Thursday, September 14, 2006


Mingling at a social function, I found myself next to The Eye Doctor.

"How are your eyes?" he asked.

"Fine," I said.

"You're getting up there," he said. "You really ought to come in for an exam."

"I'm fine," I said.

"Can you read small print?" he asked.

"It was getting fuzzy," I said. "So about a year ago I went to the drug store and bought a cheap pair of reading glasses off the rack. Now I'm fine."

"If you say so," he demurred, "but you really should have them looked at."

"Why," I asked. "Is there anything you can do to reverse the process?"

"Not really," The Eye Doctor said. "It's a natural function of age; the eyes progressively their ability to focus. We can't change that."

"So, all I can hope for is that I die before I go blind," I said.

"Right," he said.

"I don't think I'll be coming in," I said.

"You could have glaucoma," The Eye Doctor said. "Do you ever feel any pressure"?

"I do," I said. "But not on my eyes."

Thursday, September 07, 2006


"I have a question," I said.

"Yes," LZ said.

"I went to a clothes store at lunch time," I said.

"My God," LZ replied. "What could have possessed you?"

"That impending wedding," I said. "I can't go in cargo shorts and a faded golf shirt, can I? And aren't I the one with the question?"

"No and yes," LZ said.

"What's the difference between a sport coat and a blazer?" I asked.

"Is there?" LZ parried.

"They're in different sections, so there must be a difference," I said.

"I think a blazer is probably gayer that a sport coat," LZ said.

"Then which one should I buy?" I asked.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


"You know, we play trivia every Thursday in the staff lunchroom," FR said.

"Yes, I know that," I said.

"You really should come and play," FR said.

"I don't think so," I said.

"Why not?" FR asked. "It's all in good fun."

"That's what I heard," I said. "That's why I'm not coming."

"What do you mean?" FR asked.

"I would humiliate all of you," I said. "And then you wouldn't be able to enjoy trivia any more."

FR gave me a fake shocked look and reared himself up.

"That's a first," he said. "Usually, people, if they don't want to play, say they're not smart enough, or that they don't want to embarrass themselves."

"For me it's the opposite, like I said," I said.

"All right then," FR said. "Forget it. Just forget about it. Forget I asked."

"OK," I said.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


"Guess who I saw at the FoodMart?" I asked.

"Who?" LZ responded.

"Chase Utley," I said.

"Who?" LZ repeared.

"Chase Utley," I said once more.

"I heard you," LZ said, "I meant, who is Chase Utley?"

"He's on the Phillies," I said. "Plays second base, I think."

"And he was in the FoodMart?" LZ said.

"Buying Pop Tarts," I said. "They were on sale."

"Hmm," LZ said.

"He's very pasty, a little overweight, and has bad skin," I said. "You wouldn't know it from tv."

"A fat man with bad skin who plays for the Phillies was buying discount Eggos in the FoodMart down the street?" LZ stated.

"Pop Tarts," I corrected.

"How can you be sure it was him?" LZ asked.

"He was wearing a Phillies shirt," I said. "The striped version, and his name was on it."

Friday, April 07, 2006


LZ calls me at work.

"Is it possible that you forgot to lock the door this morning?" she asks.

"Hmm," I reply.

"Not only was it unlocked, it was actually left open a few inches," she says.

"Um," I say.

"Do you think you went to work and just left the door wide open?" she asks.

"What room are you in?" I ask.

"The dining room," LZ replies.

"Do me a favor," I say, "and walk to the living room."

"What now?" LZ asks.

"Look around," I say. "Is our stuff still there? TV? Computer? DVD player? Stuff like that."

"It's here," LZ says.

"Then I guess it was me who left the door open," I say.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


"Is that all today sir?" the woman at the counter of the local farm/feed store asks, as she points to the 10 lb. pound of dog food I have set on the counter.

"Yes, that's all," I say.

"You know we have the bigger bags," she says.

"I know, " I say, "but I don't have the bigger money today."

"But, it's a better buy," she says.

"That's OK," I say. "This will be fine."

"You see," she explains, "if you buy the bigger bag, you can save more money."

"If I were really interested in saving money I'd go up the highway to the Giant PetFoodWorld, now wouldn't I?" I ask. "Instead of shopping here in town."

"Hmphf," she growls as she rings up the dog food.

Monday, March 13, 2006


"Did you have Centers when you were in school?" T2 asked.

"And what exactly are Centers?" I asked.

"Special places in the room where you can go for Art, Music, Computers and Games, and things," she explained.

"Well," I said, "we didn't call them Centers, but we had most of those things when I was in school, except computers."

"I know you didn't have any computers," T2 said, "because you didn't have technology back then."

"Oh, we had a little technology," I said. "For instance, I took a bus to school instead of riding a horse."

T2 laughed out loud. I could see she'd formed a mental picture of me off to school on horseback.

"And we had televisions, and phones, of course," I said.

"And I know you had lights," T1 interjected. "Because Thomas Edison invented the light bulb."

"That's true," I replied. "I'll never forget that day. We were sitting home, in the dark, and there was a knock at the door. It was Tom Edison himself, with a bag of light bulbs in his hand. 'Here.' he said, 'take these and screw them in.' That way you won't have to sit around in the dark all the time.' So we did."

"Is that true?" T2 asked.

"Absolutely," I said. "That's just the way it happened."

"We better ask Mommy," T1 said to her sister. "She's more seriouser."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


I walk over to the office window and look out. It's raining.

"Beautiful day," my coworker says.

I say nothing.

"Ha, ha, real nice day," my coworker says.

I say nothing.

"Nice day for ducks, I mean," my coworker says. "Ha ha."

I walk back to my desk and sit down.

"So wet even ducks don't like it," my coworker says. "Ha ha."

I get back to work.

Friday, December 02, 2005


"I joined a club at school," T2 said.

"Really," I said. "I didn't know they had clubs in 1st grade."

"This one is at recess only," she said. "It's called the Popular Club."

"Who made up the name?" I asked.

"Samantha and Sabrina made it up and they asked me Tiffany to join," T2 said.

"Listen," I said. "I'm glad you're having fun, but there shouldn't be any meanness involved."

She furrowed her brow.

"I hope Samantha and Sabrina aren't just having a club so they can decide who's popular and who's not," I explained. "Can anyone join?"

"Yes," T2 said. "Anyone can join, but we are the only ones who want to."

Then, proving her point, she walked over to her sister. "Do you want to join the Popular Club?"

"No thanks," T1 said. "I can't. I'm in charge of the Mushroom People."

"What was that?" I asked.

"The bus is coming," T1 said.

"Bye" they yelled. They ran down the driveway.

Monday, November 28, 2005

"Burgess just pulled up," someone said.

"Who invited him?" I asked.

"Happy Thanksgiving," Burgess said as he walked in the door.

"Who invited you?" I asked.

"Ha," Burgess said. "Ha."

Burgess looked around. "You know, I don't think I've ever been here before."

"Sure you have," some people said.

"Don't you remember that party last summer?" someone asked.

"I wasn't here," Burgess said.

"What about the Christmas before last? That big get-together?"

"Nope," said Burgess.

"Oh well," I said.


