“When The Absurdity Of It All Becomes Real”


I am not a fan of Walmart, but they do have the best prices on Christmas lights, so I suck it up and give them my money. The same lights at Home Depot are double what I pay at Wally World.

The parking lot was full, people streaming into both entrances.

There is a line in the personal scooter queue. Seems Walmart purchased new ones that are comfier and a bit faster. I notice that many of the riders are suspiciously fit and healthy; maybe just too tired to walk. One lady had her Chihuahua in the scooter basket; the dog seemed afraid, probably knows she can’t drive the thing. Finally, the Walmart starter gives the group the checkered flag, and they roar into the store.

I snag a basket and proceed to the Christmas Decor isle, which is about one-third of the store.

A family of 15 is fighting over which lights will look better, multi-colored or red. Arguing in Spanish and some English, as to not offend us Anglos, although I know most of what they are sputtering. They finally grabbed two dozen or so boxes of the lights I wanted. Bam… lights cleaned out. Mission aborted, done, canceled.

I ask a lady that seemed to be wandering around in a daze checking her cell phone. She wears a Walmart vest and name tag, so I assume she knows something. Wrong, she doesn’t know if there will be more lights or even more Christmas decorations once the shelves were empty. I get it, supply chain problems, or perhaps clueless employees. Take your pick. I settle for similar lights, but not the ones I needed.

Standing in line, five people are ahead of me and one is a woman with an overflowing basket of groceries. Mostly junk food items; chips, beer, Hostess cupcakes, frozen dinners, cookies, Mountain Dew, and Coke. That might explain why she is as broad as tall. Not one healthy item in her basket.

What the hell? This is the garden / Christmas decoration department, not the market. The poor checker, not used to scanning grocer items, is bumfuzzled and doing the best he can. The line grows longer, now about 15 people behind me. The checker is getting slower, people are getting irritated, low blood sugar is kicking in. Christmas decorations need to be installed; the hours are ticking away.

A smallish Asian lady is in front of me; she’s done with it, walks over to the grocery lady, and loses it. Arms waving, jabbering in Chinese, but I could be wrong. She has lights that need installing and glass balls that are growing mold. The grocery lady tells her to F..k off. The checker finishes her groceries and the 20 six-packs of Mountain Dew, then she reaches into her purse and proceeds to write a check. The checker boy panics. A check, who writes checks? It’s doubtful he’s ever seen one before. He calls for a manager. Things are getting growly. My arms are going numb from the 8 boxes of lights I am holding.

The line behind me is now up to about 30 bodies, some with full carts of Christmas decorations and whiny kids. One man about halfway back is carrying a sidearm, possibly a 9 MM. We open carry here in Texas, everybody has a hog on their hip, in their car, or hidden in their purse. He is scowling, not a happy shopper.

My turn arrives. I plop my lights onto the counter. Checker boy starts scanning. ” Wait a minuet here buddy,” I say. ” These lights are suppose to be $6.79 a box not $10.79.” He scans again, then checks his cell phone and scans with that.

” Nope, they are $10.97,” he replies. Well, holy crap, all this waiting and I am getting screwed. I tell him to keep the lights and walk out.

Exiting the Garden / Christmas Department, I pass by a guy sitting on a Home Depot bucket just outside the gate. He has a sign that reads, “Homeless, Anything Can Help.” His bucket has a few coins and maybe four dollars in bills. I drop in a fiver. He says thank you and God Bless.

I’m a sucker during the holiday season. Why not. I have more than a lot of folks, and a lot less than many, but I can afford a five-dollar bill.

He looks up, our eyes meet for a split second, so, I ask him his story; everybody has one.

His name is Ted. He’s a Vietnam vet, has some PTSD and alcohol problems, and his daughter won’t let him live with her and his grandchildren, so he and the small dog sitting beside him sleep behind Walmart or wherever. So, I give him another fiver for the pooch.

I am humbled for being such a winy assed old man over a few boxes of Christmas lights. I am inwardly embarrassed. I quietly ask God’s forgiveness, hoping he is listening today.

Before I leave, I tell Ted, that he might want to find another store, people shop at Walmart because they “don’t have any money.” He laughs and wishes me a Merry Christmas.

