Mama Earlene’s Business Proposition


Photos via Pixabay.

by Patrick Redding

Dear Mr. Cheever,

My name is Earlene Ledbetter, and I am writing to you on behalf of my brothers Cephus and Orly. They have an idea for a brand new business they would like to start up, but since they do not have any money and I am not going to lend them any more after not getting paid back from the last time I bailed them out of jail, I figured the least I could do would be to write to you, the head of our local Small Business Association, and see if you might be able to help these young men pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Ha, that’s a joke – it’s like pulling teeth to get these two to wear shoes in summer – but I guess they could pull themselves up by their overall straps just as well, and make something of themselves besides a nuisance.

Let me explain their idea to you. They have recently been in contact with a fellow from California who told them all about juice bars, and they think this is something they could do. It’s true that this fellow was their cellmate during their most recent incarceration, but I do not believe that we should hold that against him. Criminal activity does not mean you are no good at business; in fact, he was in jail for tax evasion, so clearly he is right up there with anyone on Wall Street when it comes to business smarts.

They would like to open a juice bar here in our town of Shady Creek. Cephus wants to call it “Juice Bar” but Orly came up with “Loosey Goose’s Real Good Juices.” They can fight over that later, if they actually get some start-up money. Right now, I am just glad they are interested in doing something that is not illegal, and I hope you might be able to help them get started.

We do not have any juice bars around here, so it would be a unique addition to our little town. And don’t worry, even though it has “bar” in the name, I understand that these are to be non-alcoholic beverages. I assure you that there is no way I would recommend my brothers to run a bar. Like many of our fine neighbors, they do not have good sense when they are around alcohol.

As I am sure you know, “juicing” is an easy way for people to get their fruits and vegetables, but I understand that any number of things can be liquified and made into a healthy juice drink, with a good recipe. I would have preferred that Orly hadn’t stuffed my sliced Sunday dinner ham into a blender to make this point, but the fact that Mama drank it anyway speaks to the tastiness of his concoction, I guess.

They would like to start small at first to see how it goes. They would need a juicer, of course. While anyone can pick up a blender at Wal*Mart for $40 or so, they would probably need a sturdier model that could stand up to constant use from two fellows who do not know the meaning of the word “careful.” I understand some of the fancier models run into the thousands of dollars, but there is a $300 model which I am sure would be just fine for getting them started.

There are a number of empty storefronts around town, and any one of those would be suitable for them. It is certainly not necessary for them to build a place from scratch, and I would do just about anything to keep them away from using power tools! The last time that happened, our house got a doggie door where one was never intended, and it was so bad we had to just build out from it and turn it into a breakfast nook (which I think is just too pretentious for folks like us, but it was better than having a hole in the wall that a black bear could have walked through at any time). Anyway, my point is, they could probably rent one of those empty shops pretty cheaply on a month-to-month basis. The old diner would probably work out just fine. I think the rat invasion that caused them to be closed down back in the ’90s is probably not there anymore, and it has been repainted a time or two since those folks from the EPA came in and found all that lead paint and asbestos in the place.

They would need some supplies, of course, and that would depend a lot on the menu. They have suggested that they could get produce from the farmer’s market that is run on weekends out at the old fairgrounds. I told them that they could grow their own vegetables but it seems that would be too much like work for them, ha ha, and I was kind of sorry I’d brought it up after I remembered that they had gotten in trouble for growing marijuana in buckets on their porch before. They will need to get some “to-go” cups and straws from a restaurant service place, I imagine. I have several dozen old glasses and jars that I told them they can use for serving while they are getting started, but they will need to watch out and not let people just carry them off. Some of those are antiques, and I need my canning jars in the summer.

Here is a sample menu that they have come up with. They have made all of these things here in the kitchen with my blender, and while I cannot say I liked all of them, I will vouch for the ingredients and their ability to make them.

juice menu

1. “Very Berry Slush.” This is a combination of all the different kinds of berries they found in the back of my freezer, which includes strawberries, raspberries, and I don’t know what-all else. It didn’t taste half as bad as any of the rest, and I wouldn’t mind having another one.

2. “Piña Colonic.” It’s supposed to taste like a piña colada but it does not have any alcohol. It has a lot of coconut and all kinds of stuff in it that would be real good if you were constipated. If you’re not, you might want to stay as far away from it as you can get. I was real impressed with their fancy little fruit garnishes stuck on the glass. Cephus was always good with knives.

