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The Soupster unexpectedly wears the pants in the house.
Originally Published June 14, 2007
His nephew wore the largest blue jeans a flummoxed Soupster had ever seen on a fellow human being. That is, in the unlikely event that a well-ripened Soupster and this particular 13-year old boy would consider each other a fellow anything.
The boy was marooned, washed up on Our Town’s shores — the Soupster pitied the boy that much at least. His parents — the Soupster’s sister, one — left their son behind while on a three-day cruise to Skagway and back on the sometimes romantic Alaska Marine Highway.
It had been four years since the Soupster had seen his nephew, who had metamorphosed from a sweet and somewhat shy 9-year-old into his present state, like a caterpillar that turned into a wasp.
“Uncle,” said the boy. “Aren’t your bored living here? It’s kind of like Alcatraz.”
“It’s anything but,” the Soupster thought, but he held his tongue. The Soupster sought to keep his confidence level especially high because of the coming visit of a cruise ship carrying the girl, now woman, that the Soupster had always thought of as the “Sweetheart of Sigma Chi.” He’d dated Sally briefly in college while she was estranged from her then boyfriend and now husband, Thurston. Then and now, Thurston was successful, which the Soupster considered a fair deal for being named Thurston.
The Soupster hadn’t wanted Sally to return to Thurston and had always entertained the idea that, deep down, she hadn’t wanted to either. “What if she picked me?” the Soupster had often thought and it was that kind of thought that made him excited about Sally’s visit.
“Those blue jeans, of yours,” the Soupster said to the boy, the best defense being offense. “You know, big pants are imitating prison clothing where they take away your belt and your pants fall down.”
The boy stormed from the room.
The Soupster and his nephew kept a wordless truce for the rest of the day. He spent the morning of Sally’s visit cleaning house, while the boy was off on a neighbor’s boat. The Soupster had just finished the boy’s laundry, which included the enormous blue jeans.
The Soupster picked them up. Off the boy, the blue jeans didn’t seem so huge. The freshly washed jean cloth was soft and still warm from the dryer. The Soupster looked to the left and then to the right. And then he put on the pants. They fit — not like a glove — but better! The years had increased the Soupster to the point where the blue jeans fit as well as jeans had when the Soupster was in college.
He wore the blue jeans all the way to the docks, where he peered at the passengers coming ashore. “Sally!” he called out.
“I can’t believe it’s you!” Sally exclaimed as she neared. “Thurston’s coming.”
The two old friends embraced. Thurston or not, the Soupster felt great. Sally looked him over with a wicked pleased grin. “Nice pants,” she said.
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The Soupster discovers sometimes you already have just what you need.
It seemed to Chauncey that almost everyone in Our Town had an opinion about The Giant Greenhouse Project. He thought local officials had provided more than enough information over the last few years to make sure the community was well-informed. After all, this was the largest construction project in the town’s history and, while the greenhouse had its detractors, most folks agreed that it was necessary. So, why were a few still not convinced that it was worth whatever it would take? Chauncey shook his head.
The problem was that there simply wasn’t an adequate supply of coffee in town. Storage levels were constantly running low, even with weekly shipments flown in from the lower 48, and the cost and environmental impact were enormous. Didn’t people understand the difficulties of maintaining a sustainable drink like that on a remote island that was too cold and wet to grow beans?
Chauncey was the first to admit that The Giant Greenhouse was an ambitious undertaking. Decades earlier, the town’s leaders had established a small coffee plantation in the mountains. They had hoped to capitalize on the “mountain-grown” slogan and export beans around the world, but, unfortunately, a large corporation used that marketing strategy first. Try as the town did to make a go of it, the poor coffee trees failed to produce more than a meager crop.
Chauncey recalled the excitement when a volunteer community work group came up with the idea of building a giant greenhouse to protect the coffee trees from inclement weather. The group met tirelessly for a year to design the concept and then put together a presentation that received unanimous support from elected officials. Town engineers sprang into action and hired a consulting firm that submitted a report confirming the feasibility of the project. By that time, the shortage had become more critical and local coffee drinkers were experiencing soaring prices and periodic shortages – or rolling blackouts, as they were called.
Now, three years later, after even more studies, designs and contract awards, construction had finally begun on the greenhouse. The excitement in town was contagious – Chauncey decided to go see for himself how the greenhouse was coming. On his bike ride out there, he spotted the Soupster who was sitting on a bench at Whale Park, drinking from a coffee cup. Chauncey pulled into the parking lot and paused. “I see you’re having your morning coffee.”
