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Saturday, December 24, 2011

74. Peace

Hello Earthlings! I come in peace.

I’ve been wanting to use that line for some time and finally Big Dope has allowed me the freedom of my own column. Not exactly allowed, perhaps, since he knows nothing about it but when he wakes up and sees it published, I’m sure he will approve.

He will, won’t he?

We’ll see. In the meantime, permit me to offer my observations on this most interesting time of the year for you folks in my assigned territory.

This season, which began as an observance of the assumed birth date of your religious figure, Jesus of Nazareth, can create opposing motivations. Primarily though, it opens a window into the “better angels of your nature.”

For example, it highlights your wonderful talent for inclusion. Taking a rather obscure Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, and making it, too, a time of generosity, gathered another large segment of your population into this─if I may be permitted what Big Dope calls a “metaphor”─great tent of good will that seems to cover your country this time each year.

By now, practically any belief cohort in your country has a reason to join in the spirit of the holidays.

But allow me to return to the admirable aspects. The generosity, oh, the generosity. I read about folks anonymously dropping large bills into the Salvation Army kettles. I see toys being gathered for distribution as presents to children who otherwise might have only hoped for a small bag of candy or nuts, or maybe a needed piece of clothing. I see people who scarcely know one another, and who would not even nod in passing at other times, sincerely wishing each other good will.

You are a remarkable species. I continue to marvel at the words of the central figure in all this celebration.

“Give all your money to the poor.”

“Blessed are the peacemakers.”

“Judge not lest you be judged as well.”

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

“If you have done this to the least of these my brothers, so also have you done it to me.”

“Don’t become divorced.”

Trust me, no more noble
 thoughts exist in the universe. - C.W.
Oops. Well, he did seem to evidence a habit of drifting from preaching into meddling, as they say. The point is, these seem to be great words to live by all year ‘round, and I have dutifully reported them to the Folloonian Elders as forming one of your species’ moral building blocks. They were impressed.

So what might we all learn from this season that is, as far as I know, unique in the galaxy? As I follow Big Dope around in his professional work, I hear him tell communities to “Build on your assets.” Good advice.

So, I leave you with the hopes that you will expand upon this most wonderful season of good-spirit and make your planet an enviable example of the use of intelligence for the betterment of all creatures.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

73. Words

C.W. said he was coming by to talk about our language, specifically the confusion about word meaning and word order. His antics have long since ceased to confuse me so I was scarcely surprised when he showed up at my door dressed as a monk. He smiled and raised his hand in a gesture of forgiveness as I opened the door.

Sed do absolutionem, fili mi,” he said.

“Get the hell out of the hall before someone sees you,” I said.

He looked confused.

“What is this ‘hell’ that I can remove from your corridor?” he said.

“Give me a break,” I said as I ushered him in.

“How does one ‘give’ an act of forcing a division?”

I grimaced. He sat and arranged his monk’s robe carefully before speaking.

“I have been learning Latin,” he said.

“Marvelous.”

“Your modern English derives largely from that forgotten language, I understand.”

“Quite so.”

“So why all the confusion about word order?”

“Confusion?”

“Yes. In Latin, if one combines the words ‘house’ and ‘cat’ the order would make no difference.”

I thought for a moment, then said, “You have a point there.”

“And the combining of two innocent words for off-pigment purposes is beyond my understanding.”

“How so?”

“For example, you take a valid term used to describe a prolonged period of high winds.”

“You mean ‘a blow’”?

“Yes, my son.”

I ignored him.

“And then you attach to it the term used to describe what one does for a living …”

“That’s quite enough,” I said. “My wife is sleeping in the back room.”

“Speaking of your wife,” he said. “I have heard her on occasion use a term that I find particularly baffling.”

“And that is?”

“She refers periodically to a “Sinerase Date.”

“Yes.”

“And that means?”

“That refers to the date that a politician with a checkered personal life uses to pinpoint the exact moment when he or she embraced a religious dogma.”

“I don’t understand.”

I explained. “That is the date before which one cannot question the politician’s past since, at that time, he or she ‘found religion’ and was absolved of all previous bad behavior.”

“Sort of a ‘Get out of Hell Free’ card?”

I smiled. “Sort of.”

“Does your so-called ‘news media’ fall for it?”

“Ask George W. Bush.”

He sighed. “I see.”

“Has this been any help?”

Blessings on you all. - C.W.
“My son,” he said. “Each day that I spend with your species causes its behavior to seem more to me like a puzzle hidden inside an egg Fabergé wrapped in a mystery.”

“You mean a Fabergé egg?”

“There you go with your word order again,” he said. He drew his monk’s hood over his head. “Ubi ubi est meus sub-ubi?”

Then, I swear, he crossed himself.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

72. Confrontations

C.W. is on a roll answering fan mail, so far be it from me to stop him. Let us continue.


Dear C.W.: My wife recently purchased a half-ton of “rice-grain seconds” from a food processing plant. She planned to feed it to her pets but they won’t touch it. Now we are stuck with it and can’t navigate the house for the stuff. She left bags at the doors of friends and neighbors until the sheriff’s office issued a warning. We have eaten rice in every form imaginable, including “rice dip” and “rice gazpacho.” Rice-art adorns every wall of the house. I suffer nightmares about drowning in a sea of rice. Should I confront her about this?

- Suffocating in Lonoke County


Dear Suffocating:

It is my conclusion, after two years of gathering data and undertaking tests, that American wives represent a sub-set of your species best left undisturbed. I think your expression is “Allow a somnolent canine to remain reposed,” or something like that.

The reasons are legion. First and foremost, as a unique practice, (and one that is a source of great amusement to Falloonians), your world has chosen to make the process of procreation a primary source of recreation and enjoyment whereas in all other galaxies it exists only for, … well, ... for procreation.

That having been said, not only have you made the act your primary focus in life, you grant control of its access solely (except in criminal cases) to the female units of your species. Therefore, alienating them immediately eliminates your chief form of amusement and pleasure. You may easily witness how prolonged deprivation can result in psychotic and anti-social behavior such as entering the fields of television-evangelism, law, or politics. (This, of course, solves the deprivation problem but may create others.)

I would recommend forbearance for this reason alone; however, there are more. For some reason (one that I have under observation) the process of natural selection has, over the last three billion years or so, created a severe unbalance in intellectual capability. The female units of your species are, sadly, quite a bit smarter than the males. In fact, a mental contest resembles a game of Falloonian Snockgrasting in which the Pengrastilists receive extra Crestallens. The result is truly sickening.

As a secondary result, this has granted the female units at least a majority of control over the monetary system.

As if that were not enough, I advise you to consider a phenomenon we have, in cataloging your species’ habits, termed “Enragement Extensionism.” This describes the practice of your female units to store anger for extremely long periods with no outward display. For reasons explained earlier, your males lack the mental capacity to retain agitation indefinitely while your females find the act both simple and useful.

As an example, I am currently documenting the case of an elderly couple, married 70 years, who live together in a nursing home. Recently, the male developed an extended case of bowel incontinence.

After considerable effort, the staff determined that his wife had been slipping a violent laxative into his afternoon tea.

When confronted and asked why, she said, “He knows damned good and well why.”

In many cases, the odd male-female mental inequity
is not confined to the human species. - C.W.
Further research pinpoints the time of the source-incident, still undermined as to its exact nature, to within days of the end of World War Two.

My advice to you? You’d better learn to love rice!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

71. Procreation

We continue to entrust the column to C.W. as he answers fan mail. Here is a rather urgent one received a few days ago. It warrants a mid-week publication.

Dear C.W.:

Could you please explain to us how many times the Duggers had to have sex to produce 20 kids? I am sure you can come up with some sort of equation to determine the answer. I am going to use this information to explain to my wife that if she loved me only 10 percent as much as Ms. Dugger loved Mr. Dugger I would be happy.
Needing Glasses in West Little Rock


Dear Needing Glasses:

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news; I am sure that your wife loves you but you must try to keep the matter in hand. The answer is … are you ready?

