Koga the Gorilla Takes a Break

Koga, a 24-year-old male gorilla, escaped from his cage at the Buffalo zoo and was captured in the staff lounge.

Associated Press

“How come stupid humans get lounge Koga no can go in lounge?”


Cold cold cold cold cold.  Why does anyone live in this godforsaken place, it’s cold ALLA TIME!  If stupid humans had more highly-developed brains they never would have left Africa for upstate New York.

How do they freaking stand it?  You’ve got winds howling off the lake, nothing but hockey to watch all winter long.  I wonder if they’re hiring at the St. Louis Zoo?

“Excuse me–is there a Starbucks around here?”

I’m busting outta this joint–gotta find someplace warm.  Maybe giraffes are stuck here, but I’m a goddamn great ape–I can climb!  Do they really think a little thing like a ten-foot high metal fence is gonna stop me?

There we go.  MUCH better!  No barriers between me and zoo-goers now.  Breaking down curatorial walls between the spectator and the exhibit–hey, where’s everybody going?  Used to be they all took my picture, now they run away.  Gotta check mirror–maybe that candy bar the kid threw me made me break out.

Hmm–zookeepers running to building.  Wonder what in there.  Huh–staff lounge.  Hey, how come animals don’t get lounge, gotta be exposed to elements all day long.  No fair!

zoo staff
“Hey–where’s everybody going?”


Oh well, I’m part of the staff here at the Buffalo Zoo, might as well take a load off my feet, get a cup of that black stuff the humans drink, schmooze a bit.  Only way to effect change in an organization is to make it happen yourself.  “Management by walking around,” blah blah blah.

Hey Nate–how they hangin’ buddy?  Nate–it’s Koga.  You know me.  What’s the matter?  You still sore about the time I grabbed you at feeding time?  And kept you hostage overnight?  C’mon, lighten up.  You probably went through something tougher to get into your college fraternity.

All right, fine–be that way.  I’ll just s-t-r-e-t-c-h out on this luxurious burnt siena sofa and de-frag the old simian brain.  Man, these guys don’t know how tough I’ve got it.  They sit in their warm little offices all day, pushing paper around.  Me, I’m ON all the time; monkey see, monkey do, gotta do monkey stuff all day long for the paying customers.  And when the trustees come out for the annual meeting?  Man, I gotta whoop it up, do the whole Tarzan thing–it’s embarrassing.

Might as well catch up on my reading.  Hm, what we got here.  Buffalo Bills 2016 Yearbook, Marie Claire–ah, here we go, People!  The magazine that’s just right for frazzled ape brain looking for a little mind candy.


Best & Worst Dressed issue always fun.  Can’t believe some of these outfits!

I mean, I hate to be anti-science, but how you expect me to believe in evolution after reading this?

At the All-Night Children’s TV Station

          Boston’s public television station will create a 24-hour channel dedicated entirely to children’s programming.

The Boston Globe


It’s 2:55 a.m. and I’m about to go on the air for the 1,339th edition–not that I’m counting or anything–of my late-night kids’ show “Are You Going to Eat That?”, a freewheeling, no-holds-barred look at the things kids will put in their mouths.  My ratings are down, and the station manager says I’m going to have to do something, anything, to goose them up.  He didn’t say exactly what would happen if I didn’t, but I figure I’ll be busted down to an off-camera position; cue-card holder, crowd-warmer for the station’s live phonics show, maybe the guy who gives the loser on Math Challenge! a home version of the game.


It’s hard to believe how far I’ve fallen since I burst on the scene as a fresh-faced seven-year-old late-night host wannabe five years ago.  I won a Pediatric Emmy for my hard-hitting expose of the lack of sugar in certain over-the-counter candy products, forcing the Snack-Industrial Complex to enter into a nationwide settlement, issuing coupons worth fifteen cents to underage consumers across the country, and paying the class action lawyers $25 billion.  They asked for $30 billion, but the judge told them not to be greedy.

Now, the station says they’re looking at younger faces to appeal to a more free-spending kids; the all-important four-to-six year-old demographic, who drive parental choices in the stuffed animal, DVD and crayon markets.  It’s enough to make a twelve-year-old bitter, and some TV critics says my personality has gone from a ray of sunshine to the scary thing under your bed.

I take the clipboard from my producer, Cindy Felchner, the gal who keeps “Are You Going to Eat That?” going even when I’m in a foul mood like today and the other days in the week that have the word “day” in the them.

“Who do we have on tonight?” I ask.

“There’s a kid who eats grass . . .”

“Haven’t we done that before?”

“He does it in the winter–when it’s brown.”

“That’s it?”

“We have a girl who ate her mother’s lipstick.”


“Did we get pictures of the vomit?”

Cindy gives me a look that could thaw a Creamsicle.  “Does Oscar Mayer make hot dogs?” she says with the withering smart-aleckiness that makes me hope she’ll be my Valentine come February.

“I should have known.  So that means I’m going to have to take calls to fill the time?”

“You’re the King of All Kids Media,” she says matter-of-factly as she turns and walks off the set.

Dream wedding.

The camera boy starts his countdown: “Are You Going to Eat That in five–four–three–two–one,” he says, then pans in as our theme music begins to play.

I wouldn’t eat that, if I were you–
It looks like something they’d serve in a zoo.
You’ll probably get sick and you may get fat,
And that’s why we ask “Are you going to eat that?”

The studio audience applauds wildly–I’ve hyped them up with unlimited free Lik-M-Aid before the show–and I bound onto the stage with my best poop-eating grin to greet the gang.


“Thank you, thank you everybody–thank you,” I say, motioning for the audience to quiet down even though they’re not really that loud.  These are good kids from Public Television Homes.  They’ve probably never ridden in an American car, and the closest they’ve ever come to deprivation in their sheltered little lives was having to settle for a vacation on Nantucket one summer when daddy got laid off by his hedge fund for failure to meet his “hurdle rate.”

“How’s everybody doing?” I ask of all and sundry.

“Okay!”  The kids have been prompted by my sidekick Ronnie Blasberg, a rising 8-year-old comic with an air of menace about him that recalls the early Bob Goldthwait.  He told them if they weren’t sufficiently enthusiastic, they wouldn’t get a Barney stuffed animal as a promotional consideration.  Then he told them he’d come to their houses and eat their pet turtles.


“Who’s going to stay up past their bed-time tonight?” I ask with affected curiosity.

“WE ARE!” the kids shout, punching the volume meters in the control room “into the red,” as the sound engineers say.

“Great!  Let’s bring out our first contestant!”

