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By hook or by crook, the Soupster makes it to the ballot box.
Originally published Sept. 23, 2010
“There it is!” the Soupster cried when he saw the watch he had lost last Christmas, fallen between the washing machine and the dryer. He should have thought of looking between the appliances – from there he had at other times retrieved single socks, misplaced mail and some multi-legged critters with segmented exoskeletons.
The watch was a nerd delight with a big time face and a tiny calculator. He loved it: the Soupster was great at addition, but anything more complex gave him a headache. He glanced at the watch as one of the digital numbers changed. It still worked!
A knock at the door and the Soupster opened it, to find Keith Undermeyer standing outside astride his new hybrid on-road/off-road bicycle, with a meaty plank mounted on the rear bumper as a cargo carrier. He had one bike helmet on his head and another cradled in his arm. The Soupster fastened the watch to his wrist.
“You gonna vote, Soupster?” Keith asked.
“Of course,” the Soupster said.
“Got a bike?”
“Well, I was probably just going to dri….” The Soupster started.
“Well, you are probably going to ride your bike there now,” said Keith, cutting him off and tossing him the helmet. “Go get your cycle.”
The Soupster retrieved his ancient Schwinn 5-speed and met Keith out by the road, already starting off. The Soupster tried to catch up with his nimble friend, but no matter how hard he pedaled, the distance between the two men grew larger.
Something was wrong. Even the Soupster was faster than the top speed he now attained. He stopped and examined his bike. His rear tire was nearly flat! No wonder!
A speck in the distance now, Keith turned around. The speck got bigger. The Soupster looked at his recovered watch to see that it was a few minutes to 8 – WHEN THE POLLS CLOSED!
Keith pulled up.
“I have a flat, you’ll have to take me on your bike,” said the Soupster.
“What’s your hurry?” said Keith, but the Soupster just jumped up onto the meaty cargo plank. “Let’s go!” he said.
Keith shook his head, but dutifully pulled off. With the greater weight he was slower, but still fast. The Soupster mentally egged him on. The polls were going to close! They would miss out on voting!
At the polling station, the Soupster jumped off the back of the bike and was opening the doors even before Keith stopped moving. He stepped inside, breathless.
“Made it!” the Soupster said triumphantly.
“Actually, there’s still an hour,” said the woman checking IDs and taking signatures.
“But the time…” said the Soupster, showing her his watch.
“Your watch is wrong,” said the nice lady. “When’s the last time you checked it?”
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Stylish gal has the Soupster seeing triple.
Originally published August 12, 2010
As the Soupster walked past the base of the O’Connell Bridge, he heard the low rumble of a cruise ship’s small boat, lightering passengers ashore. The first off the boat – a tall, raven-haired young woman — was so striking the Soupster couldn’t help but notice her. Her attire was as striking as her looks – thin black leggings and pink, shaggy Ugg boots. Although the sun was shining, she also wore a light blue rain jacket emblazoned with the cruise ship’s logo.
The Soupster hurried around Castle Hill and up Lincoln St., already late for a lunch date at the home of his good friend Oscar. Oscar had scored some wonderful ivory king and had recently invested in a spendy gas barbecue. The Soupster, whose B-B-Q efforts always ended in crumbly salmon tasting of starter fluid, savored the thought of dining with an expert grillsman.
The Soupster was supposed to meet Oscar near the Filipino food take-out stand, Adobo Abode. (ed. note: Try the refrain of the song “Winchester Cathedral”) But as the Soupster neared the Abode, he was struck dumb. Standing by the stand, halfway through eating a plate of pancit and lumpia, stood the same woman he had seen moments ago, just arriving on shore. Same long hair, same pink boots, same cruise ship raincoat.
“Soupster!” It was Oscar, across the street, calling from the window of his truck. “I forgot to get any lemons,” he continued at high volume, including all the people on the street in his conversation.
The Soupster hurried across Lincoln and got into Oscar’s pickup. “See that woman across the streets? The one with the dark hair and the blue raincoat?”
“Well, the tourists are sure getting better-looking,” said Oscar appreciatively. “But what’s with the boots? You think she’s a Sherpa?”
“I think she’s in style,” said the Soupster.
Oscar pulled away from the curb and worked his way down the crowded street, stopping several times to let tourists cross or to finish taking a photo. He turned onto the main road.
As the Soupster pondered how the woman on the boat got to the Adobo Abode faster than he did, Oscar turned into the grocery store parking lot. “Surely she couldn’t have gotten there fast enough for her to order, pick up and finish half of one of the Abode’s heaping plates?” the Soupster thought.
