Ah Cahn’t Talk Wiff Mah Mouf Full

The dental hygienist rides the train
Into town and then out again.
Her job, in part, is to inflict pain
On those who dental flossing feign.

(Her scrubs this day are the color teal
Perhaps the better to make folks feel
That everything’s ducky, there’s no need to squeal,
Their teeth will be fine by the very next meal.)

The hygienist’s a lass who must inspire cheer
When she sticks her left breast into your ear
And says, as her shiny tools cause you to fear,
“Any changes in your health since you were last here?”

 

(She also has a set that are indigo
Not sure that’s good for the mood, you know
It’s close to blood red, and so although
It’s fine for some girls, on her a no-no.)

She starts to scratch with her sickle scaler,
It’s sharp, the implement never fails her.
Then she shifts to her tartar scraper,
Causing you to shift and succumb to the vapors.

(Some days she wears a Wedgewood blue,
A somewhat reserved and distant hue,
It doesn’t inspire, no good to pitch woo.
That’s okay by me, I don’t know about you.)

She pokes around, and asks if you’re brushin’—
She must have learned torture from Tsarist Russians.
She inquires about your dental history,
Why she needs to know remains a mystery.

You swallow hard, the saliva ejector,
Sucks all the spit that it can detect there,
She looks—mysterious—behind her mask,
You have just one thing that you want to ask.

At length, at last, you’re finally through,
She smiles, and then the spotlight’s on you!
“If you don’t mind, I have one suggestion–
When my mouth is full I can’t answer questions.”

Ode to Barbecue

I do not know what I would do
if it were not for barbecue.
Compare your highbrow mode de caisson
to that which I grew up upon:

bbq

You take one of an unfortunate species
and place it on a sizzling grill,
create a product hot and greasy
and then you eat of it your fill.

When you have tired of rich French sauces,
escargots, pate fois gras,
cast aside cuisine of bosses,
reject le haut and eat la bas.

bbq1

Chickens, pigs and also cows
all make for tasty grilling fare.
For pork, use either boar or sow;
both fill the bill—don’t eat it rare!

You can eat it with your hands
a clear advantage, seems to me.
You find you never need to plan
which fork to use, of two or three.

bbq2

Barbecue is smoked the day long
over grey charcoal briquettes;
attracts a loud and raucous throng
who’re sometimes short on etiquette.

Quixote Bronson, Savior of Neglected Suburban Women

It is Saturday night in the suburbs west of Boston–no better place to view man’s inhumanity to woman. As my partner Pancho Sanza and I drift wearily from one upscale restaurant to another, we see on the looks of the husbands indifference bordering on cruelty as an endless parade of wives drones on about window treatments, children’s grades, spats with girlfriends; the very warp and woof of their existence, but matters inspiring only apathy in their spouses.


“So then Marie says–hey, don’t look at the fish when I’m talking to you!”

 

I–I who have been so unlucky in love with my beloved Dulcinea del Tobasco! I resolved many years ago that if I could not find my soul mate here on earth, I would do whatever I could to make the lives of women locked in loveless marriages more liveable. (So many ‘L’s’ give my tongue a workout–it is in great shape but alas, Dulcinea will not have me under her covers!) Perhaps, you say, I am mixing in affairs that are none of my business. Very well, you are entitled to my opinion, but I am merely trying to make the world a better place for the legions of ladies who agonize over their outfits, spend hours with their hair in foil getting it frosted, arranging for babysitters, only to watch their “lovers”–I use the term with the inverted commas of scorn!–pecking away at “personal digital assistants” under the table.

I have asked my neighbor, Pancho Sanza, to be my squire or “sidekick” as you Americans say in your vulgar, corrupted English. Someone must hold our table while I importune the insensitive clods who look over the shoulders of their chattering wives to see the scores of silly Boston “Red Sox.” I would spit on your televised “sports,” but I–unlike you–have some manners!

We arrive at Tiramisu, a charming but pricey boite de nuit where hedge fund managers and venture capitalists talk loudly of their most lucrative conquests. We hear nothing of the “duds” in their portfolios! I see a table of two, the man gnawing on a breadstick like a dog on a rawhide. From time to time he makes eye contact with his wife and grunts “Unh-huh,” but as soon as she begins to talk again his eye reverts to the bar, where a zaftig wine waitress with thick upper arms and a tattoo on the small of her back–the, how you say, “tramp stamp”–can be seen unscrewing corks from bottles. I decide now is the time to unscrew him!

