Greece Sends Letter to Creditors, Forgets to Enclose Check

ATHENS.  Hopes for settlement of the Greek monetary crisis continued their roller coaster ride today when the International Monetary Fund opened what they thought was an envelope containing an overdue payment and found no money inside.

Image result for angry greek mob
“The letter is already sealed–we can’t just open it again!”

 

“We are considering all of our options,” said IMF spokeswoman Natalie Grillet.  “They told us the check was in the mail, but we didn’t know that was one of the three big lies of all time, along with ‘One size fits all’ and ‘Sure, I’ll respect you in the morning.'”

The letter was supposed to include $1.73 billion for a late payment due the IMF, but the text written by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said “I was going to include that big check we owe you, but I see that I have sealed the envelope without putting it in.  Be sure and remind me about it next time you’re in Greece.”

Image result for angry greek mob
“Grab her–she’s got some change in her pocketbook.”

 

Greece has previously staved off default on its debts by post-dating or forgetting to sign checks or not putting a stamp on envelopes.  “At some point, you have to ask whether they are serious about reform or are just jerking us around,” Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany.  “They said they were going to return some bottles and cans over the weekend, but then they used the deposits to buy more retsina.

Image result for angela merkel
Merkel:  “It’s in your other pair of pants–like I haven’t heard that one from Spain and Italy before!”

 

The IMF’s remedies are limited due to the sovereign nature of Greece and its debts.  “We could bar them from the Miss World and Miss Universe contests,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.  “We could also boycott Greek yogurt, but I really love the strawberry and banana kind.”

EU: Greece Will Run Out of Syllables by Friday

ATHENS. A reeling Greek nation averted disaster today as it reached a temporary accord with creditors, but linguistics experts say the effort may be too little and too late as the nation will run out of syllables this Friday unless silent letters from euro-zone partners become available.


Members of elite Polysyllabilist corps

 

“For too long, the Greeks have lived high on the spelling hog with last names such as Papadopolopoulosas,” said Dr. Armand de Bergerac of Paris University. “What’s wrong with just ‘Plato’ or ‘Socrates’?”

Greece is a member of the “eurozone,” an economic and monetary union that consists of Austria, Belgium, the Cleveland Indians, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, a second-round draft pick from the Denver Broncos and a country to be named later. It issues the “euro,” a currency that can be redeemed for prizes at Chuck E. Cheese, a pizza restaurant that features arcade games fought over by overbearing parents.


Hermes ties, manufactured by Greek god of commerce

 

“Why should I, who has lived so long to pass on my name to my son, give it up to some fat-assed banker with a Hermes tie and slick-backed hair?” said Alkman Mossialosopapoulias, a shopkeeper here. “I chop offa his baklava before I chop offa one-a syllable of my name.”


Baklava (not shown actual size)

 

Finance ministers of other eurozone nations said they would draw down on reserves of silent letters if necessary in order to avoid a world-wide orthographic contagion, but would prefer to see Greece get its house in order before doing so.

“We probably don’t need both s’s in patisserie,” said Michel Gangemi, assistant undersecretary of phonics and fiscal affairs at the Banque de France. “But Germany should go first, with overgrown monstrosities such as Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz, which can mean either ‘beef labelling supervision duty assignment law’ or ‘feeling widow gets seeing daughter go out on first date with accountant’ depending on the context.”

The First Apartment: A Rite of Passage

Today, with the signing of a lease and payment of first and last month’s rent, security deposit, key charges, broker’s commission and the short-term national debt of Finland, my younger son became a man. For there is no step that so clearly marks the crossing of the threshold from childhood to adulthood as that which confers upon you an interest–however temporary–in real estate. As Scarlett O’Hara’s father said to her about Tara, the family plantation, in Gone With the Wind: “Land, Scarlett, land. It’s the only thing worth living for, worth fighting for, worth dying for–not all of your crinoline dresses and gew-gaws and frippery.”


Scarlett O’Hara and father: ” . . . and remember to put a Post-It Note that says ‘Scarlett’s Soda!’ on your Diet Cokes in the refrigerator.”

As such, the move out of a college dorm and into an apartment comes freighted with heavy responsibilities, which it is a father’s duty to discuss with his son. “Say,” I said, although that part always goes without saying, “we should have a little ‘chat’ about the apartment.”

He rolled his eyes, as he always does when I put quotation marks around the word “chat.” He knows what’s coming.

“This apartment you’re moving into–it’s a big step.”

“I know, dad.”


Folk dancing: For some reason, they’re always short of men.

