THANKS, NOW LEAVE – Rich Paschall

Not Welcome Anymore, by Rich Paschall

Roger was a busy guy.  In recent months he absolutely could not find time to fit one more thing into his schedule.  The local pastor, Jared, was even busier and usually kept to a tight schedule.  His time was parceled out like the hosts he distributed on Sunday.  So it was a bit of a surprise when he dropped an email on Roger asking to meet.  “Perhaps we can get together for coffee on Thursday afternoon or Saturday morning,” the message read.  Roger picked Saturday.

When Roger turned 60 he had promised himself there would be no more big projects.  He felt he was done with community organizing, large social events, and big family gatherings.  “All the work should be done by someone else,” he thought.  But then there always seemed to be another great idea and that meant “one last hurrah.”

When a long time and dedicated school worker was to be honored, many alumni were thrilled at the idea.  In fact, they wanted to put on a special tribute and all got together to discuss the matter.  Soon after Roger was handing the proposed event to the pastor, who seemed a bit skeptical at first, but eventually supported the plan.

It's really a one way street.

It’s really a one way street.

The pastor was young and ambitious, as pastors go.  He seemed to like everyone and at first, everyone liked him.  He wanted to make an impact on the parish and if you could help him with that, he was your friend.  Soon he saw Roger and Roger’s friends as a path to increased alumni involvement and successful events.  He did not help organize in any way, but he did not hinder the progress.  For the alumni, it seemed like a great thing.  The pastor was letting them do their tribute the way they believed was appropriate.

On the other hand, the pastor’s staff was not a bit enthusiastic.  The school administration was already overburdened with projects and fund-raisers.  The grade school principal was also running the high school, or neglecting it, depending on where you heard it.  Teamwork was only something written on the gymnasium wall.  It was not practiced by those who loved to point it out.  They wanted to run the upcoming honor as a small event as they had done for others in the past.  They were not happy to share the event with “outsiders,” that is, former students.

The alumni crew worked diligently.  They looked for every way to promote the big event and make it a success.  They had been warned not to count on the school administration to do their part, but they trusted them to do what they said they would do.  When the administration looked overwhelmed at a request, the alumni chairmen would advise, “Just say no if it is too much.” Unfortunately, they were already in the habit of promising what they could not deliver.

When the big event was held, the school’s part was chaotic and ran behind schedule.  The alumni tribute was forced to start late, but went well and was loved by those in attendance.  In fact, it was the most well attended alumni event held in decades.  It would certainly be the last to draw a crowd.

When the reverend contacted Roger in the week that followed the celebration, Roger knew what the topic of conversation would be.  Since they had been friends from before the time Jared came back to be pastor, Roger thought they would have a meaningful conversation.

On the day of their coffee talk, it was cold and damp, rather like the expression on the pastor’s face.  He only put on a smile when a parishioner recognized him in the small coffee shop and came over to say “hello.” Roger and Jared sat in two large chairs with a small table in between.  Jared started.

“I was rather disappointed in the event last Saturday.  It did not go as planned,” Jared said with a bit of a scowl.  “I do not like things like that in my parish.”

Roger tried to explain what happened and how it happened and why it happened the way that it did.  Jared was not interested.  His purpose seemed to be to place blame and absolve his staff of any wrong doing.  “I hold you personally responsible because you brought the plan to me.  I do not care about co-chairmen or committee members or school administrators.  I blame you.”

It would be an understatement to say that Roger was in a state of bewilderment for almost an hour as the former friend declared that Roger was not to be involved in running any more events, in fact, “You are not welcome at any school events.  I will not tolerate anything that might embarrass me in the slightest way.”  Roger was not sure how anything that did not go quite right could embarrass someone who had no hand in running the event.

Cold, grey day

When Jared was done with his coffee, he advised Roger he could still come to services on Sunday.  Roger thought, “And I am still welcome to give to the collection,” but he did not say it out loud. He watched Jared walk out into the cold, grey day which was a perfect match for his attitude.

