Funeral Of The Seas

Thanks to the movie The Big Lebowski, I never want to be cremated. I am convinced I would have equal or worse luck…

Steve Buscemi plays “Donny”, whose ashes are put in a coffee can. John Goodman (Walter) and Jeff Bridges (The Dude) take Donny to a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean where they plan to scatter his remains. After Walter delivers as bad of a eulogy as you could ask for, he removes the coffee can lid. It’s poor timing as a gust of wind blows Donny’s ashes away from the ocean and straight into The Dude’s bearded face.

I could only hope that I might end up in a coffee can.  But, no, fate would steer the two warped minds of those handling me in another direction…

“I got an empty container of motor oil we could put him in.”

“Naw. Too difficult. How ’bout a jar of spaghetti sauce I finished last night?”

“Hell, if we wanna make things really easy, then let’s go with a paper sack.”

“Genius! That’s it! A paper sack!”

And off I’d go, stuffed in a paper sack in the back seat of a car—lodged between a bag of dog food and a package of toilet paper.

“Where d’you wanna dump him?”

“I dunno. Where d’you wanna dump him?”

“Well, he did mention the Gulf of Mexico.  He always talked ’bout the ocean.”

“Uh, that’s like three hours away. Ain’t driving no paper sack for three hours.”

“But ya would dog food an’ toilet paper?”

“Absolutely. They’re necessities.”

Of course, any chance of my making it even remotely close to the ocean would be slim due to the presence of a third occupant in the car: a black Labrador Retriever named Sniff.  While my buddies are in the front, continuing their intellectual conversation fit for an audience of morons, Sniff is in back and getting mighty curious about my body bag.  He’s not hungry, so the dog food doesn’t interest him, and neither does the pine-scented toilet paper.  But the paper sack…now that’s something to investigate! In no time, he burrows his wet muzzle so deep inside that his nostrils get annoyingly clogged with ashes.  Igniting into a psychotic growling fit, he makes the mistake of raising his head to shake the sack free. All of my remains—all that I ever was—come pouring out like an open bag of flour. As the car comes to a screeching halt, Sniff cannons three sneezes. Sneeze #1 propels the sack off of his head. Sneeze #2 fires tiny, moist, snotty ash clods into the rear window that stick like spit wads. And sneeze #3 launches additional clods directly behind the neck of the driver.

“Dammit, Sniff!!” he hollers, looking into the rear view mirror. “Good Lord! All over the toilet paper!  Look at you—all covered with death!”

And that’s as close as I’d get to the ocean. The majority of me sharing space with fleas in Sniff’s fur.

“Throw it out!”

“The dog?”

“No, you idiot. The sack…throw it out!”

“Seriously? Isn’t that kinda disrespectful?”

“What’s there to respect? There’s ashes all over Sniff and my car!”

“But what about the ocean? He wanted to end up in the deep blue sea.”

“SCREW THE OCEAN!!  THROW THE DAMN SACK OUT!! HE CAN ENJOY THE DEEP BLACK ASPHALT!!”

I’m telling you…if I’m ever to be cremated, I guarantee that’s as good as it’ll ever get. But if I do want to end up in the ocean, then how will I ever get there?

I have an idea. Write a letter.

*.          *.         *

Dear Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines:

Imagine firing multitudes of the dearly departed from a cannon off the rear deck of one of your ships, and making bookoos of money doing so.  Enticing, isn’t it!? You may not realize this, but if Royal Caribbean runs with my idea, then it will be at the helm of innovation. It’s time for a better way to pass into the afterlife than we are currently accustomed to. It’s time for a cruise ship named…Funeral of the Seas. 

 Let me explain…

Funerals aren’t cheap. We dish out thousands of dollars in order to make the dead comfortable (or so we’re led to believe). A fully velvet-lined, solid mahogany or stainless steel casket complete with a cozy, over-sized pillow is sold under the guise that without luxurious bedding, our loved ones will experience nothing but eternal bed sores. The casket has only a few hours of viewing time before it’s forever lowered into the earth to share the dirt with grubs, beetles, worms, ants, and centipedes. Such a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, but never to be seen again (unless a careless city utility worker accidentally digs up a sewer pipe while texting his girlfriend). Whatever happened to burying bodies and nothing more? It was a custom that worked fine for thousands of years. Bury Uncle Joe, then let the good earth decompose and recycle him. And best of all, Uncle Joe’s death didn’t cost but a few nickels.

If we’re going to spend thousands of dollars on our loved one’s funerals, then let’s make it a few thousand, not several thousand.  And let’s send them away in a style yet to be experienced in the funeral industry. I’m talking about a massive potato gun. Confused? Oh, not to worry!  Let me continue…

I shall use myself as an example. One day I die. Then what?

All to be explained in another conversation, but because I’m convinced that a black lab named Sniff will completely blow any chance of my being cremated with a peaceful and beautiful exit from this life, my only option is a burial, which, as you’ve gathered, I’m not much in favor of either.

