Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

How Do You Defeat an Insurgency?

Defeating an insurgency is easy. All you have to do is send an invading army back to where it came from.
Otherwise? Forget it. Ask the Germans. No one has been forced to deal with insurgencies, vast numbers of them at the same time, like the Germans had to from the spring of 1940 through the first four months of 1945. It was difficult to find a country in Europe where insurgents could not be found. Or let's say where they existed because finding them wasn't always easy.
Let's see, they had them in France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, Yugoslavia, Greece, Poland, Russia - well that's enough for now and it was more than enough to keep the German SS occupied.
Those SS boys really knew how to react when insurgents killed a German, blew up a bridge or did anything else on the Verboten list. Round up a bunch of people - just anyone at all - and line them up against a wall or hang them from a lamppost. In the little Belgian town where I was stationed after the war they had come around one night and hauled 22 people out of bed including the mayor, the Red Cross director, a doctor or two and a group of bewildered citizens. Took them to a nearby woods and gunned them down.
After the Normandy invasion two SS divisions in the south of France began moving north to the battlefields. They were harrassed every step of the way. Frenchmen by the hundreds were shot or hanged but other insurgents ( they were called the Resistance or Freedom Fighters) took their place and went right on causing trouble.
On June 10 the columns of Normandy-bound Germans were in the vicinity of the village of Oradour-sur-Glane. Insurgents in the area were active on an otherwise quiet Saturday when the residents of the village and several hundred refugees were relaxing at home or outside cafes. Children from the vicinity were in town for medical examinations and it was tobacco ration day so people from nearby farms had also come to Oradour.
Suddenly a company of Das Reich, the 2nd SS Panzer Division, roared into town. When the SS troopers left a few hours later only a handful of civilians, those who had managed to hide, were alive. School age children were taken away for a "picnic" that ended with them standing in front of machine guns. The men were herded into barns and shot dead. Women with infants and toddlers were taken to the church. The doors were locked and the building set afire. Machine guns were set up to finish off anyone trying to escape the flames by leaping from windows.
About 650 civilians died that day in Oradour. Did it stop the insurgency? Not for a minute. It ended only when the last German was out of France and it was the same in all those other countries.
Is there a lesson to be learned from what happened during those years? Probably. Perhaps a number of them. The first might be that when someone mentions the possibility of an insurgency never say, "Bring it on."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Back In the Saddle Again

No, I haven't been loafing, I've been a bit under the weather the past few days. That's the way it goes when you get to be my age. If it isn't one damn thing it's another and there isn't a thing you can do about this unwritten rule that says that as soon as one little ailment departs another must come along to take its place.
Sometimes I think it's a game that weary old bodies enjoy playing. First the digestive system decides to act up just a wee bit, then the kidneys think its time for another infection and as soon as that's over anemia decides to make even the slightest effort seem like a 30 mile hike with full field pack. And on and on it goes. But as they say, I guess it beats the alternative. Sometimes I wonder about that, though.
For a while I was getting a weekly shot of something called Procrit. If you believe the TV commercials it makes a person with one foot in the grave leap up and go water skiing or take off running along the beach like a kid of 16. The fact is it didn't affect me quite that way but some kind of test showed that I had improved so much that I only got a shot once a month. Then not at all because the nurse in charge of this operation said, "The government wants you to feel good, but not too good."
The government was paying for this Procrit, as you may have surmised. Darn good thing, too, because when I asked one day the doctor said it costs $2,000 per shot. Had it been coming out of my pocket they would have had to start selling it one drop at a time.
Now if some ignorant fool of a layman would suggest that $2,000 for a shot of clear liquid in a container an inch long seems a mite excessive the entire pharmaceutical industry would jump in to give him a hundred reasons why that's a fair price. Those boys stick together. Just about everybody has seen the ads they run every hour or so on TV pointing out that the Indianapolis Star and a few other newspapers say the Medicare prescription drug plan is working just fine so don't let the federal government mess with it. It was the federal government that set it up in the first place, of course, and even an ignorant fool can see that much because it's about as screwball a program as a group of people could come up with. But it is working just fine - for the pharmaceutical companies. The rest of us, they say, should make sure the government doesn't mess it up by allowing even more generic drugs into the program. After all, fair is fair so we wouldn't want to allow anything to happen that would make the pharmaceutical boys unhappy.
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Thursday, April 19, 2007