Roger only went back to the church one more time.  He came on Christmas to read as previously scheduled.  He wished his fellow readers, and friends well but said nothing about moving on.

A former classmate told Roger that her brother had decided to go to a different parish.  “The pastor there is warm and welcoming.  It’s something they forgot here.”  Roger smiled and nodded, but said nothing.  He left the church and walked out into the pleasant Christmas weather.  He thought of the irony of the assistant who invited him to come back home to the church 15 years earlier and the pastor who invited him to leave, since they were the same person.

SOMETHING TO GO WITH YOUR COFFEE? – Marilyn Armstrong

Doughnuts are not good for me. Or you. We know that. No matter how you slice and dice it, those yummy fresh-from-the-oven treats are nothing but fat, carbohydrates, and sugar, probably with a dollop of artificial flavoring. But gee golly whiz, there’s nothing like a couple of warm crullers and a freshly brewed cuppa joe on a frosty morning. Or, if you’re me, any morning.

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I love my morning coffee. Much as I complain about the problems of getting old and being poor, retirement has a few perks. The biggest and most obvious is not having to go to work, not having to put up with the idiocies of bosses who know less about the job than the newest intern and base their impossible demands on a spreadsheet.

The other big perk is time. You don’t have to gulp your coffee in the car on the way to the office. Or drink horrible machine coffee in the office. You can brew your own, sit in a comfortable chair with the morning paper, a book, laptop or tablet and savor the experience.

Doughnuts are an extension of this top of the morning experience. As tasty as ever, you can enjoy them with your own or boughten coffee. Locally, the coffee and donuts emporium of choice has always been Dunkin Donuts. Unlike Starbucks whose “dark roasted beans” is a code for “burned coffee,” and whose donuts are clearly not fresh, Dunkin Donuts coffee is mm-mm good and the doughnuts are just out of the oven — at least until 3 in the afternoon.

A couple of times over the past year, in a fit of gustatory nostalgia, Garry picked up a small box of donuts from Dunkin’s to ramp up the quality of our morning coffee experience.

The first time I could barely contain my excitement. As I reached for a second forbidden but delicious doughnut, I discovered it was guarded by a militant-looking cockroach of considerable heft. One of the big ones who is obviously daring you to “bring it on.”

I took the whole box of donuts, roach and all, and dumped them in the trash. As far as I know, we don’t have roaches here. We have ants in season (like now, for example). Mosquitoes the size of sparrows and hungrier than sharks. Slugs and beetles of all kinds in the gardens and who knows what in the woods … but no cockroaches. So I fondly hoped this was an aberration. Surely our local Dunkin Donuts was not packaging cockroaches with the doughnuts? Tell me it ain’t so!

 

When Garry asked what happened to the donuts, I made some lame excuse like having knocked them off the counter and the dogs getting to them. Garry is a brave man, but he has two phobias: snakes and cockroaches. Both knock the Semper Fi right out of him. I chose to spare him the trauma.

Operating under the optimistic assumption that Dunkin Donuts wouldn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t include cockroaches with their mouth-watering confections, I encouraged him to pick up a second batch a few weeks later.

I ate a couple of doughnuts. Garry ate a couple of doughnuts. And standing in the box guarding the remaining Boston Creme and Honey Raised, was General Cockroach. I think he had an anti-aircraft weapon strapped to his carapace.

I carried the box and its occupant to the trash. This time, though, I told Garry. He needed to know lest he spontaneously purchases a box of fresh donuts on his way home.

After Garry stopped shivering and muttering “I hate those things,” we agreed we’d take a pass on future purchases from our local emporium. There are plenty of other doughnut shops in town.  In fact, the only shops of which our town has more than enough are hairdressers and doughnut shops.

For some reason, we’ve lost our taste for doughnuts. I don’t think either of us has eaten one since.

Odd, isn’t it?

A RAINY DAY WITH DOGS

It’s pouring. Again. Cold, too. Like yesterday and so many other days this spring. 

