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The Soupster faces off with old wisdom.
The airline passengers staggered out of the open doorway, blinking with disbelief that they had finally made it home. Each had a different story to tell. Collectively, the passengers had been spread over several towns as dense fog and stiff winds grounded planes throughout the region.
The passengers greeted their loved ones and wandered over to the baggage claim area. After only a moment, the yellow light at the airport started spinning and the luggage started coming around.
In the crowd waiting for bags, stood the Soupster. He sidled up to George “Thread” Cabot, known throughout Our Town as a speaker of brief, familiar comments. Both men scanned the passing luggage for their bags.
“Thread,” the Soupster greeted him. “You been traveling, too?”
“There’s no place like home,” Thread said. “Home is where the heart is.”
“Got that right,” said the Soupster. “Seems like ages since I’ve seen you, Thread.”
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” Thread said.
“That’s nice of you to say,” said the Soupster, truly pleased. “Oops!” he said suddenly and reached across Thread to snag the first of his two bags.
“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” Thread said, smiling.
“How many bags are you waiting for?” asked the Soupster.
“Two and two do not make five.”
“Four bags,” said the Soupster. “I’ve only got one more to grab.”
“To each according to his needs,” said Thread. Then he lunged forward and piled two cardboard boxes, one after the other, onto the floor. Each was labeled with Thread’s name.
“Think outside the box,” said Thread, anticipating the Soupster’s curiousity.
“Thread,” the Soupster said. “Why do you always talk in cliches?”
“Sticks and stones…” began Thread.
“Now don’t get riled up,” said the Soupster. Thread reached over and grabbed a large suitcase that blended well with the cardboard boxes.
“I’m not criticizing you.”
“Every bird loves to hear himself sing,” said Thread.
“Well, now we’re only waiting for one more bag each,” the Soupster added. In a moment, they appeared — first Thread’s, then the Soupster’s. Thread piled his four items onto a rolling cart.
“All good things must come to an end,” Thread said.
“Such an enigma!” the Soupster thought, looking at Thread..”Say, Thread,” he said. “Why are you named `Thread?’”
“A thread in time saves nine,” said Thread.
“That’s `a “stitch” in time saves nine,’” said the Soupster. “I’m sure of it.”
“Then it’s George `Stitch’ Cabot,” said the former Thread. aloud.
“Doesn’t bother you?” asked the Soupster.
“Nothing is certain but death and taxes,” said Stitch.
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The Soupster hears about seasonal remedies.
There was a long line of people waiting at the airport, but none of them were flying that day. Instead, they waited to submit their names in the annual Customer Commensuration Event, where the airline awarded pairs of unrestricted tickets to three writers of the best essays titled, “Why I Need to Leave Our Town This Fall.”
Ah, autumn in Our Town, the Soupster thought, as he waited in line clutching his essay. A dark and wet autumn in Our Town, indeed. Like trouble piling on itself, the rain caused there to be more rain.
“It doesn’t rain, it pours,” a wise man once said.
“Oh, it gets better after Thanksgiving,” said Shirley “Bo” Burley, standing behind the Soupster and reading his mind. “Once the Christmas lights go up and cut the gloom, our mood lightens, too.”
“True, Bo,” said the Soupster. “To me, the absolute worst is the day after they change the clocks and instead of it getting dark at 5pm, which you’ve just gotten used to, it’s dark by 4pm, which is an unreasonable time for it to get dark.”
“Never lived up north, have you?” Bo asked.
“No,” said the Soupster.
“Wimp!” said Bo. “How would you like to go through a couple of months when the sun doesn’t make it over the horizon?”
“You’re just determined to lighten up my mood, aren’t you, Bo?” said the Soupster.
“Here’s a good `Coping with the Fall’ story,” said Bo, barreling on and accepting the Soupster’s implied consent. “You know Cleon, the computer guy?”
The Soupster nodded.
“He used to make house calls and one day, in the doldrums between Alaska Day and Thanksgiving, he got a call from that cute many-sided house out the road,” Bo explained.
“So Cleon strapped his small repair case to his bike and set out. Cleon loved his bike, but only a few minutes into his ride, he questioned his decision to take it. The temperature hovered right around freezing — depending on the microclimate Cleon traversed, the rain passed back and forth between liquid water and some snowish kind of thing. You know how it is, Soupster.
