Brains, Mouths, and Fists

The big one; er, the big one in front, not the one who was holding my elbows behind my back, leaned in. He needed a breath mint. Or twelve.

“Look, wise guy, we can do this the easy way—”

“Wait, don’t tell me—or we can do it the hard way? Am I right?”

I think he pushed my solar plexus into my elbows, which, if you’ll recall, were behind my back.

I do so wish my mouth would check with me before taking the driver’s seat.


The Stranger on the Road

a barnEver since he’d set the barn up as a recording studio, he’d wanted a window so he could see his farm while he played. Windows not being inherently sound-deadening, it was a complication, but over time he’d hit upon a solution involving multiple layers of glass embedded in spongy soft stuff that helped reduce sound transmission.

So when the old man in the battered brown hat headed up his gravel driveway, he didn’t have to wait for the surprise of someone banging on the big barn door and messing up the track he was recording. He’d stopped playing his old Telecaster to watch as the stranger trudged up the drive, never raising his head enough to reveal his face.

But there was no banging on the door. With no windows anywhere else in the barn, he didn’t know if the old guy had gone around, or was just standing there.

Easy enough to find out.

He hung the guitar on the wall and crossed to the door, sliding the crossbar and pushing outward.

Mr. Brown Hat stepped back, blinking, obviously surprised.

“Um, hey, I’m sorry, uh, I was just . . . ” His hands wiggled around as he talked.

“Did you need something? Like, I mean, are you lost? Long way from anywhere, sir.”

The elderly gent chuckled. “I’ve been lost a long, long time, but not how you mean.” He shuffled his feet, glanced toward the road, shoved his hands in his pockets.

“I was passing, y’know, just walking down the road, and I heard the music, and, well, it drew me. I wasn’t trying to trespass, just getting closer to hear it better.”

That brought a chuckle. “You do realize that’s the shortest route to a musician’s heart, right?”

He pushed the door open wider. “If you want to listen, you might as well come in and get comfortable.”

The traveler pulled his hat off and held out his hand. “Morris. Morris Michael Miller. For which I apologize on behalf of my long-departed parents.”

“No apology necessary, Morris Michael Miller. I’m Reed. Reed Smith, most common last name in the English-speaking world, I guess.”

“There’s a reason for that, but instead of boring you with that, what if I sit down and shut up and you can play some more of that hopeful-sounding stuff you were playing.”

Reed smiled. “Hopeful? I guess the words made the music lean that way. Come on in.”

Morris found his way to one of the battered old kitchen chairs near the biggest speakers, and Reed grabbed the Tele and sat down to play.

He had no idea he’d just begun the greatest friendship of his life, nor that the stranger he’d taken in would live out the rest of his long life on the farm he’d been passing for no reason except that was where the road took him.


Wind in the Trees

Excerpt from a book I plan to finish someday.

Long before the huge Buick burst from the trees he heard the thrum of the huge engine his Uncle Quest bragged about. Gravel scrunched and popped as he slowed abruptly to turn into the driveway.

The massive door slammed. “Hey, Plum!”

“Hey yourself, Plum!” His uncle and aunt had been making up nonsense greetings for as long as he could remember. Never with others, just between them. Fruits meant happy, good news, his uncle’s wide smile and his aunt blushing.

“Where’s my princess? Or did she get promoted to empress by now?” Bets giggled as she ducked behind Momma’s chair. Betsy squealed as Quentin gave her hair a tug over Beth’s shoulder.

“What are you hearing?” His uncle sat behind him and looked over his shoulder toward the trees.

“Just the wind.”

“Saying anything I oughta hear?”

“Nah.” He was always a little embarrassed when his uncle asked about the things he heard. Not because he was mocking, but because he wasn’t.

“Alright, then. Keep me posted, eh?”

“Sure.” He couldn’t help smiling. His uncle was the biggest man he knew and yet he seemed small. No, not small, quiet. Young. Something like that. To look at him you’d expect a bear or a bull, but he was more like a cat, a big friendly cat.


Amazing Exploding Mother

Transcript (but it’s better if you listen)

(You really should listen to it.)

During the late 80s I lived for a time in Texas in a big ol’ rambling 175-year-old wooden house with 3 fireplaces and a mother in law flat built onto the back. I don’t know when that was added on, but across a giant covered porch and bathroom there was a little apartment with a bedroom, a living room, its own bathroom and a little kitchen and dining room.

The appliances in there were ancient. The refrigerator was all curvy and rounded and had a big spaceship compressor on the top. The stove didn’t have a pilot light. You lit it by turning the stove on and holding a match in front of a little tube at the bottom where the flame would get sucked in.

My mom came to live with us for a while. She lived in the small apartment in the back. One day she came knocking on our kitchen door and said that she’d been trying to light her oven and the match blew out and she couldn’t find anymore. I gave her a box of matches and went back to what I was doing.

Twenty seconds later I realized that wasn’t very smart and I ran, banging through our door and as I banged open my mother’s door and was about to yell, from the kitchen came a great big “whoomp”.

I came around the corner, and she was okay, and the house didn’t burn down. She turned the stove off and when she turned to look at me she had no eyebrows or eyelashes and most of the hair on her forehead had disappeared.

I’m glad that she hadn’t stayed in my kitchen to chat, or have a cup of coffee or something, because the house, at least, would be gone—and maybe all of us.

So kids the lesson for today is: when your mom asks for a match, go check done things.


Genuine Moroccan Cheesecake

Transcript (but it’s better if you listen)

We know a teacher in Denver who likes to take us out for exotic food every time we’re in the area.

The first restaurant she shared with us was a Moroccan place. As we walked through the front door and we saw people sitting on the floor on cushions I wish now that we’ve done that, uncomfortable as it might have been at my age. We sat in a regular booth.

Our daughter Fiona, who at the time was the pickiest eater in the world, was determined to try everything. We call her ‘travel Fiona’ when we’re traveling because she is always a little bit more adventurous.

Our friend warned us to try everything no matter how strange it looked . For instance, grilled chicken between 2 tortillas covered with powdered sugar. It’s delicious.

The restaurant seemed to be family run; it looked like a father and mother and 3 sons. When one of the sons noticed that Fiona was trying things but not eating very much he said “I’ll bring something you’ll like.” He came back with a dish, I don’t remember what, and she took a taste and he looked expectantly and she said “I don’t like it.”

His brother laughed and ran off to the kitchen saying “I’ll bring something you’ll like” and he came back and they took turns through the whole evening bringing us plates of food, for which we never got charged, to try to tempt Fiona into liking some kind of Moroccan food. She’d always taste it very politely and think about it and say no, I don’t really like it. And then whoever had brought it got laughed at.

At the end of the evening the father came. He’d been watching this the whole time and he said that he was going to bring something that he knew Fiona would like. He came back with a plate of what he called ‘genuine Moroccan cheesecake.’ Now, it looked and tasted to me like regular old cheese cake. But the 3 sons stood back and their father won.