Tag Archives: stories

Two Couples

As the Maitre ‘D walked the two couples to their table, Jack took a quick glance around the restaurant, admiring the fancy marble decor and the classic red and white plaid tablecloths common in so many Italian restaurants. The place was packed full on this Saturday evening, alive with big laughter and big city life and Jack felt way too young to be in here.

“God damn, Jack Diamond, it’s so great to see you again” Eddie exclaimed as the four of them settled into their chairs. The table was small but was near the street and had a nice view as hundreds of people strolled by enjoying the warm summer evening, as hurried drivers honked their horns at the endless street traffic and as digital fare meters ticked away dollar after dollar inside the bright yellow cabs carrying passengers from somewhere to somewhere else.

“What’s it been, nine or ten years since we saw each other last?” Eddie asked. “Jack, you haven’t changed a bit, well, other than being a lot bigger and taller than I remember!”

“Well it was the summer after I finished third grade and you both finished fourth, that my family moved to Indiana” Jack answered. “So however many years that is. I’ve never been that great at math. I’ll tell you though, I’ll never forget the night my Dad pulled us all aside and told us he was being relocated.”

“I’ll never forget the day on the playground that you told me you were moving” Eddie added.

Jack turned and looked over at Eddie’s beautiful wife Brenda. He could still remember how all the boys were madly in love with her back in elementary school, at least as much as adolescent boys knew what being in love meant. It was Eddie who eventually scored the big fish.

“Damn girl, you still look as good as you did in third grade!” Jack said with a smirk.

“Oh, you always were a charmer” Brenda answered in her thick New York accent. “You were shy, but definitely a charmer. So tell us about this beautiful girl you have with you.”

Jack turned and smiled at Diane.

“Well, this is Diane” he began. “She and I met, literally the first day in our new neighborhood. She lived two houses down from our new house and the first day we were there, while unpacking the truck, she came over and introduced herself to me. I’d never have had the nerve to talk to a girl when I was that age. But she made it happen, and as they say, I guess the rest is history!”

The conversation was interrupted as a tall, handsome waiter dressed in traditional black and white approached the table. He spoke with a thick Italian accent.

“Ciao, Mr. and Mrs. Pasquale, it’s nice to see you again. Ms. Brenda, you’re looking as stunning tonight as always.”

He turned to the two new guests at the table and introduced himself.

“Ciao, my friends, welcome to Fontana di Trevi Restaurant, my name is Antonio and I’ll be taking care of your table tonight. You must have good taste in friends if you come in with the Pasquale’s.

Eddie chimed in.

“Antonio, this is Jack Diamond and his good friend Diane Jones. Jack used to live in the neighborhood, but his family moved to Indiana many years ago. We were best buddies way back then, but we haven’t seen each other in years. Jack and Diane are going to school at Rutgers this fall. Jack’s gonna be a big football star there!”

“Well, welcome to Fontana di Trevi” Antonio said with a warm, bright smile.

He turned to Brenda.

“Can I start you with a bottle of wine, Mrs. Pasquale? Red or white tonight? Or perhaps a bottle of Rosé instead?”

Without reviewing the wine list or taking any suggestions from the other guests Brenda ordered from memory a mid-priced bottle of Cabernet and a second, more costly bottle of Chardonnay, both from California.

“Kind of expensive choices don’t you think?” Eddie mumbled.

“This is a special night, we need to treat our friends to some upscale city life tonight” she said, defending her choices.

“Anyway, you were saying?” Eddie continued, changing the subject and encouraging Jack to continue his story.

“Yeah, so we were really just friends for a few years” he began again. “But then, what was it about seventh grade that we started dating?” he asked Diane.

“Yeah, it was seventh grade” she answered. “I had to ask HIM out THEN too” she said with a smirk. “But we’ve been best friends ever since, just two American kids growing up in the heartland.”

“And so, Jack, you’re gonna be playing football at Rutgers, huh?” Brenda asked. “Well hopefully now that you’re closer we’ll be able to see you more often.”

