Valentine for a Homely Couple

Carl’s wife sits shotgun in his truck
Her doughy face baked whitish red.
He gets out and climbs the semi–
Smiling, he asks “How’s it going?”
We just grunt and nod our heads
at the auger hole, and how it’s stuck.

“Better you than me, boys,” he says.
“I’m enjoying Sunday off.
Got a beer and my old lady.
It ain’t much, but it’s enough.”

Bill and me look at each other;
He’s the type to make a crack.
Me–I just want to get this load done.
We’ve got 18 miles to drive back.

“Your wife, she sure is lookin’ sweet,”
Bill says–I don’t pay him no mind.
Carl’s wife smiles, then she says thank you.
“You ever seen her walk the streets?”
Carl asks, all innocent.  “From behind
Looks like two hogs fightin’ under a sheet.”

Carl’s wife laughs, she likes attention.
Backhanded flattered, and it shows.
Her flabby arm hangs out the window
What attracts him, God only knows.

“Have you lost weight since I last saw you?”
Bill asks, and then he calls her “Dear.”
“Naw,” Carl says, “she’s like the State Fair–
Bigger and better every year.”

We see her laugh, she’s missing one tooth.
It’s clear she’s heard this joke before.
Old Sam arrives to check our progress–
It’s his dough that we’re wasting now.
He kicks a dead mouse out the barn door
As we prepare to tell untruths.

“Howdy, Carl,” Sam says
surprised to see his foreman in the bay.
“I give you the day off and what do you do?
You just can’t tear yourself away.”

“You know my wife, Earlene–right Sam?”
Carl says with somewhat misplaced pride.
“I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure.”
Can he be pleased by one so wide?

They talk of things, while in the trailer
Bill and I unclog the jam.
The fescue seed begins to flow
As if from out a hydro dam.

Carl takes his leave, with mock regret.
“Sorry to see you break a sweat,
I’ll keep a cold beer waiting,” he says,
“In case I haven’t drunk it yet.”

Carl starts his truck, Sam farts around,
He sticks his hand into the seed.
“This stuff’s too wet, it’s got to dry out,
A day in windrows is what it needs.”

Sam stands up straight to watch them go.
“That little peckerwood’s a card.
Before too long they’ll have them six kids
And a beat-up truck in their front yard.

“I know that it ain’t none of my business,
where ole Carl puts his prick.
But for me, I know one thing;
Them Bohunk women sure go to pot quick.”

Image result for couples country 50s

We’re silent, Bill and I, for once,
as we attempt to take this in.
It’s true, of course, there’s no denying,
and yet to say it seems a sin.

Happy the man, and happy the mate
Who care not what the world may say.
Here’s to the two whose matches are few–
May they find love on Valentine’s Day.

PBS Prepares for GOP Rule With Social Darwinist Makeover

WASHINGTON, D.C.   As President Donald Trump forges ahead with efforts to “drain the swamp” of a federal government overwhelmingly populated by left-leaning bureaucrats, executives of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting huddled last night with their counterparts at the Children’s Television Workshop to face the grim prospect that the White House and  both houses of Congress will be in Republican hands for at least the next two years.

“First you need to pay my lobbyist!”


“Appropriations bills originate in the House,” said PBS spokesman Dwight Northgage as he read from a plastic-coated chart titled “How Does a Bill Become a Law?” used in 8th grade civics classes.  “We know which side our bread’s buttered on.”

The makeover of PBS will begin with its signature children’s programs, including Sesame Street and Barney the Purple Dinosaur.

“I love me–you should depend on private charity!”


“For too long, Barney’s been sending the message that people can be saved by love from a big fat monster, like the federal government,” notes branding expert Randy DeLomasi.  “There is no such thing as a free hug.”

“Seriously–we already have enough friends.”


A new aura of social hauteur will be injected into skits featuring Bert and Ernie, who have been rumored to be gay but are in fact fuzzy puppets with human hands up their butts.  “We’re going to move them into a gated community,” says DeLomasi.  “They’re international celebrities fer Christ sake, you can’t expect them to cozy up to the unwashed masses of kids with snotty noses.”

