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Sunday, September 16, 2018

442. Guilt

There was this sound of arguing going on in the backyard of the farm. I heard several obscene epithets hurled. It sounded familiar. I heard one yelled in Falloonian and I knew the source. One had to be C.W. Who was the other? I walked outside.

Mystery solved. It was C.W. in one of his favorite shapes, Lefty and Lucky the conjoined twins. They walked, hip to hip, around an oak tree my late father-in-law and I planted some 25 years ago. It is one of my wife’s favorite spots, and she protects it with zeal.

“Ass****,” Lucky shouted. F****** ratfink.” They pivoted and began walking around the tree in the opposite direction. I noticed a trampled plant.

“Hey,” I said. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Nothing,” Lefty said. “We’re somewhere else.”

“No,” I said. “I can see you.”

“What you see isn’t real,” he said. “Trust me.”

“He’s lying again, Lucky said. “That’s all he does.” He smiled. “And he’s real good at it.”

“Am not,” Lefty said. “I’ve never lied since we’ve been on Earth. I’m the greatest truth-teller my planet ever sent here.” They continued walking.

I say they are conjoined twins, and I speak the truth in a literal sense. A narrow square of skin and muscle joins them. A first-year medical student could separate them with a local anesthetic, but they preferred to be “joined at the hip,” as they put it. Somehow, I fear, this close association feeds and supports the worst instincts in each.

I watched them for a minute. Lefty spent two turns around the tree cursing his attachment. When he paused for breath, I broke in.

“Having an argument?”

“Argument hell,” Lefty said. “I’m letting him know what I think of a ratfink mother … .”

“Stop,” I said. “Tell me what’s going on.”

“Ask him,” Lefty said. “I don’t know anything.”

“You’re cussing like I did when I dropped a link of anchor chain on my foot and you don’t know anything?”

“I know nothing,” he said.

“Ask him about your wife’s favorite jelly glass,” Lucky said. “The one she found in the junk pile and was over a hundred years old.”

“I’ve never touched a jelly glass since I’ve been on your planet,” Lefty said. I wouldn’t even recognize one if I saw it. I use expensive, tasteful glasses, the most wonderful and beautiful ones in the Galaxy.”

“Ask him what happens when one is drinking wine from a jelly glass and drops it on a hard floor,” Lucky said.

“I don’t remember doing that,” Lefty said. “I wasn’t there.”

“You weren’t there when my wife’s jelly glass got broken? What exactly happened, if you had to guess?”

“I’m not going to answer any hypothetical questions,” he said.

“Now he’s in a world of doo-doo,” Lucky said.

“Doo-doo head,” Lefty said.

“Fellows,” I said. “What’s up?”

“He dropped the glass and broke it,” Lucky said.

“I was somewhere else at the time,” Lefty said. He appeared to think. “In Falloonia, yeah, they transfigured me back to Falloonia for a conference. It was the greatest conference they ever had and I was the best speaker, the best speaker by far. Just ask them.”

“So I assume Lucky was with you? He can verify?”

“No,” Lefty said. “He stayed here. I went alone.”

Lucky and I stared at one another.

I had stomached about enough of this. “What really happened?”

“Mrs. Big Dope found out about her broken glass,” Lucky said.

“And?”

Lucky shrugged.

“He jumped in the air and turned over on me,” Lefty said.

“Do mean he ‘flipped’ on you?”

Lefty nodded. “They shouldn’t allow that, not even when someone commits a crime, which I did not, by the way.”

“What happened next?”

“He’s being punished,” Lucky said.

“If he’s being punished,” I said, “won’t you be included?”

“No,” Lucky said. “I’ll still get five meals a day. He’ll only get one.”

“I see,” I said.

“And,” Lucky said, “he’s going to have to wear a sign around his neck that says, ‘jelly glass murderer’ for a month.”
 
Big Dope says I'm two-faced.
What do you think? - C.W.
“Turncoat b*****,” Lefty said.

