Sunday Morning Grifers

The interstate is like a blood vein that transports people from one place to another, but it also transmits sexually transmitted diseases as well. In the world of transportation, Grifters are the disease of travel. To wit: Pulling into a gas station within spitting distance of I-75, I notice a guy standing outside, out of view of the cashier, and he’s watching people pull in. He waits until I start pumping gas, smiling, ambling over slowly, he strikes.

“Good morning, sir, would you like to have some free money today?” he asks.

“Oh my, a preacher, first thing in the morning,” I reply.

“I, what, what makes you say that?” he’s still smiling, but he’s stopped his spiel, and the advance on the would be victim.

“No one is giving away money these days, or any other day. Your con looks like this, you’ll offer me something of value, get me to agree to either listening to you, or agree to some sort of invitation, then you’re going to tell me heaven is worth more than money. It’s bait and switch, the oldest con in the books. It still works, that’s why it’s in the book,” I put fifty bucks worth in the truck, and the pump clicks off.

“But how did you know?” he asks.

“The smell of deceit and greed,” I tell him, hanging the pump up. “Go. Away.”

“I’ll pray for you,” he calls out.

“Good. It won’t hurt me, and it will keep you from active mischief,” I say loudly.

And away I go.

I’m looking for a life vest so I can go out with the kayak. Some places require you have one onboard, so I have to hit a retail store. I rather chew glass. But there is no other way, other than Amazon, and I do not want to wait.

I used to park in the back of the parking lot, and near a cart corral. But believe it or not, Grifters have started staking out cart corrals at retails near the Interstate. I’ve seen them take a cart from someone who has just unloaded it, push it five feet to the corral, and then ask for money, as if they’ve worked for it.

Now, I try to park in the middle of the parking lot, and across from a corral. Grifters have always been around, but they’ve become more numerous in the bad economy, and they’ve become creative. Anyone standing around talking to someone else is suspect. It’s damn early on a Sunday morning so I should be okay, but a man standing in front of the door draws my attention. Right. In. Front. Of. The. Door. It’s a good ploy because people have to walk around him, through him, or stop. I slow down, and he spots me. He looks around and realizes I’m waiting for someone else to get to the door before I do. A woman is headed in.

He knows what I am doing. But two points in time confound him. The woman is an easier mark, for women are more compassionate than men are, and he’s smoking a cigarette. Right. In. Front. Of. The. Door. He doesn’t want to move before the woman gets there, and he doesn’t want to ditch his smoke. I stop and take a photo of the sun barely burning through the clouds. The woman, who seems to understand the assignment, stops too, and she is texting someone. The Grifter doesn’t know what to do.

“The sun ain’t coming out today,” he calls to me, and I glance over to see the woman slipping towards the door, thinking the Grifter is distracted. I know she’s going to get there first, so I start walking, too. The Grifter is pleased I’m headed his way but sees the woman at the last second and turns. I go in through the out door, and the woman, who certainly has figured this out, points towards the other side of the parking lot, and when the Grifter turns to looks, she dashes through the door with a grin.

She and I trade a fist bump as we enter the store.

I drop back in the clothing section and watch. The Grifter has been had, and he knows it. In Grifter Code, nothing could be worse. He finishes his cigarette and decides to go hunting inside the store. I’m kind of hoping I’ll run into him, but I don’t. Once outside again, I sit in the truck and watch a woman with a suitcase waiting near a cart corral. Just another five Grifters before the end of the month, and I get a free set of steak knives, but enough is enough for one day.

Take Care,

Mike.

A few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small town.  From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on. 

As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche. 
My parents were complementary instructors: Mom taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey.  But the stranger … he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies.

If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn’t seem to mind. 

Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet.
(I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.) 

Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them.  Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home – not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our long time visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush.
My Dad didn’t permit the liberal use of alcohol but the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished. 

He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing 

I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked
… And NEVER asked to leave. 

More than sixty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents’ den today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.   

His name?….  
We just call him ‘TV.’ 

Someone sent this to me in email. I am not the author.

Deliquescent

The show is over.

Years spent defining a man are spent.

Now, the time is less, more important than work

And the smell of Death is faint but growing

So much to see with fading eyes

So much to feel in shallower times

But to become liquid, is to know solidity.