Sample stories from Chicken Coop for A Rubber Sole…
This book is a collection of humorous columns guaranteed to make you laugh. For your own copy contact Layton. The following is a list of the stories followed by a few taken at random. We trust you will enjoy them.
List to Topics:
1. Live, Love, and Laugh
2. Why Chicken Coop
3. The East Coast Ghost
4. Home Invasion
5. The Sex Diet
6. The Tasting
7. Shopping – Part I: Who Designed the Stores?
8. Shopping – Part II: Life in the Fast Lane
9. Shopping – Part III: The Art of Shopping
10. Home on the Range
11. Travelling in Style
12. Santa and the Happy Hooker
13. I Am Dying of Baldness
14. The Kayak Trip
15. I Am Not Dave Barry!
16. Ode to Sneaky Pete and Great Teachers Everywhere
17. The Autopsy
18. Oh, Bobby
20. Vacuuming Sucks
22. The Music Promoter
23. The King and I
24. Sooke and the Ice Floes
25. B.H. Challenge
26. The Legend of Stuart Caton
27. The RV Reunion
30. If You Had to Pick a Vehicle as Your Mate
31. Is There Really an Ogopogo out There?
32. The Dancer and the Border Cops
33. Armed and Dangerous
34. What Is Your Sexual Number?
35. The Light Plan
36. That, Your Honour, Is When I Decided to Murder Him
37. How to Stay Young Forever
38. Rules of the Range
39. Kelowna Is Burning
40. Marriage Is Murder
4 • Home Invasion
When we moved to the Okanagan (a Native word meaning a great place to retire), one of the things I most looked forward to was welcoming company from back home. My new neighbour, Fred, could not understand my enthusiasm for visitors. He warned me that anyone I had ever nodded hello to back on the prairies would turn up at our home looking for a free Okanagan holiday if I didn’t nip it in the bud.
“Don’t encourage them,” Fred cautioned, “or you’ll be running a hotel. People from Saskatchewan (another Native word, which means you cannot jump to your death here) are especially bad visitors. If the flatlanders make it through the twisting mountain roads, they are often too frightened to return, so they stay, some forever.”
I laughed, but Fred was serious. “Do the math,” he said. “There are more retired people from Weyburn, Rosetown, and Moose Jaw living in the Okanagan than the entire population of all three places right now.”
Wanting to be helpful, Fred offered a few suggestions to curb the flow of prairie traffic to our home. “We keep two suitcases in the closet beside the front door,” he said. “When someone shows up and there is any indication they may be planning to stay, we pretend we are just getting ready to go out of town for a few days. You’d better have a good plan, too.”
Apparently, Fred felt his message wasn’t sinking in, so he testified. “One time, some people showed up whom I hardly knew, so I pulled the suitcase trick. Instead of leaving, they asked if they could use the house anyway. We ended up staying at a motel for the weekend. Now we keep clothes in the suitcases.”
The topic of out-of-town visitors continued to pop up and I learned of several new tricks one of which is leaving only one roll of toilet paper in the guest bathroom. The idea is that after you continually promise to replenish the empty roll (but never do), the unwanted guests will find accommodation somewhere else, rather than embarrass you by reminding you yet again. Or they may just buy their own toilet paper.
Another helpful neighbour suggested we register our home as a bed and breakfast and post a sign on the back door: Rooms for rent―$150 per night. Sometimes that alone will make uninvited guests feel guilty and they will depart. If that doesn’t work, you still have the option of saying, “We’d love to have you stay, but unfortunately, all of the rooms are booked after Wednesday.”
I suspect our neighbours though we were crazy. I was so pleased at the idea of getting company that I visited a local furniture store to buy a foldout couch for extra sleeping quarters. The salesperson asked if I wanted the one-night bed, the weekender, or the full-week bed.
The confused look on my face prompted an explanation.
“Sofa beds are available in three different models,” the salesman explained, “the one-nighter is a bed fitted with a bar that runs across the lumbar position, making for a very uncomfortable sleep. Stiffness is guaranteed after only one night, prompting guests to leave the following day.” He smiled and continued.
“The weekender has the same bar but a thicker mattress and additional padding so aches and stiffness don’t show up for two or three nights. It is only moderately uncomfortable, designed for those you want to visit but not to overstay their welcome.” He paused for effect.
“The full-week bed is for close family or friends whom you want to come for a short stay, but not move in. It features the same construction but the bar drops in the middle of the bed and it has even more padding. It has no negative effect but is uncomfortable enough to keep guests from enjoying a really good night’s sleep. After several nights they too will decide to move on.
