Thursday, October 31, 2019

Halloween Horror

November 3, 2019
“Oh, the Halloween horror!”

            The family’s Halloween gathering at Jill’s house was a success. Not a big success, ‘cause nobody wore a costume. Dennis’ wife, Dardon Ann, dressed rather weirdly, but I can’t say for sure that her outfit was a costume. I can say for sure that Dardon will not read this article, so I’m safe in nailing her stubborn hide to the wall in print. I can’t believe I don’t do it more often.

            Used to, all of the Hayter Halloween parties were big festive occasions. We always had an award for the best costume. Big Al probably has his bookcase loaded with first-place trophies from way back. We also had talent shows in Mom’s garage. I was always the emcee of the show, so I never won any talent awards. Dardon Ann came up with a law about the emcee being disqualified from participating in the talent part of the show. I’m not saying that I was the reason she never won an award herself, but I did have some sway.

            At our latest gathering, I was in charge of nothing. Without question, I was the nicest person there, but that and $12 will get you a can of beer at a baseball game. (Did you see that replay of the guy who was holding two cans of beer when a homer was hit in his area of the stadium, and it hit him right in the chest? He didn’t have time to put his beer down, so he took it in the chest. He got a beer commercial out of it. Had I taken a ball to the chest, my commercial would’ve been shot in room 5223 of Herman Memorial.

            As I mentioned, though, I had no role in our latest Halloween party. All I got to do was play in the games, like regular people. The first game we played had to do with chopsticks and candy. The object was to use chopsticks to pick up as many pieces of candy as you could and drop them in a bowl.  The person who picked up the most pieces of candy won.

            I don’t know if you’re aware, but my family roots can be traced back to Cornwall, England. My ancestors ate with two-tined forks, not two pointed sticks. Jasmine, one of Al’s lovely granddaughters, won with 21 pieces of candy in her bowl. She won because she has the patience of a napping Koala.

            Next, Jill had us play “Hot Potato”, only instead of a real potato, she used a round furry ball with a recorder inside that played popsicle truck music. We all sat in a circle and passed the furball around until the music stopped. At that point, the person in possession of the ball had to leave the circle in shame.

            During the game, there would’ve been no need for a brawl had the instructions been more carefully explained. Does a person have to be actually holding the ball to be in possession? Suppose, Clint, Al’s son, throws the ball across the room to Kay, and it bounces off her head just as the furry potato music dies. Does that mean Kay was in possession of the ball and had to leave the game in shame? Or, is Clint out of the game due to his lousy toss? I’ll tell you right up front, Kay didn’t give two hoots one way or the other, but Dardon Ann did, and she and Clint went round and round.

            Long story short, I won the game. I tossed the ball to my niece-in-law, Kristy, and it hit her in the shoulder and bounced behind her. While she was digging for it, the music stopped. I have a nice, warm, mini-blanket on my recliner as my award for winning the 2019 Halloween Hot-Potato Game. Jill quit making trophies and bought practical gifts for the winner. My sister is an absolute doll!

            The big mistake of the entire event had to do with corndogs. Jill decided that corndogs would be the meal of choice at her party. Al was chosen to make the things because he did such a great job five years ago when we had corndogs. It can be a terrible thing when one is requested to replicate a fete that happened years prior.

            The corndogs turned out cold and burnt. I’ll tell you right off the top, never wait for everyone to show up before preparing your corndogs. All 21 people were in the house when Jill started making the batter for the dogs. The weiners were still in the fridge at the time. Al handed me some footlong pointy sticks and told me to cut ‘em into four-inch lengths. In other words, my kid brother wanted me to short-stick the corndogs. When your corndog is short-sticked, you end up with both stick and cold corndog in the boiling oil. The stick is supposed to keep your fingers from burning.

            The minute the charred corndogs were grabbed out of the oil, they were served. Oh, the humanity. When you see grownups crying at a Halloween party, the event is no longer classified as a party. It was, in fact,  a Halloween Horror. Those who were able to actually take a bite out of the firesticks griped that their corndog was cold. The batter was even runny. Yet, all but one dog got eaten. It was the one Kay took a bite of and placed back on the tray.

            I doubt we’ll do corndogs next year. In fact, I doubt we’ll even have a Halloween gathering next year. The family is just not adept enough to maintain a worthwhile tradition anymore. I don’t think we can blame the chopsticks or hot-potato or the flaming corndogs. No, I’m pretty sure that all the ill feelings were tied to Dardon Ann. That girl is one hot potato.  
hayter.mark@gmail.comHayter has just published a Christmas book. To see the book click on   

Paperback      or      ebook 


October 27, 2019
“Kay is fast approaching baseball fanaticism.”

