Monthly Archives: April 2011

How to Heal a Broken Heart

(This story is a continuation of last week’s story, “Opening Game of Baseball Season – Stories From Rode Apple Junction“) 


Shank Returns to His Old Hang-Out

Shank stayed at Duke’s place, a farm west of town on Muddy Creek Road, for a few days. The old championship team got together for a few laughs and beers at the Side Track Inn. They had a barbeque at Gibby Gephart’s, the shortstop.

Before Shank left town he stopped at the Jittery Goat Cafe to have a coffee and take a look at the old place. In Shank’s high school days, Clyde Pixler, Clem’s Dad ran the place. Shank spent a lot of time there. Besides the ball diamond The Jittery Goat Cafe held as many memories as anyplace else. He kissed his first girl, Charlotte Schweiterman, at age fifteen in the corner booth. A month later that’s where she broke his heart when he saw her kiss Joe Hodges. Then before he and Joe was about to have it out over Charlotte they both saw her kissing Buford Farnsworth. Wasn’t long before there were enough boys to start a chartered high school club, nothing official, of course, just boys swapping stories and mending broken hearts.

“What can I get ya?” Clem said as Shank sat at the bar.

“Coffee with a touch of cream,” Shank said.

Clem got the coffee and sat it in front of Shank. Clem left Shank alone. He got three scoops of cherry ice cream and sprinkled some crushed cinnamon heart candy over the top and topped with a cherry. Shank did not watch. He blew on his coffee and sipped. Clem slid the bowl of cherry ice cream sprinkled with crushed red cinnamon hearts topped with a cherry in front of Shank.

The Heart Break Special

“That’s what Mr. Pixler used to serve me for free when nobody else was around.”

“I know and nobody’s around,” Clem said.
“How did you know?”

“Mr. Pixler was my Dad. He called it the ‘Heart Break Special.'”

“Do you know why?”

“I could never figure it out. Only the old timers order it.”

Shank smiled, “It’s a long story and a girl’s reputation may be involved. Is he still living?”

“Your Dad.”

“No, he died in ’89.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“People always say that like it’s not supposed to happen, but if he hadn’t died he’d be one hundred and two now.”

“I guess you’re right, but I had to say something.”

“Maybe I should be a bit more mannerly and just say, ‘Thanks.’”

“No, that’s okay.”

Why Shank Never Returned to Rode Apple Junction

“Curiosity is eating me up Shank, where have you been. Everybody took you for dead.”

Shank spooned a plentiful portion ice cream into his mouth. He closed his eyes and savored the concoction. “That’s so good. I’ve tried this at home and at least fifty other places in my lifetime, but nothing taste like this.”

“It’s all home-made. We’ve made it that way for as long as I can remember.”

“You don’t know how many times I wanted to come back.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“I thought if I came back with anything less than what was expected from me I would be labeled a failure.”

“Shank, we here in Rode Apple Junction may be petty and small-minded, but we expect failure as a natural consequence of life. We celebrate it. There’s no place like this. Sure, we talk about that state championship team in ’61, but if ya want to get a real conversation goin’ ya talk about the ’94, ’95, ’96 football team. They never won a game. In those three years we never scored a touchdown. We’re proud of those boys. It takes courage to go out there and play your best knowing you’re going to get beat. It’s a life lesson. Life is full of expectations unrealized. We don’t have drugs, suicides, crime, or divorce because there is no expectation beyond who you are.”

“Where I live now that makes absolutely no sense at all, but to me right now it does.”

“What happened when you left?”

“I showed up at the ball park in Bakersfield at ten in the morning after a three-day ride and no sleep on a Greyhound Bus. I was in uniform at twelve. They stuck me in the last inning with only three warm-ups in the bullpen. I pitched to three guys and got them all out. I struck out the last guy on three pitches. Over the next week the coaches worked with me to change my delivery. They said it was awkward and funny and that those guys I got out laughed themselves into outs. After another month I was 0-6. I sat in the bullpen for two weeks without being put in a game. They called me in when our last pitcher twisted his ankle. We were tied and the other team had two on and one out. I came in and pitched the way that was natural to me. I threw six pitches striking out the remaining batters. I walked straight to the showers, changed, and hitch hiked to LA. I found out a few days later that Bakersfield won the game the bottom of the ninth, giving me my only professional win.”

“You been in Los Angles all this time?”

“I ended up going to college and getting a doctorate in psychology. My practice reads like a who’s who in Hollywood. And now after all those years of helping the wayward find their way I want to find mine.”

A Place Where You Can be Yourself Without Being Someone Else

“What’s wrong with Rode Apple Junction?” Clem asked.

