Nuptial Indemnity

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

                                                                             The Boston Globe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, I believe that was the name.”

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

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

“Oh yes, of course.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No.”

“Nobody could,” she sighed.

“But we’re going to do it.”

“We’re going to do it.”

“Straight down the line, right?

“Right.”

“To hell with the bridesmaids?”

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

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

“The double whatsis clause?”

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

“They aren’t?”

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

“I see.”

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

“Oh.”

“You can say that again.”

“Oh–”

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

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

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

“Twenty thousand dollars?”

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

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

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

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

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

“And what time does the mail get here?”

“Usually by 4:30.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes?”

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

“Out of the question.”

She screwed her mouth up into a little moue.

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

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

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

“It’s no good.”

“Why not?”

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

“Maybe you’re right.”

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

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

“Why you can’t tell me why?”

“No, why you need audacity.”

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

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

“You mean hoe?”

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

“And when he does?”

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

“And the insurance company pays?”

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

“Rake?”

“You got it.”

*    *    *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


That’s Ollie on the right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

*    *    *

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

“What’s the matter with it?”

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

“Nothing unusual about that.”

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

“So–it happens every day.”

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

“What?”

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

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

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

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

*    *    *

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

“Oh, Walter, that’s thrilling.”

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

“I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

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

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

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

“Finally.”

“That’s right.”

“Forever.”

Until death did us part.

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

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

“Looks familiar, baby.”

“I figured you liked what you saw then.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Boston Stumbles, Freedonia Prepares Olympic Bid

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

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

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

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

Image result for hop step jump

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

For One Academic, Winning Award Isn’t Everything

MARIETTA, Georgia.  Hiram Walker College here is known as something of an academic backwater, and so the announcement that Professor Ted Gomes had won a prestigious McNiece Fellowship was cause for celebration.  “It’s not a MacArthur Fellowship, but it’s a start,” says the college’s president, Orel Fundy, Jr.  “A MacArthur is worth $625,000 and certifies that you’re a genius, while a McNiece means you’re a pretty smart guy and you get $35,000.”

The winner is a specialist in comparative literary analysis, linking the verse of different nations, languages and eras through close textual analysis.  “My main area of focus is Elizabethan love poetry,” he tells this reporter as he looks anxiously at his watch outside the faculty dining club.    “‘Love gave the wound, which, while I breathe, will bleede,’ and all that jazz,” he says with a distracted air that is dispelled when two bottle-blonde women showing extensive cleavage approach and ask if he is the man who ordered the double-escort service for the night.

Image result for escort service
“I love poetry!”

 

“That would be me,” he says with a leer.  “I don’t think any of the dweebs in there would know what to do with a real woman!” he adds as Dean Morton Weiner, a bespectacled man in an ill-fitting maroon blazer, approaches with a look of concern on his face.

“There’s a reporter waiting inside,” Weiner says nervously.  “Are these two–women–friends of yours.”

“Hi–my name is Candi Barr,” one of the escorts says as she extends her hand.

“And I’m Tiffani Broach,” says the other.

“Is that your real name?” Weiner asks suspiciously.

“Of course not,” the first woman says.  “It’s ‘Candace’ with two a’s.”

Image result for escort service

The group enters the oak-paneled room with vaulting ceilings and chandeliers where members of the Hiram Walker community have gathered to honor one of their own.  Gomes looks at the buffet with distaste:  “Cheese and crackers?  Deviled eggs?  Pigs in a blanket?” he sneers at Weiner.  “I win a big prize and this is all you do to celebrate?  Where’s the booze?”

“Kinda cheap if you ask me,” says Broach as she uses a toothpick from an hors d’oeuvre to remove hot dog gristle from between her teeth.

The risks inherent in “no strings attached” grants become apparent after awhile as Gomes calls from his cellphone to order pizza and two cases of beer.  “I’ve never had $35,000 to play with in my whole life,” he says as one of his “escorts” feeds him a slice of green pepper and onion/thin crust.  “Did they expect me to spend it on new leather elbow patches for my tweed jacket?”

