Me and Mortimer, “My Wife is now My Boss” Chapter Four


Do you remember, last week me tellin’ you all about my sunburn that I got from going to the beach with my wife’s sister’s kids? Well, after ol’ Mort left in a huff ‘cause I didn’t tell him right away that the boss wanted to see him, I poured myself another cup of coffee and started readin’ the mornin’ paper, plannin’ to have a restful day and heal my sunburn.

Well, I suddenly got the urge to go and relieve myself, and the only bathroom close by was in the company’s main building, ‘top of the hill. I didn’t want to put on my shirt ‘cause my sunburn still hurt, so I went to use the company washroom without my shirt on. No problem, I thought, ‘cause I ain’t exposing myself—got my pants on, haven’t I? —and what the heck, who ain’t seen a guy without his shirt on before?

A bit later, as I was just comin’ out of the washroom—it’s on the second floor where all the brass and their uppity lady secretaries have their offices, when one of the ladies—Actually, hag is a better description of her, comes out her office door and into the hallway where I am waiting for an elevator. When she sees me she stops, sudden like, and with the most horrible surprised look on her face, like, as if she’s just seen the end of the world, points her gnarled, witch-like finger at me and yells, “Sir, what are you doing here with no shirt on? That’s indecent exposure!”

This lady looked mean, I tell ya, so I wasn’t about to stand there and explain all about my sunburn and how I couldn’t wear a shirt, so I forgets about waitin’ for the elevator and ducked into the stairway, hopin’ she wouldn’t follow me.

So, I barely gets back to my office here in the Maintenance Shed, out of breath ‘cause I was runin’ all the way, when the shed door bursts open and my straw boss, Jason, bursts in with his wicked witch of the north secretary tailin’ him like a devoted lap dog.

Just as a side note, neither of them likes me, and especially that secretary. She’s had it in for me right from the start.

Jason ain’t the CEO of the company. Jason’s the guy who was told by the boss to hire me, but he’s been trying to find an excuse ever since to fire me. Figures I’m not good enough for the company … Hah! At least I ain’t no brownnoser like he is!

As I said, this little runt—and I calls him that ‘cause he really is little more than four feet tall, comes burstin’ into the shed, completely ignores Mortimer who’s standin’ quietly over there by the lawn mower and he comes to face me where I’m sitting at my desk.

“What were you doing in the main office without your shirt on?” He sorta half yells at me. He’s sure upset, and that secretary-hag tailin’ him gives me a look that would melt the armor off a battle ship. “We’ve got strict dress codes in our office,” he continues. “Besides, I told you before that the main office is off limits to you!”

I started explaining to him that all this was ‘cause of my sunburn, and I had to relieve myself, but he wasn’t listening, and I think quite on purpose. Looks to me like that witch-secretary of his did her job of makin’ him hate me on their way over here.

“I’ve had it with you and your crazy antics! You’re nothing but a screw-up! You’re fired!” Then he and that secretary-hag of his turn, and like they was one in mind and intent, start for the door. He stops long enough to look back to tell me, “you can pick up your paycheck just before five this afternoon, and I don’ want to see you on this property again! Is that clear?”

It was actually a bit surprisin’ … I mean, the way that little runt was actin’ so angry all of a sudden. I know he don’t like me, but normally, he’s usually a quiet guy, so I think he was usin’ this whole incident about me not wearin’ a shirt as final excuse to fire me—and, of course, that skinny secretary of his backin’ his hate for me, made his anger for me even worse!

“Sheesh!” I shake my head and mutters to myself. A lot’s happened in just one minute and I gotta sit down to think things over. Maybe me bein’ fired ain’t such a bad thing after all! I’ve been with the company long enough now where I can draw employment benefits, so I don’t need to work for a few months … and with today’s pay cheque I can go buy that fishin’ pole I’ve always wanted, and relax, and do some fishin’ on the lake instead of wastin’ my time here in this stupid office! … that’ll teach the company not to be so hasty in firing a good employee like me!

In all this commotion, I forgot about Mortimer. Suddenly I hear him move in the shadows somewhere by his work bench. He starts whistlin’

Yankee Doodle came to town

A-riding on his pony

He stuck a feather in his cap

And called it Macaroni.

