Category Archives: Food and Drink

The Gravy Canoe of Wild Wyoming – 1

Wyoming gravy.

In the Wyoming wilds of tumbling grief, out beyond the city of no fame or purpose, just broken lives in boxes and a withering menagerie of amenities, the man in the white truck parked on a lonely hill would drink golden juice and look out upon the vast emptiness of his kingdom.

He would sit there nearly all day, the windows down, the western wind rolling in, the radio weeping some sad song about love and life and all the loss ever involved. He would sigh. He would drive back to town a wounded man.

He lived in an overly expensive apartment that was really a dump. The world takes advantage when it can. He got home in the late afternoon to take a shower. He needed to make gravy for a dinner party with the clowns. Brown gravy. Smooth gravy. Gravy like a silently still and unmuddied lake in a faraway place in the galactic Italian Dolomites.

The party was to be held at the home of the mysterious Veronica Eyes. She had eyes that didn’t look human. They were orange, almost. He wondered what she thought of him. He was not much for speaking clearly, but he was planning to discuss noise at the library with everyone and how much he hated it and was going to lodge a formal complaint with the library board of trustees. He’d try to throw in a joke or two if he could.

Fascinating enough? he wondered. He hoped the gravy would be a big hit as well. His nervous condition negated most friendships. He was known as Steel because he was cold and heartless… And the fact that his name was in fact Steel. Steel Brandenburg III. He was from Utica, NY and somehow ended up in the barren den of loneliness in Wyoming. Berlin, Wyoming is what the nowhere and isolated town was called. The population was 8,888 people and most of them hated life or people or both. The town sat in a narrow valley. High sandy rock cliffs the color of spice cake bordered the northern edge. An interstate bordered the southern side. Further south were the wildlands and the hills and the cold waters, places where he would play and meditate and recharge his cellophane heart.

Steel stirred the bubbling gravy in the pot to keep it smooth. He bent his head down to take a smell of it and his glasses slipped off and fell into the pot.

“Holy hell mother of piss!” he yelled out loud, loud enough to shake the windows and walls and some of the limbs in a tree that grew tall and crooked outside his second-story apartment. He took the pot by the handle and tossed it. It hit a wall, splattered, made a mess, his head confessed the short fuse of his dynamite soul.

He paused to catch his breath, regain some sense of exposure. He almost cried, then he laughed. His cell phone rang, and he trembled as he answered.


“Hi Steel, it’s Veronica.”

“Yes. What can I do for you?”

“I was wondering if you were still planning on bringing that yummy brown gravy to the dinner party.”

“Uh, well…”

“I’m making mashed potatoes and thought how wonderful it would be for people to have gravy with them. It would be ever so delicious.”

Steel looked across the apartment to where the upturned pot rested in the carpet beneath a Picasso wall of gravy in liquid motion. “Oh. I’m afraid I’ve had a bit of an accident in my kitchen. I’ve lost the gravy. I mean, I didn’t lose it… It’s just not going to happen. I’m sorry.”

Veronica’s pause indicated disappointment. “Oh. That’s too bad. I was really looking forward to it.”

“I’m sure you were… If you’d like, I could pick up a jar or two of gravy at the store on my way over?”

“Gravy from a jar?”

“Sure. It’s not as good as my scratch work, but it will do in a pinch.”

She didn’t answer him at first because she was whispering to someone in the background, something about gravy, he thought. “You know what, Steel… I’m suddenly not feeling very well and I think I have to cancel the party.”

“Cancel the party?”


“But I was really looking forward to it and seeing you and…”

Veronica faked a cough, groaned a little. “I’m sorry. Maybe another time.” She suddenly ended the call and was gone, lost in the vibrations of Berlin, Wyoming airwaves.

“Huh?” Steel thought out loud. “She’s lying. She must be lying. Of course, she’s lying.”

Steel bent down with a bucket and a sponge for the arduous task of cleaning gravy out of the carpet and from the wall. He washed the pot and put it back into a cabinet. He rinsed his glasses off and put them back on. They hadn’t been damaged, thank God. The world was clear again. People hated him. He knew it. Veronica had never wanted him at the party in the first place. Why didn’t she just say so, he thought. Why put him through the agony of more social disgrace and disappointment. But then he had an idea. He was going to go to the party after all. He was going to call her out on her lie, her Billy goat bluff.

He drove to the one and only grocery store in town. He plucked two jars of brown gravy from the shelf and then went to stand in the long, agonizingly slow checkout lane. “One cashier again,” Steel muttered out loud. Some people turned to look at him.

When it came his turn, he carefully set the two jars of gravy down on the black belt that moved the groceries forward so the cahier could scan them. It was dirty. It was wet with milk in some places. “Ugh. Don’t you guys ever clean this thing off?” Steel said as he glared at the cashier, an older woman with fuzzy orange hair and a very pale face. She was smacking gum.

“Just two jars of gravy?” she asked with a gravelly voice, a voice the victim of repetitive cigarette assault. She ignored his complaint.

“Yeah, two jars of gravy… But what about the belt? You didn’t give me a satisfactory reply. You don’t seem very concerned about it at all.”

She rolled her eyes at him.

