Categories
The Landlady

The $5 School Cake…

Chocolate
“Chocolate”
© Les Becker, 2010
Taken November 21, 2010 with Nokia N97 Smartphone

When Ruby was a young girl, her school in Northland had a fair once a year, in the spring. It offered the usual school fair “stuff” of the era; games of chance, 4H projects, etc., and students could show off (and sell) their needlework and baked goods.

One year, Ruby won a needlepoint contest – got a trophy and everything. Another year, she and her sister Joycie entered a singing contest. They won 10 cents each for climbing up on the back of a hay wagon and singing “The Little Shirt My Mother Made for Me.”

The real killer year for Ruby, though, was The Year of the $5 School Cake.

She and her sisters each baked up something to sell at the school bake table every year. This year, Ruby had baked a chocolate layer cake. It was a beautiful cake and she was really proud of it.

On the walk to the fair, Ruby fell behind a little, walking veeeerrrryyy carefully to make sure her cake survived the journey intact. She was just coming to the edge of the fairground, far behind her sisters, when a stumbling drunk guy comes reeling towards her, and stops her.

“Hey,” says the drunk. “Whad’ya got there?”

Ruby tells him she’s got a chocolate cake to put on the school bake table.

The drunk says, “Yeah? I’ll give you $5 for it.”

Ruby, not being stupid, promptly handed him the cake. $5 richer, she went wandering around the fair grounds until she found her father at the ice cream stand.

Her father loved ice cream. He looked forward to the school fair every year, just so he could get an ice cream cone. He also loved children, and every year, he bought every kid that came along an ice cream cone too.

When Ruby found him, he asked, “Did you sell your cake?

Ruby said, “Yup,” and told him about the drunk, and showed him the $5.

Now, Ruby’s dad had probably just blown (at 5 cents a cone over 20 or 30 kids) around a buck and a quarter. Ruby, on the other hand, had just gained $5 by scalping her own school cake. All her father could think of to do was laugh.

Ruby has no memory of what she might have spent that $5 on, and it drives her crazy that she can’t remember.

“That was an awful lot of money back then,” she says.

All I can picture when she tells this story, is the drunk – stumbling through the woods and across fields carrying a chocolate layer cake…

Not-So-Random Song-for-the-Day: “The Little Shirt My Mother Made for Me” – Marty Robbins

Categories
The Father Chronicles

The Bear Hunter

Bear Claw
Bear Claw
Taken March 1, 2008 with Canon PowerShot A550

I found this bear claw in a box full of little trinkets and treasures in my father’s closet nearly a year ago. It was in the same box with his pocket watch, along with some other neat stuff.

This was during my Walk-About days, when I would hoof it all the way across town once a week, to see my parents at The Old-Age Home, have a visit, a meal and a story, and then hoof it all the way back. I had a tight ass, then, dammit. Not even a year ago. Man, things change fast.

Categories
J.O.B. Zenishness...

Sometimes, Wishing is Enough…

“What Lies Behind…”
“What Lies Behind…”

Taken October 9, 2007 with Canon PowerShot A550

My boss called me today.

Asked me to come in to work to “have a little talk.”

Scared the shit out of me.

I LOVE my job. I want to keep my job. The only thing I don’t like about my job is my seeming inability to negotiate gracefully between day shifts and night shifts, which I’m beginning to despair of ever getting a handle on.

All I can manage to do is sleep. House is a wreck. The Idiot Child must feed herself or go hungry – not to mention, wash her own laundry (as well as mine), and Sheikh the Cat has begun spending his awake hours sitting next to my head, intermittently placing a paw on my face and sliming kissing me, wondering why my eyes are always closed.

This despair of accommodating the fluctuating schedule got me wishing for a work routine that I’ve only experienced once, Way Back When, remember that? I wasn’t particularly fond of the “job” part of that job, but the schedule was perfect: it was the same. damned. schedule. every. day. With weekends off, to boot.

My house was clean. The cats were happy. The Idiot Child was still a teenager, but I think she preferred the sameness, as well.

I have been wishing I could approach my boss and appeal for a Same-Damned-Shift. Even if it was the night shift. I dreamed of the conversation being short, sweet and successful.

Me: “Hey, how ’bout I work nights? All the time. Just nights. Cuz nobody else seems to like nights.”

