Category Archives: pen and ink paffoonies

Grandma Frozenfield

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In order to understand this story, you have to have a little bit of background first… a solid sense of context, in order to avoid anyone feeling that I might be ridiculing someone in an unfair or unloving way.  So here’s a bit of context.  I was a teacher for 31 years.  I was considered a good teacher, in fact, a master teacher by something like 28 different principals and assistant principals, while only 3 felt like I was an incompetent mess, and two of those were eventually fired themselves.  I only got fired once.  So it can be safely assumed I know what incompetence in teaching is and can reliably identify it in others.  Further, incompetence in teaching does not make you a bad person.  Far too many people who believe they could be a good teacher have traits that would torpedo their own boat if they actually set sail on the sea of education.  So, even though Grandma Frozenfield was a horrible teacher, she was actually a very nice and caring person, and makes a wonderful character for stories that lovingly make fun of bad teaching.  And I should remind you, I don’t use real names when talking about people from my past so that their privacy is not violated by whatever my artist’s eye might reveal about them.  The portrait I added to this post does not even look like her.

Grandma Frozenfield was a mid-year emergency hire who filled the position of 8th grade math teacher during my first year of teaching.   She was already sixty-eight years old when she came to Cotulla, Texas, and she had five years of previous teaching experience in schools up north.  How she survived five years in schools more competently run than Texas schools in the 80’s, I will never be able to figure out.  She was able to hang on in our school for several years only because we were desperately strapped for warm bodies to teach Math classes in Texas junior high schools.  Only idiots and coaches ever took on the job willingly.

Grandma Frozenfield had seventeen dogs and ninety-nine cats at home.  That right there tells you something about which stereotype she easily fits into.  But she was also a woman of great mystery.  Her father had been a famous college professor in Minnesota.  She had inherited a number of very valuable books from him, and kept them in random boxes stacked in dusty corners of the old run-down house she bought in town.  She was actually quite bright, and though she would have spells of foggy thinking and confusion, she could capably discuss mathematics and physics and other sciences with me.  She had a daughter who showed up during her third year of teaching at our school, and the daughter had a cute little son of about seven years old.  Neither she nor her daughter had ever been married.  In fact, rumor had it the daughter was telling people she was adopted.  And her daughter and grandson disappeared from her life about four years after they started living with Grandma.

But the old lady was a spectacularly bad teacher.  As bright as she was, she could never talk to kids or relate to kids in ways that kids could understand.  She seemed to sincerely hate kids, calling them bad names in the classroom and telling them in detail how they would one day die in prison (a prediction that unfortunately came true for a couple of them).  She would come into the teacher’s workroom after class plastered with spitballs on her back and in her hair.

A couple of the sweeter and more pro-active girls in her classes tried to protect her a bit from vandals and explained lessons to others in class to mitigate the chaos a bit.

She did not engage with students.  Other than a few of the sweeter girls, she did not talk to them about anything but math.  They didn’t understand her, and so they didn’t like her.  She did not know how to monitor a classroom, so the infidels were on a rampage all the time in her room.  It would definitely have felt like being in Hell to be her, teaching in that classroom.  Why she ever wanted to be a teacher, she never said.  I know it was in her family history.  I know she was a caring, lovely individual.  But when she died of throat cancer at 77 it was a lonely and sad thing.  She had been forced to teach until two years before the end because of medical bills.  She was never happy as a teacher that I observed.  But she never missed a day without good reason, either.  Good people don’t necessarily make good teachers.  But she taught me things far beyond the 8th grade math she tried and failed to teach to students.  I don’t think of her often.  But I do think of her.  She and her 17 dogs and 99 cats are all gone now.  But not forgotten.

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Aeroquest… Canto 3

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Canto 3 – A Game of “Bridge”

 

When Ged and Trav reached the bridge of the Leaping Shadowcat, Tron’s angry face already filled the view screen.  Next to him stood the flame-haired beauty known as Maggie the Knife with one hand protectively shielding their small son, Artran.

“So!  Ged and Ham both?  How could you both be so stupid as to take up with that worthless clown?” growled Tron in a gravelly voice.  His somewhat handsome face was marred not only by anger, but by a hideous laser scar that ran from the top of the left side of his forehead, through the eye socket of his artificial left eye, down to the left side of his lantern jaw.

“Tron,” said Ged as diplomatically as he could manage, “You know me.  You know I would never take up with a swindler and a pirate like Trav willingly.  You must also know that I have troubles of my own about now.  If you leave us in peace, I can promise Trav’s presence aboard this ship will result in banishment for him.  You will never see his face in Imperial Space again.”