“I’m serious,” Steel plodded on. “I don’t want to set my groceries down on this gross thing,” he said. He turned to look at the people behind him in line. “I’m sure no one does.”

The cashier sighed. She hated her job. She hated dealing with jerks like Steel Brandenburg III. She wanted to stab him. She retrieved a spray bottle of blue cleaner from some hidden space below. She reached somewhere else for a couple of sheets of paper towels. “Can you pick the jars up please,” she said to Steel. He picked them up. She sprayed the belt down with the cleaner and wiped it up with the paper towels. “Better?”

“Yes,” Steel said with a smile as he put the jars of gravy back down on the belt. “Thank you. I’d suggest you do that after every customer.”

She gave him a dirty look. She ran the jars of gravy over the scanner and bagged them. “$5.18.”

Steel inserted his bank card into the pay pad and waited. He pressed some numbers. “You know, this thing could use some cleaning, too. Ugh. Makes my stomach turn thinking of all the nasty fingers touching this thing.” Once his card was approved he removed it and filed it back into its proper place in his brown wallet. He reached for his bag. “Thanks,” he said to her, and out the doors he went.

Veronica Eyes lived in a nothing fancy house in a nothing fancy neighborhood on the southwest side of Berlin, Wyoming. The houses were small, basic, boring mostly. They were yellow, baby blue, dirty white.

Steel stopped his white pickup at the end of the block and looked up the street. There was a pile of cars in front of her house. “I knew it,” he said out loud. “She’s a liar and a phony.”

He parked the truck out of view of the front windows and went to the door. He heard laughing and talking beyond it. He rang the doorbell and waited. Someone was coming to answer. Veronica had a look of shock on her face when she saw him there. “Steel…” she nervously squeaked. “What are you doing?”

He grinned at her. She looked at the grocery bag he was holding. “I knew you were pulling my leg about being sick, so I came to the party after all. Nice trick. You almost got me.” He laughed oddly and peered over her shoulder. “Can I come in?”

Veronica reluctantly pulled the door wider. The other guests got quiet when they turned to look at him with surprised wonder.

Steel raised the grocery bag in the air. “Hi everyone! No need to fear. I brought gravy!”


The Lobster Guy (Eight)


Maggie the waitress cowered in the shadows of a Red Lobster in Lincoln, Nebraska, and watched Truman Humboldt from a distance. She chewed on her fingernails and spit out the pieces onto the wild cranberry and lemon grass patterned carpeting. The small hostess with the long black hair noticed her. “What are you looking at so nervously and intently?”

“That man at table 15,” Maggie began in a hushed voice. “He’s so strange and awful. You should have heard the way he talked to me.”

The hostess stood on her tiptoes and craned her neck to look. “Oh, God. The guy with the red tuxedo? What a whack-a-doodle. Do you know I caught him sticking his head in the lobster tank?”


“Yes. Lucky me.”

“I don’t know if I can go back to his table,” Maggie said. “He’s crushing my positive Red Lobster vibe, and I’m just not okay with that.”

The two watched from the other side of the restaurant as Truman carried on a conversation with an invisible being from another dimension.

“Did you meet his imaginary friend?” the hostess asked with a laugh, gently elbowing Maggie in the side.

“Yes… And just what am I supposed to do about that?”

“Play along and take his order.”

Maggie the waitress clenched her fists and looked up at the ceiling. “Why me, Jesus? Why do I always get the weirdos.”

Satisfied with his selections, Truman closed the menu and sighed a happy little sigh. “Now, where is that Saggy Maggie with our drinks? I’m parched.”

“Just be patient, Truman,” the lobster ghost said as he continued to peruse the menu. “It’s not like you have to be anywhere.”

“Sorry. I’m a Fidgety Frannie today. Have you decided?”

“I’m torn between the Sailor’s Platter and the Seaside Shrimp Trio.”

“Hmm,” Truman pondered. “That’s a tough choice. Just go with your heart… And your stomach!” He laughed out loud like he had told an amazing joke.

It was just at that moment when Maggie the waitress appeared at the table balancing a tray with two drinks and a basket of cheddar biscuits. “All right guys. I’ve returned with your refreshing beverages… Let’s see, a yummy cranberry Boston iced tea with an orange wedge for you Mr. Fancy Pants, and a super-duper Lobster Turbo Colada with a fun lobster straw for your friend… And, to make your Red Lobster experience even brighter — fresh warm biscuits.” She put a shielding hand to her face and whispered with a smile, “I picked out the very best ones for you all… Don’t let the other guests know.”

Truman held the basket of biscuits to his face and inhaled deeply. “Oh my. They smell divine, Maggie.” He then took a sip of his cranberry Boston iced tea, savoring it with closed eyes. He let out a large audible “Ahhhhhhhhh… Mmm. That’s tasty.”

“So,” Maggie nervously began with a punchy smile, tucking the tray beneath her arm because she was one of those waitresses who could somehow remember everything people ordered without writing it down. “What will we be enjoying for lunch today?”

“I’ve decided to go for it, Saggy Maggie, just like Clark Griswold when he’s humping his wife at that hotel in National Lampoon’s Vacation,” Truman said with snickering odd delight. “I’m going to have the Ultimate Feast with mashed potatoes and a Caesar salad.”

