Friday, October 31, 2014

Howling for Halloween






 
Well, we all know what tonight is and if we don't, the sight of Zombies across the street in costume should be a dead give a way—or un-dead giveaway.

Of course they don’t really need to dress up, but they’re sensitive to the fact that most people are still skittish around them, so they like to show folks they’re really no different than anyone else.

You know, except for the fact that they’re re-exanimated corpses and they don’t really like the Food Network.

Other than that….

So there they are, all dolled up as various characters from Toy Story and Frozen…even a couple of Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles, which actually works for them.

I was talking to Burt about it, yesterday, as they were putting the final touches on the various trap doors and false walls they installed in their spook house.  He said, or I think he said that they find it safer to go with the more popular cartoon themes, rather than dressing up as other ghouls.

They tried that a few years back, and some of the local werewolves, witches and vampires kind of got bent out of shape over it.

Not that it was surprising to see the vampires and witches getting their noses out of joint—they’re sensitive to every little slight imaginable—but it was out of character for the werewolves to start howling about it; especially back then, when they weren’t the most popular lycanthropes in town.

Anyway, it got me thinking back to when I was a kid, and the difficulty I had coming up with a suitable costume, every year.

I mean, talk about stress producing.  I pretty much started agonizing over it the second I unloaded my bag of candy and began arranging them by size and color.

Of course, throughout all that night's trick or treating I made a careful study of what most of the other kids in the neighborhood had put together, which probably accounted for all those falls into the leaf piles.

Halloween costumes at that time were pretty much divided into the simple, the elaborate, the creative and the cheap.

And probably not much has changed today.

The cheap would be to simply grab some of your old clothes out of the rag bag, tear some more holes in them, rub some burned cork on your face, tie a rag onto a stick and voila…instant…uhm…hobo.

Not sure if that’s politically correct to say or even do anymore, but that’s what we did back then, in a pinch.

And if you were really ambitious you could get your mom to iron on some of those sticky patchie thingies that curled at the corners.

You could also throw on your personal cowboy hat and guns, Davey Crocket coonskin cap and long rifle, Indian feathers with bow and arrow and go in that direction as well.

The elaborate get-ups consisted of going to an actual costume shop and renting a lion, scarecrow or tin man suit…Superman, Frankenstein, Dracula…all realistic…all very expensive, and all pretty much unseen in my neighborhood…and if they were, you made sure to cross the street, because you could never be sure they weren’t real.

The creative tended to be the best of the best when it came to costumes. My cousin once painted a bunch of boxes silver, tied them around his shoulders and head and made himself into a robot.  He actually stills wears it…to this day, every day.

A friend once wrapped herself up in gauze and made herself into a mummy, which delighted all the other neighborhood kids. One of these days, she hopes to get it all unwrapped.

And if you had a handy mom, dad, grandma or grandpa, they could whip you up a Raggedy Ann, Barbie, Cinderella or Dorothy from OZ costume…any or all of which could lead to trouble if you wore it to the school Halloween party…believe me, I know.

And of course the simplest costumes were the ones that came in a box, featuring various characters from skeletons to werewolves to Tevye from Fiddler.  You just stepped into this flimsy cottony jumpsuit, tied it around your neck and avoided any open flames. And don’t forget the hot plastic mask that tended to collect your drool and kept you from seeing too much other than the inside of the mask.  Plus, don’t forget the ultra hi-tech fastening device—aka rubber band—that pretty much tore out your hair and cut a line into the back of your head.

But it was all worth it, and still is, because there’s only one day a year when you’re allowed to go panhandling from door to door in search of the elusive full size snicker bar.

And I know it’s only one day a year because back in the 60s I tried it in February…and March…and July…and nothing.

Not even a “How cute you look!”

So however you choose to dress up, tonight, make sure you compliment the Zombies on their costumes, and always say Trick or Treat, followed by a big thank you.

Because to be honest, I’m not really sure what those trap doors and false walls are for…and I’m pretty sure none of us want to find out.

Nobody wants a repeat of the Columbus Day incident…nobody….

