Smotherman Speaks His Mind

After spending the previous six months living in a room with soft walls, Matthias Smotherman was finally given the floor. Matthias had thought long and hard about what he might say if given such an opportunity and feared squandering it more anything in the world – though his apprehensions about zombie clowns who kept dog-sized spiders as pets and whose MO was burying people alive was a close second.

Smotherman cleared his throat and thought about everything Professor Stacy M. Cradlesting had taught him in Intro to Public Speaking, which he’d taken at the community college with the racially insensitive mascot and the janitor who wrote the prize-winning poetry but couldn’t mop a floor if his continued virility had depended on it.

First on Smotherman’s agenda was Blonde Girls Who Get Under Your Skin, Like a Cyst or a Really Bad Ingrown Hair, and Reside There Indefinitely, No Matter The Strength With Which You Scrub. Smotherman had become convinced, after long and careful thought effected in a solitude so deep it made your bones sing, that blonde-haired women possessed some kind of psychosexual superhuman ability that, when wielded in its most merciless form, had the power to control minds. Smotherman liked to compare it to the trick used by Jedis to convince Storm Troopers to look the other way, only this force left a man sucking his own thumb in dirty underwear.

Smotherman had, and was more than willing to divulge, field research to support his theoretical claims about blonde women. To wit, the third grade. Smotherman’s about to win the class spelling bee when Melanie Hughes blows him a kiss from behind Mrs. Eaton’s back and he ends up spelling ‘accuse’ with two k’s and a z and losing the bee to Brian Gaspetti, a decent speller and all, but also a boy who never saw a booger he didn’t eat. Melanie’s hair was gold like the sun, and its shine made your stomach feel like a washing machine with sneakers in it.

Because he knew passive aggressiveness was frowned upon in this place, Smotherman went ahead and identified the subject of his opening gambit. It was Sarah J. Sapperstein, Smotherman’s ex-girlfriend and unofficial arch nemesis. Smotherman then admitted, mostly for effect, that, despite hating Sarah’s “rotten stinking guts” (for reasons that would be inappropriate and logistically impossible to  elaborate on in a public forum), if he were to discover Sarah in his bed, fleshy tush in the air, he’d be physically incapable of rebuffing such lascivious (and borderline illegal) advances from a girl with such bright blonde hair. Smotherman used to tell prospective employers when they asked him his weaknesses, “Blondes. Beautiful bosomy blondes.”

Smotherman believed that, though anecdotal, this admission said much about what slaves we all were to our own subconscious desires and how much of what we do seems to be driven by some unseen and possibly cosmic force that (potentially) derived its powers from the very fiber of spacetime (and also how Sarah Sapperstein, nay Smotherman, would most likely be his bride someday).

This last contention made Mr. Salmon T. Reed laugh and laugh and laugh — laugh so hard that he fell right out of his wheelchair and required the assistance of three beefy black men to get him back situated — which wouldn’t have mattered all that much but for the fact that Mr. S. T. Reed hadn’t emitted so much as a yawn in 17 years 4 months 23 days and 11 hours. Looking out, Smotherman saw a smorgasbord of stunned faces ogling back at him. It was becoming clear that by simply speaking his mind Smotherman was making the world a better place.

Smotherman next wanted to address, if no one minded too terribly, the topic of standing in line in America. Though seemingly inconsequential — Smotherman was, for example, fully aware of global jihad — it was nonetheless a large part of American society and thus merited discussion. Smotherman’s chief contention on the matter was that there existed a fundamental flaw in the commonly accepted attitude toward standing in line; namely that everyone needed to be so damn close to each other. Do people really think that if they hump your leg and breathe down your neck it’ll expedite their effort to imbibe Chipotle guac? It’s total madness, Smotherman said with a swinging fist, and then surveyed the audience anxiously because he knew that ‘madness’ was a technical term that carried with it heavy psychological implications and thus its nonchalant employment was in very poor taste. Professor Cradlesting had always stressed the utility of knowing one’s audience and how the true greats — Lincoln and Churchill and Cicero — could adapt to their audience in real time. But the books never talked about if there’s nothing much to react to — no chapter on slobbery chins and spacey eyes that stared a million miles past you, no advice on titillating the chemically comatose, no section on how best to captivate men who’d met their demons and now couldn’t stop fretting about how gnarly they were.

Smotherman wanted to live in a world where people stood exactly six feet apart while in line, and was enthusiastically amenable to some sort of legal (or perhaps even corporal) punishment for eager-beavers who failed to adhere to the Six Foot Protocol (known otherwise as the SFP). However, Smotherman knew — and acknowledged as much to his audience — that there was a better chance of ISIS establishing its own clown college.

Then, despite beginning to feel an itch at the back of his throat that he’d be unable to eradicate due to the unfortunate absence of something cold and wet, Smotherman transitioned, like a regular Charismatic Dictator, into what he called his Friends Dilemma. Smotherman was kind enough to preface this portion of his speech with a warning that “shit was about to get real, ya’ll” (in case any prudes in the audience wanted to excuse themselves to a campfire sing-along or a Bible-study group). The question was this: If given the chance, Smotherman asked rhetorically (because he was now on a roll and would rather pass a pumpkin through his pee-hole than relinquish his spot at the proverbial podium), who would you rather sleep with — Rachel, Monica, or Phoebe? It was Smotherman’s contention that although Rachel was the most traditionally attractive of the group, Phoebe was very likely the most sexually enlightened and thus carried with her the prospect of “some pretty wild romping indeed.” As for Monica, she was, in Smotherman’s words, “a bit too clean” for his taste.

At this point, several women in the audience began to blush (or grow angry, Smotherman couldn’t exactly tell and didn’t have time to determine) and a fat man in the back (Cody Q. Hitchfield as a point of fact) shared a loud and very wet-sounding fart that seemed to  rattled the building’s very foundation.

(Hitchfield often bragged about being the only human to ever live who never held in a bodily function. He could often be heard regaling anyone who would listen with his most daring exploits, including the day he burped so loud the judge held him in contempt of court.)

This brought Smotherman to his views on Haircut Places Allowing People To Check-In Online Rather Than Adhering to the Time-Honored System of First Come-First Serve. Once again, Smotherman posed a series of rhetorical questions. Was the world not already a terrible and ugly place? Did we really need to create a situation in which a young American man could walk into the barbershop and find, to his great but ultimately false satisfaction, an empty waiting area, only to be forced to wait 45 minutes for his turn because six different people arrived at the shop after him but were given first dibs because they had, before getting their big dumb asses to the shop, typed their name and phone number into an Internet portal that probably didn’t even apprise them of the possibility that they’d technically be ditching folks who did not take similar precautions prior to arriving at the actual location where the actual scissors were?

Well, did we?

After a long and audibly displeasing series of throat-clearing in which Smotherman regurgitated and then swallowed at least two golf-ball-sized phlegm wads, he moved to the admittedly esoteric topic of Selfish and Solipsistic Teammates Stealing – And Proceeding to Use Far Too Much Of – Your Irish Spring Body-Wash While You Were in the Gym Icing Your Achy Knees After Practice. Smotherman couldn’t be sure how well anyone could relate to this particular point of contention, but he knew it had the unfortunate potential of ruining possibly fruitful relationships and, more importantly, overall team chemistry. A man’s Hygienic Implementations, Smotherman believed, should be immune to thieving acts of inconsideration, or else the very balance and order of society could be obliterated. Having said as much, Smotherman felt a weight drop from his chest and was excited that he’d once again be able to see his nipples (which until that moment had been entirely concealed by said weight and had begun to chaff something awful).

Noticing that he was starting to lose some attention of his audience, Smotherman moved to the much more universal topic of Being Unable, For the Life of You, To Think of a Retaliatory Prank After Your Friend Sends You a Fake Email Wherein He Pretends To Be Head Cheerleader and Local Hottie Samantha Weston Asking You On a Date, Which Results in You Making a Total Ass of Yourself In Front of No Less Than a Dozen Classmates When You Confidently Saunter Up To Samantha At Her Locker and Tell Her That You Are Looking Forward to Saturday Night And Would She Like to Pick the Movie? Smotherman then asked each member of the audience to write their best prank ideas on the notecard provided beneath their chairs so that he, Smotherman, would be able to formulate a timely response the next time someone decided to eff with his emotions.

The ideas received ranged from delusional to homicidal and were of almost no help at all. Miss Rebecca D. Chambers, who could often be heard mumbling about her late husband the rubberband tycoon, apparently thought “Smotherman’s funny friend deserved an AIDS-coated cock in the ass.”

Throughout his speech, Smotherman made proper, but conservative use of various hand gestures he’d been enthusiastically taught by Professor Cradlesting, who Smotherman had recently heard contracted a rare form of leukemia that would almost certainly render the man entirely speechless. However, Smotherman took comfort in the idea that Stacy M. Cradlesting, Community College Professor Extraordinaire, would always be able to articulate his grief and frustration with the world through that great and universal hand gesture Middle Finger Up, Other Fingers Down.

Feeling confident and well-respected for the first time in his adult life, Smotherman launched fervently into his views on Being Unable to Ever Muster The Motivation To Learn How To Change a Tire, and the related topic of Not Feeling Exactly Like a Man When You Take Your Car To The Shop and Can’t Even Tell the Guy If Your Jeep is a V6 or a V8. Smotherman was of the opinion that they should make shop classes mandatory in high school because knowing a thing or two about your own vehicle was far more valuable in today’s society than knowing, for example, that the circumference of a circle could be found by multiplying the radius of said circle by pie and then multiplying the product by two. Some knowledge is power, and some knowledge is just powder, Smotherman tossed out his new very clever saying and invited his audience to help it go viral.

Smotherman then thought it prudent to address the uniquely American situation of Stupid Credit Card Chip Readers Causing Unbearable Moments of Awkward Silence As You Can Do Nothing But Stare At The Odd Girl Working Behind The Counter At CVS And Hope That Society Would See The Error of Its Ways And Go Back To Letting People Swipe. At this particular juncture in his speech, Smotherman noticed a bevy of head-nods and shakes that he interpreted to mean that the folks in his audience could not possibly have agreed more. These were, as they say, his people. They had exactly the kind of ears and hearts and minds (and prescriptive regiments) Smotherman needed to make his voice properly and adequately heard. Smotherman had, for much his life, felt like a man whispering at a rock concert. But now — now he felt like a yelping barbarian at the head of a mad horde.

*A SECTION OF THIS STORY HAS BEEN REDACTED BECAUSE IT HAS THE POTENTIAL TO INVOKE DISCOMFORT IN THE READER WHO MAY THEN DIRECT THAT DISCOMFORT AT THE AUTHOR. HAVE A NICE DAY, SNOWFLAKES.*

At this, two men and a woman in gleaming coats of white began flailing their limbs and repeating the word OK as if they’d gone momentarily illiterate and could only articulate one letter at a time.

“Let’s hear it for Smotherman, can we?” said Dr. Wayne G. Modgloff, whose orange hair and freckles Smotherman had always found to be extremely unsettling. “Very good, Mr. Smotherman. Very good,” said Dr. Vanessa K. Schwartz, who Smotherman suspected of being lonely, spoiled and possibly bulimic. “Truly thought-provoking stuff,” said Dr. Arasmis O. Knotweiler, a man Smotherman had no respect for at all due to his constant and possibly pathological need to slurp his coffee like a brain-damaged donkey.

While he still could, Smotherman made sure to thank his audience for their somewhat undivided time and attention (and also any peculiar glances, eye-rolls, exasperated sighs, and farts they might have provided) and then thoroughly enjoyed — perhaps more than any man had ever enjoyed anything — every last clap within the seated ovation with which they rewarded him. Smotherman was then ushered from the front of the room, thinking already about what he might say if they ever gave him a floor again.