“Ohhhhh,” Maggie said, very impressed and with her vibrant pink mouth shaped like the letter O. “That is the ultimate choice for seafood lovers!” She chuckled and then abruptly stopped when she knew that she was about to have to take the order of Truman’s imaginary friend. She looked at the empty side of the booth and forced a smile. “And for you?”

There was an uncomfortable slice of silence. Maggie the waitress cleared her throat and asked again in a slower, more volumized voice, “What would you like to eat for lunch today?”

“Gee whiz, Saggy Maggie,” Truman snorted. “He’s not deaf.”

“Well, then could you please ask him what he’d like… I don’t seem to be making the proper impression.”

Truman sighed in frustration. “Fine. But let it be known Saggy Maggie that you are sort of putting a damper on our Red Lobster experience… And that makes me a sad panda.” Truman looked across the table at the ghost lobster. “So. What’s it going to be, friend?”

There was another uncomfortable slice of silence as Truman turned his ear to listen. He then looked up at Maggie and smiled. “He’ll have the Sailor’s Platter with coleslaw and steamed broccoli.”

Maggie the waitress filed it away in her brain. “Excellent choice,” she said. “I’ll put this order in right away.”

The sound was that of pigs in a pen at the tapping of the evening dinner bell as Truman and the lobster ghost went at their meals like farm animals. There was intense slurping and guggling and grotesque guzzling. Truman’s face was sloppy as he used both hands to shovel the feast into his face.

He stopped to take a breath and looked over at the lobster ghost who was gingerly pinching at his shrimp with both claws and tossing them into his mouth like a machine. “You know what?” Truman said to him. “If I’m ever on death row, could you let it be known that I want Red Lobster as my very last meal. I want to leave this Earth happy.”

The lobster ghost chuckled. “Do you really believe you may end up on death row someday? That’s an excessive and discouraging thought.”

“You never know what could happen,” Truman said, pointing with the tines of his shiny Red Lobster fork. “I could go crazy and hijack a bus and drive it off a cliff or something like that.”

“I don’t think you need to worry about such things, Truman. You seem of sound mind and body to me.”


Maggie the waitress returned to the table and forced an ingenuine smile. “My, my, my. You guys are putting it back,” she said jokingly, and then she quickly glanced at the untouched Sailor’s Platter in front of Truman’s imaginary friend and shifted uncomfortably. “Is there anything else I could get you?”

Truman’s eyes darted all over the table as he assessed the eating situation. “I would love another cranberry Boston iced tea if it isn’t too much trouble, Saggy Maggie, and maybe some more napkins!” Truman laughed out loud at his own sloppiness.

Maggie the waitress frowned. “Certainly,” she said, and she about-faced it like a Red Lobster soldier and walked away.

“I really think you should be nicer to her,” the lobster ghost suggested.

“Why? She sucks.”

“She doesn’t suck that bad. And besides, Truman. You may end up working with this person. I think it’s important you make a good impression with these people. Bad behavior lingers in the minds of many.”

“Oh, man. I didn’t think about it that way,” Truman said. “I should probably go apologize.”

“I strongly believe it would be a wise thing to do.”

“Right. You are certainly a bottomless well of wisdom, my creepy friend of the crustaceous kind,” Truman said as he slid from the booth. “I better go take care of this at once before bad things travel too far south. I’ll be back in a bit.”

Truman wandered into the warm Red Lobster kitchen that shined in silver and white. He stood directly behind Maggie the waitress as she checked over plates ready to be served as they sat on a stainless-steel shelf beneath a row of heat lamps. He tapped her on a thick shoulder, and she jumped.

“Jesus, Joseph, and Mary!” she wailed, and she turned around. “You scared the beejeebus out of me… Is there something I can help you with, sir?”

A cook in a tall, white chef’s hat who was working the line noticed Truman standing there. “Hey! Customers aren’t allowed back here,” he barked. “Maggie, tell your boyfriend to wait out front or something.”

She turned, embarrassed and addressed the grumpy cook. “He’s not my boyfriend,” and she turned back to look at Truman hovering there. “Definitely not.”

“I’m sorry, Saggy Maggie… I mean, plain old Maggie. I just wanted to talk to you.”

“Talk to me? Is there something wrong with your order?” she asked as she frantically worked.

“No. There’s something wrong with me, and I have something very important to say to you.”

“All right then. But I must get these plates out to my tables right away. Then I will come by to check on you, and we can talk. Okay?”

“Okay,” Truman agreed with a goofy grin on his face as he watched her trot off with an arm full of steaming platters. Then he took a moment to look at all that was going on in the busy kitchen. He relished the sound of clanging pots and pans, and the fragile clatter of plates. He mostly admired the precision and efficiency of the food prep line and the work of the cooks bathed in great clouds of steam and smoke. “Wow. Real Red Lobster people hard at work. Right here in front of me. This is great.”

The officious line cook noticed that Truman was still loitering in the kitchen, and he thrust a silver ladle in his direction as an extension of a violent finger. “I thought I told you to get out of here!”

