Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thanksgiving Is

Thanksgiving is the time of year when we gather together and take all the foods we normally wouldn't touch and bake them into pies or 'candy' them. These deceptive labeling practices allow us to rid the world of a sufficient number of yams and other such despicable items which would otherwise overwhelm and enslave us. It also teaches children to be skeptical: just because it says candied or pie doesn't mean it's not disgusting. These lessons pay dividends later when they receive email regarding very low mortgage rates or very large penises.

Thanksgiving is a time to see extended family members who ask about your clothes and career choices and then remember aloud when you were cute and full of potential. This is to commemorate the Pilgrims' first dinner with the Native Americans at which the Pilgrims relentlessly criticized the 'whorey' warpaint and revealing animal skins the natives wore and persistently suggested it still wasn't too late for them all to become lawyers. The Native American's later killed most of the Pilgrims, but this part of the tradition has sadly been lost to history.

Thanksgiving is a valuable holiday for teachers as it usually results in two and a half days off and justifies having had the children invest the previous three month of the school year creating turkeys from construction paper and the outline of their hand. The quality of the long labored over works of art inevitably leads family members to conclude that each of these children are special and will probably grow up to be doctors or lawyers, though statistics show that most of them will die of disease or end up driving American cars. That's not to say that a skilled construction paper artisan can't make a fortune, but most of those jobs go to Asians for obvious reasons.

Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday because the Pilgrims understood that all the other days of the week are haunted. Originally, the Pilgrims tried to work only on Thursdays but this proved inefficient, though a similar schedule has been adopted by the French and some writers specializing in pointless drivel. Once it was discovered that evil spirits could be kept at bay with a regimen of prayer, witch burnings, and westward expansion, the haunted nature of the other days became less of an issue. It should also be noted that demons fear cranberry sauce.

Thanksgiving is the only day of the year when it is a felony to give yourself a nickname. Technically it is also illegal on Arbor Day, but it's just a misdemeanor.

Thanksgiving is going to be abolished after the revolution though the killing of turkeys as well as the creation of their likeness in paper will remain vital to our national defense. You should be thankful for this holiday while we still have it. And for beavers, because they're also going bye bye.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Lies I Want To Clear Up Ahead Of Our Wedding

I'm not a vegetarian.

I've been painstakingly molding various meats into vegetable shapes and coating them with food coloring. This has required countless hours and caused me to lose my job, plus it makes it hard to go out (I have to pack my own pre-shaped meat). I like meat and I'd like to eat it in regular meat shapes.

I lost my job.

As noted above, my attendance at work had been spotty since we fell in love. Further, I had taken to selling items from my cube on ebay to finance some of the fancier outings that seemed crucial to the wooing process. There wasn't much in my cube though, so I sold some plants, paintings, and high end electronics from around the office. My former boss assures me that I'll never work in another law firm in this town again. I'm thinking about art.

I'm not a lawyer.

I was actually an assistant at the firm before I got fired. My understanding is that you have to have a clean criminal record to be a lawyer and those pyramid scheme convictions (I was convicted in several pyramid schemes if I didn't mention that [not mentioning is not the same as lying, so that's why I don't feel this deserves a correction all it's own]) would probably disqualify me. That and the fact that I can't read.

I can't read.

All those 'high brow' magazines you remarked on are just there to perpetuate the lie. I get them because they look incredibly boring and I'm confident no one else will read them and want to discuss them. It's really not nearly as much of a problem as it sounds like. I've memorized my way around most places, plus, in my art career words will probably not be that important.

I hate country music.

Yes, even the Dixie Chicks. If I could have read the tickets I would never have gone to that concert with you. But I did, and I've had nightmares about it ever since. I can't say when I'll stop waking up screaming, but at least now you know why. Also, I burned your CD collection last week which led to the big fire.

I started the big fire.

I was trying to make sure that our wedding was country music free and I guess I used a bit much lighter fluid. Once the curtains went it just got out of control. I probably should have just told you how much I hated that music, but at the time a fire seemed like an elegant solution. Also, as long as we keep quiet I think the insurance will pay for quite a honeymoon.

I feel so much better with all this off my chest. Can't wait til' tomorrow.

Love,

Dr. David Rockefeller IV esq.

dbnr (obviously)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Schoolyard Games I Was Led To Believe Everyone Played, But Apparently It Was Just Me

Capture The Flag - Kyle's Teeth Are The Flag Edition

Wear Your Mom's Shoes Once And Get Called Sissy Boy For Seven Years Four Square

Red Rover Punch Kyle In The Face

Pretend Not To Be Able To Be Able To Master Basic Math So That You Get Held Back In Ninth Grade Three Times Hopscotch

Hide And Seek - Parents Secretly Move To Another Town Edition

Plunger Head

Manual Labor In Teacher's Marijuana Greenhouse For A Passing Grade In Algebra And If You Tell Anyone I'll Kill You Marbles

Eat Dirt

No One Likes You Sissy Boy So Just Shut Up Duck Duck Goose

The Quiet Game - Duct Tape And Rope Edition



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Monday, October 23, 2006

Breaking Up With My Stalker

Dearest,

I'm afraid it's not working out.

A number of people suggested it was a bad idea to date my stalker in the first place. I saw a devoted individual with a love of slimming black outfits, good camera skills, and an affinity for late night walks in my shrubbery. Everyone else said that your dedication to investigating my garbage, watching me sleep, and collecting the hair from my hairbrush portended darker things. Darker I might be able to deal with, but if anything, I feel like we've fallen into a rut.

Let's be clear, I'm not trying to change you. I like how you call me late at night from the other room and breathe heavily while I vent about my day. While my girlfriends are suffering through Monday Night Football, I'm free to watch The Bachelor as you sit patiently pressed against the living room window. Honestly, I even like having my hairbrush cleaned on a daily basis.

But, other parts of our relationship seem tired. Getting notes on the bathroom mirror in lipstick was exciting when you wrote things like:

I'll get you!

But it's devolved into an expensive and frankly messy way to communicate things that would be better suited to a post it, like this morning's:

I'll get you:
Bananas
Eggs
Milk
At the store, anything else?

I thought the constant videotaping would give us lots of material for home movies, but it's really just a reminder how boring we are. Seeing hours of myself eating and sitting around makes me feel like I'm wasting my life. Am I really that dull?

Plus, it's been two years. I think you can stop dining under the table and in the closet. You're a stalker. I get it. But the constant peeking and leering is tired. Sometimes I don't want to be admired lustfully by a man in black, I just want you to pass the salt.

Maybe I'd be more inclined to overlook these things if I felt more certain that we had a future. But for someone who was devoted enough to pick through my trash when we met, you've been awfully slow to produce a ring. Despite all the bad things everyone said about you when we got together, none of them could argue when I said that at least you were committed. But I guess I jumped the gun. As soon as I stopped calling the police and invited you in it seems like some you lost a little bit of the fire. If you're going to follow me around, I need to know that it's long term. Apparently your obsession with me isn't enough to get us down the aisle.

Lastly, and I hesitate to bring this up, but I found some of Karen Underhill's garbage in the study. I'm not saying that you put it there, I don't know how it got there. But even though things aren't going to work out between us, I hope you'd have the decency not to stalk one of my friends. Karen and I go way back and I don't know how we could continue being friends if I knew that you'd suddenly become more interested in wearing her used coffee filters as hats instead of mine.

Don't call unless you plan to propose and swear off lipstick as a writing utensil.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

New 12 Week Workout Plan

Week One: Consider signing up with a gym. Decide gyms are an expensive waste of money. Try working out at home. Do 500 curls with dictionary and 8 push ups before deciding that equipment is insufficient. Reconsider signing up with a gym.

Week Two: Start gym membership. Feel confident that outrageous monthly fees will inspire diligence. Grab very heavy weights which look 'about right' for various exercises. Attempt unsuccessfully to lift those weights, then exchange them for much smaller weights while acting casual and hoping no one notices. Look at muscles in mirror at the end of each workout. Assure self you see progress.

Week Three: Attempt to shred T-shirt. Chalk failure up to a lack of supplements and powders. Blend all foods and drinks. Purchase several magazines promising to 'blast' or 'rip' certain muscle groups in very short periods of time. Justify purchase of Ipod as essential accessory for getting in the zone while working out. Purchase spandex pants.

Week Four: Wake up on Monday and realize that it is raining. Accept that rain makes going to the gym impossible for reasons you need not explore before hitting snooze. Join co-workers for non-blended chili and cheese laden lunch. Accept invitation to watch game at Hooters after work rather than hitting gym because what's the point of almost being able to tear a small seam in your T-shirt if you can't show it off. Eat wings, drink beer, wake up too tired to visit gym in the morning. Repeat.
Variations: Realize that 'too sunny' is also a weather condition which makes it impossible to visit gym.

Week Five through Eight: Rest.

Week Nine: Get credit card statement reminding you that you're giving half your paycheck to a gym rather than kid's college education. Feel guilty. Discover massive financial penalties involved in canceling gym membership. Make cursory trip to gym, decide to walk on treadmill for half hour. Calculate cost per minute, then per step. Look at muscles in mirror. Realize you've somehow gained weight.

Week Ten: Make trip to gym but decide that perhaps you'd be better off just having a soak in the hot tub. Remain in locker room for entire session. Think about just getting fat and having a hot tub put in at home.

Week Eleven: See news story about overweight Americans/heart attacks and/or Victoria's Secret commercial. Resolve to really get after it and whip self into shape. Starting next week.