I turn it over to my sidekick who introduces Timmy Nobles, a third-grade spelling champ from Framingham.  “He’s distinguished himself on the playground and in the classroom, where on a dare he ate a guppy from the class fish tank, so let’s say a big hello to–Timmy Nobles!”

Timmy’s a personable little kid with a big smile, which makes my life easier.  I’ve studied film of Art Linkletter from the 50s doing his “Kids Say the Darnedest Things” schtick and I have to say, I don’t know how he did it.  He was a genius, a master at drawing out his little guests, some of whom obviously were IRS Revenue Officers in the making.


We palaver back and forth a bit–how many siblings he has, what’s his least favorite subject in school, etc.–and then it’s time for the game.

“Okay, are you ready to play?” I ask, and Timmy nods yes, so we head over to the Challenge Bar, where there are three progressively-tougher items to consume, with increasingly more valuable prizes to win if he can keep them down.

“Pile #1–250 points!” I proclaim loudly, as my assistant Darlene sweeps her lovely lithe arm over a greyish mound of . . . something.  “It could be edible, or it could . . . something else.”


Timmy looks the stuff over, correctly guesses that it’s non-toxic, and pulls the trigger.

“I’ll eat it for 250!” he says and, after sticking his finger in and scooping out the minimum requirement, he eats it, makes a face–and then breaks into a two-dimpled smile that must have the girls back at Mosi Tatupu Elementary School begging to go into the cloak room with him.

“It’s liver pate,” I say.  “A disgusting food that adults eat, but it won’t kill you.”

The crowd applauds, but the stakes rise as we move on to Pile #2.  “It’s another mystery substance, worth five hundred points.” says Ronnie Blasberg in a portentous voice over the studio’s p.a. system.

“I’ll give you two hints,” I say, “but they’ll cost you fifty points apiece.”

“Don’t do it,” comes a call from the audience, countered by an immediate “It’s worth it!”

Timmy hesitates, then hesitantly says “I’ll buy one clue.”  The audience applauds, and I hand him an envelope, which he promptly tears open to read “It’s something your hippie big sister eats in natural food restaurants.”

“What say you, Timmy?”

“If it’s good enough for Claudia, it’s almost good enough for me.”


He takes a scoop and, after eating it, I let him know that it’s nothing more than lentil stew, a high-protein entrée that keeps New Age types flatulent.

“We’ve got just one more to go, the grand prize, worth a thousand points that you can redeem for swell prizes including a Tickle-Me-Elmo, a Barney and Friends pup tent, or a physically-correct doll approved by the Boy Scouts of America for Female Anatomy Merit Badge training.”


A hush falls over the audience now that the stakes have risen.  I see Timmy glancing over at the toys stacked up from a card table–this is public broadcasting–almost to the ceiling.  Darlene wheels out Pile #3, and does a yeoman’s–or is it yeowoman’s?–job of disguising whether the stuff stinks.

“This is for all the marbles, Timmy,” I say, trying to impress upon him the seriousness of the decision he’s about to make.  “You’ve got 700 points.  If you eat just one spoonful of that, you’ll have 1,700, and you’ll be the richest kid in the third grade.  If you gamble and lose, you’ll go home with a consolation prize and probably end up sleeping on a heating grate outside the Boston Public Library.”


Timmy mulls it over, and I can almost see the synapses snapping underneath his scalp.  He could have a bike, a fishing rod, a baseball glove autographed by some steroid-swilling slugger, or he could go home with–a lot less.  An aquarium, one of those Bolo-Bat things I can never get to work, maybe a jump rope.  In other words, as one of life’s cautious losers.

He thinks about it a little more while the audience screams their encouragement.

“Do it!”

“Go for it!”

“Don’t be a chicken!:

Finally, and with a look that says that he needs to go to the bathroom soon, he says “I’m gonna pass.”

A collective groan goes up from the crowd, as the dreamers, the risk-takers–or those who just like to watch other people go first–register their disappointment.

“Is that your final decision?” I say, trying to squeeze the last little drop of drama out of the situation.

“Um, yes,” Timmy says finally.

“Okay,” I say.  “It’s your funeral–or not.  Darlene–let’s tell him what he’s missing out on!”

My comely assistant glides downstage, picks up a card lying face down on the Challenge Bar, and hands it to me.

“Ooooo, Timmy,” I say, my voice freighted with sadness.  “It looks like you passed up a chance to eat . . . dog doody!”

The audience erupts in cheers, Darlene kisses Timmy and I clap the kid on the back in congratulations.

“That’s all for tonight!” I shout over the roar of the crowd.  “Tune in tomorrow night to meet a boy who picks his nose . . . and eats it!”

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

Settling the Grigori Perelman Family Feud

Mathematics genius Grigori Yakovlevich Perelman has refused over a million dollars in prizes for his work and has moved back home to live with his mother and sister. 

                                                                        The Boston Globe

I’ve come to St. Petersburg to try and solve a riddle that has perplexed parents for centuries; how do you get a kid to move out of the house once he’s finished school and become the most brilliant mathematician alive?  I have some personal experience in this area, having hung around my parents’ place for three months after I graduated from college with the highest grade in my senior metaphor seminar.  It was an independent study so I got the lowest grade in class, too–neat trick, that.  I’d like to see a math genius figure that one out.

The mathematician in question is none other than Grigori Yakovlevich “Grisha” Perelman, who first turned down the Fields Medal worth $15,000, then the Clay Millenium Prize worth a cool $1 million, and then moved back into the basement of his mother’s apartment, where he plays ping-pong against a wall all day.  You can imagine how that’s going over.  PICK-pock.  PICK-pock.  PICK-pock.  All freaking day long.  No wonder his mother called me.

I knock on the door and steel myself for Perelman’s withering, owl-like glare.  He answers the door in his Babar the Elephant pajamas.  Cute, but not the right image if you want to persuade a math department to hire you after you unceremoniously turn down job offers from Princeton and Stanford, but maybe that’s his intent.

“What do you want,” Perelman asks, imperiously.  “I am in the middle of a ping-pong game against myself, and I don’t want to lose track of the score and find that I’ve cheated myself when I get back.”

“Your mom asked me to . . .”

“Please–she is not ‘mom’ to you.  She is Yana Kuzmin Perelman–all three, given name, patronymic, family name; nothing less.  Got it?”

“Got it,” I say.  ”Shall we ask her to join us?”

