Category Archives: Books On Writing That I Like

How we made our summer count

Route 66

Route 66 (Photo credit: eGuide Travel)




Once, two of us drove for three straight days and finally arrived at Four Corners (where through a freak of geography and political wrangling, the borders of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah bump up against each other).


After we disembarked and carefully placed our dusty feet on the historic spot of convergence, we looked at each other in disbelief.  It’s about the only place you can stand in four states at the same time and not get taxed.

We were hot and thirsty as cowboys fresh off a cattle drive, so we celebrated with a fifth of bourbon. With the onset of high desert heat and the relaxing and soothing effects of fine grain alcohol, we were quick goners, cheap dates by all accounts, and we were soon out, like a light, by six. In fact, we slept so hard we didn’t even dream and our eyes didn’t flutter open until seven the next day.


Refreshed, we stumbled out of bed, dressed, headed out to Shirley’s Eat Here & Get Gas diner, where we ate a hearty breakfast. By nine, our stomachs were full and we had energy to go again. Afore we hit the highway, though, we stopped to pump ten gallons of gas into our tank.


The road called to us like the Emerald City beckoned Dorothy and her pals.  We headed onward — over hill and dale, across rivers and through woods — to visit eleven more states before our summer days and blue moons ran out on us. We arrived home weary but safe on the twelfth of August.


As we unpacked our steamy laundry, we unanimously decided the trip was worthwhile, educational, and a general hoot and holler — all rolled into one — like a giant ball of twine, you might say, and which we did see, in Cawker City, Kansas.


Later that evening, we rocked in our chairs on the front porch and just sighed. We sipped at cool iced tea while the sun dipped behind the purple mountains. We looked at each other, held hands, and agreed that our road adventure brought us dozens of memories.


The End.


Note: The inspiration for this mathematical wordplay came from reading an old friend’s post on Facebook about a trip he and his family made to the Four Corners. I challenged myself to see if I could get all twelve numbers into a story and still make some sense with it all. Whether it makes sense or not, I guess I’ll let you be the judge of that. By the way, if you didn’t catch the heap of numbers, give it another look, or read it dozens of times. And, just for fun, one of them is a pun.



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Yankee Doodle Dandy

A Short Story by Zoltan JamesImage

“Hey Iffy!”


The call came from my editor, Tommie Fitch. His voice carried across the rows of desks like a foghorn. He was a cigar-chompin’ bushy-eyebrowed curmurgdeon. He was a newspaper man’s newspaper man and probably born about eighty years too late. Despite his cantankerous disposition, I learned more from him than I can ever thank him for and I credit the old goose for launching my career.


Me? I’m New York Times cub reporter Ephraim Williams. I know. Don’t get me started. I didn’t choose the name. Okay? And, for the record, it’s pronounced EEF-RAM. But, my brother Joey couldn’t say it properly, so he called me “Effy.” And, damn if that didn’t stick. But, then my contemporaries (nee crumbbums) at The Times started calling me “Iffy, as in “Iffy he gets his facts straight, he might turn out to be a decent hack.” Damn if that didn’t stick, too.


So, I’m sittin’ at my desk on July 2nd thumbing through old issues of magazines like Hot Rod, Girls and Corpses, Stained Glass and “Y’all, the magazine of southern people. Yes. I’m weird. But I needed inspiration for something clever to write about. Then Fitch bellows. I hustle over to his desk. He wants me to write a feature he can run on the Fourth. “Something  ‘patriotic’,” he says. Then he hands me a note. “Run out to Billerica, Mass will you…”


“Billa-what?” I said.


“Google it. Find it. Get there and interview this guy…” He checks his note. “Thomas Ditson.”


“Is he a serial killer,” I said, hoping this might turn into a real criminal thriller.


He looks up at me. His eyebrows wrangling like loose worms above his sheep-dog eyes. He slides his never-smoked cigar from the left corner of his mouth to the right and chomps. “Now, what the hell would be patriotic about a serial killer, Iffy?”