Wild Kingdom’s Marlin Perkins:  “I’m going to sic these bad boys on The Eagles during Pledge Week!”


Wild Kingdom, a staple of PBS broadcasts during its early years, will be revived as an exemplar of the “survival of the fittest” philosophy often referred to as “Social Darwinism.”  “If you’ve ever sat through ‘The Eagles: Unplugged’ during pledge week,” says TV critic Todd Pettit of the Cahokia, Illinois, Intelligencer, “you realize that some species of birds are better off extinct.”

You Can Leave Your Glasses On

Ennui–I feel nothing but ennui as Saturday night approaches.

I am enervated, the product of over-stimulation.  Every weekend my friend  Emil leads me on a tour of Boston’s fleshpots, where we sample the courtesans,  the ladies of the night, the demi-mondaines who are so readily  available in this city that the rest of American thinks of as “uptight.”  Pah–I  wish!

What do they know, the ignorant boobs.  Anyone who possessed even a  halting familiarity with soul hits of the ’60′s would know that “uptight” in its  original usage meant the very opposite of “repressed.”  No, “Uptight  (Everything’s Allright)” by Little Stevie Wonder (Parts I and II) is a cry of  exultation; if things are “uptight,” they’re “out of sight” and “all  right.”

But too much of a good thing can leave a man exhausted–this I have learned  the hard way.  I am as limp as a wet dish rag and–quite frankly–bored with the  prospect of another Saturday night on Beantown when I hear the knock that I know  means Emil’s ready to go.

“All set, sport?” he calls out from the door.  As in Seinfeld and  other situation comedies set in urban areas, entry to my apartment may  mysteriously be gained without the use of a key.

“I don’t know–I think I’m going to pass,” I say wearily.

“You can’t do that.  You’re my wing man.”

“I’m . . . tired.”

“We’ll have dinner.  Baked beans–the dish that America thinks we subsist  on–have a lot of protein with very little fat.  It’ll buck you right up.”

“I fear the flatulence,” I say evasively.

Emil looks squarely at me.  He knows me too well, and isn’t buying what I’m  selling.  “C’mon–out with it.”

“I don’t know.  You’ve shown me so many varieties of eroticism . . .”

“Diversity is good.”

“I feel there is nothing left for me to experience–sexually.”

Emil’s left eyebrow arches ceiling-ward, if that’s a word.  “Listen, sport,”  he says raffishly.  “If you’ll get your be-larded butt up off the couch, I  promise I’ll show you a totally new dimension of sensual pleasure tonight.”

I know him to be a man of my word, but still–I hesitate.  “I really  am tired,” I say.

“Here–try one of these,” Emil says as he takes a pillbox out of his  vestpocket.

“What is it?”

“Fizzies Instant Sparkling Drink.”

“I thought the FDA banned  them years ago,” I say as I pop one of the effervescent tablets in my  mouth.

“They did–twice,” Emil says with a leer.  “But they were invented by a  friend of President Kennedy, and you can imagine the pressure they can put on a  poor GS-14 federal bureaucrat.”

“Wowth, ah sthould thinkth tho,” I say as orange foam cascades out of my  mouth.

“Let’s roll,” Emil says plopping his Winston Churchill-style Homburg hat on  his head.

We make our way down to Revere Street, the back side of Beacon Hill where the  Boston Brahmins’ slaves lived in days of old.  The neighborhood is a rat’s maze  of dark streets and alleyways that have been converted into high-priced silk  purses from cobblestoned sow’s ears.

Emil ducks down one such cul-de-sac, but I hesitate.

“C’mon,” he says anxiously.  “What’s the problem?”

“I . . . I don’t know how to go down an alley in French.”

He shakes his head.  “So provincial,” he clucks.  “I will translate as we  go.”

We step carefully down the brick path, sidestepping trash set out for  collection.  Where I come from, the County Mental Health Department comes to  check on you if you leave your Christmas tree up past Easter, but Boston is more  tolerant that way.