“Yeah, they gave me a nice scholarship” Jack replied. “I took a year at the community college, pretty much had just given up on football. That’s what people do there in small town Indiana, graduate from High School, maybe get an Associate’s degree, then go work at a factory or one of the seed processing plants. But then one day the coach at Indiana University called me and asked if I might reconsider playing Division One football. So I started to think about it again and I was getting ready to commit to going to IU. You know, it would have been close to home, but I guess Rutgers wanted me because they called a couple of months later and had their check book wide open. So I chose Rutgers and somehow I talked Diane into following me here to the east coast. I honestly wasn’t sure if she’d ever left Indiana!”

“That’s not true!” Diane argued, laughing at herself and her small town upbringing.

“So, enough about us”, Jack said, changing the topic. “How are you guys doing, fresh from declaring your vows, what was it two, maybe three weeks ago? By the way sorry I missed it, I’ve been buried with football training, plus Diane and I getting moved into our new apartment. It’s been a pretty hectic couple months.”

“It’s alright, it was mostly just our close families” Eddie replied. “It was quick and we didn’t give people a whole lot of notice. But we’re doing okay. It’s expensive, but we’ve got a nice little place in the neighborhood and I’ve been working at the local machine shop since I graduated. We’re just trying to make it work. You know, money’s been a little bit tight but we’ll be fine.”

We’re survivors right?” Eddie continued, glancing at Brenda with an unconvincing smile.

A brief moment of uncomfortable silence was thankfully interrupted as Antonio approached the table with the two bottles of wine. He skillfully and delicately cranked the corkscrew into the corks, then used the lever to extract each and set the bottles on the table.

“No need to taste” Brenda offered. “I know these are perfect choices as we celebrate reconnecting with old friends tonight. Go ahead and fill us up.”

Antonio glanced towards Diane.

“Red or white Ms. Jones?”

“White please” Diane answered.

“And for you Mr. Diamond?” Antonio asked while filling Diane’s glass.

“Red please” Jack replied.

“This place sure is nicer than the Tastee Freeze that Diane and I used to eat at back home” Jack joked. “Six pack of cheap beer and a couple Chili dogs is typically our meal of choice.”

“Sounds delicious” Eddie exclaimed, “kind of like Brenda and my old High School days at the Parkway Diner.”

Eddie spoke to Antonio who was waiting for the conversation to wane. “The usual red for Brenda and white for me please.”

Antonio filled the last two glasses and excused himself. “I’ll be back in a few minutes to take your order.”

“Is the Parkway Diner still open?” Jack asked.

“Yeah, it’s still open” Brenda answered. “This old neighborhood hasn’t changed a bit since you left, same families, same businesses, and same old problems. You’re born here, you die here, I guess.”

“Sounds like our little Indiana town” Diane spoke up. “Nothing ever changes. Everyone says they want to get out but no one ever does. Had Jack not gotten that scholarship we’d still be there too.”

“Guess small town rural America isn’t much different from urban America” Eddie added. “Whether it’s tall buildings or cornfields, it’s all just the backdrop to regular people trying their hardest to get by. But hey, you know what? Life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone.”

“Let’s order some food, the pasta here is delicious” Brenda spoke up, trying to lighten up a conversation that seemed to be heading in a solemn direction.

She glanced towards Antonio who briskly approached the table.

“Ready to order Mrs. Pasquale?” he asked.

“We are” she answered. “Guest’s first please.” She motioned towards Jack and Diane.

Antonio went around the table taking each of the four orders. Unlike the clerks at the Tastee Freeze who wrote everything down on little pads of green and white paper, he used nothing but his memory to note the details.

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My Humble Beginnings

The Mad Mud Moon Man   by Steve Warner

Once upon a time there was a mad mud moon man. He lived in a garbage bag and he came out every night. Every weekend he came down to earth. One weekend when he came down, he went to a farm-yard for dinner. The farmer looked out the window and the farmer got up, ran over and got his gun, picked it up, ran out the door and started shooting at him but he got away. Every weekend the mud monster would come to the farm but every time he’d get scared away. One day the farmer called fifteen hunters. All fifteen hunters went. A week went by and still no sign of him. All of a sudden five of them heard footsteps. They all split up. They got back into a group again. They were still hearing footprints. All the sudden five mud monsters came walking at them. All fifteen of them pointed their guns at the mud monsters. All fifteen guns went and there was five mud puddles laying out in the woods.

moon man 1

moon man 2

I found this today while digging through some files.  My mother had saved it and given it to me many years ago when she was culling stuff out of the house.  I had to clean up some of the grammatical issues up above, but clearly my awesome and worldly writing talents started at an early age!