“Oh, this isn’t coffee”, the Soupster said. “It’s alder tea. Would you like a cup?”
“Alder tea…I’ve never heard of such a thing,” Chauncey said, as he took the drink from the Soupster and sipped it slowly.
“Good lord!” he shouted. It’s delicious! It tastes just like coffee!”
“I know,” the Soupster said with a broad grin, “and all you have to do to make it is boil seawater and alder tree shavings together. Guess we’re not going to run out of those two ingredients any time soon!”
Submitted by Mary Ann Jones
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The Soupster and a friend get philosophical about travel.
“How was your trip to Southeast Asia?” asked the Soupster between sips of a creamy latte.
“Amazing!” Kate replied. “I’m still dreaming of Thai curries – green beans so fresh they squeak when you chew them, in coconut milk with ginger and basil. I could have a bowl right now,” she confessed, chomping on her bagel. “And a drink of cold juice straight from a coconut – top chopped off and a straw sticking out,” she added.
“Make that two!” the Soupster said.
Kate gazed at the shiny glass jar of cookies on the counter, deep in thought. “Travelling’s fun,” she mused, but there’s something about being able to walk into a café back in Our Town, see familiar folks, get a big mug of freshly ground coffee with real milk, and spend time visiting with people you know well.”
“It’s true – there’s no place like home,” the Soupster agreed.
“And,” said Kate with sudden inspiration, “there’s no toilet like the one you’re used to – one that’s clean, dry and comes with a seat and toilet paper. It can be hard to figure out bathroom etiquette when your only clues are a plastic scoop and a barrel of water next to a hole in the floor. Actually, I think I knew what to do, but was in denial,” she said.
The Soupster laughed. “I feel quite lost when my mountain of Costco toilet paper runs out,” he admitted. “Desperate times calls for desperate measures – paper towel maybe, but water? Never!” the Soupster vowed.
“Toileting aside, I do have incredible memories” Kate said. “Like, in Myanmar – thousands of ancient Buddhist temples littering the plains of Bagan, a sea of young monks chanting scriptures in a monastery, and a 15-hour trip down the Ayeyarwady River on a steamer.
“In Laos,” she continued, “waking at dawn in a tree house overlooking a misty forest canopy, to the sound of gibbon calls. And crazy bus trips, hurtling down mountain passes with incredible views beyond sheer cliffs.”
“A bit scary?” the Soupster asked.
“Huh!” Kate grunted, eyebrows raised. “It’s nice to know that a bus trip in Our Town isn’t a matter of survival of the fittest, and that drivers use gears instead of stopping every few miles to hose down their breaks with cold water.”
“Also, over there, the women may seem exotic, but it’s nice to know that our daily beauty routine doesn’t involve grinding down tree bark to make a stinging paste to rub in beige circles on each cheek. I’m glad our jewelry doesn’t include a permanent stack of heavy brass rings around our necks, and that a pedicure doesn’t mean dangling our feet into a tub full of hungry little fish.
“Well, Soupster”, Kate concluded, “it’s good to get off The Rock and it’s good to come back.”
“Gotta agree with you there,” the Soupster replied – “like Dorothy said, there is no place like home.”
Submitted by Lois Verbaan Denherder
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The Soupster contemplates the future.
The Soupster sipped a frothy, fizzy, pinkish punch from a clear plastic cup. He and the friends who surrounded him raised their plastic cups to wish the best to Glenn the plumber, who was finally retiring.
One would think a man who had spent nearly 50 years with half his body crammed under a damp sink might be a little stiff in the joints, but not Glenn. Delighted that so many of his friends had come to see him “off,” Glenn flitted effortlessly from one to next like a honeybee intoxicated by a field of flowers.
The only person the Soupster trusted more with his pipes than Glenn was the Soupster’s former gastroenterologist, Dr. Berra. And Glenn was a close second. Over the decades that Glenn had kept the water flowing at Chez Soupster, he had dealt with exploding pipes, leaky water heaters and, worst of all, really, really rusty bolts holding the broken toilet seat on. And he had done so as cheerfully as he now visited with his guests.
“Gonna miss Glenn,” thought the Soupster, “like I miss Dr. Berra,“ who had retired to Gig Harbor the previous year.
