Short Stories & Big Pictures


Anne Michael

I’ve been doing a good bit of driving the past month or so after work hours. It’s not been my usual trip home from work with the occasional trip to the grocery store, either.  Steve’s mom, Phyllis, has been in the hospital. Each evening I’ve been driving to the hospital on the west side of Bradenton. It is about twenty miles from my office, not far, but it does take a good 40-60 minutes to get there due to rush hour traffic. Still, I am grateful it’s not “snowbird season.” I’ve been spending so much time in traffic that the route has become familiar, and I have become aware of stories that are everywhere on the road.  They may be small and compact, but they are complete.

A dentist’s office in town has a sign outside with an ever-changing inspirational thought, exhorting folks to do good deeds, to think good thoughts or be safe. Normally I’ve always enjoyed reading Dr. Boyd’s signs, but last week I happened to catch a glimpse of the current one: “Brush ‘em like you stole them.” I thought that one was just plain wrong with its tacit approval of theft and the fact that things acquired by means other than gifting or hard work should be cared for in much better fashion. On top of that, could you imagine walking around with a mouth full of teeth stolen from someone else? Ewww, that is as repulsive to my way of thinking as scraping roadkill off the pavement and putting it on pizza.

Then there’s the churches. Their signs have traditionally borne the announcements of when the next services will be held, the name of the managing reverend and perhaps a bible verse or a specific book, chapter and verse to look up in one’s free time. Lately, though, the signs I’ve seen have slogans that would do any marketing person proud. “Prayer has no roaming charges” and “CH RCH . . . the only thing missing is U.”  They are admittedly clever. One church, however, that had a marquee lit with flashing lights: “Pastor Dan is on Fire.” Poor man. I hope someone puts him out before his shorts scorch. (I guess when the minister is on fire a congregation doesn’t need to worry about candles.) My giggles weren’t lessened by the fact that the church was across the road from a fire station. It made me wonder for whom, exactly, that sign was intended.

Then there are those tiny signs that give the population figures for the town. When I consider the fact (gleaned from a news article earlier this year) that roughly 1,000–1,200 people move to Florida each day, I imagine some poor soul trying to keep up with the figures on those signs. Repainting them must surely be a full time job. Between the birth announcements, the obituaries, the new folks moving in and the ones heading back north because they miss the seasons I get exhausted just thinking about it 

A farmer’s produce stand sports hand-painted signage encouraging folks to come and buy—with a smile: “Loving you makes us bananas” and “All you good looking tomatoes lope on in.”  I’d wager the man who came up with that sign is quite proud of his wit, and likely tells his missus how great the sign is each time someone pulls in the lot.

I find it ironic that the signs in front of Walgreen’s advertise Otis Spunkenmyer cookies, Oscar Meyer frankfurters and three kinds of cereal—darn near everything, in fact, except pharmaceuticals. That just might be because there are no specials on anything stronger than Tylenol.  

Bumper stickers are among my favorite signs. I’ve noticed that the worse the shape the vehicle is in, the greater the profusion of theories, jokes and Grateful Dead dancing bears’ bumper stickers. Those rolling salutes to independent thinking are probably what generally hold the cars or trucks together, better than the lumpy bondo in the bald spots.

Along the road are so many signs, each one a miniature story. They announce how fast one may travel, when to stop and even which way the road will bend. There are signs proclaiming that men are working, though I find it  interesting that they never seem to work near the signs. I love these signs punctuating the landscape. They really are short stories can be read by drivers everywhere, and I never tire of reading them.

Things are looking better at the hospital, too. Phyllis’ eyes have a bit of their sparkle back, and she’s got cabin fever. She’s definitely ready to come home. The doctor concurs, and agreed she’ll be released next week. Now that’s a really good sign.

At age 10, Anne realized she was never going to get to be Miss America since reading a book was not an acceptable talent. So she went on to get a job and raise a family. Along the way, she fixed meals, picked up toys, helped with homework, and collected a drawer full of rejection slips for her “great American novel.” It was not all bad, however, since she ended up wallpapering a closet with them. She currently designs and creates greeting cards for her tiny company, The Frog Prints, LLC, and also works full-time as a Training Specialist. Anne is currently tethered to reality by a loving spouse, two dogs, one cat and the occasional hurricane that blows through Florida, although falling headlong and happily into a book is still her favorite “talent.” Contact Anne.



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