“It can be a wonderful thing. No more goofy flyers in the hall of your dorm urging you to join the Young Socialist League, or that more male dancers are needed for Friday night folk dancing. On the other hand, it’s a place where you’ll form friendships–and enemyships–that can last a lifetime.”

He sat there glumly, suffering in silence. I guess he figured if he didn’t speak it would be over sooner.

“An apartment comes with major responsibilities,” I said. “You’re not in a dorm anymore, so if your refrigerator breaks down–you’re on your own.”

That caught his attention. “We are?”

“Sure–if you want to keep your beer cold and your hot dogs from rotting, you’ve got to go to a used appliance store and pick up a cheap one. Your college isn’t in loco parentis any more.”

“What does loco parentis mean?”

“That your mother and I are crazy to be paying for this.”

“So–we have to haul a refrigerator up three flights of steps?”

“Um-hmm.”

“And what do we do with the old one?”

I looked at him with a disappointed surmise. “What in the hell are they teaching you kids in college these days?”

“I’m a double major–I don’t get to take many electives.”

“Still–I thought every red-blooded American boy would know what to do with a dead refrigerator in a third-floor apartment.”

“What?”

I laughed a mirthless, condescending laugh–perhaps I was a member of the smartest generation in history, as Time magazine told me back in the 60s.

“Listen up, and listen good,” I said, getting right up in his face to show him I meant it. “You throw the refrigerator off the back porch!”

He was stunned, silent, as he is always is when I reveal one of the elegant solutions of my misspent youth. It’s true what they say–mathematicians, poets and madmen do their best work in their 20′s.

“You threw a refrigerator off a porch?” he asked, incredulous. Maybe the old man wasn’t such a dummy after all.

“Of course I did. Remember, I had a summer job installing appliances. I wasn’t about to move a refrigerator down three flights of stairs for nothing!”

He was silent for a moment. “Did . . . you ever have any regrets about it?”

I sat down next to him and tousled his hair. “Of course I did, kiddo. Everybody else in my gang remembered to wear a Halloween costume when we did it. It never even occurred to me that a colorful mask–Bozo the Clown, Chewbacca–would lend an air of antic gaiety to the proceedings, as well as disguise my identity.”

“Did you get caught?”

“Throwing refrigerators off apartment porches is really a victimless crime–unless you hit somebody,” I said, drawing on the reservoirs of knowledge I’ve built up after 35 years, two weeks and five days of my legal career, not that I’m counting or anything. “The cops in our student ghetto had their hands full with recreational drugs.”

He seemed to be “getting” it. “What else?” he asked.

I put my arm around him, the better to convey that while the advice I was about to give him was harsh, it was the product of paternal love. “I know you’ll be tempted to get involved in . . . illicit activities now that you won’t be under the watchful eye of your dweeby graduate student dorm monitor.”

“That guy is such a turd!”

“I know–they all are. Anyway, the thing I want you to understand is that if you’re going to bring in black lights and grow marijuana in the pantry, be sure you have shades on the windows.”

“Why?”

I shook my head from side to side–kids! What do they know?

“Because that purple glow out the window is like putting a sign on the side of your apartment building that says ‘Arrest me!’”


Indoor pot farm (not mine).

“Oh,” he said. He sounded embarrassed that I had exposed his ignorance in this very vital area of apartment living. “So you . . . grew marijuana in your apartment?”

“Of course not. No one ever grows marijuana in their apartment. When the cops come, you say it was left there from the guys who rented the place the year before.”


“The TV’s busted. Should we throw it off the front porch or the back porch?”

“What if the cops came the year before?”

“Those plants were there from time immemorial. For all you know, Moses sneaked them out of Egypt through the Red Sea.”

He seemed to understand. “Did you take the marijuana with you when you left?”

“No, I was pretty much done with pot by then. I’d smoked enough so that the THC in my system was making me paranoid. It happened to Stevie Wonder, too.”

“Who’s Stevie Wonder?”

“Just the guy who created some of the greatest pot-smoking music of all time. Anyway, your lease says you have to leave the apartment ‘broom clean’–it’s a legal term. I was the last one to leave, so I had to move about forty crates of dark, rich soil out of the place.”

“How did you do it?”

“I may have smoked a lot of pot, but it looks like my short-term memory is better than yours,” I said smugly.

“What do you mean?”

I threw it off a porch!” I screamed. I didn’t mean to, but I was growing exasperated.

“Oh, right–sorry,” he said.

“Maybe you should be taking notes,” I said, and I wasn’t kidding.