“The beds may not have been designed with those particular purposes in mind,” the salesperson explained, “but here in the valley, that’s how we rate them. It’s the only way to keep control over your home.”
After some discussion, Myrna and I decided against buying a sofabed. She has more out-of-town relatives than me and purchased a foldout futon instead.
We still welcome our prairie friends, but should you ever find us at the front door with our suitcases in hand, you will know we have finally reached our quota of vacationing visitors.
5 • The Sex Diet
The best-selling books are diet books and cookbooks. They do well because they really promote sex, and sex is what sells everything.
Cookbooks tell you how to make meals romantic enough to impress members of the opposite sex (as if she will want to jump into your sack at the mere taste of your flambé); diet books tell you if you were thinner you would look younger and sexier. Of course, diet cookbooks win on both counts. The clear message is that if we do a good job with either, or both, we will get more sex. In fact, we will buy just about anything if we think it will result in a) more sex, or b) looking sexier. As a result, the public is ready no, anxious to learn about the sex diet.
I have studied a number of diets and I am amazed at how many contradict one another. There are high-fat and low-carbohydrate diets. There are high-carbohydrate and low-fat diets. There are diets that allow both as long as they are not consumed at the same time. Diets that dictate what you can eat based on your blood type. Diets that suggest you can eat as much as you want and anything you want as long as you have a glass of water between each bite. And so on. They all claim to work and they are all popular.
Each week the grocery store checkout stand displays numerous books and magazines touting the latest, greatest diet, right there where you can pick up a copy conveniently along with your Laura Secord cake, case of cola, and a gargantuan chocolate bar.
The old model of yesterday’s grey-haired, out-of-shape fifty-year-old is long gone and we boomers are obsessed with searching for the magic that will make us look eternally youthful. We want to be as sexy as some of our fifty- or sixty-something idols like Cher, Suzanne Somers, or Harrison Ford. Why is it that plastic surgery seems to allow women to stay young and beautiful forever while men turn out looking like Michael Jackson?
Based on the number of gurus showing us the way, I have come to the conclusion that anyone can call themselves an expert on the most effective way to lose weight by simply inventing their own program, so here is mine. I call it the Sex Diet.
It’s called the Sex Diet for two reasons. First, because sex is really the outcome we are in search of, so the name has real marketing potential. Second, on my diet you can eat anything you want, as long as you eat it only while having sex.
Don’t laugh. After all, who craves potato chips while playing slap and tickle? Most cravings disappear as soon as you remove your clothing. In fact, for some it is too much bother to undress for a snack, so unless you enjoy sex with your clothes on, the amount eaten will be immediately reduced.
Those who are willing to strip down find that suddenly the thought of eating disappears or the types of food they desire suddenly changes. Gone are the cravings for over processed, high-calorie foods. One look in the mirror and your brain is probably screaming, “Diet food!” Immediately, and without any conscious thought, cravings shift to more natural food items. The next time you are being intimate, ask yourself: Would I sooner have a big plate of spaghetti right now or a banana? Even if you unwittingly choose the spaghetti, are you going to “take a break” to make it? Besides, you simply can’t eat that much pasta while frolicking through the covers.
There is a lot to be said for this diet. While the thought of whipping cream may still be exciting to some, an electric mixer in bed poses too many dangers for most of us. Ice cream gets ruled out as soon as it touches someplace unfriendly to cold foods.
Likewise, buttered popcorn is too messy. Anything that requires a knife, fork or other sharp utensil tends to cause a loss of concentration. Popsicles not only fit into the cold category, but if the sticks are flung about carelessly in the heat of the moment, you could lose an eye. (Let that happen just once and you can imagine the warning labels government will demand be printed on the wrappers.)
Foods that suit this program are limited to those that can be eaten with one hand, do not require utensils, and are not crumbly or sticky. Hot foods can cause as much anxiety as cold foods. Delivered foods are an option, but you know that pizza is going to show up at exactly the wrong time.
There is no denying the effectiveness of this diet. You are probably already looking forward to your next meal.
For those who can’t wait to buy a copy of my Sex Diet book, I make this humble offer. If enough of you send me $19.95 for a copy, I will actually sit down and write it.
13 • I Am Dying of Baldness
Our youngest son, Liam, began drum lessons last year and, at age thirteen, plans to become a rock star. He decided that in order to be a drummer, he had to leave his buzz cut behind and begin growing his hair. He grew the great surfer look of the sixties; in fact, he sort of looks like Dennis Wilson. You remember him, drummer for the Beach Boys. The one who said, “I do not want to shower on the boat. I would prefer to wash up on shore.” If you recall, just like Natalie Wood, that is exactly what he did. It was not the career path I had envisioned for my son.
