Saturday, May 23, 2009

Range On The Home

Oh, give me a town
Where buffets abound
And the radio
Plays Bob & Sheri

Where a man with no snout
Can always pig out
Or use Food Stamps
And still eat for free

Range, range on the home
Between three and four
The recommended percent
For any lady or gent
And a house
Should not cost a dime more

Let farm roads intersect
Where substitutes get respect
And the radio knob
Is tuned to Sheri & Bob

Where 5K’s are run
With no starting gun
And the high school
Is not run by the Mob

Range, range on the home
Between three and four
That’s the proper percent
To never pay rent
And a house
Should not cost a dime more

Note to Readers: The pictures above do not have captions. The lady with the red hair is Bennie Fitz. So the other lady is Axelandra Tuskinskya Seporaleyva. You can readily recognize the President. And you can see the dilapidated scales. There are four pictures. May the fours be with you.

The Alamo May Have A Basement, After All

A man in a white tuxedo entered the open doorway leading to the Senate. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he announced ritualistically, “The President of the United States!” The assembled body of lawmakers quickly put away their electronic gadgets and enthusiastically applauded. The leader of the nation stepped in front of the podium bearing the Presidential seal.

“Speaker of the House Pelosi, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton, distinguished Senators and Representatives.” The applause was deafening as all those mentioned seconded the approbation accorded to them by the President, and reciprocated the respect conferred on them from the highest office in the land with thunderous clapping of hands.

“We are facing perilous times. Our streets are in ruins, our schools are deteriorating, our bridges are on the verge of collapse. Some banks may have leaky roofs, but I am unconcerned about that. I promised the American people that I would put two and a half million hard working Americans back in the work force. If they were laid end to end, they would stretch 2,745 miles, from Rochester, New York to Fresno, California. What this translates to, of course, is that card-carrying Union members who were working in the construction field, which has come to a standstill, will get these two and half million jobs. This means construction workers, electricians, plumbers, dry wall installers, painters, what have you, will fill these slots. The timetable for getting my Rebuild America But Do It Right This Time program up and running is uncertain at this point in time, since such large-scale programs generally take the Government months or years to fully implement. But I can promise you this--”.

The President hesitated mid-sentence when an aide stepped up to the right side of the President and handed him a folded piece of paper. The aide was ashen-faced. The President opened the paper and read it silently to himself.

“My fellow Americans, the alarming news that I have just received is very disturbing to me, and I want to share my concerns with the American people. Indeed, now is the time to get these grievances that have been simmering at the Federal level for quite some time out into the open, so as a unified group of people who are committed to making America a better place, we can make the changes necessary that reflect the core of America’s values and will enable our nation to regain the respect we have lost overseas.” The President took a sip from the glass of water that was strategically placed in the Presidential podium cup holder.

“Just moments ago, I received a report that Hooknose McGee finished the 5 mile run in 43 minutes and 45 seconds. I am embarrassed to repeat those numbers. Let me make a few comments about this situation, and maybe, just maybe, America can get back on the right track.” The Senators and other dignitaries broke out into laughter.

“There was no pun intended,” the President said, smiling. The President continued, quickly abandoning the levity that could undermine his earnestness. “Hooknose McGee, if you are watching this on television, you are hereby recalled as Ambassador to Luxembourg. You were a mediocre Ambassador, at best. And while you are packing up your things out of your desk and preparing to leave Luxembourg, all potato chips and candy bars will be removed from the vending machine in your office building. No more potato chips or candy bars for you.”

“You have been provided with some of the finest roads in the world to run on. Regrettably, I am announcing that I will forthwith issue an Executive Order reducing the amount of funds to improve our roads from $30 billion to $20 billion. If Hooknose McGee, supposed to go the moon and outrun athletes from other nations, cannot benefit from our fine roads, these roads will be scaled back.” The President was just getting warmed up.

