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The Soupster hoped the drizzling rain would keep the tourists downtown in the stores of Our Town and not out walking in the Park. The Soupster likes the Park better when it’s quiet. But understands that, for many tourists, this is the one day in their life they can visit The Park of Our Town.
Near the entrance to the walking trails, the Soupster noticed a familiar face, Lizzy, a local nature writer and naturalist.
“What’s all this, Lizzy?” the Soupster asked, walking up to the park bench where Lizzy was sorting large laminated cards.
“Field guides for my students,” Lizzy said, barely looking up from her stacks of cards. “I’m meeting a group of naturalist students here for a walk through The Park. These are field guides to help them identify what-all they see.”
“Good thing they’re laminated,” the Soupster chuckled as he picked up a stack of cards and wiped rain drops off with his sleeve. “Let’s see what you have here, Birds of Alaska, A Field Guide of Southeast Alaska Trees, and one on Flora of the Northwest. Well it looks like you’ve got everything covered.”
“Just about, I want my students to be prepared,” Lizzy said as she added one more card to each of her stacks.
“Would you look at this,“ the Soupster said. “It’s a field guide to clouds and what weather they bring.”
Lizzy laughed, wiping rain off the sleeves of her jacket. “We don’t really need that one. Today, like most days this time of year, we have mostly nimbostratus clouds.”
The Soupster looked at the sky and then the card. “’Nimbostratus: low lying clouds that produce near constant moderate or light rain.’ That’s Our Town.”
Lizzy and the Soupster watched a group of tourists hurry from the Park Visitor’s Center to the canopy of the forest. Another bus load of tourists pulled up to The Park and tourists were scurrying to get out of the showers.
A few locals of Our Town gathered near a totem pole, talking, laughing, oblivious to the rain.
“Those must be your students,” the Soupster said pointing to the small group. “I guess you don’t need a field guide to tell the tourists from the locals.”
Lizzy laughed. “That’s an interesting concept – a field guide of people. Let’s see — the tourists would be identified by their clothing. Impractical footwear, rain ponchos that look like trash bags, umbrellas, and the females carry canvas bags with cruise ship logos. As for their behavior, they are always in a hurry and don’t tolerate rain.”
“And what about the locals?” asked the Soupster.
“That’s easy,” replied Lizzy, looking over at the group of students, “Xtratuf boots, Carhartts, layers of fleece vest and jackets, and no umbrellas.”
“And what about identifiable behavior?”
Lizzy thought for a minute, “Friendly, easy going, and tolerates rain well.”
“That’s Our Town,” said the Soupster as he entered the Park, happy to enjoy the company of the birds, flora and tourists.
– Submitted by Ann WilkinsonKeep Reading
The Soupster dialed XYX-QYZQ and waited for his friend Chuck to pick up the phone.
“Hello,” said a female voice.
“Marcie?” said the Soupster, recognizing her voice.
“Soupster?” said Marcie.
“Ooops, wrong number. I was calling Chuck about his kayak,” the Soupster said. “So, what are you doing?”
“Well, I’m very glad to be back from a trip to the Real World,” said Marcie. “I had the weird experience of seeing a Sandra Bullock movie that was supposed to be happening in Our Town.”
“The Proposal?” asked the Soupster.
“I’m sitting in the audience in some gigantaplex theater that my grandmother, of all people, dragged me to,” continued Marcie, “and there’s Sandra Bullock in Our Town all recreated in Massachusetts. They had some aerial shots from here, at least. Granny was thrilled and told everybody she could that her granddaughter was actually from that town.”
“What is it about Our Town that so fires up people’s imaginations?” The Soupster asked his friend before hanging up and dialing XYX-QZYQ,”
“Hello?” a male voice answered – but not Chuck’s.
“Gene?” said the Soupster, again recognizing the answeree. “I’m supposed to be calling Chuck. I can’t believe I dialed the wrong number twice.”
“No problemo, amigo.” Gene said. “I’m just here flicking my newest DVD. Who’d you call the first time?”
