Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas short story

The Following is this year’s Christmas Short Story from Hayter. His 15th thus far..

“Lone Ranger, meet Joe Friday.”

    If the Christmas Spirit had already arrived, it had yet to visit Clayton Roberts. Clayton hadn’t felt a hint of good cheer for the past five years. As he climbed out of his ’98 Corolla, he was experiencing guilt, anger and fear. Oh, and desperation. He was eaten up with desperation

Clay quietly entered the Midway Vision Center right at quitting time on that warm, muggy Thursday evening. Could’ve been Tuesday. The days of the week were all jumbled in his brain. Likely the fear was doing that. “Anybody here?” he yelled in his whisper-voice. “Anybody?”

What was this all about? The facility was obviously open, but where were the people? He headed for the doorway leading to a backroom and that’s when he saw a guy sitting alone at one side of a two-seated booth.

“Oh, I didn’t see you,” Clay told the near-middle-aged gentleman. “Where is everybody?”

Jack smiled big. “Oh, I’m sorry, I was just daydreaming. Helen’s in the back, working on my glasses. I have fitting issues.”

Clay looked at the door to the backroom and wondered if he should go ahead and enter. Or should he deal with the guy at the booth. Nothing was simple. “Uh, so, what are, uh, what is, uh—“

The man stood and held out his hand across the table. “Jack Webb. And, you are…?”

Clay shook his hand. “Uh, Clayton Ro—uh, Clayton Moore.” Clay was too young to realize that he was now the Lone Ranger and was greeting Joe Friday of Dragnet. And, he was so scared and desperate he wouldn’t have cared had he known.

Jack sat back down and gestured for Clayton to do the same in the chair across from him. “Helen will be out any minute. So, what are you doing, robbing the place?”

Clay could hardly believe what’d he heard. “What? Robbing the— Why on earth would I rob a--“ Clay exhaled slowly and shook his head. “Is it that obvious?” he said.

Jack nodded. “Black hoody with the hood pulled down nearly to your eyes. A Raiders ball cap over the hood, sweatpants and mirrored-lenses. It was just a guess. Look, I could understand if you were robbing a fast-food place or a corner store, but this is an eyeglass place. They sell glasses. Nobody robs an optometrist.

Clay’s anger began to take over. “You want me to rob a drive-in grocery? This is Texas, for heaven’s sake! Everybody and his pit bull is packing heat! Everyone except an optometrist. Nobody robs an optometrist! And, considering the price of eyeglasses, they must have millions in here. And, no security. Wait a minute. Are you packing heat?”

Jack shook his head. “Oh, no. I’m one of 18 gunless Texans. And you? Are you carrying a gun?”

Clay reached around and pulled from the back of his jeans a plastic revolver with the end of the barrel broken off. He smirked. “It had one of those orange caps on the end, and when I tried to pry it off the barrel cracked. It’s been a really bad day… bad life,” Clay said.

Jack nodded. “Uh, I add to add to it, but I seriously doubt there’s much cash in here, ‘cause few people buy expensive stuff like glasses with cash.”

There was an awkward moment before Clay said, “So, how ‘bout giving me whatever cash you have?”

“No, I just don’t feel the incentive right now,” Jack said. “And, it being Christmas time and all, I really need to hang on to what little I have. Got the grandkids and all, you understand? Hey, let me show you my grandkids.”

Clay took off his cap and pulled the hood from his head. “No, no pictures. I’m not in the mood. Boy, it’s hot in here. I can’t believe this. Where’s the thermostat? It’s 75 degrees outside and they’ve got the heater on.”

He took his sunshades off and removed the hoody all together. “Look, you sure you don’t have a gun? Just shoot me, would you? I’m going to be dead outside of a week anyway. Gambling debts. Gambling cost me my wife, my kids, my job and -- I’d say that the day after Christmas -- it’ll likely cost me my life. What was it Lincoln said? ‘The world will little note, nor long remember…’ No one will remember Clayton Roberts, uh, Clayton Moore—Oh, what the %$#@, Roberts! Not even my kids will remember me.”

“Wow, you know the Gettysburg address? I’m impressed.” Jack said.

“Sure I know it. I know a lot of stuff. Just ‘cause I’m a lousy gambler and thief and bad husband and crummy father, doesn’t mean I don’t know stuff.” Clay put his elbow on the table and bowed and rested his forehead in the cup of his hand. “Look, if it’s okay with you, I think I’ll just go out and face the music. Do you think if I begged him, Earl would agree not to break my knees? That he’d agree to just go ahead and shoot me?” 

Jack nodded. “Oh, yeah, Earl Jones is a reasonable man. He’ll be glad to shoot you, if you prefer it.”

“Oh, &%@! I should’ve known it. You’re one of Earl’s goons. How on earth did he know I was going to be here? I didn’t even know I was going to be here until about 30 minutes ago. Ah, forget it. Tell you what, let’s walk over there to IHOP, I’ve got $20 in my sock and I’ll buy us some eggs and pancakes. After that you take me out by the motel dumpster across the street and do the deed… Wait a minute! You big storyteller. You said you didn’t have a gun.”

Jack told him that he not only didn’t have a gun, but he wasn’t one of Earl’s goons. Sure he had some business to discuss with Earl in the past, but Earl was too stubborn to listen to anyone but Earl. Jack told Clay that the IHOP idea was a jewel, though, and that he was a big fan of cinnamon pancakes. So they exited the Midway eyeglass place and walked to IHOP.

As they sat drinking the second carafe of coffee, Jack handed Clay an envelope containing a bus ticket clear to Alexandria, Virginia. Jack told him that he had visited Alexandria back in ’53 and he really liked the place. Clay knew that there was no way Jack was old enough to be in Virginia during Eisenhower’s Administration, but he said nothing. He was too shocked about the bus ticket. Shocked more when Jack told him that Earl was going to forget about the debt. -- No way was that happening. Earl was gifted at retaining exact figures of money-owed.

When they returned to the parking lot at the Midway Optometry place, they both got into Clay’s car and drove to the bus stop over by the bowling alley. Jack handed Clay a few bills and told him that he knew someone who could sure use a ’98 Corolla, and would he mind selling it. “I don’t mind selling it, if you don’t mind that I don’t have the title with me.” Jack told him that he’d take care of it.

As the bus arrived at the bowling alley, Jack told Clay that he should call his mother, that she had been worried about him. Clay said, “You know my mother? You are one spook, Jack Web!” Then he informed him that his mother would not care to speak to him. That the last time he had spoken to her was 10 years ago, after saying some horrible things to her.

Jack said, “Well, regardless, she’s been asking about you. Praying for you, actually. A gracious woman, Edna Roberts. She deserves to hear from you. She’s your mother, Clayton. But, it’s up to you. Call her, or don’t. Ride the full distance to Alexandria, or don’t. It’s up to you. I promise you, though, there’s a purpose for you being there. And, for calling your mother.”

Clay promised that he’d call his mom, but said nothing about making it all the way to Virginia. Before getting on the bus, he started to hug Jack, but in an awkward moment decided to just shake his hand. “You, uh… Thank you, Jack Webb,” he said. Said it with a tear cascading down his cheek.

As the bus, pulled out onto the town’s main drag, Clay looked from his window seat at where he had last seen Jack, but he couldn’t find him. Nor could he see the lady standing next to Jack.

“Well, what do you think?” Ellen said.

Jack, put his arm around his friend. “Well, Benjamin said he would appear at one of the stops along the way and encourage Clay a bit. Whether or not the Lone Ranger heeds the words of hope and grace… well, only God knows. As for me, I’ve got to go see Earl Jones. Try to get him to forget about a debt. “

Ellen spoke right up. “Tell you what, let me go visit Earl. I’d like to be a part of this. It’ll be my Christmas gift to you… and to Clay.”

Jack smiled and said, “Ellen, you’re an angel.”

He could hear her voice just above him, as she whispered, “I know.”

Merry Christmas to you and your family, from the Hayters. May you each get and give many hugs during the holidays. It’s such good medicine.



Saturday, December 21, 2013

What's next?

The something of which there always is.

    Okay, what happens next? There’s always something happening next. Have you noticed that? It’s been that way all my life.

    Kay and I just had some work done on the living room. We had the walls repainted, new molding put around the ceiling, doors and floors. Speaking of which we also had new flooring put in. It’s been something Kay has wanted to do for years. I’ve been putting it off ‘cause I knew we couldn’t afford it.

    Well, a month or two ago, Kay suggested that WE do the job ourselves. Have you noticed that there is no “I” in we? There’s not even a “me” in we. However, when Kay says the word “we,” it comes out with an “I” and a “me” right in the middle of it. I don’t know how she does it.

    Without arguing I told Kay that I would never paint another room with her… or without her for that matter. There is no “we” in painting. I did tell her that I would seek out the funds to have someone else do all the work. I found ‘em, too. Turns out, our savings account was set aside for the wrong thing. Instead of “Alaskan Cruise” it should have been designated for “Living Room.” 

    We ended up hiring the Dirty Birds Service for the entire job. Dirty Birds is the name that Kirsti Pollard and Theresa Hayes picked for their painting, cleaning, flooring, landscaping, and almost-everything-else business.