He took a pad of paper out of his backpack, and started to write: “Throw . . . pot . . . plants . . . off . . . back . . . porch.”

“Gimme that,” I snapped as I grabbed the pad and pen from him. I drew a thick line through the word ‘back’ and wrote ‘front’ over it.”

“You throw the pot off the front porch?” he asked.

“Sure–you already threw the refrigerator off the back porch. People will start to complain.”

“Like who?”

“Like the old lady who lives on the floor beneath you, with the divorced daughter who comes over every Sunday with her annoying kids.”


Look out below!

“Why does she complain?”

“Because she was sitting on her front porch, and I hit her with the dirt when I threw it off our front porch.”

“Oh,” he said as I handed the pad back to him. “Makes sense.”

“One last thing,” I said, as I held out our copy of the short-form apartment lease. “Signing this document carries a great many legal responsibilities with it. This is your introduction to the real world–for the first time, you’re on the hook, understand?”

“I guess.”

“I don’t think so. The landlord’s got the security deposit–if you mess the place up, he can keep it.”

“What if I disagree, or I didn’t do it?” he asked. I had to admire his spunk, but at the same time I had to give him a practical lesson in the slow workings of the American legal system too.

“The landlord’s got you over a barrel–he’s got your money, and it will take you at least two years to get into court to get it back. By that time, you and your roommates will be scattered across the country. You won’t want to come back for a lousy $300 each.”

“So what do we do?”

“You do like my friends Rick and Carl. Rick went on to a third-rate medical school in the Caribbean when none of the U.S. schools would have him, and Carl turned into a sadistic U.S. Marshall. Two very savvy guys.”

“What was their solution?”

“They got a couple of packs of Jimmy Dean’s Pure Pork Sausage, and stuffed it into every nook and cranny in the apartment before they left.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Kids: They’re Cute When They’re Young.”

As Crisis Deepens Greece Demands Return of Fishermen’s Caps

ATHENS, Greece.  As the fiscal crisis in Greece deepened over the weekend government officials demanded the return of all Greek fisherman’s caps, calling them “a national treasure that is being squandered and defiled in the name of fashion.”


Genuine Greek fisherman’s cap, non-genuine Greek fisherman

“We cannot stand idly by while western ‘hipsters’ appropriate for dating and coolness purposes the hat that for centuries has been emblematic of the Greek fisherman,” said First Minister of State Konstantin Konstantinopoulos.  “If we wanted to do that, we would have called it the Greek hipster hat.”


Tenured professor trying to look jaunty

In America, Greek fishermen’s caps are favored by liberal arts college faculty who desire to appear jaunty, old guys hogging tables while nursing a cup of coffee in diners, and bicycle messengers who risk their future earning capacity by going without helmets.


Elgin Marbles

In recent years Greece and other countries have taken a more aggressive approach to the repatriation of works of their classical eras.  “We want the Elgin Marbles back, too,” said Konstantinopoulos as he picked up the last syllable of his name, which was dragging the ground.  “Also Jimmy the Greek and Greek salads.”

Image result for marbles collection

The Elgin marbles are a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures that were removed from the Parthenon and transported by sea to Britain.  Greece has demanded their return, but the British government has so far offered only two cat’s eyes, one hog roller and three “cleary” marbles as reparations.

Queer Poetry for the Straight Guy

Sunday night. Time to get out of the house with my friends Denny and Mad Dog and head over to Smitty’s Sports Bar. All three of us–not Smitty, I don’t care about him–are always feeling a little stifled as the weekend comes to a close, so we head over to Smitty’s to talk sports and poetry by gay guys.


“You guys all set, or you want another pitcher of Frank O’Hara?”

 

I know, you’d think the two don’t mix, but they do. Every time I wanna change the subject from kids, how we need a new septic, when are you gonna take my car in for service, blotta blotta blotta, to something sublime and ethereal like Hart Crane’s “The Bridge” I gotta get outta the house. And the only place where three red-blooded American guys like us can talk sports and queer verse without drawing suspicion is a sports bar, where men can be men without interference by women.


Ernie Broglio: Tragically, T.S. Eliot never saw him play before he was traded to the Cubs. Broglio, that is, not Eliot.

