Sgt Howard's wedding

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Sgt. Howard
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Sgt Howard's wedding

Post by Sgt. Howard »

This is for ALL of you- just because I have an announcement to make.
A great deal of assistance here is from Al and Glytch with their respective characters- the rest (so far) is entirely my own inanity and inspired by happenings that occurred last year on these dates.




Al checked his Email as he tucked into his Bangers and chips- an unorthodox breakfast, but quick and filling. An unanswered Email had his attention-

"Luv, it appears that we have an invite to... Malott... Malott Washington,"

Rosalyn considered this for a moment- "Isn't that where your old Sargent Buddy lives? Greg and his wife?"

"Yes- apparently they've a get-together planned... commented here 'if you don't mind slumming.'- 'slumming' indeed! Having sport with me, he is." Al grinned to himself, "Wonder what this might be about."

"You won't know 'till you get there, oh silly one- in fact... have you ever even been there?"

Al thought for a moment- "No, I can't say that I have. If I am to understand it correctly, he has a library portal connected through an outhouse in a neighbor's field. An outdoor privy! ... for some reason, that only makes sense... now that I think about it, I doubt anybody of our lot has ever seen where that hillbilly lives. I do know he described it as an older double-wide mobile home..."

"What?!?" Rosalyn was stunned, "... on HIS salary he could certainly do better than that! And he is in snow country, right?"

"M'Duck, I suspect there's a number of things where the Old Sgt. sees things differently from most folks... He built an entire recording studio from salvage, remember? Apparently his skills in carpentry are a bit above average- he told me that he had pretty much re-built the whole structure of his house himself... rather proudly, I might add... anyways, he wants us there on the 16th through the 18th of April, if convenient ..." he ruffled through calendar, "... that's a weekend... very well..."


Meanwhile...

It was a rare occasion indeed when Glytch would visit the megamall in his district- something about the chaotic throng of humanity always made him... twitchy... between vacuous headed hormonal-driven teenagers, squallering children and argumentative couples, he sought brief respite.

Ducking down a maintenance hallway, he had sufficient quiet to catch his breath, if only mentally... then noticed that he was being observed by what appeared to be a custodial type in one of the open closets.

"Just needed a bit of quiet," he said with a smile- and to his astonishment, the fellow bolted with a horrified look on his face!

His first impulse was to give chase... then instead he wandered over to the closet to see what he was about.

There on the floor was some electronic gizmo with an LED readout counting seconds and minutes backwards! This was perched on top of a tin structure about the mass of a half-gallon! He immediately pulled his phone and dialed Sargent Howard... and got his voicemail... and left a hurried message...

"DAMITDAMITDAMITDAMITDAMIT!!!" he muttered as he dialed MIB-

"Billins here," came a familiar voice.

"Sir! It's Glytch! There's an IED with a timer at the downtown mall where I am! It's got about five minutes left on it! I can't raise Sargent Howard! Who do we have with EOD qualifications?"

"What!? WHERE DID YOU SAY?!? I'm sending Tom McKay- lemme get a statlinc on your... GOT IT! We will be vorping there momentarily- is there any witness traffic?

"None- there was somebody here fussing with it, but he saw me and scampered. WHAT DO I DO IN THE MEANWHILE?"

"If it gets too close to zero, VACATE THE PREMISIS- I am sending in a 'bomb threat' notice as we speak- you should be hearing evacuation commotion pretty quickly where you are. It might take a bit for us to arrive- good luck!"

Sure enough, Glytch heard the overhead PA call for emergency evacuation... and the noise level from the main section increased significantly. Then Glytch noticed the large, plastic trash can- peering in, he saw it to be halfway full of rancid food from one of the slop houses that had an outlet in the mall. Figuring to either short the circuit or mute the blast, he took the hose from the mop bucket sink and started filling the rest of the can with water. After he got it filled close to the top, he shut off the water and gingerly picked up the evil device. He noted that there was nearly three minutes left on the timer before he dunked it into the trash can, slopping a bit of excess water in the process.


Just as he did so, Billins and McKay vorped in, both in full blast suits. "Where is it? Billins demanded.

Glytch pointed at the trash can- "I dunked it in there, you have about two minutes."

"YOU DID WHAT?!?" McKay bellowed.

Apparently there was some form of anti-tampering failsafe circuitry onboard, because that's the moment it decided to short out. A deep-throated "CHUG" blew the seam of the trash can wide open, knocking down both Billens and McKay with it's contents. Glytch was knocked aside, but somehow managed to avoid the deluge. Rancid fish grease and rotted vegitation, along with the water that contained them, now covered a grand expanse of the floor and walls while a cloud of black, greasy smoke filled the room. Pulling off his blast helmet, Billins showed his face to be covered with more of this effluence- the explosion having forced it underneath the bib. McKay removed his to display the same effect- Glytch didn't trust himself, for the urge to laugh was incredible.

"Had to be black powder," McKay finally commented, "... not a lot of force in that..."

"White powder." Glytch corrected him.

Both McKay and Billins looked at Glytch, questionably.

"White Powder," Glytch repeated, "the smoke here is black- if it were black powder, the smoke would be white."

"What in the seven hells is 'white powder?" Billins asked.

"Sodium nitrate instead of potassium nitrate- 60% sodium nitrate, 20% sulfur and 20% carbon. Less potent than black and cheaper to make." Glytch recited much like a studen in exams.

McKay managed a weak giggle at this, while Billins merely scowled. Suddenly, Glytch's phone chirped- he fished it out of his pocket and checked it over.

"Hmph! Still working... impressive... and I got something from Sarge Howard."

"Sargent Howard?" McKay asked, "I've heard of him... in fact, THIS is more along his line of expertise. Why the hell didn't you call him instead?"

"Couldn't raise him- Billins decided to call you- you're EOD, right?"

"Well, YEA... if you're talking LAND MINES and DUD BOMBS and other conventional shit! Sargent Howard has a reputation for this sort of thing... DAMN! AND NOW HE'S TEXTING YOU?!? I don't believe this..."

"What's that lunatic want?" Billins asked.

Glytch read the message- "... something about getting together with him in April at his place.... hmmm... never been there... huh?..." Glytch started to giggle, then busted out laughing.

"What?" Billins and McKay asked in unison-

Glytch took a bit of time to compose himself... barely...

"He just got (snerk) the message (Giggle) I left on his voicemail (snerk) and wants to know (snerk) IF HE IS STILL NEEDED! BWAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!"

Billins sat there in shock while McKay dissolved into laughter... then Billins went though a profane litany involving twelve different languages, including a few that are no longer spoken...

“I hope you know you’re paying for the dry cleaning on these suits.”

“Boss, you and I both know those are now punishment suits for EOD’s that fail their exam or give a boss lip forevermore. I don’t think I could devise a way to clean them short of a bonfire.”

Billens looked down at himself. “Well... I think I know what your uniform is for the next week.”

Glytch made a sudden show of looking at his watch. “Oh, boy, I should probably get outta here, wouldn’t want me on the local news, right?”

“OH NO YOU DON’T!”

“Catch me if you caaaan!”- and with a quick vorp, he was gone.

Mckay gave Billens a slack-jawed look. “And we let that guy play with Unbihexium and Nitrogen Fullerenes?”

Billens issued a long-suffering sigh. “To my infinite misfortune, Tom, he is an invaluable asset to MIB and also an incalculable threat to the universe should he fall into the wrong hands or... be led astray.”

“Him? He’s an idiot that just dunked an IED in a slop bucket!”

“That slop is a whole lot better than shrapnel.” Billens grabbed a roll of paper towels from the janitor’s closet and gave some to Tom before wiping his own face. “Lemme put it this way. In a roomfull of immortals, invulnerables, and godkillers, one of the greatest strategic minds of the last two millennia said he was the most dangerous person there.”

“And we let him play with Unbihexium and Nitrogen Fullerenes.”

“Risk versus reward, kid. Risk versus reward. Imagine how dangerous he is when he’s bored. Now stop imagining, because I’ll tell you how dangerous he is. He went out for sandwiches with two friends who are just as prone to chaos, and ended up causing an international incident that involved Havana’s police headquarters being blown up and a KGB spy’s car getting stolen.”

“...What?”

“Now, What was that about a promotion you were talking about last week?”

“Uhhh... nothing, actually.”

“Damn right it was.”


Back at the library, Nicodemus's tablet gave a droning cantor- he popped it open to see the message. Grinning, he closed it and mumbled to himself, "Yes, it IS about time! This has been delayed long enough I think... and certainly Papa and step-Mama shall be in on it as well... unfortunately, that includes the little demon... hmm... and I doubt Phix would allow her to be caged and muzzled... Oy! ... his OWN stepsons will be there... are they aware, I wonder?"
Re-opening the tablet and pulling up the message, he sent a query as a reply- "Do your sons know the nature of the company you keep?" and awaited once it was sent. In less than a minute, the reply came back- "Yes, but not yet fully immersed- proceed as you did with the Pillsbury wedding."
"Hmph!... he makes it sound trivial... well, he is a goy, even if he does speak Mother tongue..."


And floating around in it's own dimension....


"Dearheart, how do you feel about a weekend in amongst the mundanes?" Neil called out from his computer.

"I think I'd rather shave my head with a cheese grater while chewing on tinfoil- why do you ask?" Phix responded.

"Really now? Greg and Annie Howard have extended their hospitality to us in April- he's even moved a custom RV on the property for our use."

Phix glared at Neil in disbelief- "WHAT?!? What manner of 'Redneck' hospitality is this? Utter foolishness... some ramshackle decrepit fifth wheel that sports plate three years out of registration and duct-tape repairs?"

"Phix my dear- when he says 'custom', he means CUSTOM- as in, the bedroom accommodates you in native form. As in, tempered ballistic glass windows an mirrors."

"Bullet proof glass?!? Why would we need..." she blushed as the answer occurred to her. "... well... I guess they remember us from the Alexander estate... but we didn't break any windows there, did we? OH! That's right... your trick with the extra pillows... I had forgotten."

"What's more, the walls, floor and roof have a MUCH higher level of insulation than the norm... for sound..."

"... sorry... " she blushed again with a smile.

"No need to apologize- a noisy lover is a fine compliment. We will have to leave Dixie here, though, he lives amongst mundanes and her antics won't go over well..."

"Her name is Aeterna, not Dixie you old Rebel! When will you accept that?!?"

"When the North concedes, and not a moment sooner..."


April 16th, 2021- Malott, Washington. 12:00 noon, local time.

"I still want you watching the outhouse, in case somebody can't vorp here," Annie told James, the older boy.

The burly, 22 year old looked at his Mother and replied, "You told me the system is pretty fool-proof- what is the worry here?"

"There's more devilment that Al and Glytch can get into by accident than you two boys managed on purpose- keep your eyes pealed." came the Mama's voice.

"I.. see... very well, then," and James cast his eyes towards the field uphill from the house.

Andrew, the tall, lanky younger son, was busy on 'witness watch' with binoculars- "Steve Mullin's out on his front property lahn- he's got optics 's well.."

"He wearin' his tin foil hat?" Greg asked with a sly grin.

"Not this tahm- HEY DAD! How soon'll they be here?"

"Should'a been here now- why?"

"Help me wi' th' tarp! Quick, afore they shows up!"

Greg was rather confused at first, then realized what Andrew was up to. Steve Mullin's paranoia was well understood by the neighborhood, and many were those who were tired of it. Probably would not be so much an issue if the fool wasn't constantly spying on everybody and reporting minor indiscretions to the authorities. Holding up one side of the tarp opposite of his son, they formed a 'curtain' between Steve and the focal point of the vorp- then turning to face their snoopy neighbor (who was 2/3 mile distant), they waved to him and pointed at the tarp.

Annie facepalmed and giggled- "Dammit, Howard- and you WONDER why YOUR SONS are so full of MISCHIEF!!!"

James was having difficulty standing upright because he was laughing so hard.

"Alright," Greg snorted to his youngest, "... when whoever arrives does so, release th' tarp on three, OK?"

A visual disturbance appeared- a split second later, Glytch and Brandy materialized on the spot.

"One, Two, THREE!" Greg bellowed to their confusion- "Quick, son-whut's he doin'?"

Andrew snagged up the binoculars - and started guffawing in earnest. "WELL?" demanded Greg.