He followed Oscar toward the store, only to be struck dumb again. The same woman – raven tresses, Ugg boots — emerged from the entrance, carrying a full bag of groceries in her arms.
“What the…” said the Soupster, and then — determined to solve this mystery – he approached the young woman.
“Eh, Miss,” he said, “I’ve seen you three times in the last 15 minutes.”
The woman laughed. A cab pulled up next to them. In the back seat sat two identical versions her, one with her hair still tousled from the wind on the boat, the other with a small piece of pancit stuck to her chin. The woman laughed again, this time right at the Soupster. She got in the cab.
Oscar caught up with the Soupster. “Triplets,” he marveled, as the cab pulled away.
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The Soupster hears a runner’s monologue.
Guest Written by Lois Verbaan
“Another thing I love doing in Our Town,” Jo mused, “is the Alpine Adventure Run.”
The Soupster raised his eyebrows and looked through the steam rising from his mug. “Good for you!” he exclaimed. “An 8-mile run over the mountains isn’t a walk in the park. The extent of my racing involves getting coffee before noon,” he laughed. “How was the run?”
“Super fun! Lots of exercise, amazing scenery, and a two-hour, one-way conversation with no one to interrupt or disagree,” Jo replied.
“Talking to yourself for 2 hours?” the Soupster asked.
“Well, technically, thinking to myself” Jo said. “Picture this: You arrive at the beginning of the race and find yourself surrounded by the fittest people in Our Town, suddenly wishing you’d overslept. Before you know it, the starting gun is fired, and your thoughts are racing faster than your feet…
…Oh no! Why does it always feel like a full sprint at first? Okay, pace yourself. Look at all these people beside the road cheering us on. I wonder if I know anyone? Yep! Better pick up the pace so they won’t suspect I’m actually dying — right here in front of the grocery store.
…Okay, here we go. Start of the trail. You’ve got this. Tree root, mud, slippery planks – repeat! A runner slowing ahead. ‘Passing on the left! Cool tattoo!’ Hmmm, someone is not a happy camper. Time for positive self-talk: ‘I feel steady and grounded. I run with confidence. I am Zen.’
…I hate stairs. I hate stairs.
…Phew! The ridge at last. This sweat dripping in my eyes stings. Goodbye sunscreen. Another runner. Should I make noise, or be stealthy? ‘Whoo-hoo! Whoo-hoo! Keep your eyes peeled in case of bear!’ Yep, that got his attention! I should have had that second pancake for breakfast.
…Oh WOW! Sun illuminating bright green foliage and flowers all around me: Fireweed, lupine, dogwood. And look! OH. MY. GOSH. I am in heaven. I love these clouds filling the valleys, and the snow-capped peaks poking through.
…Eyes on the trail! Concentrate. Is anyone catching me? No, don’t look back. Enjoy the journey. Be grateful. Run to your own rhythm.
… Yes! Heading down. Lean forward and use gravity. Tray tables upright and locked. Good work, knees! Thank you, ibuprofen! On the road, let’s sprint to the finish just around this curve. Whoops! Just around the next curve. Nope. Next curve, for sure. WHERE ON EARTH IS THE FINISH LINE??
…I hear cheering. What a crowd! Some speed now would be nice. Hello, legs? Are you two listening?
So that’s how it went for two hours and one minute, Soupster!” Jo laughed.
“Well, I broke out in a sweat just listening to all that,” the Soupster said. “How are you feeling today?”
“Great, other than a few aches and pains everywhere below the waist – and the voice in my head is a little hoarse,” said Jo with a smile.
“Ah, I see,” the Soupster replied. “Best get a few days’ rest. It’ll do you both a world of good.”
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The Soupster chats with some “guys”.
Originally published June 4, 2009
Guy had worked the order counter at the lumberyard for the past 20 years, after spending an equal amount of time working out in the field. Examples of his handiwork stood all over Our Town. And stand they did – even after decades of salt-encrusted gales, Guy’s decks, fences, sheds and garages stood strong while much newer structures succumbed to rot. Guy knew how to make things shed water and not trap it. And that, as the poet said, makes all the difference.
“Hey guy!” Guy said to the new builder who had come into the store just about every other day for the better part of the last three weeks. Guy greeted everybody with “Hey guy!” — which was his personal joke.
