Thursday, December 31, 2009

“Dinner Bell - Farewell”

c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: Regular visitors to this column will know of my admiration for the late George Diskes, former owner and operator of the local ‘Dinner Bell Diner.’ In recent days this empty landmark was demolished, apparently to make way for the expansion of Allegra Concrete Corporation, located east of the site. Though the former restaurant attracted many loyal patrons and a smattering of national attention, it was dispatched with little fanfare. I cannot help observing that we are all poorer as a result.

‘Famous George’ was a notable figure. Of that fact, there was no dispute.

Real debate came from the question of whether he was worthy of renown in local circles, or infamy. For true fans of the restaurant icon, his individualistic glory was obvious. Yet some were offended by the candor he displayed.

Still, no one could deny that George represented the American Dream in action.
He was the proverbial ‘everyman’ who succeeded through hard work and determination. A veteran of the Navy who worked for Sears & Roebuck, sold policies for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, and then achieved fame with a distinctive eatery comprised of blue-collar traditions rendered with a Greek accent.

His generosity was also undisputed. George donated regularly to organizations supporting those in need. He visited children’s hospitals and appeared at local events.

But above all, he remained a hero of first amendment liberties.

Famous George had a simple creed: “What I think, I must speak.”

As a writer, I relished the opportunity to hear him opine on current events. And as a retail manager, I welcomed his visits to my Geauga County supermarket. Riding an electric-powered ‘Amigo’ shopping cart, he would offer poignant memories of bygone days and life experiences. Each of these stories was thrilling to hear.

I cherished such visits because it was clear that someone like him would never come this way, again.

When George passed in July 2008, I lovingly reflected on his incredible life in print. The result was undeniably personal, yet authentic:

“Famous George was someone who truly fit the description ‘one of a kind.’
He was a huge fellow in physical stature and personality. Notably gregarious, outgoing, and proud of his Greek heritage. Some revered him as an iconoclast, while others were not so fond of his cheerfully bombastic style. But regardless of the opinions that surrounded this colorful fellow, he could not be ignored.

Visitors to his ‘Dinner Bell Diner’ on Bank Street in Painesville were treated with the care one might reserve for close family members. George took pride in his restaurant, and every facet of its operation. He personally greeted patrons who had come for a meal. His food, atmosphere, and service were unmatched by any competitor. Eventually, the diner grew into a museum, meeting place, and cultural way station.
But the authenticity did not go pale with commercial excess.

Famous George dependably remained a humble, if vociferous, servant of the community.
For myself, visits with George were always exciting. When Johnny Cash played the Lake County Fair, the food entrepreneur appeared with a dozen bouquets of red roses for June Carter. The audience cheered his presence as if he were part of the performance. The man literally seemed to be everywhere.

I paused at his restaurant frequently, while living just around the corner on Chestnut Street. It was a friendly place to meditate over steak tips with noodles, and a Feta cheese salad. Being treated to breakfast at his 'front table' by the cash register was an experience that will live forever in my memory. It was there that I first met radio personality Mike Trivisonno. Giddy with the moment, I introduced him to the Famous One. Years later, Triv still spoke lovingly of the diner and its memory. We both wished for one more meal at the venue.”

I often paused at the vacant diner to remember George and his unconventional approach to everyday living. He seemed undeniably heroic as a figure of yesteryear. Yet I wished that he could return, even for a moment.

Today’s world needed him, desperately. But the last remnant of his life would not survive beyond the decade. Fate would bring judgement, and loss…

While browsing the social networking website Facebook last week, I discovered this awful reality. A friend from Chardon sent the news, in his own comment on my page:

“Hey have you been by George’s Dinner Bell since they tore it down???? Sad site. Yeah they tore it down on Friday! It was in Saturday's News Herald. Went by there on Monday night and it looks so weird at that corner”

I was shocked. But a look at the newspaper confirmed this wanton act of cultural insensitivity. With my head bowed, I read Nick Carrabine’s report of the historic building’s demise:

“A former Painesville Township landmark restaurant was officially brought to the ground Wednesday morning. George's World Famous Dinner Bell Diner, 1155 Bank St., was torn down by Canal Road Partners, five years after Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems foreclosed on the restaurant.”