Week Twelve: Drive to gym but sit in parking lot. Decide you don't need all this fancy machinery and skin tight clothing. Realize that farmers and impoverished Africans both seem to have really ripped abs and no access to fitness equipment. Decide that technology and gizmos are overrated and have destroyed your focus. Decide that what you really need is a bigger dictionary. Visit bookstore next to gym and buy gigantic dictionary. When cute check out girl makes comment about that being a 'lot of words', smile politely and awkwardly attempt to flex all muscles while handing her cash. Lug book home while deciding she was into you and that all this working out has really paid off.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Don't Focus On The Negative

It's sad the way that people always tend to focus on the negative. The other day I told someone that she looked like a hefty Jessica Simpson and which word do you think she focused on? It wasn't Simpson, I can tell you that. Negativity is all around you, like a plastic bag that you know you shouldn't play with but you can't help it and then suddenly you're asphyxiating. The best way to deal with negativity is not to pick it up and put in on your head creating an airtight seal that will eventually kill you.

Often you will find that some people are more negative than others and are more intent on transmitting that negativity your way. Police officers, for example, will often find fault with a relaxed attitude and won't be satisfied until they've assaulted you with phrases like 'wrong way down the entrance ramp' and 'dragging a shopping cart for the last six miles' to try to poison your mental state. Don't fall into their trap. Instead, try sending a little positivity back their way, as in, "These handcuffs are very shiny and the way they pinch my skin reminds me of a mighty piranha." Other people you might find focused on the negative and in need of a little sunshine: Lawyers, Judges, Prison Officials.

Work can be another source of bad mojo, especially if your boss is a Negative Nelly like mine. 'Overdue', 'Misappropriated', 'Harassment', these are just some of the buzz words that haunt a typical day in the office. To which I usually say, "Lighten up Tootse. What's it going to cost to get you to forget about that little deadline? I've got lots of cash socked away in a numbered account and I'm willing to share." This has repeatedly resulted in my termination. A less positive person would probably focus on that result and give up on the strategy, but I'm a committed optimist, sweet tits.

But even the most optimistic among us sometimes get the blues. Being a positive person doesn't mean that you won't ever cry, or sleep for days at a time, or dangle your feet off the edge of an overpass and swear that you're going to drop yourself onto the next vehicle that looks like it's piloted by a happy person. Those feelings are normal and an inevitable result of our fast paced modern world. Technically, they're a result of the microwaves which are all around you. If you find yourself in a funk like this, the best thing to do is make a helmet out of tinfoil and constantly repeat "Think happy thoughts," over and over as you go about your business. Other people may focus on the negative aspects of this procedure and try to medicate or lock you away. But that's their issue.

I'm here to tell you that even if you find yourself locked away for 'reckless' driving and 'embezzlement' and your girlfriend chooses to focus on being called hefty instead of being called Jessica Simpson, and the authorities take away your carefully constructed tinfoil negative emotion helmet, ultimately your attitude is still in your hands. You can give in to despair and let it suffocate you like that plastic bag, or you can smile and begin sharpening a toothbrush into a shiv while you contemplate making your escape. I'm POSITIVE you can guess which path I'll be taking, and I'm HOPEFUL you'll do the same.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Gossip About Non Famous People That You Don't Know

I heard that Ted has hair plugs. If so, I think they look good.

Caroline is cheating on David with his sister. Her parents are sending her to one of those Christian reprogramming camps for gay people.

Alex lied to the cops about being high on glue when he wrecked his dad's SUV. He was sniffing Sharpies.

Nell got fired two months ago and has been pretending to go to work ever since.

Joelle is pregnant.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Your Blog Has Been Kidnapped

Dear Sir:

You may have noticed that your blog was not updated last week. You may have attributed this to laziness or indecision on the part of those responsible for its contents. It was neither. Your blog has been kidnapped. We have kidnapped it.

These are our demands. First, we want pizza, and lots of it. No veggies. We're kidnappers. We're short term thinkers. We don't care about things like cholesterol and heart attacks. We want lots of meat.

Also, we want a plane. Now, most kidnappers want a 747, and then you go round and round about how you can't get one and next thing you know we're out of pizza. So we're not going to be picky. Any plane will do. Personally, I'd like to see one of those planes with two wings on each side, the ones where you have to wear goggles like the Red Baron? But like I said, any plane will do.

Should you fail to meet our demands we will torture your blog. We've already tortured it a little, just sort of as a test, both to see if we could do it (we could!) and to see if it yielded any information (well...). Your blog has already told us where you keep the money, and jewelry, and your baseball cards. It told us which drawer your underwear is in, and it mentioned that you were running low on ice cream and that you planned to pick up some Wheat Thins the next time you were at the store. To be honest, your blog hasn't shut up. It talked about some dog it saw in the park for like forty minutes, and you know, we're kidnappers, we don't know this blog, so we figured the story was going somewhere. But not really. It was a wiener dog. That was pretty much it. And the torture? We like pulled on it's arm, a little, and you know, off it went.

So really, at this point, we're ready to give the blog back. All we're looking to get out of this is some pizza. You send us that plane and we'll fly the little guy home and you can listen to this nonsense all you want. We're not really interested in reasons why you can't play Taboo with lemurs.

To recap: Pizza + Plane = Everybody wins. If you can't get a plane, just send a bus ticket. Or just a paper plane, which we'll accept as a good effort and the blog can just walk home. Also, some of the guys are getting scared about the cholesterol now, so maybe put some veggies on a couple of those pizzas. And send along some statins. Maybe get us an appointment with a cardiologist. I mean, don't kill yourself, just if it's convenient. The main thing is that we get your blog out of here and let it get back to bothering other people.

You have exactly one hour. If we haven't heard from you in that time we'll probably just give up and go out for pizza and/or doctor's appointments.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Crate And Barrel Catalog Descriptions Which Resulted In My Firing From Crate And Barrel's Copywriting Department

Athens Occasional Table - 249.00

Sharp and chic with a solid crafted base and bold clean lines. Available in both a birch and an ash veneer, this table is equally at home under simple magazines or your finest objet d' art. What is an occasional table anyway, you might wonder? Isn't being a table pretty much a full time job? Tables need breaks now? They get vacation? On those occasions when a table is not a table, is it drinking somewhere and dialing the phone numbers of ex-girlfriends who married lawyers and listening to them breathe before getting stoned and staring at old calendars while trying to pinpoint the exact day that it's life turned to total shit? Because if so, sign me up, I can hold an objet d' art occasionally.

Mortise and tenon joinery, Lower display shelf, Made in Canada

Bayside Sleeper - 5599.00

Life in the balance: home and work, utility and style, form and function. That's the strength of this microsuede wonder with deep cushions and a relaxed attitude. It's the perfect spot to unwind after a long day of writing catalog copy about furniture and trinkets that you probably can't afford. Pull out the sleeper bed and the inlaws will have a comfy place to crash next time they're in town, assuming that they stop pointing out that your apartment is too small to have a guest room long enough to get any sleep. Park it in front of a big screen HDTV and you'll forget all about the nagging dreams and ambitions that might haunt you on lesser seating and be filled with a harmonious numbness we call: balance. Can a sofa really do all that? It's almost six grand. It damn well better do something.

Coil and air mattress, Kiln dried frame, Matching throw pillows included

Kleiner Table Lamp - 199.00

Marbled glass with beveled edges combined with a white translucent shade to offer soft illumination to your darkest places. Well, not your darkest places. That would take one of those lights like they have in the top of the Luxor, you know, one of those lights that can be seen from space. And you'd probably want to have like a whole team of psychiatrists and possibly law enforcement on hand because, seriously, who knows what's buried down there. Remember when your cousin peed on you in front of Sally Metzger in like third grade? Thought about that lately? Wanna shine some light over in that area and see what's doin? Maybe it's best to just make do with a minimal amount of illumination, soft light as they say. Use it to read a self help book or two.

Poly-cotton shade, Clear cord, Three way switch

Professional 600 Stand Mixer - 499.00

Commercial grade power and style for the home. Don't let the elegant pearl metallic finish fool you, this monster is ready to work. 24 Cup capacity mixing bowl means you can knead dough for eight loaves of bread at once! 18 speeds allow you to do everything from whip to stir. Of course we both know that you don't know how to cook anything that doesn't come out of the freezer and go into the microwave, that you'll just park this little number on the counter where it will collect dust and never live up to it's bread kneading, hyper-whipping potential. No, if you want fresh bread, you eat out. Honestly, turn this on, you'd probably lose a finger. But you've still got to have it because without it no one will be able to look at your counter and whisper to their friends, 'holy shit, that's one of those 500 dollar mixers'. Screw making bread. With this, you don't even have to plug it in and your friends will be too sick with envy to eat anything anyway. Bunch of anorexic morons.

All steel construction, Direct drive gears and transmission, 600 watt motor

Spiral Carved Bowl - 89.95

Freeform lines and top notch craftsmanship combine to bring you this hypnotizing item that will not only fill that empty space on the table, but the one in your life. That's right, you probably didn't realize how unfulfilled you were until you saw this catalog and realized that your problem is not that you hate your job and are dissatisfied with your familial situation, it's just that your shit doesn't match! You just need a cohesive design scheme! What you need, is this motherfucking bowl! This bowl is going to love you like your parent's couldn't, like your wife no longer does, and like those ungrateful hooligans who sprang from your loins never will. This bowl doesn't want anything from you except 90 dollars, and in return it will sit on your table and it will tell people that you are not a failure who spends weekends watching E True Hollywood Stories and drinking wine from a Gatorade bottle. It will say that you have a worldly appeal and an international pedigree! It will scream that you are sophisticated and wise! It will lie for you, and it will never stop, and probably that will go along way towards making you whole again. Isn't that worth 90 measly dollars you cheap bastard?