My kindergarten teacher was named Mrs. Smiley… at least I think it was. That’s one of those “facts” that I have burned into my memory that I will never forget, but there’s no way to verify whether that’s  true or not. Maybe we just called her Mrs. Smiley, because she was happy or something… but that’s not as appealing a tale!  So I’ll stick with the story that she was named Mrs. Smiley. I don’t know if I wrote this in Mrs. Smiley’s class, but clearly with a name like that she must have had a positive influence on my academic career!

When did you seriously start writing? Do you still have any of your early stories?

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Roadkill Stew (the Audio Version)

Thinkin’ I should turn this into an audio blog…  🙂

The original post here if you want to read along!

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Roadkill Stew

This is the tale of Billy O’Hill.
Who lived all his life in the town of Saville.
In a lil ‘ol cabin, he’d made his abode.
At the end of the dirtiest, dirty, dirt road.

Now Billy O’Hill had been married a time.
To a girl named Pearl, a lady sublime.
But Pearl’d got sick, dun gone up to heaven.
Ten long years ago, or maybe eleven.

So he kept to hisself, stayed mostly alone.
‘Cept for his pooch who he called Al Capone.
And a few of his friends that he’d see now’n then.
Down at the coffee shop now’n again.

The Hill Top Cafe is what it been named.
Cornbread and Johnny Cakes what they was famed.
They’d sit there fer hours not talkin’ ‘bout much.
‘Cept for some gossip and weather and such.

And on his way yonder he’d pass by the house.
Of the purtiest lady, as cute as a mouse.
She’d sit on her porch, a-sippin’ her tea.
In the shade of a giant magnolia tree.

See Billy O’Hill had a crush on this lady.
A purty ol’ girl named Myrtle O’Grady.
She lived in a house in the center of town.
Where them wealthy folks lived, the rich and renown.

But he never could git up the nerve to suggest,
“Wouldya meet me for coffee, I’d surely be blessed?”
‘Cuz what would a girl so swanky and chic,
See in a guy “from the hills”, so to speak?

So Billy would wave as he briskly walked by.
He wouldn’t say nuthin’, cuz he was right shy.
When Myrtle would smile her purtiest smile.
Billy’d be floatin’ on air for awhile.

Then one day he asked for some friendly advice.
From his closest of friends, named Earl Versluice.
‘Cuz everyone privy knew Earl could charm.
Like a rooster that woos all them hens on a farm.

Now Earl had fetchin’ advice to impart.
“The stomach’s the way to a good woman’s heart!”
“Let’s throw a party like we used to do.”
“Invite all our friends, we’ll serve roadkill stew.”

“Every-un brings somethin’ fresh that they’ve found.”
“From the side of the road, just plain dead on the ground.”
“Squirrel or coon or rabbit or beaver.”
“We’ll slice ‘em all up with a very large cleaver!”

“We’ll mix in some collards and veggies and rice.”
“Add in some ‘shine to give it some spice.”
“We’ll invite Ms. O’Grady to join us that day.”
“Then you can dun meet her, whatdaya say?”

So Billy went home, started makin’ a list.
Of who’d be invited and who could be missed.
At the end of the list he penned really neat.
“Myrtle O’Grady”, the list was complete.

He wrote out the invites, said R.S.V.P.
We’re throwin’ a party on Sunday ‘bout three.
We’ll serve roadkill stew and plenty-a ‘shine.
I’ll break outta jug of my dandelion wine.

Then he mailed ‘em all out and dun prayed for the best.
Would Myrtle O’Grady show up for this fest?
When the day dun arrived, his friends all came through.
They’d all brung some roadkill to add to the stew.

Ms. Blossom brung possum…

June brung raccoon…

Mr. Monk brung a skunk…

Mr. Babbitt brung rabbit…

Jake brung some snake…

Mr. Weaver brung Beaver…

And his best friend Earl? Well, Earl, he dun brung lots of Squirrel…

Then Myrtle arrived and the place got real quiet.
What had she brung, would anyone try it?
Every’un watched as she walked through the door.
She carried a bag from a fancy clothes store!

She handed that bag to Billy O’Hill.
Who opened ‘er up with the most gracious skill.
And Billy looked in and dun said with a grin.
I reckon Ms. Myrtle O’Grady fits in!