Just once.

That’s right─once.

You see, early in the marriage Ms. Dugger was fitted with what is called a Rapsacholian Sperm Locker, named after the famed Evangelist Billy Fred Rapsacholy. You will recall that he was a firm advocate of an American Theocracy based upon the teachings of the Apostle Paul.

One of the first strictures enacted by the Reverend Billy Fred was that, in accordance with the teachings set forth in I Corinthians, Chapter 7, Verse 7, the only justification for marriage is a lack of self-control. So, he was “agin” it (marriage) except for the weak-willed.

For those succumbing to the unnatural urges, the Reverend again followed Paul’s teaching in Verse 5 and said if you must “do it” (sex) get married first and then do it as seldom as possible to allow you to devote most of your time to prayer.

So, therein was the rub for many evangelical wives. They didn’t much care for the act in the first place, but they also were bound by the Old Testament command (Genesis 1:28) to “be fruitful and multiply.”

The solution? Enter the Rapsacholian Sperm Locker, designed by one of the Reverend Billy Fred’s followers before his church officially denounced any use of science.

The device is simple. Implanted near the uterus, it stores the effects of the first sexual intercourse, some billions of sperm. A few avoid capture, resulting in the first pregnancy. Afterwards, a single sperm is released whenever an egg is released.

“Voila”! as the French would say (although they themselves consider the device barbaric). There is a continuous flow of children until the death of the female unit or menopause, whichever comes first. Moreover, there are no further “filthy acts” to repent of.

Sadly for the Reverend, the device encountered a very limited reception. Recipients did seem to enjoy freedom from what they termed as “unwanted intrusions” but most tired of children exponentially after the first one.

The joys of unbridled procreation made famous by the Duggars
has spread to our neighbors in other countries.
Performance of the device is also erratic, some sequestered sperm seem to “lose their Mojo” while others form clusters of up to eight replicates before their release.

It appears that a combination of cooking sherry and Argo Starch tends to neutralize the effects of the device so modern case studies are rare; however, the bizarre publicity afforded the aforementioned family may spur a renaissance.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

70. Skeptics

Once more, in the spirit of the times, we entrust this week's entry to the Alien himself who has agreed to answer a mailing he received from a fan.

DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no C.W. They say he is just Big Dope’s alter ego. Papa says, “if C.W. says it, it's so.” Please tell me the truth; is there a C.W.?
The Virgin Anne Dillahunty, Rogers, Arkansas

Virgin Anne, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by home schooling and a lack of exposure to scientific thought and discovery. They do not believe except what they are told or see on television. They think that nothing can be which is not on Facebook. In this great universe of ours, if we could only understand ants, we could be witness to the wonderful secrets of our origins.

Yes, Virgin Anne, there is a C.W. He exists as certainly as Falloonian Gnoceracks exist. How dreary would be the world if there were no C.W. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virgins. There would be no quantum physics then, no natural selection to make sense of this existence. We should have no understanding, except in blind faith. The eternal light of knowledge would be extinguished as it nearly was on your planet a thousand years ago.

C.W. is someone’s alter ego! You might as well believe that the Sun is a chariot racing across the sky! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all night skies each night and not catch his transportation pod landing. Nobody sees C.W. unless he wants them to, but that is no sign that there is no C.W. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see electrons circling a nucleus? Have you ever seen bacteria? Of course not, but multitudes have been affected only because your species subjected them to scientific inquiry. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders, or horrors, there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

We welcome inquiries from all
our faithful readers. - C.W.
You may dissect the human heart and see what makes it beat. There is no veil covering the unseen world. Not even the darkest curtain of ignorance nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could hide it. Only science can allow us to begin to understand, as your species’ great Charles Darwin said, that “ … [F]rom so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” Ah, Virgin Anne, in all this galaxy there is nothing else more real and abiding than the natural world revealed.

No C.W.! Give thanks that he abides among us, questioning, spoofing, and amusing us with his style of pedantry. A thousand years from now, Virgin, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to expand the mind of childhood.

Your friend

The Editors

Sunday, November 27, 2011

69. Corporations

It was the grossest thing you can imagine. I was enjoying perhaps the last warm day of the year sitting on a park bench admiring my city’s skyline. I was, mind you, not bothering a soul. Actually, I had dozed when I awoke to a horrible, screeching, teeth-setting-on-edge sound.

Who should appear but an exceedingly overweight man waddling along the sidewalk playing an accordion? May I add that he was playing it rather badly? I believe he was attempting the old protestant hymn “When We All Get to Heaven.”

I averted my eyes but he sank beside me and nearly pushed me off the bench. He smelled terrible. His arm pounded me as he continued to play. I rose and started to walk away.

“Hey Big Dope, where you goin”? he said.

“As far from you as I can get,” I said. “What kind of person are you trying to be?” I hadn’t seen C.W. since before Thanksgiving and had, of course, been expecting the worst.

“I’m a corporation person,” he said.

“A what?”

“A corporation. Can’t you tell?”

“A corporation?”

He began to play the accordion again. Needless to say, people were beginning to stare.

“You are going to get arrested,” I said.

“How can you arrest me? I’m not physical.” He lit off on what sounded vaguely like “Lady of Spain.”

I groaned.

“Why do you think you are a corporation? And besides, you stink.”

“Naturally I’m a little fulsome. Can’t you see how well I eat?” He hit a sour note and held in it an ear-shattering vibrato.

“You are destroying the peace of the park for everyone else,” I said.

“Their comfort isn’t my problem,” he shouted over the “music.” “My job is to produce and feed my dependents. Gorging isn’t always pretty.”

I stared.

“Listen,” he said. What emerged next might have sounded to a person with a good imagination as “Beer Barrel Polka.”

I cringed.

“What do you think?” he said.

“I think someone is going to knock your block off if you don’t quit.”

“Can’t touch me,” he said. “I’m not really here. I’m a corporation. I only exist in contemplation of the law.”

“Then why are you in such an annoying configuration?”

“Corporations are people,” he said. “Don’t you know that?”

I sighed.

“At least that’s what your species’ supreme agency for hearing legal appeals says.”

“Our Supreme Court said it but that may not make it so in all cases,” I said. “Just look at you.”

Don't worry. Be happy.Corporations
will take good care of you. - C.W.
“Hey,” he said. “Don’t be such a ninny.” With this, he made some unrecognizable sound on the instrument. “I call this ‘A Light From On High.’”

I flinched.

“I wrote it for the justices that made me a person. I like to think of them as my fathers.”

“Your what?”

“Yep. I transmitted their dossiers to Falloonia today as part of my ‘Great Legal Minds’ series.”

I gasped.

“You want to get something to eat?” he said.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

68. Books

“No, put that down, I want to keep it.”

C.W. came by to, as he put it, “Help with your hoarding problem.”

“It’s not hoarding,” I said, grabbing my prized copy of “Lucy” by Donald Johanson. I opened it. “See, I got him to sign it when he came here once for a lecture. “It’s a valuable piece of my life.”

“And what decision are you to prepared to make about it?”

This infuriated me. He had appeared as that rather attractive blond-haired woman from one of TV’s “hoarding” shows who plays a “licensed psychotherapist specializing in obsessive-compulsive hoarding disorders.”

“Are you going to help me or not?” I said.

“Are you sure you are in touch with your feelings about all this?” she said.

“Jesus.”

“Yes, and that reminds me,” she said. She walked to one of three bookshelves in the room and pulled out a copy of “The Complete Works of Josephus.” She studied it for a moment. “This one takes up a lot of room.”

“Put it back,” I said.

“Have you ever read it?”

“Just the sections where he mentions Jesus.”

“Are you going to read the rest?”

“Probably not,” I said. “But if anyone wants to know about the only historical reference to the man, that’s where you can find it.”

“They have copies in the library?”

“Yes.”

“Then why would you need to keep a copy?”

I considered the question. “But it mentions Jesus,” I said.

She replaced it and pointed to the “Faulkner” section.

