Spot Gets Involved in Politics

          A man who did not live in Wyoming was once the Democratic Party’s nominee for that state’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.  His campaign consisted entirely of sock-puppet videos.

          Los Angeles Times

 

Restaurants are finally open for take-out, and as I walk in the door with my California Pizza Kitchen 1/2 portion Waldorf salad (blue cheese instead of the vinaigrette dressing, please) I hear the clatter of a remote control bouncing off the screen of our TV and hitting the floor in the living room.

I peek my head around the corner and on the couch I see Spot, the former spokesdog for Pets.com, whom my wife picked up for a song when that particularly hare-brained internet company went under.  He’s shaking his head from side to side, a look of disgust on his little face.

“June, I’m home!” I call out in an impression of Ward Cleaver I’ve been working on for decades.  Spot glares at my attempt to lighten the mood with antic frivolity, so after I put my salad in the fridge I plop down next to him on the couch.


“Beaver, have you been watching the news on television again?”

 

“What’s got you so up in paws?” I say, laying on the avuncular unction with a trowel.

“This country is going to the cats!” he snaps.  I pick up the remote and mute the sound–the best way to watch TV!–and begin to administer the talking cure that has done so much to soothe troubled minds of Western Civilization from the ancient Greece of Socrates to the neurotic Vienna of Freud.

“You don’t have to watch television, you know,” I say, pouring a little highbrow oil on the stormy seas of a temperament agitated by televised political controversy.

“I suppose you expect me to sit around and read nineteenth century novels like you, huh?”

“It’s a more sedate way to come to an understanding of human motives and behavior.”

“Look at these little arms,” he says, holding out what are in fact his legs.  “How am I supposed to hold a big book like . . . what’s the one you’re reading now?”

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens.”


Charles Dickens:  “If you don’t mind, I’d like to get out of this post at the next paragraph break.”

 

“How long is that one?”

“800 pages.”

“And why in the hell would anyone want to read an 800-page book?”

“I wanted to track down the quote ‘He do the police in different voices,’ which was T.S. Eliot’s original title for The Wasteland.  It comes from Mrs. Higden, a character in the book who takes in orphans, and one of her wards–Sloppy–reads the newspaper to her and when he comes to a quote from the police he . . .”

A light buzzing sound, as if there’s a fly in the room, strikes my ears.  I look over and Spot is feigning sleep to express his boredom.

“Okay, I get the message.  Still, you wouldn’t get so agitated about politics if you’d turn off the Idiot Box every now and then and read a book.”

The snoring sound has turned to a whimper, and when I look over I see now that Spot has buried his face in his paws.  Could it be that beneath his cynical carapace he has a vulnerable side?

“You okay?” I ask hesitantly.

“Yes.  Well, no.” he says with a sniffle.  “In case you didn’t know, I never progressed much beyond ‘See Spot Run!’ with my reading.”

“Being the hero of the first book you ever read went to your head?”

“Sorta.  Also, I couldn’t turn the pages.  I don’t have opposable thumbs like you.”

“Well,” I say, acknowledging his limitations as gracefully as I can, “the other thing you can do is get involved in politics.  So many people I know are frustrated because they just vent on social media all day long.  If they actually did something . . .”

“Like those stupid state-wide petition drives you did in the nineties?”

“Did you see the U.S. Supreme Court finally agreed with me yesterday in the case of Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue–twenty-two years later?”

“Was it on the sports page?”

“No, but I’m serious.  You ought to try getting involved.  At the end of the day you would feel the benefits of having exerted yourself, as opposed to just stewing in your own juices.”

He turns and gives me a withering gaze.  “I may be a stupid puppet, but at least I know that dogs–especially puppet dogs–can’t vote.”

“I didn’t say you could.  But you could help in other ways.”

“Like how?”

“Well, there are a lot of candidates who don’t live in the state where they want to run for office.”

Spot can’t stifle a laugh at this absurd assertion.  “Get out–name one.”


Carol Hafner:  “Excuse me–what state am I in right now?”

 

“There’s Carol Hafner, a Democrat who wants to represent Alaska in Congress even though she doesn’t live there, doesn’t plan to campaign there, and has never even been there.”

“You’re making that up.”

“No I’m not–click on this link.”

“Hmm,” Spot says after he skims the news story.  “But what does that have to do with little ol’ me?”

“You didn’t read all the way down,” I say.

“The part about the New York man who ran for a Democratic senatorial nomination in Alaska and lost?”

“No, next paragraph, about the Arizona man who ran for the Democratic nomination for Wyoming’s seat in the House of Representatives in 2014.  His campaign consisted almost entirely of sock-puppet videos, and he won!”

