Flash Fiction #206

Angels

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

WE STAND ON GUARD

Okay, gentlemen – and ladies, Mardi Gras is still a couple of months away, so this will be our first, get-to-know New Orleans tour. We will be focussing on safety – ways that people can hurt themselves.

Are there potholes where someone might trip and fall in front of a float? Is there a loose power pole, or low-hanging wires? Are there steep brick steps leading to the street, from a bar that’s overstocked with liquor? Is there a tree that some drunken moron might climb to view the parade?

Stay sharp! It will be a busy week for us Guardian angels.

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

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The Day I Almost Went Over Niagara Falls

Niagara

Dear (un-named deity), how did I ever survive childhood, to become the Grumpy Old Dude that I am today??

Early in the 1960s, my Father took our family to Niagara Falls. We rented a little cabin in the village of Chippewa, 5 miles above the Falls. I don’t know what it’s like there now, but back then you could stroll along the Canadian-side bank of the river, like a continuous park. Having been told of a picturesque picnic area, one day we set off downstream to take advantage of it.

If I was 6 or 7 years old, my brother was 3 or 4, and my Mother was busy holding or carrying him. Dad was laden with a box, full of food and drink, and I wandered along behind them. About halfway to our destination, there was a gnarly tree, growing out of the bank at a 45 degree angle, out over the river.

Someone had tied a rope to a branch, and a group of 13/14 year old boys were using it to swing out, and splash into the river. One lad would climb/walk up into the tree, and flick the end of the rope up to his compatriots. One by one they’d launch themselves, swim back, and one of them would take the spot in the tree.

I had a tree at home. It had a rope in it. I liked trees. I liked ropes. I liked swinging. 😯 When all had plunged into the river, I asked the kid in the tree if I could swing from the rope. Sure! And he flicked the end up to me.

I launched myself off the 8-foot high bank, and enjoyed a magnificent swing. I didn’t learn to swim until I was 14. When I reached the extent of the outward swing, I realized that I couldn’t let go – a little late! Holding on for dear life I swung back in, but the arc of the inward swing is never as long as the outward one, and it was nowhere near long enough to put me back up on that bank.

Actually, the point nearest the bank would have been the best time to let go. I’d have smacked into the clay and rock, and would have been able to scramble up the bank, dry and safe, but my Grade 1 brain was busy trying to figure out the physics of this whole thing.

Back out I swung. These guys wanted their rope back, and were shouting, “Let go! Let go!” Once more I swung back inward, this time again the arc becoming much shorter. As I reached the inner apogee – right or wrong – I let go…. and splashed down three feet from dry land.

I was used to a well-mannered Lake Huron, where you could walk out 100 feet before it got chest deep. In this river, three feet out put me in chin-deep water. Still, I scrambled out, and rejoined my family. If either parent noticed that my shoes, shorts and tee-shirt were drenched, neither of them mentioned it. Only later did I realize that I could have climbed up the rope, and down the tree, safely. At the time, I was a bit too busy to think of that. What do you think?? A young fool became an old one??  😕

’19 A To Z Challenge – J

330px-Queen_Victoria_by_Bassano

My little home town was dying, as I was born.

The word that I want to discuss, is

Jubilee

the celebration of any of certain anniversaries, as the twenty-fifth (silver jubilee), fiftieth (golden jubilee), or sixtieth or seventy-fifth (diamond jubilee).

the completion of 50 years of existence, activity, or the like, or its celebration:

Lighthouse

IN THE BEGINNING,
among other things, my home-town was a Great Lake port. A dock was built, almost a mile out into Lake Huron, to an island, to provide calm moorage. Small, sail-powered lake freighters brought wheat from the prairies, iron ore and timber from Northern Ontario. Before the existence of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, these goods were shipped by train to the Toronto area, below Niagara Falls.

The availability of cheap lumber encouraged the establishment of three furniture factories, and later, a plywood plant. There was money to be made – money to be had, and local tax revenues allowed the town to pay for many civic projects. Even today, it is the smallest town in Ontario, with a hospital.