It took Andrew a bit to gather some control before he blurted out, "... he's... hehehe... he's doing the bloody dance o' th' headless chicken!" and then burst into a fresh peal of laughter. Greg also started laughing- James on the other hand never stopped.

"What did we just walk into?" Glytch asked in total confusion.

"Got a neighbor who lahks t' spy," Greg giggled, "... so I gave him something t' spy... you need to move so's that th' Richers or th' Antonias can come in without incident."

Glytch and Brandy quickly stepped to the side- Andrew spoke urgently, "Dad! He's still a-watching!" and immediately Greg and Andrew lifted the tarp one more time.

This time, it was Al and Daisy who appeared before their eyes before Greg and Andrew did another silent "TA-DAH!"

"Sargent Howard, what are you doing?!?" the old Sgt.Maj. blustered- "Is this some sort of prank?"

"Yes- onna snoopy neighbor- Andrew, has he thought t' pull his phone jus yet?"

Andrew again sighted through the binoculars- "... no... but Ah thinks he done wet hisself... Mister and Mrs. Richer, y'all needs t' move so's Grampa Neil an' Gramma Phix can come in!"

Once more, Greg and Andrew lifted the tarp... and waited... and waited... and waited... "What th' blazes? ..."

James glanced up the hill- "Pop- we got incoming from Oiler's North field."

Looking in the indicated direction, Greg saw Neil and Phix picking their way through an alfalfa field and heading in their direction.
Last edited by Sgt. Howard on Fri Jul 22, 2022 11:32 pm, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: Sgt Howard's wedding

Post by Sgt. Howard »

Al, Daisy, Glytch and Brandy all took stock of their surroundings whilst James scampered up the hill to guide Neil and Phix to the abode- given the amount of prickly pear cactus in the vicinity, James figured it prudent to keep them on the appropriate trails. To be sure, it was an older double-wide mobile home... but the paint on it was good, and the windows all seemed upgraded to something more insulative to weather. The front door had a modest 10'x8' cover, with part of it enclosed to make a small 'mud room'- the outer portion sheltered a weber barbeque kettle that appeared well used. At the top gable of this structure sat a large clock- upon closer examination, along with the time, it displayed the day of he week. The dirt and gravel driveway was relatively level as it led up to the main shop that was clearly labelled "GUNSMITH"- to the left of this was another structure with a western false front- no lettering, but a black, wooden silhouette of an anvil marked it as a Blacksmithy. The front yard, tiny as it was, had two large locust trees on the west border, with two much younger specimens of the same on the east. The southern border was the top of a retaining wall, and gave a wonderous view of the southern Okanogan Valley.
Together they all greeted Neil and Phix at the north gate, James having led them through the labyrinth of anti-personnel flora common to high desert. Proper greetings ensued... handshakes, hugs and pleasantries flowed as easily as water down a creek as the party slowly meandered to the front door.
Once inside, Al and Neil caught their breaths- as did Phix and Brandy. Daisy looked about, totally dumbfounded while Glytch simply raised his eyebrows.

There was no cheesy paneling such as Mobile homes are famous for- seamless plaster walls with wainscoting were present where wall could be seen. Massive bookcases of stained knotty pine covered most of the wall space, each one loaded with books. A hardwood floor covered here and there with Victorian patterned rugs shone with lovingly applied multiple layers of spar varnish, while brass and antique bronze light fixtures were mounted on a beautifully aged tin ceiling. At critical locations, a kerosene lamp would be mounted in a wooden sconce that held a tin reflector (that clearly had adorned a can of food at one time) and a small drawer, presumably to hold matches.

The effect was such that Al stepped outside to see that he was in the same building.

Stepping back in, he turned to Greg- "My Gods! You did this yourself?"

"A s'prisin' 'mount of it is the work o' THIS pretty Lady," he offered, indicating Annie, "... there mor'n one reason I love her."

"How did you get that tin ceiling so level?" Glytch asked.

"Whelp, th' lattice thayt th' tiles 'er nailed t' 'er screwed through th' old ceilin' raht inta th' truss bottoms."

"Lattice? How do you mean, lattice?"

Annie gathered up the Ladies and offered them seating- "I'm willing to bet he'll even tell how many nails he used before he finishes... you girls want some coffee? We've also got sugar cookies oatmeal cookies and cornbread..."

Neil, Al and Glytch all perked up at the word 'cornbread'- all three spoke in unison "Cornbread?"... Neil and Glytch in anticipation, Al with a mild level of disgust.

All parties were seated in the cozy parlor (the Victorian effect was enough that the term suited the setting perfectly- one could hardly suspect this was a mobile home from inside), Greg stood to address them. All looked expectantly, for there had never been given a reason for this meeting. He looked at Miss Annie, there was some silent discussion between them... then he addressed the room.

"Annie had filed fer divorce on th' 31st o' December. On th' 6th o' this month, it had been granted. Ah paid fer th' whole thing."

The silence in the room was deafening. Brandy sat in her chair, mouth agape and totally stunned. Glytch's face was a perfect question mark. Neil and Phix both had a thoughtful expression as they tried to digest this information. Al and Daisy were totally shocked... and in Al's case, recovery was not too far away.

Finally he sputtered, "... uh... let me see if I have this correct... you two are divorcing?"

With a mischievous grin, Greg replied "... Whal naow... ANNIE is divorcin'... Ah HAIN'T!"

With a dawning look of comprehension, Phix pointed at Annie and chirped up, "YOU were still married to a previous spouse!!! Such scandal!!! Yet... you two have been together...??... what? At least a decade now!"

At that moment, the ripcord was pulled and pandemonium reigned as a multitude of opinions and questions competed for audience. Finally, Greg put up his hands to indicate quiet- "Yes, yes... Annie has finally divorced her FIRST husband, th' biological father o' these here boys. As t' why we waited so long... whal naow... Warshington has sum funny laws regardin' divorce wi' children- both parents need t' go t' a special class 'bout raisin' children inna 'divorce, an' a 'parentin' plan' needs t' be 'stablished with th' court. He wouldn't have nuthin' t' do with it... so a divorce couldn't happen."

"So... what change all that?" Neil asked.

It was Andrew that replied- "Ah turned eighteen- it were no longer enny issue,"- his replication of Greg's drawl was perfect.

Finally, Al found his voice- "You BOUNDER! WHY did you WIND US ALL UP WITH THIS TALK OF DIVORCE then?"

Annie was giggling by now- "He wanted to see your reaction..."

There as a heartbeat of silence, then giggles and laughter filled the room. Even Al shook with merriment at the prank.

Daisy suddenly caught herself and looked directly at Annie- "Now just a minute- YOU are a free woman... as of... the sixth?"

Smiling, Annie replied, "Tuesday last, yes-"

Brandy caught on- "... and we are here for the weekend?"

Phix looked first at Annie, then at Greg, then at Annie again- "Let me take a wild shot here- will Nicodemus be arriving tomorrow? and at what time?"

"Raht 'bout noon- Ah've been consulting him 'bout a number o' things here... diet seems t' be a might fussy, but we kin manage..."

Neil burst into laughter. Glytch now sat with mouth agape. Al commented, "... you absolute WEASEL! First you trap ME into the most wonderful union in existence... and now you trick me into being at your WEDDING! Why can't you do things above board socially?"

"Wahr's th' fun in thayt?"


Supper involved a properly done Beef Wellington, mashed potatoes with two different gravies, peas with pearl onions, a vegetarian quiche, jalapeño pickled carrots and of course the assortment of pickles and olives on a pass-tray. Also present was a fresh loaf of bread and a tub of local butter. A rather earthy Cabernet Sauvignon and a light Claret, both local, were present as well as a selection of sodas and juices. The table had to be expanded in the parlor, as the dining area was a bit too small for ten to be seated- this was of minor issue, as the view out the south wall windows was unobstructed in either room.

"So, you waited until ... Andrew, right? (Andrew nodded, his mouth full of beef) ... was of age before filing for divorce?" Glytch ventured, "I am surprise you didn't just.. you know... dust him."

"Crossed m' mind- but no matter what happened or such... Ah mean, iffen he got drunk an' plowed inta a telephone pole... Ah'd be a prime suspect..."

"Why didn't you notify us sooner that you would be getting married?" Daisy prodded Annie, "I mean, we hadn't even thought about a wedding present."

"Really didn't want any wedding presents, to be honest- Howard here figured this to be the easiest way to avoid it."

"So... I notice YOU call him 'Pop' while Andrew calls him 'Dad'- any reason?" Neil directed this at James.

"Well, first of all- you see, he never asked us to call him anything. We first started by calling him 'Greg'- and it's the sort of thing where, we KNEW he wasn't our birth Father... but like, he was doing the job that out birth Father never did... Andrew started calling him 'Dad'- but somehow, having used that title on Richard, it didn't sound right to me- so I started calling him 'Pop'- he's never objected."

"Richard- that's your birth Father's name?" Phix asked.

"Yup- and I have no trouble calling him that."

"So then, who was the one that managed a Wellington here?" Al asked.

"That were me," Greg admitted, "Ah have t' 'mit, Ah'm partial t' it."

"A hillbilly in upstream Eastern Washington- heh- 'WARSHINTON' a you so quaintly put it- and yet this is as good as I've ever had in my homeland- where did you learn this?"

"M' second wife were an English subject," he replied, "she taught me."

"Pickled jalapeño carrots? Wherever did you get this recipe?" Daisy gushed.

"Howard pulled it off the internet- in fact, HE'S the one who did these- you like them?" Annie replied once she cleared her mouth.

"I need that myself," Brandy intoned, "although I suspect allowing them to age will be a challenge..." she was watching Glytch shove an indecent amount into his mouth as she said this.

"Another slice of the beef, please... and a bit more rare, if you could..." James requested of Greg.

"Much more of that and your gout will wake us all up tonight," Greg responded, "... I suspect we all need a good night's sleep as it is."

"Aw, c'mon, Pop..." he protested.

"English blood, have you?" Al asked.

"Welsh" James responded.

"Same difference- I believe the Welsh is where we get it from- regardless, I also suffer on occasion. Learn your portions and abide by them, there's your best bet. Could I have a dab more potatoes and gravy there- yes- THAT's the ticket!"

"You know, you COULD have done this at OUR estate," Daisy offered, "or even Monica's Island, for that matter..."

"The Library could easily have hosted another Wedding, for that matter- " Phix added, " ... since your Father was wed there, it would seem only natural to me,"

Annie took her napkin and wiped her mouth before speaking- "... and admit to the whole paranormal world that we were (here she gestured quotation marks with her fingers) "living in sin" the past fifteen years? No thank you- I know how many of your society consider Marriage in the human understanding to be a curiosity more than anything else, but there are those who would hold to the letter of the law in this matter- and I don't care to ride that storm if I can avoid it."

"Fair enough," Neil stated, " I daresay we are honored to be party to this."

Al raised his Ginger Ale- "Hear Hear! To the soon-to-be newlyweds- Many years and blessings!"

Everybody else grabbed what they were drinking and followed suit- "Many years and blessings"

Annie blushed with pride and joy- "Alright now- be sure to save room for pie..."

"Another local delicacy?" Al asked.

"The apples came from the orchard across the road- we dried the slices last harvest and reconstituted them for the pies" Annie replied.

"Apple pie? LOCAL apple pie?" Glytch asked just before he shoveled another load of peas into his mouth, "Damn... can we have that for breakfast?"

Laughter fill the room.
Last edited by Sgt. Howard on Sat Jul 23, 2022 1:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Sgt Howard's wedding

Post by Sgt. Howard »

There was an hour of family chit-chat after the dinner plates were cleared- Greg did the dishes as Annie stowed the leftovers. Al, Glytch and Neil offered assistance in the kitchen, but Greg explained that even though he expanded the kitchen, there was barely enough room for two people to work it.

"Damn thing were d'signed by a bachelor who did't know how ta cook! Ah shoved thet wall six inches t' th' West, an' it STILL ain't raht."

"What?" Al spoke, "Cabinets and all, you moved it?"

"Actually" Annie stepped in, "He built the one wall that you now see and tore out the old one. And these are not the original cabinets- those flimsy things were burned (YeeeUP!" Greg asserted proudly). We bought these as modular units from Home Depot and installed them one paycheck at a time well before Howard got involved with the Library and MIB... after all, how else on our income could we do natural hickory cabinetry?"