“Marcie,” said the Soupster. “Who was just telling me she saw Our Town depicted in a movie when she was Down South.”
“Bingo, Bubba,” Gene said. “I’m here watching this Gregory Peck movie from the Fifties that just so happens to share a locale with The Proposal.”
“The World in His Arms,” he continued. “Monsieur Peckorino is a San Francisco sea captain who pursues a Russian Princess to the fair shores of Our Town, including a downtown chase on horseback – except there are trees all over – and a daring rescue from a forced marriage in St. Michael’s – except it’s the size of the Tacoma Dome.”
“What is it about Our Town,” said the Soupster, “that so fires up people’s imagination?”
“Gotta go,” said Gene, “Ann Blyth is about to marry an evil count at the enormous St. Michael’s!”
When the Soupster finally got Chuck on the line and told him about the wrong numbers, his friend was sympathetic.
“Easy mistake to make,” Chuck said. “My number is XYX-ZQYQ”
“So what is it about Our Town that so fires up people’s imaginations?” the Soupster asked Chuck.
“Dunno,” his friend said, “I’m too worried about all the pedestrians who may get stuck in the center island of the new Roundabout. It’s okay now, but what about winter, or October? Now, what I think they should do is take out all that landscaping and put in a survival shelter which is equipped with wireless and a satellite phone link and …”Keep Reading
The Soupster was (yet again) marveling at the beauty of the view from the rear of Our Town’s library. Tsk, tsk, so many gorgeous views in Our Town and so little time. The Soupster always did his best to stop and smell the coffee – even if it sometimes turned out to be tea.
He was on his way to borrow (yet another) graphic novel about a serious historical event. These novels contained page after page of comic-book-like art and dialogue telling the story of some awful occurrence — like being in Hiroshima while it was bombed. These were not children’s books — they gleaned elements from both written novels and live-action movies to tell their ghastly, true tales. Their pages made the Soupster think of the story boards many movie directors draw to plan each shot before the cameras roll. The graphic novel format made the subjects more accessible to the reader than either of the two other mediums, the Soupster thought.
As the Soupster headed for the stacks he was grabbed by the ankle by Roddy Updike, sitting on the floor with his back against the wall. Roddy was famous for his electronic-filled semi-annual garage sales. “If you don’t need state-of-the-art, Roddy Updike probably has one he’s not using any more,” the Soupster had been told, although he had yet to avail himself.
“Soupster,” whispered Roddy. “Did you hear they’re going to make some of downtown wireless? Like if you’re waiting on line at the bank, you can check your email.”
“Great, Roddy,” the Soupster quietly answered.
“But don’t try and steal any of the little transmitter boxes, because they can trace the signal back to you,” Roddy said.
“I promise I won’t,” said the Soupster. “What are you here for?”
“My wife told me to get offline and go for a walk, so I walked to the library,” Roddy said. “She said my skin was looking sallow being inside all the time. But when I got here, all the computers were booked for the next two hours, so I’ve been sitting here waiting. Sometimes somebody gets sick and has to go home early. Maybe I’ll get lucky.”
“What’s so important?” asked the Soupster.
“Oh, nothing,” said Roddy. “I’ve been spending some time on www.TheSpouseTheyCameUpWith.com. The site tracks people who have moved away from Our Town after they used to be married to somebody here. Like Facebook without the faces. Quite an elaborate website. I’ve got to find our who does it.”
“I’ve been analyzing the data from TheSpouseTheyCameUpWith.com,” Roddy went on, “ and, evidently, the school district is leading the way with the most entries… per capita, I guess. Followed by the aviation industry. My wife says I have a morbid fascination.”
“You do tend to overdo things sometimes,” the Soupster said gently.
Roddy started to answer the Soupster, but stopped and reached into his one pocket and then another. “My cell phone,” he said distractedly. “It’s vibrating. I set the phone on vibrate to keep it quiet in the library.”
“Take your time,” said the Soupster. Roddy produced his phone and read its tiny screen.