“Yes, yes. Absolutely, sir. I’ll leave right away… I love your work!” Truman called out as he made his exit from the kitchen.

The line cook gritted his teeth and wiggled his stoic black moustache defiantly. He steadied himself with two hands but quickly felt his temper getting away. “Ridiculous!” he yelled out, and he picked up and slammed a metal pot down. “I’m a professional chef and I will not put up with this bullshit! Customers in the kitchen!? I am pissed off!”

Truman noticed the raging chef in white coming in his direction just as he returned to the booth.

“Hey, you!” the cook yelled, pointing an actual angry finger at Truman. “Who do you think you are coming into my kitchen and disrupting my important work!? Huh? I don’t come to your place of employment and trespass and upset the delicate balance of your workflow.”

“Gee whiz, mister. I’m sorry,” Truman said, cowering away some. “I just wanted to talk to Maggie about something very important.”

“Now you hear this. I don’t give one shit about what you wanted. I am a professional chef. I run a professional kitchen. I will not be toyed with! You come into my kitchen again and I’ll shove a lobster straight up your ass! You got it!” The chef pinched at his moustache and gave Truman a final snarl before storming off back to the kitchen just as Maggie the waitress was coming in for a bumpy landing.

“My, my. Looks like someone’s got a case of the Mondays,” she said with a playful chuckle. “I got that from a movie… Now. What was it you wanted to talk to me about?”

“It’s Sunday,” Truman informed her. “And why was that guy so mad? I didn’t mean to upset him so much.”

“Oh, don’t mind him,” Maggie said, waving a fat hand. “He’s one of those uptight fancy Frenchie chefs from gay Pair-Ree. He’s always like that.”

“Oh. I seriously thought he was going to kill me,” Truman chuckled. “Wow. Angry much?”

“No, no,” Maggie the waitress reassured him. “His bark is much worse than his bite.”

“Thanks for being so cliché, Maggie… But anyways, Maggie. I just wanted to apologize for my ill behavior during our visit here. And seeing that I may end up being your co-worker, I thought it would be a good idea to mend the fences between us.”

Maggie paused and shifted her head back in shock and surprise. “Oh. I appreciate that. I really do…  But what was that about being co-workers? Um. Come again.”

“I didn’t tell you! I’ve decided to apply for employment at your wonderful establishment here. I want to work for Red Lobster!”

Maggie’s face drastically drooped like it often does when she receives unwanted news. “You want to work here?”

“Yes! Isn’t that fantastic?” Truman said.

“Oh, but. No… You don’t want to do that.”

“Why not?”

“It’s a terrible place to work. Trust me. You’ll hate it.”

“But you seem to like it here, and that cook is definitely passionate about being here. I don’t understand.”

Maggie sighed loudly and leaned in closer. “Look. The pay is low, and the management is awful, and the hours suck…”

“I don’t care about any of that,” Truman interrupted her. “This is Red Lobster and Red Lobster is bigger than any unpleasant circumstances that are surely temporary. Red Lobster is bigger than all of us. I want to do it for the pride and the prestige of it. All those other things you speak of Maggie, that’s all secondary to me.” He reached out a hand and gently touched her on the arm. “Will you bring me an application and your best pen. Let’s get this party started.”


Read the previous parts of this story at

The Misty-Eyed Stormtrooper (Episode II)

The Unexpected Meeting

The Misty-Eyed Stormtrooper (Episode II). Photo shows man in white hat and white shirt holding a loaf of bread while he works in a bakery.

When things had quieted down and most of the other stormtroopers were settling into the barracks for the night, Karl retrieved his secret cookbook from its hiding place and snuck off to the communal kitchen to bake bread.

He rummaged through the cabinets to gather bowls and utensils and pans and all the ingredients he needed to make a hazelnut 12-grain bread. He joyfully busied himself in the quiet of the kitchen and he thought to himself how much better it was to be baking bread than blasting shit.

While he gave the dough time to rise, he sat down at one of the tables and retrieved his personal communication device. He searched for information on Paris and all the different patisseries there. He got lost in the pictures and the descriptions and he studied maps and he tried to remember the names of streets and the different arrondissements, or districts.

He fell so deep into a delightful trance of study and inspiration, that Karl the stormtrooper didn’t realize someone else had come into the communal kitchen. Suddenly there was someone menacing standing above him and looking down.

“What are you doing in here?” the intimidating figure asked with a hint of evil in his voice.

Karl suddenly shot up from his chair and stood at attention. “Commander Altiar. Sir. My apologies, I didn’t notice you had come in.”

Commander Altiar was dressed in a stiff gray uniform, and he wore black gloves and shiny black boots and his hair, the color of the planet Tatooine, was perfectly combed and lightly oiled against his head to ensure not a single strand would fall out of place. He slowly walked around the young stormtrooper and looked him up and down judgmentally. “I asked you what you are doing in here? It’s past curfew. Why aren’t you in your bunk?”

“Sir, I’m sorry sir. I’m baking bread and I’m afraid I lost track of time.”

Commander Altiar stood toe-to-toe with Karl and scowled menacingly into his eyes. “Did you say you’re baking bread?”

