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The Soupster has a candid conversation.
The Soupster came upon Frank at the stone benches behind the library.
“Shalom, Soupster,” said Frank, his low voice muffled even more by the flowered cotton mask he wore.
“What are you up to, Frank, on this fine morning, or at least, this tiny little break in the weather?”
“Not much,” said Frank. “Just recovering a bit from waking up in the middle of the night to watch a Zoom multi-media presentation from Hamburg.”
“Yup, although people were Zooming in from everywhere – Japan, Moldavia, even St. Petersburg. They wanted to hear the music and watch the mimes. I even danced a bit alone in my living room,” admitted Frank.
“Wow, Moldavia,” marveled the Soupster. “And here you are, in little Our Town. What is it about this spot, Frank?” he wondered.
“It’s like a kind of an outdoor church, Soupster. I mean, it’s peaceful, you have the ocean and the trees, and you’ve got wifi. What more does it take to make a church?” he chuckled.
“You look tired, though, Frank. Your eyes look tired.”
“Well, I am, kinda, Soupster. Though whether it’s because of my crazy hours, my crazy dreams, or my sporadic avoidance of red meat, I cannot say.”
“Tell me about your ‘crazy’ dreams, man,” said the Soupster.
“This most recent bout started with a book I’ve been reading whose main character was thought to be a ‘holy fool’ by some street people.”
“What the dickens is a ‘holy fool’?”
“Oh, it’s an old character – in the humanities, you could say, who tells truth to power yet manages to survive by playing the fool. Sometimes they hear voices. Other times, they announce the return of spring.”
“Oh, I think I have seen pictures of that last one,” said the Soupster. He scratched his head, then replaced his baseball cap. “I am picturing a guy wrapped in a bunch of leaves, with vines growing around his body and even out of his mouth?”
“Exactly,” said Frank. “The Green Man. Other times,” he continued thoughtfully, “the character can be physically modest, even awkward, gangly, stumbling around to make a joke. Or the opposite – physically agile and nimble, like a kind of Ninja. In fact, their whole performance or truth-telling is kind of Ninja-like.”
“Sometimes, they leave us gifts,” Frank said quietly, “and we may not even realize we’ve received a gift until after they are gone.
“Well, Frank, as me sainted Mam used to say,” said the Soupster in his best Irish accent, “the best gifts are those not known by the giver or the receiver.”
“You got that right, Soupster.”
And Frank closed his eyes, the better to feel the rays of the weak winter sun on his face.
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The Soupster longs for a merry little Christmas
By Rachel Ramsey
“BAGH!” Liz exclaimed, tossing her hands up. Frazzled, she didn’t notice her friend at the other end of the long, fluorescent-lit aisle of Our Town’s hardware store.
“Liz?” the Soupster turned his head, recognizing her voice. “Friend, is that you!?” he asked in surprise. It was! Though they hadn’t crossed paths in many, many months, they recognized one another’s mask-muffled voices.
“Soupster! Gosh,” she laughed, “How in tarnation are you?” The two friends smiled large beneath their masks, approached nearer, stopping short at 8’ apart (yet feeling as near as ever). They didn’t share a bubble, so they were both giddy at the chance to briefly share an aisle.
Liz’s big eyes brightened, tired though they were. Soupster saw the exhaustion, the strain of months and months of life disrupted.
“Not too shabby, honestly.” he replied, as overhead, the holiday shopping music bellowed out a surreal Kenny-G-meets-Black-Sabbath hybrid version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. Feeling Liz’s tender energy and wishing he could give her a hug, the Soupster gently motioned his head upward, “Say, what do you think of this version?” he asked.
“You know, Soupster, this song has always been a holiday favorite of mine, though this one’s a bit much.” she admitted.
“Mine too.” The Soupster agreed. Some-times we ‘hang a shining star upon the highest bough’. Other times we ‘muddle through somehow’ and, occasionally, we do both.” He sighed.
“So true. How many holiday tunes do you know that both acknowledge the melancholy – missing loved ones during the holidays – yet remain hopeful and optimistic?”
