Monthly Archives: August 2021

 

                                                      

Wisdom

by J.D.H.

 

The old man looked around for a spittoon, realized there wasn’t one, and spat a wad of something brown and chunky into the corner of the room. He shot a glance at the boy seated on a stool near the cabin door.

“Like that one, Johnny?”  The old-timer began to cackle but stopped when he recalled the duration and unpleasantness of his last coughing spell. Laughter, like everything else when you grew old, had become a health hazard for him.

The boy sat very still and quiet on the two-legged stool, which was no longer three-legged and was only useable if one leaned back against the cabin wall — Johnny’s current, precarious position. The old man winked at Johnny and began rubbing the crotch of his grimy overalls. Johnny kept his gaze on the rheumy, dewy eyes of the geezer.

“Want to see my manhood now, eh Johnny?” The old-timer got no reply to this; the boy apparently had no sense of fun. The old man waited patiently. No response.

 

**

 

“Tell me more,” Johnny said at last. “You can’t stop talking now.”

The smile vanished from the old man’s face when he realized that the boy meant business. He looked away from the kid, toward the mottled, disgusting wad of phlegm and tobacco he’d spat into the corner. Two ants were rapidly making their way across the floor toward the messy glob, sensing a meal.

“OK. OK, then, watch and learn something,” said the old man. He closed his bloodshot eyes, raised his face toward the ceiling of the old hut, furrowed his brow, and recited a quote from the Bible: “While I was praying, Gabriel, whom I had seen in the earlier vision, came flying down to where I was. It was the time for the evening sacrifice to be offered.”

The man stopped and checked on Johnny, making sure his audience was paying heed. Satisfied, he looked again at the ants, now climbing atop the splash of spent tobacco.

“He said to them, ‘It is written: My house shall be called a house of prayer; but you make it a den of robbers!’”

The old man raised a boot and brought it down hard, squashing the ants as they fed. He bent low to the floor, retrieved what was left of one ant, and studied a spindly leg protruding between his fingers. The leg appeared to twitch once, and then ceased all movement.

“That was you, Johnny Blackwell. You and me. Tell me now, just before I sent them ants to kingdom come, were you concerned about their eternal souls? Answer me that!”

No reply. But Johnny was rapt.

“Them ants don’t belong here, no ways. Know what they be, Johnny? Robbers! Robbers and squatters!

“Squashed squatters!” He laughed uproariously at his own joke.

 

**

 

Johnny had watched as the old man squished life out of the ants, but now he returned the geezer’s stare. “You speak wisdom, old-timer,” he said.

“Damn right I do. Give me them preachers and them philosophers and them’s on TV and whatnot. So concerned about our souls! Who’s to say them ants don’t have no souls? Not you! Nor me!” The old man’s face expressed rage and revelation. He trembled. He smiled again. “Now, I ask you agin: Want to see my manhood?”

Johnny slowly shook his head. Sooner or later, their conversations generally came around to this.

He rose from his seat in the corner, careful not to topple the rickety stool. “As per usual, you speak wisdom, old man. But your horniness will get you in trouble one day.” Johnny shuffled toward the cabin door, felt his face flush a bit, and turned back. “Well, I reckon just a quick one then.”

The old man’s eyes lit up. He frantically tugged at the fly of his overalls ….

 

**

 

Johnny opened the door of the ramshackle abode and began walking away. Without turning back, he said, “We’ll do this again, old man. I allow that I still have much to learn.” And then he was gone.

 

**

 

The old man watched Johnny walk down the path. He turned to his gun cabinet, opened its door, and removed a shotgun. He knew it was loaded, and it took him no time at all to level the barrel at Johnny’s receding backside. Another Bible verse came to mind, and he spoke it to himself: “And as a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.” He lowered the shotgun, cackled again, and re-entered the hut.

 

**

 

He examined the splotch of chaw on the floor, then studied what was left of the ants. He looked up at the ceiling and watched it implode.

Boards, dust, and dirt flew scattershot. A sudden blaze of sunlight nearly blinded him.

A chariot with teeth was descending toward him, like the vision of Gabriel: He came flying down to where I was. His mouth gaped wide.

The chariot with teeth lowered itself and took hold of him, clenching its jaws shut as it did so. The old-timer was hoisted up, up, and out through the roof, toward the blinding sun and, the old man had time to hope, toward his reward in the heavens.

 

**

 

Johnny, still walking down the dirt path, heard a crash from behind and turned in time to see an amazing sight: the old man, aloft high above the cabin and in the grip of a metal box. One spindly leg protruded from the claws of the giant crane. It appeared the old man was being crushed.

