing Neighborhood Watch security.  That was my mind desperately trying to grind out refills for my random facts posts.  We’ll see how well I do.  Y’all come back now, ya hear.   😎

Journey Into Hell

Retail Therapy – And How To Avoid It

I wrote three years ago, about driving almost two hours – one hour of it in some of Canada’s worst traffic – and the two-hour, mirror, return trip, to obtain a vintage IBM Selectric, golf-ball typewriter.  It did not work.

The wife was going to contact a repair shop in Hamilton, which claimed that they could repair it.  We bought a metal typing table for it, at an office-goods recycling shop.

We did not contact the repair shop.
The typing table takes up a bit of the rapidly dwindling free space in the garage.
I put it on a craft table, between two storage bins, by the window in the computer room.
The cats love it.  They use it as a stepping stone to bask in the sunlight.
I own a vintage paper weight.
Anybody want it??  Free to a good home.  “Good” defined as one that will take it.

Smitty’s Loose Change #15

There are many people in this country today who, through no fault of their own, are sane.  Most of them are Atheists.

***

And God created the universe it expanded exponentially. Then god divided this sky from the sea that then created life and he told it to multiply. After this he added man and subtracted his only son.

Standing back he looked on in confusion and wondered why this equation didn’t work… At this point a mathematics teacher came over and said, “You forgot the brackets ( ).”  And that was the last time God worked with BEDMAS.

***

I recently got within touching distance of two original Volkswagen Beetles, within hours of each other.  I found the first at a French fry wagon.   (Don’t tell the wife! She thinks I’m still on my diet.) It was greenish-yellow, in decent shape, with a little rust, mostly in the rain-gutters above the doors.  The owner said that it was a ’75 model, and it had custom license plates that read KAFER VW.  That’s a deficiency of the License Bureau.  Kafer, translated from German, means ‘coffee(maker).’  What it should have read, was KӒFER VW.  The addition of the umlaut over the A, changes the meaning to ‘beetle.’

The next one I saw was Fire-Engine Red, and in pristine shape.  I saw no rust.  Even Beetles had year-to-year (tiny) model changes.  Slightly smaller and different-shaped tail-lights told me that it was pre-’73.  It had Historic license plates, and its owner said that it was a ’68 version.

FUN WITH NAMES

The service tech at my Kia dealership is named Faucher.  It’s a French verb that means to mow (grass) the lawn.  His Father worked for, then purchased and ran, a landscaping company, all his working life.

A farm boy that the school bus picked up on one side of my town, was/is named Coulter.  I recently discovered that a ‘coulter’ is a plowshare, a cutting wheel or bar, in front of an actual plow.

A farm girl that the school bus picked up on the other side of town, was/is named Collard.  Back then, I did not know of the cultivation and, mostly Southern culinary, use of collard greens.

***

To err is human, but to really fuck up, you need a computer – with a bureaucrat running it.  Locally, we have been blackmailed into recycling green waste.  Garbage pickup has dropped to every two weeks, but blue-bin and green-bin waste is collected every week.

The region has issued every dwelling two green bins – a small one to put kitchen scraps in, and a larger ‘garage’ one to repeatedly dump the smaller one into.  Compostable-plastic-lined paper bags to hold wet waste are available at all local stores.

The larger bin is 12” X 13 ½”.  The Region-approved bags are 8 ½” X 12 ½”.  No wonder it must be dragged to the curb each week – the bag isn’t big enough to fill!  The smaller one, which I use for cat-shit – (it’s compostable) – is 6” X 7”.  The bureaucrat-authorized bags for it are 3 ¾” X 7 ½“– so long that they partly collapse when inserted, causing loss of volume, and barely half wide enough, causing more lost space.  I sense two different departments, each too self-important to communicate with the other, (You change!  No, You change!) involved in this, and Dilbert in the middle, shaking his head.

***

We’ve all seen the movies, or TV shows…. The CSI forensic technician enters the crime scene.  He/she plucks one dust mote from the air, and a couple of tension-filled moments later, gives the age, sex, name, address, phone number, and shoe color of the culprit.  What then to think of this newspaper story??!

A body was pulled from a lake.  She (at least they got the sex) was 28 to 50 years of age.  28??!  Why not 25?  Or 30??  How in Hell did anyone come up with 28?  Was someone converting from metric??  She was between 4’ 5”, and 5’ 1”.  😯  😳  Put her on an autopsy slab and measure her!!

They didn’t give her weight, but did publish a nice photo of a bead bracelet she was wearing…. Oh, and she might have been Asian, based on the keen observation of her yellow complexion, and lycanthropic epicanthic fold at the eyes.