"YOU did this?" Glytch asked, somewhat surprised, "I'm impressed."

"Phah!" Greg muttered, "'Tain't nuthin' speshul- they makes it so ennyboy kin do it, iffen they knows how t' work with tools." The small mound of dishes migrated from the counter to the sinks, then to the dry rack as he spoke- in a short time all was done.

Joining back with the other couples, Annie and Greg sat down- Annie then quietly asked, "Pie?"- there was a fairly enthusiastic reply, whereupon she turned to James and asked, "Would you be so kind? And Andrew- get some dessert dishes and forks please- OH! and the Huckleberry ice cream as well... might need spoons..."

"On it Mom," and they both went for the back mudroom that also serve as a massive pantry.

"??... did you say, 'Huckleberry' ice cream?" Al asked, "I never knew there was such a thing."

"Yup- pure local, ain't nuthin' lak it inna whole world."

"Oh my," Glytch manage as he contemplated his options, "I'm thinking just a sliver of pie and a smidge of ice cream?"

"Ha! You can TRY, but I doubt it will stop there," James countered as he strode into the room with two of the three pies- Andrew followed with a gallon tub of ice cream...

In short order, pie was sorted with sidecars, Glytch taking about one-third of a slices with a heaping tablespoon of the ice cream. Annie delved into her serving in solemn silence, reveling in the absolute decadence of the treat. Neil's eyebrows shot up with his first taste. Daisy was equally astonished by the pie- "WHERE did you buy these apples?" she asked.

"Didn't" Andrew replied, "They're culls"

"Eh now?" Al asked, "what are 'culls'?"

Glytch looked up in astonishment. Neil started to snicker. Phix covered her mouth with one hand, attempting to hide her amusement. Brandy showed complete confusion.

"You silly son-of-an-ape!" Daisy spouted, "They gleaned them off the ground after harvest! And since they were being dried, you simply cut off the bad parts as you sliced them, right?"- that question aimed at Andrew.

"Yup- Me, James and Dad went through th' orchard across th' street raht after th' pickers were done with wheelbarrows an' garden cart an' kept goin' 'til sundown- Momma's got six gallons o' Applesauce an' fifty summodd pounds o' dried apples in th' back!" he was clearly picking up Greg's drawl.

"Andrew, you're sounding more like an old hillbilly... " James piped up- then stopped dead cold and gave a nervous glance at Greg.

"You gotta problem wi' thayt?" Greg quietly asked. There was no tone in his voice.

Flushed, James replied," No, Pop- but it's the sort of thing that turns off employers... nothing personal, you understand..."

Al nearly choked trying not to laugh with a mouthful of pie. Glytch's jaw dropped. Annie looked at the ceiling, shaking her head. Phix sat back, highly amused at what was transpiring. Brandy cocked an eyebrow at James. Daisy was fighting the urge to giggle.

"James," Greg slowly drawled, "Have ye evah knowd me t' be un'mployed fer more'n'a week 'for Ah stahted wi' MIB?"- the drawl was remarkably thick now, not QUITE unintelligible, but certainly less and less of a flatlander's speech.

"Uh... no... but you see, YOU can do ANYTHING, and-"

"An' no bossman knows theyt 'till Ah DOES it!" James got even redder "... Andy wants t' speak lahk his Pa, it won't hurt him none- he gots plenny skills theyt he kin prove- ye don't gotta worry none fer it, he'll do jus fine. Now, 'round THESE parts, folks knows me. They knows Ah taught yew boys, an' there's commendations a'plenty rahyt thar. He talks lak a hillbilly yew says- he's got th' manners o' a fahn Gen'lem'n, and THAYT speaks louder thayn enny drawl. Unnerstan'?"

"Yes Pop."


As the evening drew on, James retired to his cab-over camper while Andrew got into the travel trailer that Greg and Annie kept- Greg walked Neil and Daisy to what appeared to be a rather luxurious airstream... until you got close enough to realize it was much bigger than the typical Airstream.

"Who made this? It certainly isn't what it appears to be," Neil commented.

"Started lafe as a thutty-aight fut reefer wagon- Little bi o' modification, an' she make a raht fahn rollin' 'no-tell-motel'. Iffen she were one inch wayder, Ah'd needs me a speshul parmit jus t' put her onna road. 'Spenshun and frame rated fer twenny tons- Ah gots ballistic glass inna winders an' s'ports ev'ry four feet on both rails- sound proofed 's well. She'll take abuse..."

Phix was turning bright red...

Back in the house, Al and Daisy were settling into the Western bedroom, while Glytch and Brandy were doing the same in the North-West bedroom.

"Not quite like home, eh?" Al commented to Daisy.

"The whole structure is 24 feet by 48- our main parlor is bigger than this- but it is very well done, I can't fault the work they have put into this. Cozy... but ... homey ... yes, that's the word for it- homey. I get the feeling either one of them would survive well on far less than what they have here."

"They have each other- and to them, that's their true wealth. Their boys- hmpf!- quite the pair, aren't they? James seems a bit... arrogant?... for one so young, wouldn't you say?"

She looked back at him- "What? the son of Greg Howard? Arrogant? How could that possibly be?" she gleefully acted shocked at the thought.

"Careful Dear" he cautioned, "these walls are thin..."

She looked at him- then batted her eyes- "Well... we'll just have to stay quiet, won't we?

Meanwhile, next door-

"You know, my old apartment was the size of their living room- and right now I consider their living room small. Weird, isn't it?" Glytch pondered.

"All things relative, I suppose- in perfect honesty, I can think of far less pleasant accommodations I have been in- but that's not a discussion for tonight, Studly-" she leered at him seductively, "... I am thinking I need a little... comforting... in these strange surroundings..."

Glytch immediately did some quick calculations regarding his distended abdomen. Yes, he had calculated a full meal... and figured for dessert...

But apparently, he forgot about cheesecake...
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Re: Sgt Howard's wedding

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Being an early riser by nature, and still being on East Coast time, Al found himself wide awake at 02:30-

"Nothing to be done for it," he muttered to himself as he slowly padded to the kitchen to see if he could figure out a cup of coffee in this house- he was pleasantly surprised when his nose informed him that coffee was already there, waiting for him!

By the dim light that the kitchen shed into the parlor, Al saw Greg sitting down with a mug of morning mercy.

"Bit early for you, isn't it?" he casually remarked.

"Ever had a hard time sleeping on Christmas Eve as a child?" Greg replied- all traces of his normally present drawl were gone.

"Faugh! Christmas was never much of a celebration when I was growing up... but that's neither here nor there. You're not getting cold feet, are you?"

"Too late to worry about that- pull yourself a mug and have a sit- we're a couple of hours from daybreak."

Sitting down, Al took a close appraisal of his blood brother- not fear, not even excitement... but a solid grasp of a milestone being approached. Good. The Old Sargent was merely reflecting on his life and putting things in order.

"Sorry about that issue with James," Greg commented, "... he can be an arrogant little shit on occasion."

"Couldn't imagine where THAT might come from..." Al rejoined, expecting a return volley.

Instead, Greg just chuckled and said, "...couldn't tell you- blindsided the hell out of me, truth be told... NOT!..."

Both men laughed mildly at the joke- then Al spoke- "Here now- I was honestly expecting you to bristle at that... are you alright?"

Greg turned full face to Al and smiled- "Start an argument with nobody watching? Where's the fun in THAT?!?"

After a stunned silence, Al again started to laugh- Greg joined in with him...

"Bit of brisk out there- definitely below freezing, since I hear the wind machines running- Care to watch the sun come up?" Greg asked.

"Not really dressed for it, you know," Al replied, ".. I see you're kitted out properly."

"Heat won't come up to 70 until 06:00," Greg explained, " rustle your pretty Missy some coffee and get some warm duds on. Sunrise in this Valley is never a disappointment in the Spring."

"I'll brace myself properly, but Rosalynd will not be deprived a lay-in. Even with us being on an earlier schedule than this time-zone, waking her now might be hazardous." he said before taking a sip of his coffee-

"I have to ask- what coffee is this? Remarkable flavor..."

"Black Rifle "Freedom Fuel"- a bit pricey, but worth it. We grind every morning. Can you get yourself layered without waking her?."

"Faugh! She can sleep through machinegun fire in the morning- just don't let her smell coffee... especially something this fine..."

Minutes later, two old veterans sat on the Eastern side of the small front lawn and looked out over the portion of property that is the garden. Most of it was actually well below the level of the lawn and sloped in terraces North to South as you gazed towards where the sun would be expected. At the upper level just one terracing below the level of the lawn were the two studios- one for music, the other for art- that Greg had built from salvage. Uphill from those was the Greenhouse that Annie prized, ironically sitting on top of a root cellar (24" of insulation made that combination work!). Further East of this was the pump house.

"You've done rather well for yourself, Sarge- I daresay I don't know that many that would even attempt this." Al commented.

"Nothing more than persistence, Al- nothing more than persistence. What I didn't know, I either learned or saved up until I found someone who DID know. There's a whole shelf in the library that's TIME/LIFE books on carpentry, electrical, plumbing and the like, along with other 'do it yourself' books- I've even got one on fireplaces and another on stone walls."

"EGAD- you're not contemplating a FIREPLACE and CHIMNEY on this structure ... are you?"

"No- not enough room, actually... and fireplaces are filthy things to contend with. I just saw the book at one dollar and figured, 'why not?' Besides, we have an electric "cast iron stove" that we use in Winter on occasion- provides great heat and does the artificial flame routine. Yea, it's bogus... but I like to contemplate it on Christmas mornings"

The Eastern sky was slowly coming to light.

Greg spoke again- "Odd, isn't it- you and I met arguing over the electrical solution to a car that neither one of us owned."

Al burst a laugh at this unexpected comment- "Argument? Is THAT what it was? I seem to remember you and I taking physical swipes at each other!"

Chuckling, Greg replied, "Two proud old warriors butting heads- what could be more natural? Civilians will never understand that, you know..."

"Indeed- from there, you got slipstreamed into my personal mayhem by a 'Doc Johnson Nagasaki special'!

At this point, both men roared with laughter. It was that deep, soul-cleansing laughter that gives life to the near dead and hope to those who suffer- but here it was merely two old blood brothers reminiscing over the absurdities of their lives.

Many memories flooded forth- many laughs, a few tears... moments of astonishment at things they lived to tell about, friends made, families started, the occasional loss of life... each man spoke of things that the other never knew during their many adventures. Al was astonished to find out that Greg had discovered the Library by accident- and used it to research the 1912 Harley Davidson single-cylinder chain-drive motorcycle! Greg found Al's earliest encounters with MIB totally hilarious, that they couldn't find anyone with the engineering qualifications AND security clearances until they ran across HIM!

"See here, Greg- I don't care to be an alarmist," Al spoke as he looked at the horizon, "... but isn't that a rather...reddish... hue I see n the morning sky?"

"Hmm?- so it is, so it is... not to worry here, Al- Mother Nature is not all that predictable in Okanogan County... and in March clear though May she goes completely off her meds. My bones are saying 'fair weather', that's a better bet than some old sailor's adage."

Slowly the stars winked out in the eastern sky, and the process continued across the canopy towards the west as the red dawn blazed to purple and orange on the scant clouds that wreathed the local hills. Presently, the back door of James's camper swung open and he climbed out, pausing only to see the two older men sitting in the lawn chairs in the frosty environment.

"Bit early for you, Pop- getting the jitters?"

" 'Course Ah am, y' youngin'- still gonna do it, doan' you worry none,"

Al laughed at this- after James swaggered to the front door (for that was the mode of walk he normally did), Al turned to Greg- "Does he even understand you don't always speak with a drawl?"

" 'Course he does- jus lahk AH knows he doan' always walk with a swagger,"
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Re: Sgt Howard's wedding

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Annie awoke... sort of... and was surprised to see the other side of the bed to be abandoned. Substantial light was piling through the windows, enough to tell her the sun wasn't quite visible yet, but was thinking about it. Greg was not in the bathroom off the master bedroom, so e was presumably in the kitchen awaiting the coffee machine to finish...

"Cooooffeeee!" she moaned out in her best zombie-like fashion.