Wounded Animals Wail Softly

Alastair was blacked out, lying on the hardwood floor on his bad right shoulder which ached deep and wide. He was wrapped in an American flag, like a tree in its bark, with nothing else on except white socks with dirt-blackened soles that perfectly outlined the different sections of his feet.

**

Alastair had cheated, but still managed the audacity to feel betrayed when Claire moved on so fast. “It was like lightning,” Alastair told the calendar hanging in his kitchen. “Speaking of lightning,” the calendar began to say, but then Alastair flipped it to November even though it was April because he liked the red and orange leaves with the cartoon faces better than the duck holding an umbrella.

In Alastair’s bleary mind, Claire was much more disloyal than he. “OK OK, I cheated, sure, but then I bled for six years while she had the goddamn nerve to go get engaged,” Alastair told his toaster, which anymore only worked in one of its four slots. He pressed down the lever and with the metallic reverb of the register the toaster said, “People don’t bleed like you, Alastair.”

Claire, and her fiance Drake, who spent a brief time after college as an Abercrombie model and looked like a young Rob Lowe, had invited Alastair to the wedding, but he was too low to show his awkwardly-bearded face. Too low, too lacking in the hygienic normalities of polite society, too angry. And Alastair’s anger was the kind that made others feel instantly uncomfortable, could be detected in his eyes and face and shoulders, and heard in every syllable he muttered. Each word he spoke sounding like a monologue in a Quentin Tarantino film.

“What’s that thing they do at weddings?” Alastair asked a drawer full of forks and knives. “You guys know, when the officiant asks the audience if there are any objections.” But these were not the kinds of forks and knives to have ever seen a wedding — many of them had begun to rust and stain and even bend — so they offered no response other than to glimmer beneath the fluorescent kitchen lights and hope like hell they survived another meal.

Alastair thought about all the stuff he might do at that particular moment, instead of forever holding his peace. “I’d bring props and pie-charts and graphs, make a real show of it,” Alastair told his garbage disposal, and then flipped the switch and pretended that the garbage disposal, who spoke only broken English, liked the sound of that. Alastair’s garbage disposal was his most trusted confidant. But he imagined that his cutting board thought the garbage disposal had become nothing more than a Yes Man.

Alastair wondered if weddings had watch-lists like they do at airports. “Because if they did I’d be at the very top of the list, man.” Alastair liked calling his crock pot ‘man’, and his crock pot didn’t seem to mind, though its gender was certainly debatable. “I wouldn’t be allowed within a hundred yards of that church,” Alastair said to the box of Frosted Flakes in his hand, the smile on Tony’s face saying, “Yep, they know you’re crrrrazy.”

“They’d have dudes with ear pieces and bad buzz cuts on all the rooftops.” When he began his suspicious approach, Alastair was certain, men in black suits would jump out of bushes and cars with government license plates and haul him away to some hospice for the chronically butthurt. 

On the night of the wedding, Alastair stayed home and watched old episodes of Frasier. “That Daphne sure reminds me of my Claire,” he told his lamp, which seemed to listen with its light. “Oh what do you know,” Alastair grimaced at the couch he sat on after it pointed out all the ways Daphne was different from Claire — hairstyle, occupation, English accent, and family background being foremost on the couch’s long and well-articulated list.

“And just what the hell are you looking at?” Alastair said.

“A walking, talking vagina apparently,” the wall said, sounding, in Alastair’s angsty mind, very much like Gilbert Gottfried.

“Like you know what a vagina looks like,” Alastair laughed. “All the paint in the world couldn’t cover your ugly.”

“I know what your mother’s vagina looked like when it was getting stuffed full of your deadbeat dad, you little shit,” the wall said. “When did they start making pussies with mustaches anyway?”

Alastair took off both the slippers he was wearing and frisbeed them at the wall, which laughed maniacally after they thudded to the ground unceremoniously. “See that’s your problem, pussy-lips. You don’t think before you act. That’s why she left you. You’re a goddamn imbecile.”

“Smarter’n you,” Alastair mumbled. 

“A point of levity, if I might?” the ceiling spoke up. “She did not leave the boy because of his imbecility. She left because, how might I phrase this, he is a no-good dirty scoundrel who couldn’t stop himself from humping that floozie. . .what was her name?”

“Leeanne,” Alastair admitted.

“Indeed. Leeanne the Floozie. There we have it. Alastair’s imbecility, while highly pertinent to many issues that arose in his brief and undeserved time with sweet sweet Claire, was merely tertiary to the girl’s ultimate exodus.”

“Great. So he’s dumb and dishonest,” said the wall.

“Precisely,” said the ceiling.

“Hey, Professor. Who asked you anyway?” Alastair said, his head pushed back and staring directly above him. 

“Just drink some water and get some sun, Al,” a potted plant said. “You’ve got to learn to grow.”

“I like who I am,” Alastair said.

The wall laughed, and so did the ceiling, which made the entire room shake momentarily. 

“You became obsolete, Al,” the broken VCR said. “So she replaced you with Drake. He’s a better version of you is all. It happens to the best of us.”

“Shut your outdated ass up, Victor,” Alastair responded. “The only reason you’re still here is because mom is clearly doing her best to get on a reality show about hoarders.”

“Now Al, is that any way to speak about the only person who loves you?” the knob on the front door asked.

“Love? I don’t believe I know what that is, Chuck Knoblock,” Alastair said.

“Here we go,” said the wall.

“Woe is him,” said the ceiling.

“Should we watch Sleepless in Seattle then?” said the VCR. 

“You should probably turn another leaf,” the doorknob suggested, and then twitched himself to the right and then back to the left.

“You were reckless and uncaring is what you were,” a coaster resting on the living room table said. “Drake, on the other hand, always does the responsible thing.”

“Oh so it’s responsible to steal another man’s girlfriend is it?” Alastair said.

“Now Alastair,” the coaster calmly said. “We all know that’s not what happened. Don’t go proving the ceiling’s theory about your duplicity.”

“It’s no mere theory, Coco,” said the ceiling.

“A fact stronger than my foundation,” said the wall. 

“What’s the deal with men who cry anyway?” a Seinfeld season 3 DVD box asked in a squeaky voice. “Do you think the cavemen cried?”

“Surely the earliest human beings,” began the ceiling, “were as capable of emoting as –.”

“I wasn’t crying,” Alastair snapped.

“It’s like he forgets we’re here,” said the wall.

“Or believes us to be incapable of auditory and visual perception,” said the ceiling. 

“If you’re having girl problems I feel bad for you son,” the CD player chimed in melodically.

“Don’t listen to these guys, Al,” the floor vent said. “Just let it all out, little buddy.”

“I not gonna drink myself here, hombre,” a bottle of Hornito’s tequila said. Alastair quickly grabbed it off the table and, in one sloppy motion, took a long hard slug. “There. Now shut your greasy hole, wetback,” he said.

“So you’re not just a pussy, you’re a racist pussy,” said the wall. 

“Rather vindictive too,” said the ceiling.

“Meaner than pesticide,” said the potted plant. 

“I think American History X is lying around here somewhere,” said the VCR.

“I swear to all that’s holy, I’ll go get Sledgehammer out of the shed,” Alastair said. “Don’t think I won’t, you lousy wastes of space.”

“Kettle, meet the pot,” said the coaster.

“Don’t twist yourself into a bunch, Al,” the doorknob said. 

“A dumb, dishonest and delusional racist pussy. Wow. Some pot of stew you are, Ally,” said the wall.

“A virtual melting pot of weakness and ineptitude,” said the ceiling.  

“What’s the deal with derogatory slurs anyway?” the Seinfeld DVD box asked. 

“He’s got 99 problems,” the CD player said. “And a bitch named Claire is every single one!”

“Call her a bitch again and I’ll feed you nothing but Nickleback and Limp Bizkit for the next year,” Alastair said.

“Now there’s healthy release and then there’s unhealthy release,” the vent said.

“In Al’s defense, a little dirt never hurt anyone,” the potted plant said.

“I’ve got a documentary on the Dust Bowl that would beg to differ,” the VCR said. 

“Vamos, muchacho,” the tequila bottle said and Alastair took another long pull, grimacing and swallowing hard. “Mas, amigo. Mucho mas,” the tequila said and Alastair reached again for the bottle.

**

Once Alastair got nice and liquored up on the cheap, stale tequila, an idea came to him. “This is rock-bottom,” he said to the remote, pressing all its buttons like an ornery kid in an elevator. “But rock-bottom is meant to be reached,” he said, pressing his thumb hard on the volume-down button as he drooled all over himself.

Alastair went to the dining room and dug out the wedding invitation Claire had sent, a beautiful fire-brick red with white lace wrapped around its edges, and wiped his ass with it. “Sorry about this,” he told the invitation before and after.

“This is an outrage,” the invitation started to say, but Alastair scrunched it up into a ball, muffling its very refined voice, and tossed it down the deaf and dumb trash can.

“Pathetic,” said the wall.

“Not at all constructive,” said the vent.

“Now mud. Mud is a different story,” said the potted plant. 

“Asqueroso,” said the tequila bottle.

“No going back on that,” said the coaster.

“Now I’ve seen it all,” said the VCR.

“I’m like fuck critics you can kiss my whole asshole,” said the CD player. 

“Wounded animals wail softly,” said the ceiling. 

Then Alastair got completely naked (but for two mismatching tube socks that slyly talked their way into staying on) and wrapped himself in the tattered American flag his uncle brought back from Vietnam after the flag told him, in a raspy and broken voice, that it would be OK to wear him like a blanket, but just this once. Then he blacked out on his mother’s hardwood kitchen floor which had looked up to him and patted itself like, Come park it here, Al.

**

In the morning, Alastair’s dear mother didn’t nudge him awake, just made his favorite breakfast as he slept – scrambled eggs, orange wedges and syrup-logged waffles, some of Alastair’s greatest enemies.

Baby Hitler Must Die

The Doc Brown, for that is what I’ve named her, has successfully brought me back, and, after much consternation and about all the philosophical theorizing a human brain can handle, I’ve decided just to do it. I’m going to kill Baby Hitler.

In all my life I never imagined I’d murder a baby. There have been times, to be sure, where I considered what the precise repercussions might be to smacking a random and incorrigible supermarket child — how angry its mother, and, for that matter, local police, might be if I were to, say, mow the brat down with my metal cart — but nothing like this. If I’m being candid, killing arachnids gives me great pause. I find myself wondering if they can experience fear and, if so, how absolutely dreadful it must be to be squashed dead by a giant ballet flat.

The thought of strangling the life from an infant child makes me, well, it makes me extraordinarily nauseous. It is a new kind of nauseous I’ve never experienced before. It’s not the kind one feels during a bout with the flu, or after deboarding a particularly corkscrewy amusement ride, or even that overwhelming sickness that ignites, and then burns and burns and never seems to stop burning at the thought of your lover lying with another (especially another as dashing as Clint Ferris the accountant, but never mind all that); it is, rather, a newer, rarer kind of revulsion that manifests itself in a spot so deep and buried that you feel it mostly in your butthole.

As I’ve intonated, I’ve decided to use my hands only, rather than any device or implement of violence. I’m not planning on enjoying this, after all, and a weapon (why do I keep thinking about hammers?) would imply that at least some level of homicidal satisfaction was being wrought from the act. Hitler may be an anti-semitic mass murderer who, through means hard to fathom in their barbaric disregard for even the most basic level of humanity, instigated the worst world conflict in the history of mankind (or will instigate I should say), but he’s still a human. And a baby human at that. Logistically speaking, it poses a certain kind of challenge is all.