“That’s correct sir. Bread.”

Commander Altiar nodded as if he was overly suspicious of the young stormtrooper’s story. He walked around the kitchen looking over all the things Karl had laid out on the counter. The commander ran a black leather finger through a scattering of flour. He studied it intently for a moment, and then asked, “What kind of bread are you making?”

Karl cleared his throat. “Sir. Hazelnut 12-grain bread.”

Commander Altiar returned to where Karl was standing and got in his face again. “And what exactly do you plan on doing with this hazelnut 12-grain bread?”

“I plan on eating it, sir,” Karl nervously answered.

“You know,” the commander began, and he looked at the number tattooed on Karl’s neck like a black ink branding, “No. 14788. I’m also quite fond of bread.”

“You are, sir?”

“You seem surprised by that, No. 14788.”

“I didn’t realize commanders enjoyed bread, sir.”

Commander Altiar chuckled softly and looked young Karl the stormtrooper in the eyes again with great sincerity. He even smiled a bit. “Have you ever been to Mamiche on the Rue Condorcet?”


“It’s a wonderful little shop in Paris, France. On Earth. They have the best damn bread in the universe. Have you ever been there?”

Karl felt a tingling sensation rise within him. He couldn’t believe what the commander was asking him. “No, sir. But I would love to. It’s one of the biggest dreams in my life.”

The commander moved his head back in attempt to further survey what the young stormtrooper exactly meant by that. “Are you not satisfied as a soldier in the Evil Empire, No. 14788?”

“Permission to speak freely, sir.” Karl announced.

The commander took a seat at the table, folded his hands as if about to pray and looked up at Karl. “By all means, No. 14788. I’d love to hear what you have to say.”


“Yes. I’m not a complete tyrant lacking passion for things in life. Go on. Speak to me about it.”

Karl sat down at the table with him. “I don’t believe I’m cut out for a life as a stormtrooper, sir. It’s just not me,” he began. “What I really want to do is bake bread and make pastries. I’ve done a lot of research and I know the city of Paris, on Earth, is the best place to be if I were to truly make my dreams come to fruition. I guess what I’m saying is, if I had an opportunity to not be a stormtrooper and I could travel to Earth to learn about making bread and pastries, just like they do on the Great Intergalactic Baking Show… I believe I would be very happy.”

The commander nodded his head silently for a moment. “And what if I told you, No. 14788…”

“You can call me Karl, sir.”

“All right then, Karl. What if I told you I could turn your dream into a reality.”

“Sir!? What? How? Why?”

“Calm down, soldier. I can see your passion is genuine, but I want you to prove it to me.”

“Absolutely, sir. How?”

The commander nodded toward the area of the kitchen where the ovens were. “I want you to bake me the best damn hazelnut 12-grain bread you ever made in your life. I want you to bring it to my quarters for me to taste it. I want you to utterly overwhelm me with your understanding of rise, flavor, and structure. I want a perfect bake, Karl. I want you to blow my balls off with this loaf of bread… And if you do, I will excuse you from your duty to the Evil Empire and allow you to leave this place, forever. What you do after that is entirely up to you.”

“Sir? I, I can’t believe it. Are you serious? You would do that for me?”

The commander got up from the table and adjusted his gloves for a moment. “I know that you and the other men talk shit about me behind my back, Karl. I’m not an ignorant man. I know you all consider me to be this growling, unfeeling brute of a commanding officer, and that’s fine. I expect that in my position, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a soul or a heart underneath it all.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I was a young stormtrooper once, just like you. And I had dreams as well, other dreams, dreams that didn’t include…” And he looked around the room at something invisible. “Didn’t include being on the side of evil. I, like yourself, Karl, had a passion for baking. I wanted to follow your exact dream. But I didn’t. I didn’t take the risk, Karl. And now I’m just an ill-fitted officer hated by the men serving beneath him. I regret that every single day. I don’t want that to happen to you, Karl. I don’t want you to have this same sickness of regret. It’s what a good leader should do for a soldier with real spirit, Karl. So, what I’m saying is, don’t disappoint me with a bad bake… And no soggy bottom. Carry on, soldier.”

Karl clicked himself to respectable attention and watched as Commander Altiar walked out of the communal kitchen with a swoosh. Karl felt himself all over to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. “I can’t believe this,” he whispered to himself. And then he smiled, and his guts roared with a feeling of ecstasy, and he jumped up and down like an excited child and cried out loudly, “Yes! Yes! Yes! I’m going to be a baker! I’m going to be a real baker!”

And then reality suddenly hit him, and he remembered what the commander had said: “I want you to bake me the best damn hazelnut 12-grain bread you ever made in your life… I want you to blow my balls off with this loaf of bread.”

Karl suddenly sunk down in his own self-doubt. “But what if it’s not the best damn hazelnut 12-grain bread I ever made in my life? What if I don’t blow his balls off? What if I just mess it up? I’ll be resigned to a life of just blasting shit.” He sighed. But then he brightened with determination, he slapped himself in the face, pulled himself together, he reiterated his dream in his head and heart. “Come on, Karl! You can do this!” he encouraged himself. “You’re a good baker, you’re an excellent baker, and you’re going to go far… Farther than you have ever been in your whole damn life.”

