Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Office of Propaganda and Intelligence Covers the War.

Thanks to government stimulus spending, or perhaps a mistake in the budgetary process, enough money has been raised to create a new online news outlet called The Confederacy Defense Review. The Review will be published by the Confederacy Defense Force's Office of Propaganda and Intelligence. The department has enough money to hire five intrepid reporters to cover the Confederacy's moral support and limited involvement in the current wars and other military operations around the world of interest to our readers and viewers. These reporters, all former soldiers (and until recently, unemployed), have been sent to cover military operations in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan. They will also cover the Pentagon in Washington DC.

Our First Report, Filed by Mickey Splunker

Confederacy Military Transport Scatters the Locals, Apologies are forthcoming.

Our first report comes from eastern Africa, where Mickey Splunker recently arrived to cover the growing threat of the Ju-ju weed drug warlord clans. The attached photo was taken by American Embassy personnel as Mickey's plane arrived on the dusty runway at JangaMara, scattering the local welcoming committee. While all the civilians were miraculously unharmed, a military mule inadvertently collided with the aircraft, suffering mortal wounds.

At the impromptu barbecue that afternoon, Mickey was given a briefing and sent out to begin his work covering the warlord battles among the poor people near JangaMara. We hope to soon hear from Mickey and other reporters as they begin this important journalistic crusade to bring our citizens the news, the whole news and nothing but the news.

This Post Approved by

Mark Daymont
Permanent Secretary
Office of Propaganda and Intelligence

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cable and Clark Plunker Learn to Skateboard

Cable and Clark Plunker are identical twins. They live at 42 Blossom Lane, Cloverdale. The boys enjoy pizza, TV, video games and their new skateboards delivered by Santa on Christmas. The moment they finished opening gifts, eating breakfast, helping their mother clean up after breakfast and helping their dad put together the new TV cabinet, the boys grabbed their new skateboards and headed outside into the cold. The boys were new at skateboarding and suffered some pretty nasty spills the first few hours on the streets. They were yelled at several times for riding their skateboards on private property. The police chased them away from the Piggly Wiggly’s loading dock. The local Anglican Vicar threatened to call the constable if they didn’t leave church property.

It soon became apparent that skateboarders where a seriously neglected minority in Cloverdale. They had the skateboards and a real desire to learn the sport but had nowhere to practice. As a last resort they moved camp to Cloverdale’s Lake Park. It was Christmas Day and the park was empty. They found a few planks of wood near the Park’s Maintenance Shed and set to work building a few simple ramps. It wasn’t long before their few ramps turned into a complete obstacle course. They’d skate and fall and skate some more. One hour passed then two. Each hour saw another layer of mud and grim accumulate on their clothes and skin. By 3:00 P.M. the boys headed for home. Every car that passed slowed to look at the filthiest boys in Cloverdale. The twins just waved and smiled. The whites of their eyes and teeth shown brightly against the dark browns of the layered, caked mud.

They found their mother returning from the next door neighbors. She didn’t recognized them at first, and screamed when she did. She ordered them to the back yard. They stood on the lawn as she fetched the garden hose. The boys yelped, laughed and hugged each other for warmth as she sprayed them down in the 42 degree weather.

"Into the garage and strip," she ordered. The boys ran into the garage and striped down to their underwear. Mother put their mud crusted clothes in a garbage bag and took them to the wash room. They shivered in the cold and waited for her next orders.
“Into the house and shower,” Mother ordered after returning from putting the clothes in the washer.
“Mom, we’re in our underwear. You want us walking around outside naked for the neighbors to see?” Cable asked. "You could of brought us out something to wear."
“You weren't embarrased walking all the way home completely covered in mud, were you?" Mother said. " So off you go.” She was happy with herself. Perhaps this would teach them to be more considerate of her time. The two boys looked at each other, nodded and smiled.
“What's going on?” Mother questioned. She recognized their devious looks. The boys ran out of the open garage door and into the street. They ran down the street, running and jumping so everyone in the neighborhood would see them.

Mrs. Plunker shouted at them to “come back at once." They paid no attention. She stopped shouting a moment later, realizing her shouting was bringing the neighbors to the windows. The boys ran to the nearest intersection, rounded the stop sign and ran back, being sure to wave at every passing car on the road and face in the windows.

Mrs. Plunker’s anger turned to laughter as they got closer. She loved everything there was to love about her boys. She loved their energy, their enthusiasm, and their love for fun. They were her life and she adorned them.

The boys ran straight to her with hugs and kisses. They were wet but she didn’t care. The three walked into the house arm and arm. It was one of those Christmases they'd remember their entire lives.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Our Christmas Lunch

Hello Friends,
Did you all enjoy your Christmas? Were their presents under your tree? Are you happy someone felt kindly enough toward you to part with their hard earned cash to give you something you may or may not have deserved? Now that Christmas is over, have you taken out the check book, wallet and credit card receipts to see what's left in the bank? You may be living on oatmeal and saltines for the next month, but at least its all over.

I was up early on Christmas morning. Don’t know why. I still remember the days when I used to be able to log a good 8 hours of sleep a night. I’m down to 6 now. I have the time to sleep 8 but my brain won’t let me.

We all gathered around the Bodily's tree for the opening of gifts. All very traditional. I took Grandma to my flat after the opening of gifts so she could put the turkey in the oven. She worked away in the kitchen while I cleaned. She called for help. She had Lisa’s bathroom scales out on the kitchen floor waiting for me.
“What do you need?” I asked.
“I can’t cook this turkey properly if I don’t know how much it weighs,” she explained.
I read the packaging and found no indication of weight. That meant we had to weigh it somehow. Mother’s solution was the bathroom scales. There was one small problem, were they accurate? Mother wanted me to get up on the scales and find out. How was I suppose to know if the scales were accurate by weighing myself? I didn’t know what I weighed. I know what I wish I weighed but that absolutely would fall into the realm of fiction.

The scales were digital, which placed them beyond my mother’s ability to understand and use. That alone put the fear into her leaving me behind to deal with the situation. I stood on the scales to see what they said. I planned on comparing the scale’s readout to my last known weight from my doctor’s scales in August. The digital numbers rolled a few times to the left and right, as if the machine couldn’t decide on a correct number. A few seconds later came the reading. The small window between my feet displayed this
“Err” The scales gave me an error reading. What was that all about? What did it mean? Was the error against me for attempting to use them to calculate my weight or was it something else? Maybe “Err” was the scales commentary on my life, kind of like the mechanical fortune tellers you find at a local carnival. Drop in a coin, the Gypsie opens its marble eyes, says something in gibberish - the official language of all carnivals, raises it wooden arm draped in someone’s curtains from the 1930’s and dispenses a card detailing your fortune. In my case, the scales didn’t attempt politeness. What I should have gotten was a ridiculously low weight to boost my self esteem and confidence. What I got was an “Err”. Story of my life, yes?

We were still left with the problem of weighing the turkey. Instead of putting my whole weight on the scale I tried my foot. The numbers rolled and landed on a number that seemed reasonable. I stood on the scale again, never wanting to admit defeat. Grandma handed me a warped aluminum baking pan holding our Christmas turkey. Another “Err” appeared. OK, time for plan 2. We took the turkey out of the pan and placed it directly on the white digital bathroom scales. So there we were, Grandma and me standing over Tom Turkey, barely balanced on the scale with its two legs hanging out and down. It was comical. The scale thought for a moment then displayed “Err”. Finally, the scale and I found something we could both agree on. It was a complete error to do what we were doing. To make a long story short, after several attempts we finally got the scale to give us a reading of 18 pounds. The scale was dripping with turkey juices but we got the job done. There would be turkey for lunch.

The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent in controlled chaos as Lisa and Grandma prepared the meal. Then a catastrophe. We were out of brown sugar for the candied yams. Lisa sent Grandpa and I on a brown sugar Christmas quest. Cloverdale's Piggy Mart was our first stop. They had the butter we needed but no brown sugar. As we left, the kindly clerk at the cash register wished us both a very merry Christmas.
“Bah Humbug,” Grandpa shot back. I stopped long enough to make excuses for his poor behavior. I explained the fact that he was born during the Great Depression, had a hard childhood, had eight kids, many of whom were intelligent enough to hold down real paying jobs, and was in his 70’s. I also added the fact that he’d recently fallen over a curb, hit his head and for the past two months has no sense of taste. I must have done a good job because they were all in tears.
“That poor man,” one older lady said to the clerk opposite me. Having been a showman my whole life I understood when to make an exit. I left the store knowing someone’s life may have been changed because of our brown sugar quest.

The Red Owl was our next stop. It was closed. The third stop was the gas station on the outskirts of Cloverdale on Highway 1. Again, no brown sugar. I purchased a diet Mt. Dew. Grandpa bought a bag of orange circus peanuts candies.
“What are those for?” I asked, knowing he wouldn’t be buying them for himself, having lost his sense of taste.
“Lisa,” he responded. “Kind of like a peace offering for not finding Brown Sugar.”

When we got home we discovered the yams were in the oven. Thank goodness for neighbors that thought ahead for any possible Christmas necessity.