When a day off from work permitted, I drove to the spot for a closer look. Even in the swirling chaos of a winter afternoon, it was undeniably bare.
I felt defeated. The last bit of Famous George was gone. Still, the brightness of his personality lingered.

Quietly, I pondered Andrew Diskes 2008 remarks about his notable father:

“My dad lead an exciting, never-a-dull-moment life… one of (his) strengths was that he knew what he was good at… in the past my dad owned apartments, insulated and sided houses, was a top salesman… he owned hamburger joints in California… but he reached his pinnacle by running George’s Famous Dinner Bell Diner… in it's heyday it was the 6th busiest restaurant I am told in Ohio.”

Physical traces of Diskes’ life may have disappeared over time. But his memory will truly live on, forever.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

“Christmas Tree Kidnap”

c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

A few weeks ago, I wrote about potential Geauga County nominees for a homegrown Nobel Prize. Notable among the group was ‘Christmas Tree Lady’ Paula Horbay.

In my column, I wondered if this cheerful purveyor of holiday greens was in fact one of Santa’s elves.

Via e-mail, Horbay responded with a poem that answered my tongue-in-cheek supposition:

“Twas three weeks ‘til Christmas and all thru the North Pole; All the elves were getting their orders about when and where they should go. Santa sent one elf to make all the toys; ‘Ho Ho Ho!’ he said, ‘Make sure they're just right for all the good girls and good boys.’ Then he sat and he pondered what the next elf should do, you know it's a big job and he had no time to lose. With a twinkle in his eye and a grin on his face, he knew he had to send this next elf to a very special place. The destination he sees is clearly surrounded by trees, and the elf that he chose can be identified by her clothes! Santa was chuckling not naughty, but nice, Cuz he just solved the riddle for that writer Rod Ice.”

Afterward, I sat down at my computer to begin working on a new manuscript. Fatigue soon claimed the moment, however. I slipped into a dream while still at the keyboard…

It was a busy day in The Court of Hades.

A line of accused spirits stretched from one end of the cavern to another. There were dozens of damned spirits awaiting punishment.

Bailiff Tar Sulpherio stood tall, with the stiff demeanor of a traffic cop. He lifted a scroll filled with names of the damned.

“All rise!” he barked.

Judge Lucifer entered the cavern in a swirl of smoke and fire.

“Be seated!” he said, gruffly.

Sulpherio read from his scroll. “First, Your Honor, we have Troy Pilk. He spanked kittens for personal amusement and posted a video of his act on YouTube.”

Lucifer groaned. “For your cruelty, my decree is one hundred years breaking rocks. And for your inability to think of something more convincingly evil, the remainder of eternity playing Guitar Hero – botching every single game!”

Pilk dropped to his knees, sobbing.

Bailiff Sulpherio shuddered, then returned to his scroll. “Next, we have Wanda Fortelli,” he said, dramatically. “She baked poison cookies for residents of the Shady Acres Rest Home while employed as a patient aide.”

Judge Lucifer shook his head. “No originality! Stupid woman, don’t you know that old trick has been done a thousand times before? I decree one hundred years of solitary confinement, followed by perpetual linen service for our shuffleboard team.”

Fortelli screamed for mercy. But catcalls and insults drowned out her plea.

Once again, Sulpherio gestured to the crowd. “Your Honor, next in line is Nigel Kleptic. He stole trees from a woman in the American realm of Ohio.”

Judge Lucifer gasped, then looked down from his bench with disdain.

Silence filled the cavern.

“You robbed ‘Christmas Tree Lady’ Paula Horbay?” he exclaimed. “Really??”

Kleptic began to sweat. “Not true!” he protested. “I didn’t do it!”