“You can never go home,” Shank said. “You have heard that haven’t you? People change. I’ve changed.”

“You came here looking for something,” Clem said.

Shank smiled politely and returned to the ‘Heart Break Special.’ Clem walked over to the coffee and poured a cup. He returned and said, “What?”

“What?” Shank said confused.

“What are you looking for?” Clem said.

Just then ten year old Brandon Wilhelm came in. He was holding a baseball and walked up to Shank. “Excuse me sir, but my Dad told me there was a famous baseball player here and he told me to come and get his autograph. Is that you?”

Shank smiled and said, “Yeah, that’s me. Let me see the ball.” Shank took the ball and Clem handed him a pen. Shank signed it and handed it back to Brandon.

Brandon looked at it. He was confused. “What does it say?”

“Shank Hortsman,” Shank said.

“Is that you?” Brandon said.

“Yeah, that’s me,” Shank said.

“Oh I was looking for someone famous,” Brandon said. “But thanks anyway.” Brandon walked out the door.

The smile faded from Shank’s face. He looked at Clem.

Clem smiled broadly, “This is a place where somebody is nobody and nobody is somebody. If that ain’t what you’re lookin’ for you clearly don’t belong here.”

Shank stirred the ice cream a bit. “Do you know a woman about my age named Charlotte Schweiterman?”

“No, can’t say that I do, but there was a Charlotte Carpenter, she moved to Decatur years ago. I think that was her name. Had a half-dozen kids by five different husbands.

“That’s got to be her,” Shank said.

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How Dieting Can Collapse The World Economy – Stories From Rode Apple Junction

Typical farm near Rode Apple Junction

Introduction To Rode Apple Junction

My roots are firmly planted in a lovely little town that straddles the Ohio/Indiana border known as Rode Apple Junction. It sits amid the peaceful rich farmland that lies in the Maumee River Basin. The area was once a part of an ancient lake that joined with the larger Lake Erie. For that reason it is part of the Lake Plains geographic region. Two hundred years ago it was nothing more than flat grassy swamp land and patches of forests. German immigrant farmers and unsuccessful farmers like my ancestors came from other parts of the country and toiled long days and nights to reclaim the fertile soil that laid beneath the mosquito infested swamps. They were men and women of uncommon will and determination. The work was all done by hand. What they lacked in education and knowledge of farming they made up for in determination, character, and hospitality. By the sweat of their brow, the blisters of their hands, the aches of their muscles, and the strains of their backs they forged an Eden-like productive farmland once called The Black Swamp.

Local lore says seventeen year old George Washington, himself, surveyed the line that divided Ohio and Indiana. This, of course, can not be proved by history. Two trails in a woods crossed a half day’s ride by horse back east of Ft. Wayne, Indiana. On each side of the trail that snaked north and south a cabin sat. It is said young George ran the 84° 48′ 50″ longitude line right between the two cabins.

Now don’t go looking for it an a map. When a master map of the territory was made Rode Apple Junction fell smack dab on the crease and in time it wore away.

Now, Road Apple Junction is a town where nothing much happens, but all the world’s problems and dramas are played-out there.

Today, on the spot of the cabin that stood east of the 84° 48′ 50″ longitude line is the Jittery Goat Cafe. It is owned by Clayton Pixler the great, great, great, great, great grandson of Josiah Pixler the first citizen of Rode Apple Junction and the one who refused Washington lodging, because he had fleas.

 Are Skinny Jeans The Answer?

Ron Shepman's Bibs

Just the other day, Ron Shepman, a farmer three miles outside of town came in for coffee and pie. He just delivered a load of soy beans to the Rode Apple Junction Grain Elevator and Coop. He pulled his tractor and trailer in front Jesse Turnwald’s hardware. It’s the only place Ron buys his cloths – bib overhauls. He was only there a minute or so and stormed out like a bulldog in a for poodles only dog show. He headed directly across the street to The Jittery Goat Cafe. He burst in and straddled a stool like he was putting a scissor grip on a tractor seat riding a creek bed.

“Give me a coffee and a pumpkin pie,” Ron says as he slapped a ten-dollar bill on the counter.

Clayton (we call him Clay) brought him a coffee and slice of pie.

“I said, ‘a pumpkin pie’ not a sliver of pumpkin pie.”

Clay says, “Ron if you keep eating like that you’ll pop the strap buttons on those overhauls. They’re looking a might worn. Remember what happened to Miss Clara Lumis, the organists at the Methodist church. Her bra strap snapped, she flung forward into the organ, and stayed there until the rescue squad came. Her breast formed a perfect cord for Handel’s Messiah. If she was playing Bach’s Mass in B Minor, she might have died there.”

