3409 words (13 minute read)

11                       Kuni’s Maneki-neko

The hottest salesman on the whole friggin’ west coast had plopped onto the bean bag beside Bumper Morgan. "What’s up, Bump?" That’s when Bumper did the rare thing for a radio deejay, he spilled the truth to a radio salesman. The whole truth. Nothing but the truth.

Bobby was familiar with Bumper’s pal Rocky Ocean because he had starred in the morning slot for wimpy KSFL- San Francisco Lite, before landing his dream job in the tropics.

"So, where are all the chips stacked right now, pal?" Odd for a salesman, there was more than a hint of sincerity behind his question.

"Ya know, looked at from one angle, if I do get the call after a ninety day wait, the day I get it I’ll probably forget I ever had to suffer a wait. From the other angle, I’m already packed! Really, I mean it. I am so, so ready. Sandals, flip-flops, cut-offs and tees over here, and a pile of warm clothes to donate to the Salvation Army over there."

"Look at it from angle number one. They can’t keep extending this guy Detts’ grace."

"Yeah," replied Bumper. "Rocky said as much. He thinks that this has to be his final loan extension."

"Well, there you have it. Salvation Army scores big-time before Halloween."

"Only if I score big-time too, sooner than later. Hey, who knows. Maybe over the weekend, the bank will reverse its decision."

"That’s my boy."

When her man headed out the previous weekend, Kuni Noyori had surreptitiously slipped a very special pendant dad had given her for her 15th birthday, into Cool Cole Kelly’s shaving kit. It was a miniature Maneki-neko, a Japanese good-luck totem, a cat waving its left arm up and down like a pendulum. Since the moment that he had discovered it, Cole had kept the charm close. He had tucked Miss Maneki-neko into the front pocket of his flight jacket. Swore he could feel the charm against his chest through four inches of fleece. Now, he retrieved his jacket from the overhead bin and was standing in the aisle wrestling it on. Frontier Flight 113 was on approach. It was expected at its gate in less than twenty minutes.

No engineer, he, when Bumper Morgan had wired his cell number into the memory on Kuni and Cole’s new, shared phone, he had selected the wrong media internet feed from Hawaii. He had intended to lock the tone into one of the stations where pal Rocky Ocean worked, The Wave or Heavyweight 98. Now, Cole Kelly was furiously working at his cell. He was determined to eliminate the ring tone: a live feed of Japanese language station KZRO, TV Ten Zero, licensed to Pearl Harbor.

"Thimeeoutathir. Thimeeoutathir. Nouth! Rithenow."

"Sorry sir, no can do." It was Nurse Boxer’s replacement. She had pushed down Will E. Brown, and held a firm grip on the anchor’s arm. Will E. Brown had struggled vainly to free himself. Just like Jewel Goldman and Nurse Boxer, his new nurse was no fan of the dapper anchor. Brown slumped back into his hospital bed. He was thoroughly resigned. An hour before, he had lurched forward, determined to walk right out of Good Sam. Had he succeeded in getting out of bed, he would have immediately consternated in search of his bloodied clothes, which had been tossed into the chemical incinerator right after the orderly had scissored them off the anchor’s bandy legs.

But, lunge he had. Hard to say which occurred first. Probably, the feel of two hundred and six bones revolting like the brittle bones inside a perch that had just taken the bait. Or perhaps, the excruciating pain when his head had clanged dead into the returnable tray that had been only partially returned. He had bonged said tray with a gong that felt like he had heard a Streisand melody segue into Hammer Me Home, by Motor Head. No way, was he gonna thimoutathere, any thyme thoon.

"Feeling lucky? Well, are you? The California Lottery..."

Al Michaels clicked off his mic, vigorously patted Vin Scully on the shoulder of his Dodger-blue cashmere blazer, grinned, thanked him, then strode toward Smoky and Fanny standing near the banquet table arrayed with gourmet pickings. He grabbed an Anchor and hoisted it toward Smoky. "Cheers, old mate."

"Sounding sweet, Al. Like always."

Fanny had stepped forward when the freckle-faced intern intercepted her. "How about sharp cheddar, spiked with Merced walnuts?"

"No. Thank you." No courteous smile this time from the TV fox, so the young man leapt aside in a Nano-second.