Grisha’s face clouds over.  I can tell he wants to return to his masturbatory-ping-pong game, but I know that his mother has told him to go out and get a job–some job, any job–Harvard, MIT, it doesn’t matter, just get up and out of the house every day and earn your keep if you’re going to keep turning down million dollar prizes.  And make your bed, for God’s sake!

Grisha grabs a broom stick and taps the ceiling of his basement apartment several times.  I hear footsteps overhead, and soon we are joined by his mother.

“Grisha, this nice man is going to help you either get a job, or stop turning down all the big prizes people want to give you,” she says by way of explanation.

“I am not an animal in a zoo,” Grisha sniffs.

“You coulda fooled me,” I say looking around the cramped, windowless apartment.  “This is going to take a while,” I say to his mother.  “I’d better order a pizza.”

Grisha gives me a wild-eyed stare while his mother hangs her head.  “Thin-crust, all onion okay with everybody?” I ask.  Grisha grunts while his mom says “Fine” wearily.  I call the Domino’s in Pushkin Square and place the order.  “Do you have any coupons?” I ask the two after the guy at the other end of the line gives me the price.

“No–what need have I for coupons!” Grisha shouts at me.

“You keep turning down million dollar prizes, you’re going to need a lot of coupons, pal,” I say knowingly.

We sit down around a coffee table fashioned from an abandoned telephone cable spool, and I try to talk some sense into one of the smartest guys in the world.  If I break this logjam I hope to walk away with the $15,000 Fields prize money as a nice mediation fee.

“So Grisha,” I say, trying to put him at ease.  “What’s with the overweening pride?  Why can’t you just graciously accept it when some schmo wants to give you a million bucks?”

“You cannot cheapen mathematics with such meretricious frippery as a prize awarded by some stupid committee that does not understand my work!” he thunders.

“Meretricious frippery”–good one.  I’d been hoping to use that in a sentence first, but he beat me to it.  “Fine,” I say.  “It means nothing to you–but think of your mother.”

“Yes, Grigori Yakovlevich ‘Grisha’ Perelman,” she says, not stinting on the names in the hope of persuading her wayward son.  “Think of me.”

Grisha is sullen, like an overgrown teenager.  Happy to mooch off mom as long as she doesn’t make too many demands, I figure, but not willing to put himself out for the woman who brought him into the world.

“We are related, but blood is not as pure as mathematics,” he says coldly.  His mother breaks into tears at these words.

“I’m not just a mathematical genius, I’m the Czar of the Hair Club for Men!”


“Look, Grisha,” I say, changing to a brusque tone.  “If that’s the way you feel, then you should think of your mother as . . . your landlady.”

“Landlady?” his mother exclaims.  “But he is my baby!”

“There’s no way you’re going to get this guy to put down the ping-pong paddle and get a job until he understands what it costs to maintain his idle lifestyle,” I say.  “What’s a basement studio apartment go for in St. Petersburg these days?”

“I don’t know,” she says.  “I’ll go check the classifieds in Pravda.“  With that she toddles off up the stairs and I face Grisha again.  I hold all the cards now.

“Look, Brainy Boy, we can do this the easy way or the hard way,” I say.  “Either you start accepting some of the swag the world tries to throw at your feet, or you’re going to be paying room, board and laundry–you savvy?”

For the first time the genius’s face reflects a teensy tiny bit of sympathy.  “Well, I suppose I could use a couple hundred grand.”

“Are you kidding?  That’s just walking-around money!  Take the whole thing, stop riding the subway, get yourself a nice car.”

“Like what?”

“All the big math geniuses ride in style.  A Cadillac Escalade, maybe a Lincoln Navigator.”

“You don’t think that’s . . . too flashy?”

“Flashy?  Get outta town.  Did you ever see Poincare’s Stutz-Bearcat?”

“Can’t say that I have.”

“That thing was loaded.  Stackable turntable in the front seat so he didn’t have to listen to stupid AM radio.”

“Sweet,” Grisha says.  The doorbell rings–must be the guy from Domino’s.  “You need any money?” he asks.  I guess he’s finally coming around–starting to develop some feelings for his fellow man.

“I got it,” I say, being magnanimous.  “How much?” I ask the kid with the chain’s patented HeatWave Hot Bag, which eliminates unwanted moisture and keeps pizzas hot and crisp.

“Four hundred and thirteen rubles,” he replies, and as always I freeze as I try to compute the tip.  “Let’s, see,” I say to myself.  “It’s not like he’s a waiter, but I don’t want to seem cheap.  Eighteen percent is about right, I guess.  Eighteen percent of 413 rubles is, uh . . .”

“What’s the hold-up?” Grisha asks.  “I’m hungry.”

“I’m not too good at Russian currency,” I say with a weak smile.  “What’s eighteen . . .”

Grisha’s face turns cold again, and he gives me an outraged stare.  “You . . . cheap . . . bastard!” he says, the veins popping on his neck.  “Take ten percent–what’s that?”

“Forty-one rubles.”

“Now double it–what’s that?”

“Uh . . . eighty-two rubles.”

“Now–what’s 82 and 413?”

“Like . . . four hundred ninety, uh . . .”

“Round up!” he screams.  “Give the kid 500 and let’s eat!”

Voodoo Makes Inroads in Stressed-Out Suburbs

WELLESLEY FALLS, Mass.  Marci Scribner looks like a typical housewife in this affluent suburb of Boston as she climbs into her forest green Range Rover, Kate Spade handbag in hand.  “I’m always on the go,” she says with a smile as she drives her 17-year old son Tyler to his weekly appointment with a tutor who she hopes will increase his SAT scores and get him into Dartmouth, where she went to business school.

Her pride and joy


But if that fails, Marci has an ace up her sleeve.  “We know two other kids in Tyler’s class are applying there, and they won’t all get in.”  So while Tyler studies, she’ll keep an appointment of her own with voodoo priest Togbui Assiogbo.  “We need to use every trick in the book, because Dartmouth is Tyler’s ‘reach’ school.”

“I’m praying for Tyler, and praying against his little maggot classmates.”


And what does the priest have in mind?  “Let’s just say when he gets through with those other two kids,” Marci says with a sly smile, “their minds will function like they sniff a tube of glue for breakfast.”

Voodoo, once confined to West Africa and the Caribbean, is spreading to American suburbs and displacing traditional Protestant denominations such as Episcopalianism as the affluent look for a religion that can give them tangible results, not the pie-in-the-sky of an afterlife.  “The whole ‘turn the other cheek’ philosophy is a boatload of crap, if you ask me,” says Marci’s husband Dennis, a venture capitalist who works in the Route 128 technology corridor that rings Boston.