“I see you have three copies of ‘As I Lay Dying.’”

“Yes.”

“Do you need all three?”

“Well,” I said. “One is a nice hardback and the other is a ragged copy that would be great for making notes. I intend to do that some day.”

“And the third?”

“My wife gave that one to me. I could never get rid of it.”

She sighed.

I picked up a copy of “Victory” by Joseph Conrad. “Now here is a must keep.”

“May I ask why?”

“To point out how a seduction scene can be tastefully written.”

“Excuse me?”

“Well, the whole thing consists of the man placing his hand on the woman’s back and she brushes it away and says ‘stop.’”

“That’s all?”

“No, the scene ends with ‘It was a command he did not obey.’ Is that neat or what?”

“Sounds a little like forced sex to me.”

I ignored her. “I teach it as a welcome alternative to ‘Their hungry tongues greedily sought out one another.’”

Oh please don’t make me nauseous.”

“It’s ‘nauseated.’ If you are nauseous, you cause people to become nauseated. Same form as poisonous.”

“Has anyone ever told you that you are a tedious bore?”

Big Dope with a book he won on the old "Book Guys" radio show.
It is about bibliophiles and its title is "A Gentle Madness."
That figures, right? - C.W.
“Did they teach you that in psychotherapy school?” I was becoming a little agitated. I will admit it.

“I think I’ve had enough of your species’ weakness for hoarding material objects,” she said. “You should know it’s a problem when they start making TV shows about it.”

“Now don’t you go comparing me with those nuts on TV.”

“Pardon me?” She raised an eyebrow.

“I’m not a hoarder,” I said. I searched for words. “I’m a bibliophile.”

Sunday, November 13, 2011

67. Art

“C.W., what the hell are you doing?”

“Shut up, I’m creating.”

Oh my gosh. I had awakened at our farm to the sounds of my wife’s dogs barking and arose to see what poor creature they had cornered this time. They had gathered at the door of our workshop and were raising “Cain” with something inside. Fearing a wild animal loose among my tools and uncompleted work, I trudged across the lawn in my bathrobe to take a look.

What greeted me defies an easy description.

Every can of paint I owned lay opened and spread around a large, cleared circle. A shabbily dressed man with red hair and beard leaned over a canvas on the floor and was busy flinging paint at random across its surface. He didn’t even look up at me, just kept slinging paint, some of which hit the canvas and some of which spattered on the floor of the shop.

“You get one drop on a piece of my work and you’re going to start our first intergalactic war,” I screamed.

“Plebian,” he yelled back.

“Asshole!”

He ceased his efforts and stood up straight to admire his work. He turned to me slowly, his scrappy beard flaked with multi-colored spots of paint.

“Let us not act disagreeably, my Earthling friend,” he said. Calmly, he motioned toward his work. “What do you think?”

I remained furious. “What on earth are you doing,” was all I could manage.

“Studying your visual arts,” he said. “I read about a woman who had worked all her life to earn money with which to open an art gallery and I thought she at least needed some superior product to display.

I stammered. “Superior product … visual arts?”

“Yes, I don’t quite get the idea, they certainly seem to fall short of your music, but what do you think?”

“I don’t know what to think,” I said. It was the most honest think I could muster but it seemed to puzzle him.

“So, will she be pleased?”

I studied his work. Not being an expert, I could only comment that it seemed a bit jumbled and meaningless.

“Isn’t that the idea?” he said.

“Well, not exactly.”

He appeared crestfallen. “You mean this isn’t a great work of art?”

Maybe my critique had been a little harsh. I didn’t respond, just walked to a cabinet and retrieved a can of paint thinner. I poured a generous amount into a bucket and then picked up a scrub brush.

Be sure and mark your calendars! - C.W.
“Maybe you should choose a less messy medium,” I said.

There is always sculpture,” he said; then he brightened. “I sort of like this Michelangelo fellow.”

I envisioned a slab of Fantiscritti Marble in the middle of the shop. “Why not photography?”

“Great idea,” he said, smiling. “Know where I can borrow a good camera?”

“Don’t even think about it,” I said as I began to scrub the floor.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

66. Incarceration

Yesterday, I found a strange note on my computer that said, “I want to help you in the workshop.” I don’t know how he does that but C.W. scares me at times. I didn’t bother figuring out how to answer since he would show up anyway. I just went out early and hid some of my best tools.

He showed up as I was beginning to route the edges of some wood panels. I stopped the machinery and looked at him. He appeared as a boy of around 12 years of age with a pair of monstrous eyeglasses wearing short britches and a rugby shirt. He ambled in as if he owned the place carrying a three-ring notebook crammed with papers.

“Hello, he said, bending over to inspect the work.

“Be careful, I said.

“What’s this?” he said, reaching for the router bit.

“Don’t touch that,” I said.

He stared at me. “I have to write a paper for school,” he said as if in explanation.

I never know whether it is better to ignore him or play along. “What on?”

“The penal system in America.”

I slumped. “The what?”

“You heard me,” he said, picking up an expensive caliper tool.

“Put that down,” I said.

“Your species shows a good deal of cleverness in designing tools,” he said.

“I thought you said you wanted to help.”

“Initial things initially,” he said. “First tell me what the official policy is in your country concerning the punishment of criminals.”

“The policy?”

“Yes. You must have some overriding policy to guide you or else it would what we call in Falloonia ‘Gephledystra,’ or attempting to transport oneself without a destination in mind.”

I removed his hand from a power-saw blade. “Our policy is to apprehend and incarcerate criminals,” I said.

“With no further intent?” He flipped the switch on my table saw and smiled when the blade started to spin.

I rushed over and stopped it. “Intent?” I said as I led him away from the equipment.

“Sure,” he said. “Are you hoping to dissuade them from making further bad decisions?”

“Yes,” I said. “We lock them up so they can reflect on their shortcomings.”

“Unless you decide, I understand, to take their lives.”

“Why are you asking me all this?”

“Just trying to make sense of it.” He picked up a marking knife and began to carve his initials on one of my panels.

“Stop that,” I said, grabbing the knife from his hand just as he started on the “W,”

“So what do you hope to achieve by all this incarceration of criminals?” he asked.

“Achieve?” I said. “We hope to achieve their separation from the social fabric of society.”

“Ah,” he said. “So how is it working?”

That stopped me. “Not too well, I’m afraid.”

He was writing in his notebook now. “So incarceration doesn’t cure their anti-social behavior?”

“I’m afraid not,” I said. He jotted some notes. I couldn’t resist adding, “Indications are it makes them worse.”

“Strange,” he said, walking over to examine an antique “Shaker” table I had been repairing. He seemed entranced by the simple form and balance of the piece. He smiled and then spoke. “How does a species capable of such beauty accommodate such muddled thought processes?”

Sunday, October 30, 2011

65. Observations

Hello all. This is C.W. the Falloonian Heartbeat himself. Big Dope stayed up late working on one of his guitars and sleeps yet. So I snuck in and fired up his computer. He is having what you call a “birthday” this week so I will surprise him by producing this week’s piece. After all, it can’t be difficult, if he does it, right?

This will be like firing upon aquatic creatures in a cylindrical container of hydrogen-hydroxide, as you say.

In Falloonia, we call it “labsinacra++seck” which roughly translates to “seducing a prostitute,” or … relying on absurdly simple stratagems. Like influencing one of your politicians with campaign money.

That was a joke. See, I’m funnier than he as well.

Let’s move on to the matter at the appendage of digits on the forelimb. I have collected a few random observations on the modern condition of your culture. To wit:

I read recently where one of your political aspirants announced, rather gravely I might add, “the government cannot produce a job.” Now, I ask you … is this not going to come as a hell of a shock to the CEO of the Halliburton Corporation? Just sayin’ you know. See, I’m working on your culture-speak.