I'm Movin' On Up

For a while there I was gettin' these e-mails from plain old folks in Nigeria and Liberia and a bunch of countries I never heard of and every one of 'em wanted to give me money. It was kind of amazin' how many poor souls were being wiped out in car wrecks in these places and not one of 'em had thought about makin' a will before the big event. That bein' the case, another kind soul decided all their earthly goods, meanin' money, should go to me.
Here of late, though, instead of plain old folks the messages have come from pretty important people like Abdulahi Dieng, esquire. Now we all know that a man entitled to have esquire after his name has to be honest and upstanding and probably is a lawyer.
Then there was one from Reverend Paul Orgor who flat out said he is doin' God's work and what kind of a person could ignore someone like that?
But the latest came from no less than Princess Victoria herself. I don't recall offhand exactly what country she happens to be a princess of but it was one I'm not overly familiar with.
Now I can't help but wonder if next I'll be hearin' from the Queen or maybe even the King. Like I said before, the thing about these e-mails that make you feel warm inside is that every one of these kind and generous folks want to give me money. There's nothin' much to it, either. All I gotta do is send 'em a little of my own cash to show my good faith and maybe supply 'em with my Social Security number and a little information on my bank account so they'll know where to send those big sums just waitin' for my reply.
There's people out there that don't place much stock in this sorta stuff, though. People lackin' trust in their fellow man. Like this old lady in an Akron suburb who was notified she had won the Jamaican Lottery and sent a little of that good-faith money. And then a little bit more and a little more after that until she was out $20,000. Now a person of faith who sees the good in people and admires the trustworthiness of his fellow humans would know she was right on the verge of collectin' serious money if she had gone ahead and made just one more payment instead of callin' the cops. Well, like they say, that's the way it goes.
The really heart warmin' thing about all these kind folks with money to send out is that they always seem to want to send it to old people. Now if knowin' there are people like that in this world doesn't bring warmth to your heart I just don't know what it would take.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

There's Good News Today

Well, the old tooth has stopped hurting and there's nothing wrong with my toe. I know there's nothing wrong with it because the podiatrist at the VA Clinic told me so. He looked at my feet and shook his head.
There's plenty of blood circulating into your feet he said. There just isn't any blood circulating out.
So where's it going I asked.
He shrugged.
Then he trimmed my toenails.
You can come back in three months and have them trimmed again he said.
But what if they grow long before then I asked.
He shrugged.
The government only allows you to trim your toenails every three months he said.
Well that makes sense I told him. I'll remind my toenails of that.
So that's about it he said.
But my toe still hurts I said.
Can't be helped he said. The government doesn't allow for that.
But what about pain and suffering I asked.
I don't feel a thing he said.
OK Doc. What could I have been thinking of. You know best. You and the government.
Now we're on the same page he said.
Trouble is we're not reading the same book I said.
See you in three months he said.

(My apologies to the late Ross Spencer for stealing his style of writing in his Chance Purdue series. Spence would understand, having been an old vet himself)

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

No Mood For Blogging

Life has ganged up on me and I'm in no mood for blogging. Jackie says, "Get over it," and I just wish I could. In an hour I have to leave for the VA Clinic to see the podiatrist because my big toe hurts. To be more accurate, it did hurt. Then last night I stubbed it. Since then it hasn't hurt any more.
Yesterday I had to go to the dentist. For the second time in less than two weeks for the same tooth. It's fine now as long as I don't let anything hot or anything cold get near it. Or just so long as I don't breath so that air gets on it. Or bite on it. Or bend over to take care of my sore toe. Or lean too far back in the recliner. Or go to bed so that it's necessary to lie down. Or touch it with a toothbrush. Or cough or sneeze or anything else that might disturb it. Other than that it's just fine.
Then there's the new and improved Blogger. With the old, unimproved Blogger I could call it up and be blogging away in ten seconds. Now with the new and improved version it takes three minutes. That makes it almost as good as my recent upgrade to Internet Explorer 7. There was nothing wrong with the old Internet Explorer 6 but now that I'm upgraded to 7 I can't call up an attachment to an e-mail without being disconnected from the internet. I can't hit an X to get rid of something without being disconnected from the internet. In fact I can hardly do a damn thing without being disconnected from the internet.
I'm really thrilled about all the improvements and upgrades in my world. Yes sir I am. First Internet Explorer and Blogger and then yesterday my tooth was upgraded. Today my big toe gets upgraded. God but I long for the old days back in 2006.
But that's the way it goes. Life is hard and then you die.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Armed Robbers, Murderers and Lawyers