Remind me, if I die of suspicious causes, I should do it in the big city, not in West Hickstowne, where an exciting day for police is one that has a moose fall into someone’s pool.

***

N.B.

In the above VW story, I downloaded a capital A with an umlaut over it, and put it in my post.  For some reason, WordPress separated the A and the two dots, into two adjacent spaces, and I don’t know how to get them back together.  Just try to visualize it correctly.   😳

Flash Fiction #231

Boxing Day

PHOTO PROMPT © Jean L. Hays

BOXING DAY

I am a genius, if I may say so myself – and I have to – ‘cause you won’t acknowledge my brains.  I’ve solved two irritations, with one brilliant idea.

To cut costs, the city now collects garbage every two weeks.  Hauling out one extra-heavy, or two regular bags, was a hassle.  Breaking down boxes from on-line Amazon shopping was a pain.

I peel off the labels, fill them with garbage, and leave them outside the door.  Within an hour, some porch pirate steals my used tea-bags, coffee grounds and banana peels.  Some boxes I ‘accidently’ forget on the subway, during my commute.

***

Got to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

friday-fictioneers-badge-web

Garbage Picker

Garbage Can

I remember the first time that I ate out of a garbage can. 😯 It was in the late 1940s, and Kellogg’s was trying a new marketing scheme.

Variety-Pack

Their cereals came in small and large boxes, but they began offering them in tiny, serving-size boxes. The equivalent of a large box would get you 10 or 12 of these, all wrapped together. The fronts had an H-shaped perforation. You peeled back the two cardboard wings, and did the same with the waxed-paper liner inside. You poured milk right into the box, and ate the cereal right from it.

This was one of the first “labor-saving devices.” Working mothers didn’t have bowls to wash. The extra labor and packaging material made them more expensive, so they didn’t do well in my cheap, dirt-poor little town.

Kellogg’s produced them in every flavor that they made. They also made a ‘Variety Pack”, with some of each. The tiny, independent grocery carried them for a while. It sat beside a laneway to another street. There was a garbage pail right beside – not a dumpster – nobody could afford to throw that much away. Somehow, one of the sampler packs came apart. Unable to sell it, the grocer just gathered the pieces up, and dropped it into the garbage pail beside his building.

Finally dry from his immersion in the Niagara River, yours truly was busy skulking and gallivanting around town. I approached the store by the alley, from the next street. I stopped to look in the garbage pail, and couldn’t believe it. Someone was throwing perfectly good food away. There were little boxes of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Vim, Rice Krispies, All Bran, Shredded Wheat, Bran Flakes – several types that I’d like to try, but couldn’t afford to purchase a whole big (or small) box, in case I didn’t like them.

They were all “Good-For-You” cereals…. and all that Bran! You wouldn’t be just regular – more like steady. I don’t remember any Sugar Corn Pops, or Sugar Smacks, or Sugar Anything. Sugar hadn’t been invented yet – or perhaps it wasn’t off wartime rationing. That’s why old people like me are sour and bitter. They had nothing sugary to sweeten them up.

The pail was relatively new and clean. The bulk package cardboard was pristine. The small inner packs touched only it. I dug out most of the tiny boxes – as many as my little arms could carry, and quickly headed for home with them. I told my Mother that ‘someone was throwing them away,’ without mentioning the garbage can, and had a bowel-cleansing assortment of breakfasts for almost two weeks.

Even today, there are individuals and groups – and not just homeless people – who regularly comb supermarket dumpsters for food deemed unsalable – packaged meats, cheeses, bread products, even fruit and vegetables, past their ‘Best Before’ dates. They eat it themselves, or donate it to food banks, to be used today. It saves money, and reduces the amount going to landfill sites.

The son works a midnight shift. He leaves work at 7:30 AM, and reaches the nearby supermarket just as it opens at 8:00, to purchase a discount copy of the Toronto Sun newspaper. He has learned to look at the other discount racks. Stock that will be thrown out tomorrow, is on sale today, for 20%, 30% – 50% off. He often comes home with half-price ground beef, steaks, roasts, bread, and buns. What doesn’t become his 9:00 AM ‘midnight snacks’, or goes into his little apartment-sized freezer, often makes its way into the household larder.

Reduce Reuse Recycle! Waste not – Want not. Do you do anything like this, to aid your economy, and the Ecology?

’19 A To Z Challenge – Q

AtoZ2019letter-q

 

 

 

 

 

 

I once lived next door to a bootlegger.

Now that I’ve put up the attention-grabbing click-bait for the WordPress reader, this post will be about

QUILTS

and a bunch of other things. Wear your hiking shoes. This will be a longer trek than usual.