They did an absolutely marvelous job. Those two girls made our wish come true. Kay’s wish. Hey, it’s a living room. Now it’s an especially nice looking living room that Kay has long been anticipating. And, it all happened without my direct involvement. Life is good.

At least it was. Last night as Kay and I were sitting in our matching, newly purchased swivel, recliner rockers that took the remainder of our Alaskan Cruise savings, Kay said, “Okay, next we need to work on the study.”

The anticipation of getting a new look for our living room has now become a desire to revamp the study. That’s apparently our new “Next thing.” See? There’s always a next thing.

    I was on my way to school one morning a couple of decades ago when I made myself a promise. It was early October and the school year had just barely started. I had a bunch of papers that I had put off grading, and I had been up late at night working on my lesson plan. As I approached the Tamina/Research Forest Road freeway exit, I told myself that when I retired I was going to get up early one morning and pretend I was headed for school. Only instead of taking my usual exit, I was going to keep driving until I reached the seawall in Galveston.

    That was one of my “Lord-willing” promises. A decade later, God graciously let me make the trip. I wrote an article about the experience and have mentioned it a time or two. One thing I didn’t mention was the fact that as I sat there on the seawall looking at the gulls and pelicans and the sun rise to my far-left, I had a thought that made me feel a bit down. The sense of it all was -- What next, Mark? 

The one thing I had dreamed about for years had happened. I had been allowed to live to see the day, yet, I sat there and wondered – What next?

    It’s been that way forever. Always looking for the next thing. When I was a kid it was Christmas or summer or the annual trip to Bristow, Oklahoma. I don’t know about you, but I’ve lived entirely too much of my life with a “What’s next?” mood. I’ve missed out on a lot of “now” moments doing that.
    And, now that I’ve reached this part of my story I’m ready to reveal my “What next” part to the article. Anyone care to guess what it is?  Right, it’s the prayer that Antonio Banderas’ character prayed in the book and the movie, “13th Warrior.”  Okay, stay with me here.

Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan is standing in the mud and the muck behind a tossed together fortress wall. In anticipation of a soon-to-be-fought battle that cannot be won, he removes his sword and his armor; he falls to his knees and he prays:

“Merciful Father, I have squandered my days with plans of many things. This was not among them. But at this moment, I beg only to live the next few minutes well. For all we ought to have thought, and have not thought; all we ought to have said, and have not said; all we ought to have done, and have not done; I pray thee, God, for forgiveness.”

    It’s among my favorite prayers. One I need to keep in mind. Perhaps, you have use of it, too. -- Instead of focusing on life’s next thing, I want to dwell more on living the next few minutes well. -- Next time.

Click on picture to see the scene with the prayer

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Uncle Blaine Christmas

Be quiet and save a marriage

“Don’t say it”

    I imagine most of you realize that I love Kay. Love her a lot. She’s the light of my life, the Splenda in my coffee and my favorite sharer of movie popcorn. I’m sure she’d say at least one of those things about me. 

    Last week we had our 42nd anniversary. Some of you may not be aware, but the traditional gift theme for 42 years of wedded bliss is fuzzy socks with a tiny bit of rubber traction on the bottom. They’re not cheap, either. I got Kay’s pair at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Those people are not known for giving away fuzzy socks.

    In my defense for getting such a non-romantic gift, let me point out that Kay and I agreed that the two lamps we recently purchased would serve as our anniversary gifts. It’s practical stuff like that adds tremendously to the 42 years of wedded bliss.

For 42 years, Kay and I have never raised our voices to one another, thrown non-stuffed objects, or intentionally head-butted. That’s important in 63 percent of all successful marriages.

    The most important thing we do to maintain a good marriage is to heed the wise advice of Garry Trudeau, who said, “The key to a successful marriage is the two or three things you don’t say everyday.”

    I have gotten so good at not saying stuff that I sometimes scare me. Used to, I was liable to pop off at any time. -- “Darling, I’d love to play Santa at the church Christmas party, but I’m afraid I’ll be suffering from food poisoning. Speaking of which, do we have any pork products in the fridge that I can set out on the cabinet for a few days?”

    That was the old Mark. The new Mark is so much better. Take yesterday. Yesterday, Kay smashed her third lamp in two months. Two of ‘em were pole lamps. The other was the $120 matching table lamp I got her for our anniversary.

One of the pole lamps crashed because— Well, it’s complicated. It’s enough that you know that Kay did it. The other pole lamp committed suicide shortly after Kay entered the guest room. Kay said it just keeled over. Apparently, so scared that it lost its balance. They’ll sure do it.  

The table lamp she destroyed last night was an accident, pure and simple. Involuntary manslaughter of an inanimate object. Story being, I was in my recliner watching TV. I was just as happy as a roach on jellied-toast. Out of the blue Kay said, “Sweetie, do you like the way the room is arranged?”

I thought about it for a second and then said, “No, not so much. But, then I’m not too crazy about my boxer briefs that have no slit in the front. What is that all about?” That comment hung over the room till the next commercial. That’s when I said, “Darling, would you like to rearrange the furniture?”

She said, “Okay, if you’d like.” The dagger was inserted. This girl is good. During our rearranging project, the cord on Kay’s new lamp -- the one with the giant glass ball at the center -- crashed to the floor. She nearly cried. I reassured her that all was well on our small portion of Planet Earth.

After a major cleanup we got back to the furniture move.The last thing to move was an end table that held another lamp. I wisely unplugged the lamp and started to move it. That’s when Kay said, “Be careful, now. We don’t want to break another lamp.” Dagger twisted.

Had we been married a mere 35 years, I would not have let that cautionary comment slide on by. The statement was true. No doubt about it, we did not want to break another lamp. Had it been said three lamps ago, it wouldn’t have fazed me. But three lamps later, the implication stung.

WE? WE don’t want to break another lamp? “Darling, there’s only one lamp killer in this house, and it’s not the one wearing boxer briefs.”

But, I didn’t say that. You want to know what I said? I said nothing. I just let it go. In doing so, smoke slowly seeped from my right ear. I had sacrificed a portion of my frontal lobe.

It’s a wonder Kay has any brain cells left at all. The number of times that girl has kept quiet during my many disastrous moments is unhealthy as all get out. If a CSI team gave this house a once over, I’ll bet they would discover several impressions in the wall where it looks like a person about 5’ 6” did some serious head-butting. 

I said we never head-butted one another. Said nothing about the walls. A serious wall-butt now and again can actually save a marriage. Kay probably even did one after she got her fuzzy anniversary socks. Hey, did I tell you where I got those things?



Sunday, December 8, 2013

A beautiful evening on the roof.

“Shopping sends me to the roof”
They're starting them so young.

    ROOFTOP – Is it considered a bad omen when a black duck flies directly overhead? Anybody? One of you at ground level look that up for the rest of us perched atop the roof on this clear, cool, windless evening.

    Take this day and put it in Palo Duro Canyon and there would be nothing but camera clicks. Fortunately, cameras are banned from the roof. Too distracting. Carol, quit whining. You’ll get it back when we climb down.

    Over a period of a week House Hayter got 10 inches of rain. That’s not official, ‘cause the rose vase rain gauge was slightly tilted. An unleveled receptacle enhances drop collection. I think. Perhaps it’s the opposite. “Raymond! Yeah you, researcher guy! Look up “Effects on rain collection using angled rain catchers.”

    By the way, we’re on the roof today because of all the shoppers out there. There were so many of ‘em, that when I got home from town a couple of hours ago I had the shakes. Don’t get me wrong, I like people. Just not all at once.

    For the most part, the shoppers crowding me were civil. Some were even nice. I found nice people at Kroger, HEB, Lowes and Home Depot. Why two grocery stores and two retail home-repair warehouses? Because there is no perfect store. -- “What? No Yuban coffee at HEB? Back to Kroger! Khaaaaan!”

The only thing that really upset me about the shoppers was the fact that most of ‘em were walking right behind me. I could hear ‘em. I’m uncomfortable with people behind me. I may be related to Wild Bill Hickok. I keep thinking, are they trying to get by? Are they making silly faces at me? Are they pointing and laughing? Is any of ‘em packing heat?

The Walter Mitty in me wants to stop, turn and say, “Okay, everybody move along. You! Yeah, you! Put the can of corn in your cart and exit the aisle!” My kid brother, Big Al, could do that and everyone would see it as a joke. If I tried it, someone would throw a jar of mustard at me.

I don’t let that keep me from making ridiculous comments to strangers. When the comments fall on the serious minded, it never goes well? – “No, I do not know if Count Chocula is better than Coco Puffs. Why do you ask?”

I enjoy it so much when I say something silly to a stranger and he or she picks up on it. When I was headed for the customer service line at Home Depot, a lady came to the checkout just a step or two behind me. Being the son of Elsie, I motioned for her to go ahead of me. She declined, but I insisted.

I told her that if we were in line at my pharmacy, I would’ve shoved her down before I let her go ahead of me. She laughed. We spent our waiting time talking about our shopping experiences. The tough of us parted laughing. A good encounter.

I mentioned the pharmacy to her because I’ve found that pharmacists are way too patient with customers. They probably have to be, but that’s no excuse. – “Yes, ma’am you can eat grapefruit after taking this pill. Milk? Yes, that would be fine, too.”