 

 

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Watch Out for Writers





 
 
 
Okay…I’m just going to say it.

Writers make the worst friends.

So it would be wise to steer clear.

They are not nice people.

At least that’s what a guy named Salinger said some 60 years ago, or so.

I’m not sure what the “or so” adds to the sentence or thought.  I just threw it in there because I wanted to and I was pretty sure you wouldn’t notice or care.

See what I mean about writers….always playing games with words, mostly cuz they think they’re so clever.

Much too clever, Buddy….

Salinger said that too.

Now you know why he didn’t publish anything after a while.

He was doing us all a favor.

He didn’t want to manipulate us with words.

Which is what the rest of us might be really doing, anyway.

Think about it.

And while you’re at it, think about a certain, well written e-mail you received from a prolific friend that made you smile, possibly even blush, which upon further inspection was probably telling you how insufficient he or she found those cupcakes you sent over after they had their gall bladder taken out.

In fact, they probably made some veiled reference to your inadequate gall bladder and the need to extract it…all the while you’re reading, and thinking…ahhhh…isn’t that sweet?

It’s all in the phrasing…and the writer knows how to put a well turned phrase to their advantage.

“The one quality I find so refreshing about you, is your ability to find pleasure in the simple things.”

Which probably means, “Your shoes are cheap…and you don’t have many other qualities to speak of.”

“I find your discerning tastes to be wonders that never cease to amaze.”

Which probably means, “Just find something on the menu and order it…you are such a picky pain in the ass!”

“I adore your manner of speech; so plain and direct…without want of meaning or intent; a practice rarely exercised by others.”

Which probably means, “For someone with a PhD, you have the vocabulary of a 4 year old.”

“You’re presence at the last party was, as always, a joy for all. You command a room like no other, adding spice to an otherwise bland soup. Your very presence resonates throughout the halls for days”

Which probably means, “You talk way too much at parties, usually all about yourself…and your perfume is way too overpowering…”

See what I mean…?

Or perhaps you don’t, given your involvement in other matters, more pertinent to your elevated station.  A station one can’t help but notice, especially in the way you carry it so; effortless, with comfort not assumed by most…in fact, knowing there are places you’d much rather be.

Yeh, yeah, yeah….I get it, I get it.

I hope you do too.

Because the last thing I want is to be misconstrued…..

 

 

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Rolling with Records





 
 
Every so often I get nostalgic so I travel down to the basement and pull out all my old record albums.

Actual vinyl gold, which may or may not still reproduce something that resembles music, if I actually owned something called a turntable to play them on.

There they sit before me, upright in plastic egg crates, all neatly stacked; original presses from America and the Beatles, to Springsteen and ZZ Top, because I needed something to complete the alphabet.

This then gets me thinking about the various aforementioned music conveyances that we utilized through the years to enjoy these “stacks of wax” as some old radio DJ from the past referred to them

Or…basically…the different things we played our records on from the late 50’s onward.

I think my first so called record player was this little tiny plastic thing that played little tiny plastic records. Not sure what was actually on the records, but somehow the sound of farm animals resonates through my head…
ee-eye, ee-eye oh


These little yellow records were pretty indestructible as well as the actual needle and arm, which I also think were made of the same hard plastic, and probably exist to this day, on the bottom of landfills all over the country.

From there we graduated to what out grammar school teachers, who ran with Ben Franklyn and Tom Jefferson, called a “Victrola”, which I think had something to do with a dog and some sort of horn like device.

Anyway, the “Victrola”, which was obviously not an actual Victrola, was this kind of suitcase like item, with a platter that allowed you to place a single record on top, plop on the needle and, voila, music emerged from this tiny little speaker in front.

And archaic as this may sound, these machines were not without their sophistication…there was an actual knob that allowed you to raise and lower the volume, at will.

Yep…at will.

And you could even play multiple styles of records ranging from the 33 ½ LP or Long Play album to the popular 45 singles with their A and B sides…provided you had some sort of adapter to accommodate the larger hole.This consisted of a little disk placed over the center of the turntable pin or one of those little yellow spidery things you plugged into the actual 45 hole itself, if you wanted to stack and play more than one at a time.
 