In my dreams, Baby Hitler still has the Groucho Marx mustache. It’s the damndest thing. He rocks a waste-filled diaper and rattles a blue beanie with despotic ferocity, but he still, somehow, has that awful ‘stache. This is probably just my subconscious mind trying to make this whole murdering a baby business a bit easier for me … for us … for it. By reminding me that this baby, this creature, has inside of him the biological tools necessary to sprout hair from his face, it reminds me that he’s also capable of much more and much worse.

Sometimes, in my most delirious dreams, Baby Hitler has a luger automatic pistol aimed at my nose, which makes my killing the little Nazi bastard a pure and simple case of self-defense. Other times the Baby Hitler of my dreams is just a baby, a sniffling, slobbering, leaking mass of fat and drool who does little more than shit and blink and yearn for his mother’s hard teet. It is during this latter version of the dream that I wake up, wet and wondering why I didn’t just become a school teacher, feeling like something valuable has been taken from me.

I must say: Aryans really are quite good looking, aren’t they? The blonde hair, the blue eyes. It sure would have been nice if, instead of attempting to exterminate all the Jews from the earth and implement a new world order in which they were seen as subhuman, Hitler had decided instead to open a modeling agency. Nice indeed. Then he could have put his raving obsession with people who look to be created in a lab where only folks with flawless genes work to good use. “Toss your hair, Ernst?” “Let us see those big beautiful blues, Mathilda?” “Mein kampf…is with your inability, Bruno, to give me a look that properly emotes sadness while also adequately capturing what I might call a boundless joy for the baser proclivities of human lust and desire.”

The Adolf Agency of Austria surely would have been a success. Hitler’s passion/charisma/zealotry aimed at pin-ups instead of Poles would have been a real life-saver, in the most literal sense of the term; that is, the sense in which the ovens are never turned on, the concentration camps never opened, the tanks never commissioned, the Luftwaffian bombs never dropped. But, so it goes. Baby Hitler must die.

**

Now that I’m here, in Braunau am Inn, Austria-Hungary, in the year One Thousand Eight-Hundred and Eighty-Nine, I’ll need an “in”. I don’t suppose Mr. and Mrs. Future Fuhrer are going to give me a tour of their home, and, once I’ve seen each nook and cranny, hand me some alone time with their infant son. However, I do aim to take full and very explicit advantage of the supposed and legendarily Bohemian attitudes of these parts.

I’ve decided to pose as: Efficient Housekeeper/ Trustworthy Babysitter. It will be a difficult ruse to sustain, especially if the Hitlers ask me to clean any actual toilets or hand wash any dirty drawers. I haven’t washed my own jeans in over a year, and the thing, the blob, growing under my kitchen sink has started receiving its own mail.

Note to Time Traveling Self #1: If you have to clean a few commodes in order to save 40 million lives, you can do that. It’s called Sacrifice for the Greater Good, babe. Suck it up and remember why you’re there, uh, here.

The house, the setting of my dreams come true, is a sun-faded yellow that clashes wildly with its own red roof. Four crooked windows puncture its face. Large looming trees hover all around it. It’s quaint, but ugly; it’s the kind of place in which you’d expect a serial killer to have lived, if not the globally ambitious leader of a systematic human extinction movement.

Approaching the house I begin to feel ill. I’m here to murder a human being and my near-empty stomach doesn’t seem to like the idea. Could we at least do this after a decent meal, it seems to cry out with its bubbling gasses. The slicing pinch of the cramps reminds me of the time, it was the fall of 2189, when Avery Carracoza and I made a bet about who could eat the most Plonk Bars, and Ave, he just wouldn’t quit, like he was eating for his life even though we only wagered a measly 50 Ricanes and a pair of Wosh Barrel Dineclydes.

Note to Time Traveling Self #2: The leg o’ mutton sleeves might have been a poor choice. Not entirely conducive to scrubbing floors or changing dirty dipes, or, for that matter, standing entirely still in a stuffy Austrian home without the luxury of AC.

Note to Time Traveling Self #3: Go back, er, forward to 1901 should do it and invent the air conditioner. No no no, stay focused. “I didn’t invent the time machine to win at gambling,” I’ve come to save lives by murdering a baby. Thanks, Doc.

As I knock on the door, I can already hear his wailing through the walls, like my target knows why I’ve come and is trying to thwart my plot by warning his oblivious parents. Thankfully, they do not speak German-gibberish. Deaf ears only catch Hitler’s desperate sobs.

After three full minutes, and several more forceful knocks (one of which was delivered with an emphatic kick and has left me slightly hobbled), the door finally swings open. A stout man with a dense face stands square before me. The white whiskers of his thick mustache reach out to his ears. The hair on his head is buzzed short, barely there at all, revealing a round hard-looking skull, the skull of a man used to holding his head high. He wears a black frock coat with large gold buttons parading its front and a matching black vest and black ascot tie. The lumpy skin of the man’s formidable forehead sinks out over tiny brown eyes that seem to stare right through me to the gravel-road behind. There’s an unnerving emptiness to his face, an aura that denotes some kind of psychological despair that’s been neglected for far too long.

“Yes?” he says. The seed of a mass killer, I think, and try hard not to divert my gaze. “Hullo, sir,” I say. “My name is Magdalena Krause, and I’m looking for work. Might you need a housekeeper or a babysitter perhaps?” “How’d you know we had a child, Miss Krause?” he says. “Why, the screams, sir. I could hear them a hundred yards off.” “Oh right,” he says. “Forgive me. I’ve grown so accustomed to little Adolf’s incessant shrieking I don’t think my ears register it any longer.” “Who is it, Al?” a woman’s voice shouts from the back of the house. “My wife,” the man tells me and then shakes his head slightly. “Unfortunately for me, her shouting cannot be ignored.”

I’m beginning to sweat beneath this heavy tarp of Austrian heat. My floral walking dress glums to my butt cheeks like it’s been applied with some sort of illegally potent adhesive. I smile as best I can. “Well, come in. You can meet my Klara,” he says and I step over the threshold to Adolf Hitler’s childhood home.

**

Alois Hitler leads me to the back of the house, which is so empty it barely looks inhabited. But for a single painting, the taupe-colored walls are stark naked. It’s a poorly rendered landscape of an empty wheatfield, lush and golden and blurry in random little pocks throughout; a tall black tree stands menacingly in the background as if it’s been tasked as some sort of overseer to the growth.

We step out to the back porch. “Klara honey, this is, I’m sorry I’ve forgotten your name,” Alois says. “Magdalena Krause, sir.” “Yes of course. This is Magdalena. She’s come seeking housework.” A petite woman with a plain pink face sits in a wooden rocking chair, tilting back and forth gently as Adolf Hitler sleeps quietly in her lap. She looks barely old enough to have conceived the monster. Her light brown hair clings tight to her round head and curls in a roped mound across her hairline. Long ears, each punctured by a round black earring, sag down fair cheeks. Her face is not entirely unpretty. Pale blue eyes beam up at me. They seem to tremble in her face like two flickering lights about to go out.

For a brief moment I forget to breathe. Put simply, this woman looks like Adolf Hitler in drag. It makes my knees feel like cooked spaghetti and a cramp cuts over my hipbone with such dull force I nearly wince. Baby Hitler has a full head of crow-black hair. Prominent bangs drape his forehead like a curtain. His eyes: the same pale blue as his mother. Once again I’m fully conscious of all the spots on my body currently coated in sweat — my belly button, behind my ears, the tips of my fingers, my slightly (but only slightly!) hairy shins.

Note to Time Traveling Self #4: Do not, as so many Weimar Republican Germans were, be taken in by the cold blue ice of Hitler’s eyes.

Note to Time Traveling Self #5: I know for a fact that if I killed 11 million people through the most gruesome means possible my mother would still love me. Standing here now, in this weird and foreign place, I get the distinct feeling that my mother and Adolf Hitler’s mother have this in common. Love is the most powerful force on Earth. It transcends all, up to and including the worst things men get up to.

Addendum to Note to Time Traveling Self #5: Upon completion of important mission for humanity, try hand at poetry. Poetry could be yet another gift to humanity, though probably not.

“We’ve no use for a housekeeper, Alois, and no money to spare,” Hitler’s mother says. “But she’s offered to help look after Adolf,” he whines and then turns to me. “We’ve been contemplating a date night. I can’t recall the last time we had an afternoon to ourselves.”

“Well, does she speak?” Klara says, ripping me abruptly from my reverie about murdering her baby and making poetry out of it. “Oh yes, ma’am. I could work for cheap. Whatever you can pay. I’m great with children,” I sell myself. “Have you any of your own?” she asks. Splintering off her thin Hitlerian lips this sounds like an immense accusation. “No ma’am. But three nieces and a nephew. His name is actually Alois as well,” I lie, hoping to ingratiate myself with these Producers of Pure and Unadulterated Evil. “Isn’t that nice?” Alois says to his wife after a lull filled only by the slight whistle of Baby Hitler’s working nostrils. She stares at me still, unconsciously rubbing her thumb in a circular motion over Baby Hitler’s tiny wrist bone. “Name like that, he must be a real looker,” Alois attempts a joke. “He is a handsome young man,” I say. At this, Baby Hitler shifts atop his mother’s milk-white thighs and, as the three of us look on in horror (my brand of it being entirely different from the kind of desperate hope they exhibit as tired parents) he settles once again into sleep. “I must put Addy in his crib,” Klara says and gingerly rises from her seat and into the house.

“So. Are you new to the Inn?” Alois asks. You could say that. “Oh yes, sir,” I say. “Berlin before that.” He studies me, as a school teacher studies a troubled young student who has failed to realize her vast potential. “I don’t detect much of an accent on your tongue,” he says. This is harder than I thought it would be. Why didn’t I just bring a heavily loaded .44 Shrapsaw and take out all three of them in a quick hot flash? What was I thinking with this whole housekeeper business? I’m easily world’s dumbest time traveler. And not because I’m the world’s only time traveler. Thankfully, Klara Hitler returns to the back porch, saving me from the question of my shoddy accent.

Note to Time Traveling Self #6: Recall in classic basic color film, Inglorious Basterds, that the detection of a shaky accent got people killed. Then again, these folks are no Gestapo. It’s not the role they play. They’re much more chicken than egg.

“So what do you think, hon? Should we bring Magdalena back, say, tomorrow afternoon, and make our way to town for a beer or three?” Alois looks over to me as he says this, checking to see if I find him amusing. I force another smile, which isn’t exactly easy because I’m also holding in a wet (and potentially messy) fart and dying to pick my sweaty wedge.

“Can you handle a screaming baby?” Klara inquires. “My Addy can be quite animated, quite feisty. Does that scare you?” At this I have no trouble at all forming an ear-to-ear smile. “No ma’am,” I say quickly. “Babies cry. It comes with the territory.” Hitler’s parents look at me with scrunched, confused faces. “Isn’t her manner of speaking quite odd, dear?” Alois says. “Says the oddest man in Upper Austria,” Klara shoots back, saving me once again and unknowingly making the violent demise of her own child all the more likely. “Oh no you don’t. Erich Schmid is the oddest man in Austria. Everyone knows that,” Alois says. “Guy I work with at the Bureau. He thinks they’ll put people on the moon one day. I try to tell him it’ll never happen, moon’s too far away. Plus they’d never be able to –.” “Leave it be, Al,” Klara says. “The poor girl didn’t come to hear you talk about the moon.” She’s got that right. “So then, does tomorrow afternoon, say 12:30, work for you, Miss Krause?” Alois says. “Absolutely,” I say. Works even better for 7 million Jews, dick-cheese. “So it’s settled!” Alois shouts excitedly. “Ssshh,” Klara says. “If you wake that boy I’ll have your head.” Klara’s eyes no longer seem blue, but more black than anything. Once again, my legs feel gelatinous and my stomach churns like heavy machinery in need of grease.