Spot gives me that RCA Victor-dog look–head tilted to one side, like he can’t quite figure me out.  “So what do you want me to do?”

“Don’t you see?” I say.  “There are so many bright, talented people who’d like to get involved in politics, but they can’t.  There’s an incumbent in their state who’s going to hold office until he or she dies.  They’d love to devote themselves to public service, and there are 49 other states in the Union with open offices.  If they take the path of the guy in New York and campaign without sock puppet videos–they’re doomed.  But if they do what the guy in Arizona did and craft a carefully thought-out campaign that consists almost entirely of sock puppet videos broadcast in a state where they don’t live–they win!”

Spot takes a deep breath, then exhales what he’s just inhaled.  “So . . . I could become a king–or queenmaker, huh?”

You have the power, big guy!”  I extend my hand for a high-five, which is a high-one in his case because he doesn’t have reticulated fingers.

He takes the remote from me, turns off the set and gazes wistfully into the middle distance.  “You know, I’ve always wanted to . . . give back to society.”

“That’s great.  I was hoping you wouldn’t end up just a grumpy old armchair critic.”

“No, I want to make the world a better place through targeted investments in public infrastructure.”

“Really?” I say with surprise.  I’ve wasted . . . spent a good part of my career pushing for improvements in that area without much success.  “You never mentioned it before–where would you start?”

“More fire hydrants.”

Nuptial Indemnity

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

                                                                             The Boston Globe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, I believe that was the name.”

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

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

“Oh yes, of course.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No.”

“Nobody could,” she sighed.

“But we’re going to do it.”

“We’re going to do it.”

“Straight down the line, right?

“Right.”

“To hell with the bridesmaids?”

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

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

“The double whatsis clause?”

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

“They aren’t?”

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

“I see.”

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

“Oh.”

“You can say that again.”

“Oh–”

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

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

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

“Twenty thousand dollars?”

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

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

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

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

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

“And what time does the mail get here?”

“Usually by 4:30.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes?”

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

“Out of the question.”

She screwed her mouth up into a little moue.

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

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

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

“It’s no good.”

“Why not?”

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

“Maybe you’re right.”

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

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

“Why you can’t tell me why?”

“No, why you need audacity.”

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

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

“You mean hoe?”

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

“And when he does?”

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

“And the insurance company pays?”

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

“Rake?”

“You got it.”

*    *    *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


That’s Ollie on the right.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

*    *    *

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

“What’s the matter with it?”

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

“Nothing unusual about that.”

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

“So–it happens every day.”

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

“What?”

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

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

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

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

*    *    *

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

“Oh, Walter, that’s thrilling.”

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

“I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

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

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

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

“Finally.”

“That’s right.”

“Forever.”

Until death did us part.

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

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

“Looks familiar, baby.”

“I figured you liked what you saw then.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Managing Your Cats

Business experts say sound personnel management is the key to surviving tough times. These are the same business experts whose current advice on “best practices” is “Your business sucks–you should ask for a government handout.”


“. . . so we’re going to stop making widgets, and become a Wall Street investment bank.”

 

Managing your personal budget is no different. Every member of your household should be evaluated periodically in order to avoid costly litigation down the road, even though you don’t live down the road, you live at your current mailing address.

If there are cats in your house, you will find that fundamental principles of wildlife management are inappropriate tools to achieve your home economic goals. For example: Leave birds alone and they build a nest; leave beavers alone and they build a dam; leave cats alone and they don’t build a multi-level carpeted condo, they scratch the chintz couch, barf on the rug and take a nap.


“It’s not like I’m stealing legal pads from the supply room or something.”

 

In other words, managing cats is much like “herding cats,” a favorite simile of business advice books, although in this case it’s a tautology. To make the job of managing your cats easier, here is a transcript of my mid-year performance review of Okie and Rocco, two mid-level cats at my house, for the fiscal quarter ending June 30th.

(Clicking sound as tape recorder is turned on.)

ME: Does this thing work? Test–one, two, three . . .

TAPE RECORDER: Test–one, two, three . . .

OKIE: Sounds like Madonna with a head cold.

ME: Okay, I wanted to tape our little session so that we’d have a record of your performance reviews.

ROCCO: If you’re going to fire me, I want my lawyer here.

ME: No, not at all. Basically, the message I want to send is that you’re both doing a good job, despite . . .

OKIE: Despite what?

ME: Well, I’ve noticed a drop off in your performance.

OKIE: Meaning?

ME: Here are your numbers for the first five months of the year. No chipmunks, no mice, no squirrels . . .

OKIE: I’m 70 years old in cat years. Sales is for young guys–I should be a manager.

ROCCO: How about me?


Squirrel Melt–yum!