There was even a setting to play your old 78 rpm Rudy Valley platters.

Hi-Ho, Everybody!
 


Let the good times roll!

Eventually we all stepped up in class to the somewhat larger Hi-Fi’s which included a tall spindle that allowed us to now actually stack the wax so we could watch them drop onto the platter, as the automated tone arm set itself down perfectly, gently into the appropriate grove…sometimes. Other times it missed its mark completely and transmitted a  horrendous scraping sound all across the neighborhood.

These scraping sounds invariably lead to scratches on the record itself, which of course gave all our music of that era it’s signature snap, crackle & pop dynamic.

However, if all went well, you could lie back and listen to hours of uninterrupted Hi-Fidelity magic…unless of course a record breaking dust ball the size of something you might find at a road side tourist attraction, somewhere in Wisconsin, accumulated on the needle.

Of course if you weren’t picky, you could ignore the dust ball and pretend Mick Jagger always sang with a pair of socks in his mouth…which in reality is possible.

But if you were picky, you would drag yourself up from the couch, bed or floor—wherever your record spinning preference was at the time—and proceed to employ one of several needle cleaning methods available at the time to remove said, ball of dust.

First, you’d simply try blowing the offending fuzz away, which sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t.  If it didn’t, you would then have to move on to step two, which entailed a tiny little stylus brush that gently removed the offending particles.

Of course, if you were like me, you could never find the tiny little stylus brush that gently removed the offending particles, so you then put into service the last, yet most effective, dust removal method, which was to merely flick your finger across the needle.

Ahhhhh…what a satisfying sound it was to hear the ridges of your finger play its own singular brand of music.

Rumph Rumph Rumph….

Or something like that.

Then, coated with a nice layer of finger oil that actually attracted even more dust, the stylus gently slid into the appropriate groove and once again, the Beatles were asking to hold your hand…which made me a bit uncomfortable….especially when the needle skipped and skipped and skipped, caught in the elusive dust ball remnant, that you failed to remove from the record itself.

Of course, music has evolved since then, thorough several phases of technology, where now, the only dust ball we need concern ourselves with are the ones that sometimes fill our…well, I‘ll leave that for you to finish on your own.

No more vinyl albums, 8-Tracks or cassette cartridges filled with colorful graphics and information on all your favorite artist. Even CD’s have pretty much gone by the wayside.

Instead of an actual music collection all I have, now, is the suggestion of one, stored as “Albums” and song titles on my IPod and phone.   

It all sounds flawless, it all sounds great…but I don’t know.  I kind of miss that little ball of dust.

At least it was something I could touch…even though I wasn’t supposed to.

 

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Chore of Chores


 
 
 
 
Z left the dishwasher running this morning, which is usually a sign.

A sign that I’m supposed to unload it once it’s done.

Because to unload it before it’s done, is not advised.

I know….

Now….

So I wait until it’s finished…completely.

And there actually is a sign that tell me the dishwasher is running, left right there on the counter, over where the actual dishwashing process is occurring.


You know, because sometimes I find the sound of sloshing water and strange humming sounds to be of undetermined origins, better left to those that investigate the paranormal.

What?

It was a natural conclusion.

Of course, I have most of the day to work myself up to it…like when I see Z’s car pulling into the driveway at 5:30.

But in any case, it’s not a big deal…or at least as big a deal as I make it out to be on occasion…so I’ve been told.

I mean, I’ve been doing this on and off for 13 odd years.

Odd being, the operative word.

So I have it down pretty well.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

Except for the occasional odd shaped items that don’t seem to have a place.

Like serving bowls and casserole dishes and those other things that you use for chafing or something…which at least to me…seems really odd.

I told you…“odd” is the operative word here.

Anyway, I can handle the mugs and dishes, both large and small…and the bowls all have their place, as well, whether they’re ice cream bowls or cereal bowls.

No problem there…as easy as a baby’s jigsaw puzzle.