“It’s a Tweet from the baker,” he said. “The Parmesan Chipotle Sourdough bread is fresh from the oven.” He rose to his feet. “With a loaf of that under my arm, my wife can’t help but let me back inside!”Keep Reading
For two weeks, the sun shone from early, early morn to long past when it had any right to still be up at all. Two solid weeks of sun. Our Town melted and oozed toward Solstice.
Throughout the spate of sun, general sprucing had ensued: wall colors brightened with paint, unruly lawns subdued by blades, rhubarb eradicated (or given lovingly to friends). Car hoods wore the confetti buds and seeds of whatever tree they parked under. Kids were visible in public during business hours. The Soupster, like most residents of Our Town, had been saying things like, “I can’t remember when it was sunny two weeks in a row like this.” Or “Remember, we used to get two weeks of sun like this two times every summer 10 (or 20 or 30) years ago” — depending on how long the speaker had been here.
Overdosed on light, the Soupster relished the quiet and relative dark coolness of the post office. It was Saturday morning and he had the place to himself. He fought a quick urge to stretch out on the cool floor tiles. Instead, he pulled out his key and fit it into the lock of his post office box. At the exact second the Soupster opened the box, a business-sized letter moved toward him out of it.
The Soupster grabbed onto the letter and pulled.. And the letter… pulled back! This was ridiculous! The Soupster pulled on the letter, but it refused to budge. The Soupster was actually losing ground.
He peered into the dark postal box and could see at the far end about two-fifths of the face of his old neighbor, Roberta, a long-time postal worker.
“Soupster,” Roberta said, seeing him at the same moment, “I should have known it was you!”
“Roberta,” said the Soupster. “I had forgotten that you work here. How’s your little girl?”
“My little girl? That ‘little girl’ is going to college in Fairbanks in the fall,” she said ruefully. “Why don’t you come to her graduation party? I was going to send you an invitation, but, hey — this is even faster than the mail!”
The two-week softening of the Soupster’s brain from sun rays and the general weirdness of having a conversation through a mailbox made the Soupster feel unsteady. Nonetheless, “Thanks for working on the weekend,” he managed to say.
“Oh, pshaw,” said Roberta, as the Soupster locked up his postal box.
“Soupster,” said Stuart, the Soupster’s plumber, who was just then turning the corner into the row of post office boxes. “You talking to your mail again?”
“Female,” the Soupster deadpanned. “Female.”Keep Reading
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.”Keep Reading
The Soupster rode shotgun alongside his buddy Dorothy, who drove her ancient pickup west down Sawmill Creek Road into Our Town. A satisfying lunch shared earlier at Dotty’s abode had lulled them both.
Dot’s four new summertime tires (no studs!) carried the two friends smoothly down the roadway. The Soupster glanced out at the alders lining the road, their new leaves like golden coins growing larger day by day. On a granite retaining wall some fiddleheads ferns unfurled. Birds in a mountain ash no longer fought each other for scraps, too busy celebrating their recently expanded menu.
“This is a different town when the alders get their leaves on,” said the Soupster dreamily. “Covers a thousand sins.”
“That’s my opinion, too,” Dotty said. “What’s more Alaskan than having a backhoe in your back yard?”
“Can’t say I know,” the Soupster said, taking the bait.
Dotty reeled him in. “Having a broken backhoe in the front yard.” Dotty said something else, but her words were drowned out as her old truck rattled on the suddenly uneven pavement. They had reached the old Four-Way Stop, being torn up to re-make the intersection into a modern Roundabout.
Some people the Soupster talked to considered it about time, others thought continuous traffic flow would frighten bikers and pedestrians. The jury was still out. Right now the road crews were just laying underground utilities.
Dorothy suddenly burst into song “Won’t you take me to… Funkytown?” she crooned. “Won’t you take me to…. Funkytown?”
“Funkytown?” asked the Soupster.
“You know, the song — Lipps, Inc.? Back into the early 80’s?” Dot said. “Gotta make a move to a town that’s right for me,” she sang. “Town to keep me movin’ — keep me groovin’ with some energy. Won’t you take me to …Funkytown?”