To her surprise, it was James's voice that replied, "Pouring for you now, Mom."

Brow furrowed, she asked, "Where's your Dad? Is he out there?"

"He and Al are out on the front yard, yakkin'. I think they waiting on the sun."

"Al?" she thought, "... who's Al?... OH... that's right! We have company... "

"Don't bother bringing it back here- I'll put on some clothes and take it out there."


Sweats, jacket, mukluks and ushanka later, with coffee in tow, Annie padded out to the spot where two curmudgeons had encamped- pulling another lawn chair with her, she parked next to Greg.

"Come to see the sun come up?" Greg laughingly greeted her, "... I'd heard rumors of it happening, but wanted to see for myself."

"Just wanted to make sure you two aren't plotting something to wreck the day," she replied after kissing Greg, " You BOTH have a reputation there, you know..."

"Such an accusation! Madam, you wound me!" Al mockingly protested.

"Not near as much as I WANTED to on occasion," she replied, "Havana? Upper Peninsula Michigan? Some abandoned Mining town in Nevada? Need I go on?"

"Al," Greg cautioned, "in the absence of a lawyer, I would remain silent right about now..."

Al pretended to bluster, then joined in the giggles with Greg and Annie- "... very well... mea culpa... here now, THERE's a familiar glow..." he pointed to the hill top to the East.

The beautiful colors on the scattering of clouds started to fade slightly as a stark edge of direst sunlight scorched it's way over the horizon. Suddenly there were shadows on the ground with clear edges and one could watch the sunline cascade down the hill from their vantage point onto the valley below. In a breathtaking display of promise, the sun started it's slow trek across the sky.

"Hey Pop," James called from the front door, "We got life stirring in here. Seems Aunty Daisy and Aunty Brandy are wanting some thirty-weight, and Aunty Daisy is a might grumpy about something..."

"Oh dear," Al muttered, " I need to see to my Dam. Normally I serve her coffee in bed, you know- "

"Hol' on there, Al," Greg replied before he turned back to James, "Give her a mug of it and send her out hyar. She'll love th' view."

"Are you sure about this?"

"Iffen it backfires, Ah'll take th' heat."

Soon, a somewhat disheveled Daisy appeared with a Winter Jacket over a housecoat and PJs came shuffling out with fuzzy slippers- her face was rather pouty as she clutched a mug that proudly proclaimed "Gryffindor Alumni". Her visage changed to wonder as she saw the morning tendrils of sunlight finishing their magic on the valley below.

"Oh my LANDS!" she finally exclaimed," no WONDER you are in love with this place! I never really appreciated this view yesterday, what with you pranking your neighbor and all- You watched the sun come up, didn't you?"

"Guilty as charged, M'Duck- guilty as charged. Got up at an un-Godly hour and found yon redneck contemplating his navel over a cup of coffee, and the two of us decided to greet the rising Sol."

"James ought t' be startin' Breakfast, ah, here comes th' other n naow," Greg pointed at the travel trailer that Andrew was yawning and shuffling out of, " th' two o' them got it unner control."

"Dare I ask, what's on the menu?" Al queried.

"Whelp, thar's a bit t' work with- there's biscuits & gravy, hog jowl, cornbread & local butter, eggs t' yer pleasure," here he looked directly at Daisy, "and a double helpin' o' grits, with fine imported molasses an' a side o' okra 'n' collard greens!"

Daisy went wide eyed and licked her lips- Greg smiled and said, "Figgured as much..."
Right about then, Neil came out of the aluminum rig and stretched out a yawn- seeing the cluster on the lawn, he moseyed over to greet them.

"Fine accommodations there, Sargent- I daresay 'Miss Kitty' (Al gave a snerk at this) found them adequate." Looking up the hill, he spotted movement- "Greg, why is your neighbor scanning us with binoculars?"

"That meshuganah schluck!" Greg spat out, all traces of drawl having evaporated, "Can't leave anything be, can he?"

"Isn't this the same fellow you entertained with us appearing from behind a tarpaulin?" Al asked.

Annie looked and waved- "Yea, that's Steve- Steve Mullen- most troublesome busybody this side of Petunia Dursley. He reports anything that doesn't square with his thinking and has gotten more than a few in trouble by it... look, he's shying for cover..."

"Only because he knows he's been spotted- he's simply gone to cover... I would love to ... adjust... is attitude someday..."

"Who's attitude are we talking about?" Brandy asked as she stepped out the front door, "... Sarge, I've never known you to back down from an asshole."

"If I lay a hand on this nutcase, the law will be on his side." Greg responded.

"Sooo... what is he doing?"

"Snooping." came several voices as one- Greg clarified, "Every now and then, I catch him spying on my activities with binoculars or camera- no idea what he hopes to see, really... except something that he can report to authorities, I guess. When we had you and Glytch suddenly "Appear" from behind that tarp, I guess that made us a priority target... not very smart on my part."

Brandy took this all in and looked in the indicated direction.

"He's not para-aware, is he?" she asked.

"Nope- an' wuteveah you are thinkin', Ah'd advise agin it." Greg responded.

Brandy continued to look in the man's direction. "He's using binoculars..." she calmly stated, "... one moment please..." and she returned into the house only to re-appear a minute later, carrying a vanity mirror from the main bathroom.

"Let's see how well this works," she muttered as she moseyed into the fresh sunlight.

The angle between the rising sun and Steve was less than 60 degrees- Brandy pulled a lawn chair alongside a "T" post that held a rain-bird water sprinkler such that it was in line between her and the offensive human up the hill. Figuring that Steve would be focused on her, she used the post as an aiming device for the sun's rays off the mirror- a quick yelp echoed down the slope and Steve was seen vigorously rubbing his eyes before blindly staggering back to his house.

A chorus of laughter then ensued from the party on the lawn.
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Re: Sgt Howard's wedding

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Right about then, a semi-comatose Glytch ambled out the front door- “Mrnng erb’dy.” Glytch croaked as he emerged, slouched against the doorframe and nursing a large glass of “breakfast sludge”: 4 cups of milk, three packets of chocolate Carnation Breakfast Essentials, and a very hearty squirt of Hershey’s syrup. “Whahdi-miss?”

Al peered at Glytch and at the thick witch’s brew in his hands. “It seems your partner just shot a sunrise directly into the binoculars of a nosey neighbor... the sunrise itself was rather spectacular, by the way,"

“Mrhf. Snris’s r ov’r-rated.” Glytch took a few large gulps and cracked one eye slightly open. “Sunsets r’ where it’s at. Wha nosy neighbor we talking 'bout?”

Al couldn't stop staring at the sludge- “Have you ever given some thought to trying coffee in the morning?”

Glytch shuddered. “I’m addicted to caffeine enough as it is, and my lower GI tract doesn’t take kindly to coffee. And it tastes horrible.”

“Can’t be worse than that cup o mud.” Sarge tilted his head. “It’s almost as thick as motor oil.”

“Tha’s how I know i’s good.”

Brandi took one look at the others and then at Glytch and his chocolate sludge. “Don’t worry, he’ll burn it all off. I’ve gotten him down to three packets.”

Now it was Al’s turn to shudder. “Down?”

Glytch grinned evilly. “I used to use four packets and two scoops of Death By Chocolate ice cream, too.”

Sarge chortled. “No wonder you vibrate when you get excited.”

“Tha’s how I know it’s working.” Glytch smirked and took another gulp.


Phix awoke to the chatter outside- removing her blinder, she assayed her situation with a moment of confusion. A quick peek through the curtain gave her enough bearings whereupon she reduced to human form and made use of the facilities that the custom rig had to offer. That done, her nose caught a friendly scent and led her to a cup of tea that Neil had thoughtfully left for her. She dripped a dash of honey into it and sipped it with relish- was it the honey? She dipped her fingertip into the honeypot and tasted... it had a slightly husky, feral flavor that she had never experienced before- a perfect match for the tea, which was an Irish breakfast variety.. The label was that of a local bee-keeper- "Buckwheat Honey" it proclaimed with a small embellishment.

"I must get contact information for this," she thought to herself as she started pulling on sturdy thermals before venturing into the brisk Okanogan spring morning.

Bundled against the morning chill with tea in hand, Phix meandered up the pathway to the front lawn.

"What have we here? a pre-nuptial sun worship?" she asked in a playful tone.

"Somewhat, my love-" Neil responded, "... these two (he indicted Greg and Al) came out for the sunrise, and the rest gravitated in the same direction."

"I also had some fun with a neighbor," Brandi intoned with a wicked grin, " ...and I suspect he'll respect your privacy from here on out."

"Oh dear," Phix giggled, "What exactly did you do to him?"

"He was watching through binoculars- I borrowed this mirror from the bathroom..." and she left the sentence hanging.

Greg bust out laughing at this- Al developed a bad case of the giggles. Glytch looked completely confused by this. Daisy actually snorted coffee out her nose. Annie called to the house for some paper towels on the quick- Andrew was out with a roll in a matter of seconds. After a bit of mopping and nose blowing (with Daisy profusely apologizing for the incident), things were brought back under control...

"Alright then..." Phix cautiously ventured, "... so... you reflected the sunrise directly into his lenses?"- Glytch also showed strong interest as he sipped his sludge.

Demurely, Brandi replied, "But of course- then he made an unfortunate noise and stumbled back to his house... seems he had trouble seeing..."

It was now Glytch's turn to choke. He recovered quickly enough.

"WHAAAAT?!?" Andrew squawked, " ... who did you...?"

Still laughing, Greg merely pointed at the Mullen House. Andrew stood in stunned silence, gawking in the direction that his Father had pointed... then giggling like a mad thing, he went back into the house. Moments later, he re-appeared with a fresh pot of coffee.



Still snickering somewhat, he offered, "Fresh cup, anyone?"


Right about that time, James poked his head out and called, "It's SWILL!!! SLOP'S ON!!! COME AND GIT IT 'FOR IT WALKS AWAY!!!"
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Re: Sgt Howard's wedding

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A highly amused cluster filtered into the parlor to find a table groaning under a remarkable assortment of goodies- with an expected amount of discord and confusion, people were seated and soon platters started rotating in a clockwise manner. Over all of this, James was in loud conversation from the kitchen with each member of the party as they ordered how they wanted their eggs. Glytch went with over-medium, while Daisy and Neil went scrambled. Al called for poached, while Phix and Greg asked for over easy. Annie and Brandy had theirs sunny side up. The jowl barely survived the first round, with only Daisy abstaining... her large bowl of grits, puddled with butter and striped with molasses had her full attention. Brandy needed instructions with the biscuits and gravy, having never seen them before- Glytch was only too happy to guide her through the mysteries thereof- much to everyone's surprise.

“You sure you’re from Peoria, son?”

“Wait, I thought you said he was from Chicago?”

Glytch, who had recovered remarkably well from his morning zombification, looked up and waved for time while he finished a large bite from the short stack of apple butter splattered waffles adorning his plate, then spoke with a grin “Both. And I also spent about six months as a kit in Nashville, Tennessee. You could say my past is multiple-choice.” He took a gulp of his sludge. “My mom lived in Kentucky for a while, and I think one of her parents was from the south somewhere... and Central Illinois is more ‘south’ or ‘country’ than you might expect once you get away from the cities.... by the way, it's been quite some time since I've had grits- and the butter is as fine as I have ever tasted this side of Amish country.”

"That is important?" Al asked.

"Essential," Glytch quipped, "You don't eat grits without butter,"

At this, Daisy made sounds of agreement (her mouth incapacitated from a LARGE bolus of grits).

With the exceptions of Phix and Glytch, coffee was flowing like a spring creek- Glytch continued his chocolate overdose while Phix enjoyed the rather earthy tea. The cornbread was pretty much a universal hit- even Al tried it and confessed he found it quite delicious (the fact that the butter was a local product might have been the deciding factor there).

"You surprise me, Sah-" Greg commented in a ... fair... Oxfordian attempt, "Such acceptance of a... vulgar... edible!"

"A redneck attempting the Queen's English calling ANYTHING vulgar is satire of the highest form," Al replied, "Nowt wrong with a proper cornbread, meduck - but so few make it properly. Too much sugar, too much fat, badly handled...horrible over-sweet rubbery mess." Reaching for another block, he split and buttered it, savoring the delicate flavor of locally produced food treated with the utmost respect.