 

**      

 

City employee Jim Hagerstrom was in heaven. He sat in the cab of a brand-new MB excavator and watched in awe as its attached crusher emerged from a cloud of dust and climbed high above the cabin roof.

The MB was amazing, an incredible (and expensive) piece of engineering that made small-scale demolition — like that of this abandoned eyesore of a cabin — easier than ever. Jim Hagerstrom was proud of the expensive machine, and he was pleased that his supervisor had trusted him with such dear hardware. The excavator and its crusher together came to near $80,000.

As the dust began to clear, Jim thought he saw movement in the jaws of the metallic crusher. Almost looked like a man’s leg. Probably just a piece of furniture.

Surely that old squatter who they’d chased away in the spring was long gone … surely?

 

THE END

 

 

Click here for the index of short stories.

Click here to see all of the stories.

 

© 2010-2021 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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by Neal Gabler

 

Gabler spent years researching and writing this mammoth biography of the man who, arguably, influenced 20th-century American culture more than anyone else. And Gabler’s painstaking work clearly shows in the finished book. Disney, a notorious workaholic, would possibly approve. I say “possibly” because the man who gave us Mickey Mouse, Snow White, and Disneyland was also a notorious perfectionist.

I have a few of my own nitpicks, along with some praise:

 

Pros:

 

It felt as though two-thirds of the book dealt with two subjects — the creation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and the creation of Disneyland. Along with Mickey Mouse, these were Disney’s milestone achievements, so the attention is welcome and warranted.

Gabler’s biography seems fair and balanced. Over the years, Disney has been accused of sanitizing pop culture by removing its edge. He has also been charged with anti-Semitism, racism, and other isms. Gabler addresses those charges, albeit not at great length, and doesn’t shy from depicting Disney warts and all.

 

Cons:

 

I don’t know about you, but what most interests me about Walt Disney is his creative life. Unfortunately, the bulk of Triumph seems more attuned to business majors. There are endless pages about recalcitrant bankers, potential investors, striking employees, and other finance-related matters. You get the sense that Disney was less a creative visionary than a committed capitalist. If so, it was out of necessity rather than desire.

It would have been nice to have more detail about Disney the private man. But really, I got the impression that the man who led “the triumph of the American imagination” was, in day-to-day life, a bit dull. No carousing or womanizing or politics or scandal of any sort. He comes off as someone you’d admire, but probably not care to socialize with.

 

© 2010-2021 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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Spearheaded by fruit loops in the White House and Australia, of all places, the world continues to fall apart.

I don’t want to talk about that this week.  Instead, let’s discuss my psychological profile.

 

 

My Inner Teenage Girl

 

 

I’ve reached a verdict on You Are My Spring, Netflix’s summer-long treat from South Korea (emphasis on “long” — 16 approximately hour-long episodes).

Maybe it’s because at heart I am a teenage girl, partial to bubble-gum rock and cheesy horror movies, but I liked the show.

There’s no question that at times Spring veers into sappiness. The romantic leads, playing characters who are in their 30s, often behave as though they are 13-year-olds in the throes of puppy love. These scenes are sometimes cute, sometimes silly.

Also, a parallel story arc involving some unsolved murders was, well, just OK.

But in 2021, when everything seems so horrible, You Are My Spring (I know; even the title screams “teenage girl”) is a breath of fresh air. When the show concentrates on its central romance — and even on some secondary romances involving supporting characters — it is sweet and often funny as hell.

Most of the lead characters are (gasp!) likeable. I’ll take that. At least in this godawful year.

 

**

 

My Inner Teenage Boy

 

Seems like only yesterday that I was watching Hailee Steinfeld co-star with Jeff Bridges as the spunky Mattie Ross in 2010’s True Grit. Now this:

 

 

**

 

 

**

 

With any luck, we should have the next Tale From The Grouch, titled “Wisdom,” ready to post within the coming week.

In the meantime, you can read the first seven tales by clicking here.

 

© 2010-2021 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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I don’t know what else to say. You voted for Biden; you own this.

You own the open border with Mexico, the Afghanistan nightmare, and the George Orwell-inspired vaccine mandates/passports.

It’s all yours.

 

**

 

Yes, the Olympics are over, and yes, I’ve finally stopped seeing this McKayla Maroney commercial:

 

 

But no, I can’t seem to get enough of this Maroney GIF:

 

 

 

**

 

 

© 2010-2021 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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Carol Comes Home

by J.D.H.

 

Carol burst into the apartment and slammed the door shut, locked it, bolted it, and then, back against the door, slid down to the floor.