“Hooknose McGee, you have bragged to your fellow residents in the Housing Project that you can run five kilometers in 29 minutes any day of the week and twice on Sunday. That is the old way of talking up your running career. Let me just run the new figures by you. Your request for $12 billion to rebuild Princess Carol The Tenth Lunar Stadium has been denied. That saves the Government $12 billion and loss of international prestige when you get outrun by foreign runners with three billion people watching. By Executive Order, your Food Stamps are now denied. You have 24 hours to get out of the Federal Housing this government has so generously provided for you. You will be issued a Bowie knife by the Forestry Service and a tent so you can move into the national forest of your choice and live off the land. On second thought, I do not want to drag David Bowie into this. He made America proud, you have disgraced America. You will get a generic knife made in China, no Bowie knife for you.“ The President glared out at the audience, transferring his indignation toward Hooknose McGee to the Press Corps and members of the Senate who had faithfully supported his programs.

“You say it hurts. Well, guess what, Hooknose McGee, it hurt at Valley Forge. It hurt at Normandy. It hurt in October 1929 when the stock market crashed. You have not done the part Hooknose McGee is expected to do to make this country a better place. America expects more out of you than a dismal 44 minute time in the five mile run. You have set a bad example for America’s young people. If I get one more report of an unacceptable time that you turn in during a running race, I will have you deported back to Ireland where your ancestors came from, where you belong. See how you like potato famines and high rents. Check out the oppressive landlords over there, you ingrate! You have set back standards of physical fitness in this country by 40 years.”

“And with reference to the descendants of your earliest relatives who landed on our shores,” the President continued, visibly upset, “Collectively they have drawn over three million dollars in Government entitlement benefits, and if I have to, I will withdraw the benefits from all of the Haneys and all of the Boutwells forever. Every Haney and every Boutwell in this country will be held personally responsible for your outrageous conduct, Hooknose McGee! Two entire clans will be given credit for cranking out a slacker like Hooknose McGee, who is a burden on the Government. I am upset, and I am not taking any questions from the Press.”

The President abruptly ended the address to the nation and exited the door to the Senate. About twenty seconds later, the President came running down the tunnel to the Senate, much faster than Hooknose McGee ran five miles, and once again stepped to the Presidential podium to put Hooknose McGee and any of his supporters, two in the entire country at last count, in their rightful place.

“Just a brief follow-up comment, which I overlooked in my initial reaction to the devastating news that Hooknose McGee cannot run despite America‘s fine roads. By Executive Order, there is to be no more ice cream provided to Hooknose McGee. He does not deserve it. In this country, Hooknose McGee, you have to earn the privilege of enjoying ice cream. That is all. Oh, I almost forgot. You cannot have breakfast any more at the Pantry.” Then the President once again exited the door leading into the Senate, with regal bearing and posture.

Hooknose McGee was bewildered as he watched the President’s address to the nation. It is so unfair to be castigated so on public television, thought Hooknose McGee to himself. I did not forget the Alamo. Little does the President realize, Hooknose McGee thought to himself, that I got injured a week before the five mile run. How can I know the precise nature of the injury? I never went to Veterinarian school. I am banned from the Original Pantry. I only get to go there every 10 years, anyhow.

One Liner: I could of ate a Jihad.

My Last Date With Bennie Fitz

In late December, 2001, things were bleak. I was down to my last dollar. No employment prospects had shown any flicker of light throughout the darkness of the downward spiral. The day before, I had gone to the day old bread store and gotten a loaf of bread nearing its freshness expiration date, at a discount rate, with one of my two remaining dollar bills. Suddenly, it occurred to me that an individual living in a shut down business and no money might be eligible for Food Stamps. I went to my local Food Stamp office and was awarded emergency Food Stamps. The man on the radio talk show kept mentioning repeatedly that in America, no one should go hungry, everyone has the same opportunity, that we can all rise above our circumstances and catapult ourselves to success and prosperity by hard work and determination. The problem with his philosophy, it seemed to me at the time, was that few employers were willing to risk having people like me as an employee, so that my boundless talents, tuned to fine stress in our culture of opportunity and multi-tasking, could be showcased in the workplace. It seemed to me that the people who were capable of providing jobs assumed that unsuccessful people through some fault of their own could not land a job or keep a job because they had fallen short of employer expectations in previous jobs. My philosophy, on the other hand, is that people who work hard at their jobs should be given the same pay as other employees who produce a similar work product. It was a hopeless situation. It did not matter what I wore, how eloquent I was when I handed in my filled-out job application papers, how charming of a con artist smile I flashed as I made my cameo appearance at a workplace that could turn my life around, there was to be no 40 hour work week for me, and no thousand dollar plus per month income.