Keep an eye out for Episode III. You may read the previous part of this story here: The Misty-Eyed Stormtrooper (Episode I)

Have You Heard of Personal Space?

Cat sitting in red plastic spaghetti strainer on kitchen counter
Polly the cat sits in a spaghetti strainer.

I don’t know what it is, but lately I feel like a human magnet.

That’s not the same as a chick magnet. I define human magnet as in everywhere I go, other human beings seem to have the need to get in my personal space… Uninvited and unwanted, of course. In light of the whole COVID mess, I have become hypersensitive to people getting too close to me when I am out in public. I really don’t like it.

Since I am a house husband, I do most of the grocery shopping. Other than our crappy Walmart, the town I live in has only one regular grocery store… And it sucks. It’s too small, it never has anything in stock, and it takes forever to get through the checkout lines because they can’t retain new employees for more than 4 hours it seems. But enough of that, the point is that the town is growing and growing and so the grocery store is getting more and more crowded. So, pretty much no matter when I go, the aisles are usually crawling with undesirables of all types.

The problem I have been facing lately is that whatever product I’m looking for, there’s always a cluster of other people right there and in the way. The section can be completely empty otherwise, but sure enough, when I go to get the one thing I need, someone’s right there, bent over and filling half the aisle with their huge ass. Ugh.

It happened to me twice today alone. The first time was in the Latin American food aisle. All I needed was one damn can of enchilada sauce. There was one other person in the whole area, and what was she doing? Standing right in front of where the enchilada sauce was and filling, and I mean filling, her cart with boxes upon boxes of taco shells. And she was going at it like a fiend. One would think she was on Guy’s Grocery Games and the countdown was on to win $20,000. Who the hell eats that many tacos? Wherever and whatever is going down with that kind of party, count me out. I like tacos, I just don’t want to be around when that digestive nuclear bomb goes off.

Anyways, I grumbled, looped around and came back later to get my one can of enchilada sauce. The taco shell section was obliterated.

The next event occurred in the salad dressing aisle where they keep all the mayo and Miracle Whip. Whip. That’s fun to say. But once again, the aisle was barren except for this couple kneeling down in front of the mayo… And I just got an image of Louis Gossett Jr. calling Richard Gere “Mayonnaise” in the movie An Officer and a Gentleman… Yeah, I watched it. So what? Check the clip out below.

But like I was saying, this couple was kneeling down in front of the mayo and looking and talking and talking and looking at all the different jars they had there. I’m like, “It’s god damn mayonnaise. Pick one and move on!” I didn’t say that out loud, I just thought it to myself. So, once again, I had to reroute, loop around, and come back. These people are chewing up my valuable time! Valuable time like writing about mayonnaise, I guess.

But the main point of this article is the fact that people have little to no sense of personal space. I don’t know if I smell good or what, but the last few times I’ve been at the store, people have creeped up on me so close that I can actually feel them breathing down my neck. I’ve had people rudely reach out in front of me, from the side and the back, and snag something off the shelf. I’ve had people nearly step on my shoes. I’ve had people nearly dry hump me from behind. What the hell!? I just want to step aside and say, “Could you back off please!” But of course, I never do. Not in this day and age. You never know what kind of lunatic you’re up against.

I want to wrap up my bitchfest by talking about the biggest violator of personal space in my entire life… Polly the cat. That’s right, our pet cat takes the cake, and the cat chow, when it comes to invading personal space. I don’t know what her problem is, and we are always asking that very question, but we have never had a cat that gets so right up into your face as this one does.

Polly isn’t one of those nice kitties that jumps up on your lap, curls a couple of times, and then plops down for a nap. Nope. Not this one. Polly is the type of cat that literally tries to crawl up your body and rest on your shoulder. And that’s how she got her name… Because when she was a kitten, she’d love to climb up and sit on your shoulder, like a parrot. Get it? But now that she’s full grown, and I mean really full grown, (she’s a fat cat, a chonker my wife says) she can’t sit up on your shoulder but really just rests her head on it, her two front paws wrapped around your neck like she’s giving you a hug. Cute, yeah, but then she licks. Yep, she’s a licker. Any kind of exposed skin is doomed to be assaulted by that sandpaper tongue. I don’t like it. My wife doesn’t like it. It’s gross. That’s the point at which we softly push her aside. And the whole gross licking thing is part of the reason we don’t have dogs. It’s so off putting and just not for us. We’re not prudes, just cat people. No offense dog lovers. She’s also into headbutting and nose to nose staring contests. It’s creepy.

If you haven’t guessed by now, the picture at the top of this post is Polly sitting in a spaghetti strainer while I was cooking dinner the other night. I never had a cat that had to be near me or next to me or on me so much. She literally follows me around the house. We don’t let her in our bedroom at night because she would literally sit on one of our faces. (I could say something dirty here, but I won’t). I don’t know about you, but I can’t sleep like that. So, out she goes to the living room. Nighty night.