Smoky had told Michaels that Fanny wanted to run something past him so Al told her to lay it out. She said she would like to ask him a Clydesdale-sized favor. Would he be hanging around the booth for long? He affirmed he would, because he and Scully were headed to Lefty O’Doul’s for a pastrami on rye after the post-game signoff.

"What?" said Smoky. "Enough treats here to grind on for two weeks."

"Yeah," replied Michaels, "but it Krukow’s birthday, so you know O’Doul’s will grill a mile high pile of pastrami for Mister Pine Grabber."

Fanny gingerly interrupted to tell Michaels that she had a young friend who would fly off the Richter scale to merely shake his hand. She had to return to her beer station, but would it be okay to usher her friend upstairs right after the game?

Michaels had abruptly answered, "no way!" Just as abruptly, he grinned, then said, "kidding, it will be my pleasure. Bring her up anytime. I’ll make sure that she meets Vin, too."

To do that, I think young Vin would merrily wear a dress, she thought. As she turned to depart, Fanny tossed Al a gracious gracias, thanked Smoky for the extra long break, then surprised the bee-Jesus out of the intern, when she spun him half around to snatch a couple Cheetos from the family-size bag that he had smuggled from home.

There was no getting around it, he just knew. Fanny had composed herself, but she couldn’t completely shed that look. Phil thought that Fanny still looked a little like, looked like, well, like she, like she had been run over by a... by a... by a speeding taxi.

She had fetched her cap and apron and returned to Smoky’s station to grab a tray, then told Olive Oil, her replacement, that she could cool her heels. Fanny arrived at the Throwbacks with her tray at her side, all her cupcake holes empty (with no trace of bathwater) and she said, "no color man tonight?"

A startled Vin Hodges recovered to reply, "heck no. A real pro oft times likes to goes it alone. You think I want some ’Tim McCarver’ interrupting my smooth flow?" He leaned as close to her nametag as he dared (or somewhere awfully near there) to whisper, "isn’t my dad bad enough?" He smiled conspiratorially. "Just kidding."

She asked him what kind of plans he had after the game.

"Oh, well, my producer has lined up interviews with Bruce Bochy and The Panda." Poised pause. "Naaaah, no plans," he said.

"Well, don’t book anything. No matter what your groupies propose."

He lit up. She grinned too, then winked at Phil, who lit up a spark or two himself, just to bathe in her smile.

Flight 113 touched down. Cole Kelly had removed it from his pocket to finger Kuni’s Maneki-neko. He was estimating what it would take to lurch from seat 11B, to be the first passenger off the flight. He had a phone call to make. When a businesswoman in first class began to talk mush-mushy-welcome-home-talk into her T-Mobile, Cole told himself: monkey see monkey do. He stashed Kuni’s charm, withdrew their new Motorola, and flipped to speed dial.

Barry Bonds was in the tunnel that connected the dugout to the dressing room. Any player caught with a telephone was subject to disciplinary action from the manager. But he wasn’t any player. He was Barry Bonds.

"Whassup partner?"

"Listen, Head, what do you hear? Think if I hit it tonight, the fan sells the ball to Cooperstown, or turns it over to us?"

"Deadest of dead heats," replied Head Cheat. "Thirty-thirty-thirty. Thirty percent for you, thirty for the Hall, and thirty say they would hold onto it to weigh options. Eight percent would immediately seek a higher bidder. About two percent were undecided. Why and heck they would call or email a poll to declare their indecision, is for them to figure out. Frankly, I’m undecided what to even think of those who claim to be undecided. Hah. And hey, get this. One Dodger fan promised that he would hurl the ball off the Golden Gate Bridge."

"How do you know all this?"

"One of the beer girls said she heard the poll results on the radio."

"..... brought to you by KDWG, The Dawg."

In the beginning, it was called Billtown. Today, Williamsport is known as the birthplace of the Little League Baseball World Series. Every August, sixteen teams from around the world qualify to travel to the diamonds of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The series was first played in 1947. Over time, the tourney "internationalized." Up until 1975, four teams had squared off annually. In 2012 the Series would invite sixteen teams—eight from the United States and eight teams that played their way in from abroad. More teams, more broadcasts. Leave it to espn.