Greg was a bit surprised. "Al, whar'd you run 'cross cornbread?"

Al chuckled and answered between bites. "Not the first time I've been in the American South, mate. Never been treated badly there - even on that delivery run I last made up to New England from Georgia everyone treated me wonderfully. The food at the Shoney's, however....not quite to standard." Finishing that statement with a draught of coffee he re-attacked his plate after sparing a glance for his love's appetites and shaking his head in wonder.

Once eggs were delivered, the two boys took their seats and went to work on the meal, James having wisely set aside a decent ration of jowl for his brother and himself. Daisy was beside herself- she had not had grits nor collard greens since she was a colt. Al kept glancing at her bowl in amazement as she showed an indecent amount of pleasure over it. Glytch's first impression of what he took to be bacon was astonishment at the light, delicate flavor with a serious reduction of salt. Neil took it all in stride- he had been in the Shenandoah during most of the nineteenth century, so the fare was totally familiar to him- but to his memory, it was never served better. Brandy was totally astonished, exploring everything the meal had to offer- all of this was new to her. Annie and her two sons were all business- Greg was highly amused as he ate, watching the reactions of his guests.

Eventually, one by one each person at the table waned momentum and declared defeat- Greg, his two boys and Glytch holding out the longest.
James and Andrew cleared the table and set to dishes in a somewhat orderly fashion- Greg kicked back a bit from the table and nursed a coffee while Annie gathered the ladies and scampered to the main bedroom, giggles floating along the path.

"I smell a conspiracy afoot," Al proclaimed as the procession made it's way to the North end of the house.

"Ye'd hav' t' be deaf, dumb an' blind t' miss it," Greg replied, "Annie went an' bought hersef sum froufrou online, an' won' lemme see it 'till th' ceremony- 'mazin', ain't it? Once upon a time it were Sears & Roebuck deliverin' through the Wells Fargo wagon- now it's AMAZON deliverin' through UPS. Main diff'r'nce is time frame- whut were once a Month's wait 's now a week er less."

"I will admit, the convenience factor is something our ancestors would not believe- Money transferred at the speed of light, merchandise traveling across country in the same day, should one wish to pay for it. Hard to understand that Stevenson's "Rocket" got it's name because of a newspaper wag who commented that, 'at 37 miles per hour, you'd be safer riding a military rocket than that particular train.' I assume yon Ladies are in the process of gushing over M'Lady's gown for the intended festivities?"

"Yup- might's well set up the grounds fer whut's 'bout t' happen. Went 'n' spent a few coppers m'sef, Ah did- might need me sum engineering advice in th' matter,"

"Indeed- and what, pray tell, are we engineering?" Al inquired.

"Whelp, it might be a challenge- Ah boughts it at HOME DEPOT 'n' the 'structions are in CHINGLISH!"

Neil started laughing- Al looked crestfallen- Glytch facepalmed, muttering "We are SOOOOO screwed..."

"Nuthin' t' worry 'bout- AH'M a GUNSMITH, 'member? AH kin figgur it out." Greg boasted.

"And what am I? Chopped liver?" Al blustered, "I happen to have some serious background in engineering, you know."

"Gentlemen, please- the poor English impaired fellow who WROTE the instructions speaks either Canton or Mandarin- I am fluent in both!" Neil countered, "And I can tell you EXACTLY what he is trying to say."

"GUYS! It's a HOME DEPOT project!" Glytch jumped in, "Instructions are a waste of time. First thing you do is throw them away... uh... " here the four stopped dead in their tracks.

The near finished trellis gated archway made of 1/2" square tubing stood before them with Andrew tightening down the last few screws and contemplating the last few parts.

"HEY YOU YOUNGIN'!" Greg bellowed, "Ah tol' yew AH was gonna set thayt up!"

"Beat ya to it, Dad- not lak it were a challenge," Andrew replied with a cheeky grin.

"Did you want the nuts on the outer perimeter like that?" Al asked, "... not very photogenic that way,"

Andrew looked Al over like he was trying to assess the best way to explain it- "Dad wants this t' be th' gate on th' front fence when it's done- then Mom's gonna get sum vines growin' onnit. Ah figgurs the inside o' th' arch'l be more visible than th' outside once them vines take over."
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Re: Sgt Howard's wedding

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The three looked at the boy, then at each other-

"Well then- nobody can argue that he isn't your son," Glytch observed.

"Indeed," Al chimed in, "right down to the impertinent attitude when correcting his elders. The nut doesn't fall far from the tree, eh?"

Greg sighed- "It IS diff'cult t' correct a chile when he's right... Whall naow- le's continue th' tour..."

"We're on tour?" Glytch asked. He scanned the surrounding fence lines... the total property was about 2/3 of an acre by his calculations. "Well, this ought to be quick."

"Mebbe so, but it's packed a might tight." Greg replied.


The "tour" was interrupted by a fresh vorp on the lawn- Alan and Jin stood there, gazing at their surrounding's before spotting the cluster at the archway and hailing them.

"I guess this must be the place," Alan ventured, "at least if it isn't, you are as lost as we are!"

"Whelp, this IS th' place... but that doan' me we ain't LOST," Greg rejoined, " but who queued you...?"

Another vorp signaled the arrival of Monica and Georgette- the latter commenting, "It looks so different without snow,"

"Huh?- OH! That's right- you've been here before..." Monica commented.

"Uh... jes' a minute here..." Greg attempted.

Monica and Jett stood aside as Justin and Shelly appeared, who were in turn followed by Nadette and Berdine.

Greg was about to go apoplectic when a LARGE box truck started grumbling up the steep dirt-and-gravel common driveway. On the side was the logo of "Benson Catering"- instead of continuing on to the Oyler's property, it stopped and backed into Greg's driveway. Out of the driver's side jumped a largish bald fellow with a walrus moustache-out of the passenger side came a small troupe of men and women in waiter's garb. The walrus approached the bewildered foursome at the arch with a clipboard in hand and asked, "Is there a Gregory Francis Howard here?"

Somewhat stunned, Greg replied, "... uh... yea- that would be me. What in all...?"

"Sign here- and here-" was all the reply he got. Greg looked at the paperwork and saw that some corporation had footed the bill. Still uncertain, he asked, "Who authorized all this?"

"I did." came a voice from the back of the squad of waiters- stepping through the troupe, Agent Billens made himself known. "Your concept of informational security is a bit lax there, Sargent. We keep track of legal proceedings with our own- when we saw that 'Anna Harris' had filed for divorce, with the bill being paid by YOU, we naturally investigated. Setting up a special vorp point on your property with a specifically limited time frame told us when this was happening."

"YOU did all this?!? And invited ALL THESE PEOPLE?!?" Greg was flabbergasted.

"Sign HERE and HERE, please," the walrus insisted. Meanwhile, Buck and Katherine, along with their brood, as well as Tina and Stan now vorped onto the property.

"I imagine the 'tour' is cancelled for the moment," ventured Glytch.

"DAD! SIGN THE DAMN PAPERWORK!!! THE GAME HAS STOPPED BECAUSE IT'S YOUR TURN!!!"

Resignedly, Greg signed where indicated. "SET IT UP!" the man bellowed, and the troupe burst into action. Odd tarps and the picknick table were set along the west side of the house and several folding chairs came out to be expertly placed in a partial semi-circle focusing on the south edge of the lawn. A small platform was immediately assembled at the perceived focal point- two of the team grabbed the archway and placed it dead center thereof. Another portion of the troupe set up a buffet table along the south wall of the structure as a second truck pulled up to deliver hot food and cold drinks. In the midst of this commotion, Kevin and Bud poited in, dodging the activity that had suddenly prevailed on the property.

Daisy stepped out onto the outer front porch and exclaimed, "WHAT is GOING ON HERE?"

"We've been AMBUSHED, m'luv," Al replied, "... and by no small force at that! I suggest we sue for peace," he chortled as he watched his bewildered comrade attempt to grasp the situation.

I would have to agree," Neil calmly stated, "they have the numbers and the high ground, and you have no defenses set up to your name."

Somehow, agents Pratt and McBride became part of the circus along with Ari Wardoff. Greg did not know whether to laugh, cry, scream or shit at this point- This was overwhelming. The audio and visual cacophony concentrated on his tiny front lawn was slowly breaking his mind.

Then there was a honking horn from the driveway. Looking around, he saw Roger Oyler in his truck looking expectantly in his direction. A quick assessment showed that the food truck was blocking the common driveway. Greg turned to look for the walrus man, only to see him directing a driver to the offending truck. Greg wandered over to Roger.

"Howard, what the hell do you have going on here?!?" he asked in an irritated voice.

"Well, uh... Annie and I are getting married, ya see..."

"What? I thought you already WERE married."

"Yea, well, it's... uh..."

"Complicated?" Roger ventured.

"Uh.. yea... that... sorry 'bout blocking the driveway..."

"No big deal, it's being resolved," sure enough, the offending truck was moved aside,"... but DAMN! I never knew you had this many friends or this kind of money!"

"Well... it was supposed to be a small, quite affair... then, less than ten minutes ago, THIS charley foxtrot showed up! It seems one of my... contractors... saw fit to 'blow up the balloon' as it were.'' Here, Greg started to re-assess the situation and regain himself, "... yanno, since the whole thing has gone 'over the top' as it were, maybe you and Kathy might want to drop in and enjoy. Mind you, it's rather an... eclectic... group of folks we got here..."

"Sounds wonderful, but I think I'll pass on that- you hang out with some dangerous people as I reca... ??? IS THAT GEORGETTE SUNDAHL?!?"

Greg looked- sure enough, 'Jett' was chatting animatedly with Justin and Shelly. Monica was right by her side.

"Uh, yea- I've been training her in "concealed carry" he admitted.

"Oh yea- Sheriff Rogers mentioned that a while back. YOURS is an INTERESTING LIFE, there, Howard!"

Greg chuckled- "Roger, you don't know the HALF of it- and for that, you ought to be thankful. Now, if you'll excuse me, I gotta 'ringmaster' this circus... once they discover I don't have enough room on the front yard, they MIGHT pick up the mobile and move it back eight feet!"

Roger chuckled at what he perceived as a joke and rolled down the driveway.
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Re: Sgt Howard's wedding

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Up the hill on his own property, Steve Mullin was contemplating the scene below. Clearly, the situation down at the Howard house was beyond the normal- they would have the occasional guest or two, but what he was seeing now constituted a semi-organized mob. His eyes were pretty much recovered from the morning's... incident... but he was wary of similar shenanigans. Cautiously, he peeked through the binoculars to see what he could make of it all.

The arrangement of the chairs... the raised dais... the metal archway... a caterer's table... a chuckload of people, none of whom he knew... this is going to be a wedding! A BIG wedding! He started looking around to see if he could recognize who was getting married... then noticed a tall, willowy curly-headed brunette... she looked familiar... was this the same woman that showed up in Oyler's alfalfa field a few winters back? Looked to be...

Then she turned her head, and Steve saw her face... and recognized her immediately!

"How can that be?!?" he muttered out loud. What is Georgette Sundahl doing at a function on Greg Howard's property? And a wedding at that! this makes no...

He watched as a short, busty, Latina cozied up to her and Georgette reached down and gave this girl a VERY PASSIONATE KISS!!!

Steve could not believe what he was seeing- Georgette Sundahl is a lesbian! Steve could secure his fortune with a single photograph!

Hurriedly, he turned to his house to search for his ancient Pentax with telephoto lens...
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Re: Sgt Howard's wedding

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My eternal thanks to Dinky Inky for help on this-

"Greetings, S'agt Greg!" chirped a petite young Lady that he did not recognize, "It has been some time since last we crossed paths... and now my sister and I get to see your abode."

The petite redhead, hair worn long except for side strands braided with green ribbons into a headband, had sparkling emerald-green eyes, a dark green petal skirt, off-white peasant blouse topped with a dark green bodice, and a patchwork leather pouch that also served as a belt wound around her waist. Journeymans boots of soft brown leather finished the vision. She wore no ornament other than a simple hammered pendant hung by a silvery chain.

"Ah... okay... I'm sorry, but I do not know who you are..."

Briefly, she removed the pendant, glamour dropping and Greg recognized Emerauld!

"EME! So, YOU and SAF are both here as well?"