“Ged, I respect you more than any other space man I know.  Your word is good, and you never lie.  I wish your worthless brother and I both had your integrity.  We’d be kings among men.  But Goofy stole a priceless treasure from us and both Slimeball Harris and Blue Death Jones just died trying to get it back.  Both of their corsairs were destroyed by that rotten space barge Goofy was flying.”

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“You’re moaning about Slimeball and Old Blue?” asked Trav in an incredulous voice.

“Well, those corsair ships were very valuable!” growled Tron.

“Oh,” replied Trav.  “Sorry.”

“What if we give you the treasure, Tron?” asked Ham.

“No!” cried Trav.  “You have to let me explain that to you in private, first!”

“Yes,” growled Tron.  “Give me the blue metal box and the Nebulon slave girl. You can keep the rest. And you can keep Goofy forever, for all I care.”

“Now, wait!” interrupted Ged.  “Slavery is just plain wrong.”

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“Yes,” said Tron, “but this one is a princess among the Space Smurfs.  She is the first daughter to the Sinjarac Warlord, whatever that means.  We’re not just talking slave here, but a potentially valuable hostage for the Imperial Space Navy.  They would pay well to get their hands on her.”

“Why a hostage?” asked Ham.

“You didn’t see the Imperial Scout Data we intercepted,” said Maggie softly in a musical voice.  “A coreward border war has erupted between a huge convoy of Nebulons in their Space-Whale Cruisers and the Galtorr Imperium.  Nobody in the Imperium seems to know why, but there is a massive migration of Space Smurfs going on just beyond the Imperial Border.”

“You can’t have the girl,” said Ged.  “I’d be happy to give you the box, though.”

“No!” protested Trav.  “You don’t know what’s in it!”

“What is in it?” Ged asked Trav.  His eyes narrowed.

Trav blushed furiously.

“You have to give us what we want.”  Tron seemed too confident.  “We have corsairs blocking every jump route back into known space.  Soon we’ll have a hundred of them here ready to board your crappy little safari ship.”

“Yes,” said Maggie prettily.  “We will take the treasure anyway and you’ll all be skinned alive with a dull knife.”

“Oh, great,” said Ged.

“Are you ready with our little surprise?” Trav asked Ham.

“It’s plotted in the nav computer,” Ham answered.

“It’s time to hit it, then.”

Ham leaped into the pilot’s seat and slammed down on the jump button.  The jump into lightspeed-plus was jarring.  Space began to fold around the ship.  The surprised faces of Tron and Maggie the Knife faded away into white static, soon replaced by a red-and-blue-shifting starfield in jump space.

“What have you done?” Ged asked Ham with shock on his face.

“You didn’t think I would start this leap of faith without at least one jump already planned and programmed?”

“Trav?” asked Ged.

“Oh, yes.  I plotted a course to a planet almost nobody has ever heard of.  It’s a place with the silly name of Don’t Go Here.”

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The Care and Feeding of a REALLY BIG DOG

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My neighbor, Wendy Wackyname, is the owner of a really big dog.  I asked her how she managed a dog that was bigger than a moose and weighed more than an elephant.

“You have to be able to solve problems you never thought you could have,” she said.

“Problems like what?” I stupidly asked.

“Well, a dog that big not only chases cars, he often catches the littler ones like yours.  It became a real problem when he finished chewing on them and wanted to bury them in the back yard.  When we lived in Oklahoma, our back yard just wasn’t big enough, and the local police kept wondering about what might be buried there.  I guess they had a lot of missing persons cases.”

“Oh, that does sound bad.”

“Yeah, but moving here solved that problem.  We now live next to this nice big park with lots of room for a dog to bury stuff.”

“So he isn’t cured of chasing cars?” I asked nervously.

“No.  But that isn’t the worst problem.  Feeding him is really expensive.  We have to buy a truckload of dog food every week.  That problem has gotten worse since we left Oklahoma.  There used to be a cattle ranch nearby.  At least until the last of their stock mysteriously disappeared.”

I decided I should probably change the subject a bit.

“How do you walk a dog that big?”  I asked.

“Oh, I don’t.  I climb up on his neck and hang on to the collar as hard as I can, and we go for a run.  We ended up in Waxahachie, Texas last week.”

“Does your mother ever let the dog in the house?”

“Oh, no.  Foozy is an outside dog.  If he wags his tail indoors, he breaks all the furniture in the room.  Besides, the doors in this new house aren’t big enough for him to fit through.”

“Wendy, did you ever read those kids’ books about Clifford the Big Red Dog?”