We decided to eat around the table! I know how shocking that is to everyone that knows my family. We are the kind of people who use the living room as our dining room and the TV as our excuse not to speak to each other. Having a neutral party in the room as we eat (like any TV show that happens to be airing at the time) keeps us focused on the small screen and not each other’s personality and character flaws.

The food was spread out on the table. It all came together perfectly. I even mashed the potatoes. It is my belief the potatoes were the highlight of Christmas dinner - something I had to point out during the consumption of the food thus forcing everyone sitting around me to dispense compliments, sincere or not.
We gathered around the table for formal blessing of the food. Grandma had the honors, considering she was the least haggard of the group. We bowed our heads and folded our arms. She started.
Half way through the prayer a cell phone rang, right in the section where she was thanking the good Lord for her children, grand children and all her other many blessings. We looked up and saw something so disturbing it put many of us off our food. There stood Grandma with her hand down her blouse. Her hand was fumbling around in her bra looking for her cell phone. I’m proud of her though. She kept saying the prayer, paying no attention to the fact that everyone else in the house was staring at her in shock. The teenagers started laughing, then did their best to stifle the laughs when they saw she wasn’t going to abort the prayer.

We started eating. There were uncomfortable pauses as we stared at each other. We quickly exhausted polite conversation and quickly descended into commentary on each other and others not present who couldn’t defend themselves. Those with weak nerves ate quickly and asked to be excused. The rest of us continued for some time, stopping only when the food was cold and orders were going out for the cleaning.

It was an interesting Christmas day. Its all over now. Christmas 2009 is a thing of the past.

I’m hoping this Boxing Day finds everyone in good spirits and health. Unfortunately I’ve fallen victim to a bad cold. I felt fine this morning, even went on an invigorating 45 minute walk. Right after the walk I felt the start of a sore throat. So, I have the pleasure of keeping a sore throat company, along with its companion, the runny nose.

We stopped at the Piggly Wiggly earlier today. My mother found a homeopathic treatment for the relief of symptoms associated with the flu and cold. The name is long, taking up the entire front label of the box. I wondered why the French makers of this stuff couldn’t come up a name easily remembered. Wouldn’t be in their best commercial interests to give a product a name simple enough for their costumers to use when they recommend it to their friends and family? If you called me right now and asked me I could only tell you the name is long, it starts with an O, and the package is orange and white. I’m hoping this medicine, along with my Coldeze and the occasional swig of DayQuill will keep me functioning.

So, good night friends. I'm enjoying my holiday from the Other World. Wish you were all here in Cloverdale with me.

Mr. Williamson

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Shopping trip to Capital City.

This was the day for my annual drive to Capital City to do my last minute Christmas Shopping.
Normally I take the train but considering the number of gifts I had to buy I realized I needed all the trunk space I could get. I got into my Lincoln early this morning and ventured north on Highway 1. My radio was tuned to Radio Cloverdale's nonstop day of Christmas Carols. I was hoping for a quick trip up and back, and no scars to show for it.

Today my eyes were open to the horrors of modern urban life outside my tranquil live in Cloverdale. Capital City's traffic reminded me of New York City. Cars everywhere. So many in fact there were times I just held my breath, said a quick "Hail Mary" and pressed on the gas hoping someone in the never ending line of oncoming traffic would take pity on an old duffer in a big Lincoln and let me in unmolested. It worked, for the most part. I was only honked at twice. I felt pretty good about that.

The lines at the traffic lights stretched forever. So far in fact that sometimes I'd get in the turning lane for a light you couldn't see in the distance. I inched my way up over several light cycles until it was my turn to turn. Even then I rarely got the green arrow. It was usually me pulling out into the intersection where I'd wait for a break in the oncoming traffic to make my turn. That was dangerous in its own right. Today the break rarely came so I'd sit there until my light changed from green to yellow and finally to red. Of course, I didn't dare go on the yellow, or the red. I had to wait until I was sure the oncoming traffic was stopped. That usually meant holding up traffic from the other two directions. Pleasant isn't a word I'd use to describe the mood of the cars waiting for my hugh Battlestar to maneuver the turn, catch the wind and sail free of the intersection.

Finding a parking place was laughable. Luckily I planed ahead for that and brought hiking boots, a canteen and energy bars for the long trek from the last parking place in the 30 acre lot to the store's entrance. I'm happy to report that WalMart was prepared and had drink and first aid stations set up at regular intervals throughout the lot to rescue and rehydrate exhausted hikers. It was so bad at the Capital City South WalMart that the Salvation Army swapped the Red Kettle and bell ringer for a 50 cot MASH aid station caring for the holiday's shopping casualties. I stopped for a moment to take a whiff or two of pure oxygen. A nurse took my blood pressure. I think I was OK. They let me go.

The interior of the stores were a nightmare. Shopping carts were everywhere, leading dazed shoppers aimlessly around the store in a macabre version of bumper cars, only with carts. Children swung from the overhead light fixtures, giving one the feeling of jungle life. Every check out was open, even the ones not used since the middle of the Cold War. They were the ones with the big, non computerized cash registers where the cashier had to manually enter each price into the machine. Forget any sense of accuracy. Every employee of the store was manning a register so forget getting help with an item. It was a mad house. Some shoppers paid a bit extra for the shopping carts with GPS units attached so they could be found if they didn't return within a certain amount of time. The local Search and Rescue Teams were on hand to "go in" if necessary.

In one store the managers stood on tall ladders in every department directing traffic up and down the aisles with large megaphones and exaggerated arm waving. I found the fire brigade and paramedics at another store. They were called in to treat the wounded from a multi cart pile up near frozen foods. It was ugly, bodies everywhere, not to mention the horror of seeing civilization nearly break down completely as other shoppers were arrested for picking through the purses and wallets of the fallen. It was horrible. A sad commentary of modern life.

By the time I reached Target I was nearly done for. It seemed all was lost. It seemed the world was at an end. I began wondering if life was still worth living. I got out of my car a good 3 miles from the store's doors and started to walk. What I saw caused my heart to numb. Bodies of shoppers everywhere. Some half in their cars and half out, others overcome while loading their purchases in their trunks. The smell of exhaustion's fumes tainted the air. I felt all holiday joy ebbing from my body. I sank to the tarmac ground, I could hear the sound of wild, rabid dogs nearby. I thought all was lost.... and then, a miracle. I heard singing. It was coming from my left. It was the sound of Christmas carols.

I struggled to my feet. Pulling every ounce of strength out of my being I walked. Ten minutes later I came into a clearing. In front of me was a congregation of shoppers, all gathered around what appeared to be a Priest standing high on the top of a large Hummer. He led the crowd in holiday songs and urged us onward. He reminded us of the true meaning of Christmas. He told us that with God on our side nothing was impossible.
"Remember your families waiting for you back home," he shouted. "Don't forsake them. Find the strength to continue. Do it for them. DO IT FOR THEM!"

The crowd cheered. I felt new breath filling my lungs. Yes, I could get through this day. I could make it back to Cloverdale. Yes, this could still be a Happy Christmas.

With my new found strength I persevered and finished what I had to do. I made it home. All is well now. All is well.

Happy Christmas Friends. May your Holidays be full of fun, good food and good company.


Cloverdale Weekend Television. Christmas Eve Carols

Rejoice and be Merry. Mormon Tabernacle Choir

For Unto Us a Child is Born. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Decorated Holiday Coastal Express

The Coastal Express Arriving With Holiday Lights.

The village was on hand at the train station Friday night to welcome the arrival of the decorated Coastal Express. DunceRail decorates all the Confederacy’s trains one week before Christmas. The Holiday Trains run until January 2nd.

A crowd filled the station’s waiting room and platforms. The Comprehensive School’s band greeted arriving villagers at the front door by played Christmas Carols. The Kicking Donkey Pub’s waitresses ran back and forth between the station and the Pub taking and filling drink and food orders. The elderly from the Nearly There Home for the Elderly and Infirmed sat in their van. It was too cold to stand outside. Their matron kept them supplied with candy canes. They sang Christmas carols, accompanied by a cassette of Lawrence Welk’s Christmas favorites. Piggly Wiggly served Hot Cocoa and sticky buns on one end of the waiting room. The Red Owl Grocery Store served hot cider and rolls on the other.

I found a seat near a make shift stage near the ticket window. This year's pre-train arrival entertainment was supplied by the village's school children. At 7:25 P.M. the Confederacy Primary School’s Head Master walked onto the wobbly stage. He tapped on the microphone several times then spoke.
“Attention, Attention. Let’s quiet down now." Of course, nobody listened. He tapped on the mic several more times. Each time unsuccessful.
“Come on folks. Quiet Please. Quiet,” he continued. He wasn’t getting any cooperation from the crowd. The train master saw the situation, walked up to the mic and blew his whistle. That got everyone’s attention. The Headmaster thanked the Station Master then read the entertainment schedule. He read a short poem he'd written himself just for the occasion. It was unremarkable and easily forgotten. He received a few grunts and a couple of half hearted "Well Dones," from his Parent Advisory Council members who happened to be in attendance. He bowed then hastily disappeared behind the curtain (a blanket attached to a rope by clothes pins).