Instead of being buried, I want to be released. I want to take a lifeless swan dive off the rear deck of Funeral of the Seas. It may not be the most graceful swan dive, as I’m sure my entry into the water might be a disastrous belly flop, a harrowing back slap, or even a sloppy face plant — all complete with flailing limbs.  And just how would I dive from a cruise ship?  I would do it not with the parting push from a couple of friends or loved ones, but rather with the soon-to-be patented Corpse Cannon.  Basically, as previously mentioned, it’s a larger scale potato gun that generates pneumatic pressure created by compressed gas, and can fire a human body over 500 feet. I mean, seriously, what better way to go!? Sailing into the ocean air with no inhibitions, no errand lists, no car payments, and no more commercials—Heaven.

Of course, once I hit the water, understand there’ll be no need for friends and loved ones to have to witness any type of cruel carnivorous feeding, as I’ll have been thoroughly coated with the soon-to-be patented 3M SharkAway Repellant, and sporting my 40-pound weighted strength training vest.  As Funeral of the Seas cruises off into the sunset, how fitting all of this would be as I submerge in the ship’s wake.

Total cost for a cruise ship funeral: $3,000.  It’d be an out-and-back one-day trip. Details of large walk-in freezers to store the dearly departed can all be worked out. All Royal Caribbean has to do is schmooze with the rules and regulations departments that oversee the operations of funeral businesses, play a few rounds of golf with the higher-ups, and there won’t be any difficulty getting approval for the soon-to-be and highly sought after Corpse Cannon funerals.

That’s all I have for now.  Please feel free to contact me anytime. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to have a little alone time to deal with the aforementioned dog named Sniff who’s living rent-free in my head.

Bon voyage,

Ros Hill

 

Copyright Ros Hill 2017

The Zipper

Some people are indifferent about bugs. They don’t love them. They don’t hate them. Bugs are bugs. Oh, look…it’s a cricket on my shoulder! What an amazing little creature!

Not me.

A cricket lands on my shoulder, and I don’t even give it a chance to be identified. As I slap whatever it is far into the yard, I shudder and squirm while making a pitiful, crybaby-like face as if I just witnessed someone slowly chewing a mouthful of live worms.

I go through the same physical gyrations whenever I see a spider larger than a dime.  Especially if it’s within six inches of my face and closing fast, such as the time I was cursed with rotten luck while riding my lawn mower. I had been cutting the grass for about an hour—eyes down, focused on the pathway—when, by chance, I happened to look up, and spotted a zipper spider, known for the zipper-like design spun in the center of their webs. They are black and yellow, and make Death look more approachable. Websites will tell you zipper spiders can get up to 1.5 inches long. This is a lie. Their bodies alone are the size and volatility of a hand grenade, and legs like knitting needles.  Other unreliable sources will tell you the spiders are basically harmless, that they only deliver a bee-like sting. Another lie. Zipper spiders can devour goats, flocks of birds, and human heads in an hour. It is my personal belief that they can also hurl large stones over fifty feet.  It’s not a matter of whether or not you can escape their super glue-like webs, but rather how fast you can run.

I was all white knuckles on the mower as panic coursed through my brain. I took my foot off the accelerator, then began madly stomping the metal floor board where a small brake pedal was located…somewhere.  How many thousands of times had I stepped on that brake pedal without looking? And now, as I coasted closer to the spider, my size 13 shoe was failing me.

Six inches from nose-planting into arachnida vampirea, my foot finally found the brake pedal. I hit it hard, but that might not have been the best decision as the sudden change in direction lurched me forward…

*           *           *

Maybe this isn’t a story about my fear of spiders. Maybe it was never intended to be all about me. Maybe it’s about understanding and acceptance. Maybe that’s a stretch?

I don’t think so.

One more inch, and I would’ve touched the web. It would’ve been my end. The zipper spider would’ve consumed my head within the hour. But there was no chance as the miracle of the mower’s reverse pedal backed me safely away.

Twenty feet out, I stopped and shut off the engine. My heart pounding, I needed to cut the grass beneath the web and beyond. I had only one option…destroy the spider.

I went into the house and snatched a broom from the pantry. It’s always been my go-to weapon of destruction when dealing with domestic critters. I’ve shot many scorpions across the kitchen floor like they were hockey pucks. And spiders…oh, I’ve cleared countless pathways blocked by their annoying webs.

The spider hadn’t budged. It was positioned directly over its zipper webbing. Even standing six feet away, I felt extremely vulnerable. Ok, I might have exaggerated a little. So it didn’t eat goats or flocks of birds. So it really was about 1.5 inches in length. So what. It still had the ability to mess with my mind.

I turned with my left side facing the spider, then took a batter’s stance, holding the broom like a bat. Eye on the target. One mighty swing and I’d smash it out of the yard.  But then came the memory of my Little League baseball coach from decades ago. He was always reminding me of the basic fundamental tenets of the game. “Don’t just swing at any pitch,” he’d say. “Make sure it’s the right pitch.” How many times had I swung at pitches too high or too low and, in the process, struck out? How many times had I walked back to the dugout feeling dejected because I knew I had made a poor decision? Too many.

