Fence Omen

August 24th, 2010

Dear Olive,

Phyllis, in a determined state, decided one day that it would be a good idea to buy a bunch of tennis balls and stick them in the fence along the highway. Not just randomly stick them in the fence but to make words out of them like those signs whose letters are made up of dots. In our case the dots would be tennis balls. The idea was to write little dog oriented mots on the fence and thus incite curiosity which ought to translate to added business. I was less than supportive and produced a variety of potential pitfalls to the idea mostly centering around the difficulty we might find in keeping the dogs from regularly plucking them off the fence. Also, as these balls cost all of $1.59 for three and smelled of solvent I was a bit worried what ingesting one of them might do to the guests. I find it’s best to stay out of Phyllis’ way when she gets her mind set.

The clear result is, the tennis balls have proved(n? Beats me.) to be the most successful method of drawing attention to ourselves. Nobody mentions our weekly ad in the local paper or the posters we place about town. A few people have found Barksville in the yellow pages. Everybody, on the other hand, seems to have caught on to the tennis ball art. They even appear on Google Maps indirectly announcing our marriage. Phyllis isn’t just another pretty girl you know.

Once we realized how much attention the balls receive we though maybe we ought to try and expand upon the idea. So, when we decided to run a bit of a contest whereby people would be given a chance to guess the genetic make up of our little dog Judy (whose D.N.A. we had recently tested for a mere $70.00) we thought, “Better get the tennis balls involved.” We placed an ad in the paper with a picture of Judy and directed people to the web site to cast their vote as to what her genetic make up might be. We called it “All Dogs Matter.” The winner would get some fabulous prizes including the opportunity to have their dog’s D.N.A. tested and be the subject of the next “All Dogs Matter” campaign. So on the fence we removed “Chili Dog” which had really suited the cold snap we had been enjoying and Phyllis set about writing “Judy ?” We took a picture of this and placed that on the website as the link to the “Guess Judy’s D.N.A.”submission form. We figured writing “Judy?” would also round up a little interest from the street. This turned out to be correct. We got about 15 responses from the newspaper but at least fifty people in town inquired about “Judy with a question mark.” Some called to see if we had lost Judy. Judy is truly a most unfortunate looking dog but she sure is endearing to those who know her. All and all it was a pretty good success for an ad campaign that suited our budget of $28.00 in toxic tennis balls. Now the fence reads, “Hot Diggity.” We ran out of balls before we could spell “Dog”

Though our campaign has been over for a couple of months people still ask about it. Just the other day we ran into Florence. I think I told you about her. I worked on the crew that built her house a few years back. Florence was a delight to work for and has an especially keen sense of humor. The housebuilding experience was a bit stressful on her and you might say she has the odd tick. Like one day, to keep herself busy while inspecting the site, she started sweeping the driveway. No one took much notice until about two hours later we saw that she had taken this endeavor out on to the street and had pretty well swept the entire cul-de-sac. Watching her in action was like watching a tribute to several cartoon characters. Conversation could also take on the same feel. “So(sniff),” she might say to Chuck, the laborer(think talking post with a speech impediment), when she witnessed him in yet another act of abject inefficiency, “I can’t help but notice you are moving that pile of wood to three separate locations-three separate times, maybe even four, and, well, I suppose I was wondering, ahhh, if I might ask, (sniff) mmmm… why?” One day I noticed she would often stop to arrange things. If you placed a level on a table you would see her come along at a certain point and insure that the level was running parallel with the table edge. Didn’t take me long to figure that out and start messing with all kinds of things until she eventually caught me in the act and said, sounding a bit like the Chicken Hawk from the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons, “Heyyyyy ey ey ey ey, just wait one cotton pickin’ minute here. You,(throat clearing sound then sniff)now you just cut that right out buster!” Anyway to make a short story long, I always like running into Florence. She is always good for some little anecdote or commentary on the comings and goings of stuff. For instance, last we saw her she invited us up to her place to check out the back yard which she informed us had recently been transformed to look just like the “100 Acre Wood” from Winnie the Pooh. It’s on my list of things to do.

I hadn’t seen her for about three months and then, as I was saying, Phyllis and I ran into her at a restaurant. As we were leaving she got up and said, “Hey,” like Yogi Bear trying to sell you a stolen watch, “you got a minute?” She was a little wide eyed. “So listen,(long pause, long enough to make you feel a little uncomfortable)I been meanin’ to ask you about them balls. You know the “Judy with the question mark.” What, ahh, if you don’t mind me asking, were you referring to by that? We explained it to her. Florence doesn’t have a dog. She seemed relieved “Hmmmm,”she said. Funny thing about that. “I drove by it everyday for about a week, see, until I couldn’t take it any more.” “ I got this Aunt Judy see, and I hadn’t talked to her in awhile and it just kept making me think that something might be up with her-like maybe it was some kinda message.” She said twisting her head a little and lowering her voice, “So I call her. I say, “Ahh, everything all right Aunt Judy?” “She told me that, actually, she had been feeling sorta dizzy lately and her daughter was trying to get her to go see a doctor. Finally she goes in and they told her everything was just okee-dokey-not to worry about it.” Florence paused for a second, “ And then, as she is leaving the hospital, she collapses from this massive stroke. A few weeks later she was gone…………” “I was thinking, maybe if I had heeded the message in the balls a little sooner………..well who knows?”

I worry a bit now that she will be driving by afraid to look at the balls lest there be some hidden message. Lucky for us the the winner of the contest’s dog is not named Florence. I think if we wrote “Florence ?” at this point it might send her over the edge.

I trust all is well with you and yours?


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