I shrug my shoulders. I’m a dumb cub reporter. What the hell do I know. “I dunno,” I say.


Fitch gives me his patented low growl. “The guy claims to be Yankee Doodle.”  The eyebrows raise and wiggle, as if in some sort of conspiratorial salute.


I step back wishing I had found a cool story angle in Girls and Corpses. “This guy a nut case, or what?”


Fitch leans on his elbows and nearly slides a big pile of papers off his desk. “Well, now, Iffy, that’s what we don’t know, and that’s what I need you to find out.”


I stare at his scrawls on the note he had just handed me. I’m incredulous.


“Interview the schmo and give me a profile…no more than 800 words by tomorrow. If I like it, I’ll run the piece on the Fourth…with your byline. Questions?”


“Yeah,” I scratched my head. “This legit?”


He waved his big paw at me. “Get outta here.”


As I turned to leave, he called out. “Iffy. Before you go. Check yourself, will you. You got something green there in your teeth.”


# # #



Billerica, Mass is an old industrial town but it could be anywhere in Middle America. It sits along Route 3 about twenty miles north of Boston. Records say it was incorporated in 1655. That’s freakin’ ancient in my book. And, get this. There are villages situated around the town with such original names as East Billerica, North Billerica and South Billerica. It’s a blue-collar-hard-workin’-sports town and is home to a handful of high tech and low tech industries. One of its notable citizens is Tom Glavine, the famous baseball pitcher.


I pull my rental car over and stare at the tiny map on my mobile phone. Then I find it. The residence of the afore-mentioned Thomas Ditson. I park opposite his home. The street, named “Constitution Avenue” is replete with cracked concrete, but is saved by a nice canopy of shade trees that arch over this funky street of proud lawns, shotgun houses, and an eclectic mix of World War II era and modern single-family homes. I stand in front of a natty gray and white bungalow with a white picket fence. The house number says, “1776.” Quaint.


A man answers my knock at the door. He opens it wide and peers out at me. I figure the man to be in his sixties. He’s medium-built, has salt and pepper hair, and is handsome in a rugged sense.


I’m nervous as a plate juggler on the TV show, America’s Got Talent…and I blurt out his name. It comes out all wrong. “Mr. Datson?” You could hear a plate drop.


He cocks his head like a border collie trying to understand the command, fetch my Glock will you, Sparky.  Then he says, “You mean, Ditson?”


I apologize. Say it correctly and announce I’m from The Times. “May I come in? I’d like to talk with you.”


“What’s this about?” he says. The door inches closer to being shut.


“Uh, I’ve heard rumors in which you claim to be Yankee Doodle.”


“The Times, you say? You’re sure you’re not with NSA or FBI? You got I.D?”


I shake my head and show him my media credentials.


He glances at my I.D. photo which makes me look like I’m just out of high school. “I hate the Times, but ‘mon in.” He waves me in quickly, but not after an audible grunt, “And, they ain’t rumors, sonny.”


He leads me out to the back patio that’s covered by one of those rollout awnings. A fetching young woman, who I assume is his daughter, brings us ice tea.  She’s wearing tight short shorts and a white shirt tied at the waist. Long red hair falls at her shoulders. And, she smells like jasmine, or strawberry jam, I’m not sure.


In my attempt to be friendly, I blurt, “And, this must be your lovely daughter, Mr. Doodle, er…uh…I mean…Mr. Dat…Ditson.”


She extends a hand. It’s warm as butter on a griddle. She smiles even more warmly. “Hi, I’m Lucy Locket.”


I don’t know what to say and try to find a way to extract my loafer from my mouth. Then it dawns on me. I’m still holding her hand. She pulls hers gently away. “I’ll leave you two to chat. Nice to meet you…uh…Mr…?”


I wipe my sweaty palm on my khaki’s. “Uh, it’s Mister…Iffy…I mean…Williams.”