 

ME: Off the charts. Chipmunks–14. Birds–3. One squirrel, and a big one.

ROCCO: All right! I can just taste that sales incentive!

ME: Well, actually, these are tough times we’re going through right now . . .

ROCCO: Oh, puh-lease. You’re a lawyer–you make money off of financial misery!

ME: It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.

OKIE: I just want to say in my defense, that if I don’t catch chipmunks, you don’t have to clean up the mess outside.

ME: True, but let’s not confuse effort with results.

OKIE: (. . .) What the hell is that supposed to mean?

ME: I don’t know–it’s a business cliche. Anyway, let’s move on to some of the ancillary aspects of your overall performance. We use a number of metrics to evaluate personnel here, and I wanted to talk to both of you about . . .

ROCCO: Here it comes . . .

ME: Climbing on furniture.

ROCCO: Look, I got up on the bar stool last night because that stunod wanted to fight and I was trying to take a nap.

ME: You guys have got to work on your intra-office conflict resolution skills.

OKIE: Fine, if you tell that pervert not to sniff my butt every time he walks by.

ME: Roc–I’ve warned you about our Dignity in the Workplace policy.

ROCCO: I know, but I can’t turn to tab 3 in the Employee Handbook.

ME: I’ll make a copy of the page for you.

ROCCO: (aside) You can put it in the bottom of my kitty box.

ME: That’s another thing. I want you to treat all members of the family with respect. Have you sent thank-you notes to Aunt Chris?

OKIE: What for? There was no catnip in the gift box she sent this year.

ME: You know how Mom feels about drugs in the house.

ROCCO: Speaking of the gift box–there was something else in there you neglected to mention.

ME: What, those cat treats?

ROCCO: Yeah. If I’m doing so well, how about we add those to the menu in the company cafeteria, instead of that crap you buy at the organic food store.

ME: It’s not organic, it’s just low-cal, so your bellies don’t start dragging the ground like a dachsund’s.

TOGETHER: (chanting) Friskies Party Mix–Friskies Party Mix–Friskies Party . . .

ME: All right, I’ll talk to Mom about it.

OKIE: Which means “no.”

ME: Hey!

ROCCO: Why don’t you man up for a change. We’re direct-reports to you on the org-chart, but you never do squat for us.

OKIE: Yeah–you’re nothing but a lap dog.

ME: All right, cool it. Anyway, we’re almost halfway through the year, so stay on course and I’ll let you tear up some wrapping paper at Christmas.

OKIE: And?

ME: And what?

OKIE: Can we bat ornaments off the tree?

ME: Absolutely not!

ROCCO: Can we at least climb up and try to get the star?

ME: This meeting is over!

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

As Other Taboos Fall, Earlobe-Nibblers Still Face Scorn

PROVINCETOWN, Mass. This quaint town on the outermost point of Cape Cod has historically been known for its location on the extreme end of another measure; the liberality of its residents’ views on matters sexual. “The first settlers ran the Puritans out of town when they came up from Plimouth Plantation,” says Matt Skerkel, using the original spelling as he drapes his arm around his husband, Tom Skerkel-Manning. “We’re got every variety in the GLBT produce section–even dogs and cats living together.”

earlobe
“Oh, yes!”

 

But one practice is still considered beyond the pale here, as honeymooners Jim and Sandra Meznick find out when they snuggle together in a booth at the Lamplighter Inn and he leans in to first nuzzle his nose in her hair, then furtively takes a bite of her earlobe. “Hey you two perverts!” shouts bartender Courtney Balstrom from behind the beer taps. “I seen youse, and there’s none of that allowed in here.”

The faces of the two turn red with embarrassment and the husband reaches for his wallet while his wife wraps her shawl around shoulders as they prepare to leave. Jim drops three twenties on the table in payment of a $45 dinner tab but is too mortified to wait for change and pops the collar on his jacket to hide his face as the couple heads for the exit.

EARlobe2

“Absolutely disgusting,” says Jim Hampy, a local fisherman who has formed a bestiality support network for others like him with dreams of getting “scrod” by the official fish of the state, the cod, under its other, more risque name. “It’s people like you who give this town a bad name!” he shouts after the Meznicks as they scurry into a crowded t-shirt shop next door to avoid detection.

Earlobe-nibbling is perhaps the last sexual taboo remaining in America, a practice that attracts the obloquy and scorn of both the strait-laced and the liberated. “I don’t mind the scorn,” says Niles Herstrom, a greeting card buyer for a large drugstore chain and a closet earlobe-nibbler. “It’s the obloquy that gets to me,” he says before turning away to fight back tears.  “I don’t even know what obloquy is!”

earlobe3

“The human earlobe is the last erogenous frontier,” says Philip Gluz, the Norman O. Brown Professor of Polymorphous Perversity at the University of Cape Cod, who teaches a seminar on the subject that has drawn criticism from state legislators as a front for indoctrination of young people. “Earlobe nibbling does not result in human reproduction, so the weirdos who do it have to perpetuate their species by other means,” says Rep. Mike O’Bannon (D-Seekonk). “We used to burn witches for lesser offenses, which was wholesome entertainment for the whole family.”