“Pancho,” I say. “Hold the table.”

“Si Senor Quixote,” he says, tearing the crust off a piece of “homemade” asiago bread. Whose home, I wonder, was it made in?

“If the waitress comes, tell her I will have the pecan-encrusted haddock with asparagus,” I say as I stand up.

“You no want to hear the specials?”


Me and Pancho Sanza

 

“No,” I say firmly. “I am a man who knows what he wants, even if I so rarely get it.”

With that I draw myself up to my full 5′ 10″, and begin to channel the spirt of Charles Bronson, the quintessential tough guy.


Bronson, Ireland, McCallum

 

It was Bronson who, having gotten an eyeful of Jill Ireland, walked up to her husband David McCallum and said, quite bluntly, “I’m going to marry your wife.” This is the improvement that I have added to the method of the chivalrous Knight of La Mancha; an undercurrent of menace, a suggestion that if the man with the wandering eye doesn’t straighten up and fly right, I will simply take his woman away.

I adjust my cape and make a bee-line across the restaurant, startling some of the waitstaff that I bump into. “No one ever saw a bee fly in a straight line,” I say by way of excusing myself.

I present myself at the table so as to block the man’s view of the buxom girl he’s been ogling over his wife’s shoulder. “Excuse me, Senorita,” I say, bowing low.

“I’ll have the Cobb salad and the beef tournedos,” she says, apparently mistaking me for un garcon.


She wants the beef, not the fish.

 

“No, madame, I am not hear to feed your stomach–I am here to feed your soul.”

“But I don’t like fish,” she says, visibly perplexed.

“Perhaps I should explain,” I say. “Your husband has been fantasizing about Sondra, the waitress over at the wine bar, for the past twenty minutes.”

“The one who’s stacked like a lanai on a Hawaiian apartment building?”

“Yes–by her butt crack tatt, ye shall know her.”

The woman–who is known to her friends as “Tori”–snaps her head around to look at her husband.

“Evan–is that true?”


“Crest has been shown to be an effective decay-preventive dentifrice when used in a conscientiously-applied program of oral hygiene and regular professional care.”

 

The man is crestfallen, and I’m not talking about the toothpaste. “How would this guy know?” he asks, playing the ingenue, but Tori can tell from his defensive tone that I’ve caught him red-minded.

Senor, I would gladly love and care for your beautiful wife if you no longer wish to do so,” I say, bowing low and working more than a hint of sarcasm into my voice.

Gracias,” Tori says with a smile, warming to the Old World charm that I draw from my overflowing reservoir of chivalry.

The man tries to stare me down with the steely resolve that he likes to use when making a capital call on a balky institutional investor.

“It is up to you,” I say to him. “You can treat her right–or I will take her away from you!”

He blinks, and I know it is over, our little mano a mano tete a tete in Franish italics.

“I–I’m sorry, sweetie,” he says to her, and he almost sounds sincere.

“You have been such of the big help, Senor . . .” Tori says in a misbegotten but deeply appreciated attempt to imitate my fractured Esperanto-like melange of Romance languages.

“You may remember me–and I hope you always will–as Hidalgo Quixote Bronson–Savior of Neglected Suburban Housewives.”

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

Under the Knife of a Temp Surgeon

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

 

From: temp4@brigham.com
Sent:  Monday, April 19, 2016 9:15 AM
To: prettylady1@gmail.com

Subject: Where r u 2day?

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

brigham

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

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

Leeza

From: temp4@brigham.com
Sent: Monday, April 19, 2016 11:43 AM
To: prettylady1@gmail.com

Subject:  Gross!

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

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

L

From: temp2@bethisrael.com
Sent: Tuesday, April 20, 2016 10:32 AM
To: prettylady1@gmail.com

Subject:  Nose job

Hey pretty lady!

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

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

Leeza

 

From: temp2@SanctaMariaHospital.com
Sent: Wednesday, April 21, 2016 1:30 PM
To: prettylady1@gmail.com

Subject:  Heartbreaker

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

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

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

G2G

From: temp3@BBSIMWH.com
Sent: Thursday, April 22, 2016 11:15 AM
To: prettylady1@gmail.com

Subject: Uh oh

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

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

 

C U L8ter

From: temp42@MegaHealthCenter.com
Sent: Friday, April 23, 2016 4:25 AM
To: prettylady1@gmail.com

Subject: Outta here

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

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

U want 2 meet 4 drinks?