We stop at the last door hard up against a brick wall, and Emil leans his ear  towards it to listen.  Hearing nothing suspicious, he raps the wood lightly, so  that neighbors in this tightly-packed corridor do not hear.

A panel slides back exposing a window–a gimlet eye looks out and, seeing  Emil, asks for the password.

“Swordfish,” he says, recalling a Marx Brothers gag–but he is apparently  correct as the window shuts and the door opens, revealing . . .

. . . an optician’s dream.

Women.  Women without contacts.  Women with honking big, beautiful  glasses! Many employing 5  Smart Makeup Tips for Women Who Wear Glasses they found on

I gulp involuntarily, as if I’ve been seized by the throat.  Emil gives me a  knowing look.  “To your satisfaction, I presume?”

“Yes, yes–thank you.  I never should have doubted you.”

We are approached by the madam of this four-eyed cathouse, and Emil hands her  a card of introduction.  She examines it with grave scrutiny, makes a little  moue with her mouth, nods her head and says “Let me introduce you to  some of the ladies of the spectacles.”

“I wuv my widdle bunny!”


We enter a room that is like the vestibule to heaven–so many pairs of  glasses, so little time!

“Would you like to see something in tortoise shell?” the madam asks  discreetly.

Emil nods with approval as a bookish young ingenue approaches, her breasts  enveloped by a armful of books.  “It’s $50 extra for role-playing,” the madam  says.

“Can she do . . .” Emil hesitates.

“Yes?” the madam says, inviting him to continue.

“Can she do both Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress . . . in one  night?”

“The so-called ‘Around the World’?” the madam asks.

“Yes,” Emil says.  “That’s what I want.”

“Using two separate library cataloging systems in one uninhibited sexual  escapade can wear a girl out for the rest of the weekend,” the madam says.  “I  must charge you $100 plus two cents for every day she is out of commission.”

“You know . . . reshelving keeps the breasts  firm.”


Emil hesitates for something less than the time it would take for a tadpole  to swim across a tablespoon, nods in agreement and is escorted to a private room  by a woman who looks like she got her Master of Library Science degree the hard  way.

“And for you?” the madam says to me in my turn.  “What is your pleasure?  Super 70′s droopy drop frames?  Antique store owner half-glasses?  Granny  glasses?”

I know what I want but . . . I’m ashamed to admit it–out loud.  “Can I . . .  write it on a piece of paper?” I ask hesitantly.

“Sure,” she says as she hands me a “While you were out walking the streets .  . .” message pad and a pen.

I take pen and pad in hand and begin to write, only to stumble.  “How do you  spell ‘harlequin’?”

“I don’t know.  Let me ask one of the girls.  Anybody got a romance novel on  ‘em?” she shouts to the assembled inventory.”

“I do,” a girl in full-bore “whore glasses” replies.

“Is it a Harlequin?” the madam asks.


“How do you spell it?”


I take down the letters, fold the note in half and pass it as unobtrusively  as I can to the madam.

“Yep–I think we got one of those,” she says as she reads the note.  “Vicki  Steptoe–front and center!”

A gorgeously-glassed young lady emerges from the shadows with the eyeglass  style that swept the nation in the fifties; so alluring and yet–so dorky.  It  is that combination of contrasts that stirs my passions.

“Walk this way,” the young woman says, and I cannot resist.

“If I could walk that way, I wouldn’t buy boxer shorts.”

“You–you’re a silly one,” she says as she takes me by the hand and leads me  into a back room, where we’re alone.

We take off everything but our glasses.  I’m into eyeglass foreplay and so as  she turns to face me I lick two fingers and run them down her lenses.  “That’s  so you can’t see my enlarged pores,” I say and she giggles, so innocently, like  Mary Pat Oehrke after she cleaned my clock in the seventh-grade spelling bee.   She starts to remove the last item that separates us from a state of nature, but  before she can do so I grab her firmly by the wrist and say . . .

“You can leave your glasses on.”

