BITS and PIECES # 60


April 9, 2016 by palamow

 Hello once again from Luquillo,

Contrary to what you might think, I am still alive and kicking at age 81 – my dearth of writings for the past few months has been chiefly due to laziness, with a modicum of ‘writers block’ mixed in to slow my output further…

Most mornings I am back at my desk now, committed to completing a few of the half-dozen stories I began, but failed to finish during my ‘fallow’ period…

While I continue to ‘scribble’ furiously, here is a rewritten, version of a story I wrote for my book ‘Snapshots from the Road’ in 2011…

I hope you find it enjoyable enough to bring you back once more to these pages as I strive to add new stories to my BITS and PIECES feature…


Our home in Beverly Hills had a long, narrow flagstone path that paralleled the north side of the house from the street to the service road in the back of the property. It meandered slightly, passing the dining room, pantry, kitchen, wash kitchen, cook’s bedroom, a pair of concreted underground garbage pits (more about them presently) and some clothes lines. Transiting the workshop and garage (having lost several flagstones along the way), it finally came to rest near the fire-breathing incinerator that regularly consumed our ‘dry’ trash –every household had one back then.

The path was flanked by a tall, ivy-covered, wood-slatted fence that separated us from our neighbor, Vincent Price, who kept a tiny Capuchin monkey in his back-yard that frequently climbed the fence chattering noisily. At the age of four, I poked my finger through the fence slats, trying to touch its musky pelt and was bitten for my curiosity.

The wash-kitchen door opened onto the flagstone path – it was used by Mr. Muller, our Arden Farms milkman, who arrived twice a week in his Step-Van truck, clad in a white uniform and leather-billed cap. He would unload a wire basket filled with quart-sized, cardboard stoppered, glass milk bottles. As he marched up the path, basket and bottles clattered together, produced the distinctive “clinking” sound so familiar back then. He also delivered cardboard cartons of farm- fresh eggs, depositing these dairy products on the kitchen doorstep for our cook Aida to retrieve and store in the plump white Kelvinator refrigerator that hummed importantly next to the gas range.

Early each Wednesday, our dented, corrugated aluminum garbage cans, filled to their brims with a week’s worth of newspaper-wrapped ‘wet’ garbage, were removed from their cemented underground urns and taken to the alley to await the arrival of the similarly dented municipal garbage truck.

As a five year old, I saw this weekly occurrence as a golden opportunity to explore the depths of the now vacant concrete holes in search of interesting fauna – like most curious little boys, I was especially interested in spiders and similar sinister invertebrates.

Wednesday was also one of the days that Mr. Muller made his deliveries. After carefully placing the milk bottles and eggs on the stoop, and ringing the bell to attract Aida’s attention, he would usually pause to see what I was up to – as he and I had become good friends. Attuned to my fertile imagination, he would invariably enquire “Where do your travels take you today, young man?” I would smile shyly and stammer a brief description of the morning’s breathtaking adventures, as Mr. Muller pretended to listen attentively.

When he failed to see me on this particular morning, he was about to return to his truck and resume his deliveries, when something caused him to pause and gaze into the now empty garbage pits – peering into the first dim opening, he saw that I was down in the bottom – he noticed that I was gently prodding a shiny black spider with a tiny finger. Looking more closely, he became aware that my new arachnid acquaintance had a barely perceptible red hourglass marking on its upper body! Without further deliberation, he reached in and hauled me out by the scruff of my neck – I let out a surprised squeal, which caused my mother, Aida and Bertha (our Swiss nanny) to drop whatever they were doing and rush headlong to the wash kitchen door, where this single-minded trio made an unsuccessful attempt to exit the doorway en-masse. Failing, they fell back to re-group as Mr. Muller deposited me on the flagstones and shakily dusted me off. He attempted to speak, but was so upset by what he had just prevented that he stood rooted to the spot, ashen faced, furiously mopping his brow. Even when the three fearful females finally emerged from the kitchen, he was barely able to describe how his prompt action had saved me from being bitten by a deadly black widow spider. When the gravity of the situation had sunk-in, all three ladies focused their attention on me – I received a collective, full-throated, melodramatic tongue lashing worthy of a Metropolitan opera production!

I was dumbfounded! What was all the fuss about anyway? I was just exploring an interesting cave next to the Congo River in deepest Africa, looking for specimens to stock my secret laboratory, wasn’t I?

Still shaking visibly, Mr. Muller departed, after the terrified triumvirate had taken turns expressing their eternal gratitude for rescuing me, by hugging him and kissing his sun burned cheek. I was swiftly sent to my room to ‘think things over’— my mother’s all too familiar response to my repeated youthful failings. She seldom resorted to corporal punishment, instead she insisted that I sort-out my behavioral malfunctions in private – within an hour, I was expected to provide her with a detailed report describing the extent of my repentance and the specifics of how I intended to amend my wicked ways…

My father had no sooner cleared the front door that afternoon, when my mother breathlessly apprised him of my ‘near-death experience’. The next morning, his calm and thoughtful remonstrations on the subject of my malfeasance concluded with a telephone call directing a local handyman to come by that afternoon to fill the garbage pits with gravel and seal-off their tops with concrete…

My spelunking adventures were over, but, there were some very interesting and sinister looking species in the dark recesses of the crawlspace under the house, weren’t there?

© Copyright 2011/2016 Alan Mowbray Jr.




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6 thoughts on “BITS and PIECES # 60

  1. Guillermo says:

    Saturday morning. I’m doing my taxes, and decide to pause to check my email. What a refreshing break!! Good to see you’re back. Now, back to my job…What is it I’m supposed to submit, a 480.06A or a 1099-DIV? …Never mind. I’ll figure it out somehow.

  2. says:

    So glad to see you back Alan! Thoroughly enjoyed the tale you told. Felt like I was there with you and the spider. Keep the stories coming!

    Rose 🙂

    Practice random acts of kindness…

  3. mkhulu says:

    Keep exploring, Old Pard.

  4. JOHN OCONNELL says:

    Hi Alan! Remember me from the old DEC days? Jack O’Connell…. I am sure this has to be you. Lots of fun in those days 🙂 Would love to hear from you. P.S. April 9 was my 82nd.

  5. Russell Cabeen says:

    Great reconnecting with a a fellow octogenarian whose original connection goes back to Good Shepard and those wonderful elementary school years. My very best to you my friend.

  6. really enjoyed reading your nostalgic story about Mr. Muller the Milkman and the spider and your Mother, Aida and Bertha trying to exit the wash- kitchen door, very funny and visual.
    I remember the milk bottles with the cardboard caps… I still have more of your bits & pieces
    to read with pleasant anticipation…I hope all is going well for you Mo.

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