“Guys, stop it.” I said. I looked at Lucky. “You seem to know that he’s nothing but trouble to you. Why do you stay joined to him?”

“Tell him,” you prick,” Lefty said.

“Well,” Lucky said. “He is good at filching snacks and he gives me half of them.”

“And?”

“He keeps the attention off me. Have you noticed how your wife’s rock collection is disappearing and how I’m getting better at skipping them on the pond?”

“And?” This was getting uncomfortable.

“He makes me laugh.”

“Oh, how?”

“It just cracks me up,” Lucky said “to see you go berserk when he pulls one of his crazy stunts.”  



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Sunday, September 9, 2018

441. Suspicion

Newspapers are making fonts smaller and smaller each day, so I was holding a magnifying glass over the daily cryptoquote and not paying attention to anything else. That’s why I jumped when a hand slapped a sheet of paper filled with type on the table in front of my and screamed, “What the hell is this?”

It startled me. I stared at the hand. It was a small one. A little finger sported a large diamond ring that sparkled like beauty pageant contestant. I looked up.

It had to be C.W., for nobody else had hung around the house that morning. I’d never seen him like this. He stood in the shape of an overweight, pudgy man past middle age with a half-bald scalp, the remaining hair pulled into a ponytail. A strange tint emanated from him and he seemed vaguely familiar.

I said, “What’s what?”

“You know damn well what’s what.”

“Sorry, I don’t.”

“Read the [censored] thing. Maybe it will jog your memory.”

I couldn’t remember C.W. using such language before. Pulling the sheet toward me, I saw the word “Memo” in large type. I looked and said, “What is this?”

“Read the thing,” he said, practically yelling and using the same expletive as before.

Glancing at it, I saw phrases: “Poor representative of your planet … prone to insulting his Earth Host’s wife and friends … engages in right-wing politics … shows an inordinate fondness for monetary gain … has set up multiple get-rich schemes that have failed … doesn’t keep his GUT in good condition … addicted to improper Internet sites … several warnings related to stalking … .” Confused, I glance at the top again and saw, under “TO,” the words “Falloonian Council of Elders.” I looked up. The orange tint had left his face and showed a fierce red.

“Did you write this [censored] thing?”

“Uh, no. Don’t know anything about it.”

“How about that [censored] wife of yours, Mrs. Big Dope or whatever you call her? This sounds just like some of the [censored] that [censored] might put together.”

“I’ll ask you not to speak of my wife in those terms.” I thought better of it. “Rather,” I said, “I warn you strongly not to let her hear you talking that way about her.”

“Somebody around here is guilty as John the Baptist,” he said, “and I’m going to get to the buttocks of it.”

“I think you meant Judas,” I said, “and if you want to get to the bottom of it, you might want to tune your Galactic Universal Translator.”

“Shut the [censored] up for a moment,” he said. “I’m trying to cogitate. Somebody here must have done this dirty deed. The Falloonian Elders are all over my [censored] tush.” He picked up the sheet and waved it in my face.

“Nobody here did it. I can assure you of that.”

“Somebody did it. My GUT tells me that it’s someone I know.”

“Have you considered,” I said, motioning for him to cease with the waving in my face, “that hundreds of people each week read my accounts of your charming escapades?”

“Charming my keister,” he said.

“It could be any one of them.”

That made him stop and ponder.

“That guy we drink beer with, what’s his name, Perry?”

“Oh, I don’t think so. He adores you. Don’t you remember the present he bought you?”

“The beer-holder that said something about don’t Earthlings ever shut up”?

“Something like that.”

“What about that ex-Green Beret out East? Michael D you call him.”

“There’s no such thing as an ‘ex-Green Beret.’ He is a ‘former’ Green Beret and shares your stories with all his friends. He would be highly upset if your stay ended.”

“There’s a whole bunch up in Ohio.”
 
Someone out there is
envious of my greatness.
Help me fans.
“They like your politics,” I said. “Want to keep you on.”

“There’s that one makes furniture with his buddy. They have a lot of time to gossip.”