F**kin’ Nature Poets Put the Curse Into Verse

MAYNARD, Mass.  Anthony “Big Tony” Scalzi, a rough-looking man who wears a sleeveless denim jacket and rides a motorcycle, doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of a poet, but that’s okay with him.  “Frankly, I couldn’t give a [solid human excretion] what you think,” he says to this reporter, who has cornered him just before he goes on stage at the Cock ‘n Bull bar for a “slam” with other like-minded members of a new literary movement that has come to be known as the “F**kin’ Nature Poets.”

Image result for biker bar

Scalzi is the inadvertent founder of the movement, which was born as he stood transfixed before nearby Lake Cochituate on a misty day as the sun set, a beer in his hand.  “Fuckin’ nature,” he murmured to himself as the rays of light beamed through the haze.  “I love it.”  Fellow members of the Snake Eyes motorcycle gang he belongs to overheard him, and proclaimed him a poet on the spot.

“That was so . . . freaking beautiful,” said Ron “Pigpen” Kerzer, who admits that he’d never had much interest in poetry until that moment of epiphany.  “I had no idea you were a poet,” he said as he sipped from his longneck beer bottle.

Image result for biker bar
“You should see my old lady’s ass/when she’s sitting in the grass.”

“I guess I am if you say so,” Scalzi said and even though academics who specialize in the field might disagree, the Fuckin’ Nature poetry movement is gaining adherents among many who find modern poetry deliberately obscure, overly precious or simply too difficult.

Nature poetry is both ancient in its origins and current in its popularity, but the quality of the genre has declined steadily since Theocritus first began to write idylls in the third century.  “Nature poetry suffers from the impulse to clean nature up,” says Mark Evering, editor of Earth Poems, a quarterly devoted to the field.  “I had to rent a warehouse to hold just the seagull poems I get each submission cycle,” he says shaking his head.  “Have you ever watched a seagull for ten minutes?  They’re like flying garbage trucks.”

Image result for poetry slam

The foundational principle of Fuckin’ Nature poetry is that no paean to the natural world has been fully expressed unless it contains at least a barnyard epithet, a use of the Lord’s name in vain or a reference–preferably unveiled–to the human sexual act.  Kerzer has been working on his verse for his first appearance at a slam, and he nervously takes the stage and clears his throat before launching into By the Beautiful Sea:

I see, I see–you’re leaving me–
After all you’ve meant to me,
By the sea, by the sea.
Too many beers, I’ve gotta pee.

As the elder statesman of the group Scalzi nods in a non-committal fashion, then voices his criticism in diplomatic terms.  “It’s a bit too confessional for my taste,” he says.  “You go down that road you’re gonna end up in the looney bin, like Robert Lowell.  You gotta EXPLODE–remember, EXPLETIVE!”

Lowell:  “Wait–you think I’m crazy?”


Next up is Tim Motta, who doubles as bartender at the Cock ‘n Bull during peak hours.  He uses his familiarity with the fire exits and the locations of the men’s room to calm himself: “It gives me sort of a home-court advantage,” he says, then begins:

As I look down from Mt. Monadnock,
My job’s a world away, like I’m on a shelf;
My supervisor can suck my c**k
Or alternatively, go f**k himself.

Scalzi is silent at first, then one hears a whimpering sound, almost a sob coming from his high bar table.  “That,” he says with a lump in his throat, “is goin’ straight into the anthologies!”

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

Don’t Touch My Notary!

Thousands lined the avenues of Paris to protest reforms designed to energize the French economy by opening up regulated professions with high barriers to entry.  “Don’t touch my notary!” read one banner.

 The Wall Street Journal

And so after many years I have returned to Paris from the south of France, where I was banished after I was caught taking an acknowledgment over the telephone.  Of course I knew it was wrong in my heart of hearts, but my gut of guts was hungry!  I needed the two sous notarization fee.  I knew the voice at the end of the line, and thanks to modern technology it was as if the signataire was right there in front of me.

What I did not know was that this was une operation de piqure, or “sting” as the Americans would call it.  The League of Notaires had decided to entrap the young competitors who were entering the noble field and driving down fees.  France–she plods along behind les Etats-Unis, where even robots are permitted to sign documents in order to facilitate the financing of les mortgages du sub-prime!  It is no wonder that our unemployment rate is 10.4%.