“Nice to meet you, Williams.” And she disappears into the house.


I look over at Mr. Ditson. He’s staring at me with beady eyes. “For the record, Lucy’s my wife. And, we have two daughters. One’s out shopping at Costco. The other’s on a nuclear sub…somewhere in the Gulf of Aden.”


“Oh,” is all I manage to get out.


“Well, she’s a dandy,” I say and quickly realize the stupidity of that remark.


“That she is.”


He leans back in his chair. “Well, sonny. What can I do you for?”


“Mr. Ditson…sir…when it came to our attention that you claim to be Yankee Doodle we thought there might be a story here, especially with the Fourth of July coming up, you know. So, is this true?” I reach for my notepad and pen, poised to take notes.


He grins. “I’m the real live nephew of my Uncle Sam.”


I chuckle and then stifle it. “C’mon now. You’re pulling my leg.”


“Nope,” He holds his hand up like he’s taking an oath. “I swear to God and all the Angels in the Heavens above, the Good Book, and cross my heart…” He does that in a quick swipe. ..”and hope to die. And, what’s more…I was born on the Fourth of July.”


He leans in toward me and his eyes begin to gleam. “And, here’s the best part. I’ve got me a Yankee Doodle sweetheart –-you just met her, yes, you did–and damned straight, I am a Yankee Doodle boy.” Now he’s grinning broader than the Cheshire Cat and I’m starting to feel like Alice in Wonderland. Maybe this guy is a nut case.


At this point, I figure if I can gently trip him up with some well-placed questions I can confirm he’s ridonkulous and call it a day. “Tell me about your Uncle Sam.”


Ditson sniggers. “Oh, he’s a cracker, that one. Everybody knows Samuel Wilson ‘round here. He’s a meat packer and lives over in Arlington. Mass, that is. He’s had this long-term contract to supply meat for the U.S. Army. That’s why they call him Uncle Sam.”


We’re interrupted when Lucy returns with a tray and two bowls of macaroni and cheese. She smiles at me. “Jeetyet? You must be powerful hungry coming all the way over from New York. I hope you like it. It’s Tommie’s favorite.”  She pecks him on the cheek and he pats her on the bottom. She pours more ice tea and leaves.


He shakes his head. “Yes, indeedy. She’s a pissa. A real Yankee Doodle sweetheart.”


I explain to him how macaroni and cheese was my staple diet when I was in college. He nods and pokes a fork my way. “Dig in, sonny.”  I’m hungry as a bear and follow his lead.


“Tell me. How’d you become Yankee Doodle?”


“It has to do with my genes…and I don’t mean my Levi’s.” He splits a gut at his own joke. “Get it?”


I chortle…just to humor him. It’s a poor joke but I must admit I’ve used it myself on occasion and usually to the same effect where I’m the only one who appreciates the genius of it. Or genes of it, you might say.


He’s still guffawing in-between forks full of macaroni. He washes it down with ice tea  and finally settles down. “My ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, The Spanish-American War, the Pacific Front of World War Two, and I saw me some action in Nam. And, my great grandfather saw action right here in Orleans, Mass in World War One.”




“Yep. One day a German U-boat attacked the town and sunk his tugboat, the Perth Amboy. He was still off the deep end about that until the day he died.


“Anyway, some historian over at the city library discovered all this and decided since I was the last living relative to have seen military action that I should be our honorary town marshal for the Fourth of July parade. Been doing that gig now for the last forty years or so. And, then old Dick Shuckburgh, editor over at The Minuteman, dubbed me Yankee Doodle. Damn if it didn’t stick.”


“I can appreciate that,” I said.


