For Comic Sans-o-Phobes, Type of Narrator is a Deal-Breaker

WATERTOWN, Mass.  Brick-and-mortar bookstores, long predicted to be on their deathbeds due to the growing market power of on-line sellers, are on life support these days due to an unexpected shot-in-the-arm from an unlikely vaccine: audio books, now the most heavily-prescribed remedy for what ails the publishing industry.

“It’s the fastest-growing category out there,” says Simon Pearsall of DigiPublishing, a trade journal that covers the business of selling books not made with paper.  “Nobody saw this coming, maybe because we spend all our time at trade shows in hotel bars.”

comic
Not New Jersey

 

The trend has made “rock stars” out of certain audiobook narrators, including Maeve Glincher, an unassuming woman with grey hair and bad posture who is favored by readers of what is sometimes referred to as the “there’s-something-nasty-in-the-garden” genre of women’s fiction written by authoresses such as Rosemary R. DeLuth and Anna Marie Glockenspiel.  “Typically you have a quaint, idyllic setting, such as the Cotswolds in England or Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey,” Glincher says as she takes a seat behind an autograph table at Charles River Books here.  “The scullery maid comes back from the compost heap to say the vicar’s been clubbed to death with a potato rake, that sort of thing.”

The line starts moving and Glincher tries to accommodate each request for a personal inscription with a smile, but she is buttonholed by one woman who wants to gain some insight into the nitty-gritty details of book narrating.

“Do you read straight from the book,” the woman asks as she fishes an audiobook by Glockenspiel she bought online out of her knitting bag, hoping to save $3.29 off the in-store retail price.

comic1
Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey (not shown actual size)

 

“Oh no, the type’s too small,” Glincher says.  “I need my own big print version.”

“Can we see one?” the woman next in line asks hopefully.

“Well, sure, I have one right here,” Glincher says, but as she pulls a well-worn manuscript out of her tote bag, the women in line recoil in horror, as if they’ve stumbled upon one of the grisly scenes they love to hear their favorite narrator describe.

“It’s . . . it’s Comic Sans,” one woman exclaims, her hand flying to her mouth as if to keep from vomiting.  “I don’t think I can ever listen to you again!”

comic2

“You don’t actually hear the typeface,” Glincher says apologetically.  “It’s easy-to-read, unlike Garamond,” she continues with a supplicating tone.  “My eyes aren’t tired at the end of a recording session,” she says weakly, but it’s clear she’s lost the wave of enthusiasm that had twenty-seven bookish women prepared to buy her latest effort at the full price of $31.50, plus 6.25% sales tax.

“Comic sans” is a casual sans-serif non-connecting script typeface inspired by comic book lettering.  It is intended for use in informal documents and children’s materials but has spread like an invasive weed to formal documents such as SEC filings, office lunch room posters, and first-to-die life insurance policies.

comic3

“Generally speaking, the typeface a narrator chooses is irrelevant to the audiobook experience,” says Norton Weaver, Jr. of Books-on-Disks.  “Some people with Stage 3 Comic Sans-o-Phobia develop a ‘contact high’ similar to that experienced by ‘guides’ on youthful LSD ‘trips,’ however, although I wouldn’t know anything about that.”

For those listeners, the knowledge that a narrator favors what has been described as “the most hated typeface on earth” is a deal-breaker.  “How COULD you!” Emily Grotswiler screams at Glincher as she escorted from the store by security guards.  “I’ll have to re-think whether I even enjoyed you before!”

My Dark Horse Run for Anti-Pope

It was one of the darkest periods of my life: my girlfriend had dumped me,  the firm where I worked had broken up in a fight between two factions, neither  of which *sniff* wanted me to join them in their new ventures.  I was at loose  ends, with no one who’d listen to my troubles but my old buddy, Bates.


“I’m  running because I believe I can make a difference.  To me.”

“So you’ve got nothing lined-up, job-wise,” he said as he tipped back a  longneck Narragansett beer.

“I’ve got a few resumes out,” I said.  “Nobody’s calling me back.”

“Hmm,” he hummed.  “There always the comfy, cozy public sector.  Indoor work  and no heavy lifting, as we say in Boston.”


“You brought Cool Ranch Doritos?  Awesome!”

“I don’t know any politicians,” I said.  “That’s kind of essential, isn’t  it?”

“It’s the essence of essential,” he replied, staring out the window at a  breathtaking view of the Massachusetts Turnpike.  “How about saving men’s  souls?”

“You mean life insurance?  No, I’ve never been a salesman.”

“Not that, dingleberry.  I meant the Holy Roman Catholic Church.”

“Are they hiring?”

“For entry-level jobs–sure, all the time.”  He paused for effect.  “You take  a vow of poverty, and they make sure you keep it.”

“So why would I want to apply there?”

He snorted with contempt.  “You don’t answer the Help Wanted ads, stunod.   You aim high.”

“How high?”

Il Papa,” he said triumphantly.

It was my turn to laugh.  “Dude–I don’t think you’ve been paying attention.   The Pope is elected according to canon law.  He stays in office until he  dies.”

“Go to the head of the class–loser!” he snapped, and I felt the same hot  breath of scorn that had blown my hair dry in fifth grade as I rattled off one  correct answer after another in a lightning round session in the tenets of the  Baltimore Catechism, only to be pounded to a pulp at recess by boys apparently envious of my knowledge of the Communion of Saints.

“If you’re going to play by the rules, you’ll never get anywhere,” he said.   “If you want to BE somebody–run for Antipope.”


Pope  Peyton I, three-time RCC Player of the Year

It was a daring suggestion, fraught with risk–but it promised great  rewards.  The Vatican is the world’s second-largest private landowner, after  Starbucks.  They’ve got diamonds, jewels and great works of art.  I’d be ex officio Commissioner of CYO basketball leagues around the  world!

“How, exactly,” I began hesitantly, “does one go about . . . running for  antipope?” I asked him.

“It’s not as hard as you’d think.  Antipopes go almost as far back as Popes,”  Bates said, reaching for a handful of Cool Ranch Doritos, the unique combination  of great taste and good fun rolled into one great snack.  “The first–as every  good Catholic smart-aleck ought to know–was St. Hippolytus in 217  A.D.”

I cringed a bit.  I hate it when people throw Catholic lore or liturgy that I don’t know back in my face.  Like my Jewish friends who caught me leaning the  wrong way one night, confusing the Immaculate Conception with virgin birth.   Ouch!

“So,” I said.  “What’s involved?”

“You gotta ‘go into schism,’ like Pope Novatian did in 251 A.D.”

“What’s that mean?”

He turned and looked at me with a cold glare.  I sensed that he was trying to  figure out if I had the fire in my belly.

