Tom’s New Job

A week in California was a real eye-opener for this country boy.  We saw a lot of cool stuff and way too many homeless people. I’m told a lot of them migrate to LA because of the warmer climate. Whatever the case, the reality of the situation just broke our hearts.

One day, I wore my striped overalls to the UCLA dining hall, expecting to make a huge fashion statement.  “Is there a train coming through here?” a lady about forty asked. Evidently, she didn’t recognize the upper-crust hillbilly look and mistook me for a common railroad engineer. The rest of the crowd didn’t seem to notice. With all the strange dress out there, I was just another nut in the fruitcake.

If you’re new to Friday Flash Fiction, the host of our weekly fashion show of fine writing is Coco Chanel Wisoff-Fields.  If you’d like to participate in this exercise in madness, head over to her blog for step-by-step instructions. To view the FFF  Hollywood Squares Authors Block click here.

copyright - Douglas MacIlroy
copyright – Douglas MacIlroy

Everyone thought Tom was terrific. He was clever, entertaining, and had an outrageously wild imagination. Bob Keeshan gave him his first job, but the gig played out after only three years.

“You can only ride the funnel-thinking-cap gag so far,” said his agent. “Shape-shifters are a dime a dozen. You need to reinvent yourself.”

The next few years were tough as Tom tried to figure out what that meant. Out of desperation, he took a seasonal job downtown.

“How was your first day as a Christmas tree?” Manfred asked.

“Terrific!” said Tom, standing tall, his eyes beaming. “Until a dog peed on my leg.”


23 Comments on “Tom’s New Job

  1. Ah, this post brings back holiday memories of growing up in San Franciso, Russell! My childhood dog, Mean Streak, was a dedicated Christmas tree pee-er, too. My mother was a dedicated shouter at this time of year.

    I hope all went well for you and Connie. In San Francisco, where i spent Christmas, I noticed what I assumed were homeless people passed out on the sidewalk. I hate to think that these lifeless appearing folks were something else: former high school classmates of mine.


    • Well, I’m glad I could trigger that Christmas memory for you. 🙂 Almost as good as a sachet of dog urine, right?

      We visited with one homeless lady who appeared very sane and “normal” in all respects. Connie asked her about family, and she confided that she would be spending Christmas alone. Like you, I wonder if anyone from my past has become one of these “faceless” individuals that everyone seems to ignore.


    • You’re probably too young to remember Tom Terrific. You should Google him and watch one of the cartoons. You’ll be hooked for life.


      • I just had a look – some of the references make more sense now! I have actually heard of the Captain Kangaroo show, though I’m not sure it was ever shown over here 🙂
        Interestingly though, one of my favourite cartoons growing up, “Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings” was one of the included cartoons according to Wiki (it was British-Canadian so it was shown over here). Thanks for the memories!


  2. Tom needs a new agent. Doesn’t he realise shape shifters are literally minded? “Reinvent yourself” might standard “agent speak” , but to a shape shifter…
    I remember watching Tom on TV when I was a kid. I even remember the words to the theme song. Oh boy, is that showing my age 😀


  3. lol 🙂 i’d love to have a Christmas tree that looks like that! a funnel-thinking-cap sounds like an interesting device as well. hope you had a lovely holiday 🙂


  4. Oh Tom,

    The memories this brings back. I’m sending copies of this story to Messrs Moose and Green Jeans. No doubt Bunny Rabbit will think it’s a 24 carrot gem. This was terrific. Give the wonder-dog a pat on the head for me.




    • Glad you liked it, Coco. I hadn’t even thought of Tom Terrific for two or three decades until I saw the prompt. Maybe I need new glasses.


  5. Dear Russell,

    Whenever I play a Christmas tree I wire up the lower branches to a battery powered capacitor bank and when the dog pees he lights off (and out) like a string of ornaments.

    Oh, and I wear gum boots.

    Great story, as usual, but not very romantic.




    • I’m sorry about the lack of Romance, Doug. I’ll get to work one of those right away. Let me know how much Harlequin offers you. I might want to get in on some of that action.


  6. I’ve seen my share of homelessness being from California. It’s especially bad in beach communities. I’m sad to say, it’s too familiar. Nice, cheerful story though! A Christmas tree would be a tough job with the expectations so grand.


  7. there are indeed so many homeless people in L.A. – broke my heart a bit when i visited last year… the another nut in the fruitcake made me smile… and the one with the tree as well…oy.. smiles


  8. Sounds like it could be a documentary, “Whatever happened to Tom Terrific” I hope it wasn’t Mighty Manfred who peed on him, unless he got sent to the pound.


  9. You know, I saw Tom Terrific in that prompt too but I chose not to go with it because I figure only you and I know the reference. But you did a great job with it and I liked the Keeshan bit too. Sorry about all the homeless folks, what’s happening sounds anything but terrific.


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