The zipper spider’s web—what an incredible architectural construction of innate ability. Despite how much I detest spiders, I could not deny its impressive geometrical design. The spider’s survival was dependent upon the strength and placement of its web, which had been spun between a vegetable garden’s fence post and a bush. Outside of violent weather and brush fires, the web’s integrity was vulnerable to one major threat: man.

Knees bent and feet slightly more than shoulder width apart, I settled into an athletic position. To generate the most power, I shifted my weight to the back leg. Like golf, the most effective swing comes from a relaxed grip, but the mere presence of the spider forced my hands to choke the broom.

Make sure it’s the right pitch. 

What could possibly be wrong with this pitch? I hated spiders, and this particular one was right in the strike zone. But in the moment of giving myself the green light to swing, I was interrupted by a moth that had carelessly flown into the web, and with no hope of escaping. There it would perish, destined to be a meal for one.

Sure enough, I watched the spider quickly react to the vibrations of its web, before spreading its legs over the moth and silencing it.

I found myself not favoring the spider’s predatory mastery, nor seeking to interfere and save the moth (how I would have accomplished that, I have no idea). I relaxed my grip on the broom and brought it down to my side.  Watching and accepting the scene as a whole, I let the spider be. Even though my annihilation of the spider could have been defined as “natural” since I am part of nature, I chose to isolate myself from such destruction, and admire the mechanical engineering required to stabilize the web. I was embarking on an understanding of just how mathematical spiders are. Their innate knowledge of trigonometry in relation to angular tensions is unmatched within the animal kingdom.  As much as I hated this spider, I decided not to swat it to smithereens, but basically gave it freedom to move about my yard. For a moment—well, several moments—I wondered if I had simply lost my mind.

*        *        *

Some people are indifferent about bugs. They don’t love them. They don’t hate them. Bugs are bugs. Oh, look…it’s a cricket on my shoulder!  What an amazing little creature!

 Yep, that’s me.

 

Copyright Ros Hill 2017

A Matter Of Taste

I need to say a few words to the breakfast cereal companies of this country…

Part of me wants to take a baseball bat to your knees, drag you helplessly into a bowl of spoiled milk, and then watch you drown in soggy misery—all for insulting my intelligence.

But since that might come across as a bit harsh, perhaps I’ll just settle for asking you one question: Really?

I mean, really…must your cereal boxes inform me that the cereal in the photograph has been “Enlarged to show texture”?  Do you think I’m going to file some sort of class-action lawsuit for false representation of the true-to-life smaller size cereal inside the box? And why print the disclaimer with a font whose letters are no bigger than dust mites? If you want to say it, then say it…”ATTENTION CONSUMERS!!! THE CEREAL FLAKES IN THIS PHOTOGRAPH ARE FIFTY TIMES THEIR ORIGINAL SIZE.  OUR ONLY INTENTION IS TO SHOW TEXTURE.  WE DEBATED MAKING IT LARGER, BUT THAT WOULD’VE MADE THE FLAKES LOOK LIKE COW PATTIES…AND ANYTHING RESEMBLING DRIED POOP WOULD CERTAINLY GET US IN DEEP DOO-DOO.”

If they’re not showing texture, then it’s “detail.”  And if neither of those suits their liking, then companies like organic-conscious Kashi have taken their disclaimer not just a step further, but in an obscure direction. In fact, it’s hard to discern whether they’re serious about their word choice or are just flat out playing with us…

Extremely hungry, I was shoveling in spoonfuls of Kashi’s Cinnamon Harvest.  I repeatedly plunged my spoon into my bowl at such a voracious pace, I nearly bypassed the chewing phase and went straight to swallowing.  Slurping the milk. Smacking my lips. I can eat with the best of toddlers. And then, staring at the cereal box, I saw it: Kashi’s disclaimer…”Enlarged to show taste.”

Taste?

Since when can you see taste? That’s like biting into an apple and saying, “Boy, this sounds red.”  Just doesn’t make sense. I truly appreciate Kashi’s attempt to wrap my brain around the unthinkable, but entering any kind of fourth dimensional thinking goes way beyond the simplicity I prefer when looking at a cereal box.  When I try to comprehend a picture showing taste, all I can manage is a monstrous migraine headache.  Multiply my pain and suffering times…let’s say…one million people who eat Kashi cereals, and you’re not only looking at pharmacies that can’t keep up with the demand for headache drugs, but a class-action lawsuit demanding justice served through compensation.  Personally, I don’t think Kashi’s disclaimer has a prayer in a court of law.

But Kashi is not the company I’d have my crosshairs on.  It’d be Kellogg’s.  That’s right, the mother of all breakfast cereal companies. I, of course, would elect to represent myself.  After all, I know cereal.  It’s been the staple food for my entire life. At any time of the day, I can engulf a bowl of cereal like taking in a nice breath of fresh air.  Move aside you unqualified attorneys…I got this!…

 

Supreme Court of the United States

Ros Hill v. Kellogg’s

(Official transcript)

Elena Kagan, Associate Justice, presiding

 

Justice Kagan: “Mr. Hill, you are representing yourself in the case, is this not true?”

