Thursday, April 29, 2004


“Did you ever meet my Uncle Mitch?” I asked LZ.

“Wasn’t he a real famous guy that no one had ever heard of?” she asked.

“That’s him,” I said.

No,” she said. “He was before my time.”

“Did I ever tell you about him?” I asked.

“I don’t believe so,” LZ said. “But your mother has mentioned him from time to time.”

“She told you The Post wouldn’t run his obituary because of fact checking? All the people that hadn’t heard of him didn’t know he was dead either?”

“That’s not exactly how she phrased it.”

“This has been on my mind, “ I said, “because of the way obituaries are now. Have you read any obituaries recently?”

“I don’t believe so,” LZ said.

“They’ve changed,” I said. “They put in stuff that they people liked to do, their hobbies and interests. Sort of a last stab at humanization. Do you want to hear an example?”

“No, not really,” LZ Said.

“How about this,” I read” “S was an animal lover who especially loved dogs. It’s the especially that makes the sentence, isn’t it.” When I looked up, LZ was gone. I found her at the computer.

She loved lions and tigers and enjoyed reading and crossword puzzles. That’s quite the gamut, isn’t it? I’ve got a mental image of this woman, gray hair, reading glasses perched down on her nose, brow slightly furrowed, just about to pencil in 11 Down. And at her feet, Simba, her favorite lion, and Rajah, her Bengal tiger, have snuggled in for a long winter’s nap.”

“You’re going to be late for work,” LZ said.


“Remember earlier this week, when we were talking about obituaries,” I said to LZ. “Well, I’ve been reading them every day. Some are really quite compelling. There’s a whole life and what do you get: Mr. D was a lifelong Yankees fan. Mr. W was very active in model railroading. L is remembered as an accomplished hostess, and lover of outrageous earrings.

“Maybe,” said LZ, “if you family hadn’t been so uppity, if they just put in about Mitch: He liked to play golf and drink whiskey, then the paper would have printed his obituary on time.

“I’ve got to get to work,” I said.


Later that day I called LZ. “I’ve been thinking,” I said. “When I die, please make sure that you put in my obituary that I couldn’t abide the NASCAR circuit. Can you remember that? And my favorite songs – put them in, will you? I’ll make a list.”

I’ll try to remember,” she said.

“And I like the Phillies, at least I like them better than the Yankees, who I never liked at all.”

“I thought you liked the Braves,” LZ said. “You make me watch all those playoff games with them.”

“I was just rooting for the Braves because they are in the same division as the Phillies,” I said. “I never root for teams from the west, or any American League teams at all, no matter where they’re from.”

“There’s no way any paper will print all this,” LZ said. “You’ll get ignored more than Mitch ever was.”

“I’ll write down the more essential stuff when I get home,” I said.



“My mother told you that; she told you Mitch was a golfer and a whiskey drinker?” I asked.

“When she gets going, she doesn’t leave much out,” LZ said.

“I bet she left out the part about my brother having Mitch’s ashes in his putter,” I said.

“Jesus Christ,” said LZ. “It never ends with the bunch of you, does it? This one you can tell me.”

“I’m sort of in a hurry,” I said. “Some other time.”



“Mitch Jr. had told CR no, that they were going to bury Mitch under his favorite apple tree in the back yard, but CR figured they just made that up to put him off. Mitch never cared much for nature and in general, golfers don’t like trees. There was no way Mitch had a favorite apple tree. CR didn’t press the issue so as to not raise any suspicions, but when there was that get-together for Mitch III, he went down. Remember, we got out of that one. When CR got there he checked the hall closet and the ashes were still in a delivery case, behind the umbrellas, right were they’d been stashed how many years back. So he snuck them out toward the end of the night.”

“And what was the point of the great crime?” LZ asked.

“CR thought of it as a liberation, not a crime. He was going to take Mitch back out golfing. Literally. But the thing is, with the kids and all, and all their activities, CR really doesn’t have the time to golf anymore. He’s stashed his clubs in his own hall closet. I don’t think Mitch has been out even once.”

“Thanks for clearing all that up for me,” LZ said. "Now things are starting to make sense."

Wednesday, April 28, 2004


Thing Two was having a hard time getting up. I rousted her as gently as I could.

“Daddy, you woke me up before I finished my dream.”

“I’m sorry, Two, but it’s time to get up and get ready for school. Do you remember what the dream was about?”

“No. Not any more.”

“That’s too bad. Maybe you’ll remember it in a little while.”

“I had a dream too. And I remember mine,” volunteered Thing One.

“No!” shouted Two.

Mommy was in my dream, and Two, and you, Daddy. You were all in my dream.”

“That’s nice, One,” I said. “But we’re trying to get ready for school now.”

“I can tell you about my dream while we get ready,” One said.

“No!” shouted Two.

“You were very funny in my dream, Daddy,” One said.

“Maybe you should tell us about it then,” I said.

“We all went on train,” One said. “We went on a lot of train rides. We were going to a club. Then when we got there we had fun and we had dinner. I had pasta with meat sauce”

“A club?” I said. “What kind of club?”

“A family club,” One said. “We were going there a lot of times, but the train ran out of grass, so we had to stop and get some more.”

“Don’t you mean gas?” I asked.

“No Daddy, grass. This train needed grass. When it stopped we all got out and picked grass for the train. Then it started working again.”