Four sixth graders appeared from behind the curtain and walked to the microphone. Each holding a script. Natalie Uppers stepped forward to the mic.
“Hello friends, villagers and countryman. We are the advanced reading group at Confederacy Primary School. You must read on a tenth grade level before you can attend the advanced reading group. I read once that the average adult reads on an 8th grade level. That means that the four of us read better than half of all of you,” she said as she slowly moved her hand over the heads of the audience. The adults in the crowd looked at each other wondering who the children belonged to. Their parents chose a quick retreat and disappeared into the restrooms.

“Tonight we are going to take turns reading excerpts from Charles Dicken’s classic tale of greed and redemption. Can anyone guess what I’m talking about?” She looked into the villager’s faces. Blank stares were returned. She looked quite pleased. She turned and a gave her fellow advanced readers a look of sheer delight. They answered by smiling and turning up their noses a few degrees to show their obvious superiority.

“A Christmas Carol,” I shouted. She turned and looked at me in surprise.
“That’s right, ah.... Good Guess..... ahhh, you must have seen the movie,” she responded.
“No, I read the book,” I replied. "You are the only ones that can read in this village," I added.
“But that’s college level reading?” she said in a shocked, whispered voice. The crowd was silent. Everyone was looking at me. I stood and waved as if I were the Grand Marshall in a parade of fools. I sat back down and looked at the young girl before the microphone. Her eyes shot daggers back.

The girl's embarrassed mother started a brief round of polite applause to break the tension. The girl started reading her excerpt from the book. She read well, with outstanding voice inflection. I gave her two thumbs up for the effort when she finished.

Thirty minutes passed. The third reader was at the microphone embarrassing himself by overacting the part of the Ghost of Christmas Past. He was a small boy with round glasses and mismatched socks as seen through his floods. To everyone's relief, a train whistle was heard in the distance.

“The Train, The Train,” a small midget wearing a white suit shouted from somewhere in the crowd. The holiday gathering surged forward toward the already full platform. I’m really not sure people whether people were pushing to get outside to see the train or to get away from the Advanced Readers. I’m not one for fighting a crowd so I stayed behind to pick up another sticky bun and hot cocoa.

Cloverdale's Train Station

Just after my first sip of vanilla chocolate I heard a tapping on glass. I turned and saw the Station Master waving at me from behind the ticket window. The door next to the window opened.
“Come on,” he said. I didn’t make him ask twice. I’ve known the gentleman for several years, being one of his better customers with my weekly trips between Cloverdale and The Other World. He took me up the stairs to his office. He had a large window overlooking the tracks. We stood in the window looking at the crowd below. The pushing and shoving was getting out of hand. Several of the weaker were pushed right off the platform onto the tracks below. The constables were unable to control the situation. The train was getting closer, blowing its whistle and ringing its bell. I saw the public announcement microphone on the desk next to the door.
“May I?” I asked the Station Master.
“Knock Yourself Out,” he replied.
I picked up the mic and flipped on the “All Call”. I cleared my throat and spoke.
“Attention, Attention. The Station’s Restrooms will close in 5 minutes and The Kicking Donkey would like to announce the extension of tonight’s Happy Hour for the next 10 minutes. It’s discounted Holiday Cheer at the Kicking Donkey. Make it a great night while you can.” With that I put the microphone down.

One forth of the crowd returned to the waiting room to use the restrooms. Another forth left the building entirely to take advantage of the extended Happy Hour at the Kicking Donkey. Of course, my announcement was a lie but it had the desired effect. The pushing and shoving on the platform eased and the Coastal Express pulled into the station on time.

The train was beautifully decorated both inside and out. And then, to everyone’s surprise, Santa emerged from the engine itself. He climbed a ladder leading to the top of a box car and threw handfuls of salt water taffy into the crowd from his red velvet bag.
“What a Great Railroad,” the Station Master said as he admired this new twist to the Christmas Train's arrival.

I turned to agree but before I said anything I was hit by a piece of well thrown salt water taffy on the side of my head.
“Who threw that?” I shouted from the window. Then I saw her. It was the leader of the Advanced Readers from the school. She was making her escape through the churning crowd. She glanced up at me from over her shoulder. I pointed to her then pointed to my eyes, telling her that I had her in my sights. She stuck out her tongue and disappeared.

The Coastal Express stayed for a few minutes to drop off and pick up new passengers. At 8:05 the whistle blew and the train lurched forward to its next stop at Dibley on the Downs. That ended Friday’s excitement. All that was left was a short walk home and bed.

On a side note, I filled my pockets on the way home with unwrapped black licorice taffies thrown into the snow by the village’s children. Their “I hate those” are “My Favorites”.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Truman Learns that Adults Sometimes Lie. A Harsh Reality Check.

Truman was the first to jump up to get the swine flu shot when the nurse arrived to administer the vaccine to Miss Maple’s 5th grade class at Confederacy Elementary in Cloverdale. He wasn't afraid like the other kids because he was told the Swine Flu shot wouldn’t hurt, and he trusted his mother and teacher. He also wanted to impress Lucy Olpin with his bravery. Lucy was his girlfriend of two days, which was a new record for Truman. Truman works hard at getting noticed by the 'hot' girls in the class. He courted Lucy for three months by sending notes, leaving little gifts in her desk, and downright giving her money before she agreed to 'go' with him.

“Come on everyone. My mom says the shot won’t hurt,” he said to his classmates, many of whom were still in their seats - reluctant to willingly allow someone to poke a needle into their arm. Lucy sat in her desk admiring her new boyfriend. His bravery easily compensated his moderate to average looks. She glanced at her friends. They looked jealously at her, envious of her good fortune to land someone like Truman.

“I don’t like shots,” Loopy Langford said from under his desk.
“Loopy’s right,” said Carrot Top from the back of the room. He was perched in the open window, ready to jump out to the playground below. Miss Maple approached Carrot cautiously, urging him to get back to his seat.
“The shot won't hurt,” she said. Carrot Top looked at her distrustfully. “Don't jump out the window. Stay calm and come sit down."
Carrot looked at his teacher. He remembered his depression when he saw he was in her class at the beginning of the school year. To date, things haven't gotten better. "Your friends don't want you to jump either,” she added in her condescending voice.

Carrot Top glanced across the room. Several of his classmates had the same idea as Loopy and hid under their desks. Others gazed blankly back at him, having switched their emotions off to succumb to the inevitable flu shot that awaited. They were too weak to resist the camp commandant's (Miss Maple) orders. A few, mostly girls, were nodding their heads up and down at the teacher’s suggestion. Billy Murphy urged him on by mouthing the word “jump”. Miss Maple crept closer and closer, her arm outstretched in a gesture of friendship and love - something Carrot knew was foreign to Miss Maple.

“We’re your friends Carrot Top,” she calmly said while waving her arm in the general direction of his classmates. A simulated smile cracked across her porcelain face, exposing her yellow, coffee stained teeth.
Billy Murphy snorted out, “Speak for yourself Miss.”
“Billy!” Miss Maple shot a dirty, crusty look in Billy’s direction. “100 lines after school.”
“Not if I don’t jump first,” Billy answered back sarcastically. Billy slumped down in his chair and stared straight ahead. He’d lost interest in Carrot Top’s attention getting stunt.
“Carrot, its just a swine flu shot. Everyone is getting them. It won’t hurt a bit,” Miss Maple's blood pressure rose as Carrot scooted further through the windowsill. In her 40 years of teaching no student ever successfully escaped her classroom and Carrot wasn't about to upset her unblemished record.

“He’s going to jump!” Penny Packer screamed. The sudden shock of Penny’s scream nearly sent Carrot plummeting out the window and to the playground three feet below.
Billy raised his hand to offer a solution. “Can I push him out and get this over with?”
Miss Maple shot back by adding 200 more lines to his 100. Billy slumped further down in his chair and started blowing spit bubbles through his lips.

“Carrot, look at Truman - already up front ready to get the shot. You trust Truman don’t you?”
“Yes,” Carrot answered. Carrot and Truman were best friends. Miss Maple knew that and used that knowledge for leverage. A skill fined tuned over her several decades of tormenting children.
“Truman, are you scared to get the shot?”
”No Miss. Like I said. My Mom said not to be afraid because it wouldn’t hurt a bit.” Truman unbuttoned his shirt, pulled half of it down to reveal his arm and waited.

Carrot froze along with the rest of the class. All eyes were on Truman. Even Billy sat up, knowing if the nurse missed and shot him in a vein there would be blood, lots of blood, and he wasn’t about to miss that. Loopy crawled out from under his desk. The squeamish in the class covered their eyes. Alice Tinker put her head down on her desk remembering her tendency to faint when exposed to disturbing images.

The nurse swabbed Truman’s arm. Truman’s smile straighted out with the smell of alcohol. The nurse produced the needle, uncapped it and started for the boy’s upper arm. Billy licked his lips. Loopy went back under his desk. Alice blanked out. Penny stifled a scream with both hands. Miss Maple started praying, hoping her lie about the shot not hurting wouldn’t be exposed.