But those—again—odd shaped things…especially the ones that tend to have handles…or come in peculiar colors, like amber…those tend to be problematic in finding their way back home.

Of course I tried that old standby method of just leaving them out on the counter where they somehow find their way…all on their own…once Z gets home.

But that particular method is often frowned upon.

So now I make an attempt to do the right thing…as Z likes to refer to it…which I find a little melodramatic.

So I open this cupboard and that, looking for a clue.

Hmmmm…these things look like they might be related to those things…so maybe they belong here.

Or you might find an opening on top of some other dishes or bowls…and let’s face it, once the cupboard door is closed…out of sight, out of mind.

Or so you would think.

Not always the case.

Because sometime there can be shifting…and sometimes there can be clunking…behind those cupboard doors.

And then you know…you don’t want to be in the kitchen come dinner prep time later that evening.

“GET IN HERE!” is usually how it starts.

“Just a second…I almost have all my Zombies locked up in the barn!”

Which is usually followed by “NOW!”

A solitary, monosyllabic word that’s generally not wise to ignore.

“What’s the problem?” I ask, genuinely befuddled as to what could be the matter.

“That’s the problem,” Z says, pointing toward the leaning tower of assorted odd shaped bowls and covers that are—at least I think— expertly stacked and balanced atop one another…as long as you don’t need to retrieve any of them for the foreseeable future.  

“Nice, huh?” I say, actually expecting praise for my stacking acumen...not berated because some people lack the capacity to appreciate flair.

“And does the pasta bowl really belong in the Microwave…or the colander in the oven?”

I actually wasn’t even sure what a colander was, other than something that tells you what day of the week  it is…but, still…I thought it wise to sheepishly shake my head, no.

“No…and is the silverware supposed to just jump out of the basket, on the counter, where somebody left it, and into the drawer, on its own?”

“It usually does…as far as I know” was my response…which was apparently the wrong response.

Over the years I’ve learned to read Z’s expressions, and the one that involves actual fire emanating from her eyes, is the one that says…well, you don’t really need to know what it says.

Just know that I grabbed the basket of silverware and began the tedious chore of sorting and arranging each spoon, knife and fork, by size and purpose, into their allocated slots, most of which were already brimming over, because you don’t want to be caught short on eating utensils, should the Third Army decide to drop in for cake.

Dull knives, sharp knives, steak knives…all in their place. Dinner forks, desert forks, soup spoons, tea spoons, ice cream spoons, pudding spoons…all in their place…and only their place.

And then there are the large serving spoons…for which there never seems to be a place…or there might be a place, but they never seem to want to stay in that place, because serving spoons just think they’re special and can wander into any place that they want.

But what’s a few hours sorting silverware in the grand scheme of things?

I mean it could be worse…I could be organizing the garage.

Chores on top of chores on top of chores….what a chore….

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Friday, October 17, 2014

My Facebook Anniversary - sort of







I'm feeling a little arrogant today.

Well, I should say, more arrogant than most days.

Mercury is about to enter a state of 'Cazimi' forming a Stellium.

Yeah....

So can you blame me?
 
Also, more importantly, cosmos aside...I’ve been on Facebook now for over a year.

Yeah…one whole year….plus.

Not that there was any sort of acknowledgement…let alone pastry to commemorate the event.

Even though that would have been nice.

No…the day sort of came and went without any recognition at all.

I mean, what’s the BIG deal… a year on Facebook?

Besides everyone was probably too busy posting Birthday greetings to the two thousand or so “Friends” they’ve re-discovered or uncovered, whose birthdays were previously long forgotten if they were ever known in the first place…let alone the “Friends”. 

So why would anyone take note of my feeble little Facebook anniversary date…right?

I mean, it’s not like Facebook is keeping tabs on everything I do….

Right….?

Just certain pictures involving Fluffernutter.

So how has Facebook changed my life over this past year?

Well, for one, it has reintroduced me to a whole host of long, lost, unthought-of for decades, people from my past…most of whom, unfortunately, have very long memories.

But that’s okay—more than okay, actually—some of my old classmates might be planning another reunion and I’m looking forward to attending…once the Private Detective I hired to track down the date and location gets back to me.