Mennonite

I live in the middle of Mennonite territory. With no TV, quilting is a way of life, and financial support. When I first came to town, I lived for about a year and a half, in a boarding house, run by a New Order Mennonite woman. She bought it with, “a settlement from my husband.” Like a lady’s age, I never asked if it was through death or divorce.

It was not unusual, especially in the winter, to come home to find the table pushed over to the edge of the huge, old kitchen, and four tiddly women, – her, her mother, and two friends from up the street – a couple of empty, home-made elderberry wine bottles and four crystal sherry glasses, in front of a quilting frame.

My father used to go out for 2 or 3 hours in the evenings, Monday to Friday. Back before TV, my mother made me a quilt, all by herself, with no frame. It kept me warm in bed, in our old, drafty, hard-to-heat house. How I wish I still had it! She also used to take threadbare clothing and bed sheets, tear them in strips, braid them into a ‘rope,’ and sew it together into an oval floor mat, to keep my feet warm on cold mornings.

The old lady’s house was at the bottom of a steep, block-long hill. There was a stop sign, at a one-way street. With the main street easily visible, a short block ahead, surprising numbers of drivers just didn’t stop. We had an accident a week, and a serious accident every month.

My brother rented parking on a tiny driveway on the uphill side. He left to go home one summer Friday afternoon. He had not been gone an hour, when there was a screech, and a huge crash. I looked out my front window, to see a car parked in his spot – upside-down.

The old lady complained about having to rake, and clean leaves out of the eaves trough, from the two stout Maple trees that stood on either side of the front door. I asked why she didn’t have them taken down. She replied, “Have you seen the scars on those trees??! If they weren’t there, one of those cars would be in your bedroom.”

It was a rough section of town back then – drunks, druggies, hookers. A prospering bootlegger lived the other side of the one-way street. One evening he accompanied a good customer out to the sidewalk – just as there was another terrific car crash, only, this time, the upside-down car was deflected his way, and crushed him.

Recently, with the installation of the LRT street railroad, and urban renewal, that old, brick, century-home has been turned into a Pupuseria, an El Salvadoran restaurant serving meat-and-cheese stuffed corn pancakes. I went in one day, to see if it was worth taking the wife to, and got into a conversation with the owner. (Of course I did!)

I mentioned that I had lived across the street, a half-century before, and told him about the bootlegger and his death. A little light went on. When they were moving in, and had to clean out the basement for their own storage, there had been hundreds of empty beer, wine, and liquor bottles.

Quilt 1

But, back to the quilts. The local Mennonites have organized a Mennonite Relief Committee to raise money for less fortunate Mennonites, especially in South America. They have a second-hand, recycling store, but their biggest money-maker is the annual spring quilt auction.

Quilt 3 (2)

Well-to-do people come from all over the world to bid, both in person, and now, online. These quilts draw fabulous prices, especially the winner of the judging contest, which can go for $10,000 or more.

Quilt 2
This year’s featured quilt at the New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale, Little Brown Church, has been described as a giant puzzle with more than 3,000 pieces.

Quilting

Flash Fiction #134

Pop Can Tabs

PHOTO PROMPT © Claire Sheldon

TANSTAAFLUrban Myth

Save all your pop-can tabs. Someone will donate a power wheelchair.

Mr. Cynicism said, “Who? Why?”

Like a child’s paper-clip necklace, I pulled it apart, one link at a time. Daughter said, “Mom told me.  Didn’t she mention it to you?”  The wife named a sister. That sister blamed an older sister. She said the yenta was a bowling team member.

Bowler identified a man in her trailer park.  “He’s got his; we’re trying for another.”  Wheelchair man nailed them, upside down, to slabs of plywood, and sold them to supplement his meager disability allowance.  “They’re great muddy shoe scrapers.”

***

TANSTAAFL is a term credited to the author, Robert A. Heinlein. It cynically/realistically means, There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

The trailer park man’s wheelchair was not donated.  It had been supplied by the government. He was not aware of any group giving away free wheelchairs.  Pop-can tabs are pure aluminum.  There was a group who collected entire aluminum cans, crushed them and turned them in for rebate at the scrap dealer.  The money was added to a fund which aided handicapped people.

BELIEF is when Hope is substituted for Facts.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

April A To Z – By way of G

April Challenge

I’ve gone and got to G.  What shall I gab about?   I’ve got it!

Letter G

GUNS, GOD AND GRAVESTONES

Any of you who may feel that all three of the above are connected, haven’t been paying attention to the filing system inside my head.