The apartment was dark, but the red light on the phone’s answering machine was blinking. Messages.

Carol was breathing heavily, eyes closed, when the memories came flooding back.

This can’t keep happening … these men are horrible!

 

**

 

Eyes now open, Carol rose from the floor and shuffled to the phone machine. Three messages.

Message 1:  “Carol, it’s mother. I’m worried about you. Please pick up if you’re there … otherwise, call me when you get this.”

Click.

 

**

 

There was a muffled sound just outside the apartment door, and Carol wondered if someone from the bar had followed and was out there. Surely not ….

Unwelcome memories from the nightclub kept coming back:

Minding my own business, having a drink, checking my cell phone, and the creep sits down beside me. When I don’t acknowledge him, the creep looks at my phone and says, “Can I send you a dick pic?” I say, “Why would I want that? I can tell just from looking at you that you’re hung like an acorn.”

All he did was smile.

 

**

 

Message 2:  “Hi Carol. This is Xavier from the club. You don’t have to return this. I was just wondering how things went the other night. You know, with my bro Alex? Seemed like you two hit it off (laughter). Anyway, I’m sure I’ll see you soon at the club. Bye.”

Click.

 

**

 

Alex from the club. Right.

These damned men! They have no idea the time and effort I — and millions of girls around the planet — put into our appearance, and they have no clue as to why. Yes, we want to look attractive — but that doesn’t mean we want to sleep with you! We enjoy the attention, it feels good to be noticed and desired, sure, but that doesn’t mean we want to bonk!

 

**

 

“Funny thing about dick pics,” the creep at the bar had said. “Women complain about them, but they don’t understand the motive. They think men are like peacocks, strutting their feathers — or dicks — in a bid to attract a woman. But that’s not the case. Usually, the man knows he has no chance with her. The dick pic isn’t for her benefit; it’s actually an act of aggression.”

 

**

 

Message 3:  A hang-up.

 

**

 

“The guy thinks, OK, she’s not into me. But at the very least, I can get her to see my dick, plant that image in her brain. At some point, she’ll probably imagine sex with that dick — if only for a moment. And so the dick pic is for the guy’s benefit, sort of a mind fuck. Pathetic, sure, but not what most women think it is.”

At that point, Carol stood and faced him. “You speak like you have a lot of experience sending dick pics. No thanks. Like I said, I can tell just from looking at you that you’re probably sporting a baby dick.” Carol left him sitting there, a smirk on his face.

 

**

 

No more phone messages. Somewhere outside, a siren was wailing. It grew louder, then fainter as it moved on.

Of course, everyone has some sort of … kink. I certainly have one. But some of the fetishes these men entertain …. There is a difference between tolerating a man’s kinks, and actually indulging them.

 

**

 

“I know your secret, Carol.” This new guy, unlike the creep, was somewhat good-looking. He wasn’t vulgar and had a certain charm. But after he’d sat there, at the bar, for ten minutes or so, his hand was suddenly on Carol’s upper thigh. “I don’t mind your secret,” he said.

As with the first creep, this was a cue for Carol to leave. He’d blown it.

 

**

 

But he had followed Carol out of the bar and into an alley. They stood next to a reeking dumpster.

“What happened then was self-defense,” Carol said aloud. “He cornered me, and I had no alternative but to …”

 

**

 

Carol looked down at the blood-stained stiletto heel. It had gone into the man’s eye socket, pushed in hard until it struck bone. Now his body was in the dumpster, where someone would eventually find it. But it was self-defense.

These men!

It was a repeat of the scene with Alex a few nights ago. Lovely Alex, who did not understand that Carol had no intention of sleeping with him. Carol simply craved attention. But Carol didn’t swing that way.

Alex’s body was now in a dirt heap beneath a highway bridge. They would find him, eventually.

 

**

 

Carol went into the bathroom and removed his wig and began to disrobe. There was blood on his dress, and on his blouse. He stood and relieved himself in the toilet, flushed, and then, like always, he left the toilet seat up.

 

THE END

 

 

Click here for the index of short stories.

Click here to see all of the stories.

 

© 2010-2021 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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Ranking the Three Branches of Government

on a Frustration Level:

(Zero is unbelievably frustrating; ten is rainbows and lollipops.)

 

 

You might not like what Biden does, because God knows what he does is godawful — but you can’t say he doesn’t do anything.

 

 

You might not like their rulings, but at least they make them. Sometimes.

 

 

Congress. Does. Nothing.*

 

It’s easy to blame one person (the president) for lousy decisions, and you can hold nine people (the court) accountable for bad opinions.