Should be fun….

I’ve also re-connected with a couple of long ago neighborhood friends, and it’s always a challenge figuring out what they changed their identities to, every week.

I’ve also found a way to repurpose a lot of old pictures of me as a kid, that up until now I’ve only been able to share with people I managed to lock in the attic for 2 or more weeks at a time.

I know everyone’s enjoying them because of all the notices I get from the group administrators warning me to cease and desist. I guess they might be a little jealous of all the attention I’m getting.

Not my problem….

My problem is with all those baby, kid and grandkid pictures people just throw up there, wily nilly, cluttering up my timeline.

I mean those things are just “Like” magnets and really serve no purpose other than diverting attention away from my Fried Zucchini casserole posts.

I don’t mean to complain, but I should be getting a lot more “Likes” than I am.

We are talking zucchini…and what’s not to “Like” about zucchini?

I’ve also learned over the past year that you can’t post everything about your life every single minute of the day.

First, it makes driving difficult…don’t ask.

Second, you really don’t want everyone knowing where you are and what you’re doing all day, every day.

Plus there are certain aspects of my day people just don’t seem interested in…at least according to the authorities…and the FCC.

So, I’ve cut back on what I post.

No more posts of me gargling…sorry…no more.

Get over it….

No more posts of me rolling up my underwear…neither on nor off.

Done….

No more posts of me posting…unless it’s a video.

No more before and after posts of…well, before and after.

Duh….

No more private messaging friends of friends in the middle of the night just to see if they’d like to be my friend too. The rate of positive engagement is not worth the effort….or the court costs.

No more groveling for “Likes” on The Freelance Report FB Page.  Now, I just pay people.  And the results are pretty consistent…sometimes they do…sometimes they don’t. It’s a crap shoot…but hey…isn’t most of life a crapshoot.

Assume the worst and you’ll never be disappointed…at least that’s what my therapist says.

Plus I’m hoping someday, she’ll like my page too…though, you know…I’m not holding my breath.

I’ve also learned sharing everything you post with government intelligence agencies is not advisable…at least in the long term.

They said it’s distracting…even though they also said they enjoy the Zombie stories

Which seems somewhat incongruous, at least to me.

Go figure…but I guess intelligence agencies are known for equivocation.

Maybe it’s code. 

So it’s been quite a year…a Facebook year. 

How has it changed me, you ask?

What?

Right…everyone’s a kidder….I get it.

Well, I’ll tell you anyway.

Before Facebook, life was pretty straight forward. 

I got up in the morning…or afternoon…read the paper, had breakfast and wrote a little, read a little, found homes for lost kittens, worked on my recipe for pre-made peanut butter and jelly bread.

Now…I have to admit…Facebook eats up much of that time. 

I mean just trying to unblock myself from everyone’s pages everyday can take hours.

So the kittens have to wait.

Hey…do you think if I posted pictures of the kittens on my timeline, people will “Like” them?

Nah…who am I kidding. Who’s gonna “Like” pictures of kittens on Facebook?

The real truth is Facebook has widened my narrow little world and opened a brand new window of fresh perspectives into my stale life. Old friends, long thought lost, have reemerged, and it’s as if they'd never left. New friends, from all over the country and in some cases the world, have stepped right in, and it’s as if they'd always belonged.   Like minded, different minded …writers, bakers, stained glass makers…and everything in between. 

That’s how Facebook has changed my life…for the better…and for the future.

Anyway, I guess I better go and post another pizza picture, now…but, don’t worry, not the same old same old pizza.

This time I’ll make it Peppers and Mushrooms.

And would it have killed Zuckerberg to send over a few cupcakes, along with the restraining order.

 Gottta go...I think one of my moons is rising...which can be awkward in the wrong environment....
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Zombies Have Tools





 
 
 
We’re well into October now and the Zombies across the street are beginning to get busy.

They’ve already started work on the big spook house they put up every Halloween…and this year it looks like they’re planning on going all out.

Not that they really need to do anything at all … their house is pretty spooky as it is.