In 1897, Queen Victoria celebrated her 60th anniversary as ruler of the Empire – her Diamond Jubilee. The town had recently foreclosed and seized the property of a sulkie racetrack, half a block wide, and two blocks long, just above the downtown area. Some namby-pamby toph who had not done market research, found that he couldn’t get enough paying customers from dock-wallopers, train crews, and factory workers. They might have watched horses that actually ran, but not swishy ones that only trotted, and dragged a cute little cart behind them.

The town filled in the track and manicured a baseball diamond and outfield. They put up a safety screen behind home plate and built a set of wooden stands. The 8-foot whitewashed wooden fence and ticket gates from the racetrack remained. To honor Victoria, and her achievement, they named it

Jubilee Park.

Then, times and technology changed. Lake freighters became larger, built of steel, and motor-powered. They could steam all the way to the mouth of the Niagara River, and the now-common trucks could move freight faster and cheaper. It is well for the town that, as its freight industry died, the tourist industry burgeoned. There are more summer cottages, paying year-round taxes, than there are residents’ homes. Still, the bloom was off the rose.

By the time I was born in 1944, the plank seats of the bleachers had become wowed, dried and splitting. As a child, for years, I wondered about the purpose of a decrepit, cabin-like construction beneath one end of the bleachers. When I finally thought to ask, I was told that it was a long-extinct concession booth.

Later, smaller, steel-framed stands were built down the first- and third-base lines. Perhaps being too lazy to walk any distance, many men parked right behind these stands. Many a pop foul sailed over the bleachers, to dent fenders and break mirrors and windshields. The attraction of small-town softball is long gone. The town has built a children’s playground in what used to be the parking area. I have not been back in years, but it would not surprise me to find that USB ports have been added, to recharge kids’ electronic devices.

Time relentlessly marches on, but us old-timers can only shuffle along, muttering, Remember when?”

How Not To Solve A Problem

Colt 1911

Yet another example of how legal Canadian gun owners – and not the criminals – face all the hassles

If you’re a legal gun owner in Canada, you’ve probably heard the buzz about how the Liberal government would like to ban all handguns. Maybe you’ve even begun to wonder why it is that every time there is a high profile shooting, “progressive” politicians come after you, rather than targeting criminals with illegal guns.

After all, over the last 25 years you’ve enrolled in (and passed) the government’s lengthy courses on the safe handling of firearms. You’ve applied for, and been granted a licence to possess firearms, and to buy ammunition.

For a time, when it was required, you registered every old gun you had, and every new gun you bought. You acquired (at significant expense) all the trigger locks and gun safes needed to comply with safe storage rules. You informed the government of your new address every time you moved. And when you went to renew your firearms licence, you dutifully informed the government of any changes in your marital or employment status.

You even went to the trouble of acquiring a transport permit to carry a gun from your home to an approved shooting range, locked in a case, locked in your trunk. And rather than stopping for a pee at a gas station, you held it on the way home because, technically, that’s what Canadian law requires.

If you are an official gun collector, you’ve even agreed to let police search your home randomly, without notice, once or twice a year. In other words, you’ve jumped through every new hoop that Ottawa could think up to burden law-abiding gun owners, in the name of solving gun crime.

Now you learn that’s still not enough. If they can figure out a way to do it, the Liberals want to take away any handgun that you own altogether. All of that is frustrating enough, but there’s something that you didn’t know, that will blow your lid: No-one who has ever been banned by the courts from owning firearms is subject to the same scrutiny.

Neither Canada’s criminal justice system, nor its police information computers, keeps track of the whereabouts of people subject to weapons prohibition orders. The federal firearms center reports that there are nearly 450,000 convicted criminals prohibited from owning firearms, including thousands who should be “monitored closely because of their high risk to acquire firearms illegally and use firearms in the commission of a subsequent offence.”

The Federal Government doesn’t keep track of people who have been banned from owning guns, as closely as it keeps track of ordinary duck-hunters, and target shooters. Here’s the ultimate irony – or is that hypocrisy? We know that the banned 450,000 already have criminal records, and we also know that crime rates among law-abiding gun owners are lower than for the population as a whole.