“As a shivering Cleon mounted the stairs to the house, he could hear music. Jimmy Buffett. Margaritaville. The door opened to a big, sweating guy wearing a toga. Inside, it was 90 degrees. There were people sprawled all over the sand-colored carpet. All their drinks had little bamboo umbrellas. A cardboard palm tree had been erected and a stuffed parrot perched on a corrugated branch.
Without a word, the big man showed Cleon into his office where a computer sat on the desktop. Cleon got to work. After about a half hour, Cleon stood up and stretched, another cyber problem solved.
Just then, the big man returned with a large can of tropical punch and two glasses. Cleon told him the machine was all fixed.
“Good job, fine fellow!” he said to Cleon. “I am the ruler of my Kingdom. I control the weather here. And now, thanks to you, I can also surf the Internet again!”
“So,” the man said with a wink. “When it rains, I reign.” He held up a glass and dispensed from the can of punch. “And when it pours, I pour.”
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The Soupster theorizes about bear behavior.
The Soupster heard an incredible bear story the other day. It seems his friend Eddie was bicycling to work and, unbeknownst to him, was being chased by a brown bear. A very alert driver saw this and pulled into the parking lot to head the bear off. Eddie never knew he was being chased by a bear until he got to work, when someone came in and told him.
This bear had been a recurring problem in the neighborhood for a few weeks, and there was even talk of euthanizing the animal. The Soupster had his own theory as to why this particular bear was so hungry and bold.
The Soupster’s summer walks had always included the bridge over the river inside the park. And this year, like always, he had closely monitored the humpy run, while striking up conversation with tourists in the park.
So the Soupster, with his daily monitoring of visitors and humpies, is here to tell you that it was a normal-to-very-good run this year. To the delight of the tourists – er, visitors – the river was plugged with humpies this summer, and there was plenty of water to get them upstream as far as they wanted to go. In early August, there were lots of humpy carcasses on the riverbanks for the birds and bears, going all the way down the trail down to the mouth of the river, where it empties into the ocean.
For further proof that this year started out as a normal run, the Soupster noticed that the smell test at the post office was normal. In a normal year with a west wind you can smell the rotting humpy carcasses at the post office. With a southwest wind, you can’t. By mid-September, in a year with a good run, you can smell them way past the post office, all the way to the auto parts store.
So what happened? If you recall, later in August, we got a couple days of near torrential rain. The river went up to flood level and – sadly – all the lovely humpy carcasses were flushed out to sea. The late spawners were all that was left. And that was barely enough for the birds, let alone the bears.
The Soupster further theorized that bears are very territorial and that this particular older bear, not finding his accustomed winter’s stash of dead protein by the river, was driven by hunger to committing the “crime” of being too familiar with humans. Thus, Eddie’s bear had a long rap sheet – chasing Eddie to work, charging a man on his porch, knocking over numerous garbage cans, and breaking into two garages and a parked pizza delivery vehicle.
Perhaps mercifully, Eddie’s bear disappeared shortly after his autumn adventures, and did not have to be put down – but had he chosen to stick around, his fate would have been determined by the fact that you cannot have brown bears living in town and becoming familiar with humans. Bears are just too unpredictable.
– Submitted by Ron Rau
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The Soupster hears a memorable fish story.
“… and that was the most memorable fish I ever caught,” said a reminiscing Soupster.
“My most memorable,” countered Charles “Chick” Howell III, “never even bit my hook.”
The Soupster signaled to the brewmaster to fill their tasting cups, this being an “Ale to the Chief” pre-election Tasting & Toasting. Every other week, a small, bi-partisan group of Our Towners stopped by the brewery to preview the latest offerings and compliment each other on their political acumen. The group took a two-month break after presidential elections, bi-partisan compliments being difficult to generate any sooner.
“I had just bought my boat,” said Chick Howell, continuing with his story. “And I really didn’t know anything about running it. Nevertheless, my co-worker Sandra asked me to take her visiting father, along with her husband, out fishing.”
“You said `yes’ of course,” said the Soupster.
“I certainly did,” Chick said, laughing softly and looking at his lap. “Even though I didn’t really know how to run the boat, I said yes.
“Well, when Roy and Dennis showed up – Roy was the father and Dennis the son-in-law – Roy got right into telling me he was immensely happy to be going fishing with a knowledgeable person, a ‘real Alaskan,’” Chick continued.
“Roy obviously wasn’t talking about Dennis,” Chick said. “And he was dead wrong about me.”
