A Green Sweater

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The first time I saw her in the store I thought this tall thin woman reminded me of someone out of a Jane Austin novel by the way she walked as if each step was precisely where they should be. She carried a purse over her left arm and sometimes a green sweater over her shoulders. When she spoke, it was in a high lilting I’m-more-important-than-you delicate speech. I had no idea that she was homeless.

She would sashay around the art gallery upstairs and sometimes sit in the coffee shop. Oddly, since she began coming in, we noticed items showing up around the store that were not our merchandise. Colorful glass spheres, candle holders, and other expensive looking nick knacks. Several stores nearby reported such things missing from their shops. We later discovered it was she who brought them to the store as if she was decorating her own home.

One evening she came in and looked at the greeting cards. At times she would glance my direction and quickly turn away. She never bought anything, so I watched her closely. Later I did a walk through the store and she was not to be found. I checked to see if any of our nick knacks were missing. They were not. When the store closed, I did a walk through again before I counted the cash register money. When I finished the report for the boss, I set the alarm and headed home.

The next day, the boss told me that the alarm had gone off about fifteen minutes after I left for home. I assured him I had done a walk through. When the police arrived, they didn’t find anything. I wondered if it was that woman. That night at work I did an in-depth check looking in every nook and cranny for the Jane Austin woman. Sure enough, in a back secluded area of the gallery where the heating and air conditioning systems were, was what appeared to be a nest in the corner. Several water bottles, a McDonald’s sack, and a green sweater.

I had dealt with a homeless man once before who wouldn’t leave one night saying this is where he decided to sleep. I warned him that I would call the cops. “Call ‘em,” he said, and lay his head back and closed his eyes. Many times, homeless people will do something that will get them in jail for the night. They call it “Getting two hots and a cot.” Meaning two free meals and a place to sleep. Normally, I am polite to the homeless. People are people. But the store had rules and we set an alarm at night. I called the police. They escorted the man out, however, did not arrest him for trespassing. I wondered if he had been the one who had made the nest and set off the alarm. But I couldn’t picture him in that green sweater.

The next Saturday after the alarm had gone off the woman came into the store again. I watched her peruse the greeting cards. Later she got a glass of water and set in the coffee shop. About thirty minutes before closing I noticed she was gone. Travelling upstairs. I found her… asleep right in the middle of the art gallery’s wooden floor!

I kindly woke her and told her that she could not sleep there, and I asked her about her green sweater. She said, “Not mine.” Then she went down stairs and I assumed she left the building. Fifteen minutes later the barista told me someone was in the ladies’ restroom and had been there longer than necessary.  Of course, I knocked on the door to see if she was alright.

“Just a minute,” she said. A minute turned in to another fifteen. I know that sometimes the homeless would use our restrooms to take a “sink shower.” But she had been in there way too long. I knocked again and she said, “Just a minute. I’m a lady you know.”

She certainly had her pride and I was obviously not prejudiced, but I was concerned about her sense and sensibility of time. She wouldn’t be persuaded.

I called the police.

Several policemen arrived and they pounded on the bathroom door and told her they were the police and she needed to come out.

“Just a minute,” she said with a major emphasis on the word minute.

They pounded again saying they would break the door in if she didn’t come out.

Slowly she opened the door and peaked out. “I’m a lady. I was doing lady stuff,” she said.

They questioned her a bit and she suddenly began talking as if she was British. “Are you from England?” one policeman asked.

“I speak in many accents!” she replied in her British tone.

After much persuasion and argument (in several different accents) she said, “There are a lot of empty buildings at night and why couldn’t you just let us sleep there?” The police wouldn’t relent. In a huff as if the servants wouldn’t listen to her, she said she would, “Never visit this establishment again.”

She tossed her head back, and with her nose in the air, she stepped precisely where each step should be… out of the “establishment.” I never saw her again. I’m not certain, but I think we donated her green sweater to the homeless shelter.

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I once caught a fox… in my underwear.

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It all started with a casual Sunday drive with my wife.