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Inter-species earlobe nibbling was common in ancient Rome.

 

There is currently no specific law prohibiting earlobe-nibbling in the state, but prosecutors sometimes resort to a statute adopted in 1635 as part of The Book of the General Lauus and Libertyes of Maffachufets to repress the practice. “If any man or woman fhall LYE WITH ANY BEAFT, or fhall NIBBLE UPON THE LOBE OF ANY PERFON’S EARE,” the law reads, “they fhall furely be put to death.” Defense counsel argue that the law should be stricken from the books under the principle of desuetude, or that its enforcement should be suspended until a new shipment of s’s arrives from England.

But that won’t help couples like the Meznicks, who say they just want to pursue their love according to their own lights. “Why canth they just leaf uth alone,” Jim says as Sandra moans softly. “Ith really a victimleth crime.”

Zither Player Estimates He Slept With Four, Maybe Five Women Over Career

WASHINGTON, Missouri.  This town of 14,000 on the banks of the Missouri River is known as the “Corncob Pipe Capital of the World,” a distinction that draws smokers from around the world to the Missouri Meerschaum factory here.  “It would be a shame if they ever left,” says Matthew Oldenberger, an expert on the subject.  “I would have to make substantial revisions to my two-volume treatise on the corncob pipe–which you can buy on amazon.com for only $14.95.”


Washington, MO.

But to music lovers, Washington is better known as the Zither Capital of the World, after Franz Schwarzer, the 19th century master craftsman who built a zither empire here that reached its peak in 1873, when three of the stringed instruments he made won the Gold Medal of Progress at the Vienna Exposition.  “That was pretty much the Woodstock for the zither,” says Hubert Noals, a curator of zithers at the National Museum of Forgotten Stringed Instruments in Arlington, Virginia.  “Anti-German sentiment increased with World War I, so I guess you’d say that was the zither’s Altamont,” he adds, referring to the disastrous free concert in 1969 at which a man was killed by motorcycle gang members providing security for The Rolling Stones.


Zither

But now zither enthusiasts see the instrument making a comeback, as Fritz Kleinschmidt, considered by many to be the “Jimi Hendrix of the Zither,” has moved back to Washington to write his memoirs and compile his Greatest Hits, Vol. 4.  “It is an opportunity for me to reflect,” he tells this reporter.  “I have been such a hot shot for so long, time for me to cool down.”

Prompted by guitarist John Mayer’s recent revelation that he has had sex with five hundred women during seventeen years of sexual activity, Kleinschmidt makes a revelation of his own.  “So many I have lost count,” he says, shaking his head as an easy smile comes to his lips.  “It was either four or five.”

Asked to give the salacious details, Kleinschmidt plunges right in.  “First there was Margie Hoffmeister.  Her brother Johan asked me to sleep over, I was only ten, she was twelve.  We were watching Revenge of the Cheesemongers on a portable television set.  She was so scared, she crawled into bed with me–fully clothed!”


“Oh no!  Anything but Limburger!”

 

He goes on to give details of other encounters with women who succumbed to his romantic stylings on the instrument that may have from thirty to an astonishing fifty-two strings.  “Eve-Elise Wehrmacht-Schnizen was my favorite,” he reminisces fondly.  “A woman with two hyphens–incredible!”

Some town fathers and mothers are embarrassed by Kleinschmidt’s prurient late-in-life revelations, but say there is little or nothing they can do to silence him given inconvenient American notions of “free speech” that are alien to their Austro-Hungarian heritage.  “Besides corncob pipes and zithers, the only thing we have to hang our hat on is that we are the birthplace of Con Chapman, a failed novelist,” says town historian Mathias Werner. “And we have been trying to live that down for nearly three score and ten years.”

Scooter & Skipper Celebrate Father’s Day

The landline rings, waking me from the first of my two (2) allotted naps of a Sunday.  I normally wouldn’t pick up–it’s usually a local financial planner who drops the call as soon as he learns of my pathetic net worth–but it occurs to me as I wipe the sleepy-bugs from my eyes that it is Father’s Day, and so it must be my two sons, Scooter and Skipper, calling.

“Happy Father’s Day!” they exclaim together from two different far-away cities through the miracle of modern technology.

“Thanks,” I say, “but you know you didn’t have to.  The only thing I want for Father’s Day . . .”