Living in a shut down business, and no longer starving, my spirits were lifted. A nerdly bounce began to appear in my stride. The automatic doors swung open at the nearby supermarket, but alas, the one closest to my humble abode was the ritzy store Publix, and soon, all the gorgeous lady cashiers who swooned as I swashbuckled down the aisles loading down my shopping basket on the taxpayer’s tab, had their hopes dashed--that back burner ambition of waltzing off into the sunset with Mr. Dashing, Debonair, Good-Looking, Purposed, Right--when I swiped my Food Stamp card as a form of payment for the vittles. Then, one by one, the countenance of fascination was transformed into the face of gloom that silenced the attractive lady cashiers. One of the lady cashiers explained to me that it was shocking to her that someone with my background and experience was not gainfully employed, and that my considerable abilities would surely get me back in the workplace soon. She should have told that to Corporate America. The truth was, that if I was back in the work force, my considerable abilities would serve me the way they always had, I would have carried a bunch of slackers who relied on my considerable abilities to not do much work themselves. That is the problem with pooled work. It does not accurately measure how much each individual in the pool is doing. Sure, the pool collectively can shine, but some are doing work, and others are just writing down on the paper the mighty exploits they fancy themselves doing, while their actual work product approaches zero. God bless America’s slackers, long may they bilk their dumb ignorant bosses.

There was one lady cashier at Publix in particular that I was fond of, but she was from the working side of town, so I never told her of my unfaltering admiration for her. I never said to her, as I swiped my Food Stamp card, “Next to Princess Carol The Tenth, you are the love of my life.” I am sure Princess Carol The Tenth would have signed off on my new alliance, and would have been happy to get rid of me. But I have never been able to get anything tangible from Princess Carol The Tenth, even a reject letter or a Dear John. I cannot even prove that she detests me. It is tough to have to explain that it is not so much that my imaginary fiancĂ©e and I did not drift apart as it is that we were never together in the first place. It would be a challenge to explain a relationship that complicated to a hard working cashier at a supermarket. All I could do for my favorite cashier that set me apart from her other secret admirers was to give her the numbers to play in the Lottery.

Though I could never win the hand of Princess Carol The Tenth, for seven years, Bennie Fitz was there for me. On cold winter nights, she stood by me as I heated up the soy-flavored sauce from a package of Top Ramen in a coffee cup, and threw the uncooked noodles away. On lonely Friday nights, Bennie was there for me. She helped me grope my way through the darkness to the Housing Project. I saved the microwave tray from an affordable Banquet TV dinner, and put pre-packaged salad in it. Bennie stood by approving as I poured a little fat-free Wishbone Salad Dressing on top and humbly dined in the shut down business, shielded by poverty and isolation from the rat race, DVD movies, and pepperoni and green pepper pizzas delivered by Domino’s or Pizza Hut. You just get the carbohydrates and generic basic grub that gives you the strength to wake up the next morning on five dollars a day of Food Stamps, without the frills or side dishes. But Bennie Fitz was always there for me, lending moral support.

Oh, I took Bennie for granted. She was perhaps a composite of all things given, but I could reciprocate little. I always felt warm and secure with Bennie around, but I felt helpless to tell her how I felt about her. The silence between us was like the background noise of love, unspoken, but you knew there was a faint murmuring among the gods of a sacred union between two compatible souls destined to spend eternity together. Each night, when she left me by stepping lightly through the front door of the shut down oil company, I held her close and spoke the same refrain, “You are very dear and precious to me.” Bennie always blinked her sparkling eyes and slipped quietly into the night until we secretly met again.