The newcomer chuckled obediently. “Hey, Guy,” he answered. The new contractor had won a federal contract to refurbish some government structures and planned to be in Our Town for a month. With him hailing from sunnier climes, the rain had put a serious damper on his spirit. He was homesick.
“What’ll it be?” asked Guy, already feeling sorry for the newbie. He didn’t know Our Town’s unspoken rule that you had to be here at least 6 months or through a winter before people started taking you seriously.
As the new contractor reeled off his needs, Guy nodded, but didn’t write anything down. He didn’t have to. Guy had a prodigious memory – big enough to store and retrieve detailed knowledge of just about every building that went up. He remembered who did the work, who paid for the work and how the work went. He remembered what materials they’d used. He automatically remembered all of what his customer had just asked for.
Then Larry the shipwright, showed up to order ironwood and hydraulic hoses and fittings. As the new contractor waited for his order, Guy rang up Larry’s stuff. Larry’s wife, Felicity, lounged in a nearby chair.
After high school, Guy and Larry had fixed up a classic troller and hand-trolled together for two summers. Then they had that close call. Larry was the seadog and went right back out. Guy started making a living fishing for nails. The two friends grew apart. Well, not so far apart that Guy didn’t introduce Larry to Felicity, who was Guy’s cousin through his mother.
Enter the Soupster, who chatted with Larry and Felicity and went through the whole “Hey guy!” routine with Guy. Shirley, Guy’s wife, had taught beginning piano to the Soupster’s niece, who now worked as a concert accompanist. Felicity had recommended the music school at her old college to the Soupster’s niece — where the girl received a nice scholarship — even though Felicity had gone there for nursing. Guy had built the Soupster a shed that was still watertight after 33 wet winters. Larry sold him fish.
Guy’s two-way radio buzzed, signaling that the new contractor’s order was ready.
“Friendly place,” the visiting builder said. “I know how it goes from my hometown. The guy at the lumberyard there knows everybody, too.” Then, he paused and indicated the Soupster, Larry and Felicity, who were still chatting. “That’s got to be unusual, though. The fact that the customers know each other so well. That’s got to be rare.”
Guy considered his loquacious friends. Actually, the scene he surveyed happened nearly every day at the order counter at the lumberyard. Then, Guy remembered Our Town’s “Six Month Rule.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” he fibbed. “Rare, indeed.”
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The Soupster sees people who bite off and chew.
Originally published April 24, 2014
Sitting with Chavez outside Harrigan Centennial Hall Building, the Soupster could feel his friend’s distress radiate out like static electricity. Chavez shook a Funny Times newspaper at the Soupster with vigor. “How dare they `dis’ Our wonderful Town!” he said. “Look at this!”
Chavez pointed to a particular cartoon in the newspaper. Funny Times is a monthly collection of cartoons and humorous essays from all over the country. Chavez’s finger tapped a four-panel job that “dissed” the federal government for making embarrassing announcements only in places so remote, so forgotten, that no one would ever hear. Places like Minden City, Michigan; Bellows Falls, Vermont; Skaneateles, New York; and Sitka, Alaska.
Sitka, Alaska?? A place so forgotten, so remote that the federal government could make a major announcement and no one would ever hear? Our Town? Chavez didn’t think so!
Nor did the Soupster. “That’s troubling,” the Soupster said. “Because Our Town is about as famous as you can get for its size.”
“James Michener announced that he was going to write his novel `Alaska’ right here,” said Chavez.
“Well, how about October 18, 1867?” countered the Soupster. “The whole Castle Hill thing. People have sure heard about that. This is definitely not a place so forgotten and so remote that no one ever hears anything.”.
Chavez tried to agree, but he was drowned out as the main doors on the Centennial Hall Building swung open and about a dozen people poured out. Some held Rib-eyes, some held Sirloin Tip, some held T-bones and one held a Porterhouse.
“Who are they?” asked the Soupster.
“Steakholders,” Chavez said proudly. “These people are discussing the thorniest issues that face Our Town and coming up with creative, collaborative solutions.”
“Symbolic,” Chavez said. “They’re not afraid to get into the meat of issues, right down to the gristle and bone.”
“A little extreme,” opined the Soupster as the Steakholders disbursed, “nonetheless admirable.
“We need these guys,” said Chavez, “You see…”
But Chavez was drowned out as the Hall Building’s doors again parted and a second crew of people exited. This time each of them held a short and pointy wooden stick, the kind you would use to secure a tent to the ground.“
And them?” asked the Soupster, as that crowd moved on.
“A group of different stakeholders,” said Chavez.
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