Truman watched the needle advance. He looked at the nurse's face. Her tongue protruded a few centimeters from her closed lips as she lined the shot up before striking. She looked like she was trying to thread a needle. Her concentration frightened Truman. He felt ice water pump through his veins as the needle grew closer and closer.
"Now this won't hurt a bit," she said with subdued pleasure. Truman panicked.
“No I don’t wan...........” Truman started to say. The needle found its mark. The nurse pushed it in with full force.
“Awesome!,” Billy shouted. “Here comes the blood.”
Something happened inside Truman. The shot did hurt. His mother lied. His teacher lied. “Do adult’s lie?” he wondered. An explosion of grief and pain blasted out from his lungs, filling the room with a scream only a young child can produce. Miss Maple covered her ears with both hands. The nurse worked quickly to cover the puncture with a band aid. Billy stood on his desk to see the blood.

“I’m outta here!” Carrot shouted and leaped out the window into the void. He was quickly followed by nearly everyone else in the class. Miss Maple watched helplessly while all 30 of her students, except Billy, Alice and Truman jumped out the windows. They ran, all of them ran for the playground’s edge.

It was a bad day at Confederacy Elementary School in Cloverdale.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bessie Benton, KiddieCandid's First Customer

KiddieCandids is Cloverdale’s first professional photography studio. It opened yesterday in a converted Winnebago Camper Trailor parked near the south exit of the Piggly Wiggly parking lot. Paul Bloomer is the owner. Many local residents know Paul because of his years of work as the one and only photographer for the local newspaper, the Confederacy Times.

Paul Bloomer Stands Ready to Capture Your Candid Shot.

Paul retired last month from the newspaper. He spent his first three weeks of retirement sitting at home watching his wife. She kicked him outside when she'd had enough of his moaning about being 'majestically bored'. His forth week of retirement found him taking long walks. Those long walks gave him time to take an inventory of his life. Depression followed the inventory. He eventually came to the conclusion the only thing left for him in life was a career in alcoholism. Then one day a friend asked him to take pictures at his grandson’s 10th birthday party. He accepted the offer. For one day he had a reason to get out of bed. That very day Paul Bloomer fell back in love with photography.

KiddieCandids, Cloverdale's First Professional Photography Studio

During the party Paul reconnected with his camera and found a new reason to live. The next day Paul was at his computer writing a business plan. With his wife’s support, he took out a small business loan, bought a used Winnebago trailer he found online, scoured the Salvation Army Thrift Store for costumes and props and opened KiddieCandids just in time to cash in on the holiday portrait market. Luckily Paul is a good friend of the Piggly Wiggly’s manager. By pulling in a few favors he got exclusive rights to the parking lot.

The Bentons were Paul’s first customers. They knocked on the Winnebagoe’s outside door shortly after 9:00 A.M. The sat at the kitchen table and looked over the different Christmas Photo Packages before deciding on the least expensive single shot with one prop for $9.95. Little Bessie Benton was put on the bed with the Santa Hat. Ten minutes later Paul captured his first masterpiece.

KiddieCandids is open every day from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. You can find it on the south end of Piggly Wiggly’s parking lot. Just look for the Winnebago. If the temperature isn’t too cold you’ll find Paul sitting outside on a lawn chair bundled up in his green parka with a cup of hot coffee and a smile.

Morning Funnys From The Confederacy News

Santa has a problem with today's contemporary homes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cloverdale Weekend Television. Counting Down to Christmas. Holiday Music

Tonight on Cloverdale Weekend Television. International Christmas Music featuring the St. Thomas Choir of Leipzig Germany.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cloverdale's Religions Unite for Christmas Giving

Cloverdale’s Churches are united in an effort to ensure all villagers have a happy Christmas. The Baptist's Lady's Guild are sponsoring the food drive and urging their members into action. Our good lady Baptists are going door to door collecting food to fill the village’s food bank kept at the Busy Bee Storage Facility on Highway One. The food drive is an excellent opportunity to clean our your pantry by giving the Baptists the food you just bought last week at the Piggly Wiggly. You'll also be delighted to know the Baptist will testify to you in an effort to reclaim your soul from the fires of Hades while you rummage through your food reserves. So, in an effort to save your ears, take the following advice. Fill their plastic bag with canned goods. The women find it difficult to hold a heavy plastic grocery bag while reading to you from the Bible. This encourages them to be brief in the scripture reading thus leaving you to your sinful ways for another year.

Members of St. Bartholomew’s Catholic Church opened the church’s school as an emergency shelter for any passing traveller needing shelter or assistance during the harsh winter months. The shelter is administered by the Sisters of Ever Increasing Hope. As you read before, he Baptists use the food drive as a way to bring the lost to Christ. The Nuns, not wanting to be short on the soul count, use the shelter as a way of ensuring your place in heaven. Its been rumored that during the night the nuns organize the baptisms of the non Catholic. Considering a Catholic baptism consists of water dropped over the forehead by a priest accompanied by the Baptismal prayer, the process has been easy. The traveler sleeps peacefully while getting secretly baptised.
"If the Mormons baptize the dead, then we can baptised the sleeping," said the Reverend Mother when I asked her about this unorthodox practice. Of course I was sworn to secrecy so I'll leave you to keep this one locked away in your vault of never to be discussed secrets. Just exercise caution when seeking shelter at St. Batholomew's.

Members of the local Lutheran congregation organized the village’s Secret Santa program. Every gift has a matching gift kept at the church. Retrieving your full Christmas will therefore require a visit to the Pastor's office on Christmas Day. Members of the Seventh Day Adventists are the sponsors of Shop with a Constable Program for disadvantaged youth. No shopping on Saturday's though, that's the Sabbath Day to an Adventist.

Cloverdale’s Methodists and Anglicans are collecting money through the local banks for the Home for the Holiday’s Program - helping the less fortunate unite with their families by giving them train and bus ticket vouchers. There are no strings attached to receiving the travel vouchers. Cloverdale's Methodist and Anglican churches think of themselves as the Country Clubs of the faithful. The down and out might feel uncomfortable attending services with the village's upper crust.

Cloverdale’s Mormons joined forces with the local Salvation Army to raise money for the needy through the Red Kettle Drive. Salvationists and Mormons take turns manning the Army’s Red Kettles throughout the village. You’ll find members of both congregations ringing bells and collecting donations at the following locations:

  • The Piggly Wiggly and Red Owl grocery stores.
  • Donaldson’s Department Store
  • The Hairy Lemon Pub
  • The Kicking Donkey Pub
  • The Train Station
  • The Post Office.

In the picture above you see Sister Stevens, the local Mormon Relief Society President, ringing the bell and collecting donations in her Red Kettle outside Donaldson’s Department Store. Her Kettles collect more money than every else's. She has no inhibitions and has no problem putting herself between exiting shoppers and their cars. She has even been know to place the Kettle right behind the luxury cars and SUVs in the parking lot, forcing a donation before their owners can back out. To thank them for their donation, Sister Stevens will stop all other cars so they can back out and exit without delay. It's just her way of offer that 'extra holiday touch'. Sister Stevens knows nearly everyone in Cloverdale because of her position as head nurse in Cloverdale’s Medical Clinic.

There is another reason Sister Stevens is so successful at getting her kettle's filled faster than anyone else's. She is a loud talker and likes to discuss people's medical conditions. Its her way of giving you a free, parking lot, follow up exam - just to see how you're getting along.
Now, this verbal intrusion into your private life can be handled one of two ways. You can steer clear of Sister Stevens and her Red Kettle, only to have her shout you down from across the parking lot, sharing your ruptured hernia or lose bowels with the whole village, or when you exit your car, wave at her, and WALK STRAIGHT TO HER. She will wait to talk to you until you get to the Kettle. Of course, while you discuss your 'issues', a donation into the bucket will be expected. To make sure you do, Sister Stevens continues to ring the bell while you talk until your donation is properly inserted through the slits.

This uniting of religions is one way our village of the bewildered ensures everyone in Cloverdale has a warm, loving Christmas.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Everlasting Hope Funeral Home and Taxidermy

The Everlasting Hope Funeral Home and Taxidermy sits across the street from the Nearly There Rest Home for the Elderly and Infirmed in Cloverdale. The Mortimers opened Everlasting Hope in 1973 and are proud to be the villages only full service mortuary and taxidermy. Bob and Gale Mortimer specialize in the ‘Nearly Perfect’ method of restoring your recently departed to a nearly life like state using a combination of creams, make up, and wood glue mixed with finely ground saw dust.
“My Henry hasn’t looked this good in years,” testified Madge Truby during her husband’s funeral last week.
April Newsome was so pleased at the funeral of her great aunt in November that she inquired if the ‘Nearly Perfect’ age reversal process could be used on the living.