Him: “Yeah, great idea! Thanks! I’ll just go ahead and change the schedule right now! How ’bout I give you more shifts with that? You want more shifts? There’s more money in more shifts. How ’bout I give you more shifts, too?”

There are a bzillion reasons why I couldn’t do that. I mean, I could do that, but he would either laugh, thinking I was joking, or take me seriously and still say no. Several reasons for the “no”:

1) I’m still The New Kid on the Dance Floor. Yes, others have come behind me, but I’m still new enough that I can get away with “I’m New Here” to cover a mistake I’ve made. Much longer, I’d have to use “I’m Old” for an excuse. That’s probably more apt. 😉

2) Nobody has a Same-Damned-Shift schedule. Nobody. Why should *I* get that lucky?

3) It’s obvious to all and sundry that I’m having trouble adapting to the shift changes and if they coddled me (cuz I’m old, maybe?), it could possibly cause a revolt.

So, I’ve been schlepping along, loving the job part of the job and hating the schedule part of the job, wishing for the impossible, and for shit’s sake, my boss calls me today for “a little talk”.

I knew I was fired. I wanted to ask if I was fired, but Boss is not the kind of guy that does that over the phone, I’m pretty sure. I settled for asking, oh so casually (yeah, right) “Sure, what’s up? Something wrong?” the whole while repeating the mantra, “don’t-let-it-be-bad…don’t-let-it-be-bad…don’t-let-it-be-bad…don’t-let-it-be-bad”, which, for the record, has never once worked before. In my experience, if it feels like it might be “bad”, it’s generally much, much worse than “bad”.

So, yeah. I knew I was fired, even when he said, “Oh, no. Nothing to worry about. Just wanna go over something with you.”

Uh oh. What horrible thing have I done? Shit, he read about me finding cocaine on the dance floor! No, wait, I told him that story myself and he laughed really hard. Can’t be that.

Or maybe, I didn’t do something that I should have done? It’s not like I forgot to lock up, or anything (once did that while working for Louie, and nobody even noticed, can you believe that?) – I mean, we’re open 24/7. I’m not even sure there is a set of keys for the place.

Not that it would matter what the “little talk” was about, I still had to have it. So, I pulled on my boots and crossed the street.

And my boss said to me – no word of a lie, here, either, I swear – I’m not even exaggerating in the slightest little bit:

“I’m hoping I can change your schedule. Would you be willing to work straight nights, with weekends off? You’d be guaranteed five shifts that way, (employees who have been there longer, of course normally get more hours, unless they book a shift and hand it to me) and if I need you on the weekends, I’ll call – you’ve never turned down a shift, so you’re the first one I call. Would that work for you?

Well, gee, lemme think on that….

I’m dumbfounded. I agreed immediately, though, and he was all thanking me as if I were doing him a favour. Maybe I am and just don’t realize it, but it’s like he read my mind.

Or my blog….

Hmmmmmm…..

So, he hands me my newly-minted hours, starting Sunday end, or S/M if you read the little date box on the schedule, and I trotted back home to write this post, and marvel over never having to wonder when I’m working “next week”… and there followed shortly a call requesting me to work an extra shift tomorrow. Already, I’m booked for overtime. I love my job.

Now, I have to clean a cat-box. Maybe then, Sheikh will quit sliming kissing me in the middle of my version of night.

~ Just about to hit the publish button when I get another call from work – this time from the assistant manager: apparently some deer-hunter I was joking around with a week or so ago (told him he should bring me some deer parts, since my dad was gone, and nobody ever brings me deer meat anymore), just dropped off a venison roast for me. Can I please come pick it up, as it’s grossing her out? ~

Well, gee, lemme think on that….

Excuse me while I go pick up Free Dead Wild Animal.

(Did I tell you how much I love my job…?)

Random Song-for-the-Day: “Surf Wax America” – Weezer

Categories
The Landlady

Where’s the “Beech”?!

Ruby - Bathing Suit - 1956
Parade Girl – 1956

It didn’t show up in the photo, so Ruby’s sister, who took the original picture back in 1956, wrote what the sign said with a ball-point pen, on the copy she made for Ruby. Yes, that’s Ruby with the mask, goggle eyes and bathing suit. Ummm. Yeah. That’s a bathing suit.

Ruby had no qualms whatsoever about handing it over for bloggery mischief – in fact, she hunted it out on purpose for me in March of this year.

Sorry, folks. This post is a few months late.