"Yes, S'agt Greg- except I am to be called 'Maggie' and Safyr is to be called 'Chris'!"

"How many times must I remind you, it's Greg, we're not in battle now."

"Just once more, Friend Greg. Do you approve?" she asked as she twirled around in a cute pirouette, skirt billowing out, and sleeves flowing gracefully as she moved.

"You are flirting with the groom, dear child..."

"CHILD?!?!?" WHO DO YOU THINK TO CALL 'CHILD'?!?"

"Emerauld... no, that's... Maggie... I know you are much older- just now you look one-third my age or less. Human women LIKE to be mistaken for being younger than they are."

"That is because they are FOOLISH," she pouted... then reflected..."...do they really?" she cocked her head at the question, " ... why should that be?"

"They are led to believe that there is greater beauty in youth, I suppose."

"It is as I had suspected- they are foolish," she said with a giggle, wolfish ears briefly popping out as she did so.

"Friend Greg!" purred another little Lady of similar appearance, slinking into view.

Redhead as well, with hair similarly adorned, but in blue, and eyes of piercing icy blue dressed in a navy petal skirt with a similar off-white blouse, and a matching navy bodice(though hers was being pushed to its limits). Journeymans boots of well-worn leather, and an artfully crafted leather pouch, that to Greg's trained eye, was a knife sheath. She also had a simple pendant on a silvery chain.

"Aha! 'Chris', I assume?"

"You assume correctly, Friend Greg! So now you take Miss Annie as your bride? I had thought that was already so."

"In all but the eyes of the state, my Dear."

"The state has eyes?" Maggie asked.
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Re: Sgt Howard's wedding

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"Hey there, Sarge-" came a familiar voice, " Checking out the cuties before your wedding? Kinda risky there, Bucko,"

"Flashburn?" Greg was thankful for the interruption as then he didn't need to explain the choice of words, " ... so who let YOU out?"

"Requested, I was- seems there is not one shutterbug devoted to this pandemonium. How are you holding up? Do we need shackles and leg irons yet?"

"Fah! I've only been trying to make this happen for 15 years."

"Not to worry- I've been filled in. Congratulations for staying the course!"

"Why should Friend Greg need shackles or leg irons?" 'Chris' asked the mage.

"He doesn't, Chris- I am insinuating that he might run away- it is a common joke at a wedding that one or both might wish to run at the last moment," Flashburn replied, "... it IS a big commitment after all... and my, but you two look lovely!"

"Is that because we look so young, Friend Flashburn?" 'Maggie coyly inquired.

"Well... yes, that is a large part of it..."

Maggi giggled and chattered to Chris, "Ol orn'la kluth l'nesstren ph'waela 'zil al!" ("It would seem the men are foolish as well!")


Up the hill in his main house, Steve Mullen was busy ransacking closets and storage spaces for his 35 mm Nikon with telephoto... he saw a major opportunity slipping away as he continued his mad search. He was growing desperate- muttering under his breath and cursing freely. His wife watched from a safe distance, keeping behind corners to avoid a confrontation. She knew better than to intervene, but seriously began to wonder if Steve had finally snapped.

"Please don't let him hurt anybody," she silently prayed.



Buck, Katherine and the girls vorped into view. The buffet was taking shape remarkably fast. The whole circus seemed like a well-rehearsed dance routine... then Greg noticed that a squad's worth of the troupe had established a perimeter and were actively scanning the surrounding terrain for... what?... who?... these were not waiters or similar of the caterer's crew- these were MIB. They were security.

"Friend Greg- are you well?" 'Chris' asked.

"Distracted... how many more will show up, I wonder- my property is not very big."

Another vorp- Greg, Al and Neil stood flabbergasted as an elder gentleman stepped towards the dais, followed by two roadies that carried his guitar case, amplifier and microphone stand and a sound tech with a portable mixing board under his arm. Billens approached the man- there was a quick conversation, and the whole set-up was assembled to the right of the archway.

"PAUL!" Bud squealed. ("When did SHE show up?" Al asked himself)

Soon, Paul was encircled by admirers and fans, which he handled with grace and ease.

Neil had already approached him- "Still keeping your hand in it, I see."

Mid-autograph, Paul replied, "Not as active as was once the case- my last effort was "Something Special" about three years ago- got something in the works for next year. Not bad for a fellow who will turn 84 at the end of the year."

"Not bad at all," Neil replied.


"OY! OY! OY! WHAT IS ALL THIS?!?" came an exasperated bleat.

At 5' 8", in conservative Hasidic Jewish robes, one would not initially consider Nicodemus to be a force to be reckoned with- yet he had a 'voice of command' that any veteran would recognize and appreciate. All activity came to a halt until Mr. Walrus explained to the Rabbi the situation. Once filled in, he turned and saw Paul- "AHAH! I should have known- you ALWAYS draw a crowd!" he said with a grin.

"Guilty as charged!" was Paul's only response.
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Re: Sgt Howard's wedding

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Inside the boudoir of the Howard 'estate', Annie was trying to make heads or tails of the outside commotion. Brandi pulled out her phone and dialed Glytch.

"Dearest, what's.... HUH?!? on WHOSE authority?!? ... that slimedog! ... is there adequate secur... huh... I see... WHAT?!? ...no way... 'what's the big deal?' you ask? Have you ever heard of 'Peter, Paul and Mary'?... HE'S THAT PAUL!... no shit!... yea... wow!" she turned to Annie and told her, "your front lawn is now SRO!"

"What?!?' Annie shot out, "Who all is there?"

"Pretty much the entire "Club Alexander", along with Noel Paul Stookey!"

Annie's jaw hit the floor.


Glytch ended the conversation with Brandi and turned to Al- "That Paul fellow that played at Pillsbury? Brandi just told me he is part of 'Peter, Paul and Mary'? Issat right?"

"Well yes, at least was..." Al replied, "I am rather surprised to see him here... he certainly has any number of places that would welcome him."

"Ok then... I've... heard... of that group... they were famous or something?"

Al looked at Glytch with mild astonishment- "Seriously? They were nothing short of incredible! They could pack the biggest venues without any effort."

"Huh- so... what did they play? Hard Rock? Dubstep?"

Al's eyebrows raised much higher than would seem possible- "... they were only the première Folk Band of the 1960's and 1970's! They toured all over the world until Mary's death! Their music shaped whole generations!"

“Oh, pfff. Nope. I wouldn’t recognize them if they sat in my lap and called me ‘momma’. ANYWAY, popular band member, incoming, ten-four, roger dodger… whatever you people do on the radios.”

Al rolled his eyes...


On the adjacent hill, Steve Mullen was just about ready to chew nails as he tore through the second house on the property. Every place he tore apart proved to be a "Camera Free Zone". When was the last time he used it? Had to be before his Father's death, where he managed to finagle ownership of the property from his now senile Mother. That would mean it's in one of the boxes that came from his old apartment... but where did he stash those? Could they still be in the covered hauler? A 4 horse trailer converted into a utility super-mover? THAT would require a LOT of digging...

...but the possible rewards made it worthwhile...


Charles Heinlein, AKA "Cannibal Chuck", a well-known character with a bushy head and face, was making his way to the Howard household with a balky AR-10 in 300 Blackout- seems the fool thing never wanted to cycle reliably. With his trademark pricy stogie clamped in his jaws, he pulled up the dirt driveway to find a massive party in progress- looking up his partner in shenanigans, he asked "Whatcha got going on here?"

Greg visibly paled.
"Well... I'm, uh, I'm ... getting married..." he stuttered while thinking "HE'S NOT PARA AWARE!!!"

"HUH?!? To Who? You and Annie split up?"

"No- we were never ... uh... married..."

Charles looked at Greg, slightly dumfounded- "OK- what, she's now of legal age? I knew she was considerably younger than you, but..."

"No- she had to get divorced first..."

"OH! THIS just gets BETTER and BETTER! You scoundrel!!! Never knew you had it in you... well, actually, I did- but PULLING it OFF?!? You've been together, what? Eight years? I'm impressed!" he was clearly having sport with Greg's reluctance, not knowing the actual cause.

One of the perimeter guards stepped up- "Sgt. Howard, do we have a 'guest' here? and why is he armed?"

Chuck looked up and around to see several guards with drawn pistols in 'Guard position'- a safe display but ready to aim and fire. His eyes got big and his face got pale.

"Ah, this is Charles Heinlein- he is a good friend and one of my clients as a gunsmith. He is a VIP." this last statement was rather pointed- it was code for "Mundane, friendly".

Greg then looked at the guard- "Anything further?"

At that last statement, Chuck looked at Greg and realized just how much trouble he didn't get into because of Greg's words. Visibly shaken, he turned and looked at the guards for their reaction. The lead guard touched his earpiece- "VIP protocol in effect- check on Primary. Over" he removed his hand, "Mr. Heinlein, please enjoy our hospitality." Chuck looked at the other guards, noticing they were examining him with intense interest- then they re-holstered their weapons and went back to their posts. Color started to return to his face.

"Damn, Howard- sometimes you scare the holy SHIT outta me! Who did you piss off for all of this to be necessary?!?"

"Well, there's a few important people here..."

"Why were they intently staring me down just then?"

"Memorizing your features. They want to be certain they would recognize you if things got ...ugly..."

"Can you use an extra rifleman?"

"Chuck, this is not my team- certainly not my call. You might do well to..."

"ISSAT GEORGETTE SUNDAHL?!? HOLY CRAP!!!"

"Chuck... please don't go 'tourist' on me- yes, that's Georgette... and over there is Paul Stookey... why did you bring the punt gun, anyway?"

"Paul Stookey? As in Peter, Paul..."

"And Mary, yes- that Paul Stookey... now why is this thing here?"

"Huh? Oh, yea... cycle issues. Did everything according to the book- nothing works. Keeps stovepiping."

Greg took the weapon and pulled the magazine- then he cocked the action and pulled the rear assembly pin. Cocking the action open, he used the cocking bar to remove the bolt carrier group. Then he pulled the retaining pin to pull out the firing pin, remove the cam pin and finally separate the bolt face from the bolt carrier.

With a quick examination, he pointed to the seal rings on the back of the bolt-

"See how you've got all the splits lined up? That amounts to a gas leak. Separate them by 120 degrees and the problem is solved. This is an inherent issue with all ar-15/Ar-10 platforms."

"She'll shoot and cycle now?"

"As reliably as the sunrise. Now go check the boomstick with Annie- she's in the house- and find a seat."

"Uh huh- will I get it back from Annie? She tends to lust after my guns, you know..."

"I'll wipe the slobber off and you WILL get it back!"

Chuck looked at his rifle, thoughtfully- "I might be better just locking it in the trunk. I'm guessing that with your security team here, there won't be much chance of me needing it, right?"

By this time, Al and Glytch had wandered over to ... asses... the newcomer.

"I think you're pretty safe... OH! How rude of me! Al, Glytch, this is Charles Heinlein, also known as 'Cannable Chuck', perhaps the most dangerous man in the county if not the state. Chuck, these are Al Richer and Glytchmeister- Al is a gearhead par excellence, and Glytch here... damn... let's just say he plays with extremely dangerous... stuff... and can make a computer do anything that crosses his mind."

As they returned to their posts, the perimeter guards now placed a red carnation in their lapels, replacing the white ones.
"Huh," Atsali motioned to Nadette, "Why are they changing colors? On the flowers, that is?"

"That means 'Mundane One'- probably referring to that hairy looking fellow talking to the 'unholy trio'," Nadette replied.

"Huh- I thought he was another paranormal with real weak glamor... did you just say, 'unholy trio'?!? Al, Glytch and Sargent Howard?"

"Something that your mother hears Agent Billens say in reference to those three all the time..."
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Re: Sgt Howard's wedding

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Georgette noticed the fellow that Sarge, Al and Glytch were clustered around- an something about that fellow caught her attention.

"Hey, cupcake," she asked Monica, "who is that feral fellow that Al, Greg and Glytch are chatting with?"

Monica looked over at the crowd in question- "No clue. Not even sure what species he is." she gave Jett a sly glance, "You feeling predatory or something? You DO belong to ME. you know..."

"Flirting is part of my reputation, and I DO have a reputation to uphold," came the saucy reply, " Besides, I seem to remember you and I kissing the Old Sargent some time back."