“Oh, sure.  But life with Foozy is nothing like that.  Giant dogs are a much harder pet to take care of than people think.”

I remembered then how my little dog somehow managed to make five poops a day.  Did Foozy do that too?  And how did poor little Wendy go about bagging it and depositing it in the trash?  I finally decided I didn’t want to know.

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Follow the Yellow Brick Road

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For the past two weeks I have been battling the Wicked Witch of the Diabetes.  Her armies of flying blood-sugar monkeys have been snatching away my healthy hours and leaving me with pain, headaches, and depressing blues of worry.  I have been combating the disease up to now with diet and exercise only.  But even the miracle of a handful of peanuts filled with good diabetes-bashing niacin is apparently not magic enough to make me feel better.  I probably have to go back to the doctor and get put on insulin injections.  And that is probably more expense than I can afford.  Health insurance loves to collect ever-higher premiums from me, but they really hate to pay for anything.

In answer to my problem I have started a new art project.  Dorothy with a bit of attitude has flown in on the latest twister to start bashing heads and murdering witches.  It is probably the worst kind of magical thinking to believe drawing pictures can make health problems go away.  However, you don’t just let flying monkeys run wild.  The pen and ink will get a colored-pencil treatment and I will show it to you here on this blog as we proceed down that yellow brick road of life.  And I will get better somehow and someway, even if I have to pull that little con man out from behind the curtain and call him names until he cries.  He’s going to find something in that bag of tricks to help me.

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Holiday Mixed Nuts

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I know what this is.  This is Grandma Aldrich’s holiday nut bowl with nut-cracker and silver walnut picks.  It brings back fond memories of Thanksgiving Day and Christmas reunions that were filled with nuts.  And, yes, I mean that figuratively as well as literally.  I tend to really love nuts.

And one of the most insidious things about Facebook is the fact that it connects you to all the nuts from your checkered past, and memories like this can come back to haunt you any day or any month… not just at holiday family gatherings.

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I probably don’t have to remind you that the incredible spray-tanned intellectual-fartgas-container this country elected as its next leader is not, and will never be, my president.  I reject him in his every detail.  He is anathema to everything I stand for and believe in.  And some of my lovely Iowegian Facebook friends are responsible for for helping him win.  I have not unfriended anybody as they may have done to me.  I am still constantly amused by them and their families, even though their choice offends me.  But I do get tired of being bombarded with Brazil nuts of “He won, get over it!  We endured 8 years of your president!”  I hate Brazil nuts.  They are difficult to crack open, especially with the skinny, silver nutcracker you see in the picture above.  And after you go to all that effort, they don’t taste very good.  Brazil nuts are always the last nuts in the nut bowl because nobody actually likes them.  And besides, I don’t remember Republicans in Congress accepting defeat under Obama gracefully.  They kicked and spit and shut down the government in a hissy fit.  What do they have against the government trying to make healthcare affordable, anyway?  Still, I get those big, hard, oddly-shaped nuts in my Facebook feed constantly this time of year.

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My sister posted the meme you see above on my Facebook wall.  She says it is actually quite easy to become a complete master of doing what the meme suggests, by which she means me more so than her.  I like walnuts.  They are hard to crack, but not impossible like Brazil nuts.  And once you have split them into two haves, two separate turtle shells, you still have to pick the walnut meat out of a hard, spiky labyrinth of dastardly convoluted walls of interior shell.  But you end up with something delicious if you put in the time picking things apart.  I fondly remember singing goofy Christmas carols with my two sisters and half-dozen cousins at Grandma and Grandpa Aldrich’s farm this time of year.  Elaborate versions of “I’m dreaming of a pink-and-purple-polka-dotted Christmas…” and “Jingle bells, Batman smells…”  My sister is often critical of me and doubts my sanity, as a good sister should, but in the long run, we have some sweet memories to share, good times and incredibly goofy nonsense to look back upon.

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But, of course, everybody’s favorite nut is the peanut.  Those are the first to disappear from the nut bowl.  Holiday gatherings are mainly about eating, but the most important second-place thing is everybody’s self-generated house apes… the next generation of little Beyers and Aldrich’s and Fimblegrubbers and Pumblechooks (yes, I know I am not actually related to Fimblegrubbers or Pumblechooks, but I like funny names, and I have to live with the funny-named people who attend our family gatherings).  We all enjoy watching them play games of “infuriate your sister” or “chase Grampy’s dog till it bites you” because they are funny, adorable and cute.  Sometimes they even play with mutant toy Elmo-looking things like the one in the picture, though I didn’t draw this from a family member, and I added the mutant features to avoid questions of copyright infringement.