“It’s a stress reliever,” she went on. “When I approach the old Four-Way-Stop and start to freak out about how much time I’m losing, I sing `Funkytown.’”
“Why don’t you just drive around the Four-Way, er… Funkytown?” asked the Soupster. “Our Town doesn’t have much road, but there’s always another way to get where you are going.”
“I know that it’s kind of a public service to avoid the intersection, but it’s really interesting, the work that’s going on,” Dot said. “Plus, I get to sing.”
“You’re a nut,” said the Soupster, but Dotty was already belching out: “Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it…. Won’t you take me to… Funkytown?”Keep Reading
Drunk on sunshine and happily munching a donut, the Soupster staggered down to a rocky beach near the end of the road. For the first time this year — in homage to the growing warmth and light — the Soupster had tossed his winter coat to the back of the closet and donned a fleece vest instead. This day was so warm the Soupster considered yanking off his boots and socks, setting on a rock and soaking his toes in Sitka Sound until they wrinkled.
But that dream bubble popped when the Soupster nearly stepped on Gavin “Frenchy” Leboyer, who crouched by the water’s edge. The Soupster stopped chewing.
“What gives you ze right to bare arms?” quipped Leboyer, in the fake French accent that earned him his nickname.
The Soupster extended his arms and savored the sun on his skin. “You look like a scuttling crab down there, Frenchy,” he said, laughing. “Le Crabe!” He took stock of his crouching friend. “Whatever are you doing?”
Frenchy was pulling plastic containers out of his backpack, popping the lids and sprinkling the contents – various leftovers – onto the rocks by the water’s edge. “It’s my last two weeks of cooked food scraps,” he said. “Just repaying the ocean’s bounty.”
“That’s got to be illegal,” said the Soupster. “Littering, maybe?”
“I’m a good boy,” said Frenchy. “I’ve been composting my uncooked table scraps for years. But I’ve always thrown the cooked leftovers into the trash and one day I said to myself — `This is excellent food, I eat it myself. I bet something in the ocean will eat this, too.’”
“I don’t know,” said the Soupster. “This brings to mind the bad old days when cities like New York would just load all their garbage into ships and dump the trash in at sea.”
“Not the same,” said Frenchy. “That was all kinds of stuff, a lot of which was poisonous or not food, like metal and concrete. This is the good stuff. I guarantee you there’s some critters who won’t turn up their noses. Or whatever they have on their face that they turn up. If they have a face, that is.”
Frenchy sprinkled the food in a small circle as the Soupster watched. Frenchy reached down and picked up what looked like the last gasp of a partially eaten Big Mac. “I just keep thinking about this hamburger taking the long trip by barge and train to the Eastern Washington landfill where all Our Town’s trash goes. And then it gets buried and rots and belches methane.”
“Except the stuff we recycle,” said the Soupster. “And that’s more and more every month.”
“Look at this,” Frenchy said, indicating the leftovers that the rising tide was already starting to digest. “Think of how disgusting this stuff would be by the time it got to the landfill.”
“You may be on to something, Frenchy,” the Soupster said. “Nature doesn’t waste anything, One creature’s offal is another’s dinner.”
“Just don’t turn me in.” Frenchy pleaded.
“Mum’s the word,” said the Soupster, zipping his lip. Then he looked at the sea. “Le Mer,” he called as he tossed the last of his donut over Frenchy’s head. “Bon appetite!”Keep Reading
Having escaped fires, snakes and sharks down under, the Soupster was glad to be heading home. After scanning the plane for familiar faces, she found her seat and settled back to enjoy the last leg of her long journey. The plane was de-iced, and took off into the night sky.
“Have a look at this,” husband urged, shoving an Aircraft Safety Instruction brochure in front of the exhausted Soupster. A woman was leaping through the aircraft doorway over an inflatable slide; an Olympic gymnast, legs straight out in front of her, modestly covered by an unruffled skirt. Husband raised his eyebrows; “You’d think she’d have taken off her high heels first,” he commented.
