“A magician worked a cruise ship. The audience was different each week so the magician did the same tricks over and over again. There was only one problem. The Captains parrot saw the shows each week and began to understand how the magician did his tricks.
Once he understood, he started shouting out in the middle of the show, “Look, he’s hiding the flowers under the table!” or “Hey! Why are all those cards the ace of spades?”
The magician was furious, but he couldn’t do anything because it was the captain’s parrot.
Then, one dark and stormy night on the Pacific, the ship sank and all the passengers drowned. The magician luckily found himself on a piece of wood floating in the middle of the sea and as fate would have it, with the parrot.
They stared at each other, but did not utter a word. This went on for day. And then two days. And then three. Finally, on the fourth day, the parrot could not hold back any longer and said:
“Okay, I give up. Where’s the ship?”
I didn’t think that it was all that funny, but I laughed along with the rest of the crowd and clapped along with everybody else when he finished. Truth was that I very much doubted anyone could lift my spirits on that particular night no matter how funny they might be.
I was at the Landing Strip because it was my usual watering hole of choice. Mostly because it was close to home and I could leave my truck in the lot and walk home if I over-imbibed. I’d forgotten it was open mic night when I got there, but I was inside with a PBR in front of me when I realized it so I decided to stay. I’d had the thought, since proven wrong, that some of the want to be stand-up comics could cheer me up.
The day started out pretty damned good. Penny woke me with a blowjob a full hour before the clock was due to go off. When I was as hard a she wanted she climbed on cowgirl style and rode me until I just had to get off and then I rolled her over onto her back and went at it hard and fast until we both got off. She followed me into the shower and by the time we finished scrubbing each other’s backs and fronts we were ready to go at it again. I left the house that morning with a big smile on my face that wouldn’t quit.
I had a great morning at work. I finally signed McBride Industries to a five year contract that meant we would have to put on a second shift to handle the increased workload. At ten-thirty I received a phone call from Bill Jamison of Poulson and Sons asking him to meet me for lunch at the Olive Garden on Tyler. Since I had been trying to interest him in swinging his business our way I of course agreed to meet him. The Olive Garden on Tyler was a good forty minutes away so I left the office at eleven to make sure that I got to the meeting on time. Bill was already there when I got there at a quarter to twelve.
I joined him, we ordered, and then Bill and I talked business. He told me that he liked the quality of our products, but what was holding him back from throwing business our way was that he didn’t think we had the capacity to handle orders of the size he would be making. I smiled and told him we could easily handle whatever he gave us as we had just added a second shift and a third shift was under consideration. He expressed some concern that we would be spreading our workforce too thin to maintain our quality and I told him that his worries were groundless and that we would put performance guarantees in any contract we signed.
“That being the case” he said, “Work up a contract and bring it over to my office tomorrow and we will hammer out the details.”
I sat there looking at him and thought about the day so far. Off to a great start with Penny, signing McBride and now getting a verbal commitment Jamison and I wondered if the day could get any better and as soon as I had that thought my day turned to shit.
I saw a couple walk in and be seated. They were holding hands when they walked in and when they took their seats in the booth they were holding hands across the table. I had no idea who the man was, but the woman was Penny. My first instinct was to get up and go over to their booth, but I quickly remembered what had happened the last time I did something like that and why I no longer was in favor of public scenes or confrontations. Besides, there was no way I wanted to do it in front of Jamison. I decided that I would just make sure that Penny saw me and knew that I’d seen her when Jamison and I left.
That’s just the way it went. When Bill and I left as soon as I passed the booth that Penny and the guy were sitting in I turned, looked Penny in the face, saw her reaction to seeing me and then I turned and left. As I pulled out of the parking lot I saw Penny running out the front door and looking around for me, but I kept on going. My cell started ringing almost immediately and a quick glance at the screen showed that it was Penny. I turned the phone off and tossed it on the seat beside me.