Hand wash, Black stain, Foodsafe

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Notes On Improving Your Sit Com After Our Test Screening

Just some things we think will really hone the comedy and help this thing be a break out hit for both you and the network:

More misunderstandings.

Communication is the opposite of comedy. We saw countless places in the pilot where one character answered another character's questions in a straightforward manner that left nothing to the imagination. Questions and answers should always leave wiggle room. We suggest reworking the middle scene where John is talking about the death of his dog so that the other characters think that he is admitting to being gay. Misunderstandings about being gay have tested very well in the past.

Less characters / more characters with nametags.
Either way on this one, but the audience really got lost after about four individuals hit the screen. The studio would prefer you just cut characters for obvious cost benefit reasons, but if you want to just have them wear nametags, that's probably workable. But how about instead of names, their tags just have descriptions? For instance: The Wacky Neighbor, The Overbearing Boss, The Sexy Sister. We see this as just eliminating the middle man. That way, instead of having to remember two things, the character name and their role, the audience gets to cut right to the chase.

At least one reference to cooking abilities of a mother in law.
This one's kind of a staple, so we're sure it was just an oversight on your part. Try to work in the word Meatloaf.

More references to the diminished frequency of sexual activity after marriage.
Test audiences love these as many audience members are married and having less sex. Seeing your characters reference this makes them feel better about watching your show from one side of a king size bed with two dogs, a child, and some leftovers between them and their former object of sexual desire. Try to use the phrase, "decade long headache".

At least one moment where the audience (or the sound effects simulating an audience) go Awwwww.
Again, hard to believe you overlooked this. Try working in the phrase, "but I made it for you, mommy."

Not a single person fell down
What, are all your characters gymnasts? They don't trip? They've never gotten tangled up in the curtains? They don't get shoelaces stuck in revolving doors? Come on. This is a sit com we're talking about, not a documentary about Olympians or something.

Less clothing on the female cast members, more on male cast members
As a rule, cleavage is more important than anything else in retaining viewers. We'd didn't cast a bunch of hot, desperate, insecure girls in their mid twenties so you could dress them up like Quakers. We recognize that the show is set in a Quaker community, but maybe it's a progressive Quaker community where the girls dress like they want their show to get decent ratings. And unless you're really running with the gay thing, we'd prefer not to have the males in anything that's cut above the knee. Unless you're doing the gay thing. Gay is gold.

In short, what you have here is a very interesting, fresh, and original piece of work. That really doesn't give us much to work with. But if you can take these notes to heart and learn from your mistakes (quit watching those Arrested Development DVD's and maybe watch some Three's Company reruns) we think we can figure out how to market this thing.

Remember the mantra and everything will be okay.

Meatloaf and cleavage.

And gay jokes.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Product Reviews

Lemon-Lime Pledge

When my new can of Lemon-Lime Pledge arrived I was very excited. The first thing I did was take it out to dinner. Sadly, Lemon-Lime Pledge performed very poorly on our date, hardly saying a word and barely moving when we went dancing afterwards. On the upside, Lemon-Lime Pledge did not order much and so it was one of the cheaper dates I've been on in some time. In short, if you're looking for a relationship Pledge, I'd have to say that Lemon-Lime is just a lemon (not to be confused with actual Lemon Pledge which I've had lots of good times with).

Oscar Meyer Bologna

I've found that Oscar Meyer Bologna is an incredibly ineffective form of sun protection. First of all, it's hard to apply. Second, once I'd layered the exposed parts of my body with Bologna and attached them with rubber bands, I found that I began to attract a large number of insects and small animals. I went for a jog in the park and ended up fleeing from a pack of chipmunks and small dogs. Numerous areas ended up unprotected because the various animals chewed right through the protective meat layer. Further, when I caught the subway home it was clear that the Bologna had begun to smell from exposure and people tended to move away from me or vomit in my area. I have found it more effective as a window shade for my car, but overall, I'd have to give this product a thumbs down.

Phil Collins Greatest Hits

Phil Collins Greatest Hits is an excellent CD. I can't speak for all of his CD's, but the edges of this one are exceptionally sharp. I've used it to slice tomatoes, carpet, and a would be mugger. I brought this CD to a holiday gathering and everyone went wild. Gift wrap need cutting? Phil Collins Greatest Hits. Got a tag on that new sweater? Phil Collins Greatest Hits. Time to cut the ham? Phil Collins Greatest Hits. Before I got this CD I cut most things Karate style with the sides of my hands which was really inconvenient and not that effective (ever try carving a turkey with karate chops?). Since getting this master work I've not only saved a lot of wear and tear on my hands, but I met a girl named Karen who fell in love with my utility and married me and who also thinks that Phil Collins Greatest Hits is the absolute best. We now have a baby on the way and I bet you can guess what we're naming it... that's right, Phil Collins Greatest Hits. Do yourself a favor and get this CD today!

Monday, July 31, 2006

Thoughts On Our Recent Trip To Hell And Back

Friday plane - airport was a zoo. Lady in front of us actually started smoking on the plane. Attendant told her to stop. Lady asked what exactly would happen if she didn't stop. "We are going to Hell," she pointed out. Smokers came out of the woodwork after that. Rough landing due to tires melting on touchdown.

Accommodations were as advertised, hot, pointy, red, but somehow I was hoping for more. Brochure showed lava flowing through the rooms, but lava was mostly confined to the lobby. Also, no HBO.

Locals were not terribly friendly. Tolls to cross every river or bridge. Everyone is damned. Everyone is hopeless. Very hard to get them to smile for photos. Nearly impossible to get them to take photo of us and the kids.

Food was sub-par. I was ready for hot, spicy, melt your insides and make you beg for mercy, like Indian times a hundred. But for the most part, everything was just charred. Like, black. Is it meat, vegetable, other? Who knew. Very tough. No flavor. Zero points for presentation. I won't even start about the ice cream.

Scenery was initially impressive, but then it like, okay, I've seen the pits of souls, the flaming seas. Hell, there's pointy rocks in Utah! There's just really not much variety. You could certainly see it in a day. Even a long layover would give you the flavor.

Did see a small patch of snow. Took lots of pictures. Locals were not impressed. Asked why they were not more amazed to see the place frozen over. Apparently it happens all the time, contrary to popular belief. Deleted most of the photos. In retrospect, snow is snow.

The Devil. Wow, what a wait. And honestly, kind of felt like a tourist trap. Yes, he has the horns and the tail, and even that little beard thing, but five hours in line? When I wait five hours in line, you better deliver Mickey Mouse or some sort of trained animal that can balance something on something else while riding another thing. He was polite, though. Told the kids they'd be welcome back anytime. I suggested he'd need some HBO and better cell coverage if he wanted my kids to see Hell again.

Celebrity sightings - sure, a few. I mean, they're all about if you look, but it really wasn't that impressive. Hell seems to be rough on your looks.

Flight back got stuck in Limbo. Very boring. Around our thrity fifth hour in the terminal I decided we're definitely sacking the travel agent.

Would I go back? Doubtful. If I need a lake of fire, I'll head to Cleveland and get a place with some HBO. Not that we're going to Heaven next year either. I've heard customs there is a bitch. Sea World probably.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Results of Poor Partner Selection On 100,000 Dollar Pyramid

Giving

The ocean, the universe...
Things that taste like Cinnamon?
A mountain, a jumbo jet...
Things you would say to an umpire?
The universe! A sperm whale!
Sperm? Now, I'm totally confused.
Pass.

A cloud, a baby blanket, a teddy bear...
Things you scream at.
What? No! Kittens, fresh pillows, marshmallows...
And you're sure it's not things you scream at?
Pass!

OK. Slurpees, Big Gulps, hot dogs.
Things you shouldn't put lotion on.
Dear Lord.
Ways you start letters to the editor.
No, that wasn't a clue, I'm just-
Things that aren't clues.
Pass!

Receiving

Ok. You'd find these at the place I went when I was ten.
Also at the place I went when I was eleven.
Also when I was twelve.
I have no idea.
I was ten.
Yes I heard that part.
Also eleven.
Can we pass?
It's so easy. I was ten.
Just pass.
Really?
Yes.
It was things you find at summer camp. I can't believe you didn't get that.

Allright. Here we go. Um.... Tom Cruise.
People you see in a movie theatre.
No. Tom Cruise.
Things in a blockbuster.
No, no, no. Like, think about Tom Cruise.
People who are famous. Things you find in a cult.
No. Man, I'm having trouble thinking of anything better than Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise, Tom Cruise, Tom Cruise, what do you think of?
People who are handsome. People who dance in their underwear.
This is getting us nowhere. It's things with sharp teeth. You've never noticed that about his teeth? They seem really sharp. Almost like an alligator or a shark or something.

This is the one. We've got this. You don't turn these on with a switch. They're pretty poor conductors of electricity. They're not radioactive.
Things that are... made of wood?
Close. Um, they're not made of rubber. They don't hibernate. Sometimes they're on fire. Peaches. You don't turn them on with a switch.
I have no idea. I give up.
Come on. Not radioactive. Peaches.
Things... you eat.
Yeah, yeah, close. No hibernation.
Things you eat for breakfast. Things you eat for lunch. Things you eat for dinner.
No, no, no, they're NOT made of rubber.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Things We're Not Going To Do In The New Place

Family,

In an effort to make our recent move more than just a change of address, but an entirely fresh start, I'd like to suggest five simple groundrules that I think will allow us to enjoy our new home for some time to come.