Bailiff Sulpherio passed a folder of pertinent documents to his evil mentor.

“It says here that you snatched seventy-eight trees from her delivery,” Lucifer continued. “An amazing accomplishment. Normally, I’d be impressed. But…you went too far… Paula is an elf. Didn’t you know that?”

Kleptic shook his head. “An… elf?”

“Even minions of Hell don’t prey on elves!” the evil master thundered. “Santa’s workforce falls under the umbrella of heavenly authority. That’s out of our jurisdiction.”

The suspect shuddered. “Huh??”

Sulpherio cackled to himself. “There are lines even a devil doesn’t cross!”

Judge Lucifer bowed his head. “You’ve created a problem for me,” he complained. “I’m used to passing out eternal damnation, or endless drowning in the lake of fire. You know, the routine stuff. But robbing an elf? Now I’ve got to think up something… special.”

Bailiff Sulpherio grinned. “Get him good, Your Honor! Make him pay!”

Kleptic whimpered like a schoolboy. “I didn’t do it! Read the local paper, sir. They uncovered the real story, last week!”

Silence returned.

“Local paper?” Lucifer snorted.

“Never mind his excuses,” Sulpherio growled. “Punish him!”

“Please, read the newspaper story!” Kleptic pleaded. “Then you’ll see!”

Judge Lucifer grumbled with irritation. “Yes. Clerk Medusa, get me a copy of The Maple Leaf. Do it now!”

The ugly, serpent-headed servant was defiant. “Your Honor, this is madness…”

“CLERK, GET ME THE PAPER!” Lucifer exploded. He scowled at his staff. “Do you want a diplomatic incident with EUHS?”

Kleptic was befuddled. “What?”

“The Eternal Union of Heavenly Souls,” Sulpherio groaned. “They are not a fun bunch to cross. We run things here in the depths of hell, and they rule in heaven. It works nicely for all of us…but we have to keep our place.”

Medusa fumbled through her records. Finally, the paper appeared.

Lucifer thumbed pages of newsprint, scanning each line with his crimson eyes.

“Glen Miller reported that there was no theft, after all,” he croaked. “Paula’s missing trees were accidentally delivered to the Hambden Township Fire Department.”

Bailiff Sulpherio sighed loudly. “Then, you can’t punish him after all?”

Judge Lucifer coughed quietly. “No! Flinderation, I say! This is a disappointment. But we are bound by our agreement with God. We get to tempt and destroy… but innocent souls get out of jail… free!”

Medusa shivered. “So, what can we do, Your Honor?”

“Send him home in time for Christmas!” Lucifer roared. “He is no longer our prisoner. And make darn sure that every demon in this pit of darkness leaves that elf alone! Do you understand??”

They bowed with reverence as the judge burst into a plume of smoke.

When I woke up, my coffee was cold. Everyone else had gone to bed. A blank page in Microsoft Word waited on the computer monitor. And my neck felt stiff.

Now, it was time to work!

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Monday, December 21, 2009


It's official - 'The Big Show' is coming to Cleveland!

The news literally broke as WKYC's Dave Chudowsky was on the air with their evening newscast.

Welcome to Browns Town, Mr. H!

Friday, December 18, 2009

“TAL: Year One”

c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

For this writer, duties at The Maple Leaf began in February 1998.

After submitting a letter to the editor, I found that erstwhile chief Don Buchanan was interested in adding a local columnist to his roster.

Several personal essays followed, using my own experience as a freelance scribe for inspiration. Eventually, the wordsmithing project lasted long enough to be worthy of regular publication.

Buchanan christened my series ‘Thoughts At Large.’

It was an honor I accepted with gratitude. For the remainder of Year One, I worked to establish my presence with local readers:


Recently, I bought an important treasure for the basement of our home… (my purchase) was a portrait of the late cultural icon, Elvis Presley, rendered on a canvas of cheap velvet!