He looked off into the distance. “I gotta admit that at first I thought it was all a bunch of hooey over nothing. I thought maybe I was being made fool of, you know, the sketchy town idiot. Hell, who can take a guy serious when he parades up Main Street wearing a tri-cornered hat with a feather in it? Then, one day, some of the fellows over at Legion Hall reminded me of how at least three of our native sons from Billerica died in Nam. That give me a cause to pause, I’ll tell you—give me a whole different outlook. Not for nothing. Anyway, I fought off my ego and now I do it–and proudly–to honor my relatives, and all our sons and daughters who’ve fought for the good old U.S. of A.”  


# # #


I drove back to Boston and caught the last flight of the day back to New York. I had decided that Thomas was no crank. He was just an honest American thrust into a role he hadn’t planned on–and accepted what was thrown at him, just like the millions of average joes over the centuries who sacrificed at a terrible cost with their lives so you and I can have the freedom to be creative, make our own decisions, worship where and how we want, invest in our futures, build businesses, start over as immigrants, vote, complain, speak our minds, and breathe the sweet air of liberty–even while parading around in silly tri-cornered hats.


My lunch of macaroni with Thomas Ditson and hearing of his acceptance to be the Grand Marshall Yankee Doodle, reminded me of the historic letter John Adams wrote to his wife after the Declaration of Independence was declared. He said, “I am apt to believe that this day will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.”


Now whenever I hear the song “Yankee Doodle” or “Yankee Doodle Dandy” I ponder the freedoms we enjoy. Freedoms purchased in blood. And I get goosebumps.


By the way, my story got published under the headline: “Keep it Up Yankee Doodle.”


# # #


Author’s Note: The names used in this story are real.


According to several historical sources, the song Yankee Doodle was originally sung by British military officers to mock the disheveled and seemingly disorganized colonial “Yankees” with whom they served in the French and Indian War. The tune is believed to be from the nursery rhyme Lucy Locket.


One version of the lyrics is attributed to Doctor Richard Shuckburgh, a British Army surgeon. According to one story, Shuckburgh wrote the song after seeing the appearance of Colonial troops under Colonel Thomas Fitch, V, son of Connecticut Governor Thomas Fitch.

Ephraim Williams was a Colonel in the Massachusetts militia and died in the Battle of Lake George. He left his land and property to the founding of a school in Western Massachusetts, now known as Williams College.


Some reports claim the British often marched to a version of the song believed to be about a man named Thomas Ditson, of Billerica, Massachusetts. Ditson was tarred and feathered for attempting to buy a musket in Boston in March 1775, although he later fought at Concord:

For this reason, the town of Billerica claims to be the “home” of Yankee Doodle, and claims that during and after the Revolutionary War Americans embraced the song and made it their own, turning it back on those who had used it to mock them.


Incidentally, the lyrics: “put a feather in his cap and called it macaroni,” was a reference to the Macaroni wig which was in extreme fashion in the 1770s in England. It became contemporary pejorative slang for foppishness. The “Macaronis,” young men who wore fashion to the extreme, were deemed effeminate, and pre-dated the term “dandies.” Thus, the British were insinuating that the colonists were not very masculine. Apparently when Shuckburgh saw colonists wearing feathers in their hats, used the lyrics to make fun of them as though a feather was an insufficient mark of macaroni.


The name, Uncle Sam, is linked to Samuel Wilson, a successful entrepreneur and meat packer from Troy, New York. He supplied beef to the United States Army during the War of 1812. Wilson stamped the barrels with “U.S.” for United States, but soldiers referred to the provisions as “Uncle Sam’s.” A local newspaper ran the story and that’s how Uncle Sam became the official nickname for our federal government.


In September 1961, the U.S. Congress recognized Samuel Wilson as “the progenitor of America’s national symbol of Uncle Sam.” Wilson died at 88 in 1854, and was buried next to his wife, Betsey Mann, in Troy’s Oakwood Cemetery.  The town calls itself “The Home of Uncle Sam.”


“The Yankee Doodle Boy,” also known as “(I’m a) Yankee Doodle Dandy” is from the Broadway musical Little Johnny Jones written by George M. Cohan. The play opened at the Liberty Theater on November 7, 1904.