” Turn A Burger For $15.00 Per Hour, Start Immediatley…Please!”


Photo by Ronald McDonald

I stopped by Whataburger today for a bit of decadence. I have refrained from my burger addiction for a while now, attempting to eat healthily and stay as fit as a 72-year-old can.

While waiting in line at the drive-through, I noticed three teenage boys trying to enter the dining room, jerking and knocking at the doors. Dining room closed, use the drive through the sign read. They were not happy. Since when does Whataburger close their dining room? I guess now would be the answer.

The three fell in behind my car as I barked my order into the speaker. Ten minutes go by, and I am at the window, the three boys on foot are still behind me. The lady that gave me my order looked at them like they were committing a crime. I received my food bag, but I was curious as to why the dining room was closed, so I asked her.

“Mam, is there some reason the dining room is closed? The boys behind me wanted to order, so now they are walking up the drive-through lane.

She replied, ” we can’t find anyone to work. Starting pay is $15.00 an hour with benefits, but we can’t keep anyone more than a few days. That Biden free money has ruined the country.” I said, “yes Mam, I hear you loud and clear.” She was an older lady, maybe in her early 60s, and was clearly frustrated with the predicament her store was in.

I parked and ate my burger, although it wasn’t that good, and the fries were cold and no ketchup in the bag. I let it go. But what she said, I couldn’t let go.

$15.00 an hour is $ 31,200.00 per year based on 52 weeks of work. That is what working at Whataburger will pay a young worker. Throw in insurance benefits, and that is not a bad gig if you have no education, trade, or degree. I raised a family of 4 on that 35 years ago, so don’t tell me it’s slave wages. Sure, inflation has ruined everything and wages have not kept pace with our growth and we are in one hell of a mess and it’s growing worse by the day or even the hours.

Once the Biden free money runs out, what are these people going to do? Go back to work for whatever they can get? Will that $15.00 per hour sound like chicken feed then? The Covid pandemic and shutting down our country because of a planned invasion from China has nearly ruined our economy, our workforce, and our American heritage. I know, the same old bat-shit-crazy argument that half the damn country doesn’t think China did it on purpose, but then they voted for Biden, so that doesn’t leave them with much to argue.

Gas is almost $4.00 per gallon now; how will it go over when it reaches $8.00 per gallon, a pound of hamburger will be $12.00, and a loaf of bread will be triple what we pay now. Everyone is in the same boat, liberals and conservatives, atheists and Christians, black, white and brown, we all will suffer, while the people in Washington that caused this shit-storm will still be eating at their usual expensive restaurants, drinking fine liquor and wine, and wondering what the less fortunate Americans are doing tonight? And that would be us.

“A Texas Christmas Miracle Brisket”


After sixteen-year-old Tex Styles is inducted into “The Sons Of The Alamo Lodge,” and gets his big write-up in the Fort Worth Press and a shout-out on the Bobbi Wygant Television show, his status as a “wonder kid” champion griller is increased by ten-fold. So, naturally, everybody wants a piece of Tex, or at least a plate full of his Brisket and sausage.

 His face is on the cover of Bon Appetit magazine and Sports Illustrated, thanks to Dan Jenkins. The Michelin Travel Guide lists him as the top meat griller in America and gives him a five-star rating. Julia Childs is fuming mad. 

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are Texas BBQ fans from way back. So, they send Tex an invite to prepare a meat feast at Buckingham Palace; the boy lives in high cotton and cold beer and has not yet graduated high school. 

Upon his graduation from Pascal High School in 1968, the Army drafts Tex and sends him to Viet Nam for a visit. His captain happens to be a Fort Worth boy who knows Tex’s hometown celebrity status, which, in turn, gets Tex a gig as the top generals’ chef. He won’t hold a rifle or fire a shot for his two-years tour. Instead, a smoker grill large enough for thirty steaks and ten briskets is his weapon. A color photograph of his boyhood grill instead of the usual Playboy fold-out hangs next to his cot. The general tells his men that he “loves the smell of smoking brisket in the morning.” Tex is an immediate rock star. 

Tex used his time in Vietnam wisely by learning exotic cooking techniques from the locals. 