The turkey was eaten. Afternoon turned to night. Pies were chopped up. Coffee was poured. People dispersed. The children were putting on a puppet show in the tv room. I heard Burgess in the kitchen discussing pottery with some hapless guest.

"I've got some nice pieces," he said. "I've been buying them up for years at sales and flea markets. You can get good stuff around here. Lately I've been going on eBAy, seeing what they're worth."

"Let's go," I said to LZ. "I've had enough Thanksgiving."

"Leaving already?" Burgess shouted. "Wait a minute.

"What is it,?" I asked.

"We're playing tomorrow night," Burgess said.

"Thanks for warning me," I said.

"Seriously, why don't you guys come out?"

"I would," I said, "but I don't like the blues."

"Blues?" Burgess said. "I fired that band; I'm a crooner now."

You don't say," I said.

"I've got JH and Larry playing with me now," Burgess said. "It's great."


Thursday, November 24, 2005


"She was going on and on," I told JA. "This was a good pinot, that was a great pinot. I'd never heard of any of them. For a minute I thought she was really on to something, then I realized she was talking about pinot grigio, not pinot noir."

Buck leaned forward and slapped his head.

"That was your joke?" he said. "You call that a joke? I can't believe what I'm hearing. What happened to you?"

"I was talking to JA, not you, " I told Buck. "I thought he'd appreciate it."

"What happened to both of you?" Buck said. "Look around. Is that the type of think you should be talking about here?"

We were in FDR park, down the street from the football stadium. Thousands of tailgaters in full Eagles regalia were cooking, eating and drinking. Psyching themselves up for the game. The primitive aspect was magnified by the fact that it was a night game, the rituals were being carried out in almost total darkness. Illumination came only from a few street lights, stray headlights, a flash from a grill.

"Contrary to popular belief," I said to Buck, "the Philadelphia sports fan is actually an urbane and tolerant species. To prove my point, I think I'll introduce myself to that group over there and try my story out on them."

I pointed to a group of eight or so face-painted savages huddled around a crackling, smoking grill.

"Don't do it," Buck said. "I won't be responsible."

"OK." I said. "I'll let it go."

"I always knew you were a chardonnay sipping fag," Buck said.

"We better get moving," I said. "I don't want to miss the national anthem."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


"Can I get you something to drink while you're looking at the menu?" the waitress demands.

"What do you have on tap?" I counter.

"We don't have any Bud Light," she blurts.

"That's OK," I iterate. "What do you have?"

"We have Dos Equus," she announces.

That's fine by me, I muse. I look up to order the Dos Equus.

"And we have Yin Ling," she carefully enunciates.

"That settles it," I declare. "I'll have a Yuengling."

"And I'll have an iced tea," LZ interposes.

"That sure tastes like a Dos Equus," I advance, after tasting my beer.

"Are you sure?" LZ insinuates.

"I'm sure it tastes like a Dos Equus," I equivocate. "I'll find out later."

"Would you like another beer?" the waitress suggests at the appropriate moment.

"I would," I agree.

"Dos Equus, right?" she hesitates.

"Yuengling," I correct.

"Right," she nods. "Yin Ling it is."

"She's going to bring me another Dos Equus," I prognosticate.

"You're right," LZ concedes.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005



We are waiting for the school bus, the Things and I, and the stick-chewing dog.

“We have to back in and get changed,” T1 says.

“Why?” I say.

“We are supposed to wear red, white and blue today,” she says.

“Oh, yeah,” T2 says.

“Get out,” I say.

“We have to,” T1 says. “Really.”

“And why is that?” I ask

“It’s for Bad Drugs week,” T2 says. We have to wear red, white and blue to show that we are against bad drugs.”

They are wearing green and brown. The yellow school bus rounds the corner.

“Here comes the bus.” I say. “You’ll have to be against bad drugs tomorrow.”


“We have to bring bears to school tomorrow,” the girls say. “Only bears that can fit in our backpacks.”

“Is this for Bad Drugs week?” I ask.

“Yes,” T1 says.

“Why bears?” I ask.

“Bad drugs are unbearable!”


“We have to go back in,” T1 says.

“Your bears are in your backpacks,” I said. “I checked.”

“But we need our ribbons pinned on,” T2 says.

“What ribbons?” I ask.

“We have red ribbons to wear, to show we are against…”

“I know, I know,” I said.

“They’re left on the table,” they shout. “We forgot to pin them on.”

“Here comes the bus,” I say.


“I almost forgot to tell you,” I say to LZ, “if you have any bad drugs lying around, be sure to hide them. The school will probably have notified the authorities by not that we’re not with the program. We should probably be expecting a search.”


The Simpsons are on. A blind man opens the door to a policeman and a dog. He thinks it’s some sort of companion animal, but I can see what’s coming.

“Girls, girls!” I call. “Quick. Look.”

The dog is sniffing the man and noses a baggie from his pocket.

“What is the dog doing?” T1 asks.

“He’s sniffing for drugs,” I said.” “He works for the police; he found bad drugs.”

“What is it?” T2 asks.

“It’s called marijuana,” I say.

“What does it do?” she asks.

“People smoke it, and it makes them act silly,” I say.

The policeman cuffs the blind man and takes him away.

“Where is he taking him?” T1 asks.

“To jail,” I say. “The man is being arrested.”

“Arrested!” Ti exclaims. “Can you be arrested for acting silly?”

“Well,” I explain, “they say it is bad for your health too.”

“But he didn’t even smoke it,” T1 says. “Can you be arrested just for having it in your pocket?”

“Yes,” I say. “You can.”

“That’s not fair,” she says. She stomps out of the room.


“And what is it today?” I ask.

“Silly socks and slippers,” T2 says.

“Should I ask?” I ask.

“Sock it to drugs and slip away,” she says.

“Is this Bad Drugs week or Bad Jokes week?” I ask.

“Hmph,” T1 snorts.

“I don’t make the rules,” I say. “Don’t snort at me.”


“Tomorrow we need money, the coins kind,” the girls say.

“I give up,” I say.

“Drugs make no cents!”

“I’ll put the money in an envelope and I’ll write drug money on it,” I say. “And you can take it to school. How’s that?”

LZ glares at me.

“ I better write money for bad drugs, so there’s no mistake,” I say.


“I put your drug money in your backpacks,” I say. “You’re all set.”


“Look at the candy we got in school today,” the girls say.

“Why would they give you all this candy?” I ask.

“Life is sweet without drugs!”

“That may be,” I say, “but you’re not eating all that candy. It’ll make you sick and rot your teeth. It’s really not good for you. Not good for you at all.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


I was sitting in the conference room. It was quiet. I started to read a magazine. Eventually the police came. "You'll have to come with us," one of them said, almost in a whisper. I didn't resist. They cuffed me and took me away. At the station I was put into a green room with a metal table and three metal chairs.


"What happened?" one of them asked.

"I killed them all," I said. "One after the other. I won't deny it."

"With your bare hands?" the policeman asked.

"Yes," I said.

"You must have been out of your mind with rage," the policeman suggested.

"Oh, not really," I said. "It was just one of those things."

"Were you on any drugs?" he asked.

"No," I said. "I quit a long time ago."

"That's too bad," the policeman said. "It might have helped your defense."

"Oh," I said.