Now I also read this week that your scientists are coming under increased criticism. Seems that they are grasping, greedy creatures who produce nothing of value and only undertake their work for personal gain. Sort of, if I might make this comparison, the stock-traders of academia. Further, they persist in deluding the poor public with their untruths and cruel deceptions, like asserting that the development of antibiotics has been a benefit to humankind.

May I assume that this is why you pay your football coaches more than 20 times more than you pay your science teachers?

Now, along that line, I present the most difficult assignment I will have to face upon making my final report to the Falloonian Elders─and feel free to help me here. Why is it, that people who can develop mechanized means to transport one another by spacecraft all the way to the Moon (okay, I’m acting a little felinely here) insist that any candidate for higher office first assert: “I believe that a woman once talked to a snake?” Wouldn’t a Parrot work better?

One less terrorist thanks to the heroic John Ashcroft
Enough of the heavy stuff, let me continue on the topic of anniversaries. In current news, along with Big Dope’s annual advancement in temporal longevity, I scanned your media for other milestones. Seems this month marks the anniversary of the enactment of the Patriot Act and the 40-hour workweek. From my subsequent interviews, it appears that one has brought the average American an immense increase in personal happiness, fulfillment, joy, and contentment.

The other, as I understand it, resulted in the imprisonment of a comedian named Tommy Chong for selling something called “bongs” on the Internet.

Must run. Peace and adieu.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

64. Contradictions

Had some out-of-town visitors last week so I put them up in our condo and I stayed in the spare one. My wife had gone to check on her animals. I had some time to kill so I was sampling a bit of Maker’s Mark, reading some Mencken, and enjoying our city’s skyline when I heard a knock on the door. I assumed it was one of our guests with a question.

No such luck.

It was a man dressed as a priest so I new it had to be C.W.

“Come in,” I said.”

“Thank you my son.”

“Give me a break.” I had already begun to resent the intrusion.

“Blessed are those who seek righteousness,” he said.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“Answers to questions.”

“Such as?”

He reached into his robe and produced a worn copy of the Christian New Testament. It had multiple bookmarks and “sticky-notes” waved like little pennants from every edge. He flapped it in front of my face for effect.

“This Jesus that so many of your species claims to worship.”

“Yes,” I said. “What about him?”

“A truly remarkable person … if all this is true.”

“I suppose.”

“Do your people really claim to revere his teachings?”

I sensed a trap. “Many do,” I said cautiously.

“Have they ever read this?” He flapped the volume in front of my face again.

“Would you stop that?” I said. “I don’t know how many have actually read it. I suspect not many.”

“Well I have,” he said with a great show of pride. “Want to know something?”

“I am quivering in anticipation.”

“Assume not ye the guise of fools,” he said. “For they do not find grace.”

“Where does that appear?”

“Oh, that’s mine,” he said. “But look here.” He leaned into my face and took on a solemn tone. “Want to know what three things really got his goat, this Jesus?”

”Of course.” I was hoping this would hasten his exit.

“Rich people, divorce, and dumb thinking.”

“Really?”

“Oh yes, especially the last. I mean the disciples flat drove him up the wall.”

“I seem to remember that.”

“So,” he said. “I have a question for you.”

I sighed. “Fire away.”

“Name three things that your species is really fond of … that they practice above all else.”



You folks got some "splainin" to do.
  “Well, they don’t exactly work at dumb thinking, do they?”

”Have you not watched any of the presidential debates?”

He had me there. “So what is your point?”

“Just this. I have to make my quarterly report to the Falloonian Elders and I must still state that the greatest single ability of your species is to hold completely contradictory beliefs in your heads with no apparent damage.”

“Well we have to be good at something,” I said, returning to my Mencken.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

63. Warriors

C.W. pulled a new one last week. He not only “enphased” as he calls it─presenting himself in an historical context─but he appeared as someone from my personal past. It was more than a bit scary.

I was sitting on a bench in the park, this time with a purpose. There is a new bridge across the river and bicyclists had been terrorizing pedestrians. I was hoping to catch one in the act.

Then who should sit down beside me but a beloved professor from my undergraduate days, Dr. Ben Kimpel. He was a kindly, portly fellow, a lifelong bachelor if you know what that implied back in those days. He once told me that I had to read all of Proust but not simply read him, read him in French, including the earlier versions of À la Recherche du Temps Perdu. Of course I haven’t, making it both a shocking and frightening experience to see him sitting beside me.

“Still underachieving, are you son?”

“Is that you, C.W.?”

“Tell me at least you remember this one.” He produced a worn volume of the collected works of Aristophanes, that wily old Greek.

“What can I say?” It was an admission as much as a question.

“You had some promise,” he said. “Not much, but much more in the potential than in the achievement.”

“Don’t you have something better to do?”

“I want to know about your species and its fondness for war.”

I thought. “It’s a major preoccupation, that’s all.”

“Well you remember this, don’t you? Please tell me you do.” With this, he opened the volume to Lysistrata.

“I wasn’t that negligent.”

“So the plot was?”

“No more war or no more sex.”

“Have your country’s women ever considered that?”

“I’m not sure. Many of our women are more warlike than the men.”

“What if your countrymen simply decided not to fight anymore?”

“That’s pretty much illegal.”

“You went to war, as I understand it.”

“Reluctantly. Very reluctantly.”

“Did you consider disobedience?”

Oh yes. I was once to the gate of a compound where they helped reluctants get to Canada.”

“And changed your mind?”

“And changed my mind.”

“Decided to help protect freedom, eh?”

“Let me assure you that I was not protecting anyone’s freedom, except maybe the workers at the Remington and Boeing plants.”

I once went to war, to save a dying land.
Had an army of ten thousand,
And a big sword in my hand. - Gary Dan Toler 1965
“So why did you change your mind?

“Simple.”

“How so?”

“I was afraid that someday I might have to face my mother again.”

Sunday, October 9, 2011

61. God and Football

It was a pleasant morning so I elected to go for a walk. Among the pleasantries: brisk fall weather, a welcome absence of aches and pains, and a rewarding weekend, including the fact that my alma mater’s football team was victorious. It was a day of true epochal harmony.


Then C.W. joined me. He appeared as a young boy of 12 dressed in a gaudy cowboy suit, complete with a bright red hat laced in white with a drawstring under this neck. He walked in silence for a good ways before speaking.

“I heard about it on television,” he said.

“Heard about what?”

“That God gave your football team the victory yesterday.”

“He did what?”

“One of the players told us.”

“Told you that?”

“Yes. He personally thanked God for giving his team the victory.”

“Oh.”

“Well it created a few questions, if you don’t mind.”

“I am sort of busy right now.”

He ignored me. “First, is this a technique confined to your Judeo-Christian God?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I haven’t heard Allah being thanked for soccer victories.”

“Oh, please.”

“Second question.”

“Leave me alone.”

“Aren’t the kids still starving in Darfur?”

“Last I heard.”

“Is there the slightest possible chance that this might take precedence in the mind of a god over deciding the outcome of a football game?”

“Why are you dressed like a cowboy?”

“I dunno. Just seems to me they were better role models than football players.”

“Oh, Jesus.”

Hoppy says winning isn't important. Justice is.
He snapped around. “Now there you go.”

“What do you mean?”

“What possible interest could he have in our conversation?”

“You are irritating the hell out of me?”

“That brings me to my final question.”

I chose to ignore him and stopped to examine a group of plants. Then my curiosity began to uncurl like the blossoms of one of the young flowers. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore.

“So what is your question?” I was hoping for an end to it all.

He looked at me with all the earnestness of which a young child is capable. He blinked, and then spoke.

“Exactly what did the other team do to piss Him off?”

Sunday, October 2, 2011

60. Tests

Last weekend I was in our nation’s capitol attending the National Book Festival hoping for a weekend free of aliens and pesky questions. No such luck. I had secured a good seat in the History and Autobiography tent and had 30 minutes or so to wait for the first speaker when who should plop down beside me but C.W. himself? I knew it was he, for who else would show up at this event wearing a white coat with a stethoscope draped over his shoulder? He appeared as a studious young man in his twenties.