The play follows a fictional American jockey, Johnny Jones (based on the real life jockey Tod Sloan), who rides a horse named Yankee Doodle in the English Derby. Cohan incorporated snippets of several traditional American songs into these lyrics, as he often did with all his music.


Actor James Cagney performed the song in the 1942 film Yankee Doodle Dandy, in which he played Cohan. In 2004, the American Film Institute recognized this version of “Yankee Doodle Boy” on the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs list placing it ahead of “Good Morning” from Singin’ in the Rain and behind “Summer Nights” from Grease.

The film won Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (James Cagney), Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture and Best Sound, Recording (Nathan Levinson). It was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Walter Huston), Best Director, Best Film Editing for George Amy, Best Picture and Best Writing, Original Story.

In 1993, Yankee Doodle Dandy was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”


In 1986, Yankee Doodle Dandy was the first computer-colorized film released by media mogul Ted Turner.

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A Merry Mangled Christmas

English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...

Image via Wikipedia

by Zoltan James

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house the only creature stirring was my spouse. And, me, after she woke me up!

She said, “You better watch out!”

“Huh?” I said.

“I hear sleigh bells in the snow,” she said.

Not a man of many words, I said, “Oh.”

She dashed to the window and threw up the sash —

Frankly, I didn’t know her stomach was upset.

–and screamed in delight, “I hear bells on bob tail ring.”

“Who’s Bob?”

She turned and gave me one of those looks that can fry your eyeballs. “Are you listening?”


“Look outside. The snow is glistening. It’s a beautiful sight. We’re happy tonight.”

I rubbed my eyes and scratched my leg. “We are?”

“In the meadow we can build a snowman,” she said. Her eyes glistening like the snow.

“Are you nuts?” I said. “It’s midnight and it’s colder than a brass monkey sitting on the front porch at the North Pole out there. Close that window.”

Finally, she pulled the window down and took my hand. “C’mon, let’s conspire by the fire.”

I resisted. “I think we should go to bed and let sugarplums fill our heads.”

She pulled me down in front of the hearth and switched on the gas fireplace. She took my hands in hers and looked dreamily into my eyes. “Here we are as in olden days, happy golden days of yore,” she said.

“Why are you talking so weird?”

“Oh darling, let your heart be light. From now on our troubles will be out of sight.”

I placed my palm on her forehead. “Are you okay? How many rum eggnogs did you have?”

She ignored me and smiled sweetly as if I had just been released from a mental hold. “Oh the fire is so delightful and since we’ve got no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let is snow.”

It concerned me that she was repeating herself.

And, then to my surprise, a big pair of black boots landed in our fireplace with such a thud, I shuddered thinking we were having an earthquake. “Ooh. Ooh. Ow, ooh, ouch, grzfruph” a disembodied voice echoed from the chimney. And then with a clatter, this jolly old elf of a man rolled into our living room. “Holy cow!” I said as I jumped to my feet. “He’s dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, and his clothes are all tarnished with ashes and soot.”

My wife gave me the raised eyebrow. “Why are you talking so strange?”

I heard myself stammer. “I b-better get the g-gun.”

She grabbed my hand. “Relax. It’s Santa Claus. See his eyes how they twinkle.”

The little old man wobbled to his feet, shook his clothes around, and straightened a furry red cap.

“Twinkle? He’s on meth. Or crack. Or something illegal. And, he’s got a bag. He’s here to steal us blind.” I wrenched my hand free and dashed to the bedroom to find my Glock. “Santa Claus, my aardvark. No bag man dressed like that in red and white fur was going to steal my prized collection of Carpenter’s albums.

I raced back down the hall and skidded to a stop in the living room. Our Christmas tree was lit up…well, like a Christmas tree… and around its base were a pile of wrapped presents that were not there before. My wife had removed her robe and was lying seductively on large pillows by the fireplace. Her hair flowed freely around her bare shoulders. Her scanty Santy teddy glowed a dozen shades of red capturing sparks of light shooting from the tree and the fire.