 

Tonight should be especially good because it’s the Cardinals vs. the Cubs on Sunday Night Baseball. I grew up a Cardinals fan–me and T.S. Eliot I might add–and I’ve always pondered the “rivalry” between the two teams; isn’t this a sloppy use of language that W.H. Auden, f’rinstance, would never have tolerated? I mean, the Cardinals have won the World Series eleven times, while the Cubs haven’t won since 1908; 107 years and counting. George Will said that if a foreign power took over America and wanted to recruit prison camp guards, they would do well to start with Cardinals fans, but we’re not intentionally sadistic, we just get to celebrate more often.

I take a seat at the bar and order a Blue Moon summer special. I always think of it as lesbian beer because I first tasted it in a bar in downtown Boston that, as they say, swings both ways; by day it serves a business crowd, but by night it’s a realm of Sapphic pleasure, or something like that. I took my friend Butch–no pun intended–in there one time for lunch and, like the salesman he is, he started to chat up the waitress. “What’s this place like at night?” he asked, taking in the scene with approval. “You wouldn’t be welcome here,” the waitress with the mullet replied.

I see Denny and Mad Dog at the door and motion for them to come over–there’s three seats right under one of the wide-screen TVs that Smitty provides so each man can be alone with his thoughts at all times. “You guys want a pitcher?” the waitress says and Mad Dog is about to say “yes” when Denny stops him. “Don’t ever drink draft beer,” he says.

“Why not?” the Dog Man asks.

“I got it on good authority from my gay friend—”


“No way is Arthur Rimbaud better than Cavafy!”

 

“The one who told you if you drink beer out of a bottle you don’t capture the full bouquet you get with a glass?”

“That’s him–he says that bars never clean their pipes, and so draft beer is full of disgusting crap.”

So they both go for bottle beer and we sit down and start chewing the fat.

Our talk usually devolves to fundamental principles fairly quickly: Does good pitching beat good hitting? Should the National League adopt the designated hitter rule to extend the careers of slow sluggers? Should gay poets conceal and compress their sexual identity when they write, or should they celebrate it? There’s no answer to these eternal questions–they’ll be debating these topics in sports bars a hundred years from now–but still, they get the old conversational juices flowing.

We start with Oscar Wilde, even though his work didn’t become informed with the essential sense of tragedy that marks all great works of art until The Ballad of Reading Gaol. There’s just so much to talk about!

“I wonder what ever happened to his kids,” Mad Dog asks.

“Yeah–he was one of the few who switched teams,” Denny says by way of agreement.


Lou Brock, wearing his patented headgear, the “Brockabrella.”

 

“Are you kidding?” the wise guy next to me says. “Ernie Broglio for Lou Brock has got to be one of the most lopsided trades in the history of baseball. Brock went to the Hall of Fame, while Broglio . . .”

“Ex-cuse me,” Mad Dog says, and quite huffily I might add. “We’re trying to have a conversation about gay poets here–not baseball.”

That shuts the guy up. “Oh, sorry, I thought you was talking about the Cardinals-Cubs rivalry.”

I could say something about that rivalry issue noted above, but I let it pass. The guy looks back up at the game, and we get our train of thought back on track.

“I dunno about the tragic sense of life being so essential,” Denny says. “Look at the whimsy of a guy like Frank O’Hara.”

“Whimsy or serious, Wilde wasn’t that hot of a poet,” Mad Dog says. “I’d throw his entire oeuvre into a cocked hat for Lord Alfred Douglas’ Two Loves.”

“The love that dare not speak its name,” I say with appreciation before taking a sip from my longneck bottle.

Unfortunately, that invidious comparison draws Denny’s ire. “Douglas ruined Wilde, all for the reflected glory of hanging out with a guy who could write rings around him.”

“No less an authority than Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch said Douglas wrote the finest sonnets of his time,” Mad Dog replies. The hairs on the back of my neck are standing up–there’s nothing worse than a stupid sports bar fight between two guys who’ve had a little too much to drink.

“Oh yeah?” Denny says. “Douglas couldn’t change the nibs in Oscar Wilde’s pens, so go fart in your stupid Quiller-Couch.”

I’m saying to myself “He’s gone too far” but my mind, dulled by the fine hops and fruity finish of the Blue Moon, doesn’t work as fast as Mad Dog’s right, which sails over my head and lands on Denny’s nose.


“Parse this, sucker!”

 

“Fight, fight, fight,” the chant immediately goes up in the bar, and a circle is formed around the combatants with unlucky me in the middle. Thankfully Smitty keeps a tight ship, and he’s over the bar in a second to grab Denny while a bouncer takes care of Mad Dog.

“If I’ve told you knuckleheads once I’ve told you a thousand times,” Smitty says, beads of sweat on his forehead from the unexpected exertion, “if you got a literary beef you got to take it outside–unnerstand?”