But when you’ve got hundreds of people in Congress, it’s too easy for each of them to dissemble, hide, and finger-point at others. So that’s exactly what they do.

 

No rainbows and lollipops for us.

 

* OK, OK, it does manage to do one thing: spend trillions of dollars.

 

**

 

Afghanistan

 

Time to get out, consequences be damned.

These generals we see on TV will come up with excuses for why we must not leave for another 50 years, if we let them.

Afghanistan has had 20 years to train with the world’s greatest military. If the Afghans are left on their own and immediately crumble, it’s because they either don’t care that much about who runs their country, or they are hopelessly inept.

Either way, it’s got to be their problem, not ours.

 

**

 

Coming tomorrow: a new Tale From The Grouch.

 

 

© 2010-2021 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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Yes, the rule of law is officially dead in the United States — except, of course, for little people like you and me.

 

**

 

You might have read, recently, about a woman who was beheaded in public by her ex-boyfriend. That happened about 20 miles from where I live.

If you read reports in the mainstream media, what you did not learn is that the alleged killer is, indeed, an illegal alien. You are not supposed to know that.

The mainstream media is garbage.

 

**

 

I voted for Obama in 2008, and again in 2012. I thought electing him president would be good for race relations in this country.

But in recent years I’ve regretted my vote for this smug man — the second time. But now I’m beginning to regret even my 2008 vote. It seems he’s just another arrogant, hypocritical politician.

 

**

 

 

I’ve got to hand it to YouTube prankster Steven Schapiro. No one does a better job of capturing bare-ass babes at the beach under the pretense of, I guess, fun and games.

The bodacious bare buttocks:

 

**

 

 

Subway has long been my least-favorite fast-food joint. When the anti-smoker crusade was charging full speed ahead, Subway was one of the first establishments to ban smoking. Then it hired pedophile Jared Fogle to plug its crappy sandwiches. And now this.

 

**

 

 

© 2010-2021 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

 

I had low expectations for this Hollywood-machine product. Big budget, special effects, and movie stars slumming for large paychecks, I assumed. Well, what a pleasant surprise: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is no cinematic masterpiece, but it is clever and often laugh-out-loud funny.

Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan and Jack Black play teens who, thanks to a magical video game, find themselves transported into a deadly race in the heart of a jungle — and into the bodies of adult avatars. (In one case, this means a teen girl inhabiting the body of a portly middle-aged male.) It’s all very silly, sure, but it’s also fast-paced and crowd-pleasing. The only drawback is a villain who is generic and bland. Release: 2017 Grade: B+

 

© 2010-2021 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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Homebodies

by J.D.H.

 

Dr. Loris Limm, eminent surgeon and pillar of the community, stepped into the foyer of his house. It felt good to be home. It was drizzling outside, and the good doctor tossed his wet coat onto the back of a chair in the hallway, thoughtfully removed his shoes, and placed his laptop computer on a small, antique table. To his right, the door to the library was slightly ajar. Light from the room was filtering out into the foyer.

Dr. Limm began to open the library door, but then hesitated. A frown creased his handsome, middle-aged face.

From within the room, he could hear the smack-flutter of damp flesh on paper, and this distressed him. It reminded him of his wife, Eleanor, who had the annoying habit of licking her index finger before turning every page of whatever book she happened to be reading. A harmless enough thing, certainly, but to Dr. Limm that “wet” sound was infinitely more grating than the proverbial fingernails on a chalkboard.

And now it would seem that one of the twins — perhaps both — had picked up Eleanor’s irritating tic. But then he chastised himself, recalling that his children would never be guilty of such obnoxious behavior.

 

**

 

Dr. Limm pushed the door open and, sure enough, his children — the boy Neil and the girl Lisle (affectionately nicknamed “Pincushion” by the family) — both had their noses in books. Of Neil, Dr. Limm could see but the top of the boy’s curly brown hair, just visible above the backside of a roan-colored sofa. Neil’s book was propped against a throw pillow. Lisle he could see in her entirety as the girl lay sprawled on a shaggy rug near the fireplace. Her book was splayed upon the rug.

“Father!” Lisle cried. No such greeting came from his son, but Dr. Limm could hear a faint rustle of shifting plastic in the vicinity of the boy.

“Children,” Dr. Limm graced them with a barely perceptible smile. He did, however, lean over the sofa to ruffle his son’s unruly crown of hair. “Studies, or pleasure?”

“Studies, father,” replied the boy. “Father, what will we eat tonight?”

Dr. Limm ignored this and turned to his golden-haired daughter. “And Lisle, studies or pleasure?”

“Pleasure, father. Mother says I am ahead of Neil in my studies, and so I am waiting for him to catch up.”