She was messing with my head. I shook off the scene and remembered why I was holding a gun. “Where’s the little thief. I want to give him something to cheer about.” I chambered a round. The chunk of metal on metal sounded reassuring. I took a three-point stance and scanned the room with my gun held out, two-handed, like the detectives do on TV. But the old guy was nowhere to be seen. “Where’s the freaking perp?”

“He’s gone,” she cooed. “He left us goodies, layed his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!”

I lowered my gun and gave her a stare. “You’re talking nonsense, again.”

“Come here, baby,” she said as she curled a finger and winked. She held up two glasses of wine, a white for her and a red for me. “Come be my Santa tonight and jingle my bells.”

I made a note to myself never to buy that brand of eggnog again. It was definitely messing with her brain. But, since I figured our home was safe and sound, and now that I was wide awake, I might as well relax. Maybe the wine would help me get back to sleep. I sat next to her. Her body was warm against my chest. The fire felt warm against my back and the soft glow from the tree began to soothe out the wrinkles in my mind. Before long we got to mistletoeing, I felt my heart glowing, and it was the most wonderful time of the year.

When I awoke, she was in her kerchief and I in my cap. She raised up on her elbows and said, “That was a strange nap.”

“You, too?” I said. “I had the weirdest dream.”

“Honey,” she said.

“Yes, dear.”

“Do you believe in Santa Claus?”

“Used to. Why?”

“I dunno. It’s just. . .odd. I had the strange sensation he was really here,” she said while shaking her head as if it might loosen some cobwebs.

“Okay. No more eggnog for you before bedtime. I think we got a bad batch.”

She laughed and threw her arms around my neck. She pulled off my cap and her kerchief. Her long hair flowed across her bare shoulders and onto my chest. She cooed in my ear. “I’m your elf slave, Santa. Merry Christmas.”  She kissed me hard on the lips and pushed me down onto my pillow. “Ouch!” she said.


She put her warm hands down by my leg and with two fingers gingerly pulled my gun out from under the sheets. “What is this doing here?”

I felt my face turn red and gave her my best sheepish grin. “I’m happy to see you?”

Her smile turned upside down.

“Well, you know what they say?” I said, searching for some way to redeem myself.

“What’s that?” She gave me the raised eyebrow look that can stop a speeding freight train dead in its tracks.

“They say you should never have sex in bed without protection.”

She crinkled her nose and laughed and playfully pushed on my nose. My eyes immediately watered. Anyway, I put the gun away and before long we got to mistletoeing, our hearts started glowing, and it was the most wonderful time of the year.

# # #

With sincere apologies to the talented lyricists who’ve given us such delight over the years with popular Christmas songs we’ll always remember. And, a big apology to Clement Clarke Moore, the author of the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” written in 1822. It was first published in The New York Sentinel on December 23, 1823.

Remember. Make every hour your happy hour. Merry Christmas to All. Ho. Ho. Ho. And, to all a wonderful time of the year!


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Backstage at the Bijou

British-American actor Maurice Barrymore

Image via Wikipedia

by Zoltan James

My first assignment for The Times, I’m backstage at the Bijou watching vaudevillians entertain the raucous audience when The Amazing Maurice, chalky face, elegant in black tux and moustache, bends my ear. He points center stage. “That’s Fannie Brice, kid.” He winks and straightens. “I follow her.”

The portly manager motions Bert & Bubbles, the comedy team. “Next.”

“What about Maurice?” I say.

The manager’s face flushes white. Backstage falls silent. He says, “Maurice? He died last year.”

# # #

Remember. Make every hour your happy hour and may you have a blessed All Saints Day, a Hallowmas, All Hallows, All Souls’ Day, and a All-Hallows-Even.