On a warm, sunny day, Bennie and I strolled hand in hand the three quarters of a mile to Publix. Hecklers were silent and chose not to bang on the sides of their car doors, maybe because Bennie was there. When we went inside the store, and removed a shopping cart from its coupling with the other carts, I put my sunglasses in the area near the push handle. After we left the store and were halfway back to the oil company, I realized I had forgotten my sunglasses in the cart. After putting the few items away in the portable refrigerator, we went back for the glasses. The customer service lady at the counter played the store surveillance camera, but my glasses were not found. I was baffled. Bennie was not in the picture.

Recently, the sense of well being that had stood as common ground between Bennie and I was replaced by a sense of dread. We met as planned in the soup aisle of Publix. Bennie leaned close to me, took my hand in hers, and said, “I can’t see you anymore. I want you to see other people. I have already been seeing other people, and it is taking me places you and I can never go.”

I was crestfallen. Bennie meant the world to me, and was the only girl who had stood by me throughout the tough times and during the few disparate moments of hope. I looked into Bennie’s dispassionate, false eyes. “I thought you would always be true to me, faithful and true.”

Bennie let go of my hand and turned her eyes away from me. “There have been others,” she confessed. “You have to go on without me. I have loved you truly, but because I also have strong feelings for another, my love for you is false. You need to be strong. You can make it on your own. When I walk away, what should linger is what I gave you, how to believe in yourself. You must go on without me.”

A lump formed in my throat. I looked at my one true love with hurt in my abandoned eyes. “Bennie, what about our dreams of going to Europe so I can apply for immigrant benefits paid for in Eurodollars?”.

“Well, as for your ambition to bilk taxpayers on two different continents, as soon as you apply for a passport, the Department of Homeland Security is going to be infuriated and put you back in the ‘Person of Interest The Federal Government Does Not Trust’ category. Can‘t you ever admit that you‘ve been had, and there is no way out?”. Bennie Fitz, whose companionship I treasured for seven years, has a cruel way of sidestepping true love for the sake of casting me in a negative light.

“It is going to hurt a lot to be near you and yet shunned by you,” I said to Bennie, trying to delay our final moments together. My heart was hurting. “I know you will see me on the street, and look at me like I am a stranger, someone you have never met, and that will hurt a lot. All I have left are the dreams we shared, that we fought for, that we sacrificed for. Can you just snap your bureaucratic fingers and the entitlement paradise that would be ours vanishes just like that? We were going to have Food Stamps and housing and stay together in a cozy little 15 feet by 14 feet room on the outskirts of Skid Row, just the two of us, with our microwave and our radio turned down low, tuned to the Bob & Sheri Show. We would not have to mow the lawn or talk to the neighbors. I already found some headphones at the Starvation Army so we could watch the news at 10 o’clock at night without disturbing anyone. I know the laundromat is a mile and half away, but we could wash the clothes in the sink and hang them on the line, if the neighbors don’t steal the clothespins. Now you are just going to walk out on me like our seven years together was just a fling. There, I said it, it is out in the open, now what do you think of that, Miss Hot Headed, Miss Low Calorie Faith, who does not believe in me anymore? How would you feel if I walked out on you, huh?”. I knew my arguments had no content, but I was hoping that the barrage of words under an avalanche of emotions would postpone Bennie’s inevitable walkout.

“That‘s not fair!” Bennie said, with tears in her eyes. “I have love for you, Hooknose McGee. I am just not in love with you. I am always thinking of somebody else. It is over for us. Can’t you see? I am leaving you because I believe in you. Now you take care, and continue your morning and evening walks, as therapy for your arthritis.”

Bennie adjusted the patch over her left eye, and rubbed her right ribcage area where the ribs were poking out, loving reminders of our stormy relationship and a dark turn it took some seven months earlier. But you should have seen the other guy! That was me. When I awoke from the coma that lasted four days, I was hooked to an IV sending a blend of pain-killing sedations coursing through my veins. I became addicted to prescription drugs. Eventually, I qualified for aid and attendance care, which provided me with a substantial Governmental stipend each month. Pretty nurses with blonde hair and waif-like carriage made house calls to give me shots of morphine and cook tomato soup to lift my spirits. My declining physical condition led to increased Government entitlements, and caused my love for Bennie Fitz to grow even stronger. She was priceless and irreplaceable, and that is why it hurt so much to see Bennie walk away.