Maybe I’m overreacting about all this closeness, but you have to admit, a lot of people are gross, and I don’t want to get sick. Besides that, it’s just downright rude. Sure, some might say “excuse me” but the majority say nothing at all and actually act like I’m in their way. Hmm. I was here first, dipshit. I have rights. I guess I just need to plot out my course more carefully and do the best I can to avoid the glommers who love to glom on me. My wife says I just need to accept and appreciate the love, not from the people in the grocery store, but the cat. Accepting love. That’s always been kind of tricky for me, but I’m trying.

The Coffeehouse Crapshoot

It was an autumnal Sunday full of color, her favorite being the peachy orange as it stood out as the brightest and boldest among the others. I glanced over at the woman in the passenger seat and my heart jumped and my stomach made a longing roll within itself. I knew I was in love and would be forever with this one. I was living in sort of a dreamland at that moment.

We had just come from sculpting our bodies and filling the auto with petrol. We were in the mood for a good coffee and some brunch. And since Halloween was edging closer by the day, we decided to go to one of our favorite haunts, that place downtown where the mists of our ghostly memories cling to the air like cream on pumpkin pie. The Coffeehouse.

The Coffeehouse sat on a popular corner in the downtown sector of our town and was one of the few places open on Sunday seeing that many of the townsfolk flocked to the booming bell towers to chant and sing to great stained-glass Bog in the sky, their voices like bleached licorice streams frothing and flowing forth from their hypocritical holy gullets and spilling out into the world like sirens in the sky.

Parking came easy, which it never did during the week, and we walked hand in hand down the crisp concrete, staggering behind some old lady in a red coat puffing away on a white cigarette. We caught a whiff of the cloud she spoke of, and memories of wild younger days danced in my head as my lady friend battened down the sweet hatches of her body – for she has battles between the air and her own lungs.

We entered the establishment and there was a small crowd inside quietly murmuring among themselves and we made our way to the front counter and to where they had the large rectangular menu board set off to one side. Our eyes strolled along the boardwalk of selections and my lady friend went straight for the London Fog, some kind of tea mash up that I don’t really clearly understand, but it gives her great joy as it slips across her lips and down into her glorious guts.

I usually would opt for a Cuban coffee, but on this autumnal Sunday inside The Coffeehouse, I wanted to try something different and went for the elderberry tea because I wanted a jolt of something that would rev up my immune system or whatever the hell it does. I also wanted the waffle with whipped cream and sliced banana. My lady went with the waffle as well, but with fresh berries and whipped cream. I was feeling a bit randy after all that talk of whipped cream, and I pulled her close to me and whispered something about uncontrollable hot love and madness.

The clerkie at the counter was a confused, nervous type – probably a newbie that wouldn’t last – and she kept asking the barista beside her questions about this and questions about that, and then as she was clumsily punching our order into the machine there, she would look up at us with a pained expression and tell us, “We’re out of that, we’re out of that, too. We don’t have that. I’m sorry we don’t have any of that either.” They had a piece of paper there with a list of things they were out of that the girl kept referring to. It was a long list. My lady friend wanted to look at it, but they kept it guarded like some great royal secret.

They didn’t have either of the teas needed for our chosen beverages. They didn’t have what they needed for our backups, as well. I wondered if they even had water. With frustrations growing, my lady and I settled on Plan C – drinks we didn’t really want because it was all that remained. The sadness in her eyes made me want to smash a spooky pumpkin right then and there, but then again, I would have probably been busted up myself by the bobbies for causing a radical disturbance on the Day of the Lord.

Grief-stricken by the news of the Coffeehouse’s diminished supply, we took our number to a small table for two and sat down. A short while later, the same girl who had taken our order at the counter strolled over, a haunted house type of fear smeared across her face, and she informed us, “I’m sorry, we’re out of waffles… But we have pancakes.”

My lady friend, who is often much bolder than I, quickly snapped back with, “This is ridiculous. How can you have pancakes, but not waffles? Can we just get a refund.”

My nerves were tingling throughout my body as we made our way back up to the counter to engage in whatever process would be necessary to get our refund. I wasn’t looking forward to it because I figured it would be some horribly complicated thing that they couldn’t figure out and it would take half the day. But then, the humbled and meek clerkie girl came through the crowd with a palmful of cash and some coin. She handed it to me and apologized again. After that, we walked out.

I took my lady by the hand, and we strolled along the walk, my insides grumbling with anger. My lady friend, however, is quick to resolve disappointment in life by looking at the brighter side of… Everything. She has a gift for staying positive in an increasingly negative world. I was ready to smash things, and she was more than willing to just move on to a greater destination and not let our let down weigh us down. She’s angelic like that, and I often believe that is the reason the universe gifted her to me. She’s always what I need when I need it. She always has been – from the very beginning of us to the very breath I take now. I only hope I can return that gift tenfold.

We crossed over the street to the other side and found a little patio bar type kind of place we had never been to and were happy to see they were still serving brunch. We sat outside and we had the sugar waffles with syrup, fruit, and bacon. We were tucked up against each other on a bench at a metal table as we ate and drank. The weather was perfect. The sky was a pure, unmuddied blue. The air was kindly littered with gold and green and orange. And in the end, things turned out better than I expected. We were in a passing moment of life, and we were in it together, and that’s perfect imperfection.