The two amateur fighters and poetry critics look at each other sheepishly and sit down on bar stools again.

“Geez, what was that all about?” the wise guy next to me asks.

“Nuthin’–just your typical Wilde vs. Douglas fight.”

“Buster Douglas,” the wise guy says with a far-off look in his eye. “Now that’s gotta be one of the greatest sports upsets of all time.”

Available in print and Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “poetry is kind of important.”

Nuptial Indemnity

Insurance for weddings, family reunions and bar mitzvahs, already common in Britain, is becoming popular in the US.

                                                                             The Boston Globe

I drove out to Glendale to put three new tantes on a bar mitzvah bond, and then I remembered this lead on a wedding policy over in Hollywood.  I decided to run over there to see if I could get the future bride and groom to sign the paperwork while they were still in love.  Timing is everything when you’re selling insurance.

The house was one of those Mexican-style jobs everyone was crazy about a few years ago-white walls, red tile roof.  The couple was probably under water on the mortgage and couldn’t afford to leave.  I figured they’d been living together and she’d started making noises about palimony.  Or maybe there was a baby on the way, and I don’t mean from one of those third-world dumps where the gross national product doubles when a movie starlet on a mission touches down on the country’s only landing strip.  Funny how those things work out.

I rang the bell and waited–nothing.  I rang it again.  What the hell, I drove all the way out there, I might as well make sure.  Still nothing.  I turned to go back to my car when I heard footsteps inside.  I looked through the glass and saw a woman.  She opened the inner door and spoke through the screen.

”May I help you?” she asked.  You sure could, I thought.  It’s getting towards the end of the month, and I need the commission.

“Good afternoon–I’m Walter Huff, American Nuptial Indemnity.”

“Hello,” she said in a sultry voice, and that one word spoke volumes.  If I’d been selling encyclopedias I would have run to my car for a sample.  “I’m Phyllis Shamie Nirdlinger, or at least I will be as soon as I get married.”

“The home office said someone at this address was interested in some insurance.”  She had a body like an upside-down viola da gamba-without the sound holes, frets or strings.  Full at the top, narrowing at the waist, slender legs where the neck should have been.

“That would be my fiancé, Herbert S. Nirdlinger.”

“Yes, I believe that was the name.”

“What kind of insurance was he interested in?  I ought to know, but I don’t keep track,” she said as she twisted her lower lip into a little dishrag of affected concern.

“I guess none of us keep track until something happens,” I replied.  “Just the usual–collision, fire, family reunion, with a bar/bat mitzvah rider in case either of you convert to Judaism and have children.”

“Oh yes, of course.”

“It’s only a routine matter, but he ought to take care of it.  You never know when something might happen.”

“Yes, I’m sure you’re right.  So many entertainers get caught up in the Kabbalah-like Madonna.”

“You in the entertainment business?”  I was playing dumb.  I can spot an unemployed actress a backhanded Frisbee toss away.

“Yes.  I’m between roles right now,” she said as she gazed over my shoulder, as if she expected to see Spielberg coming up the sidewalk.   All of sudden she looked at me, and I felt a chill creep up my back and into the roots of my hair.  “Do you handle wedding insurance?”

I couldn’t be mistaken about what she meant, not after fifteen years in the insurance business.  Not with all the jewelry riders I’ve written up, not with all the homeowner’s policies I’ve stretched to cover some kid’s busted mountain bike two years after he graduated from college.

I was going to get up and go and drop her and that wedding policy like a hot shotput–but I didn’t.  I couldn’t, not when I looked into those eyes like turtle pools that little kids wade in and pee in, and-what the hell.  I grabbed her around the waist and pulled her towards me.

She looked surprised, but I was pretty sure that was a façade, a coat of paint.  I could see right through her if I wanted, but I liked what I saw on the surface, and I didn’t go any deeper.

“Oh, Walter,” she moaned as I clutched her close to me.  “Maybe this is the awful part, but I want . . . I need our wedding to fail.  Do you understand me?”

“No.”

“Nobody could,” she sighed.

“But we’re going to do it.”

“We’re going to do it.”

“Straight down the line, right?

“Right.”

“To hell with the bridesmaids?”

“To hell with the bridesmaids–and their purple organza empire waistline floor-length dresses.”

If we were going to do it, we were going to do it right.  “All the big money on wedding insurance policies comes from the double indemnity clause,” I said to her.

“The double whatsis clause?”