On the drive back to my office I wondered what the hell had happened to Penny and me between the time I left the house for work and the time I saw her at the Olive Garden. The irony of the situation is that what had just happened at the Olive Garden was almost a carbon copy of the incident that brought Penny into my life to begin with.
I thought back seven years to when it had happened.
Angela and I had been married almost four years. The first three had been glorious, but then things changed. I sensed Angela pulling away from me. Nothing glaringly obvious, just a feeling that I had. It wasn’t anything like “I wonder what she’s up to?” It was more a feeling like our connection was broken. Our love life stayed the same as far as regularity went, but it felt like she was only going through the motions.
Her job had always required extra hours occasionally, but it had been that way when we met so it didn’t really register with me when the once or twice a week became three and four. I didn’t even see anything wrong when her late hours turned from one or two into three or four. I did notice when she started dressing a little better for work and I did comment on it. She explained it by saying she was angling for a promotion and that she needed to look her best.
I also noticed that she took showers more often when she came home and I commented on that also. She told me that she was doing it for me. A lot of her meetings at work were held in smoke filled rooms and she wanted to wash the ‘stink’ off of her before snuggling or cuddling up to me. I’m a non-smoker and I remembered telling her when we first started dating that I hated the smell of cigarettes so I accepted her reasons for the showers.
I know that given all of the above I sound terribly naïve, but you have to remember that I was deeply in love with my wife so why would I start thinking bad thoughts were she was concerned. Granted that in hindsight they were all indications of a straying wife, but come on; we were basically newlyweds and we loved each other so why would I even think something was wrong? The feeling that Angela was pulling away from me I wrote off to her being a little more occupied with getting the promotion she was working for. I was all for that promotion. The raise she would get might finally put us in the position to by the house we wanted and get us out of our cramped apartment.
Yes indeed; I was clueless.
Right up till the day it slapped me right upside my head.
I was having lunch with a customer on the other side of town in a restaurant I’d never been in before. Mid way through the meal the customer got a call. He told me that he had an emergency at his plant, had to leave and got up and rushed out. I didn’t have an emergency so I sat there and finished my lunch. I’d just ordered dessert – banana pudding if anyone wants to know – when I saw Angela and a man I didn’t know come in and take a booth. What grabbed my attention was that they entered holding hands.
I watched them walk to the booth and they kissed before sitting down next to each other. They kissed again, broke it when the waitress appeared to take their order and then kissed again when she left to turn their order in.
Suddenly it all came together. The late hours, the dressing better, the showers and the felling that she was just going through the motions when we made love. I took my time eating my dessert while I watched all of the ‘touchy-feely’ between Angela and her guy. I finished dessert and dropped a twenty on the table to cover the tab and a tip and then I walked over to the booth where Angela was sitting. Angela saw me coming, but outside of her eyes seeming to get bigger her facial expression didn’t change. I slid onto the seat across from them and the guy got a nasty look on his face and said,
“Get the fuck out of here asshole.”
I ignored him and said, “Hi there Ange. Care to introduce me to fuck face?”
The guy started to get out of the booth and I could tell from the expression on his face he wasn’t standing up to shake my hand so I reached across the able and grabbed his necktie and jerked it down. His face smacked into the table and it stunned him for a second or two. He lifted his head shook it a couple of times to clear it. Blood was running from his nose and he grabbed a napkin and held it to his face. I had to give it to Angela; she was calm and cool as she said,
“Glen meet my husband Norm. Norm this is my boss Glen.”
“I get it” I said, “Fucking your way to the top? Earning that promotion that you keep telling me about on your back?”
Glen by this that time had gotten himself together and with that nasty look still on his face he started to get up. I slid out and got ready for him. Angela was yelling,
“Stop this you two. Stop this foolishness now! Stop it right now!”
We both ignored her and he swung on me, I blocked it, punched him in the mouth and then we went at it like a couple of kids in the school yard. All the while we whacked away at each other Angela was yelling,
“Stop it! Stop it! Somebody stop them. Please make them stop.”