1. No cattle.
Do I wish we still had the ranch? Of course I do. In retrospect it was foolish to take the deed with me to that poker game just to show off its nifty font, but what's done is done (it was a swell font though, really), and we all need to move on, and that means no more livestock. Sally, you may have fooled me into thinking you just had a terribly unattractive young friend who always wanted to stay the night at the last house, but I've got my eyes out this time. If you think I'm going to be buying any more bales of hay for your 'slumber parties' you're in for a rude awakening. I know it's hard, but I think we're going to see a marked improvement in overall household odor and a marked decline in stampedes as a result of this rule.

2. No firearms in the dining room or the family room.
Now I know this sounds extreme, but hear me out. Seeing that news report on the so called 'shootout' that took place in our last home after our debate about the proper audience for a certain breakfast cereal (I still maintain there's nothing inherently 'for kids' about Trix) made me realize that our brand of conflict resolution was simply not going to be understood or accepted in 'the burbs'. I know, I know, it sounds crazy, and believe me, I enjoyed yelling 'draw' and reaching for a piece as much as the rest of you, but I just think it's time to adapt. So from now on, each of you will be outfitted with a sword and scabbard. All disputes will be settled with the time honored clash of metal on metal. This should not only satisfy the uptight neighbors, but hopefully result in less damage to things like the walls and the television, which you all know took the brunt of our 'shootouts'. And remember, this only applies to the dining room and the family room. In your own rooms you can fire at will.

3. No more math books.
If there was one thing that ignited more furor than breakfast cereals it was debates about Nascar drivers. But since we're not even going to discuss banning Nascar races, I suggest we leave another instigator of trouble in our lockers from now on. Your mom and I have long since forgotten our algebra and so forth and we simply cannot help you. It doesn't do any of us any good to beat our heads against the wall trying to make sense of this stuff only to eventually end up frustrated and firing wildly into the ceiling (I know enough to count to 2300, and that's what we spent on roof repairs trying to get Billy through that semester of trig). Do your homework where it's supposed to be done, at school. If you have problems, let their roof suffer.

4. No more cowboys and indians.
It was okay when you all played with each other, but roping (literally) unsuspecting citizens into these games just seems to lead to trouble. When I was a kid a good game of cowboys and indians often meant someone went missing for weeks, but people are just a lot more edgy around here. They get worried if family members don't come home EVERY NIGHT. Is that crazy? Maybe, but it's not our place to say. So no more lassos, no more hold ups, no more bandana gagged strangers mumbling in the corner when we're trying to watch a race. Let's see if we can stay on the neighbors' Christmas card lists for a while this time.

5. No more moonshine.
This one will take some adjusting, no doubt, but I think it has to be done. The fumes, explosions, fires, not to mention the uptick in both armed conflict and stampedes when a batch was enjoyed are all clear signs to me that this lovely elixir can simply no longer be a part of our lives. What will we give the baby when she won't sleep? I'm not sure. What will Johnny suck on when we're tending to those gunshot wounds (hopefully just sword wounds now)? Don't ask me. What will we put in our vehicles to make them go? Maybe, just maybe, it's time to start buying gas.

Will any of this be easy? Of course not. But the world is changing all around us. If we want to survive, we're going to have to evolve. Not in some cockamamie ape into man way, but in a bathtubs are for bathing not distilling kind of way. If we work together I think we can make a real go of it here and make some beautiful memories. Will there be anything worth remembering without the guns, cows, bullets, indians, and gin? I honestly don't know. That's something we're just going to have to find out. Together.

Monday, June 12, 2006

World Cup Injury Report For Today If All Players Are As Injured As They Initially Lead Us To Believe

Broken Ankles - 24
Torn Knees - 17
Fractured Femurs - 4
Injuries Requiring Amputation - 7
Deaths - 5

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Baby - Reprinted From The Berkley Fiction Review

My wife became pregnant very suddenly. One night she suggested I put some pickles on her Hagen-Dazs. The next morning she looked ready to pop. What’s going on here, she asked upon noticing the basketball-sized lump that had taken up residence in her belly. Did you do this?

***

The doctor seemed unconvinced that the entire situation had sprung up overnight, and he looked at me more strangely each time I repeated the story. I asked if it might be a reaction to the pickles, or the ice cream, or the combination of both. He remained skeptical.

It’s not pickle related, he said.

But I made a mental note to throw them out, along with the ice cream, just to be safe. The doctor checked and double checked his tests and scans and declared that we were no longer eligible to receive the traditional nine months preparation time. In fact, he said my wife could give birth at any minute.

Well, she said forcing a smile, that really doesn’t give us much time does it?

We did our best not to appear blindsided as we rushed out and began to collect all the tools required for proper child rearing. While we were purchasing the crib, diapers, and high chair, my wife kept pulling up her shirt, studying her belly in disbelief, mourning the loss of the perfect abs she’d been religiously honing for an hour each morning before going to work.

While we collected the mobiles, music boxes, and pacifiers, my wife consulted the detailed calendar she used to insure a smooth and even flow to our lives. Normally she could say with certainty which cases I’d handle for a given week, or where we would dine on a Wednesday evening six months hence, but it was clear the baby was going to put her plans in disarray.
I’ll have to throw this whole thing out, she said, holding the little calendar like it a beloved pet someone had just run over.

Yet by the time we gathered the rattles, rocking chair, and stroller, we’d managed a rally, convincing ourselves that certainly we could triumph over something so small and round. We completed the shopping with eight coordinated outfits to allow the baby to ease comfortably into our normal wash cycle and a new calendar for my wife in which she not only rewrote our itinerary to accommodate our unexpected guest, but made arrangements for its first birthday party, still a year away.

We took everything home and unwrapped it, then folded some items and unfolded others, set some things out and put others away, and by late that night we looked at each other and smiled.

Not bad, I said.

For short notice, it’s not bad at all, she agreed with a little pat on her roundball belly.

We packed a little suitcase and set it by the door so we’d be ready when the moment came.

And then we waited.

***

A week later we were curious.

Any minute, the doctor assured us.

After a month, we were nervous.

It could be any second, he said.

Nine months later, we were confused.

This, he said finally, is a head scratcher.

Again I brought up the mysterious pickles and again I was roundly dismissed. Everything looked proper he said. Everything was ready. In fact everything had looked proper and ready for nine months.

So what’s the problem, I asked.

The baby… just doesn’t seem to want to come out.

My wife and I looked at one another.

Well, can’t we go get him, she asked.

We could, the doctor explained, but because of the particulars of my wife’s medical condition, any attempt to remove the baby could pose a serious threat to her health.

It should only be a last resort, he cautioned.

So what do we do?

Well, as long as the situation remains stable, I guess we wait.

So we kept the little suitcase by the door where it slowly collected dust and the items trapped inside began to go out of style.

***

On the one-year anniversary of the pregnancy my wife had still not given birth but the party had been planned for so long that we agreed canceling it might give the impression that something was wrong. So we pressed on. My wife bought a gorgeous new dress and cut a hole in the center to expose the guest of honor and we strapped a party hat around her sideways so that it stuck out from her belly where we approximated the baby’s head to be.

Our parents came (anxious would be grandparents) and co-workers and friends and neighbors and acquaintances and business contacts and clients and prospective clients. They came wearing perfection, driving cars we desired, saying things we wished we’d imagined. They patted my wife’s stomach and ate our food and inspected our home for signs of bad taste or disorder. Occasionally someone mentioned that the child was lovely, or incredibly well behaved.
Those who had babies of their own who had already emerged from the womb and were getting on with the business of utilizing all the tools their parents had purchased in order to raise them properly, began to compare notes. Some of the babies exhibited incredible musical ability, pounding out Beethoven on plastic xylophones. Others were reading various American and European classics. One of the babies could perform differential equations by merely shuffling brightly colored blocks around the floor. Another had begun fingerpaintings of such quality that her renderings had outgrown the family refrigerator and required a downtown gallery show of their own. The family was putting the proceeds away to fund her education at a prestigious pre-kindergarten art academy where it was virtually assured the baby would be accepted.
Amid all this startling news, my wife eventually laid flat upon the kitchen table and we inserted a single candle into her belly button. We lit it and everyone sang, and the musically gifted babies played along. By the time she blew out the candle protruding from her belly and swallowed the first piece of cake on behalf of our reluctant offspring, we were both painfully aware that we were allowing our child to fall behind. And after we’d smiled long enough to see our friends and their talented tots out the door, we looked at each other and felt ashamed.

***

My wife took her maternity leave immediately and we began the process of helping our poor remedial child catch up to its peers. I read aloud from the encyclopedia on odd number evenings and from the dictionary on even ones (the dictionary was slightly drier and tolerable only in smaller doses). We enrolled the child in a pre-pre kindergarten as well as music, dance, and swimming for babies. Our child’s ability to perform many of the exercises was limited by its reluctance to leave my wife’s womb, but we felt that if nothing else the experience of getting out of the house and being around its peers could only be good for the baby.

This thinking was largely backed up by many of the self-help volumes we purchased in order to shape ourselves into better parents. We discovered what seemed a very promising section in the bookstore dedicated to dealing with your inner child, and though the books did not, as we had hoped, pertain to our exact situation, we felt on the whole they were helpful.

We were thankful to see that though many of the experts and authors themselves had run into troubles with divorce, or adultery, or estrangement from their children, or lacked children altogether, it didn’t stop them from providing us with volume after volume of much needed advice. My wife and I each started to see experts independently as well as together for group counseling sessions once a week.