Alois Hitler escorts me back to the front door and thanks me for coming. Just as he clamps it shut I hear the groggy raucous of Baby Hitler swell up once again.

**

I didn’t feel like waiting an entire day so I strapped Doc Brown to my head and wrapped the Chronos bracelets around my ankles and jumped back toward the future by about 12 hours. I was way wrong in assuming that because the leap was so short I wouldn’t need to take a full dose of Carbonoxiprone so when I came-to, I hurled about 6 gallons of neon-green bile onto an Austrian ant hill.

Note to Time Traveling Self #7: There’s a Butterfly Effect, but is there an Anthill Effect? Safe to say the future of humanity won’t be seriously altered by my disgusting destruction of this innocent colony of insects. Nonetheless, I feel terrible as I watch capsized ants struggle and then drown in my overwhelming pool of phlegm.

Today is the day. The Austrian skies have had a most severe mood swing. The bright and cloudless bloom of yesterday has been replaced by a thundering brimstone of black and gray. Yes, today is the day.

Once again I knock at the ugly yellow door of Adolf Hitler’s childhood home, only this time it opens almost instantly. “Hullo!” Alois says, his fence-post arms outstretched like he aimed to give me a hug. “Come in, come in.” “Thank you, sir,” I say and step in from the rain.

“Klara! She’s here!” he shouts and Klara Hitler ducks out of the back bedroom, a look on her face that was the exact opposite of her husband’s joviality, like she was hoping I wouldn’t make it due to rain, or that maybe she was so exhausted she had imagined me the day before. “Al, stop shouting,” she says. Alois looks to me. “I’m very thirsty,” he says. “Perhaps we shouldn’t with the rain, dear,” Klara says. “Nonsense. They still serve beer on rainy days,” he says and then turns again to me. “It would take a lot more than a few raindrops to keep Austria from its suds, am I right?” “I hear that,” I say. Alois glares at me with a look like he’s just found a pube in his sauerkraut. “Well I would hope you can hear me, dear, you’re only two feet away,” he says. “Everyone in the Inn can hear you, Al,” Klara says. Al smirks dumbly and then scratches at his wide smashed nose. His movements are simian and grotesque. “Now are you sure you’re okay with this?” Klara asks. “Absolutely,” I tell her, trying hard to conceal my pre-crime nervousness. “Okay well we’ll only be down the road. If anything should happen don’t hesitate to call. We’ll be at the Gugg Lounge on Salzburger. The number is by the phone,” she says and points to an odd cylindrical-shaped contraption on the table; it’s a long black cone wrapped in gold brass atop a wooden base, and I’m glad calling won’t be necessary because I’m not entirely sure I could operate such a monstrosity. I’m instantly thankful to come from where I come from. Some people claim to have old souls, desire to live in a time before their own. But not me. Mine is a young soul, and it is only with great reluctance that I leave my own place and time.

“You know, I’m not getting any less thirsty here,” Al says, finally spouting a joke even he doesn’t seem to find funny as he beads his eyes and aims them at the ceiling. “OK then!” Klara says. “I’ve bottled some milk if he gets hungry and his favorite blanket is here on the sofa. Best to wrap him up in it when he wakes. I’ve left your pay on the table and whatever you do don’t sing to him. Addy hates being sung to.” What baby doesn’t? “She gets it, hon. Shall we do this thing?” Alois says, smacking his stomach with both hands. Klara smirks at me and then instantly frowns at me. Nodding my head, and trying hard not to psychically reveal my nefarious intentions, I return the smile, keep the frown.

Alois ushers his reluctant wife out the door and the Producers are gone. The stage is now mine.

**

I breathe in the stiff air and twist my eyes, in a panorama, around the whole of the house. Here’s where it started. Here’s where nothing will have started. I pick the single dusty forint coin off the table, a fine souvenir it will make, and toss it down my pocket. I walk anxiously to the back bedroom, feeling the massive weight of history in every stride I take. A badly whiddled crib sits in the direct center of a drab-brown room.

I lean over a sleeping Baby Hitler.

Hello you little Nazi cunt. Today you’re gonna die. Yes you are. Ahh yes you are. And do you know whyy you’re gonna die, you little shit bird? Huh? Do you? Do you Baby Hitler? It’s because you’re the worst, that’s why. The absolute undisputed worst. And I’m not gonna let you throw my great great great great great great great great grandfather, Gerhard, into a hot box of poisonous gas. No I’m not. No I’m not, Baby Shitler.

Baby Hitler’s sticky eyes peel open. He veers up at me, trying to compute the unfamiliar face. He clicks his lips and twirls his wrists and his face begins to betray a fear and confusion that makes me proud.

I can see it all right there in his eyes. It’s unmistakable. His entire horrible destiny is right there, sitting tight in pale blue eyes. Human destruction and suffering on an other-worldly scale, a scale unthinkable but to the most evil souls to ever inhabit the earth, distilled into two fibrous bodies of muscle and inky pigmentation.

As I reach out and down into Baby Hitler’s crib he instantly begins to protest. He tries to roll, but can’t throw his weight. He coughs, then spits, then produces something unique and feral, a rumbling from deep in his chest. He’s loud and fierce and if he could I’m sure he’d strip me of all my dignity and character and toss me into the fiery pits of Hell itself. But he doesn’t have this power and he never will.

I reach down and wrap my cold hands around the baby’s warm moist neck. With both my thumbs I press into the slight protruding beginnings of an Adam’s apple, as to halt all outward growth. I think about making my thumbs touch my middle fingers, which, if I squeeze hard enough, might actually be possible because Baby Hitler’s neck is so frail and the small knots of his spine seem like they’re about to rupture beneath my determined death grip.

Shifting my stance above the crib I let up a little, allowing my fingers to flare and stretch. A brief but sharp yelp bolts from Hitler’s throat and mouth and makes me wince until I reconstrict my grip and Baby Hitler is utterly silent once again. I squeeze. Those pale blue eyes begin to bulge out at me, leaving his eyelids and then pushing over his cheek bones like they might be ejected entirely. I press in harder, with an evident grunt. Hitler’s trachea pops and I can feel a slight hiss of air release from his nose and ears. Spindley rivulets of blue capillaries suddenly fill Baby Hitler’s face, starting at his jawline and splaying upward through the hard pallor of his cheeks. I can feel his Life Energy protesting wildly, but quickly losing its will, dwindling and seizing under my palms until it’s barely a murmur.

I squeeze. I’m probably going to vomit, but still I squeeze.

Baby Hitler’s small feet kick at my elbows. Such utter futility. I feel his little undeveloped toenails scrape the back of my biceps and then drop back to the cushiony crib. Thick purple veins at his temples push through the skin and dance. His cheeks are fire red now and I can feel their heat billowing along my neck. I squeeze so hard the muscles in my forearms are like marble. Baby Hitler’s eyes cross and then the blue irises roll into his head and only blank white globes remain. His spine finally gives. I feel the snap more than I hear it, and now Baby Hitler’s head is cocked to a nearly 90 degree angle. His tongue, already turning black, dangles out and globs onto his tiny chin.

Finally I let up and wipe the train of sweat from my forehead. I am the Jews’ smirking revenge. There’s an instant odor to death. It’s metallic and sharp. They say the stench of Auschwitz could be detected for miles in every direction, like it burned through the hills and infected every object on its path. This stench is smaller in scale, but no less magnificent.

All my senses are being pummeled, like a fat man clubbing a drum. Colors are brighter, and kaleidoscopic. My ears feel like giant satellites. My nose burns and fumes. My skin feels ablaze. It’s like all the energy once inside this child has been evacuated and is now bouncing erratically around the room looking for a new host.

Baby Hitler’s eyes gorge with puss and blood and now the sour ferment of my sweat mixes with the acidic tinge of the dead body glowing under me. I poke him with one finger and he shifts like a rag doll would, like a leather sack filled with long hard sticks, but nothing more.

Suddenly there’s a rattle at the front door. I snap my body all the way around to face it. The Producers, have they returned already? It is time to go. I tuck Baby Hitler under his heavy wool blanket and push his wet swollen face down into the cushion.

I float through the house and, as I’m closing the back door behind me, I hear the front door swing fully open. “Babysitter, I’m home,” Alois Hitler shouts cheerily, and then says something more but I can’t make it out. I duck in and around thick tree trunks to where Doc Brown is buried. Just before I lose sight of the ugly yellow house I hear the deafening shriek of a now childless mother.

Eighth and Final Note to Time Traveling Self: The question now is whether to return home — it has been a good while since I’ve seen Elisa’s beautiful koala face — or jump to Gori, Georgia circa 1878 and meet the Stalins. These are the decisions we face.

The Secret Reveries of Johnnie Jones: An Homage to James Thurber

The following is an homage to James Thurber’s 1939 short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

“We’re going to win this game!” The point-guard’s voice was like hot rubber bursting. He wore his home-white uniform, with a clean, cushy headband wrapped snugly around his perspiring forehead. “We’re done for, man. These guys are too big down low,” said the New York Knicks power-forward. “You can’t think that way, ‘Toine,” said the point-guard. “Just check your man, and make sure you box out. Look for me on the outlet!” The chants of the crowd grew: sssshhhaaaa sssshhhaaaa. The point-guard stared into bright lights hanging from steel rafters high above. He jogged to the baseline and fronted his man. “Deny, deny, deny! Switch any picks!” the point-guard shouted. “No fouls!” shouted ‘Toine from half-court. The five starters, marking their respective men in the massive, rocking stadium, looked at each other with calm, confident faces. “We ain’t losing this game,” they said to one another. “There’s no way we’re losing this game!” . . .

“Not so loud!” said Mrs. Jones. “Why do you have that up so high?”

“Huh?” said Johnnie Jones. He looked at his young wife, on the couch beside him, with confused bewilderment. She seemed strangely hostile, like an enemy who’d just challenged him to a duel. “You were up to sixty,” she said. “You know I hate when the TV is louder than fifty. You had it on sixty.” Without responding, Johnnie Jones lowered the volume on the television, the blare of Madison Square Garden dwindling in the secluded, peculiar recesses of his brain. “You’re all stressed again,” said Mrs. Jones. “Are you feeling OK? I wish you’d go talk to Dr. Bernstein again.”

Johnnie Jones turned the channel from ESPN to the Lifetime movie his wife wanted to watch. “Let’s not forget to buy weed-killer tomorrow,” she said. “We don’t need it,” said Johnnie. Mrs. Jones stretched out, put her slippers in Johnnie’s lap. “We already discussed this,” she said. “You’re no professional landscaper.” Johnnie gripped into the remote. “And why don’t you wear your mask? You know how your allergies get,” she added. Johnnie Jones reached between the cushions and pulled out a dust-covered quarter. He flicked it into the air with his thumb, and his wife leaned up and caught it. “Are you even listening to me?” she said. Impatiently, Johnnie turned his eyes toward the TV, and then to the bookshelf next to it. His tired gaze rolled over the various titles on the spines of the stacked books before him.