3. “Gatorita.” Basically, it’s Gatorade and a bunch of other stuff mushed up together and served like a margarita but without alcohol. That’s salt on the rim of the glass but they said you can get it with sugar instead if it ain’t sweet enough for you.

4. “Hamburger Down the Hatch.” Here’s a burger lunch for those that don’t have time to sit down and eat like civilized people. It’s got all the usual hamburger fixin’s – mustard, lettuce, tomato, onions, mayonnaise, etc. – except the bun, all smooshed together and garnished with pickles. Yummy yum yum.

5. “Mac and Cheese Delite.” I did not think anybody could mess up macaroni and cheese but I reckon I was wrong. That is puréed cottage cheese on top, by the way.

6. “Morning Brew.” Here’s one to get you awake and going in the morning. It’s got orange juice, coffee, sweet tea, and some sort of secret ingredient that I don’t think I even want to know about. It might be allergy tablets ground up, or maybe diet pills. I don’t know and I’m not going to ask.

I am sure that they will add to their menu as they see what folks like (or as they find cheap things they can stick in a juicer) but this is what they plan to start with. They say they will be happy to bring some samples for you to try, and would even be willing to cater one of your Small Business Association meetings as a trial if you would rather put the “taste test” off on other people.

I hope that you will give these boys any help that you can. It is true that they have been in jail (more than once), and they did not do well with their plan to restore a car and race it at Bristol a few years ago, but they mean well and they are just plain too old to be coming back home to live with Mama. Now that they are out of jail, I would like to see them do something worthwhile, or at least stay out of trouble. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, as you know. Since they are felons, they have not been able to get jobs, and since they are not really very good at anything useful, it seems only logical that they start their own business and become entrepreneurs.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, Mr. Cheever, and I sure hope your wife does not find out about you and that massage “therapist” while you are deciding how you might be able to help these fine fellows get their new business going.

Yours truly,
Mrs. Earlene Ledbetter

© Copyright 2015 by Patrick Redding

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Cartoons (A Few Words from the Artist)


Photo via Pixabay.

by R. Kane

There is a war on drugs.
People are being shot on sight
with semi-automatic weapons,
and I am drawing cartoons.

Down at the Happy Valley Home
For the Mentally Wayward
an old lady is locked up
because she got the giggles
at her sister’s funeral
(she never liked her anyway)
and threw rocks at her nephew’s wedding
(he was always a no-account sort
who never called unless he wanted money).

Back in the real world
they put restraints and stipulations
on women’s bodies.
They maim, kill, and mutilate
over which is the correct color for skin
and the correct language for road signs
and whether to tell children the truth about science.
In twenty-five states
we are considered a crime against nature
and have no rights.

Old Miss Cleo has been under sedation for ten years.
I have had ink stains on my shirt cuffs
from ten years of sticking my tongue in my cheek
and biting it to keep from speaking up,
and they keep paying me to draw
more cartoons.

© Copyright 1990 by R. Kane. Published 2015.

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Morning Fog

Morning Fog by NEZ

© Copyright 2001 by NEZ. Shown here by permission of the artist.

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This Week at Gatewood: May 10-16, 2015

reading dog

Photo via MorgueFile.

by Frasier MacKenzie

Hello all! I hope you’ve had a good week. It’s been a good week here for discovering writers; I had the honor of reading a packet of poetry sent to us by Robin Sinclair (one of which we featured Tuesday), and I can’t think when I’ve been so immediately taken with someone’s work. You’ll be seeing more very soon. In the meantime, check out her website to see more.

We also rediscovered a folder of work that was left with us as part of an estate clearance. Occasionally we get boxes of papers from families who’ve lost a relative; if it’s a well-known writer, they generally get donated to libraries. If it’s a lesser-known talent, it’s sometimes sent to us so that their work isn’t just lost forever. We catalog and archive it, and sometimes we find a gem or two to show you here.

Here are our features for the week of May 10-16:

Monday:Wrought Iron Stars #3,” photography by K.C. Collins

Tuesday:Where It Started,” poetry by Robin Sinclair

Wednesday:Reader Madness: An Intervention,” by Rob Colfax

Friday:Toward Growth,” photography by P.L. Miller and quote from Abraham Maslow

Remember, our Friday photo can be downloaded for free as a meditation card for your phone, tablet or computer. Share, print, ponder… enjoy!