Feminist Gift-Shopping is Man’s Work

High school graduation time is here, which means that over-achieving young women across America are preparing for the next phase of their lives–matriculation (which is not as painful as it sounds) at an expensive four-year liberal arts college. One of them happens to live in our town.


Wellesley College

 

“We need to get a graduation gift for Alicia,” my wife said yesterday.

“Isn’t that your bailiwick?” I asked.

“She says she needs something feminist,” she replied. “Why is that?”

“At most of your better schools, it’s mandatory, sort of like the swim test,” I replied. “So the cheerful, outgoing co-captain of our state champion all-white Hip-Hop Dance Team . . .”

“That’s her . . . “

“First team conference All-Star in field hockey . . . “

“The same . . . “

” . . . is going to become a grim, humorless feminist?”

“I guess,” my wife said with indifference.

I was silent for a moment, taking this in. “Well, good for her!” I replied finally. Of course, I went to college in the seventies, when a mildly insensitive comment by a male was often rewarded with verbal and physical abuse by gangs of marauding females. I learned my lesson orientation week when the most affable, outgoing guy on campus was kicked in the shins for giving the wrong answer to the litmus test riddle about the child who’s in a car accident with his father, wheeled into surgery and examined by a doctor who says “I can’t perform the operation–that’s my son.” (Hint: Some doctors are women.)


Burger: “I do not now, nor have I ever, owned a Helen Reddy album. Well, only her Greatest Hits.”

My wife, on the other hand, is eight-and-a-half years younger than me and graduated in the early eighties, when most of the gains sought by the feminist movement had been achieved. Oh sure, the Equal Rights Amendment and comparable worth legislation are still a distant dream, but the right of whiny, nasal female singers like Helen Reddy to record feminist pseudo-anthems such as “I Am Woman” was affirmed by a unanimous Supreme Court, 8-0. Chief Justice Warren Burger, a night law school graduate, abstained because his wife was a woman.

“Leave it to me,” I said reassuringly. “Shopping for feminist stuff is a man’s job!”


Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap

 

I harkened back to my time on the South Side of Chicago, where I first imbibed the potent brew of radical feminism. Those were heady days; at the University of Chicago, an alumna–radical bomber Bernadine Dohrn–was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List (take that, Ohio State!), proving that a woman could do anything a man like her future husband Bill Ayers could.


Bernadine Dohrn: Bombs away!

 

My pals and I would sit in Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap, drinking Heileman’s Special Export beer, pondering the apparently unsolvable mysteries of The Second Sex (Simone de Beauvoir’s term, not mine). “Hey Jimmy,” we’d shout at the bartender, whose real name was Bill, but who had acquired his nomme de biere along with the furniture and fixtures when he bought the joint.

“What?” he’d reply, speaking in monosyllables in order to keep his overhead down.

“Settle a friendly wager for us, would you?” we’d say, and then repeat Sigmund Freud’s enduring question, “What does a woman want?”


Nat Fleischer: “Pound for pound, Emily Dickinson was the greatest feminist poet who ever lived.”

 

“Jimmy” would reach behind the cash register for the reference books he used to adjudicate bar bets–the Guiness Book of World Records, Nat Fleischer’s Ring Encyclopedia, The Collected Lyrics of Joni Mitchell.

“Let’s see,” he’d say as he flipped through them. “Sugar Ray Robinson, Lake Chaubunagungamaug–okay, here it is. ‘A woman must have everything.’”

The winner would accept congratulations from the house and enjoy a beer at the loser’s expense.

It was from such diligent study that I acquired a working knowledge of the best in feminist thought, which I pass on to you gratis, to make your graduation day shopping a breeze.

Non-fiction. Two classic choices, Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. The first comes with some baggage of the mauvais foi (bad faith) sort; while writing her, uh, seminal work, de Beauvoir allowed Jean-Paul Sartre to boss her around like a chambermaid. What’s up with that? Go with La Friedan.


Anne Sexton: “Look nonchalant–like this?”

