Flash Fiction #160

Red Chief

PHOTO PROMPT submitted by Courtney Wright. © Photographer prefers to remain anonymous.

FLYING HIGH

This isn’t Area 51.  This isn’t even The Excited States, home to the conspiracy theory, and Emperor Orange Foolius.  This is safe, staid, Southern Ontario.  How do you get ‘alien abduction?’

There are no footprints leading away.  Do you think he flew?

Wellll….

What do we do?

Whadya mean?

Do we call the Air Force?  Do we call the Mounties?

I say, do nothing!  If Bob don’t come back, I ain’t gonna miss him.  He’s such a pain in the ass, if aliens really did take him, in a day or so, they’ll bring Red Chief back, safe and sound.

***

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

Location, Location, Location!

I live in the best place in the world!!  You may love the place you were born, or the place you’re living now.  You may hate either, or both.  Doesn’t matter!  I live in the best place in the world.  There is no perfect place, but mine is the best compromise.  I live in the center of Southern Ontario, Canada.

I live within an hour’s drive of three of the nicest of the Great lakes, hundreds of miles of white sand beaches and cool (but not cold) water.  Some, near the bigger cities can be contaminated, but if you’re willing to drive a bit, it’s worth the trip.  All the tourist traps and the natural magnificence of Niagara Falls are but an afternoon’s trip away.

If you don’t like the big lakes and the big crowds, there are dozens of little lakes where you can put up a cottage and go fishing.  They’re a bit reedier, muddier or rockier, but often so small they’re like a warm jet-spa.

The land ranges from pool-table-flat, to hills tall enough to ski on in the winter and keep the eyes interested in the summer.  Mountains are magnificent, but they block out the sky.  The land is covered with some of the most fertile soil in the world.  Sadly, urban sprawl is eating a lot of it up, but a huge selection of meat and vegetables are locally grown, and fairly cheaply.

My city called itself “The Biggest Small Town in the World”, almost 50 years ago when I arrived.  It’s grown a lot, but it still has a small town feel.  It’s big enough to be interesting, without being so big it’s dehumanizing.  We have a concert hall, with a local symphony.  Acts like Roger Whittaker, Brad Paisley, Jeff Dunham, Cats and Rent have come to town.  If you want more than that, Toronto is only an hour’s drive away.

We have two Universities and a widely renowned Community College.  The Kids Museum morphed into themuseum (allonewordnocapital), still with stuff to interest kids, but with added paintings and sculpture, plus defunct equipment telling the tale of vanishing local manufacturing.  The house where J. M. Schneider, who founded the meat packing business lived, is preserved, and can be toured.  Doon Pioneer Village, on the outskirts, used to highlight the 1870s, Mennonite heritage, but has moved up 50 years, and now showcases life in the early 20th century as Doon Heritage Crossroads.

The weather too is varied enough to be interesting, but almost never vicious.  We have four distinct seasons.  Johnny Carson was dismayed when he moved from New York to Los Angeles.  He found they only had two seasons out west, wildfire and mudslide.  When the temps went from warm to warmer, the city crews took in the green plastic plants, and put out the brown plastic plants.

In the summer, our temperature usually ranges from mid-70s F. to high-80s F., with just enough humidity in the air to be comfortable.  Places like Arizona are great for people with asthma and other breathing problems, but are so dry the skin flakes off your face, as readings soar over 100 F.  Places like Georgia have slightly lower temps, but moisture levels so high, even healthy folk have trouble drawing a breath.

In the winter, readings usually hover about 10 degrees below freezing, not like western Canada, where it can plunge to minus 30 or 40, and the wind whistling across the prairies can make it feel like -50 or worse.  It can get hot in the summer, and cold and snowy in the winter, but not for long.  The area is so unexciting that even the weather gets bored, and moves on.

We generally get just enough rain in the warm months to feed the crops, not cascading off the mountains and washing us into North Dakota.  Kitchener is near enough to the Great Lakes that they moderate our temperatures, but far enough away that we are not inundated with snow.  We get enough to provide spring watering for farmers but not so much that we have to exit buildings from second, or third, floor windows.

We are not subject to monsoons, or tsunamis.  The tail end of an occasional hurricane blows this far north and inland, like last fall’s Superstorm, but rarely causes much damage.  We do experience the infrequent tornado.  I once drove within a quarter-mile of one, on my way to visit my parents.  It snapped a few tree branches off and swirled a couple of wheat fields, but wasn’t at all like the half-mile-wide, twenty-mile-long swaths that march though Kansas.

