Sunday, October 27, 2019


When my late husband and I moved into our first home together, among the “treasures” he brought with him were a brick from his old grammar school (he’d grabbed it during the school’s demolition) and a WWII hand-grenade that his dad had brought home from the war. He assured me was completely safe, inactive and was used as a paperweight.   

A couple weeks ago, nearly 50 years later, I located the grenade packed away in a box in the basement. It had rust on it and looked as if it had been through yet another war, so my first instinct was to toss it out. My second instinct was to try to sell it on Ebay. I looked up “paperweight” grenades on Ebay and discovered they were selling for an average of $25 each – some lower and some higher, depending on whether they were authentic hollowed-out grenades or just newer replicas.

I did notice, however, that just about all of the grenades on Ebay were hollow, with a big hole in the bottom. Mine wasn’t hollow, nor did it have a hole in it. In fact, it weighed over a pound. And the handle still had a pin in it.  
There was a code number on the handle, so I searched online for more information. I learned it was a military training grenade...and that it was illegal to own one that wasn’t hollowed out! My heart started to race. Was I in possession of military contraband?  A vision of myself being led away in handcuffs prompted me to call an area gun shop to see if I could find out more information about the grenade and what to do with it.

I gave the grenade’s serial number to the guy who answered and asked him if he was familiar with it.

“Oh, those are common,” he said. “They hollow them out and use them for paperweights or decorations.”

“But mine’s not hollowed out. And the pin still is in it.”

“Really?” His surprised tone did little to ease my growing tension. “Um, maybe you should take it to the police then, and have them check it out.”

“You want me to walk into a police station while I’m carrying a grenade?”

“No...I guess that wouldn’t be such a good idea. Maybe you should go down to the river then, and just toss it in. I’m sure there are a lot of worse things down there.”

I couldn’t believe this guy was serious.

“With all of the surveillance cameras people have nowadays?” I asked. “What if I’m caught on video, throwing a grenade into the river?”

“Yeah, I guess you have a point. Well, just to be safe, you probably should call your local police and ask them for advice.”

So I called the police department and talked to the desk clerk.

“I found a hand-grenade in my basement...” I began.

“You found what?” she interrupted, her voice growing higher with each word before I even could explain any of the details.

I told her the grenade had been used as a paperweight for years, was supposed to be inactive, and was only a training grenade...but it wasn’t hollowed out and still had a pin in it, so I wanted to know if it was illegal to own it and if so, what I should do with it.

She said she would contact the officer on duty and have him call me back.

About ten minutes later, my doorbell rang. I opened it to find two very serious-looking police officers standing on the porch. They didn’t say anything, they just stared at me. But the expressions on their faces made me feel as if they thought I was hiding the grenade in my bra and was about to remove it, bite off the pin and fling it at them.

“I suppose you’re here about the grenade?” I asked.

They nodded.

“It’s in the basement. Follow me.”

The two officers cautiously stepped into the house, drew their flashlights, and began shining them on everything – the floors, the ceiling, the closet door – as if they expected a gang of thugs to leap out and ambush them. All the while, all I could think about was whether or not there were dust kitties under the furniture where they were shining their lights.

Even as I led them downstairs to the basement, they continued to rapidly look back and forth and up and down with each step. I was going to warn them about the elusive spider down there –the one  big enough to have its own zip code –hoping they might shoot it, but I decided against it.

I pointed to the box where the grenade was hidden and said, “It’s in there.” I figured if the police already were feeling so uneasy, it might not be wise for me to grab the grenade. One false move and I was pretty sure I’d be shot full of holes.

One of the officers opened the box and picked up the grenade. The first thing he said was, “At least it still has the pin in it.”  He then said, “We’ll take this over to the State Police and get it checked out.”

I had expected them to bring some sort of protective container for it, but the officer just carried it upstairs.

The only time I finally got a slight smile out of them was when I told them the guy at the gun shop had told me to bring the grenade to the police station. That pretty much convinced me it would have been a bad idea.

The police gave me some paperwork to sign and then they left. I was relieved that everything had ended quietly – no bomb squad, no neighborhood evacuation and my house hadn’t been blown away to Munchkin Land.

The next day, I found the following note on my front door.

I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing (I think the smiley face had a lot to do with it). I also thought, “This has to be the craziest note anyone’s ever received on their front door!”

So I headed down to the police station. In the lobby was a wall-phone I had to pick up so I could talk to the woman at the front desk.

“I’ve come for my grenade,” I told her.

“You’re what!?” she fairly gasped.

I was beginning to think that grenades really weren’t all that common in my town.

I had to wait about 15 minutes before an officer, carrying my grenade in his hand, appeared. He told me the State Police had x-rayed it and deemed it to be safe and inert. It also was a genuine practice-grenade, not a replica. To my surprise, it still was completely intact. I’d expected it to be dissected into pieces and handed to me in a baggie.

