Changeup, Chapter 9

He'd driven all night. He'd been worried about falling asleep at the wheel, but it ended up not being lack of sleep that left his eyes tired and dry.

His mom was waiting as he pulled into the driveway. The lawn where he'd tossed the ball with Dad every evening of every summer was overgrown.

She fell into his arms. He held her up, both of them crying with no tears left to fall.

"I'm sorry, Mom. I'm so sorry."

He helped her up the steps and through the door. He eased her down onto the couch and sat down in the armchair next to her.

"It was so quick, Joe. He was fine, then he was sick, then it was...over."

"I know. We didn't see it coming."

"He did, Joe. He's known for a year. It was the cancer. He never told me about it."

Joe sat for a moment in stunned silence. After a while, it sank in and no longer surprised him.

"That's how Dad was, Mom. Never wanted to worry anybody. Thought it was his job to watch out for everyone, not the other way around."

"So foolish! But the doctor said it would have been too late anyway."

"Then it was his choice."

"Not his choice to make!"

Joe didn't know what to say to that. He sat with his hand on Mom's arm for a moment while she choked back angry sobs.

Then they sat in silence, two survivors holding on after the storm.

After a few minutes, Joe quietly got up and headed to the kitchen. He started a pot of coffee and put a few dishes in the washer while it brewed.

He placed the mugs on the table in front of them, steam rushing to disappear a few inches above the rim.

"Joe, I have some things for you."

Joe looked at the banker's box Mom was handing him. The box had 'JOE' written on the side in neat black Sharpie. He recognized Dad's writing immediately. He hadn't noticed the box earlier. Mom must have retrieved it while he was in the kitchen. He glanced at her quizzically.

"A few things he wanted you to have, Joe. He's kept this box for years. Said he'd give it to you when your were ready."

Joe blew dust off the lid and stared at it for a moment.

"I guess that's now, Joe."

What's inside?


1,000 Free Donut Blankets

Did you ever play a game with somebody who was 1,000 times better at it than you? Did you ask them to play left-handed to make it fairer? Turns out that doesn't work in Words With Friends.

More than half the folks in my department didn't come in today. One of the guys who did come in brought donuts for everybody. It's as close to winning the lottery as I'll ever come.

I don't play the lottery, but if I did, I would really hope I won.

What time is it in your head?

My son woke me up the other night at 4 AM to show me his blanket. That was very nice of him.

I'm finding it hard to get used to not being the administrator of the computers and servers at work. I was given a task that could have been completed in two hours with full access. I'm on day three since full access will not be granted, but thanks for asking.

Ever served for jury duty?

Changeup, Chapter 8

To read the first 7 chapters, click the Changeup link above.

Joe’s phone rang.


"Hi, Joe.  It's mom."

Joe's heart sank.  Her voice was shaking, and he knew.  Knew it in the pit of his stomach.  He sank onto the bar stool near his kitchen counter.

"Mom, what's wrong?"

"It's Dad, Joe." She choked back a sob and struggled on. "He died last night, Joe."

Dad had been sick all last week, but Joe hadn't thought it was that bad.

"I...I thought he had a cold..."

"Joe, Dad's been sick for a while. He had cancer. He didn't want us worrying about him, so he never told any of us."

Joe sat for what seemed forever, staring at his kitchen floor. 
What were they going to do now? He was mildly surprised by the tears hitting the linoleum. Hadn't noticed he was crying.

"I need you here, Joe. I need you. There's some things we have to take care of, and I don't think I can do them alone."

Joe sat in stunned silence. He'd always meant to tile that floor.


He inhaled sharply as his mom's voice snapped him back to the present.

"Come home, Joe."

He hung up the phone, moving in slow motion. He was dizzy and there was a rock in his throat and he felt lost. He slid to the floor and hugged his knees.

"Don't give up, Joe.  0-2 doesn't mean you're done yet.  Get back in the box."


A Century in the Amazon of Dreams on the Internet for Cheap

You're never too old to start your dreams.

My 92-year-old grandpa has always dreamed of writing a book. Instead, he was an attorney for 60 years. But he always kept that dream in the back of his mind.

And now? He just self-published his first book.

It's called Legal Fables. You can get it on Amazon. It's short. It's funny. It's informative. It's $5.

My aunt did it for him. He doesn't even know it's sold on the Internet, partially because he's still not sure what the Internet is.

She told him when folks asked where they could pick up a copy of the book, he should just say "Amazon". He's not sure what that means, but he knows to say it.


Do it.

For the chirren.

What's your dream?

Walky-Talky Cost A Lotty

I'm on a Verizon unlimited data plan (3G). If I upgrade to the LTE network, I'll get faster data speeds, but will lose the unlimited plan. Verizon says the average smart phone user consumes 1-2GB of data per month. In the first week of my billing cycle, I used 3.5GB. I checked the price sheet, and it's safe to say I'll be sticking with the unlimited plan for a while.

I think it's crazy that I can spend $50/month for unlimited FAST data for every device in my house, but to get slow data for my phone and Jana's, it's $60/month. I realize it's harder to provide data to a device that moves around the country, but it still seems a bit lopsided.

Jana used .03GB in the same time period. I think it's because half the time she can't find her phone. Also, she uses it for talking. What a waste...doesn't she know it has Netflix on it?!?

Do you use a smartphone? What kind of plan? Any tips for justifying the extra expense of faster data speeds to Jana?