Colt 1911

I don’t give a shit what the Nervous-Nellie, conservative, reactionary do-gooders claim. Guns don’t kill people! Guns don’t kill people any more than hammers build houses.  People kill people when the wrong people get ahold of guns.  I know of guns that are older than I am, and the only thing they’ve ever done is put holes in pieces of paper.

The wrong people get hold of guns when gutless Gus thinks he hears a burglar, and hides a rifle under the bed, and his 4-year-old ‘pretends’ to shoot the neighbor kid – when an armed Security Guard is too lazy to store his gun in his house, or at least in his car’s trunk, and lets his girlfriend and her 6-year-old use the car, and it slides out from under the front seat – when a lady shopper leaves a loaded, cocked pistol in her purse, next to her child in a shopping cart.

We don’t need ‘Gun Control.’ We need people control! We need  background checks, waiting periods, licensing, gun handling and storage safety training, and – instead of emotional, hand-wringing histrionics – an ongoing campaign like we have for smoking in public, or drunk driving, to get people to think, (Could happen) and take their guns, and their control of them, seriously.

OH GOD

God is!….And all the rest of you are wrong.

In the beginning, God created Man – and immediately, every Man created the God which best suited his selfish needs and mistaken beliefs.

The Muslim God is different from the Jewish God.   The Jewish God is not the same as the Christian God.  The Roman Catholic God is not the same as the God of the Greek Orthodox Church – and neither is the same as the Russian Orthodox God.

The Catholic God differs from the Protestant God, and the God of each of over 42,000 Protestant sects varies widely and wildly from the Catholics’– and from each other. In every case, at least one of them must be wrong.

‘Your God’ is a mean, vicious, vengeful, violent God, who would torture me for eternity for respecting all humans and their rights, even if some of them are gay, whereas ‘my God’ is loving, forgiving and inclusive.

The God of the insecure egotists, ‘sees every sparrow fall,’ but they fail to notice that the Bible doesn’t say anything about Him actually doing anything about it. If a greater being created the universe, It is not the God of the egotists’ dreams. It regards this little ball of rock called Earth like an ant-farm, mildly interesting at times, but not worth interfering with, no matter how much they vainly pray.

None of us have enough brains to know what an infinite ‘God’ thinks and wants, but too many of us also don’t have enough brains to keep our mouth shut, and prove our ignorance.

ENGRAVED IN STONE

I’m not going to get stoned – even though it sometimes looks like I am, when I write.

My maternal grandparents lie side-by-side in a double plot, in the old section of my home-town cemetery. Someone in the family must have had some money.  A four-foot high white marble obelisk sits on a sandstone plinth at their heads, with all biographical data professionally and artistically carved in.

Ever the prepared planner, my Mother arranged and paid for all funeral details long before she and Dad died. They (which may mean she) opted for cremation.  They purchased a single plot, and had their urns buried at each of the top corners.  There’s room for four more urns – two on the sides, and two at the bottom.

In the new cemetery section, the rule is that all gravestones must be flush with the earth, for ease of groundskeeping. They put two small sandstone slabs (about 8” square) over the urns, with only their names, and the word ‘husband’ or ‘wife’, no dates of birth or death.

Not exactly welcoming the inevitable, but like Mom, knowing that it should be planned for, I recently had a conversation with my younger brother. Since there’s room at Mom and Dad’s plot, did he plan to be cremated and buried with them?

No more religious than I am, he surprised me with a vehement refusal. No cremation for him!  He plans to be buried the old-fashioned way – embalming, body in a coffin, coffin in the ground.  He’s going to buy a single plot, and have a stone about a quarter of the surface area laid over him.

Like my Mother, I am not a believer in physical resurrection. I also want to be cremated.  The whole process, from beginning to end (actually, from my ending, to the delivery of the urn by Amazon drone) is about $2000/$2500.

I see no reason to rob my heirs of what little I can leave them, by purchasing a plot of land I don’t need, and a chunk of stone that, eventually, no-one will visit. I will be given, probably to my daughter, as a bagful of bonemeal fertilizer that she can sprinkle in her garden, and I will be resurrected as a rosebush, or a lilac tree. (Although, with my luck, I’ll come back as crabgrass.)  That’s the true ‘Circle of Life!’

We’re Not QUITE Hoarders

I previously published a post titled Something For Nothing, where I listed several of the things I do to conserve or make a little bit of money, to help us, and others, in our retirement.  This one shows another facet, with some ideas some of you might want to think about, and maybe try, for a couple of reasons.

Less garbage = more money!

Reduce, reuse, recycle — and reap rewards. Really!