“You don’t mess around,” he said and there was a strange, hard element–like  carbon or titanium–in his tone.  “When everybody in the world is saying the guy in St. Peter’s is the Pope, you simply say–”

“What?”


H.L.  Mencken

“Ding dong, you’re wrong.”

The elegance of his solution struck me as bogus.  I’m a Menckenian, and  believe as he did that for every complex problem there is an answer that is  clear, simple and wrong.  “You can’t just announce that you’re Pope and  expect people to follow you,” I said.

Bates shook his head, as if in wonder at how hopelessly naive I was.   “Listen, you dingbat” he said as he got up to play Willie Ruff’s Gregorian  Chant, Plain Chant and Spirituals.  “Might makes right, and votes make  Popes.”

“What’s that mean?”

“The Pope was elected by the College of Cardinals.  You go out, get  yourself some disgruntled bishops, guys who lost a few parishes in the last  round of church closures, and get them to vote for you!”

“Can you really do that?”

Can you really do that?” he repeated in a mincing tone, mocking my  diffidence.  “Do you think Novatian asked anybody if he could ‘do that’ before  he did it?  No!  He just went out, rounded up three disaffected bishops from  southern Italy and–voila!  He’s just as much the Pope as your namesake,  Cornelius.”


Antipope Novatian, as drawn by my buddy Bates, making fun of Pope Cornelius

Bates was persuasive but still, there was something that didn’t seem  quite right about the whole scheme.  “If it’s that easy,” I said after taking a  moment to mull his plan over, “why don’t you become the antipope?”

Usually so confident, almost cocky in his approach to life, Bates flinched  like St. Sebastian getting hit in the armpit with an arrow.

“You think I don’t want to?” he said, a cloud of regret passing over his  usually-blase countenance.  “If I thought I had a chance, I’d be out on  the campaign trail in the batting of a gnat’s eyelash.”

“Is that shorter or longer than two shakes of a lamb’s tail?”

Way shorter,” he said.  “C’mere.”

He led me into his room, to his closet, and reached up on the shelf above the  clothes rod.  He pulled down a stack of notebooks and sat down on his bed.   “Take a look at these,” he said.


Theresa  of Avila vs. Catherine of Siena: Cast your vote on-line–now!

We flipped through the pages, filled with drawings Bates had done of himself  in full papal regalia; mitre, crozier, the works.  Beneath them he’d practiced  signing autographs as “Pope Bates I.”

“I . . . had no idea,” I said as I patted him on the back to console him.   “So why did you give up . . . on your dream?”

“I’m a marked man,” he said, his voice catching on the lump in his throat.   “I took on the Pope over heretical baptism.”

“Ah,” I exclaimed, understanding immediately.  The question whether former  heretics need to be re-baptized in order to be reconciled to the Church has  started more bar fights in the neighborhood around St. Peters than who’s cuter,  St. Theresa of Avila or St. Catherine of Siena.  “Funny, isn’t it,” I said to my  old University of Chicago roommate.

“What?”


Leopold  and Loeb

“That the same dorm that produced thrill killers Leopold and Loeb produced  two Pope wanna-be’s.”

He laughed, more at himself than at my lame attempt at a joke.  “You go  ahead,” he said.  “I’ve got no chance.  The Pope and his cordon of nefarious  henchmen . . .”

“Like on Rocky and Bullwinkle?”

“Right.  They follow me everywhere–I wouldn’t live past the first  primary.”

“They aren’t monitoring your brain waves, are they?”

“How did you know?” he screamed in mock paranoia.  We both knew that, as  powerful as the Vatican might be, they couldn’t read our minds from afar.  As  long as we didn’t drink fluoridated water.

“Have you ever run for office?” he said as he put his notebooks back into the  closet of his broken dreams.

“Three times.”

“And what’s your record?”

“Two wins and one loss.”

“Pretty good,” he said.  “What were your wins?”

“Fifth grade class president, and trustee of the 337 Marlborough Street  Condominium Trust.”

“And the loss?”

“Junior High Student Council President.”

“What was the margin of victory?”

“I lost in a landslide,” I replied, and not without a trace of  bitterness.

“What was the problem?”

“I knew nothing about retail politics,” I said.  “I hadn’t heard Tip  O’Neill’s famous line.”

“All politics is local?”

“No–if you want people’s votes you’ve got to ask for them.”

“Right,” he said.  “Well–do you know any renegade priests who could use a  little–‘walking around money’ to vote for you instead of Pope Francis?”

I thought for a moment.  “There’s that guy with the clerical collar and the  tambourine who patrols lower Washington Street.”

“Okay, well–that’s a start.  Does he control any swing voters?”

“Sure.”

“Who?”

“An all-important demographic.  The winos on the bench outside South  Station.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Here’s to His Holiness: Fake Stories About Real Popes.”

Under the Knife of a Temp Surgeon

Surgeon Shortage Pushes Hospitals to Hire Temps–The Wall Street Journal

 

From: temp4@brigham.com
Sent:  Monday, May 6, 2019 9:15 AM
To: prettylady1@gmail.com

Subject: Where r u 2day?

Hey there gurlfriend!  I’m at my placement for today, but a teensy bit disappointed.  The temp agency asked me if I’d mind doing some filing at Brigham’s and I said sure, I love their ice cream!  Then I get over here and find out it’s a hospital!  I hate that antiskeptic smell! 😦

brigham
Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Brigham’s Ice Cream:  Note the similarities.

 

Oh well, I O I O so off to work I go.  Let me know if you’re in the neighborhood–we’ll have lunch!

Leeza

From: temp4@brigham.com
Sent: Monday, May 6, 2019 11:43 AM
To: prettylady1@gmail.com

Subject:  Gross!

Well, I finished all my filing and started to flip through US Weekly when this mean nurse saw me and said if you don’t have anything to do, come down to the operating room we have to take out somebody’s appendix.

Well, sure, glad to help I said, but I wasn’t a Girl Scout or nothing, I don’t even know how to tie a tourniquist.  They put me to work, it was pretty easy.  They cover up the patient and all you have to do is cut down through this little hole they make for you.  The appendix looks like a little sausage so it’s easy to find.  I’m going down to the cafeteria now but I’m not going to have a hot dog!

L

From: temp2@bethisrael.com
Sent: Tuesday, May 7, 2019 10:32 AM
To: prettylady1@gmail.com

Subject:  Nose job

Hey pretty lady!

I’m over at Beth Israel today.  Typed some dictation this morning, then they called me in to help on a “rhino plasty.”  What’s that I said but everybody was so busy washing their hands and putting on their green pajamas they didn’t pay attention to me.  Anyway, I figured if it’s a rhino plasty I’m supposed to make somebody look like a rhino, right?  I did my best–I was just glad it wasn’t an elephant-plasty!

