Archive for January, 2018

The Cake Incident

When my boys were about seven and nine years old there occurred what I’ve dubbed “The Cake Incident”. Their mom, Evelyn had an uncanny ability (I know none of you moms out there had/have this) to tune the boys out, and zero in on what she was watching on TV. I was not blessed with the ability to tune them out, so I heard every word they said. I didn’t mind. Quite often, they were better entertainment than what was on television.

cake incidentSo, there we were, having a quiet evening at home, Mom relaxing on the couch, watching TV; me in my recliner, and the boys playing on the living room floor. Billy, the oldest, leaned over and asked little brother, Wes, “Hey, Wes, you want some cake?”

Wes nodded enthusiastically, and Billy looked over at Mom and says, “Hey, Mom, can we have some cake?”


So, the boys went back to playing, and about five minutes later, Billy leaned over to Wes and said, “Wes! You still want some cake, right?”

Wes is really into the idea of cake by then, and his nod is even more enthusiastic. Wes was a boy of few words, mind you, but when he decided to speak, he could blow your mind. (Still can.)

Billy looks at his mom, and a little louder this time, says, “Hey, Mom! Can we have some cake?”

Nothing. Zonesville.

So, they returned to their toys, and after a few more minutes had passed, Billy leaned over to Wes and says, “Okay, Wes, I’m gonna ask her one more time, then we’ll start tearin’ stuff up.” Wes got a wide-eyed look on his face, glanced over at his mom, then shrugged and gave a curt nod of approval.

I said, “Evelyn, you better get the boys some cake.”

She said, “Huh, what?”

The boys got some cake.


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Wows and Holy Cows

pink bugBack in the late seventies, I worked as a logger in the foothills of Mt. Rainier. The work was hard, and as a result, I was in the best shape of my life.

For a couple of those years my “ride” was a 1963 VW Bug, with little flowers painted all over the inside. The other loggers would just shake their heads sadly when I’d come “roaring into the parking lot each morning.

Out of necessity, I learned how to change out an engine on that VW bug. I drove the little car hard, and when the engine went kaput, somebody told me it was easy to take the old engine out and put another one in.

Briefly, here’s the procedure. There are four bolts holding the engine in place—and of course other smaller nuts & screws had to be removed to disengage various smaller parts. Once the bolts and screws were removed, you stood inside the engine compartment at the rear of the car, twisted the engine, pulled it out and dropped it on the floor of the garage. Without the engine, the back of the car was light as a feather, so the next step was to lift the car and roll it over the old motor and set it back down. It was a bit tricky, in that you had to straddle the engine as you walked the car forward. Next, you’d slide the old motor out of the way, slide the new on into place, and reverse the procedure to install the new engine. Piece-a-cake!

So anyhow, one Saturday morning, I was preparing to install an engine in the VW for the second time, and when I mention this to my son Billy, who was eight at the time, his eyes got wide, and he said, “Cool!”, then ran out the front door.

Later–I’d dropped the old engine, and was standing behind the car preparing to lift it up and over it–I crouched, gripped the bumper with both hands, and then a small voice behind me whispered, “Now… watch this!”

I turned to find Billy, his little brother, Wes, and four neighborhood boys standing in a row, bent forward, hands on their knees, waiting for the show Billy had obviously promised. Not one to disappoint my boys, I turned back to the chore at hand and to a chorus of reverent ooos, ahs, wows, and holy cows, I lifted the car up and rolled it over the engine.

When I turned around, there were six very impressed little boys standing there, eyes popping and mouths agape. I took a step toward them, did a weightlifter pose and growled fiercely. They about killed each other trying to get out of the garage.

I often wonder what happened to my little pink VW bug; probably a pile of rust somewhere up near the base of Mt. Rainier.


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Lesson Learned

Wes was 8 and Billy was 10, and we were home alone. I’d turned the oven on and then continued watching television with them while it heated up. After fifteen or so minutes, Billy reminded me it was dinner time, and Wes, ever the parrot, said, “Yeah… dinner.”

I got up and headed for the kitchen, the boys hot on my heels, and when I opened the oven door, they were standing side-by-side a few feet away.

exploding ovenI failed to notice the oven hadn’t lit, and when I opened the door, the combination of propane, oxygen and pilot light created a minor explosion. Thankfully, it didn’t go, BOOM, and only made a muffled, “POOMF” sound. Looking back, we were lucky I didn’t blow the house up. The extent of the damage was my moustache was fabulously curly, and I had no eyebrows.