Of course, this masking process has its drawbacks. The deceased’s skin cannot be touched once the application has set and moving the casket must be done delicately. No sudden jerks or tilts beyond 20 degrees.
“The application can and does crack something fierce,” Gale Mortimer told me during my inquiries for this post. “So to prevent an emergency closing of the casket during the viewing it is important that everyone be instructed to look and not touch.”

The Mortimers have signs posted throughout the Home warning people not to touch the deceased. Non reading children are given a coloring book and box of 8 Crayolas when the walk in the door. The first two pages of the coloring book depict a dainty young girl being hoisted up by her father to see the deceased in a casket. The second page focuses on the girl’s look of horror after touching the face of the ‘dead and gone‘ (as the Mortimers call their deceased clients). The ‘dead and gone’s‘ face has multiple cracks radiating out from where the girl’s finger touched the cheek. The detached nose lying to next to the left ear is a nice touch. The artist did an amazing good job recreating that same look you get by tapping a hard boiled egg on a counter top before peeling away the shell. The rest of the coloring book show simple pictures of the Funeral Home, caskets and nearby local cemeteries.

The Mortimers spent Saturday decorating the funeral home for the holidays. “Christmas funerals are hard enough on a family,” Bob said while stringing the lights around the front window and setting up the plastic snowman. “Anything we can do to brighten the mood is appreciated.”

”Not to mention the joy our display gives the poor dears across the street at the Nearly There Rest Home," Gale added. "They see our front window from their day room. Here, take a look.”
She led me to the window and pointed across the street. I could see the large plate glass window of the Nearly There's Day Room. I could see several residents sitting in their wheel chairs. Some were asleep. Others were looking out in our direction. Gale waved. The alert ones waved back.
“Bess their hearts,” she said. “They know they’ll be ours soon enough, so I like to establish a relationship with them before its their time, you understand.” I nooded.

“Gale bakes cookies for them weekly, don’t you sweetheart?” Bob chimed in while bending over to plug in the snowman.
“I do. I do,” Gale replied modestly. “A little added service for the ones that have burial contracts with us and for those that don't.”
“That’s very generous of you to share with non customers,” I said.
“Well, what can one do? You can’t bring a plate of cookies and not offer one to everybody? It just wouldn’t be neighborly. Besides, maybe one of my Chocolate Chunk Delights may swing an undecided our way. It’s been known to happen.”
“Right you are,” Bob said while standing back to admire his Christmas window decorations.

“Look here,” Bob said pointing back out the window.
“Well I declare,” Gale said in astonishment.
The lighting of the window display caused a commotion with the elderly spectators. I saw many of them celebrating by swinging their canes in the air. One older gentleman was spinning doughnuts with his wheelchair. Orderlies moved quickly to restore order by dispensing tranquilizers.

“You see how they enjoy the little extras we provide,” Gale said as she lovingly clutched the arm of her husband.

Before leaving I spent a few more minutes with the Mortimers looking at their other seasonal options available to those that pass on during the holidays. On my walk home I passed the Nearly There's large day room window. The residents were secure in their wheelchairs - looking heavily medicated. They’d had enough excitement for one day.
A kindly old woman waved at me as an orderly gave her a pill. I laughed the rest of the way home after seeing her spit it out when he walked away.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas at the North Pointe Lighthouse

Yesterday evening I visited Mr. and Mrs. Granger for the annual lighting of the North Pointe lighthouse. This neighborly couple operate the lighthouse on the Coast of Despair several miles outside of Tamworth on Tide, and have done so for the last twenty seven years. Mr. Granger was just finishing up with the last of the Christmas lights around the garage when I arrived. The couple turned them on for the first time just as dusk was settling in. It was a quiet, simple ceremony. Mr. Granger said, “Are we ready?” To which Mrs. Granger replied, “Just get on with it,” and the deed was done.

Every Friday and Saturday evening until January 1 the Grangers open the lighthouse walkway to visitors wanting to experience something truly unique. Visitors are welcome to call at the house between 5:30 P.M. and 8:00 P.M. Mrs. Granger will greet you at the door with a welcoming “Come on in, You’ll catch your death out there!” She will lead you to the walkway between the house and the light house and invite you to climb the stairway to the top for a scenic view of the Sea of Solace.

“Stay as long as you like,” she'll say. “When you’re done, come back down for a warm before you leave. You’ll want to try my hot cocoa and mincemeat pies as well. Guaranteed to brighten even the darkest winter mood.”

Laughter fills the Granger home every weekend during the holiday season as people stop by for an adventure into the lighthouse and a nice cupper and pie afterwards. The front parlor will always be full. Sometimes groups get so large Mrs. Granger opens the kitchen and the family room.

Last night people started arriving shortly after the lights came on - drawn from the highway by the lights and the sign Mr. Granger nailed to the lighthouse's mailbox inviting all to stop. I stayed longer than I had planed. Visiting the Lighthouse and the Grangers was like stepping back to a time when Christmas was simpler. At 9:00 P.M. I excused myself, explaining I had a long drive ahead of me to Cloverdale. I left with a baggie full of mincemeat pies and my thermos full of cocoa.

Every season, the Grangers serve hundreds and hundreds of pies to hundreds and hundreds of visitors. Spending time at the North Pointe Lighthouse has turned into a holiday tradition for many local families. If you’re looking for an nostalgic adventure into Christmas's past. I invite you to visit the Grangers and the North Pointe Lighthouse.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Finnegan and the Christmas Pageant.

Finnegan Pew lives on Fulbright Lane in Cloverdale. He unhappily shares a bedroom with his two brothers. He sleeps on the bottom of a trundle bed.  His first chore every morning is to fold and put away his blankets and pillow so the bed can be pushed back into place. This gives his two older brothers an advantage. They get into the bathroom first, forcing him to jump up and down in the hallway holding himself trying not to pee his pajamas.

His brothers are the first to breakfast.  Finnegan is usually left with the burnt toast and the gross cereal. Never, no not once in his entire life, has Finnegan made it to the breakfast table early enough to claim the toy prize inside every specially marked box of breakfast cereal. Every morning Finnegan stews in his own angry juices as he shovels the shredded wheat into his mouth, one miserable spoonful at a time. Complaining to his mother doesn’t do any good. Her solution is straight forward - get up earlier. Finnegan tries every morning to wake up before his brothers but no matter how hard he tries he just can’t force himself up. By the time the bus arrives for school Finnegan is fit to be tied - ready to snap at anyone that crosses his path in the second grade at Confederacy Primary School.

Yesterday Finnegan woke up remembering he'd checked the Capt. Crunch box the night before. He knew there was enough Captain Crunch for three bowls of cereal after shaking the box a few times.  That meant there was a chance of starting the day happily. He tied his shoes and combed his hair, doing everything a second grader could do to look nice for the school's Christmas Pageant.  This year Finnegan was chosen to play the part of Santa’s Chief Elf (according to well placed sources, the decision was made on the recommendation of the school psychologist).  He and his mother practiced his lines over and over again the night before while father slept in his recliner and Grandma Petunia picked cat hairs off her dress. By bed time, Finnegan was sure he would be the best elf in Confederacy Primary School's history. 

Finnegan walked down the stairs to breakfast, reciting his lines hoping someone would comment on how well he was forming his syllables. No one did. He was annoyed. He stepped into the kitchen and noticed a bright red empty box of Captain Crunch floating on top of all the other trash in the bin. His two brothers and Grandma Petunia sat at the table, each working their way through bowls of his favorite cereal.  His heart sank, hit rock bottom and sprang upward - moving under the pressure of his exploding anger.

“Grandma, that’s my bowl of Captain Crunch!” Finnegan shouted. His hands were clenched into small fists, held straight down both sides of his small body. “You can’t eat it. You don’t have your teeth in. Where’s your oatmeal?”
“Finnegan!” Mother shot back. “Don’t you speak to your Grandmother like that. She put her teeth in early today because we’re all going to see you in the Christmas Pageant. You apologize right this instant.”

Finnegan had a melt down. He cried and screamed and cried some more. Grandma Petunia offered him the few crunches still floating in the last gulp of milk at the bottom of her bowl. It only made Finnegan cry all the louder. Father had to intervene. He picked Finnegan up, tossed him over his shoulder and carted him back upstairs.

Finnegan went to school.  The Pageant started at 10:00 A.M. Finnegan was released from class at 9:30 A.M. to get ready.
“Finnegan, here’s your costume. Slip it on,” Miss Ballard, the Pageant Director said. She handed him a nice green set of flannel overalls that fit over his normal clothes. Finnegan forgot to take his shoes off. He stepped into the flannel, and ripped it straight down the leg.  This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Finnegan melted down into a gale force tantrum. It took the Pageant Director and  the  the school psychologist several minutes to calm him down.

The Pageant started. The auditorium was full of students and parents. Each grade sang their favorite Christmas Carol. At the end, the entire school sang “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” The curtains opened during the last line of the song revealing Santa Claus, his elves and a large red bag with small presents for every student in the school. The audience applauded. Finnegan stepped forward, trying to hide the long rip in his costume held together with safety pins. The audience fell silent. Everyone listened to hear the words of Santa’s number one Elf. Finnegan took a deep breath and froze. He’d forgotten his lines. The pause quickly grew uncomfortable. Miss Ballard whispered the words to him from behind the curtain but Finnegan was too frustrated to understand. He clenched his fists.