“They’re busy building things,” I said. “As the country folks put it, ‘They ain’t studyin’ you.’”

“I know,” he said. “It’s that guy who makes films, that Gary what’s his name?”

“He wants to make a documentary about you someday,” I said. “He’d be devasted to see you go.”

“The [censored] that did this,” he brandished the paper, “is out there somewhere. My translator has as set of Truth Indicator Tracer Synthesizers built in. Just wait until I let the guilty [censored] feel my … .”

I broke in here. “Tell you what,” I said. “Maybe some of your fans might try to guess who the guilty party is.”

He thought about this. “Might work,” he said. “This [censored] can’t stay anomalous forever.”

“No, indeed,” I said.



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Sunday, September 2, 2018

440. Respect

“Did he really play golf during the funeral services?” C.W. and I were having coffee. I was anyway. Coffee makes him drunk. I give him hot water and he pretends that it’s coffee. He was in an impressive shape, a well-dressed African-American man past middle-age and graying, with a neatly trimmed mustache and thick eyeglasses.

“As far as I know,” I said. “There’s a photograph of him that purports to verify it.”

“What shall I tell the Elders?”

“What do you mean?”

“My monthly report is due.” His voice was trending deeper and sounding more like that of James Earl Jones.

“And?”

“I’ll have to explain it to them, and I expect you can ascertain the difficulty I shall encounter.”

“What difficulty?” I was really just screwing with him a bit.

“Why a sense of protocol seems to have left your government along with all the other respectable attributes so long observed but now neglected.”

“What are you talking about?”

That was it. He turned to face me squarely. “Want me to phrase it in your terminology?”

“Suit yourself.”

“Shall I tell them that your country is going to hell in a handbasket?”

“Don’t you think that is a bit extreme?”

“A president plays golf and posts insults about people on your Internet system while the country buries a man who underwent nearly six years of imprisonment and torture in the service of his fellow Americans. My take on it is extreme?”

“It’s just him.”

“No, it’s his party. How shall I explain it? There is no Falloonian word or expression for such collective callousness.”

“What about that term you used on me after I told you my wife really loved that song Having My Baby and you played if for her on her birthday?”

“Mrs. Big Dope forgave me after I explained. And, by the way, the bruises have all healed. The term is Einterietudaahnis++.’”

“Do the clicks establish the exact portion of the anatomy involved?”

“Now listen,” he said. “I’m serious. Can you please place your frivolous levity aside and engage with me in serious contemplation?”

“On one condition.”

“What’s that, pray tell?” his voice deepening more.

I said, “Promise me that if we find a solution, you’ll say ‘We have the meat.’ in your report.” I broke up laughing.

He didn’t. “Einterietudaahnis++,” was all he said.

“Haven’t you heard of ‘comic relief’ before?”

“I have heard of almost every word, term, and idiom in your speech patterns,” he said, “but I fail to see how a term associated with dramatic productions, and favored highly by William Shakespeare, applies to my distress concerned with the gratuitous disrespect paid to one of your country’s highly esteemed veterans and statesmen.”

“I’m hurting myself,” I said. “Along with 60 percent of the country. I see a final end coming in the production of true American heroes, and I almost cry, as the Psalmist said, when I, figuratively, sit on the bank of the river and remember the nation that was our Zion. Even President Abraham Lincoln relied on humor to support him during our nation’s greatest crisis. Can’t I use it when dealing with its second greatest crisis?”

He thought. “As much as I encounter difficulty in accepting your point, I’ll admit it a shred of viability.”

“Thank you,” I said.
 
It would be a sad day indeed,
if you run out of heroes. - C.W.
“Now,” he said, “perhaps you might set aside your humorous demeanor, for a moment, and help me explain to my superiors how an elected president of a country like yours can behave with such gratuitous disrespect during the memorial services for a far better man than he?”

“Just tell them …,” I began.

“Tell them what?”

“Tell them that it as a damn good thing it wasn’t a service for John Lewis.”