The boys had scurried into their room, which was adjacent to the kitchen, and were staring, wide-eyed, at me from the doorway. When I smiled, they figured the excitement was over, and came scampering back into the kitchen.

They looked in the empty oven, then looked up at me. Billy grinned and said, “Cool!”

Wes said, “Yeah… cool.”

Lesson: Never close the door and walk away from a gas oven until you know it’s lit.


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Strike Three!

door to doorIs there such a thing as a door-to-door salesman these days? Probably not, since we can buy virtually anything and everything on the Internet.

I had an encounter with one back when I was barely old enough to claim adult status, but already had two boys of my own. One afternoon, I answered a knock on the front door, and found a guy standing on the porch, the screen door between us, who might as well have been wearing a sign that read, “Salesman”, on his chest. Suit, tie, hat, sample case, and a big phony smile.

“Good afternoon, sir,” he said. Strike one. He was thirty-something, and I was twenty. Don’t call me sir.

“Do you have kids?” he asked, smiling.

I looked over his shoulder at the toys in the front yard and made no reply.

“Do you have any portraits of them?” Smile widening.

One of my eyebrows arched. Strike two. Don’t go there.

“Well, then I have a deal for…” I cut him off.

“Not interested.”

“But,” he said, “I guarantee you…”

“Not! Interested!”

The smile faltered, and he said, “Oh… so you don’t love your kids?” Strike three!

I kicked the screen door open, and to my amazement, he was halfway across the yard before I stepped onto the porch. The dude was fast! By the time I got to the curb, his tires were spitting gravel as he sped away.

My neighbor across the street came out his front door, watched the car slide around the corner, then looked at me and grinned. “I see you don’t love your kids either,” he said.


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What Do You Mean?

So true!

Marbles In My Pocket ~ The Official Blog of Charles L. Mashburn ~ Poems, Short Stories, and random thoughts from the author of "Be Still... and know that I am God"

We all want to have worth and we want to believe our existence—our time on this earth—has meaning. Too many times, we look back at our lives and see nothing of value, and too often focus on the mistakes and bad things we’ve done.

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My first new car was a 1969 muscle car. I loved that car, and for almost three years it was my pride and joy. Back then, most new cars came with a manufacturer’s warranty good for 40,000 miles or three years, whichever came first, and to my amazement, when mine hit 40,001 miles, it commenced to falling apart. To make matters worse, I wasn’t through paying for the cursed thing!

I’d been watching as the mileage crept toward the dreaded 40K mark, and coincidence or not, it overheated and hissed at me immediately after reaching the dreaded milestone. I panicked, and figured my best plan would be to trade the thing in. So the following Saturday, I drove into town and pulled up to the front door of one of the local dealerships.

car overheatingI went in, told the salesman I was interested in trading for a new car, told him what a fine trade in I had, and he smiled—one of those “sure, kid” smiles—and said, “Let’s take a look at her!” Then, he opened the front door, and… the car screamed. “EEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

I just stood there, staring at the obviously demon possessed car, as steam began to spew from the grill. The salesman was shouting something, but I couldn’t hear him, and knew it didn’t matter what he was saying anyway. The jig was up, and the car from hell wasn’t going to let me get rid of it.

Eventually, I figured out what was wrong, and actually changed the head gasket myself. But that wasn’t the last of the problems, and a few months later—at a loss, mind you—I was able to trade the car off. I almost—almost—felt guilty thinking someone else would now be tormented by the cursed car.

I’m telling you, folks, the car was evil!

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Free to Roam

We were some mighty lucky kids, getting to grow up in a small town in the fifties and sixties. It seemed the desert and hills around Buckeye, Arizona belonged to no one (as far as we knew), and we were free to roam them at will. We could pick up rocks, arrowheads, firewood, you name it; it was ours if we found it first.

When we were in high school, my buddy, Greg Stanley, and I decided we’d try our hand at selling firewood. You wouldn’t think firewood to be a desirable commodity in the dessert, but it does get cold (you know, like under fifty degrees) in the winter, and some folks do have fireplaces.