Bennie never turned around and gave me one last look. She walked through the express lane for ten items or less to pay for her Top Ramen, Beef flavor, and left me standing in the soup aisle. In that intense moment of bereavement, my spirits were suddenly lifted by the irony that our entire relationship, like our last encounter, had always been one-sided.

The Red Telephone

The Red Telephone rang. I hoped it was Bennie Fitz, trying to weasel her way back into my heart. But she would not have to try very hard. After all, there was little wrong she could do. I cherished even her indifference, and groveled at her every rejection. With my heart pounding, I picked up the receiver.

“Hooknose McGee here. Who is calling?” I asked, trying to keep my voice from shaking.

“Hooknose McGee, how are you today? This is Barack Obama.” I instantly regained a sense of calm. Now I had an opportunity to change the course of history, and wanted to make the best possible pitch.

“Just fine, Mr. President. Did you get my suggestion letter and the email I sent?” I inquired, hopefully, trying to break the ice so we could have a meaningful discussion and not waste precious World Leader time.

“No, as a matter of fact, I did not personally see the correspondence you sent. Relevant to today’s issues, I suppose?” the President was kind to apologize.

“Well, not to reiterate the content, but they addressed the auto industry, the petroleum industry, and health care, matters needing reform. How may I help you today, Mr. President?”.

“Well, this is a follow-up call. I actually was the poll taker who did the survey by phone before the November election, and I wanted to ask your personal opinion about what kind of job I have been doing so far,” the President stated.

“I suspected that was you I was talking to, Mr. Obama!” I exclaimed. “I told you then, I thought you would make a fine president, and I think you have more than lived up to it. I would like to make a suggestion to improve the economy.”

“Please do,” the President said.

“The Universal Intergalactic Bank contains all the money in the Universe. They have selected Santa Monica Bank for a brief deposit on June 1, 2009 at 9:00 A.M. Pacific Standard Time. The idea is that if the funds are transferred to a small bank for less than a second, the interest will make everyone on Earth very wealthy. You will be called on by the Intergalactic Federation of Banking to name a citizen to do the quick deposit and withdrawal of all the money in the known universe. I am qualified to do this specialized task, and available.” I patriotically made my case to the President.

“How much money are we talking about?” President Obama asked.

“One vigintillion dollars, Mr. President,” I replied. “You take the Milky Way Galaxy, with 100 billion stars, the low side estimate. Estimate nine planets for each star, like our solar system. You multiply this mass by 125 billion galaxies, and low and behold, if it was all solid gold, the value would be one vigintillion dollars, that is a one followed by 63 zeroes. The interest at one trillionth of one trillionth of one trillionth of one percent is about 31,628 trillion dollars in one second. The impact on the Universal Intergalactic Bank would be the equivalent of a delegation from outer space coming to us for help and being given one grain of sand from Earth.” I tried to briefly describe for the President what we would gain from the upcoming transfer of funds, and that it would in no way weaken the economic stability of the universe.

“How can you be so sure of the number of stars in the Milky Way?” the President asked, curiously.

“Well, Mr. President, the night before last, I started counting the stars in the sky, and I got to 16 billion, 568 thousand, 455, and then I fell asleep. But then last night I made a pot of Maxwell House coffee, and I started counting again, and got up to 30 billion, but I only covered about 30 percent of the visible sky. I had to strain my neck from side to side to count the stars behind the stars behind the stars. By the way, can I get disability benefits for injuring my neck in the service of my country?” I pressed my luck by digressing from our main topic of conversation.

“I’ll put in a good word for you to the Social Security people, Hooknose McGee,” the President assured me. “Briefly explain why you are especially qualified for this brief but critical assignment.”