But because we’d allowed ourselves to fall behind and were overwhelmed with the tasks of catching up, and because we were in need of so much counseling and advice, and because the baby was so limited in the things it could do independently, my wife and I began to get tired.
After she’d run out of maternity leave my wife was forced to resign in order to keep up with the baby’s lessons and schooling. She’d always strived to demonstrate that gender had nothing to do with her abilities. So to leave her career because of a never-ending pregnancy was intensely disheartening. She began to walk with a pronounced slump and if I asked after her she responded that everything was great, that this was a miracle. Though I never requested it, she started to make me lunches for work. Usually the sandwiches were smashed and dry, and occasionally the bag bore the imprint of one of her shoes. I did not complain.

Her new job, taking the baby to vital classes and events, brought her little satisfaction. Being highly educated, she found many of the subjects simplistic and boring, but she was willing to endure for the good of the baby. Though she was eventually asked not to answer any more questions on the baby’s behalf (the teachers felt that my wife’s mastery of the abc’s was not necessarily representative of our child’s) she did enjoy having a school-sanctioned nap built into her daily routine. She told one of the teachers she’d been to Yale. The teacher let her be water fountain monitor for a week.

With my wife no longer working, I was forced to take extra cases in order to defray the costs of providing the right tools and environment in which to raise our shy, but otherwise healthy progeny. Good cases were fought over like meat, and quickly disappeared. Those of us in need, who had troubles, were forced to take the dregs. I had little interest in working till midnight on zoning cases or permit abuse, but I too understood that sacrifices had to be made.

For the most part we managed to follow every rule and heed every suggestion, even the ones that seemed contradictory. We listened to every expert and authority and generally gave ourselves credit for being the best parents we could be with the circumstances as they were.
But despite all the effort, despite all the advice, the baby did not come, and though the books and the experts would never have tolerated it, we secretly began to blame one another. The staggering amount of work that went into keeping the baby healthy and competitive was like an all consuming furnace, taking every scrap of energy we could give and then demanding more. When we ran out of fuel, we powered ourselves with anger. We burned inside over long unanswered questions about how exactly we’d come to be in this mess, boiled at the way our plans had been rewritten, and seethed at the idea that as we drove ourselves relentlessly ahead we might still be falling behind. The source of our power was invisible, because to show it would be to admit that something was wrong, that we’d encountered something that was somehow smaller and yet larger than us at the same time. Instead, we kept it to ourselves. For two years, eleven months, and six days of our child’s gestation we quietly used that anger to wake, work, and provide for ourselves. It was this invisible anger that kept in the race, our silent rage that kept us presentable. Then, one fateful Thursday, our couple’s therapist canceled our session to deal with his own divorce, and the dams that had held back our contempt began to crumble.

We’d agreed long ago never to argue in front of the baby, (all the books were against it) and since the baby was always present, our long festering marital meltdown was necessarily cordial. We let our words drip like honey and hoped they would land like punches.

My wife explained how she’d come to believe that I was at fault for our difficult situation. I was always rushing, always in such a hurry. She cited the way I often failed to wait for her in parking lots, walking five to ten steps ahead in my haste to get to the movie or the grocery store or the mall. The way I darted through traffic, and pushed through crowds, and generally acted like we were always headed to or from a fire. She remembered how I claimed not to be able to help it, how I said the need to rush was in my blood. Not only was it in my blood, she said, but it extended all the way to my genes. My sperm, according to her, were as pushy as me, and had gone in and rushed things just as one would expect my sperm to do. The baby had been spooked by all the pressure and hurrying, and was now simply afraid to appear. She concluded her case with an angry smile and stroked my hair softly as she repeated, this is all your fault, dear.

But I had my own theory, which removed all blame from my shoulders, and placed it back on my wife’s where, I said while offering her a massage, it truly belonged. I reminded her that she was an insatiable perfectionist, and asked her to recall our wedding day when she burst into tears over the fact that the bathroom floors had been paved with red rose petals instead of pink and again upon discovering that the cake cutter and the cake dispenser had gotten confused and switched jobs. That these errors were invisible to everyone else was immaterial. Because the day did not match her abstract vision of perfection, it was considered a disaster. I then reminded her of her precious calendar on which she’d organized to the day all of the major events of the next decade, the calendar she’d spoken about incessantly, the very calendar she’d had to toss out when we learned of the baby. According to her original vision a baby was not to be conceived until Thursday, March 6th, four years from now, and not delivered until Tuesday, November 8th of that same year. And though she claimed to have thrown her old calendar away I’d seen her sobbing and clutching it on numerous occasions. And so, my theory went, because the baby had chosen its own days rather than those pre-ordained by my wife, it seemed clear, though she’d never dare say it, she viewed the whole situation as a disaster. This was why our baby had not arrived. Either out of some incredible will to please its impossible mother, or through her own shocking determination to stick to her original visions of perfection. But certainly, I concluded with a kiss on her cheek, not through any fault of my own.

We stared at each other in the yellow incandescence of our bedroom, both of us having finally glimpsed the fury that propelled our endless motion. But a glimpse was all we could betray, because as much as we wanted to be rid of it, we feared that without it we could not go on. Without it we would quit, would give in, would lose. So we swallowed what we hadn’t shared and decided we should hug, for the baby’s sake. With concrete grins we embraced and each of us tried to squeeze all our anger into the other until we turned out the light and cuddled together in a big ball of hate.

The Baby - Part 2 - Reprinted From The Berkley Fiction Review

The Achilles’ heel of my theory was that it was testable. If the November 8th my wife had selected were to come and go and the baby had not been released by my wife, or chosen to appear on its own, then my whole argument would be discredited and blame for the situation would be laid at the feet of my overzealous and pushy sperm. I spent many a night in the office reflecting on this very weakness in my attack. In the beginning this was merely another source of my anger. Anger at myself for offering a proper and experimentally fallible theory, and anger at my wife for doing just the opposite. But as the days outgrew their hours and blossomed into weeks and the weeks passed all their days and graduated into months, my anger turned to fear. Fear that in fact I might be to blame. Fear that I alone might end up with the knowledge that something I’d done, something latent and internal, might indeed be the reason for the pain and torment that we, including the silent but loveable baby, had all endured. This thought was too awful to consider, so instead I assured myself that I would be vindicated. That the baby would arrive and would already know the multiplication tables, the backstroke, and the meaning of quiescent without ever missing a beat. I would follow the rules. I would heed the advice. The baby would be fine. My wife would be to blame.

***

Thus, we pressed on, trying to provide every advantage to our long overdue addition, while subsisting on our fury and the advice of people who’d failed in other situations, but knew best how we should handle ours. I kept up the work so my wife could keep up the classes. We put the baby in cub scouts where it attained the rank of Weebelo, and my wife spent at least three days a week at the park making sure the baby got its exercise and the opportunity to bond with its classmates. And on occasion, when our efforts to keep up and blend in appeared to find success it seemed that things between us might soften, that my wife and I might reach an understanding, find some other way to fuel our persistence. But these moments were rare. It was disappointment that was in abundance.

The play dates we arranged never seemed to work out. The other kids didn’t like playing with the baby and the other mothers didn’t like playing with my wife. Further, the burden of carrying a baby around for several years had not only robbed my wife of the graceful figure she’s worked to mold but had begun to severely tax her back. The doctors outfitted her with an outrageously comical specialized walker, which looked strangely like a rolling TV tray on which she could rest her belly as she moved. When she passed by people indeed stopped and stared, but for all the wrong reasons.

I felt for her, but could never find the words to say so. To preserve our veneer of marital and parental bliss we’d learned to smile when we wanted to scream, to profess love with our mouths and hate with our eyes. We became trapped in our own happy lie, and neither of us had the courage to let the other out.

***

As the birthdays ticked by we kept up our ritual, inviting all our friends and family over to celebrate, begging them to pretend our situation was normal, that our efforts to keep up had at a minimum allowed us to stay in the race. But each year as the number of candles in my wife’s belly button grew, our wish as she extinguished them became that much more intense. Please, we prayed as the fire was transformed to wispy trails of smoke, please let this end.

***

Years passed this way, the two of us doting on one another with unsatisfied rage as we broke our backs to keep our baby from falling behind until finally we found ourselves perched on the edge of that special Tuesday, November 8th, the one hand- picked by my wife all those years ago as the date she would deliver her first born. I felt an odd confidence that somehow we were only hours away from meeting the child who hadn’t left our sides in all these years. I dusted the little suitcase by the door and prepared myself for the impending drive to the hospital.
Though she’d always disagreed with my theory, my wife seemed strangely full of hope. If indeed she’d been responsible, it was clear she was ready for it to be over. If the baby didn’t come, it wouldn’t be for spite on her part.

Neither of us could sleep. We laid together in the bed and briefly dipped our toes in dreams that the baby had come, only then to lie awake in the knowledge it had not.

Day refused to break, sending only a lesser form of darkness in its place, a dull grayness that seemed poised to flatten us from above. The hope that had floated our spirits only hours before drained from the house with every passing hour. We waited in silence, until even the day got bored and went around to the other side of the world. Together we stared at the clock until midnight came, and with it the assurance that if the baby was coming, it would not be this day. This day that my wife had selected long ago would be like all the others she had not. She was absolved of all wrongdoing.

My fears were confirmed. Whatever had happened, it was surely my fault. With that realization all my contempt for my wife disappeared like that 8th of November, just faded into the past and became nothing more than history.