            I can’t tell you how proud I am of Kay’s newly acquired knowledge of baseball. She’s got the vocabulary and everything. No doubt, I married way above my… uh, level of marrying people.  I can’t think of the right word for that at the moment.

            I’ve made it a point to introduce Kay to the two sports I most enjoy -- football and, to a lesser extent, baseball. I’ve talked to Kay more about football than any other sport. She even agreed to play in our family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas Hayter Bowl games. She never caught a pass, never blocked anyone, and definitely never made a tackle. Of course, I had to bring her down a couple of times just to give her a feel for the game.

            I gave up playing football after detaching my Achilles tendon in one of our family’s Turkey Day Games. Kay feigned disgust about my injury, but she was such a faker. Since then, I’ve been relegated to merely watching football. While watching a taped football game, I’ll occasionally draw Kay’s attention to a spectacular play. I’ll rewind to give her a look-see.  Kay will force her gaze away from her Kindell just long enough to see a guy making a one-handed catch immediately before getting pounded by two defensive backs. Kay is likely to respond, “Oh, that was definitely worth watching. The two purple players really ran into that guy hard, didn’t they?” – I’m really up against it. Know what I mean?

            Baseball is an entirely different matter. I don’t have the time nor inclination to watch a game, and Kay is just pleased as pistachios about that. Unfortunately, our friends, the Plilers, had to come to our house to watch three of the Astros’ games. Virginia and Freeman recently moved into a new house and are still waiting to have their TV Cable installed. They rented a motel room so they could watch the fifth game the Astros played against the Yankees. When I heard that, I begged them to watch the next game at our house. I believe my actual words were, “For half of what you’re paying on a motel room, you can come over and watch the game with us.” Virginia told me that Kay had already invited them over.

            Kay, who knows nothing about baseball, yet, invites Virginia, the Priestess of Astroism, over to watch a game that lasts about five hours. Freeman would’ve just as soon stayed in a motel room, but he agreed to come along. Free is no trouble whatsoever. He’ll do anything for me. The guy has never even yelled at me. If he ever got mad at anything or anybody, he never showed it. Yep, put him in the guestroom, assign him a few chores to do, and he’s got a home with a TV that works. However, Virginia is high maintenance and is lousy at chores.

            But, back to baseball, I do not have the patience to watch a complete game of major league ball. Virginia is completely eaten up with the Astros. I doubt she’s ever missed a game in the last decade or two. In case you’re unaware, Major League Baseball teams play 162 games a year. That’s the equivalent of watching 1296 episodes of “Gilligan’s Island”…  Little Buddy.

            This year, I managed to miss every Astros game up until the last one with the Yankees. Granted, I didn’t watch much of it, but I did see Altuve hit the winning home run. I whistled, Virginia screamed, Freeman said, “Well, good!”  and Kay said, “Did we win?”

            During game one of the World Series, I was out of town and missed all the excitement and fun.  Kay and the Plilers were on their own. I did manage to make it home mid-way through the second game. Remember, the one where the Astros really got trounced? I was a bit miffed at the score and let my miffedness be known to all. That’s when Virginia said, “I’ve got two words for you. ‘Rudy Tomjanovich.’”

            “Hmm.” That’s what I said. “Hmm.” The two words were moving. They about moved me right out of the room. Virginia picked up on that and said, “Never underestimate the power of a champion.” –  Seven words from an ex-basketball coach offered up when the score in the baseball game was eight to two. Inspiring indeed. 

            Fortunately, I stuck around to the bitter end. That’s when I learned how much Virginia had taught Kay about baseball. At one point someone hit into a double play. Virginia turned to Kay and said, “What do we call that?” Kay thought for a couple of seconds and then said, “A blooper?” I thought it just as cute as could be. Virginia politely corrected her.

Springer Dinger
            A little while later when our lead-off batter, Springer, came to the plate, Virginia asked Kay what we wanted him to do. Kay said, “Hit a dinger.” Virginia said, “Right! Springer Dinger.” Kay then tried to impress me by saying, “Darling, we don’t like Joe Buck.” Joe Buck was the announcer. The guy has announced just about every sport there is. Football, baseball, track, figure skating… I asked Kay why we didn’t like Joe Buck, but she didn’t know. Virginia bailed her out. “He hates the Astros,” she said. “And, he won’t shut-up!” Kay nodded in agreement.

            Kay then asked me what the Washington Nationals logo was. I told her that it was just a “W” written in cursive. She said, “No. It stands for Walgreens.” Kay then asked who came up with the idea to play the organ at baseball games. When I told her I had no idea she said she didn’t either. She was just asking.