Such paintings always seemed to appear at filling stations, and roadside markets. Were they sold anywhere else? Mine bears an irrefutable mark of authenticity. On the reverse side of its frame is stamped: 'Hecho En Mexico'!

As a collectible, their value is dubious. Does a plastic, pink flamingo hold any great worth? You may consider this tribute to 'The King' a cruelty, or a joke. Still, there had always been yearning in my heart for one of my very own!

In the center of a truckstop shrine, this cloth creation might prove useful in spreading goodwill, and cheer. The citizen's-band airwaves could crackle with a throaty "Thank you! Thank you very much!"

But, on (my) basement wall, it strikes a pose across from an autographed poster of Dolly Parton. They frame the entrance to our (home) with rhinestones, and screaming polyester!

The Velvet Elvis is Takin' Care of Business among a court of fellow members in the
heavenly hall of fame. John Lennon is at his side, and Keith Moon. Roy Buchanan, and Faron Young are nearby. Jerry Garcia waits in the form of a concert button. But this a chapel of Memphis devotion.

There will always be rockin' in our jailhouse!


During a recent visit to the library section of our local Salvation Army thrift store, I found a tome of some distinction. With a slight pretentiousness, it's colorful dust jacket announced notable contents within - "THE GAME SHOW KING / A confession by Chuck Barris." An irresistible bargain at... ninety-nine cents!

It seems fitting that his meandering tale would be offered in a setting of broken eight-track players, castaway bowling balls, and horrendous bedroom furniture. Was this not the fellow that once offered America an obscenity known as "The $1.98 Beauty Show"?

Barris amassed a personal fortune through the creation of such programs as "The
Dating Game" and it's progeny, "The Newlywed Game". He wrote the Rock 'n Roll standard "Palisades Park" (made a hit by Freddy 'Boom Boom' Cannon), and released a record of his own with "The Chuck Barris Syndicate". But his true legacy was birthed of greater stuff. What glory is there, that could surpass having given life to "The Gong Show"?

(With this program) Barris created a proletarian forum for self-expression. There
was no limit to the type of act that might be featured. Style and content varied with each episode. Some attempted a genuine artistic flight, while others simply permitted themselves to be humiliated before the probing electronic eye. Regulars included 'The Unknown Comic' (disguised with a paper bag over his head), and 'Gene Gene, The Dancing Machine'. Always, there was the terror of being 'gonged' before time, and a prepared routine, had expired. To know the sound of that awful, metal disc was to be banished to a netherworld of failure and chagrin…

As host of this festive spectacle, Chuck effused the playful humor of a whimsical elf. He was both a participant in the demented affair, and an amused observer. His gestures were exaggerated and slick, in the tradition of a 'snake oil' salesman, or boisterous politician. With a panel of 'celebrity' judges holding court, he pranced across the stage like Mick Jagger.

"Welcome... to the ol' Gong Show!!"


The subject of beer is one that may produce a most strident tone of conversation
between otherwise civil, genteel human beings. The defense of a favorite brand is on par with lofty discussions of philosophy and political order… volumes of information may be discerned by simply inquiring as to the beverage predisposition of a particular individual.

Are we a 'team player'? More likely it would be for us to choose a frosty mug of Miller Genuine Draft, or Budweiser.

Perhaps a thrifty drinker, concerned with value? Pabst, or Busch might be selected to satiate such desires.

An iconoclast, perhaps? Such a citizen might seek out Guinness or Watney's Cream Stout. (These rules are void if discussing those who simply attach themselves to
whatever trendy conduct commands the moment!) Each stein brimming with brew is a
fingerprint of sorts…

Remember the heady days of playoff-bound Browns teams? Truckloads of Brown's Canadian Lager were dispatched to eager customers who had the erroneous assumption that this northern concoction had something in common with our beloved NFL franchise. Would it surprise you to learn that Canada also produces a 'Steeler' beer?

What could the odds be on such a coincidence?

In times of yore, 'generic' suds were offered as an alternative mode of thirst negation.