I think we both gave as good as we got, but I have to be honest; if we hadn’t been pulled apart he just might have gotten the best of me. While being held I looked over at Angela and snarled,
“Don’t come home until tomorrow afternoon. I’ll be moved out by then. I don’t give a rat’s ass where you go just don’t come home until I’m gone. Spend the night with fuckface here. It’s probably what you’ve been wanting to do anyway.”
I turned to the guys holding me and said “I’m good. All I want to do is get out of here and get to a divorce attorney.”
They turned me loose, but before I could get out of the door the owner or manager, I wasn’t sure which, stopped me and told me that I wouldn’t be welcome there in the future. Big fucking deal! I’d never been in there before and I damned sure didn’t want to come back so I could relive the memory.
I had my hand on the door handle of my car when a soft voice from behind me said, “Excuse me” and I turned to see an absolutely beautiful young women.
“I take it that you no idea that she was cheating on you until tonight?”
“Not a clue.”
She handed me a card and said, “He might be able to help you.”
I looked at the card and it read “Brandon Marshall. Licensed Private Investigator. Spenser Investigations.” It gave an office number, a cell number and a fax number. I looked at her and asked,
“Just how can he help me?”
“You will need to call him to find out. I probably have already done more than I should have just giving his card to you and suggesting you call him.”
“Then may I ask you why you have done it?”
“I don’t honestly know. A combination of things probably. The look on your face when you looked at them. The way you looked when you walked over to confront them. The look on your face when you called him fuckface.” She laughed and said, “Sorry for my language, but it made me laugh when you called him that.”
“My question has to be why were you watching me to begin with?”
“Bran saw you and said that we were more than likely in for a show so I watched.”
“I take it Bran is the Brandon whose card you just gave me?”
“Boyfriend or husband?”
“Neither; he’s my brother. Why ask that?”
“Gathering information. Trying to figure out who you are and why you say your brother might be able to help me. I’m guessing that you already know who I am so what’s your name?”
“Penny. Penny Marshall.”
“So Penny Marshall tell me how close I am in my guesses. I am a nobody and I have no skeletons in my closet so I very much doubt that I’m being investigated. To me that means your brother’s target is either my wife or fuckface. I doubt that Angela is dipping into the company’s petty cash and other than that I can see no reason for your brother to be on her trail. That leaves fuckface.
“I noticed a wedding ring on his finger so my best guess is that his wife suspects that he is playing around on her and has hired your brother’s firm to get the goods on him. I’m guessing that you are with your brother as camouflage. It being easier to follow someone into a restaurant and spy on them as a couple rather than as a single male. How am I doing?”
She gave me a big smile and then said, “In the words of some politician, whose name escapes me, I will neither confirm nor deny.”
I smiled back at her knowing that I’d hit the nail on the head. I further guessed, although I didn’t share the thought with Penny that her brother had put her up to talking with me. He wanted to ‘double dip’ and get me to pay for the same information he had collected for fuckface’s wife.
I’d done it. I called him the next day and his price was reasonable and I’d used it to divorce Angela. Of course we talked before I filed and she told me that she was only doing it for us. Her promotion to fuckface’s assistant and the raise that came with it would give us enough for the house we wanted. She loved only me and barely liked him. It was only sex and not even good sex. Surely I could that she was only doing it for us. I laughed at her and filed.
The day the divorce became final I stopped at The Landing Strip to have a few drinks to celebrate my freedom. It was open mic night and I sat there, listened, drank my PBR and applauded all the standups even if they weren’t all that good. They deserved it just for having the guts to get up there and let it all hang out.
I didn’t know the name of the guy doing the standup, but I recognized him from the Safeway over on Perry. I think he worked in the Meat Department.
“John went to visit his 90 year old grandfather who lived in an old cabin back in the forest. After spending a great evening chatting the night away the next morning John’s grandfather prepared a breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast. John noticed a film-like substance on his plate and he asked his grandfather, “Are these plates clean?”