“Hey, Mac, would you save my place in line while I go get a carton of Blue Bell, a scoop and some waffle cones?” Pharmacists. I could just punch ‘em out. – “Martha, I joke.”  

People behind me, people in front of me, people beside me pointing and grabbing. And, it’s not going to stop. It’s not even going to get slightly better in the near future. That’s why we’re up here today. I need the calm.

What I don’t need is bad luck black duck. – “Any word down there on the duck omen? Nothing?”

Forget the duck. Look at those birds! What are they? They’re shaped like quail, with the stubby tails, but they’re red from their necks to their belly buttons. And, they’re headed northeast. -- “Hey, Raymond, check out birds and belly buttons! And, we want to know what red-chested squatty bird winters in Newfoundland.”

Birds seem to get along all right, don’t they? That’s ‘cause they don’t have to shop. If they see a bug or a seed or a french fry in a parking lot they just take it. Birds are lucky ducks. Uh, just a second. – “Raymond! Forget about the black duck omen. Ducks are lucky.” I knew that all along.

Truth is, this brief time on the roof has eased my tension considerably. Venting helps. Something else that helps is a quote that I too often forget. It’s from Max Lucado. -- “What you have is greater than what you want. And, what is urgent is not always what matters.”

I’ll need to recall that a bunch of times during the holiday season. And, I’ll likely have to drag you up here more often. A prettier day, we’d be hard pressed to find. Thanks for sharing it. – Next time. 


Mark@rooftopwriter.com. You can listen to Hayter on the Mark and Cindy show live Mondays through Thursdays on irlonestar.com. And checkout the archives.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Gout: The rich man's disease?

My foot looks like this only hairier.

“Ben Franklin and I…”

     Have you ever suffered from gout? Well you need to. I’m pretty sure it’s scriptural. In one of the Corinthians it says something about God helping us when we hurt so that we’ll be able to comfort others ‘cause we know how it feels. That’s the Mark Version.

    That being said, there is no way you can possibly identify with me unless you’ve had your toe or foot or other body extremity throbbing in pain due to excessive uric acid. Bottom line: You need to get your gout on.

    God gave me my gout experience because of what I did to my old teaching buddy, about 15 years ago. I came into Larry’s classroom right before school started and noticed that he had his shoeless right foot propped on a chair next to his desk. I pick up on little things like that.

    When I asked him why he was drawing attention to the fact that he forgot his shoe, he informed me that he was suffering from gout. Gout? That’s what I said, “Gout?” Then I said, “You do know that Ben Franklin died of that?” I followed up by saying that I thought gout had become extinct.

    Larry had no words for that, so I figured it best to leave him alone. As I made my exit, I just barely tweaked his toe. Instantly he let out a groan that about scared me to death. I apologized profusely. He said, “Not your fault. I should’ve told you that I had gout.” I learned much of my sarcasm skill from Larry. 

    Well, 15 years later I’ve got gout. Remember last week’s article about tripping on the step and tossing corn everywhere? Well, I did, and my article will no doubt save lives. The foot that I crunched is the one that’s now gouted. It looks just like a picture I pulled up on the Internet of a foot with gout. In fact, it could’ve been my foot.

    My foot was healing nicely from the fall to the point where I was happy as a clam in sand. Then on Day Five, I woke up with my foot throbbing due to the pressure of the sheet laying on it. “Larry!” I screamed. I’m joking. I instantly blamed the pain on Kroger.

    Last week, that crazy store had a big sale that I wasn’t even aware of till I stepped inside. They had so many people handing out free samples that I thought I had unknowingly ended up at Sam’s. While walking through produce I saw this giant washtub thing filled with of bags of pistachios. Normally, you can get ‘em two for seven dollars. But, during their big sale, they had ‘em two for three dollars. I left the store with 12 bags. I paid for ‘em first. They pretty much insist on that.

    I was planning to eat a bag a night. On the second evening, I chased a bag down with some mixed nuts. The next morning I was dying. When Kay came in from work, she took my groaning as long as she could. That’s about four hours. Then she ordered be back to Urgent Care, the place that x-rayed my foot from the fall… which is soon to be a movie “Foot From the Fall.”

    After an hour and half of waiting and listening to people’s names being called – patients who only thought they were in pain -- I was finally summoned. I assured the assistant doctor girl, that I knew I had gout because I saw it on the Internet and because I tweaked Larry’s foot. She told me that she knew I had it ‘cause she saw it on my x-ray last time I was in, but didn’t think it quite that serious at the time.

    When I told her about all the pistachios I ate, she told me that she was not aware that nuts caused gout. She blamed it more on red meat, sugar and other wonderful stuff. The realization that I could finish off my pistachios made me forget my pain for three seconds.

    I was written a prescription for something in a steroid and then a pain medication that works particularly on gout. I had no idea. I love science.

    Do you see what happened here? God made it possible for me to realize what pain Larry went through when I touched his toe. He made it possible for me to do more than merely sympathize. Now I can emphasize with anyone who suffers from the torturing disease spawned in the bowels of hell.

    When I got home I noticed that both pill bottles had printed on ‘em – “Take capsule by oral route.” -- I had never seen that before. I’m glad it was included on each bottle, because one of the pills was bitter as all get out. I hate to think what might’ve happened had I thought it to be a tiny flat and circular suppository. -- Lawyers are responsible for these insanely obvious instructions, you know?

    Oh, and I have since researched Ben Franklin’s death just to verify that he died of gout. Turns out, it mentioned that he had gout, but didn’t say that he died of it. It merely said that he died peacefully in his sleep on April 17, 1790.

    That is so much hooha. Franklin might’ve died in bed, but I assure you, he was not sleeping peacefully. Hey, I can feel his pain.     



Friday, November 22, 2013

The 30 minute fall

Corn everywhere. Oh, the horror...

Before you start in on me, just let me say that it could’ve been so much worse. Whoever does the obituaries for The Courier could be proofing Kay’s write up about me. – “Mrs. Hayter, do you really want to mention that he didn’t like cats?”

Fortunately, the mishap had nothing to do with cats. Had to do with pigs and corn. In that order. I was digging through our packed freezer department looking for my TV remote when I dug out a couple of gallon Zip Locks containing baby backs. They were bound to be old, ‘cause I had not written a date on ‘em. I believe it was 2006 when I started writing dates on stuff before I froze it.

I decided to set the ribs out to thaw before continuing my remote search. (Turned out, the remote was sitting atop the dryer.) I normally do a lot of prep before smoking ribs, but this was a lucky find. Just seconds before I thought I was rib-less.

The ribs were still frozen in parts when I tossed ‘em into the smoker. I planned to let ‘em smoke for three hours before chunking them on the grill. I like my ribs charred on the outside. – What? Yes, I hurt my foot. I’m getting to that.

So, I had the ribs in the smoker when Virginia calls to ask Kay and me if we wanted sit outside with her and Freeman and their two-year-old great-grandson, Shane. I could’ve told her that I couldn’t leave the house ‘cause I was cooking, but Virginia would’ve asked what we were having and I would’ve said “Ribs” and she would’ve said, “What time do you want us over?”

Hey, I know the girl. And, I can’t lie to her, ‘cause lying is bad and I’m bad at it. I develop a slight stutter and a weird laugh. So I invited ‘em all over for ribs. Virginia said that she didn’t know if Shane liked ribs, but she knew he liked corn… so now “corn” enters the picture. – What? Yes, I getting to the foot.

So, the Plilers are seated at the table just as smoke starts belching out of the oven. Kay had the oven set on “broil” and was toasting a bunch of buttered ciabatta bread. I forgot about the bread and shut the oven door in passing. That’s when I discovered that flaming, buttered ciabatta puts out more black smoke than burning tires.

We needed no smoke detector to tell us what was happening, but the thing went off anyway, ‘causing the piercing scream that will not die. Kay grabbed the bread pan and ran out the back door. I grabbed a chair and climbed up so I could pound the life out of the smoke detector. I could’ve pressed the button on it, but I was really ticked.

The Plilers are still seated and Shane isn’t even crying. He just stared and looked at his Grandma and gave her the “Uncle Mark is the pretend uncle isn’t he?” look.

Kay eventually returned to the kitchen and instructed me to open the windows in the mudroom for cross ventilation to get all the smoke out. I knew that, but was too busy trying blow on a bowl of corn that I’d set aside for Shane. The kid hates hot corn. So, I took the bowl of corn with me and headed to the mudroom.

There is step-down into our mudroom. I know that because we’ve lived here for over 20 years. But on this one occasion I forgot about the step-down. Blowing on corn can make you forget stuff. Anyway, it was one of those 30-minute falls. On my way down, my first thought was that Kay would have to call Cindy and tell her that I wouldn’t be able to make it for tomorrow’s Mark and Cindy Show 10 to 11 Monday through Thursday on irlonestar.com. (I’ll wait while you grab the pencil on the corner of the desk.)

Then I thought, “What am I saying? The direction I’m headed here, I’ll be breathing, eating and peeing through tubes for the rest of my unnatural life.