“Double indemnity.  They found out pretty quick when they started writing wedding insurance that the places people think are danger spots–like the groom has a few too many pops and calls the mother-of-the-bride an old warthog–aren’t danger spots at all.”

“They aren’t?”

“No.  People think the groom thinks the mother of the bride is an old warthog, but he doesn’t.  He doesn’t think she’s all that bad, just a few decades older than the bride, who looks like her mother, so why would he say the mother looks like an old warthog, unless he thinks the bride looks like a young warthog?”

“I see.”

No she didn’t, but I decided to humor her.  “So they put in a feature that sounds pretty good to the guy that buys it, because he’s a little worried he’s going to slip.  It doesn’t cost the company much because they know he’s pretty sure to keep his mouth shut.”

“Oh.”

“You can say that again.”

“Oh–”

“Not literally–figuratively.  They tell you they’ll pay double indemnity if the groom insults the bride’s mother, because then you’ve got a living hell.  You married the guy and have to live with him the rest of your life, but he insulted your mother, so what are you going to do for holidays, and the kid’s birthdays, and so forth.”

She was quiet for a moment.  “How much is that worth?”

“On a regular $10,000 wedding package?  When we get done, if we do it right, we cash a $20,000 bet.”

“Twenty thousand dollars?”

“To bring the immediate family, flowers and a cake back to the original location, with a photographer-absolutely.”

“But–what if I don’t want to do it over?”

I knew where she was going.  I wanted to go there too.

“The check is made out to you and your fiancé–jointly.  What time does he get home from work?”

“6 o’clock-closer to 7 if traffic’s bad.”

“And what time does the mail get here?”

“Usually by 4:30.”

“Have you got his signature on a piece of paper?”

“Yes, on the installment contract for the bedroom air conditioner.”

“How about a glass coffee table and a flashlight?”

“Yes.  The batteries in the flashlight may be low . . .”

“You can get new ones at the hardware store.  Here’s how we do it.  You get under the coffee table, shine the light through contract, and I’ll trace his signature on the check.”

“Very clever,” she said, a dizzy grin on her face.  I could tell she had no idea what she was getting herself into.

“Now listen to me,” I said, a little out of breath.  I was winded from switching back and forth between our staccato dialogue and my first-person narrative.

“Yes?”

She was all ears, with some lips, hips, legs, breasts and other body parts thrown in for good measure.

“You can’t breathe a word of this-not so much as a vowel of it–to anybody.”

She leaned into me like the bulkhead of a four-story apartment building. “Do you understand?” I asked as she pressed against me.

“I understand,” she said.  She had a smile that could light up the inside of a refrigerator.

* * * * *

There’s a million things can go wrong with a wedding.  An uncle who has to see the Southern Cal game brings a portable TV to the church.  A groomsman sticks a bottle rocket in the tailpipe of the bride’s limo.  A maiden aunt who’s allergic to nuts keels over after two bites of the tortoni. It doesn’t take long to come up with a couple of crazy schemes, not if you’ve been in the business as long as I have.  Problem is, you’d make better use of the brain cells you burn thinking them up having a rye highball and going to bed.

“How are you going to do it?” I asked Phyllis one night as I stared into the fire.

“Well, we’ve got a swimming pool out back.  We could have a cocktail party for him to meet my parents’ friends, and I could bump him so he knocks my mother into it.”

“Out of the question.”

She screwed her mouth up into a little moue.

“You don’t like that idea?” she asked.

“It’s terrible.  Your mother would just laugh it off.  She’d be telling friends about it till the day she died.  What else?”

“Um-what if he got really drunk at his bachelor party and . . . left something personal with a stripper?”

“It’s no good.”

“Why not?”

“You call things off over that, you’re the bad guy, not him.  He’s just letting off a little steam.  Worst that happens is he picks up a social disease-gives you something to talk about at bridge club.”

“Maybe you’re right.”

I grabbed her by the shoulders, spun her around and made her do the Bunny Hop into the bathroom until we were standing in front of her medicine cabinet mirror.

“You’ve got to get this straight–there comes a time with any wedding policy when the only thing that will see you through is audacity, and I can’t tell you why.  Understand?”

“Why you can’t tell me why?”

“No, why you need audacity.”

“I don’t understand why you need audacity.”

“Neither do I, but you need it.  So what we do is this.  You get to his best man, tell him you know Herbert was a ladies’ man, you’ve always wanted to hear what a rake he was . . .”

“You mean hoe?”

“No, rake.  You set the guy up to give the most embarrassing toast at a rehearsal dinner since the wedding feast at Cana.”