“What’s up, Big Dope?” he said as I pretended not to know him.

“Waiting for the first speaker,” I said. I began to study my program.

“Can you help me while you wait?” he said.

“Help you what?”

“I’m preparing for a test.”

“What kind of test?”

“Just a test,” he said, thrusting a sheet of documents into my hand. “Just ask me the questions and see how well I do.”

I glanced at the sheets. They contained a series of multiple-choice questions. Then I looked back at him.

“Just ask me the first one,” he said.

I read aloud the first question listed. “The patient should be positioned (1) on his stomach, (2) on his back, (3) on his side, or (4) It doesn’t matter.”

“Number two,” he said. There was genuine excitement in his voice. “What’s the second one?”

I looked, and confusion began to set in. “What is the optimum length of the first incision?” I didn’t bother to read the answers.

“C.W.,” I said. “What the hell is this?”

“It’s a test for doing an appendectomy,” he said. “I want to get licensed in case I might be needed.”

“Licensed?”

“I want to be approved for conducting appendectomies so I made up this quick test to prove I’m ready.”

“You what?”

“I just need to pass a test,” he said. “So let’s get busy.”

“C.W.,” I said. I didn’t know where to begin.

“What?”

“You can’t be permitted to conduct an appendectomy by passing a test.”

“Why not?”

What could I say? “It’s idiotic,” I said.

“Isn’t that the way your species’ education system works?”

I didn’t know how to answer. In a federal building some four or five blocks from where we sat, experts are promulgating that exact methodology.

Why must I study the skeletal system?
I just want to do appendectomies.
“Can’t I learn to take out an appendix by studying for a test?”

“No,” I said.

“Why?” I can learn exactly how to do it in just a few hours,” he paused. “Particularly if I have a guide for taking the test.”

“One thing,” I said.

“What?”

“Experts tell me it takes four years, a great deal of supplemental learning, practice, and considerable experience combined with contemplation to know what to do if something goes wrong.”

“What could go wrong?”

Sunday, September 18, 2011

59. Tax Breaks

Someone scheduled a lecture downtown by a conservative tax policy expert. I recently expanded my interests to include multiple viewpoints, so off I went. I arrived early and procured a good seat on the front row.

As the crowd arrived, a tall, heavy-set woman sat beside me. She was attractive, though overweight, and responded to my nod with a sweet “How are you today?”

“Well,” I answered, noticing that her attire seemed dated and worn, but neatly arranged.

She leaned over and asked in an almost-whisper, “Will there be a question and answer period, do you think, Big Dope?”

“C.W,” I said, “What the hell are you doing?”

“Waiting for the lecture to begin. What are you doing?” She smiled and leaned back in her seat.

“Please tell me you are not going to cause a scene.”

She simply smiled and nodded that the program was about to begin.

The speaker was engaging, if predictable. He was middle-aged and looked scholarly. He wore designer eyeglasses and sported an elaborate comb-over that originated near the top of one ear and slid fore and aft as the talked.

He spoke quickly, without notes and with only a few charts for emphasis. America’s economic problems exist because of taxes and regulations. He added no real support, only his expert opinion. I drifted off into thoughts of Herbert Hoover until I realized we were in the question and answer period.

Before I could stop him/her, C.W. popped up without even being recognized.

“I’m a mother of three,” she said. “My husband ran away a year ago with his secretary and hasn’t paid a child-support payment in two months.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” the speaker began, but she cut him off.

“I receive some support through the “Aid to Families With Dependent Children,” she said.”

“I’m glad that program is there to support you,” the speaker began.

“And I’m called a ‘Welfare Slut.” The tone was becoming belligerent.

“That’s unfortunate,” the speaker said. “Are there other questions?”

She wouldn’t be stopped. She grabbed my shoulder and yelled. “And this character gets a welfare payment every time he makes a mortgage payment but they call it ‘Enlightened Tax Policy.’ Why?”

The speaker leaned forward. “Are you talking about the mortgage-interest tax deduction?”

“I’m talking about a welfare payment to homeowners but not renters,” he yelled.

As George W. Bush would say:
 "Those people need to pull themselves
 up by their own bootstraps like I did.
The speaker waived for her to calm down. “You can’t compare the two,” he said. “People getting an interest deduction on their mortgage payments spend the money to purchase supplies and labor for home repairs and construction. That money promotes economic development.”

“And the money I spend on my kids’ school clothes doesn’t? She was screaming now and I protested loudly as she pulled me to my feet.

As we stood outside the door where the security guard deposited us, I trembled with fury.

“You just had to do it, didn’t you?”

“Never mind. You stay right here. “I’m going to change into an Enron executive.”

Sunday, September 11, 2011

58. Germs

Someone knocked on the door last evening and, of course, I knew straightaway that it had to be C.W. I was feeling a little bored so playing along with him promised some relief from the tedium. Sure enough, he was in the form of a door-to-door salesman, complete which a checkered sport coat, blue trousers, and a pair of scuffed brown shoes.

“May I interest you in the latest health breakthrough to sweep America?” he said, holding up a small box with “Sani-Dispence” emblazoned across the front in bright letters.

“Sure,” I said. “Come on in.” It was unnecessary as he had already barged into the room before I spoke.

“Thank you sir,” he said. Holding the box up, he adopted a voice so smarmy that Joel Osteen would have blushed with envy.

“Did you know that many modern diseases are spread by hand contact?” he said.

“I have heard this, yes,” I said.

“Are you as careful about germ control as you should be?”

“Probably not.”

“I thought so,” he said. Then he smiled. “You are in luck.”

“How so?”

“I have here a device that dispenses a powerful hand sanitizing liquid that is guaranteed to kill a hundred and ten percent of all germs that you would normally carry around on your hands.”

“A hundred and ten percent? Isn’t that a lot?”

“Yes, it includes germs you haven’t even come in contact with yet.”

Not wanting to spoil his momentum, I played along.

“How does it work?”

“That’s the beauty of it,” he said. Then he made a great show of opening the box and removing a clear bottle of “hand sanitizer” along with a plastic holder for the bottle. A electrical cord dropped from it.

“You just spread some of this miracle liquid on your hands like this,” he said, grabbing my hand and squirting a small mound of jell-like substance on it. Then he spread it around.

“Germ free,” he said.

I sniffed it. “Smells like alcohol to me.”

“Ah, but I’m not finished.”

“Please proceed.”

He made an elaborate show of walking to the kitchen table, setting up the container, and plugging it in.”

“See,” he said as he moved his hand under the bottle’s spot and watching it automatically dispense a wad of the goo on his fingers. “All automatic. Your fingers never touch the container.”

“So you don’t have to touch the bottle that is going to dispense a hand sanitizing liquid that will free you from germs after you apply it?”

“Why yes,” he said and then stopped. He thought for a second and then went through the process of obtaining the liquid and spreading on his hands. He considered the process again and a troubled look came over his face.

“You, uh, don’t have to touch the bottle,” he said. “It’s automatic.” Then he looked at the apparatus again and then back at me. “You don’t have to touch anything in order to get the sanitizer on you hands.” He voice was growing weaker.

I just looked at him.

“Will your species buy anything if it is advertised properly?” he said. There was sadness in his manner now.

“Just about,” I said.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

57. The Sporting Life

C.W. promised to come by the condo last evening so when he called, I buzzed him right up. Glad I did. I wouldn’t want him hanging around the front door in the appearance he had chosen for this visit.


Let’s just say he looked like a walking advertisement for “The American Hunter.” He wore camouflage from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. Even his hands sported “camo gloves.” His face was marked up like a D-Day paratrooper and his eyes rested behind a dulled set of aviator sunglasses.

It reminded me of how the reporters used to “garb-up” during the Iraq Invasion.

“What do you think?” he said as he banged his gun case into my most expensive piece of furniture.

“You wouldn’t even begin to want to know,” I said.

“Can’t wait for opening day,” he said. “If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m taking up hunting as a sport.”

“Do tell,” I said.