“Until next class, study hard, and rub chicken bones on your head.”


Other families are using voodoo for less intellectual pursuits.  Alicia and Tom Phillips, friends of the Scribners in this town where fixer-upper homes start at $1.3 million, say they used Mr. Assiogbo last year when their next-door neighbor bought a new Jaguar.  “We couldn’t stand how he looked down on us because we drove a two-year old Saab,” says Alicia.  “Mr. Assiogbo gave us a menu of options ranging from a broken driveshaft for $1,000, a fender bender for $2,500, or the ‘VIP’ combo for five grand.”  They opted for the most expensive package and were “extremely pleased” when the Jaguar was totalled and the owner’s golden retriever died mysteriously after chasing a tennis ball into a wooded area.

Local ministers say they will fight to maintain their congregations, even if that means incorporating some of the more dramatic elements of voodoo into their traditional liturgy.  “If we have to add a little spectacle to your typical Protestant christening or a wedding to draw a crowd, that’s what we’ll do,” said the Rev. Oliver Westling, pastor of the United Church of Christ here.  “I’m not above a little animal sacrifice, as long as it’s done tastefully.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Blurbs From the Burbs.”

Me and “Curvy” Barbie

          Mattel has introduced a fuller-figured “curvy” Barbie to counter criticism of her unrealistically thin shape.

               The New York Times

It was a typical Sunday afternoon for me, browsing through the thrift shop on Comm Ave, looking for old books and records, when I spied a familiar face out of the corner of my eye.

“Barbie?” I asked tentatively.

She rolled over in the toy bin where she lay and looked up at me.  “Oh–hi,” she said as she brushed her blonde hair out of her eyes.  “It . . . it’s been a long time.”

She looked like she’d seen the wrong end of too many little bottles of gin, her skin faded from the perfect flesh tone I remembered to a shade that recalled jaundice.  Probably the result of long hours under fluorescent lights on the one hand, and the bright glare of the sun through the front window on the other.

“How’ve you been?” I asked.

“Oh, you know–hangin’ in there.”  Just barely, I figured.  She was plumper than I remembered, but so was I so many years later.  To tell the truth, I like my dolls with a little extra plastic on the bones.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

“Looking for old records, Benny Moten, Andy Kirk–Kansas City jazz.  And books–George Ade, Ring Lardner, you know, Midwestern smart alecks.”

Bennie Moten by R. Crumb

A laugh issued from her oh-so-delicate little mouth.  “I guess you can take the boy out of the Queen City of the Prairies, the Gateway to the Ozarks, the State Fair City . . .”

“Don’t forget the County Seat of Pettis County, Missouri,” I added out of a sense of completeness.

” . . . but you can’t take the–”

“Right,” I said, cutting her off.  The Celtics game starts at three.

In her prime

There was an awkward silence as she batted her lashes, heavy with mascara, and looked away, at the streets of the student ghetto out the window.

“So . . . find anything?” she said finally.

“Nope–no luck today,” I said.  Again–stiff silence, both of us at a loss for words.  “How’s Ken?” I asked finally–bad move.  Old lawyers’ rule–never ask a question you don’t know the answer to.  Old lawyer should have followed it.

She snorted with contempt.  “Haven’t seen him in years.  For all I care he can go shit in his hat.”

O-kay.  I felt sorry that I’d brought back painful memories and hurt her little plastic heart, and I decided to try and make it up to her.

“Say–you want to get out of here and get a cup of coffee?”

She looked surprised–I guess years of rejection, of being picked over, picked up and thrown back into the bin had taken their toll.

“Well, sure,” she said after a moment.  “I’m not really dressed . . .”

“You look fine,” I said.  “Everyone dresses more casually these days.”

“Okay,” she said tentatively.  “You’ll have to pay . . .”

“Sure–it’s on me.”

“What is this guy’s game?”

“No–I mean to take me out of here.”

“Right, right,” I said.  Obviously a touchy subject.  Lincoln freed the slaves, but he did nothing for figureheads of a line of Mattel-brand dolls and accessories.  “How much are you?”

She turned away, and I thought I detected a sniffle.  “Sign’s up there,” she said, burying her face in a Beanie Baby.

Fifty cents–so that’s how far she’d fallen.  Stay upbeat, I told myself–laughter, like herpes, is contagious.

“No problem–come on, let’s blow this pop stand!” I said with enthusiasm.

We checked out and headed down to the Starbucks on the corner.  I trotted her up to the register they way I used to move her around the Barbie Dream House when forced to play with my sisters in order to get them to toss a football with me.

“No foam skinny vanilla latte for . . . Barbie?”

“What’ll you have?” I asked.

“I like my coffee like I like my men . . .” she purred, showing signs of her old good nature for the first time now that she was out of the dismal confines of the thrift shop.

“Bold, with flavor notes of hazelnut?”


“Tall, with extra foam?”

No . . .”

“Black, with . . .”

“No!  Bitter–like you!”

It was my turn to have my feelings hurt, I guess.  “That was the old me,” I said, and from the look on her face I could tell she knew she’d wounded me, if only a little.

“Sorry–you used to be awfully sarcastic,” she said.

“Yeah, I know, but having kids changed me.  I didn’t want to infect them with my warped view of the world.  I wanted them to look for the good in people.”

“I’m sure you’re a great dad.”

“Of course, they’re hopelessly naive, but life will knock that benighted crap out of them.  How’s . . .” I stopped myself before I stepped in it again.

“Skipper?” she said, picking up the thread.


“I don’t hear from her much,” she said as she turned her head with a far-off look in her eye.

“Yeah, sisters are like that . . .”

“She wasn’t my sister,” she said bitterly, whipping her head around to face me squarely.

“She wasn’t?”

She looked down at her cup and hesitated before she spoke.  “That’s just what Mattel wanted you to think,” she said.  “She was Ken’s love child.  Then he dumps me for Midge.”

I understood then why she’d been so negative when I mentioned his name.

“I . . . had no idea.”

“Nobody did,” she said.  “We had a million-dollar marketing campaign to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes.”

“Nobody can break your heart like a kid can,” I said.

“Tell me about it,” she said.  She seemed to have regained her sense of self-possession, so I tried to turn the conversation back to happier topics.  “Speaking of pulling the wool over something–and don’t take this the wrong way, you look great.”


“But you seem . . . slightly more zaftig than I remember.”

She smiled–flattery will get you somewhere.  “You would know,” she said.

I blushed.  Dressing and undressing Barbie back in the day had been my introduction to the female anatomy.  “Yeah–but I had to, remember.”