            Even after the Plilers left, Kay was telling me the nicknames of all the Astros players. I don’t know if they were legitimate nicknames or the ones that the Priestess of Astroism deemed appropriate. I’m fairly sure the names were not coined by Joe Buck We don’t like him. I’ll have to remember that.


Artwork for book

October 20, 2019
“Joe Kolb has really stepped in it now”

            I am known to myself as a writer with a veritable bucket full of writing ideas, each of which could bring home some serious scratch. You know, money, moola, cabbage, wampum, simoleons? You
get the picture. 

            Unfortunately, each of my projects requires help from someone who has a talent that I’m woefully without. It’s been my experience that people with talent need to be paid for their services. Unfortunately, I don’t have money to pay for artwork. Kay knows that better than I do.

            Not 30 minutes ago, I heard a scream from the living room. -- I take that back. Kay can’t scream. -- I heard a loud noise that came from Kay’s mouth. Turns out, I had given the girl the wrong lid for her insulated mug, so she ended up spilling hot tea in her lap. I joked that she ought to sue me. She said, “I would if you had any money.” I can’t be certain she was joking.

            Believe me, this is leading somewhere. And, that “somewhere” happens to be a book of Christmas short stories that I’ve been working on since early spring. My idea was to select ten of my short stories from a collection published in The COURIER and The VILLAGER over the past few decades and create a storybook of Christmas stories. Which immediately raised the question,  “Why would anyone consider purchasing a book of Christmas tales if it didn’t have any pictures in it?” I wouldn’t.

            The problem is, I can’t draw worth snot. I mean “a lick.” I can’t draw worth a lick. (I’m doing all that is in my power to steer away from using over-ripe idioms. I fear I may need to search for a non-gagging term.)

            I hate to ask one of my two artist friends to help me out. Both would’ve done a super job, had I asked, but I can’t afford to use up friends. That’s why I immediately thought of graphic designer and photographer, Brad Meyer. Bradford is the only friend I have who actually owes me. Not only did he make me hurt my shoulder while playing racquetball, but I once helped him move a 10-ton outdoor fire pit. So, yes, he owes me. Not that friends keep count of favors, you understand?

            After I told Bradfordson that I needed him to work on some computer graphics for my proposed Christmas book. He immediately suggested I call Joe Kolb? “Who’s Joe Kolb?” I asked. And that’s when it hit me. “Bonk!” I didn’t know Kolb, so he wasn’t a friend. It’s impossible to lose a friend who isn’t one. I’ve got a brain like a locked freezer.  

            So, I called Joe, and he didn’t know me from snot. Uh, from Adam. I explained what I needed from him, and asked that he not turn me down until he read a couple of my stories. Well, he did and he liked ‘em. Said he’d be proud to do the illustrating. It was then that I told him that he would be working on consignment. We’d only get paid if the book sold. That didn’t faze him.

            I didn’t know it at the time, but Joe does not lack for projects. He is an artist by profession. He has won first place national and international awards in practically every area of art there is. He can create technical and architectural illustrations, conceptual designs, indoor and outdoor wall murals, as well as a lot of other stuff that I don’t understand.  Someone could hand Kolb an old baseball glove that their grandpa used, and ask that he turn it into a piece of three-dimensional art. With that little bit of instruction, Kolb would create something spectacular. Upon revealing the piece, he would have the family in tears.

            I arranged a meeting with Joe at my house. As soon as he saw me, he remembered how he knew me. Joe used to sit at an outdoor table at a coffee shop next to the Lonestar Community Radio Station in downtown Conroe. When Cindy Cochran and I had our radio program, Joe would be sitting at the table drinking coffee and discussing the lure of life with a friend. Before entering the studio, I generally stopped and chatted awhile with the both of them. I couldn’t pick his friend out of a lineup, but I did remember Joe.

            From then on we agreed to carry on our business at Panera Bread in Conroe.  It was there that I discussed a particular scene from one of the short stories, in the hope that he would draw something resembling the occasion.  I wanted one illustration per story. I also needed an illustration for the book cover.  As I described my idea for the first drawing, Joe grabbed a napkin and started sketching something. After a few seconds, he showed it to me and said, “How about something like this?” Hokey smokes, that man was good.

            After several meetings and hours upon hours of artistic design, Joe presented me with a complete collection of spectacular watercolored paintings. Had he been my friend from the get-go, I would’ve never asked him to go to so much trouble. Get this. He said he enjoyed it.
            Sheesh. Do you see what’s happened here? Joe Kolb has become a friend, and unless the book sells, I won’t be able to use him anymore. -- Way to go Bradford.
Kolb artwork for Christmas Story # 9


Hayter has just published a book of Christmas Short Stories.  Copies can be purchased by clicking on one of the following:    Paperback      or      ebook 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The dive

MARK HAYTER                  936-537-0918   

Hayter article for October 13, 2019
“Taking a dive”
          Before I dive into today’s topic, I thought it prudent to give readers a follow-up on last week’s article. As both of you may recall, it was while playing racquetball with Brad that I ran headlong into the back wall.