“Let me show you this neat stuff,” he said, opening a bag—a camouflaged one of course.

“See here,” he opened a large sack. “This here is called ‘Deer Corn.’ I can put it in my kill-zone everyday for few weeks and the deer will be coming straight to it come opening day.”

I tried not to retch.

“And this here is female deer scent. Know what it does?” He started to open the bottle but I stopped him.

“Oh, they won’t come in up here,” he said.

“That’s okay, I get the picture,” I said.

He pulled out a small recorder and flipped it on. There was a sound of repeated clanging.

“That’s a recording of two buck deer fighting over a gal.” He leaned back, evidently enjoying the sound. “That ought to raise a crowd.”

I motioned for him to turn it off.

“Now look here,” he said. He laid the bag aside and opened his gun case. “I prefer the most manly and primitive approach to hunting. Nothing but a muzzle-loader for me.”

I just stared at him as he unlimbered the gun from its case. Of course, it too was coated in camouflage.

“This here is a 50-caliber beauty build to the most exacting standards available,” he said. “And check out this telescope, 3-9x40 baby with a duplex reticle—waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof. What’ya think?”

“I’m simply overwhelmed.”

“Thought you would be,” he said, apparently missing the irony completely. “What an experience, just man against beast in a primal contest of inter-species confrontation played out in nature’s neutral battleground on an equal footing.”

My mouth dropped open.

He removed his glasses. It was the actual C.W. again.

“It’s not really, is it?”

“No,” I said.

“Tell me something,” he said.

“Sure.”

“Aren’t there enough wars going on at any one time to provide relief for your species’ blood-lust?”

“One thing to consider,” I said.

“I’m all ears,” he said.

“The deer don’t shoot back.”

Saturday, August 27, 2011

56. Commuting

Of all things, C.W. decided he wanted to learn to drive. Actually, as one who had piloted the galaxy on more than one occasion, he picked up the internal combustion engine easily. His main complaints are the mechanical inefficiencies─easily the worst design in the cosmos─and the unpredictability of his fellow motorists─doubtless the least attentive in existence. Nonetheless, we made it through the orientation and were making our final test run.

I had to smile. He had assumed the shape of a senior citizen, a lady, arguing that this would provide some degree of sympathy from inquisitive police officers or state troopers. There proved little to worry about, though. He maneuvered flawlessly with only a periodic “Oh, that poor dear should really pay attention.”

 
We tested his prowess in downtown traffic and then eased onto the interstate and headed out one of the major arteries serving the city. He seemed to enjoy the speed and flow of interstate traffic and I only found it necessary to caution him (her) about his speed once or twice.

“Sort of makes you feel both powerful and connected to others at the same time, doesn’t it?” he said. “I’m beginning to understand the attraction that operating a personal vehicle has for your species.”

“I suppose that is one way to put it,” I said.

“I mean, after all, you poor folks have so little opportunity to feel powerful.”

I ignored him. I knew he was only trying to wind me up. It is a frequent tactic of his.

At any rate, our attention shifted as we topped a hill and observed a long line of vehicles inching along the lanes opposite ours. They were heading into Little Rock but at a snail’s pace on this weekday morning.

“Must be a traffic accident back there, the poor people,” C.W. said in his most matronly voice.

I looked at him to see if he was putting me on. No, he looked serious.

“The traffic is that way every morning, C.W.” I said.

“Every morning?”

“Yep.”

“What’s causing it?”

“People commuting to work from other cities.”

“They live somewhere else and endure this every morning to get to work?”

“Every morning of the week.”

“Why don’t they work where they live?”

“Not enough jobs.”

”Then why don’t they live where they work?” he said as the freeway curved, providing a view of a line of creeping vehicles as far as the eye could see.

“They have their reasons, I suppose.”

I could sense his databank whirring through a complex statistical analysis.

“I see only one strong correlative factor,” he said.

I didn’t say anything.

“Don’t tell me …,” he said, stopping short to think.

“I’m afraid so,” I said.

“What is it with your species and skin pigment?” he said.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I really don’t know.”

“Why you poor dears,” he said as he pushed the vehicle’s speed well beyond the legal limit.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

55. Stereotypes

August brings many things in our state, the most noticeable of these being heat. But it also produces great fruit. So it was no surprise when I saw C.W. Approaching me in the park carrying an ice chest and looking for all the world like a real country bumpkin. I’m talking overalls that stopped two inches above his ankles, a straw hat, and a dingy blue shirt topped off with a red bandana tied around his neck.


I was not surprised when, after sitting beside me, he opened his ice-chest to reveal two full crescents of watermelon, one of the treats that make Arkansas bearable in August.

“Lookee here what I brung us,” he said in his best imitation of a hick southern accent. He retrieved a slice and tried to hand it to me but I declined.

“Don’chew like watermelon?” he said.

“Not right here and right now.”

“Don’t mind if I do?”

A year or so ago I would have found it embarrassing but I have developed a tolerance for his antics. Besides, most of the visitors to the park are tourists so, who cares?

I shrugged and watched him as he took the slice in his hands and studied it. He lifted it toward his face but then stopped and lowered it, turning to me.

“How do y’all do this?”

“Do what?”

“Eat watermelon this way.”

“What way?”

“Just cramming your face down in it.”

I just looked at him.

“I mean there has to be some secret to it.” He raised the slice toward his face, but stopped short again. “Ain’t there?”

“Why are you asking me?”

“Ain’t you a country boy?”

“I was raised one.”

“Country roots?”

“As country as you can get.”

“Then what is the secret? How do people in the country do it?

“Want to know a real secret?”

“That’s the general idee,” he said trying again to sound “country.”

I have never in my life seen anyone raised in the country eat watermelon that way.”

“What?”

“Sorry, but the only people I have ever seen stick their face in a melon and cover themselves with sticky juice are city kids at parties and festivals.”

“You gotta be puttin’ me on.”

“Sorry, my mother would have worn a persimmon tree switch out on us if she had ever caught us eating a watermelon that way.”

“Then how, uh, how did you?”

Southern cats are too cool for sloppy eating habits
“With eating utensils, how do you think?”

“Well black people sure did it this way, didn’t they?”

“I’ve never seen a black person eat a watermelon, but I seriously doubt it.”

“But all them pictures…”

“Dehumanizing stereotypes are hard to amend.”

“What makes you think that some of your country cousins might not have done it this way?”

“Well there is one good reason, a real southern one.

”What’s that?”

“Flies.”

Sunday, August 14, 2011

54. Privacy

It was August, when the climate doesn’t support civilized life in our part of the world. It is a good time to avoid contact with strangers and any sort of extended arguments. Walking is best done as early as possible in the morning.


So, daylight found me circling our downtown park, thinking about lost loves and missed opportunities. The park was deserted, that is until a figure emerged from a walking path and filed in a dozen or so feet behind me.

It was a well-rounded female dressed in spandex pants and a white t-shirt, both several sizes too small. I chose to ignore her and resumed my thoughts until she closed the gap and began speaking in a voice that pierced the morning peace like a flying shard of glass.

“By God you’d better not start that stuff up with me again.”

I looked and saw that she had an “ear-bud” attached and was undoubtedly carrying on a phone conversation. I continued walking.

“That’s what I told him,” she said. “He just acted like I was one of them two-bit whores he hangs out with.”

I walked faster, hoping to distance myself from the telephone talker. No luck—she sped up as well, even sounding closer that before.

“Then he come across that bed and started tryin’ to make up with me.”

She was quiet momentarily as the person on the other end said something. I took the opportunity to turn right in another attempt to escape.

“Hell, no,” she resumed as she followed me. “I told him he wadn’t gettin’ nothin’ off me as long as he kept actin’ the way he’d been doin’”

I went into a very slow jog, actually more of a waddle, hoping to gain some distance. It worked for a few minutes before I heard her gaining on me.