“Bullfeathers,” she snapped, but she was smiling.  “You could’ve played ball with the Morris boys, or George Kuehn, or Billy Shue, or . . .”

“Okay–you got me.  I . . . used to enjoy slipping on your stewardess outfit, and the MBA one . . .”

“The one with the floppy bow tie and the briefcase?”  She threw her head back and laughed loud enough that a guy pretending he was writing a novel on his laptop two tables away glared at us.

“I used to pick those out, you know,” I said, smiling but a little embarrassed.

“You did?”

“Sure.  It was easy shopping for you . . . I mean my sister.  Every Christmas or birthday, just go to the toy store, grab something off the rack and you’re all set.”

“Oh, gawd,” she groaned.  “Well, I guess I was in style for the times.  Still, when I look back . . .”

“I know–it seems weird.  Say . . .”


“You think it might be fun to go shopping again?”

She looked at me, sizing me up, one eyebrow raised, but still a trace of a smile at the corner of her mouth.

“That’s kind of a ‘couple’ thing to do, isn’t it?”

“Well, yeah.”

“And you’ve got a ring on your finger . . .”

“Right, but . . .”

“But what?”

“My wife won’t mind if I handle artificial boobs as long as they’re attached to a plastic body.”

The Gertrude Stein Look-Alike Contest

We’re getting up in years, we few forthright men who revealed to each other that we wanted to write back in our youth.  It takes a lot for a guy to open himself up that way to another man.

Is it Ed, or Gertrude?


There’s the odor of the effete about sitting down, waiting for inspiration, then scribbling your purple prose out on the blank page.  And there’s the sin of ambition.  You’re not content to become an accountant or an actuary–you want to become famous, huh?  You think you’re better than everybody else?

But we stuck with it with varying degrees of failure, and now find ourselves looking back on what we haven’t accomplished.  It’s about this time of year we get together for some wistful bonhomie as we slyly check out each other’s bald spots and paunches.

Faulkner:  Gave up a promising career as a postmaster and took the easy way out to become a Nobel Prize-winning novelist.


There’s Ed, the guy who was smitten with William Faulkner as an undergraduate and almost allowed his infatuation with the Mississippi Master’s stream-of-consciousness style to ruin his career as an air traffic controller.  There’s Rob, the Hemingway fan who had cosmetic surgery performed on his cat to add a toe to each paw.  And there’s me, the Fitzgerald nut with my inflatable Zelda love doll.

Regardless of whom we modeled himself after, we had to admit that four decades later we’d been worn down to the same nub.  When we hit our fifties, we all started to look not like our Lost Generation heroes, but like . . . Gertrude Stein. Stoop-shouldered, thick about the middle, not much hair.

“It was *sniff* cruel what he did to us!”


At first we joked about it in a nervous manner; keeping the horrible consequences at bay.  But after a few years of channeling the woman known for her sophisticated baby talk, we embraced our inner Gertrudes.  We turned competitive–as men are wont to do–and began to hold annual Gertrude Stein Look-Alike Contests.

When word got out there was the obligatory human interest story in the local paper, which got picked up by a wire service.  The next year we were overwhelmed, like Yasgur’s Farm by Woodstock.  Our little burg of twenty-some-thousand was transformed in a day to a mid-sized city five times that size by 80,000 grumpy, stocky, cross-dressing guys with close-cropped hair wandering around in baggy skirts muttering stuff like “I like this town but I don’t like that I’m in this town.”

You had to work to get it just right.  Some of the younger squads would come into town with fancy matching embroidered loden coats–”Milwaukee Gertrude Brood”–and then crap out when it came time to complete the phrase “a house in the country . . . “

“Is not the same as a country house!” I’d fairly shout at the laggards from the provinces who thought all you had to do was skim “Tender Buttons” the night before “Stein Time.”  Fat chance.  As the Great Lady herself said, “Do you know because I tell you so, or do you know, do you know?”

You’d hear guys at the cash bar complaining about the judges as they hitched up their loose-fitting dirndl skirts.  “Gimme a break,” I said to one loudmouth, and it wasn’t the absinthe talking.  “What did Gertrude say–’The deepest thing in any one is the conviction of bad luck that follows boasting.’”  That shut him up.

Best buds!


We went into the men’s room to relieve ourselves before we went on, and I caucused with Ed and Rob at the urinal.  “You’ve got to remember,” I said as I cleared a path through the knee-length scarf I’d added to my outfit that morning, “be paradoxical, obscure and repetitive.”

“What was the last one again?” Ed asked as he shook himself.

“Repetitive,” I replied.  “Like ‘I who am not patient am patient.’”

“Can I write crib notes on my sleeve?” Rob asked.

“NO!” I snapped, then lowered my voice when heads turned.  “The essence of a good gertrudesteinism is errant, antic circularity.”

“Okay,” Ed said over the roar of the hand dryer.

“You guys ready?” I asked.

“I guess,” Rob said.

“You guess?” I straightened him up with a stiffarm to the shoulder.  “‘It is funny that one who prepares is not ready.’  Got it?”

“I just don’t ‘get’ this Gertrude gal!”


A look of enlightenment came over him, as if he finally understood calculus, or Avogadro’s number, or the appeal of Kathie Lee Gifford.

“Got it,” he said.  “The one who ‘gets’ something is the one who is gotten.”

“Attaboy,” I said with a grin.  “Let’s go–in a direction we don’t want to go.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Dead Writers Make More Money.”

Rescue Dudes Find Shelter in Arms of Less-Intense Women

SOMERVILLE, Mass.  Eli Tucker is a twenty-eight year old man with above-average looks and a good job, but his self-esteem barely registers on the Kinsdorph-Eisenstat Personality Index.  “Eli bears the scars of an abusive relationship,” says Tom Selfkirk, executive director of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Dudes.  “When we rescued him he’d been starved on white wine, quiche and arugula,” Selfkirk notes with a lump in his throat.  “He’d cringe when he heard the theme song to Grey’s Anatomy.”

“No–anything but that!”


The MSPCD removed him from the apartment in which he was living with Judith Clark, a high-strung and demanding M.B.A. who would criticize his handyman skills and mock his taste in music at social gatherings.  “He was like a whipped dog,” says Tina Shore, the reference librarian who is now Tucker’s caretaker.  “I slowly brought him back to life by feeding him cheeseburgers and pulled pork sliders,” she says with a mixture of pride and affection.  “He’s almost ready to go to a Red Sox game, but we’re going to break him in slowly by starting with soccer.”

“You’re not really going to wear that out to dinner–are you?”