Image result for faculty reception
“Don’t look now, but they’re doing an ap-lay ance-day over there.”

As Gomes dives further into the newly-arrived drink his tongue is loosened and he waxes academic.  “There are numerous parallels between the Elizabethan Age and the Age of Disco, which ran from approximately 1973, when the first disco club opened in New York City, until 1979, when an anti-disco riot erupted in Chicago,” he says in a professorial tone that seems fitting for a professor.  He gets up on a table to demonstrate some of the dance moves he perfected as an undergraduate at NYU, and adds some impromptu disco-Elizabethan poetry as he gyrates:

She likes to party, she likes to disco
She likes to boogie down from here to San Francisco.
Ask not how long my love will last,
For in the asking we make love past.

This travesty is too much for the Chairman of the English Department, Merlin Mattoni, who rushes over and demands that Gomes knock off the cheap versifying and get down off the furniture.

“Fine,” the big prize winner says as he climbs down, but before he exits with his two rented lady friends a thought occurs to him.  “What’s the poem by Yeats?” he asks, recalling the last two lines of “The Scholars“: “Lord, what would they say/Should their Catullus walk that way?”

Writing My Obituary

It came on all of a sudden, like a summer thunderstorm.  We had been talking at dinner about friends and family, and family of friends, who had passed on recently, and my wife became teary-eyed.

“You just never know when you’re going to lose someone,” she said as her face clouded over with foreboding.  “If you died . . .”

“You mean when I die . . .”

“I was going to say, if you died soon . . . I wouldn’t know what to put in your obituary.  You’ve done so many . . .”

She choked up, and couldn’t speak.

Image result for riderless horse

“Trivial things?” I offered helpfully.

“I was going to say ‘stupid,’ but yes, maybe ‘trivial’ is a better word.”  She had that stoic demeanor of an ancient female relation in a tale by Faulkner.  She would not just endure, but prevail against the forces that threatened to snatch me away from her at any minute–a light beer truck driven by a texting Teamster, for example.

Her concern was timely.  A week earlier I’d fallen in a hole in the pavement next to the Surface Artery, the high-speed boulevard I must cross on my way to work, and tumbled into the road, so we’d had a recent intimation of my mortality.  “You’ve mentioned a riderless horse before . . .” she said as her voice trailed off.

“I was kidding, sweetie,” I said as I patted her hand.  She was too young to remember the poignant touch that this symbolic animal lent to the funeral of President Kennedy, but I recalled it vividly.  I’d long ago decided that it was over-the-top, de trop as the French would say, right after they corrected me for thinking that “cheveux”–which means “hair”–is the French word for “horse.”

“I don’t need a riderless horse,” I said.  “Times have changed.  I was thinking more along the lines of a driverless car.”

“Like Google is making?”

“Right.”

“Well, that would remind me of the way you drive,” she said, as she stifled a sniffle.

“I don’t think it will be hard for you to write my obit.  I’ve already done a lot of the spadework.”

Image result for frank conroy stop time

“You have?”

“Yep.  Surely you’ve read my autobiography–‘So Far, So Good’?”

A look of chagrin scuddered over her face, like the shadow of a low-hanging cloud as it blows by above you.  “Actually, no,” she admitted.  “When did you write it?”

“Fifth grade.  I got an A+ on it.  It’s considered a classic of the genre.”

“What genre is that?”

“The youthful autobiography.  Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves.  Stop Time by Frank Conroy.  Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever: My Story.”

“Why does he get to have two colons in his title?”

Image result for bieber

“He’s The Bieb.”

She rubbed her finger under her nose, and I handed her my napkin.  She’d already used hers, but I wipe my hands on my pants, so mine was clean.  “I didn’t know you’d written an autobiography.  But what about . . . ”

“The later stuff?”

“Yes.”

“I’m not sure I’ve actually accomplished that much since then.  Remember, I was a two-time spelling bee champ, earning a perfect score both times.”

“That’s why I don’t need a dictionary with you around,” she said, as she took a turn patting my hand.

“I’d become the first class president in my little Catholic school from a mixed marriage . . .”

“Like Obama?”