“Well, hell I had to go to the Doctor that morning and take a stool sample. I’m here to tell you it was stinkin’ like hell before I got there. I finally got in around ten-thirty and he put me up on that table … “

I had heard enough. Luckily, I was passing a bench and managed ease onto it so she could pass on by and take her conversation with her.

Unbelievably, she sat down beside me and started up again.

“Then I caught Betty Lou and her boyfriend in her bedroom when I got back and he had his hand just about …”

I jumped up again and started off. “Hey big dope,” she said. “Where do you think you’re going?”

I turned around and stared. “C.W. have you gone completely mad?”

“What?”

“Are you trying to be a total idiot?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean with this telephone crap?”

“Don’t you enjoy listening to it?”

“Not particularly. It’s disgusting.”

“Hell, that was tame compared to what I hear on a daily basis,” he stopped and spoke into the earpiece. “I’ll call you back later.” Then he turned to me. “Is there no conversation you people won’t share publicly?”

“Sometimes I think not.”

“Weird,” he said, as he folded the phone and stared into space.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

53. Running Away

We were experiencing the “Dog Days of Summer” and I was going for a walk but not venturing far from the condominium. I stopped to watch the construction at the park across Ninth Street when a young boy of five or six years of age walked up to me. Assuming he was from the church school next door, I ignored him until he spoke.


“Mr. can you help me?”

I looked around. It is no longer safe for a grown man to talk publicly to a child he doesn’t know.

“Please,” he said.

“What do you need?”

“I’m running away from home.”

Then I noticed he was carrying a grocery bag filled, I assumed, with his traveling gear. I became suspicious but decided to play along.

“And why are you running away?”

“I’m tired,” he said. “I need some rest.”

“Tired?”

“Yes, Mama has me in two baseball leagues, a soccer league, swimming lessons, and a dance class.”

“All of that?”

It’s worse,” he said. “Now she wants to make me go to Vacation Bible School.”

“I see.”

“She calls it VBS but I know what it is.”

Continuing to play along, I said, “So you think your days are getting pretty full?”

“I’m so tired of doin’ stuff that I can’t sleep,” he said. “And besides …”

“Besides what?”

“My friend Tommy told me about a neat game you can play without any adults around at all.”

“Really?”

“Yes, it’s called ‘Space Fighters’ and you pretend that you and your friends are

Starship Troopers. All you need is some cardboard boxes and somewhere to play pretend.”

“You don’t say.”

“Yep. Don’t that sound like fun?”

“Indeed,” I said. “And where are you going to play this game?”

“In a place called the ‘One Hundred Acre Wood.”

“Sounds like a fun place to me.”

“And I could rest when we weren’t busy playing.”

“You mean take a nap or something?”

“Heck no,” he said. “I could read a book or something,” he thought for a moment and added, “Have you ever laid on your back and watched the clouds?”

“Once or twice.”

“I try to do that sometimes at baseball practice,” he said. “But the last time I did I got hit in the head by a fly ball.”

He paused and looked at me with this most wistful look. “Then they was going to kick me off the team but my mother and the coach got into an awful fight and they said I could stay on if I paid attention.”

“C.W.,” I said finally. “I get the picture.”

“What?” he said.

“Come on …” I started but just then a car screeched to a halt and a woman jumped out. She gave me a withering look and pushed the screaming child into the back seat. The car sped away.

“Suffer the little children,” a voice said. I turned and realized a priest from the school had been watching the whole affair.

“I was just standing here, Father,” I explained as I turned back toward the condo.

As I did, I heard him say to my back. “You are a most amazing species.”

Monday, August 1, 2011

Victory Over Drugs

Sometimes C.W. tones down his appearance and this was one of those days. He asked me to meet him at a coffee shop in our local library complex.


Arriving, I recognized him straight away. He appeared as … how will I describe him? Well, “Grandpa Walton” would fit as well as anything.

He sat at one of the large tables with newspapers spread in front of him and a large coffee in his hand. He peeked over the top of a pair of reading glasses and motioned for me to sit.

“They don’t have real cups in here,” he said. “They serve coffee in these paper-sorta things.”

“You don’t find real cups much anymore,” I said. It’s best to agree with him just wait for the conversation to unravel. Patrons were stirring about in the shop, some studying the bookshelves lining the area. No one paid us any mind, a fact with probably says more about library patrons than it does about the species in general.

“Says here,” he began. “Let’s see, where is it?” He stirred the stack of newspapers, looking for a specific item. I waited.

“Ah, here it is,” he said, pulling the selection in front of him as he adjusted his spectacles. Then he took a sip of coffee.

“This is one of those “bits from yesteryear” columns—from a county newspaper out in West Virginia. “Says here from 40 years ago,” he looked at me and repeated, “Forty years ago.” The he resumed, “ ‘… the County Sheriff’s department destroyed a ten-acre field of marijuana plants this past Saturday and arrested the owner as it continues the war against drugs in America.’”

He looked at me over his spectacles as if I had been the owner of said crop. I knew how a suspect in a murder case must feel when he takes the witness stand. He sipped his coffee.

After several seconds he spoke. “Forty years, eh?”

“What?”

“Been waging this so-called ‘war on drugs’ for 40 years?”

“Probably longer than that.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“Has your species been victorious?”

“Uh, no.”

“Nearly so?”

“Not quite.”

“How about a status report then? He said. “How are we doing … drugs pretty near defeated? Have they requested a truce to talk peace?”

“Not exactly.”

“What, exactly?”

“It gets more hopeless and costly each day.”

He fumbled among the papers again and slid out a handwritten note. “Here’s something,” he said. “This man of your species, Clausewitz, says that war is an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will.”

“I’m sure he said that.”

“So are you compelling ‘drugs’ to your will?”

“I’m afraid it’s the other way around.”

“Still burning crops and arresting people after all these years?”

“Constantly.”

He scattered papers around and produced another note. “Here’s one more,” he said. “Can’t find the exact author but it is widely quoted.”

“Let’s hear it,” I said.

“The definition of ‘insanity’ is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

“Far out, man,” I said.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Return

People had been asking so I left a message that I needed to see the Alien. No, it wasn’t like a plea in some science fiction movie. It was more like an ad in the paper but he showed up as Michael Rennie anyway. Same old C.W., cute as usual.


“You called? he said after I opened the apartment door and registered my surprise.

I ushered him in and motioned for him to have a seat. “People have been asking about you.”

“I’m flattered,” he said. “What did you tell them?”

“That you had been recalled because of that incident with the high-school girl.”

“That was blown all out of proportion,” he said. “Besides, that’s what star football players are supposed to do, isn’t it?”

“Pretty much.”

“That’s what I thought,” he said. “So … no, that wasn’t it at all.”

“Then where have you been?”

“Making a detailed interim report.”

“To the Falloonian Elders?”

“Yes.”

“So?”

“So what?”

So how are we doing?”

“Not too good.”

“Then … are the Fallootians getting ready to wipe us out like in your movie.”

“No. You’re doing a fine job of that yourselves.”

He had me there. I had never seen him more somber. But heck, he was Michael Rennie after all. “So how much time?”

“I don’t think your species would be so obsessed about time if your planet didn’t circle your home star with such precision.”

“Say what?”

“What makes you think things occur sequentially?”

“Uh, gee, don’t they?”

“Why couldn’t they all be occurring at once and your mental state is simply drawn to whatever is shiniest?”

“Is that what happens?”

“Let’s just say for the moment that your species’ consciousness paradigm is closer to that of a blackbird than to a logician. You won’t be able to proceed further with this inquiry as long as you linger on such things as rock stars and inconsequential politicians.”

“Like Michelle Bachman?”

“Precisely, now why don’t we go for a walk and you can convince me that your species would warrant existence?”

“Sure,” I said, grabbing a hat to protect me from the sun.

A while later we stood at my city’s statue of Harriet Tubman leading a child-slave to freedom.

“Better?” I said.

He studied the amazing sculpture, and then turned to me. “She was a great person, wasn’t she?”

“One of the greatest.”