It’s my fault, I said. You were right all along. My sperm must have rushed. I scared the baby. I told her she was a wonderful wife, and a wonderful mother, and I assured her that there was nothing wrong with wanting things to be perfect.

It’s not you, she said. It was never you. It just is what it is.

For the first time in years we held each other close and refused to share our bed with thoughts of doing one another harm.

***

After that we burned the books, deciding that we could certainly do no worse on our own. We withdrew the child from classes and dropped any pretense of being a normal family with a normal child and embraced the idea of being a special family with an extremely special child. My wife went back to exercising, concentrating not on her abs but her back, building her muscles to support the baby without the aid of the rolling TV tray. I took some time off from work and we took the baby to see the sights. We did Disney World and the Grand Canyon, a little camping, a little hiking, and stopped the car every time the baby kicked, and gave the child a few moments to examine whatever happened to surround us, wherever we happened to be.
And pretty soon we just forgot to be waiting and moved onto enjoying our situation the way it seemed destined to stay. Our friends with incredible things and incredible children plowed ahead, but we never remembered to feel left behind. To others we were two people and a medical curiosity. To us, we were just a family, and that was enough.

***

After a decade of pregnancy we held a quiet tenth birthday celebration at home, just the three of us. We each put five candles in our bellies and from our backs we blew them out wishing not for the baby’s immediate delivery, but for its permanent well-being. We retired to bed and kissed our dodgeball shaped loved one good night, and promised that we looked forward to seeing one another in the morning.

At 2:58 the phone erupted from my nightstand. I grabbed it after a single ring and looked at my wife, who edged close to consciousness before slipping back into the comfort of her dreams.

Hello, I whispered.

Hello, came a voice from the other side.

Who is this, I asked.

It’s me. The baby.

I gasped for air, as if more oxygen were the key to understanding this information.

Where are you?

Where do you think I am?

I looked over at my wife’s inflated midsection and watched as it rose as fell with her easy breaths.

You can make calls from in there?

Yes.

How?

It’s complicated.

I see.

Well, look, I was just calling to say that I’ve decided something. You’re great people, both of you, wonderful parents, but I’m not coming out. I was really thinking about it, planning on it actually, and I figured tonight, after ten years and all, tonight would be as good as any. But I just can’t do it. It’s just not for me.

Did you feel I rushed you? I never meant to rush you.

Rushed me, are you crazy? I’ve felt quite welcome to take my time.

I hope you don’t think you mother didn’t want-

No, no, it’s nothing like that. I told you, you’re wonderful people, and I’ve been lucky to have you.

So, is there any particular reason you never wanted to come out?

It’s really comfortable in here. The best. The funny thing is that no one really has to leave. It’s sort of an unwritten rule that you get the nine months and then you’re supposed to hit the road, but most kids do it and then immediately regret it. As soon as they realize what they’ve done, that there’s no turning back, well, you’ve been there, they just start screaming and crying.

Then why does anybody leave?

Monkey see, monkey do, man.

So why did you stay?

Don’t know. Guess I’m a little bit of a maverick.

I like that, I said. I’m proud of you for that.

Yeah, but it’s bad for mom’s back, no matter what she says. You guys need a break. It’s time. So I’m going to be leaving.

Where are you going?

Back where I came from.

You can do that?

Sure.

How?

It’s complicated. But you guys are going to be fine, don’t you worry, I’m sure of it.

How do you know?

Well, it’s not like I have a crystal ball or anything. A telephone yes, crystal ball no. But I can tell. Please let mom know I love her and thank her for the ride. I’m going to miss you guys.
We’ll miss you. Very much. Will we ever see you again?

Of course.

When? Where?

It’s complicated.

There was a pause and then, I love you dad. Good-bye.

Good-bye.

The line went dead and I held the phone to my ear and listened to the drone of the dial tone until the operator took it away. I dropped the phone in the cradle, and I went to bed.

***

When we woke the next morning my wife was skinny as a rail and the mere idea of anything with pickles made her ill. I told her about the phone call and she seemed saddened, but somehow able to understand.

For a while we weren’t sure what to do. We decided that what was required was a send off of some sort, something better than a late night phone call to say goodbye.

A funeral seemed too sad, so we decided on a graduation, though we didn’t specify from what. We invited all our friends and the baby’s now pre-teen contemporaries. My wife taped a mortarboard to her abdomen and we opened the thoughtful gifts of Cross pens and personalized stationary that our visitors had brought. Everyone was careful not to mention that the guest of honor was absent, that the graduate, had in fact, already moved on. They just smiled politely, and we smiled back.

Six months later, among the thank yous and other mailed pleasantries from all our invited guests, we found a folded note with no postage. On the front was a crude drawing of a kite blowing in the wind and inside, the paper revealed itself to be a piece of graduation stationary. There was no signature, no letter, no explanation at all. Just two words, Thank You, that appeared to be written with a fountain tipped Cross Pen.




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Monday, May 22, 2006

When Senators Get Into Rap Battles: Immigration Edition

Sen. Brownback:
Need a wall, build it tall, to keep the criminals out ya'll
Terror and drugs, gangsters and thugs
Stealing jobs from our slobs who can't find nothin to do
Takin up them services and sendin the bill to you

Ted Kennedy:
Land of the free, purple mountain majesty, fences and fences far as the eye can see
What happened to opportunity, chance to feed yo family?
Jobs from our slobs? More like snobs
They just say no way to hard work and low pay

Sen. Brownback:
No one even speaks English anymore
Driving cars so damn low they almost scraping the floor
They want to come over so bad, tell them it's fine
Learn to speak the language and then get in line

Ted Kennedy:
You want to make criminals out of people who work
Lets raid all the offices and throw out those jerks
Hey you, you been here since the dawn of time?
Or did your people just come before coming was a crime?

Sen. Brownback:
Let me sum up by puttin it this way
This country and yo children in serious danger today
Got Swiss cheese borders like we don't even try
We gonna let them bring down more buildings while learning to fly?

Ted Kennedy:
This has nothing to do with terror whatever they say
This about people afraid to change wanting everything to stay
Just like it is with them at the head of the class
Everybody else they want out on their ass

Monday, May 08, 2006

Questions I Did Not Think To Ask When We Started Our Relationship That Probably Would Have Saved Us Both A Lot Of Time

Are you or have you ever been diagnosed as certifiably insane?

When you're upset, do you tend to set things on fire and throw them at the person you're angry with?

When you have more than two glasses of wine in a restaurant, do you tend to sob uncontrollably and pull off your clothes while calling out the name 'Gary'?

Are you for or against sleeping with your significant other's coworkers?

What's your policy on taking unidentified medications to 'clear your head' before visiting your significant other's parent's for Christmas? If you took such medications and attempted to 'dance' with the Christmas tree because it was 'just so fucking classic' and then ended up in some sort of wrestling match with the tree, do you think you would be likely to start a small fire in the kitchen later while everyone else was cleaning up?

How many times have you driven a vehicle into a stationary object?

If you were pretending to be a graduate student, approximately how many years do you think you would perpetuate that, including paying imaginary tuition and going to fake study sessions that lasted until four in the morning and resulted in you being passed out on the front lawn?

Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being very happy with your appearance, and 10 being so unhappy you might end up in the hospital after secretly consuming nothing but diet coke for ten days.

Are you the sort of person who can look so beautiful and fragile, so utterly helpless and needy, that when you break down and apologize for even the most egregious of transgressions, that it's virtually impossible not to want to help you, to fix you, to complete you, to fall in love with you over and over and over again for approximately three and a half years? Do your kisses taste like lemonade? Do you have a special way of whispering 'I'm sorry' in someone's ear that makes their brain melt and the hairs on their neck stand up? Do you use sex in places like laundromats and elevators to intentionally cause amnesia in your partners? Do you look a certain way when you wake up in the morning wearing a significant other's shirt that makes it virtually impossible for them to leave even when they've sworn the night before amid a hail of flaming debris that this is it?

Would you call yourself a fan of country music?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Channel Surfing

It's 2:30 in the morning when I answer the phone to hear my father screaming at his television. His complaints are interrupted by painful tones that cause me to hold the speaker away from my ear as his fingers mash the buttons on his phone.

What the hell is wrong with BEEEEEP. Come on BOOOOOP of crap!

Lying here I can picture the scene in the darkness above me. My father, sitting in his recliner, aiming his cordless phone at the television, hopelessly pressing buttons, and wondering why the channel won't change.

Son of a BEEEEP. I ought to BLOOOP.

These are the conversations that have finally taught me what I need to know about my father's condition. When he knows I'm listening he insists he's fine. It's only when he tries to change the channel with his speed dial that the truth comes out.

Dad, I scream into the dark, though my wife has asked me not to. I'm sure she's right. I have yet to get his attention this way, and God only knows what would happen if he actually heard his remote control calling him Dad, but I have trouble hanging up the way she wants me to, the way I know I should. In the blackness I can picture that scene too, the moment after the operator has warned him to hang up and then sent him that endlessly repeating tone until he looks at his hand and realizes that his mind has betrayed him again, that he's suddenly lost in the house he's known for forty-seven years. I want to be with him at that moment, to tell him it's okay, to assure him I'm there even if I'm not. But I've screamed myself hoarse and so far I've never been present in that tragic instant when the remote becomes the phone. Eventually, I always hang up and the things that happen after that, my father and I face alone.

Goddamn it!

There are several loud clunks and suddenly everything sounds different. The blaring TV is now further away and there's a particular way the sounds echo through that house that almost makes it possible to picture exactly where my father has thrown me. I listen to the program for a minute, trying to imagine we're watching it together.