Clay reluctantly got the pie and a can of whipped cream. He left the whipped cream with Ron. It’s sort of like a bartender leaving the bottle. “You want to be left alone, Ron, or do you want to talk this one out?”

Ron squirted a perfect Swiss Alps mountain range atop his pie. He took a large bite of pie, whipped cream, and chased it with a belt of coffee. With his nerves settled he was able to talk. “I just got back from the hardware and they’re out of my size of overhauls and Jesse Turnwald says they will no longer be stocking my size. Jesse said that the company that makes the overhauls is being pressured by the government not to make overhauls my size anymore. They said people are too fat and when you make cloths oversize it just encourages people to stay fat. They say that fat people are a drain on the health care system and cost too much money. I ain’t never been sick a day in my life. This world won’t be happy until we’re all in skinny jeans. Then I come in here for some solace and you start with some stupid story that may or may not be true, that’s supposed to make me want to be thin and take responsibility for my health.”

“Oh believe me it’s true. I was there,” Clay said. “I think you should settle down a bit.”

Ron snapped back, “Are you afraid I’m going to stroke out?”

“Well in your present condition it’s a real possibility and maybe I should take some of that pie back to help lose some weight so you can fit into a some new overhauls. Eventually those ones you’re wearing are going to wear out in the place that receives the most friction and none of us want to see where that’s at.”

“Ya don’t touch that pie,” Ron said and pulled it closer. “Five foot four and thee fifty is not overweight. It’s under height.”

“Not by anyone’s standards and that’s the truth,” Clay says (the customer, no matter how out of touch with reality he is, is always right). “I suppose if you was seven feet tall you could order something that might fit your girth.” Clay chuckled to try to ease the mounting tension.

It’s strange how genius strikes. One minute your doodling around with 1’s and 0’s on a computer screen and the next minute you have more money than a Middle East dictator and you appear on the front cover of Time Magazine.

Innovation Comes From Maintaining The Status Quo Rather Than The Need For Change

“That’s it, Clay!” Ron says. “There’s a whole lot of people in my shoes. They’ll soon be bibless. I’m gonna buy all the overhauls for seven-foot tall three hundred and fifty pound guys, cut off the legs so’s they can fit the five foot four guys, and fabricate the left over material into baby bib diapers. I can call them something like ‘bibapers.’”

“Hold on Ron don’t you see the over-all good effect you can have on the health care system if guys like you just lose some weight. It reduces your chances of heart attack, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and who knows what else.”

Economics Are More Art Than Science – It Must Be Shaped To Meet The Needs Of The Proletariat

“You are so short-sighted. You got to think outside the box,” Ron says as shoves another load of pie in his mouth.

“What on earth are you talking about?” Ron said.

“I suppose I eat about twenty pies a month in your place. Ain’t that so?”

“Somewhere around there.”

“If I cut back to one slice of pie, that’s how many pies a month?”

“About three.”

“Do you think the other customers will order the pie I ain’t eatin’?”


“Is it becoming clear to you yet? Where does your lost revenue come from?”

“You got me there, Ron.”

“You got to raise prices. All the sudden that seventy-five cent cup of coffee is a buck and a quarter. Imagine every fat person cutting back on pie. The economy would crumble. All because some unhappy skinny politicians want everybody to be as miserable as them.”

“You really think that’s it, Ron?”

“Take a lesson from history, Clay. Hugo Chavez, Mao Tse Tung, and Kim Jong Il – all socialists, all overweight, and all want everybody else to be skinny. Socialists become fat on the sacrifices and miseries of the common man. Fatness is a sign of prosperity and you can’t have the proletariat more prosperous than the rulers.”

The phone rang. “Excuse me Ron,” Clay said eager to get away from a class struggle and political discussion. “I got to catch this call.”

With Clay now on the phone Ron turned to see if any of the other customers in The Jittery Goat caught his dissertation on economics, history, and political science. Ron wondered how many other great speeches and ideas  in proceeding centuries were lost in the void of time and space and had fallen on deaf ears.

Clay came back and Ron swiveled around in his stool. “That was Jesse Turnwald at the hardware. He says to come get your bibs as soon as you finish the pie. He was just havin’ a little fun with you.”

Ron shoved a heap of pumpkin pie and whipped cream in his mouth. “Mark my word, when famine strikes and passes, history will be recorded by us fat guys because we were the only ones with the insight to prepare.” Ron thought for a while. “Clay, what is it about being fat that makes people want to pick on us?”

“I don’t know Ron, but if I ever cross the line, you let me know.”

“Thanks Clay,” Ron said. “And the next time I ask for pie, just give me half of one. You can charge me for the whole thing, but send the rest down to Shady Acres.”

“You’re a good man, Ron.”

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