The Soupster began to mentally shuffle through the hundreds of holiday tunes residing in his memory.
Liz continued, “Judy Garland’s version is the best – my heart cracks when I hear it. She was the queen muddler. Though Sinatra found the lyric depressing and had it re-written, which is why we can ‘have it both ways’ but we rarely do. Seems artists pick one and stick with it.”
“Let’s see…,” mused the Soupster, “Mel Torme, Bing Crosby, even Bob Dylan sings it both ways – muddling through the first verse and reaching the highest bough on the second.”
“Ella Fitzgerald, too!” Liz added. “Though when she belts it, even the muddling through is somehow upbeat, swinging and hopeful.” The sides of Liz’s eyes were lifted in smile.
“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas was birthed during WWII, dark times to be sure.” The Soupster said.
“It’s really something that after 80 years this song still has the power to move us so,” said Liz.
Glad to feel Liz’s spirits lifting, the Soupster asked, “Worst version?”
“This one!” Liz shot back without hesitation and rolling her eyes with a chuckle.
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Happy Birthday, Maria, says the Soupster.
Originally published November 8, 2001
Hail pelted horizontally against the snug house that a fisherman friend of the Soupster’s had built for his family. Wind howled with gusts of 60 knots.
“Tell me the story about the pumpkins and the tuba, Poppa,” said Gwendolyne, the fisherman’s daughter, right then the snuggest person in the whole house. She was tucked in the bed her fisherman father had fashioned out of aromatic yellow cedar and her quilter mother had covered with colorful blankets.
The fisherman smiled: he had told her the pumpkin and tuba story many, many times, yet Gwendolyne kept asking for it.
“This young girl,” he began, “grew up on the roof of a house in a fancy city of hills and fog. And when the fog blew away, she could see many stars from the roof.”
As he told the story, the fisherman thought about being on the deck of his father’s boat as a youngster, watching those same stars over calm Northern waters. Him on deck, his father snoring below. “This girl went to a special school,” continued the fisherman, “where they taught you only two things. One was how to make food and share it with other children. The second was how to play a musical instrument.
“This particular girl loved to cut carrots. Although she was small, the teacher let her use an enormous knife. She made Julienne carrots, carrot salad and baked carrots stuffed with avocado and walnuts. Her classmates loved her.”
“Why did she play the tuba?” asked Gwendolyne, jumping ahead in the story.
“This particular girl thought the tuba was lonely because nobody else had picked it,” the fisherman said. “And she was also spirited and wanted to show how she could blow a big instrument even though she was small.”
“The same as she could use a big knife!”
“That’s right,” said the fisherman. “Every year, the whole class would get on a bus and travel to the pumpkin patch to pick out a pumpkin for Halloween and to make pies and roast the seeds.
“This particular girl loved going to the pumpkin patch. Even more than cutting carrots. The huge, round, shiny pumpkins with their dramatic green vines were new and exciting.
“Then, the girl went to a bigger school, where she learned to play the tuba better than anyone. And after years and years at the school, they let her teach other children how to cut things and how to share them.”
“And how to play musical instruments,” Gwendolyne reminded him dreamily.
“One day, when she was much older, this particular girl found a job as a teacher. What she didn’t know was that the job was in the very town with the pumpkin patch. Her very first day on the job, they had her take her tuba and play for the great-great-great grandchild of a pumpkin she’d met years before.”
Gwendolyne was asleep.
“After the fish is and iced in the hold,” the fisherman’s father had told him while they lolled on deck, under the starlight, “there’s always time to take a minute out of the rush. To think about who you are and what you’re doing. And who and what you love.”
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The Soupster thinks he has enlightened an unconscious friend
Originally published November 22, 2000
“I’m giving thanks for my brand new sportscar,” said the Soupster’s old friend Jake over the phone. “I bought it with the bundle I made investing in cell phones. It looks cool and gets me where I’m going in comfort. And it’s a babe-magnet!” he finished unrepentantly.