"... and you will NEVER let me live that down..." Monica grumbled, "Fine... but don't you go making promises that your skinny little butt can't keep..."


Half-way through the debris packed in the trailer, Steve found the case that held the old camera. Frantically pulling it out, he opened it and checked the contents. Camera- check. Standard lens- check. Telephoto- check. Doubler- check. Film- ? FILM??? AW SHIT!!!


"So, Sargent Howard," Georgette purred as she approached the four, "I don't believe I know this gentleman, but you seem to be familiar with him,"

She had just interrupted Chuck explaining the particulars of the modern loading of .45-70 'Buffalo Rounds' to Glytch and Al. Chuck went cranial flatline.

"Indeed- Jett, this is Charles Heinlein, a good friend of mine who is a local," Greg emphasized that last point, hoping that Jett caught the clue.

Her glance at Greg indicated that this had registered, "I... see ... do you normally show up here armed?" she resumed her conversation, " or are you here in induce the groom to say, 'I do'?"

It took a moment for Chuck's brain to clunk loudly back into gear, "... uh... actually, uh, Greg is my gunsmith... and this one's been giving me trouble... I have to ask- how do you know Howard?"

"We met in Minneapolis- do you remember reading about the battle that took place at the old Pillsbury Mill?"

"Uh... yeah?"

"Most of the guests here today were there as well... including yours truly. These three, " she indicated Al, Glytch and Greg, "were not only there, but actively engaged in the shootout. I seem to recall that Al and Glytch were wounded during that episode- Sargent Howard here was unscathed."

Al interrupted, "at the firefight, yes- shortly before the wedding however, he took a near fatal wound but managed to kill the miscreant bare-handed! It was poetic to see,"

The combination of who he was talking to and what he had just learned proved a double whammy. Chuck briefly shook his head to pull out of the daze, then turned to Greg- "YOU never told me this! ANY of this! October of 2015 through the end of the year, you disappeared... THAT'S where you were?!? And you call ME 'Dangerous'?!? MSNBC called it a 'firefight worthy of the Tet offensive'- and there was all that bullshit about that cop who shot a drug dealer... "

"Oh yea, Officer Epimetheus- " Glytch spoke up, "That's him over there with his wife, Shelly,"

Chuck looked in the indicated direction- there was no mistaking the two. Slowly, he started gathering his wits-

"Gentlemen... Ma'am.. I am truly ... humbled... by your presence, " he stated with bowed head, " I knew Howard had some... interesting... background... but the extent of which, I had no idea..."

"There's even more to it," Greg confessed, "but in all honesty, you are better off not knowing."

Chuck looked directly at Greg- "... at this point, I firmly believe that."

At the dais, Nicodemus cleared his throat into the microphone to get attention - "If you would all be so kind- please take your seats and we will begin this ceremony. Greg and Annie have waited 15 years for this event, let's not delay it any further. Thank you."

"How about a 'selfie' for a quick souvenir? " Jett offered.

What? with me?" Chuck replied, somewhat surprised.

"And your rifle... I LOVE a man with a BIG GUN," she purred in a seductive manner.

Chuck was stunned while the other three laughed at his reaction.

"Heh- I'll do the honors," Al offered, " set your phone up to photo and strike a pose with the young Lady."

Quickly as he could, Chuck set up the phone and handed it to Al. Jett sided up to him and wrapped an arm around his waist. Surprised, he reciprocated while brandishing the rifle in his other hand. The shot was taken and Jett suggested 'One More'- whereupon she kissed Chuck on the cheek as the picture was done!

"Aren't you concerned about that going public?!?" Chuck blurted out.

"It's on your camera- I am willing to bet you are NOT interested in being a celebrity, right?"

Blushing, Chuck muttered "Let me put this thing away and I'll get a seat..."

"Sargent Howard!" commanded the voice of Nicodemus over the PA, "do you intend to exchange vows in tee shirt and blue jeans? I recommend you change your wardrobe... you are getting married today, right? I believe that is why we are here..."

"Oh crap! AH'M ON IT! " he hollered back- the drawl had returned.

"Git yur mangy carcass in thar an' CHANGE, dammit!" Al tweaked him.

Greg dashed into the house to do so.


Amazingly, Steve found that there was film already in the camera! The counter indicated at least 12 to 14 shots left... that would have to be enough. Assembling the telephoto with a doubler, he hoped that would give him the detail he needed to score the shots that would secure his fortune. Deciding that arming himself was not a bad idea, he pulled his belt and strapped on his GLOCK 9mm in his 'fast draw' holster that he made from a Tandy Leathercraft kit. Jacking a live one in the tube, he pulled the magazine and 'topped off' with one round before stuffing it back in the pistol. 17 rounds total- THAT ought to be enough! Slipping the strap over his head, he trotted out to his favorite cover spot to look for his 'money shot'.


Greg wasted little time changing clothes- in short order, he stepped down from the front porch in a black 19th century western cut-away frock, vest and pants- on either hip rode an 1847 Walker dragoon, riding in matching fully carved black holsters. Tall western boots, silver watch and chain, a salmon-colored ascot and a black Stetson hat finished the effect.

"All he needs is a bloody star on his vest and a shotgun in one hand," commented Al, "... and he's ready to take office in Tombstone."

"If reincarnation is really a thing, I would say he probably already has." Glytch replied.

"DAMN but he wears that well!" commented Shelly.

"He would have been a helluva cop in any era," replied Justin.

"No-" interjected Buck (who was sitting behind them), "he told me himself that his temper is way too quick to be a law enforcement officer. He admires those who ply the trade but has no interest in doing so himself."

Al had gone in to 'suit up' to walk with Greg as 'best man'- he arrived shortly afterwards in a classic formal tux (tailored for a .455 Webley tucked away of course). James also appeared in a more contemporary tux, while Andrew was wearing something similar to his father's outfit. James had a Ruger American in .45 APC in a shoulder rig, while Andrew sported an 1860 Colt on his right hip.

"Damn!" thought Chuck, "I should have strapped on my Kimber..."

"Paul," Nicodemus beckoned to the musician, "would you be so kind? I believe it is time..."

"I believe you are right," Paul replied. Walking up to the microphone, he hailed the audience- "Ladies and Gentlemen... if I may have your attention..."


"???... that's... that's Paul STOOKEY?!?" Steve gasped out loud.
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Re: Sgt Howard's wedding

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The opening strains of the familiar song floated over the district, attesting to the native quiet of the land. Then came the lyrics-

"He is now to be among you, at the calling of your hearts- rest assured this troubadour is acting on his part- the union of your spirits here has caused him to remain- for whenever two or more of you are gathered in his name- there is love.... there is love..."

For several of those present, this marked the FOURTH time they had heard this man and this song at a wedding... and it never got old. Many got rather misty-eyed, some tearing up openly. Remembering their own vows, Neil and Phix, Buck and Kathy, Allen and Jin along with Justin and Shelly were showing various degrees of public affection. Monica and Jett were holding hands while dreamily watching Paul- and occasionally stealing glances at each other.

"I want your tongue inside my mouth," Jett huskily whispered to Monica. Monica responded with an anxious whimper of "that's not fair!" and a quick view about to see who was watching.

"I don't care about 'fair', I want your tongue!"


"PAYDIRT!" Steve muttered to himself as he clicked several shots of Monica and Georgette playing tonsil hocky.


"Voyeur at bearing 28 degrees, range approximately 180 meters. Appears to have a camera with telephoto." reported the security fellow at the NE corner of the front lawn area- Safyr overheard the conversation and scouted out the offending person. She then threw a handful of chips on the ground and muttered, "" J'bober, xun distract ukta dal ukt ssor-avvus inth." ("J'bober, do distract him from his ill-conceived plan.")

While all this was going on, Greg Walked up to the podium with Al, then turned and awaited his bride.

Annie appeared on the porch with Daisy, both wearing Late Victorian ensembles of a western cut. Annie's was pure white with about three miles of lace between her choker collar and the waistline, with a no-nonsense non-hooped skirt that had only the slightest bustle on the rear. She wore white elbow-length gloves, a white Lady's riding top hat, white 'goat roper' boots... and her massive Super Blackhawk .44 magnum in a black tooled right-handed cross-draw holster with matching belt!

Daisy was wearing a similar outfit, but all in red- she also sported a pistol in a black tooled holster and belt, hers being an 1858 Remington 'New Army'. The bridesmaid approached the podium, followed by the bride escorted by her firstborn.

Annie had never looked or felt so radiant! Greg's heart swelled with pride, love and joy... he had been wanting this for way too long! Many time he had dreamt of this moment... she stood before him just as Paul sang the last refrain.

And now, here it was, alive and real before him!

"Well now," Nicodemus mused as the couple situated, "Mr. Richer and Master Harris- I see that the rest of the party here is properly... accessoried... I trust you are both carrying concealed?"

Al and James both opened their jackets to display a holstered piece.

"Excellent! Excellent! I have to admit, normally I would not desire such accouterments in the bridal party... but with this group, it would seem odd that you be unarmed,"

The gathering chuckled at this.

"To waste time with introductions here... I shall not bother, there is nobody of this group that do NOT know these two or what they mean to each other... not one. And yet, still they kept a remarkable secret from us all- a secret that now they share and rectify in one sweet simple moment. Many will speak of their courage, many will speak of their reliability or any of the many fine qualities they share and embrace- but here I will speak of their love, of their devotion to each other. Here I will speak of the steadfast dedication that few achieve or even suspect to exist. What can I teach here that these two have not already learned? What goals can I direct them to beyond what they have achieved? For fifteen years, they have already exemplified what is 'Man and Wife'- it is a title they have already earned. I am going directly into the actual ceremony here- further effort on my part is superfluous-
Please hold your candles-"

Here, Greg and Annie both picked up a tapered candle- Nicodemus then lit a match and lit both wicks. Before them on the podium stood a large double wick candle.

"The candles here represent the lives of Greg and Annie, becoming one life, one promise. Please, bring your candles together-"

Greg's wick lit instantly- Annie's had bent over and somehow wouldn't light. Annie kept at it, but it wouldn't light. Then her candle went out- she attempted to light it from Greg's wick, but even THAT was a 'no go'. Finally, Greg pulled the offending wick upright and held it until the wax cooled- then he scraped the excess wax off of Annie's candle wick, lit it from his and handed it back to her.

This time it worked.

"I trust that is not an omen..." Nicodemus muttered.

There was some nervous laughter.


Upon his hill, Steve was quite pleased with his efforts- several detailed shots of Georgette doing some serious snogging with a short, busty woman! He was getting in a few last shots when an apparition appeared in front of his camera!

"I would say take a picture, it will last longer, but that is not advisable."





"Gregory Francis Howard, do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to have and to hold, to cherish and to keep as long as you both shall live?"

"Ah do"

"Anna Elizabeth Harris, do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to have and to hold, to cherish and to keep as long as you both shall live?"


"I do"

Nicodemus then raise his head and looked out at the gathering.

"If there is anyone here who has any reason why this man and this woman should not be joined in holy matrimony, let them speak now, or..."



BANG! Came a gunshot to the Northeast! Greg grabbed Annie and placed himself between her and the sound. he then looked to the source of the sound when four more shots rang out!



Startled at seeing a floating cloaked skeletal specter, Steve pulled his Glock out and fired off a round, striking J'bober in the forehead, lodging with a loud 'crack!' as his skull snaps back, hood falling. He then looks at Steve and says, "Ow, that stings!" before cackling madly.

Totally in panic mode now, Steve fires a fusillade at the specter- but none of them lodge.
Instead, they continued down onto Howard's property.


Bullets landing hither and yon caused a minor panic, even though none seemed to hit anything vital...

Except the last one.


Annie was standing behind her husband when she heard an ominous "SPLAT!"

Sargent Howard fell next to her with a messy, bloody mark in the middle of his forehead, his eyes open and blank. She looked long enough to register what she was seeing- looking up the hill, she saw Steve waving a gun around like a madman. In one swift motion, the massive .44 magnum was presented, cocked and fired.

Steve fell.

