Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 80 - A Holiday Shindig to Remember

4 Weeks Later

The holidays tend to bring out the nostalgic side of everyone, and it was no different at the Tommy holiday party. 

The store was only closed three days a year.



The first Friday of August for International Beer Day.

The original Tommy always had a sense of humor.

Corporate was pissed.

Faulkner thought it was great.

At 5:30, things in the store were winding down.  Last minute screwdrivers were sold to customers who wouldn't know a screw from a loaf of bread, and procrastinators found it fitting to swear at associates because the only Tommy gift cards said, "congratulations on your new home." 

Some took it light hearted.

Kitty Richardson sold the last gift card at 5:32 to an older gentleman wearing a Santa hat.

"You are aware that this isn't a holiday card," Kitty explained thoughtfully.

"Yup," the older fellow said.

"Okay.  Some people got a little upset that this was all we had left," Kitty said.

"Well, it's for my grandson.  Kid's a real shithead.  Just bought a 98 Chevy, and if history repeats itself, he'll be living in it before long."

"That's putting a positive spin on things," Kitty commented.

"I'd let him live with me, but he can't keep growing the Mary Jane in my attic.  My other grandson is FBI.  Too bad you don't have a card that says, "sorry your brother's a felon.  Buy yourself a new wrench."

"I'll put it in the suggestion box," Kitty said, and the customer left with a chuckle.

Grandma Ada showed up just before the store closed at six.  Kitty sighed when she walked in.  "Grandma?  What are you doing here?"

"Got myself a date," Grandma said.

"With whom?" Kitty asked hesitantly.

"That nice Mr. Stockwell told me about the party, and I told him I didn't have any plans."

"You're Stockwell's date?" Kitty asked.

"Not exactly," Grandma said, looking at her feet.  "But I'll find someone.  The girl's all look prettier at closing time."

Grandma continued staring at her feet.

"What's wrong?" Kitty asked.

"The elastic's worn out in my pantyhose.  Just making sure they aren't draggin' the ground."

Kitty rolled her eyes.  Grandma Ada had raided her closet again.  She wore a sheer blouse, one of Kitty's best from the Kohl's Vera Wang line, but she'd rather ruined the effect by wearing a Metallica t-shirt underneath.  Her skirt was flowered with every flower known to the finest horticulturalist, and her yellow Chuck Taylors appeared to have a dingleberry attached to the heel.

Kitty let that one go.  The store would be a mess by midnight, with party fare covering every inch of the conference, training and break rooms.  A little dog doo would blend right in.

"Are we closed yet?" Grandma asked.

Kitty checked her watch.  "Yup.  I'll make the announcement."

"I'll do it," Grandma said, and before Kitty could stop her, she'd grabbed a phone and hit the paging button.

"Attention Tommy customers.  The Christmas shit's been out since September, and you've had your chance.  The store's closed.  Now get the hell out.  We've got to get the party started."

Kitty cringed.

"How'd I do?" Grandma asked.

"Fabulous," Kitty groaned.

"KITTY!" Stockwell yelled.

"Stay here!" Kitty demanded, looking at her grandmother.

"What the hell was that?" Stockwell asked, plowing through the front end with fire in his eyes.

"That was my grandmother."

"What the hell is she doing here?" Stockwell asked.

"Well, SOMEONE invited her to the party," Kitty declared, hands on hips.

"I did no such thing.  I merely mentioned..........."

"She'll be one hundred years old in a little more than a month.  A mere mention is an invitation," Kitty explained.

"She'll be fine," Stockwell said, distracted by his closing duties.

"I look forward to this party all year.  I drink and laugh, and usually end up singing and doing something that ends up on Youtube.  Someone drives me home, and people point and whisper for a week afterward.  I'm okay with that.  It's a night away from the two old biddies who drive me bat shit 365 days a year.  So, what do you do?  You invite one of those biddies."

"Did you remember to get the money from the outside register?  There were a couple of half dead trees out there," Stockwell asked, and Kitty gasped.

"Seriously?  Did you hear anything I just said?" Kitty roared.

"I rented a karaoke machine," Stockwell said.

"You're forgiven," Kitty said with a smile.

"I am?"

"Almost.  You're singing with me."

"I am not," Stockwell said, as he laid twenties and fifties out on the table in the cash office.

"You are."

"We'll see."

An hour later the party was in full swing.

Slick Mitchell handed out the Christmas bonuses an hour into the party.  If he hadn't waited until everyone had pre-gamed a bit, someone might have shot him again.  The bonuses were pretty pathetic.  He struggled with his crutches, and didn't notice when Alejandro flipped him off.