"Well, why then?" he asked.


"At first, I wasn't paying attention," I said. "I try not to hear what is going on."

"So, you are not a team player," the policeman said. He began scribbling in his notebook.

"No, I guess not," I said.

"Go on," the policeman said.

"Anyway, the meeting blather began drifting into my consciousness. There was some plan they all liked. It was a "homerun." But first they had to "touch base" with the clients to make sure everyone was on the "same page." But it was hard. They'd been forced to "play phone tag." Someone said it was like "herding cats."

"And..." the policeman asked.

"And, I killed them all," I said.

"Was it the herding cats comment that sent you over?" he asked.

"Not really," I said. "I think it was that everyone nodded in agreement as if something profound had been said. That's when I knew they had to die."

"No one resisted?" the policeman asked.

"They couldn't," I explained. "It wasn't on the agenda, so everyone just sat there."


"I sorry," the judge said. "But "temporary sanity" is not a valid plea.

"Oh," I said.

'I'm giving you twenty to life," the judge said.

"No problem," I said. "I have just one request. Could I be placed in solitary confinement?"

The judge laughed. "They don't have solitary confinement where you're going," he said.


I heard JC calling to me from the next cubicle. "Hey let's go. No daydreaming. You're going to be late for the afternoon meeting."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


"What did you in art today?" I asked.

"We learned the primary colors," T1 said.

"No, we didn't," T2 said. "That was last week. This week we learned the secondary colors."

"We learned the primary colors first," T1 shouted.

"That wasn't learning. That was a review," T2 countered.

"And what are the secondary colors?" I asked.

"Green, orange, and purple!" they shouted together.

"Hey!" T1 said. "He asked me."

"No. He didn't. He asked me," T2 replied.

"I asked both of you," I said.

"What comes after the secondary colors?" T2 asked.

"I can't remember the name," I said. "I'll have to look it up."

"Is it the ordinary colors?" T2 asked.

"She asked the art teacher that," T1 said.

"Mrs. Melchior said there are no ordinary colors," T2 said. "But there are."

"We don't have ordinary colors in art class," T1 said.

"It is a word like ordinary," T2 said. "Maybe ordin-dary."

"Ordindairy!" T1 exclaimed. "That would be colors that cows could see."

"I said it was a word like that," T2 said.

"Cows in a dairy barn would have ordindairy colors, not people," T1 asserted.

"If you don't stop laughing, I am going to cut open gray kitty and pull out all of her stuffing," T2 said.

T1 was nonplussed. "Hey!" she yelled.

"It's tertiary," LZ called from downstairs. "And that's enough shouting."

"When are we going to have potatoes again?" T2 asked.

"What?" I asked.

"I said, when are we going to have potatoes at dinner?"

"We can have them soon, I guess," I said.

"You always say that, then we have pasta or rice," she replied.

"We can have potatoes," I said.

"And I want real potatoes only," T2 said.

"What do you mean, real potatoes?" I asked.

"She means big potatoes from the oven, not the smashed up kind in a bowl," T1 explained.

"We can have them," I said. "Soon. Just don't hurt gray kitty."

Monday, October 10, 2005


"Would you like to hear a weird dog story?" LZ asked.

"I would," I said. "Unless the dog dies, then no."

"I wouldn't tell you a dead dog story," LZ said. "Don't you know that by now?"

"I almost know it, but I had to be sure," I said. "Go ahead."

"I was having lunch this afternoon with the new teacher, Nastassia, and we got to talking about dogs, and Nastassia told me this weird story about her dog."

"This is that story, then?" I asked.

"It is," LZ said.

"With a name like Nastassia, I would assume the dog is an exotic of some sort," I said.

"No," LZ said. "It's just a German shorthair."

Is a German shorthair an official type of dog, I wondered, or is there more to it.

LZ was back into the story before I could ask. "Nastassia lives in Bardentown," LZ said.

I'll have to remember to find out about the dog breed, I thought.

"I really like Bardentown," I said. "Good restaurants, old buildings, the river area."

"Nastassia doesn't live in that part," LZ said. "She lives across the highway, in the developments. Almost on the border of Exwicks"

"Oh," I said. "That's not as good. I may have to change that if I need local color."

"What do you mean change it?" LZ asked.

"If I decide to tell it, I may need some spruce it up a bit by moving Nastassia over by the river."

"Wait a minute," LZ said. "Whose story is this, anyway?"

"Everybody who wants one gets a version," I said. "That's just a fact."

"You won't be able to do it," LZ said. "Where they live is part of the story."

"We'll see," I said. "Go on."

"Nastassia lives in a regular suburban house with a regular yard, and in between the house and the yard is a back door, and in this back door is a dog door, and the dog door is really subtle. Unless you knew it was there, you would never know it was there."

"I guess the important thing is that the dog knows," I said.

But it turned out that there was probably something much more important about the subtle dog door. Its subtlety may, in essence, have precipitated the whole incident that became this story. At least I thought so.

"It's a small fenced in yard, the dog would go in and out as it pleased," LZ said.

"Nastassia didn't worry?" I asked.

"No, not at all," LZ said. "The dog was getting on, and it wasn't a jumper, a digger, or an escape artist of any kind. He liked the yard. He wouldn’t try to leave."

"But something happened," I said.

"It was the Martin Luther King holiday, a bitterly cold day," LZ said. "Nastassia was home with the children and she realized she hadn't seen the dog in a while. She looked in the yard, the dog wasn't there. She checked the house from top to bottom. No dog. She went outside one more time. No dog. She bundled up the children and walked around the neighborhood. No dog" "'Hermie!' she called. 'Hermie!' But the dog was nowhere to be found."

"Hermie?" I asked. "The dog's official real name is Hermann von Something," LZ said. "They call him Hermie."

So it is a real breed, I thought.

Many of this type of dog stories end at this point," I said. "Dog disappeared, never heard of again."

"Not this time," LZ said. "Nastassia didn't give up. She looked everywhere. She rode up and down the town. She made up fliers and put them on poles. She posted them in stores. She promised a reward. She had a once a week routine of calling every vet and animal shelter in the county. This went on for three months at least."

"That's dedication," I said.

"Then one day Nastassia got a call. A woman claimed to have information about her dog. She asked to meet Nastassia at the BiggerMarket, in the deli section. The woman would be wearing a red cap."

"I guess we're into the weird part now," I ventured.

"Pretty much," LZ said. "So Nastassia went to the market and the woman wass there, just like she said she would be."

"What kind of cap was it?" I asked. "A baseball cap, a trucker’s cap? A tam? What?"

"I didn't get that," LZ said. "Does it matter?"

"It could," I said.

"The woman told Nastassia that she thought her boss has Nastassia's dog. She gave Nastassia one the missing dog fliers with an address scribbled on it, and she took off."

"Did Nastassia follow her?" I asked. "Get her license plate number or anything?"

"No, LZ said. "By the time she thought of it, the woman was gone. Vanished."

"Lot of disappearing in this story,” I said. "Too much, really"

"Nastassia recognized the address. It was in Exwicks. No more than a mile or so from her house. She went right over and knocked on the door. A woman let her in. When Nastassia walked in, she was shocked. The whole room, and the room behind it, at least as much of it as she could see, is full of stacked cat carriers, four or five high. And they were full of screaming, mewling cats. And she could hear dogs barking."