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Sunday, August 26, 2018

439. Honor

“From things I’ve seen and learned, it’s what many of your species don’t understand about politics,” he said.

“Oh?” We were sitting under my favorite oak contemplating the death of a famous American, C.W. and I. He had, for the occasion enphased (as he calls it) into the shape of the young American soldier from West Virginia, the one who had been killed on his 19th birthday, 14 days before this draft term ended.

“And honor,” he said.

I looked toward him.

“And duty,” he said.

“Want to explain?”

“I shouldn’t have to,” he said. “Was I honorable?”

“They didn’t think so then,” I said. “Maybe some do now.”

“Did I do my duty?”

“I would say to the ultimate limit.”

“Would it change your mind to know that I was once ordered to open fire, when I was an M-60 machine gunner in an infantry platoon, on a sleeping village?”

“On orders you say?”

“On orders.”

“And?”

“I blew the hell out of everything in sight … men, women, children, dogs, rats, water buffaloes, Viet Cong, you name it.”

He paused and sniffed. “Was I doing my duty?”

I avoided the question. “How exactly,” I said, “did you, … did it end for you?”

“It was later,” he said, “two days after the attack on the first village. In the next one, they were waiting for us, had set up the perfect ambush: rice paddies to the right, gun emplacements to the front and left. We had no place to go. The Lieutenant was from the Academy. He thought all was copacetic, as he phrased it, but we all thought things were way too quiet. “Don’t argue,” he said as he sent us forward with the squad to set up an emplacement. My crew and I had peeled off, using the rice paddies as a buffer, and set up as the rest of the squad did an oblique to the left and moved forward.”

“And?”

“It broke loose. Interlocking fire. The point man and two others fell, both dead. Two others were wounded. The rest were flat on the ground. I opened fire.”

“What happened then?’

“Troops came out of the village in perfect order, firing at us. I looked back and the Lieutenant was running toward the rear of the company, motioning it back. We were stranded.”

I waited.

“The survivors of the squad began pulling their wounded back. The three of us with the M-60 kept firing.”

“What then?”

“The others pulled back to our rear and ultimately reached the company with their wounded. We managed to slow the assault until they were safe.”

“And you?”

“We stayed and kept firing until they reached us. By the time we died, the company had formed a defensive line and was driving the enemy back. My last memory was of a mortar dropping in front of us into a mass of men. Then the rest were on us.”

We sat in silence.

“And this,” I said at last, “has what to do with our mourning an American hero today?”

“What was he doing when the ground fire hit his plane?” he said.

“Flying a mission?”

“To do what?”

“Bomb the enemy?”

“Men, women, children, dogs, rats, water buffaloes?”

“And specified targets. On orders,” I said.

“Fulfilling his duty?”

“As he saw it. As his country defined it.”

“Duty, then,” he said, “may require us to do things we ordinarily wouldn’t do?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“After capture,” he said, “how did our deceased hero perform?”

“As honorably, bravely, and magnificently as any American ever has, under the worst of conditions, for five-and-a-half years, without medical care for his broken body.”

“Withstood it all?”

“Without question.” I thought for a moment. “Did you know that, partway through his imprisonment, they offered to release him?”

“Really?”

“Yes, he was the son of an admiral, and the publicity would have been significant.”

“What happened?”

“He pretty much told them to stick the offer in their scuppers.”

“Honorable.”

“Very.”

“Even though he dishonored your country by being captured?”

“That’s the opinion of only one man.”

“No,” he said. “That’s the opinion of an entire political party.”

“Do you think so?”

“Of course,” he said. “Silence and inaction can carry honor or dishonor with equal ease. Political opportunity can determine which course people or parties choose.”

“But,” I said, “the party sends out campaign ads telling how much they love our military and what great patriots they are.”

“I can,” he said sadly, “call myself a retired veteran of a foreign war enjoying a yard full of grandchildren, but that doesn’t make it so.”