Hoarding gets a bad rap from many.  Some are joking, but many are serious.  Some of my behaviour could raise eyebrows among the non-frugal.  I even prefer to use the word frugal, instead of cheap or miserly.

I save or scavenge things like egg cartons, coffee cans, plastic containers, cardboard boxes and large envelopes. The difference between me and a true hoarder is that I use them, instead of letting them pile up — and they save me “a significant amount of money.”  In fact, such tactics save money in several different, interrelated ways.

For example:

  • The less waste  you generate, the fewer garbage bags you have to buy, and the lower your  disposal bills might be.
  • Buying in bulk  to reduce packaging waste means you get a lower cost-per-unit price.
  • Putting  leftovers into a pickle jar or bread bag reduces the need for foil,  plastic wrap or food-storage containers.

Repurposing used to be common. Outgrown clothes were cut down for younger siblings or reborn as quilt patches. Old buildings were torn down to provide lumber for new projects. My mother poured homemade jam into peanut-butter jars (which used to be made of glass) and sealed them with wax.

These tactics work

In a post on the Silent Springs blog, Vincent Smith suggests that “more thoughtful living” could greatly reduce waste. Why do we throw away an old shirt but buy cleaning rags?  Whether your motive is saving money or saving the planet, slashing waste is a giant step in the right direction.  We do things like buying in bulk to eliminate individual packaging, packing a lunch to cut down on fast-food waste, and bringing our own water and coffee containers.  You don’t need to contribute to that trash can outside Starbucks, overflowing with single-use paper cups.

I do many of these things myself and can attest to their cost-effectiveness. A roll of aluminum foil can last us a couple of years.  A used piece is often not “dirty.”  Wipe it with a damp cloth, to clean and flatten it, and fold it, ready to hold the next sandwich, or piece of pizza. Produce and bread bags get re-used until they shred.

We repurpose empty jars for storage, buying things like spaghetti sauce in Mason-mouthed glass jars, which later hold things like bulk cornmeal.  Wide-mouth plastic jars which held cheap crackers when we bought them, now hold bread crumbs and potato flakes, for cooking.  Not that we attend them anymore, but I have found Tupperware in the free-box at yard sales. A pile of reusable shopping bags lives in a plastic shopping basket in the car trunk.

We buy in bulk when we can, and choose large sizes the rest of the time. We make our own jam (sometimes using foraged fruit).  I’ve mentioned about buying condiments like ketchup and mustard in gallon cans or jugs, and repeatedly refilling the small squeeze bottles, for a fraction of the cost.

Adding less to the problem 

Not that I’m a green saint, mind you. For example, we drink a lot of Pepsi, and buy individual yogurts, both for the wife, who has a small eating limit, and for the son to pack in his work lunch. However, we do recycle the cartons and the plastic containers.

The municipal recycling committee recently complained about the cost of sending around a truck to pick up “air.”  I stomp flat, any plastic bottles or other containers.  As three adults, we often put out less than a Blue Box full of recycling.  The two adults, and two small children next door put out three, or even four boxes every week!

Recycling is not mandatory here in Kitchener, but I can feel it coming.  All allowable organic matter goes into our composters, but the Committee is also bitching that residents are not putting out enough in the City-issued Green Bins, to cover the cost of the disposal contract, so I guess I’m not the only cheapo in the city.  Compost includes tea-bags, coffee grounds and filters, citrus rinds and banana peels.

Bananas contain magnesium.  It’s good for you, and good for plants too.  The tea and coffee contain tannic acid, which also feeds plants, and breaks down the paper to produce good, rich loam to be used in the gardens.  We buy unpeeled shrimp (when we can afford a bit), for considerably less than pre-peeled.  The wife peels them and the casings also go into compost.  As the Indians taught the Pilgrims, seafood makes rich plant food.

We use cloth bags where we can, because local cities allow stores to charge five cents each, for plastic bags. We used to use those in the cupboard-door-mounted garbage container, but recently purchased a new model, and the wife prefers to use the ones specifically intended for it.  I save bags from trips to stores and vendors who do not charge, and use them for kitty litter waste, or carrying newspapers to the crazy cat lady for flooring in her kennels.

Clean ones are flattened and folded and given to our bookstore lady, to cut down on the number of new ones she must purchase.  Soiled or torn ones are accumulated and put out with the blue box, so that someone else can melt them down and re-use the plastic to produce new products.  One of our shopping bags has a little sign on it that says, “I used to be a milk jug.”

While I don’t kid myself about saving the planet single-handedly, there is a fair amount of satisfaction in not adding to the problem any more than we must. Also, it’s nice not to have to shell out cash for things like more aluminum foil, or sandwich bags, and reduced retirement income goes a little further.