“We know, is that we never forget Mother’s Day.”

“Right,” I reply, quietly proud that they have learned an important lesson I’ve been trying to teach them since boyhood.  “Your mother cares about phony-baloney holidays made up by the Greeting Card-Industrial Complex, I don’t.”


*I HATE Father’s Day!*

 

“Speaking of mom, how’s she doing?” Skipper asks.

“Not well, not well at all.”

“What’s the matter?” Scooter asks.

“Father’s Day is always a tremendous burden for her,” I say, and if we were “Skyping,” they would see me shake my head with affectionate but concerned resignation.  “She wants me to be her Ken doll to dress up.”

“Who’s Ken?” Skipper asks.

“Barbie’s dweeby boyfriend.”


Ken, lookin’ good.

 

“What’s a dweeb?” Scooter asks.  Even though we lived in a top school district, state-required Inclusiveness curriculum standards barred many of the popular epithets of my youth.

“Scoots, a dweeb is an inconsequential youth with delusions of grandeur.  He’s the kind of kid who goes out for football but tells the coach he only wants to hold extra points.  He hears your rock band practicing, knocks on the door, and offers to play tambourine.”

“So–the kind of guy who likes to suntan in the bright light of reflected glory?” Skipper offers.

“Exactly,” I say.  “Anyway, Ken was a good-looking guy doll who never seemed to have a job, while Barbie was running around being a stewardess, nurse, MBA.  She was a one-woman Department of Labor quarterly jobs report.”

“So . . . you didn’t let mom buy you any clothes this year?” Scooter asks.


“Why do I have to have three jobs while that shiftless, no-count loser lounges around my Dream House.”

 

“Nope.  I finally drew the line.  If she had her way, I’d look like one of those dorks in a department store Father’s Day ad.  Holding a football in the middle of the summer, tousling my kids’ hair while I dandled them on my knees.”

“So what are you guys going to do today?” Skipper asks.

“I thought I’d annoy her by pretending to know something about ballet.”

“Dad!” they say together, but I cut them off.

“What’s the point of having a day for fathers if fathers can’t have a little malicious fun?”

“Go easy on her, okay?” Scoots says.

“I will, but she’s just such an attractive target.  I do everything I can to make Father’s Day about mom.  We watched a self-important documentary about an obscure ballet company last night–I couldn’t help myself.”

“You didn’t throw around a bunch of technical philosophical terms, did you?”

“Sure I did.  I asked her whether she’d say the work was ‘programmatic.'”

“What’s that mean?”

“Representational.”

There was silence at the end of the line, then Scooter spoke.  “What’s that mean?”

“Are the dancers trying to depict something, like in Swan Lake, or are they just expressing depressing emotions by flailing their arms and scurrying around the stage for no apparent reason.  That’s called ‘modern’ dance.”


“Let’s take it from the top–you don’t look depressed enough.”

 

“Well, which was it?” Skipper asked.

“The latter, unfortunately.  It’s so much easier to mock the former, at least you know what you’re dealing with.”

“Why do you do that to her?” Scooter asked, and I detected a note of disappointment in his voice.

“Scoots, you have to remember–when I was eighteen years old, studying dance notation in Aesthetics class in college, mom was ten years old.”

“Mom was in college when she was ten?”

“No she was in fourth grade, I was in college.”

“You dated a fourth grader in college?”

“No, silly.  We didn’t meet until much later, when age differences didn’t matter so much.”

“Oh.”

“Anyway, I do everything I can to share her interests in a totally obnoxious way, and I hope you two will do the same when you get married.”

There was silence at the ends of the line as my boys–both standing on the verge of adulthood, ready to make the leap of faith into marriage–let the wisdom of my remarks sink in.

“So that’s the secret to a happy marriage?” Scooter finally asked.

“Well, that and never forgetting Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day and her birthday and your anniversary and Christmas and if she’s a Catholic her patron saint’s name day.”

 

 

New Drug Cocktail Offers Hope to Congenital Smart-Alecks

DOVER, Mass.  This western suburb of Boston is known as a “horsey” town, with stables, bridle paths, saddle shops and other amenities that serve the many residents who move here for its equine culture.  Unfortunately, that demographic doesn’t include Ted Worniack, a newcomer who attended his first neighborhood picnic last night, accompanied by his wife Sheila.

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“Well, I never thought of it that way, but I suppose it’s true.”

 

When Worniack asked the hostess, Alison Symmes, what she did for fun, she responded naturally enough that she enjoyed horseback riding, and he responded with a wisecrack he’d been saving up for years.

“Oh, so you like the feel of a wild beast between your legs, huh?” he said as his wife groaned audibly.