For a moment, I was so dumstruck—I didn’t expect him to make fun of me. That whistlin’ of his obviously was a victory whistle tellin’ me he was glad I was fired and no longer be in his maintenance shed! I jumped up— Ouch!—too sudden like. I wanted to go over and punch him in the nose, but my sunburn hurt more than my for Mortimer, so I sat down again. Just then the door again opens and the Straw Boss, Jason, comes back in, only this time he ain’t got his hag-secretary with him: he’s got my wife with him! I was so surprised I even forgot about my sunburn!

Jason doesn’t look me in the eyes—just sorta looks down, then mutters, “Looks like you’re not fired after all.” He half turns his back to me, and I can see that it’s hard for him to say this, then blurts out, “The boss called me in and—uh, we talked … and—uh,  looks like you’re not fired.”

“And you can thank me—and Gertrude—for your boss changing his mind about firing you,” my wife butted in.

“Your wife’s going to be your new boss for a while,” Jason added. Then, without further explanation, he just up and leaves without further explanation.

My wife don’t look happy—much like a mad hen that’s been disturbed off her nest. I move to behind my desk. Not out of fear or anything like that, but thinkin’ it safer if I put some distance between her and me right now. My wife looks at the heap of files on my desk.

“You have some filing to do, mister!” she tells me, and I got a feelin’ she means it! “You don’t leave here until all those files are put away!”

I looks at the clock. It’s quarter-to-five! My heart sank. “But I don’t got time to put all them files away before five!” I protest. Out of the corner of my eye I see Mortimer put on his cap and silently sneak out.

“You should have thought about that earlier in the day when you did have time!” she informs me!   I was thinkin’ of objecting, but the look on her face made me think otherwise.

“And no supper, no television tonight, until those files are all filed away!”

My sunburn ain’t nothin’ compared to the stare I get from my wife. Slowly, painfully, I pick up some files and start filing.

 

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Amazing Intelligence in Animals—Rats.

“Rats survived so well because they were rats. They knew when to keep quiet and they knew when to squeal.” —Danielle Bennett

Society loathes the rat! Like its close counterpart for being loathed—or feared– is the wolf who, even in fairy tales is always pictured as “the bad guy,” and so, also, is the rat always the creature to be loathed, hated and shunned. It is considered the harbinger of disease. In addition, in modern times, as well as in ancient times, the rat was viewed as a pest that destroyed stored grain.

Rats were even blamed as the main culprits for spreading the Black Plague that decimated Europe during the 13th century. The nursery rhyme, “Ring Around the Rosie,” although today it’s sung by children playfully dancing in a circle, singing “Ring around the Rosie, A pocket full of Posies, Ashes Ashes, we all fall down,” it has its morbid origin in the Black Plague period. The “rosie” referred to the black, pussy sores that would appear on the infected bodies. “Posies” is reference to people who would carry posies (flowers) around to help them cope with the smell of dead bodies everywhere.” “Ashes signified the piles of ashes from the bodies being burned on pyres.

Although rats have been intertwined in our history, they were especially not welcome guests during the Black Plague period, and probably even today, our loathing for these little critters has its roots in the part they played in he assumed spreading of diseases and destroying our stored grains of our ancestors. However, after all this has been said, the rat is considered one of the ten smartest animals in the animal kingdom! Maybe that’s one reason why it managed to survive in close proximity with man for all these millennia.

“I wouldn’t mind the Rat Race-if the rats would lose once in a while.” —Tom Wilson

But, in all fairness, before we talk more about the rat’s intelligence, we have to first acknowledge the rat’s redeeming qualities for being our historic “bad guy,” and examine the service it plays as an important positive subject, namely, in our lab experiments. The rat is the fall guy in all the laboratory’s “oopses on their road to success, that otherwise, we’d have to suffer ourselves.  It is estimated (drum roll, please, for our little heroes) that over 10 million rats and mice are “experimented on” each year to help bring us better health!

Furthermore, in all fairness, it should be noted that rats are not the disease-spreaders that they have been accused of being. Even during the Bubonic plague period, humans, themselves, were the greatest spreaders of the disease, not rats. Rats keep themselves very clean and, similar to cats, spend a lot of time in grooming themselves. It is usually the fleas on rats, not the rats, themselves, that spread disease.

Rats are social animals and communicate with each other using high frequency sounds that are above our hearing capacity. In fact, both rats and mice have been recorded as “singing,” like birds at ultrasonic frequencies! According to a PETA article, “They play together, wrestle, and love sleeping curled up together, much like us, and if they do not have companionship, they can become lonely, anxious, depressed and stressed.”

