Me and my Bill Hocksteader

            Through the trials and tribulations of my too-soon-to-come 30 years on this planet, I have used many "devices" to help me get in and out of life's everyday situations.  These devices aren't just mere lies or hare-brained schemes; they are simply my own operatic and carefully crafted ways of doing business in life.  Most, if not all (I can honestly say) were not learned in any school or read from any self-help manual.  Besides not being my style, (I hate school and I would never admit to needing self improvement) the devices I'm referring to are gained through careful observation of the every day absurdity and stupidity that surrounds me. They were gleaned through the deadly game of hit and miss existence I have been playing since my first conscious thoughts. 

            Now, you're probably asking yourself, "What in the blue hell is Jonny rambling about?"  Here’s an example: The tactic of tipping (while usually tipsy) my usual bartender in excess of 50%, sometimes 100% of the tab - I've learned that by doing this I not only ensure a luscious libation or brawny brew spun down the oak and brass immediately the next time I stroll into the pub, I also get to reap the benefits of quite a few "forgotten" beers – poor little things that were somehow diverted from their original destinations to arrive in front of yours truly! 

Another example would be how I constantly use my patented "charm the pants off them" approach to try to influence people into giving me what I'm seeking from them or their organization.  More often than not, I do get what I want and a little extra. I call this a "device" because, lurking behind that charming façade is usually a rotten-hearted hatred or a hysterical laughter being directed at the person unfortunate enough to be helping me. All in all, most of these "devices" have enabled me to enjoy an above-average success rate that keeps me on the happy side of .500 when I employ them...well, all except for one....

            Enter one Mr. Bill Hocksteader.  I personally have known him for over 28 years but he isn't what you might describe as a “close friend”. We hardly ever get to see each other; in fact, I don't even think I or anyone else really knows what he looks like.  His appearance has changed so much over the years, and I can tell you that I'm quite sure my parents have never met him in person (although my sister claims to have spoken with him on the phone). Bill isn't the kind of guy society trumpets; in fact you could call him a miscreant, scoundrel, or bad seed. But the real problem is, Bill really isn't such a rotten egg; he just (conveniently) seems to always be in the right place at the wrong time.  Bill began developing his personal mantra -- "All That Can Go Wrong...Can Be Traced To Me" at an early age when he got into the habit of coming over my place, standing on a spiked foot step stool placed on top of an antique 100 year old cherry wood chair and painting from the ground up to about 5 ft. of the entire rear of our house Rustoleum red because he thought it looked better.  He then progressed to cutting off all of my 4 year-old sister’s hair (because he thought it looked better) and shooting out the glass patio door with a BB gun (not because he thought it looked better).  He even came over one time and lit the whole back of my shed on fire using bottle rockets soaked in gasoline.

As we got older, Bill’s mischief progressed.  When my dad’s Playboys kept going missing, guess who was the prime suspect when they were found under my bed the next week? That’s right -- guess who hid them there?  That nut Bill Hocksteader!  When Bill and I found the Christmas presents’ hiding spot one cold December day, he needed to see what I was getting for Christmas, so he opened them all up then tried unsuccessfully to re-tape them like nothing happened.  When Mom grabbed me by the ears and told me she was taking them all back, I gave up my friend and pleaded with her "Mom you cant do that!........I never saw the presents....Bill Hocksteader did it, honest .... besides, if you take them back, How am I supposed to play G.I. Joe with Bill Hocksteader without the Cobra Commander screaming Satan gun wagon with real water jet propulsion and the Go Joe Fighter with removable rockets and spring fired death cannon you got me." 

 Bill was also really good at "borrowing" my dad’s tools and not putting them back… or worse, borrowing them, leaving them out in the rain to rust, then putting them back.  Bill blew up our family’s lawn tractor because he was racing it around the neighborhood without oil in it.  Bill also got a ticket from a cop because he got caught riding our mower in the middle of the road 5 miles away from my house on his way to our friend Chris's house - Bill didn't feel like riding our bikes there -- his leg still hurt from the hard landing he sustained when he used my patio table umbrella as a parachute and turned it inside out while jumping from the roof of my house.

            As we progressed into our teens, Bills' hi-jinx continued.  One day we discovered that a gaggle of wasps had infiltrated the sanctity of my bedroom…Bill’s solution at ridding the plague was to grab a lighter, a can of Right Guard and chase them down with his new flame maim thrower - very nearly burned the whole house down that day.  You know, I still can't explain why, when he caught the last one on the hardwood floor near my closet, he needed to charbroil it so bad he scorched the wood planking nearly in half.  Oh well; I guess he needed to make sure it was dead (good old Bill, always looking out for me). Bill was the guy who left the nails out in the driveway after building the skateboard ramp that punctured not only my father’s tires but my mother’s as well.  He also had the idea of painting the ramp with spray paint right next to the garage door.  Look, it wasn't his fault the wind shifted.  One summer day, Bill had this great idea of having a vegetable war with all of our friends using my father’s garden freshly grown, just ripened, prize-winning Jersey tomatoes.  Dad had to drive all the way to the Pine Barrens to buy our tomatoes that year. Well, after that incident, even Bill Hocksteader knew the garden was off limits, but dad never said anything about the plum tree! They say every year, up to a mile radius from my house, little plum tree shoots still pop up in peoples’ yards, flowerbeds, roofs, sheds, cars, and washing machines.  Papa D ended up chopping the hapless plumb tree down to keep that from happening again.  You know, I can still see traces of crimson on the siding of the house this very day.

         Sadly, as we entered our late teens/early twenties, Bill Hocksteader and I kind of drifted apart, much to the relief of my parents.  Even though I thought about it, I really couldn't blame Bill for my poor grades or for backing the car out into the tree or for getting me fired for showing up to work late the hundredth time or getting caught with my girlfriend in my room.  Bill, however, WAS guilty of stealing countless bottles of all shades of liquor from my parents’ cabinet, lifting the occasional finsky from my mom’s purse, and stealing packs of her cigarettes to hand out to my friends like some Red Cross prison Santa Claus.  Yes, Bill and I drifted apart, but he has never really been that far away.  You see, he is best friends with my buddy Rich now, so I get to see him often...

       All right, you got me - Bill Hocksteader might have been the scapegoat of my life, a "device" used to try to get me out of trouble, but he really does exist.  He HAS to exist because of the simple fact that, in all the years of knowing and blaming him for all sorts of my life's stumbles, he never once got me out of anything.  Even I am not dumb enough to keep trying something that doesn't work over and over and over and over again...or am I?

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