Daisy Cates drank scotch from a mason jar.  It had a red bow on it.

Aaron Faulkner granted himself a night off from the wagon.  For once, he drank openly, although he still had a stash in his locker.  He stayed close to Kitty's side.  He'd asked her to be his date.

Grandma Ada had paid him $250.00 to do so.

He'd have done it for free.

Mags dressed up.  She wore new jeans and a t-shirt that said, "real chicks drive fork lifts."  She'd purchased one for Wilton Scott as a gag gift. 

Lucy Goosie had returned from a limited engagement as a lounge singer on a cruise ship.  She was tanned and smiling, and she'd brought tiny packets of complimentary peanuts for all the employees and a portable shuffleboard game.

Bernice dressed up as one of Santa's elves. 

No one found it odd.

Miles wore orange coveralls that said "Department of Corrections."  He'd lifted it from his weekend gig, picking trash from the town's medians.  He'd kept a sense of humor about the whole thing, and Tommy policy called for leniency for misdemeanors. 

Alejandro and Gutz stood on one of the tables, acting out a scene from Julius Caesar.  No one was sure who was who, with Gutz in his General's costume and all, but the entire thing was entertaining, until Alejandro stepped in a pan of baked ziti and slid off the table with a thud.

"Who put that there?" Alejandro barked.

"I only set it there for a moment," Grandma Ada said.

"I almost broke my neck," Alejandro whined.

"Well, you didn't, so grab a plate and go get some cake," Grandma said, and Alejandro obediently did as told, tracking ziti into the next room.

By nine o'clock, the karaoke was in full swing.  Kitty put in her request, and grabbed Stockwell when her name was called.  Tommy associates would be talking about their rendition of Grease's "You're the One That I Want," for a long time to come. 

Stockwell was quite entertaining.

Faulkner vowed to take singing lessons.

Wilton Scott had hit the gin.  Hard.  An hour into the karaoke show, he got the bright idea to set fire to the shirt Mags had given him.  The polyester blend went up like a singlewide, but Grandma was fast on her feet for a near centenarian, and she had the thing extinguished in less than a minute with a king-size can of Redi Whip.

"Works just like a fire extinguisher!" Grandma exclaimed.

Stockwell was so grateful for her quick thinking, he pressed a kiss to her cheek, beneath the mistletoe.

She blushed through her bright red rouge.

Kitty wiped a tear from her cheek, moved by the act of kindness she'd witnessed.  She knew her grandmother was holding onto life with all the strength someone so old could muster, and for once, she thought not of the bickering, the odd outfits, or the occasional kitchen fires.  She thought only of the laughter, and the blessing of having a grandmother who'd defied the odds, medical expectations, and the DMV, who threatened annually to take the old lady's license.

Just before midnight, Wilton Scott dragged a blanket behind him and climbed onto the table in the conference room.  Mags dimmed the lights, and the room grew quiet.

Wilton smiled at his crowd and spoke in an even voice.  He offered no quirky facts.  For once, he was totally serious.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them,

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Little Christmas Cheer for the Tommy Followers.

To my devoted fans: Please join us on December 24th for a hilarious Tommy Christmas party.  See all your favorite characters dolled up in ugly Christmas sweaters, and hitting the eggnog hard.  Will Faulkner fall off the wagon?  Will Miles take a bet as to who's the first one to toss their cookies?  Will Grandma Ada steal a kiss under the mistletoe?

Tune in next week to find out....

In the meantime, enjoy this tender story of renewed spirit by yours truly, Kitty Richardson.  This story was penned in 2007 during a difficult time in my life.  I was mourning the passing of my father, of my best friend, and sweet feline child.  My daughter had moved away to chart her own course, something I gave her the courage to do, but momentarily regretted.

I hope you all remember the true spirit of the season, the families we love, and the friendships we so thoughtfully nurture.  May this heightened sense of humanity stay with you all year long.

With deep love and devotion.

Your writer;


The Carolers

Christmas. The time when troubles that lay just outside our doors are held at bay by twinkling lights and swirling flakes of snow. It was December and the world that surrounded me was white, but no amount of timeless beauty seemed to allay the darkness that had settled over my spirit. It was the season of magic and miracles, but that glorious feeling of wel...l being that would normally knock at my door about this time each year, had failed to arrive. And so, I walked through this joyous time with my face set in a frown wondering where my Christmas spirit had gone. I suppressed the urge to scowl into the smiling faces of passersby, and the Christmas songs that I normally sang this time of year were not to pass over my lips. I was not myself, and I didn't much care for this person I had suddenly become.