Annie then dropped to the side of her husband... "...no... no... no... no... no... please GOD no... "


Steve had just realized that his bullets had struck Howard Property when his camera slammed into his chest with a surprising amount of force. As it was sitting over his solar plexus, it knocked the wind out of him and caused him to drop. It was as he fell that he heard the CRACK! and the BOOM! Gasping and shaking, he examined his camera... or actually, the remains thereof. The telephoto lens with the doubler were now glass bits and scrap aluminum. The frame of the Camera itself was beyond repair, and the backplate was horribly spooned out! The film was, of course, perfectly destroyed- between the portion trashed by the bullet and the light exposure from the rupture body, even the old shots that were on the roll before were ruined.


Greg vomited. This startled everybody who saw him fall because they were sure he was dead.

"DAYUM!" he groggily cursed, "What the hell was THAT?!? I feel like I've been jumped by twelve hangovers at once!"

Reaching up to his forehead, he found something that didn't belong and plucked it out- it was the bullet! It had penetrated skin and was stopped by the bone!

"COLD WATER AND A WASHRAG RIGHT NOW!!!" bellowed Annie as tears of joy flowed down her cheeks.
Rule 17 of the Bombay Golf Course- "You shall play the ball where the monkey drops it,"
I speak fluent Limrick-
the Old Sgt.
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Re: Sgt Howard's wedding

Post by Sgt. Howard »

Linda Mullen heard the gunshots- so did her daughters. Steve had warned them all, "If you hear gunshots, do NOT come out to investigate- I will have it under control."

So, she waited for her husband to return and explain what happened. And waited. And waited...


Several guests dialed 911- a few others vacated. Keeping Chuck busy while the portal was used was a concern, but Georgette was quite instrumental in that effort. Two ambulances and several Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to both addresses. While awaiting the first responders, Nicodemus approached the two and regained some control-

"Do you have the rings?" he asked Greg and Annie.

Al immediately handed Greg Annie's ring while Daisy pulled Greg's off her chatelain and gave it to the bride.

"Sargent Howard," Nicodemus directed, "Place the ring on her finger."

"With this ring, I do thee wed..." he started reciting just as he had rehearsed.


There was minor damage from Steve's errant rounds, just enough to serve as evidence of the incident. Three deputies arrived at the Howard property and questioned everybody there, including the bride and groom. Then the ambulance showed up and ran the old Sargent to Mid-Vally hospital, where he was in and out in an hour and a half. Annie followed in the Suburban. The party, rather subdued, continued in the absence of the two with the promise that there would be a continuation with their return.

The five deputies that arrived at the Mullen Property found a marginally responsive fellow with a serious bruise on his abdomen and the shattered remains of a camera. He offered no resistance... but he never spoke a word. They read him his rights, told him what he was being arrested for, took his firearm and put him in cuffs. His wife and daughters were questioned as well but had little to offer- they figured he had finally snapped and were just thankful the fallout wasn't worse.

Upon the return of the Bride and Groom, Nicodemus ushered them to the podium- Greg looking a bit less dignified with his head dressed in bandages- where he pronounced them 'Man and Wife'. Slowly the festivities resumed the appropriate level of energy, and the intrusion became fodder for gossip.

Annie did not throw the bouquet- seems none of the 'eligible' females were interested. Same with the garter and the men (although Chuck stated he would have tried for it had Georgett gone for and caught the bouquet!), the cake cutting was delayed until the buffet was properly attacked- the catering crew having arranged tables for the diners, with the wedding party at a table at the dais. Flashburn was everywhere at once, capturing images the whole time. Once the meal was winding down, Al tapped his glass with a fork to get everyone's attention... Flashburn switched to video mode.

"Ladies and Gentlemen... if I might have your attention, please... I must freely admit, that until yesterday, I was unaware that these two were not married- and now I have fulfilled the task of 'Best Man'! In fact, the first clue I was given was where he informed me yesterday afternoon that he had purchase a divorce for Annie and it had been granted! I kid you not!"

There was a few chuckles and gasps from the guests, along with the murmur of commentary.

"Consequently, I had little time to prepare for any of this... but as my experience with this cagy scallywag has taught me, ambush, to him, is a perfect and acceptable means of social intercourse. There are numerous... shall we say, incidents... in the service of his country where he set up and pulled off multiple ambushes, to the point that he could correctly predict his adversary's paranoid reaction. He set up and advised a major ambush at the battle of Pillsbury, as many of you recall. He pushed me into my current union... by ambush... for which I am eternally grateful, I might add... and here I have to ask, Miss Annie- were you also a victim of this foul tactic?"

Annie burst out laughing along with the rest of the party- it was an excellent delivery, after all- then, gathering herself somewhat, she replied,

"Actually... it was more a war of attrition... he can be stubborn, you know..."

Al took on a shocked look- "Greg Howard? Stubborn?!? You don't say..." then dissolved into giggles.

Greg buried his face with one hand- he now understood the tables have been turned.

"You know, we all call him 'Sargent' from his time in the Army... I looked into this... E-5 is the base rank of 'Buck Sargent'. It is one stripe above 'Corporal'. THAT is as high as Greg Howard ever advanced... NOT because of incompetence mind you, he was capable in spades by all accounts... but because he was a misery to command."

At this point, the 'roast' was in full momentum and Greg knew there was nothing he could do but ride it out. Surrounded by laughter, he decided to join in and laugh at himself.

"Sargent Howard," Al now addressed him, "Did you or did you not salute an officer during a tactical exercise in full view of an OPFOR sniper?"

"May I confer with my attorney before I answer that question?"

"You may not- nor may you plead the fifth."

"But..."

"OVER-RULED! This is not a courtroom; this is your wedding, and I am your best man- you re my victim until I choose to release you and not one moment sooner!"

Laughter and applause followed that statement.

"Again, Sargent, did you or did you not salute an officer during a tactical exercise in full view of an OPFOR sniper?"

There was no way out- "I did."

"And why was that?"

"I was under orders to do so even though we were at tactical."

"Who gave those orders?"

"My commanding Officer."

"And who did you salute?"

"My Commanding Officer."

"And what resulted from that salute?"

"He was shot by the OPFOR sniper, and his MILES gear registered a 'kill'."

The guests went hysterical!

"And in the Fall of 1975... did you or did you not prank the Federal Bureau of Investigation?"

"Where the Hell are you...?"

"I am the one asking questions here, Sargent Howard- did you or did you not prank the Federal Bureau of Investigation?"

"I did- damn! how did you...?"

"Would you care to explain in your own words why you thought this was necessary? Or even a good idea?"

Greg drew a long sigh- "... I cannot validate why that particular action was a good idea... regardless... I had just gotten my first Federal firearms license, as I had just turned 21, and..."

"Hold that thought- Annie, what year were you born?"

Annie blushed, "... you are an ass, Al Richer- yes, I was born in 1975."

"Hey, some of us still got it," Greg commented.

Again, the guests erupted in laughter.

"And we can only hope it isn't contagious," Al rejoined.

The laughter got louder.

"Now... Sargent Howard... in what year did you turn twenty-one?"

"Nineteen seventy-five as you apparently well know."

Howls of laughter erupted again.

"Indeed- and what circumstances caused you to prank the Federal Buruea of Investigation?"

Greg gave a forlorn gaze upwards as if God would grant him clemency... to no avail.

"I had just received my first Federal firearms license. I had applied for a class III schedule 14 section 4 for a one-off submachinegun build pursuant to a patent. The Sheriff's department sent a Deputy to investigate the premises for security- he was pleased with what he saw and told me that the FBI was sending a fellow to do the same. Said fellow turned up and proved to be only a few years older than myself- I was not impressed. He asked the same questions as the Deputy... then asked me my political alignment. He wanted to know who I voted for."

"He did not!" Al said in disbelief, "I never got that part!"

"He most certainly did- if you got your information from the Bureau, I am not surprised the whitewashed it. I showed him to the door as rudely and profanely as I could muster- damn near by the collar of his shirt and the back of his pants- and he scattered gravel in my driveway as he flew off."

"Gods! I am surprised you didn't just clock him! What happened after that?"

"Whelp, first I figured I had just blown the $675 for the application... then I noticed I was getting 'rice crispies' on my telephone."

"Rice crispies?"

"Snap, crackle, pop! every time I tried to use the phone- this was in the middle seventies, mind you- I complained to Pacific Bell, but they couldn't seem to figure it out. Then I got a phone call from my old High School English teacher, William Tarr- he wasn't on the phone long before he told me to meet him at the San Carlos Cafe. I agreed."

"Your old High school teacher called you?"

"Yes- we kept in touch for many years- anyway, as soon as I got there, he asked me how long my phone had been tapped... see, he had been targeted by the McCarthy witch hunt for Communists in the fifties and knew what the static on my phone was all about."

"And so," Al was trying to take this all in, "rather than go through legitimate channels to complain..."

"I took them down the rabbit hole- yes Sir!"
Rule 17 of the Bombay Golf Course- "You shall play the ball where the monkey drops it,"
I speak fluent Limrick-
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Re: Sgt Howard's wedding

Post by Sgt. Howard »

"Indeed- now here, things are a bit... fuzzy," Al commented while holding a sheaf of papers that Greg recognized as official Bureau reports, "Much of the original material is heavily redacted. Could you tell us why?"

"Probably because it's fairly embarrassing." Greg ventured, "... is there mention of phone transcripts?"

"Yes- and that's what's been blacked out. Can you elaborate?"

Greg started to giggle- "What a shame- there was some good material there," he composed himself, "... you see, once I understood what was going on, at first I got angry and wanted to storm their building in San Fransisco."

Al feigned shock-"WHAT?!? YOU losing your temper and doing something RASH?!?"

The celebrants had a good laugh at this.

"Yeah, I know- hard to believe, right?" Greg chuckled along with them, "... but then I realized I had a captive audience that had no imagination and a serious case of paranoia (more laughter and the occasional "OMG!"). Do you remember when we first met?"

"And damn near clocked each other? Yes, I should think so,"

"Do you remember the fellow sitting with me? Well-fed, black hair, tried to calm me down?"

"Vaguely, but yes- what of him?"

"THAT was Brian James Storey, a fellow singer, actor, comedian, lunatic and cohort in crime. We have shared a stage many times and were quite the chemistry to any audience. I immediately went to his place so we could talk face-to-face. I explained what had happened- his response was, "There's only one reason you would be telling me this."

The reaction from everyone there was a combination of hilarity and dread, rather like watching a train wreck in slow motion.

"Oh GODS! ... what... exactly did you... do?" Al stammered.

"We started calling each other and speaking in ... "code" (here he used fingers to indicated quotation marks) ... each of us using a bad impression of Boris Badenov!"

Several people were in hysterics- others had blank looks. Al was confused.

"Who?"

In a reasonable impersonation, Greg cracked off, "MUWAHAHAHAHA! FURST THING WE DO IS KEEL MOOSE AND SQUIRELL!"

Having never encountered American television cartoons as a child, Al was still lost- but by now nearly everybody else was reduce to rib splitting laughter.

Annie was beaming an amused smile- she had heard this story before. Neil was looking at his son with a highly appreciative smile. Phix had tears running down her face from laughter. Glytch was doubled over- he had a steady diet of 'Rocky & Bullwinkle' re-runs fed to him in his childhood. Brandie was totally lost, as was Bud, Jin, all of the para children and most of the Para adults. Jet and Monica were holding each other up as they giggled themselves incoherent.

"I... see... " Al commented, "... code, you say? How so?"

"The big brown dog jumped swiftly over the lazy yellow hen." Greg did this, again, as Boris.

Al stood dumbfounded.

"Da- is for to be so good- it is inadwisable to urinate into the wind. I see- brown fungus tastes better than stale french fries. Very good- wet noodles can be used as facial."- he rocked his head left to right to indicate this was a two-way conversation.

"You... you DIDN'T! Oh, GODS you DID!!! Did... did any of this dribble actually have any meaning?"

By now, everybody understood the gaff (even if they didn't have any experience with the cartoon in question) and the laughter drowned out most of Al's questions and Greg's replies. Greg waited for this to calm a bit before continuing.

"Actually, we were trying to see who could make the other crack up- Beej got me..."

"Beej?"

"Brian James Storey- B.J. for short- I reduced it to 'Beej'. He came up with this' "A blister on your thing can be most painful.'- I had to hang up on that."

A fresh chorus of laughter echoed down the valley.
Rule 17 of the Bombay Golf Course- "You shall play the ball where the monkey drops it,"
I speak fluent Limrick-
the Old Sgt.
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