          I’ve suffered several injuries in my short lifetime, but next to the injury I took the night Dennis moved our bed while I was in the bathroom, the racquetball crash was the worst. 
         Bottom line, I tore some tendons that were meant to keep my collarbone attached to my shoulder. Using a model of a knee joint, Dr. Wetzel, my orthopedic surgeon, demonstrated what had happened in my shoulder. He would’ve used his shoulder joint model but it was being used in another room to demonstrate to a patient how knee replacement surgery is carried out.

           By the way, Dr. Wetzel was a student during my teaching days at McCullough High School. Back then, he was known as “Stu.” I remember the Class of ’82 as being a fun group. I don’t know if Stu was in my class. Had he been, he would’ve likely shied away from medicine and become a standup comic. The man has a good sense of humor.

          Speaking of tendons, Stuart, I mean Dr. Wetzel, told me that my injury didn’t require surgery. When I asked if the tendons would reattach themselves, he assured they wouldn’t. The good news is, these particular tendons are pretty much superfluous. Dr. Wetzel said that in 100,000 years or so, we probably won’t even have any. They’re going to go the way of the little toe. Of course, a day or two after death, I won’t have little toes, tendons or even a skull. Whatever I have will fit inside a small urn, and eventually be part of a coral reef.

          Dr. Wetzel wants to check on me in a few weeks for a follow-up. When I asked if I would ever be able to play racquetball, he jokingly said, “Have you ever played racquetball?” – Dr. Wetzel tires of hearing the same old jokes from patients who ask if they’ll be able to play the violin after their physical therapy. Patients can be so silly.

          Well, that’s my concise follow-up on last week’s article, so now I can get to my original topic, which is about what occurred the night Dennis moved the bed. Talk about your coincidences! I’ve told the story before, but I doubt either one of you remember.

          So, as kids, Dennis and I had to sleep in the same bed. It was a bed and mattress that had been handed down from Mom and Dad to Larry to Dennis and me. Back then, mattresses lasted about as long a buried hammer.  

          It happened on the night Dennis and I had been playing Monopoly on the floor in our bedroom. Mom came in and told us to get in bed. Dennis had the idea to slide the Monopoly board under the bed, so we could finish the game later.

          Mom made me take a bath before getting into bed. I have no idea why Dennis was always so much cleaner than me. By the time I stepped into the hallway, all of the house lights were out. Everyone, except for Mom had been asleep for a good while. As I felt my way down the hall to the bedroom, I heard a growl. It might’ve been Frankenstein, but I wasn’t ruling out the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

          In truth, I could pick my big brother’s growl from a recording of all of the growls in the world. Dennis was three years older, and smarter, wiser and more athletic than I’d ever be. Being a dumb kid, I decided to turn the tables on him by tiptoeing into the pitch-black room and diving on top of him. I’d show him I was no ‘fraidy cat. Obviously, it had to be a good high leap, so I would give the notion that a creature had fallen from the ceiling.

          After regaining consciousness, the only thing I could remember was “the thought” of diving into bed. I found myself on the floor propped up against the bed. Mom was kneeling down applying a wet cloth to my forehead. Dennis was standing behind Mom with a big grin on his face. Turns out, while I was taking a bath, Dennis moved the bed to the other side of the room. He planned the growl, hoping that I’d take the bait and come charging toward the bed. He didn’t anticipate me being dumb enough to actually make a dive in the dark. Everything happened better than he planned.

          I’ve had a lot of knocks to the skull, but this was the only time I remember knocking myself out. The reason I consider the bedroom injury as being more hurtful than the racquetball injury has to do with the humiliation. A lot of people have accidentally run into a wall or two. But, no one with even a smidgen of common sense would think to dive into a dark room. I was the mayor of Dumb Kid Town. It was obvious to me that Mom was having trouble holding back her laughter. One time, she turned her head to scold Dennis for laughing, but I could tell that she was giggling the whole time.

          I couldn’t recall playing Monopoly, so Dennis told me that he had pretty well beaten me. Sounded about right. I don’t know that I ever beat my big brother at anything. However, as soon as I heal up, I’m going to get him on the racquetball court and show him a thing or two… assuming Stu, I mean Dr. Wetzel, let’s me play again.
Me, Jill and Dennis. It was probably two years after this photo was taken that I took the dive.