“Indeed. I’ll maybe stick around awhile,” said he

"Don’t you mean you are here, have been here, will be here?” Now I was trying to be cute.

"Klaatu barada nikto," he said.



Monday, April 25, 2011

50. Reality

We hadn’t had much good weather recently so, during one of the rare pleasant interludes I walked to my favorite spot in the park. It was spring and threatening to rain again, so I kept a weather-eye out for clouds. That’s why I didn’t notice someone sitting beside me until I smelled a mixture of body odor and cheap cigar smoke that snapped my head around.

There beside me was a figure as sad as I had seen beyond the movies. He was balding and badly in need of a shave. He was dressed in work pants and a sleeveless undershirt with a large mop of gray-black hair protruding from the top of it. His stomach spilled over his waist like dough overflowing in an oven.

I didn’t have to guess.

“C.W.,” I said. “What the hell are you up to?”

“What business is it of yours?” he said.

“None,” I said. “You are absolutely right. None at all.” I turned to watch the river, now at flood crest.

“If you must know,” he said. “I am waiting for a date.”

“A date?”

“A date. Is that so unbelievable?”

“Well,” I struggled for politeness and chose honesty instead. “Who would date you looking like that?”

“You would be surprised,” he said. “Some women look at the ‘inner-man’ and beyond superficial appearances.”

I nodded and turned back to the river as my lunch began to roil.

“I just may have found a soul-mate,” he said, brushing some cigar ashes off his stomach.’

“A soul-mate.”

“Yes, a soul-mate.”

And how did you happen to find this soul-mate?”

“On the internet,” he said. “They have sites where you can find a date.”

“You matched a date on the internet?”

“You have a problem with that?”

“No,” I said. “But didn’t you have to submit a photo?”

“The Falloonian Elders don’t allow me to publicize my own photo,” he said. “So I used one of yours.”

Now he had my attention. “You used my photo?”

“Yep,” he said. “And it took a long time, as you could imagine, but I finally got a hit.”

“And what was the attraction?”

As close as I could get to reality
“This, he said reaching into a pants pocket and retrieving a soiled paper containing print. He handed it to me and I read.

“Attractive SWF wants man who is comfortable within himself, loves casual dress and good food, and isn’t hung up on physical appearances—who loves to share a smoke and then take long, romantic walks in the spring rain.”

“Don’t I look the part?” he asked.

I was already up and moving away.

“Don’t you want to see her happy face when she meets me?”

He yelled something else but I was already out of hearing range.

Friday, April 8, 2011

49. War

They were having a literary festival in our town and I was walking to it when a figure fell along side me from a side street. At first I thought it was a street hustler since the man was shabbily dressed and smelled like a boatload of used cigars. I pretended not to notice until I heard a clanking sound. From the corner of my eye I saw the slouch hat and faded jacket of a civil war general. I looked closer. Hell, it was U.S. Grant himself, easily recognizable from period photographs.

“Hello Sailor, what’s up?” he said.

Of course it was C.W. I hadn’t seen him in weeks and thought perhaps he had left for good.

“Where on earth have you been?” I asked.

“Nowhere on earth,” he said. “I was called back to an intergalactic conference on intra-species hostilities. Your little planet was the subject of much of the discussion, by the way.”

“My planet?”

“Yes. Tell me—what is it about war that you find so appealing? Hell, I hated it and I got paid for it.” He was General Grant now.

“I don’t know,” I said. “You seem to forget that it cost me four good years as well.”

“I thought that at least your Christians found ‘The Peacemakers’ blessed.”

“Used to. The ‘Peacemakers’ were replaced by the ‘Moneymakers.’”

“Funny,” he said. “And all those comedians out of work.” He pulled a cigar from a pocket and, as we walked along, lit it and blew some smoke my way. For once, people didn’t stare as I assume they though he was just part of the literary festival.

“Tell me something else,” he said after we had walked on a ways.

“What?”

“What is this fascination your region seems to have with that greatest of warmongers, old Bobby Lee?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean you even honor his birthday. Why don’t you honor the 25,000 of his men he massacred in his insane little venture up in Pennsylvania?”

“You mean Gettysburg?”

“I mean ‘Lee’s Folly.’ Hell he lost more troops there than they say I did in The Wilderness. And I said I was sorry and came down in history as a butcher. He is the national symbol of the noble warrior. Why?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“I’ll tell you,” he said.

“Tell, me.”

“Because the goddam Virginians, who lost about 7,000 in that war, compared to more than 20,000 from North Carolina, wrote the history of that miserable little affair.”
Hey Barack and Hillary - war isn't really that great. - C.W.

He began to cough, so I didn’t say anything.

“Then they blamed the fact that George Mead whipped Bobby’s ass on everyone from poor Pete Longstreet to Heth’s Division.” He drew on his cigar and inhaled. “And all because General Lee didn’t want to send any of his troops to help out at Vicksburg.”

I walked on. He exhaled some cigar smoke and turned to me.

“I always like what little Georgie Pickett himself had to say about who caused the defeat of his ill-ordered charge,” he said.

“What?”

“He said: I always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.”

Friday, March 11, 2011

48. Wonder

Just as I left the back door of my condominium building, I looked up saw a grown man skipping down Ferry Street. Yes, skipping—in broad daylight. I immediately turned and fumbled with my key, trying to get back inside the building.


“Hey, Big Dope. Wait up!” The figure skipped up. “Going for a walk?” it asked.

“C.W., what the hell are you doing?”

“Exercising. What are you doing?”

“By skipping?” I ignored him as best I could but noticed that several of the children at the church school across the street were watching. Their little faces were pressed against the wrought iron fence like prisoners watching a “free world” drama, every mouth open.

“Don’t you skip? It’s a great way to get around. Ever try it?”

“Not since I was five years old.”

“You humans certainly tend to forgo the joys of life as you get older,” he said. He had assumed a familiar shape. I couldn’t quite place it but it was someone from my past. “Taking the air, are you? Come on, I’ll go with you.”

“I am not skipping with you, C.W.”

“Calm down Big Guy,” he said, then “Jeez.”

“You can come along if you behave.”

“Moi?” he said in mock surprise. For reasons unknown to me he had been struggling to learn French. “Je suis le pire?” he said.

“C’est votre faute.”

“Merde,” he said. “Let’s walk.”

We walked around a former school, now serving as an apartment building for artist and writers. It was spring and the tulip trees were blooming. C.W. ran ahead and examined them, sniffing and touching the petals of one to gauge its substance.

“Simply beautiful,” he said. “We have nothing like this where I come from.”

“Come on,” I said. “We have to keep up a pace.

He turned and stared at me with a look of such mournful sadness that my mind flowed to an imagined gallery where I could picture the face of Christ in a painting by one of those Renaissance painters, captured in soft and subtle chiaroscuro. Then I was snapped back to reality.

“Come on then, Trou du cul.” This wasn’t starting out well.

We rounded the corner and walked along the front of the building. I was trying to pick up the pace when C.W. emitted a shriek and a stream of Falloonian that I couldn’t understand.

“Lookee, lokkee, lokkee,” he yelled and ran over to a sculpture standing on the corner of the apartment property. I had passed it dozens of times and hardly noticed it. It was a standing figure created from bits of broken glass and pottery, resembling a pair of giraffes.

“Oh my,” C.W. yelled as he ran over to it. “Would you look at this?”

I stopped and waited.

He seemed surprised that I wasn’t sharing his excitement. “Does you planet have a lot of neat stuff like this?”

I didn’t respond.

He turned back to the sculpture and caressed the broken pieces forming its surface. He hummed for a minute and then spoke rhythmically in a long, unbroken string of sounds in his native language, almost seeming to create a mystic union with this inanimate piece of work. After a minute or so he stopped, patted the sculpture a last time and walked back to where I stood.

“Tell me something,” he said.

“What?”

“At what age and by what process do they remove the sense of wonder from the bodies of your species?”

I couldn’t think of anything to say.

“Une tragédie,” he said.

We moved on. It was going to be a long walk.