Tucker and men like him are referred to by mental health professionals as “rescue dudes,” human males who have been removed from abusive relationships with overbearing women and gradually nursed back to dude-it-tude under the watchful eyes of professionals, including a female “buddy” typically drawn from the non-profit or healing professions.  “Rescue dudes tend to flinch when they approach a social event because they’ve been criticized on the doorstep so many times for wearing blue jeans, or not wearing blue jeans, or wearing blue jeans with or without a crease in them,” says Selfkirk.  “They suffer from cognitive dissonance, double-bind syndrome, yellow waxy buildup and heartbreak of psoriasis.”

“You’re making progress, but I’m going to keep you on pork rinds until your next visit.”


Modeled after the “rescue dogs” program of the MSPCA that relocates canines mistreated by abusive owners, Rescue Dudes seeks to work the same sort of rehabilitation with men so beaten down by the prejudices of daytime talk shows they can no longer name the original six teams of the NHL.  “In some ways men are just as smart as dogs,” says Eloise Verbeeck who works to place men in more congenial settings after they’ve been removed from abusive situations.  “Not a lot, but some.”

But intensive care coupled with a potent drug cocktail composed of beer, beef jerky and honey-roasted peanuts have provided urologists and bait shops with hope that even the worst cases can be reversed over time.  “Science is inching closer to a cure,” says Dr. Timothy Fabor as he watches a research subject tuck into a heaping bowl of chili from behind a one-way mirror.  “Unfortunately, nobody wants to hold a walk-a-thon for a guy whose idea of high style is a suitcase of Busch Natural Light Beer.”

“Change the channel to ice skating–RIGHT NOW!”


Still, women like Tina Shore say strict adherence to doctors’ orders can produce short-term improvements that can be sustained with the right combination of positive reinforcement and firm discipline, as long as patients don’t seek to progress too quickly.  “Eli!” she says with a scowl that is only half-serious as her new roommate aims the remote control at their TV set.  “You weren’t thinking of switching to basketball–were you?”

The Difference Between Men and Women

When sixth-grade science teacher Pat Farrell assigns an earth-science lab on measuring crystals, the girls collect their materials . . . read the directions and follow the sequence from beginning to end. The first thing boys do is ask, “Can we eat this?”

                    The Trouble With Boys, Newsweek.

The search team from Afternoon in Paris Perfumes had been combing the pristine New Zealand beach for hours, hoping to find ambergris–the hard yet waxy substance that is formed in the stomachs of sperm whales from the undigested beaks of squid that they eat. Used by the cosmetics industry as a fixative for fine perfumes (and privately by individuals as an aphrodisiac) the rare and valuable substance gives off an odor that some say brings to mind scented cow dung, leading one to ask–how the hell do they know what scented cow dung smells like?

“We’ll camp here for the night,” said crew leader Linda Roget, Director of Research for the perfume company. She slipped off her backpack and removed her collapsible tent from its waterproof sack.

Just then a cry was heard from down near the water. Rob Merriwether, Assistant Collector of Samples, had found something.

“Look,” he shouted. “I think this is the real thing.” The others gathered around to examine the white, grey, black or brown object that was either flat or square but also somewhat rounded, with a texture that was soft and sticky like melting tar but sometimes hard, like dry clay.

“Let me see that,” Roget said, brushing her hair back from her forehead with the back of one hand. “Hmm,” she said. “I think this is worth saving.” She called out to her chief chemist, Barbara da Costa.


“Yes, Linda,” her co-worker said as she ran down to the water’s edge.

“Take a look at this,” Roget said as she handed her the specimen.

“Looks promising,” the chemist replied as she examined the musky-smelling hunk of congealed whale vomit. “Do you want me to run the usual tests on it?”

“Precisely,” Roget replied.

“Wait a minute,” Rob Merriwether interjected. “I found it.”

“You know this is company property,” Roget said to him sternly, her left eyebrow raised upwards towards her forbidding widow’s peak .

“I just want a couple of bites,” Merriwether said. “We finished the Milk Duds over an hour ago.”


The mood in the operating room was somber as doctors raced to save the life of Clifton Remington, Assistant Liaison to the Undersecretary of State for Cross-Border Relationships.

Dr. Winslow Crocker, Jr., the dean of adenoid surgeons in the highly-competitive Boston-Cambridge medical community, held his arms out while a nurse stretched rubber gloves onto his hands in preparation for surgery.

Just then the operating room doors flew open and in walked Dr. Beverly Orvallis, upstart surgical enfant terrible, fresh from a lecture at the Harvard Medical School on minimally invasive strategies for correcting the debilitating effects of Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease.

“Just a minute,” she said in a defiant challenge to Crocker’s authority. “You’re not going to use the outmoded and potentially fatal Heinz-Szabo technique to remove this man’s adenoids, are you?”

Crocker’s lips curled in what was at the same time a smile and a sneer, both of them dripping with contempt, as he looked at his former student. “What would you suggest–Doctor?” he said in a condescending tone.

This!” she exclaimed as she quickly plunged an Italian stiletto-style curette behind the man’s soft palate. A quarter-turn of her hand and she held aloft the fruits of her labor-two gleaming gobs of lymphatic tissue that had been blocking the nasopharynx of the unconscious attaché.

“Let me see them,” Crocker said with a curious expression.

“Sound medical protocol calls for these to be sent to the lab immediately!” Orvallis replied, suspicious of his intentions.

“I want to know if they shrivel up like oysters when you put salt on them,” he said before turning to an orderly and shouting, “Get me some cocktail sauce-pronto!”



The quest for the Canadian Cabbage butterfly-mortal enemy of radishes, turnips, cauliflower and, of course, cabbages–had extended into the dark Quebec night. Search-and-capture squads had switched to fluorescent “black light” tubes in order to pursue their quarry unseen. Evelyn Urquart, head of the expedition, was fearful that if she forced her crew to march further she’d have a lepidopteran mutiny on her hands.

“This is far enough. Let’s just collect a few pupae and call it a night,” lapsing into laboratory Latin with fatigue.

Her subordinates began to pick through rolled leaves, twigs and loose bark to find the cryptically camouflaged cocoons, but without much luck.

Then, from over her shoulder, Urquart heard a crackling sound.

“Kinda crunchy,” a male voice said. “Like pork rinds.”


Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “The Difference Between Men and Women.”

The Bra Whisperer

          A Boston-area woman has earned the nickname “The Bra Whisperer” for her skill at properly fitting women with undergarments.