This year, a new voice from an up and coming broadcaster would surface in Billtown to call play by play. Radio Cucamonga was headed to Pennsylvania. There had been another reason for the Hodges play-by-play team to wrap up their stadium visits with games in Pittsburgh and Philly besides dropping in on Dad’s kid sister. The overriding reason was this: Vin Hodges had been recruited to call the games. He had been tapped to file cutaway reports for the espn radio side. At least that’s what he had told his buddies back home.

"To All The Men I’ve Loved Before."

"Ellen DeGeneres!" She shouted. The thin book game had sure fired up Turbo.

"He Piston Us." Izzy was wearing out the true story he felt compelled to share whenever an off color remark popped up. He had quoted the Philadelphia Daily News headline when 76ers coach Larry Brown had bolted the team to take the helm courtside for the Detroit Pistons.

"Four or six cylinders?" Leave it to The Pistol.

"He was born Wolfgang Grajonca." Bobby G had cornered the Harley-Davidson dealer who wore a vintage, ironed Dead Head tee shirt at the end of the bar in Head Cheat’s suite.

"Can’t be true," said the fellow who had outfitted Head’s Harley, in exchange for regular access to his suite.

"True as the sweet note of a Jerry Garcia guitar chord. Bill Graham himself told me."

"You knew Bill Graham? How?" The dealer was tuned into very few things in the real world, but Harleys and The Grateful Dead were definitely high on his list. In fact, that was his list. In order.

"Bumper, our morning guy. We did a live morning show from the late concert impresario’s home up in the North Bay."

"Whaddaya know," the dealer nodded his head.

"Tell ya about his house, you had to dodge a ten-foot high Grateful Dead skull in his living room."


"True story," replied the hottest salesman on the whole friggin’ west coast. "And on the walls, he had framed every wreath that he had worn as ’Father Time’ at The Dead’s annual New Year’s Eve shows at Winterland."


"True as a Minnesota Fats bank shot. Hey! For quite some time now (for about eight sky-box seconds) I’ve been kicking around an off the Richter promotion about a wildly successful Harley dealer backstage at a..."

But the dealer has already brushed past Bobby to edge a little closer to get a bead on one of the 49er cheerleaders.

He was tired of people offering him hotdogs, so Bumper Morgan artfully astonished and dismissed the strolling vendor who was hawking dogs when he dropped to a Ninja crouch and fashioned a cross with both arms. He and Kuni were headed back to their seats. Lucky me, he mused, I’ll slide in right behind the father of the kid who would no doubt, be tweaking his fancy Senheiser mic levels through his high-end Gates broadcast console controls.

Cool Cole Kelly was working the controls on the cellphone that he had quickly tucked into his jacket when he had seen the lead stewardess dress down the woman in first class. So, he had waited until he had scrambled just inside the Terminal 4 gate to check his messages. He hoped to hear the voice of his agent telling him he had a done deal.

"Done deal. Just about as done as a deal gets. Teensy details is all that remain." That’s how his agent’s message had begun. The message stretched to two and a half minutes. It ended once his agent had repeated the home number for the easy going owner of the two TV stations in Jack London Square. "Call him immediately. Immediately. Hammer this down in your own, svelte, masterly way, Cool Cole. Whoop. Gotta run."

Phil Sage tried to corral Fanny who was heading back down with her full cupcake tray. Tough to corral someone if you have no paws, so he tried a whistle, but the backside of young Vin Hodges muffled it. "Hey!"

"Not so loud, Phil!" Fanny winked as she paused on the steps.

"You look better, sweetie, but not one hundred percent. What’s rumbling around inside there beneath that crimson tide with your auburn streak?"

"Couple things going on. One looks real good. The other... not so good."

"Tell me one."

"Can’t Phil, gotta run."

"Hurry back. Hey! What’s that orange powder all over your fingers?"

"I’m back! Back in the saddle again!"

Steven Tyler and Arrowsmith jolted Boomer Boudin’s phone and startled the dozen women from The Red Hat Society who had already vowed to one another that the rowdy and raucous Sunset Grill was never again to see their business."

"What it be like, Pops?"

"It be like I almost had to play barefoot or in street shoes."