I rallied enough to tell Liam how I wished my hair looked that good. He wanted to know why I didn’t just grow it out. I tried to explain how mine hair is far too thin and the curls all go in different directions, to which he simply said, “Cool.”
I suggested that because his hair is so thick and we share the same DNA, he could donate some hair to fill in my growing bald spot.
His response was quick. “You can have one of my kidneys if you need it, but leave my hair alone.”
“What are you saying? You would not donate some hair to your own dad?” I tried to feign disappointment.
“I might if you were dying of baldness, but I’ve never heard of that happening. And I need my hair. Besides, you already have a woman.”
So that is where I stand. Unless I start dying of baldness, Liam is not coming to my rescue.
What is it about turning fifty that causes a man to lose the hair on his head and begin growing it in places that were previously bald?
And why do women find a man with a full head of hair sexy, yet a man with a full ear of hair is not? Bushy eyebrows or nose hair are not high on women’s lists of preferred male attributes. I was thinking of letting my eyebrows grow so that as I lose the hair on my head, I can comb my eyebrows back.
I’ve just read a study that suggests men who still have any of their hair when they die usually still sport the same hairstyle as they wore in their youth. That is why we see some white ducktails and grey ponytails on half-bald men, and very thin shoulder-length hair on weathered old faces.
That may be my problem. I looked at a childhood photo and noted I had no hair. In fact, I had no teeth and was wearing a diaper, is that any indication of where I am headed? I am not getting older; I am regressing. In fact, this may be how I get even with Liam, he may have the hair, but he’ll end up being stuck babysitting me.
Perhaps God is getting even with women for giving men the apple. First he (or she, depending on your religious preference) waits until a woman gives her troth to a wavy-haired young man. Then God robs the man of his sexy, curly locks and replaces them with wispy, wiry hair growing in the most imaginative places.
A young lady asked Liam to attend the fair with her and her family. As he prepared to go, I handed him the shaving cream and suggested perhaps he should have his first shave. I pointed out that he had two blond hairs on his chin that were approaching a quarter-inch in length. He said he though she preferred that rugged two-day-beard look even if it had taken him thirteen years to achieve it.
Liam later told the young woman what had transpired and she told him she liked the look. She thought he looked as though he had the start of a goatee.
I am wondering why, if a thirteen-year-old girl has the ability to look at two blond, almost invisible hairs and visualize a goatee, can’t you older women look at a head with two small hairs and at least pretend you see a full head?
As we lost our hair, did you lose the magic of your imagination?
This whole hair thing just kills me. Hey, that’s it! It’s killing me, I am dying of baldness! Liam…oh, Liam, where are you?
21 • Parasailing
Like most pilots, parachuting has never appealed to me. We believe no one in their right mind should jump out of a perfectly good airplane.
However, one summer several years ago, I was lying on a beach watching the first parasailers I had ever seen drifting lazily up and down Mara Lake. That looks like an adventure, I thought. They weren’t jumping out of airplanes; boats were just towing them along. After watching them go back and forth for a day and a half without incident, I thought I had to give this a try.
I walked over to the young fellow who appeared to be the organizer and asked what it would cost to go for a ride. The price was reasonable and he said there was just one spot left at 6 p.m. the next day. I agreed to take it and returned to watch another uneventful day. One by one, people would get into the harness on the beach take two or three steps. Then, before anyone reached the water’s edge, they would head skyward like a homesick angel. As my time came closer, I began getting increasingly excited.
Finally, it was my time and a beach boy who was too well tanned trussed me up in the harness and gave me a handful of ropes. I asked what I needed to know.
“Can you run?” he asked. When I assured him I could, he continued. “When I yell ‘run,’ you run. Don’t worry about all the lines. Don’t pull any of them or try to steer, just run and enjoy.”
What I did not know was they had bought the boat only two days earlier and had not yet towed anyone my size. Standing on the beach with a couple of men holding up the parachute behind me, I waited with anticipation as the boat motor gunned and the command came, “Go!”
Down the beach I ran, both feet still solidly hitting the ground when I reached the water. I tried to keep running but it became difficult as the water became deeper. Once past my knees, I could no longer lift my feet out of the lake, fell forward and was dragged across the top of the water. Just before I drank half the lake and drowned, I was suddenly airborne. What a feeling!
Looking down between my dripping legs, I could see the boat a hundred metres below.
The plan was to go up the east side of the lake to the north end then turn around and come back down the west side. By the time we reached the north end of the lake, the wind had come up and whitecaps were forming. The boat turned west but the parachute still faced north into the wind, tracking along on the south side of the boat. The wind was too strong and my chute would not turn and follow the boat. They turned the boat to face east but the results were the same, the wind kept me facing north.