One of the things I enjoyed about being a reporter covering the criminal courts was getting acquainted with murderers and armed robbers. Interesting people.
There was a fellow who had served his time so he always introduced himself to strangers by giving his name and then saying, "I served twenty years in a North Carolina prison for a murder unintentionally committed."
Or the woman of about fifty who could have passed for being ten years older. Her scrawny body and haggard face revealed that many of those years had been spent being punched out by a lowdown husband.
One day after a beating she decided to try scaring him, see if that helped. She had never fired a gun but she picked up a loaded rusty old rifle with a bent barrel and followed him out of the house. No one familiar with guns would have risked firing that relic, but she waved it around in the air and called to her husband twenty yards away. He turned to face her so she pointed the gun in his general direction and squeezed the trigger. Dropped him with a single shot that got him in the head.
A man from far back in the hills of Tennessee had come to town looking for a job. He was a hard worker so he had no problem supporting a wife and several kids. But the wife liked to hit the bars every night, leaving the children alone and more often than not going home with some other man. Any man, she wasn't fussy.
One night the baby was sick when the husband got home from work. He walked to a bar a few doors away, one called the Oar House. The owner justified the name by hanging a couple of canoe paddles out front. The wife was sitting beside a man in a booth so the husband sat down across from them and explained about the sick baby. He asked her to come home but the wife and the other man just laughed, then she threw her drink in her husband's face. He got up and left.
A short time later the wife left the booth and started toward the restroom at the rear. Someone called a warning that her husband was coming up behind her, but too late. Like most hill country men he owned a sharp knife and he used it to cut her throat. Her head was left hanging by a slender thread of flesh.
A few days earlier the wife had talked to a lawyer, told him a husband and kids were interfering with her social life and inquired about a divorce. She said her husband might object. So the lawyers in town came up with a joke, as many lawyers will. She was told, they said, "I'll see what I can do, just don't lose your head." Lawyer humor.
I admit I had to laugh.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The National Guard, American Idol & Other Stuff

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland has fired off a letter of protest to the White House because 2,300 member of the state's 37th Infantry Brigade may be heading to Iraq this year rather than in 2009 as scheduled. "A breach of faith," is what the governor calls it.
The 37th was my outfit when we were federalized for the Korean War. Back then it was a division, which is much larger than a brigade. But call it what you may, there are some very unhappy members of the Guard in Ohio. These men have jobs and many have families and other obligations that have to be taken into consideration. Plans have been made for a callup but now the time for it apparently will be moved up a year and a half. Those matters aren't taken into consideration by the people at the White House and Pentagon.
Having served in two wars, including time spent as an infantry rifleman in combat, I can only repeat that this is a helluva way to run a war. A war based on a lie from the very start.
# A year ago I watched American Idol for the first time and found it interesting. The young contestants were both talented and interesting. A number have gone on to success as recording artists.
I've been tuning in again this year and it isn't the same. Aside from two black females the talent seems a bit thin and the people themselves are of less interest. The theme last night was Latin music and the result was horrendous, absolutely pathetic.
I'm not convinced - and I'm not alone in this - that the "voting" to decide who is booted off each week is legitimate. It often seems that it rotates between male and female. To convince viewers that it is on the up and up the producers need to hire an independent tallying firm that announces the number of votes cast for each contestant. Or better yet, allow the three judges to make the decision so it is something more than a popularity contest.
I imagine more females than males take part in the voting. This year it seems to be a contest to select the cutest performers. Sad to say, I'm referring to cute boys, not girls.
# I believe I may have heard the name Don Imus before the current fuss about him. I couldn't have begun to say who he is, or was. Calling the Rutgers female basketball players "nappy headed hos" was inexcusable. If you don't already know, a ho is a whore. The man shouldn't be given a two week suspension, he should be fired. I'm as far from a blue-nose as you can get, but there should be some standard of decency and today one is woefully lacking in America.
# What kind of people actually care who the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby happened to be? What exactly did this woman ever do to gain such notoriety? Of greater import: when will the flood of publicity end, if ever?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