Me: “Trick question, your Honor?”

JK: “Mr. Hill do you know where you are?”

Me: “Thirty feet from you? Thirty-five? Your Honor, I’m not trying to be funny, but just answering the question.  I could’ve said third rock from the sun and that, too, would’ve been a correct answer.”

JK: “Mr. Hill, it’s now going on thirty seconds into this hearing, and you already have two strikes against you.  One more strike and I shall have you escorted out for contempt of court.  Am I being clear, Mr. Hill?”

Me: “Yes, ma’am—I mean, your Honor! Sorry, sorry, sorry! Please don’t strike me on that one.  An honest mistake, your Honor.”

JK: “Let us begin…Mr. Hill, I see that you are suing the Kellogg’s Corporation for the amount of $329 million for ‘bafflingly fraudulent advertising’ showing taste.  Bafflingly? Is that even a word?   Mr. Hill, I must ask you…Is this a typo in what I’m reading? Just how can you show taste? And how did you ever come up with that highly exorbitant amount?”

Me: “Good questions, your Honor.  $329 million is derived from my birthday…March 29. I figure if you’re gonna get a gift, then make it a birthday gift!  Moving on…Kellogg’s has a subsidiary company called Kashi, and on the front of the box of Cinnamon Harvest it states: ‘Enlarged to show taste.’ And I’m like, enlarged to show taste? Like what the F? I mean, like really?  Your Honor, I sense we’re on the same page here.  Quite a bafflingly mess, isn’t it?”

JK: “Mr. Hill, I need to say something.  And I’ll be blunt. Just how the hell did this case make it to the Supreme Court?”

Me: “Your Honor, I’ll be happy to answer that, but first I must ask one thing:  are you allowed to say ‘hell’ in court?  Cuz I almost dropped the F bomb a minute ago. And I’m thinkin’, if you can say hell, then I can maybe get away with f—.”

The last thing I remember was Justice Kagan putting three fingers in the air, just before some burly Marine-like dude put me in a choke hold and dragged me out of the room.   I wasn’t sure if the applause was for my great oratory or my strike-out at home plate.  I can only presume the former.

Miraculously, justice did prevail.  Well, sort of.

Though Justice Kagan denied my request of monetary compensation, she did acknowledge and reward my pain and suffering in her Opinion:

“It is with a strange unfolding of my Opinion regarding Ros Hill v. Kellogg’s that I have found an unfortunate understanding for a need to compensate Mr. Hill.  I say unfortunate, because I plain just don’t like the guy.  However, Justice never favors on the merits of likes or dislikes of personality.  Mr. Hill not-so-eloquently stated that ‘a million other poor souls whose minds are bent and harmed from trying to figure out Kashi’s fourth dimensional brain-fart, taste-enigma” should receive equal distribution for the amount of $329 million. I have denied that request.  However, as difficult as this is for me to say, I must agree that Kashi’s taste disclaimer is…god forgive me here…bafflingly bizarre.  It is with sound mind that I do hereby order Kellogg’s to compensate Mr. Hill’s mental anguish with 329 boxes of Cinnamon Harvest, all to have the exclusive disclaimer that will say: ‘Enlarged because it is.’  Happy Birthday, Mr. Hill. This case is over!”

 

Copyright Ros Hill 2017

The Drool King

Who are these people who can so easily put their fingers in their mouths and send out a loud and high-pitched whistle? It leaves you wondering if it’s more of a trick than them actually doing it.

The other day, Jane, a 78-year-old friend of mine, stood next to me as I attempted to get someone’s attention in the distance. Not exactly knowing what I was doing, I shoved my two pinkies deep into the sides of my mouth.  I’d seen people finger-whistle many times before, and I felt like I was doing what would create the right sound.  Unfortunately, instead of a seasoned whistler, I think I looked more like a fish caught on two lures. But that wasn’t nearly as bad as the sound I created—like the muffled hiss of an angry raccoon.  And though hissing raccoons don’t drool, this one did.  Like a Saint Bernard, I drooled down my chin only to make the mistake of quickly whipping my head away from Jane, which only guaranteed slobber slinging across my face.

I get frustrated when I fail at something that seems so simple…like the skateboard.  It’s a piece of wood on four little wheels, four inches off the street.  What could possibly go wrong at four inches?  My tailbone, wrists, elbows, knees, hips, chest, and back is what.  I’d probably make a full-body lift-off into the air like I had been ejected from a race car.  And then there are the jugglers—those kids in the park who talk to you about whatever it is you want to talk about as they juggle four, five, or six tennis balls.  Could there not be a more deceptive skill than juggling?  Two tennis balls, and I can juggle with the best of them.  Add one more and I’m fumbling around in all directions like I’m dodging a swarm of bees.  I know, I know…these things that people do…they just make it look so easy.  They’re not world-class athletes.  They’re just average Joes and Janes.  And that’s the thing that kills me…if they’re average, then what am I?