* * *

Did I ever tell you about the time I marched in the Community Day Parade on the Island?

Me: No! When was this?!

(laughs and claps her hands together) Wait’ll you see this!

She disappears into her spare room and comes out with the above photo, at which I, of course, laugh.

Me: ‘Splain to me this, Ruby.

Ruby (eyes just a twinkling): Do you think that Mushy-fella will like this?

Me: I think he’d rather no mask.

Ah, well. He’ll have to suffer the mask, then.

Me: So, what’s with the sign? Were you protesting?

Kind of. But we were more making fun, I guess.

Me: Who were you making fun of?

The Town Council, that’s who! A couple years before this, somebody on the council got the bright idea, that if they made a sand beach along the waterfront on one side of the Island, that the tourists would come in droves. There was fighting and voting and more fighting and more voting than you ever would believe over that beach mess, let me tell you!

Me: Looks as if the town wanted it, by the sign…

Nope. Just the opposite. Most people in town didn’t think it would work at all. They figured Lake Huron would just wash the beach away in a couple of years, and wouldn’t that be just a waste of sand and money?

Me: I guess it would.

Your darn right it would! But Council won out, and they must have spent thousands trucking in sand in big trucks and dumping it. They made a right nice beach, too.

Me: And….?

And the very next Spring, Lake Huron melted and hauled the whole works away to God Knows Where! (laughs for a long time) Town Council was pretty red-faced about that, lemme tell you!

Me: And so you marched yourself down Main Street in the Community Day Parade with that get-up and a sign, just to make fun of the Council? I wouldn’t have thought you to be so mean, Ruby!

(I said this ADMIRINGLY, though, you must understand….)

Ruby claps her hands together in laughter again….

Yup! And….

I won First Prize!!

Random Song for the Day: “Nobody Told Me” – Puddle of Mudd

Categories
Little Bits of Stupid

You Want Fries with that Burger…?

Les and Goldie, 1971
Ain’t I Angelic… “looking”?

Ah, yes, appearances can be deceiving, though, can’t they? The dog knows differently, you can tell by the look on her face.

This picture was taken by my father in 1971. I would have been around 5 at the time. The dog (her name was Goldie), was 4, and I think my dad might have loved her as much as, if not more than, he loved me. He never once forgot her name, whereas I still get referred to as “Vel-errr…Kar-errr… Lisa! No…. Diddly-Do-Over-There”. He does that to all his kids, mind you, so it’s not like I’m singled out. He had too many kids, and just the one dog.

Goldie is in nearly every photo taken of me by my dad from the time she was brought home to the time she was “put down” when I was about 13.

She was old and had been through some tough times – surgery for removal of an “India Rubber” ball she accidentally swallowed (my dad still has that – ask him where my first tooth is, though) … rheumatism resulting from being accidentally run over (by my dad!!!!)… poor ol’ dog.

My parents didn’t tell me they’d put Goldie down until 4 days after the deed was done, because I was in the middle of a monstrous school project. They were worried I would be so upset that I’d get a bad mark. I cried. A lot. Not because the dog was gone, so much as I felt guilty that I hadn’t wondered where she was for 4 days. Some friend I turned out to be.

ANYWAY…. that’s not what this post is about. It’s about an incident that happened around the year this picture was taken – and probably the reason I hate cooking so much…

I think we were on Cockburn Island (stop laughing, Suzi), but it could have been one of a myriad of other islands in the North Channel that we “boated” to. I know there were other families there –

1) because my dad (along with several other dads) was three sheets to the wind (ummm… for those not in-the-know, “three sheets to the wind” is Sailor-Talk for Drunk.), and it took other dads present for such a thing to happen, and

B) because My Brother the Trespasser wouldn’t play with me, and it took other kids present for such a thing to happen.

So, all the other kids, being older, were… I don’t know…. gone, and I was left all by my lonesome 5-year-oldness to amuse myself. Under the arguable watchful-eyedness of a bunch of drunks. I could hardly help but get into trouble.

We were BBQ-ing that night. Well, the other families were BBQ-ing. Ours was “Hibachi-ing”. My dad loved his little Hibachi, because it didn’t need any dismantling for storage (we lived on a boat in the summer, remember?), or have to be strapped down on the deck.

hibachi
It looked exactly like this.