Rats can show empathy. In one study, “rats experiment, [rats] chose to help another rat who was being forced to tread water.”

PETA also states that, “if not forced to live in a dirty cage, a rat’s skin has a very pleasant perfume-like scent. After engaging in sex, male rats sing at frequencies beyond the range of human hearing, around 20 to 22 kHz.”

A rat’s lifespan is from two to three years, and they make excellent alternative pets, especially in apartments that don’t allow tenants to have cats or dogs. They do require specialized care and need time outside of their cage to be exercised and “loved.” Just like a cat or a dog, rats appreciate being loved, and are very capable of showing affection in return.

“I will not join the rat race because I’m not a rat. And I will not blindly follow a specific faith because I’m not a bat. The only race I’ll take part in is for humans being humane. It’s called the human race, and sadly it’s got the least participants.” —Suzy Kassem

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A Sunday Chat with Myself—”Stay in School!”

“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.”  –Albert Einstein

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(I like the above quote by Einstein. I hope I know my topic well enough so that not only six-year-olds, but also my other, mature readers can understand what I’m trying to say)

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Suicide is so prevalent in our society that it’s become a real issue. I believe the reason is because society—and in particular, we here in a socially developed country—have completely lost our way, morally, and have abandoned the positive attributes that have once allowed previous societies in historical times to flourish. We’ve become so preoccupied with our “freedom to be ourselves,” that we’ve totally forgotten that freedom—and it’s true, humans are the only creatures on our planet who have been given the ability to understand and exercise total freedom—but freedom carries with it an equal amount of responsibility, and that responsibility is relevant to the freedom we express, and I feel that our society has completely forgotten, or ignored this important fact.

To quote science, “every action has its opposite and equal reaction.” In short, if I’m careless and create only a small cut my finger, a simple band aid could easily repair the reaction to my cut finger. However, if I suddenly have a feel “liberated—feeling free to do as I please,” moment, and have a few drinks of alcohol, then get behind the wheel of a car and have an accident and seriously injure myself, the reaction to my cause can be much more serious, even life threatening. In other words, as Einstein would say, “It’s all relative.” Action and reaction. These are the two universal laws that I feel our Western society has completely ignored, and is, beyond doubt, at the root of our problems. We’ve abandoned the common sense that allowed our ancestors not only to survive, but to thrive in an often-hostile environment.

“Wise people learn when then can. Fools learn when they must.” —Duke of Wellington

The problems we face in life—and why we have problems—have, for a long time been a puzzle and a mystery to me, until it was explained to me this way: life is a school!

At one time, in our very far distant past—long before we even came here to Earth—our “Parents” sat down with us and discussed our future growth. I believe that our “Parents” loved us very much and wanted only the best possible “education” that they and the Universe could provide for us. In searching the Cosmos for the “best school,” they finally found a special school for us, in our case—Earth—and “hired” a special Teacher that had all the qualifications: the wisdom and ability to guide and direct us to the ultimate fulfillment of our souls.

In my case, the Teacher’s name they “hired” was called “Jesus.” For you, it may have been “Mohammed,” or the “Dalai Lama,” or any one of the many other great philosophers/masters that were cosmically available—and fully qualified to educate us. Some “Teachers” had different methods, but the ultimate goal was the same for all of us: for us to reach spiritual perfection.

All the schools were uniformly, cosmically designed and based on the principal of cause and effect, broken down into “right” versus “wrong,” or “good” versus “evil,” or “love” versus “hate.”

When we were in “Grade One” in this “Earthly School,” our assignments were simple: to learn the basics of life; love brings better results than hate; honesty is better than distrust, and so on.

In “Grade Two” we might have learned that if we do a kind deed to someone, we make friends. Besides, learning to be kind also made us feel happier than if we were cruel to another person.

In Grade Three” we might have learned compassion and to start thinking about walking a “Ministering” path ourselves because of the love we are starting to develop for our fellow feeling of compassion to man.

Unfortunately, like the person contemplating suicide, when we lose our directive as to why we’re here. Escape seems like a logical solution to our overwhelming problem. That is why it is so vital to our own survival—and the survival of all of us—that, if you have matured enough to have “graduated” in life to at least “Grade Three,” or beyond, to gently put our protective arms around such a “lost” person and gently help them back “into the classroom.”