His grandfather replied, “They are as clean as cold water can get them.”
For lunch the old man made hamburgers. Again John was concerned about the plates as his had tiny specks around the edge that looked like dried eggs and he asked, “Are you sure these plates clean?”
Without looking up the old man said, “I told you before, Sonny, those plates are as clean as cold water can get them. Now don’t you fret; I don’t want to hear another word about it.”
Later that afternoon John was on his way to a nearby town and as he was leaving his grandfather’s dog got between him and his car, bared his teeth and growled at John. John yelled and said, “Grandfather, your dog won’t let me get to my car.”
Without diverting his attention from the football game he was watching on TV the old man shouted, “Behave Coldwater; go lay down now, yah hear me.”
He got a laugh out of that and then he said, “When I got home from work the other night I found a note tape taped on the fridge. It said, “It’s just not working! I’ve tried and tried, but I can’t take it anymore! I’ve gone to stay with my mother. I opened the fridge, the light came on and the beer was cold. What the hell was she talking about?”
That one got a good laugh and then he said, “One more and then I’ve got to go. An elderly couple who had just learned how to send text messages were on their mobile phones. The wife was a romantic type and the husband was more of a no nonsense guy. One afternoon the wife went out to meet a friend for coffee. She decided to send her hubby a romantic text message and so she got out her phone and typed:
“If you are sleeping send me your dreams. If you are laughing send me your smile. If you are eating send me a bite. If you are drinking send me a sip. If you are crying send me your tears.”
The husband texted back to her, “I’m on the toilet. Please advise.”
That got him a great laugh from the crowd.
Then the night got interesting. The bar stool to my right had been empty since I’d first sat down. Halfway through my first PBR someone sat down on the stool. I was paying attention to the guy performing and didn’t notice who sat down until I heard:
“Hey handsome; buy a girl a drink?”
I turned and saw Penny Marshall sitting there. I waved Karen over and told her to put Penny’s drink on my tab. We talked and I found out she was there to show support for a friend who was going to give standup comedy a try. She found out that I was celebrating becoming single again. Before the conversation could go any farther Bobby Denton announced the next hopeful who turned out to be Penny’s friend.
“Is she any good” I asked.
“Don’t know. Never have heard her before.”
The friend stated out with, “A man works hard every day and then every evening he comes home and takes his dinner to the chair in the living room and eats it while watching TV. One day during his daily routine there is a knock on his door and he gets up to answer it, doesn’t see anyone there so he shuts the door and goes back to his dinner and TV watching.
Again there is a knock only slightly louder and the man opens the door and again sees no one there. He is about to close the door when he hears a voice say “I’m down here.” He looks down and sees a snail holding some pamphlets. The snail says “Good evening Sir. Have you heard about this in expensive new...” but he doesn’t get to finish because the man drop kicks him halfway across the front yard and then goes back to his dinner and TV.
Six months pass. The man is again eating his dinner and watching TV in his usual chair when there is a knock at the door and the man gets up to see who is there, doesn’t see anyone and closes the door. Before he can get back to his chair there is another knock only louder. He goes back and opens the door, looks down and sees the snail.
The snail looks up at the man, rolls up his sleeves and says, “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT ALL ABOUT?!”
It took a second or so before the crowd caught on, but then she got a nice laugh. She went on, “My 44 year old neighbor was pregnant with twins and one day my husband asked her if she knew what their gender was. My neighbor said “No. I want it to be a surprise. My husband, soul of discretion that he is, looked at her in disbelief and said, “You are 44 and having twins. How much more surprise do you need in your life?”
That one got her a pretty decent laugh and she went on, “I was visiting my Aunt in Philadelphia and we were going to attend a debate at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. The subject of the debate was “Is American Politics Broken?” When we got there we found a sign hanging on the front door. It said that the debate had been cancelled due to the Government Shutdown.”