As my daughter, Bailey, would often remind me throughout her sarcastic childhood…I’m a loser.

Certainly I’d perform the whistle on my second attempt. I put my pinkies back in my mouth, but this time not so far that it looked as if I were probing for my tonsils. I set them in half-way, then blew out the same repulsive sound while spilling more spittle down my chin, understandably causing Jane to shudder and squirm.  I mean, I was an analogous disaster at work:  part fish, part raccoon, and part dog—a hybrid mess gone wrong in the animal kingdom.

“Is this what you’re trying to do?” says Jane, putting her two index fingers in her mouth.  Jane sends out a whistle that pierces my ears with a sharp delivery.  I’m awed by how easy she makes it look.  How many years had it taken her to perfect this penetrating shrill?  The person, whose attention I had been trying to get, turns immediately. I wave to him, and he waves back.  Just a friendly hello was all I was after, as I take full credit for the whistle.

“Really?” says Jane.

“Really,” I say. “Now watch this…”

I put my index fingers in my mouth so they’re positioned in a “V” with just a small space between the finger tips.   IT WAS THE INDEX FINGERS!!…NOT THE PINKIES!!…HOW EASY IS THIS!!!???  I am doing exactly as Jane did.

One deep inhalation, and then I blow air forcefully through the gap.  Such power. Such precision.  Such slobber stringing over my lips.  I’m a disaster.  Even the raccoon hiss is gone.  It sounds more like a suction device during a dental procedure.

“That’s pretty bad,” Jane says chuckling. “Prehhh-ty bad.”

I look at Jane and her god-awful righteous smile.  I want to say “to hell with it,” and push this near-80-year-old woman off her feet.  I want to tie her to a skateboard and send her speeding down a hill.  And though admittedly ill-behaved, before I do that, I want to spit on her feet and tell her, “Farewell!”

But I can’t.  There’s a bit of a problem…I’m out of saliva.

 

Copyright Ros Hill 2017

The Lot

There was a time when weather forecasters were called weathermen. But, as women entered that industry’s workforce, the occupation’s title no longer worked, so a change was needed.

And that’s where I get curious…

Why are meteorologists called meteorologists? Why aren’t they called weatherologists? Biologists study biology. Physiologists study physiology. Psychologists study psychology. It would certainly seem logical that meteorologists would study meteors. But they don’t.

The weather forecasting industry snagged the meteorologist name first, leaving the real meteor scientists with “meteoriticist.” Takes me about four times to finally pronounce it correctly. And even then, I sound like I’m calling someone a “meteorite racist.” “HEY, YOU!!! YOU’RE NOTHING BUT A BIG FLYING SPACE ROCK HATER!!!”

I mean, if there was a choice to decide between weatherologist or meteorologist, how difficult could it have been? I can only imagine the weather forecasting powers-that-be, formulating the identity of their industry as they sat around a solid oak conference table in their think-tank room…

Genius #1: “These people who will study and forecast the weather…just what shall we call them?”

Genius #2: “Weather trolls?”

There are 18 geniuses in the room. (Yes, it’s a very big table.) None of them chuckle at weather trolls, as they discuss its possibilities. Except for genius #9. He gives it a big thumbs down, but is immediately swatted on the top of the head by genius #10 (who, by the way, is a much larger genius).

Genius #9: “What was that for!!?”

Genius #10: “You’re acting like a child.”

Genius #9: “I’m acting like a…we’re discussing ‘weather trolls’, and I’m acting like a child? Seriously…weather trolls!?”

Genius #1: “Alright #9, calm down. Any other suggestions?”

Genius #4: “Weather puppets.”

Genius #9 stands up and shouts, “THIS IS THEEEEEE MOST ASININE MEETING IN THE HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION!!!!” As genius #10 raises his hand, threatening to swat again, #9 cowers in silence.

Other geniuses give more ideas…
“Weather cops”
“Storm wolves”
“Masters of Prediction”
“Humidity hounds”
“Climate clowns”

Genius #9: “Who the hell suggested ‘climate clowns’? #4 was that you again?”

#4 proudly raises his hand and nods.

Genius #1: “Perhaps, #9, you have a better suggestion than those already proposed?”

Genius #9: “I do have a better one.”

Genius #1: “Which is…?”

Genius #9: “Weatherologist.”

Genius #10: “That does it!! Enough of your smart mouth!!”

#10 yanks #9 up out of his seat, then puts him in a headlock before delivering five stinging swats and a scalp-burrowing knuckle rub.

Genius #1: “Weatherologist!!? WEATHEROLOGIST!!!!? #9 this is preposterous!!! Out to The Lot!!!”

Genius #9: “Noooooo!!! Not The Lot!! Please, I beg of you!!”

It is all too late. #10 grabs him by the shirt collar and, with the assistance of four other geniuses, he is escorted down a long hallway to the front glass doors of the building. There, he looks out at the cold, snowy January day where a sharp wind cuts through some barren trees. Genius #1 walks up to his side and hands him a snow shovel.

Genius #1: “You know the rule: Act like a child, pay the price.”