Here’s a favorite posted by our Special Assistant Dr Nicholas this week:


Follow @docnicholas on Twitter for more of this sort of thing, and, of course, daily updates on Journal posts.

That’s it for the Gatewood Weekend Wrap-Up for May 10-16. Enjoy the weekend, and visit us again soon, won’t you?

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Toward Growth


From:: P.L. Miller’s Photoblog.

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Reader Madness: An Intervention


Artwork via Pixabay.

by Rob Colfax

My daughter has been home from college on spring break this week, and a couple of days ago, it became glaringly obvious that we needed to have a talk. The warning signs were clear: her bloodshot eyes with the dark circles underneath… her lengthy occupations of the bathroom… her dazed expression of someone not quite in touch with her surroundings… not to mention the Aldous Huxley postcard pasted to the front of her notebook.

She was keeping odd hours, even more so than usual, sleeping little and eating less. The guy who came to pick her up Friday night (supposedly to go see a movie) was one I didn’t know. He drove a modest gray compact car entirely devoid of layers of Godsmack or Incubus bumper stickers, and there were no danglies hanging from the rear-view mirror. He was clean-cut, conspicuously articulate, and brought her back home at a reasonable hour. Something didn’t add up, and I decided I’d better find out what it was.

I tapped on her door and immediately heard the rustlings of something being hastily hidden, so I barged in. She slouched awkwardly on her rumpled bed. “What?” she bleated nervously.

“You’re home early,” I remarked. “How was the movie? What’d you see?”

“Er… ah…” Her paranoid eyes darted around evasively, and I could tell she was trying to decide how to lie her way out of it.

“OK, let’s just get to it,” I sighed reluctantly. “You didn’t go to the movies, did you?”

She hemmed and hawed and gnawed at her fingernails, and I caught sight of something sticking out of her shirt pocket. “Hey! That’s my bookstore discount card!” I blustered, snatching it. Then I realized. “No! Surely not!” I gasped.

“Yes!” she wailed, tearing at her hair. “I lied. We didn’t go to a movie – it was a reading group.”

“A what?!”

“I… I’ve become a… a book reader!” she sobbed. “I’ve tried to hide it, but I’m afraid it’s out of control, Dad.”

“Oh my. When you borrowed the car to go to the mall yesterday, your mother said she saw the car on the other side of town, but I didn’t believe it.”

“It’s true,” she sniffled. “I didn’t go to the mall. I… I went to the library book sale.”

“Well, admitting you have a problem is the first step,” I comforted her, sitting down beside her to reassure her. There was something lumpy under the quilt, and I pulled it back to see what I was sitting on. She started to protest, then scooted aside in resignation as I yanked the quilt away to reveal her stash: fat, worn paperbacks of Kerouac, Nabokov, Burroughs, Vonnegut – and that was just for starters. “Good grief, kid, how much are you reading? A book a day?”

“Er – well, sometimes I go through two or three in one sitting,” she confessed.

“What?! Are you cutting class to stay in your room and read?” I demanded.

“Sometimes,” she admitted. “I read more when I’m under stress.”

“How are you paying for all these books?” I wondered.

“Well… sometimes I have to go to the used book store,” she said quietly. “Sometimes I… I trade CDs for books. If I get really desperate, I… go to the library.” She fondled the cover of Tropic of Cancer as she slumped back on the pillows. “I know I’ve got to do something about it. Lately I’ve noticed that as soon as I finish one book, I feel the urge to start reading another right away. I’m lost until I’ve got a new one to read.” She curled into a fetal position, resting her head on Bulfinch’s Mythology. “The week before spring break, I finished my last book after the bookstores and library had already closed one night. It got really bad… I couldn’t sleep. I… I went to the all-night grocery store and read two motorcycle magazines and a copy of Country Decorator Digest before the night manager caught on. I ended up buying some cheap mystery novel about a lawyer’s cat that ate library paste, just so I could read myself to sleep.” She sighed heavily. “When I woke up the next morning and realized what I’d done, I was so ashamed. I felt terrible.”

“Pulp hangover,” I nodded sagely.

“I’m so embarrassed,” she bawled.

“Well, this is just way out of hand,” I said. “Tomorrow we’re going to take a little drive. There’s a treatment center near here that specializes in this sort of thing.”

“You don’t mean – ”

“Yes. We’ve got to get you into a magazine clinic.”

“No!” she balked. “I – I can quit any time I want!”