We get the occasional temblor from Montreal, or Ohio, if they’re fracking for natural gas.  Just enough to rattle dishes, but no real earthquakes of our own.

We manage to find all kinds of things to bitch about area politics and politicians, because it’s a game we don’t want to miss.  Compared to other spots on the globe, local politics is bland and boring.  We don’t have oppressive regimes like Cuba, Iran, North Korea or China.  We are caught at the edge of the World meltdown, but our Pols still guide us better than the 23-party, can’t-get-a-decision-made, coalition in Italy, or the fiscal ineptitude of Ireland or Greece.

We escape the polarization of the U.S.A., probably because most far-out opinions are not expressed, and are ignored, not fought about, when they are.  While we appreciate America being the world’s policeman, our tiny, under-supplied Army leaves us money to provide health care for our citizens.  This is socialism, not Communism.  If it’s good enough for the Swedes, it’s good enough for us.

Religiously and morally, it’s pretty much live and let live.  Jews, Muslims, Christians and Shintoists all live in the same communities.  No-one wants to force their beliefs onto others or drive non-believers from town.  Of course, we all hate the Jehovah’s Witnesses, especially when they ignore the Do Not Ring Bell sign early Saturday morning, when we’re trying to sleep off Friday night.

Abortion and gay marriage are both permitted, although it’s more like just ignored.  There are those who are disturbed by both, but there are others, just as numerous, for whom the removal would be just as disturbing.

All in all, I live in Goldilocks-land, not too hot, not too cold, not too bland, not too exciting, a bit of everything, but not too much of anything.  Come and visit us when you can.  Keep Ontario green; bring money.

A Very Merry Un-Birthday

That’s what I wish I was having.  I wish that I would have no more real birthdays.  It’s a good thing that I have never mentioned in my blog, the fact that I’m old, and that I’ve never posted “Remember When” stories, never commented on the slow, gradual reduction in abilities, never admitted that I’ve got Alzheimer’s, because I forgot that I’ve done all of the above.

Today I turned 69.  What an ugly number!  If only I could re-enact the Benny Hill skit where he floats through the pub, crooning 21 today, 21 today.  It was the number of beers he had scammed people out of.  I don’t think I ever drank 21 beers in one day, but I’d like to be young enough again, to try.

Ven ve get older, ve get schmarter.  Vell, zome of us does.  If I was all that smart, I wouldn’t have got this old.  Where in Hell did the time go?  I’ve got memories for all the intervening years, but it seems like only yesterday I was 21.

I knew that I had officially passed into old fartitude back in February, when I found that I couldn’t sleep without my socks on.  Even in June, when we threw the blanket off the bed, I still needed my socks.  My normally low blood pressure and slow heartbeat just doesn’t pump enough blood to the extremities any more.  How embarrassing.  What’s next?  Will I have to have BrainRants make up another woobie, for me?

I’m actually happy to have a day that’s all about me; I just don’t need a birthday cake with so many candles, that it can be seen from orbit!  At least I live in green, moist Southern Ontario.  If I lived where Rants is from, they’d be blaming me for the wildfires.

I’ve collected things during my life, car medallions, airplane medallions, book series, coins.  I’ve always been thrilled to get a complete set, but I’m not thrilled to have collected a set of reminders of how long ago some of those things occurred.

As usual, I’ve started this draft long enough ahead of the actual day to give me plenty of time to really work up a good case of “Sorry For Me.”  I’m sure the family will fête me into happiness.  I’ll get to choose a treasured meal menu, and even if the inevitable presents are inexpensive, as I insist, I will have the family fawning over me.

Back in the spring, H. E. Ellis obtained some sensitive, biographical data about me by using the devious ploy of asking nicely.  Like the typical gullible, egotistic male, I gave it to the first pretty female who asked, hoping for a little attention.  She threatened to use it to expose me to the world on this day, unless I sent her a fifty-gallon drum of Canadian Maple Syrup.  Since I’m so poor I can’t even afford to pay attention, that didn’t happen.

She did mention me a while ago, when she told about me adopting Eddy the dog.  Since then, she’s been so busy and important, that she hasn’t even had enough time to push her mother in front of an oncoming bus on the information blog-highway.  I’ll have to check early.  If she’s actually thrown me a birthday party, I need to bring along the big bowl of homemade cinnamon applesauce we just completed, Yum, Yum!!