He had me sign more paperwork, then gave me the grenade.

“Do you have a bag or something?” I asked him. “I’m not comfortable walking out of here holding a grenade in my hand.”

He shrugged. “As long as you’re not walking in with one, you’re okay.”

Just for the heck of it, I asked him what would have happened if I had walked in with it.

He laughed and said, “We’d probably have tackled you!”

Actually, he was so tall, dark and handsome, especially in his uniform, I momentarily regretted that I hadn’t.

I ended up selling the grenade for $36 on Ebay.

Now I’m waiting to see what happens if the US Postal Service decides to x-ray the package.

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Sunday, October 20, 2019


 I seriously am thinking about carving a pumpkin for a Halloween decoration this year, even though the last time I carved one, about 15 years ago, things didn’t exactly go very well.

Back then, I really was gung-ho about carving a jack-o-lantern…but not just any run-of-the-mill, gap-toothed jack-o-lantern. No, I was determined to carve a masterpiece.  In fact, I wanted to become the Michelangelo of pumpkin carvers. I was positive that when I lit up my pumpkin and set it out on my front porch, people driving by would screech on their brakes and leap out of their cars to “ooh” and “ahh” and snap photos.  

OK, so there was just one teensy weensy little problem:  I’d never carved a pumpkin before. Sure, when I was a kid, my mother had helped me carve a few, but she’d done all of the dirty work of cutting off the top and scooping out all the pumpkin guts first. She’d even held my hand through most of the carving, just to make certain I didn’t slip with the knife and accidentally dissect one of my vital organs.

But I wasn’t a kid any more, so I wasn’t about to carve something so traditional, so mundane. I wanted to create something unique and exciting. So I invested in an official pumpkin-carving kit. It came complete with an array of special carving-tools that looked like a miniature version of a brain-surgeon’s kit, along with an assortment of intricate patterns and detailed instructions. I was revved up and raring to go. All I needed was the perfect pumpkin.

My husband made the mistake of offering to drive me on my search for the perfect pumpkin…an offer he later came to regret. He ended up chauffeuring me to Hooksett, Litchfield, Goffstown, Bedford and to some remote town not even on the map. Wherever there was a farm stand, there I was, thumping, sniffing and rubbing dozens of pumpkins –as if I actually had the faintest idea of what the heck I was looking for – while my husband sat yawning out in the car.

I ended up buying five pumpkins – only because every time I thought I’d found the “perfect” one and bought it, we’d pass by another farm stand and  I’d make my husband stop. Inevitably, I’d find another pumpkin I thought was even more perfect than the previous one.

The actual carving of the pumpkin was a lot less fun than I’d thought it was going to be. For one thing, sawing off the top and scooping out the innards was pretty disgusting. Pumpkin brains, I soon learned, were mushy and wet, and full of long stringy things that wrapped around my fingers and got underneath my fingernails. The stuff didn’t smell too great either – kind of like a wet dog.

I also had trouble getting used to the little tools in my official pumpkin-carving kit. The ultra-slim saw slid through the pumpkin as easily as if it were made of soft butter. On my first attempt to carve a witch sitting on a broom, I  slipped with the saw and ended up “de-nosing” her.

I mutilated three of the five pumpkins before I finally succeeded in carving my in retrospect it probably was a good thing I’d bought so many extras. I ended up carving a whole scene – a haunted house complete with bats flying around it and crooked trees next to it. I was so excited with the finished product, I barely could wait until dark to light it and put it out on the front porch to get the full effect.

I must say, the end result was breathtaking. My husband didn’t exactly squeal with delight and jump up and down the way I did after I lit the pumpkin, but I could tell he was impressed. I’d made sure to buy a fat, thick-wicked candle (with a flame as bright as a flame-thrower’s) to put into it. No cheap, squatty little candle was going to be bright enough for my pumpkin!                           

That night, I carefully set the pumpkin out on the top step. Then every 10 minutes, I checked it to make certain no pumpkin-smashing vandals were afoot.  At bedtime, I brought the pumpkin back inside and set it on the kitchen counter for the night. I wanted to keep it safe until I put it out on the step again the next night, which just happened to be Halloween.

I woke up the next morning to the sound of my husband’s laughter coming from the kitchen. Half asleep, I walked out to there to find out what was so funny.

He pointed at my precious pumpkin. “Look at it!” he said, laughing even harder.

My mouth fell open and I gasped. My masterpiece, my crowning achievement, looked as if someone had deflated it. It was nothing but a mushy pile, with my exquisitely carved haunted house looking as if someone had dropped an anvil on it.

“What did you do to it?” I immediately accused him. “You were poking at it and accidentally ruined it, didn’t you!”