Willy Wanker and the Keto Bread Factory

As Wilford Brimley would say, I have DIE A BEE TUSS. And when you have DIE A BEE TUSS, you can’t eat anything that tastes good. No sweets, no pasta, no rice, no bread, no potatoes, no soda, no ice cream, no candy, no pizza, no hamburgers, no CEREAL!… And the list seems to go on and on toward the end of the universe.

When you have DIE A BEE TUSS, the best kind of diet is low-carb, high protein – just like Dr. Now tells his overweight patients on 600-Pound Life. “Hello. How you all doing? Where you coming from today?”

Eating right has been a struggle for me throughout my nearly 15-year battle with this disease. Is it really a disease, or just poor lifestyle choices? Either way, it sucks not being able to eat whatever you want without suffering deadly consequences.

I love sweets. I love desserts. I love all the things I’m not supposed to have. When I flip through a cookbook for diabetics, I’m just grossed out. Ugh! And it’s especially tough going into a grocery store to buy food. It seems nearly EVERYTHING is bad for you and the stuff that is good for you costs three times as much.

Well, today, I went into our crappy local grocery store with a focus on looking for diabetic-friendly foods. I read a lot of labels, and I think I made some good choices. But sometimes those good choices are not good at all.

If you look at the picture that accompanies this post, you will see a piece of bread with a giant hole in it. That’s from a loaf of keto-friendly bread that cost almost 6 damn dollars. When I first opened the package, I was like: “What the fuck?” It wasn’t just one or two pieces that had this ginormous hole in them, but literally half the entire loaf and then some.

I sent the picture to my wife who was at work, and I told her that this must be the way they reduce the carbs. Is it? Surely not. Did the guy who baked this particular batch have a bread fetish and stick something weird in that loaf that I don’t want to know about? Gross.

But I was so damn hungry, I made myself a summer sausage sandwich. Sausage is fine. No carbs.

Just so you know, keto-friendly bread pretty much sucks… and it’s expensive. This particular bread I ate had ZERO flavor. It was sort of dry, too, and it kind of smelled like wood paneling from the 1970s. Oh, and the giant hole. That, too. So, what will I do with it? I suppose since I paid so much for it, I’ll just suck it up and try to get through the loaf with the help of family members and a jar of peanut butter… Or maybe I can turn the pieces into some sort of sexually frustrated finger puppets. Yeah. Sexually frustrated finger puppets with DIE A BEE TUSS and they complain about keto-friendly bread all day in their weird little village where the government frowns upon any sort of joy.

Thanks for reading about my problems with DIE A BEE TUSS.

Hairy Pancakes and a Bad Honeymoon

It was a warm morning in late July when I woke up alone on the wrong side of the world. The bathroom mirror greeted me with a reflection of disorientation, mussed hair, and puffy eyes. I tried to shake myself awake, for this morning I was to meet my bride and have breakfast at the downtown café we frequent for our marriage meetings. I had my notes prepared. I was going to lay it on the line. Little did I know what was to come.

I rode the curving roadways for miles. The wind struck like a moist dryer drying towels. The engine hummed like a good motor should. I thought about Detroit. I thought about Japan. I pretty much decided in my own head that I was going to go for the pancakes. With sliced banana. With sweet maple syrup. And a good cup of coffee. My spirits were slightly elevated. I thought about my love. She was waiting there in her car, pulled up to the curb, diagonally. I forgot to bring the bandage like she had asked. My memory is slipping like an old lady on wet winter ice. Damn it. I should have written it down.

We met up. Did the ritualistic kiss thing. I may have palmed her butt a little. It’s okay. I’m allowed. We went in and ordered. I laid out my plan to the clerkie. She took it all down, I guess. We found ourselves a table. A tall college kid came in and said he knew us. He joined us at the table, and we all waited for food. The clerkie brought us silverware wrapped in napkins, but I was missing a fork. I cried out something like, “How am I supposed to eat pancakes without a fork!” The whole place got silent. People were stunned I suppose. My wife and the college kid were embarrassed. Reminded me of when I was in the Kroger the other day and some guy suddenly blurted out to his kids: “Stop fucking around!” And the whole world was in silence and shock because he really did say the F word really loud, right there in the meat department. I thought to myself: What an asshole. Yeah, that really happened.

Anyways… The pancakes came and I was eating them, and they weren’t as good as they usually were, and I was bummed about that and then I found a hair — cooked into the pancake. Yep. My wife was like “Eww.” She said I should take them back, but I was too embarrassed and figured if they were going to give me a fresh plate, they would probably stuff the pancakes down their pants and jiggle around a bit before slapping them on the plate. You know, like in that movie. I just took the loss because I have serious trust issues. My wife let me buy a cinnamon roll. My woman is good about that. Caring and such. She was very sorry that happened. Now we’re going to take a nap together and that’s pretty good stuff.

Earlier we had talked about the Memphis woman who was killed in Fiji on her honeymoon, allegedly by her husband. Um… On your honeymoon? You kill your wife on your honeymoon? Damn. Talk about a bad time. I guess getting a hair cooked into my pancakes isn’t so bad after all.