"I never liked the name Exwicks," I said. "I think I'll change it."

LZ rolled her eyes.

"What happened next?" I asked, moving the narrative along.

"The woman in the house was a caretaker for the cats. She tended them all day, feeding, watering, changing the litter, whatever else you do for cats. All day long, while the owner was at work, she was on cat duty. Nastassia showed her a picture of Hermie. The woman thinks, yes, Hermie could be in the basement, with the other barking dogs. But the woman is the cat person only. She doesn't take care of the dogs. In fact, the basement is locked and she doesn't even have a key."

"That strains credulity," I said.

"That's how the story goes," LZ said.

"Then...." I said.

"Then Nastassia went right to the Exwicks police station. The police knew all about the guy. But they were unsympathetic. The guy’s sort of a local character. He’s liked. The police wouldn't help. No laws have been broken that they know of. There's no proof Hermie is in the house. And even if he is, the owner hasn't refused to surrender him. In fact, Nastassia hasn't even spoken to the owner. She's on thin ice coming into Exwicks and maligning a law-abiding resident taxpayer."

"The police sergeant looked at Nastassia. 'This guy, this animal guy,' he said, 'he's a little off, maybe, but he's an animal lover; he doesn't abuse the animals. In fact he fancies himself as sort of an animal savior, rescuing abused and neglected animals.' "Then the sergeant stopped talking and really stared at Nastassia with one of those blank, yet mean, police-authority type stares.. There's a moment of silence. Nastassia realizes that the policeman had turned the tables and was somehow implying that she had brought this on herself by mistreating Hermie. She got all red, embarrassed and angry and the same time. She couldn't say anything; she didn't know what to say. She turned and almost ran from the station."

"So the police were protecting their hometown nut?" I asked.

"Apparently," LZ said.

"We'll make that the end of part 2," I said.

LZ ignored me.

"Nastassia was determined to get Hermie back, of course," she said. "So she called her ex-husband, and he came over with his brother, a big guy, and the three of them went back to the house in Exwicks that night."

"Now the ex-husband," I asked, "what's the relationship there?"

"I didn't ask," LZ said. "It's none of my business."

"It must be fairly close," I said. "For him to come right over, and with his brother. Or maybe it's loyalty to the dog. Was he close to the dog?"

"I guess," LZ said.

"So off they go to the crazy house in CrossKeys," I prompted.

"Exwicks," LZ said.

"OK," I said. "Exwicks. For now."

"They marched right up to the front door and rang the bell. Nastassia was a holding one of those fliers. A guy opened the door, looked at the three of them, looked at the flier in Nastassia's hand. He held up his index finger in that just a minute gesture, turned and walked back into the house. A second later Hermie charged through the room and out the open door right into Nastassia's arms. She grabbed up Hermie and they ran to their car and took off."

"That's it?" I asked.

"Pretty much," Z said.

"No one said anything to the guy?"

"No," LK said. "They were just so surprised and happy to see Hermie that they never looked back."

"Damn," I said. "Now I'm going to have to make up some stuff."

"Like what?" LZ asked.

"Like a lot of stuff. There’s just too many unknowns," I said. "It's dissatisfying. Did Nastassia even say what the guy looked like?"

"Just normal," LZ said. "Nothing remarkable."

"We'll make him mid 40's," I said. "Pasty. Was skinny, but not any more. . Still has the white, skinny legs. The beginnings of a pot belly. Wearing stupid colors. Green pants. Pale yellow sports shirt. Green cardigan. Light brown hair. Stringy and lank. Glasses. How's that?"

"I'm going to check on the girls," LZ said. “I'll be right back.”

“I’ve heard of these people,” I said when LZ got back. “These animal collectors. It’s a regular pathology, or syndrome. I’m pretty sure an official condition. But usually it’s an older woman with cats. I never heard of cats and dogs together. That’s a new angle.”

I thought on that.

“And as for why, how’s this?” I asked. “He’s a guy, a nut, with this animal collector thing. But he doesn’t know he’s a nut. He thinks he’s a hero, an animal savior. So there’s a little bit of that grandiosity thrown in too.”

“He’s got a job, a pretty good job, if he can hire someone just to stare at cats. But he’s out stealing dogs on a Monday morning. Is he off from work for the holiday?
No, and that’s the whole point. Government workers and teachers get off on Martin Luther King day. Not the private sector. It’s like half a holiday. And he’s in the private sector because the woman in the BiggerMarket called him her boss. In government work they always say supervisor.

“So he’s in the private sector. Self-employed. Maybe he has a little real estate office, something that keeps him on the road. Doing his job and watching out for the animals.

“And he’s out in Bardentown, checking out a listing on a freezing morning and he sees Hermie in the back yard, a short-haired dog out in freezing weather. And he forgets that it’s a holiday for some people. He’s unmarried, childless. He doesn’t think about school holidays, semi-holidays. All he sees is an unattended dog, freezing in a yard. He assumes the owners are at work and have left the dog out for the day. He doesn’t notice the subtle dog door: the fine workmanship obscures it. He saves Hermie.

“Pretty good, the way I worked it all out. Don’t you think?” I asked LZ.

“It is logical,” LZ said. “But it sort of takes away the ethereal uncertainty away when you connect the dots like that. Doesn’t it?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I mean,” said LZ, “that it was all there already. The short haired dog. The subtle door. The boss reference. If you have to spell it all out, maybe it wasn’t that good a story to start with. If you take a regular short haired dog story and try to make it into a shaggy dog story, well, then….”

Ethereal uncertainty, I thought. That’s pretty overblown. LZ’s really gotten full of herself.

“I see your point,” I said.


Friday, September 30, 2005


We are waiting for the school bus, the Things and I. It is a crisp morning.

"It's cold," T1 says.

It's not cold," I say. "It's crisp, that's all."

"It is cold," T2 announces definitively.

"Maybe a little," I say.

"I'm freezing," Ti says.

"That's impossible," I say.

"I need to put my hood on." T1 says.

"No hood!" I shout.

"But I'm freezing," T1 repeats.

"No hood," I say. "Mommy said it will mess up your hair."

T1 starts to whimper.

"Have you gone crazy?" I ask.

T1 glowers at me, continues whimpering and makes to shiver.

"That's it," I say. "I specifically told them at the baby store that I didn't want any crazy ones. And here you've gone crazy. I may have to take you back and ask for a refund."

T1 is shivering into her jacket, not acknowledging me, but T2 is suddenly paying close attention.

"How much do you think I could get for your sister, if I returned her in this condition?" I ask.

T2 guesses high. "Twenty dollars?"

"Twenty dollars!" I say. "I'll do it! I'll return her right after school and the two of us will go out for hamburgers and ice cream with the money."

T2 is grinning from ear to ear. This is a promising development.

T1 has slunk behind the car. She is not happy. Her face is beet red; she looks as if she may burst into tears.

"I was just kidding," I said. "I wasn't really going to return you."

She doesn't respond.

The bus is due any second. If she gets on crying the mom grapevine will find out and spring into action. Somehow they'll blame me, and rumors will spread that my parenting skills are lacking, that I'm inappropriate. It will get back to LZ. She won't think it is funny.