"Yeah, Pop. Your shiny two-tone golf shoes looked like a hood ornament when I rolled out of the Nineteenth Hole bar. If you wore metal spikes, I’d charge you for a paint job. But you didn’t need them this afternoon. Not for a miniature course."

"I most certainly did need them. For show, son. You play the game for show. For show and for dough."

Rocky Ocean, feeling like a doubly disappointed, doomed death row convict waiting for a last minute reprieve, sighed loudly when he learned it was only Boomer’s dad The Machine calling.

"No worries, I borrowed a pair from Larry Ellison. Big shoes to fill, too. Shoes are almost the size of USA-71. Ha-ha."

"Huh?" replied Boomer.

"Ellie’s America’s Cup racer."

Ellie? Ellie? Boomer smiled to think his pop had been chumming up to Larry Ellison.

"You know what he told us? He’s working with Boeing to recycle 7,000 pounds of carbon fiber from his boats. Seven thousand pounds! I don’t think he even knows how many boats he owns. Did you know, he collects fighter jets? Yowsa."

"How do you collect fighter jets?"

"Hey, if you’re Ellie, you find a way."

Ellie. Get after it, Dad. "Listen, Pop. A bit of weirdness went down."

"What are we talking about?"

"Kauai, the two FMs."

"Green grass and high tides. Done deal, you told me. Green grass. High Tides."

"And, I was right. Until the third shot of Patron."

Dad Dana, no stranger to fabled distilled agave, understood. "Go on."

"Silver." Their man at Bank of Hawaii. "He called me as promised, assured me we had ’em. Called back an hour later. Nix, nix. Some suit up the chain nixed his decision. Gotta be the same guy as before. Detts was granted another 90-day extension. So now, we wait. We hurry up to wait again."

"Hmmmmm," replied Dana Boudin the Money Machine. "Hmmmmm." Then, he bid aloha and clicked off.

Boomer’s dad Dana hadn’t said word one about how he had played the tsunami waves and lava flows of Ellie’s miniature course. There was no sense in asking. If he’d won, he wouldn’t have opened the conversation asking about his shoes.

Head Cheat had taken his partner’s call out on the landing. When he returned to the bar he hailed, "well, guess who’s here again? Long time no see. Another big surprise for me, Goldie?"

Goldie? Anyone else, she would have clobbered, or at least shot him a glare that could light up Wall-Mart parking lot. Instead, Jewel Goldman sloughed it off. She had come up with a killer idea for Head. Now was the time to see if he too, thought it killer. "Killer idea for you, Head. Monster promotion."

"A monster promotion is when you slap a humongous Cheaters banner behind your new star throughout every cast."

"Close," she smiled. Eerily close. "Thinking alike is one reason we are each so bloody successful," she cooed. "And adorable and lovable, too."

"Great. So how big a banner, Miss Lovable?"

"What if she models a polo with a Cheaters logo above the pocket, every time we cut away to her?"

"No way! You can’t be serious!" Then wrinkles rose along his forehead. "Wait a minute, you poached probably the second best friggin’ anchor on the whole west coast to do cutaways?"

"Since poor ’ol Will E. Brown bit off a chunk of metal bumper, Victory Freedom has suddenly become, hands down, number one. Number one with a bullet, baby. And of course we hired her to anchor. And anchor she will, effective Monday."

"Monday? She didn’t even give notice? She just bolted from TV 20?"

"Of course she did, but I thought you knew media, Head. No radio or TV station worth salt would ever let a high profile personality continue on air once she commits to a competitor. Heck, in essence, the snubbed station would be promoting an eminent competitor. Moreover, the talent would also be at liberty to plug her move or say something derogatory about TV 20, about staff or management, or even take a BIC lighter to the set."

"Okay, okay, okay. So who would be doing these cutaways for me?"

For me? For me! Head is glued in to my promotion, Jewel Goldman told herself. To Head, she grinned and said, "Let me lay it out for you, once I lay it out for her. Gotta run."

Head eyed her as she trotted away. She was on her way to the Throwback section. But first, she veered to the bar and cooed to the bartender: "Double-Jack rocks."

Next Chapter: 12                       Never Believe a Limping Dog