Before I hit the floor, I heard the sound made by a thousand marbles as they flew from the ceramic bowls that Kay had perched on the baker’s hutch… the one that I kicked with my once good foot. “Please, let me beat the marbles to the floor.” I was at the “…beat” part of the prayer when I landed.

Everything hurt except my foot. When I looked I saw corn. Oh, the horror. It hung from the ceiling, the wall, and the windows. Some even made it to the floor. I could feel it in my hair. When I looked up, Kay was at my side almost in tears. Shane was standing in the doorway with a strange look of wonder, mingled with excitement, and wore a weird grin that said, “Really?”

The accident did nothing to keep us from eating the ribs. They weren’t my best, but that’s ‘cause the package predated dating. It was late in the night when my swolen foot started giving me trouble. The next afternoon Kay dragged my rear to the Urgent Care place where they x-rayed me and told me that nothing appeared broken. Just put ice on it occasionally and keep it elevated.

Virginia called to check on me that evening. I told her that my foot hurt like everything, but I’d be all right. I could hear Shane jabbering in the background. Virginia said to him, “Shane, Uncle Mark is okay. He told you to stop worrying about him.” When I asked what his response was, she told me that he just said, “Corn.”

And that’s the rest of the story.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

How to save hundreds of bucks: Watch football on TV.

“If you have to ask, you can't afford price of ticket."

A friend of mine from my college days at SFA, found me on Facebook a few months back and invited Kay and me to come to Dallas and go to the Cowboys/Viking game with her. She had a couple of spare tickets and asked us up for a fun weekend. Promised a fun weekend she did, and she didn’t lie.

Gail is a country girl from Apple Springs that I met in my speech class. We hit it right off. Had very little in common, but just enjoyed each other’s company. That girl was a hoot. Still is. The relationship was strictly platonic. When Kay came to SFA during my senior year, she roomed with Gail at the dorm. Just so you know.

For diehard Texan fans, let me say that if Dallas plays The Texans, I’ll root for the Texans. Other than that, I’m rooting for the Cowboys. I’ve been a fan since the days of Dandy Don Meredith.

Like I said, we had a fun time. The only downside was when I learned about the tickets. I thought someone gave Gail the tickets. Turns out, the girl started buying season tickets a few years back. She had to pay $5000 for the privilege to hold season tickets. I had never heard of such a thing. Then, each year she pays $125 each for three tickets to 10 games. (That included two pre-season home games.)

You do the math. And, that doesn’t include parking. It cost $15 to park in the “stadium” parking lot located about a mile or two away from the stadium. Gail usually goes with a dear friend who has mobility issues, so she pays to park at a lot closer to the stadium. The previous week she paid $60 to park near a familiar restaurant. However, last week the owner upped the price $20… just because he could.

I had to force Gail to let me pay the $80 parking. She was already out $250 for our tickets. I know what you’re thinking. Gail must be rich. She’s not. She just really likes the Cowboys. Some people spend money on home accessories or cars or sending the kids to Harvard. Gail prefers spending money on the Cowboys.

She’s not alone. The Dallas Cowboy AT&T Stadium was packed. Our $125 seats were high up in the corner of the end zone. I watched most of the game on the giant screen suspended from the ceiling. It was like watching TV at a 170-degree angle. Somewhat of a distortion effect.There was a smaller screen attached to end of the colossal TV, but it was too small for me to see.

I used to think snacks at the movie theatre were expensive. Food at a Football stadium is apparently imported from a space station on Mars. Had I tried to sneak food in I would’ve never gotten it past the frisking at the gate. I had to empty my pockets and get metal detected. The detector kept beeping for some reason, but the guy let me pass, ‘cause I have a “safe” look. (By the way, if you arrive at the stadium 15 minutes ahead of kickoff, you might get seated by halftime.)

 I did buy a hotdog with mustard and relish. Kay got a chopped beef sandwich, a bag of chips and a drink. The total came to slightly less than a car payment.

I learned a fascinating thing about tailgaters. In Dallas, tailgaters can pay $150 for the privilege to park in the actual stadium lot. The people I saw apparently never entered the stadium. They sat in lawn chairs and watched the game on their portable TVs.

The cost of the stadium experience, though brutal, did not prevent me from enjoying the game. I was seated next to a guy and his wife who had flown in from Minnesota. In fact, there were Viking fans spread throughout the $125 “cheap” seats. Yet, I witnessed no rude behavior. In fact, people were actually joking with one another.

The Cowboys managed to pull the game out in the last 40 seconds. The Viking fans hated it, but we still patted one another on the back and walked away realizing we had seen a good game.

Even the players seemed to hit it off well. Adrian Peterson, for the Vikings, ran for about a million yards in the loss. However, on one particular play, a defensive back brought him down hard. It was a rare occasion when one person was able to tackle Big Number 28. When Peterson got up, he faced the defensive back and slapped him on the top of the helmet as if to say, “Wow, that was a good hit.” The defensive back returned the gesture. I like to see moments of camaraderie between players on opposing teams. It’s classy as all get out.

Had I been watching the game on TV I may have missed that moment. Was it worth the price of admission? Good grief no! Of course, had we not gone to Dallas, Kay and I would’ve missed the visit with our old friend.

That girl laughed constantly. She could barely finish a sentence without cracking up. Took me right back to my days at SFA, and it helped me remember what it was that attracted Gail and me to one another. Forty years later and that girl is still such a joy to be around.

Listen to the Mark and Cindy Show at www.irlonestar.com every weekday morning from 10 to 11.

Social scientists find that children who were spanked are dumber.

“Spank or Not”

    Do you want to know why so many of us are messed up? Do you? Me neither. But, some really smart people out of Columbia University spent serious bucks to find out.

What they found was that disciplining children by spanking does a number on their brains. It not only makes them more aggressive it also makes them dumber than non-spanked children. Makes them do poorly on vocabulary tests.

There is little doubt that the survey was well founded, uh, well researched… whatever. Questions were asked of 1500 parents of children born between 1998 and 2000. I assume the years were inclusive or else they would’ve just written “Children born in 1999.” My vocabulary may stink, but I’ve got logic out the wazoo.

The parents were selected from 20 different cities. That was so the researchers could rule out any possibility of choosing a city that was a safe haven for parents who spanked a lot. Just a guess.

The findings from questionnaires revealed that fifty-seven percent of all moms are spankers, and only 40 percent of all Dads. We can only take their word for it, ‘cause none of the homes had hidden cameras installed. The questions asked went something like this:

If a classmate grabbed a packet of fruit juice from your child, which reaction would mostly be that of your child? –
A) He would say, “Not to worry, you need the nourishment acquired from fruit products more than I. 
B) He would bop the kid in the mouth and scream, “That boy take my sip-sip! Mess boy up!”

I was born a generation or three before 1998, so one might question my qualifications as a test subject in spanking research. Regardless, I was spanked a lot. Almost exclusively by Mom. Dad took care of less than one percent of all spankings. Had it been a full percent, my vocabulary would be much worse than it is.

    When Dad was home, we were the best behaved seven kids on the planet. When he was at work we were spankings waiting to happen. I loved my Mom dearly, but I put that woman in situations where she just had to spank me. And, the woman never argued or tried to weigh the fairness of the hand-or-belt-to-bottom course of action. She never once hurt herself more than me. -- “A parent should never spank a child when angry.” Who comes up with that kind of stuff? 

We made Mom spank us ‘cause it was the only way we could tell when she had reached her limit. We didn’t want to push her to the brink of “I’m going to tell your daddy.” Nobody wanted that. Mom didn’t even want that.

    If spanking were an adequate method of discipline, I doubt we would’ve gotten so many. If you’re getting a spanking a day, the practice is apparently not working. Schools caught on long before most moms did. I cannot tell you the year that corporal punishment was outlawed, but I do remember the time I gave it up as a teacher.

    I remember giving only one kid “swats.” I taught junior high during my first year of teaching, and had one kid who would never bring his book to class. I couldn’t threaten him with more work, ‘cause he wouldn’t complete what he had. After the ninth warning about his book, I summoned the principal and took the kid into the hall. The principal had to witness.

    On three occasions I gave that kid swats. I didn’t hit him very hard, ‘cause my heart wasn’t in it. After the third episode, the student tried to make me feel better about what I was doing. He said, “It’s okay, Mr. Hayter. I don’t blame you. I don’t know why I don’t bring my book.”

    Teachers are not supposed to make exceptions when it comes to discipline. If you cut one kid some slack, all of ‘em will expect equal treatment. There is only one rule that supersedes the equal treatment rule -- “Pick your battles.”

I could not win the battle of the book, so I ended up keeping a book in the side cabinet for “Mike” (not his name) to borrow during class. I told him to keep his other book at home for when he had homework. I also asked him not to make a spectacle of getting the book out of the cabinet.

    I never gave swats to another kid. I can say in all honesty that swatting hurt me more than it did Mike. Fortunately, the following year, I started teaching high school-aged kids. I was better able to reason with most of ‘em. It’s so much easier to reason with kids once you realize you were one of ‘em once. Weird how that works.