For example, a shriveled up old Mama-San educated him on using “Vietnamese Death Peppers,” the hottest pepper in the world. If a man ate one whole, death would occur within twenty minutes, or so the Mama-San said. Tex nibbled a small end piece and was on fire for two days, unable to leave the barracks bathroom, so he figured she wasn’t bullshitting him. 

A month of experimentations with the “Death Pepper” resulted in an edible and survivable pepper sauce. Tex called it “Davy Crocketts Ass Canon,” since he is a “Son Of The Alamo” and all that. 

He found a local business in Siagon to bottle the product, and a local artist produced an excellent illustrated label for the bottle. It pictures Davy Crockett with his buckskin pants around his ankles, torching Mexican soldiers with a massive fiery flame shooting from his buttocks. In addition, the label said it’s a marinade, a pepper sauce, a medicinal elixir, and a hemorrhoid eradicator. All of this is true, so it’s bound to be a huge hit. 

In June 1972, Miss Piddle Sonjair was a nineteen-year-old winner of the “Miss Chigger Bayou Louisiana” contest. Although she is not the prettiest girl entered, she is the only one with a complete set of straight white teeth, no baby bump, and doesn’t have a snot-nose kid hanging off her hip, making her the popular winner via unanimous decision.   

As the newly crowned “Miss Chigger Bayou,” Piddle Sonjair makes her appearance at the “Shreveport Annual Crawfish, Sausage and Meat Smoking Festival,” where she meets handsome Tex Styles as she awards him the winner’s trophy. 

She is bug-eyed- shaky-legged enamored with his triple-crusty-peppered Angus brisket and his ten-alarm jalapeno wild boar sausage smothered in his secret chipmunk sauce. 

Marriage follows a few months later, then two sons and two daughters round out the Styles family. So naturally, all the kids take to grilling and smoking, just like dear old Dad.  

Tex, Piddle, and the children travel the country in their two custom tour bus’s, pulling a 30-foot smoker and grill for the next twenty years. They smoke, grill, and serve the best meats in the south, winning competitions and elevating Tex to legendary status in the grilling world. 

His Fort Worth boyhood home, listed in the state historic register, is a traffic-jamming tourist attraction. His first Weber grill is cast in bronze and displayed at Will Rogers Auditorium during the “Fat Stock Show.” Men worldwide come and pay homage to “the masters,” sacred covenant. It’s a moving sight to see grown-assed men weep while kneeling and touching the small grill. It’s one of the top tourist attractions in the south. 

Tex is now seventy-two and retired from competitive cooking. The only folks that get a Styles brisket and fixin’s are his select clientele of fifty-plus years and Father Frank, the priest at Our Lady of Perpetual Repentance church of which Tex and Piddle are members in good standing. He has more money than King Faruk, a large home on Lake Granbury, and a cabin in Ruidoso, New Mexico, so he’s in the cooking game for fun. 

Ten days before Christmas, Tex gets a call from his old pal Willie “the Red Headed Stranger,” Nelson. 

Willie, his family, his band, their families, and numerous relatives and hangers-on have planned a “Santa Claus Pick’in and Grinn’in Christmas” shin-dig at Willies Dripping Springs ranch. Willie has a hankering for a Tex Styles holiday meat feast with all of Miss Piddle’s fancy fixins’.

Tex and Willie exchange the usual howd’ys, and then Willie drops his order. 

Expecting around two-hundred-seventy-five people and assorted animals at the shin-dig, Willie needs enough food to satisfy a herd with possible pot munchies and other self-induced disorders. 

Willie’s list is a booger bear, and Tex isn’t sure if he and Piddle can fulfill it in time, so he calls in his two sons and a couple of grandkids for backup. 

Willie needs 38 each of Tex’s 30-pound “Goodnight Irene Ranch Briskets,” 45 each of West Texas spoon-fed bacon wrapped-beer can pork butts, 35 pounds of San Saba wild pig sausage, and 59 educated and certified free-range smoked chickens, with documentation attached. 