Genius #9: “Seriously, sir…you guys were actually discussing weather troll as a possibility? Was weatherologist was really that bad of an idea? I mean, seems like the obvious choice to me.”

Genius #1: “Preposterous!”

Out the doors he went while they threw his coat and gloves at him. He and the seventeen others had been called to the emergency meeting on a Sunday morning. The building was normally closed on the weekends. But on this particular day, the geniuses had convened to make history by name-branding the weather specialists.

The Lot—the building’s parking lot was covered with ten inches of snow. It would take #9 the rest of the day to shovel it. If he declined the job, he would forever be stripped of his genius status. And that, he knew, was simply not worth it. After all, he’d been in this situation before, when, in the spring, he had to mow the perimeter lawns. Weather trolls. Climate clowns. Good lord, what will they ever think of next?

As #9 shoveled into the night, the geniuses settled into the trenches of their marathon meeting, deliberating over more identity suggestions. “Storm troopers” was at the top of the list, until genius #1 mentioned it might have a slight copyright conflict with Star Wars.

Genius #4: “Then what about Darth troopers?”

Genius #1: “Darth troopers? Are you serious? I mean that has nothing to do with anything. That doesn’t even make Star Wars sense. #4 you’re getting real close to a snow shovel.”

Genius #10: “Shall I swat him?”

Genius #1: “No, not yet. But what you can do is give me a winning suggestion. No one’s going home until we finish what we set out to do.”

As another hour rolled by, appetites grew hungry, and pizza was delivered. Crusts were tossed out to Genius #9, who was nearing completion of his back-breaking punishment. It was customary to be fed like a dog when working The Lot.

Gnawing on a crust with the hint of pepperoni, he saw a streak of light cut across the night sky. He knew shooting stars were more common in the summer months, so it was a bit of a surprise. Could this be a sign?

And then it hit him: Meteor!! He quickly finished his last few feet of shoveling, then ran inside the building to rejoin the meeting….

Genius #1: “Welcome back #9. Finish the job?”

Genius #9: “Yes, sir. And thank you so much for the table scraps. Delectable.”

Genius #1: “Do I detect a hint of unnecessary childish sarcasm?”

Genius #9: “My apologies. Sir, if I may…I have a revelation to share with the group. I believe I have a worthy identity suggestion.”

Genius #1: “Then proceed.”

Genius #9: “Let me ask all of you: What single force of nature has the ability to alter the Earth’s weather patterns? And I’m talking about a global scale.”

Genius #4: “Hurricanes?”

Genius #9: “Nope.”

Genius #10: “Such a stupid question. Blizzards.”

Genius #1: “Blizzards? Global blizzards? How might that be possible #10?”

Genius #10: “I dunno.”

Genius #1: “You know #10, sometimes I really wonder how you ever achieved genius status. I swear you’ve got a lot more brawn than brains.”

#9 couldn’t help but smile at this little beating #10 was finally getting.

Genius #1: “Ok, # 9…cut to the chase. Enlighten me.”

Genius #9: “Meteors, sir. A giant meteor could generate global climatic changes. And only one person could forecast it all. Get where I’m going with this?”

Genius #1: “Are you suggesting…meteorologist?”

Genius #9: “Yes I am, sir.”

Genius #10: “He’s an idiot!”

Genius #1: “He’s a GENIUS!!!”

Genius #10: “WHAT!!!?”

Genius #1: “Absolute genius!! And you #10, you big thug….to The Lot!! All that snow #9 shoveled—I want it back where it came from!”

It would take #10 well into the early morning hours in order to finish the unprecedented job of putting the snow back from where it had previously been shoveled. Not long after he was sent outside, the remaining geniuses had voted unanimously to go with “meteorologist” as the title to call anyone who studied or forecasted the weather. Of course, Genius #4 strongly suggested they vote for “meteorologist Darth trooper dude”—a suggestion that caused Genius #1 to lose his patience, sending #4 out to The Lot as well.

Genius #1: “It’s hard to find good geniuses anymore.”

Genius #9: “Well, I’m glad I could help”

Genius #1: “And to think that you actually considered weatherologist as a possibility.”

Genius #9: “Yeah, just what was I thinking?”

Copyright Ros Hill 2017

Living in the Moment

So that you don’t get your hopes up, let it be known that my daughter did not get the puppy.

Now, let’s begin…

Bailey is a sophomore at St. Edwards University, where she’s a shooting guard on the basketball team.  She was recruited for various reasons: ball handling, a high basketball IQ, game swagger, and she can drain 3s from downtown.

It’s a sweet sight watching your daughter’s 3-point shot sail through the air with such accuracy that you can predict the oncoming swish solely based on its trajectory.  But even sweeter is when she plays for Division II St. Edwards and her opponent is Division I Texas State University, and that 3-point shot rains down with victorious redemption.  After all, she didn’t return to Texas State’s home court just to put on another 0-11 shooting performance like she did the year before.  Besides, this was her hometown, and she was determined to not let people walk away with another memory like that one.  After she made the game’s opening basket, she began positioning herself beyond the arc and sank three 3s.  One shot in particular was a quick release that she nailed after a stare-down into the eyes of her defender. The ball appeared to cradle itself in the net—a perfect swish that silenced the home crowd.