Afterwards they told me “rhinoplasty” is a nose job, so, um, I’m not sure the patient’s gonna like it.  But what do I care?  I’ll be at a new job tomorrow!

Leeza

 

From: temp2@SanctaMariaHospital.com
Sent: Wednesday, May 8, 2019 1:30 PM
To: prettylady1@gmail.com

Subject:  Heartbreaker

You will not believe what just happened to me!  I got this real cute patient to operate on–I noticed he didn’t have a wedding ring on–and he kinda smiled at me as he was passing out.  Then they handed me the clipboard and I got to operate on his heart!  So I could see if he liked me or if he just felt goofy from the gas.

When I cut in to him I couldn’t find anything that looked like a heart, so I moved some of the stuff around, you know, thinking maybe it’s back behind his lungs or something.  I had to disconnect some of the tubes–I hope I hooked them up right when I was done!

They had free pens at the reception area to celebrate a new outpatient clinic they’re opening.  I got two–one for you and one for . . . holy crap–I think I left one in his aorta!

G2G

From: temp3@BBSIMWH.com
Sent: Thursday, May 9, 2019 11:15 AM
To: prettylady1@gmail.com

Subject: Uh oh

I’m over at Brigham’s again, still no ice cream.  Come to find out that Beth Israel and Brigham & Women’s and Sancta Maria have “merged” into Beth Brigham Sancta Israel Maria Women’s Hospital, so the family of the nose job patient has been prowling the halls looking for me.  But it’s not my fault–I did the best I could!  At least with Word or Excel there’s a little “Help” icon or drop-down menu or something you can go to if you have a problem, but in an operating room, nooo! You’re flying solo.

Have to do a liver operation today, and I’m meeting my “heart” patient for a drink after work.  Hope the liver doesn’t come with onions!

 

C U L8ter

From: temp42@MegaHealthCenter.com
Sent: Friday, May 10, 2019 4:25 AM
To: prettylady1@gmail.com

Subject: Outta here

Today I’m at MegaHealthCenter, which used to be Beth Brigham Sancta Israel Maria Women’s Hospital.  They shortened the name because people were wasting too much time typing it.

What a week–I’m exhausted!  As soon as I get my check, I’m going to run to the bank and cash it.  Everybody here says I need to buy some “malpractice” insurance, but I called my friend who’s a broker and he said you don’t need it unless you’re a doctor, which obviously I’m not–duh!

U want 2 meet 4 drinks?

Self-Mutilation on Rise Among Motivational Speakers

CHARLESTOWN, Mass. Over the course of his life Butchie Dorr has tried a variety of techniques–some legal, some not–to keep his body and soul together. “I scalped tickets for awhile, then I caught on as a bus driver for the T,” the Boston area’s public transit authority. “Then I went out on disability for a couple years until they snuck into the bowling alley one Tuesday night and caught me playing candlepins.”

After scuffling around for a few years, Butchie is excited about his latest career change; he has signed on with Face Time International, a local speakers bureau, and will begin a career as a motivational speaker–as soon as he can figure out how to lose an appendage without killing himself in the process.

“If you want to be a successful motivational speaker these days, it is essential that you be blind, paralyzed or somehow disabled,” says Paul Welch, president of Face Time. “Top speakers can make a lot of money, but with Butchie we’re going to start small and see where it goes.”

So Butchie is sitting in his kitchen, facing a speaking engagement at the Young Presidents Club of Boston, an organization of local executives. The title of his speech? “How I Overcame Adversity to Be the Man I Am,” an emotional account of his recovery from the injury he will inflict upon himself today.

“I read in the Wall Street Journal there where that blind guy who climbed Mt. Everest makes two mill a year,” he notes with approval as he rubs alcohol on his finger. “I’d like to get me a piece of that.”

With his wife Doreen by his side, Butchie makes a fist with his left hand as he prepares to stick his right index finger in the maw of a Rival brand electric can opener.

“You ready?” Doreen asks Butchie. He purses his lips and, after downing a shot of Jameson’s Irish whiskey in one gulp, nods his head. Doreen takes Butchie’s right hand, steadies it in the narrow space between the white plastic body of the machine and the cutting wheel, counts down “One-two-three”–and slams the chrome handle down.

“Jesus H. Christ!” Butchie screams, and pulls his hand away immediately.

“Lemme see,” Doreen says as she holds her husband’s hand up for inspection. “Nice,” she says with admiration. “Good clean cut, real ugly lookin’.”

Butchie continues to scream as Doreen holds his hand under cold water from the kitchen faucet, pats it dry with a paper towel (“Bounty–the Quicker Picker Upper!” Doreen says with a laugh), then wraps a piece of gauze around the gaping wound. “Let’s get you taped up,” she says as she secures the oversize pad with a piece of white adhesive tape. “Okay, what’s next?”

“Now I gotta climb something,” he says as the white bandage on his finger quickly turns red.

“I’ll drive you up to the Monument,” Doreen says, referring to the granite obelisk that sits atop Bunker Hill, site of one of the most famous battles of the Revolutionary War.

The Dorrs’ 2014 Toyota sputters up the street and Doreen drops Butchie off at the curb. “See you later,” she says.

“You ain’t gonna come wit’ me?” he asks, a pained expression on his face.

“Naw–I gotta take the kids to hockey, remember?”

“Oh, right,” Butchie says, recalling that his twin boys, Sean and Kyle, have a tournament game against archrival Somerville. “Well, see you later. Thanks for your help.”

“No problem,” Doreen replies, then adds wistfully, “Love you.”

“Love you too,” Butchie says, and he makes his way up the hill to the Cleopatra’s needle that sits at the heart, if not the liver, of this blue-collar town just north of Boston.

Butchie sizes up the monument and begins his climb, stopping every now and then as his finger begins to throb. “Must be the altitude,” he tells himself, and indeed by the time he is halfway up the internal iron staircase his heart is racing and his bandage is more red than white.

He finishes after a half hour’s stop-and-go progress and allows himself a peek out the narrow windows at the skyline of Boston off in the distance. “This was tough, but it’s gonna mean a better life for my family,” he thinks as tears well up in his eyes like morning dew on the skin of a Vidalia onion.

Butchie takes the Orange Line subway into Boston where he gets off at the Old State House, the site of the “no taxation without representation” speech that stirred the hearts of the colonists. He stops and asks for directions to 60 State Street, where a roomful of high-powered business men and women awaits him.

After a few moments of difficulty getting past the first-floor security guards, Butchie is on his way to the 34th floor, where floor-to-ceiling windows provide him with some perspective on how far he’s come today, literally and figuratively, from his tough neighborhood to the rarified atmosphere of a private dining club.

“Mr. Dorr?” Butchie’s reverie is interrupted by Barton Hicks, the club’s executive director.

“That’s me–in living color!” Butchie replies enthusiastically, eager to begin his new career.