“Sort of.  My mom’s Protestant.”

“And yet, you never hear about that on the news.  So after that . . .”

“Well, I was a member of a prize-winning polka troupe in sixth grade . . .”

Image result for youth polka troupe

She began to choke up again.  “Who . . . who was your partner?”

“Carolyn Spretzel.  But I’m not in touch with her anymore.”

“Not even on Facebook?”

I placed both hands on the table so she could see I hadn’t crossed any fingers.  “I promise.”  I did what I always do when I want to comfort her: I got down on my knees, scooched over to where she was sitting, and gave her a big, wet, warm, sloppy kiss.  Husband as golden retriever.

“How about your memorial service.  I know you want a traditional New Orleans band, right?”

Image result for new orleans funeral band

“Correct.  ‘Just a Closer Walk With Thee’ to the cemetery, ‘Didn’t He Ramble’ coming back.”

She looked off into the distance.  I could tell she was calculating in her mind how the mounting cost of my obsequies was going to cut into her merry widowhood, and I’m not talking about the bustier.  I mean her decorating budget, once I was gone and could no longer stand athwart the entrance to the living room, yelling “Stop!” when she tried to put up new window treatments.

Image result for merry widow bustier
Merry Widow

“How about poems,” she said finally.  “I know you love poetry . . .”

“But you hate it.”

“I only hate it when I don’t understand it.”

“Don’t worry–I wouldn’t make you read any Wallace Stevens.”

“Who’s he?”

“According to Robert Frost, The Poet of Bric-a-Brac.”

“Like your mother used to have on that knick-knack shelf in her dining room?”

“Right–the one I crashed pretending to be Wile E. Coyote clinging to a ledge one night.”

Image result for wile e coyote ledge

“Why were you doing that?”

“I was young and stupid.  And animated by the spirit of a Warner Brothers cartoon character.”

“Okay,” she said, apparently forgiving me for a misdeed that my mother–now gone–couldn’t.  “So what poem would you like?”

‘The Lotos-eaters’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.”

“Why does he have a comma in the middle of his name?”

“I don’t know.  I guess he was a big star in his time, like The Bieb.”

“How does it go?”

“You don’t have to read the whole thing, just these lines:

Dear is the memory of our wedded lives,
And dear the last embraces of our wives
And their warm tears: but all hath suffer’d change:
For surely now our household hearths are cold,
Our sons inherit us: our looks are strange:
And we should come like ghosts to trouble joy.
Or else the island princes over-bold
Have eat our substance, and the minstrel sings
Before them of the ten years’ war in Troy,
And our great deeds, as half forgotten things.

I waited a moment for the sound of the last words to die away.  “Do you like it?” I asked at last.

“It’s okay,” she said, and now her tears were dry.  “Just don’t come like a ghost to trouble my joy when I’m having my girlfriends over.”

Consuela Translates the Silent Languages of Love

Dear Ones–

In olden times–much oldener than Consuela–lovers used secret languages to communicate in order to escape detection.  Thus in the XIX century, or maybe it was the XVIII, I don’t remember which, languid ladies used fans to send messages to their beaus.  Holding the fan on the right cheek meant “Yes,” holding it on the left meant “No,” to open and close it meant “You are cruel,” while pointing a closed fan at the mouth meant “You have some kind of goober between your teeth.”

Image result for spanish fan
Translation:  “You have tuna breath.”

 

But fans are passé nowadays, leaving lovers adrift when they want to express themselves in a sub rosa manner, and believe me, Rosa is not happy about it.  How do you decipher the wordless missives that come your way from would-be lovers across a crowded room?  Ask Consuela to translate the silent languages of love!

Image result for colored paper clips

Dear Consuela–

I work in the accounts payable department of a large manufacturer of flanges and hasps.  I have noticed that our comptroller “Earl” who has a night M.B.A.–which he earned going to school for many years after work he is so diligent!–always sends me invoices fastened with a “candy striped” paper clip.  Enora Bothwell, the girl who sits at the next desk, receives her packet of payables with a plain metal clip, although she believes she is the “apple” of Earl’s eye.