A lot of the people in the room were customer-friends of Glenn’s, and a large portion of them practiced other trades. For “birds of a feather” reasons, many of them were near retirement age themselves.
The Soupster did a quick head count and realized with a start that he might soon be losing Burt, his auto mechanic, his dentist Linda, his bartender Tracey, and Big Leon — who could fix anything. And that was only the people in the room!
It’s common knowledge that people don’t seem older to themselves – that they feel like they’ve always been the same person inside. Seeing the people around you get older can be more profound, especially if they perform a vital function. Who’s going to fill your cavity or mix your martini?
The Soupster admitted that he felt some vertigo every time he dealt with an especially competent professional who was young enough to be his son, or worse. Once, pulled over for having expired plates, the Soupster got out of the car with all the confidence of an older and wiser man ready to forgive the impetuous youngster, except that the officer was right. The old Soupster’s embarrassment was punishment enough, evidently, because he was let go with a warning.
In Our Town, the Soupster sometimes got the double dizzies when dealing with an authority figure he remembered as a little kid. The banker who signed the Soupster’s loan was the same kid the Soupster saw win a Hoop Shoot in the 1980’s.
Glenn’s daughter had brought her small children to the party and a few of their friends had tagged along. The Soupster looked them over and wondered which of the little people might morph into authority figures of the future.
Would any of them shoot for the moon someday? Would any of them walk on the moon someday?
A plump, fresh faced three-year-old waddled up to the Soupster. “I want to be an astronaut!” she said.
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Is there such a thing as too much help?
“Hey, Buddy. Good to see you.”
“How’s life, Soupster?”
“How is life? How can you ask such a question?”
“I am fixin’ to leave this dang town.”
“Oh no, Buddy. Why do you want to leave Our Town?”
“I just have to, Soupster. It seems that nobody can mind their own beeswax. They are always sticking their nose into my business.”
“Whoa, there! It is a small town and it is spring and it is foggy and you know we just use each other for entertainment this time of year. Just what is this business you are talking about, Buddy?”
“Soupster. Everybody is just too dang nice.”
“Did I hear that right? TOO NICE? What is wrong with that?”
“Do you remember when the doc told me to walk at least twenty minutes every day?”
“Yes, I do and I do see you out there sometimes.”
“You got it, Soupster. Sometimes is right. It seems every time I get my shoes on and start out I can’t get more than a half block from home and somebody stops to give me a ride back home. I explain what I’m doing and turn them down but there is always another do-gooder neighborly sort right behind them. Finally, I give up and get all my exercise crawling in and out of cars. As soon as they drop me off and pull away I start out again. I haven’t made it a full block all week.”
“They are such good and kind people, Buddy.”
“Well. That is not my only problem Soupster.”
“Do tell me more.”
“Well you know how my Taurus is always leaking. The trunk is real swampy so on nice days I leave the trunk lid standing open so it will dry out.”
“Does it work?”
“Not hardly. Some do-goody has to walk by and close the lid. I even took it to the airport, thinking it would work out better there with all the strangers coming and going but I hadn’t even finished one cup of coffee before it was shut tight. And there’s more, Soupster.”
“All the young ‘uns are now helping me up the curb and stairs even when I don’t want to go. They also stop and wait to help me cross the road when I don’t want to. I just want to stand in the yard and watch the birds. We caused quite the back-up at the round-a-bout yesterday.”
“Buddy, please don’t leave Our Town. Wait until the weather turns for the better and all the tourists come back. The nice people will get over it and barely have time to bother with you.”
Submitted by Rose Manning
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The Soupster shouldn’t believe everything he reads.
The truth is, the Soupster was already in a terrible mood when he stopped at the store on his way home. And when he walked from his car to the front door of the grocery store, the Soupster made the mistake of looking up at the big roadside message board. He froze, muttered to himself and jumped to conclusions.
“Don’t,” the sign read and the Soupster, absurdly, took the message personally.
“Don’t what?” he growled. “Just spewing negativity with complete abandon? Typical. That’s the trouble with the world. Everywhere it’s `don’t’! “
The Soupster took hold of the door handle, but then let go of it, took a step back and turned to face the sign. Like a person with one of those cell-phone earpieces, he spoke to the air.
“Look at that,” he said his voice loud enough for passersby to hear and pointing to the empty ladder up to the road sign. “Nobody is even there! They just put `don’t’ in your face and then they walk away – probably on one of their frequent breaks. `Don’t’ what?’ I’d like to know.”