I was lonely and sad, and scared, if I am to be honest. My world was white, its ugliness temporarily forgotten under a sparkling blanket of snow, but it was black at the same time. Sounds of laughter filtered into my ears, but yet my world was silent. Did I still believe? Had I mysteriously become a non believer? Were the words I'd spoken to others, words of faith, of hope, suddenly lies? I wrote of miracles, I spoke of miracles, but had miracles suddenly become fiction to me? I wasn't sure, and so I pondered as I set out to walk, my feet leaving deep imprints in the freshly fallen snow.

I missed my father, and my daughter, and while my house was filled with love, I felt unloved. I had a house full of family, perhaps not in the conventional sense, but family to me nonetheless. So why was it that I felt alone? I felt a connection to this world, to this place, to my life, but yet I felt disconnected. The world around me was familiar, but yet I felt as if I were a stranger in it, as if suddenly I had lost my place. It had changed, perhaps while I wasn't looking, or perhaps while I was. I had been a daughter to my father and a mother to my daughter, but I suddenly felt as if I were nothing, without identity, as if I could just disappear into the swirling snow, and the world would simply go on, as if I had never left it, or never been here at all. I was ashamed of these thoughts, ashamed to entertain nothingness, ashamed to abandon hope, faith, and the possibility in each new day. I had forgotten that time is promised to no one, that life in itself, is a gift. We allow time to pass almost without thought while we live our busy lives. The sun rises and sets, each moment magnificent, but who of us stops to relish in it? Each breath is a gift, but do any of us stop to unwrap it, to appreciate it for the splendor that it is? As I walked along the road I knew so well, the pathway that was my life, I glanced at the trees, their limbs sagging under the burden of heavy snow, and I wondered why they too looked unfamiliar. When was the last time I had even looked at them? When was the last time I had paused, and stepped away from the stress, and allowed the beauty to bring me peace? And why, although I had paused to look at this moment, did the peace not come?
And suddenly I knew. While my heart longed to give, my wallet refused, and I wondered if by allowing this to become the gauge by which I measured this blessed time, had it lost its true meaning? I sat for the remainder of the day, writing in my corner of the world, troubled by these thoughts, and my loneliness, trying to make peace as the words appeared on the screen in front of me, as if by magic. As I did, the snow fell steadily, its fresh white blanket erasing any trace of my journey through the woods. The sun set, it too leaving me behind, but I had been too lost in my thoughts to look, and so, I had missed that too.

Over the sounds of home, the hum of the furnace, the gentle mew of a waking cat, suddenly I thought I heard music. I stopped typing, the steady tap, tap, tap ceasing, the sudden silence giving way to harmony and a rich bass voice, that was new, yet familiar. It was music. It was voices, few or perhaps many, mixed together, their voices raised in songs of faith and hope. Carols, those reserved for this blessed time, were being sung outside my window. I raced for the door, not hesitating, for I needed to discover the source of this comfort. There, among the snow flakes, stood a group of carolers. Their faces were lost in the shadows, but their voices reached to the tops of the trees and beyond. Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Glory to the Newborn King, they sang. I don't know how long they stood there, or how long I listened, but I know that eventually I heard my voice mixed with theirs, and I too was singing the songs that I had loved for as long as I could remember. Without warning the wind suddenly picked up, blowing the freshly fallen snow toward me in an icy rush, and I turned only for a moment to reach for a coat, or a scarf, or something to ward off the winter chill. I was singing as I did, and when I returned to the doorway, the carolers were gone. 

I pulled my coat around me, slipped my feet into the boots that were never lonely, and plunged out into the darkness, armed with only a few lingering bars of Silent Night, and a candle to light my way. The carolers were gone, although I was certain that I could still hear that rich bass singing "Sleep in Heavenly Peace". They had left no footprints, no impressions in the snow, nothing to indicate that they had ever been there. But they had. I had seen them, I had heard them, and my voice had mixed with theirs, and in those moments, my heart was filled, and my spirit restored.

As I laid down to sleep, again I heard the bass voice singing "Sleep in Heavenly Peace", and that night I did. I dreamt of a man into whose ear I once whispered, "Daddy wake up, Santa came". I dreamt of a little girl who had once risen me from sleep with those same words. I dreamt of Christmases past, of feet pajamas shuffling along a red kitchen floor worn by age and time, and tiny fingers reaching for colorful packages, and red and white stockings. I dreamt of times to come, when once again my home might be filled with the sounds of family. And as I slept, I smiled, and softly in sleep, I whispered....