“I’m sorry,” she said to Symmes, “Ted’s not feeling well, you’ll have to excuse us–we had a lovely time.”

“What?  What did I say?” Ted said to Sheila once they were in their car driving home.

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“I don’t want to discuss it,” Sheila snapped, “and don’t think you’re getting  in between my legs anytime soon.”

Ted Worniack suffers from CSA Syndrome; the acronym stands for “congenital smart-aleck,” a person who cannot restrain him or herself from making offensive remarks in social settings.  “Because the ailment has an early-onset, usually appearing first when a toddler first reaches kindergarten age, it was long thought to have a genetic basis,” says Dr. Susanne Faber of the New England Inappropriate Humor Clinic.  “Now, we’re beginning to think that environmental factors may stimulate outbreaks of the malady, as you don’t find many camel sex wisecracks in desert climates.”

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“Now open wide and say ‘doody-head.'”

 

An experimental drug, PutaSockInItrol, has produced encouraging results in clinical trials,  with test subjects experiencing gag reflexes as they are about to tell lame jokes in settings where it would be inappropriate to do so.

“How are you feeling today?” Faber asks Mike Cleve, an outside sales rep to tech companies who depends on his constant patter of one-liners to “break the ice” with reluctant purchasing departments.

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The race for the cure.

 

“Pretty good,” Cleve says, as he gives the willowy brunette the once-over.  “Say, have you heard the one about the priest, the rabbi, and the lady snake-charmer?”

“No.  I’m going to increase your dosage to 500 milliliters a day.”

For Misanthropes, Coronavirus is the Cure, Not the Disease

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama.  With Father’s Day coming up and social distancing measures being relaxed, Anne Joubert thought it would be nice if she and her husband Ted got together with their friends Bill and Jean Nielsen Saturday night.  “You would have thought I’d suggested we go to a leper colony,” she says, shaking her head in disbelief.  “He gets to go to work every now and then, I’ve been housebound for three months.”

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Ted Joubert hasn’t previously been known to family and friends as a germ-o-phobe, but in the case of the Nielsen’s, he put his foot down.  “I’m not ready to start socializing until they’ve developed a vaccine that’s passed clinical trials and been extensively tested in a third-world country where massive loss of lives isn’t a big deal,” he says firmly.  “Why should I expose myself to the Nielsens, who for all I know are asymptomatic carriers as well as crashing bores?”

Ted’s fear of contracting the coronavirus masks a different, albeit psychological ailment he suffers from; he is an out-and-proud misanthrope who has reveled in his time of mandatory social isolation, even as others are tearing their hair out for lack of human interaction.

Image result for bored man and woman

“Let’s face it,” he says to this reporter while watching the sweep second hand of his watch to make sure he doesn’t waste more than thirty seconds of his life on our encounter.  “Other people are vastly overrated, and to be completely fair about it, I don’t think it’s the rating system that needs fixing.”

A “misanthrope” is a person who hates or distrusts all people other than him or herself, a subset of the human race that has been the subject of great works of art such as “The Misanthrope” by Moliere and there may be another one I’ve forgotten about.  “Misanthropes get a bad rap,” says Egon Leonard, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Massachusetts-Seekonk.  “On the other hand, if you piss everybody off you tend to shrink your potential base of support.”

But Anne Joubert is nothing if not persistent, and her devotion to her marriage motivates her to prod her husband to tell her just what, exactly, he would like to do to celebrate Father’s Day after the obligatory mid-day phone calls from his sons.

Image result for talladega superspeedway distancing

“I think,” he says as he purses his lips in concentration, “I’d like to get together with 5,000 of my closest friends at Talladega Superspeedway to watch the Geico 500.”

Aged Beef on the Senior Meat Market

Burger King has developed a meat-scented body spray for men.

Boston Herald

Naples, a sun-drenched town on the west coast of Florida, is the retirement home of more former Fortune 500 executives than any other spot on earth.  For gigolos like me, looking to find a slightly-tarnished trophy widow of a guy who died of a heart attack from too many fancy closing dinners at Ruth’s Chris Steak House (try saying that five times fast), it is quite simply–Mecca.

I drive up to the entrance at Pelican Boca Vista, a golf community where even the caddy shack has a gated entry, fer Christ’s sake.  I’m wearing a standard-issue delivery man’s uniform with “Chuck” embroidered on my pocket over a white tuxedo.  I will try to crash the luxurious clubhouse dining room, but first I have to make it past the security guard.

“Howdy!” I call out in the most innocent tone I can muster to the uniformed attendant who looks like a slight upgrade from a mall cop in terms of physical fitness and general intelligence.  “Meat delivery to the main kitchen.”