Would you just hang up already, my wife says finally. She rolls away from me and takes more than her share of the covers in case I've failed to note the displeasure in her voice.

Dad, I yell one more time causing my wife to yank my pillow out from under my head and place it over her own. But my voice has no effect on the sounds coming back. I hear a familiar jingle as the program goes to commercial and I lean over and put the phone back in its cradle.

In the new silence and old darkness I imagine how this particular episode will end. Probably he'll hear the phone beeping and go to get it, perhaps not even remembering having tossed it across the room. With any luck I decide that when he's up to retrieve it he'll spot the real remote somewhere and return to his chair and everything will be fine. Tonight, I tell myself as I lay my head back on the pillowless mattress, everything will work out.

Monday, May 01, 2006

How To Be Happy

Don’t be sad. Being sad never did anything for anybody. Sad people are hard to stand. They leak, convulse, make too much noise, and sometimes throw things they hope will break. And their problems tend to be contagious. It’s best to stay away. If you’re sad try not to get it on anyone else. If you weren’t sad you wouldn’t want it on you either.

Cheer up. Happy people tend to avoid sad people. Misery still loves company, but company has filed for divorce. Company is seeing other people. Company has moved on. You should too. Happy people can be found in restaurants and at parties, usually in groups. Happy people are also loud, and convulsive, and tend to be contagious, but unlike sad people they are not hard to be around. Unless you are sad. Then they’re pure evil.

What’s wrong? Nothing. That’s what. Anything other than nothing is something, and something is a messy answer to a nice clean question. Don’t make a mess, especially in public. Be clean and tidy and keep your somethings to yourself. If someone seems to be asking for something, have the decency to give them nothing. Nothing goes with everything. Nothing is the new black.

Feel better. Feeling bad is a choice, like being gay or republican, and you’ll feel so much better as soon as you decide to stop feeling bad. One easy way to feel better is to pretend. Chemicals might speed this up. If too much time passes and pretending to feel better doesn’t make you feel better you’ll probably just go back to feeling bad, which will bother the people who fell for your ruse, and probably leave them feeling bad, which will make you feel a little bit better.

Never give up. Because tomorrow is a new day. Different things could happen tomorrow. They could fall from the sky, or run you over in the street. Tomorrow might be a different shape than today, or the same shape, but in different wrapping. Tomorrow is a Christmas present from today and everyone loves to get presents. Tomorrow might just be a sweater, but it could also be a remote controlled car. And you. You could be a new person by tomorrow. You might not even be you. Tomorrow’s you might be today’s you with a smile and a remote controlled car, and you’d certainly want to stick around to see that. Wouldn’t you?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Flight 2347 LAX to DIA

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm Cindy, I'll be assisting you today along with our other flight attendants Mark and Keri. This will be a full flight, so I want to encourage you to take the first available seat. Assuming the captain isn't in one of those passive agressive moods where he punishes us for his own problems, we should be getting underway on time.

Hi there everyone, this is Captain Stevens. Looks like we should have a pretty smooth flight ahead of us and the weather in Denver is mostly sunny. Some people call that partly cloudy, but I think it's important to put a positive spin on things, unlike certain flight attendants who can never see past the negative and want to forget all the good times.

Ladies and gentlemen, as you can see the captain has turned off the seatbelt sign which you may assume means you're free to roam about the cabin. But I can personally attest that this particular captain is somewhat controlling and even though he said you could roam about the cabin, he'll probably get jealous and angry if you do. I'd stay seated with your mouths shut and focus on counting the minutes until you can get out of here. And then I'd call that nice guy you dated in college who went on to be a doctor. That's what I did and I'm very, very happy.

Hey guys, Captain Stevens here. Looks like we're going to be hitting a few bumps ahead. Not that that's any reason to panic and run away, I mean, rough patches are part of life, am I right? So if you're not the type to turn tail and give up at the sight of a little turbulence I suggest just hanging out in your seat and we'll come through this just fine, together. Together.

Ladies and gentlemen, we will be coming through the cabin with beverages and snacks momentarily. Normally I'd offer beer and alcohol for an additional charge, but we seem to be out today, which is odd because the plane is always fully stocked and only the flight crew has access before we're on board, but whatever, I guess it will just have to remain a mystery. Big mystery.

Hey gang, we're starting our descent into Denver and should be on the ground in the next half hour or so. Of course, sometimes descents go faster, sometimes it feels like the bottom just drops out and you're in free fall, sometimes you find your girlfriend and your copilot in your bed eating the last slice of your birthday cake and you feel like you're going to fall right through the floor. But not today. Today I predict a smooth landing.

Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the airline and your crew I want to welcome you to Denver International Airport. I know it looks like we've arrived, but our captain does have a serious problem with commitment and I wouldn't put it past him to just sit out here idling for say, I don't know, three years, while all the other planes get to take off and come in looking all pretty in their dresses and making little planes and having families. And then, if God forbid, we did something to try to wake the captain up, to remind him that we were still here, well he'd probably just take off again. So I know it looks good right now, but let's just see how this is going to play out before we get too excited. I'd hate to see you all get hurt.

Well guys, I guess this is it. We had a good run, right? Not that bad. Heck, there was a lot of good, wasn't there? But for now I guess it's goodbye. Unless you want to stay. Unless maybe you decide you want to come back. Because in spite of whatever problems we may have had, I think we're good together. I think we work. So come back, will you? Please? Because honestly, it's not going to be the same without you. We know you have choices when you fly, but we'd be so happy, and so ready to take our relationship to the next level if you just chose us. Until then, please enjoy your stay in Denver.


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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Brief Appeal To Jonathan Franzen, David Foster Wallace, And Aimee Bender

Hey Guys,

Big fan. Huge. Really.

Just wondering if you might be amenable to halting your writing careers and moving on to something else. Anything else. Gardening is something that people do. Also knitting. Or maybe quality control for an industrial chemical manufacturer. It's totally up to you.

I don't know if you're sports fans, but maybe you've seen someone hit a home run before. And then maybe you've seen the pitcher, who was just doing his best and really trying to do a good job, you've seen him take off his hat in frustration and then hang his head in defeat as the hitter makes that run around the bases and humiliates him. Well, that's what it's like for the rest of us charged with arranging words for a living every time you guys publish something. At least in baseball the pitcher can plunk the next batter. Who do you suggest I plunk?

So listen, you've had your fun. You've expanded and challenged minds. You've entertained and empowered, blah, blah, blah. But some of the rest of us, we have any number of bad habits to service and we certainly can't do it on the salary we're getting from Arby's. So what if you took your talents to one of those other fields I suggested and left writing to us hackier folks. I'd thank you. I know my girlfriend would thank you. And I'm sure that countless self delusional wannabes around the country, nay, the world, would thank you.

So ask yourself - would it really be so hard to stop? Wouldn't you like to grow your own veggies? Make your own hats? Insure the quality of dangerous chemical compounds?

Thanking you in advance,

Kyle

p.s. despite retiring, if any of you wants to do a blurb for my new book, I'm totally on board.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Incredible 3br 2.5bath - History Meets The Future

Are you looking to break out of the cookie cutter? Well, Welcome Home!

This utterly unique property marries a fascinating history with futuristic features you won't find anywhere else. Reconstructed nearly fifteen years ago (full disclosure, the previous structure did disappear into some sort of highly localized vortex) on lushly forested acreage once belonging to an exclusive pagan ritualisim and social club, this charming home has features you'll be hard pressed to find elsewhere. The kitchen comes fully equipped with self opening and closing cabinets and doors as well as a lively and occasionally talkative refrigerator (don't worry, mostly it just moans and it's never said anything that would offend junior's ears). You'll find hardwood floors throughout with periodic rolling tides of a delightful deep red liquid to brighten things up. Hate to feel alone? You'll find the home's rotating cast of gravitationally unencumbered characters (yes, they're included!) will make you feel cozy and accompanied all day and night. And feel free to turn Fido loose in the large backyard. It's a virtual treasure trove of archeological delights including bones, sacrificial altars, and pagan temples, all tucked neatly under a bed of soft Kentucky Bluegrass.

It simply must be seen to be believed!

Sellers are highly motivated and will entertain all offers. Please give a 30 minute courtesy call before visiting the property. Should you encounter the 'bleeding' floors or walls, please make an effort not to track anything onto the front deck, it's new. Also, should the home threaten you in any way, likely with the booming voice of a demon calling himself Mefisilies, or quickly moving objects (possibly sharp), it's best not to show fear. Just announce in a calm and firm tone that you have an appointment and that you'd appreciate a modicum of cooperation. In almost all cases that's been effective. Also, please do not let the cat out.

Don't let this one get away!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Ted

My other head is named Ted. That was not my doing. That was Ted’s doing. That’s pretty much the problem in a nutshell. Ted is the kind of head that would name himself Ted the head.

The doctor says that this is a fixable situation. He says that there’s technology and procedures. Ted doesn’t hear any of this because I bought him an Ipod and he listens to music while the doctor is describing how we could remove Ted’s head from my body and make me just like everyone else. I could have one body and one head. It could all be mine.

Ted likes country music and songs about the stars. He hums to himself while we talk about incisions and sutures. He whistles when I ask how long it will take to heal.