He stopped laughing. “Poking? I’d have needed a sledgehammer to get it to look that bad! Sorry to say, but you’re the one who ruined your own pumpkin!”

I scowled at him (and believe me, my morning scowl could be downright scary). “How could I possibly have ruined it while I was asleep?!”

“It was that big fat candle you put into it,” he explained. “It generated so much heat, you accidentally cooked your pumpkin!  During the night, it finally collapsed from being too mushy!  You turned your jack-o-lantern into pumpkin-pie filling!” 

Despite my ever-deepening scowl, he threw caution to the wind and chuckled at his own words.

For an ever-so-brief moment, I found myself wondering how he would look with his brains scooped out and a big fat candle stuck inside his head.

Despite my previous less-than-rewarding pumpkin-carving experience, however, I really do think I might give it a try again this year.

 The difference this time, however, is I’ll buy some LED lights to put inside it.

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Monday, October 14, 2019


I hate to admit it, but I really miss the days of America Online’s chat rooms. When I got my first computer, I joined and belonged to a number of chat rooms – one for lovers of “golden oldies” music, one for romance-novel enthusiasts, another for fans of John Coulter (a very hunky male model), and another called “Authors’ Lounge,” for writers.

Now all of them are gone forever, and my computer feels empty without them, especially when I'm suffering from insomnia and could use a good late-night chat.

When I first was deciding which chat rooms to join, I, being a writer, thought Authors’ Lounge sounded the most intriguing, so I checked out the summary. 
It was described as a gathering place for authors (both beginners and professionals), publishers, editors, literary agents, journalists, poets, and writing instructors to share their ideas.  Encouraged, I entered the “room.”

Entering a chat room for the first time sort of felt like being in one of those old western movies, where you’re the stranger in town, walking into the local saloon and everyone stops what they’re doing to stare at you. But on a computer, at least I had the benefit of being somewhat anonymous, mainly because I, like everyone else, used a screen name, not a real name.

When I first entered the authors’ chat room, there were 19 people chatting, most of whom already seemed to know each other. They had catchy on-screen names like “Over-the-Hill-Lil,” “YoYoBozo,” “LilBoyBlu,” “DroopyDraws” and “Rubberduckie." They were in the midst of a heated discussion.

“It does TOO hurt to have an ingrown toenail removed,” one chatter was saying. “I can hardly walk!”

“Aw, you’re just a big sissy!” another wrote back. “I had three toenails removed on my right foot and was wearing my steel-toed work boots the next morning!”

“Hey, we’re not here to talk about your feet!” another chatter interrupted. “Is anyone here a Steinbeck fan?”

“Oh, shut up!” came the response. “Who cares about Steinbeck when my toe is swollen to the size of a banana?”

I sat silently following the conversation for several minutes, thinking I’d entered the wrong room.  No one seemed to be discussing writing, not in any definition of the word. 

Another new chatter popped into the room. “Hello,” he or she said. “I’m 17 and I write poetry.  My friends say I’m a real natural when it comes to writing.  Anyone here know where I can get my poems published?”

“Learn to write something else,” came one suggestion. “You’ll never get anywhere with poetry.”

“Only sissies write poetry,” said the same person who’d just called the toenail person a sissy.

“Yeah!  Learn to write true-crime stories,” someone else chimed in. “Nothing captures a reader’s attention like a decapitated human head rolling down a hill!”

“Eeeeeeeyuuuuuw!” came another response. “That’s gross!”

“But I enjoy writing poetry,” the young writer defended. “I write all about love!”

“Love??” another chatter shot back (and I swear this is an exact quote). “Love is nothing but a big pile of doggie doo-doo!”

Finally another chatter dared to ask, “Is anyone here REALLY a writer?”

“I wrote a biography about Princess Diana,” came one answer.

“And I currently have four novels on the bestseller list,” boasted another.

“Yeah, right, and I’m Stephen King’s twin sister!” said yet another. “I taught him everything he knows!”

“I can’t write and I hate reading,” another chatter wrote. “And I think all writers are really boring!”

“Then what the heck are you doing in this chat room?” came the immediate response.

“Looking for girls!” he answered. “Anyone here single and available?”

“Go to the ‘Looking for Romance’ chat room,” someone suggested.

“I just came from there,” he answered. “It’s full of other guys looking for girls!”

“My mother is single and available,” one chatter offered. “How old are you?”

“Sixteen,” he responded.

I’d seen just about enough.  Foolishly, I decided to jump in with, “I write a weekly humor column.  Anyone have any ideas for a topic I can write about this week?”

“Yeah, write about what it would be like to be decapitated,” said the aforementioned would-be ax-murderer. “Think of how funny it would be to run around looking for your head!”

“Dummy!” someone wrote back. “How could you look for anything if you didn’t have a head?”