I bend over and whisper to T1. "I told you I was just kidding. It's really your sister I'm returning. Keep it a secret."

She nods and smiles. Crisis over.

"Here comes the bus," I say. "Have a good day."

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


In this story we have Marcus, his beat up VW squareback, and a young robber. I'm trying to remember the car (it was a long time ago); I think it was dark orange, rust colored, but I can't be sure.

Marcus was out early one Saturday morning, in a bad part of town. And why? He was just passing through, taking a shortcut (the interstate wasn't finished yet, people actually drove through cities to get to the other side of them, so it's plausible, at least).

Well there was Marcus, stopped at a red light, minding his own business, when who should step up to his window but a robber. A young black kid with a gun, a gun pointing right at Marcus.

"Give me your money, right now," the kid said.

Marcus dug around in his pockets, came up a with a handful of change, maybe two dollars, maybe not even, and offered it to the kid.

"This is what I've got," Marcus said.

"What's this shit?" the robber asked. "I want your wallet, your asshole."

"I don't carry a wallet," Marcus said.


"I don't," Marcus reiterated.

The kid got a little flustered. "Everybody carries a wallet. Don't give me that shit."

"I don't have one."

"Where do you carry your license, your papers?"

"I don't have one," Marcus said. "I don't have a license."

"That's bullshit," the kid said. "You don't have any papers, any license, you'll get tickets."

"I know," Marcus said. "Look."

He bent over to the glove compartment and popped it open.

The kid stuck his head in the window. He was appalled by the mess he saw. The car was filthy. There were empty cigarette packs, candy bar wrappers, soda cans, newspapers, and more junk piled up everywhere. And the glove compartment was overstuffed with traffic tickets.

The kid pulled his head out of the car and stared at Marcus. "What's wrong with you, you crazy or something? I ought shoot you just for that. Put you out of your misery."

Marcus shrugged his shoulders.

The kid put the gun back in waistband. He maintained eye contact but bagan backing away from the car and down the sidewalk.

Marcus looked around. There on the floor, in the back, was a half buried basketball. It's been there since, since before Marcus joined the band, since before he started drugging, since before he smashed his ankle, since before he dropped out of college.

"Wait," Marcus yelled.

The kid was maybe twenty feet away. He froze. "What?" he says. "What do you want, crazy?"

Marcus grabbed the basketball and stepped out of the car. "I've got this, you want it?"

"That's all right," the kid said, and resumed backing away.

"Really." Marcus said, "Just take it. I don't need it. You guys like to play basketball, don't you? Here."

He cocked the ball and prepared to throw it.

"You are fucked up," the kid said. He turned and ran down the sidewalk, around the corner and out of sight.

Marcus looked around. The street was deserted. He bowled the basketball down the center line, a leisurely slow roll, and watched as it slowed and angled toward the curb. The ball kissed the curb, rebounded an inch or two, and stopped. Marcus got back in his car and drove away.

So it all came to nothing and that was that.

I never cared about about the truth of the story. I knew Marcus wasn't exactly George Washington in that department, and besides, I'd only heard it second-hand, so I wasn't about to track Marcus down and grill him on something he'd never tried to convince me of. And even if I had, and he had, that would only have been the half of it. We would never know what the two dollar robber would have to contribute.


The other night LZ and I went out to a late dinner. On our way to be seated we passed a table of people who looked vaguely familiar, but something was out of kilter. The couples didn't match up as I remembered. Then I thought, separation, divorce, dating, cheating, remarriage, business, whatever. I just nodded as we went by. I had no desire to know who was who, or why they were with whoever else, instead of whom they might be expected to be with. I just wanted to eat.

We were seated fairly close to our semi-acquaintances; I had my back to their table. The restaurant was emptying out, it got quiet enough to hear stray phrases, unmoored sentences....
And I realized one of them was telling a story.

"... and Marcus was driving a beat-up cherry red Chevette...." (a chuckle or two from the listeners)

"It was late, probably after midnight, who knew what Marcus was doing out there..." (the snarky drug reference, a knowing laugh)

"...then Marcus looked around, saw a dime on the floor...." (So the basketball had been edited out. I guess the implied racism that underlied that section had to go.)

"The street was full of people , but no one bothered Marcus as he walked back to his car." (a bit of mythmaking, compensating for the loss of the basketball)

LZ hadn't heard any of it. I didn't bother to tell her. She's got no use for Marcus, or for that past.

As they got up to leave, I heard one last bit.

"I'm, not sure, rumor has it he ran off with babysitter and is living in a cottage in Wales, by the coast, in one of those towns you can't spell, much less pronounce."

Not even close, I thought. But not a bad ending, considering.

Friday, June 10, 2005


The Things and I were spending a lazy Sunday morning watching The Little Mermaid. Suddenly T2 jumped up and pointed to the screen.

"That's wrong," she shouted. "That's wrong!"

I jumped up too, in confusion.

"What is it?" I asked. "What's wrong?"

"Look," she shouted. "Look! The ocean floor is not in the sunny zone. The movie is wrong."

"I think they call it artistic license," I said.

T2 looked at me disdainfully. "There's the sunny zone, the twilight zone, the dark zone, the abyss, and the trench," she said. "And the ocean floor is not in the sunny zone."

"The mermaid, the talking fish, the singing crab," I said. "That's all OK with you?"

"That's different," T2 said. "But it's not wrong."

"I'm going to put the movie on pause, and let your mother know about this," I said.

LZ was suitably impressed. "Her first anachronism," she said. "You must be proud."

"I know they call all movie mistakes anachronisms," I said. "But there's got to be a better word. One that means out of place, instead of out of time."

When I got back, the girls were practically bursting with informatiom.

"In the abyss, it is so dark that the fish can't even see their food. They just swim around with their mouths open and eat whatever crawls in," T1 said.

T2 topped her: "In the trench, there are no fish at all. Just tubeworms."

"My god," I said. "I really didn't want to know that."

T1 made an exaggerated fish face and zoomed around the room gulping and swallowing enthusiastically.

"I'm in the abyss, trying to get some food," she said.

"Aren't we all," I concurred.

"Can you put the movie back on?" T2 asked.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


"Daddy, are we really mostly made of water?" T1 asks.

"That's what they say," I reply.

"Who says we are made of water?" T2 asks.

"I guess scientists," I say.

"How do they know?" T2 asks.

"They study these things," I say.

"I know we are not made of water," T2 says, "because we are not falling apart."

"I always had trouble with the concept myself," I concur, "but apparently it's true."

"Then where is the water?" T2 asks.

"All through your body," I say. "In all your parts, in your skin and in your blood."

T2 holds up her hand. "If I go like this, is all the water going down from my hand and arm?"

"I think it stays," I say. "It's caught."

"Is it pond water we're full of?" T2 asks.

"No!" T1 shouts. "We are full of well water, not pond water."

"I'm full of very expensive bottled water, myself," I tell them. "Now go to sleep."

"Daddy, I have another question," T1 said.

"Just one?" I ask.

"How do people learn Chinese words?"

"Well, you could study to learn it, but most people learn the language their parents speak. If their parents are Chinese, then they will learn to speak Chinese."