Finally, the driver decided the wind was too strong to continue. He could not turn around so he cut the engine, but the parachute did not descend and instead began pulling the boat backward into the waves. The three hundred and fifty foot rope was tied to the ski bar in the middle of the boat and as the parachute pulled the boat back, it began to go under the waves. More waves lapped up over the back, and as more of the boat was flooded, its nose rose out of the water. I watched as the boat capsized, its two occupants diving wildly over the side. I had a great view of the event, but I was not terribly excited about what I was witnessing. The thought that kept bothering me was what if the boat sinks and the lake is deeper than three hundred and fifty feet? I’m not sure how to get out of this rig, and if the lake is deeper than the length of the rope, I have a problem.
The parachute still did not come down; instead, it became more like a kite. It began pulling the boat backward through the chop. It would be a good time to know what string to pull, I thought, but it is a helluva time to start experimenting.
Several boats came to the rescue of my boat’s drivers. An off-duty member of the airborne beach patrol, driving a large boat, reached the swimmers first and pulled them aboard. They hooked the rope that secured me to the boat under a tie-down bracket on the side of the rescue boat and began driving up the line, bringing the parachute closer to the water. Eventually I was dunked into the water but the chute stayed inflated. The wind would catch it again and drag me across the top of the water in a large arc, and then it would dunk me again. Back and forth it dragged and dunked me.
When the rescue boat finally reached me, the driver grabbed the front shroud lines and yanked them down around my head and neck. I threw them off, concerned that if the chute took off again, it would choke me, but his actions collapsed the chute. Finally, the driver pulled me aboard. “What were you doing?” he yelled at me. “Why didn’t you just pull on the front lines and bring yourself down?” Before I could answer, he began yelling at the two boat owners. “And why didn’t you just let the quick release go?”
“We were afraid he would take off with our chute,” the tall one replied. “We just bought this outfit and we didn’t know what to do,” the other nodded in dumb agreement.
All ended well, and I learned jumping out of a perfectly good airplane is not the only bad idea one can have with a parachute.
27 • The RV Reunion
We do not have family reunions as much as excuses to spoil the two long weekends in summer.
As I’ve already mentioned, these reunions have become very competitive over the years; contests over who had the brightest kids, which kids had the best jobs, who has the biggest backyard, etc.
A few years ago, the competition was “Who Has the Biggest Recreational Vehicle?”
When I arrived, I went straight to the washroom and discovered my brother-in-law and a cousin already engaged in a bragging competition. But I didn’t know they were comparing motorhomes and, well, I got confused…
“So, whose is bigger?” my cousin, Trent, was asking. “Do you think yours is bigger than mine?”
My brother-in-law, Reuben, stared at him for a moment and answered, “Oh, yeah, mine is about twelve inches longer than yours is!”
I was stunned. Just then, Rueben turned to me, continuing, “How about yours, Layton?”
I guessed at what they were comparing and thought I should avoid this competition, so I said, “Mine’s not that big…what about Les’s? Do you think yours is longer than his?”
Rueben looked thoughtful. “Well, we never compared them side by side…but I think I’ve got him beat, too.”
Trent jumped back in. “But Les’s has a lot of power, his is a pusher, you know.” A pusher?
Just then my nephew, Bob, came around the corner. Trent turned and said, “Bob, you still packin’ your old big foot?”
Bob smiled and said, “No…I moved from a nine to a twelve. The wife said she was happy with nine, but I always wanted a bigger one.”
“Did you say you went from nine to twelve?” I muttered. “Did it hurt?”
“Sort of,” he said. “Last fall I ran it right into the back end of some lady from Vancouver and bent it.”
That was a scene I didn’t wish to envision.
“Bent it? I’ve heard Vancouver women are tough, but bent it?” I was still muttering.
“Yeah,” he said. “I was in a hurry and not paying close enough attention. The next thing you know…”
“Wait! I don’t want to hear any more. I can feel the pain now,” I was thinking this would be a good time to get out of the bathroom.
Then Rueben cut back in. “Hey, Layton, tell us about yours.”
“Mine’s nothing special,” I said, still reluctant to join this competition.
“Well, is it a slider?” he persisted.
“Ah, yeah,” I answered. “I guess you could call it a slider, but I prefer to think of it as a pusher.”
“So how many does it accommodate at one time?” he asked.
I felt this was too personal, and besides, he knows I’m married and it only accommodates one. I was thinking of telling him where to park it but he’d have to bend it… So as I left the washroom, I said, “Hey, this has been interesting, but the wife needs help with the tent and I have pole duty.” Oops.