Sighed the Soupster, “You’re the same chauvinistic, materialistic scoundrel I knew decades ago. You know nothing about giving thanks.”
“I know a lot about cell phones,” said Jake.
“Thanks shouldn’t be for cell phones and fancy cars, it should be for the warm basics of life. Home and family and friends and good food. Here you are entering geezerhood and you haven’t grasped that simple fact.”
“Did I say I hit 120 miles per hour in the desert one day?”
The Soupster took a deep breath and re-phrased the exasperated question in his head before saying it aloud. “Where do you live?” he finally got out.
“In an apartment complex with a pool and a sauna and an exercise room and…” Jake began.
“Wait,” said the Soupster. “Forget all the extras. Just concentrate on your apartment. Your place. Now, concentrate on the bed and you sleeping snugly while a howling gale roars outside.”
“I love that feeling,” Jake admitted.
“The sports car doesn’t give you that kind of feeling, right?”
“A different kind of feeling,” Jake agreed.
“The pool and the exercise room and all that stuff are like one of those blue novelty lights,” said the Soupster. “They don’t really give off warmth.
That cozy bed feeling you’re remembering is timeless and placeless. You could be back home and be a kid again. You think only about the slightly colder pocket of air surrounding your feet at the end of the blanket. And you wonder whether you should poke them out into the even colder room air or scrunch them together into a heat-producing ball.”
“Scrunch them together,” said Jake. “What I actually like,” he confessed, “is when you scrunch the arch and heel parts of your feet together, but you also try and get the cool blanket to fold in between as many toes as you can.”
“But, what I really, really like,” he continued, “is when you’re in bed, under the blanket that’s folded between as many toes as you can, and you remember — you remember — that’s there’s something you wanted to do. Not like you left a candle burning or something having to do with safety. Like you left the cookies open in the living room and the dog will probably get into it overnight and throw up and you’ll have to clean that up in the morning. But you don’t care because it’s so warm under the blanket and you’ve got at least six toes folded into the cool parts.”
“A much better Thanksgiving thought than your ego-pumping car, right?” asked the Soupster, temporarily triumphant.
“Right-o, buddy,” said Jake. “As a babe magnet, this warm blanket-candle-toe stuff slams that ole car right out of the ballpark! Thanks!”
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(Ahead of his time) the Soupster hunkers down.
Originally published November 7, 2013
The Soupster was not damp, but everything outside the walls of his house couldn’t have been soggier. In Our Town “Fall” might better be called “Thrown At” because the rain and/or hail of the season seems propelled downward by a force greater than mere gravity.
The Soupster was feeling bored and lonely, so he was happy when Carla called from Minnesota. “Bored and a little lonely, but dry,” the Soupster said when Carla asked how he was.
Carla chattered on about her kids Josh and Rebecca and husband Josh, and her going back to college online. Then, she said “Oops, I’m getting Call Waiting, must be Becca, I’m supposed to pick her up. Can you hold?”
The Soupster did. Switching to speaker phone, he wandered toward his back porch, where the part covered by a fiberglass roof played wonderful rhythms as it hailed. The sound rose and fell like the aural equivalent of those birds whose flocks turn on a dime: sheets of sound, rippling and turning.
Carla came back on, “Sorry, Soupster,” she said. “That was Becca, who needs another half hour before I get her. So you’re lonely and a little bored?”
“Actually, bored and a little lonely,” said the Soupster. “This is a rough time of the year, weather-wise.”
“Tell me about it,” said Carla. “I’m an Our Town girl. Remember, you just have to make it to Thanksgiving. Then the holiday lights go up and you start talking to friends. And then it’s New Years and you notice the light coming back a little more.”
“Oh, I hate to do this,” Carla blurted, “But I’m getting another call. Will you hold again?”
The Soupster did. The hail slacked off. A shaft of sunlight pierced the gray sky, came through the window, and fell upon a bookshelf, where there lived a ceramic planter in the shape of a fish with enormous crimson lips. Carla had given the Soupster the fish two decades earlier, after he helped her move. This was before kids and even before husband Josh.