It's a Dirty, Rotten Way to Run a War

I couldn't believe it when I heard the news. They now are planning to call up National Guard units for a second tour in Iraq. It's unfair, unjust and un-everything filthy and lowdown you can name.
I've been down that road and know the cost. In 1952 my National Guard unit, Ohio's 37th Infantry Division, was federalized for active duty during the Korean War. It disrupts your life beyond anything a person who has not been through it can imagine. Income, job, family - all are effected adversely. The house with a mortgage, the car with payments due, just name it and its effected. So you do it, make the best of it.
But for anyone to expect men and women to do it a second time within the span of a few years is unconscionable - shockingly unfair. They will say all the things they are expected to say, of course. You have to do that. But what will be kept hidden in their thoughts? How effective will they be when their morale is down below knee level?
Men (and now women as well) join the National Guard to earn a little extra money, enjoy the camaraderie, to be called up in the event of a disaster or a riot in their state. They do not join to be sent to a war zone twice within a three year period. For that you join the regular army. But even they are leaving in droves, getting out at the first opportunity. Some of them are hit with a stop-loss order meaning they can't return to civilian life when their enlistment is up.
What a way to run a war. Are they trying to kill future enlistments in the Guard, the Reserves, the Army? They are doing a remarkably good job of that and a remarkably poor job of everything else. They bit off more than they can chew and now they are at a loss as to how to get out of the mess they created.
How about a military draft? Forget it. The American people wouldn't stand for it. Can anyone really blame them?
What a lot George W. Bush and his cronies have to answer for. The legacy that he worries so much about is written in concrete, and concrete sinks to the bottom. But who pays the price? Those poor misguided souls that joined the National Guard during the past decade or so. They didn't sign up for the job they're being handed. But what about Bush's children? One of them just signed a contract for a book that will have a huge press run. The big bucks will roll in but you won't find anything about serving in Iraq in its pages. That's for other people's kids. Many of them get to do it a second time. Or a third. If they survive, of course.
So let's support the troops by saying enough is enough. Support the troops? Sure, right now we're all behind them. Way behind them.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Friendly Fire & Other Timely Topics

Hey, raise your finger in the air because we're No. 1! Be careful about which finger you raise, of course.
Anyway, I've always suspected that Americans are in a class by themselves when it comes to what is foolishly called "Friendly Fire." This suspicion first arose back in 1944 when I discovered that one of the most dangerous moments on a night patrol came while trying to get back to your own lines without being shot. Americans, it seems, live by the motto of the Old West, "Shoot first and ask questions later." It has been modified somewhat so now it is, "Shoot first and later find out who in hell you were shooting at."
In other words Americans are trigger happy. How many other countries even have a term for shooting or bombing or raining artillery fire on people on your own side? And calling it friendly fire is a real misnomer because to those on the receiving end there is nothing friendly about it.
But this week friendly fire was elevated to a new level. A group of FBI agents were confronting a lone bank robber who was begging them to shoot him dead. That's against law enforcement policy, needless to say, so instead one of the FBI stalwarts shot and killed another FBI agent. Friendly fire. As the saying goes, with friends like that who needs enemies?
Then there was the news about Ford Motor Company. Fourteen plants are being closed and 38,000 people laid off or given buyouts because Ford lost more than $12 billion last year. But wait, there's more. The company then paid its CEO $28 million plus perks. He worked four months. And people wonder why Toyota and Honda are destroying the American automobile industry.
In North Canton, Ohio, Hoover is closing down its original factory that sits in the heart of town. More than 800 people are losing their jobs. Those jobs are going to El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico. Mexicans are coming to this country looking for work. The way things are going it won't be long before Americans will be going to Mexico looking for work.
One more thing: out of loyalty to the company the citizens of North Canton named their high school Hoover. Years ago I attended a football game there and at halftime the fans stood up and to the tune of the Field Artillery Song everyone sang, "As the Hoovers go sweeping along." Does it need saying that that was back in the days when loyalty was a two-way street?
The Boston Red Sox were in the news because of having paid $100 million for a Japanese pitcher. It was heartwarming to hear that he did a pretty good job in his first outing.
But the capper for the news came from Ball State University in good old Muncie, Indiana, also known as Middletown U.S.A. They signed the womens' basketball coach to a new contract paying her $181,000. Only the president of the university and the vice president of business affairs make more. I'm sure this decision was heartily approved by all the professors because the players on the team say the coach treats them like she was their mom.
So that about wraps it up. I'm sure comforted by the fact that all our priorities are in order. Well, there is one more thing. I decided to run the spell checker and came up with some interesting results. Those Ford buyouts was replaced by buttocks. I guess receiving a buyout is a kick in the buttocks. And it wasn't heartwarming that the Japanese pitcher did well. No, it was heartrending.
In thinking over those changes, though, I wonder if that spell checker might actually be right.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Terrorists - Who and What Are They?