Yes. Very small. Very low to the ground. About up to a 5-year-old’s shins. Reachable, in other words, to both a 5-year-old girl who only looked like an angel, and a 4-year-old dog who would eat anything within reach provided my dad wasn’t yelling “UUT! Oh, NO YOU DON’T!!” at the time. As I recall, that worked on both dog and girl equally well.

But, as you will recall, my dad was three sheets to the wind. And he did a silly thing. He told me (ME!) to “keep an eye on the Hibachi and make sure Goldie doesn’t get into the hamburgers.” Imagine that! And then he went back to his lawn chair, his rum, his buddies, and Nat King Cole on the 8-track.

So, I picked up the spatula and “kept an eye on the Hibachi”. As well as any 5-year-old who’d never wielded a spatula before could….

Now, this is about the point where the way my parents tell this story and the truth part ways. Ahem…*

To my knowledge, my parents don’t read my blog… in fact, I’m pretty sure that My Brother the Trespasser is the only member of my family who ever has, and I’m not even sure of that, truthfully… but if I get in trouble for the following admission, I will be forced to inform my parents who it was that taught me how to remove a locked wine-cellar door from its hinges quickly and silently, and put it back the way I found it, equally quickly and equally silently. Not to mention the party I swore I’d keep quiet about in exchange for such a valuable education. I swear I’ll tell. Fair warning, oh Brother Mine.

My parents maintain that I was “playing house”. That I “didn’t know any better”. That I just “had quite the imagination as a child”. Ri-ight. Goldie would have ratted me out in a heartbeat if my dad had thought to offer a milk bone. As it was, I think she may have scored the whole meal.

I was trying to flip the hamburgers over. I knew it had to be done; I could smell them burning. No amount of arm-waving, or sleeve-pulling, or “excuse-me-ing” could get my dad’s attention, and truthfully, it never once occurred to me to go to my mother because this emergency pertained to The Hibachi, which was most definitely my father’s turf.

And he ignored me.

And I saw my chance to finally be The Hero, and save supper.

So, I gingerly slid the spatula under a hamburger patty, and attempted to deftly flip it over, whereupon it promptly flipped off the Hibachi. Into the sand. Of course. May I remind you at this point, that I was 5.

You may not be aware, unless you’ve dropped a hamburger patty into the sand, that sand does not scrape off a hamburger patty. Completely.

But it can be disguised.

With more sand.

On all the other hamburger patties.

You can fit about eight hamburgers on an Hibachi grill. It takes approximately ten minutes for a 5-year-old girl-that-looks-like-an-angel-but-who-has-an-imagination to drop seven hamburger patties in the sand (on purpose!), scrape as much sand off as possible, and return them to the grill, sand-side-down.

They didn’t catch on until the second bite, as I recall, but they haven’t let me forget it, since. I believe we had bologna sandwiches for supper that night. Goldie ate sandy hamburger.

Not-So-Random Song for the Day: “Ramblin’ Rose” – Nat King Cole

Categories
Oh Mother...! Photography The Landlady

Mish-Mash

Little Red Shoes
“Little Red Shoes”
Taken October 20, 2007 with Canon PowerShot A550

The Little Red Shoes sit in my mother’s Etagiere, if I spelled that correctly. Elle? Wanna let me know, Betch?! My mom calls it a “What-Not”. I think it’s because it’s to display all your knick-knacks and what-not in. Anyway, that’s where the Little Red Shoes are, when they’re not in the bathtub, with me and my camera. Bathtubs make great backgrounds for some pictures. Wet bathtubs are not necessarily good for cameras, but mine’s tough.

I love the Little Red Shoes, but I don’t have a story about them. I just couldn’t come up with a pic for this post.

I’m having trouble catching up with all the posts I have in draft. Hence the title – “Mish-Mash” is about what this one will be – just a couple of bits and pieces that I’d like to get out of my hard drive and onto the blog. This clip from today’s post by Cardiogirl reminded me of a bit about my mom when she was a kid, which, in turn, reminded me of one about Ruby’s mom…

clipped from www.cardiogirl.net

So essentially we have a socially-accepted version of a wealthy pretty woman (former Ford model who must have earned a lot of cash) whose hobby is traveling the globe and shopping. So she finds “amazing stuff” and brings it back to New York to re-sell it. Do I have that right? I thought so.