Next to the fish was a half-scale raven carved out of wood. Steve Jessup had given the Soupster the raven after the Soupster took Steve’s parents out on his boat. Next to that, an entire dog family stretched out on their papier-mâché couch – a gift from somebody. Above the dogs nestled signed copies of all the books by Our Town’s writers over the years.
The Soupster touched the arms of his sweater – knitted by Giselle for his birthday. In the pantry were jars of sockeye and jams, all canned by various friends. If he wanted, he could gaze around his living room at the paintings and sculptures created by friends. Or he could pop in a CD cut by one of Our Town’s bands.
Carla came back on the line. “I can see why you feel lonely,” she said. “I keep abandoning you.”
“You know, I don’t feel lonely,” said a satisfied Soupster, taking in his surroundings. “Not anymore.”
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A friend raises the Soupster’s consciousness about “the worst thing”.
“Hi, Soupster,” called a voice from behind the mask.
The Soupster squinted in concentration, struggling to recognize the pleasantly crinkled eyes above the mask. He almost had it… wait, wait…
“Anastasia Anarchy! It’s you!” he finally said triumphantly. “So good to run into you, Stace,” he continued, striving to use his best, Ethel-Merman-projecting abdominal voice, and to enunciate carefully from behind his mask. The last time he’d spoken with Anastasia, she’d shown some signs of a hearing deficit.
“Yes, wonderful serendipity, chancing upon each other in front of this grocery store pop-up cello concert. Though maybe not total chance, eh, Soupster. There are patterns everywhere.”
“Is that your truck over there, Stace? Let’s go chat a bit over the hood while we listen to the music.” They got to the truck and the Soupster glanced down through the open window at the passenger seat.
“What’s that, Stace,” he said. “It looks like a DVD of Wagon Train???”
“Yeah, that it is, Soupster. I used to watch that on T.V. all the time when I was a kid. I was,” she said with twinkling eyes, “especially enamored of the scout, Flint McCullough.”
“Oh, I remember him,” said the Soupster. “Wasn’t he played by a guy named Robert something?”
“Yup. Robert Horton. That’s him. One time, when I was about eight, I even had a dream about him,” said Anastasia. “He was out doing his advance scouting thing and he was fording a river. He was walking through the water towards me, and I walked in to meet him…But maybe I’d better leave it there.”
“I get it, Stace. Sometimes you don’t know what something means until years later.”
“I was fascinated by cowboy movies, Soupster. Sometimes I wanted to be a cowboy and have those special skills – you know, like swinging a lariat and yodeling. Not much to do with guns except maybe twirling them round your finger. Later on, in high school, I learned some basic bow-and-arrow skills, like not hyper-extending my bow arm and receiving a terrible burn.”
“All that cowboys and Indians stuff, Soupster – it was really a thoughtless world I grew up in.”
The Soupster looked steadily at Anastasia and said nothing.
“One time, years ago, when I was working as a young lab tech at the hospital, one day I went in to draw some blood in one of those four-person rooms. I’m pretty sure it was a Saturday afternoon. This must have been, like, back in ’82.
“There were these three older guys sitting around watching T.V. I was getting my tourniquet and stuff ready and I saw they were watching a western. They seemed really quite absorbed in it. A couple of them were older Tlingit guys. They were just, patiently, sitting there and watching the show, and I asked them, ‘Does it ever bother you? Watching westerns like that?’
“And one of the old guys said, ‘Well, some of them are pretty bad, but at least we’re up there on the screen. We’re not invisible. That’s the worst thing, you know. Being invisible.’”
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The Soupster shares a valuable lesson learned from a cartoon.
Originally Published October 5, 2000
“I hate October! It rains all the time with big wet drops!” wailed the pre-schooler, balanced on the Soupster’s knee. “I WISH THERE WAS NO OCTOBER EVER AND EVER MORE!”
“Don’t say that,” hushed the Soupster. “If October went away, you would be very sad.”