On one of our trips, we had a pretty good load on the trailer by evening, so we set up camp, and after a hearty meal of steak cooked over a fire in our handy cast-iron skillet, and potatoes baked in foil and buried under the fire pit… y’all know that ain’t true, right? I don’t recall for certain, but the fare was probably more along the lines of potato chips and root beer with Hostess cup cakes for desert.

Anyway, I awoke the next morning with a warm breeze wafting across my face. It was an odd breeze—off again/on again—and seemed kind of moist. It also seemed entirely too regular. It was almost as though… something LARGE was… BREATHING on me? My eyes shot open!

cowHave you ever awakened with a cow’s face two inches from your own? It’s horrifying! Especially, when you have no idea what it is!

I screamed (yes, probably like a little girl), rolled away, and was running full-tilt one direction, as the steer galloped off in the other. Greg… was, of course, laughing hysterically. He’d watched the whole scene transpire as he sat quietly sipping orange juice. I wonder if he ever tells this story? Or even remembers it?

Yessir, them was the good ol’ days.

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Heartaches and Such

feel real good (3)When I was a boy, and I’d get hurt, my dad would sometimes grin and tell me, “Son, that’s gonna feel real good when it quits hurtin’.” At the time, I thought he was making light of my pain, but looking back I wonder if there wasn’t a bit of wisdom hidden in those words.

We all suffer pain, whether it be physical or emotional, and I know for certain, it will one day quit hurtin’. Because… if the pain isn’t gone by the time we leave this world, it will vanish in an instant when we rest in the loving arms of our Lord. He says it is so.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Revelation 21:4

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What I Meant to Say Was…

This is part two–a sequel of sorts–to my post, Come Hell Or High Water. If you didn’t read part one, what follows won’t make much sense, so you might want to click on the link and read Come Hell or High Water before you read this. In any case, Happy New Year!

That sound you hear is me chuckling as I walk down the well-lit street to my house. Yes, I had a couple beers at the local tavern—which I haven’t been to in so long, I think I still had hair last time I was there. 

grin-big-earsWhat Peg—the beer tender—actually said was, “I thought you quit drinking.” To which I replied, “I did. I think I’ll go home now.”

The stuff about the weather is about the only thing I said that had much truth to it. Although, I might add, it’s a beautiful Arizona night in early June. About 80 degrees, with a few wispy clouds drifting in front of a billion or so stars and a lazy crescent moon. Doesn’t sound quite so sinister that way, does it?

And yes, I’m a bit of a rebel, but not so much as I was when I was a teenager. Sure, if you tell me not to do something these days, I might raise an eyebrow and tell you (not out loud) where you can put it, but that’s about it. The eyebrow thing isn’t too intimidating, and truth be known the last person I scared was me, a few minutes ago, when I thought I saw my shadow move when I was standing still.

And that thing I said about something happening this morning. Well, the coffee pot quit working and the kitchen sink got plugged up. I always heard bad stuff comes in threes, so I got out of there before number three could happen. The only high water around here might be in my kitchen when I get back to the house, and the any hell this town has to worry about sure isn’t me. Which, by the way, speaking of this town, I like it here. It’s where all my friends are, and I have a lot of friends. I’m as likeable as the next guy, and when somebody needs a helping hand, they know who to call.

It was true about the guns. Not that I need any right now. I don’t own any, but know how to use them, and if the proverbial defecation were to suddenly contact the rotary oscillator, I’d be right there beside my buddies and they wouldn’t hesitate to loan me a rifle or a gun. We used to talk some about that a few years back, but the excitement seems to have died down since the last election.

As for being the strong silent type, I guess I might be a little of both those things. I’m in decent shape for a seventy-year-old fella, and I keep my opinions to myself most of the time. Back when all the excitement about guns and stuff hitting the fan was going on, I got a little rowdy on Facebook, but it didn’t take me long to figure out I wasn’t going to change anybody’s mind and they weren’t going to change mine. After a few years of being mad, I decided nothing was really changing at all—life was still pretty much like it had always been—so I quit saying mean things to people I didn’t hardly know, and went back to doing and saying things that didn’t make me or them angry.

And that brings me to the last part of my previous diatribe. Yessir, there’s no doubt I’m going to die someday, and Probably won’t nobody reading this have anything to do with it. None of us know when our time will be up, and all I’m trying to do these days is see to it I don’t hurt people. In fact, I try to encourage folks to get along and just be happy.

If you’re interested, I can always use another friend.

Copyright © C Mashburn 2017

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