The Mortician

George, my father in law, rest his soul, belonged to a local business organization in Hudson County, NJ.  Once or twice a year they would plan a social event to have some fun.  Usually, one of these junkets was a trip to Monmouth Race Track's clubhouse for an afternoon of eating drinking and racing, in no particular order.  The group was usually quite large, about fifty or so from all different types of businesses:  retailers, restaurateurs, politicians, etc.  They one thing they had in common was they all liked to have a good time.  It didn't matter for the most part how much anyone of them won or lost; no one had a gambling problem.

On this day, until the fifth race, the good time was getting louder as a function of the cocktail service.

One of the group owned a funeral home, and had been having a very unlucky day so far.  He hadn't won a race, and the horse he bet on in the fifth was trailing the field badly, when the mortician stood up, raised his hand at the horse, and said,

"Drop dead."

Within a few seconds, the horse keeled over, and a few seconds after that, everyone of the other businessmen got up and distanced themselves from the undertaker, who sat by himself for the rest of the races. However, they promised to sit with him the next year if he promised not the curse at the horses.


The Creek

If ever a time when I took a few years off my parents life, this was it.

My guess is every kid growing up has been told by their parents not to do something or go somewhere because they might get hurt.  Yet almost every kid disobeys, and does or goes anyway.  After all, kids don't realize their parents aren't dumb until they reach the age of twenty one.

I was told never to go to the creek, a small drainage runoff about three blocks from our house in Bergenfield, NJ.

"Johnny, you mustn't go to the creek.  It's dirty water, and you might get sick," was my mother's relentless caution to me.

Next to the creek was a house that had hunting dogs in outdoor doghouses, beagles, if I remember.  So all we kids did was say to our parents we were going to play with the dogs, which we did, then went on to the creek, to play some more.

In the winter, the creek would freeze over, and we'd play "run and slide" over a straight stretch about fifty feet long.

I almost forgot to explain; even after a deluge, the creek was only about one and a half feet deep, so we weren't talking about drowning here.

That didn't stop the highly imaginative kid who lived next door to us, Kevin, from running home one day after I broke through the ice at the end of my slide to yell at my parents,

"Johnny fell through the ice.  I think he's dead."

I was up sopping and shivering, and on my way home more scared than dead, trying to come up with an excuse for this one (I did get into my share of trouble).  I didn't have to worry for long, as my father arrived, and warmed the seat of my pants all the way home.

After a hot bath, my parents calmed down after being half dead from Kevin's initial report.  I was sent to my room and told to get into bed with lights out and quiet.

It seemed like an hour or so before I heard a light tap at the door.  Both my parents entered the room, my father holding a large bowl of Lipton soup.

All was well again with my young world, and I did manage to stay away from the creek after that.