“And what are you reading for pleasure?”

A Farewell to—“

“Father,” her brother cut in: “Might we have hamburger and potato salad for dinner? It’s Thursday, and—“

“Let me check with your mother,” said Dr. Limm. “Now get back to your books. I don’t want to interrupt Neil’s education, and Hemingway waits for no man.”

“Nor girl!” squealed Lisle.

Dr. Limm graced them with a second weak smile, and pulled the door shut as he moved back into the hallway.

 

**

 

A light at the end of the passage informed him that his wife of 33 years was in the kitchen. The light was blue-tinged, which indicated, not surprisingly to the doctor, the glow of a television. No studies or Hemingway for Eleanor. As Dr. Limm entered the smallish kitchen, he beheld the usual scene: Eleanor on her loveseat, feet planted on an ottoman, hand deep in a box of some-kind-of-snack, and the television tuned to some “reality TV” absurdity.

On the screen, a half-dozen Southern teens were filling the bed of a pickup truck with water from a garden hose. They had lined the truck’s bed with a large plastic sheet, and were attempting to create a Kentucky poor kids’ version of a backyard swimming pool.

“Neil is asking about a special meal again,” the doctor said, after glancing at his wife to ascertain whether she was awake or asleep. “I told him I would check with his mother.”

One of the redneck girls on TV, the doctor noted, had managed to lose her bikini top. MTV had tactfully pixilated this moral offense. Eleanor either heard nothing her husband had said, or determined that no reply was required. Her nose twitched, as though something foul-smelling had suddenly entered the room, but her eyes stayed glued to the TV.

Dr. Limm followed her gaze to the flat-screen television. Every other word out of the teenagers’ mouths was being “bleeped” by the network’s censors. Dr. Limm sighed.

 

**

 

“The children on this show are animals,” Eleanor whispered, more to herself than to her husband. “It’s obvious we made the right decision.”

Dr. Limm took a seat in a rocker and sat in silence for some minutes, observing with his wife the hedonistic behavior of the MTV kids. “They are having a wonderful time of it,” he said at last. “Give them five years, and they’ll have a wonderful time of it behind the walls of some penitentiary, or in the waiting room of some seedy abortion clinic.”

“We made,” repeated Eleanor, “the right decision. Oh, yes.”

Dr. Limm nodded his head in assent. “Discipline may be short-term pain, but it’s … it is long-term gain, I assure you.”

“You don’t have to tell me, Loris.”

“I’m sure I don’t. Those children on your television program, assuming they have parents, will wind up costing them a bundle. Parents must do what they must to maintain discipline. And to keep children safe from the wicked influences of the outer world. At least, whenever possible.

“And if that means their children must suffer some inconvenience, well.” The doctor paused to consider. “I’m not suggesting that I don’t enjoy a … respectable income, but even Neil and Lisle, at times, cost me an arm and a leg.”

Eleanor burst out of her loveseat as though the fumes she detected earlier had blossomed into a full-blown nuclear explosion. In two steps she was standing above her husband, delivering one vicious slap to his left cheek, and a follow-up blow to his right.

Dr. Loris Limm’s eyes widened in shock, but he regained his composure almost immediately. He looked down at his lap in shame. “I’m so sorry, Eleanor. I … I didn’t think. That was careless of me.”

 

**

 

The rustle of plastic against wood caused them both to look back at the kitchen entrance.

“Father,” said Neil from the doorway. “There was a joke in a book and it’s upset Lisle terribly. The joke was: Three boys come to the door of Little Johnny’s house. Johnny’s mother answers the door and one boy says, ‘Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Smith, can Little Johnny come out to play baseball?’ And the mother tells them, ‘Now boys, you know that Little Johnny has no arms nor legs.’ And the boy says, ‘That’s OK, Mrs. Smith, we just need him to be second base.’’’  

Neil paused and looked from one parent to the other. “Lisle is awfully upset.”

Dr. Limm looked down at the stump of his 32-year-old son, whose arms were amputated below the elbows and whose legs were missing below the knees. The doctor frowned when he noticed the plastic bag the boy had dragged down the hall with him. Behind the boy, Lisle, also 32 years old and similarly dislimbed, shed tears from the spot on the hallway carpet to which she had slithered.

“Neil,” Dr. Limm admonished, “Your colostomy bag is leaking. Please clean up after yourself at once.”

“Neil,” added Mrs. Limm, “Guess what? Hamburger and potato salad — tonight!”

 

THE END

 

Click here for the index of short stories.

Click here to see all of the stories.

 

© 2010-2021 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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