Truth is, I doubt there is a definitive answer as to whether or not it helps to spank children. I do know that it was unnecessary for Daddy to ever spank me. All he had to do was look at me and I’d start crying. But, Mom? I don’t know what to say about that. I loved that woman to pieces, but I drove her to spank. All of us did. -- Hayter kids. What are you gonna do? We didn’t have a good enough vocabulary to understand reason.


Mark@rooftopwriter.com and  www.rooftopwriter.com and www.irlonestar.com    

Friday, November 8, 2013

Mark and Cindy Cochran are hosts of internet radio talk show!

“The Mark and Cindy Show”
    I took up signing several years back when I was a beginning high school teacher. By “signing” I’m referring to sign language. Not signing stuff with a pen or pencil. I’m still working on that.

None of my acquaintances or members of my family were hearing impaired back then, so I started learning sign language because I got hooked on the “Signing with Cindy Show.” Remember “Signing with Cindy” on PBS? Cindy was the best signing teacher in the world. And, she had a great sense of humor. Reminded me of one of my Oklahoma cousins… only, Claudia couldn’t sign.

I didn’t like it when Cindy taught the letters of the alphabet. I always had trouble with my fingers… my fingers and my inability to remember which finger positions stood for which letters. Turns out, that’s pretty important.

I was much better with whole words. You only use the letter signs for names and words that defy description. Most words can be acted out. Words like “crying” and “anger” and “horseback riding.” Since the age of five, I’ve been the best horseback riding signer in a the lower 48.

Songs were Cindy’s best teaching tool. As she signed a song, her expressions were absolutely mesmerizing. It was as if she were dancing without using her feet.

I was a quick song learner. One morning in front of one of my History classes, I signed the entire first stanza of “Sunshine on my Shoulder.” I was so proud of myself. My students? Not so much.

Cindy became a nationally known figure. She appeared on Johnny Carson twice. I never got a second invite by Johnny. Might have, had I gotten a first. Johnny liked Cindy ‘cause she was smart and funny as all get out.

Over the years, “The Signing with Cindy Show” went its way, taking with it my signing skills. I still know the sign for “shoulders” but that’s about it. I later learned that Cindy went on to do stuff for other Networks, but I never saw her on TV.

However, -- And this is the exciting part -- I recently ran across her at church. When someone told me that Cindy Cochran attended, I was unfazed by the news, ‘cause the Cindy I knew had “Cindy” as a last name and “Signing With” as her first name and middle. As soon as I learned the truth, I elbowed people out of the way until I met the one and only Signing W. Cindy.

Turns out, Cindy lived in The Woodlands for a good while, before moving to Willis with her husband, Sam. She was immediately so impressed with my charm and speaking manner that she suggested we have a talk show. -- There’s more to it than that, but who cares?

Long story coming to a short ending, starting Monday morning October 28 (that’s tomorrow) “The Mark and Cindy Show” will be broadcast live in downtown Conroe at the Lonestar Internet Radio Station, located on the South side of the Crighton Theatre. We’ll be live Monday through Thursday from 10:00 to 11:00. Friday mornings will be a “Best Of” broadcast. You can join us at www.irlonestar.com. After a day or two you can catch the reruns, or the Lonestar website.

Cindy won’t be signing on the show ‘cause its radio. I wasn’t clear on that at first. However, you’ll get to hear her say stuff that I likely won’t agree with. Turns out, what Cindy and I have most in common is our sense of humor and our pretend horseback riding skills. Other than that, she’s a mess… a mess with a winning personality. If you don’t like Cindy Cochran, you clicked on the wrong program. Again, it’s www.irlonestar.com .

Dick is the President and All Around Person-in-Charge of The Station. He’s a youngster, somewhere between the ages of 14 and 30. I’m better with old people ages.  Despite his youth, Dick certainly knows what he’s doing. Definitely has a clear vision for his Internet Radio station.

Before I leave you in eager anticipation of Monday morning’s launching of The Show, I must remind you of another important broadcast that airs Wednesday night, the night before Halloween, October 30. (Hey they already had it and it was a big hit. You can re-play the event by visiting www.irlonestar.com)

The Players Theatre Company Old Time Radio Hour is going to perform live “The War of The Worlds”, the radio broadcast that was produced and performed by Orson Welles. This is the program that scared the willies out of thousands of people across the country on the same day back in 1938.

And it’s all right here where we live.

(The Mark and Cindy Show has aired for two weeks now.)  Replays can be viewed a
http://irlonestar.com/Show.aspx?ID=121  Please pay a visit. 


Mark@rooftopwriter.com & www.rooftopwriter.com & www.irlonestar.com

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The cost of vision.

Eyesight on the decline as eyeglass prices soar! Khan!

    There are two things about myself of which I used to really be proud. My teeth and my eyes. Oh, and my ears. Three things.

    I never went to the dentist till I was 40. That’s ‘cause I was raised a Hayter. “Preventive medicine” was foreign to us. Go to a dentist before your teeth hurt? That’s crazy talk.

I eventually had to visit the dentist because of a cracked tooth. Before Dr. Big Jake started work on my tooth, he had his assistant make me an appointment to have my teeth cleaned. Something about my gums. Great looking teeth, but apparently my gums needed some brushing… or something.

But, forget my gorgeous teeth with once diseased gums. And, forget my ever-enlarging ears. I need to talk about my once prized eyes. Not eyeballs. As you can see, my eyes are a pale blue that entices, while whispering “You don’t want any of this.”

No, I’m talking eyesight. I used to have the best in the world. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you, “Mark Hayter’s vision? How the #$@& should I know?” So, you’ll have to take my word. I used to see so well that I could tell if a gnat had cataracts. Just couldn’t see my gums very well.

I got my first pair of glasses when I was in high school. I could see perfectly well, but for some reason, I started hitting to right field. My coach said, “Hayter, why are you swinging at the ball so late? Go get your eyes checked.”

So, Mom took me to Lee Optical. Glasses that once cost $32 were on sale for $25. I chose the gray pair over the black. The only difference in my vision with my glasses on had to do with lights. The stadium lights fractured into multiple beams. I couldn’t catch a pop fly to save my life. All I could see were lights.

I went back to the eye guy and he said that the multiple light sighting would go away once I got used to it. What he wanted to say was “Hey, kid, what do you expect for 25 bucks?”

I stopped wearing the glasses, even though they looked really cool on me. One morning, decades later, I woke to find that the newspaper print had gotten really small. Over night. Since then I’ve been wearing glasses. You can’t tell from my picture there, ‘cause I didn’t wear ‘em all the time when the picture was taken. My enticing, blue eyes are now hidden behind Polycarbonate, PhotoFusion, AR-Teflon Clear coated lenses.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, this milk tastes funny. Maybe two of you are thinking that. But most of you want to know how much a pair of glasses with all that fancy stuff on it cost nowadays.

Actually, there is a price formula used by all eyeglass companies. A used car salesman from Poughkeepsie, New York created it. It’s very simple. -- Think of the highest price you would possibly consider paying for a pair of eyeglasses. Take that number and add 200 to it.

The pair I just purchased cost me $800. For that I got a pair of frames that are lighter than Twinkie filling. I can wad the frames up if I want. And, believe me, I’m gonna want to at that price. The frames are made of some kind of Titanium enriched, uh, flexible metal stuff. (I hope I’m not getting too technical.)

When the eyeball guy rang up the cost for my new specs, it came to $684. I thought, wow, that’s only $84 more than I would be willing to pay. I broke the Poughkeepsie formula! Apparently the eyeglass guy noticed my masked grin, and said, “Oops.” – Oops? Who wants to hear “Oops?” No one wants to hear “Oops.”

“Uh, Mr. Hayter, I forgot to ask if you wanted glare-resistant lenses?” That’s what he SAID. What I heard was, “Mr. Hayter, do you want to be able to catch a pop fly?” The glare-proof coating added another $125 to the price. Instantly a guy in New York started laughing his rear off.

Now, I apparently need to have my hearing checked. Kay tests me daily. She’ll whisper something to me three times before yelling it. “Did you buy toothpaste?!! Criminee, you can’t hear thunder!” That kind of stuff drives me right up the wall.

I might as well get on the Internet and figure out about the price of a good pair of hearing aids. You know, something a little smaller than a cereal box. I have every confidence that my research will dig up something like.  – “Take the Poughkeepsie formula and add another 400.”


Mark@rooftopwriter.com & www.rooftopwriter.com

Thursday, October 17, 2013

“Get this off my chest.”

    One great thing about having a newspaper column is the fact that you have an opportunity to get things off your mind… off your chest. Wherever it is you keep things.

    Apparently, Kay has listened to everything that’s on my mind and chest for way too long. She no longer cares to listen. Last week, I saw this piece in the newspaper that explained how we should wash our hands in warm soapy water for 26 seconds 
before we start cooking something. That’s the third most ridiculous thing I found in that morning’s edition.

    We shouldn’t wash raw chicken before cooking, but we should wash our hands for 26 seconds before handling it.  I read the paragraph to Kay and then told her to stand by the sink and run water over her hands for 26 seconds. She wouldn’t do it. I then asked her to just stay seated and rub her hands together for 26 seconds. She didn’t even look up. Can you believe that? 