The doctor says he thinks we should really give this some thought first, that it’s not reversible, that it’s somewhat extreme. He says that some might look on our situation as a blessing. Something special. A team. If we’re having problems, maybe we want to see a counselor. I tell the doctor that I’ve been trying to become a vegan for the last eight years. Ted, however, is addicted to barbecue. He likes sausage and ribs and his steaks cooked rare. I ask the doctor if he knows what it’s like to share his stomach with someone else. He says he doesn’t.

We schedule the surgery.

Ted asks how the appointment went. He’s under the impression that this is all related to my veganism, which in some technical way it very much is. I tell him it went well and he’s satisfied with that. Ted is satisfied with whatever you tell him. He’s a sucker, which is why we own a lot of kitchen gadgets and have changed long distance carriers so many times. It’s also why Ted can’t watch TV late at night or answer the phone anymore.

What are you thinking about?

This is one of Ted’s favorite questions.

Nothing, I tell him, even though it’s not possible to think about nothing. Even thinking about nothing is thinking about something. But Ted never questions this.

Oh, he says. I was thinking about my favorite color. Do you know what my favorite color is?

Your favorite color is blue, Ted.

It sure is. It sure is. Blue, he says while licking his lips as if it’s something he can taste. Blue.

***

Elise is French. Her hair is straight. Her nails are long like garden tools. When we have dinner she sends things back until they are exactly the right temperature.

This duck should be 167 degrees.

This salad needs to be 14 degrees cooler.

Her tongue is very, very sensitive. When she kisses me she can read my mind.

You are thinking about something, no?

I check to make sure that Ted is asleep. When she drinks properly chilled wine, Elise tells wonderful stories about herself and her travels and stupid people who don’t even realize they are stupid. These stories put Ted to sleep because he is not sophisticated.

I saw the doctor, I say.

Elise raises her eyebrows. Her fingers unfurl across the table and get mixed up in my own. Yes?

I’ve set a date. For the, I lean in and whisper, surgery.

Elise brings her lips to my ear and takes in a breath like she’s going to say something. Instead I feel her magical tongue brush against my earlobe and I vibrate like a guitar string.

She pulls back and licks her lips, deciding something.

Almost perfect, she says.

The vibration in my core stirs Ted to life.

Well, hey E-lise. How’s dinner?

Almost, she says again without acknowledging Ted at all. As long as she looks at me I can never look away. If she decides I should stay at this table for eleven months, three days, and six hours, her eyes will be enough to keep me.

***

Ted wants his party at Chuck E Cheese. He doesn’t even ask what the party is for. Since it is a going away party I allow it.

All of the neighborhood kids are there. They love Ted. Brice, Kenneth, Tyler, Andy. They all think Ted is so funny. I’ve tried to explain to them that there’s more to life than being funny. There’s work and success. Assets and finances. Books and politics. And living with Ted is no easy task, I’ve told them. But they don’t understand because they’re only kids and kids don’t understand anything. As soon as they do, they stop being kids.

I let Ted play in the ball pit for almost an hour. I let him waste money on video games and air hockey. He eats almost a whole pizza by himself, one covered in layers of greasy cheese and ground meat. I can feel the pizza mix with the lentil soup I ate before the party and I feel sick.

This is the last time I will ever eat pizza, I think as Ted takes another bite.

At the end of the night Ted takes all the tickets he’s collected and spends them on a stapler. It’s a tiny stapler that wouldn’t hold three sheets of paper together. I try to tell him that we already have a stapler, one that, in addition to being functional, probably cost less than what we spent in order to win this one. I try to steer him towards the big lollipop on the grounds that it’s at least useful for its intended purpose. But the economics of the situation mean nothing to Ted. He wants the stapler. So at the end of his going away party Ted comes home with a very small, very expensive, and utterly useless stapler.

***

My house is my house. It’s not Ted’s house. I paid for it with money I got from doing my job. I got that job with my degree. And I earned that degree with the facts and figures that I stuffed into my head. Ted’s head is just along for the ride. So Ted’s head doesn’t get to make decisions.

I’ve meticulously collected and arranged everything in my house. It flows. Things complement one another. There’s a sense of purpose, of intent. It is a sanctuary. I have pictures of it on my desk at work the way other people have pictures of their children. It calms me to look at them. It fills me with pride. It’s very nearly perfect.

Except for one little spot.

It’s a spot near the top of the wall in the bedroom, the spot Ted stares at when I lay down to read. To keep him from complaining incessantly and asking how soon we could turn out the light I decided to let Ted decorate this little space. Ted thought about it for several weeks, looked at paint samples that I had suggested, looked through catalogs. At night I could almost feel him imagining the possibilities. I admit to being briefly hopeful about his decision. Then one day as I was rushing through the mall Ted cried out that he saw what he wanted. And since then there’s been a poster of Garfield the cat eating a tray of lasagna on the wall of my otherwise perfect home.

When Ted looks at it he giggles, and then within minutes he’s asleep.

The poster should have made it possible for me to read in peace. Instead, I often find myself distracted, my eyes picking at it like a little scab, going over and over it so that it never heals, never fades, never gives up my attention. Often I turn out the lights in frustration, but even in the darkness I know it’s there.

I’m looking forward to taking it down.

But tonight I’m not distracted. Tonight my reading has engrossed me. The materials outline the procedure in detail. They say that it’s remarkably simple. The head is removed. The nerves are clipped. The wound is sewed up. When it’s over I will have a scar. That’s all. Just a scar.

Hey. What does cranial amputation mean?

I look over and discover that Ted is awake, his eyes squinting as if looking into a sunset as he tries to make sense of the words and pictures in my hands.

Nothing. It’s just work stuff. Go back to sleep.

His eyes drift back over to his poster. He giggles. His lids droop and seal.

That’s Ted. Too innocent for his own good. Too trusting to survive. I’m helping him, I think. I’m protecting him from a world he’s not equipped to handle. This is mercy, I think, for both of us.

What do you think Heaven is like, Ted suddenly asks without opening his eyes.

I don’t believe in Heaven, I say. I think this life is all there is. That’s why each of us must do what’s necessary to live it to the fullest.

Ted doesn’t respond and suddenly I find myself staring at the Garfield poster. Frustrated, I turn out the lights.

Then, from the darkness Ted says, I think it’s probably a very pretty blue.

***

I’m intentionally vague about what we’re doing. Lying there, I keep thinking that Ted will ask more questions, but he doesn’t seem the least bit worried, not the least bit suspicious. They draw some dotted lines with a felt tip pen where they’re going to cut. They put a big X on Ted’s forehead to make sure they know which head to take and which head to leave. Ted laughs when they draw the X. He says it tickles.

I see the doctor through a window. He’s in the other room washing up, getting ready. I begin to feel nervous. Ill. I want Ted to ask what’s going on. I’ve spent hours preparing my explanation, now I feel the need to hear it again. Not for Ted, but for myself. But Ted doesn’t ask.

The doctor comes in hidden behind layers of plastic and rubber. His voice is the only thing familiar.

Are we sure?

I make a decision. I decide it’s up to Ted. I decide that if Ted wants to stay I will let him. All he has to do is ask. But still he doesn’t say a word. And in the end I can’t forgive him for that. If Ted can’t speak on his own behalf, if Ted isn’t interested enough to wonder what’s happening, then I will not feel guilty. I will not be responsible. I wait and I wait and the nurses wait and the doctor waits. Everyone waits and Ted only smiles.

Finally, I nod. We’re sure.

The doctor turns to someone. That someone presses a button, turns a dial. I begin to feel heavy. My limbs sink into the bed, my muscles let go of my bones. The weight tips my head to the side and as my eyelids give way, I find myself staring at Ted. There is a giant X just above his eyes drawn in blue marker.

Then the world feels like it gets sucked up by a vacuum, pulled away as I try to hold on. The last thing I remember is Ted smiling at me.

Goodbye, is what he says.

***

At dinner Elise kisses me.

Perfect, she says again and again.

Meat no longer sneaks its way into my stomach.

At work I’m no longer interrupted by silly questions, not embarrassed in meetings. My boss tells me that he’s eyeing me for a promotion.

The neighborhood kids stop coming by. Even on Halloween, when I turn on the light and have a bowl of candy waiting, they all stay away. By Thanksgiving I’m sick of all the leftover chocolate and I end up throwing most of it out. I realize I never really liked chocolate. It was Ted’s thing.

When I visit the doctor he says that I’m healing very well. He says he doubts there will be much of a scar at all.

There is, however, the issue of disposal.

Disposal?

What would you like us to do with the… removed item?

Oh.

I end up taking Ted home in a jar. I think it’s a jar. I tell them to put the jar in a box, and even though I keep thinking I will, I never open the box. I take it on faith that Ted is inside.

On a Sunday afternoon in the fall I take the box to the park and I dig up a hole in a place I think Ted would have liked. I put the box inside along with Ted’s stapler and I say a couple things. I say that Ted liked country music and that he was very na├»ve. I say that the neighborhood kids miss him, and that while he was not that bright, he was also not that bad. I want to say that I miss him, because I think that’s an important thing to say. But the truth is, the scar is almost healed. The evidence is almost gone. By the time I cover the box up, it’s almost like Ted never was never here at all.

That night Elise rakes long fertile rows in my back and makes love to me like an adult. We hold each other and she says that she feels like a cigarette, but neither of us smokes. Instead, we just lie there tangled up in one another. Two bodies. Two heads. The silence tries to fuse us together, presses on us like an ocean crushing a submarine. But it never quite works. We end up staying ourselves.

Elise looks at Ted’s poster on the wall and wonders when I’m going to take it down.

It’s hideous, she says.

Tomorrow, I say.

But when tomorrow happens, I leave the poster right where it is.