“I think we’re just about ready for you, if you’d like to take a seat at the dais,” Hicks says.

“The what’s-is?”

“The dais–up there,” Hicks says, pointing to a table set in front of a window on the other side of the room.

“Sure-wherever you want to put me.”

Hicks and his featured guest make their way up to the rostrum, where the executive director silences the members’ chit-chat by tapping a fork on a water glass.

“Ladies and gentlemen–if you wouldn’t mind, I think we’re ready to begin today’s program. We have with us today a man who has overcome virtually insurmountable difficulties in his life, and who can serve as an inspiration for us all. Please welcome–Mr. Butchie Dorr.”

The assembled tycoons applaud politely, a foreshadow of the thunderous applause that Face Time’s inspirational speakers usually generate by the time they’ve finished their stirring tales of how they beat the bad hands that life has dealt them.

“Thank you very much,” Butchie begins. “I really appreciate that. Geez, I feel kinda underdressed,” he begins, noting that the audience is wearing business suits and dresses while he has chosen a Hollywood Choppers jacket that he bought to celebrate his first gig.

“First of all, let me start by saying, none of youse has nothin’ to be ashamed of, cause down deep in side of youse is something that you couldn’t sell for all the money in the world.” He pauses for effect, and every eye in the house is on him.

“You can’t bottle it, you can’t wrap it up and tie a bow around it, cause it’s,” Butchie pauses to check a 3X5 note card, “ee-phem-er-al.” Impressed by his own eloquence, Butchie smiles before continuing. “It’s the human will, which, like Schopenauer said, is what the world is, along with representation.” Face Time provides all of its speakers with inspirational and high-toned anecdotes and quotes that they can use to dress up their speeches.


Arthur Schopenhauer: Always good for a laugh.

 

“I mean,” Butchie continues, “just this mornin’ I was sittin’ in my kitchen when I nearly cut my freakin’ finger off! And not more than like twenty minutes later, there I was, climbing the Bunker Hill monument. Now if that ain’t inspirational, I don’t know what is.”

Butchie checks his notes but he has dropped one of his cards on the subway, and so skips over the meat of his planned presentation and ends up looking at his concluding remarks.

“And so I says to youse, if you don’t blow your own bazoo, there’s nobody gonna blow it for you. Thank you very much, and be sure and tip your waiters and waitresses,” he concludes, using a line he understands from comedy clubs is the traditional peroration used when speaking in refined settings. The assembled members, who are not allowed to tip the help under club rules, exchange puzzled glances.

“Thank you very much Mr. Dorr,” Hicks says a little nervously as he glances at his watch and sees that he has twenty minutes left to fill. “I’m sure Mr. Dorr would be happy to answer any questions you may have,” he says to the audience.

“Sure,” Butchie says. “Fire away!”


“What in God’s name is he talking about?”

 

A elderly, grey-haired man in a boxy suit raises his hand and rises slowly.

“Yes–Mr. Isham,” Hicks says graciously.

“I just want to know,” he begins in a frail voice, “how much the club paid you for that wagon-load of bull you just dumped on us?”

Hicks helpfully repeats the question for members of the audience who didn’t hear it. “Mr. Isham asked how much Mr. Dorr was paid.”

“Eight hundred fifty smackers,” Butchie replies, “and believe me I can use it. I got no tread on my tires and we gotta drive my kids all over creation for their hockey,” he says with a smile, expecting laughter to follow. Hearing none, he continues. “Next question.”


Working the networking!

 

A prim-looking woman in a knit skirt and jacket ensemble rises. “What exactly is your disability–I don’t believe you told us.”

“Ain’t that the way it always is–you forget the most important part,” Butchie replies sheepishly. “I cut my finger in the goddamn can opener this morning–hurt’s like a son-of-a-bitch too.” He notices that the women’s face turns a lighter shade, and adds, “Excuse my French.”

“Anybody else?” Hicks asks. “No one? Well, thank you very much, Mr. Dorr, for those moving remarks. We have a little token of our appreciation for you.”

“Oh, geez, you didn’t have to do that,” Butchie says modestly. “The check is gonna be enough.”

“No, this is for you,” Hicks says as he hands him a Steuben glass figure of Don Quixote astride his spavined horse, Rocinante. “May you continue to tilt at windmills the rest of your life.”

“What the hell is this thing?” Dorr says with a mock-quizzical look on his face as he holds it out at arm’s length for inspection.

“It’s Don Quixote de la Mancha, who exemplifies the man who dreams an impossible dream.”

“Donkey who?” Dorr asks before fumbling the statue and dropping it to the floor, where it shatters into pieces.

“Good Lord!” Hicks exclaims. “That cost $350!”

“Christ amighty!” Dorr yells. “Somebody get the Dustbuster!”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Yes I Can’t!”

New Drug Helps Bored Couples Have Make-Up Sex on Demand

CONCORD, New Hamsphire.  Ted and Gina Holcomb have been married for twenty-two years, and while the two have a good relationship now, they admit their early years were sometimes difficult.  “Gina’s more sentimental than me,” her husband says.  “She cries at McDonalds commercials, while I like to watch sports where guys get career-ending concussions.”

couple
“I liked how you interrupted me, then contradicted me!”

The side benefit of their early sparring was “make-up” sex, a well-known phenomenon where erotic pleasure is heightened by the passions that are unleashed, then quelled, when a couple reconciles after an argument.  “Ted is stubborn and so am I,” Gina says as she snuggles up next to her husband on a sectional sofa.  “It made for some awful fights, but really mattress-rattling orgasms for me.”

With their fractious early years behind them, the Holcombs realized recently that they were in a rut that troubled them both, and so they turned to Ted’s urologist, Dr. Michael Meska, for help.  “Ted’s sex drive had declined, while at the same time they’d both learned to overlook the kind of petty issues that cause marital strife,” he says.  “They needed to get back into the wild mood swings of their youth if they were going to avoid early deaths of boredom.”

couple1
“Life is more fun when we argue!”

And so Meska wrote Ted a prescription for Vitriolis, an erectile-dysfunction drug with a side effect that is usually the subject of a warning, but which can also be viewed as a benefit.  “Vitriolis is designed to put a man in an irritable mood,” Meska says, “then give him an erection.  It’s just what the doctor–in this case a urologist–ordered.”

Extensive clinical trials of the drug were required in order to win FDA approval, and double-blind testing produced encouraging results.  “A control group was given a placebo,” says chief chemist Anthony Solis of Xize Pharmaceuticals, the drug’s manufacturer.  “When the woman told the man to take out the garbage, he said ‘In a minute,’ watched television until the next commercial, then did what he was told.  There were zero pregnancies.”

couple2
“The time-release kicks in when his mother-in-law drives off.”