After St. Edwards’ opening 10-0 lead, the closest Texas State would come was nine points. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Hilltoppers led the Bobcats by 20.  In the end, it was St. Edwards upsetting Texas State for the first time in school history, 65-51.

The stars were lined up for Bailey. So many parts of the game were markers of success, and would solidify themselves as everlasting memories for her. As a parent, and being someone who had played basketball for a large part of my life, I lived vicariously through the game. I felt just as much a part of the victory as she did.  Of course, her team could have lost to Texas State, and I would still be the proud father as I am at all of her games. Pride isn’t easily removed after you’ve coached your daughter since she was a 5-year-old.

I envisioned her riding on the bus back to Austin—celebrating the defeat of a Division I opponent. Bodies bouncing in their seats to the catchy rhythms of hip-hop. These kind of victories don’t come often. What else could possibly be on her mind? I texted her to say congratulations.

Me: What a game! You played great!

Bailey: Thanks.

Me: Your three ball was on.  That must have felt so good, especially on Texas State’s home court.

Bailey:  It was pretty awesome.

She sent another text directly after that one. It was accompanied with the photo of a puppy.

Bailey: Will you get him for me for Christmas?

Me: The puppy’s for sale?

Bailey: Yeah! My friend’s mom is selling him. Isn’t he cuuuuuute!!!?

Was I missing something here?  Was there a gap in time that I had skipped over? Was Einstein’s theory of general relativity at work? Could this be the first ever “telephonic wormhole” whereby our conversation entered a shortcut in a space-time continuum, and all permanent basketball dialogue had been sucked into oblivion? Thirty minutes ago she had quite possibly experienced the biggest victory of her collegiate career, but now she was asking about a puppy?  I wanted to talk about the two steals she made, the offensive charge she took, and her invaluable shooting contributions. It was time for a phone call. She answered with instant enthusiasm.

“Can we get the puppy? Isn’t he cuuuuuute!!? Pleeease, Dad, can we?”

“Bailey, you’re in college.”

“Isn’t he cuuuuuute!!?”

“Bailey, you’re—”

“He’s adooorrrable!!”

I had to speak quickly or I was neeeeeever going to get a word in.

“You’re a college student. You’d see the puppy only on the weekends. We’d be the ones raising it.”

“The puppy’s a he, not an it,” she said assertively.

“Okay, a he.  You wouldn’t see him much.”

“But he’s adooorrrable!!”

“Yes, he is. I can’t deny that. But, Bay, if you’re going to get a dog, then that dog needs to bond with you. Seeing him only on the weekends isn’t going to cut it. Wait till after college before you get one.”

It was the first quiet of our conversation.  I imagined our local newspaper’s game coverage headline:  ST. EDWARDS UPSETS STATE. BUT PUPPY HAS NO CHANCE. FATHER KILLS MOMENT. “There he is!!!!!!!” the townsfolk would angrily yell, brandishing battle axes and torches to guide them into the night. “The puppy hater!!! Do not let him flee!!! Off with his head!!! He is no father!!! He is but evil’s rot!!!”

“Bay, am I making any sense?”

The excitement had drained from her voice.  She had conceded to my suggestion. “Okay,” she said. “I guess I see your point.”

Before we hung up, a curiosity loomed in my mind.  “I got a question. This game that you just played, this incredible win—are you excited about it?”

“Of course I am, why?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Guess I’m just a little surprised about the puppy.”

“What about the puppy?”

“Well, that you’re mentioning him like the game didn’t even happen.”

“Dad, it was a great game, but it’s over. I mean, yeah it was a huge win, but…isn’t he soooo adooorrrable!!?”

Our conversation ended soon after.  I couldn’t help but smile as I now understood the simplicity of her mindset. The game was over. She had given it her full attention. There was no puppy out there on the court, nor part of any discussion on the bench or in the locker room. But on the bus ride home, as they shared the highlights of the game, the normalcy of their lives returned. Snapchat, Twitter, music, homework, life’s dramas, what to eat, and a puppy all surfaced amongst their discussions.

Here I was though, talking to my daughter whom I had coached in basketball leagues and tournaments for so many years. My mind was cemented in a vicarious state.  I wanted to talk at length about nothing more than the memorable details of the upset over Texas State.  This kind of victory doesn’t come often.

And neither did those moments with your daughter, when—little did she know—she inadvertently taught you that there’s really only one thing sweeter than victory…

Living in the moment.

 

Copyright Ros Hill 2017

Lowes Lawn, Garden, Bank and Trust

One day it became perfectly clear. I had just pulled the starter cord of a brand new Black & Decker weed eater, and began slaughtering a patch of dandelions, when it dawned on me that I’d been conducting all of my financial transactions at the wrong place. Get this: my money was in a bank. That’s right…a bank! For reasons you’ll soon understand, I kissed the handle of that wondrous weed eater, and returned to my slaughter.