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Image by JMC Photos via Flickr

A poem by Zoltan James

In the still of the night.

I stand still. Like a tree.

And, yet, I still don’t know why.

Why, would I stand so still?

In the night. In the street.

Under a dark street lamp.

After all, I could get run over by a bus.

In the dark of night I stand. Still

That’s me. A lonely man.

Hands in my pockets. Heart on my sleeve.

There’s no one else around

And, then I hear a sound

But, the sound. It can’t be found

Maybe a tree fell in the forest.

Still. I think I’m in love with you.

Yes. You. But you’re not here.

Standing with me in the dark

Holding hands like we did in the park

In the still of the starry night.

Still. I don’t know why you left.

Did you grab the earlier bus?

With that other guy, the geek.

The Apple aficionado. The Vegan.

Which begs the question:

How do you meet a Vegan?

In the still of the night.

I stand still with my Dell laptop

Confused. Hoping you return.

Waiting for you and the light

With my roast beef sandwich

Long gone soggy in my pocket.

Waiting for the bus that never wants to come.

# # #

Remember. Make Every Hour Your Happy Hour!

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Quotes Trying Very Hard to be Famous


Image by bioxid via Flickr

by Zoltan James

I’ve often thought it would be the height of respect to see myself quoted in an article, or someone’s book, or listed in “best quotes” section on the Internet for all eternity to see. So, I thought I better go to work and make up some quotes to equal the likes of Einstein and Shakespeare, or even Steve Martin. Therefore, I have decided to share with you my first quotes and you have the distinct reward of reading them here first — before they become famous.  Enjoy and feel free to quote me — and often.  Just please spell my name right.

Home is where your house is.

Your house is where your property taxes are mailed.

A parked car gets you nowhere.

If you read one book, you’re pages ahead of where you started.

If you live in an earthquake zone, there’s no need to take dance lessons.

Count your blessings on your cell phone’s calculator app.  It goes faster.

If you’re going to go to war, wear a helmet. But, if you’re going to ride your bicycle, check your local laws.

If you buy a Mayan calendar, make sure the month of December has all 31 dates.  If not, be sure to ask for a discount.

Civilizations without language do not cuss. (Think about it). Civilizations without beer have no fun. Ergo, civilizations that cuss and drink beer have lots of fun.

Once a week, I recycle a bag of newspapers and every day a new one shows up on my driveway.  I think I’m losing this battle.

If you race an analog watch against a digital watch, one is sure to come in second.

Why is that we can tell time by looking at our cell phones, but we can’t call Aunt Aggie on our wristwatches?  Talk about behind the times!

The man who goes to work wearing a suit and a matching conveyor belt will go far.

The world would be more efficient if the same person who conducts a train also leads the symphony?

The person who locks up a piano must carry a ring with 88 keys.

If you carry a bucket of water to your horse, then there’s no reason to lead.

I think that if serious math requires logical thinking, then funny math should require comical thinking.

It has been proven that two negatives make a positive; ergo two democrats make a republican. (Feel free to turn this around, but don’t quote me)

Anyone involved in an accident caused by someone else driving an electric car is subject to assault with a battery.

People who live in energy-efficient brick houses should not throw low-e argon glass.

People who read thrillers are thrilling. People who read romance novels are romantic. People who read mysteries are mysterious. People who read poetry are poetic. People who read the Bible are biblical. People who read the federal budget are. . . well. . . we don’t know. . .for they’ve not yet been found.

# # #

Remember. Make every hour your happy hour!

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Hardboiled and Usual — Part 3


The continuing saga of Rocky Chaser by Zoltan James

When I got back to my trailer, Starrla was standing in the kitchen wearing nothing but my best white dress shirt. I couldn’t help but notice that she had forgotten to button all the buttons, and the next thought that occurred to me is that my shirt would probably never fit me the same.