“Well, I used to work for JBQ at his law firm, and I can say the record backs me up, that no one in the world is as fast as me at the transition between projects. Jackie Gleason is the only one who even comes close. So I am the man for the quick deposit and withdrawal of funds during the Intergalactic Bank Transfer on June 1, 2009.” I explained my unusual ability to the President as briefly as possible.

“Well, I cannot just take your word for it. I will have my people thoroughly interrogate JBQ about this matter.” The President seemed provisionally content that I could handle the assignment, but just needed verification from a third party. “Now you have a good day, and my staff will contact you in the near future, Hooknose McGee.”

“Thank you, Mr. President. Can I make a quick suggestion?” I hurried my words before the President hung up.

“Go ahead. I’m listening,” Mr. Obama stated.

“Instead of taking the 6,000 trillion dollars or so as a monetary reward,” I explained, “I suggest we take payment from the Universal Galactic Bank in the form of alternative energy or advanced technology in use by other civilizations in the universe that we may not develop until millions of years in the future.”

“Hey, good suggestion!” the President expressed his approval. “I will discuss that possibility with Mr. Bernanke and Mr. Geithner. Have a good day, Hooknose McGee.” Then the President hung up the phone.

JBQ Subpoenaed To Senate Hearing

Two men in three piece suits whisked JBQ from his office, down the hall to the elevator, and up to the roof of the building where his law firm was doing a booming business. A waiting helicopter took the Secret Service agents and JBQ to a nearby Air Force landing strip, where they boarded a Washington, D.C. bound jet. Soon, JBQ was being questioned by three Senators and a Congressman, Senator Shelby, Senator Reid, Senator Dodd, and Congressman Frank.

“JBQ, what does the initial ‘B’ in your name stand for?” asked Congressman Barney Frank.

“Badger,” replied the law firm CEO.

“Oh, it’s not Barney. There goes the rapport we would have had,” stated Congressman Barney Frank, disappointed.

“What law school did you attend?” asked Senator Reid.

“Harvard, and I of course was the editor of the Law Review while there,” JBQ stated matter of factly.

“How were you able to afford to attend such a prestigious and expensive law school?” inquired Senator Dodd.

“I worked my way through school,” stated JBQ.

“Doing what?” asked Congressman Frank.

“I was a pool hustler. I pretended to be a bumbling, amateurish pool player, but I was able to win a couple of grand a week in pool matches,” JBQ said. “The trick is to make your opponent think you are a walkover, then you play up to your skill level in the money match.”

“As you know, JBQ,” stated Senator Richard Shelby, “We have convened this Congressional hearing to determine if Hooknose McGee will be designated to be the Earth representative to make the brief monetary transfer of funds from the Intergalactic Federation of Banking on June 1, 2009. What can you tell us about Hooknose McGee?”

“Hooknose McGee is a very strange person,” replied JBQ. “I know that is not his real name. When he came to my law firm in 1988 looking for work, he had about 25,000 hours of transcribing experience. It turns out he needed all that, plus how to run the office equipment, to keep up at my law firm. And we sure as heck do not now, and did not then, teach trainees how to run our office equipment. At my firm, you either got it or you don’t.”

“JBQ, are you aware that Hooknose McGee went upstairs to the 10th Floor of your office building to fetch the backup tapes after the devastating earthquake of January 17, 1994?” Senator Harry Reid asked pointedly.

“How could I forget?” JBQ answered, stretching out his arms with his palms pointing upward, suggesting the question was a no-brainer. “Hooknose McGee writes me a letter every two or three years, asking for a gold Hall of Fame ring because he rescued the backup tapes. Of course, I ignore him, not only because my billing rate is $400 an hour, but because the price of gold hovers near $1,000 an ounce. Let me tell you good Senators and you acceptable Congressman something. I have a dog in my back yard, and its job is to keep out intruders. There are no extra bones or treats for a dog doing its job. The same goes for any employee who was in the office during the earthquake. The nearest person to the potential crisis does the best they can to remedy the crisis. There is no villa in the South of France for just doing your job. I do not hand out Hall of Fame rings like they were candy. Next question.” JBQ was red around the collar and loosened his red striped tie, glaring at Senator Harry Reid.