I mean they’re Zombies…enough said.

But you can’t go telling something like that to a bunch of ambitious Zombies…believe me; I found that out the hard way.

So they’re going all out….

Which I guess is good because it keeps them busy.

The last thing you want this time of year is a bored Zombie wandering into your backyard during a family get together.

Then you’re stuck with them all night, because they just don’t know when to leave.

Their social skills are pretty non-existent…but we’ve covered that before.

Wanting to be neighborly—as is my wont, as well as my want—I wandered across the street to check out what they were up to; something, I have to say, I try to avoid during the hot summer months. Fall’s a much better time to visit the Zombies. The cooler temps and autumnal breeze pretty much dampens the decomp situation; plus, I admit, it’s always entertaining whenever the Zombies do anything that involves tools.

“So I see you’re getting a jump on the season,” I said.

Burt, the only Zombie I actually know by name, because it’s stitched on the remnants of his bowling shirt, turned and smiled…I think…and made some sort of a sound that I took for agreement.

He started pointing towards the side of the house—indicating they were planning on taking whatever it was around the corner and down the driveway, this year—when the hammer flew out of his hand, or more precisely, flew out along with his hand, and knocked one of the other Zombies—who happened to be carrying a 2 x 4 over his shoulder—right in his nose, or right in somebody’s nose…again, I think.

That Zombie then spun around, trying in vain to retrieve what was left of the nose, whereupon he knocked over another pair of Zombies with the 2 x 4, who then wobbled back up and shuffle clumsily down the driveway trying to retrieve some of their own bits and pieces that had gotten away from them.

Burt, watching all this transpire, merely shook the right side of his head, as if to say, “Not my fault…they’re idiots,” which he would have, if his tongue wasn’t stuffed in the pocket of his bowling shirt.

Like I said, the Zombies are always entertaining…but throw tools into the mix and you’ve got a regular Three Stooges situation, plus dismemberment.

Anyway, I’ve learned over the years that all things Zombie, which once might have horrified me, are better left ignored, so I just said, “The leaves are really starting to turn, aren’t they?”

Burt looked up and nodded agreement, seeming to find a kinship in the colorful cycle of decay surrounding us. So much so, he began making a driving motion with his remaining hand, pointed to the leaves, and then at his eyes, one of which had rolled onto my sneaker.

My take on this was, he’d like to go for a drive and do a little leaf peeping.

Again, that’s how I interpreted it, but I could have been wrong, which I have been in the past. Like the time I thought he was asking me to help shovel out his driveway, after that big blizzard a couple of years back, when what he really wanted was for me to help dig up his Uncle Julius, in the back yard.

So you have to be careful.

Luckily, I was spared from making any commitment whatsoever when we were interrupted by a high pitched howling coming from up on the roof. It was one of the Werewolves from down the street, who apparently had whacked himself on the thumb while nailing down a Devils Trap.

Yeah…I know…that sounds pretty strange.  You wouldn’t expect to see a Werewolf working with the Zombies…not given their recent history. But apparently the Zombie Summer Solstice party last June, helped them get past a lot of that old animosity and they’ve since become pretty good friends, which is always nice to see.

Ghouls have a hard enough time fitting in with the regular community as it is, so it’s even worse when they’re at each other’s throats all the time…not to mention the extra clean-up involved for the DPW.

Yeah….

The Werewolf waved his paw, indicating he was okay, to which Burt gave a big thumbs up, which as you can imagine, with Zombies, means…well, I guess you can figure that one out.

Not wanting to be the source of any more distractions, I shook Burt’s remaining hand and bade my goodbyes…which is always hit or miss

I don’t know if you’ve ever shaken hands with a Zombie before, but it can, and often does turn into an uncomfortable situation as you can end up taking the whole thing with you.

Then you’re left with the dilemma of, do I apologize…or merely walk away as if it’s not a big deal and politely leave the hand on a table some place.

I mean, Burt didn’t seem to care. Now he could just spread out under a tree and enjoy the foliage.

You just hope he does it all in one place...let alone one piece….
 

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