The test subjects who were given Vitriolis, by comparison, told their wives to “‘put a sock in it,’ touching off explosions of sarcasm, recriminations over past forgotten gift-giving occasions and comparisons to former boyfriends,” Solis says.  “It was like somebody flipped a cigarette butt at a fireworks display.”

The Holcombs have graciously allowed this reporter into their living room on a Saturday night when they make time for each other on what many couples consider “date night.”  “It’s our chance to relax and catch up, then watch a little ‘Heartbeat,’ my favorite show about the woman heart surgeon,” Gina says with a smile.

“No we’re not,” Ted says as he grabs the remote.  “There’s an ESPN Classic replay of the 1986 Celtics-Rockets game 6 tonight.”

Following Disappointing Season, Pats Release Fan Who Washed Lucky Socks

MEDFORD, Mass.  It was, football experts agree, a mental error on a par with failing to spike the ball with no time outs left.  “Football isn’t just blocking and tackling,” says East Central Kansas Junior College coach Bill Lambert.  “You’ve got to have your head on straight, with lots of stuff in it.”

belichick
“Did Demario wash his socks?”

So the New England Patriots yesterday released long-time fan Tony Demario of Medford, Mass., after the bridge toll collector neglected to stop his wife from washing his lucky socks before last week’s loss to the Buffalo Bills, which ended the team’s playoff hopes.  “We want to thank Tony for his contributions to the team over the years,” said head coach Bill Belichick at a hastily-called press conference, “but we’ve decided to go in another direction.”

“It wasn’t me who put them in the washer, but it’s my responsibility to stop her and I didn’t,” Demario said as he brushed past reporters assembled outside Anthony P. Loconte Skating Rink in this near-suburb north of Boston, where he looked through a lost and found bin in the hopes of finding an equally-dirty pair of socks to wear for the upcoming NFL draft that begins April 27-29 in Kansas City.  “I take the blame.”

Demario had worn the socks since the day of the Patriots’ first exhibition game against the New York Giants.  “You never want to change socks until the clock at the Super Bowl says 00:00,” noted Superstition Editor Mark Klimrite of profootballnut.com.  “There’s a public health and safety exception for underpants, but all you get from old socks is maybe a little light fungus between the toes.”

Sports fans frequently adhere to rituals based on magical thinking, says Brandeis University anthropology professor Lyman Ward.  “Baseball and football fans sit in the same seats and eat the same foods,” he notes.  “Pro wrestling fans plunder the same villages, and mixed martial arts enthusiasts take the same hostages.”

belichick1
“Why couldn’t he just change his undershirt?”

Dimario will be banned from sports bars in Suffolk County, where Boston is located, during the 2023-24 Patriots season.  He will be eligible for reinstatement if Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft sees his shadow on Groundhog Day.

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “This Just In–From Gerbil Sports Network.”

How to Floss Your Cat’s Teeth

The house is quiet, and so I lie down and try to take a nap. I’ve just dozed off when I feel the weight of fifteen pounds of cat flesh land on my chest. It’s Rocco, the younger of our two toms, looking for a head bonk and a back scratch.

“I was asleep–can’t you meow or something before you pounce on me?”


“What would you suggest–breath mints?”

 

“That would ruin the element of surprise,” he says, and I catch a whiff of serious tuna breath as he does so.

“Jesus–I hope you guys don’t wonder why you never get laid,” I say. “Your breath smells terrible!”

“It helps keep the coyotes away,” he says. “They think we’re skunks.”

Okie, the elder grey tabby, jumps up to claim his favorite spot, between my legs with his head down at my feet. “What are you guys talking about?” he asks.


“Why didn’t you tell me I had bad breath?”

 

“The need for a little dental hygiene around here,” I say.

“You do enough for the three of us,” he says.

“I’m serious–if you guys don’t floss, you’re going to get gingivitis.”

“What’s that?” Rocco asks.

“Gum disease. Stevie Winwood had it–bad. If he hadn’t recovered, we might have been deprived of the beauty of his ‘Back in the High Life’ album.”

That brings the seriousness of the disease home to them. “Geez,” Okie says. “I never knew.”

“There’s just one problem,” Rocco says. “We don’t have opposable thumbs. How the hell are we supposed to hold a piece of dental floss?”

“You don’t need to. Cats don’t actually floss, they . . . uh . . . let me see.”

Like many cat owners, we pick up feline health information when we go to the veterinarian, then promptly ignore it. They’re cats, fer Christ sake–they eat squirrel guts.

I rummage through the drawer where we keep their vaccination records and find the brochure I’m looking for–”Dental Hygiene for Cats: A Lifelong Program to Keep Your Kitty’s Teeth and Gums Healthy!” It’s considered a classic of the genre.


Here, kitty kitty!

 

“Here it is,” I say, showing them the suggestion I remembered. “To keep your cat’s teeth free from plaque, rub them with panty hose once a week.” I look at the two of them, expecting expressions of gratitude, but am met with blank stares.

“You’re kidding, right?” Okie asks.

“No.”

“If you think I’m going to sit still through a once-a-week panty hose polish job, you’ve got another think coming.”

“It’s up to you. If your teeth fall out, how are you going to eat?”

They look at each other, and appear to realize that they have no choice in the matter.

“Where are you going to get panty hose?” Okie asks.


Montaigne: “Hey–I’m too highbrow for this post.”

 

I know what Montaigne said: “When I play with my cat, who knows whether she is amusing herself with me, rather than I with her?” But still, it’s cracks like these that make me feel secure in the superiority of the human intellect over that of a cat.

“You fishstick! Where do you think we’re going to get panty hose–on mom!”

“But she doesn’t wear panty hose around the house,” Okie asks.

“She’s meeting her lawyer to update her will today.  She’ll be dressed professionally when she comes home.”

“Don’t we have to get the panty hose off of her?” Rocco chimes in.

I check the brochure. “Nope–doesn’t say anything about undressing your wife, girlfriend, date or significant other. Just ‘rub with panty hose.’”


Jesse James

 

“Let’s hide in the dining room and ambush her when she goes past the door into the kitchen!” Rocco says.

“Yeah–it’ll be like Jesse James robbing the train in Otterville, Missouri!” I exclaim, recalling a favorite highway historical marker of my youth.

The cats stifle yawns–for some reason tales of my boyhood bring on symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome–but they rally and we stake out a position just inside the dining room where we are hidden from the view of anyone entering the kitchen.

We hear the lock turn in the door and, like a precision Swiss clock, our plan ticks forward to its fateful conclusion.

“Ready?” I say as she hits the hardwood floor in the family room.

Rocco hesitates for a moment, then shouts “Now!” and we pounce.

She’s no match for the three of us, and we have her on the floor in a second. I take her legs and stick one in each of the cats’ mouths before she can collect herself and speak.