 Merry Christmas Daddy, Merry Christmas to my beautiful daughter, Merry Christmas world.

Happy Birthday Savior; your gift has been received.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 79 - On The Count of Three

"You bitch!" Mickey Burger yelled, once he'd regained his ability to speak.

"Yeah?  You got something to say about it?" Daisy asked, still holding the nail gun.  "Get up and take that stupid mask off.  I want to see the man who killed my bird!"

Burger stood on shaky legs, clutching his bloody neck.  In retrospect, the thug gave the performance of a lifetime, gagging and shuddering, for as he stood to his full, yet minimal height, he suddenly regained full composure and control, and pulled a revolver from his ankle holster.  He pointed it at Daisy, who didn't flinch.

"Shit," she whispered.

"Gotcha," Burger said. 

Mitchell raised his gun and pointed it at Burger.

"You'll never do it, bro," Burger hissed.

"Damn straight I will," Mitchell said.

"You couldn't hit a paper plate at fifty yards on a cloudless day," Burger said sarcastically.

"How do you know that?" Mitchell asked, feeling less confident.

''Think about it,'' Burger said, as he took half a step closer to Daisy.

"Go ahead, asshole," Daisy roared, startling everyone.  "Let's face it, the best years are probably behind me.  My best friend is a goat, and my favorite conversationalist just got shot.  In what are supposed to be my golden years, I'm slaving away in retail hell, working a schedule that's a bit like working on one continent one week, and working on one halfway around the world the next.  I got a bunion.  That damn thing hurts like a mother bugger.  The other day I put scotch on my Wheaties.  It was the only way I could cope.  So, you want to shoot me?   As Nike would say, 'just do it'."

"Aww, don't say Nike.  Don't say that," Kitty whined, and everyone turned.

"What's wrong with Nike?" Grandma Wonder Woman asked.

"They endorse that Michael Vick dude," Kitty explained, as all other activity ceased.

"Oh, the guy who hurt all those dogs?" Grandma asked.

"Yes.  He barely got a slap on the wrist," Kitty said.

"I don't like Nike's," Daisy said.  "They pinch my bunion."

"He's a douche bag," Grandma complained.  "They should use him on some agility course."

"What?" Kitty and Daisy said simultaneously.

"That Dick person," Grandma began.

"Vick," Kitty clarified.

"Same thing," Grandma said, and a few of the associates clapped.

"What agility course?" Kitty asked.

"If they put him on some agility course, let him exercise dogs.  Put him out there stark-ass naked, hands tied behind his back, maybe with some peanut butter on his ding dong, or bacon taped to his butt.  Teach him a little bit about vulnerability," Grandma said.

"She is vicious," Daisy said.  Her tone suggested some level of concern, but she wore an enormous grin.

"PETA power!" Grandma exclaimed.

"Dear God, her, too," Stockwell moaned from his prone position on the ground.

"Hey!  Shitheads!  Remember me?  The guy who's gonna pop a cap in the Tool Queen?" Burger said, waving the gun around like a cheerleader with a pompom.

Everyone went silent.

All eyes were on Burger, who still wore the mask.

Suddenly a roar broke the silence, and Mags, who'd seemingly recovered nicely, drove an enormous forklift around the corner and into the receiving area.  The room went dark and the safety lights came on, dimly lighting the space.

"Drop it, jerk face," Mags said, and Burger laughed.

"What are you gonna do?  Put me in top stock?  Oooo, I'm scared.  I'm shaking," Burger said, chuckling an evil chuckle.

Stockwell began crawling out of the line of fire, as Burger took another step toward Daisy, gun still raised.

Mags moved the forklift forward, at an agonizingly slow speed.

Burger shot at the ceiling.  The bullet ricocheted and hit Mitchell in the thigh.  He dropped.

"I'm gonna shoot this crazy bat on the count of three," Burger said, as Daisy pulled a flask from her Tommy apron.

"Last meal," she mumbled, amazing calm.  Kitty began to cry, as did Bernice.  Grandma Wonder Woman began to pray softly.

"One," Burger hissed.

"I think I'll miss the scotch most of all," Daisy said.

"Shut up," Burger demanded.  "Two."

"THREE!" Stockwell yelled, as he raised Mitchell's pistol and dropped the bad guy in one shot."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 78 - A Town in Crisis

"Show yourself!" Gutzenheimer screamed, and Burger stepped further from the shadows.  The monster wore a mask, but it wasn't the mask that first grabbed everyone's attention. 