But I can stand it no longer, nor can the thousands of notaires provincial like me.  We suffer in the sticks; no petite boites de nuit, no famous ecrivains scribbling on marble and wrought-iron tables as they sip their absinthe and their cafes au lait, and also their les pouces (thumbs).  We’d like a little culture too!

And so, we have rallied behind former investment banker turned economics minister Emmanuel Macron to break down the walls that keep us out of the exclusive and highly-unlucrative business of authenticating documents.  We are trained, rested and ready to go!  Me, I have the routine down pat, and pat isn’t complaining one bit.  “Is this your free act and deed?” I ask skeptically of every woman who comes before me to sign an installment sales contract for a bidet.

Look at the pussy in that bidet!


Always it is “Oui,” but still I persevere, knowing that someday, somewhere, some woman will say “Non–eet ees pour mon chat.”  Ha, ha, I will laugh–ah, that is a good one, mon chere! I will say.  But how can I ever endear myself to une femme by falling for such a stupid joke if the government and the notary monopoly will not let me!

I–Emile Miromesnil, the proud scion of a line of notaires that extends back to the Song of Roland, including the flip side, Song of Roland Part le Deux.  I had sunk so low that I even considered setting up a black market shop, deeply discounting my services, but I was too afraid–until Monseiur Emmanuel Macron came forth.  Him, with his dashing good looks, his white chemise, his cravat de bleu!  Ah, we have yearned so long for his coming, just as millions of medieval Francais wandered about aimlessly until the arrival of Joan of Arc, wondering how they were ever going to get out of the fifteenth century and into the sixteenth!

Emmanuel Macron: “I wear boring clothes, so my idees can be . . . how you say . . . ‘exciting.’”


And so we march on Paris, march for the freedom to apply our stamps and seals to les documents importante.  The hidebound reactionaries who control the notary-industrial complex, they will do anything to stop our march–hey, wait a minute.  Somebody else is marching.  It is–les notaires.  How can you have a march when the people you are marching on are also at the same time marching on you?  It is–how you say–awkward.

“Hey vous!” I hear someone yell, and who should I see but the despicable Guy de la Roquefort, the man who said “J’accuse!” when evidence of my phonarization was presented to the Prosecuting Notary.  He then folded his arms across his fat chest and said “I rest my case.”  Ha–what he rested was his ample backside on his chair–so smug!

“Yes,” I reply, working my lips into a contemptuous sneer.  “What is it vous wants?”

“I want you to high-tail it back to the provinces, where you belong.  Paris–the City of Lights–is for real notaires, not rubes like vous.”

I see that Roquefort has enlisted a crew of “supporters,” carrying signs saying “Hands off my notary!”  As if, as the Valley Girls of America say.

“Ah, Roquefort,” I say calmly, coolly, “your day has past, and this claque of faux applauders for you fools no one.”

“We are loyal votaries–of our favorite notaries!”


“They don’t?” Roquefort asks, turning around and giving his gang a gimlet eye–and try saying that five times fast.

“No, they don’t,” I say with emphatic emphasis.  “Nobody loves a notary, unless that notary does something really special for them, like . . .”

“Like–taking an acknowledgment over the phone?” he says, and his crowd makes a collective “Ah!” at this low jibe, which they express with what is called “the face of shock,” like many another conclusory allegation designed to cut off further debate.

I take his best shot and, like the great French boxer Georges (was there more than one?) Carpentier, merely shrug it off.

Georges Carpentier

“You are so behind the times, so ancien regime,” I say with a debonair laugh.  “It is perfectly proper to take an acknowledgment over le telephone–if only you knew how.”

The crowd gasps.  “What notarial heresy is this?” asks a striking blond who recalls Yvette Mimieux–the starlet whose name causes one’s mouth to screw up as if one had eaten a lemon.

Yvette Mimieux


“It is simple,” I say.  “Give me your number.

The beauty hesitates, but Roquefort cannot back down; if he does, he will never be able to hold his head up when he walks into Le Stamp et Seal, the Left Bank bistro favored by notaries.

