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The Soupster and his friend appreciate junk.
Submitted by Rachel Ramsey
As a rule, the Soupster didn’t make a point of answering the phone before 11am, unless he happened to be awake and feel so inclined. When his land line rang shortly after 9 he caught it on the third ring. His pal Brandy’s husky voice greeted him from the other end.
“Good morning – you’re up?” Brandy chuckled. Her voice resonated with jittery excitement. The Soupster tried to respond, only to be cut off.
“As one Our Towner who lives sans social media to another, I had let you know that piles of ‘FREE Take Me’ stuff are popping up all over town.”
The Soupster cleared his throat and replied, “Finally, we’ve returned to the tried and true, rudimentary small-town way of Help-Yourself-Odds-&-Ends piles. I’m in, Brandy, and ready in 20.”
Her van was a hybrid of sorts, though not an electric kind. It had, over the decades, been reconstructed and refurbished piece by piece from salvaged parts of other vehicles, from doors to bumpers and beyond. Brandy fiercely maintained it was an ever-changing functional work of art.
“Better hop in back,” Brandy piped out the window. “Gotta mind our distancing.”
Humming Johnny Cash’s One Piece At a Time, the Soupster hopped into the van, careful not to slam the door too hard. His homemade mask boasted a blue and yellow pattern of Snoopy’s Fonz-insipred alter ego.
“I knew you were good for it!” Brandy laughed through her violet mask. “And thanks for remembering the door. She’s fragile.”
“So what stuff have you seen?” the Soupster inquired, his curiosity bubbling.
“Ribbed PVC hose, an old wooden birdhouse, bedding,” she began. “Awkward, funky-looking metal cabinets. Oh, and sawdust! All sorts of stuff, though I haven’t even begun – I wanted to partner up first,” she explained.
The Soupster said, “Well, ‘one’s man’s junk is another man’s treasure’ and I’m sure folks think thrice about what they pitch in the garbage, and what they put out for the taking.”
“I’d expect so – sometimes the junk you find is just the junk you’re looking for,” Brandy agreed.
“Maybe some of this oddball junk could be used for a project. Kids could make art or science projects with only the materials found roadside,” the Soupster mused.
“Like the cooking shows where they work magic with only the ingredients provided – yes, that’s a fine idea, Soupster, but why only kids? Adults need creative projects too.”
They pulled over near a church, where a family’s mound of garage sale storage boxes had been neatly set up. The pile yielded a Snoopy snow globe for Brandy and a brown and green, seemingly hole-less tarp for the Soupster.
“It’s a good sign.” she giggled, shaking the globe and directing her eyes at the glitter-swirled Snoopy. “Now, how about that project idea?”
“I’m sold. Let’s snag that birdhouse you mentioned and add a disco waterslide!” the Soupster chuckled. “What better way to keep Our Town’s perfectly usable junk out of a landfill?”
“Now, that is creative thinking,” Brandy concurred.
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The Soupster learns it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish fact from fiction.
Originally published May 6, 2004
“Soupster!” called Joey the Liar from the far side of the street. Joey was so named because everything he said was a lie.
“I’ve been looking all over for you,” said Joey as he settled his big frame across from the Soupster. “I was worried I would miss you.”
“Hi, Joey,” said the Soupster, who knew Joey was tough to deal with, everything he said being a lie. “What are you doing these days?”
“Same, but different,” said Joey. “Once in a while.”
“Have any plans for the weekend?”
“I thought I’d call my mother for Mother’s Day and all,” said Joey.
“She doesn’t live here?” asked the Soupster.
“Reno,” said Joey. “She’s a stage star in the casinos. She could have gone to Vegas but she wanted my younger brothers and sisters to have a more normal life, which she has found in Reno.”
“Is this true?” asked the Soupster.
“Not entirely,” said Joey. “Before Reno, she lived with me in Chicago, where she was a meat cutter at a huge plant. All her skirts had blood dripping down the front of them. It was a long time before I found out that hamburgers didn’t come out of my mother’s pockets.”
“Joey,” I really don’t have time for this,” said the Soupster.
“All right, she’s quite normal,” Joey said. “She lives in Bothell and works in a bottling plant…”
“Joey! A Bothell bottler?” said an exasperated Soupster.
“Brunette, too,” said Joey. “My mother is the spitting image of Betty Crocker and Donna Reed. She played the piano and there were always fresh flowers, even in winter. My favorite time was waking up Sunday mornings and smelling the bacon frying downstairs. Sticking my head out into the cool room from under the warm blanket. The smell of bacon.”