. . . “It’s the baronet, Sir William Truepenny,” said the police chief. “Is that right?” said Johnnie Jones, rubbing his pocket watch deliberately. “Who’s on the case?” “Detectives Herman and Moore, but the royal military police are here too. Detectives Jasper and Greenley from London. They rushed over.” A floorboard creaked beneath the maroon and gold carpet and Detective Herman came in. He looked agitated and gaunt. “Hello, Johnnie,” he said. “We can’t break the back of the beast with Truepenny, the baronet and family-friend of Mountbatten. We were hoping you could take a look.” “I’d be happy to,” said Johnnie.

At the Truepenny country home there were solemn introductions, like at a funeral: “Detective Jasper, Detective Jones, Detective Greenley, Detective Jones.” “I’ve read your essay on the detection of arsenous oxide,” said Detective Greenley, shaking hands. “A fascinating paper.” “I appreciate that,” said Johnnie Jones. “Didn’t realize you were still in the motherland, Jones,” muttered Jasper. “Head of the redcaps brought Greenley and me up here.” “For good reason,” said Johnnie. A small, silver-colored device connected to Johnnie’s hip, with many buttons and flashing lights, began at this moment to go sssshhhaaaa sssshhhaaaa. “A new contraption, I’m sure,” whispered the police chief. “There’s no one here who can explain the curse!” “Silence,” said Johnnie, in a soft, serene voice. He ripped a notepad from his breast-pocket, his hip still going sssshhhaaaa sssshhhaaaa sssshhhaaaa. He pressed a finger to the device as he stared at the scribbling on his notepad. “Give me a pair of scissors!” he demanded. Someone retrieved a pair of scissors. He picked up a copy of the Times off the dining room table and snipped several clippings from it. “Look at the lettering,” he said. “Where’s the body?” The police chief scampered toward the front door and whispered to Detective Herman, and Johnnie saw the man’s face lose its color. “It’s the curse,” said Herman fretfully. “If you would take over, Johnnie?” Johnnie looked at him and at the cowardly presence of Moore, who smoked, and at the severe, tentative faces of the two military detectives. “As you wish,” he said. They handed him their notes; he slipped them into his jacket pocket and slid on his glasses; the police chief handed him the keys to the mansion. . .

“Hey! Turn that back! It was just getting good!” Johnnie Jones fumbled with the remote. “I don’t want to watch sports,” said Mrs. Jones, staring at Johnnie accusatorily. “Oh, right. Sorry,” Johnnie mumbled. He began to flip the channel. “Ugh! Just hit the ‘Previous’ button. Don’t flip all the way back through!” said Mrs. Jones. Johnnie sighed and got up from the couch. “What the heck, leave the remote.” “Oh, right,” said Johnnie, handing the remote down to his wife. She ripped it from his hand, and stretched all the way out on the couch, flipping the channel rapidly back to Lifetime.

She’s so damn bossy, thought Johnnie Jones, walking down the hallway; she thinks she’s the boss of me. Once he tried to hook up the DVD player, and screwed up the cable box. The cable-guy had to come out and fix it, a young, good-looking technology specialist. Since then Mrs. Jones never let him watch DVDs on the living room TV. Tomorrow night, he thought, I’ll pop in a DVD when she’s not looking; she won’t boss me around then. I’ll get the thing playing and she’ll see I don’t need a cable-guy’s help to watch a movie. He slid across the kitchen’s hardwood floor in his socks. “Weed killer,” he said to himself, and began looking for something to eat.

As he came back into the living room, with two turkey sandwiches on a plate, Johnnie Jones began to wonder why his wife had married him in the first place. She’d explained it to him, many times, before they got hitched, but he couldn’t remember what it’d been. He hated the dull conversations and daily arguments they were always having – everything was always his fault. My personality? he thought, my looks? No. Loyalty? selflessness? ambition? kindness? He stopped trying to remember. He wondered if she even remembered. “Why did I marry you?” she would ask. “Not for your money, that’s for sure.” His wife, flipping channels again, skipped past an advertisement for tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!, one of Johnnie’s favorite shows he never got to watch.

… “Thank you Johnny Gilbert.” Alex Trebek glided onto the blue- and purple-walled set in a slick-looking suit. “Let’s take a look at today’s categories, shall we?” Johnnie Jones picked up his signaling device and gripped it firmly with his thumb on top. An eager feel spread through the auditorium. “We’re With “The” Band for 200,” said the defending champ confidently. Trebek read the first clue. “Who are the Doors,” said the defending champ loudly. “That’s it!” exclaimed Trebek. “Same category for 400,” said the champ. “‘I’m a Believer’ and ‘Daydream Believer,’” said Alex Trebek. Johnnie Jones rapidly tapped the device in his right hand. “Who are The Monkees,” he said. “Yes!” said Trebek. Johnnie Jones exhaled quietly, his breath ushering the nerves from his body. After another clue was read aloud, he again tapped on his signaling device. “Who are the Black Eyed Peas,” he said. “You got it,” retorted Trebek. The Forrest Bounce, Johnnie thought, I can win with the Forrest Bounce. “Let’s switch to ‘Asian History’ for 800, Alex,” he said calmly. “What are the Phillipines,” Johnnie Jones declared. “Right again!” said Trebek. “Let’s move to ‘Pin the Tale on the Donkey’ for 600, please Alex,” Jones said. “Answer, the Daily Double!” said Trebek as the studio crowd clapped and laser-beam-like noise erupted from somewhere in the auditorium. “Let’s make it a true Daily Double!” shouted Johnnie Jones. . .

“My attentiveness,” muttered Johnnie Jones. He stopped chewing as the framed pictures and living room table rose up out of the hazy Burbank Studio and surrounded him again. His wife shifted on the couch and giggled. “Your attentiveness?” she said mockingly. “Did you just say ‘my attentiveness’ to yourself?” Johnnie Jones continued eating his sandwich. He bit the inside of his cheek. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said to his wife. “You were just talking to yourself again.” The newest Jeopardy! Champ thought a moment. “I think the mayonnaise is bad,” he said.

His wife’s Lifetime movie would be over in fifteen minutes, Jones saw by looking at the digital clock below the TV, unless she kept pausing it; sometimes she’d pause a show for no reason at all, then she wouldn’t fast-forward through the commercials; she would watch all the commercials even when she didn’t have to. Johnnie shifted uncomfortably atop the leather couch. He put his plate and glass of milk on the living room table. “Put that on a coaster,” Mrs. Jones snapped. After doing so, Johnnie picked up yesterday’s newspaper and sank down into the couch. “Blackwater Convoy Ambushed in Fallujah.” Johnnie Jones looked at the pictures of armored Humvees and shattered mosques.

. . . “The IEDS tore out the road ahead, sir,” said the first lieutenant. Major Jones stared down at him through disheveled hair. “We move forward,” he said tiredly. “Security will be re-established if it’s the last thing I do.” “But there are insurgents everywhere, sir,” said the first lieutenant nervously. “It will take the next two weeks to rid this city of guerillas and the RPGs haven’t stopped flying since we got here. The local leaders aren’t cooperating, sir.” “Somebody’s got to start the offensive,” said Jones. “We move forward. Who has whiskey?” Johnnie poured a shot for the first lieutenant and one for himself. Mortars whisked and whipped through the hot, dusty air. Dirt and gravel seemed to hang perpetually at eye-level. “That last one was close,” said Major Jones casually. “The rebels are closing in from the north,” said the first lieutenant. “We all die someday, Lieutenant,” said Jones, with his shadowy, passing grin. “Or do we?” He poured another shot and slugged it down. “How can you drink whiskey at a time like this, sir?” said the first lieutenant. “With all due respect.” Major Jones stepped forward and swung on his massive M-4 Rifle semi-automatic. “It’s 24 miles through hell on Earth, sir,” said the first lieutenant. Jones gulped down one last whiskey. “In the end,” he whispered, “why wouldn’t it be?” The bursting of mortars heightened; there was the pa-pa-pa-pa of machine guns, and from someplace came the ominous sssshhhaaaa sssshhhaaaa sssshhhaaaa of the insurgent’s anti-aircraft weapons. Jonnie Jones walked to the back of a Humvee. “I love only one girl.” He twisted and winked at the first lieutenant. “Adios!” he said. . .

Something pounded on his chest. “Would you snap out of it,” said Mrs. Jones. “Why do you always zone out on this couch? It’s like talking to a garage door.” “We’ll pacify the city?” Johnnie Jones whispered. “What?” Mrs. Jones said. “Did you pay the phone bill yet? Hello? The phone bill?” “Not yet,” said Johnnie. “Why not?” “I was just thinking about something,” said Johnnie Jones. “Does it ever occur to you that sometimes I’m thinking about important stuff?” Mrs. Jones stared blankly at her husband. “You’re calling Dr. Bernstein tomorrow,” she finally said.

They left the living room and plodded slowly up stairs that let out a slight and bothersome creak with weight on them. It was thirteen steps to the top. In the bedroom Mrs. Jones said, “Don’t turn the lights out yet. I forgot something downstairs. Be back in a few minutes.” She took much longer than a few minutes. Johnnie Jones wanted a cigarette, but his wife would have a conniption. Outside it started to rain, with puddles already on the ground. Johnnie sat up against the frame of his bed, desiring a smoke…He rubbed his feet together and scratched at his stubble. “Surgical strikes and raids be damned,” said Johnnie Jones contemptuously. He thought about puffing smoke rings right into his wife’s pretty face. Then, with that shadowy, passing grin contorting his mouth, he stood up on the bed; chest puffed and chin up, gratified and derisive, Johnnie Jones, the Pacifier, enigmatic to the end.