“What in the hell are you doing?” she screams.

“Flossing the cats’ teeth–this should only take a second,” I say.

She sits up and looks at the three of us, incredulous. I’ve seen that expression on her face before, when she broke up a fight between my kids. Over a Pokemon card. When they were toddlers.

“You have got to be kidding!”

“No, seriously. This is what the brochure says to do.”

“What brochure?”

“The one we got at the vet’s. Here.”

I hand it to her and she scans it while I work feverishly to fight the slow but inexorable advance of cat plaque.

“You didn’t read the warning on the back,” she says with a look that expresses the enduring skepticism she feels whenever I set out to do something around the house that involves practical knowledge and useful skills.

“What’s it say?”

“CAUTION: REMOVE WIFE FROM PANTY HOSE BEFORE APPLYING TO CAT’S TEETH.”

“What happenth if you donth?” Rocco says through a mouthful of nylon.

“SIDE EFFECTS: HUSBAND MAY NOT GET SEX FOR ONE (1) MONTH.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”

When Body Mod and Loyalty Cards Intersect, It’s a Hole New Thing

BOSTON.  Amy Hockstepp is a twenty-something freelance graphic designer who always seems to be on the go.  “One morning I’ll have an assignment in the Seaport District,” she says of a former desert of parking lots now turned into a luxe neighborhood of high-rises, “in the afternoon I’ll be way over in Cambridge,” the gown part of the Boston area town-and-gown dichotomy.

But one thing is the same every day; a first cup of strong coffee at The Blue Goose coffee shop down the street from her apartment on Beacon Hill, situated at the foot of a “T” station that can connect her to the Red and Green Lines and take her to her first “gig.”  “Gotta have the caffeine fuel,” she says with a smile as she sips at a steaming  cabaletta, an espresso drink that is half espresso and half 19th century Italian opera.

Like many high end coffee shops, The Blue Goose rewards loyal customers with a free cup of coffee after they have purchased a certain number of drinks, but Amy’s hectic schedule means she often forgets her “loyalty card,” which she says “totally bums her out.”  “It might surprise you, but freelance artists don’t make that much money,” she says with a scowl as she digs in her purse but comes up empty on this Friday morning.  “I don’t want to miss out on a freebie, so we came up with a compromise,” says with a smile and a nod at barista Todd Blakeslee.

“Ready?” Blakeslee asks her, and Amy flinches just a bit, then says “I guess.”  With that Blakeslee takes a standard office hole puncher and gouges a chunk of flesh out of the woman’s lower lip, then applies alcohol and a band-aid to staunch the bleeding.  “There,” he says, as he admires his work.  “Just three more cups to go and you’re entitled to a venti drink of your choice!”

The intersection of body modification and overpriced espresso drinks are two worrisome trends, according to sociologist Martin Papin of the University of New England.  “Young people are blowing their money on overpriced coffee and not saving up to buy expensive homes from people like me who want to retire in a few years,” he notes as he looks at a graph showing low savings rates among men and women who have been out of college less than a decade.  “Even when they have parental help with the down payment, nobody’s going to want to sit next to them at PTA meetings with all those metal doo-dads hanging out of their heads.”


“I like donuts, okay?  You got a problem with that?”

But Amy takes the new, tasteful hole in her head in stride, like others in her demographic who say they want to put common sense on hold for now and enjoy the mortification of the flesh while they can.  “It’s more than just a cosmetic thing,” she says.  “I don’t want to turn forty and look back on my life with regret and say ‘I coulda put another hole in my body, but I bought life insurance or something stupid like that.'”

The Maximum Security Book Group

          An alternative sentencing program in Massachusetts allows felons to choose between going to jail or joining a book club.

               The New York Times Book Review

Tiny and me-excuse me–Tiny and I–had been circling the block on Oakridge Road for probably half an hour, casing the joint where our book club was meeting.

“Pretty nice neighborhood,” Tiny says as he looked out his window at the houses that started at a million-three, easy.

“You betcha. The kinda guys who live around here, they got good grades in between when you and me was beatin’ em up in school, slammin’ em up against lockers in the hall.”

“Hmph,” Tiny grunted. “We gonna go in pretty soon? ‘Cause I gotta take a leak.”

I slowed the car to a stop. “Tiny”–his name was an example of “irony,” as he weighed about 300 pounds–”don’t youse know nothin’?”

“What?” he rejoined, with more than a little umbrage I might add.

“The first thing you do when you walk into a nice house is not ask to go to the bathroom.”

“Fine,” he said. “I’ll go on the lawn.”

“And have us both end up in back in the big house? Unh-uh, pal. You go in, greet the hostess, tell her how nice her place looks. We drop off the pear tart in the kitchen, say hello and nice-to-meet-you’s all around. Then and only then do you ask to use ‘the facilities’.”

“What facilities?”

“It’s a euphemism, you mook. You gotta use a euphemism for the bathroom.”

We’d been sitting there maybe a minute at most, and wouldn’t you know it, somebody had already called the cops about a suspicious car parked on the street. That’s the way it is in nice neighborhoods. There’s always somebody lookin’ out their blinds to make sure nobody’s doin’ nothin’ to bring down property values.

“Everything okay, gentlemen?” the cop said after he rolled down his window.

“Yes, officer, we were . . . uh . . . just looking for 37 Oakridge Road. We got book group tonight.”

The guy didn’t buy it, not for a second. I knew we were in for the third degree.

“Book group,” he said, his left eyebrow arching upwards with skepticism. “Whatcha reading?” He figured he had us, but I didn’t get a record as long as my arm without wrigglin’ out of a few.

The Namesake,” I shot back.

It was like I’d hit the bull with a lead pipe. He was stunned, and it took him a while to recover. “By Jhumpa Lahiri?” he asked, struggling a bit with the name.

“On the nosey,” Tiny said. “She’s got a collection of short stories out now–Interpreter of Maladies.

The cop looked at Tiny, all 6’2″ of him. “Isn’t that kind of-chick lit?” the cop asked, curling his lip in an expression of contempt.

“I’m comfortable with my sexuality,” Tiny said, looking straight ahead, completely unabashed. As Norman O. Brown might have put it, Tiny was polymorphously perverse.

The guy looked us over like we was a mismatched pair of socks. He didn’t have probable cause for nothin’. We were just sitting there, minding our own business, in a parked car. “Oh look,” I said to Tiny, putting on my best faux surprise demeanor. “There’s 37–that’s where Sally Henderson lives! It was right in front of us all this time!”

“Yeah,” said Tiny, picking up on my verbal cue. “I think the place is darling.”

We got out, shut the car doors–not too loud–and I clicked the remote entry key to our rented Toyota Highlander. If we had to make an escape, it would help us blend in with all the other SUVs.