“Do you want to pick raspberries?” she asked. “I know a great place.”

Per her directions I drove to a posh neighborhood and parked in front of a palatial home.

“There is a walking path behind those houses and tons of ripe berries,” she said as she exited the SUV and opened the back tailgate. She pulled out two white buckets and a pair of bright orange coveralls. As she put them on over her clothing I thought, why does she need those? We’re just picking berries.

We followed the walking path and found enough berries to fill both of our buckets to the brim. I drooled thinking about the raspberry pies we’d bake.

When we arrived back at the car, my wife quickly removed her coveralls. I opened the car door.

“Wait! You can’t sit in the driver’s seat.”

“Why not?”

“We’ve been walking through poison ivy and I am extremely allergic!”

Ah, thus the need for coveralls. “What do you want me to do?”

“You have to take your clothes off and put them back here.”

So, as the sun sunk over the horizon, I hid behind the open car door and took off my shirt, jeans, socks and shoes. As she wouldn’t touch them, I had to quickly rush them to the back and race to get in the car before someone saw me. On the way home I prayed a police officer wouldn’t stop us for anything.

Now, you need to know this before I continue… We lived in a community out in the country where everyone has three to five acres. Many of my neighbors raised chickens as we did and the word was out that a fox had been seen. I didn’t want the fox to steal our chickens. Earlier I had placed a trap outside, but failed to set it yet.

As it was dark now, we entered our subdivision. I was glad we had a garage and garage opener for a speedy escape to sanctuary.  I didn’t want to be seen in my whitey tighties by the neighbors.

“There it is! There’s the fox!” she screamed pointing out the passenger side window.

Sure enough, a fox was in the neighbor’s front yard.

“We’ve got to kill it!” she said.

“But I don’t own a gun.”

“You have that BB gun, don’t you?”

I drove into our driveway, hitting the garage door opener and drove into the seclusion of the garage. I ran inside and retrieved the pistol, making sure it was loaded with BBs. I was getting frustrated.

As I drove back to where we saw the animal, I lowered my window. I figured I’d do a “drive by”. Alas, the fox had moved to the yard across the street. I handed the BB gun to my wife who refused to take it.

“I’m not gonna kill it. YOU kill it!”

At this point I was very frustrated. I stopped and got out of the vehicle. I marched to the front of the car and aimed the pistol at the fox. Eight shots. I missed him with all of them. It smirked and ran off into the dark. “Aghhh,” I yelled, and turned toward the car. It wasn’t till then that I realized that I was standing right in the headlights in the middle of the street in my subdivision as if I was the main attraction at the circus…in my underwear!

I slunk back into the car hoping one of the neighbors didn’t film the crazy guy standing in the street firing a gun…in nothing but his underwear! Totally embarrassed, knowing surely a video of me was about to be put on YouTube and go viral, I drove home and went out back and immediately set the trap baiting it with cat food…again hoping no one saw me.

After a fitful night’s sleep, I checked the trap, and lo and behold there was the fox! Beautiful reddish fur and black legs. A big bushy tail. It looked at me with mournful little eyes.

I called animal control to come get it and they said, “It’ll cost you 50 bucks. There’s been a lot of mange going around. We would just kill it.” I googled mange. “/mānj/ noun a skin disease of mammals caused by parasitic mites and occasionally communicable to humans. It typically causes severe itching, hair loss, and the formation of scabs and lesions. Foxes that get mange die in three or four months.”

“Okay, thank you, I can do that myself.” And save fifty bucks. I reloaded the BB gun and went outside. I fired all eight shots at close range. The BBs bounced off of the fox and made it MAD. Did you know that foxes bark like a dog? I didn’t. Frustrated again, I yelled, “I haven’t made a dent. I’ve hurt it and now it is mad. I don’t own a gun…but…I do own a sword…”

My uncle Sunny (Yes, that is his name) had given me an old Masonic Knights Templar sword. About four feet long, the blade was about an inch wide. It was VERY sharp at the end.