“Write about that stupid woman on TV, Anna somebody, who married that wrinkled-up old multi-millionaire who was like 120 years old,” came another suggestion.

“She wasn’t stupid!” another argued. “HE was the stupid one!  All men are pigs!  As I said before, love is nothing but a big pile of doggie doo-doo!”

“Write about all the crazy people you find in chat rooms,” came one last suggestion.

Excellent idea.

Yep, I sure do miss those AOL chat rooms.

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Monday, October 7, 2019


Lately my friends have been hinting that I seriously should think about getting a roommate to help alleviate my bleak financial situation.

A roommate? Only one? Heck, it would take turning my place into a boarding house to make even a slight dent in my current financial burden. You figure, in the past month alone, the oven in my gas range died,  the water in my well tested 10 times the allowable levels for arsenic, and my full-house generator system, which I really need because this area loses power if a hummingbird lands on a power line, flunked its annual inspection. Add to that the fact that my car has to be inspected this month and probably will end up needing what sounds like the inventory list from “Auto Parts R Us,” and I’m destined to be living in a tent by New Year’s Day.

Anyway, it’s not that I’ve never considered getting a roommate to help me out, it’s just that I’m a bit nervous about sharing my home, my sanctuary, with a stranger. I mean, I have visions of some woman rummaging through my dresser drawer and borrowing my granny panties.

“It’s not like the old days, when people could lie about themselves,” one of my friends said, trying to reassure me. “Now, you can pay $25 and get a full background check on any potential roommate. If she’s been in prison for ax-murdering a former roommate, you’ll know all about it!”

I frowned at her. “Well, what if she has a squeaky-clean background record but has crummy taste in men? What if she brings home her new boyfriend, who’s a notorious gang member who’s just been released on parole?”

My friend rolled her eyes. “How old do you think your roommate is going to be anyway? Twenty? No woman our age would have a boyfriend who’s a gang member – not unless it’s the ‘Sons of Arthritis!’”

Still, even if I did manage to find a suitable roommate, I’m pretty sure the poor woman would be leaving skid marks running out of my place within two days, if not sooner.

For one thing, I don’t have a schedule of any type. I eat when I’m hungry. I sleep when I’m tired. If I’m not tired until five in the morning, then that’s when I go to bed. And then I’ll get up at 1:00 in the afternoon.  If I want to eat dinner at midnight, then that’s when I eat it. And if the preparation involves using a blender at high speed, then I use it. There is no one else here to disturb at that hour, so I don’t care. And I never turn the heat up higher than 67 degrees, even in sub-zero weather.  After all, fleece clothing was made for a reason.

My roommate also would have to learn to deal with my dogs. Eden likes other dogs but dislikes people, while Wynter likes people but wants to dismember other dogs. And not a night goes by when Wynter doesn’t decide that Eden is one of the dogs she wants to dismember.

Also, nothing is safe here if it lands on the floor. The floor is the dogs’ territory, and the second anything even touches it, they swoop in like vultures and grab it so fast, they create a breeze. So if, for example, my roommate were to drop her hairbrush, she wouldn’t even have time to bend halfway over to pick it up before it would be tucked away in one of my dogs’ beds.

To be honest, when it comes right down to it, I’m not foolish enough to believe I could find someone crazy enough to move in here anyway. I mean, I can just hear the conversation now...

“I can’t wait for you to move in!” I’d say to my roommate-to-be. “But there are just a few problems I probably should mention first. The oven in the gas range doesn’t work, so you’ll have to use either the microwave or a toaster-oven if you want to bake something. Oh, and don’t drink the tap water, brush your teeth with it or cook with it, because the filtration system needs a new part that I can’t afford, so the water is loaded with arsenic. And when you use the toilet in your bathroom, be sure to jiggle the handle after you flush, otherwise the water in the tank will continue to run all day. Lastly, if you want to use your cell phone, the only place around here where you’ll be able to get a signal is out in the middle of the main road. Just be really careful of  the oncoming cars.”

Call me a pessimist, but I’m beginning to think I’d have to pay someone to move in here with me, which kind of would defeat my whole purpose for getting a roommate in the first place.

So I guess it will have to continue to be just the dogs and me living here for a while. Maybe I should think about some fancy tricks I can teach Wynter and Eden – like tap dancing – so they can earn their keep and help me get everything repaired here.

My friend chuckled when I mentioned it to her. “Heck,” she said, “by the time you teach those two dogs of yours to do any tricks, you’ll probably be dead from eating half-baked chicken, drinking arsenic-laced tea, or slipping in a puddle of leaky-toilet water and cracking your head open on the edge of the bathtub!”

Now that I think about it, maybe a roommate with a boyfriend or two who’s on parole might not be so bad after all – especially if one of them is a decent handyman.

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