Stories. I love a good story, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you do too. Seems like we can’t get enough of ‘em. As much as any, I love the anecdotes people tell me in everyday life. Please permit to share a couple.
As a kid, I spent entire summers in Vermont, five miles back on a dirt road. My father grew up in the country during an era when you “visited” with your neighbors informally. He did the same when my siblings and I were kids.
In the back woods of Vermont, we had some real characters. One of them was named Ottomus. He was a gruffy old guy with gray hair, who dressed in gray shirts and gray work pants. Every time we saw him, he was working on a Schlitz beer and a filter-less Lucky Strike cigarette.
But, he was a carpenter and mason, and my father was elated when he helped us build a concrete block chimney in our house. One evening my father, brothers and I were at Ottomus’ house for some reason. His girlfriend had many cats, and the odor of urine permeated. The same odor today would probably burn my eyes out. As usual, Ottomus was enjoying on his vices. My father brought the grumpy old guy alive when he got him talking about how he once helped build the Washington Senators’ baseball stadium.
Suddenly, I see Ottomus holding a rifle to the head of Scott, a kid my brother had brought to Vermont from Connecticut for a few days. “You stole four beers from my refrigerator,” Ottomus spat out at Scott. “You go outside and get ‘em or I’ll blow your head off.”
Oh my God, I thought. “This is insane. Somebody’s got to do something to stop Ottomus! But I better keep quiet and not make a move.”
Incidentally, Scott was known as the toughest kid in the suburban town where I grew up. He could throw powerful punches in rapid fire. I once heard at a rock n roll dance at a church one night, he fought three kids and knocked them all to the ground. Thankfully on this night, Scott put his tail between his legs like one of the felines in the house, walked outside, and returned carry Ottomus’ four Schlitz’s by the plastic sixpack holder. Ottomus, what the heck?
Mom’s Burgers vs. The Salesman’s Prime
One night when our kids were small, a man pulled up in front of our house in a truck that read “Prime Beef.” He asked to come in the house and tell us about his products. We weren’t doing much, so we said, “Sure, come on in.” I thought, maybe we’ll buy a steak or two from the guy. In the picture on the truck, they looked delicious.
The salesman was a friendly middle-aged guy wearing a dress shirt and nice slacks. He gave us laminated photos of his products and questioned us as to what cuts we liked. Filet mignon? Sirloin? Hamburgers. His enthusiasm made them sound delicious. I decided I’d buy a few steaks. Pretty soon he was telling us he would give us a free freezer if we signed up for a year’s worth of beef. A whole freezer full of beef? The kids are small. We’ll never eat half of it.
I was about to tell him we didn’t want the freezer, when he asked my five-year-old stepson, “How about we make some hamburgers. I’ll get some from the truck and some rolls.”
“Sure,” my stepson, replied.
The salesman looked at my ex. “Do you have any hamburger in your refrigerator?”
“Yes, just so happens we do.”
The salesman fetched burger. “We’ll cook two of yours in one pan and mine in another.”
As they cooked, he went on some more about his delicious meats and how they were farm raised out West. It seems to me he was there like an hour and a half before the burgers were done.
My wife set her burger on a plate next to his. We waited as my stepson ate samples.
All right son, the salesman said. “Which one do you like better. Your mother’s or mine.”
“I like my mother’s,” the boy exclaimed. “Yours is terrible.”
The salesman glared at us, took his materials and stormed out of our house. “I’ll buy a steak or two, I called out to him as he got in the truck. “But we can’t take a whole freezer full.” No reply.