“And when he does?”

“You bolt the banquet hall, crying.  Deal’s off.”

“And the insurance company pays?”

“They have to.  You don’t fall within the runaway bride exception.  You didn’t get cold feet–you had no idea Herb was such a cad, a bounder, a . . . “

“Rake?”

“You got it.”

*    *    *

We had it set up so it couldn’t fail.  It would run like a Swiss cuckoo clock, chirping at the appointed hour.  Floyd Gehrke, the best man, liked to drink, and he liked to talk.  Phyllis had pumped him up like an air mattress.

“I want to hear everything–everything, you understand?” she told Gehrke.

“I could go on all night,” Floyd said.  “Won’t you have to pay the band extra?”

“That won’t be necessary,” I cut in.  I didn’t want to use up the deductible on Leo Bopp and his Musical Magicians.

“Okay,” Floyd said, as he wiped his mouth with a napkin and stood up.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began, and Phyllis and I were tapping our crystal water glasses like English handbell ringers.

“If I can have your attention for a few moments, I’d like to say a few words about my best bud–Herb Nirdlinger.”

The crowd began to uncouple from their conversations, and Floyd launched his dinghy onto the dark waters of the Chateau de Ville Ballroom and Function Facilities.

“I’ve known Herb for many, many years-I don’t think any man knows him better than I do.”

There were a few coughs in the back of the room, but then things settled down for good.

“Like a lot of guys, Herb sowed a fifty-pound bag of wild oats when he was younger, but–and this is a big but, just like Herb’s-

There were a few laughs spread across the room–fewer than Floyd was expecting.  I thought I saw a few drops of flop sweat break out on his brow.

“Every girl Herb ever dated, then dumped–every one of them would come running back to him today.  All he’d have to do is say the word.  And the reason is, when he dropped them, he let them down easy.”

Floyd was off to a good start.  I gave Phyllis the high sign; one hand under my chin, which I waved up and down, so I looked like Oliver the Dragon on “Kukla, Fran and Ollie”.


That’s Ollie on the right.

“Herb was always a perfect gentleman about it, and that’s why he remains friends to this very day with so many of the women he dated.”

It wouldn’t take too much more of this before any reasonable woman would have fled in tears.  That’s all I needed–just a little actuarial ammunition to back us up.

“And I hope he continues to do the same thing with Phyllis–the nice part, not the breaking up part.”

I kicked her–kicked her hard–and she stood up.  “You–you lout, you!” she said, looking at Herb.   “The wedding’s off!” she screamed, took off her ring and threw it at him.  Then she ran off into the night like a scalded cat.

I picked up the ring, put it in a #1 Brown Kraft coin envelope with Gummed Closure and handed it to Herb.  “Your policy does not cover goods that are intentionally damaged or discarded,” I said.

“Thanks,” he replied.  I thought I saw a tear in his eye, and I thought he was crying about Phyllis.  The cold duck must have gone to my head.

*    *    *

“Huff, I don’t like it.”  I was sitting in the office of Keyes, my claim manager.

“What’s the matter with it?”

“Gal goes out and buys a wedding policy,” he said as he paced up and down in my office.  “Never hires a florist or a caterer.  Doesn’t book a band.  Has one, maybe two fittings on her wedding dress.  Picks out some godawful purple organza material none of the bridesmaids like, but none of them says a thing.”

“Nothing unusual about that.”

“It gets unusualler.  The night before the rehearsal dinner she calls up the fabric shop and cancels the order.”

“So–it happens every day.”

“Sure it does.  But you know what doesn’t happen every day?”

“What?”

“She doesn’t argue about the $200 deposit, and in fact tells the girl she can keep it–’cause she’s been so nice to her.”

My heart was pounding.  “It’s a chick thing.  Women don’t tip for service, they tip because they like somebody, they tip . . .”

“Huff-it wasn’t a tip.  It was hush money, pure and simple.  Only she gave it to the wrong person-someone who’s got a shred of ethics left in this lousy, stinking world. Someone who understands that the cost of insurance fraud for all of us is a lot higher than the price tag on a lousy 50 yard bolt of discontinued fabric.”

A lump rolled down my throat and into my stomach.  The honeymoon was over.  It was time to kill Phyllis.

*    *    *

I told her I’d meet her at her place, that I had the check.

“Oh, Walter, that’s thrilling.”

”Just be sure you’ve got new batteries for the flashlight, and use some Windex on that coffee table of yours so I can do a good job on Herb’s signature.”