Little Susy Warner, Santa’s number two elf, stepped up to the microphone, pushed Finnegan aside and spoke.
“Santa, look at all these good boys and girls. Do you have anything for them in you bag?” With the line said the Pageant continued. Susy glanced at Finnegan, giving him her dirtiest look as she returned to Santa's side.

Finnegan felt the eruption build - a Vesuvian eruption. He couldn’t stop. He took the microphone and stepped forward.
“There is no Santa Claus! Santa Claus is made up! Its your moms and dads. This isn’t Santa. He’s a fake. There is no Santa! Christmas is a lie!”

Finnegan was pulled away from the microphone by the Pageant director. Santa stepped forward and recited his part. speaking loudly to drown out the shouting of Finnegan Pew as he was led out of the auditorium kicking and screaming to the Head Master’s office.

Finnegan had a Horrible, Terrible, Very Bad Day. His mother checked him out of school for the rest of the day. They stopped at The Red Owl Grocery Store and bought another box of Captain Crunch. Finnegan got his bowl after all. Everything seemed right, for the first time that day.

It was tomorrow Finnegan was worried about and his return to school.

Cloverdale's Mr. Grinch

Old Stew Fropper
is a sorry old man
A sorry old man indeed.

Some say he has no soul. And if he did, they parted company long ago. Stew was born in Cloverdale over 60 years ago. Nobody really knows. He won’t give his age and one doesn’t dare ask. He lives alone on Shore Lane in a small unremarkable house with few windows and green siding. He calls it his 'PissPot'. Which brings us to another of his renown qualities - a foul mouth, which he uses liberally in most social settings.

Somewhere along life’s journey Stew fell out of love with life. Perhaps he had an unhappy childhood. Or maybe his one true love abandoned him for someone with a pulse. We may never know the answer. He is a mystery to everyone.

Christmas time is Stew’s favorite time of year, which may surprise many of you. How could someone with a stunted heart (due to the acid he calls blood) enjoy a holiday like Christmas?

Well friends, after a lengthy investigation involving a few days and nights following him in his weird neighborhood walks (daytime canvassing and evening lifting), I believe I have the answer. Stew is an Ebay triple gold seller of Christmas lawn decorations. His clients span the globe, their lawns displaying the best Christmas displays money can buy. You may ask who supplies Stew with his online merchandise? His friends and neighbors of course. Needless to say their donations are never voluntary.

Friends, I give you Stew Fropper. Cloverdale’s very own Mr. Grinch!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Time at Salmon's PreLoved Cars

Hello Friends,
Niels Salmon is the owner of Salmon’s Motors in Cloverdale. He specializes in what he calls the PreLoved Car business. Yes, he sells used cars on the corner of Capital Street and Willow.

Every one of Salmon’s cars gets a special holiday make over. “It brightens up the lot, making the cars more attractive,” he says. I think it does just the opposite. How is one expected to take a decorated car on a test drive? Imagine taking this little bug on the highway. It is an accident waiting to happen. You’re a danger to yourself and a major distraction to the cars around you.

Niels calls me a Scrooge whenever I bring up the matter of safety. He says safety is “bad for business”.
“If I cared about safety I wouldn’t sell one car. Yep, not a one,” he says. “If you care that much about safety then you’d better go down the street. If you want a killer deal, and I mean KILLER deal, then pull up a chair and let’s talk business.”

Regardless, I thought it best to take a moment of your time and show you the dazzling array of lights and magic waiting to be found at Salmon’s Motors in Cloverdale. Do you see my point? Do you understand why I keep telling you that you haven’t lived until you spend a Christmas in Cloverdale?


Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Christmas Tree Fire at the Convent for the Sisters of Ever Increasing Hope. Poor Sister Thelma. Bad Sister Edna Mary.

Sister Edna Mary of the Convent of the Sisters of Ever Increasing Hope
Celebrating her 100th birthday last January.

There is sad news in Cloverdale today. Sister Thelma, a nun in the order of the Sisters of Every Increasing Hope at Saint Bartholomew’s Parish in Cloverdale had a bit of an accident. Just after lunch yesterday, the sisters returned from the forest with the convent’s Christmas Tree. The nuns gathered to have a cup of tea and a warm around the common room’s fire before starting the decorations. Sister Edna Mary was asked to help with the tinsel. She struggled to unplug her backside from her scootermobile. The trip from the her electric scooter to the tree took the best part of ten minutes. She is capable of moving faster (just see how fast she moves when she finds out someone is heading down to the PiggyMart. She’s in the convent’s minivan, purse in hand and cigarette lit - in mouth, before the driver collects the keys off the peg by the door).

“What should I do?” she asked. “I’m here to help.”
Of course Sister Edna Mary and helping rarely went together. Supervise was a better choice of words.Sister Edna Mary stopped helping with anything at the Convent in 1993. That was the year she read several Lutheran missionary tracts and discovered she could be saved by grace and not by works. According to Martin Luther, all one had to do was accept the Lord as your Savior and heaven is yours. That doctrine was completely foreign to Sister Edna Mary. Up to that point her world was governed by works. Everyone knows that works play a major role in the life of a Catholic nun. In fact, that’s what they count on when their time comes and they stand at the Pearly Gates.

From that day forward, Sister Edna Mary rarely lifted a hand, except to light her cigarettes (Chain smoking was the one purely sinful delight Sister Edna Mary retained from her pre nun days as a school lunch worker). Every time she was asked to perform the even simplest tasks (the ones she didn’t want to do) she’d respond by waving you away with cigarette in hand sending ashes everywhere, saying “I’m saved.”

Sister Edna Mary stood by the tree. She didn’t like the fact that most of the tinsel was on the bottom 2/3 of the tree. Of course it would be that way because none of the nuns could reach high enough to put tinsel on the upper 1/3. Sister Edna Mary would have none of that.
“Sister Thelma, the step ladder,” She barked out. Sister Thelma did as she was told. Angering Sister Edna Mary wasn’t a good thing. She could say the most horrible words and darken the mood of the Convent so badly only a priest with a hose full of holy water could remove the gloom left in her mouth's wake.

Sister Thelma returned with the ladder.
“Up you go,” Sister Edna Mary said.
“I thought you wanted the ladder for yourself,” Sister Thelma replied. Sister Edna Mary exhaled the last puff from her Camel Lights in Sister Thelma’s direction and repeated her demand. “Up you go and I’ll steady the ladder.”

Sister Thelma climbed slowly and steadily up the ladder. Once on top she started to reposition the tinsel.Sister Edna Mary held the ladder with one hand and lit another Camel Light in the other. A moment later her cigarette came into contact with the tree. Sister Edna Mary wasn’t paying attention. Suddenly the tree caught fire.

“Fire!” Sister Edna Maryshouted as she abandoned the ladder and rushed to get her motorized senior citizen’s scooter out of harm’s way. Sister Thelma panicked and lost her footing. She fell into the tree and both came down hard onto the floor. The other nuns stomped the fire out and pulled Sister Thelma out from the branches. She was rushed to the clinic. She broke her arm in the fall. There was talk of a possible concussion. The clinic kept her overnight for observations.

The following morning Sister Edna Mary was the first in the van to visit Sister Thelma. Of course, her intention was not to visit Sister Thelma at all. The Piggy Mart was 1/2 a block from the clinic and Sister Edna Mary was nearly out of cigarettes.

Cloverdale Weekend Television. Rule Britannia. Last Night at the Proms.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Join Me in Helping Major Ezra Pills of Cloverdale's Salvation Army

Hello Friends,
In today's wanderings from shop to shop I met Major Ezra Pills of Cloverdale’s Salvation Army on the side walk near Wonderland Bakery. He was collecting for the Army's Christmas Fund. We spoke for several minutes about the village's poor and needy. I was surprised to learn that Cloverdale had a small population needing assistance. I suppose one doesn't always see what one doesn't look for. A good lesson for us all to learn.

The Confederacy’s Salvation Army ministers to the people in our neighborhoods through their local Citadels (congregations). Each citadel is commanded by an Officer. Cloverdale's newly appointed commanding officer is Major Pills. He leads God's soldiers in a war against poverty, disease and ignorance. His troops work in our neighborhoods feeding the hungry, clothing the needed and providing shelter to the homeless. The Salvation Army hopes to bring the love of Christ into the hearts of all who will listen. They begin with putting food in your stomach and clothes on your back. Once your daily needs are met then spiritual ones can be addressed. They need your help to do this, especially during the holiday season.

Major Ezra Pills spent today on the High Street asking people to drop a few coins into his red plastic collection can. Normally the Citidel's band joins in the effort by playing Christmas carols. Unfortunately, Cloverdale’s Citadel is too small to have a proper band, so the Major sang as he walked the sidewalk going from shop to shop asking everyone he met to give to God’s less fortunate children. A copy of the Army's newspaper 'The War Cry' was given to everyone who donated, along with an invitation to come to the Citadel for Sunday services.
"A nice cup of tea and biscuits follows every service," the Major added with each invitation.