In the next picture, a plane was floating in the sea, an inflatable slide attached to a doorway. At the end of the slide, a man in the water was effortlessly turning the slide around, converting it into a raft. This time, the Soupster raised her eyebrows, trying in vain to picture herself performing the feat in freezing water.
Another picture showed a floating aircraft surrounded by 4 inflatable slide rafts that had been released. Each raft had 12 people floating in the water, hanging onto its edges. “You want to make sure you’re one of the 48 people who gets a spot on the raft,” husband chuckled. The Soupster shifted her attention to other pictures with warnings not to jump off the aircraft wing onto a raging fire or a pile of rocks.
Suddenly it was time to fasten seatbelts and prepare for landing. It was snowing heavily and the lights in and around our town were invisible.
The Soupster tightened her grip on the armrests as turbulence shook the plane. She checked the pouch on the seat in front of her for the sick bag, and then looked out of the window. At the speed they were moving, snow flakes rushing past horizontally created an illusion of being on the ground, or very near to it. The descent continued. Images of crashing into the sea and swimming around in dark, freezing water, trying to find a spot on a raft were disconcerting. Her life flashed before her, along with the headlines: “Soupster perishes as plane misses runway.”
Suddenly the aircraft changed direction and began to gain altitude. “The pilot was unable to see the runway lights and will make one more attempt to land,” a voice boomed from above. Thankfully, the next attempt was successful.
The air was still freezing and snow still shrouded the landscape. Spring was mostly still asleep. Thoughts of warm, sunny, foreign lands teased the Soupster momentarily. But warm welcomes, friendly faces, loving embraces and feet on solid ground made the Soupster smile. She was extremely glad to be back, safe and sound, in the wonderland of Our Town.
— Submitted by Lois Verbaan DenHerderKeep Reading
“Know what I’ve noticed?” asked the Soupster as, across the restaurant table, his friend Gina crammed her face into a Chipotle chicken wrap. “There aren’t any power couples in Our Town.”
“Chowper Rusples?” Gina seemed to say, as a dollop of Chipotle slipped from her lip. The Soupster handed Gina his napkin.
“You know, power couples,” he said. “Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.” The Soupster had ordered the goat cheese and halibut-stuffed croissant.
“Rish Brusleandsh?” asked Gina, taking both the napkin and another bite.
“Yeah, like Brangelina,” said the Soupster with a chuckle. Then he turned mock-serious. “Gina, have you had anything to eat this century? You sure seem hungry.”
Gina quaked with silent laughter, attempting not to choke. She finished what was in her mouth and dabbed at the corners of her lips.
“Okay, okay,” she said. “Like Brangelina – no, Our Town doesn’t have any of those. Seems like all the well-known people in town come in one-person units. Not that they don’t have a spouse or partner back home. But only one is well-known. No Brangelinas, I’m afraid. Okay if I take another bite now?”
She did, as the Soupster said, “Well, I don’t think Our Town necessarily needs actual Brangelinas. I’m not arguing for Brangelinas. I’m just putting the idea out there.” He went to work on his halibut.
“No, I think I know what you mean,” said Gina. “I can hardly think of anybody who has a really prominent post, whose wife or girlfriend or boyfriend also has a really prominent post. Maybe it’s a “spread the wealth” thing that keeps any one couple from being, you know, too fancy dancy.” She bent her face back into her wrap.
The Soupster looked up from his halibut. “Or maybe a more like a `pitcher-catcher’ kind of thing. If you have two pitchers, there wouldn’t be a game.”
“Yin yang,” said Gina.
“Humpty Dumpty,” said the Soupster.
“What?” said Gina. “You made me think of Humpty Dumpty,” said the Soupster. “I don’t know why.”
Gina bit into her wrap. The Soupster bit into his croissant. The door of the restaurant swung open and in walked Calvin and Vanessa.