“I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

“Fine isn’t good enough.  This is a big check, so there’ll be a manual examination when it hits my company’s account.  It’s got to be perfect.”

“Don’t snap at me,” she said in a hurt little voice.  “What do I know about reasonable industry standards of care in the commercial banking business?”

I couldn’t afford to have her go wobbly on me now.  “Sorry, sugar.  We’ll get this last piece of business behind us, and then we’ll be together.”

“Finally.”

“That’s right.”

“Forever.”

Until death did us part.

I rolled into her driveway around twelve-thirty.  There wasn’t any point in parking down the street and walking any more; it would all be over–for better or worse–when I walked out that door.

I rang her doorbell and she answered it in the same get-up she had on the first day I met her.

“Looks familiar, baby.”

“I figured you liked what you saw then.”

“I sure did,” I said, and I wasn’t lying.  “Where’s that coffee table?”

“In there,” she said, and she pointed into a sort of parlor off foyer.

I walked in and started to sit down on the couch.  As I hiked up my pants the way men used to do before the coming of wrinkle-free, easy-care styles, something hit me in the back of the head like Jack Dempsey in a clinch.

“Ow,” I said as my head hit one of those expensive coffee table books that nobody every reads but everybody says “This is so lovely!” when you give it to them.  People are like that.

“Okay, you human file cabinet,” I heard a gruff voice say.  “Hand over that check.”

I looked up and saw Floyd Gehrke standing there with the Bucheimer “Midget” sap that he had just flattened me with.

“So it’s the best man,” I said through the salty taste of blood in my mouth.  The oldest trick in the book, and I fell for it.

”That’s right,” he said.  “You were expecting maybe the ring bearer?”

“That would have been just a little too cute.”

“Enough with the wisecracks,” he said.  “Hand over the $20,000.”

“Sure, sure,” I said.  “I’ve got it right here.”

I reached in my inside jacket pocket and pulled out my Beretta PX4 Storm Sub-Compact.  It holds thirteen rounds-unlucky thirteen.

I let the best man have twelve while Phyllis stood there shrieking, her hands over her ears.  Then I turned to her.

“There’s one left, baby.  You want it?”

“Oh, Walter-please don’t.  We have so much to live for!”

“Like what?” I said bitterly.  “Name one precious little thing.”

“Just look,” she said, and with a sweep of her arm she showed me what every newlywed couple hopes for and dreams of.

“Look at these wedding presents!  We got a Cuisinart! And a Donut Express countertop donut maker with standard and mini-size pans–it’s dishwasher safe!”

Available in print and Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Everyday Noir.”

As Boston Stumbles, Freedonia Prepares Olympic Bid

FLORGSZ, Freedonia.  “The weasel, when he senses weakness, he attacks,” says Norgovrad Sliezsciwz, Chairman of this country’s newly-formed Olympics Committee as he flips through materials submitted by Boston, Massachusetts, in support of its bid to host the 2024 Summer Games.  “Boston, she is weak city of folk songs!” he notes as he throws a CD by James Taylor into a wastebasket.  “Freedonia is strong–strong like bull!”

Image result for boston snow mound
Boston’s snow mound:  “It’ll be gone by 2024–promise!”

Sliezsciwz is referring to the disarray into which Boston’s Olympic bid has fallen, with the sudden replacement of its executive director and the dismal efforts by city government to remove snow that fell in the record winter of 2014-2015.  “Their mound of snow and debris is still two stories high, they are so incompetent,” Sliezsciwz says with contempt.  “In Freedonia, we have a mound of snow and debris that is FOUR stories high!”

If Freedonia succeeds it would mark the first time the land-locked nation, which was formed out of disputed areas of Moldavia, Paramus, New Jersey, and Disneyland at the end of World War II, has hosted the games.  “It would be quite a feather in our cap,” says Dolba Nurogrebnik, who hopes to open a snack bar serving deep-fried weasel on a stick, a national delicacy, near the proposed site of the hop-step-and-jump arena. “We should begin to weave a zlotsky, our national cap, to hold this feather.”

Image result for hop step jump

Despite its stumbles Boston business leaders say they are prepared to re-double their efforts in order to retain what they say is their “first-mover advantage” that gives them the “inside track” on the 2024 Games, which they say they need to host in order to become a “world-class” city where people do not use quotation marks indiscriminately.  “There is no way we’re going to roll over for a Third World dump like Freedonia,” says Marty Halloran, a pipefitter who sees what would be the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad as boosting construction jobs in the region.  “Those guys have never even been to the Super Bowl.”

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