Our dogs do not like rain. They are fine in snow and a drizzly rain is not an issue. The downpours, though? They don’t like them, not one little bit. Normally, they are solidly housebroken, but when the rain is coming down in torrents, they will look for a place to go. They prefer hardwood or linoleum, for which I thank them. No rugs or furniture. They mess up, but they are tidy about it.

Figuring out when they will need to do their business is our business. Being Senior Citizens, we have a fairly frequent early morning bathroom schedule of our own, so it’s not like we are deep in sleep and can’t make it to the other part of the house.

I woke up at 4:30, but that’s too early. No point in sending them out. I may be awake, but they are sound asleep. They won’t be awake until the light comes up. I do my thing and go back to sleep, awakening an hour later.

Five thirty. It’s light. Morning again. Pouring rain out there. I can see it running down the back stairs from the deck like little rivers. I go out to the living room. “Good morning, kids,” I say, looking pretty perky for that early in the day. “How do we feel about going out?”

The look at me. Dead eyes. Not even an ear twitch and certainly not a wag in sight. “You have to go out.” Bonnie — in slow motion — gets off the sofa and stands in the middle of the living room staring me down. She isn’t going anywhere until I give her appropriately firm (and loud) instruction to do it. Gibbs, on the other hand, has dug himself between the cushions on the loveseat and he is using his super-power to become a fifty pound Scottish Terrier.

“Gibbs,” I say, “I mean it. Go out.” He digs in further.

Over at the couch, without a lot of sympathy (too early for sympathy), I grab the collar, give it a tug. Now they are both on the floor. At the top of the stairs. Awaiting further orders.

“OUT!” I say. Down they go. Bonnie, just a few steps. Gibbs, to the entry hall at the bottom. Then they stare at me. We’ve got a doggy door and they are in and out of it hundreds of times every day. They know what I want. They KNOW. No one can tell me they are unaware of the process in motion,.

“OUT!!” I say, but louder this time. Gibbs makes a graceful exit, but Bonnie is still staring at me, mutiny clearly on her mind.

“Bonnie … ” I say. There’s the warning note that all children and dogs recognize. A mom is getting pissed off. She backs up towards the flap.

“BONNIE, DAMN YOU, GO OUT!” and very slowly, she turns around and finally lets herself out. I wait.

Ten minutes, two soggy dogs return. My first thought would be to dry them off, but I realize that they don’t care how wet they are. They expect payment and they get it. At which point I make a u-turn and go back to bed. I have a couple of hours of sleep awaiting me. Garry is on the next watch.

A couple of hours later, maybe around eightish? Garry is up and the process is repeated. Treats are given, Garry’s back in bed, digging in for a solid couple of hours. There’s no reason to get up. It’s cold and wet and in theory, the sun is up, but you couldn’t tell by looking out the windows.

Big, fat drops are drooling out of the solid gray sky. The dogs are probably back to sleeping too.

About an hour later, I hear growling and a pair of woofs. Bonnie has the deeper woof. The growl is Gibbs. They have gotten bored waiting for us and are destroying some toys. I listen to make sure they aren’t warning me of a delivery, but all I hear are more play sounds. By now, though, I’m pretty much awake and although I don’t want to do it, I might as well get up. I could use some hot coffee. And an English muffin. With ginger curd. It’s just like lemon curd, but derived from ginger. Don’t sneer at it unless you’ve tried it. Chivers is good but I favor MacKay, probably because I can buy it in the supermarket.

It’s still pouring while I brush my teeth. I hear the horn of a truck honk twice and wonder if it’s a delivery, so I hustle to look, but if there was a delivery, they’ve left by now. It’s a bit early for that. We are at the end of everybody’s run, so typically, we don’t see packages or mail until well after lunchtime. But the dogs are waiting for me.