It was the woman with whom the monster protected himself from the angry masses.

Mags Davidson had become a human shield.

Kitty lunged forward, but Stockwell grabbed her before she could risk life and limb to rescue her friend.  He grabbed with his left hand.

His right had four broken fingers, which he clutched to his chest.  His thoughts raced.  He shuddered at the thought of Mags being in harm's way.  His breath caught when he considered that Kitty might be killed trying to intervene.

He wondered if he could open a Snickers with one hand.

He thought of his own mortality and he sighed.  He didn't want to die tonight.  He had a fresh Mountain Dew chilling in the break room.

Gutz raised the bayonet.  "I will kill you if you harm her," Gutz said in perfect English and amazing calm.

"You'll never get the chance," Burger said, his voice disguised.

"What do you want?" Slick Mitchell asked Burger, as he stepped forward to stand aside Gutz.

"What is rightly mine," Burger replied.

"And that is what?" Mitchell asked, raising his gun and pointing it at the masked monster.

"Everything you have," Burger whispered.  The voice was still disguised.  It was eerie and disturbing, and Mitchell paled as his hand trembled slightly.

"You're not leaving here with anything," Mitchell hissed, and Mags whimpered, as Burger pressed the gun to her temple.

"You rotten little son of a bitch," Wonder Woman said, shaking off Bernice and breaking free from the pack on wobbling legs.  She pulled something from her purse and held it in front of her.

"What the hell is that?" Kitty asked.

Grandma Wonder Woman hit a button and a plastic probe shot from the device.  Electricity shot from the probe as it made contact with Stockwell, who fell to the ground like a sack of shit.

"Wonder Woman used a boomerang," Bernice hollered, and Grandma turned to stare at her.

"Do you think you can save anyone with a stupid boomerang?" Grandma asked, as the pile of Stockwell continued to twitch.

"You've killed him," Kitty whined, kneeling beside Stockwell who had become disturbingly still.

"Nah, he'll be all right," Grandma assured.

"Hello?  Anyone remember me?  The woman with a gun to her head?" Mags yelled, and everyone returned their attention to her.  The recovering Stockwell was momentarily forgotten.

"Me for the girl," Mitchell said, laying his gun at his feet.  "I'm unarmed.  I'll go with you, give you whatever you want, but I'm not going to stand here and let you harm one of my employees."

"Look at you, little Peter, being all noble," Burger hissed, as he practically threw Mags to the floor.  She fell hard, but got up quickly, and ran to Kitty, who threw her arms around her.  Both women began to sob.

"I have no idea who you are," Mitchell admitted.  "I have no idea why you think you're entitled to what I have, and I'm pretty sure it's not what you think.  I know these people think I am some wimp who does nothing, but I manage this entire place.  I work my ass off, trying to keep Mags from getting killed, and Kitty from losing an ear by catching her enormous earrings on a J hook.  I somehow keep Stockwell from going into Diabetic shock, and Miles away from the track, and then there's Wilton, who I have to manage with Wikipedia, because I never know what the hell he's talking about.  You want this mess, Burger?  You want my life and everything that goes along with it?  DO YOU?  IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT, YOU WORTHLESS PRICK WHO ISN'T EVEN BRAVE ENOUGH TO UNMASK HIMSELF IN FRONT OF THE PEOPLE HE'S TORTURED FOR WEEKS.  YOU WANT MY LIFE?


Mitchell put his arms out to his side, like a modern-day Jesus.  "Take it," he whispered, as Burger raised the gun.

Bernice screamed.  Kitty hugged Mags as a mother would comfort a child, covering her face and shielding her from what was about to happen.

Burger cocked the gun and Mitchell closed his eyes and prepared to die.

Before Burger could fire, Astro flew from the ruined racks and plucked the almost-lifelike toupee from Burger's round head.  Flustered, Burger momentarily lost control of his weapon.  It fired into the air, and Astro screeched and went silent.

"You did NOT just kill my bird!" Daisy wailed, emerging from the shadows and wielding a large tool.

"Whatcha gonna do, you crazy bat?  You gonna drill me to death?" Burger asked, as hatred dripped from his tongue.

"It isn't a drill," Daisy said, as a single tear slid down her face for the winged friend she'd lost.  "You killed my bird, you bastard."

"So.  I'm going to kill you all before the night ends," Burger hissed.

Daisy raised the tool and fired a single nail into Burger's neck.  He screamed like a school girl, grabbed for his throat, and fell to the ground in a heap.

"They don't call me the Tool Queen for nothin'," Daisy said.