“Trains don’t use grass!” shouted Two.

“This one did,” said One. “And in the grass field there were cows, and goats and a sheep. And a zebra. All lined up.”

"A zebra is my favorite animal!" said Two.

"Anyway, this zebra was not the kind you like," said One.

“Now I remember,” Two said. “Amy and Kylie were in my dream.”

“I remember Amy and Kylie were in my dream,” One said. “And Melissa and Madison. And Cheyenne”

“No!” screamed Two. “That was my dream!”

“After we left the club we all took a train ride back to our house and everyone came back there,” One said. “We put on music and we had a dance, then we all got on a plane and went to Disney World.”

“No!” screamed Two. “You did not dream that!”

“One.” I asked. “Didn’t you say I did something funny in your dream?”

“Yes, Daddy, but that didn’t happen till after. First I have to tell you about Disney World in my dream. We were in a hotel, then I went swimming in a pool. Two wouldn’t come in the water.”

“No!” screamed Two. “I would go in the water!”

“And I went on all the rides with Amy and Kylie and you and Mommy. We went on Pooh Bear and Small World and the Tea Cups and Buzz Lightyear. But Two wouldn’t go on the rides.”

“I would go on the rides!” screamed Two. She started to sniffle.

“Let’s go downstairs for breakfast,” I said. “You can tell me the rest while you eat.”

LZ was making the coffee. “How’s everything?” she asked.

“Fine,” I said. “But Two’s a little cranky. I guess she woke up on the wrong side of the bed.”


After she read this, LZ cautioned me: “I think the red herring was actually a McGuffin.”

"You've been watching too many old Hitchcock movies," I said. "To think that you'd accuse a young child, your own daughter, of employing a McGuffin. I can't believe it."


I was lying on the couch, almost asleep, but Thing One felt like talking.

“Daddy, do you remember the Elmo cups we had when we were little?”

“Elmo cups?”

“Yes, but they weren’t all Elmo cups”

“Weren’t they?”

“No, there was Elmo and Cookie Monster and the Grouch and Big Bird. They were for stacking."


“But Elmo was the one I broke the window with.”

I sat up. It had been more than two years ago. I’d been upstairs and heard a banging. I thought someone was at the door. By the time I got down, all was quiet. There was no one at the door. Thing One was playing and Thing Two was sound asleep. No one knew anything. Even the dog was confounded. It wasn’t until the next day that I’d discovered a long crack in the upper part of the window over the couch where I was now sitting.

“You mean a long time ago?” I asked.

"Yes, Daddy."

“You were always the prime suspect,” I said. “Your mother and brother were out and your sister was asleep. Why didn’t you tell me that day what happened, when I asked?”

“I couldn’t talk yet,” One replied.

“I think you could talk then,” I said.

“No, Daddy.”

“That crack was very high up,” I said. “How did you break it way up there?”

One climbed over me onto the couch and pulled herself up onto the back. She stood up, holding the window frame for support. “Like this,” she said.

“With one hand holding on, you smashed the window with the Elmo cup in your other hand?” I asked.

“Yes, Daddy.”

“And why did you do that?” I asked. “Do you remember?”

“Yes, Daddy, I remember. I wanted to see what windows are for.”

“So, it’s settled now?” I asked. “You know what windows are for?”

“Yes, Daddy.”

Tuesday, April 20, 2004


I was in line at the liquor store. The woman in front of had two six-packs and asked for two packs of cigarettes. She made a face when the clerk rang her up.

"You know it's time to stop smoking when the cigarettes cost more than the beer. Haw haw."

"Haw haw," said the clerk.

I see this particular clerk a lot. He's Korean. He's got the decimal system down, and he's got some phrases: "Hello." "Thank you very much” "Good-bye come again." And that's about it. That's why I like to get in his line.

He's smiling and bobbing his head, but it's painfully obvious he has no idea what the woman is talking about.

"You know what I'm going to do? I'm moving down to South Carolina," she says. "At least down there, you can afford to smoke. Haw haw."

"Yes. Yes. Thank you very much. Come Again."

"South Carolina. Haw haw."

I cleared my throat. LZ, waiting by the door, shot me a look. I hesitated for a second and missed my chance. South Carolina was gone.

On the way home I turned off the car radio.

"LZ," I said. "We have to talk. I can't be taking you out with me if you are going to inhibit my intercourse with the people."

"One," said LZ. "A drive to the liquor store is not out, not in any real sense of the word. And two, I never said a word. It's your own guilt about baiting people for that lunatic blog. Don't project your conflicts on me."

"I need material," I said. "I can't just go making things up. The bloggers don't like it. And besides, if anything, she was baiting me and Mr. Kim with her visions of a southern smoker’s paradise. I was just minding my own business. Trying to buy some wine."

“I hear they have those video poker parlors down there, too,” LZ said. “They’ve got pretty much all anyone could want. The supermarkets, they’re non-union; everything’s cheaper. Maybe we should move.”

“I would go,” I said. “Except for the palmetto bugs. They give me the heebies. I’m not moving down there until they get rid of those bugs. Also, the Confederates.”

“When the bloggers read all this nonsense, they’re going to be really mad,” LZ said.
They’ll know this whole conversation was made up.”

“It is made up,” I said. "But it’s still true.”


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