The guy looks into the car and gives me the once over.  His native skepticism fades when he gets a whiff of my Flame, Burger King’s broiled-meat-scented spray.

“Um–umm!” he says with gusto.  “Man, could I go for one of those babies!”

“Sorry pal,” I say, with professional reserve.  “If I let you have one, we’d both lose our pathetic minimum-wage jobs, and you don’t want that to happen–do you?”

“No, you’re right,” he says.  “Still, I wish I’d been an avaricious greed-head when I was younger, so I could retire to one of the many luxurious models available in this exclusive +55 enclave!”

“You and me both pal,” I say with commiseration as he waves me through.  “Have a good one!”

I make my way to the clubhouse, where preparations for “Show Tunes & Steaks” night are in high gear.  I shed my uniform in the back parking lot, smooth my tux, spritz on another shot of Flame and head for the buffet line.

This, I say to myself as I survey the room, is the style of life to which I’d like to become accustomed!  So many men on oxygen tanks and walkers, so many women just waiting for them to die!  I grab a plate and cozy up to a lovely young lady of sixty or so who’s spooning some green beans with cream of mushroom soup and bread crumbs on to the plate of her octogenarian sugar daddy.

“Do you want some onion rings, Claude?” she asks the old man.

“You know onions give me gas, Paula,” he replies with a cranky tone as he shuffles down the line.  Probably forgot his prune juice this morning.

“Nothing like steak and onion rings,” I say to the woman, whose perky, artificially-enhanced boobs look like the baby bumpers you used to see on Cadillacs in the ’50s.

“Paula” gives me a smile as she looks me up and down.  Her nostrils flare–a sign of arousal according to animal behaviorists–as she sniffs my Flame. ”You’re pretty lean,” she says.  “Tennis?”

“Nope,” I say with false modesty.  “Just twenty minutes a day with my Richard Simmons exercise tapes!”

“Cool,” she says.  “I admire a man who takes care of himself–instead of sitting around all day playing whist then gulping down steak at night.”  With this last implied criticism, she nods her head sideways towards Claude, who is asking a woman in a lunch lady outfit to give him an extra scoop of potatoes au gratin.

“Are there any open seats at your table?” I ask with the upraised eyebrow that sends the subliminal signal I’m more interested in her than proximity to Merv Norton and His Swinging Showmen.

“I’ll make room for you,” she says with a look that speaks as many volumes as an encyclopedia.

We move to the table and I’m introduced to their friends.  The Mulcherman’s, Everett and “Teeks”; the Schusters, Bud and Lorinda; the Finegolds, Barry and Marcia.  How-do-you-do’s all around.  Lorinda Schuster gets a whiff of my Flame and is on me like a dog on a bone.

“What’s that after shave you’re wearing?” she asks as she pours some A-1 Steak Sauce on my hand.

“Flame, by Burger King,” I reply as she takes an exploratory nibble.

“Very nice,” she says.  “I can’t get Bud to give up his Old Spice.”

“Some people get stuck in their ways,” I say with a leer.

The band launches into “Tomorrow!” from “Annie,” and everyone joins in good-naturedly–except Claude.  He’s wolfing down his steak, his appetite whetted by the scent of flame-broiled beef that oozes from my every pore.  I’m watching him like a hawk, ready to pounce on his chick at the slightest heart palpitation.

“The sun’ll come out tomorrow–bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun!” we sing.  Paula gives Claude a nudge, urging him to join in the fun.  He starts to sing but almost immediately begins to choke on a chunk of steak he’d been chewing.

“I’m a former Eagle Scout!” I yell as I stand up and move behind Claude to apply a Heimlich at a slightly higher level–around the neck–than is recommended.  You can never be too sure.

Gargalarga-gock!” Claude screams as he projects a piece of gristle across the table, hitting Marcia Finegold’s designer knit sweater, where it promptly becomes lost like a golf ball in the rough among the colorful doo-dads that are festooned down her front.


The steak is in there somewhere.

Claude is barely conscious, and I signal for the wait staff to bring over a defibrillator.  “I think he’s having a heart attack,” I say as they bring the Healthtronics Big Red Machine up to the table.

The busboy and the sous chef–two “lay responders” in medical parlance–rush to apply the pads to Claude’s body.

“One goes on the heart, right?” the busboy says.  I stand back and let the experts work.  “Where does the other one go?”

“I don’t know, try the head,” the sous chef replies.  All that stands between me and a life of idle luxury is a 1,000 volt jolt.

“Okay, let her rip!” says the busboy, and before you can say “cardiac arrhythmia,” Claude’s goose is cooked, and the gander is mine.

“Crap,” says the sous chef, as he notices the smell of singed flesh rising from Claude’s non compos head.  “Maybe we should’ve checked the owner’s manual first.”