    So, it’s up to me to get someone else to do the 26-second hand rub. Go ahead, rub your hands together for 26 seconds and tell me it’s not an excessively long time to wash your hands.

    If every person in this country were to wash his or her hands for 26 seconds before cooking every meal, there’d be no water left for washing dishes. After washing my hands for 26 seconds in warm soapy water, I could remove your adenoids without wearing gloves. And, I don’t even know what your adenoids look like.

    The young lady at my sleep doctor place told me that the way to clean my CPAP mask is to run hot water over it for three minutes. Three minutes is right at 180 seconds. That’s 180 seconds of hot water going down my drain to clean my nose-over mask. I had been cleaning the thing with one of those baby wipes. Stupid was I.

The second most ridiculous thing I read that morning was – “GASOLINE PRICES TUMBLE FOUR CENTS.” There is absolutely no object in this country the cost of which can recede by four cents and be called a price TUMBLE. At the time of the article, gasoline locally went from $3.12 to $3.08. That’s a saving of 60 cents on a $50 fill-up. That’s not a TUMBLE. That’s an ebbing before a price surge caused by an Iranian border guard sneezing while on duty.” 

Kay’s response to my comment was “Chill, darling.” That knocked any notion I had of sharing my next newspaper tidbit with her. It may have been a letter to the editor that I read just to get the blood flowing to the unexercised parts of my brain. Somewhere in the piece I read, “The American people are tired of seeing the government grow well beyond the intent of our Founding Fathers.”

My thought was, we’d better hope government growth grows well beyond the intent of our Founding Fathers. If we try to carry on today in the manner of which our “Founding Fathers” intended, we’d collect revenue in only two ways. Tariffs (taxes on imports) and a tax on whiskey. That was IT back then. And, that was apparently enough, ‘cause the government didn’t do much of anything.

We had a Secretary of War, but no standing army. In fact, one of this country’s first military encounters came about as a result of a rebellion over the tax on whiskey. Americans rebelling over paying taxes? “Stop the presses!”

To put the rebellion down, President George Washington got on a horse and led a group of militiamen into Pennsylvania. George did that, because our Founding Fathers did not want a standing army. Instead, they were able to get the Second Amendment ratified to make sure the militia would be armed. The Second is the only amendment that actually spells out our Founding Fathers “intent.” – “A well regulated militia being necessary…”

Speaking of which, our Founding Fathers, understandably, didn’t see a “current” need for public libraries, parks, schools, highways, hospitals, anti-pollution laws, food and drug inspectors, national forests, air traffic controllers, broadcasting regulators, a spy network, national police force and several thousand other things.

Fortunately, they wrote a preamble that vaguely covered everything. Stuff like “… establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…” I’m not qualified to speak for “The American People,” but these sound like good things to me.

Some politicians and “news” spokespersons pretend to know how the “American People” feel concerning the proper ways to take care of our tranquility, defense, liberty and general welfare. Who are these “American people” that others are speaking for? The American people want to know. I’m not sure Kay does, but ALL the rest. 


Mark@rooftopwriter.com  &  www.rooftopwriter.com

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sarcasm. I love it.

"When  you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect."   Mark Twain

"Sarcasm, mean as it can be, and fun as all get out"

    In the history of the world no one has ever found any evidence to support the notion that sarcasm has ever helped in any situation. I say that not because I made it up, but because it introduces this week’s topic – sarcasm. Yea!

    The first case of sarcasm, of which I’m aware, was directed at God and delivered by Cain. After murdering his brother, Cain was asked by God if he knew where Abel was. Cain replied, in essence, “Oh, I must’ve missed the memo. I had no idea you intended for me to be in charge of my brother.” 

I can only think that God handled that bit of sarcasm better than my Dad would have. Cain got a bad mark put on him and had to dwell in a place called Nod, east of Eden. I would’ve developed a severe stoop and dwelt in Pasadena Memorial Hospital, west of the Bowling Alley.   

    Let’s face it, sarcasm is mean. And, it’s the most oft used form of thought conveyance in the world, if not the universe. -- I have no idea where these “facts” are coming from. They’re practically writing themselves.

     Most people use sarcasm as a way of humiliating others. What better way to build yourself up than to tear someone down?

Me? I use sarcasm merely for the laughs, ‘cause I’m a swell guy.  -- “Kay, you need to quit punching those buttons at the top of the remote control. They don’t do anything but aggravate your husband.” – Now, that’s funny stuff, and it gives Kay a big ol’ grin right before she tosses the remote at me 

I credit my three brothers for my sarcastic talent. No way could I have been born with this gift. When the four of us get together, we speak in a language called Sarcasmism.

“I’m sorry, Mark, would you show me less profile? Your nose is blocking the light.”  --  “Oh, that was my fault, Mark. I forgot to tell you that we were aiming for the green right in front of us. Not the Ford 150 in the parking lot.” -- See how sarcasm can be used as a teaching tool? It’s invaluable I’m telling you.

While teaching in high school I used sarcasm daily. Had to. In government class, I’d occasionally get something like this. -- “Mr. Hayter, were we supposed to take notes on all that, ‘cause I didn’t bring any paper?” – A perfect teaching moment. – “Well, without taking notes in this class, you likely won’t pass, but, come next year, you’ll still get to vote. And, you don’t need to know anything to do that.”

See? A perfect opportunity to lambaste the failings of government while disciplining a student through humiliation. End result, a sense of superiority for the teacher.

 By the way, that was just an example of how well sarcasm can work. I never really said anything like that. Except to one of the funniest students I ever had who intentionally set me up for such moments. – “Mr. Hayter, could you go over that one more time? Are you saying that the Electoral College is not, in fact, a real college? –Scott always knew the perfect time to crack me up. It was invariably when I was taking myself way to serious. That’s when I used sarcasm just for the fun of it. “Scott, you have once again turned all my efforts into a catastrophic success.” I stole that from “Unknown.”

One of the best purveyors of sarcasm is someone known as “Unknown.” He or she is all over the Internet. Unknown has come up with stuff like --   “I wish we were better strangers.” – “If at first you don’t succeed, try something easier.” – “The person who told you to be yourself obviously didn’t know you all that well.”

    Of course, there are thousands of “Knowns” who have tossed around some great sarcastic remarks. Mark Twain once used sarcasm to describe his visit to Manchester, England. He wrote, “I would like to live in Manchester, because the transition between Manchester and death would be unnoticeable.”

    And related to nothing in particular, Grocho Marx supposedly once told a host, “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.”  And, who can forget Abe Lincoln? You know, one of the Presidents? (Sarcasm)  He once said, concerning a government official, ”He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of anyone I know.”

    And, one of my favorite sarcastic remarks comes from none other than Drew Carey, who said, “Oh, you hate your job? Why didn’t you say so? There’s a support group for that. It’s called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar.” 

    So there you have it. From Cain to Drew Carey, remarks meant to build one up, by tearing someone else down. When used “properly,” it can be great fun and terribly hurtful. And while sarcasm has never changed anything for the better, the average person uses it no less than 14.6 times a day. Yet another fact that just wrote itself.

Mark@rooftopwriter.come  & www.rooftopwriter.com

Friday, October 4, 2013

North Star and Lovebugs

“Thuban, the next North Star...
Earth is located inside the Dipper Bucket.  I think.
and other stuff.”

    ROOFTOP – Let me apologize to those of you expecting a lawn chair to be waiting for you up here. The lawn chairs were scratching my metal roof, so Kay ordered that lawn chairs be used only at ground level.

    I do hope you know that I’m not afraid of Kay. I’m fairly sure she couldn’t beat me up in a fair fight, but that girl cheats. At some point she turns into all knees and elbows. Oh, and she pinches. Boy, can she pinch.

    So, during daytime roofsits I’m now using my big blue pillow and sit smack dab on the peak. Keep that in mind for the next daytime roof experience.  At night I commission the hallway rug, and lie flat of my back at an angle for a perfect view of the night sky. See, this isn’t bad at all, is it?

    You know what’s weird? I cannot lay flat of my back on the floor without feeling as if my ribs and spine are gonna snap. But, it doesn’t hurt nearly as much if I lie down on an incline. I was not in the least satisfied with Isaac Newton’s explanation of that principle. The guy was pulling stuff out of his… out of thin air.

    I’m actually sorry I didn’t think of using the rug before. A much better view from this position.  It’s moonless tonight, so the stars appear especially bright, and the airliners just out of Bush Intercontinental are disturbingly bright.

    The rushing sound of the cars speeding by on the highway about a half mile away, added to the sound of the neeker breekers singing in the dark, make for a lot of nighttime activity. No bats, though. That’s a good thing.

    The view of the stars tonight remind me of a trip Kay and I took a couple of summers back to Alpine, Texas. I told you about that. Remember, one night we went to a star viewing session at the McDonald Observatory? An astronomer with the most powerful handheld laser pointer I’ve ever seen was pointing out different stars and constellations.

    It was so dark, I couldn’t see somebody’s hand in front of my face. The astronomer was interesting as all get out. He told us that the North Star (Polaris) hasn’t always been the North Star. In 3000 BC, Alpha Draconis was the North Star. Of course, the 14 or so people who knew about the North Star back then referred to it as “Thuban.” Named after a foot ointment. My guess.