“No, I wouldn’t!” protested the child.
“But if there were no October, do you know what else there would be no?”
“Alaska Day! There would be no Alaska Day!” said the Soupster. “And no Halloween!
“No Halloween!” he went on. “Sometimes, no Yom Kippur for Jewish folks! No Thanksgiving for your cousin who lives in Toronto! And your e-mail pen pal in Christchurch, New Zealand would have to go to school on Labor Day, because the Kiwi’s celebrate their Labor Day in October!”
“Are you a genius?” the clever kid asked, instantly seizing the Soupster’s point and moving on to the next step. “Where did you learn all that?”
“From a Little Audrey cartoon when I was just about your age,” said the Soupster, glazing over in a Boomer froth of remembrance.
“Little Audrey was tired of the rain — in the cartoon I mean — and she cried out for it never to rain again!” explained the Soupster.
“Did it rain again?” the child asked.
“Not for a long time,” the Soupster answered. “At first, that was just fine with Little Audrey. She went out on a million picnics, hung her clothes right on the line to dry and was never told by her parents that she had to wear a hat.
“But as the rainlessness went on, Little Audrey’s fish started to look a little pale and drawn. And Little Audrey’s potted plant looked droopy and dry.
“Then everything around Little Audrey started to dry up. Little Audrey’s plant was curled and brown. Little Audrey’s fish gasped to breathe in only a thimbleful of water.
“Little Audrey had saved a glass of water. She ran over the parched ground toward her fish and her potted plant, holding the glass in front of her and saying `Here, here!’ But then she tripped and dropped the glass, and the water ran out just out of reach of her friends.
“So Little Audrey went to the Rainmaker and begged for the rain to start again. But the Rainmaker refused. `You said for it not to rain again, ever and ever!’ He crossed his arms over his chest.”
“What did Little Audrey do?”
“She sang,” said the Soupster. “She sang so sweetly and with so much of her heart that she made the Rainmaker cry. She sang `April Showers.’ And the Rainmaker’s tears grew greater and greater till they cascaded past his beard and down his chest and fell to the earth as wonderful, cooling rain.”
“Wow,” said the child. “I’ll never ask for it to not be October or for the rain to stop. But is it okay to ask to make the raindrops just a little smaller?”
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The Soupster hears about some post-Covid magic.
The words “Oblong Rookery” appeared on the Soupster’s phone, accompanied by a chime.
“Hi, Oblong!” said the Soupster. “It’s really good to hear your voice. How long has it been?”
“Almost a year, Soupster. I think the last time was when you were visiting down here and dragged me to that Korean horror flick on Hollywood Boulevard. I know I grumbled a bunch at the time but looking back I do appreciate it.”
“Are you well, Oblong? How are you doing?”
“Oh, yeah, Soupster, I’m well, and I’m doing okaaay… I’ve been thinking a lot about Joan Didion lately.”
“Yeah, her. She was the one who wrote that book, The Year of Magical Thinking. She wrote it about the death of her husband – who was also a famous writer – from a heart attack, just days after their daughter – Quintana Roo – lapsed into a coma. This all happened – oh, I don’t know – back in the early aughts.”
“Yeah, I kinda remember. What got your mind on Joan Didion?”
“Well – I am just thinking this through out loud – but I believe I’ve been doing a lot of magical thinking myself in the past year. Like, I have been going to call you for months, and then, even though I was obsessing about you, I didn’t call. On some level, I kept thinking, ‘I have to call Soupster and find out how he’s doing. If I don’t call soon, something bad might happen.’
“So, that is why I am really, really glad that you’re okay. And I’m okay. And my cats are okay, and even my plants are okay. All those things get involved in my magical thinking, too.”
“Cats and plants are pretty important, Oblong. Especially now. What’s so magical about how you think of them?”