“Go ahead,” he says suspiciously.  “You can always change it afterwards.”

The woman rattles off the seven digits, and I input them in my telephone’s “text message” fonction.  “Is this your free act and deed?” I type to her, and when she sees the words scrawl across her screen, she squeals “Oui!” with delight.

“Non, mon chere, you must respond by typing also.”  She takes her dainty little thumbs, and slowly taps out O-U-I.

“There Roquefort, see for yourself.  A written record–over the telephone!”

He grumbles a bit but there is, as Jean-Paul Sartre would say–no exit.

“Fine,” he fairly spits out at me.  “But how are you going to seal your little screen–eh?”

I see that he has underestimated me, and I reach into the inner pocket of my coat de sport to retrieve high-quality, first class gold seal stamps–an essential part of any notary’s kit and caboodle!

“Like this!” I exclaim, and I gently apply a pre-sealed stamp to my new admirer’s telephone.

“It is . . . so pretty–merci!”

“Don’t mention it.”

“But I just did.”

“Once is fine, just don’t make a habit of it,” I say, giving her my studied Jean-Paul Belmondo uplifted eyebrow come-hither leer.

I lean in a bit–hope I don’t have escargot breath, and whisper the words I’ve always wanted to say:

“How about you and me . . . going bidet shopping?”


Available in Kindle format on as part of the special Notary Bonus Pack! included in “Lawyers Are People Too–Sort of.”

A Night Ride With the Girl Scout Legbreakers

          Girl Scouts in Akron, Ohio are taking vigorous steps to collect debts owed by adults who fail to pay for cookies.

                                                                   Associated Press

It’s two o’clock in the morning, and I’m lying in bed, wide awake, drenched in sweat. I know what I need–a Thin Mint cookie–but I don’t know where I’m gonna find one.

I finished my last cellophane roll of the Girl Scouts’ signature cookies last week.  The sweet treat that Akron police refer to as “brown dynamite” won’t appear on the streets again until mid-March. I can’t wait that long.

I have only two options: One, drive to the 7-11 and buy a legal pack of Keebler Fudge Shoppe Grasshopper Mint Cookies, a poor substitute for Thin Mints, the most addictive cookie known to man. “Grasshoppers” are methadone to the Girl Scouts’ heroin.

Two, try to score some black market “Thins” on the street.

I put on some clothes, stagger out to my car and head to the corner of Main and Mill in downtown Akron, a 24-hour bazaar of the illicit late-night snack trade. Here, dealers operate openly and without fear of retribution from cops who have been bought off cheaply with Caramel deLites and Samoas–-low octane stuff that hard-core addicts look down–or is it turn up?–their noses at.

I pull into the parking lot of the convenience store and head to the entrance when a short figure emerges from the shadows.

“You want the real thing, man?”

I jump, and the hair on the back of my neck snaps to attention.

“Sure,” I say innocently. “We’re talking Thin Mints, right?”

“You think I’d be out here at this hour of the night hocking Tagalongs and Do-Si-Dos?” the dealer asks sarcastically.

“Sorry–I was just making sure.” You never want to alienate your source. “How much you asking?”

“Ten dollars a box.”

“Ten dollars! That’s armed robbery!” I say, my voice shaking. “Girl Scout cookies are sold for $2.50 to $4.00 per box, depending on the troop’s location, to cover both the current cost of cookies and the realities of providing Girl Scout activities in an ever-changing economic environment. Check the website.”

“A wise guy, huh? If you’re so smart you oughta know that National Girl Scout policy prohibits the sale of cookies over the Internet. When you buy online, there is no guarantee that your seller is in fact a member of the Girl Scouts.”

She’s got me there. “Okay,” I grumble, and start to reach in my back pocket. As I do so I feel the rough grip of a hand on my wrist that pins my arm against my back. From the smell of the Peanut Butter Patties on her breath, I can tell without looking that my assailant is none other than Mary Jane “The Hammer” Macomber, long-time enforcer for the Greater Akron Girl Scout Council.