Kroger had a 'Cost Cutter' variety, wrapped in bright yellow cans, with a pair of scissors for emphasis. Fazio's offered their budget brew under the ubiquitous 'Heritage House' label. (Yet) what statement would be made by the consumption of such pedestrian products? A desire for the maximum amount of personal satisfaction, with little expenditure of ready cash?

Whatever the motivation to pursue such habits, all are bound by this similar notion:
We Came, We Saw, And We Were Refreshed!

After a series of personal challenges, Don Buchanan made a hasty exit from Geauga County, and The United States. But The Leaf, and this column, endured.

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Monday, December 14, 2009


Recently, I paid a visit to 'Christmas Tree Lady" Paula Horbay at her Holiday House in Chardon's Maple Leaf Plaza. While reminiscing about bygone days, she mentioned having begun a new venture - The Story Book Ranch and Bunkhouse:

Paula said that this new year-round business has given her the opportunity to meet many new people while sharing a bit of of Geauga County charm.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Christmas traditions help make the holiday season a memorable part of each year. But nothing about the Yuletide season has more meaning than... festive greetings from The Chardon Polka Band:

Merry Christmas, everyone... and a polka-riffic New Year!

“Christmas, Revisited”

c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was late on a Monday evening in the Icehouse home office. Christmas was only a few weeks away.

At the other end of our house, my wife had become entranced with her online Facebook account. Giggling softly, she worked the soil of a virtual farm while Jay Leno rendered topical jokes on the television.

Powdery breaths of snow filled the window across from my chair. But I was focused on a specific task – locating a newspaper column about holiday experiences from twenty-five years ago.

In yonder days, I stored such files on 1.44 MB diskettes. So finding the manuscript meant sorting through boxes of these relics, patiently.

While searching, I uncovered other past holiday compositions that were compelling, yet not quite what I was seeking:


“On the twelfth day of Christmas, we gave to Mommy… twelve pink RAZR cell phones, eleven pink petunias, ten pink Hello Kitty charms, nine pink Cadillacs, eight 8-Tracks by Pink Lady, seven Pink Panther dolls, six pounds of pink salmon. Five pink lipsticks! Four Pink Floyd CDs, three pink poodle skirts, two pink flamingos, and pink fuzzy slippers from the Dollar Tree!”


“For dinner it’s ham and duck, after a ride in my pickup truck
Then maybe the Jerry Springer show, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
We’re almost buried here, but I’m stocked with snacks and beer
So as the cold winds blow, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
When I finally hit the road, I’ll be glad for my four-by-four
We’ll soon be watching a football game, with cheese dip and crackers, galore
We’ll gather around the Yule log, and mix our brew with eggnog
Thank God for O-hi-o, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”


“Charles Dickens’ classic tale ‘A Christmas Carol’ is familiar to most as part of the Yuletide holiday season. This compelling story carries a message that is both meaningful and timeless. Against the backdrop of modern-day economic chaos, it demonstrates the everlasting value of kindness and gentility. But in eastern Geauga County, the classic parable took on new life when revived by local performers at the Thompson United Methodist Church…”

Finally, after a long period of reviewing e-files on my computer, the article I sought appeared at last:


“The Christmas rush of 1984 was relentless. I had lived in the village (Chardon) for one full year, after sixty-four months in New York. The adjustment back to Midwestern habits had only begun. My humble appearance did nothing to enhance job prospects. Because I had failed to earn a degree in communications, time spent with Cornell University’s Learning Web program, studying television, amounted to nothing. Unsuccessfully, I tried to connect with The Geauga Times-Leader, and our local cable television provider. While strolling around the square, I would visit Zamer’s Music to discuss guitars and musical trends. It was difficult to guess where my life was headed. But I had much enthusiasm for tomorrow!