I would be interested in learning the meaning of peppermint vs. metallic clips in today’s romantic marketplace.

Please respond to my home email, we are not supposed to converse electronically at work.

Mary Alice Grimmett, Ludlow, Mass.

Dearest Mary Alice–

Time to order material for bridesmaids’ dresses!  A striped paper clip sent by a man to a woman means he wants to “jump her bones,” and is willing to submit to a life of quiet desperation in an office cubicle to pay for it.  Show “Earl” you mean business by returning his file copies with a baby blue and white clip that says you’re his gal!

My dearest Consuela–

I am a sales trainee at Loudermilk Diary Products, where we are forced to spend our Friday afternoons in boring meetings instead of leaving early during the summer like people with good jobs.  Recently I have noticed Floyd Moeglin from the finance department making a weird sign at me when Mike Radick, VP of Sales, turns his back to write on the white board.  He–Floyd, not Mike–will wave his hand up and down under his chin at me, then get this goofy grin on his face.

I looked on the internet for “weird hand signs” AND “mental illness” but didn’t find anything.

Claudia Rees, Hoxie, Arkansas

Image result for little rascals high sign

Dear Claudia–

You are one lucky gal!  “Floyd” is making the Little Rascals “high sign,” universally recognized as either an invitation to friendship or an expression of contempt comparable to a silent Bronx cheer.  I would proceed with cautious optimism in the hope that the former is the case and not the latter.  Since “Floyd” is a trifle infantile in his courtship techniques, perhaps invite him to a church ice cream social.

Image result for pine scent car air freshenerRoyals Nylon Web Pet Collar #12520085
Two from his collection

 

Consuela–

I have been going out with this guy “Duane” who has a rotating collection of rear view mirror ornaments–the tassel from his high school graduation “mortarboard,” one of those Little Trees “Royal Pine” air fresheners, a Kansas City Royals nylon web pet collar, etc.  Last Sunday night when I got in his car he had a woman’s lace garter hung up there, big as life.  I said “Where’d you get that?” and he said “Wouldn’t you like to know?”  We went back and forth like that for awhile, me asking a question, he “answering” with another question.  Finally I gave up and scooched over to my side of the car where I stayed for the whole drive-in movie, which was Return of Mothra, something he wanted to see but I didn’t.  At the end of the night he said “I didn’t know you were such a ‘chrome-polisher,’ the term in common use around here for a girl who won’t make out and clutches a car’s door handle the whole night.

Consuela, I have invested two months in this guy and want to make it clear I am not into an “open” relationship where he is allowed to festoon his car with female undergarments while I sit home checking for split ends.  Is he trying to “send a message” to me that he’s too much man for any one woman?

Sincerely,

 

Naomi Whitestone, Camdenton MO


Still waters run deep.

 

Dear Naomi–

Since time immemorial the male of the species has struggled to express his feelings.  “Ug” the first caveman said to his date, and she no doubt asked herself “What did he mean by that?”

A man’s rear view mirror is an extension of his personality–assuming he has a personality–so you should not question the tacky decorating choices he makes with regard to this standard feature of most American-made cars.  I think the little cat-and-mouse/tit-for-tat game he was playing by answering your questions with another question is a good sign, however.  If he was dating somebody else he’d either lie to you or say “What garter belt?”

That said, the Standard Semiotics Directory of Non-Verbal Romantic Cues reports that a garter belt hanging on a rear-view mirror means the owner of the vehicle does not prefer panty hose, which are cumbersome to remove in tight places, if you get my drift.

Dear Consuela–

When a woman wears an “I’m With Stupid” t-shirt on a date with you I always assumed she was saying she was not receptive to overtures from other men.  I ask because this guy came up to my girlfriend Chloe when we stopped for fried claims at Jimbo’s Lobster Shack last night and apparently said “Why don’t you dump that egghead for me?” after I’d gone to the men’s room, fried food has that effect on me.

When I came back Chloe was batting her eyelashes at the guy trying to explain she was wearing the shirt ironically.  He apparently didn’t understand irony–all of his shirts were permanent press.