And these aren’t your mother’s baubles. A telephone table finished in frog skin. I’m understanding this, though I find it crazy, until I get to the shagreen part. What is shagreen? Is it like shazam?

  blog it

A million years ago, when my mom was a little girl of about 12, she and her sister were down at the nearby fishin’ hole with their cousin. My mom is the older of the three, but for some reason, it was Auntie and Cuz that did the ordering around of my mom. This was the story that made me realize that my mom was a little mouse when she was a kid. How she managed to grow up into a stern (SERIOUSLY stern) School Marm, I will never know. My mom was the teacher you didn’t want to get, because you couldn’t get away with any monkey business, and you might even (OMIGOD!) learn something!

At any rate (as Mom would say), they were down at the fishin’ hole, dib-dabbling around in the water, when the conversation turned to frog legs. As an appetizer. Because that was what the rich people ate. Probably every day, even. Imagine, they told each other, all the rich people in the big cities paying unbelievable amounts of money for a plate of frog legs, when there were hundreds of frog legs attached to hundreds of frogs right in front of them. For free.

And so Auntie and Cuz decided that they wanted frog legs for dinner. My mother didn’t think that was a very good idea. She thought it might be a little hard on the frogs. Auntie and Cuz didn’t give a damn about what the frogs thought of the idea, and they didn’t give much of a damn what my mom thought about it, either. They just sent my mom up to the house to get a knife. And my mom went. Slooooowly.

The whole walk up for a knife, she tried to think of a way to save those frogs. She couldn’t think of a thing. She considered just not going back to the fishin’ hole, but decided she might pay for that later, so instead, when she got to the kitchen she decided she would bring back a dull butter knife. She reasoned that it would hurt the frogs less than a sharp one would. At 12, my mom was all for “less hurt”, apparently.

As it turned out, a dull butter knife does NO hurt to a frog, because it wasn’t long before the other girls gave up trying to saw off frog’s legs and quit in disgust. They didn’t get their frog leg dinner that day, but there were probably a few pissed off frogs in the fishin’ hole before they gave up.

Years later, one of those girls ate frog’s legs in a restaurant – by accident. She saw someone else’s order of what she thought was chicken and just pointed to it, telling the server, “I’ll have that.” Served her right.

Ruby’s mom, now, would have got the legs off those frogs lickety-split. She was a woman who got things done (she also had no forearmsthere’s a story for the blog, huh? Soon. Honest.).

Despite being a woman who “got things done”, Ruby’s mom had a heart of gold, and hated to see any animal suffer. She lived a hard, rough life on a farm, though, and there were times that some animals just had to be “taken care of”. Chickens had to be killed. Pigs had to be slaughtered. Sometimes, you had to shoot your dog. And there were always kittens that couldn’t be kept, and had to be “taken care of”.

Ruby’s mom hated that job, but it had to be done. She believed that the most humane way to “take care of” kittens was to drown them. Most people would shove the kittens in a burlap sack and tie it shut, and pitch the poor buggers in the nearest river. Not Ruby’s mom. That wasn’t humane enough for Ruby’s mom.

No, Ruby’s mom would pull on a pair of heavy gloves, fill a pail full of water and, one by one, she would hold each kitten (gently) under the surface until it was dead. Oh yeah, and she would make sure to fill the pail with warm water, so the little dears wouldn’t die shivering…

Random Song for the Day: “Alive” – Pearl Jam

Categories
Gift Shop Short Fiction Stories

The Waitress, the Whiskey, and the Handcuffs – Part III

The Waitress, the Whiskey & the Handcuffs
The Waitress, the Whiskey & the Handcuffs
The Waitress, the Whiskey & the Handcuffs
Part 1 of The Ruby Chronicles

Ruby Daniel is a 30-something widow trying to get by in a small backwoods Northern town in the 1950’s. Her chicken farm is failing, and she takes a weekend job as a barmaid at an illegal drinking establishment run by a crooked police officer, hoping the extra income will allow her to keep her farm and raise her kids.

When her crude and offensive employer plays an embarrassing prank on her, Ruby gets revenge with the help of her mother, whose devious tactics and unrestrained glee in the details of retaliation leave Ruby in awe, and a little fearful of the woman who raised her.