After a stalled career with American Seaway Foods in Bedford Heights, I yielded to other horizons. When my VW Beetle finally expired, travel to work depended on a dull Chevrolet Chevette. (Truly an awful winter vehicle!) Fortunately, employment was not far away. I spent gainful hours at the local Fisher’s Big Wheel. Service to this Newcastle, Pennsylvania retailer began a path toward greater things. Because Conley’s was our only competitor, customer traffic kept us busy. Neither store had the overwhelming presence of a Wal-Mart. (Yet) taken together, they quietly fulfilled our needs. It was a balance of sorts that kept the community satisfied. Typically, life moved at a gentle pace for employees in Maple Leaf Plaza. But visitation by St. Nick and Rudolph caused the pulse of local shoppers to intensify on cue! Business turned explosive with the approach of Yuletide merriment. During the season, we were a different store.

Employees at Big Wheel were rewarded with a turkey, or ham, in the spirit of Yuletide generosity. This provided extra sales for our neighbor, Valu-King. Each year, they provided the actual foodstuffs with competence, and care. A volunteer gift-exchange added to the mood of goodwill. Still, our moment of real celebration was the annual Noel bash at Grandview Country Club. The night of fellowship offered a release from workplace duties.

Christmas Eve brought my own chance to procure holiday gifts. As final moments of anticipation ticked away, I carried a red shopping basket around the store. It was a ritual that brought comfort, and peace. My paycheck (for two weeks) evaporated quickly.

But focus on the joyous duty whisked away cares from the year. Each selection represented the expenditure of a trivial sum. But the love conveyed was greater, by far.

Out of festive chaos, I had rediscovered the meaning of this ancient tradition.
New challenges waited as the last of December ebbed away. While mopping floors and unloading deliveries, these hopeful thoughts were persistent. I daydreamed of using my media experience to benefit the company. It was unthinkable to be content with an entry-level position. I had been a freelance writer, and worked regularly for a motorcycle publication in California. Anything seemed possible.

(My) willingness to experiment produced a zigzag course over the years. Yet my footsteps have always returned home. The spirit of that holiday on Water Street has endured through time.”

Liz finished tilling her cyberspace farmland as I completed my column on personal holiday lore. We were both ready for our bed, and restful slumber.

“I planted corn and wheat, after harvesting a field of grapes tonight,” she boasted. “How about you?”

My sense of satisfaction was obvious. “I time-traveled like Doctor Who, through old columns for The Maple Leaf. And then, made it all the way home again!”

She nodded with amusement. “Welcome back, Rodney!”

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

“The Finch: Part One”

c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: What follows here is a work of fantasy. In the immortal words of Foghorn Leghorn – “It’s a joke, son.”

It was a few minutes after sunrise.

Peaceful visions ruled the household, as everyone enjoyed a weekend opportunity to sleep in late. But I was restless.

In my head, words were alive with purposeful intensity. I dreamed of being at the computer… doing research for an upcoming newspaper feature.

Suddenly, my cell phone began to ring.

I looked at the bedside clock with disbelief, then fumbled on our nightstand. The lamp fell sideways, starting a cascade of books that covered the floor.

“Hello?” I groaned.

“Rodney!” the caller cheered. “This is Ezekiel! Are you still lounging in bed?”

It was E. Byler-Gregg, Editor-In-Chief of The Burton Daily Bugle.

“Good morning, Zeke,” I mumbled.

“Early to bed, early to rise!” he exclaimed.

I yawned forcefully. “Yeah, yeah, that works great for some people. But not me.”

“There are stories to be told, Rodney,” he said. “A writer’s work is never done!”

“Okay,” I snorted. “Thanks for the platitudes. Now, can I go back to sleep?”

My friend was insulted. “Did you want a tip on breaking news, or should I just pass it along to your competitors?”

I rubbed my eyes. “Zeke, your riddle-speak doesn’t work when the rooster is still crowing. Could you be more specific?”

A silent pause elapsed.

“We’ve been friends for a long time,” he whispered.

I coughed. “Until about two minutes ago.”

“Rodney!” he thundered.

“Alright, Zeke,” I moaned. “Give me the ball and I’ll run with it.”