‘Cuz Myrtle…

Well… Myrtle… she brung Turtle.

In fact… she dun brung the freshest, most purtiest turtle, bigger’n any of ’em had ever seen!

So they cooked up the stew ‘n that party was grand!
And Billy’n Myrtle hit it off just as planned.
And the rest be dun history, them guests they all knew.
That Billy and Myrtle fell in love over stew!

Listen to the Audio Version!

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The Snow Globe

A man once lived in a globe made of glass.
It sat on a base made of shiny new brass.
Inside of this globe seemed to always be snowing.
Snowing and sleeting and drifting and blowing.

He had a small house with some trees and a yard.
A family of four with a pet St. Bernard.
At the edge of the globe, a little old train.
Would circle the town, he couldn’t complain.

He loved when it snowed, he believed it a blessing.
The big fluffy flakes were so very refreshing.
Music would play when the snow would come down.
That came from the church in the center of town.

And in the town square on those cold snowy nights.
Was a large Christmas tree all covered in lights.
T’was peaceful and calm with the square all aglow.
With the tree’s lighted branches covered in snow.

See this globe, it sat on a little girl’s shelf.
On a wall that she’d decorated all by herself.
There were posters and pictures and photos and things.
Knickknacks and tchotchkes and dolls made of strings.

But her favorite of all was the globe full of snow.
She would wind up the winder to make the train go.
And in the town square she’d watch all the people.
While the music would play, like bells from a steeple.

She would shake it all up so the snow’d start to fall.
Then set it back down on the shelf on her wall.
She’d watch while the snow fell all over the town.
She’d watch ‘til the very last flake hit the ground.

She would make it snow five times or ten times a day.
Or whenever she wanted to hear church bells play.
And the man would be proud as his little town glowed.
He’d smile at the girl as she watched while it snowed.

Now this girl, she grew older, as little girls do.
Her tastes, they were changing to things that were new.
She began to show less and less interest in toys.
Instead she was focused on clothes and on boys.

Then one day the man, well he waited and waited.
He waited all day and he sure felt deflated.
Because the girl never came to shake up the snow.
The girl never came to make the train go.

The lights didn’t light and no music was played.
With the town all in silence the man was dismayed.
He walked to the square in the center of town.
Just to find it all empty, no one around.

So the very next day, well he waited again.
He waited outside until quarter past ten.
And he waited some more as he held back his tears.
While weeks turned to months and months turned to years.

Now with nobody making it snow everyday.
The globe it got dusty, covered in gray.
He figured the girl would never come back.
The dust on the glass became grayer, then black.

The snow, it stopped falling for many a year.
That music he knew he would no longer hear.
And that train that would circle his town now and then.
Was stopped in its tracks right where it had been.

Then one Christmas morning, the man felt a small rumble.
He heard very faintly a female voice mumble.
And he watched as the glass was wiped away clean.
He watched as the globe regained its old sheen.

Then he peered out the glass and who did he see?
T’was the girl, all grown up, with a boy about three.
She picked up the globe and the winder she wound.
The music, it played and the train drove around.

She shook the globe hard and the snow began snowing.
The sleet began sleeting and the wind began blowing.
And the townspeople quickly ran to the town square.
Where the tree with its lights was still standing there.

The girl turned to her son and she said with a smile.
“Here’s a present for you to keep for a while.”
“If you wind up this winder you’ll start the train going”
“The music will play and the snow will start snowing.”

She handed it over and the little boy smiled.
She said “it used to be mine when I was a child.”
When the boy took the globe, his eyes lit up with glee.
Like the center of town, lit up by the tree.

When the boy shook the globe it snowed harder than ever.
And the man, well he hoped it would go on forever.
Because although it was cold, he knew as a whole.
A snow storm on Christmas always cleanses the soul.

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The Intruder

This is a recycled story, published some time ago, that some of you have seen, but I thought it should be updated for the season and for the slew of new readers that have joined the fun since then. Enjoy!

 

“Steve, I think I hear someone downstairs” my wife said to me as she shook me and woke me up from a deep slumber.

“What… what’s going on?” I murmured still half asleep.

“Shhhh” she said. “I think I hear someone downstairs!”