The Major and I spoke of the true meaning of Christmas and the good work the Salvation Army does in the community. The Major was respectful of my Mormon religion, even praising the good work Mormons do around the world. In fact, the Salvation Army and the LDS Church are usually the first organizations to bring relief to stricken areas.

Every few minutes during our conversation the Major jingled his red can. He was reminding me of something I should have been doing. He was on the street raising money for the poor and I was occupying his time. We were having a good conversation about religion and I didn't want to walk away until I learned more about the Salvation Army. After several jingles and a few polite points to the top of the can I soon understood the meaning behind the Major's gestures. He was happy to give me his time as long as I generously dropped money into the can every time he jingled it. So in the end, I donated my way through an interesting and informative conversation.

I urge everyone to give to the Salvation Army this holiday season. Be kind and drop a few bills into their red kettles and thank them for their good work in the community. Give someone less fortunate than you a Very Merry Christmas.


Santa Disrupts Donaldson's Department Store's North Pole Village Display. Parents Horrified. Children Receive Counseling

Yesterday Donaldson’s Department Store in Cloverdale issued an apology to the community for the shocking behavior of the store’s Santa Claus.

At 10:00 A.M. on December 1st Donaldson’s Department Store’s North Pole Village was scheduled to open to much fan fare and celebration. The Comprehensive School’s Choir was on hand to sing favorite Christmas carols. Confederacy Elementary School’s Sing a Thon winner from last year was there to perform an assortment of songs specially chosen by Donaldson’s marketing manager to encourage shoppers to spend copious amounts of money. Artificial snow was ready to fall from the ceiling. Arctic Pink flamingos lined the walkway to Santa’s North Pole Bungalow in the Toy Department (the store couldn’t find plastic reindeer so the pink flamingos were pulled from storage and given collars of tinsel).

At 10:15 A.M. the Lord Mayor was scheduled to step forward to cut the ribbon. At the very moment the ribbon was cut, Santa’s house was suppose to open by magic, revealing Santa in all his glory, sitting on a modified Lazeboy Recliner, watching ice hockey on his 45 inch HDTV (of course, all items on display in Santa’s house are on sale throughout the store), and shouting "Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas".

That is, if everything went according to schedule.

The sun rose on a very cold December 1st in Cloverdale. Parents and children braved the weather to gather at Donaldson's Department Store for the official start of the shopping season and to see Santa. At 10: 18 A.M. the mayor was handed a pair of enormous scissors. He tapped on the mic, cleared his voice, and spoke - using his “I’m more important than all of you” voice. The mayor retold the classic story ‘Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus’. At the end of the story, he wiped a politically correct tear from his eye, cleared his throat once again and said, "Yes Children, there is a Santa Claus and he is right here in Cloverdale wanting to talk to you!"

He cut the ribbon while the Comprehensive School Choir sang “All We Want for Christmas Is Our Two Front Teeth”. One of the boy sopranos on the front row (a late bloomer) held up a sign that announced the song was sponsored by the Drill and Fill Dentistry on the High Street. At the end of the song the choir shouted "Merry Christmas" and the house slowly parted revealing the jolly celebrity inside.

Gasps filled the toy department. Saint Nick lay sprawled out before them in his holiday recliner cuddling a bottle of peppermint schnapps. He was out cold and drunker than a skunk. Mothers covered their toddler’s eyes. One little boy called out, “I want some of that!” Another child commented on the similarities between Santa and her dad after a long day at the office. Several teenagers in the choir, along with their friends in the audience waiting to go 'hang out', started laughing loudly. Flash bulbs lit up the department as cameras recorded the horrific event for future lawsuits.

The manager ordered the house shut. He rushed to the mic and apologized for Santa’s inappropriate behavior. He told the children that Santa was suffering from swine flu and was very tired because of his medicine. He ordered extra fruit cake and hot chocolate for the upset crowd. One very angry little girl with a hand full of 3x5 cards detailing her Christmas gift wishes, hurled her piece of fruit cake at the North Pole house. The cake penetrated the false plastic wrapped windows. Other children joined in, some throwing their cake at Santa's house while others targeted the store's manager. The manager took refuge in the house. The police were called to restore order. The manager, along with a very tipsy Santa, was escorted safely off the premises.

Donaldson’s fired Santa Claus. He has taken up a new residence near the shopping cart return in Piggly Wiggly's parking lot - never far from his bottle of holiday cheer.

Poor Santa. Poor, Poor Santa.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Christmas Sing A Thon at the Nearly There Home for the Elderly and Infirmed.

Miller Pravit won last year's Christmas Sing A Thon. His winning was attributed to his love for old people, his desire to win the first place prize and his consuming of gallons of Red Bull. He was so wired from the caffeine that he continued to sing at the top of his lungs long after returning home. He missed the next three days of school suffering caffeine withdrawal.

Confederacy Elementary School's annual Christmas Sing A Thon will be held at 9:00 A.M. December 16th at the Nearly There Home for the Elderly and

Students will start singing after the elderly have been seated. Seating the elderly can take up to one hour so family and visitors should take that into account when deciding when to attend. Participating students will sing non stop until the last student quits, faints or becomes to hoarse to be heard over the piano accompaniment. Students will be allowed one bathroom and drink break per hour. Eating must be done while singing (difficult to do but possible if quick bites are taken between verses). The school nurse will be on duty to monitor the students. She will act quickly if she sees a student wavering, singing something different from the others, or singin markedly off tune. Other things she will look for include:
  • Children facing the wrong direction.
  • Children holding themselves (an indication that leakage has or soon will occur).
  • Children sleeping while still standing and singing.
  • Children moving their mouths but making no sound.
  • Crying. Not a good thing for a Christmas Sing A Thon.

Children will be removed from the Sing A Thon for the following reasons:
  • Making faces at the elderly.
  • Excessive spiting (some spiting is allowed. Singing, by nature, produces spit. And that spit can be ejected from the mouth during loud singing).
  • Excessive picking of the nose.
  • The wetting of oneself.
  • The replacing of a Christmas Carol's traditional words with modern coarse and crude lyrics.

Stimulated beverages are banned. Last year's students drank Red Bull by the gallons in an effort to stay alert and awake during the long evening hours. Many students suffered horrific caffeine withdrawal for several days following the performance.

Last Year's Christmas Sing A Thon Participants at the Start of the Event.

All participating students must attend an Elderly Awareness Class before the Nearly There Home for the Elderly and Infirmed will permit them to sing on their premises. The one hour film will teach the children about getting old and the effects of aging on the human body. Students will learn how to control their fear of the elderly. Special emphasis will put on mastering facial expressions. The elderly react negatively to the looks of horror and disgust children give old folks when their dentures slip or their bad eyes rotate in their sockets.

In the discussion following the film, students will learn how to ignore unpleasant ordors by scenting their right index finger with cologne when getting off the bus. The index finger can then be brought up to the nose to mask eldersmell upon entering the Home. Students will be taught to desensitize themselves to the smells of a rest home by moving their scented finger away from their nose for gradually increasing amounts of time.

The Street Crossing Sign in front of the Nearly There Home for the Elderly and Infirmed.

Confederacy's students will be canvassing Cloverdale's neighborhoods over the next several days seeking your pledge for the Sing A Thon. The school suggests you pledge a certain amount of money per carol sung. The event will be video taped in the unlikely event someone challenges the outcome and questions the amount of their pledge payment.

The money from the Christmas Sing A Thon will be used for ElderOutings to the Fun Park at Tamworth on Tide. The Home's residents enjoy their outings to the sea side, the carnival rides, and of course Cotton Candy. A perfect snack for those with teeth and those without.

Confederacy Elementary urges everyone in Cloverdale to support the Christmas Sing A Thon and pledge well.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The McDoogle's Christmas Party at the Saved By Grace Lutheran Church.

Great Grandpa McDoogle, recovering at All Saint's hospital with his Very Catholic Doctor

Hello Friends,
Welcome to December in Cloverdale! Its the holiday season and that means families from one end of the shire to the other will be gathering for parties and reunions. The McDoogles will gather for their Christmas party in a few weeks. They’ve reserved the Saved By Grace Lutheran Church’s coffee hall for the event. They find it best to have the party in a church. The surroundings help calm the waters if cousin offends cousin or Uncle and Aunt come to the realization, over a class of egg nog and a helping of grandma's almost famous pumpkin pie, that their marriage was a mistake from the day they both said "I do".

Last year the McDoogles made a family rule that concealed weapons would be banned at all future gatherings after Great Grandpa tripped over 2 year old Malcom and shot himself in the foot. Great Grandpa McDoogle started began having problems with his balance shortly after loosing control of his bladder. Adult diapers helped with the leakage but Great Grandpa refused to use a walking frame to help with his balance.

“Damn thing makes me look old,” he said to his daughter. “The day I can’t walk is the day you better just take me round back and put a bullet in me.”