Changeup, Chapter 7

Joe had no idea what he was going to do.

He wasn't going to beg Chester for his job back. He didn't care how desperate he got; he wasn't going back there.

Desperate was strong and Desperate was near. He had to think of something, and quick.

But first he had a ball game to attend.

He had almost forgotten Jim's invitation, but as he sulked and worried around the house, he remembered. It would be a welcome distraction, although it would do nothing to change his situation.

Joe parked his truck and walked toward the stadium. Guess he'd have to drive the old thing a bit longer.

Joe saw Jim waiting for him near the ticket counter. Jim gave a nod and raised one hand in acknowledgement.

"I didn't know whether you'd show up", Jim said as they made their way to their seats.

"Are you kidding? It's a ball game!"

"I like your outlook on life!"

The first inning was already in progress as they made their way to their seats. Joe made his way down a row and glanced at his ticket. Someone was in his seat. He hated that. Couldn't people read?

He tapped the ball cap of the guy in his row.

"Excuse me. I believe you have my seat."

The cap looked up. Joe found himself looking into a bottomless set of green eyes.

"Joe, I'd like you to meet my daughter, Renee."

Joe was speechless.

"Pleased to meet you", said Renee. "Now sit down so I can see!"

Joe sat as he heard the crack of the bat. He looked up and saw a lazy fly ball head toward left field. It was an easy catch for the second out of the inning, but it was a bit deep which allowed the runner on first to advance to second. Two down.

Joe clapped.

"Don't get your hopes up", Renee said.

"But now we have a runner in scoring position!"

"Won't matter. That's Carlos Probanogo. I can run faster than he can. It'll take an extra bases hit to bring him around."

"Have a little faith!" Joe retorted.

The next batter singled to left, but Probanogo stayed put. Runners on first and second.

The next at-bat yielded a sharp grounder down the line. The third baseman trapped it and waited for Probonago to make it to the bag so he could slap the tag on him.

"Ok, so he has no speed. But that was plain mean; he could have just stepped on the bag. Didn't need to wait for him!"

"He was just proving my point!"

They ended up winning the game 4-2. Joe hadn't had that much fun watching a game in a long time. Renee was a firecracker.

What do you think so far?

Conversations With a One-Year-Old

This is how typical conversations with my son go when it's just me and him for the day.

My wife: Bye! Have a good day, you two!

Me: Bye, Babe!

Evan: Bye, Babe!

Me: That's my line. Want some breakfast?

Evan: Milk?

Me: Yes, you can have some milk with breakfast. I think we keep the organic milk shysters in business. Their milk is "special" because their cows are made of dirt.

Evan: Cow!


Me: Ok, we're done with breakfast. Want to go to the grocery store to knock a few items off Momma's list?

Evan: Momma!

Me: Ok, here we are. We need apples, grapes, bananas and milk.

Evan: Apples? Grapes? Manas? Molk?

Me: Close enough. Ready to check out? Can you tell the nice lady 'thank you'?

Evan: Ank you!

Checkout Lady: Aww, how cute! How old are you?

Evan: Car!

Me: He has no idea.

Checkout Lady: Well, you're adorable. Have a great day!

Evan: Bye, Babe!

What are you looking at?

Changeup, Chapter 6

Joe didn’t usually react so rashly. His dad had always taught him to respond rather than react. Quitting on the spot wasn’t what he had planned, and it was a stupid thing to do, but it sure felt good.

He drove back home, too scared to be excited. He’d have to call the number on the back of his ticket and claim his winnings today. He didn’t have much in savings and he had no other leads.

He got home and put some coffee on. He pulled out his lottery ticket. After staring at it a moment in disbelief, he flipped it over and saw the number to call.

After navigating the automated menu and a grumpy receptionist, he was transferred to the claims department. Another grumpy lady answered.

“Hi, Ma’am. I think I have the winning ticket.”

“Well, lucky you. What’s the number?”

“4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42”.

“Is this some kind of a joke?”

“I’m sorry, Ma’am - what do you mean?”

“Those numbers are from last week’s drawing. Sir, fraudulently claiming lottery winnings is a crime. I should have you reported!”

As the dial tone sounded in his ear, realization dawned. The game he had watched wasn’t live - he had recorded it on his Tivo.

Now he wasn’t rich and he had no job.

Just perfect.

When was the last time you felt like a schmuck?

Please and Thank You

We work with my son on manners, to varying degrees of success.

He has 'please' down pat. That's the magic word; it's how you get things from the Big People.

'Thank you' is a mixed bag. Sometimes he'll say it, sometimes he won't. When he won't say it, he gives me a look that says "What more do you want from me? I said 'please', therefore I earned this goldfish and victory is mine. Move along, Big Person. Fetch more goldfish...please."

Other times, he'll say it when I'm not really expecting it. He'll get his truck stuck in a corner and say, "Help you?" I'll turn the truck around, then hear a quiet "Thank you."

Other things he'll say, just not at the appropriate time. When we're leaving my mom's house, she'll say, "Bye-bye!" He'll stare at her as if to say, "Why are you leaving? I thought this was your house." Then when we're backing out of the driveway, we hear from the backseat, "Bye-bye, Nanny."

But the best was last night. I had prayed with him, sung to him (poor guy) and tucked him in. "I love you, Bubs", I said as I headed to the door. And as I closed it, I could hear very quietly,

"Wove you."

Thank you, Son.