Terrorists. You can't open a newspaper or listen to ten minutes of a radio or TV newscast without hearing that word. Some military officers call terrorists "bad guys." A simplistic term used by men with limited intelligence. Such men are found in great numbers among the ranks of officers in any army.
A dictionary definition doesn't help much in identifying who they are or why they act the way they do. Some are readily identifiable. The men who flew planes into the World Trade Center or planted bombs in the London subway were definitely terrorists. But in places like Iraq the picture is a bit more murky. There one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. The way in which you see that man depends upon who you are, where you are and why you are there.
To the British, the men at the Concord Bridge were terrorists. To the Germans, the Frenchmen or Russians or Serbs or Belgians who resisted their occupation were terrorists. To Southerners, the men in Sherman's army were terrorists. Alfred Marie, the man I have written about who relayed messages by radio to England prior to D-Day, was a freedom fighter to the French, a terrorist to the Germans.
Terrorists do things that kill innocent people. So do freedom fighters. Were the American and British airmen who bombed residential areas of German cities fighting for freedom or commiting acts of terror? The answer depends upon your nationality. When bombs are dropped or rockets fired on suspected terrorist sites in Iraq but civilians, including children, die as a result was the act a part of an attempt to bring freedom to that country or one of terrorism?
It's a damn complicated question.
It's also a question that confronts any military force occupying someone else's country. If a foreign army should occupy the United States some of us would resist, thereby becoming terrorists. That's just the way it is - inevitable.
So what's the answer to the question of terrorism in Iraq? You can't defeat them by killing them. For every one you kill, two will rise up to take his place. It won't die away of its own accord any more than it did in Montenegro where the fires of freedom were kept burning on mountain tops for 800 years of occupation by the Turks. Every night during all those centuries the Turks could look up and see the flames rising in the air.
So the terrorism, or freedom fighting, will continue as long as our army occupies Iraq. Eight days or 800 years, it doesn't matter. Stomp out a fire here and it rises that night on another mountain top. Eliminate bombings in one place and they occur in another, it's all the same.
When our soldiers leave, the two factions of Islam will battle it our for a while, then peace will finally spread over the land. Will anything have been accomplished? Of course. A helluva lot of people will have died.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

An Old Story That Revives an Unpleasant Memory

I've been going over some old stories to make them ready for a collection. One I worked on today brought back memories from half a century ago when I was an operative for Pinkerton's National Detective Agency in Cleveland. In every detail the story related two actual cases I worked on but names were changed for obvious reasons.
They were sad cases in a way, as are most that end up at a detective agency. I still feel sorry that one had to end the way it did. I'll relate it as it appeared in Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine exactly 24 years ago:

Foley had little heart for the insurance job. He thought about it as he drove east on Euclid. He had ripped the woman’s story apart so easily. A five minute walk from Wellington’s National Detective agency on Public Square to the office of the Clerk of Courts. Ten minutes more checking files and he had all he needed. The rest would be window dressing.
Marie Gettis was suing the transit company for $50,000. She had been a standee on a bus that pulled from the curb with a severe lurch. Her right arm was broken in two places when she was hurled to the floor. The suit contended that she had suffered permanent loss of the use of her arm.
Four years before the accident on the bus she had been involved in another suit. In a crowded nightclub on a Saturday night she had been standing near the swinging door to the kitchen. A waiter carrying a loaded tray hurried through the door. They collided and both crashed to the floor along with the tray. Marie Gettis broke her right arm and the suit claimed she had lost the use of it permanently. The case was settled out of court shortly before the trial date.
How many times, Foley wondered, could you permanently lose the use of the same arm?
Marie Gettis lived in an old apartment building three blocks from the nightclub. The neighborhood had been steadily decaying for thirty years or more. Spacious houses, formerly occupied by reasonably well-to-do families, had been converted to small efficiency units. Scattered among them were three- and four-story brick apartments that once, long ago, had been fashionable. Signs in front of shabby business places proclaimed that easy credit was available inside. The streets were littered and foul smelling. Mangy dogs and scrawny, mean-eyed cats prowled the alleys and back lots.
Foley had posed as a credit investigator while making the required check of the neighborhood. Statements from at least three persons had to be included in his report. From the brief interviews he formed a mental picture of Marie Gettis. A cheerful, friendly woman in her early forties. Always willing to help when someone was in need of it.
Deserted years ago, according to the neighbors, by a rodent of a husband.
She had been out the previous afternoon. Now Foley had to return, take a chance that she might be on guard because someone told her a man had been around checking on her. In this case it didn't really matter. In some it did and then he would have talked to the subject first. Seeing Marie Gettis was only a formality, something he was doing merely to satisfy one more requirement of the assignment.
Foley parked a block from her apartment. He put the raincoat and hat he had worn the day before in the trunk. He sorted through a box containing a variety of articles that could alter his appearance a little and picked out a pair of dimestore eyeglasses with lenses of clear glass. A sharp-eyed neighbor might recognize him as the credit investigator of the previous afternoon but he would go ahead and take his chances. The job didn't warrant sending out a second man to inter­view the subject.
Foley rigged a white sling that was in need of laundering so that it fit his right arm. A clipboard holding a stack of printed survey forms completed his props for the pretext. It was called roping and he was an expert at it.
He walked quietly along the dim hallway and knocked softly on the door of the woman's apartment, hoping the people he had talked to the day before wouldn't hear him, open their doors a crack and peek out.
Marie Gettis opened her own door no more than six inches. She stood behind it, peering around its edge in the defensive way that people do in such neighborhoods.
Foley fumbled with the clipboard and smiled. "Hello," he said. "I wonder if you could help me? I'm making a recreational survey of the area. It'll only take a minute." He smiled again, a pleading, little-boy smile.
She smiled back at him. "I'll try." She swung the door wide. "Come on in."
Foley looked around at the worn furnishings and faded wallpaper. "Nice place," he said. "Comfortable."
She wrinkled her nose. "It's not much but it's home." Then she laughed a little, patted her hair and waved him to a chair at a large, round table that was all that separated the living area from the kitchen­ette.
He struggled to get the clipboard in position, took a pen from his jacket pocket with his left hand and carefully placed it in his right one. He sighed as though the effort had tired him.
She nodded toward the sling. "What happened?''
Foley grinned sheepishly. “Fell off a ladder a month ago.''
"You act like it still hurts."
He shrugged. "Not much. Mainly it's the inconvenience. I'm begin­ning to wonder if it's ever going to heal right.''
She laughed again. "Don't worry, it will. Look at this one. It's been broken twice and it's as good as new." She maneuvered her right arm to show him it was.
Foley sighed, inwardly this time so she wasn't aware. Why did she have to be so cooperative? Why were people so quick to let their guard down with him? He almost wished the arm hung uselessly at her side or was stiff and contorted. He liked her. He would rather be able to report that she was deserving of a large settlement. Obviously life had dealt her some hard blows but still she managed to be pleasant. Optimistic, even. His job would be easier if she were belligerent.
''Care for a cup of coffee?''
He started to say no, saw the almost eager look on her face and instead said, "That would be good." She didn't receive many visitors, he decided. To her it was a special occasion.
He watched her put a spoonful of instant coffee in two cups and add hot water from a kettle. She set the cups on a tray and then took a carton of milk from the refrigerator, poured a little into a small pitcher with pale roses on its side and put it and a matching sugar bowl beside the cups. She placed several donuts taken from a plastic bag on a plate and then carried the tray to the table.
Foley drank his coffee black but he put a little cream and a little sugar in his cup. Why had he done that? he wondered. He wasn't hungry but he ate a donut anyway. They talked a while. When his cup was empty Foley picked up the pen again and filled in the question­naire. As he left she stood in the doorway and said, "Now don't worry, that arm will be fine.'' He smiled back at her.
Light rain fell from a low gray sky. Foley dropped the sling and eyeglasses in the trunk of his car, retrieved his raincoat and hat. The roping had left him with an empty feeling in the pit of his stomach. Some insurance jobs affected him that way. Marie Gettis, he thought, would gladly have settled for her medical expenses and enough more to cover her time off work. An ambulance chaser had talked her into trying for the big score. The lawyer would keep half for himself, of course.
Fog began drifting in off the lake as he drove toward the central police station. Red, green and amber halos ringed the traffic lights and his tires sang a dismal tune on the wet pavement. Gloom settled over him as the gray mist enveloped the city. What would Marie Gettis receive after his report was filed? he wondered.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Donald Played His Trump Card