This comedic short story will leave you laughing out loud and cheering Ruby on, as she learns that standing up for herself can sometimes backfire, but revenge really does taste sweet – and an indignant mother is a surprisingly fierce force to be reckoned with…

[downloads]via PayPal

Categories
Book Mentions Short Fiction The Waitress the Whiskey & the Handcuffs

The Waitress, the Whiskey & the Handcuffs: Part I – The Waitress

The Waitress, the Whiskey & the Handcuffs
The Waitress, the Whiskey & the Handcuffs
The Waitress, the Whiskey & the Handcuffs
Part 1 of The Ruby Chronicles

Ruby Daniel is a 30-something widow trying to get by in a small backwoods Northern town in the 1950’s. Her chicken farm is failing, and she takes a weekend job as a barmaid at an illegal drinking establishment run by a crooked police officer, hoping the extra income will allow her to keep her farm and raise her kids.

When her crude and offensive employer plays an embarrassing prank on her, Ruby gets revenge with the help of her mother, whose devious tactics and unrestrained glee in the details of retaliation leave Ruby in awe, and a little fearful of the woman who raised her.

This comedic short story will leave you laughing out loud and cheering Ruby on, as she learns that standing up for herself can sometimes backfire, but revenge really does taste sweet – and an indignant mother is a surprisingly fierce force to be reckoned with…

Part I – The Waitress

In 1957, Ruby was a 30-something waitress/barmaid/short-order cook in an out-of-the-way backwoods tavern down a side road off the highway. She was also the bookkeeper, the housekeeping staff and the bouncer, although she didn’t get paid extra for any of those tasks – there was just no one else to do them. It may not have been fair, but a job was a job, and she had kids to support. She kind of enjoyed the bouncing duties, anyhow.

Ruby never would have used the term 30-something to describe herself. She would be much more likely to say, “Mind your own birthdays,” if asked her age by any of the ne’er-do-wells that frequented the place, which was so far back in the sticks that it didn’t even have a name. Everybody called it The Dump, because if you drove another quarter mile down the side road, the town dump is where you finished up.

Ruby had lived a fairly decent life up to becoming employed at The Dump. She’d married a little on the late side, if 25 could be considered late, but at least she’d married. Her husband bought a small chicken farm up the North Side Road after the war, and asked Ruby to marry him the very same day. Roy had seen her to a few dances over the years, and written from overseas, but Ruby hadn’t really ever considered him to be a serious suitor. His proposal came out of the blue. Ruby asked for a day or two to think it over.

There wasn’t much to think over, really, when it came right down to it. She’d known Roy all her life. She knew he was a hard-working man and she doubted he’d run around. His was certainly the first proposal she’d received, and she wondered if there would ever be another if she turned him down. The practical side of her realized that they were a “good match”, as her mother would say (and did), and there wasn’t much of a romantic side of Ruby to contradict the idea, anyhow. When Roy returned for her answer, she accepted his proposal and cooked him the first of many suppers while they worked out the arrangements.

Chicken farming didn’t turn out to be as lucrative as Roy had hoped. By the time the two kids were in school, he had taken a job driving truck on the city run for Fulton Berries, the only hothouse strawberry growers in the district, so at least he was employed year ’round. It meant Ruby had to run the farm on her own through the week while Roy was away, but they got by all right – until Roy crashed his truck one Christmas and killed himself in the process.

Ruby, ever practical, moved her mother in to help with the kids, and took the weekend job at The Dump before Roy was in the ground a month. The first shift she worked was the first time she’d set foot in such a place, but she got used to it fast. Chicken farming was harder work than beer-slinging. She still ran the farm mostly on her own, and generally missed Roy most when she had to do the slaughtering. It was a messy job, killing chickens, and bouncing drunks was more enjoyable.

The Dump was open on Friday and Saturday nights, from 7 pm until Ruby managed to shovel the last drunk out the door, which was usually close to 4 am Saturday morning, but only about 1 or 2 am on any given Sunday, because nobody dared miss church in the morning. Those that were married didn’t want to deal with their wives (and mothers-in-law); those who considered themselves lucky to have avoided that ball-and-chain didn’t want to deal with the married gents – it was on their farms and in their businesses in town that all the single fellas earned their livings.

The only three men in town to avoid church without guilty consciences on a Sunday morning were the same three that made Ruby clench her jaw and grit her teeth the most when they walked into The Dump. Two were the loudest, and the most obnoxious, and all three were the only ones she didn’t dare try to bounce.