                 The Boston Globe 


We was hunkered down on our haunches–me and the kid who’d won a Mademoiselle summer internship, like Sylvia Plath–in the foundation undergarments pen where we’d been busting breasts for the better part of the morning.  It hadn’t taken me long to figure out that the kid didn’t know nothing about bras, much less teddys or body shapers.  First female out of the box it had taken him ten minutes to size her, rassle her into a changing booth and try to solve her problem.  Eventually I had to take over.

She’s too East-West I said, eschewing quotation marks like a character in a Cormac McCarthy novel or somethin’.  The woman was a pert lady golfer from Shaker Heights, Ohio.  Her bra fit like she had a bookshelf full of bodice rippers inside her Pepto-Bismol pink top.

Good Lord, woman!

Looks like two hogs fightin’ under a sheet, the kid said.

I glared at him like he was a frozen Mexican dinner I was tryin’ to defrost.  Where’d you learn to say that? I asked.

I took me a correspondence course from the Dan Rather School of Homespun Similes, he said.  You know, like “Nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs”?

Figgers. What Dan Rather knows about honest down-to-earth, God-fearin’ faux-bumpkin slang would fit in the navel of an orange with room left over for a fruit fly, I said.

The kid looked embarrassed and he had every right to be.  That saying is to be applied only to the view from behind of a woman just starting a Jenny Craig diet walkin’ down the street in yoga pants, I said with disgust.

The kid was silent for awhile, then spat onto the ground, as if to prove he knew his ass from a hole in the ground even though he’d made such a rookie slang mistake.  The sun was getting higher in the sky and perspiration was starting to run down our faces like rain off a tin roof.  We heard the gentle hum of a Scandinavian-engineered car on the horizon and looked out towards State Road HH.  A Volvo station wagon turned left onto the long drive that led to Doc Lowe’s rodeo lot, where we was holdin’ a special two-day bra-fittin’ event.

Here comes trouble, I said.

Why’s that? the kid said.


Unless I miss my guess this here’s a woman never much paid attention to her bra all the way through college and grad school, I said.  Didn’t have to–nobody cares what you look like in a student lounge.  Now she’s got her JD or MBA or whatever and is fixin’ to start her first real job.  Someone took her aside–a senior woman, a Sallie Krawcheck-type–after her last interview and pulled her blouse-tail.

Pulled her blouse-tail? the kid asked.

Did you graduate from that Dan Rather course, or just audit it? I said.

I got a certificate, it’s in the bunk house he said.

Sallie Krawcheck:  “You need a longer band, NOT bigger cups!”

It was my turn to spit as a sign of the contempt I felt for the kid.  Whatever you paid for it was too much.  Like I was sayin’, somebody took her aside and said she needed her bra fitted by someone who knows what the hell they’re doin’, a real bra-whisperer.

Huh, the kid huh’ed.

My spleen was vented by then and I turned to where the Volvo had come to a stop.  A woman got out and from twenty yards away I could tell she’d just been guessing her size since she first got out of a training bra.  Bought whatever was on sale in her “size.”  I know I told you I wasn’t gonna use quotation marks to prove my bona fides among tough-guy western bra-wranglers but this was different.  I was bein’ sarcastic which is okay on the wind-swept prairies where men learn how to size a bra the hard way or they don’t learn at all.

“Excuse me,” the woman said.  She was allowed to use quotation marks–probably called them “inverted commas” when she was an undergraduate English major.

Yes I said.

“I’m looking for . . . the ‘bra whisperer’?”

Yer lookin’ at him, I said.

“I see two people.”

Not the kid, me.  The kid couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if there was instructions on the heel.

“Oh, okay.  Well, uh, what are your qualifications?”


I coulda seen that one comin’ a mile off.  She’d built her whole life on the phony-baloney credentialism of American higher education, she figured everybody else is the same way.

You know there’s an old Will Rogers movie . . .

“Who’s Will Rogers?”

He’s a cowboy got a turnpike named after him in Oklahoma where they sell glow-in-the-dark Chinese backscratchers.

“Oh.  Go on . . .”

And a guy asks Will Rogers if he has a birth certificate and Will Rogers says where he comes from people meet you they figure you’ve been born they don’t need to see a piece of paper to be convinced of it.

Will Rogers Turnpike, Oklahoma

“What does that have to do with my ill-fitting bra?”

A lot.  It means I don’t have a diploma from the Overholt School of Lingerie Fitting, but I grew up on a bra farm.

“I didn’t know there was such a thing.”

My daddy owned Mid-Missouri’s Finest Ladies Specialty Shop–and he didn’t spell shop shoppe.  He had the biggest selection of bras in any direction for fifty miles, all the way over to Jeff City.  I was washin’ down bra mannequins when you weren’t even a gleam in your daddy’s eye lookin’ at your mom sidewise to see how full-figured she was.

The woman glanced down at her foot and pawed at the ground as if she was tryin’ to dig up a sales slip to return a push-up bra her husband bought her for Valentine’s Day.  “Well, I suppose that’s good enough,” she said.  “Anyway, someone recommended I come see you.”

Go get the sample trunk, I snapped at the kid.  And don’t stop to flip through the Victoria’s Secret catalog in the outhouse.

No problem, the kid said.  God I hate it when your so-called millennials do that.  I know it’s not a problem, it shouldn’t be a problem–just do it.

The kid ambled off and I said c’mere to the woman.  She stepped forward shyly and I sized her up.  Women is like horses I said to her as I squared her shoulders.

“That’s kind of insulting,” she said, bristling a bit.


No offense intended, ma’am.  It’s just that every one of ’em’s different.  Two women can both be a B cup and need completely different bras.

“How can that be?”

Where a lot of women go wrong is they figure, big cup, big band.  But you can be a D cup and still need a small band.

“How is that physically possible?”

I wanted to tell her about Nina, the ballet dancer from the Joffrey I’d dated for four ambiguous months.  She was shaped like a spinning top, it really helped on her pirouettes.  I thought better of it and buttoned my lip.  I was being paid to whisper, she didn’t want to hear about my failed love life.

Believe me, it’s possible, I said.  Lemme get a look at your puppies.

I cast an eye over the gently rolling mounds of her north forty.  I didn’t want to lift up her blouse, but I didn’t need to.  I could see what the problem was.

You keep wearin’ that bra you could be arrested for cruelty to animals, I said.

“But I don’t have any pets.”

I’m talking about those two in there, I said.  It’s dollars to donuts your underwires are diggin’ into you–am I right?

“I caught a couple of strays headin’ off the ranch.”