Still trim in their sixties, well-liked and always ready to lend a hand. They both smiled at Gina and the Soupster and sat down across the room. Calvin Bridges headed a successful contracting firm and Vanessa Bridges stayed home most days, creating a super-nest for the Bridges’ ever-growing troop of grand- and great-grand- Bridges. Calvin served on government and trade bodies in numerous capacities – for the state, and occasionally, even the nation, and for Our Town, mostly.
A lot of Vanessa’s public work came through her church. She could speak Portuguese and Farsi and was called to the Superior Court on occasion to translate. Cal was proud of his wife’s CPA, which she earned to help out at tax time. Cal once dumped a load of needed building materials outside the Animal Shelter anonymously (he thought). Vanessa cooked at ANB each year at one of the holidays, then at home for a big multi-generational splurge at the other.
Gina caught the Soupster’s eye and gave him a knowing look. She pointed her chin at the other couple. “Calvershmenda,” she said, leaking Chipotle again.
“Yeah, you’re right,” said the Soupster. “Calvanessa.”Keep Reading
The package delivery truck pulled away from Soup House and the Soupster cradled the box he had just received. He tried to sneak his package indoors, but was confronted by his nosy neighbor, who always came outside when a truck stopped anywhere near.
” It’s a Snuggie,” the Soupster admitted to Chesley, who had been sort of ashamed of his first name his whole life until recently. “One of those blankets with the sleeves that they sell on TV.”
“A blanket with the sleeves that they sell on TV,” Chesley repeated, shaking his head. “How far the mighty have fallen!” Chesley felt qualified to judge others, now that he shared the name of the heroic pilot who landed on the Hudson River and saved his passengers and crew.
“It’s for a `Star Wars’ party,” said the Soupster. “I’m going as Yoda. I also ordered a head.”
“You’re not helping your cause any,” said Chesley. “What was it – $25 for the `Snuggle’ and then another $25 to ship it to Our Town?”
“Snuggie!” said the Soupster.
“Whatever,” said Chesley, getting a second wind. “Hey, Soupster, you know what really fries my taters? “
“Propane?” asked the Soupster.
“No, no,” said Chesley. “It’s when you’ve got a vital part for something that you need right away and you can’t get it locally and it only costs two or three dollars for the part, but the shipping is 10 times as much.”
“I once paid $15 to have a $3 cat toy sent Express Mail,” said the Soupster.
“I paid $35 to Gold Streak a two-inch long spring,” said Chesley.
“In any case, it’s a small price to pay for living in Our Town,” said the Soupster. “We’ve got most everything we need in our local shops and the rest we can wait a little while for.”
“Or pay through the nose,” said Chesley.
“I still think we’re getting off cheap,” the Soupster said. “No traffic jams, we have the beautiful mountains, clean air and water, postcard sunsets. Easy living, Chesley. Would you give that up to save on shipping? Because I guarantee you, somebody in the Lower 48 would pay for free shipping for life in order to switch places with you.”
“That you talking, Soupster?” asked Chesley. “Or Yoda?”Keep Reading
Originally published July 25, 2002
The dog, a dark brown Labrador retriever, looked as dignified as any dog ever has while sitting in the driver’s seat of a car and the Soupster said so out loud.
“Thanks,” the dog called half-absently, resting its paws on the sheepskin covered steering wheel of the blue and grey pickup truck parked outside a key Our Town place for sandwiches and drinks.
The Soupster ambled over to the truck cab’s open window. “You talk?”
“I’m supposed to listen, right?” said the dog. “I hear that all day from your kind.”
“You drive, too?” the Soupster asked.
“You think the truck would have a better chance of parking by itself than I have of handling a 3/4 ton vehicle,” the dog sneered. “Tell me you don’t think that.”
“You probably hear this a lot,” the still-stunned Soupster sputtered, “but I can’t believe I’m talking to a dog.”
“Go ahead,” said the dog. “Ask me.”
“Ask you what?” said the Soupster.
“If a police officer pulled me over, which license would I give him?” the dog said. “That’s what you were going to ask, right?”