A suicide is not just a failure on the part of one person—one soul—it is a failure and a blemish on all of society! From “Grade Three” and beyond in our “Earth-School,” we learn that we are all one family: we are responsible for each other! No “Sin” is too small or too great that communal love and empathy can’t help heal!

One Day, or Day One. It’s your decision.” –Anon

 

 

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Me and Mortimer “Beaches and Sunburn,” Chapter Three

Last time I talked to you I told you about how I tried to help my daughter with her English assignment. Well, turns out, her mother had secretly helped her on studyin’ up on our Eskimos—Inuit, she insisted on callin’ them, so she didn’t need my western story, which is too bad, ‘cause it’s a proven fact that Western’s is about the best kinda reading money can buy.

My daughter got a A+ for her story from the teacher. Teacher thinks it was good enough were it deserves publishin’, so she helped my daughter mail her story off to our local newspaper. I know my daughter’s smart, but if you ask me, that teacher is about as bias as a mother’s praise for her spoilt son! My western story idea woulda been better!

But, that was last week. This week, I just gotta tell you about what Mortimer has done again, and if the company don’t fire him soon … well, I think I’m just gonna hafta quit and let the company squirm in tryin’ to find another employee as valuable as me!

Before that, though, I gotta tell you about my wife’s sister with her four screaming brats – banshees is a better way to describe them—came to visit us for the weekend. They insisted on me taking them to the beach on Sunday. That was a big mistake—not for them; they ate more ice-cream than I had money to pay for—but it was a mistake for me. I got a devil of a sunburn! With my sunburn and all, I wouldav called in sick and stayed home today, but the boss phoned late Sunday night, and told me to get my but in here real early this morning and do some work. He was kinda mad ‘cause I hadn’t done any of the filing for a few days, and someone musta told him that the filing wasn’t being done. Lucky for me, when I got to work this morning, ol’ Mort was in a good mood so he helped me get some ointment on my sunburn.

 

“Ooo! … Ouch! Ouch! Take it easy, Mort. That sunburn hurts!”

“I’m sure it does. But, that’s what you get for showing off your muscles at the beach yesterday.”

“Fun-eee! … Oh, that towel is cold!”

“Just hold still. The cold will help ease the pain. What were you doing at the beach, anyway? I thought the boss told you to come in to work over the weekend and catch up on your backlog of filing.”

“Wasn’t my idea to go to the beach. I hate beaches. I’d sooner crawl naked through a prickly gooseberry bush than spend a day at the beach with that bunch of screamin’ banshees!”

“Banshees?”

“Yeah. That’s what I call my wife’s sister’s kids. She’s got no control over them whatsoever. If they was my kids, I’d put some discipline into their minds.”

“But, you’d rather spend the day at the beach with screaming kids than come to the office to catch up on your work.”

“Don’t bug me, man! That sunburn ain’t puttin’ me in any kind of good mood today. I got ‘till tonight to finish puttin’ them files away– ouch! Easy on that shoulder. It’s the one that’s most sore. By the way, as soon as I got here this mornin’ the phone rang and it was the boss callin’ for you.”

“What did he want?”

“I don’t know.”

“Didn’t you take a message?”

“I didn’t ask, and since you wasn’t here yet, I just hung up.”

Mortimer stopped rubbing in the ointment and turned all pale. “That was almost two hours ago! Why didn’t you tell me as soon as I came in?” He started raisin’ his voice.

“Hey—stop your yellin’, eh? Sheesh! I gave you the message, didn’t I? The boss can wait. Fixin’ my sunburn is more important.”

“But—but that was two hours ago,” ol’ Mort repeated. “It might be something urgent–” Mort set the cream down, grabbed his cap and started for the door.

“Hey, are you forgetting about my sunburn? I shouted after him. “You gotta finish applyin’ that lotion to my back!”

Ol’ Mort stopped in his tracks and slowly turned around and just stared at me for about half a minute with a stare that reminded me of a kid starin’ at his uncle who had just told him there was no Santa Claus. I could tell Mort was tryin’ to say something—his jaw was twitchin’ sorta funny like, but words just wouldn’t form. Slowly he got control of hisself—and good thing, ‘cause I was startin’ to get mad for him thinkin’ he could just walk away and leave me in my pain!

Then he pointed towards the lotion on the desk beside me, and in a forced-controlled, voice said, “There’s your lotion. Put it on yourself!” And without even saying please, he turned and left, slammin’ the door behind him.