"But daddy, after the China children learn the Chinese words, do they ever say, 'now teach us the regular words'"?

"To them, the Chinese words are the regular ones," I say.

"Chinese words are not regular words!" T2 shouts.

"Time for sleep now," I say. "Good night."


"Are they asleep yet?" LZ asks, as I barrel down the stairs.

"Almost," I say.

"Where are you going in such a hurry?" she asks.

"To the kitchen for a drink," I say. "That Chinese food makes me thirsty as all get out."


related link

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Q & No A

"Why is there a world?" T1 asks.

"I don't know," I say. "But I'm glad there is. If there were no world, then we'd have nothing to do. We'd just be sitting here in the dark."

"We are part of the world," T1 says. "If there was no world, there would be no us either."

"If there 'were,'" I say. "Subjunctive."

"Why is there life, then?" T2 asks. "That is the question."

"That certainly is the question," I say.

"But why?" T2 persists.

"No one knows," I say.

"Maybe we could ask the man," T1 says.

"What man?" I ask.

"The restaurant man, on the computer," T1 explains.

"Oh," I say, "that man. "He's dressed up as a butler, not a waiter."

"What's a butler?" T2 asks.

"Can we just ask him?" T1 complains.

"He doesn't know," T2 says. "No one knows."

"I guess it wouldn't hurt to ask," I say. "Maybe there's some new information that I've missed."

"He won't know," T2 states once again.

"Here's what I've got," I say. "The first two answers deal with the meaning of life. That's not what we want, is it?"

They shake their heads.

"The next two tell what life is, but we already have a handle on that, don't we?"

They shake their heads.

"Meaning of life, meaning of life, irrelevant, irrelevant, meaning of life, irrelevant."

I shake my head.

"Wait a second," I say. "Let me click on this one. This guy may have something."


"Oh, never mind," I say. "It's just a long posting refuting some crackpot creationist lecture."

They look at me blankly.

"Time for bed?" I hazard.

"I knew he wouldn't tell us," T2 says. She turns and stomps up the stairs to bed.

"What's a crackpot?" T1 asks.

"One who holds eccentric or lunatic notions," I say.

"Like Eli, at school," T1 says. "Yesterday he wore a pajama top to school instead of a shirt."

"He certainly sounds eccentric," I say. "He just may be a crackpot."

"Why do I always have to go to bed and she doesn't?" T2 calls from the top of the steps.

"To bed with you," I say to T1. "Tell your sister we'll continue our inquiries tomorrow."


Wednesday, February 23, 2005



I was vaguely aware that D had been complaining of dizzy spells for a couple of days.

"It's a good thing you are off today," LZ said. "D has to go to the doctor."

"What for?" I asked.

"He was throwing up half the night," LZ said. "How could you have missed all the commotion?"

"I guess I was sleeping," I said.

"You have to get an afternoon appointment," LZ said. "He's got the play this morning."

"He's at school?" I asked.

"He felt well enough to go, and he didn't want to miss the play, but I still think he should see the doctor."

"OK," I said.

"Just call the office, make an appointment, and make sure you get to school in time to sign him out and get him to the office. It could take a while for them to page him and for him to get his stuff. Get to school at least 45 minutes before the appointment."

"OK," I said.


"How do you feel?" I asked D.

"I think I'm fine now," he said.

"No more dizziness? I asked. "No throwing up?"

"I said. I'm fine," D said.

"So this doctor visit, it's probably a waste of time, then," I said.

"Probably," he said.

"Well, let's get going," I said. "We wouldn't want to be late."


I remembered the doctor from when the Things were born. She had burst into the hospital room and made a few pronouncements in a thick East European accent.

"Now, the hard part is just starting. You think it is over, but no. Now the hard part starts. You mark my words."

"Come see me in a week or so. Maybe ten days. You make the appointment."

"Do not use wipes on the bottom. Paper is fine. Wipes. Bah. A waste of money."

She burst out.

"What in the name of God was that?" I asked LZ.

"She's our pediatrician," LZ said.


We were in the examining room.

"I'm looking forward to seeing Dr. GN again," I said to D.

"You know her?" he asked.

"We go way back," I said.

And as if on cue, Dr. GN exploded into the room and began barraging D with questions.

"So, you are sick."

"And what is the problem?"

"Dizziness? Dizzy spells? How often? And you did not faint?"

"And the vomiting. How many times? Before meals, or after? Do you feel nausea now"

"Headache? Pain anywhere?"

"Appetite? You have appetite?"

"Is the throat sore? I'll check now. Open wide. There is no strep. We don't have to test."

"Now we check your brain. Because of the dizziness."

"Stand up straight. Now put your arms out like monster. Like zombie. Now, with eyes closed, count to fifteen."

"No. No No. Arms must be out straight, and also hands. Like this. Watch me."

"One, two, three, four.... Now I am dizzy. Maybe I faint. Maybe my brain is wrong. Ha."

"Now I am fine. I will just sit down for a moment. In one moment I will feel better."

"And you, your brain is fine. You have a little congestion. Maybe a virus. Who knows what goes around. Take decongestant. I have samples. In one week, maybe ten days come back for recheck. You make appointment."


"You were right," D said, "that was a waste of time."

"Better safe than sorry," I said. "Let's get home."

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


The Characters:

ME: Me
CUC: Credit Union CLerk
HELEN: The Supervisor
WOMAN: The Woman Behind Me In Line
MAN: The Man Behind Her
THE LINE: Starts out as a quiet inconsequential charcter, grows steadily during the course of the narrative, eventually turning into a loud, unruly beast.

The Dialogue:

ME: I'd like to take my money out of this account.

CUC: You can't take out any money without an ID.

ME: Here it is.

CUC: This account is moribund.


CUC: You can't withdraw money from a moribund account.

MAN: Is that you?

WOMAN: Lordy.

ME: Why not?

CUC: Because it's moribund.

MAN: How long has it been seen I seen you? Six months? When we used to smoke outside the building.

ME: If I can't withdraw my money, I'll just close the account.

CUC: First I have to reopen the account.

WOMAN: It's longer than six months, because I quit smoking seven months ago.

MAN: You didn't!

WOMAN: Yes, I did.

MAN: You didn't.

WOMAN: Over seven months.


CUC: I can't reopen accounts. I have to get my supervisor.


MAN: Now why you go and quit smoking?

CUC: Helen!

WOMAN: For the health. It's bad for the lungs.

MAN: Bah.

CUC: Can you reopen this account?

WOMAN: And for the kids. They wouldn't give me no peace. Couldn't smoke in the house. Couldn't smoke in the basement. Couldn't even smoke on the stoop without them saying something.

MAN: What they say?

HELEN: He has to fill out this form to reopen it.

CUC: Fill out this form.

WOMAN: I told you. They say it's bad for the lungs.

MAN: Bah.

WOMAN: So, I just quit.

MAN: You just quit?

WOMAN: I told you that.

ME: Here.

CUC: Now fill out this form.

ME: What is this for?

CUC: To close the account.

MAN: I smoke all the time. I feel fine.

WOMAN: What you gonna do when your lungs are damaged?

MAN: I'll get one of them artificial ones.