The Soupster almost believed him. “I almost believe you, Joey,” said the Soupster. Joey, who knew of his reputation, took no offense.
“I wouldn’t want you to do that,” he said.
“So, really,” said the Soupster. “About your mother? You wax so poetic and range so far afield that you sound like a wistful orphan. Are you an orphan?”
“Absolutely not!” said Joey the Liar.
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The Soupster has springtime dreams of being on the water.
Originally published April 18, 2002
The Soupster haunted the docks the last few April days, studying skiffs. With no prior symptoms to warn him, the boat bug had bitten him squarely and he mightily suffered its effects.
The Soupster tried his best, and for the most part succeeded, in following the advice of the wise old fisherman, who had once said:
“You don’t want a big boat, Soupster. What you want is a skiff and a good motor. Everything else, for you, would be just a bigger hole in the water.”
Even possibly an inflatable, the Soupster thought. Like a hard-bottomed inflatable on a trailer. A steering station, of course, he always thought. Who doesn’t like to look ahead to where they are going?
“Hey, Soupster,” called Culver, striding purposefully from the large boat part of the marina. “A skiff would not be enough for me,” he crowed. “I take my family in comfort. You know, Soupster, the whole five of us are bonding on that boat.” He pointed to the “Blue Hope” – a diesel trawler. “Last night my wife read to me and the kids from David Copperfield. Hey, what did you do with my crazy family?”
“Me, I’m just looking for a little taxi to drive myself around a bit on sunny and flat days,” said the Soupster. “You know when the water looks like you could just lay out flat on the surface and take the sun.”
“A mosquito can do that,” Culver said. “Water has enough surface tension that a mosquito can just stand on it. Like a solid surface to them.”
“The meek of the Earth,” said Soupster. “Or the most obnoxious – depending on whether you are in dense forest and it’s sundown or not. Meek… How about the green moss poking through the snow? Moss is like very meek and also the first green thing each Spring.”
“I de-mossed my lawn last year,” Culver said. “Amazing stuff, moss. There’s no roots holding it down. You can peel it back like a carpet. Which I did, last summer – peeled a truckload of moss off my lawn. I used a thatch rake – you know, those meaty looking rakes. Got the thatch rake tines underneath the moss and peeled it up just like a carpet. Moss is beautiful stuff really.” He shook his head.
“I was looking for a thatch rake!” said the Soupster. “I looked all over town and couldn’t find one. Not one. Can I borrow yours?”
“Sure,” Culver said. “Amazing about Our Town. Big as it is, we can still run out of things. Like thatch rakes. And even milk.”
“Never run out of boats, though,” said the Soupster, indicating the massive harbor and its hundreds of denizens.
“Got that right,” said Culver.
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The Soupster gets a poem from a friend.
Submitted by Vivian Faith Prescott
Look, bright yellow stalks emerge from warm muck.
I bend to inhale their familiar scent.
Behold, an old man is ambling down the hospital hallway,
masked, gloved and gowned, while nurses and doctors applaud
his slow return to the world.
My feet press the dry roadside grass and I step over the ditch.
See the red branches on the blueberry bushes, note
a bud’s first pink blush.
Look, we peer out the narrow window at our daughters and
grandchildren, holding signs: We miss you. We love you.
Rainbows and hearts and I try not to weep.
Today, and every morning for days now, with wing-sound
and honk, a pair of Canada geese fly by our porch.
We’ve name them after our airline flights: there goes
flight 64 and 65.
Look, the young woman is sewing a thousand cloth masks,
and a grown daughter sits outside a care home in a flowerbed
talking to her mother through window glass.
See the man is in his shop fabricating a face shield. See
the family dancing and drumming on a dock next to the ocean.
See the stranger dropping a box of groceries off on a porch.
A nurse aid brings water to a bedside. See the mailman opening
the street-side mailbox, placing a letter.
There’s a purple bud on the devil’s club and fat robins flit
around the neighbor’s grass near the outdoor rabbit pen,
and around the corner comes a parade
of elementary school teachers, each in their own sign-draped cars,
beeping horns, waving, cheered by students and parents
on the side of the road.
After days of herring snow and a few more days of sunshine,
the popweed plumps up on the beach. Everything is ripening,
and my elderly father sighs—We’re used to living
with the tide coming in and going out. We’re patient people.
We can do this.
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