“Well, Rubber Tree – that’s my black cat (she’s named after that Sinatra song, ‘High Hopes’ – remember, ‘Ooops, there goes another rubber tree plant’) – anyway, Rubber Tree only likes these certain kinds of food. So, I tell myself whenever I find these kinds – just flaked or minced and containing the right kinds of fish – that if I feed them to her, she will be happy, and everything will be all right. Get it? Magical, hmmnnn?”
“What about your actual plants, Oblong?”
“Oh, they’re fine, too, although they do need more water with this heat. Sometimes it’s hard to get myself out to water the outdoor ones, what with the 120-degrees and the smoke from the fires. Fortunately, a lot of my plants are cacti and succulents. I have to be careful with the tomatoes, though. They don’t like to dry out, but they also don’t like wet feet.”
“Sounds like you’re talking anthropomorphism, Oblong – you know, like where you give the non-humans around you human personalities?”
“I might as well, Soupster. I have precious little face-to-face (or even mask-to-mask) interaction with humans these days. I don’t know what I would have done these past months if it weren’t for Rubber Tree and the tomatoes.
“Oblong, that sounds like it could become the title for your own book of magic.”
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The Soupster tells a story…
Originally published September 7, 2000
“Cross your fingers!” yelled the man on the tall ladder to his Soupster neighbor below.
The man furiously sloshed white paint from a bucket onto the wall high up near his roof, as the first clouds passed their ominous shadows over the eaves.
“Not now!” he yelled at the clouds. He made, with his paint brush, even quicker jerking motions that covered him, the ladder, the ground below – everything but the wall – with paint.
The ladder swayed precariously.
“Calm down,” the Soupster yelled back. “Even if it does rain today, you’ll surely have another day to paint.”
“I won’t,” the neighbor said and scurried down the ladder to approach the Soupster.
“I went fishing so many days I could have been painting,” he wailed. “I took a hike on the new Mosquito Cove trail when I could have been painting. My whole family offered to help me on several occasions. ‘That’s okay,’ I told them. Oh, I’m a fool, a fool!”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” said the Soupster.
The neighbor turned suddenly cold and serious. “How long have you lived in Our Town?” he asked the Soupster.
“Long enough,” the Soupster answered cautiously.
“Then you should know,” said the neighbor, “that putting off your painting till September is madness. Madness!”
The Soupster knew. He knew that professional painters in Our Town sometimes have a waiting list years long. Not for lack of ambition, but because there are so few painting days. And the Soupster also knew that some folks in Our Town have gone to incredible lengths to deal with paint and rain.
“Let me tell you a story,” said the Soupster, gently lifting his neighbor’s spattered paws off his shoulders.
“A nice couple I knew was buying a house and the bank would not close the loan until the weathered western wall was repainted. The couple was paying rent until the loan closed and the monthly payments were wreaking havoc on their savings.
“But the bank insisted on the painting. This was in October, mind you. The couple begged the bank to let the job hold off until spring. They even offered to let the bank hold the painting money until then. The bank wouldn’t budge.”
“What did they do?” asked the neighbor.
“Well, the husband and wife painted the wall together. The wife had a bunch of towels and she would wipe off an area a second before he would slap oil paint onto it. They waited for a day when the wind wasn’t blowing right on the wall and painted it in the middle of a good downpour.”
“I get it,” said the neighbor. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Just do it.” He shook the Soupster’s hand. “Thanks.”
But before the Soupster could say “Pshaw,” rain drops started falling. The neighbor was already running off. “Honey!” he yelled into his front door. “Get some towels!”
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The Soupster recalls an earlier incarnation of Our Town – with tourist crowds & haikus.
Originally Published August 8, 2002
“Stretch!” The Soupster called to his basketball playing friend, Andrea “Stretch” Worthington as she raced furiously around the waterside court on her lunch hour.
“Squat!” Worthington called back, bouncing the ball three quick times in front of her. A long-time center with a fine college team, Worthington cradled the ball with fingers as noticeably long as her legs were. She took off toward the basket, dribbled briefly and flew up in an attempt to dunk. She failed.
“What are you so worked up about?” the Soupster asked.