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Sunday, August 19, 2018

438: School

Late yesterday, I walked into the living room at our East Little Rock condo and found a character I call “Ronald Charles, the National Merit Scholar,” sprawled on the couch studying the view of Little Rock’s skyline. Of course, it was C.W., and I usually enjoy him in this shape.

Today he seemed a bit down.

“What’s up?” I said.

“Oh, nothing,” he said, using the most common response a teenager uses when something is truly bugging him.

“Share,” I said.

“Can I have a beer?”

“It’s ‘may I have a beer’ and, no, you’re too young.”

“I’m 647 years old in your time,” he said.

“Then choose another form. What’s bugging you?”

“The schools,” he said. “Those things called ‘charter schools.’ I visited one yesterday.”

“How did you do that?”

He looked at me as if I had just asked how he managed to tie his shoes this morning.

I changed tactics. “What did you find out?”

“It was weird,” he said.

“How so?”

“For one thing, the entire first hour of class was devoted to what they called ‘dialogue training’ and it was most odd.”

“How so?”

The kids were divided into groups and were being made to memorize and deliver standard bits of dialogue.”

“Like what?”

“One group was being made to stand as the teacher walked up and say, ‘Good morning. Welcome to ‘Betsy DeVoss High School.’ Each student had to practice it until the teacher was satisfied.”

“Anything else?”

“Another group was doing the same thing, only with a different dialogue.”

“Which was?”

“How are you folks doing today?”

“I see. Any others?”

“Some were practicing giving directions, like ‘yes sir, or ma’am, it’s right down on Aisle Five’ over and over.”

“I see. Then they held classes?”

“Not until they assembled in the auditorium and did a few school cheers. This included a final arm salute to someone named Saint Sam.”

“And then?”

“They went to their classes, but they weren’t classes like any I’ve ever seen.”

“Oh really?”

“No. I snitched a schedule that one student left lying on a bench.” He produced a sheet of wrinkled paper, smoothed it and said. “Listen to these.” He took a breath and read, “Proving Science Wrong 108.”

“What?”

“You heard me. I stood outside the door and heard the teacher say, ‘It is a well-known historical fact that Charles Darwin accepted Christ as his personal savior on his deathbed and recanted his entire body of work. Now that’s false science for you.’ She then told them the assignment for the next day was to read the chapter called ‘Paul’s Travels as the Basis of Modern Geographic Systems.’”

“That’s not true about Darwin. I can’t believe you actually heard that.”

My Falloonian Elders don't
understand your concept
of flexible truth. - C. W.
“I don’t think ‘true’ was a measurement of accuracy in that class,” he said. “There’s more. You should have listened in on the one called ‘Flexible Mathematics: The Limitations of Numbers 107.’”

“You’re not serious.”

“Seems one no longer needs to learn things that the machines will do for you anyway.”

“You’re making me nauseated.”

“It gets worse.”

“How?”

He read from the list. “Obsolete Teachings 101: History.”

“No.”

He ignored me and continued. “Obsolete Teachings 102: Public Administration.”

I waited. He read, “Obsolete Teachings 103: Moral Imperatives in Modern America.”

“I think I’ve heard enough.”

He said, “No, it gets better. Standing outside the class on business administration, I heard a lecture called, ‘The Use of Tag-Team Matches in Conflict Resolution.’ It was the most interesting of call.”

“I can imagine. What did you do next?”

“I stood outside the Religion 104 class and heard a lecture called, ‘The Beatitudes as False Doctrine.’ It required the students to rise on cue and give a salute to that Saint Sam person.”

“I think I’ve heard enough.”

“Wait,” he said, “I haven’t even told you about the classes they were holding in the Athletic Wing. Well,” he said, “they called them classes anyway.”

“I think,” I said, “that you can have that beer now if I can join you.” 

See also:

Enjoy these at all? If so, order Big Dope's Book at Wattensaw PressAmazon, or other book sellers. It will make him so happy. Also, click on an ad. It earns him a little and costs the advertiser, sort of a win-win.