October 18, 2017

No News From Doodlebug Island

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Dinner conversation among friends gathered at Wally’s restaurant was running to the usual regarding the inane doings of the Arizona Legislature when someone mentioned retirement, and the conversation shifted to what could be anticipated.

“Ted and I are going to travel to those places where religion isn’t the excuse for killing one another,” said Susie Higgens, a petite first-grade teacher.

“Yeah,” added Ted, “places where citizens know they’re in the twenty-first century and not stalemated in the twelfth. In short, we have no plans to visit Israel, the middle east, or Africa! Maybe we’ll see what the French or our British cousins are up to.”

“Well, Julia and I intend to travel, but our bucket list consists of National Parks, Monuments, and museums in the good ole U.S. of A!” said Morgan Conway, punctuating his remarks and the air around him with puffs of cigar smoke. “We intend to finance the trip by stopping at Indian casinos along the way.”

“Look for us to soon be on welfare. Indians will probably own our car and our house by the time we leave Oklahoma!” Julia’s drollery was an immediate counter point to her husband’s boast.

“Why don’t you give that up and join us in England?” asked Mary. “In fact, why don’t we all go together?” Her gaze took in all seven of us but settled on my wife and me.

“You’d have to count Bill out; he’s married to his newspaper and publishing company,” said my better half, “But I can go. Maybe I’ll meet an unattached royal of one pedigree or another.”

I gave her one of my patented cross-eyed, leering looks. “Normally, I stay pretty close to home just in case someone takes one of my editorials seriously and writes a response, but if my lady-love says she’s going, count me in!”

“Pinky and I plan to stay home for the first year,” said Milo Freeman, soon to retire from Arizona Game and Fish. “Oh, she’ll visit her mother in Albuquerque from time to time, but I’ve got a few stories I want to write and have Bill here publish.”

“Do it soon, Bill,” urged Pinky, so named for her red hair and florid complexion, “Maybe then we can join the travel circuit and have something to talk about besides fish.”

Surprised at this new undertaking, several in the group asked Milo what stories he had in mind?

“Oh, for starters, I want to write what I think will be a humorous interview between a reporter and a famous writer who amuses himself by claiming to have been born a twin, one of whom drowned. “Some think it was my twin; others think it was me.”

“Well, who do you think it was?” asks the reporter. “Oh, I would give whole worlds to know!” the writer says.

“I’m sorry, but that’s been done,” I said. “Mark Twain published that yarn under the title, “An Encounter with an Interviewer.”

Looking a bit surprised, Milo shifted in his chair. “Well, I have another. I’ll write about a young man who volunteers to fight in the civil war, is shocked at the ferocity of the fighting, runs away, but gathers himself and returns to the front.”

“I’m afraid that’s been written, too. Stephen Crane called it, “Red Badge of Courage.”

“How about a famous Spanish bullfighter who returns to the ring to regain his former reputation and is fatally gored?”

“Sorry! Hemingway beat you to it; he called it, “Death In the Afternoon.”

“A baby who survives a flood in the California goldfields and grows up under the name ‘Luck’?”

“Bret Hart! Milo, Is it possible you’re experiencing displaced memories of stories you read long ago?

“I’m beginning to think so, Bill. Did someone write about a bum whose efforts to get arrested and taken to a warm jail are ignored, so he goes into a church to get out of the cold, decides while there to turn his life around but is arrested for vagrancy when he leaves?”

“Guy de Maupassant, to be exact.”

“And someone has already written about a ne’er-do-well who gains success on the strength of a million-dollar note he’s been given and that no one can cash.”

“You’re back to Mark Twain, I’m afraid.”

Milo studied his hands for a moment, sighed heavily, then turned to Pinky. “Well, old girl, it seems that some other fellows have done all my work, so what say we join the group in seeing England!”

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