Now I was wide awake. It was the middle of the night and there was an intruder in our house. I wondered why our dog, a 200 lb. St. Bernard, hadn’t woken up and barked. I quickly remembered though, all the times I had come home from work, walked into the house and not awakened him.

“Great watchdog” I thought to myself.

“Should we call the police?” my wife asked.

“Whoa there, hold on. Let me sneak down there and see what’s going on.”

“Okay, but what if someone’s down there?”

“I’ll be fine.” I crawled out of bed, adrenaline spiraling through my body, threw on some sweatpants and started heading towards the bedroom door.

“Be careful”, she said as I left the room.

I took a quick glance at the kid’s bedroom doors and both were closed. I had been hoping it was just one of them awake and downstairs getting a snack or something to drink. Two closed doors meant both kids were still asleep in their rooms. I continued to the stairs.

The stairs in our 120 year old house are terribly creaky. I’ve always thought that would be beneficial someday when the kids were coming home late at night. But not now! Not as I was risking my life to find out who was walking around our house in the middle of the night. I desperately tried to remember which steps made the loudest noise so I could avoid them, but other than the bottom three, which I knew were loose, my mind was drawing a blank. I gently took each stair, trying to be as silent as possible.

First step… okay.

Second step… okay.

Third step… CREAK!

“UGH,” I groaned quietly jumping down one more step to try to minimize the noise. I stood there quietly trying to catch my breath and get my heart rate down a little bit. In the deadly stillness of the night, I heard some rustling noises downstairs that sounded like it was coming from the family room. “This is absolutely nuts” I thought. “What are you thinking?”

But something drew me on, so I continued down the creaky steps, one at a time and thankfully, mostly quietly. Those last few steps could be a problem, but maybe a few loud creaks would scare off the intruder. I moved quickly… CREAK… CREAK… CREAK… and I was in the dining room, heart beating out of my chest, but still alive, and having not yet come face to face with anyone.

The rustling noise was still coming from the family room which was the room next door to where I was standing. I guess my plan hadn’t worked! With my back against the wall, like one of those cops you see in a Hollywood blockbuster movie, patrolling a house full of armed thugs, I peered around the corner. That’s when I saw him, this intruder that was invading the privacy of our house. His back was to me and he was working fast moving about the room with a bag packed full of stuff.

I stepped back behind the wall to reassess the situation. My heart was beating uncontrollably and I noticed that my hands were now shaking. “I’ve seen him before” I thought. “What is he doing here?” In just that brief glance I had recognized his grayish white hair and his clothes. I stealthily peered around the wall once again and he was still there, back towards me, but moving fast… so incredibly fast… doing his business rapidly so he could get to the next house, to the next job.

For a moment I just watched in stunned amazement, afraid to startle him, afraid to interrupt him. Finally I couldn’t help myself. “Pssst” I said, trying to gently announce my presence. He didn’t hear me. “Pssst” I said again, a little louder. This time he whipped around rapidly, surprised at being seen, his eyes wide open and his white beard and his traditional red suit now clearly visible.

“Oh, it’s just you” he said with a relieved tone. “For a second I thought it might be a kid.”

“No, I checked and they’re still sound asleep” I reassured him. “But what the hell are you doing here?” I scolded. “You scared the crap out of me. My kids don’t believe in you anymore. I thought someone had broken into the house.”

He smiled that familiar, big grin and laughed that familiar, jolly old laugh and tossed me a big chocolate snowman wrapped in silver and red foil. “Eat this and go back to bed” he said as the snowman flew across the room towards me. “Lots of kids say they don’t believe anymore. Most of ‘em still want to believe but there’s just too much peer pressure from their friends. I’m not ready to give up on yours just yet!”

“Yeah, I guess that makes sense” I replied.

“Here, put this in one of the kid’s stockings, I don’t need it. I ate a bunch of candy before I turned in tonight.” I tossed the snowman back to him. “Guess I better get back to bed.” “See you next year, maybe?” I asked as I started to turn around to head back upstairs.

“We’ll see, that’s a long way off, let me get through this year first.”

“Yeah, okay… alright good night” I said and I turned back towards the creaky stairs. For a brief second I wondered if I was sleep walking and I stopped and glanced back. No, I was definitely awake, but our guest was gone, the dog was asleep on the floor gently snoring, and the rest of the house seemed deathly quiet. I grabbed a glass of water and poured it down my parched throat as I pondered this late night encounter.