All of the sides and fixin’s, are Piddles forte’, and will consist of 175 pounds of “Jacksboro Highway Red Skinned Tater Salad”, 175 pounds of “O.B. Jauns Canobi-Oil Mexican Macaroni Salad”, 120 pounds of high octane Shiner Bock Ranch Style beans, 235 pounds of Piddles special “Nanner Pudding,” 50 gallons of Tex’s secret sweet n’ spicy Chipmunk sauce, and one bottle of ” Davy Crocketts Ass Cannon” hot sauce.

Finally, to wash’er down, 135 gallons of Tex’s unique Dr. Pepper CBD oil-infused sweet tea and 5 commercial coffee urns of Dunkin Donuts Breakfast Blend coffee. The order is too big to ship, so Tex’s fifth grandson and granddaughter will deliver it to the ranch in the Styles family food truck. Money is not a worry for Willie, so he doesn’t discuss cost, which rounds out to be about $18,000 without taxes and tips. 

Tex fires up his 30-foot trailer-mounted smoker and three custom-made “Styles Grills.” The next morning. Grandson number 3 unloads a pickup bed full of Mesquite, Peach, and Oak firewood purchased from the “Little Bobs” wood co-op in Eastwood, Texas. Tex won’t use wood or charcoal that doesn’t come from West of Fort Worth; if he suspects it may have come from Dallas or anywhere East of there, he throws it out. He is a Fort Worth boy to a fault.

At midnight, Tex pulls a tester brisket and carts it into the kitchen for a “slice and chew,” checking for tenderness, aroma, and flavor. 

When he pulls back the foil wrap, he gasps and stumbles a few steps backward. Piddle hears this and bolts to the kitchen, where she finds a “white as a ghost” Tex sitting in a chair. Thinking he is having “the big one,” she dials 911, but Tex stops the call, assuring her he is alright. 

He asks Piddle to join him next to the Brisket, telling her to describe what she sees. After a few seconds, she lets out a hound-dog yelp and crosses herself. 

There, on the kitchen counter, resting in a tin-foil boat of succulent juices, sits a 20-pound brisket perfectly shaped like the Virgin Mary holding her baby Jesus. The contour of the torso, the flowing robe, her angelic face, and the little baby in her arms look as if a great master had carved that hunk of beef. Piddle gets all weepy-eyed and announces that this is a “Christmas Miracle Brisket.” Tex takes a picture with his phone and sends it to Father Frank, telling him to get over here now; we may have a miracle on our hands. 

An hour later, Father Frank and two Nuns from the rectory view the miracle meat in the kitchen. 

Father Frank is skeptical; these things usually happen in Latin America and tend to be the face of Jesus on a tortilla or a piece of burnt toast, not a 20-pound hunk of beef brisket.  

The two Nuns intensely study the Brisket for a good thirty minutes. Then, finally, sister Mary and Sister Madgealyn, renowned experts in miracles of all things holy, inform Father Frank that this is the real deal and he should contact the Vatican, stat. So Father Frank dials the Popes’ secure red phone hotline. The Holy Father answers. 

The conversation is in Latin and lasts for a few minutes. Then, finally, a bit shook, the good Father hangs up and tells Tex that the Vatican’s special investigation team will arrive tomorrow afternoon and to please hire armed guards to protect the miracle meat. Tex agrees. 

Father Frank asks Tex if he might take a tiny slice of the useless burned fat home for religious reasons. Tex cuts a sliver from the back of the meat and wraps it in foil. The nuns, Father Frank, and the miracle sliver depart.

The following day is Sunday, and Tex and Piddle are too busy cooking to attend services. Then, around 1 PM, Father Frank calls Tex and tells him that “we have got a problem.” 

 Seems that the good Father couldn’t resist a tiny taste of the burned miracle fat before bedtime; he said it was the most Heavenly thing he had ever put into his mouth. 

When Father Frank stared into the bathroom mirror this morning, he thought he had died and gone to Heaven. But he was still here, and, instead of a 70-year-old white-haired man in the mirror, a younger version of himself with thick jet black hair and perfect white teeth stared back. His hemorrhoids are gone, his gout is healed, his vision is excellent, his knee’s and hips don’t hurt, he took a dump like a big dog, his skin is as smooth as a baby’s bald head, and he has a woody so hard a cat couldn’t scratch it. This miracle brisket is the real deal for sure. But, Tex senses there is more to the Father’s explanation. So, he presses him for the rest. 