“You gentlemen be careful,” the cop said out his window, apparently conceding. “Not too much chardonnay–okay?”

“We’ll be on our best behavior,” I said with a poop-eating grin.

“Yeah,” Tiny added. “Maybe we’ll bring a slice of cheesecake down to the station.”

The guy gave us a nasty little smirk that said we’d better be able to pass a field sobriety test when we walked out, stuffed with Trader Joe’s frozen hors d’oeuvres and hoarse from all our high-toned literary conversation.

Tiny held the dessert while I rang the bell. “Well hello there!” Sally said as she flung the door wide open. She was resplendent in a tailored sweater-skirt combo from Talbots. “I’m so glad you could make it!”

“Thanks for having us,” Tiny replied, rallying a bit. “You can’t imagine how much nicer your place is than the Norfolk County House of Corrections!” So he did have some social skills, way down deep behind that grim, psychopathic mask that he wore whenever he knocked off a pharmacy for Oxycontin.

“Come in and meet the gals!” Sally said. “You’ll know most of them if you belong to the Junior League or the PTO.”

We were ushered into her living room, which was really quite charming. A lot of “chintz and prints” as they say, but you won’t hear me complain. Frankly, I find the “Brutalist” style of my cell–the plastic bench and exposed toilet–a bit tiresome after three years, two months and twenty-four days.

Sally introduced us to everyone–the names buzzed by me in a blur but I recall a Tori, a Deirdre, a Liz and a Staci “with an ‘i’.” After we filled our wine glasses with Kendall-Jackson, we got down to the business of the evening in earnest; admiring the hostess’s taste, and gossip.

“Are you still using that decorator–what was her name–Lisa?” Tori asked.

“Yes, she’s a little expensive, but who has time to shop for fabric, what with soccer, and ballet and hockey for the kids!” Sally said, plainly overwhelmed by the demands of her busy suburban lifestyle.

“I know I don’t,” Tiny said, as he stuffed two mini-quiches in his mouth. “I barely have time to get any exercise in,” he added, and two of the other housewives nodded in sympathy.

“They’ve added a Saturday morning spinning class at HealthPointe!” Liz said enthusiastically. She keeps herself in terrific shape.

“Where’s Stephanie?” Deirdre asked.

“Uh, she’s not going to be coming for awhile,” Sally said, somewhat cryptically.

“What’s the matter?” Tori asked.

“She and the kids have moved to Colorado, to be closer to her parents.”

“What about Greg?” Liz asked. Her brain is never quite as toned as her body.

“You didn’t hear? He came home two days late from his office Christmas party,” Sally said. “She traced him by his credit card. He had checked into a room at the hotel with his administrative assistant.”

“Oh, dear!” Tiny said, oozing sympathy.

“I told her I wouldn’t say anything to anybody,” Sally added with a cautionary tone.

“Jeez, that’s awful,” I said as I finished my chardonnay in a gulp. “He’s gonna regret it. Someday he’ll want somebody to talk to about literature, not just a hot piece of ass.”

Tiny cleared his throat–I thought he was maybe choking on one of them quiches, but he gave me a disapproving look. Perhaps I was just a bit tacky, so I changed the subject.

“So what about this week’s selection?” I asked cheerfully. “What did everybody think?”

“I liked it!” says Liz. She always does–her tastes aren’t very discriminating.

“I didn’t really fall in love with the characters,” Tori says.

“Well, let’s think about that,” I say. “Does anyone ever really like Iago?”

“Who’s E-AH-go?” Deirdre asks.

“Yeah,” Liz says, a bit defensively. “I don’t remember any character with that name.”

“He isn’t in the book,” I say, trying to explain. “He’s in Othello.

“Then why bring him up?” Liz asks airily. “I have enough trouble keeping track of characters as it is!”

The others laugh, and Sally offers everyone more wine. Deirdre holds out her glass, and Tori coos at the new David Yurman bracelet that hangs from her friend’s wrist.

“That is so pretty!” she exclaims. “You must have done some extra duty to get that little bauble, missy!”

The others gather round, and I give Tiny a nod of my head. He follows me out to the kitchen, and we look at each other-hard.

“Whadda ya think?” I ask him.

“I dunno. What’s next week’s selection?”

 

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, by Kim Edwards,” I say grimly.

He inhales, and I know which way he’s gonna come out. “Do what you gotta do.”

I pick up the phone, and dial 9-1-1. The operator answers, and asks the nature of the emergency.

“We’re convicted felons,” I say. “We want to turn ourselves in.”

The Man Who Turned Into Bo Diddley

I’ve been channeling Ellas McDaniel–better known by his stage name, Bo Diddley–for so long that I didn’t realize I’d been transformed into him until I arrived at the coffee shop across from my train station this morning.

“That’s quite a jacket,” the woman behind the counter said, and I looked down to see that instead of my usual blue or grey suit, I was wearing a loud red plaid sport coat.

“Thanks,” I said, a little mystified.

“Medium?” the woman at the counter asked.

“Yes, please,” I replied.

“Anything for your friends?” she asked as she handed me a cup.


The Duchess, in a fleeting good mood.

 

I turned around and saw Jerome Green, Bo’s long-time maracas man, and “The Duchess,” his gorgeous sister.

“Unh, sure,” I replied, a little embarrassed that I hadn’t noticed them before.  “Sorry,” I said, “I didn’t see you two standing there.”

“Thass alright,” Jerome said.  “”I’ll have what you havin’.”


Bo and Jerome

 

The Duchess was a different proposition.  She could be moody, sullen, uncommunicative, haughty.  “You got any cross-ants?” she asked, showing off the French she’d learned on our tour of the Continent during the British Invasion of the ’60′s.

“No,” the woman behind the counter said.  “Just muffins and scones.”

The Duchess exhaled a little sigh of contempt.  “I don’t want no scone,” she said.  “Jest give me a coffee, unlest you got cappuccino.”

“We can make that for you,” the woman said, trying to be agreeable.  I felt sorry for her; she was just doing her job, and wasn’t used to dealing with royalty.

“Duchess,” I said, “I’ve got to make the 5:55 train.”

“Whuffo?” Jerome asked.

“So I can get in early,” I said.  “I’m more efficient in the morning.”

“You forgit,” Jerome said, “you ain’t no businessman no mo’.  You Bo Diddley.”

If anybody would know Bo, it was Jerome-subject of “Bring it to Jerome” and the party of the second part in “Say, Man,” Bo’s spoken dialogue hit that anticipated rap by twenty years.

“If you say so,” I replied.

The woman behind the counter had the cappuccino ready for The Duchess, and placed it on the counter.

“So, two regular coffees and a cappuccino, $8.75.”