That’s the part I was gonna tell you about Mort. I mean, how selfish and rude can a fella get? All he’d have had to do was spend another fifteen minutes rubbin’ that ointment into my sunburn, and he’d have been finished. That would still have given him the rest of the day to go suck up to the boss.

Now what am I supposed to do? I tried rubbin’ the ointment onto my arms and legs, but how am I supposed to reach my back? And I’m not gonna injure myself by filing all those files wile I’m sufferin, from this sunburn!

Sheesh! Mortimer, I sez sorta to myself, if the boss scolds me ‘cause these files aren’t put away, I’m gonna blame you! It’s all your fault, ‘cause if you wouldn’t of been so selfish and finished applyin’ that ointment to my back, I’d have been able to do the files!

I pour myself another cup of coffee and open the mornin’ paper. I need to rest after that ordeal with Mortimer and my sunburn! I have a feelin’ the excitement for this day ain’t over yet!

 

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Amazing Intelligence in Animals—Mule Deer

See the source imageLast winter (2018) was a ‘heavy snow’ winter for us here in Southern Alberta. For humans, it wasn’t that much of an inconvenience, other than the almost daily clearing of the snow off our cars and driveways, but for our wildlife—and here, in particular, I mean our Mule Deer—it’s a different story for them: they had trouble finding food.

“In my cosmology, indigenous wild deer are more important than exotic ornamental shrubs.” —Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

Normally, we seldom see Mule Deer in town. They’re a bit on the shy side and prefer to forage in the open spaces our rolling grasslands and nearness to the Rocky Mountains provide for them, but last winter, it was common to see small numbers of them on our lawns and picking through our flower beds looking something—anything, to eat.

Mule Deer are native to western North America, and they get their name, “Mule Deer,”  from their long ears, similar to that of a mule. Oh, and here’s a bit of trivia that you may or may not have known: In Chaldean numerology, their numerical value is 7. In Pythagorean numerology, their numerical value is 2. I’ll bet that’s information you always wanted to know, but didn’t know who to ask. 🙂

I don’t know if there is a driver on our highways who hasn’t hit a deer with his car at some time in their life. To some, such an incident puts the deer on the dumb side of the scale: they have excellent sight and hearing, why can’t they hear or see a car coming? But before we judge a deer’s intelligence in this matter, let’s first consider their evolutionary process in learning. They’ve only experienced vehicles in their lives for a little more than a hundred years. To learn something—and this applies to humans, or any other creature—evolutionary-wise, it takes hundreds of years, if not millennia for the lesson to be permanently written into consciousness. They’ve already had several millions of years to learn that a wolf is a predator, and they must run from it, but they’ve had only a very short time to learn that a speeding car can’t stop and wait for them to move off the road.

You’ve heard the saying, “caught in your headlights,” as it applies to deer. When you come upon them on the road, they will stop and ‘stare‘ at you—caught in your headlights. Actually, they’re not staring, nor are they ‘frozen’ for the moment: they’re evaluating the situation; are you harmless to them  or are you a predator, and that moment of analysis—and it takes a moment for the mind to make a decision, be you human or animal—is all it takes for the car to hit the deer.

Deer aren’t the only animals that we hit on our roads. Foxes, coyotes, birds—even domestic animals like cattle can fall victim to this modern “road kill” tragedy, a word that we’ve introduced into our language, and intelligence really has nothing to do with it.

“We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumes flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle: these are our brothers. All things are connected like the blood which unites one’s family.” —Chief Seattle

A good way to experience the difference in intelligence between humans and animals is to remember that humans think in words. “I think I’ll go for a walk today.” Deer—or any any other animal, can’t rely on language to help them think in words, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t reason as well as we can.

  • They know enough to avoid man. He’s a predator. A rabbit is harmless and can forage alongside of them without having to run from it.
  • The instinct to survive has taught a newborn fawn to walk—even run within an hour of its birth. Humans can’t do that!
  • Deer instinctively know the difference between edible and poisonous plants, unlike us humans who have to turn to our elders for advice on this matter.
  • Deer can learn and remember things. For example, if a deer keeps running into a human at a certain point on its path, it soon learns to avoid that area of its path. True, a deer is no match in mathematical skills to, let’s say even a grade six student, it does have innate survival skills that we humans have to send our kids to Boy Scouts and Girl Guide camps to learn.