Governments who want to ban, restrict, or register legal guns in the name of reducing crime, are truly going after the wrong people. Of course, to justify this unwarranted targeting of legitimate gun owners, governments and police services have recently begun spinning the tall tale that legal owners are the No. 1 source of guns used in crimes, either because they have carelessly stored them and the guns have been stolen, or because they have sold their legal guns on the black market.

This is utter bullshit! Little by little, over the past few months, Public Safety Canada, the Toronto Police Service, and others, have been forced to admit that they have no data to support their contention that most crime guns start out as legal guns in Canada.

This is just another way that legal gun owners in Canada are being blamed for a problem that they have not caused. If governments want to reduce gun crimes, they need to stop wasting so much effort on the good guys who own guns.

Buy And Sell

CB750K

My first motorcycle was little more than a scooter, an anemic little, 450 CC ‘learner bike.’ After I’d got a year’s safe riding experience, and resisted the impulse to let’er rip, I decided to trade up to something a bit bigger, more powerful, and able to carry my fat ass adult frame.

I saw a 750 CC model that I liked, advertised in the newspaper. It said, “Available to view any time” so I rode over. Somebody’s wife let me have a look at it. He had removed part of the front fairing, and dismantled the air-intake system. “Are you interested?” It seemed that she was interested in getting rid of it.

When I jostled it, there was no slosh from the gas tank, and it had sat so long that the tires were soft. It had been ignored, perhaps neglected, for some time. Probably the battery needed a charge. I told her that I wanted to know for sure that it would start, first time – every time. I wanted to hear it run, and I’d like to take it out for a short test ride. It seemed in good shape basically, with low mileage (Canadian kilometrage).

“I’ll get my husband to put it all back together and get it running some night this week, or on the weekend. Come back in a week, and it will be ready.” I didn’t get back for almost two weeks, and thought it might already be sold. No worries, it was still in parts.

“Would you like to take it?” I don’t take any pig in a poke – “I don’t think so.” “Well, I know my husband wants to sell it.” I said, “No he doesn’t. If he did, it would be ready to ride away. He wants somebody to just come along and buy it. That’s a very different thing.”

Which brings us, by motorcycle, to a recent blog-post, titled, I’m 34 And Never Been Kissed. I’d like to feel sorry for this gal, I really would. Heaven knows, she started out in life with several strikes against her. She was born and raised in a Fundamentalist Christian small town near Waco, TX. She was home-schooled by her mother, and not allowed to date, or use makeup, till she was 16.

By the time she entered the social swirl, the gals who’d been ridin’ herd on the guys, since they were 11 and 12, had them all roped in and hogtied. She saw some fellas that she was interested in, but didn’t know how to show enough interest in them, to get them interested in trading up.

It only got worse when she went to University. Her girlfriends and fellow-students were all too busy with boyfriends, and fiancés, and engagements, and weddings, and careers and/or families to even pass along some rejects.

She studied hard at school, got great marks, and got a fantastic job with a generous salary. She has a BMW, and a well-furnished condo in an upscale, security building. She has female friends that she socializes with. What she doesn’t have….is a man.

She says that she doesn’t even want a man, just for the sex. She would like someone to talk to about their life, someone to kiss her, and hold her hand, and pat her back and maybe rub her feet, and cuddle with on the couch, while they watch TV.

Her female friends tell her that to get a man, she’s going to have to put some work into it. She dismisses that suggestion by saying that she’s not going to change who and what she really is, just to trap a guy. I believe that she is mistaken, and misinformed.

There is no need to make any basic changes. She may have a wonderful product, but it needs to be marketed. She doesn’t want to leave her comfortable rut to sell herself. She just wants someone to come along and buy. Without some advertising, any suitable guys won’t even know that the product is available. 😛

 

Vulcan At The Forge

Gods

My friend BrainRants is paving his back yard with beer cans.

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Actually, he’s only paving a 20 foot diameter fire pit – less the 5 foot diameter central concrete burn area, and he’s using more than just beer cans – but it makes a great story.

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I don’t want to use the word ‘unusual,’ because many may read it and think strange, or weird.  It’s not strange or weird (or maybe that’s just me), it’s just uncommon.  He melts aluminum down in a homemade furnace, and casts 6 inch hexagons.  His input may include discarded patio tables, or salvaged broken storm doors.  Cans often include soft-drinks, but beer cans comprise the bulk of the base stock.  14 cases of mixed cans produce 10 of these tiles.