I put down two fives, and the woman plunked a dollar and a quarter down on the counter.  That was enough to set Jerome off, and he began to shake his maracas to our trademark “Shave-and-a-haircut-two bits” beat.  CHICK-a–chicka-chick-chick–CHICK.

“That’s catchy,” the woman said.

“Thanks,” I said, as I dropped the quarter in the tip jar.  “Let’s go,” I said to my two new companions.

We got in my car and drove over to the train station, where we joined the usual early morning crowd; everyone silent, keeping to him or herself, contemplating the dreary day ahead.

“We goin’ to a gig?” Jerome asked.

“Yeah, but not the kind of gig you’re thinking about.”

The Duchess didn’t look happy.  “We gonna eat when we get there?”

“Duchess,” I said, a little exasperated.  “You had a chance to get something back at the coffee shop.  I can get you a croissant when we get into Boston.”

The train rolled into the station and we climbed aboard, me with my briefcase and guitar, Jerome with his maracas, The Duchess with nothing but her purse and her cup.

After we got settled in, the conductor came down the aisle, checking tickets.  I showed him my monthly pass, then he looked at my entourage.

“Where you goin’?” he asked Green.

“I dunno-he’s the headliner.  I’m just the maracas man.”

“Where you headed?” he asked me.

“South Station.”

“You payin’ for her too?” he asked, nodding at The Duchess.

She gave me a look that would have flash-frozen a pan full of peas, then turned and stared out the window.

“Two round trip,” I said, a little annoyed at the extra expenses I was beginning to incur as a rock ‘n roll pioneer forced to stay out on the road long after I could have retired if somebody’d told me not to give up the rights to my songs for flashy clothes and a Cadillac.

“You jest payin’ the cost to be the boss,” Green said with a sly little smile.

The train pulled into the Wellesley Farms station and who should get on but Todd Smirsky, an insufferable twit of a trader who bolted my firm last year, taking millions of dollars of business with him.

“Well, hello there,” Smirsky said.  “How’s it going?”

“Fine, fine,” I said trying not to be too friendly in the hope he’d shut his yap and let me ride into Boston in silence.

bo

“What’s with the funny-looking guitar?” he asked, pointing at my trademark “cigar box” model.

“This?  Oh, sort of a new hobby.  I . . . uh . . . twisted my knee skiing this winter, so I decided to take up rhythm ‘n blues.”

“Really?” he asks, more a supercilious put-down than an inquiry, really.

“Yeah.  I . . . uh . . . go by ‘Bo Diddley’ now.”

I could tell from the look on his face what was going on in his mind.  “How déclassé!“  Smirsky’s idea of a wild weekend is two gin and tonics after eighteen holes of golf, year after year, stretching out in an unbroken line from here, to retirement, to the grave.  How boring.

“To each his own,” he says as he sits down with his Wall Street Journal and opens it up to the Money and Investing section.  “How’s everything at the old shop?” he asks.

What he wants to hear is my hollow-sounding claim that things couldn’t be better, business is booming, we’re going great guns, etc.  Instead, I give Jerome the cue, and he starts to shake out our trademark rhythm, while I launch into the hard-edged guitar sound that first got kids up on their feet, jerking spasmodically, a half century ago.

We got forty-seven billion in assets–
Our large cap fund is top-rated –
A Scandinavian receptionist, a company jet,
And none of our trades was back-dated!

“Oo-ee!” Jerome chimes in, and The Duchess begins to rock her head from side to side and snap her fingers.  I can see Smirsky is taken aback.  He was expecting to Lord it over me as usual, and instead he’s been hit by a rock ‘n roll tsunami; a pulsating, insistent beat and a fecund verbal imagination that he’s never encountered, even in the prospectus of the riskiest biotech start-up.

“That’s good to hear,” he says, then tries to change the subject.  “And how’s your better half?” he asks, dink-speak for my wife.

The question catches me off-guard.  I hadn’t expected Smirsky to drop his usual business one-upsmanship in favor of innocuous social chit-chat quite so willingly.  Jerome, however, doesn’t miss a beat-literally or figurative.

“Man, your wife’s so ugly she’s got to sneak up on a glass of chardonnay to take a drink!” he says to Smirsky, eager for an impromptu “dozens” match of rapid-fire insults.

Smirsky is silent for a moment, then asks me “Who’s this fellow?”

“That’s Jerome Green-my maracas man.”  As if to make the point with greater clarity, Jerome leans across the aisle and shakes his instruments in Smirsky’s face–CHICK-a–chicka-chick-chick-CHICK.

“Impertinent,” is all Smirsky says by way of rejoinder, and turns his attention back to the stock tables.

Jerome isn’t letting him off that easy. “You wife’s so ugly she broke yo brand-new iPhone when you took her picture!”

Smirsky gives Green a bitter, sardonic smile-the adult equivalent of “So funny I forgot to laugh.”  I guess the burden he puts on the left side of his brain as a top stock-picker has caused his right-brain–the locus of our creative and imaginative talents–to atrophy.

“Man-yo wife is so ugly, she sets off the security alarms when she walks into Talbots!”

Smirsky is smoldering now, and slams his briefcase shut. “You know ‘Bo’,” he says to me, his voice dripping with sarcasm, “I’m chairman of the membership committee at Pine Woods Country Club.  I seem to recall that you’re getting to the top of the waiting list there.”

All of a sudden, the downside of my walk on the wild side becomes apparent.  There’s no way I’m going to fit in with a bunch of white suburban males now that I’m possessed by the soul of Bo Diddley, except that my wild clothes will blend in with their weekend golf outfits.

“Bo Diddley’s a four handicap!” Jerome sings, but I extend my hand to silence him.


Pimpin’, or golfing–YOU make the call!

 

“Listen, Todd, I . . . uh . . . apologize for Jerome.  He’s new to the metrowest suburbs of Boston.  He was just engaged in a little signifiyin’.”

“Signifying?  He’s downright insulting.”

“He’s just joshing,” I say.  I’ve got a $2,500 deposit down on that club membership, and my wife will kill me if we blow it. Smirsky calms down a bit.  He didn’t get to be the top producer in our office by taking needless offense at friendly invective that’s part of an oral tradition dating back to dawn of history in Africa.

Jerome glares at Smirsky, his lower lip twisted into an expression of contempt, but he cools it, and stares out the window while he continues to pump out the beat.  The Duchess, however, is having none of my attempt at peace-making. “We don’t want to join your damn country club anyway,” she fairly spits out at Smirsky.

Smirsky snorts at her apparent presumptuousness.  “What makes you think we’d even consider you for membership?”

“Don’t you know nothin’ about the British Peerage?” she asks, incredulous.  “You all’s wives may be ladies,” she says, drawing herself with pride.  “But a Duchess outranks a lady.”

Available in Kindle and print formats on amazon.com as part of the collection “Boston Baroques.”