“It’s all right,” Paula says to the two amateur physicians.  “You did all you could.”

“We’re real sorry, ma’am.”

“Please everybody,” I say to the room at large.  “Let’s not let this spoil Show Tunes Night.  Strike up the band!”

And with that, Merv Norton and His Swinging Showmen launch into a medley from Sweeney Todd.

Stop Singing and Write Your Damn Novel

William Faulkner was once thrown out of a speakeasy for singing “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.”

Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

 

People think it’s easy bein’ a bouncer in a speakeasy but it ain’t.  “You never have to worry about losin’ your liquor license ’cause there ain’t no such thing as a liquor license on accounta prohibition,” they say.  Hah–whadda they know.  We gotta pay off the mayor, cops, assorted politicians, temperance goody-goodies, you name it, they got their hand through the little peephole in the door.  It’s no wonder the speakeasy failure rate is so high.

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Faulkner

 

On top of that there’s the novelists.  Sheesh, what I wouldn’t do for one night–one lousy night–without that stream o’ consciousness guy, what’s his name, Faulkner, comin’ in here and ruinin’ everybody’s evenin’.

“Let him in,” the boss says.  “It gives the place cachet.”

“Like in my wife’s underwear drawer?” sez I.

“No, that’s sachet,” he says, and rather tersely I might add.  So I’m under strict orders to admit all future Nobel Prize-winning novelists, and also Scott Fitzgerald even though if you ask me he ain’t gonna win any major prizes, not while he’s alive at least.  Maybe posthumously–dead writers make more money too.

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Sachet, not cachet.

 

I hear a rap at the door and I slide the little panel to the side to look through the aperture so’s I can see who it is.  It’s Faulkner, all right, and Hemingway and Fitzgerald.

“What’s the password?” I ask.

“Malcolm Cowley,” the three of them sez together.  The voices of their generation, I guess.

“All right, yer in,” I sez, but I put a hand to Faulkner’s chest to let him know I don’t want no funny business.  “You!”

Yes it was me and the me who spoke was the me who was born of the octoroon in a morganatic marriage on the plantation of my incestuous mother and father, brother and sister . . .”

“Put a sock in it,” I sez.  Hemingway has already blown past me so my chances of getting decked with a sucker punch have declined dramatically.  Fitzgerald makes a bee-line to the men’s room to compare the size of his . . . uh . . . equipment to those of the others answering nature’s call at the urinal.

Image result for hemingway drinking
Hemingway

 

What is it you want from me, I who am here not by choice but by determinism the product of fates the scion of an accursed race who . . . “

“There’s plenty of places a guy can get a drink in New York, see.  We don’t have to put up with youse.  We’re running a nice little illegal drinking establishment here and I don’t want no trouble, okay?”

He takes a puff on his pipe–he’s smokin’ some kinda fruity cherry-scented stuff, smells like a goddamn faculty lounge–and ambles over to the bar at a lazy pace, just like a Southerner.

See the source image

Fitzgerald comes outta the men’s room and heads straight for the bowl of pizza-flavored goldfish on the bar, and it’s all I can do to stop him before he grabs a handful.

“Did you wash your hands?” I ask him in the brusque tone that is standard equipment for speakeasy bouncers.

“Whenever you feel like criticizing me,” he said with an air of sadness, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

I look him up and down–also sideways.  “Get back in there–now–and wash.”

He trundles off glumly–apparently the guy can’t do anything that ain’t lyrical–and I turn my attention to the bar where Hemingway is about to get into it with Edna St. Vincent Millay.

“I burn my candle at both ends and the middle.  Also I fight the bulls,” Hemingway is saying.

Image result for edna st vincent millay
Millay:  “Would you pass me the bowl of pizza-flavored goldfish please?”

 

“You think you’re so big and tough and wonderful,” she says before kicking him in the organ of Jake Barnes that didn’t work.

“Ow,” Hemingway said in the spare, stripped-down style that came as a revelation to a generation of writers.  Not at all like William Dean Howells, who if you kicked him in the nuts would give you 500 words of baroque, rococo expletives in the genteel mode.

I started to intervene but the boss says let ’em fight, it’s good for business, just don’t let it get out of hand.

“Fine, sure,” I says, but I don’t like it.  If you want to be a bouncer you got to keep things under control.  It’s a slippery slope–guys not washing their hands after urinating, getting into fistfights with ethereal lady poets.  Next thing you know you’ll have some nut in his cups singing popular songs from Broadway shows like Blackbirds of 1928 and . . . oh no.  What’s that?

Image result for blackbirds of 1928

Hey Faulkner–out you go, you bum!  Nobody sings Diga Diga Do in my joint and gets away with it!