Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Spam (not the meat) (11/03/11)
TITLE: Barns and Burma Shave
By Yvonne Blake
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Betty hollered from the kitchen. "Who was that on the phone?"
"Another one of those empty-headed robot machines wanting to sell us new siding." He fumbled in a basket for the TV remote. "We live in a home for half-dead folks that could care less what the siding looks like!"
"Oh, George, stop it! This is a nice retirement community, not a nursing home."
George ignored her and muttered through the channels. "Insurance commercials, laxative commercials, hearing-aid commercials, all trying to steal our money. Isn't there anything on this box beside commercials?"
George clicked it off and meandered into the kitchen. Betty was tapping away at her computer. She giggled and tapped some more.
"What's so funny?"
"Oh, Susan's chatting with me on Facebook. She posted some new pictures of Zack."
George leaned over his wife's shoulder. "What's all that junk on the side of the screen?"
"Oh, those are just ads. I ignore them."
"Ads? More Ads? A body can't swing a cat without bumping into more ads!"
"Why don't you take a walk to the post office? I'm expecting something today."
"I hope you didn't click on one of those con-artist HAM things, like that other time."
"It's not HAM, it's SPAM, and I don't open them anymore.
"Good. They're just trying to steal your money. Don't you forget that!"
"I won't, Dear. Now, take your walk." Betty handed him his gray cardigan and fishing hat--only there wasn't any place around here to go fishing.
"Do you want anything at the store?"
"No, Dear. Just take a walk and enjoy yourself."
Betty stood in the doorway and gave George a peck and a playful swat.
The sky was blue. The grass was green. He smiled, but not for long. There in his tiny plot of grass, only ten feet from his front door, someone had planted a red and blue sign. George yanked it up. "No one is going to tell me how to vote! No one is going to put signs in front of my door!" He crumpled the piece of cardboard and stuffed it in the nearest dumpster.
George punctuated each step with his cane on the way to the park. There shouldn't be any ads or robot messages there.
George lounged on the bench and watched the ducks. He wished he had his old fishing pole--the one he had as a boy. There weren't ads back then--well, except for those companies that advertised on the barns. Wasn't Granny hopping mad when Mail Pouch Tobacco painted the whole side of their barn? Later, Burma-Shave put signs along their road. EVERY DAY, WE DO OUR PART, TO MAKE YOUR FACE, A WORK OF ART, BURMA SHAVE. Yup! That's how it started. Now look at the world.
George leaned back. With his eyes closed, he could hear the clang of construction on the new bank and the whine of a siren. There was a puttering drone of a single engine airplane. He squinted into the sky.
"SURRENDER - DOROTHY - DINE - AT -THE - EMERALD - CITY - CAFE. What? It's a stupid commercial for a restaurant!"
George slapped his fishing hat on the bench. "I can't even sit in the park without commercials."
There weren't many people at the post office at two o'clock, which was the way George liked it. Box 305 was stuffed. George tugged at the folded papers. They exploded out of the little container all over the tiled floor.
George leaned on his cane to pick them up. "This isn't mail! It's all junk--catalogs, bills, campaign ads, sale flyers, and credit-card offers. What a bunch of rubbish!" He saved out the pink envelope addressed to Betty and the bills and one catalog of fishing gear. The rest he tossed in the convenient trash can.
George was still thinking about barns and Burma Shave when he saw a little girl trying to reach his doorbell. "Hello, may I help you?"
The girl tipped her head up at him, showing the empty spaces in her smile. "Hello, Mithter. Would you like to buy thome Girl Thcout cookieth?"
George gritted his teeth. "No, thank you, Little Lady. I find it rude for strangers to invade my privacy trying to sell me stuff. You should leave before I get very angry."
"Thath okay, Mithter. I don't want you to get angry. By the way, my name ithn't Lady. It'th Pam."
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