 

Poetry. The obvious choices here are Sylvia Plath or Anne Sexton, two confessional poetesses who committed suicide. But this is poetry–you’ve got to look beneath the shimmering surface. Emily Dickinson is the Cal Ripken of feminist poetry; she goes to the ball park every day, bangs out a single, and by the end of her career has an oeuvre that, pound for pound, makes Plath and Sexton look like flyweights. To mix my sports metaphors.


Marilyn French

 

Fiction: Plath’s The Bell Jar is a perennial favorite, but you should also consider The Women’s Room, by Marilyn French, which sold twenty million copies. French said her modest goal in life was “to change the entire social and economic structure of Western civilization, to make it a feminist world.” Perfect for the young woman who’s feeling sorry for herself because she missed the season finale of Girls.

Drama: Irony of ironies, the greatest feminist plays have been written by men. Sort of like how the Red Sox used to trade their best players–Babe Ruth, Red Ruffing, Sparky Lyle–to the Yankees. There’s Lysistrata by Aristophanes, about the eponymous character who persuades the women of Greece to withhold sex from their husbands as a means of forcing them to end the Peloponnesian War. There’s Hedda Gabbler, by Henrik Ibsen, which is loads of laughs. And there’s Medea by Euripides. I summarize the plots of the first two plays for my wife, and am about to describe Medea to her when she gets up from the table.

“Excuse me,” she says, “I need to see whether Mr. Jock,” our wayward senior, “has finished his final assignment.” She goes to the foot of the stairs and explains “FOR THE LAST TIME, FINISH YOUR GODDAMN INTERNSHIP REPORT OR YOU WON’T GRADUATE AND I’LL BE STUCK WITH YOU HERE NEXT YEAR, WHICH BELIEVE ME I AM NOT LOOKING FORWARD TO!”


Children: They’re cute when they’re young.

 

She returns and I give her a synopsis of the Greek tragedy; Medea kills her husband’s lover, then their two children.

“That sounds nice,” she says. “I’ll keep it–send Alicia the other two.”

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

My One-Term Presidency

As President Obama’s second term slow-rolls to a close, the bright promise of his first inaugural address has faded.  We as a nation are more divided than we were eight years ago, with a blow-hard reality TV star pulling one party to the right, and a self-proclaimed socialist pulling the other to the left.


William Henry Harrison:  “A Whig, a Know-Nothing and an Anti-Mason walk into a bar . . .”

 

Even America’s comedians, who have been among the President’s most loyal supporters, have started to tell jokes about him.  There’s an old saying in American politics, dating back to the days of President William Henry Harrison–old “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”; if you’ve lost the stand-up comics, you’ve lost America.

In retrospect, the decision to run for a second term must hang heavy on his head.  When I was faced with a similar decision, I took the rode less traveled as suggested by Robert Frost, and opted not to run again.  Believe me–it has made all the difference.

The year was 1961.  I was, like Obama, a long shot to win the presidency of my fifth grade class at Sacred Heart School.  Like him, I came from a mixed marriage; my dad was Catholic, but my mom was Protestant.  No Protestant–and just one drop of Protestant blood was enough to stamp you with that stigma–had ever been class president in the school’s history.


Whig wet t-shirt contest

 

Like Obama, I came with sterling academic credentials that overrode my minority status, however.  I was two-time winner of the Pettis County Spelling Bee.  I had played the lead–Santa Claus–in the previous year’s fourth grade Christmas play (“A bravura performance”–My Little Messenger). My report card?  Nothing be “E’s” for “Excellent” and “VG’s” for “Very Good.”  And, like Obama, I had written an award-winning autobiography–”So Far, So Good.”

I surfed into office on a tide of anti-incumbent sentiment.  Linda Glennon had been class president for four years, and what had she accomplished?  Nothing.  No monkey bars on the playground, no chocolate milk in the cafeteria.  We were still eating fishsticks on Friday, fer Christ sake!

And so began a new day.  “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” I told a tearful little band of supporters on the front steps of the school.  “I’m waiting for my mom,” said Carolyn Mitzel, the physically precocious brunette I had my eye on now that I possessed the ultimate aphrodisiac–power!


“Use in a sentence, please . . .”

 

“She’s waiting for you over by the church,” said Karen Spinorkle, the little snitch.

“See you later!” I called out to Carolyn as she ran away.

“Not if I see you first,” she yelled back.  That was Carolyn–full of spunk, a ready smile, and a set of burgeoning breasts that even her frilly lace blouses couldn’t hide.