Anyway, holidays are notoriously full of nuts, both literal and figurative.  And we really have to learn to appreciate them all.

 

 

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Truthfully…

Truthfully… for a fiction writer, a humorist, a former school teacher of junior-high-aged kids, telling the truth is hard.  But in this post I intend to try it, and I will see if I can stand the castor-oil flavor of it on my tongue.

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  • The simple truth is, I rarely tell the unvarnished truth.  And I firmly believe I am not alone in this.
  • Yesterday I battled pirates.  (While this is not literally true, it is metaphorically true.)  They were the scurvy scum o’ the Bank-o’-Merricka Pirates who are suing me for over ten thousand dollars despite my efforts of the last two years to settle 40 thousand dollars worth of credit card debt.
  • I hired a lawyer, but in spite of what he told me, I expect to lose the lawsuit and be wiped out financially.  I also believe Donald Trump will win as President.
  • I am a pessimist.  And it helps me through life.  I am always prepared for the worst, and I can only be surprised by happy and pleasant surprises.
  • My son in the Marines has developed an interest in survivalist gear and chaos-contingency plans.  We are now apparently preparing for the coming zombie apocalypse.
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  • I like to draw nudes.  I have drawn them from real-life models who were paid for their participation.  But no bad things happened.  It was all done with professional integrity even though I am an amateur artist.  Chaperones were a part of every session.
  • In high school I identified as a Republican like my father.  In college I became a Democrat (Thanks, Richard Nixon) and voted for Jimmy Carter.  I argued with my father for eight years of Ronald Reagan and four years of George H.W. Bush.
  • My father has now voted for Barack Obama twice and will vote for Hillary this fall if he is still able.  We spent most of our conversations this summer exchanging “Can you believe its?” about Donald Trump.
  • Blue Dawn
  • I have been collecting pictures of sunrises for three years now.  I stole the idea from my childhood friend who now lives in Florida and takes beautiful ocean sunrise pictures over the Atlantic.  But I do it because I know I don’t have many more sunrises to go.  I have six incurable diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, and COPD.  I could go “BOOM! …dead” at any given moment.  I believe in savoring it while I have it.
  • I was sexually assaulted when I was ten years old.  I can only tell you this particular truth because the man who assaulted me and inflicted physical and emotional pain on me is now dead.  It is liberating to be able to say that.  But I regret forty years’ worth of treating it is a terrible secret that I could never tell anyone.
  • Telling that last truth made me cry.  Now you know why telling the truth is not easy.
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  • I really do love and admire all things having to do with Disney.  And when I was young, I really did want to find a picture of Annette naked.  There was no internet back then.  That quest helped me learn to draw the human form.  I know how bad that sounds… but, hey, I was a normal boy in many ways.  And I don’t draw her naked any more.
  • Finally, I have to say… in all honesty… I don’t know for sure that everything I have told you today is absolutely true.  Truth is a perception, even an opinion.  And I may be wrong about the facts as I know them.  The human mind works in mysterious ways.  I sometimes think I may simply be bedbug crazy.
  • (P.S.) Bedbugs are insects with very limited intelligence.  They cannot, in fact, be crazy or insane.  Their little brains are not complicated enough for that.  But it is a metaphor, and metaphors can be more truthful than literal statements.

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Doodle Burger

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Recently burger-I have been binging on drawing doodle-burgers.  Burger-I know that sounds a little bit off, but that is because it was written in Burger-burger-Speak-burger .  It-burger is easy to translate.  Burger-I have merely added the word-burger “burger”-burger to every noun-burger and pronoun-burger as either a suffix-burger or a burger-prefix.  So enjoy my recent burger-doodles and ignore my burger-burger prose-burger.

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This burger-doodle was drawn in the car-burger as burger-I have recently been visiting burger-family and have not had to do all my own driving-burger.  Burger-I drew it with pencil-burger and later went over it-burger with pencil-burger.  It-burger was inspired by a burger-guy that burger-I happened to see walking by in Belmond-burger.  It-burger is not a portrait-burger, but it-burger probably accurately reflects his inner-burger-burger-self.  Burger-Iowans are like that-burger.

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The burger-girl being hit on with flower-burgers by a burger-bunny-boy-burger was also drawn in the car-burger.  The longer burger-I look at it-burger, the more burger-I realize what a creepy cartoon-burger it-burger really is.

Burger-burger-Speak-burger is annoyingly hard to do.  And burger-I doubt that it-burger will ever be a commonly spoken language-burger.  But some fool-burgers taught themselves to speak Klingon-burger, didn’t burger-they?

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