White Lady In The Hood is another lovely lady who has promised to massage my birthday ego, showing off her literary prowess by composing a satirical poem about my aged-ness and antique-itude.  My poetic ability stops right after, “The Moon is Lune.  I’ll see you soon.”  We should all go over there to see what she’s created.  I’ll bring along the applesauce.  Of all the things that have been done to me over the years, some of them legal, I’ve been satyrised, but never satirized.  I hope it feels good.  Do I need to bring along the K-Y too?

I’d be proud to occupy the position of Senior Statesman or Wise, Intelligent Elder Advisor, but I just checked my résumé, and don’t seem to find those abilities listed.  To identify my age with the Arabic numerals 69 is bad enough.  At least I don’t have to use the Roman-numeral letters.  I’m sure that combination spells out some horrible word.

People tell me, “You’re not getting older.  You’re getting better.”  I believe I reached the acme of my abilities some time back.  Now, all I’m getting better at, is getting older.  If you see a big cloud of blue funk hovering around, don’t worry, it’s just me.  It’ll dissipate in a couple of days, and I’ll be back, posting some juvenile collection of humor which proves my real mental age.

The sun officially went over my personal yardarm at about 2:00 AM this morning.  Lying in bed, crying about the inevitable, only gets tears in my ears.  Thanks for coming to my pity party, but it’s time to end all this morbid, morose moping.  Let’s get a Birthday Par-Tay underway.  Envelopes with worshipful cash, gratefully accepted.  Vive L’old grump!

At least next year’s 70 seems like a neater, rounder number.  Bah!  I’m still not looking forward to it.

Moneypit

It’s the 24th of April in Southern Ontario.  I live as far south as Detroit, and it Snowed today.  Wha’Happun?  Did we not get Mother Nature a nice enough present for Earth Day?

I took the car to the Chevy Dealer last week, to have them Deal with the no-start problem.  As I suspected, the charge was almost $600.  Then the service manager said the traction control/ABS brakes thing was a separate problem that would take almost another $500 to cure.  The cats may have to go on a diet when we start eating their food.  I don’t know whether any one of these fixes has taken care of the fainting speedometer, and I haven’t been locked out of the car recently.  My key would sometimes fail to turn in the lock, but that was just because it is the most-used, and most-worn.  They charged me six bucks and cut me a new one.  The wife traded her seldom-used one to the son.

I found another automotive idiosyncrasy the other day.  We stopped at the pharmacy, on the way home from the wife’s doctor, with a list of prescriptions.  As usual, she wasn’t feeling too energetic, so I went in alone, leaving the keys in the ignition.  Just as I was coming back out, in hobbled the wife.  She had remembered a question or two she wished to put to the pharmacist.  She told me she had pushed the door-lock button, as she got out.  I asked her for my keys.  Oh, were they still in the lock?  She has her purse, does she have her keys?  Yes! At least we aren’t locked out.  I walked over to the car and opened the driver’s door, and turned to look at her.  She was still fumbling to get out the remote on her key-ring.  Apparently, if you leave the keys in the ignition and push the lock button, all the doors lock, except the driver’s.  So there sat the car, with the driver’s door unlocked, keys in the ignition, and no-one watching it.  The only thing missing was a large sign on the roof reading, Steal Me.

The day after I posted about taking the daughter to pick up her hearing assistors at the better hearing clinic, I read a short piece in the local paper that said that two employees from the clinic in the next city, which we used, and one from a branch in a city down the highway, were arrested and charged with fraud.  It is Alleged that they overbilled for goods and services and charged for services not rendered to the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, the Canadian Ministry of Health and the Federal Long-term Assistive Devices Program.  My guess that they were under investigation was correct.  We’ll never get the stolen money back, and now we’ll have to pay more to have them prosecuted, and possibly jailed.

I’m still reading.  They’re still S**tting.  A story in the local paper is headlined, “In pursuit of riches in the asteroid belt.”  It’s about a plan to capture near-Earth asteroids, and mine them for things like platinum, which is really valuable, as well as water for human space-use, and iron, for building structures in space.  It would be relatively easy and inexpensive to do because these hunks of rock are closer than the moon.  They are Not, however, as implied, in the asteroid belt, which is a couple of hundred million miles away.