The Soupster stopped spouting long enough to see a woman carrying a grocery bag give him a pitying stare and a wide berth.
Inside the store, he tried to ignore the “0 trans fat” and “Gluten free” signs. The “fortified with Omega-3″ and “Acidophilous added” did not make him feel any more positive. A funk is a funk is a funk.
The Soupster tried to raise his spirits by remembering a pretty little city park he had once come across during travels in the Lower 48. A sign at the entrance had said: “Picnic, fly a kite, rollerblade, sunbathe, jog, dance” and so on. All the things you were supposed to do, instead of the “No dogs!” and “Keep Out!”
And his mood did lighten, buoyed as well by the checker’s friendly interest in what he was buying. But when the Soupster walked out the door, he saw the road sign had changed. “Don’t Go Home,” it now said.
The Soupster got back into his car, stunned. “Don’t Go Home?” He was going home. Until now, he had been perturbed. But on the road back to his house, the Soupster felt angry.
“What kind of sick joke is that store playing on people?” “Is it even possible the sign was meant specifically for me?” “Why shouldn’t I go home?” The Soupster’s mind raced. Two doors from his house, the Soupster pulled over to the side of the road.
“Even if the sign has nothing to do with me, it is irresponsible to make people wonder if something is wrong at their home, “ the Soupster stewed.
“That’s mean,” he decided and turned his car around in the direction of the store. The Soupster wasn’t sure who he was going to talk to or what he was going to say to them, but he was going to say something to somebody to straighten the responsible parties right out!
But as he neared the store, he realized at once that he would do none of that. For the sign had changed again.
Now it read: “Don’t Go Home Until You Try One of Our New Mango Shakes!”
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The Soupster observes serious business at the White E
Originally published April 10, 2008
At 6 p.m. Monday I was standing in line behind Secondhand Rose, Soupster and a dozen other regulars at the Church of the White Elephant waiting for it to open. We were singing “Praise be to the ladies of the White E, Jan and the holy clan, Lori of the hallowed window and Jeannie of the Monday ministry.”
Well it is not really a church but it does border on a religious experience to many regulars in Our Town.
One of the stalwart volunteers came around the corner with an armload of free books. She told me they have about 75 volunteers with an accumulated age of just over 64,000 years. Each one has a specialty such as pajamas, jewelry, t-shirts, men’s boxers, Barbie dolls, books, front window display, and so on.
“The good gentleman that tests the electronic donations is prematurely gray. He had some bad luck working on home appliances rewired by an amateur. Now we call him Sparky. And did you know that this place has been in business for over 50 years now and all the proceeds go back into Our Town?”
“Yes, Soupster told me that. Just what kind of donations have you been getting lately?” I asked.
“Well last week I found 11 cents in the watch pocket of a pair of levis, a moose hip bone, an African Masaii necklace, a Lionel Hampton T-shirt, a souvenir spoon from Toledo, a wig, and a half a loaf of bread. When folks are making a run to catch the ferry we get everything that won’t fit in the trunk. A coffee pot was donated with a little coffee and the grounds were still warm and a roaster complete with turkey bones.
“One of the boxes was like an archeological dig. The top layer was a big, frumpy housedress, followed by big men’s T-shirts and blue jeans, under that was a layer of toddler clothes and then baby clothes and then maternity clothes and on the bottom a size 6, red fringed, shimmery, sequined, strapless dress, high heeled shoes and frilly under things. It is fun to speculate on the history of some donations.”
“Does the really nice stuff get snapped right up?” I asked.
“Not necessarily. If it is too glam or razzle dazzle for Our Town or too big to fit in small spaces or has only a decorative use it can hang around a long time. But they are the most fun to put on display. The Xtra Tufs last about a minute,” The informative volunteer offered.
“I hear you can sometimes get original Gucci bags, Waterford crystal, White Stag sweaters, and leather biker pants for ten cents on the dollar.”
“Oh, those are rare but it happens. Dumpster diving is the only place you can get things cheaper. Are you looking for anything in particular tonight?” she asked.
Oh, I have a list of things; a piece of fake fur, a teapot and a helmet.”
“You shouldn’t have a problem finding those.Do you need a yarmulke? One came in yesterday.”
The doors were opening so we couldn’t talk unless I wanted to be trampled. This was serious business.
– Submitted by Rose Manning
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