“JBQ, do you think the potential Hall of Fame gold ring recipient Hooknose McGee can responsibly and efficiently press the Green Deposit button and then quickly press the Red Withdrawal button at Santa Monica Bank on June 1, 2009?” asked Senator Richard Shelby, leaning forward for JBQ’s response.

“I believe he can do it in under one second,” JBQ said, like a deponent under fire, dodging the richochet of selective recall. “This is something he will need to rehearse 15 or 20 times, though, in my opinion. I think if the Banking transfer team spends several hours of fiduciary quality time patiently explaining to Hooknose McGee the concept of the Green button and the Red button, their juxtaposition, the notion of Deposit as opposed to the notion of Withdrawal, and explain and re-explain the entire operation ten or twenty times to Hooknose McGee, that even he will not flub it up. The Banking transfer team may need to have pizza delivered, to create the illusion of confidence Hooknose McGee lacks, but desperately needs just to take his next breath. But there is still that one in a hundred chance he could botch up the Deposit and Withdrawal, and then the Intergalactic Federation of Banking would hold every bank on Earth accountable for the clerical error of the unreliable and error-prone klutz Hooknose McGee. Don’t you distinguished lawmakers care enough about our country and the entire world to get somebody more qualified for this delicate operation than the broken down and vision-challenged has-been Hooknose McGee, with his slow reflexes and nerdish demeanor?”.

“What a ringing endorsement, JBQ,” answered Congressman Barney Frank. “Thank you for your vote of confidence in your former employee. We appreciate your astute opinion in this matter. We are going to pay you for your help, the same remuneration we would have provided to an Intergalactic Federation of Bankers if they had come to us for monetary help, one grain of sand to be exact. Are you ever going to give Hooknose McGee a gold Hall of Fame ring?”.

“What can I reply to that leading question?” answered JBQ. “Congressman Frank, I can assure you that if the building had collapsed and Hooknose McGee had died retrieving those backup tapes after the earthquake of January 17, 1994, he would have gotten a gold Hall of Fame ring posthumously. But as long as he is alive, my purpose in life is to provide as many marginal reviews of his work performance and skepticism about his ability to function in the workplace as one tormenting CEO can possibly render.”

Hooknose McGee To Open Floor And Breakfast

The state of the economy has led to reduced attendance at restaurants and other businesses. Bed and breakfast establishments, like many businesses, may eventually shut down due to dearth of customers. In order to prepare America’s citizens for the escalating hard times ahead, Hooknose McGee intends to get in on the ground floor of a cottage industry he invented himself, the Floor and Breakfast.

Since the accommodations do not have to be first class, the building housing such an austere establishment can be of inferior quality. Any cheap, run-down, abandoned building will do. As long as the lights are on, and there is running water. How will America’s struggling families be able to face the hardships of the future if they become dependent on hot water and luxurious accommodations? We need to give them just what they need to become accustomed to, and that is unheated buildings, cold water only, an old rusted-out refrigerator with a noisy air compressor, hard, uncarpeted floors, and windows that open. A scrub board and an outhouse would help.

We need to get back to our roots. Heck, we should even turn off the electricity during the daytime hours, when people can see reasonably well, and let people rough it. Set a bamboo fishing pole outside of every room at the Floor and Breakfast, and put a rowboat next to the adjoining swamp so the guests can fish for their dinner.
$19.95 a night for floor and breakfast combined would be about right. Breakfast will consist of eggs and hotcakes or toast, something easy to cook, no frills or sausage.

In order to not disturb the patrons from their beauty rest, no mowing of the grass will be allowed before 6 o’clock in the morning during the summer peak grass cutting season. Lights out at 10 p.m. Curfew strictly enforced. Oh, and lawyers get charged $29.95 a night.