That got her a polite laugh and she finished with, “My nine year old and I passed a store that had a sign in the window that read “Watch Batteries Installed for $5 dollars.” He seemed confused, “Who would pay $5 dollars to watch batteries being installed?”
As she left the bandstand I looked at Penny and she read my facial expression.
“Not all that good huh?”
“Let us just say that she shouldn’t quit her day job and let it go at that.”
Penny quickly changed the subject.
“Now that you are single I suppose that you are going to start dating again?”
“More than likely.”
“I don’t have anything going for Friday” she said and three months later we were married.
And now here I was eight years later going through it all over again.
I’d just finished my beer and decided to forgo another and was getting ready to leave when Bobby introduced the next one who wanted to be a standup comic. As she walked up to take the mic from Bobby I made a quick decision to stay. I didn’t care if she would be funny or not. I’d be content to just sit there and look at her. She was drop dead gorgeous. Strawberry blonde and extremely well built. Just looking at her cheered me up. Funny or not I was going to stay and appreciate.
“Three men – a Canadian farmer, Osama bi Laden and a Biker Dude are walking along together one day and they came across a lamp lying on the ground. The Canadian picked it up and said, ‘This could be a pretty item to have on my mantle if I polished it up a bit and he rubbed it with the sleeve of his shirt. A Genie pops out and says “I will give each of you one wish.” The Canadian said, “I am a farmer and my son will also farm. I want the land to be forever fertile in Canada. POOF! In the blink of the Genie’s eye the land in Canada was forever fertile.
Osama was amazed so he said “I want a wall around Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq and Iran so that no infidels, Americans or Canadians can come into our precious land.” POOF! Again in the blink of the Genie’s eye there was a huge wall around those countries.
The Biker Dude said, “I’m curious. Please tell me about this wall.” The Genie explained. “It is 5000 feet high, 500 feet thick and nothing can get in or out. It is virtual impenetrable.”
The Biker sat down on his Harley, took a beer out of his saddle bags and then lit up a cigar. He smiled and then said, “Fill it with water.”
She got a big laugh out of that and her next one was pretty damned good also.
“There were these four students that were taking chemistry together and so far they had an A for the course. They were so confident that the week before the final they decided to visit some friends and have a big party. They had a great time, but after all that hearty partying they slept all day Sunday and didn’t make it back to school until Monday. They were still a little fuzzy headed so rather than taking the final then they decided that after the final they would explain to the professor why they missed it. They said that they had visited friends and on the way back they had a flat tire and couldn’t get there in time.
The professor agreed that they could make up the final the next day. The guys were relieved and they spent the day and most of the evening cramming for the test. The next day the professor placed them in separate rooms and gave each of them a test booklet. They quickly answered the first problem worth 5 points. Cool, they thought. Each one in their separate rooms thought the test was going to be a piece of cake ... then they turned the page. On the second page was written ... For 95 points ... which tire?”
Another good laugh, but her last one really cracked me up.
“Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of wine they laid down for the night and went to sleep. Some hours later Holmes woke up and nudged his faithful friend and said, “Watson’ look up at the sky and tell me what you see.” Watson replied, “I see millions and millions of stars.”
“And what does that tell you” Holmes asked.
Watson pondered for a moment and then said, “Astronomically it tells me that there millions of galaxies and thus potentially billions of planets. Astrologically I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically I deduce that the time is about a quarter past three. Theologically I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorlogically I suspect that we will have a beautiful tomorrow. What does it tell you?
Holmes was silent for a moment and then spoke. “It tells me that someone stole our tent.”
When she finished and left the bandstand my eyes followed her. She sat down at a table with two other women and I called Karen over and asked her to send a round of drinks over to that table. Karen gave me a disbelieving look and said:
“Do you think Penny would approve?”
“After what I caught Penny doing earlier today I couldn’t care less about what she might approve of.”