We set to work, me and my administration, promising to make the first 100 days of our administration the most productive in fifth grade history.  Unfortunately, the presidency of a parochial school class is, as John Nance Gardner once said of the Vice Presidency of the United States, “not worth a warm bucket of spit,” but he used a word that would get you a rap across the knuckless and 150 lines on the blackboard after school.

You couldn’t call a meeting, but you presided over one when it was called by Mrs. Kennedy, our teacher and according to someone who claimed to know, a ninth cousin of President Kennedy, the first Catholic president.  Nine degrees of separation between me and the Oval Office!


Gardner:  “What I actually said was ‘piss.’”

 

You could volunteer to take names when Mrs. Kennedy left the room, but my political advisors told me that was too risky–let someone else take the heat.  And so I graciously stepped aside and allowed Linda Glennon, brown-nosing Goody Two-Shoes that she was, to volunteer, thereby increasing her negatives for the next election cycle.  She walked right into that one!

I’m not going to sit here and tell you my term in office was perfect–not by a long shot.  There was malaise, as evidenced by a “passing out” cult of kids who would hold their breaths in the cloakroom while someone gave them a bear hug from behind, causing them to lose consciousness.  There was a gang of wiseacre boys who defiled the sacrament of confirmation–the Catholic equivalent of the bar mitzvah–by choosing the silliest saint they could find, “Aloysius,” for the confirmation name that the bishop would announce when it was their turn to get their cheeks slapped.

There was even a financial/romantic scandal; I slipped a little something special into the valentine card I gave Carolyn Mitzel–and she promptly walked the length of the classroom to give it back to me!  That’s the last time any woman ever turned down a present from me–maybe a dollar bill sent the wrong message.


Goody Two-Shoes

 

Being class president means you are a target for every cutup in the class, and factions will inevitably be formed against you.  I endured the sneers of the “tough boys,” Tommy Dickman, Bobby Waljack and Darrell Vinson, who were so alienated from student government that they heaped scorn on anyone who had the guts and the decency to run for class office.  That’s what’s wrong with politics in America–everybody’s so cynical that even people who are hard-working, intelligent, good-looking, devout, trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, cheerful, brave–and humble–like myself get discouraged.

But I reached out to them in a way that appealed to their better natures.  “Bobby,” I said one day while Mrs. Kennedy was explaining long division, “would you show me how to flip the bird?”

He looked at me skeptically, as if I were a government informant setting a trap for him.

“You serious?” he asked.

“You bet I am,” I replied.  “I’m tired of being a wimp.”


Liftoff!

He looked over at Tommy and Darrell.  They shrugged their shoulders as if to say “We don’t know what’s gotten into him.”

He turned to see where Mrs. Kennedy was, then back to me.  “Okay, you peel back your pinky and your ring finger . . .”

“Okay.”

“Hold them down with your thumb . . .”

“Got it–”

“Then and only then do you fold down your pointer finger–like this!”

He showed me how, turning his hand this way and that, so that I got a full 360 degree perspective.  “Got it?” he asked.

“I think so–let me try.”  I did as he said–it wasn’t at all natural–and got a grip with my thumb on the first two fingers, then f-o-l-d-e-d the index finger down.  The final two steps were for me what it must have been like as one Wright brother twirled the propeller so that the other could take flight–I’d done it!  I did . . .

Just as I was exulting, from behind me came crashing down upon my hand a metal-edged ruler of the sort that would subsequently be outlawed by the Geneva Convention, but which was still in use in far-flung outposts of the Roman Catholic Church.  I grabbed my hand and cried out in pain, loud enough so that every kid in class–including Carolyn Mitzel!–could hear me.

“I can’t believe you–you of all people, the Class President!–would engage in such juvenile and vulgar behavior.  Go to the principal’s office!”

I got up to go, holding my middle finger, and walked the gauntlet between sniggering girls and boys, but as I looked back, I saw on the faces of Tommy, Bobby and Darrell–a strange, new-found respect.  Linda Glennon glowered at me, but Carolyn looked at me through half-closed eyes, as if she now saw me in an entirely different light–an outlaw under the skin.

I got off with a wrist-slap–isn’t that always the way it is when a politician gets caught in the act while in office?–but still, I paid my debt to society.  The criminal record may have hurt my numbers among Linda Glennon’s base, but they weren’t going to vote for me anyway.  Polls taken as the school year wound down showed independent voters leaning my way, as long as I could do something about reducing the annual take during Lent from our candy money for forced “Mite Box” collections for the African missions.