“Making deliveries all morning, three cruise ships in, streets full, took me twice as long,” she panted. “Can’t people remember that Our Town is a real town and you have to do things like cross the street with a noticeable level of being awake.”
“We should put up signs,” the Soupster murmured.
“That worked in one city,” said Worthington. “People going home at the end of the workday, all impatient and everything, would honk their car horns every two seconds and it was driving the people living in nearby buildings crazy. So they wrote “honk–oos” – haikus designed to deter people from using their horn so freely. They painted the honk-oos on signs and put them on buildings and poles in the honking zone.”
“Did it work?” the Soupster asked.
“Like a charm.”
“Haikus?” said the Soupster. “That Japanese poetry form? Three lines? Five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables? That one?”
“Right,” Worthington said. “Let’s call our haikus ‘hike-oos’. Or ‘walk-oos.’ Like this.” She closed her eyes and recited:
White lines, a crosswalk
To the gift shop with your friend
Be a swift rabbit
The Soupster slapped his knee. “That’s really good,” he laughed.
“How about this?” Worthington said:
Thanks for thanking me
For letting you meander
The bridge light is green.
“Excellent,” said a delighted Soupster.
Worthington ran again toward the basket and lived up to her “stretch” nickname but again failed to dunk the orange orb. She came back to the Soupster, breathing hard and said:
Taking church pictures
Your camera sings just to me
I need to park.
“That’s it, that’s what happened to me yesterday!” the Soupster said. “Say, what’s with the dunking? You were always a shooter. You never dunked before.”
“Dunk!” cried Worthington. “Water! That’s it! The chaos theory in action! Listen and watch, my squat Soupster friend”:
One drop, two, three drops
A necklace of human drops
Tight! It’s a workday!
Worthington leaped from the spot she was standing, sped across the court, the white lines blurring as she passed them, coiled like an enormous spring, then let loose, extended to her full six feet, long arms reaching toward the basket.
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The Soupster calms his gardener friend.
Originally published July 5, 2001
“Excellent!” said the gardener, smacking his lips.
“Good day, Green Thumb,” said a passing Soupster. “And what, pray tell, is your lack of problem?”
“My lack of problem has everything to do with the vigorousness with which my acid-loving plants are thriving,” the gardener said, indicating a particularly robust rhododendron.
“Do you ever use a Garden Weasel?” asked the Soupster.
The gardener ignored the Soupster’s aside and continued onward.
“Anything acid-loving is going like gangbusters in this first year of the millennium,” said the gardener, reopening a long argument he had been having with the Soupster.
“Let’s not go into the millennium issue,” said the Soupster. “Talk about your plants. It calms you down.”
“Ah, my plants,” said the gardener. “Especially my acid-loving ones.” With pride, he pointed to a fecund colony of hosta, each leaf shaped like a spade on a playing card, spreading along the ground.
“You said ‘acid-loving’ thrice already,” said the Soupster.
“Remember our mild winter?” said the gardener.
“A mild, wet winter it was,” agreed the Soupster.
“A lot of rain causes more acid conditions to prevail,” said the gardener, stroking the long white fronds of a goat’s beard plant. “Of course, Our Town’s soil is pretty acid to begin with, there being constant rain and the fact that most of the soil started out as a volcano on Kruzoff Island.”
“I thought the spruce trees looked especially good, too,” said the Soupster.
“Bingo, observant Soupster,” said the gardener. “Spruces are acid-loving, too. If you want to see some especially happy spruce trees, check out the three trees on the south side of McDonald’s restaurant, near Ken Brown apartments.”
“I’ve seen them!” said the Soupster. “Magnificent new growth. It’s like they doubled in size in one year.”
“The spruces especially surprise me,” said the gardener, “because of the mild winter. A while ago, we were having a problem with spruce aphids devastating the trees around here. And the best way to get rid of aphids is a cold winter. But for some reason, the trees seem to be springing back like the aphid is a bad memory.”
“Maybe it is,” said the Soupster.