“Nice to see you again–scumbag,” she says menacingly into my ear. “I believe you owe us $24.50, not including late fees and penalties.”

I’m not about to escape the grip of the woman who has grabbed many a young girl by the bicep and told her to settle down–right now!

“Look, Mary Jane,” I say as she slams me up against the wall. “It’s been a tough year for me.”

“It’s about to get a whole lot tougher,” she says as she pushes me into the back seat of her Dodge Caravan SE minivan. “Girls–get in and buckle up,” she yells at her charges, and in an instant we are zooming down an entrance ramp to Interstate 77, the girls holding me down, singing camp songs at the top of their lungs.

Oh, Noah, he built him, an ar-ky, ar-ky, ar-ky . . .”

“There are three and a half million Girl Scouts throughout America, including U.S. territories,” Macomber says to me over the din, with a tone of disgust. “Stiffs like you think we’re patsies.”

“I had a good job when I bought the cookies,” I say. “Then I got laid off.”

“Remind me to buy an extra-large box of Kleenex, so I can cry along with you,” she says contemptuously.

The girls keep singing. “The animals, they came, by two-sy, two-sy, two-sies.”

“We’ve got summer camp lifeguards to pay, gimp to buy–we’re a big business.”

“I’ll pay you back, I promise, I just need a cookie.”

“‘I just need a cookie,’” Macomber says, mocking me. “Nobody can eat just one–nobody.”

“That’s the problem,” I say. “You’re pushers!”

Elephants and (clap) kanga-roosies, roosies!

We pull into a driveway and Macomber turns off the engine. The girls push me out of the car and into a split-level ranch house, then down the stairs into the rec room. Down here, nobody will hear me scream.

Macomber orders me to sit down in a Fisher Price Kitchen Play chair, and I comply. What choice do I have?

“Now,” she says, “we can do this the easy way, or the hard way.”

“What’s the easy way?” I ask.

“Do you have a major credit card on you?”

“I barely had the strength to change out of my pajamas,” I whimper.

“Bonnie,” Macomber says to one of the girls. “Show him the polar bear trick.”

The girls giggle as Bonnie takes my hand, opens a drawer of the play kitchen cabinet and positions my knuckles on the edge of it. “Now,” she says, “Don’t think about a polar bear.”

I’m puzzled. “Why not?” I ask.

“Just don’t, okay?” She waits a second. “Are you thinking about one now?” she asks.

“Well, yeah, ’cause you keep talking about . . .”

The words are barely out of my mouth when she slams the drawer shut, causing me to cry out in pain.

“I bet you’re not thinking about one now!” she exclaims with glee.

The other girls burst out in laughter, and Macomber does nothing to stop them. So much for building character–the “new” Girl Scouts nurture skills for success in the real world.

“Maybe you’ve got some money back in your car,” Macomber suggests.

“Just some change for tolls,” I reply.

“That’s not gonna do it,” she replies coolly. “Elizabeth–let’s make the nice man a Creeple Peeple.”

A second little girl brings her vintage Thingmaker out from under a table and plugs it in.

“Who’s your favorite Creeple Peeple?” she asks as the machine warms up.

“Uh, I guess I’d have to pick Gangly Danglies,” I say.


“Okay–let’s make one of those,” she says sweetly as she pours the melted goo into the mold. A few seconds later, she turns to me and says “Ready?”

“Aren’t you supposed to let it cool?”

She flips the mold onto my hand, causing the hot goop to sear my flesh.

“I’ll pay–I’ll pay!” I cry. “Just stop it–please!”

“All right,” Macomber says with a satisfied air. “Julie, put some ice on his hand. Vicki, get his money.”

Vicki fishes my wallet out of my back pocket, where she finds an ATM card. “What’s your PIN number?” she asks methodically as she prepares to write it down on a Big Chief tablet with a no. 2 lead pencil.

“It’s my birthday–09-28-51,” I say, fighting back tears.

“That’s not such a good idea,” Macomber says, playing the role of good cop now. “Anybody who knows that could rip you off.”

“What would you suggest?” I ask.