    You may not be aware of this, but 13000 years from now, Polaris will have veered so much away from north that Vega will be the new North Star. Worry not. Twenty-six thousand years after that, Polaris will once more be in position to take over its reign as the North Star. Had you worried, didn’t I?

    It has something to do with the earth having a slight wobble as it rotates. Something about an equatorial bulge. The Astronomer explained how it works, but I was too busy trying figure out whose hand it was in front of my face.

    Wasn’t that a fascinating story? Are there any questions? Anyone? Oh, Cheryl? You want to know if those neeker breekers we’re hearing right now are cicadas? I was hoping you had an astronomical question, but since I didn’t specify, the answer is no. Those are neeker breekers. They’re mystical nighttime noisemakers. Kay told me that Tolkien mentioned ‘em. She is such a smarty-pants. 

    But, since you brought up cicadas, let me ask you something. What the Sam Hill happened to the onslaught of cicadas we were supposed to witness this past summer? Every news channel in the country was warning us about the 17-year cycle of cicada swarms.

    I came close to buying a pair of bug squashing boots. One news station even demonstrated how loud the sound of a few million cicadas would be. The sales of earplugs shot up drastically. Almost as much as the sale of firearms did when Obama started taking away all of our guns.

    Anyway, the cicada threat never materialized. I believe the exoskeleton of a couple of ‘em were seen hanging on a tree somewhere in the Northeast. But, that’s about it. From what I read, it was a combination of climate change and deforestation that likely transformed the predicted-phenomena into the reality normality.

    We find ourselves in a time when we hand people the power to prevent “disasters” by stirring us up about ‘em. Now I’m beginning to wonder about the shift of the North Star. I can’t get over how convincing the astronomer guy was.

    What? Oh, that was Kay yelling for me. I thought she was in bed. Look, nobody climbs off this roof until one of you helps me up. It feels like my back will snap in two if I try to sit up. -- Somebody? Anybody? Don’t make Kay come up here. Please. – Next time.


Mark@rooftopwriter.com & www.rooftopwriter.com

Friday, September 27, 2013

Light one shoe

“How Davy Crockett almost got me killed

    Sunday of last week, I had an epiphany. I haven’t had all that many epiphanies, nor am I perfectly clear as to what one is. But, I like the sound of it.

I was in church when it hit. I was listening to the story about Isaac and Jacob for the 15 millionth time. (I was practically born on a church pew during a time when adults didn’t even try to make church interesting.)

Anyway, I was thinking about Isaac and Jacob being lousy fathers, and that got me daydreaming about the time I thought my dad was gonna kill me. Dad never came close to killing any of us, but we always believed it possible. We were kids.

I’ve told the story to you a time or two, but this time is different, because of the epiphany. The story takes place on a Wednesday night a few decades ago. The Hayter kids were on the floor in front of the ol’ 18 inch RCA. We were watching either, Davy Crockett or Elfego Baca, two of the greatest shows in the history of mankind.

Mom had already yelled at us about 100 times to get up and get ready for church. Church on a Wednesday night meant only 15 minutes of Disneyland, no Wagon Train, and no Ozzie and Harriet. It was our attempt to stretch the 15 minutes of Disneyland viewing that made Mom yell so much.

After Mom’s hundredth yell we were expecting maybe two more. They never came. Dad suddenly appeared from a poof of cigar smoke. He turned off the TV and said, “Everyone in the car.” Said it in that low, scary Daddy tone.

All I had on were shorts over briefs. I ran into the bedroom, found my jeans, grabbed my shirt and shoes and socks and managed to dive into the backseat as Dad was backing out.

Dad hadn’t driven a half of mile before I realized I was missing a shoe. Dad’s yelling at us for being bad kids, and I was light one shoe. I gave Dennis the sign language for “What should I do?” He gave me the signal for “the moment the noose tightens.”

Jill whispered the stupidest thing in the world. “Tell Daddy.” He’s telling me what jerk I am, and I’m supposed to stop him to tell him I forgot my shoe? I did the only feasible thing I could do. I prayed for a wreck.

The minute the car rolled to a stop in the parking lot, Dennis and Jill were out and sitting in their classroom. I was trying to outwait Mom, but it was impossible. That woman! When I finally exited the car, she instantly noticed my leftward slant. I begged her not to tell Daddy. I’ll just tell people I stepped on a nail.

Mom summoned Dad, and when he saw me, I started bawling. It was one of those can’t-catch-your-breath cries. All Dad said was, “Get in the car.” I interpreted that to mean, “I can kill you right here, but prefer the car.”

Ever since that moment, I thought what a wise Father would do. A wise Dad would say, “Son, get in the building. If anybody asks about your shoe, you tell ‘em the truth. Your punishment will be their laughter.”

If that thought ever hit Dad it didn’t stick. We got in the car and he drove me home. On the way, he said one thing, “I can’t believe you’re that scared of me.” When we got home, he split a Pepsi with me, and we watched Ozzie and Harriet before returning to church for the rest of the gang.

It was the nicest I had ever seen my Dad. He didn’t even act ashamed of me. And that was the very moment during my daydream that it came to me. The epiphany. The whatever.

Daddy wouldn’t let me go into the church building and lie about the shoe, nor would he let me go in and tell the truth about what happened. He was too ashamed for people to find out how frightened his children were of him. That was his epiphany.

I’d like to say that everything got better after that between Daddy and the rest of us. Oh, maybe it did for a couple of weeks. I can’t remember. I do remember that none of us were ourselves around Daddy. The man had too many problems and too much on his mind to maintain a good mood for long.

And, that was pretty much my attitude toward God during my youth. From what I was hearing from the pulpit, God hated me when I was bad and tolerated me when I was good. No wonder no one smiled in church.
1954 Before Big Al was born.
 L to R: Larry, Susan, Dad with me
Mom with Jill, Lynda and Dennis

I wish I had been made aware of the times it’s mentioned in the Bible about God loving children so much. We used to sing “Jesus loves the little children…” but I saw no sign of that.

Now I have biblical evidence and physical evidence. One piece of biblical evidence is found in Matthew 18: 10. And the physical evidence is proved by the fact that at the beginning of the 21st century, God allowed the invention of the DVR. 


mark@rooftopwriter.com and www.rooftopwriter.com

Saturday, September 21, 2013

High Noon

I hate it when the bell tolls for me.

    Yesterday evening, Kay rushed into the living room and announced, “There are two horses in our front yard.” My first thought was, “Why does she tell me stuff like this?”  She may not be the cause of every crisis, but I could build a pretty good case on her indirect involvement.

    I took a look, and sure enough, our neighbor’s horses had escaped the corral. I knew they’d move along in five minutes after finishing off what was left of our lawn. I said as much to Kay. She shot me her “you-beat-all-I-ever-saw” look. Then, she rushed upstairs. I assumed to put on her wrangling outfit. Hey, I don’t know what she buys.

    I begged myself to not get involved. I was nearly self-persuaded when the words of John Donne hit home. “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee?” I had made my students memorize that poem, intending to stir them to action. Not me to action. I don’t even like action.

    But, no one else was making a move to handle the situation. The neighbor’s cats weren’t even interested. Bite the head off a poisonous snake, but won’t corral a horse. And, let me tell you, they could if they wanted to.

    Donne’s words tolled on. I chose to go out the backdoor and sneak up on the strays. Sometimes I can’t even believe myself.

I stood in the road a distance away from the critters waiting for them to leave, while trying to look like I was sizing up the situation. A car pulled up beside me and a lady looked at the horses before asking, “Do you know anything about horses?”

I wanted to say— Well, it doesn’t matter what I wanted to say. She told me her husband knew something about animals and she’d try to get him involved. As the lady’s car headed down the street, I slowly approached the runaways. They laughed at me in that o’ so superior manner that horses laugh. Big headed, taunting creatures.  Then they bolted out of my yard and out my life… so I hoped.

Then Kay came out of nowhere and handed me a sandwich bag filled with apple slices. No wrangler outfit. “They’ll probably come to you if you hand ‘em apple slices,” she said, supposing I was keen on them coming to me. What I wanted to say was—Well, it doesn’t matter. I grabbed the bag and headed over to Jerry’s yard.

I’m pretty sure Jerry was home, but he didn’t budge. I was Gary Cooper and it was high noon in the late evening. Suddenly I had the equine(s) trapped between Jerry’s cedar fence and me. I can only imagine their fear. I was already seeing the headline on page six of The Courier: “Local humorist knocked silly by laughing horse.”

    I didn’t want a lengthy standoff ‘cause it was “Rizolli and Isles” night. So, I held out an apple slice and slowly approached the beasts. The younger of the two lipped the apple from my hand. “There you go, ol’ girl… uh, boy. Whatever.”

I then turned to the older, wiser steed and held out an apple slice with one hand while taking hold of its nylon halter with my other. The monster drew back its head and left me holding an empty halter. My first instinct is too embarrassing to mention.

The manly thing to do would’ve been to grab hold of the mane, hurl myself on top and ride the creature bareback to the stable. Instead I said something like “So, Bucko, why the long face?” No horse laughter. I must’ve hit a sore spot. 