Now that summer is almost here and the grass is green and lush again, even on the high mountain slopes, the deer have retreated to their more familiar pastures. Some of our perennial flower arrangements didn’t survive last winter’s deer foraging, but that’s o.k. In sort of a Biblical sense, the plants gave their lives to feed the hungry and starving. Maybe this coming winter I’ll even have the forethought to scatter a few apples discreetly around the lawn to welcome back my very lovely, timid friends.



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A Sunday Chat with Myself—Responsible Health

Parts of this story were included in an article on this topic that I wrote for our town newspaper on 24 May, 2018.

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In Canada we enjoy a healthcare system that guarantees free health and sickness care for every citizen. It’s a pretty good deal—the envy of many countries whose politicians aren’t as concerned about the welfare of their citizens as (some) of ours are. However, it does have drawbacks, because there are times when  free health care is the worst thing our politicians could have done for us.

“Everyone should have health insurance? I say everyone should have health care. I’m not selling insurance.”  —Dennis Kucinich

When I go to pick up our mail I often can’t find a parking spot in front of the post office because most of the stalls are taken up by people visiting the health clinic which is located next to the post office. I go to the back of the post office and look for a parking stall in the public parking lot located there—same thing: most of the “up close” stalls are taken up by clinic patients.

On occasion, when I do have to use a drug store—usually for health supplements, but I have used their dispensary, and often had to stand in line waiting to be served. This wouldn’t be a significant point to ponder, except that, in a town of not much over 3,000 people, plus the Blood Reserve next door, we have four drug stores that serve us! Doesn’t that raise an alarm bell that, maybe, we’re not living as healthily as we should be?

I know that in an advanced society it’s a given—almost a right to have good hospitals, doctors, nurses and drug stores, and we should appreciate, and be very grateful for these fine institutes that we’re blessed with. In war torn countries, to even have a doctor come through on occasion is considered a God-send!

Coming back to our town, I don’t know of a person, including myself, who hasn’t, at one time or another, used all four of these health facilities. One can fall and break a limb, come down with a contagious virus, be in a traffic accident, or have some other physical health issue that is beyond one’s control. That’s pretty well a given as we go through life. And, of course, at such times it is so nice to know with confidence, that our ailment will be professionally taken care of.

But shouldn’t we be taking at least some responsibility for our general, non emergency good health? Many of our ailments can can be prevented, if we but use some common sense in both our behavioral and eating habits.

“The road to health is paved with good intestines!” —Sherry A. Rogers

Pain is usually the first indicator telling our body that there is something wrong. When we experience pain, wouldn’t we be better off if, when visiting a doctor, to inquire of him first, if there is something in our daily life—food, drink, bad habits, lifestyle—that we’re doing that could be causing our pain, rather than immediately demanding a pill to just mask the pain? Our doctors and health workers are well trained in helping us live a healthier life—God bless them for their caring professionalism!, If we but ask, they are quite willing to show us a better, healthier way to live without having to resort to medication.

Our health clinic has a Healthy Living unit, but I have yet to see a lineup at that Nurse’s Station as I do at our drug stores!

It’s up to us to utilize this professional knowledge that our health system provides us, and educate ourselves with all this information that’s so freely available—in fact, speaking of free, it is often said that, what is free is seldom appreciated. Maybe it’s time, again, that we placed a levy on our health services so that we appreciate good health!

Smoking, excess drinking, illegal drug use, improper eating habits are lifestyles well within our personal control. We can do something about those issues. It shouldn’t be up to the doctor to “cure” our bad health habits with a pill—or the taxpayer to fund such a wrong mindset, just because we feel we have a right to live as we please without considering the consequences!

“The individual who says it is not possible should move out of the way of those doing it.”  —Tricia Cunningham

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Me and Mortimer. “Death in the Saddle,” Chapter Two.

If you’re like me and got kids, you know that proper schoolin’ takes up a good part of their lives. I got a teenage daughter who’s just graduated into high school and she sez she wants to major in journalism after she’s finished with school. I told her she’d be better off if she’d go in for bein’ a doctor. She’d make much more money, bein’ a doctor than a journalist, but, no! She’s as stubborn as her mother. A journalist is what my daughter’s gonna be, and that’s it!

Her teacher keeps givin’ her a bunch of homework assignments. Sez they’re good practice assignments to help her become a better journalist, but I think she’s as wacky as a dodo bird tryin’ a backwards flip!