ME: I changed my mind. I don't have to close the account. I'll just withdraw all my money except for a dollar.

WOMAN: What you gonna do if your lungs so damaged you can't wait to get the artificial ones?

CUC: You told me you wanted to close this account. I already put it in the computer. Now you have to fill out this form or we'll have to reopen the account again.


MAN: Woman, don't you know? If your lungs are damaged like that, you go right to the head of the line.

WOMAN: You sure? I don't think I ever heard that.

ME: Here.

CUC: It won't let me take out the money. Helen!

MAN: I don't have no lung damage. I can run five miles any time.

WOMAN: Five miles!

MAN: And I don't smoke on weekends so my body heals itself from smoking.

HELEN: I'll have to override this. There.

CUC: It still won't let me take out the money. Helen!

WOMAN: They say it takes your body ten years to heal itself from smoking. You can't heal yourself over the weekend.

HELEN: There.

CUC: You got four cent? I need four cent.

ME: No. No change.

MAN: I've been smoking for over twenty years and never on the weekends. My body's been healing itself for more than twenty years already.

CUC: Helen! I need change.

HELEN: Here.

WOMAN: It don't work that way.

MAN: Five miles.

CUC: Sign this form.

ME: What is it?

CUC: It says you received the money.

ME: But I haven't.

WOMAN: I think I will try running.

MAN: It's too cold for running. You can't run in this weather.

CUC: It's right here.

ME: Can I have it?

CUC: Not until you sign the form.

ME: Shouldn't I have the money before I sign that I do?

CUC: That's not how we do it.

ME: Your policies are a little moribund, themselves.

WOMAN: Maybe when the weather breaks.

CUC: Helen!

Friday, January 14, 2005


I had a new job. I was to be a driver/messenger for a bank.

They called me up: "You start on Monday. Report to Mister Lucker in Human Resources."

"OK," I said.

I was sitting on a chair in front of a desk, waiting.

The nameplate on the desk said: Horace Lucker, Sr. I remembered a Horace Lucker, Jr. from high school. An unpopular boy with an unfortunate name. I was about to meet his father. I hoped Horace Jr. hadn't mentioned my name to Horace Sr.

"Go to the mailroom," Mr. Lucker said. "There's a separate entrance around back."

"I thought I was hired as a messenger," I said.

"When you're not driving, you sort mail," Mr. Lucker said. "That's what it is."

"OK," I said. As always, I really needed a job.

"Report to Del, he's in the office next to the mailroom," Mr Lucker said. "Just do what he tells you, and don't listen to those other clowns down there."

"OK," I said.

I walked around the back of the building. I passed a loading dock. There was a small, nervous looking man standing there, smoking.

I went up some steps and into the building. I found Del.

"Go out there and ask Archie or Jim what to do," Del said. "They'll fill you in."

"OK," I said.

Del went back to his newspaper and coffee.

I went into the mailroom. "I'm looking for Archie," I said.

A very old man, no more than five feet tall, appeared from behind a big sorting machine.

"You're the new one," he said.

"I am," I agreed.

"I'll be supervising you then," he said. "Come on, we've got lots of mail to deliver, all through the building."

"Oh no, Archie." This from a big gangly fellow with a droopy mustache and thick glasses.

"I'm the supervisor; he's with me, don't you know," Archie said.

"No, no, Archie. He has to learn how to sort the mail first."

The gangly fellow pointed to a gigantic bin of mail and to a wall of pigeonholes.

"Jim, you're a dickhead. This guy is a driver. We need a driver, not another sorter." From a young preppy/frat looking guy at a corner desk.

"I'm Scott," he said. "You can ride with me until you learn the routes."

"OK," I said.

"Let's go," Scott said. "I want to get the car with the cruise control."

On the way to the parking lot we passed two mean looking black guys who were leaning up against the side of the building.

"That's Veldon and Charlie," Scott said. "They're OK. They're drivers too. They stay outside until the last minute so they don't have to help sort the mail. Jim's supposed to be in charge, but he's afraid to make them help. He thinks they'll kick his ass."

"Would they?" I asked.

"Only if he tried to make them work," Scott said. "Otherwise, probably not."

"Who was that guy just standing in the corner, muttering?" I asked.

"That's Bill," Scott said. "He's fucked up. Even worse than Jim."

"Is that why he was wearing the engineer's outfit?" I asked.

"I guess," Scott said. "He wears it every day, all filthy too."

Scott pulled onto the interstate, rammed the car up to 70, turned on the cruise control, and started fumbling in his cigarette pack. He finally extricated a big joint.

"Want a hit?" he asked as he lit up.

"No thanks," I said.

"So, you're straight?" Scott asked.

"I refuse to categorize myself so early in our relationship," I said.

Scott gave me a sideways look.

"You can make jokes with me," he said, "but don't try any of that shit when you go out with Veldon."

"Why is that?" I asked.

"Veldon hates fags worse than narcs," Scott said. "He'll fuck you up, seriously, if he thinks you're one or the other."

"Thanks for the warning," I said.

"I'm not joking," Scott said. "Veldon was in the Army, in a special squad. He's a trained killer."

"I get it," I said.


It took over an hour to get to the South Branch and make our pickup and delivery. Then we were back in the car.

"This bank doesn't have many branches," Scott said. "But they're all over. You only have to make like two runs and it takes up the whole day. And on the way you can get high, eat, drink, whatever you want. It's a great job."

"I guess it is," I said.

"Did you see the customer service girl, with the long hair and the nice tits?" Scott asked.

"Yes, I did," I said.

"I fucked her," Scott said. "Last Halloween."

"Good for you," I said.

"Did you see that big guy, with the crewcut and the white socks, in the corner office?" Scott asked.

"I saw him," I said.

"He played pro football, maybe in the 60's or 70's," Stan said. "But he got all injured, so he had to become a banker. He's a real nice guy."

"I bet," I said.

We sped back up the interstate.


I went to a pizza place for lunch, by myself. When I pulled back into the bank parking lot, I saw Scott, Veldon, and Charlie, sitting in a beat up Camaro. The inside of the car was thick with smoke.

Scott got out and called me over.

"You're doing the afternoon run with Veldon," he said. "I have to go up north."

"OK," I said.


We were in a Ford Escort, with no cruise control. Veldon gripped the steering wheel as if he were wrestling a small, vicious animal. Eventually, the beast subdued, Velson relaxed and pulled out a joint. He took a hit and attempted to pass it to me.

"No thanks," I said.

"Scott told me you were straight," Veldon said.

"Scott told me you were a trained psychotic killer," I said.

Veldon laughed out loud.

"I was in the Army for a while. In the Rangers. But I got out when things started getting heavy. Know what I mean?"

"Sure," I said. I had no idea what he was talking about.

Veldon nodded and turned his attention back to the road.


We made our delivery at South Branch and got back in the car.

"See that bitch sitting at the front desk?" Veldon asked.

"I saw her," I said.

"Scott said he fucked that bitch."

"I know," I said.

"You think he fucked her?" Veldon asked.

"I don't know," I said.

"Scott's full of shit. No way she gonna let Scott fuck her. I don't believe that shit for a minute."

"Oh," I said.

Veldon narrowed his eyes. "Would you fuck her?" he asked.