I then focused my attention on the younger, more gullible horse. After two more apple slices, I gently took hold of its halter and slowly walked it toward the stable some 70 yards away. It was five steps -- stop and wait. Three steps -- stop and wait. About 30 minutes later we arrived at the stable where the lady’s husband was inside looking for some feed. For the horse, of course.

The older, wiser horse had oddly enough followed us all the way. The younger horse eventually entered the corral, but the non-haltered bigger one would not move. I took hold of its mane and repositioned the halter upside down over its head. The big fellow apparently regained its sense of humor. I just hate that laugh.

The lady’s husband finally walked across the corral carrying some hay. The old horse practically dragged me into the corral. – Set, match, Mark.

Kay couldn’t stop bragging. On the horses. “Aren’t they just the sweetest? Darling, do you have any apple slices left?”

I don’t know if I consciously imitated John Wayne’s walk as I headed back to the bunkhouse, or if it was just a mannerism that manifests itself on a man who saw his duty and did it. No man is an island, you know? Let’s not forget that, Pilgrim. 


Mark@rooftopwriter.com & www.rooftopwriter.com

Friday, September 13, 2013


 I'm number 11. 
This is the closest to an action shot I ever got.

"A coulda been Glory Day"

    It shouldn’t be any secret that football is America’s number one sport. It’s got violence, action, violence and speed.

    Misguided people would suggest that baseball is the number sport. Obviously people get more of an opportunity to watch baseball, because there are162 games per season. That’s 480 hours waiting for a pitcher to throw the blasted ball and 6 hours of actual play.

An NFL team plays 16 regular season games. That amounts to a total of about 48 hours a season on the field. During a game, if a quarterback decided to rub on the ball before throwing it, he’d die at some point during the third quarter.

    I’ve made no secret of the fact that I played football in junior high and high school. I didn’t enjoy practice. I have no idea how many times I got my bell rung during practice. I used to get hot spots on my head. One area of my noggin would just turn warm. I assumed it was common. As were the constant headaches.

The games seemed worth it, though. So much fun. I can remember stuff that happened in games that were played 50 years ago. In fact, last night I dreamed about getting the chance to play football again. In the dream, Coach Sailor drove up and parked in my yard. He got out of his truck, walked over and asked if I wanted to suit up for the next Pasadena Eagles game. 

I thought that odd ‘cause I have a driveway, yet he parked on the lawn. What was he thinking?  Although, I was excited as all get out about the chance to play, I asked, why me? Coach explained that he wanted me to play in the hope I would write an article about the experience. I guess he felt he needed some good press.

What did I care? This was my chance to make up for a missed opportunity during the JV Green and White game in 1966. I have carried the disappointment of that game all these years. Begs the question, how can one be disappointed over a game that no one else remembers? Hey, I could teach a class on disappointment.

I played defense for most of the Green and White game, but during the forth quarter, I got to play quarterback. Coach told me every play to run. There were no pass plays. Talk about a boring offense.

During a timeout, I got this great idea for a pass play. I was going to run 34 bootleg, but instead of running around end, I was going to stop and throw a bomb across the field to McGraw in the end zone. There would be no one covering McGraw, because the defense knew we were just running the ball. 

I pulled McGraw to the side, and told him my idea. McGraw said, “No way! That play’s not even in the playbook. Coach will kill us!”

So, I did what Coach instructed. I kept the ball on the ground. My one chance to really shine, and I listened to McGraw. “McGRAW!” 

But, now the varsity Coach was giving me a chance to not disappoint myself. A chance to throw the bomb and create a better memory. That’s when it hit me. Clunk!

While my jersey number was “11” I am now 64.  I could take a pretty good hit back in 1966. And, I was so much faster than I am today. And, I could throw. There was a day when I could really throw the ol’ pigskin.

Now I’ve got a bad throwing arm, weak bones and I can’t run worth spit. I’d be laughed out of Eagle Stadium… which, incidentally, is now a strip mall.

I told Coach that I’d better not suit up. I’d get bad hurt and Kay would have to feed me through one of several tubes sticking up and in me. Coach didn’t say it, but I could definitely read “Weenie Man” in his expression. He drove out my yard and out of my dream, headed to the next person on his list of losers.

After this fascinating story, at least two of you wish to ask, “Mark, do you know how far it is to Tipperary?” No, that’s not it. The question is, “Do you think your odd behavior today is related to the number of times you got your bell rung playing football?”

To that I say, “Of horse snot!” I mean, “Of course not!” I’m perfectly normal for a 64 year old. I still know my timetables, the capital of Mississippi, and where I keep my underwear.  Given the chance, I’d go back and do the whole football thing again.

But, you might want to check back with me in another five years. If I appear at all confused about why the ear holes in my underwear are so big, I may have to rethink the whole football experience. – I am so blessed to still be able to joke about something like this.


Mark@yahoo.com & www.rooftopwriter.com

Sunday, September 8, 2013

So much stuff, so little space.

  The greatest pen in the history of Western Civilization
“Gotta have it”

    Do you consider yourself a sucker for advertisement? If you see a picture of a battery powered posthole digger does it cause your palms to sweat? Stuff like that does not affect me. I am practical beyond reason. Most days.

    Yesterday, I was getting my oil changed at Troy Garrison’s new automotive shop on South Frazier near Gladstell. Troy, his dad and a friend named Jerry just set up the place. It’s called Jay’s Automotive. I only mention it because the experience is tied to this story, and because Troy’s an ex-student and among the most honest mechanics in the county. Maybe the world.

    So, I’m sitting in Jay’s waitingroom watching TV ‘cause I’m tired of reading my Larry McMurtry book --“The Wandering Hill.” McMurtry introduces about two dozen characters in the first 20 pages. I’m good for five, tops.

    That’s why I started watching “Price is Right” with Drew Cary, a comedian who stepped into something lucrative, but o’ so demeaning. As I looked up to see my car and the TV at the same time, a contestant had just gone absolutely freakizoid over winning a hot tub, a Vespa and about 100 other things.

    It was the blue Vespa that called to me. How cool is that thing? You don’t straddle it, you just sit down like you’re at the kitchen table and the handlebars are your fork and spoon. My big brother Larry owned a white Vespa back in the sixties, when it was groovy for a guy to ride a sissy motor bike. Self-awareness was unfashionable.

When I got home, I mentioned the Vespa to Kay and she was not all that excited. Tell the truth, I don’t think she took me seriously. Not even when I told her I could drive it around the neighborhood and maybe down to Sonic to bring us home some tater tots. You wanna know what her response was? -- “Sonic never fries their tater tots enough.” –Thanks, Sonic. 

Okay, let’s go back to Jay’s Automotive. While I was paying Troy’s dad for the oil change, he handed me a complementary pen. It had “Jay’s Automotive and Transmission” printed on the side and – Get this! – a tiny flashlight bulb on the opposite end of the writing part. You push on the bulb and the thing shines one of those bright LED lights. LCD? One of those tiny lights.

When I showed Virginia the pen, she went squirrel spaz on me. I had to try to wrestle the thing out of her purse. Who needs a pen with a light on the end? I do when I’m on the rooftop at night, but Virginia definitely doesn’t need one. Yet, she punched, kicked, and karate chopped her way out of my house. 

Crazy thing is, I understand why. Just a little while ago I was looking at the ads when I saw something I really wanted. Almost needed it, even. You’re absolutely right. It was a picture of a pitchfork.

    There is no farm implement that intimidates more than a pitchfork. Anytime a pitchfork is introduced into a movie or TV show it ends up in somebody?  Can you imagine Kay and I watching “Longmire” and all of a sudden there’s a home invasion. Two thugs manage to kick, knock and pry their way into the house, and I reach over and grab the pitchfork next to the couch.

    Instantly, I become a most menacing figure. – “Hey, Four Toes, we’ve got a really mean one here. He’s got a pitchfork!” – “Oh, yeah? Well plug him!” – “Did I mention he’s holding a pitchfork!” – “Oh, right. Let’s get outta here!”

    The mental image of getting pitchforked is among the worst imaginings known to man. One step below putting drops in your ear. Regardless, I’m not getting a pitchfork. Kay doesn’t want one in the house. She said my second wife may not mind so much.

    And, that’s not all. I know you wish it were. But, yesterday, Kay’s cousin Sharla, posted on Facebook, an ad for weird office supplies. Among the ads was a Desk Egg Paperclip Nest. You put a pile of paperclips on your desk, and then set this fist-size magnetic egg on top. Instantly the clips surround the egg to the point where it looks like it’s in a nest.

There are four paperclip holders in this house. But, not a one of ‘em is a magnetic egg. I have no use for one, but I feel a need. Kay says there will be a pitchfork in the living room, before there will be a magnetic egg on my desk.

    I was actually glad to hear that, ‘cause it looks like I’m gonna need a pitchfork before I ever expect to get my flashlight ballpoint pen back. Ruby Jewel would be so disappointed in her daughter if she were alive to see how she covets her friend’s stuff. It’s one of the Commandments, you know? I believe it was Moses who said, “When it’s hot, want it cold. When it’s cold want it hot. Always wanting what is not.” Maybe Noah.


mark@rooftopwriter.com  &  www.rooftopwriter.com