When we got our final grades I’d been promoted to sixth grade while Tommy, Bobby and Darrell had been held back, Darrell for the second time.  With any luck, he’d be driving a car by the time he reached eighth grade–think of the edge that would give him when it came time for the Junior High Sweetheart Dance!

I huddled with my circle of advisors as I tried to decide whether to run again.  Tommy thought it was worth it–it would make me the equivalent of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the school’s history books.  Darrell said there was a kid coming up behind me–Lowell Van Dyne–who would give me a run for my money, but he was beatable; “He picks his nose,” Darrell said with a professional’s gimlet eye towards a challenger’s weak spot, “and eats it.”

“You gotta run,” Bobby said, almost pleading.  “Remember–I taught you how to flip the bird.”

I looked at him, and I felt the way LBJ must have when he decided to bow out of the 1968 Democratic race.

“No guys,” I said.  “I’ve heard great things about Sister Gabriella Marie,” the sixth grade teacher, “and besides–the love of my life graduated.”

“So you’re throwing it all away for Carolyn Mitzel and her bodacious knockers, huh,” Bobby said, bitterly disappointed.

“I’m afraid so guys,” I said with a lump in my throat.  “It’s been great, but I gotta move on.”

“Best of luck,” Darrell said, and we all stood up and shook hands.  It had hurt, but it was something I had to do–for me and for them.

But things are different for you, Mr. President.  You’ve got to hang tough.  Even though your “likeable enough” former Secretary of State can’t seem to buy a primary these days, you’ve got to, pace Yeats, make the center hold.  Before America’s Coke-Pepsi two-party system splits into three, then four, with Bill Weld, a former Governor of Massachusetts signing on as the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential candidate.  Think about that for a second: a freaking novelist just a heartbeat away from the Presidency!

It’s all crazy talk, but that’s the way it always is.

When Bernie and Trump are talking.

Florence Nightingale, Lie-Down Comic

As she lay upon her sofa, gasping, Florence Nightingale devoured blue-books, dictated letters, and, in the intervals of her palpitations, cracked her febrile jokes.

Eminent Victorians, Lytton Strachey

florence

Thank you, thank you . . . thanks a lot!  Wow, you guys are on fire tonight!  Must be diphtheria or something going around.

*laughter*

Hey, great to be back in London.  I just flew in from Scutari, Albania . . . and boy are my arms tired!

*groaning*

You know Scutari’s not a bad place if you’re an Ottoman–but who wants to be a crummy footstool?

*mix of groans, laughs*

Hey–I tell the jokes other nurses won’t touch!

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But seriously folks:  You know, the Crimean War is a real mess, and we ought to pull our troops out of there!

*applause*

But at the same time, let’s give it up for our fighting men in that God-forsaken hell hole.

*louder applause*

Never want to offend anybody . . . unintentionally.

*laughs*

People ask me–what was it like being the only woman tending to the entire British army.  And I say–it’s nice to have 200,000 men to choose from.

*laughs*

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I mean, until the internet is invented, I’ll have to make do with the one or two guys without wedding rings I meet in fern bars.

*laughs*

Speaking of the internet, did you know that 160 years from now, everybody’s going to remember what a great nurse I was, but nobody . . . and I mean nobody . . . is going to remember that I’m the first recorded person in history ever to use the expression “LOL.”

*cheers*

Can you believe it?  I come up with the most useful abbreviation in, like, the history of the world, and all anybody remembers is I saved a couple of thousand crummy lives.

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*laughs/applause*

You know, I just played a week in Vegas . . .

*raucous applause*

Yep.  The first 19th century female to perform there while lying down–outside of a bordello.

*titters*

Hey–what happens during the Victorian era stays in the Victorian era–you know what I’m sayin’?

You know, a lot of female comics make jokes about how dirty and disgusting men are, but listen, they’ve never seen filth like I saw in the hospital when I got there.  It wasn’t hard getting men out of the trenches to fight.  They had a better chance of living charging into a bayonet than they would in the infirmary!

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*laughs*

Listen, you’ve been a great audience.  I’ll be here all week!  Be sure and tip your waitresses–and try the chevapchichi!