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He built his own little furnace, in a 5-gallon metal pail, using special, high-heat concrete and chicken wire for support.  He also poured a concrete lid with a breather hole and handles.  A purchased propane burner is inserted through a hole in the side to provide the heat, and crucibles, purchased online, contain the molten aluminum.

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He made his own wooden hex replica, and uses it to form wet-sand moulds, into which he pours the hot metal.  This project is nearly complete.  He had 820 hexes when I arrived, including a few bronze ones, and I helped him by staying safely out of his way, drinking beer, while he poured his self-imposed weekly quota of another 20, over two days.

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Here is Vulcan, beginning to pour 5 tiles.

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He’s getting closer, and that stuff is HOT!  Stand well back.  All of this was done in a garage, on a hot, muggy DC August day.  I can think of no better excuse for a couple of cold beers….and another to celebrate a safe, successful conclusion.

Dos Equis

 

Helicopter Parents

Helicopter

Helicopter parents, stop hovering and come in for a landing.  You’re not doing your children any good.

After a bit of anecdotal research, a local community service group is organizing Basic Life Skills seminars for youngsters this summer.  Parents who do everything for their children forget that they’ve never taught the kids how to do things for themselves.

A smart and accomplished 17-year-old neighbor did not know how to use a can opener.  An otherwise bright 15-year-old nephew tried to microwave a plate of spaghetti, with a fork in it.  A female Uni student singed her eyebrows off, when a baked potato exploded in her face.  She thought that the fork holes that her mother put in them were just for decoration.

One young lad used the dining room table as a makeshift bench, to cut a piece of wood, forgetting that, in cutting the board, he would also cut off a giant slice of the table.  His sister once called her dad to ask how she would know when water on the stove was boiling.  He hung up on her.

Courses will include
How To Iron Clothes.  Turns out that there’s more than one way to mess this up.  One college lad tried ironing his shirt while he was wearing it.  Another used the new couch as an impromptu ironing board, and melted the foam in two of the cushions.

How to set a table properly:  Also, how to wash dishes by hand, and load and unload the dishwasher – and what soap to use.  One woman says that a couple of college interns at her work have poured dishwashing detergent into the dishwasher.  “Bubble for miles!”

How to use a paper map:  One woman was driving her son across town to a soccer meet, when both their cell phones died.  They dug a street map out of the glove compartment and, with a little help from her, managed to get where they were going.

How to order food (like pizza) using a landline phone:  This will ensure that they know how to use the land line, how to politely order something over the phone, and how to interact with a delivery person, and calculate a tip.

How to mow the lawn:  Also how to identify/pull weeds, and plant/water flowers.

How to do the Heimlich on yourself:  There is nothing scarier than choking while you’re alone.

How to cut up common fruits and veggies:  And how to do it without requiring medical attention.  This course goes over basic knife skills – also, how to wash fruit and vegetables properly.

How to shop for groceries:  How to compare prices, the value of store brands, how to choose fresh produce, how to interact politely with a cashier, and how to bag the groceries without crushing the bread.  One woman waits in her car, and sends the kids in with money, and a list.

How to write – and mail – a thank-you note:  What to write beyond, “Thank you for the ______.”  How to address the envelope properly, write the return address, stamp it and mail it.  One office manager says she has college-aged interns who don’t know where to put the stamp.

How to do laundry:  What to wash in hot or cold, where to put the detergent, the magic of drying things slightly, then hanging them up (no ironing), how to fold clothes for a trip.  A young woman who moved to Arizona to attend University, was so befuddled by laundry, that she shipped it home – to Minnesota – by train.

If you haven’t taught your kids these things, and many others,

How to turn off water to an overflowing toilet
How to plunge said toilet
How to turn off water to an entire house
How to make a few simple meals
How to relax when you can’t sleep
How to be a good guest
How to politely address adults
How to recognise the smell of propane and natural gas, and what to do when you smell it
How to show good etiquette
How to resolve a dispute
How to make an important decision

it’s time that you started.  I’ll be here when you get back.