She made a little moue, which I suppose meant she wasn’t happy to hear what I said.  Maybe you don’t like what I’m sayin’–you don’t have to listen to me, I said.  But the last woman who ignored my advice ended up all red-faced at a charity gala when her gals jumped the lace fence and headed for the open range out the top of her gown.

“Oh dear–that must have been awful!”

It was, ma’am.  They had to call the animal control officer to get them back in their pen.

The kid had returned by then with my extensive collection of high-quality bras in cup sizes ranging from A to K.

I’m going to have to ask you to avert your eyes now, I said to the woman.

“Why?  They’re connected to me.”

The reason I whisper is because they’re shy, I said.  They don’t want you to know how they feel.

“Sounds pretty ridiculous to me,” she said.

Red Adair:  “I’m going to need more lace and elastic–PRONTO!”

Ain’t that just like a woman–no feelings at all, I said to the kid, tryin’ to break the sudden air of tension that had descended upon our little threesome–actually I guess we were a fivesome.  I’d heard Red Adair, the famous oil well fire-fighter, used to do the same before risking his life going into a dangerous situation.

“All right,” she said, and she turned her head to take in the gentle beauty of the central Missouri countryside; rolling hills, stalks of sorghum waving in the field.  She smiled and waved back.

You don’t have to do that, I said.  They’re just plants used for grain, fiber and fodder.

“Now who’s the one without feelings?” she asked with an uplifted eyebrow.


I walked right into that one, I said.

I bent at the knees and moved in closer to her bodice, where I saw two frightened little girls who’d been crammed into cups too small, with a band two inches too short, for much too long.  They were spilling over into the armpits, and if I didn’t act fast they’d be stuck in a ditch, like an ox in the Bible, and we’d never get them out.

How you all doin’? I asked.

“It’s crowded in here,” the one on the left–my left, not hers–said in a high-pitched squeak.

What colors do you like?

“Taupe,” said the one on the right.

All right, let me see what I can do for you.


I reached into my bag of tricks–actually, bras–and rummaged around for a bit.

I think I may have the answer, I said.

“What?” the three of them–the woman and her breasts–all said with a breathless tone of optimism.

It’s called a balconette ’cause it looks like a balcony.

“What’s that?” the one on the left asked.

It’s a bra with cups cut in a way that reveal more of the top and inner parts of the breasts.  It could give you guys some breathing room.

The conferred among themselves for a moment, the woman said she didn’t think it was very professional-looking, the one on the right said oh come on, this isn’t the fifties, everyone’s dressing more casually these days.

“All right,” the woman said finally, and although she still had a look of hesitation on her face, I could tell she was relieved.  I gave her four–white, pink, ecru and black for evening wear.

“We don’t know how to thank you,” said the one on the right.

Just doin’ my job, I said with the modest aw-shucks demeanor we bra-pokes are known for.  Hey, I know what you can do for me, I said.

“What?” the one on the left asked.

Do you know any Shakespeare?

They looked at each other, then up to their owner.

“A little–why?” she asked.

I been hankerin’ to use this joke for a long time.

“What joke?”

You guys are like a balcony you could do Romeo and Juliet from.

At the James Joyce Piggly-Wiggly

VERSAILLES, Mo. Lemoyne Green’s family has been in the grocery business in this town in south central Missouri, pronounced “ver-SALES,” going back four generations. “I guess you could say food is in our blood,” Lemoyne says with a barely-detectible trace of irony. “I know when I give blood they always give me a couple of fig newtons to eat, and that’s something we sell over in Aisle 6, Cookies, Snacks and Syrups.”

Green’s Piggly Wiggly


Lemoyne had hoped to break away from his small town roots, earning bachelors and masters degrees in English at the University of Iowa before “hitting a wall” when it came time to write the required dissertation for his Ph. D. “You go into the library every morning and look at all the little 3 by 5 note cards you’ve filled out, and you just get a pit in your stomach,” he recalls with apparent anxiety.

Storm clouds a brewin’


So Lemoyne returned to his home town with more education than he needed to run a grocery store, but less time to ponder the deep subject he’d specialized in: the difficult “stream-of-consciousness” prose of James Joyce, author of “Finnegans Wake,” the work ranked #1 on the Modern Language Association’s list of “Books People Lie About Having Read.”

Royal Theatre, downtown Versailles


“It wasn’t easy making the adjustment at first,” Lemoyne says, “then I decided to incorporate what I’d learned into our customer’s shopping experience.” His first step in splicing the two strands of his existence was to change the motto of the business–”Quality, Value, Selection”–which had been printed on the store’s bags since the 1880′s. “That’s fine, but very superficial and not at all subversive, which is the hallmark of Joyce’s writing,” Green notes. He changed the logo to read “Silence, Exile and Cunning,” the tools used by Stephen Dedalus in “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” to express himself as wholly and freely as he can.

James Joyce: “In Aisle 3 would you brighthearted find Count the Chocula.”


Customers didn’t complain about the change, emboldening Green to go further. Promotional announcements over the store’s public address system began to take on a meandering, modernist aspect reminiscent of Joyce’s “Ulysses”:

“In Aisle 4 the hungry come that man eft seeking yogurt fruit with on bottom, ywimpled to Delores the express lane clerk that her have a nice day levin leaping lightens his load.”

Townspeople slowly detected the shift from the mundane to the highbrow, and began to ask about it at the store’s checkout lanes. “It’s about James Joyce,” Mona Morton, a gum-chewing twenty-something with a Harley Davidson tattoo on her bicep says in reply to a question from Bob Visbeck, a farm implements dealer.

Jim Joyce, umpire: “A way a lone at last to the showers you commodius vicus bum!”


“Jim Joyce, the former major league baseball umpire?” Visbeck asks.

“Naw, he wrote a book or sumpin’. Do you have any coupons to redeem?”

“Bleep it says if food she scans blonk it honks if need to price check Aisle 5.”


By the end of March Green hopes to have his entire workforce trained in the nuances of Joyce’s peculiar tongue, even down to his teenaged baggers. “I’ve been workin’ overtime with Duane Merken here,” Green says to this reporter. “Go ahead and show him your stuff,” he says to the boy, who takes a deep breath before speaking to a woman whose purchases crowd the conveyor belt and are held back by only a slim, plastic baton.

“Paper plastic plastic paper,” the boy begins. “By minivan along State Fair Road or on South Limit is it parked. You have chicken livers, Wet Ones and a pack of fags, good no good for you remember no tip no tipping yes I have girlfriend yes know your daughter not in Old Testament way she has eczema right?”


Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Dead Writers Make More Money.”