“Oh, no, no, no – this is only the beginning,” I warned. “It starts off with just a harmless little bit of light reading like Harry Potter, and the next thing you know, you’re on to the hard stuff. James Joyce. Ezra Pound. Dostoevsky, for heaven’s sake!”

“No! You can’t scare me with that kind of talk,” she retorted belligerently. “Thomas Jefferson was widely rumored to be a reader, you know,” she challenged.

“Maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t, but do you think he’d get elected today if it became common knowledge that he was literate?” I pointed out.

“But I learn so much from reading!” she protested. “Why, did you know that the movies left out huge sections of Lord of the Rings?”

“Sweet mother of Gandalf, child, did you want those movies to be longer than they already were?” I exclaimed.

“Well, I just think you’re making a big deal out of this. I know people who read lots more than I do,” she scoffed. “How bad can it be?”

I waved her copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas under her nose. “You start out with this ‘recreational reading’ stuff and the next thing you know, it leads to writing!”

She paled. “You’re right. This could get worse. I can see that now.”

“Good. Now, tomorrow we’ll get you into that clinic. They’ll start weaning you off with magazines, and in a mere few weeks, you’ll barely feel the urge to pick up a newspaper,” I promised.

She clutched her Faulkner a bit closer and looked up at me hopefully. “But in the meantime, I could use a little something to get me through the night,” she suggested.

I considered, then beckoned her to follow me. “I’ve got a hardcover copy of Thoreau upstairs,” I whispered. “I’ll let you borrow it for the night, but don’t tell your mother.”

She followed me up to my study and eyed me knowingly as I fetched the book for her from a locked cabinet. “My, you’ve got quite the stash yourself,” she observed slyly. “I seem to remember you disappearing for a few weeks last year; Mom made some excuse about a seminar you had to attend. So do these magazine clinics really work?”

“Of course,” I insisted. “I can quit reading any time I want to. I just don’t want to yet.”


© Copyright 2004 by Rob Colfax. Republished 2007, 2013, 2015.

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Where It Started

parking lot bw

by Robin Sinclair

Seth and his girlfriend Jennifer would probably say
it started in a parking lot outside of a Denny’s in Los Angeles.
I was irritable, quitting smoking for the twelfth time,
poorer than usual,
and was desperately circling the lot in a futile attempt
to find a spot for my 1976 Chevy Nova.
Somehow, between their shrieking there’s-a-spots
and my relentless focus on a hot plate of steak and eggs,
I’d vowed to end our friendship, right there in front of the world.
Or at least, the world of the thick-in-the-middle-aged couple
who’d stolen the only suitable parking spot from me
in my time of despair.

I told Jenny about the prostitute in Las Vegas and I told Seth about the abortion.
I was very, very hungry.
But this wasn’t where it started.

At first, I thought it started when I lost my job.
It was the week prior, and I had been working swing shift at a factory,
harassed by my supervisor every day since the day I started.
On this particular day, the moment he made a remark, I called him a sloppy cunt
I walked into the locker room and changed into my own clothes,
put my name-tag in the trash, and left.
I even treated myself to a breakfast sandwich from the nearby deli.

That, however, started the night before.
I’d drunkenly sworn to myself to never be miserable at work again.
I had just had a birthday, and I spent the little money I received
on one last pack of cigarettes, some ramen, and the cheapest wine I could find.
At a glance, my box-wine promises might have been the start of it all,
but the truth is that it started on my 10th birthday.

Aunt Doris was a shell of a person by the time I was born.
She’d had four religions, three divorces, and a gay son she never spoke to.
She worked nights as a waitress and mornings as a custodian at a hospital.
She was raped once by that faggot male nurse,
which in retrospect seems like an odd slur to use.
She was 45 then, but looked 60, and after helping me blow out my candles
with her beer breath, she pulled me aside.
“The moment you’re miserable,” she said,
“Don’t ever hesitate – make a change. Remember that.”
Aunt Doris also said something about condoms and lepers,
but I don’t think that has anything to do with what happened at Denny’s.

I told Seth about Aunt Doris and the box-wine, and he forgave me. Jennifer didn’t.
She also didn’t forgive Seth, and his every movement
in their relationship remained under her leering scrutiny and the
sharp blade of his drunken indiscretion.
Jennifer likes the power that being angry gives her,
and that’s where it will all start, and end, for her.

© Copyright 2015 by Robin Sinclair.

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