I go to clean up Bonnie’s eye (she has a condition of unknown origin that requires daily cleaning and eye drops), but it looks perfect and shiny and clean. I wonder if maybe Garry took care of it when he was up (no, he didn’t). I give them Greenies, then a brown crunchy thing. Yum.  No idea why they like them … they are dry and tasteless. Finally one of those small stuff crunchies from Milk Bone.

Now, Garry’s up too, so they snag an additional cookie from him. That’s a big morning for cookies. Very big.

They are looking adorable, natty, and peppy. Time for a little play with toys, a bit of snuffling, growling, barking, huffing, puffing. Followed by a good solid sleep. Nothing much to do until the going out thing comes again.

Maybe the rain will slacken. The sky seems a bit lighter. Garry says has to drive into town, too. We’re running low on dog biscuits.

SOMETHING TO GO WITH YOUR DOUGHNUTS, SIR?

Doughnuts are not good for me. Or you. We all know that. No matter how you slice and dice it, those yummy fresh-from-the-oven treats are nothing but fat, carbohydrates, and sugar, probably with a dollop of artificial flavoring. But gee golly whiz, there’s nothing like a couple of warm crullers with a freshly brewed cuppa joe on a frosty morning. Or, if you’re me, any morning.

75-downtown-21

I love my morning coffee. Much as I complain about the problems of getting old and being poor, retirement has a few perks. The biggest and most obvious is not having to go to work, not having to put up with the idiocies of bosses who know less about the job than the newest intern and base their impossible demands on a spread sheet.

The other big perk is time. You don’t have to gulp your coffee in the car on the way to the office. Or drink horrible machine coffee in the office. You can brew your own, sit in a comfortable chair with the morning paper, a book, laptop or tablet and savor the experience.

Doughnuts are an extension of this top of the morning experience. As tasty as ever, you can enjoy them with your own or boughten coffee. Locally, the coffee and donuts emporium of choice has always been Dunkin Donuts. Unlike Starbucks whose “dark roasted beans” are a code for “burned coffee,” and whose donuts are clearly not fresh, Dunkin Donuts coffee is mm-mm good and the doughnuts are just out of the oven — at least until 3 in the afternoon.

A couple of times over the past year, in a fit of gustatory nostalgia, Garry picked up a small box of donuts from Dunkin’s to ramp up the quality of our morning coffee experience.

The first time I could barely contain my excitement. As I reached for a second forbidden but delicious doughnut, I discovered it was guarded by a militant-looking cockroach of considerable heft. One of the big ones who is obviously daring you to “bring it on.”

I took the whole box of donuts, roach and all, and dumped them in the trash. As far as I know, we don’t have roaches here. We have ants in season (like now, for example). Mosquitoes the size of sparrows and hungrier than sharks. Slugs and beetles of all kinds in the gardens and who knows what in the woods … but no cockroaches. So I fondly hoped this was an aberration. Surely our local Dunkin Donuts was not packaging cockroaches with the doughnuts? Tell me it ain’t so!

Mr. Coffee

When Garry asked what happened to the donuts, I made some lame excuse like having knocked them off the counter and the dogs getting to them. Garry is a brave man, but he has two phobias: snakes and cockroaches. Both knock the Semper Fi right out of him. I chose to spare him the trauma.

Operating under the optimistic assumption that Dunkin Donuts wouldn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t include cockroaches with their mouth-watering confections, I encouraged him to pick up a second batch a few weeks later.

I ate a couple of doughnuts. Garry ate a couple of doughnuts. And standing in the box guarding the remaining Boston Creme and Honey Raised, was General Cockroach. I think he had an anti-aircraft weapon strapped to his carapace.

I carried the box and its occupant to the trash. This time, though, I told Garry. He needed to know lest he spontaneously stop and buy a box on the way back from wherever. After Garry stopped shivering and muttering “I hate those things …” we agreed we’d take a pass on future purchases from our local emporium. There are plenty of other doughnut shops in the area. In fact, the only shops our town has more than enough of are hairdressers and doughnut shops.

For some reason, we’ve lost our taste for doughnuts. I don’t think either of us has eaten one since. Odd, isn’t it?