My friend cleared his throat. “There is an old store in your neck of the woods. One that has been closed for many years.”

“A store?” I stammered.

“The Thompson Center Market,” he reflected. “I think it used to be an IGA.”

My face was burning. “Okay… so where’s the breaking news in that?”

“A local advocacy group is going to recommend that leaders of the township seek out a new owner,” he explained. “Someone to purchase and reopen the store.”

“Wow,” I replied. “Well, thanks for the news flash. Now can I go back to sleep?”

“Rodney!” he shouted. “Are you even listening to me?”

“Unfortunately yes,” I said.

“The Ledge-Geauga Leadership Council has decided that local citizens need a food merchant nearby,” he continued. “One that would bring back the sort of friendly service that past generations enjoyed in their part of the county.”

“Do they own the store?” I said inquisitively.

“Umm, no,” he admitted. “But that’s a minor detail.”

My eyes still wouldn’t focus. “Thompson Market has been closed forever.”

“Yes it has,” he said. “But L-GLC wants to change that.”

I was beginning to emerge from the haze. “So… where is the big story?”

“In a preliminary meeting, the council was asked to submit a short list of possible candidates from the township to make this happen. The first name on their list was yours!”

I was stunned. “What??”

“Rodney,” he growled. “Is that really a surprise?”

My pulse quickened while pondering his words. “Well… yes!”

“Everyone knows about your retail experience,” he laughed.

“Maybe,” I said. “But that was a long time ago. My supermarket career just provided a stepping stone to greater things as a professional scribe.”

Ezekiel lowered his voice. “You know the industry. And you’ve got a rapport with customers from around the county. L-GLC thinks that would make you a successful hometown entrepreneur.”

I scoffed at his confidence. “After working twenty-seven years to develop my journalistic routine, why would I want to be in a grocery store again?”

“Not just be in one,” he huffed. “You’d own the store. And make it a unique part of the local community.”

By now, returning to my bed had become impossible. I started a pot of coffee as our conversation continued.

“So, how did you hear about this?” I wondered out loud.

“Backroom chatter,” he explained. “I know lots of people around Geauga.”

“Well, setting up a small food emporium isn’t easy,” I said. “Location is key. Plus, you need dependable suppliers that will provide goods at a reasonable cost.”

“Details, details!” he fumed.

I took a deep breath. “Think about the convenience stores already in Claridon, Hambden, Leroy, Madison, Geneva, Trumbull, Rock Creek, and Hartsgrove.”

“Excuses!” he whined. “You’re getting off track.”

“Not at all,” I said. “Consider that your potential patrons might also shop at businesses in any of those places. Or, at full-size markets in the area.”

“So give them an alternative!” he exclaimed. “Instead of trying to be a big food outlet, make it tiny. And friendly!”

“Sure,” I said. “Not a big bird. Tiny, like a Finch.”

Ezekiel was turning crabby. “Don’t you appreciate the faith L-GLC members have in you?”

“Of course,” I said, apologetically. “But opening a new business on the Thompson square would require more than good intentions.”

“I understand,” he wheezed. “You aren’t really interested in helping the township.”

“Not true!” I replied. “But it would take serious planning and strategic thinking. You can’t just put an ‘OPEN’ sign in the front window!”

My friend from The Bugle had reached his limit. “So, I should tell the council that you have no interest in their proposal?”

“Zeke,” I said. “We are journalists. Isn’t this blurring the lines between politics, capitalism, and our wordsmithing profession?”

Now, he was embarrassed. “Just trying to help, Rodney. Everything I’ve said is off the record. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” I answered quietly.

“Good day then,” he chortled. “See you at the next writer’s roundtable!”

The line went dead before I could reply.

While drinking more coffee, I researched the market location. There was little to discover, except for a few one-line entries that listed the store address and an old phone number.

Finally, I abandoned the hunt. Other assignments were waiting for attention.
But first, I needed more coffee!

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