“Reminds me,” said the Soupster, “that is, what you’re saying does – is how people assume things about you when you say you live in Alaska. A guy on the phone once asked me if I traveled to work by dog sled.”
“Anyway,” continued Chick. “My heart was in my throat the whole voyage. I don’t really know why Roy didn’t notice. I think Dennis did.
“Roy kept ragging on Dennis and complimenting me. I found myself rooting for Dennis. We were jigging for halibut at this time and I brought the first one aboard, about 35 lbs. Roy being from Cincinnati, he’d never seen a fish that size. Now he was sure I was the big Alaska fisherman. He took pictures of the fish on the boat, of me and the fish and of himself with the fish. I figured he was going to show that picture to his friends back in Ohio and claim the fish. Didn’t bother me. I was happy to be part of his little scam.
“But I wasn’t willing to join in on Roy’s ragging of his son-in-law. I tried to be especially nice to Dennis, but he was so miserable. Especially since me and Roy started pulling in fish after fish, while Dennis scored zilch. The fish were all smaller than my first one.
“Hours went by. I started getting sleepy and instead of actively jigging, I held my rod steady and let the rocking of the boat do the work. Roy was sure this was some ‘real Alaska’ fishing secret and emulated me, compliments flying. Dennis looked like if you pushed him overboard, he wouldn’t have struggled.
“’Got something!’ said Dennis, springing immediately back to full blood. Unlike my lackadaisical style, Dennis mightily hauled up the line and reeled in the slack, then did it again. There was no finesse. All the frustration of Dennis’ day poured down that line and into the sea.”
The Soupster thoughtfully sipped his ale. “That was the fish?” he asked Chick.
“Yup,” Chick said. “Not a barn door, but that fish was twice as big as mine – near 80 lbs. Dwarfed anything Roy caught. Dennis’ look of triumph was my most memorable fish.”
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The Soupster sees a woman whose reunion with her daughter compels her to cut cheese.
Linda Castille tapped her foot nervously and hugged her arms around herself as she waited for her daughter Daisy to come down the ramp at Our Town’s airport. The 33-year-old mother and the five-year-old had been apart for most of the past year while Mom finished a course in medical imaging. Daisy had lived with Linda’s own mom, who made the worst grilled cheese sandwiches in the world (more on this later).
There she was! Daisy broke free of the flight attendant, ran across the lobby and jumped up into her mother’s arms. Linda hugged Daisy and started crying.
Daisy sniveled a little, too, but said, “Don’t be sad, Mommy.”
“Oh, no, I’m so happy,” Linda said. “I’m so happy we’re together!”
Walking briskly by with his carry-on, the Soupster smiled at the hugs and kisses of the warm reunion. Hand-in-hand. Daisy and Linda went home.
“Romeo!” Daisy squealed with delight as she leaped through the front door ahead of her mom and lifted up their overweight orange tabby. The cat looked unruffled and started purring.
“Romeo is purring,” Daisy happily told Linda.
“He’s pleased that you’re back,” said Linda.
“I want to see all of them!” squealed Daisy, referring to her large collection of stuffed animals. She set down Romeo, who scampered off. Daisy scampered, too, into her room and plush menagerie.
Linda took the opportunity to let her mother know that Daisy had arrived safely in Our Town. “Thanks, Mom!” she said into the phone.
“Me and your father are very proud of you for sticking it out in school and we were only too happy to have your lovely girl stay with us,” said Linda’s mom. “With your new job and better salary, things should be looking up!”
Linda’s mom told her that Daisy was fun to have, except on the subject of eating. “I thought she was supposed to love grilled cheese sandwiches?”
Linda winced, remembering all the unappetizing food served throughout her childhood. Linda loved her mother – an excellent seamstress, nurse, an accomplished painter and an athlete – but a terrible cook.
As Linda reminisced her taste buds ached. And then she went and got the cheese (which she cut), the butter and the bread. She heated up a frying pan and prepared two sandwiches.
Daisy came in and sat at the kitchen table. Linda put a grilled cheese sandwich in front of her. Daisy made a horrified face, “I hate grilled cheese!”
“No, honey,” said Linda, “you love grilled cheese. Try some.”
Daisy looked skeptical, but took a tiny bite. Her face brightened like the sun. “You’re right, Mommy,” she said. “I hate grilled cheese. But I love your grilled cheese!”
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