Back in the days when I went to school we had no homework—or if our teacher was stupid enough to try and force homework on us, I just wouldn’t do it. After school was fer other, more important things, like playin’ ball, or meet the gang at the local pool hall, not homework!

Anyway, as I was sayin’, the teacher keeps givin’ my daughter all these journalist practice assignments, and so I finally caved in and promised to help her become a good journalist, so this mornin’ I brought some paper and a pencil with me to show my daughter what good journalism is like.

I pour myself my first cup of coffee for the day, read only the headlines in the newspaper so I can sooner get down to writin’ and show my daughter what good journalism is.

So now I’m sitting here at my desk, thinkin’ hard about what would make a good western story. I’m bein’ as quiet as possible and not disturb Mort. So far, he’s in a pretty good mood, and I don’t want him to get angry again and stomp out of here, like he did last week. I write …

Like balls of weightless cotton, the fog drifted down the mountains, covering the Pecos Valley in a thick mist as if it were trying to hide the terrible black secret hidden__

“Nah! That’s no good!” I crumple up the paper and throw it into the garbage and try again.

The sharp crack of three rapid gunshots echoed across the sparse cactus growth of the parched, choking valley floor, shattering the stillness of the growing purple shadows of impending night. At the first crack of the rifle shot, jack rabbits leaped to attention, their ears perked, frozen in fear—

“Eh, even worse!” I try once more.

The full moon hung low over the horizon, like an outrider’s beacon, guiding the lone rider, pushing his horse to the limit, ever westward through the tangled sage—”

“Aw, this just ain’t workin’!” I said out loud, I throw down my pencil and lean back in my chair. I’m gettin’ nowhere—looks like writin’ is harder than I thought!

“What are you trying to write anyway?” I guess I shouldn’ta spoke out loud ‘cause it attracted Mortimer’s curiosity. He stopped rummaging through the old tobacco can full of saved nuts and bolts and looked at me.

“My daughter’s got this western pulp fiction literature assignment for school and I said I’d help her. Sez she might be a journalist some day.”

“Did she ask for your help?”

“Well, nah! You know how kids are. Too independent. Think they know more than their parents, but I thought I’d just show her up by writin’ a good story.”

“So, your daughter is interested in becoming a journalist?”

“She talks all the time about it. I told her that if she’d go ahead with her plans to be a journalist, she’d be as poor as a crop sharer on a flood plain, but you know how kids are. Never listen to their parents.”

“Many journalists make excellent careers out of writing. Good journalism is important to our society. It keeps us accurately informed about world events.”

“You mean, mis-informed! What this country needs is some good old fashioned teachers like we usta have, and some morals like we usta have!”

“Your daughter’s school assignment is to write a western pulp fiction story? That doesn’t sound much like a journalism assignment.”

“Well—that’s not what her teacher wants her to write about. Her teacher wants her to write a research paper on early life of—get this: ‘Early Northern Inuit Life Before Whiteman came.’ How about that fer a stupid title and subject? Hah! In my time they was called Eskimos, not Inuit. And what kinda life did they have anyway—they had no history before we came and gave them guns so that they could hunt better and build wooden houses instead of them igloo things.”

“But, that’s a real journalism assignment—I mean, what the teacher gave your daughter.”

“Yeah, that’s what you and that stupid teacher say. I told my daughter that, if she really wants to get ahead in this world, she better learn how to write good western fiction! I grew up on dime wester pulp fiction, so I know. They’s the backbone of our society!”

“Well, I guess she’s your daughter—” Mortimer just shrugs and turns back to his can of nuts and bolts. I make another attempt to write an opening paragraph.

Vultures circle over the dying cowboy’s horse—”

“Shouldn’t you be filing that backlog of files on your desk instead of working on your personal stuff?”

Mort’s comment makes me see red! That man just ain’t got no sense of good literature! I open my mouth to yell at him, “What’s more important: filin’ some stupid files that someone’s gonna want pulled again later anyway, or teachin’ a child about literature?” But I keep quiet ‘cause it’s almost lunch time … what the heck, why let Mortimer ruin my day? I decided, instead, to go plug in the coffee pot and, while I’m waitin’ for the pot to start boilin,’ I sort through some files.

So far, today’s been a peaceful day workin’ here with Mort, but with his attitude, I don’t know how long that can last!

 

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