Fiction Week: The Ernie Bedlam Stories | Bleader

Fiction Week: The Ernie Bedlam Stories

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Editor's note: Craig Champlin submitted a number of shorts for our annual Pure Fiction issue, writing "Pick any of them. What I’d really like is to run 'The Ernie Bedlam Stories' weekly. I have a lot of them and people seem to really like them." We'll run five of the Ernie stories here on the Bleader this week. Here's the third.

Good Judgment

Ernie always told the truth unless he didn’t. His son Toyboy certainly knew he would go blind if he kept playing Scratch and Sniff Lotto tickets. Ernie’s entire family knew the tickets must be administrated properly if one ever expected to win. You never scratch them off in the store. That task must be done at home with soft music playing. You never win listening to AC/DC playing in the background. God doesn’t like AC/DC.

One would also go blind if one put the toilet paper on rolling from the top. In the Bedlam household the toilet paper rolled from underneath or didn’t roll at all. It was OK to invoke the Lord’s name at funerals, during airplane rides, and terrorist attacks. Even Ernie knew God didn’t care if the Packers had made the extra point. The Bears, yes. Let the city planners worry about Cubs/Sox outcomes. Ernie didn’t want an all-out war between the north and south sides. That would just leave more space for Somalian cabdrivers to roam wild in the streets.

Ernie did believe in exercising good judgment. His daughter once met a tall, rich CEO from an old moneyed family in Lake Forest. She resisted all his overtures when she found out he was a smoker. Ernie was confused. Who needed good health when you had money? She ended up dating a nonsmoking wino who looked vaguely like Denzel Washington. Ernie smoked while taking a shower. Boy, the apple fell quite a distance from that tree.

Sometimes Ernie would start out doing something stupid but would catch himself just in time. He and his wife had gotten their first credit card. He was curious about phone sex. He didn’t believe such a thing actually occurred. One night he came home late from a gig. He’d been overserved. Damn those bartenders. He was looking through a magazine when an ad for phone sex caught his attention. He remembered his new credit card. He had to find out.

Ernie called and gave someone on the other end his new credit card number. A woman came on the line and put him on hold. Another women came on the line and put him on hold. This went on about three more times. Finally a women came on and asked Ernie what he was into. Ernie replied that he liked to read, wasn’t really into golf. No, what are you into. He asked her if she had any children. It was, after all, the early morning of Mother’s Day and Ernie wanted to be polite. Surprised, she said two. Ernie said he just wanted to wish her happy Mother’s Day. He passed out and dreamed about candy. He woke up and said damn wrong holiday.

A month later Ernie came home from work. His wife greeted him at the door holding a phone bill for two hundred and 19 dollars. Seems they had him on hold in Tangiers, Bali, Branson, Missouri, even India. He sheepishly told his wife what had happened. After being married to Ernie for so many years she knew he was telling her the truth. He ate his dinner alone and thought he’d made a good judgment call when he had married his wife. His wife stayed in the bedroom looking for a good lawyer in the want ads. She thought Erie had no judgment at all.

Go here to read parts one and two.

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