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Al Batt: A cup of milk, hold the milk

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

My neighbor Crandall was a pain in school. Every class has a kid who throws spit wads, puts tacks on chairs and uses bad words.

Crandall did those things?

No, he was the one who snitched on me.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me. I was push mowing. The lawn pushed back. I have a pole shed that needs to be taken down. I’m hoping for a graceful exit for my old building buddy and for someone to do the job for the bones he’d pick for salvage — poles, rafters and a metal roof featuring genuine rust. I might buy the individual sweet rolls so he could tackle the job with buns glazing.

I was in a coffee shop’s drive-through lane to get a cup of tea. If drinking coffee prolongs life, I was in the company of immortals. I saw a patron having a coffee drink at a table outside the shop. The cup was so filled with foam, it looked rabid. I thought of the joke. “I’d like a cup of coffee without any cream,” said the customer. “I’m all out of cream, but I can give you a cup without milk.”

The cat had my rung

I wanted to move the stepladder, but the cat was napping on it. I didn’t know what to say. The cat had my rung. The landline rang. I conversed. “Well, I should probably let you go.” That’s a polite way of saying, “Why are you still talking?” A pleasant woman called me regularly. She said what she wanted to say and then hung up. No goodbye included. She could have said, “Please hold for the dial tone.”

A niece was upset because someone had called her “ma’am.” That made her feel old. One day, old men called me “son.” The next day, they didn’t.

I visited with Shirley Sibilrud of Hartland and her son Tim of Eustis, Florida. We chatted near a store display featuring a candy bar big enough to be a blunt weapon. We talked of nothing and of everything. Tim told me only the good die young and that’s why his mother had reached her 90s. We laughed because we knew Shirley is good people.

Tim’s brother Terry lives in Tavares, Florida, and his doctor had set up a schedule to see Terry. Terry said, “Better to be seen than viewed.”

I got the bill for an oil change. It seemed steep. It turned out it was the vehicle identification number. When I tossed the paid bill into my glove compartment, I came across a business card from a late friend, Harold Wayne of Geneva. It brought a smile as I read, “Since I have retired from life’s competition, I find each day an exact repetition. I get up each morning and dust off my wits, pick up the paper and read the obits. If my name is missing, I know I am not dead. So I eat a big breakfast and go back to bed!” I miss Harold.

Sickroom or lunchroom?

Have you ever felt so poorly you weren’t even up to a church potluck? Did you eat chicken noodle soup and saltines, or drink ginger ale? I recall having graveyard stew when I was ailing during my blooming years. Graveyard stew was buttered toast with sugar and cinnamon, served in a bowl of warm milk. My parents shared terrifying tales of mustard plaster, a poultice of mustard seed powder mixed with flour and water on a cloth and then applied to the body to conquer chest congestion and other miseries. Mustard plasters could blister the skin. Vicks VapoRub slathered on a sock and held in place around my neck by a safety pin were better choices for me.

Nature notes

Years ago, on my first gig in Florida, I didn’t have time to chase nature as I’d have liked, but I remember seeing a bull alligator the size of Disney World, small lizards called anoles doing pushups, mockingbirds providing the background music for everything and yellow flies. The flies were aggressive biters.

“There are flowers enough in the summertime, more flowers than I can remember: But none with the purple, gold, and red that dyes the flowers of September!”–Mary Howitt.

Look for turkey vultures, sharp-shinned hawks and broad-winged hawks in migration. Common nighthawks (not true hawks) move through. Look for giant water bugs (toe-biters). Grackles and blackbirds gather in flocks. Baltimore orioles and hummingbirds leave. White-throated sparrows and dark-eyed juncos arrive.

Meeting adjourned

Do something outstanding today and share a kind word with someone with whom you disagree.