I’ll admit, I was a slow learner. It took years until I finally understood I could get more bang for my buck by depositing my money into a more rewarding and innovative financial institution. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be banking at my local Lowes Home Improvement store. Or, as I like to call it: Lowes Lawn, Garden, Bank and Trust

Understand that while I do have a checking account with my regular bank, I keep as little in it as possible, but just enough to pay the bills. My reasoning is because banks don’t give me light bulbs, ceiling fans, power tools, lawn and garden equipment, or lumber when I give them money. Traditional banks are stingy. I once went to my bank and deposited $500.00, and they gave me a sour apple Dum Dum lollipop about the size of a small marble. Lasted maybe three minutes. The day before at Lowes, I deposited $129.00 and they let me walk out with a 16′ aluminum extension ladder which will last for years. Pretty obvious which financial institution I prefer.

If you’re feeling a bit confused here, then let me explain how the Lowes banking system works…

It was a Saturday morning, and already I was off to a bad start. I had gotten up early to water the garden, but couldn’t because there was a leak in the hose. Upon closer inspection, I noticed it was more than just an simple puncture. It looked as though something had tried to eat the hose. Perhaps a vermin of some kind. Like a raccoon or opossum, or even a wayward sewer rat whose sight might have been impaired with cataracts or rodent glaucoma. Whatever the case, I had a damaged hose that needed to be replaced. Off to Lowes I went.

Since I’m very familiar with Lowes, I headed straight to aisle 21 and grabbed a 25′ hose. I took it to one of the cashiers (or as I call them, tellers). The conversation went like this…

“Hello!” said the upbeat female teller. “Looks like you got some watering to do, eh?”

“Sure do,” I said. “I think a vision-impaired sewer rat tried to eat the one at home. Musta thought it was sausage or a defenseless garden snake.”

“A rat would eat green sausage? Does green sausage even exist?”

“A blind rat would, yes. Perhaps a special green sausage for St. Patrick’s Day,” I said, putting the packaged hose on the countertop.

She picked up the hose and scanned it. “$25.00.”

“Great!” I said energetically. “If I deposit $25.00, then I get the hose?”

“Deposit?”

“Yes, deposit. If I give you $25.00, then I’m rewarded with the hose, correct?”

“Rewarded?”

Smiling I said, “You guys aren’t just innovative, but you’re fun too! Rewarded for my deposit—I get the hose, correct?”

“Uh…yeah…in a manner of speaking, that’s correct.”

And in a manner of speaking, this is what I love about Lowes. It’s your money. People return their deposit rewards all the time to get cash back in their pockets. That’s what separates Lowes from conventional banks. At Lowes if you don’t like the hammer they gave you for depositing money, then just say, “Hey, I don’t like the hammer.” And they’ll not only take back the hammer, but give you money for not liking it. I mean, think about it…try to return a Dum Dum lollipop that a bank gives you after a deposit. Good luck with that! I once heard of a man who deposited over $10,000 and the bank gave him four lollipops as a way of saying thank you. Four lollipops!! I bet there’s not a single bank that has a chainsaw in their back closet! Outrageous!!

This appalling reality sent me on an immediate visit to my bank. It was time they heard the facts! I told them how Lowes was a far more inventive financial institution. I explained to them, in detail, the Lowes deposit/rewards system. They said I was crazy. They said I should be institutionalized and locked away for good. They said banks save your money, and Lowes doesn’t. I told them they were crazier, as all I have to do is return a reward item and I’ll get back the same money I had deposited. I also told them in a fiery voice (putting the security guard on alert), “THAT LOWES DOESN’T MAKE ME FILL OUT DEPOSIT SLIPS EITHER!!!” At this point there was no need hearing what these imbeciles had further to say. So I concluded., “AND UNLIKE THIS GOD-FORSAKEN HELL BANK, AT LOWES I DON’T FEEL LIKE I HAVE TO WHISPER AS IF I’M TALKING IN A DAMN PUBLIC LIBRARY!!!”

And off I marched; head high and chest out like some kind of morphed half-human half-puffer fish. If only the Board of Directors at Lowes had seen my performance. If only they had witnessed how I defended their great banking institution. Oh, the shovels, flashlights, and gallons of wood stain they would reward me with!

The cameras! Of course! The bank video cameras had captured my entire debate. As a long-time customer, all I needed to do was request a copy of the video, or, if it came time after their numerous refusals, I would alert the media of the harassment I had suffered. That, perhaps, might be the best plan as the Board of Directors could then watch my defending arguments on all the major news network channels. I can only assume without any reservation that my status as a member of the Bank of Lowes will be upgraded from “Basic” to “Distinguished Platinum”.

Ladies and gentlemen, eternal rewards are headed my—

“Mr. Sewol…Mr. Sewol! Back away from the computer, please…Oh, just great…you’ve hacked into the blog site again…Look, I need you to take your medication, then let’s get you back to your room. Come along now, Mr. Sewol.”

                            Copyright Ros Hill 2016