The Ghost Of The Hunchback Scalemaster

Axelandra Tuskinskya Seporaleyva was a Russian peasant girl from the small village of Svenekskoya. In 1946, at age 15, she was sent to Siberia for shoplifting. She explained to the judge, the Honorable Ludmila Schnechamarova, that she stole a loaf of bread from the village market because she was hungry, but also to help feed her mother, a widow, and her two younger brothers. Judge Schnechamarova looked down from the bench at the emotionless young teenage girl and said to her sternly: “Axelandra Tuskinskya Seporaleyva, for demonstrating gluttony by rushing through your ration book, and for the crime of shoplifting, which combined amount to a total disregard for the welfare of others, you are sentenced to four years at hard labor in Siberia, sentence to begin immediately.”

As the two stone-faced female guards led Axelandra away, Judge Schnechamarova thought to herself, In four years, this young girl can redeem herself to society, and will return cured of her reluctance to clean the homes of the wealthy citizens sympathetic to the Czarist regimes of the past, and she will compliantly mop the floors, wash the clothes, and feed the spoiled cats for those who live where the homes hold marble and Renaissance paintings, where the streets are wider, where the asphalt has been poured a little thicker, where the privileged can get the phone number ’1’ and other perks and concessions from the provincial administrators.

Within two weeks, Axelandra had become accustomed to the 12-hour work days at the salt mine and the bland gruel that was the staple of her diet. A large woman, Axelandra stood six feet, four inches tall and weighed 420 pounds. Unlike the other women who lugged around 100 pound sacks of salt, Alexandra was able to carry two at a time. Her stamina and extraordinary strength caught the attention of the warden. He brought in a sports coach, who convinced Axelandra to try throwing the shot and discus in the work camp exercise yard. She was able to practice one hour a night four days a week. Axelandra was released early, in June 1948 and named to the Russian track team that would represent her country at the London Olympics. In the shot put, Axelandra’s only event, she scratched on her first two throws, but with an enormous heave on her final throw, won the bronze medal.

In 1949, Axelandra Tuskinskya Seporaleyva was smuggled out of Russia on an Icelandic fishing vessel. She entered Canada illegally, and journeyed south into the United States, where she applied for and was granted political asylum. She got a job with the Department of Weights and Measures as a Scalemaster, in charge of the now-dysfunctional scale pictured here. In 1949, it was used to weigh trucks loaded down with a cargo of peanuts locally grown. The summer of 1949 was a banner year for peanuts. As the trucks were weighed, some farmers, as they handed the weight fee of one dollar to Axelandra, commented, “This weight ticket is good at the produce dock, where the peanuts sell by the hundredweight,” to which Axelandra one day replied, “Several more dollars income to you is worth one more dollar to me.”

Thus it came to be that Axelandra Tuskinskya Seporaleyva, the Russian athlete from the salt mines, began the regular practice of climbing down the stairs of the Scalemaster cabin, destroyed by a hurricane in 1977, and rigging the weights of the accurate scale by altering the apparatus underground in favor of the farmers willing to pay extra for a higher weight ticket. For instance, a load of 11,000 pounds would be adjusted to 12,320 pounds, an adjustment practice that has gone on for generations, much like rolling back the odometer of an automobile. Axelandra was the Scalemaster from 1949 to 1957 at this scale. So often was she in the subterranean chamber of the scale, while rigging the weights and falsifying the results, that she developed a hunchback. Her posture became bent forward and gnarled. She moved slowly, and her weight ballooned to 525 pounds. Eventually, she was not able to maneuver her way down the hidden cabin stairs, and had to resign from her post as Scalemaster. She was buried in the cemetery across from the scale in 1971.

On some Spring nights, when the fog rolls in, just before dawn, a sudden noise will pierce the quietness of the night and wake residents living nearby. They claim it is the dull, thudding, clinking sound of weights being repositioned by metal hammer beneath the surface of the antiquated scale. Some say it is the ghost of the hunchback Scalemaster, still working her mischief and laughing fiendishly from her final resting place six feet below the surface, deceiving corporate America from the realm beyond. The peanut weighing operation that flourished in the 1940’s and 1950’s has been replaced by a modern-era paper recycling operation.

One Liner: If you Mustek, please tek only what you need.

Copyright 2009 by Hooknose McGee

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