A few moments later, up the stairs I went, back into the bedroom. My wife was asleep as if nothing had happened, but as I climbed into bed, the jostling of the mattress woke her up.

“You okay?” she mumbled, her now half asleep.

“Yeah, I’m fine” I said. “I just needed a glass of water… I haven’t been sleeping real well tonight. Must be all that chocolate I ate.”

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The Monkey Money Collector

It’s county fair week around us.  Ah, yes, the county fair, where idyllic rural farm life meets the crazed mania of the Midway, where you can watch a tractor pull, dance to some bluegrass music and win your kid a giant stuffed animal, where you can dine on delicious but overpriced Italian sausage sandwiches, corn dogs, caramel apples and elephant ears, all delivered fresh from portable trailer restaurants, where you can walk through barns full of horses and cows and cattle and pigs and goats and sheep and rabbits all raised by proud 4-H kids, where you can see giant alligators and other reptiles and where you can “people watch” folks from all walks of life.  It’s the county fair and it’s an all-American tradition.

We have been attending the same county fair for the 16 years that we have lived in our house. We don’t make it every year, but we have most.  Sometimes, like this year we will go twice.  A friend of my daughters was showing her horse in the riding competitions and we spent Sunday afternoon watching her and walking through the barns and looking at the animals. We hope our daughter will be riding in these same competitions next year. Later this week we will go back for an evening and ride the rides and eat cotton candy and elephant ears.

At this particular fair, as people walk the main pathway from the barns over to the midway and back, somewhere in the middle, just past the grandstand, they have typically come upon a large congregation of people standing in a half circle and watching something. Often there are kids in the front row and adults squatting down.  From the back it’s tough to see what is going on, to see what all these spectators are riveted on.  Pushing through, however, one can finally witness the strange event that has drawn this crowd of onlookers.

There, facing the crowd is a tall, gangly and scraggly looking man, dressed in an old tattered suit that has seen better days. The man looks tired as if Fair life has worn him down. He doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t smile or perform any tricks. He doesn’t speak or show any emotion, he just stands there… for he is not the performer.  In front of this man, on a thin string-like leash is a monkey, dressed as well, in a charming little vest and shorts and a hat with a string around his chin, and he is working this crowd of kids and adults hard. But he is not juggling, he is not opening and eating a banana, he is not riding a unicycle… nothing like that. He is collecting coins from the spectators.  The people in the front row are reaching into their pockets and grabbing coins and holding them towards the monkey who walks up to them and takes the coins and returns them back to the man in the suit.  Parents are handing coins to their children so that they too can experience this monkey taking coins from their hands. One after another after another, coin after coin after coin.  It’s cute and adorable and weird and sick and twisted… and absolutely brilliant!

It’s the Monkey Money Collector…

One year while at the fair, after seeing this Monkey Money Collector do his thing, I succumbed to my urges to participate in this bizarre spectacle and I grabbed a quarter out of my pocket and squatted down with anticipation. There we were, that cute little monkey and me, facing each other amongst this crowd of people. I smiled and held my hand out and the monkey saw the bright, shiny quarter. With a gleam in his eye he came running over to me and with his tiny little monkey hand he grabbed the quarter from me. Then he ran back to his owner and gave him the quarter.  Just like that, with only seconds of time having ticked off the clock, I was 25 cents poorer and the man in the suit was 25 cents richer.  He quickly left me and moved onto the next participant. I don’t quite remember, but I’m pretty sure I then handed coins to my kids who in turn gave them to the monkey.

I have to admit, as amusing as the whole concept is to me of training a monkey to take money from people, I have always felt sorry for this little fellow, as I tend to with any animal that I see out of its normal habitat. In hindsight, I suppose he probably has a good life with the strange, un-emotional man who is his keeper.  I’d venture to guess, as well, that this man and his monkey are not living the high-life somewhere, off of the income earned at the county fairs they worked.  But capitalism works in strange ways and somewhere, deep down inside, I hope that they have a decent life.

As my family and I walked through the fair on Sunday, I didn’t see the Monkey Money Collector and I wondered why they weren’t there.  Maybe they just weren’t working this day, or maybe one of them has passed away… or maybe they have retired to a tropical island somewhere! If they are there when we attend later this week, perhaps I’ll search my pockets for a shiny new quarter.

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