Quebec, our beloved Francophone province, has a Quebec Office of the French Language, despite the fact that the poutine they speak is almost incomprehensible to people in France.  When they import French-language movies, made in Paris, they have to have subtitles to be understood.  This warehouse of cultural egotism threw a snit-fit last week.  A hospital in Montreal, where 75% speak English, purchased some soiled linen baskets from a supplier in the USA.  The baskets say, ”Soiled linen”.  The petty language police got up on their Frogs-legs to protest mocking their culture and disrespect for Quebec’s linguistic uniqueness.  Dear Quebec; Get over yourselves!  After the Battle of The Plains of Abraham, two hundred years ago, you were offered the options of being a defeated people, or a productive, co-operative part of this great country.  Please choose one and shut up about it.

Over the years, many people have suggested that those receiving social assistance, welfare, unemployment, etc., should be required to perform some sort of service for the community which supports them.  Various provinces and cities have enacted ordinances which prevent this.  For example, the number of hours put in, divided into the amount of money given to an individual, might result in a figure less than the minimum wage law.  We can’t have that.  That might incite someone to actually get a paying job.  Just keep handing the money over with no strings attached.

Some social engineers have come up with a back-door approach which gets around some of these problems.  The Language-Nazi doesn’t have any great objection to a scheme which will reduce the Unnecessary burden on an already strained economy.  I am steamed, however, about what they’ve decided to call it.  When someone is forced to put in work without direct payment, it will be known as Mandatory Volunteerism.  This joins Military Intelligence, and Government Ethics as one of the most linguistically self-contradictory phrases ever invented.

BrainRants would probably tell you that, this is the Army system, just without the stupid name.  “I want three volunteers!  You, you and you!”  My handicapped daughter lives in geared-to-income housing.  She can’t sweep sidewalks or clear drains, but she is the president of the housing complex she lives in, and puts in lots of hours on her computer, making sure that goods and services are obtained, and payments are made.

 

And Away We Go

Oh good!  Another blogger with nothing to say, but determined to say it.

I’m here because of BrainRants. so I thought I would see what his first blog looked like, plus a couple of others.  Nobody had a big start, they just started publishing.  I thought that my first post should be like a mission statement, and give an idea of who I am and where I’m coming from.

I’m a 67 year-old white male from the wilds of central Southern Ontario.  I have a Mensa-level IQ, the curiosity of a magpie, and the attention span of a gnat.  I research things which can do me no good at all.  When the memory isn’t failing me, I have a head full of interesting and hopefully amusing trivia, which I hope to share with what will soon be an enormous following.

I have done a bit of travelling.  I have been in two provinces, fourteen states and two time zones.  If you haven’t been to BrainRants site, I strongly recommend it.  If you have been there, this may turn out to be quite similar, not as a rip-off, or even as an homage, but simply because he and I seem to think and feel much the same.  I hope to be as entertaining as him.  It may take some practice.

I may rant from time to time about English; spelling, wrong words, definitions and construction.  I’m only a bit of a word-Nazi, with just enough flexibility to accept the inevitable evolution of the language.  I hate lack of consideration for others, and an all too common feeling of entitlement.  I don’t hate stupidity.  You can be as dumb as a sack of rocks and still figure out how to get out of the sack.  What I hate is people who seem to have intelligence, but simply can’t, or won’t, apply it to what will happen next, especially for the people behind them.

A case in point, for my first rant.  I went into a supermarket today to pick  up a copy of the regional newspaper.  I went to the express lane to check out.  An oriental man waved the young fellow in front of me, and me, to go ahead of him.  I gave him two points for kindness and good manners, but then took one back, when his wife showed up with another couple of items.

The young guy has two quarts of orange juice, a two quart jug of milk, and a big bag of ice, all held in his arms.  He doesn’t want to hold all that cold stuff, so he puts it down on the end of the feed belt.  The distinguished gentleman in front of him has two items, a small bottle of mouthwash and a pack of gum, probably a hot date tonight.

Instead of putting his stuff on the belt, he stands there with it in his hand.  When the last item from the woman in front of him is scanned, the belt begins to move forward, carrying the kid’s stuff past him, to stop at the sensor light.  But he wants to be first!  So, instead of just putting his things down just the other side of the light, he reaches down and pushes the orange juice back.  Of course, by the time he turns back to deposit his things, the belt has moved forward again.

I watched him and thought, “Dear God, he’s not going to do it again.”  But he did…same result.  Finally the checkout clerk took pity on him and reached out and took his things and scanned them, or we’d have been there all day.

Is anybody out there?  That’s all the fun I can take for the first day.  Be back soon.