The biggest, loudest, and most boorishly obnoxious of them was a cop – and a district officer to boot. The little spot on the highway called “Town” was too small for a police department of its own, along with all the other little blips up and down the line that also called themselves “Town”, so the district was responsible for policing the whole string of them, all dotted along the highway from the big city in the East to the one in the West, and, with government-like lofty wisdom, those great minds in charge of the district decided that Judd Gulley should be the great arm of the law over several of the little towns between those two points. Judd was also the owner of The Dump, and therefore, Ruby’s boss.

Wally McDonald was Judd’s best buddy, and they might as well have been joined at the hip. Wally had never worked a day in his life, and Judd thought that was just fine. Wally rode shotgun in Judd’s cruiser every shift, and when Judd was off work, he unstuck the cherry from the roof and Wally rode shotgun while the cruiser was just a plain ol’ sedan.

The third guy that Ruby didn’t dare bounce was Wilson Jones. He was “no higher than here,” as Ruby would say, holding her hand level just below her bust, and considered not quite right.

“In the head, that is,” Ruby would say. “Not stupid, exactly, but… well, he don’t even look right, if you catch my drift.”

Wilson was known around town as “The Little Drunk”. He was a logger, and a good one, by all accounts, in spite of his size, and shy as all get-out, probably because of it. He came out of the bush on Friday night, cash in hand, and he’d spend every cent of his week’s wages on booze by the time he crawled back in on Sunday night. He very rarely spoke, drunk or sober, and when he did, he didn’t make much sense. Not quite right.

For some reason, Judd Gulley took a shine to The Little Drunk, and Ruby was told that every third drink she brought him was on the house. Ruby told Judd he was an idiot.

“I know he’s an idiot, but that’s what you’ll do.”

“I mean you’re an idiot, Judd Gulley,” Ruby shot back, but she did as she was told. She wasn’t to charge The Little Drunk for his meals, either, and since she had to cook those meals, that burned her even more than giving him free booze.

Worst of all, Judd kept a room upstairs for The Little Drunk to pass out in on Friday and Saturday nights (free of charge, of course), and it was up to Ruby to keep the linen clean. And dang, if the Little Drunk wasn’t a bed-wetter.

The first time she’d had to change those sheets, she hadn’t thought too much of it. Accidents do happen, especially where drunks lie down, and God knew she’d changed her share of pissy beds in her lifetime. But when the bed was wet the following day, too, she gave Judd what-for. For the life of him, Judd couldn’t understand what her problem was.

“He don’t give the room a chance to air before he stinks it up again, Judd, that’s the problem!” Ruby complained. “That mattress is ruined, if it don’t get a chance to dry before he pisses all over it a third time!”

“Well, whad’ya want me to do about it?! Throw on some cornstarch and flip it over,” Judd laughed. Wally, the skunk, laughed right along with him, and Ruby wanted to bash their heads together. This conversation took place on a Monday morning, the first chance she had managed to run into Judd, right out on Main Street. Ruby stood on the sidewalk, face-on with Judd and Wally in the cruiser, with seemingly every old maid in town chancing by to cluck her tongue. Ruby was livid.

“There’s only two sides to a mattress, Judd Gulley, and the next time Wilson Jones wets the bed, that mattress will be in the parking lot!” And that’s where she dragged it, the following Saturday afternoon, and left it there, soggy and stinking to high Heaven, for Judd to find when he pulled into the parking lot.

“That’ll fix The Little Drunk,” Ruby thought.

But, Judd just laughed, and Wally along with him, and the two of them roped the mattress to the bumper of Judd’s sedan and dragged it further down the side road to that other dump. And when Ruby went into The Little Drunk’s room the next afternoon, she found an honest-to-God straw tick on the bedsprings; something she hadn’t seen since she was a kid. Worse, it was wet, and the smell of urine mixed with dirty straw dang near made her upchuck.

She threw some corn starch on it, opened the window, and an hour later went back up and flipped the tick over. She knew, too, that next Sunday afternoon would see her dragging it out back and emptying the straw, to wash the burlap. But she’d be danged if she’d stuff a new tick. If Judd Gulley didn’t see fit to cut straw, The Little Drunk could sleep on bare springs for all she cared.

If Ruby had known what was going to happen two years later, she’d likely have seen fit to cut straw herself, after all. As it was, she wished she’d had the sense to quit that God-awful job before the Whiskey games started…

The rest of “The Waitress, the Whiskey & the Handcuffs” is available in several formats, at The Les Becker Bookshop.