“How about D-E-A-D-B-E-A-T?” she says with a smirk.

For some reason–I don’t find her funny.


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

Boston, City of Champions: How We Do It

Four major sports.  Seventeen years.  Ten championships.  Face it; after the Patriots won the Super Bowl Sunday night, Boston is Title Town USA.  It’s never been done before, not even in New York, where they have two of every pro sports team to our one.

How do we do it, you may ask if you’re sitting in some loser burg like New York or Los Angeles or Miami, all of which dwarf Boston in size, but which produce championships about as often a Halley’s Comet comes around.  It’s complex, subtle, nuanced–a constellation of things as one of our many local professors might say.  Here’s a checklist to help you add the right ingredients to your local sports goulash in the hope that you too can achieve the state of smug satisfaction that Boston sports fans enjoy, on average, every year and seven-tenths.  With a record like that, some fans never even leave the championship parade route–why give up a prime viewing spot when there’s another just around the corner?

Is it something in the water?  Heck yeah, as Napoleon Dynamite might say.  Boston is famous for its “Dirty Water,” the pre-cleanup Charles River that was honored in the song of that name by The Standells, a rock group from–Los Angeles.

The Standells: Most famous Boston rock group ever to come out of Los Angeles.


But the Charles isn’t the dirtiest river in Boston–not by a long shot.  There’s the Muddy River that runs through town near Fenway Park.  Its waters are loaded with nutrients and minerals from the many shopping carts that challenge sportfishermen from around the world!

A river so dirty you have to rake it.


It’s the food.  This is also a possibility.  An emigre to the region, I stood and watched a native prepare a “New England clam bake” on the beach many years ago.  What, I asked him, were the rocks for that he was throwing into the pit?  “We eat them,” he said.  I figured he was joking, but I had a hot dog anyway.  Several years later his claim was substantiated when I saw a sign outside a “packy” (local slang for a liquor store) that said “Fresh Native New England Rocks.”

“Let’s put sand in our food!”


Respect for our opponents.  Unlike other towns where “trash talk” motivates opposing teams to excel, here in Boston we maintain a reserved and courteous attitude towards our athletic adversaries, with minor exceptions such as Larry Bird, Ted Williams, Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, Derek Sanderson, etc., et alia.  For example, when New York Jets’ coach Rex Ryan’s depraved and disgusting foot fetish became public in 2011, residents of the six-state New England area were warned not to mention it by emergency broadcast, aerial leaflet drops and the Goodyear blimp.  When Patriots’ receiver Wes Welker inadvertently alluded to Ryan’s twisted attraction to his wife’s feet eleven times in a press conference, he was reprimanded and promptly traded.  There is no room here for that sort of disrespectful talk about the moral failings of a fat, overrated blowhard such as Ryan.

“Attention New England residents–do NOT mention Rex Ryan’s perverted foot fetish, okay?”

It’s the attitude.   The former stereotype was that Bostonians were cold, condescending patricians, but a decade of movies by MattDamonBenAffleckMarkWahlberg should have disabused you of this notion.  Instead, the region is full of warm-hearted, abrasive and violent proles–a must for defense and special teams.

“So then this customer sez to me he sez, can I get some ketchup.  So I explained to him ‘When I bleepin’ get around to it.’”


The point is that a certain toughness and swaggering attitude–what former Boston Herald columnist George Frazier called duende–is considered essential here.  At Durgin Park, one of Boston’s oldest restaurants, the waitresses are known for their rudeness, for example.  Where a server in New York might approach a table having difficulty deciding on entrees with suggestions, a Durgin Park waitress will say “C’mon–I haven’t got all night.”  For some reason this business model hasn’t caught on in the dining industry generally.

We instill this same bristling prickliness in our children the way the mothers of Sparta, according to Plutarch, would instruct their sons to return from battle “with your shield, or on it”–that is, not to drop it and run.

And so it is that a Patriots mom will hand her son a $5 bill and, as she bids him good-bye on his way to the refreshment stand, will look him in the eye without tears and say–“Return with your grape-flavored Slushee in your souvenir LeGarrette Blount, or on you.”