Of course, 95 year old Great Grandpa doesn’t seem to realize the fact that his face, hands and hairline are a sure give away that the man looks to be just shy of 120. Not to mention the fact that every piece of clothing he owns he bought from the 1935 Sears Roebuck Catalog. Oh, let’s not forget the fact that his dentures slip regularly when he gets into one of his argumentative moods. Once he and Great Grandma got into an argument over the best hospital in the Shire. Both consider themselves hospital connoisseurs - considering the fact that they both spent much of their 80’s in and out of several of them. Grandma insisted the All Saints Catholic Hospital in Tamworth on Tide is best hands down. Grandpa cried foul.
“The worse colonoscopy I ever had in my life was at All Saints,” Grandpa shouted across the table during last Saturday’s All You Can Eat Oatmeal and Scrambled Eggs at the Salvation Army's Monthly Salvation for Seniors Prayer Meeting . Grandma countered by claiming her surgery for women’s complaints at the government hospital in Fernwood on the Moor was frightening.
“It was like stepping back in time . I expect the doctor’s to pull out leeches and attempt to bleed me before putting me under the knife,” she said.

Great Grandpa attempted to spit across the table and into her oatmeal with blueberries (he’s been doing a lot of that lately. That, and having trouble getting to the toilet in time). Of course, the force needed to land a loogie squarely on the top of a nicely melting cube of butter was more than Great Grandpa’s dentures could handle. They flew out of his mouth and right onto the floor. Major Lydia Hawksworth stepped on them as she walked by banging on her tambourine and singing "Onward Christian Soldiers". It was an ugly scene best left forgotten.

Anyway, back to Great Grandpa tripping over two year old Malcom. Grandpa didn’t see the little tyke sprawled out on the carpet sucking at a large red punch stain made when Aunt Linda spilled her drink as she swaggered back to her seat. It was her fifth serving of a very spiked punch. Yes, the spiked punch - a contribution from one of the McDoogle teenagers hoping to have a laugh at every else's expense.

Great Grandpa, having had two cups of the punch himself, stumbled over Malcolm. The young lad was typsy himself from what he licked out of the carpet and didn't seem to notice the fact that his Great Grandpa had stepped on his hand. Great Grandma, on the other hand, saw what happened and screamed at Gandpa to be careful. The shock of it all caused Great Grandpa to loose his footing. He reached out to take hold of a hand or arm to break his fall but most family members knew to stay away from him. Grandpa had a tendency to loose control of his bowels in stressful situations.

Great Grandpa fell to the floor. The impact caused his concealed handgun to misfire. The bullet hit him squarely in the foot. Everyone at the Christmas Party dove for cover. The sound of the blast was heard throughout the building. The Saved By Grace Women’s Guild was in the room four doors down. The blast caused Miss Trelba Toosh to empty the contents of her coffee cup onto the beautiful quilt they were finishing for the Pastor's Christmas.

An ambulance was called. It arrived within minutes. The paramedics treated the gun shot wound on site then loaded Great Grandpa into the ambulance to take him to hospital.

Just as the ambulance prepared to drive away, Great Grandpa waved it down. She hobbled to the driver’s window and motioned for him to roll it down.
“Listen, I want him taken to All Saints Hospital,” she said to the driver. “He so loves the excellent care the nuns give.”
The driver nodded at her request and sped away. Great Grandma looked so pleased with herself.

Cloverdale Weekend Television. The Ladies Visit the Museum of Modern Art

Mrs. French of 12 Shurberry Circle and Mrs. Saunders of 14 Blueberry Marsh live in Cloverdale. They take a train outing every month. This month they visited a museum of modern art.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Clive Noodle is in a Festive Mood for the Holidays.

Clive Noodle woke up at 5:00 A.M. this morning. He sat up, reached for his glasses and surveyed his bedroom. All was in place, just as he left it when he went to sleep. He reached for his notepad and pencil and reviewed the list he’d made the night before. At the top of his ‘to do’ list was the unpacking of his holiday sweaters. He smiled as a rush of Christmas cheer swept over him.
“Christmas sweater time,” he said as he swung his legs over the side of the bed. His red holiday slippers sat right below his feet, positioned exactly where his feet landed every morning when he got out of bed. He slipped them on, stood, and walked into the large closet. Everything was organized alphabetically and by season. At the back of the small room were several boxes marked Christmas. Each box was subcategorized by color. The red box sat at the top.

Clive opened the box. A calendar sat on top of four red Christmas sweaters. The calendar was subdivided into weeks and days. Clive marked each day with a different color indicating which box to open for that day. He pulled out the top sweater, laid it out on the bed and proceeded with his other morning rituals as he prepared himself for his day as a public accountant for a nearly prominent Cloverdale business.

Friends, today we highlight Clive Noodle, another citizen of our village of the bewildered. Clive keeps the spirit of Christmas alive by wearing his collection of Christmas sweaters. Be sure to tell him how swell he looks in his festive apparel . It will mean so much to Clive, considering he isn’t married and doesn’t get out much.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Daymonts Start the Holiday Season in a Very Traditional Way

Dave and Melissa Daymont of Thornberry Apartments in Cloverdale formally exchanged Christmas gifts today. This was done after church as per tradition. A kiss followed the exchange. Afterwards the couple stood, walked around the coffee table to the newly decorated Christmas Tree and placed the gifts beside the plastic manger scene Melissa was given on her tenth birthday. Another kiss followed.

“Are we ready to move on?” Dave asked. Melissa nodded. It was time for Melissa’s favorite part of the ritual. Dave reached over to his computer and double clicked on iTunes, bringing up his favorite Christmas songs. He scrolled down, passing the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas Hits, passing the Lawrence Welk Christmas Wonderland Album, and stopped at his favorite - An Album of Christmas Carols for a Romantic Interlude. He clicked on ‘play’.

The sound of a full orchestra poured from the laptop's small, but impressive, speakers. Dave took Melissa by the hand. They both looked at their tree with its silver balls, artificial branches with green plastic pine needles, and popcorn strung the night before on long strands of string. All strung while they watched Melissa’s old VHS recordings of The Hallmark Channel’s Christmas Specials from the 80’s and 90’s. Melissa’s popcorn stings were more colorful than Dave’s. They had a cranberry between every 20 popcorn kernels. Dave pricked his finger with the needle on his first attempt at stringing a cranberry. It upset him, so he gave up on the berries and stuck with the popcorn.

Melissa cuddled up against Dave. They both filled their lungs and sang to the orchestra’s accompaniment of “Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree....” The spirit of Christmas was so strong in their apartment they neglected to monitor their sound levels. Moments after they started the second verse, the upstairs neighbor stomped on the floor telling them to quiet down. They both looked at each other. Dave winked. Melissa giggled.

Dave departed with tradition by singing the third verse in Norwegian He went to Norway on an LDS mission and felt it an appropriate time to use the nearly forgotten language. He forgot some of the words but that didn’t stop him. He made up new ones as he went along - knowing Melissa wouldn’t know the difference.

“Oh Honey...,” Melissa said at the end of the carol. “Your Norwegian really gave me goosebumps. Are we ready for some Christmas Cheer?” Dave winked at the suggestion. Melissa giggled.

They walked arm in arm to the kitchen. Half of last Christmas’s fruit cake sat on the table. It came straight from the freezer and thawed while the couple attended Sacrament Meeting. Their Christmas mugs sat next to the fruit cake. Washed and cleaned from sitting 12 months in the cupboard above the dishwasher. Melissa opened the Meadow Lands Egg Nog and poured. Her glass was nearly filled first, then Dave's.

“Oh.... not to much for me. You know it makes me tipsy,” Dave said with a wink. Melissa giggled.
“Are we ready for the hard stuff?” Melissa said while walking to the fridge.
“Bring it on baby,” Dave shouted. More stomping from the upstairs neighbor followed. Dave shot a wink at Melissa. Yes, you got it right.......... she giggled.

Melissa returned with a 2 liter bottle of Sprite. She topped both mugs with the bubbly. She mixed the egg nog with the Sprite using a Christmas spoon with Santa Head. They took their mugs in hand and returned to the tree.

“A toast,” Dave suggested.
“Yes, our Christmas Toast,” Melissa replied. Dave cleared his throat. He thought for a moment. He wanted to say something profound but his mind suddenly went blank.
“Its loosing its fizz,” Melissa whispered, hoping to spur her husband on.
“Ahhhh. Emmmmmm. OK, here we go,” Dave said. He cleared his throat once again before continuing. “Scrooge once said, ‘I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.’ As head of this family I wanted to add my Amen to that.”

“Amen,” Melissa chimed in as she raised her mug to consume the longed for treat.
“Oh, not yet,” Dave stopped her just as the mug's rim reached her lips. “I have one more thing to add.” Dave cleared his throat once again, then spoke, “And God Bless us Every One.”
Melissa giggled and Dave winked. Arm in arm they raised their mugs overhead to salute the twinkling star atop their tree. Snow fell gently outside and the sound of passing carolers filled the apartment with the spirit of Christmas as they sipped their egg nog and enjoyed their time together.

The Daymonts of Thornberry Apartments in Cloverdale wish all of you a very merry Christmas.