“Hi there, Handsome,” she said. “I got coffee on for ya.”  She pointed to the steaming pot steaming away behind her steamy white shirt. “I was gonna make you up a protein shake but I couldn’t find no milk nor fruit anywhere. I swear, I think your fridge is more bare than my bottom.”  She giggled, then licked her thumb and pressed it against her right bun and made a sizzle sound.

“Thanks, but I’m not a fruit and milk guy.”  I helped myself to a cup of joe.

‘Uh, listen, handsome –”

“Call me, Rocky,” I said.  It occured to me that maybe she had forgotten my name as well. After all, last night was somewhat of a blur after we met at the Clown Bar and Dance Emporium. The establishment was famous for its “slap happy hours.”  Long story short, we hit it off and all too soon we launched into a drinking contest where we both slammed down a long row of sliders and beer chasers. We didn’t win, at least I don’t think we did. Then we danced (if you can call it that) some Texas Two-Step to the strains of George Strait, and then I remember a fumble of keys, lipsticks, mints, and what-not before I piled her into her turquoise Corvair and drove us back to my place.

Anyway, as I admired, make that looked at her, it was difficult to ignore her perky personality and the perky ways in which she wore my shirt. But I kept my guard up as Harley Handel’s voice and warning rattled in my brain. She’s trouble.


She touched her forehead. “Oh, yeah, Rocky,” followed by a nervous laugh. “That’s right.” Her eyes rolled to the top of her head and back down like red cherries on a slot machine. She pointed at me. “Ha! Yeah. Rocky. Anyway, listen, handsome, I really enjoyed last night and all, but I gotta get going. You see, I promised my sister, Darrla – that’s with two ‘r’s’ – that I’d take her shopping at the mall today. It’s our sister, Marla’s birthday.”

“Is that ‘Marla’ with two ‘r’s?”

“Nah. She only got one. Mamma got tired of writin’ so many ‘r’s. Said it gave her hand a cramp.”

Starrla sauntered over to me and flitted her eyelashes. At first I thought maybe a gnat had flown into her eye, but then realized she was coming on to me – again.  Her lips looked thirsty and pouty. She ran her fingernail, painted with the NFL logo on it, down my favorite red vintage Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Cosmic Cowboy T-shirt. Her finger lingered at my belt buckle. “I left my phone number for ya on the counter,” she purred. Call me. ‘kay?”

I nodded and that seemed to satisfy her. She pecked me on the check.

As she walked to the bedroom, I was mesmerized by the sexy undulation of her neuro-muscular system, a harmonic convergence of her long legs, pelvis, and spine . I took a sip of my coffee, forgot it was hot, and nearly burnt my tongue. She began to unbutton my shirt, the white one, that is. She looked back at me with those tantalizing saloon eyes that matched the color of her Corvair, and she let my shirt trail on the carpet behind her. That’s when I saw the Harley tattoo and the reminder of trouble.

By the time I finished my coffee, Starrla had dressed in her tight blue jeans, blue denim shirt tied at the waist, and stilettos. I remembered now why I had been attracted to her at the bar last night. The woman was stunning in a Nashville-Barbie-sort-of-way. She kissed me hot on the lips and said, “See ya, handsome. It was fun. Lots of fun.”

I held the door open for her and before she touched the bottom step of my trailer, I said, “Harley said to tell you, hello.”

She looked at me with a shocked expression, eyes wide, mouth pulsing open like a bass fighting for air – you know, the kind of look you see when people’s credit cards are turned down at 7-11 while trying to buy a pack of cigarettes, a carton of milk, and a can of Mobil oil. Then she fled to her car.

As she ran, a business card dropped from her purse and floated to the bottom of my stairs. I picked it up. It read: “Dewey Ketchum. Special Inspector. Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

I don’t normally curse, but I found myself blurting, out loud, “somanaseabiscuit.”

# # #

To be continued when next the sun rises, or the dark lets go, or soon as I finish dinner.


Remember. Make every hour your happy hour.


Filed under Books On Writing That I Like