I got kind of mad at Chloe for leading the guy on, but she said she was doing that ironically.  I forgot to mention, she was an English major and so is into verbal wordplay and figurative speech.  I was a business major, then got my masters in business administration, and now am in business.  This summer I’m getting an executive M.B.A.

I don’t want to be a spoilsport but I also don’t want to spend the rest of my life with a woman who’s always pulling people’s legs, figuratively if not literally.  Is there some sort of mood ring or something I can use to tell when she’s being ironic?

Frazier Hollingsworth
Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts


High IQ babe.

 

Dear Frazier–

It sounds like you will have your hands full with this “off-the-wall” young woman.  Unfortunately, there are no hand-held devices to detect, much less ward off, the cheap cynicism with which many “liberal arts” majors are infected during their undergraduate days.  I would recommend that you dump Chloe like a hot rock and find a young woman more suited to your personality at a singles group for the literal-minded.

 

Ode to a Verrry Dry Philosopher

I cannot think of anything worse
than a course of instruction on Charles Sanders Peirce.
(Please don’t tell me you pronounce it “pierce”
or else I will have to box your ierce.)

Image result for charles sanders peirce

For a guy’s who’s the father of pragmatic thought
his prose seems unduly formal.
I think that even if I shouldn’t ought,
he’s really more stilted than normal.

Image result for sloe gin fizz

To get to the end of a sentence of his
one must crawl through dry barren places.
You yearn for a drink, like a sloe gin fizz,
That period will seem an oasis.

Image result for oasis

I buckled down, and got an A,
from the professor who was my teacher
but having that on my transcript is not to say
I enjoyed this philosophical creature.

That terribly dry, pragmatical guy
whose named sounds just like “purse”—
I’d avoid him like the plague if you were I
the philosophe Charles Sanders Peirce.

Guide Dogs Help Colorblind Avoid Tragic Fashion Mistakes

BOSTON.  Mark Overton is about to complete the purchase of a pricey white-on-pink French-cuffed shirt at the Brooks Brothers store located in Boston’s financial district when Niles Howard, the salesman who is waiting on him, suggests that he add a $75 yellow foulard tie with miniature red and blue figures to complement it.


“Down, Trixie!”

“This is a very fashionable pattern that is quite popular these days,” Howard says, but Trixie, a German shepherd who has accompanied Overton into the store, registers her disapproval with a growl.


“I tried to stop him, but no–he just had to have a robin’s egg blue short-sleeved shirt.”

“What’s that Trix?” Overton says as he looks down at his constant companion.  The dog barks twice, and Overton attempts a translation.  “Red and pink don’t provide sufficient contrast within a single color group?”  The dog opens its mouth in what appears to this reporter’s eye to be a smile, and Overton pats her on the head and hands her a doggie treat.

“She’s a lifesaver,” says Overton as he pays the disgruntled cashier, who had hoped to add to his commission.  We leave the store together, and on our way out Howard snarls “Next time leave your dog outside,” to which Overton responds angrily by snapping “Discrimination against the handicapped is illegal!”


“Where did you get that skanky tank top?”

Overton, like many males, suffers from red-green color blindness as well as a general inability to coordinate colors when choosing his outfits.  “If I mix and match, I always clash,” he says.  “If I wear blue on blue, people tell me I dress like a bus driver.”

Trixie is a graduate of the Farkness School for the Colorblind in Watertown, Mass., where she underwent a rigorous six-month training course that taught her not only to identify potentially fatal color combinations such as yellow/brown and pink/red, but also such fashion basics as not to mix stripes with plaids.  “Trixie is a natural,” says headmistress Heidi Hagerty.  “We knew she was ready for her placement when she dashed into the street to save a woman whose skirt was hiked up in the back due to static cling.”


“When you look good, you feel good.”

Guide dogs for the colorblind still face resistance from some people who view fashion handicaps as less crippling than other disabilities.  “I don’t mind that dog coming in here if she sticks to the color-blind guy,” says Pete Famiglia of Napolitano Pizza on lower State Street down a block from the Brooks Brothers store.  “It’s when she barks at me for my tank-tops that I get mad.”

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