Rockfield Orgy Club: Rules and Regulations

  • The first rule of Orgy Club is you do not talk about Orgy Club. Just kidding! All are welcome. Except for Nazis. We do not orgy with Nazis. Trick us once shame on you, trick us twice shame on us.
  • Membership fees are due on the first of every month. And no, you cannot pay them with sexual favors. Nice try.
  • Absolutely no recording devices. We don’t want anything going viral. We’re here for pure hedonistic pleasure, folks, not fame. Plus, you know, we wouldn’t want anyone getting fired from their day job. Let’s keep the membership unemployment rate at 3%. (Don’t worry, Calvin, you’ll find something soon. It’s definitely not your acne, or your missing toe. We promise.)
  • No sex toys larger than 16 inches. The insurance will not cover it.
  • No pets allowed. This means you, Nicolette! As much as we all love Winston, I think we can agree this is no place for bulldogs, especially those with highly irritable bowels and a penchant for biting.
  • Speaking of: biting is technically permitted, but please use common sense. Nibbling is OK, Mike Tyson on Evander Holyfield is definitely not.
  • Please shave any and all back hair. We may be animals, we’re not apes.
  • If you insist on wearing a cape (cough, Wiley, cough), please make sure it’s not obstructing any of the action. You may consider yourself a super-human-lover, but please be mindful of us mortals.
  • Correction: Our resident zoologist, Dick (a most appropriately-named man), tells me that we are in fact apes. But officially we still think back hair is really unsexy, and pretty gross.
  • Edible panties are permitted, but no Sriracha flavors please. You know our motto: Thrusting hips, yes, obnoxious hipsters, nah.
  • Sorry to be such a stickler, but FDA-approved lubes only. We don’t need anyone breaking out in hives again. (Even if that does turn you on, Cynthia! You weirdo! Just playing, girl. No judgments here!)
  • No socks. Period! If you want to wear socks during sex, go join the Orgy Club in Dochester. We hear they allow for such perversity. 
  • Although double penetration is heartily encouraged (though not exactly required), we ask that you be mindful of leaving people empty handed, so to speak. This isn’t a Voyeurs Club after all, it’s an orgy club (orgy being Greek for “group action”)
  • On the matter of pubic hair, we adhere to The Marble Rule. If you were lying on your back and someone were to drop a marble into your bush, would the marble roll off your hips or would it get stuck in the thicket? If it’s the latter, then it’s probably time for a trim. Razors of all colors are available for purchase in the Gift Shop, located on the west wing of The Rockfield Compound! And don’t be afraid to get creative, folks. Applebee’s Gift Card to every month’s Best Pubis! Although, good luck beating Olivia and her pubic rendition of Starry Night.
  • Please no urinating. We know, we know, it’s uptight. But we’re afraid if we permit pee it will be a slippery slope (literally) to other, much less sterile bodily fluids. (This is not a personal attack on you, Wendy (who we sometimes call Wet Wendy), but please don’t drink so much Mountain Dew before arriving. Thanks, doll!)
  • Which reminds us, please leave your plastic dolls at home. I mean seriously, people, what’s the point? And yes, we’re looking at you, Reginald. Winona is fantastic, but go ahead and leave her at home, OK pal?
  • All members must provide a safe word (or phrase) of their own choosing. We recommend they be rendered in English, but other languages are certainly acceptable. The following SWs and SPs have been claimed: “Portabello Mushroom Sauce”, “Mr. Belding Was a Creep and a Loon”, “Mmmbop by Hanson”, “Shrek’s Big Green Cock”, “Genghis Khan You Cut That Out”, “Don’t Make My Day”, “Early Bird Gets the Sperm” (we know, confusing; which reminds us, please don’t make your safe phrases purposely ambiguous, we take consent very seriously at Rockfield), “Roseanne Barr is My Personal Lord and Savior”, “A Heartbreaking Cock of Staggering Genius”, “Penicillin Will Not Cure a Bad Attitude”, “No mas” (a man of few words you are, Juan!), etc.
  • All shapes and sizes are welcome, but if you have any deformities or bodily oddities, please tell us ahead of time. A man has a right not to be surprised by a third nipple or a hunched back.
  • If you also happen to be a member of the S&M Club over in Wyandot County (as several of our most valued members are) please keep all whips and executioner’s masks registered with Susanne in Niche Services.
  • Pregnant women are welcome. Just keep us in mind when choosing a name for your little one!
  • On second thought, probably best not to contemplate orgy mates while naming babies. Consider this a valid and legally-binding disclaimer: Babies and orgies are not a good mix, and we here at Rockfield certainly realize that.
  • Be sure to like us on Facebook and share our page with your most deviant friends! Happy fucking, everyone!

The Black Market of Cleverness, Witticism, Profundity and the Lack Thereof

I looked up the meaning of the name Aaron and found that, in Hebrew, it translates as “High Mountain.”  So I’ve decided that this will be my new nickname. From now on I want you all to call me High Mountain. Or, if you’re feeling especially formal, Mr. High Mountain. It’s not all that fitting though. I suppose it would be more suitable to a large man who enjoys smoking reefer. So I’ve started doing more pushups, and I’m currently trying to get ahold of my friend William, who knows a guy (Steve) who knows a guy (Randy) who knows a guy (Bubba) who knows a guy named Kojo. –> $1.34

Reese Witherspoon’s name is beyond wonderful. It makes me think of shoveling Reese’s Pieces into my mouth with an old wooden spoon that contains mysterious but magical properties. If you don’t like Reese Witherspoon you might as well be ISIS. –> $1.19

No one in the movie Pixels should ever be allowed to make a movie again. They should kill Peter Dinklage’s character off Game of Thrones for his involvement. Some crimes are truly unforgivable. The movie star death penalty. –> $0.11

Tiger Woods is a complete tool, but it’s not his fault. It’s the way his father reared him. But had he not then he wouldn’t be Tiger Woods. The same can be said of all of us: If our parents hadn’t then we wouldn’t, but they did so we do. This is probably why I can’t stop — well, you get my point. –> $0.74.

You know your beard’s too long when shaving it is a three day process. My friend called me on Wednesday and asked if I wanted to hang out on Friday. I told him that Saturday would be better because on Friday I would still have a third of a beard on my face. –> $3.96/ $58.96 if read in the voice of Mitch Hedberg.

You may not know it but I, Jabalabatabawip, am the best freestyle rapper in America. I rap in gibberish instead of English, but so what? I am still the best. –> $2.22

That CougarLife.com commercial with Julia Ann does not increase traffic to CougarLife.com. It increases traffic to Pornhub.com. –> $0.14

I probably won’t get to marry Amy Poehler. It’s true what they say you know: Life is not fair. [Someday the writer of these words will be arrested and prosecuted for trying to steal Amy Poehler’s heart.] –> $0.48

I’ve got a country song and a rap song stuck in my head at the same time. It’s like the culture wars are happening in my brain. Drake is currently kicking the shit out of Luke Bryan. –> $5.99

On the front of my Gardetto’s bag there is a warning that states: “Enlarged to Show Detail.” I imagine the conversation that must have taken place prior to the inclusion of this warning on every bag of Gardetto’s they make. One guy telling another guy, Hey, we really should be careful about the photograph we use on these bags of delicious Italian flavored treats. People might be upset when they realize rye chips aren’t the size of tennis balls. Good point, Greg. Get Craig to add some sort of disclaimer. The men behind the Gardetto’s rye-chip-dislaimer are almost certainly called Greg and Craig. –> $1.00

Sometimes I think grocery stores should be the only place where murder is legal. Whenever you stepped into a Kroger, it would be like that movie The Purge. Like if this fucking lady who should most definitely not be wearing hot pink yoga pants bumps her cart into mine one more time, I get to smash her head with a carton of 2% milk. Have you ever thought of that? Yes I’m asking if you, like me, have ever fantasized about destroying someone’s face with a big jug of milk. I mean milk cartons are dense. Things are weapons, man. Cartons of milk are the fortuitously-placed-rocks-used-to-finish-off-bad-dudes-in-usually-terrible-movies of the grocery store. You probably couldn’t kill someone with, like, a bag of salad, so milk cartons and Ragu bottles would be how you stopped people from beating you to the only open checkout line. Am I saying these things out loud?  –> $0.94

Most mornings I’m so tired I don’t fully open my eyes until I’m going 75 down 71. –> $0.40

I had an itchy throat so I screamed “Ricola” as loud as I could. Instead of having my sore throat relieved everyone just stared at me and moved slowly away. I’m now suing Ricola for false advertising. –> $1.97

Why is it that every time I’m in a crowded place, a bowling alley or a movie theater, the only thing I can think about is: What would it be like if the world were to end and me and the rest of the bowlers who survived the [fill in end of world scenario] were tasked with repopulating the Earth? What would that be like? As in, logistically. Would there be a line of some sort? Like a factory conveyor belt putting the pieces in the right place. If it worked, and the world was re-created, would the future of non-procreational sex be in danger? Sex is no longer a thing for pleasure, but strictly utility. Would we all become Quakers about sex if this is how the world started? Would there be prizes and awards given out for the most prolific birthers? Joe can’t miss, get him an Applebee’s gift card. Even when I’m not in the bowling alley or the theater myself, if I just see a large smattering of people on TV or whatever, I still find myself wondering how these people would get the job done. And if bowling and film aficionados could be trusted with something so important. How soon after finding out the world had ended would the procreating start? I imagine there would have to be a pretty extensive mourning period before everyone started throwing off their clothes. What would be done with people who didn’t want to “participate” – which would at once be both a reasonable and unreasonable position to take? Would there be a punishment of some sort? Would there be a position created – like advisor or counselor – for the purpose of politely and tactfully convincing people to lend their sperm or their eggs to the effort? What would happen if all of the women, in some sort of antinatalistic/voluntary human extinction protest, banded together and refused to allow any of the men to impregnate them? Would these people be the actual cause of the end of humanity or the aforementioned apocalyptic event? Would a man who raped a woman in order to save humanity be worthy of condemnation or celebration? How would rape in order to save the human race be criminalized, if at all?   –> $132.99

Watching movie Oblivion. Occurs to me that only thing worse than movies with Tom Cruise in them are movies with two Tom Cruises in them. –> 15.00

I’m the kind of guy who likes a little crunch in his salad if you know what I mean. I like my Fruity Pebbles extra soggy if you get my drift. –> $0.01

Do not look up the following words. Mucophilia. Salirophilia. Aptemnophilia. Oculolinctus. Zoosadism. Menophilia. Don’t look em up. I’m serious. Do not look them up. For your own good, don’t do it. What are you doing? You’re looking them up aren’t you? You’re typing them into Google right now aren’t you? What are you doing? I specifically said not to. Do you think I’m kidding? Do you think I’m trying to trick you into looking them up? I’m not. Do not look these words up. I’ve looked them up so you don’t have to. I’ve borne this burden for you. –> Can’t Be Given Away

One second I’m plotting a novel, the next I’m contemplating what arrangements I’d have to make if I were to sleep for an entire month straight. Bipolar motivation disorder.  –> $2.75

Was going to recommend Count of Monte Cristo to friend Keith. But then I remembered that when I recommended “Up All Night” by The Counting Crows to him, he never took the time to listen to it. That song is like five minutes long. Cristo is 618 pages. Did not recommend Count of Monte Cristo to Keith. –> $4.49

A good rule of thumb: If you’re masturbating more often than you brush your teeth…you’re probably not brushing your teeth enough. –> $6.13

I always imagined God had a voice like Gilbert Gottfried. –> $2.35

Grown men biting their fingernails. As far as I can tell, there are only two options once a person has chewed the nail off of his finger: He can either swallow it (disgusting), or he can spit it onto the floor (disgusting + inconsiderate). I bet Stalin was a nail-biter. –> $9.99

If life gives you lemons, give them to the homeless. Lemon-aid. –> $100.24

If the pasta bounces off the wall and sticks to your face, is it done? –> $25.00

The saying “every day of the week and twice on Sunday” makes no sense to me. I don’t want to do anything on Sundays, let alone do them twice. –> $5

I think the red light has gotten a bad rap. We should cut the red light a break. Because really it’s the yellow light, in all of its sneaky ways, which is the asshole of the traffic light system. Red simply holds us in place until it’s time to go again. We should be thankful for red. He keeps us safe. He gets us home to our families. He upholds order and civility. But yellow? Yellow is a nasty rascal, always popping up unexpectedly and sometimes when I’m already in the middle of the fucking intersection. Sometimes I think I hear yellow light laughing at me. Like he’s trying to get me a ticket. Quit making me look bad yellow. –> $19.10

Given all the pretzels left at the end of the Chex-Mix bag, no one on Earth should go hungry. –> $3.00

Short story idea: A man is walking down the street. He bends over to pick up a piece of trash he sees skipping across the asphalt so he can throw it in the receptacle where he believes it belongs. However, when he goes to grab it he discovers that the trash, an empty Snack Pack container, can speak. Snack Pack’s initial response is something like “Hey pal, take your scruffy mitts off me.” Keeps calling the man pal, buddy, and ace. Tells the man that the accepted vernacular is “refuse,” not trash. Tells him that everyone’s got recycling all wrong. It’s actually a brutal thing to do to a piece of trash. His mother was recycled and she was never the same. The man is forced to re-examine all his views about trash.  –> $1.99

I want to sleep with all my friend’s moms and all my mom’s friends. This is my curse. I don’t think I’ve ever met an M I didn’t want to ILF. –> $7.77

It’s too bad life isn’t more like a microwave. When time is running out you could just ‘add a minute.’ –> $43,685.21

A Bad Weekend for the NBA

At the conclusion of last night’s anti-climactic All-Star game, a defenseless dunkfest that dragged on like a dying snail, I couldn’t help but wonder if this season will go down as the worst in recent NBA history.