Father Frank comes clean and begins to weep like a teenage girl having her period, telling Tex that the experience is a flat-out-miracle, and he was compelled by the all-mighty to share it with his congregation during mass this morning. So, he told them the whole beautiful story. Tex murmured, sum-bitch, and hung up the phone. 

Before Tex can get really good and pissed at the good Father, his buddy down the street, Mooch, calls and tells Tex to check his front lawn. “It ain’t good little buddy,” was all Mooch said. News travels like wildfire in a small town, especially if it involves religion.  

A hundred or more people sit, lay, stand or take up space in wheelchairs, hospital gurneys, and walkers on the front lawn. The overflow takes up his neighbors front yard. 

The block is a traffic jam, and two news trucks from Fort Worth are parked in his driveway, antenna raised and going live. Last night, the two Nuns accompanying Father Frank are now standing on Tex’s front porch, signing autographs and giving fake communion using Goldfish crackers and Sunny Delite grape drink instead of sacraments. The healing circus just hit town.

Two police officers show up. They demand to see Tex’s permit for a gathering of over fifty people and organizing an outside church service. Tex explains there is no church service, but the two nuns giving fake communion show otherwise. The cops write Tex a few tickets and leave. 

As soon as the cops depart, the Vatican Special Forces arrive. 

Five burly boys in black Georgio Armani suits wearing mirrored aviator sunglasses and sporty Italian Fedoras force themselves into the house. So, naturally, they want the miracle meat. Two black limos with fender flags are parked in front of Tex’s house. The news folks go apocalyptic. Father Frank is curbside giving a live interview to Vatican Television News. It has officially hit the fan.

The main burly boy produces a document printed on expensive Vatican parchment saying that “All Miracles involving God, Jesus, The Virgin Mary, or any relative or likeness thereof on an article of food is the sole property of the Pope and the Catholic Church LLC.” It’s signed by the Pope and has a small picture of him glued next to his signature. 

Tex claims bullshit and tells the Pope’s boys to hit the road. Piddle stands in the kitchen doorway, 9mm in hand. Her look says, “don’t mess with a Coon-Ass gal this Brisket ain’t leaving Granbury, Texas.” 

The Vatican boys, muttering select Italian curse words, leave in a huff. Tex knows what he is meant to do with the Miracle Brisket. 

Willie Nelson sees the news coverage down in Austin and calls Tex on his cell phone. ” I sure could use some of that Miracle Brisket when you deliver my order. The old lumbago and prostate cancer has been acting up and it hurts so bad I can hardly roll a joint or pack my pipe. I’ll be glad to donate a couple of hundred grand to any charity you choose.” Tex says he will send a piece if there is any left. Willie’s word is as good as gold. 

Father Frank rushes into the house, arms waving, screaming like a fainting goat. ” What in God’s name have you done you backwoods cow cooking toothless hillbilly? I’m ruined!” 

It seems the good Father made a sleazy back door deal with the His Popeness for a secret trip to the Vatican and a fancy appointment to some committee if he delivered the Miracle Brisket to Rome. So, Tex tells the good Father, in a non to gentle way, that the meat is staying in Granbury and will do whatever good it can here at home.  

Father Frank yells, ” you double dog crossing sum-bitch,” grabs the two nuns, and they are history. Tex tells them, “don’t let the door hit you in the ass.” He had a feeling that Father Frank was never as holy as he pretended to be, and the nuns were probably ex-hookers.

Tex goes to the kitchen, lays the meat on a cutting board, and slices the Miracle Brisket into tiny slivers, wrapping each morsel in a square of tin foil. He and Piddle then distribute the bites to every person in their front yard that is ill or has an apparent medical condition. He also gives a nibble to his fifteen-year-old dog, McMurtry.

Tex then sends his two sons, his two daughters, grandsons, and granddaughters along with himself and Piddle to every nursing home, mission, physician’s office, memory care facility, hospice, veterinary clinic, and hospital in town with pieces of the Miracle Brisket. 

Tex saves the last sliver for Willie.