Well, like most true-blue Americans I sure did breath a sigh of relief this morning when I learned that Donald Trump's fine head of hair was intact. I should have known that last night, of course, but in a striking example of elder abuse Jackie refused to allow me to watch Wrestlemania on Pay-Per -View. Not only does she think that professional wrestling is for louts, she believes that paying more money than we already do for cable TV is a sucker's game. Boy, talk about a killjoy.
Trump and Vincent Kennedy McMahon, head man of World Wrestling Entertainment, had a bet on a match between the wrestlers of their choice and the loser had to submit to having his head shaved. Everyone knew it would be the cantankerous Mr. McMahon who would end up a skinhead, but the build up to it was fun.
So O.K., I'm a loutish sucker. I will argue, though, that wrestling is by far the best entertainment on the tube. Better even than Americal Idol and that's saying a lot. Yes, we all know that it isn't exactly on the up and up, but how many things are these days? You want drama, well here it is. The acting beats 90 per cent of that you'll see on brainless sitcoms and cop shows and what else is there on TV in the 21st century? You want action, well here it is in spades.
But it's not for real, you say? Are you completely sure that the other sporting events on the tube are strictly legit? I'm not. And on pro wrestling you don't have to watch overpaid, under-talented prima donnas acting like they are something special when half of them can't spell cat or dog like any first-grader is capable of doing. Sure, you see that stuff on pro wrestling, but as you said it's not for real. It's acting, and everyone knows it, but that doesn't spoil the fun in booing the bad guys and cheering for the good ones.
As for athletic ability, pro wrestlers put all the others to shame. As Sylvester Stallone said about it, "You can't fake a fall." And these guys (and the women too) don't just fall, they get hurled down from great heights and tossed around like rag dolls. The top stars of the NFL would take a month to recover from one match but the wrestlers do it four or five times a week.
No, you can't fake a fall. That's why there are quite a few injuries. Shattered kneecaps, busted up shoulders, backs and necks. Then after the surgery and the time recuperating at home they're back at it again.
Who are these guys? Well, there is the Olympic gold medal winner from 1996. There are a couple of collegiate national champions and every other variety of top athlete you can name. And a few real monsters standing seven feet tall and weighing 350 pounds or more. And yet some six-footer will lift one of them up over his head and toss him out of the ring. Yes, these fellows are athletes like you'll see nowhere else. And movie actors, some of them, because when casting an action shows there is no better place to look for talent. Or skilled actors.
So as I've pointed out before, when all the cheering and booing is over for the night everyone goes home happy because there are no losers, only winners. Great fun, that's all it is. Oh, and one more thing: you'll see the wrestlers making regular trips to Iraq. And there, on occasion with an explosion not too far away, you'll find the servicemen and women doing the same thing the crowds back home do - cheering, booing and just having a rip-roaring good time.
So this evening I'll tune in Monday Night Raw and I know they'll show some highlights from Wrestlemania. I'm anxious to find out how John Cena's match with the Heartbreak Kid turned out and I'm sure glad I won't have to see Donald Trump's locks being shorn. You don't see a head of hair like his every day.

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