I kept thinking the game would get interesting, but it never did. Turns out watching freak athletes dunk for two hours straight isn’t all that entertaining. Maybe if Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had engaged in an 18th century style duel I would have been satisfied, but no such luck.

Marv Albert was noticeably annoyed in the post-game wrap up, asking Reggie and Chris Webber if something needed to be done to make the game more exciting. I’m surprised Webber didn’t take the opportunity to make an argument for unlimited timeouts.

Here are six ideas that came to my mind: 1) For every shot Steph Curry misses, a player from the East gets to kick Draymond Green in the nuts and then stand over him and ask “How do you like it?”. 2) A brief intermission during which Gabrielle Union and Michelle Beadle play a game of one on one in their underwear. Loser has to make out with the winner. 3) Ask every player to spell Giannis Antetokounmpo. Sit back and enjoy the hilarity. 4) Put 45 seconds on a clock and see how many different ways Greg Popovich can insult Donald Trump. 5) Bus in ten fat women from San Antonio and let them mud-wrestle Charles Barkley. Winner receives a month of free burritos. 6) Mic up Kevin Garnett and let him say anything that crosses his mind.

Why didn’t Adam Silver think of these himself? What are we paying this guy for? To do his best at looking like the goofiest white guy in the world? I mean, I’m totally available if they need me to replace this joker. We’ll be having Michelle Beadle Nights and selling joints at concession stands by April.

All in all, it was a lackluster (and at times even awkward) weekend in New Orleans. Recall that the league was only there in the first place because the state of North Carolina can’t stop itself from discriminating on people who don’t like the kind of sex they like — that is, missionary with your favorite cousin while Dukes of Hazzard plays in the background.

Aaron Gordon was being interviewed left and right in the run up to the dunk contest, refusing to reveal what any of his dunks might entail. But his ultimate performance was barely worthy of a YouTube video, and made the entire drone industry regret its involvement.

Gordon’s awkward disappointment on the bench afterwards was hard not to detect. He was probably contemplating his return to mediocrity in Orlando, where no amount of magic will make his squad relevant this year.

The three-point contest was exciting enough, although the commentating-duo of Reggie Miller and Kenny Smith sounded like something the government might use to torture Guantanamo Bay inmates.

The overall shooting was surprisingly sub-par. Eric Gordon was hot from start to finish, but most of the guys didn’t even show up.

Klay “Don’t Legalize Weed” Thompson shot with the energy of a glue-sniffing insomniac. For the sake of Lebron and the Cavs, let’s hope Klay’s lethargy reappears in June.

Wes Matthews was awful. I personally know at least two guys who are better shooters than Wes Matthews.

C. McCollum (because he apparently left his J in Portland) should be ashamed. The dog from Airbud would have given New Orleans a better show. And he’s dead.

The dog from Airbud is dead. That’s sad to think about. Those dogs from Homeward Bound are definitely dead aren’t they? Shit, the dog from Marley and Me might really be dead. 

You know you’re bad when this guy hits more shots than you. It definitely wasn’t raining in New Orleans last night.

Then it came time to raise money for cancer research, at which point things got truly awkward. First came a pathetic showing by a conga-line of mostly terrible shooters. You know it’s bad when WNBA players are among your best. As far as I’m concerned, Anthony Anderson should never touch a basketball again as long as he lives. And Michael B. Jordan was clearly given the wrong name. That B, by the way, stands for BRRICK.

The eclectic group managed to make just 13 shots, despite the fact that James Harden, the league’s most prolific scorer, made five or six himself. At least three participants, who wish to remain anonymous, blamed the rancid stench of James Harden’s beard as the cause of their misses. In one Kyrie Irving’s words, “The smell was disorienting. Made it hard to focus.”

DJ Khalid did manage to put one in, which proves that every weirdo rapper has his day. Eric Gordon was clearly tired so he missed all of his attempts. And Reggie couldn’t buy one because apparently he can only hit shots when Spike Lee is talking dirty to him.

Does anyone doubt that Sheryl would have made at least two?

Ernie Johnson then brought Steph Curry to center stage and told him that if he could hit a shot from half court $500,000 would be donated to cancer research. An overly confident Curry told Johnson that hopefully he would need only one attempt, but he requested three just to be safe. And then the urine started to flow down his skinny jeans.

After three attempts that weren’t even close, and instead of just quitting while he was ahead, Curry hoisted six more shots, all of which clanked hard off the rim. I was literally cringing, hoping that he’d get at least one to go. But apparently God really does rest on Sundays and couldn’t be bothered to help fight cancer.

Ernie Johnson finally put Curry out of his misery and told the two-time MVP to “take a fucking seat you fucking choke-artist.” Which is an exact quote. Back in his chair Curry sipped water with a look on his face like his Grandma just caught him masturbating.

With Kevin Durant joining a record-breaking Warriors team, this year’s NBA finals seems like too much of a foregone conclusion than is healthy for the league. It would be like the pock-faced teenager who takes your movie-ticket spoiling the ending before you even walk into the theater. Much of the excitement in sports comes from the lack of predictability. But a Warriors-Cavs final seems all but guaranteed.

And if that series doesn’t deliver, if the Warriors win it in 4 or 5, this season could be a complete disaster for the National Basketball Association. I don’t know about any of you, but I’m holding out hope that Michelle Beadle will start doing pre-game shows in her lingerie. At this point, that might be the only thing that keeps me interested.

The Babysitter

The Babysitter was a special kind of nasty. Downright sadistic in fact. She made the two boys — Charles and Teddy their names — do yard work that The Babysitter’s own husband (a mechanic with 27 years under the hood) refused to do.

Yanking up those sharp weeds that were wont to cut your fingers and scrape your palms. Pushing a wheel barrow of dirt from the front of the house to the back. Digging holes with shovels that The Babysitter wasn’t even sure she needed to be dug. Etc., etc. And all without gloves. The Babysitter had gloved her own hands, mind you. But Charles and Teddy were never furnished their own pair because, in The Babysitter’s words, “only sissy little Susans needed gloves,” and, when the look in Charles’s eyes seemed to imply “Well, then doesn’t that make you a sissy little Susan, Babysitter?” the Babysitter told Charles that the Glove-Sissy Metric only applied to “tiny cretins who had yet to conquer puberty.”

Then The Babysitter took a long hard gulp on the pink lemonade she refused to share — from a NASCAR themed cup packed to its brim with crushed ice — and told Teddy that “the rate at which he pulled weeds from the ground was pitiful and entirely unacceptable” and if he wanted to eat lunch today he would double, nay triple his weed extracting efforts.

Lunch was the same everyday: Cold Spaghetti-Os and half of a formerly green but now mostly brown apple. Charles, knowing his little brother better than The Babysitter ever could, took much satisfaction in the fact that Teddy actually preferred his Spaghetti-Os cold, something the two boys kept to themselves for fear The Babysitter would heat Teddy’s Spaghetti-Os up in the microwave, or maybe even the oven, if she found out.

If ever Teddy had to use the bathroom while at The Babysitter’s, The Babysitter, being a complete natural at humiliating small boys, would stand outside the bathroom door and ask Teddy “Do you need a spoon?” and “Can something so small even be located?” Then The Babysitter would let forth a laugh so maniacal and shrill and hoarse (due to the pack a day that she consumed with the zeal of a deranged trucker), that Teddy would often freeze right up and be unable to release himself for weeks on end.

When Teddy emerged from the bathroom, a look on his face like he’d seen a literal ghost, The Babysitter would tossle his hair and tell him to “lighten up already, Tedster,” and “Don’t you know a joke when you hear one, dumbo?” and “Look, your brother thinks it’s funny,” a claim that created in Charles’s gut a sort of burgeoning heat that burned up his throat and out his ears because Charles found nothing funny about The Babysitter (other than her third chin maybe, and how she clearly thought no one noticed when she constantly picked at her wedgie) and would never laugh at jokes that were at his younger brother’s expense, not ever.

The Babysitter also had a daughter, who was little more than a younger, skinnier version of The Babysitter in terms of her willingness and ability to treat Charles and Teddy as if they were mutts fresh from the street.

Once, Charles, Teddy and The Babysitter’s daughter were playing Nintendo Power Pad in the basement when Charles and Teddy’s mother, Anita, arrived to fetch her children.

When Charles and Teddy started to clean up the Nintendo Power Pad — knowing as they did that failing to do so would strike afoul with The Babysitter and result in them being punished with even more back breaking yard work beneath the scorching sun — The Babysitter’s daughter told them not to fret, that she would clean up and they shouldn’t keep their mother waiting.

But when Charles and Teddy returned to The Babysitter’s three days later, The Babysitter stuck a long sharp claw in each of their faces and, in a fury of highly coarse language punctuated with darts of ejected spittle, scolded the boys for not cleaning up the basement before they left, and how dare they do something so defiant and rude and inconsiderate of The Babysitter’s daughter, who was only humoring Charles and Teddy when she played Nintendo Power Pad with them in the first place.

As it turned out, The Babysitter’s daughter left the mess uncleaned — in fact, had thrown a couple extra items onto the floor that Charles and Teddy had never even seen before, let alone played with — and then reported to her mother, The Babysitter, that Charles and Teddy had vehemently refused to help her tidy up.

As retaliation, The Babysitter put Charles on Scrubbing the Oil Stains From the Floor of the Garage Duty (which had never even been a duty until The Babysitter conjured it up while angrily contemplating how best to punish Charles and Teddy for not cleaning the basement, or, more accurately, for failing to realize that The Babysitter’s daughter was the kind of child who would tell other children that she would take care of a messy basement and then leave said messy basement as is while telling authority figures that those same children had refused to help her clean it); she put Teddy on Pulling Out Disgusting Soaked Clumps of Hair from the Shower Drain Duty, the execution of which made Teddy sweat and gag and then throw up a few times in the toilet, which The Babysitter of course made Teddy scrub clean until the porcelain was damn near wearing thin, at which point The Babysitter accused Teddy of “trying to destroy her property.”

Seven years later Charles and Teddy returned to The Babysitter’s home with a trunk full of what they called Payback Supplies — eggs and toilet paper and spray paint and a large canvas bag of all the dog shit their little Poodle Patsy could physically produce.

After they’d mummified the house and every tree in the yard they jammed dozens of plastic forks and knives into the hard grass and then snapped them in half, making them near impossible to retrieve.

Then the boys dumped five or six gallons of rancid milk they’d been allowing to go bad for weeks on The Babysitter’s newly paved driveway.

They smeared bloody tampons — the “blood” being only ketchup — across the white garage door in the shape of a large penis and then left the wet tampons in a disgusting pile beneath it.

They smeared dog shit on all the windows and inside the mailbox and on the front porch furniture.

With a can of red spray paint Charles scribed “The Devil Lives Here” on the side of the house in letters as large as the power of the can would allow. Then he twice underlined “The Devil” as if to emphasize to the world how literal he thought he was being.

Teddy took his metal house key and dug it hard into The Babysitter’s shitty blue minivan, walking methodically from passenger side door to driver side door. Tiny flecks of metal and blue paint dropped from the car and settled in a dust-pile atop Teddy’s clenched wrist. 

And then, with the kind of glee that one would have thought only lottery winners and folks who have recently been told they no longer have cancer could emotionally muster, Charles and Teddy ripped up every single one of The Babysitter’s flowers.