Feeling guilty and somewhat afraid, I stood with the sword outside the fox’s cage. I held the sword toward the fox and said, in a Spanish accent, “My name ees Jon Hopkins and chu were about to keell my cheecken’s. Prepare to die!” And I stabbed it in the heart. The brave fox reached around and did something totally unexpected. It BIT the sword. It was so cool, I got goose bumps! Then…it died. I slowly pulled out the bloody blade. To make myself feel better I told myself that it was gonna die probably in a month or two from mange anyway. And, like a hero in some fantasy movie, I had saved all the chickens of the neighborhood.

I put the fox in a box. A fox box. And buried him in the trash can with honors. I doubt I’ll ever have the bravado to bite the sword that’s killing me like it did.

Note: So far, I have not seen a video of me online.

My Favorite Blonde Joke

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I was out of work and desperately needed a job. I perused the want ads to no avail until I chanced upon the word “computers.” Gateway Computer Company was hiring, and I liked to play computer games, so I sent in my resume and got an interview. Back in the 90’s Gateway computers were the best on the market.

The day of the interview, I dressed in my best suit and tie. Uh… I learned later that computer geeks don’t wear suits and ties.

Sitting nervously in the waiting room, I picked up a magazine. It was about computers. Go figure. On the front it said, “The Top Ten DOS Commands.” I didn’t know what DOS was. So, I read the article and waited.

Finally, the interviewer called me into his office, and I sat in a wiggly chair in front of his cluttered desk. We introduced ourselves. He looked at my resume’. I’m sure he would see I had no computer experience or computer knowledge. After a while, he leaned back and asked, “Tell me…What are your favorite DOS commands.” I told him all that I remembered from my reading that magazine article. And… I got the job!

I worked for five years at Gateway as a phone computer technician. Each day was like crashing for a college exam! But I learned fast. And besides… all the answers were on the computer screen. I just had to read them to the customer.

Every day I answered random phone calls from users who had problems with their computers. I belonged to a team of technicians who all sat in a cubicle world. When things got boring, we shot each other with rubber bands and would bet on such things as who could get the customer to say the word “underwear.”

“Look under the left panel.”

“Under where?”

One day I received a call from a gentleman who couldn’t get a computer game for his children to work on his computer. He wanted to fix it before they got home from school. It was a known problem. An easy fix. The situation was that the video card in the computer would not display the correct video resolution to boot up the game for his kids to play. The fix? Reseat the video card. By that I mean take the computer apart, find the video card, unscrew it, remove it, and replace it back into the slot. Easy peasy stuff.

“Before we start, there is something you need to know,” he said.

“Okay?” I was ready for anything. “What is that, Sir?”

“I have been completely blind since birth.”

I didn’t know what to say. “Do you have someone in the house that can help do this?”

He laughed. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I can do this. Just tell me what to do.”

To make a long story short, he DID do it following my precise directions. The children’s game booted up perfectly.

“Thank you! Now I can surprise my kids!” he said.

I was so impressed I had to tell the other technicians. They all shot me with rubber bands.

A week later I received a similar call. The same problem. Same video card. Same fix. Only this time on the phone was a hysterical female, crying.

“My game doesn’t work.”

I gave her the information of what needed to be done to fix the problem. “It’s easy,” I told her.

Between sobs she cried, “I’ll never be able to do that!”

So…in what I thought would be the greatest encouragement, I calmly said, “Ma’am I’m sure you can do this. Why just last week I helped a blind man do the same thing.”

After a few whimpers she said, “That’s amazing. I’m blonde too!”

I put the call on mute so she wouldn’t hear my laughter. I quickly got back on the line and calmly talked her through the procedure to a positive result. She was so happy.

I wanted to tell the other techs… but stopped myself. The next day I brought a Gatling gun rubber-band shooter to work. This instrument of mass destruction could shoot 300 rubber bands in less than a minute. Needless to say, the team never bothered me again.

Job 29:15 I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.

Romans 2:19 “If you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?”

 

 

 

 

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