"Yes, I would," I said.

"So, you're not a fag, then," Veldon said.

"No, I'm not," I replied.

"Good," Veldon said. "I don't like riding around with fags."


We got back around 4. Mr. Lucker was waiting in the mailroom.

"I've got some news," he said. "Del is leaving us." He pointed to Del's empty office.

Apparently Del had already left.

Then he pointed to a robust looking gentleman standing in the corner of the room.

"Effective, tomorrow morning, Mr. Frank T is the new supervisor."

Mr. Frank T gave a wave. "Glad to be on board," he said. "I'm looking forward to running this ship."

"And one more thing," Mr Lucker said. "We got a call from Bob, his car broke down at Central Branch. We'll need someone to go pick him up. Time and a half."

Mr. Lucker and Mr. McT left.


"I'll go," I said, "if someone gives me directions."

"You're not going," Scott said. "You don't want to ride all the way back with the nutcase Bob."

Scott looked around. "You go, Jim," he said to the gangly guy.

"I don't have to drive anymore," Jim said. "Del put me in charge of the mailroom."

Veldon cleared his throat and looked at Jim. Jim hung his head.

"I'll go," Jim said. "But just because I need the money."


"There's a bar right down the road," Scott said. "They have half price drinks till six. We usually go over there and get fucked up after work. Are you in?"

"OK," I said.

It felt good to be back in the workforce.


I heard a clunk in the night. Then footsteps in the hall. Someone tapped me on the shoulder.

"I'm worried," I heard a voice say as if from far away.

"It'll be OK," I said. "I think I figured out a way to pay the holiday bills and buy a little food."

"Daddy, I said I'm worried."

It was T2.

"Sorry, I said. "I thought you were Mommy."

"Daddy, I'm worried that a big black bug, or a big spider, is going to come and take away striped kitty and unicorn."

"Were you dreaming that?" I asked.

Her eyes widened. "Yes!" she said. "Yes I was!"

"It'll be OK," I said. "You were just dreaming that because of the scary movie we watched before bed. It was just a bad dream, not real."

"Take that movie back," T2 said.

"OK," I said. "In the morning."

I walked T2 back to bed. She fell asleep almost instantly.

I was almost back to sleep myself when I remembered that we needed oil. I hadn't figured that into the bills. $300 short. I tried to put it out of mind, but I couldn't. I tossed, turned, and finally sat bolt upright as my own, less gruesome, but just as compelling, nightmare vision unfolded.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


"It's almost quarter after," I said. "Anyone hear from Lewis and Sandra?"

"Lewis is always late," someone said.

Appetizers came and went. Then soup.

"Are you sure there's nothing wrong?" I asked. "Maybe someone should call?"

"It's all right," someome else said. "Lewis is always late."

Louis came in halfway through the salad.

"Where's Sandra?" someone asked.

"Sandra won't be dining with us this evening." Lewis said.

There was silence for a second. Lewis dug into his salad.

"And why won't Sandra be dining with us this evening?" someone asked.

Lewis stopped chewing and sat up. He looked around the table. Finally he spoke:

"For years, for years, people have been saying, 'Lewis is always late.' But I have been ready. I should not have been late. All these years I have been waiting for Sandra. Sandra is always late. But no more waiting for me. That is my resolution. I told her, 'If I'm ready, I'm going,' and she didn't believe me. But then she saw. I was ready. And I went."

Lewis returned to his salad.

Monday, January 10, 2005



T1 had a question.

"Is D's bedtime sometimes before ours?"

"No," I said. "His is after yours."

"But he is in bed now," T1 said.

"Sometimes he goes up early to his own room, but not to bed," I said. "He stays up and plays on the computer, or watches tv."

"Is he allowed to do that?" T1 asked.

"Yes," I said. "I guess."

T1 pounced on my carelessly indecisive answer.

"So," she said. "It's really Mommy that is in charge. And you are only in charge when Mommy is not here. Is that right?"

"I guess," I said.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


I hear a strangled shriek coming from the dining room.

"My God," LZ says. "Where did this monstrosity come from?"



T1: How do you know when it is time to take a baby out of a crib and into a real bed?

Me: In your case it was when I came into your room and found you climbing over the rail, almost falling on your head. We went out and bought beds that very day.

T1: And what keeps roofs together and stuck on houses?

Me: Usually they nail them on.

T1: With hammers?

Me: Exactly.

T1: Do they have to use long nails?

Me: I guess some of the time.

T1: If we get a new roof, can I help you hammer it on?

Me: Of course.

T1: I wish I could see into the insides of every person.

Me: Why is that?

T1: I would like to know what is in there.

Me: Oh.

Friday, December 24, 2004



The Things had been at each other all day. Complaining, carping, and tattletaleing had escalated to yelling, pushing and hitting. Their errant behavior even continued in the bath as they jockeyed for position, grabbed toys, and splashed indiscriminately.

I reached one of my many breaking points.

"You know," I said. "it's like I don't even have two nice little girls anymore. What I have are two snarling biting rats."

They stopped for a minute and took stock.

Then in a low pitched snarl that reminded me of Jack Palance in Shane, One replied, "You have one rat daddy. One rat only."

And she fixed her sister with a baleful stare.

Two stared right back.

And under her breath, she hissed "That's right, there's just one rat in this house. One rat."


I continued the conversation with One a short time later.

"Do you see how I am sitting?" I asked.

"Yes," One replied warily.

"Well in the old days, parents would take misbehaving children and put them right over their knees, right like this. Then they would whack them, with their hand, or maybe with a hairbrush, until the child cried."

One has never heard of such a thing.

"Is that true?" she asks.

"Very true," I replied. "It was called a good spanking."

One doesn't like the term.

"It is not good to hit children," she says.

"Well," I said, "that is the current thinking. But, I was wondering, do you think your behavior would improve if you were afraid of being spanked?"

"Yes," One blurts out. Then, realizing she has fallen into trap, she bolts for her room.

I hear her yelling at Two as I walk down the stairs.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Since LZ has reentered the labor force, my own hiatus from the quotidian has been ended rather rudely. No more hiding out for me. It's back to running errands, back to the mall on weekends, back to way too much enforced contact with my fellow drones.

"I know you have a lot to do," I said to LZ. "I can help out with the Christmas shopping today, or babysit, or do anything whatever you need."

"Won't you be watching the Eagles?" she asked.

"How can you bring up football?" I said. "Christmas is coming. We have a lot to do. I'm committed to this family, not to a bunch of hopped up homicidal lunatics."

So off we went. It was typical, brutal.

And after a long day of shopping, we had a quick dinner, chased the kids to bed and sat down in front of the television.

"I'm exhausted, but still wired," LZ said. "I hope there's something funny on, something not too challenging, so I can just unwind."

"Oh," I said as I paged through the tv section, "look at this. Seems the Eagles play tonight; they're the Sunday night game. And it's just about ready to start. What a stroke of luck."

Thursday, December 16, 2004


"Anyone call for me while I was out?" I asked LZ.

"No, no messages," she said.

Somebody called me on the phone
Said, "Hey is Dee Dee home?
Do you wanna take a walk?
Do you wanna go cop?
DO you wanna go get some Chinese Rocks?"

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