Feathery yellow callas and puffy pink carnations and tall purple delphiniums and bright blue hydrangeas flew through the air like the ground beneath them had exploded.

Charles and Teddy crushed oriental lilies and soft white orchids in their fists and stomped on deep red poinsettias and pink-hued tulips. It was a colorful symphony of destruction and revenge and anger logically distilled to human action. 

Charles was going to work on a large patch of snapdragons when the porch light darted on and the lock on the front door clicked open. Without thinking the boys turned and fled, their mission complete anyway.

As the boys were running down the empty road, retreating to their getaway vehicle one street over, Charles pulled up suddenly and turned back towards the house. “What the hell are you doing?” Teddy whispered and then sort of hopped in place anxiously.

Charles beaded his eyes at the front door and there she was, The Babysitter, standing motionless on her shit-stenched porch, wearing nothing but a Fleetwood Mac T shirt.

Her exposed thighs were paste-white and glimmered in the darkness like some kind of homing beacon. Her face sagged dramatically, like someone was holding a blowdryer to her cheeks. She looked old and sad and tired, probably was.

Charles tried his best to lock eyes with her through the thick black of night and felt like she knew exactly who it was glaring back at her, accepted it even. In that moment Charles felt bad for The Babysitter. Felt bad about what they’d just done. But there was no fixing it now, unless he thought jail was an appropriate penance, which he did not.

The Babysitter didn’t assess the damage they’d done, didn’t drop her gaze to the demolished garden, just stood there and stared out toward the formless Charles. ‘Now we’re even,’ she seemed to convey with her haggard face and unblinking black eyes.

“Come on,” Teddy whispered and then tugged at his brother’s jacket. The boys dipped through a long row of round bushes (finely sculpted as if by the hands of small children being watched over by a sadistic groundskeeper) and were gone. 

Yes Good Deed

I was at my local public library the other night preparing to check out my third straight Nora Ephron book — part of a recent effort I’ve undertaken to increase my knowledge of the ‘American Female’ — when, in my periphery, I noticed a little boy reach up and pluck a telephone off the wall.

This startled me because until that moment I don’t think I ever noticed a cherry-colored telephone strapped to the wall, despite ostensibly walking past it hundreds of times in recent months. Perhaps my 21st century mind had simply blurred it out, had trouble fully registering a landline phone, an object more rare than a black guy at a Rascal Flatts concert.

I love that the phones in libraries are red. Because, in my view, not being able to find the book you’re searching for is a crisis exactly on par with impending nuclear war. 

“We’re looking for The Time Warp by H.G. Wells,” the young boy said into the receiver. He was about five feet tall, brown-skinned, puffy winter coat sagging off bony shoulders, as if he’d been forced to wear it, against his will, by an insistent mother. His friend — or older brother more like — hovered slightly behind him, “It’s called the Time Machine,” he corrected.

As it happened, I could both hear and see the employee on the other end of the line because she was only about a hundred feet away, standing at the help desk and looking in our direction. This gave the developing situation a satirical feel that made it seem like the beginnings of some kind of lame sketch comedy act where two people in very close proximity talk to each other on oversized cell phones, one unable to hear the other.

When I realized this woman was not going to help, other than to impatiently tell the boys to “find it by looking under the author’s last name,” I suspended my own search (for something called I Feel Bad About My Neck, a book that was sure to be super enlightening) and did this woman’s job for her.

“You guys know what to do right?” I asked. The young men were shy, rightly tentative about a random and grossly-bearded white-man suddenly speaking to them. They probably would have preferred the assistance of the middle-aged woman in the cat-themed sweater, as opposed to a guy who looked both homeless and hungry. They silently shook their heads in the negative, half their eyes saying ‘please help us’ the other half saying ‘please don’t hurt us.’

I suspended my desperate campaign to unravel life’s greatest mystery (how women ever find anything in their purse) and led them down the carpeted aisles of Westerville Public Library. Curious but hesitant, they followed closely at my heels as I pointed to signs slapped on the ends of the stacks and explained that, when it came to fiction, the books here are organized alphabetically (as opposed to the number system used for non-fiction).

I took them to the stack labeled ‘Vi-Wo’ and asked if they understood that ‘We’ was somewhere in between and thus could be found here (if these unhelpful librarians could be trusted that is, and I suppose they could). Then I reminded them to look at the stickers at the bottom of the spine until they found Wells and hopefully his book The Time Machine.

In other words, I put them in a position to succeed without just doing it for them. I taught them to fish, if you will, rather than catching them their dinner.

Nine minutes later they emerged from the stack, book in hand, smiles on faces.

Better slow than never I always say. You would have thought they’d discovered a new continent.

“Find it?” I asked.  

“Yes. Thank you,” they shyly responded.

I gave a silent, but triumphant thumbs-up and went back to my computer (which informed me that a book called Wallflower at the Orgy was available and ready to be over-analyzed).

“Have a good day,” the smaller boy said looking back at me, puffy blue coat still sagging off bony shoulders.

“You too buddy,” I responded, and my two new companions disappeared into the night, science fiction novel securely in tote.

Alone again, I smiled and felt oddly prideful. I’d helped two kids find a book. It was exceedingly simple, and yet oddly profound. In truth, it was probably the best thing I’d done in months, if not years. That this was a sad and pathetic realization tried to seep into my mind, but I brushed it back with my brain-broom and remained entirely satisfied with myself for doing such an honorable deed.

I’d helped further child literacy. I’d connected a young mind with an older, probably genius one. It felt as though I’d introduced two close friends who then immediately stole away to have their own private conversation without me; that is, if my friends were the kinds of people who liked to talk about weird English dudes traveling through time.

I’m sure Nora Ephron and H.G. Wells would have agreed: Children should always be able to find the book they want. It appalled me that once the emergency-colored phone rang the employee who answered it didn’t instantly drop everything to assist these young men, the future of America after all.

Why was the phone red if the people answering it weren’t going to behave in a manner consistent with all that’s implied by a red-colored phone? Are the people overseeing our nuclear arsenal also answering red-colored phones like it’s a call from their grandmother – all lazy and uninterested? 

What could possibly be more pressing to a public library employee than helping a couple little brown boys find a book? It would be like a Starbucks barista refusing to pour the milk, or a pharmacist refusing to wear a white coat.

We’re all so blah. Everything and everyone is blah. Blah blah blah. If I owned a time machine I’d go back to that moment when I helped two young kids find an old book. It made me feel, for the first time in a long time, the opposite of blah. And that’s really meaningful.

Now what’s this about orgies?

Football is the Opium of the People

The following essay expresses respect for Karl Marx and disdain for the sport of football, not exactly common positions in today’s America, where socialism is about as popular as onion-flavored gum and Tom Brady could probably be elected emperor for life. I hope you’ll read the essay though before using it as toilet paper; but if not I fully understand. 

I suspect that everything Karl Marx said about religion could be said of football in modern day America. Football is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the American people.

As to not lose our minds in reaction to the state of our world, we (as individuals, but also as a collective) require illusions. And these illusions (year-round sporting events, for instance) distract us from facing the conditions of our world and making efforts to improve upon them.

This is my thesis: That football is bad for us; that it consumes so much of our time and energy that we don’t have enough leftover for things that actually matter, like voting and understanding politics and history (and reading this blog).

In his (ridiculously-titled) book A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (1843), Marx wrote that “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering.” I would assert that suffering as a sports fan (buying Browns season tickets after a 1-15 season) is actually the manifestation of our suffering as human beings.

In other words, we don’t actually care about the Cleveland Browns; we’re just so damn miserable that we behave as though we do. The spectacle of football in America — on both the collegiate and professional level — is our favorite method of escape. It acts, as Marx might put it, as a narcotic. And that narcotic is consumed on a massive scale. More than 110 million people watched the Superbowl last Sunday. That means fully 1/3 of our country was, for a period of about four hours, completely checked out. Does this make anyone else uncomfortable, or is it just me?

“To call on [people] to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions,” Marx said. Our condition (the way we live, the way we struggle for justice in the world) requires illusions because the truth of it is often too much to handle.

But if we stopped lying to ourselves, we would stop needing to lie to ourselves. If we faced harsh realities, we could change those harsh realities and we’d no longer need to refuse to face them (because they’d no longer exist, because we improved them).

I realize this all sounds very tautological and circuitous, but blame Marx, not me. This is basically just a fancy way of saying that yes, ignorance is bliss, but it’s no way to live.

Football in today’s America serves as the ultimate preservation of the status quo, like a dam that stops water from flowing where it otherwise might. It serves the same purpose as the Gladiatorial games did in Ancient Rome, where the emperor of the day would put on elaborate competitions in stadiums filled with the poor and working class. 

The events were spectacles of violence and brutality, in which the strongest and most fearless men in the society risked their lives for the entertainment of others. These were often men who came from very little means — men who could do things with their bodies regular folks could hardly fathom.

When the spectacle was insufficiently entertaining — when the lower classes started to become restless — even more elaborate events were put on. I’m thinking here of when the emperors would fill the Colosseum with water and stage mock sea-battles with actual ships. Stadiums were reconstructed to house more and more spectators, all so guys like Caligula could keep fucking their sister and slaughtering farm animals.

When I think about last week’s Superbowl LI (we even use roman numerals to delineate the game), I wonder what the opportunity cost might be. Would a man like Donald Trump have been elected to the most powerful position on Earth if fewer people loved watching football?

This argument isn’t very conventional, but that doesn’t make it wrong. If you accept the fact that Americans aren’t civically engaged enough, and that time and energy are finite resources, then it becomes harder to argue that football is an exclusively good thing.

One thing we learn from the Daenerys Targaryen story line on Game of Thrones is that the masses will become restless if they do not have violent entertainment to keep them docile and subservient. And, from Dany’s perspective, this is a highly dangerous prospect that could potentially threaten her status as ruler.

Recall the character Hizdahr zo Loraq, the gold-dress-wearing pro-slavery twat from the city of Meereen who convinced Dani in Season 5 that she needed to bring back “the fighting pits,” lest the lower classes become restless and seek to challenge her status as Khaleesi. It was an argument for tradition, but it was also an argument for preserving the status quo — an argument based on keeping everyone right where they were.

Well, it’s the exact same thing in 21st century America. If we didn’t have our “fighting pits” we’d probably direct more of our attention and energy to how exactly the ruling class operates and whether that modus operandi benefits us, the non-ruling class. The fighting pits keep everyone — both rich and poor — right where they are, frozen in their current condition within society at large.

In his essay “The Coming Revolt of the Guards” (featured in his book The People’s History of the United States), Howard Zinn writes the following:

“One percent of the nation owns a third of the wealth. The rest of the wealth is distributed in such a way as to turn those in the 99 percent against one another: small property owners against the propertyless, black against white, native-born against foreign-born, intellectuals and professionals against the uneducated and unskilled. These groups have resented one another and warred against one another with such vehemence and violence as to obscure their common position as sharers of leftovers in a very wealthy country.”

But I would add another kind of needless rivalry among the 99 percent: Bengals vs Browns, Patriots vs Jets, Steelers vs Ravens, Raiders vs Niners. These are meaningless divisions that have the highly meaningful effect of obscuring our “common position as sharers of leftovers in a very wealthy country.”

In fact, one might argue that, because most people are apolitcal (and the divisions Zinn outlines are overtly political), it is our constructed rivalries as sports fans that are the most consequential in terms of arbitrarily dividing us; that do the most work in keeping us from making realizations about our society that would disfavor the wealthy and the powerful.

With all that said, feel free to now use this pro-Marx anti-football essay as toilet paper. At least that way I’ll know it was useful.