“Hope so,” said the gardener. “Sweet new spruce tips are among my favorite things in the whole world. An important part of my yearly harvest. I make spruce tip syrup and jam. I even make spruce tip beer. I looooove tart tastes. Like grapefruit juice. Or a good Marinara sauce.”
“Say,” said the Soupster. “You sound pretty acid-loving yourself!”
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The Soupster learns about rules and jokes.
Originally published July 13, 2006
Buh-BANG! Buh-BANG!! rang the pipes in the Soupster’s house.
“There it is!” said the Soupster to Stace, the veterinarian. “That’s the sound that’s been plaguing me.” He placed on his kitchen table two glasses of blueberry-flavored milk Stace had brought. “I can’t believe you drink this stuff.”
“It’s water hammer,” said Stace. “And do you want to fix your plumbing or make something out of what I drink?”
Noxious as the blueberry-milk was, the Soupster sipped, so as not to have to answer.
“Water hammer,” Stace, the veterinarian, continued. “Sudden pressure changes in the pipes. Usually happens when you turn off a tap suddenly and you hear that bang, bang, bang.”
“We used to have an outdoor faucet that stuck way out far from the wall,” said the Soupster. “When you closed it fast, you’d not only hear that banging, the pipe would move crazily up and down.”
“That’s water hammer,” said Stace.
“But I’m not closing a tap,” said the Soupster.
“You must have a leak somewhere. Only so many places it could be,” said Stace, draining her glass and indicating for the Soupster to do the same.
The two friends checked three outdoor taps, the intake pipes for a clothes washer presently in use, the drainage pipes for another washer, no longer in use, and both the intake and drainage pipes of an old dishwasher.
“How do you know so much about plumbing?” asked the Soupster. “You’re a veterinarian.”
“There’s rules for everything, you just have to learn them,” Stace said. “Learn those rules and you can figure everything out. Even the way water runs through pipes.”
“There are some things that have no rules,” insisted the Soupster, as he and Stace mounted the stairs to the second floor. “Like…love or…humor.”
“Don’t go all Aristotle on me, Soupster,” said Stace. “But since you mention it — let’s take humor — which, for your information, has all kind of rules.
“There’s the `Rule of Three,’ which says the punch line is always on the third example. There are rules for exaggeration humor and unfortunate visitor jokes. There’s my favorite — the unexpected answer. But aren’t we here to fix the plumbing?” and she stepped into the upstairs bathroom.
“Eureka, Aristotle!” Stace cried. “I found your leak! You’re going to need to fix a seal in your toilet. I guarantee that your water hammer will then disappear.”
“Ask a veterinarian to help you with plumbing and get a lecture on the rules of joke telling,” muttered the Soupster. “Only in Our Town.”
“Hey, Doc,” the Soupster said aloud. “Do you think I should get a second opinion?”
“Okay,” said Stace. “You’re ugly, too.”
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The Soupster has a candid conversation.
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Whole Soup is a PDF version of every page of the Soup, just as it appears in the printed edition.
Whole Soup is a PDF version of every page of the Soup, just as it appears in the printed edition.
Would you like to create an Our Town?
The Sitka Soup would welcome an infusion of “new blood.” You may tell your story in words (450-500 of them), or as a graphic “cartoon” strip. We would even consider a short original photo essay with B&W photos. Your Our Town must be closely connected with the life of Sitkans, and the Soupster must make an appearance, even if it’s a brief one.
If we run your Our Town, we’ll pay you $50. To submit: Email your creation to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Our Town” in the Subject line. Or call: 747-7595.
What is Our Town?
Our Town is a bi-weekly column that tracks the life of the Soupster and his friends and neighbors.
The Soupster is a long-time resident of Our Town who seems to have all the time in the world to traipse around, visit friends and neighbors and get into minor scrapes.
The first Our Town was published December 22, 1999.
Read Our Towns published before February 2009 HERE.
Who is the Soupster?
The Soupster is a long-time resident of Our Town who seems to have all the time in the world to traipse around, visit friends and neighbors and get into minor scrapes.
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