The Soupster’s cheeks turned bright red. “Actually, I was thinking about what kinds of music you listen to when you drive.”
“`Bark, the Herald Angels Sing’ and “Oh, Dem Bones’” said the dog, curling its lips to approximate a smile. “And my favorite movies are `Riding In Cars With Dogs” and “10 Things I Smell About You.”
“Do you…?” started the Soupster, but the dog cut him off.
“Yes, I stick my head out the window when I drive, to answer your question,” the dog said. “And, yes, I – like all dogs – will get mad if you blow on my nose. Why do dogs like one and not the other? I don’t know. We just do.”
The Soupster stared at the dog, absolutely speechless.
“I used to run with a sled team out of Skwentna,” the dog continued. “Then I decided I should get behind the wheel, instead of me being the wheels.”
“Regrets?” the Soupster asked.
“ For a while, I had this recurring dream of scaring a bunch of cats in the crosswalk. Make ‘em scatter good,” said the dog, again approximating a smile. “If I do that now I’ll lose both my licenses! Oh, here’s my wife.” The dog started the engine.
The dog’s wife, a cat, carried a foot-long sandwich in her mouth.
The dog scrunched up his nose. “Oh, no,” he said. “She got tuna again! Tuna and mayonnaise and no veggies. I like veggies. She really doesn’t know the meaning of `to share.’”
“If you hate cats so much, why did you marry one?” said the Soupster as the cat slipped in the truck cab on the other side with the sandwich.
“I’m a patient creature,” said the dog, dropping the truck into reverse and backing away from the Soupster with a comradely, if unseen, swipe of his tail.Keep Reading
Great big men holding tiny little dogs seemed more common in Our Town, the Soupster mused as he encountered his friend Arlen with his dog outside the restaurant. Max, the miniature mutt in question, lifted his wee head and bared his tiny teeth as though the Soupster was treading on controversial territory just by looking at him. The dog emitted a growl, barely audible.
“Maximus!” Arlen scolded, “Stop growling at the Soupster like that. We like the Soupster. The Soupster is our friend.” Holding his dog closer, Arlen stopped strolling out to his parked pickup.
Maximus quit barking and pretended to relax in Arlen’s arms, but when the Soupster came within striking range the little dog leaped — a five-pound ball of fury that lit into the Soupster’s cuffs.
“Maximus,” Arlen sighed, a little too languidly for the Soupster’s taste. “Let go of the Soupster’s pants.” The big man reached down and retrieved his dog. The Soupster heard cloth ripping and a cold wind against his left shin.
Arlen walked over to his parked truck and put Maximus inside. “Sorry, Soupster,” Arlen said. “I don’t know what got into Max today. I think I may have over-trained him.”
“We worked on his tricks all morning,” said Arlen. “Today, I was teaching him to open and close the locks in the truck.”
“Why ever would you do that?” asked the Soupster.
“In case I ever locked myself out of the truck, Soupster,” said Arlen. “And say I locked Maximus in the truck with the keys in the ignition – that would be no problem.”
“That happen a lot?” asked the Soupster.
“Not yet, thank goodness,” said Arlen.
The two men heard the distinctive “clicks” of two pickup truck door locks snapping into place. Maximus stood with his front too legs pushed against the truck window, looking proud.
“Now he went and locked it,” said Arlen. “My keys are in the ignition. You better light out, Soupster. I want Maxie in a good mood so I can get him to open the doors. He’s not as good at unlocking.”
“But before I go,” said the Soupster. “tell me how Maximus got his name.”
“He’s named for Russell Crowe in Gladiator,” said Arlen. “You know, the movie about the Roman general who was supposed to be Emperor but saved the Republic instead and was an enormous hero.”
“Has the dog ever seen Gladiator?” the Soupster asked.
“Me and Maxie watch it together all the time,” said Arlen. “How did you know?”
“I was just thinking that might be the case.” said the Soupster, who made hay even though the sun didn’t shine and escaped. “Good luck with those locks!”Keep Reading