Sunday, December 30, 2012

129. Teachers

My goodness, but I could have sworn my 11th grade English teacher, Mrs. Morgan, was in my living room. It was C.W. but the 1960s attire really brought back memories. There she was, in a tailored suit of subdued gray plaid with a starched white blouse complete with ruffles down the front. A modest necklace completed the arrangement and black, patent-leather shoes quietly expressed sensibility.
What wasn’t in character was the belt of cartridges strung across her chest and the assault rifle angling menacingly from behind her shoulders. Then there were the two pistols strapped to her waist, the holster belts making a menacing “x” at her midsection like the attire of a movie gunslinger.

“I’m not going to ask,” I said, slumping into a chair.

“Jimmie, please sit up straight,” she said. “How many times must I tell you?”

“C.W.,” I said. Have you gone completely mad?”

“Am I going to have to introduce you to my little friend?” she said, reaching a hand behind her to pat the rifle.”

“Okay. I’ll bite. What’s up?”

“Straighten up and I will tell you.”

I sat up and waited.

“At long last,” she said. “I read where school administrators will begin to arm teachers. I intend to be ready.”

Not believing what I was seeing, I just stared.

“Remember when you wouldn’t keep up with the rest of the class when we studied The Heart of Darkness?”

“I had other priorities.”

“Exactly,” she said. Then she walked to me and stood menacingly. She placed a hand on one of her pistols, a big one like the kind Dirty Harry used. “Don’t you imagine that Smith and Wesson could have helped regain your focus?”

“It gives a new meaning to the term ‘compulsory education,’” I said.

“Please don’t get smart with me,” she said as she drew the pistol from its holster.

“Look,” I said. Between you and I …”

“Stoppit,” she screamed, and before I knew it she had thrust the pistol barrel into my mouth and had cocked the hammer with a sickening click. “You are misusing the objective case. Would you say … ‘between I?’ Heavens no. So why ‘between you and I’? It should be ‘between you and me’! Can’t you understand?” She pushed the pistol harder and I nodded my head enthusiastically.

She removed the pistol and smiled. “No wonder your friends call you ‘Big Dope,’” she said. She placed the pistol in its holster and I relaxed.

“Can’t you just see how this will revolutionize teaching?” she said. “No more ‘children please take out your grammar books.’” She lowered her head and gave a “Clockwork Orange” smile. In a fluid motion she retrieved the rifle from her back and pointed it at me. “Now,” she said. “It’s ‘conjugate this, dirtbag!’ Oh happy day!”

“Uh, C.W,” I said. “I don’t think they plan for teachers to use the weapons on their students.”

“What? Then on whom?”

“You know, intruders.”

“Like Principal Patterson?”

“No, like gun wielding lunatics that might come blasting away.”

She stopped as if she had been slapped. She seemed to wilt and backed toward a chair then slumped into it.

Now children, today we shall study transitive verbs.
This will require our attention. So please don't provoke me.
Oh happy day! - C.W.
“Do you mean to tell me that there are those in your species who believe the cure for the insanity of violence is more violence?”

“Afraid so.”

“The thought of that provokes me,” she said, using a word I have always found to be the exclusive property of teachers.

“Be that as it may …” I began.

She interrupted. “It certainly points out the results of inadequate funding for education.”

Sunday, December 23, 2012

128. Lists

I awoke this morning, a couple of days before Christmas, to find C.W. in the guise of the most innocent-looking 10 year old boy you could imagine. He was sitting cross-legged in the floor writing furiously on a Big Chief Tablet and looked up as if he had been caught in the act and the act wasn’t a good one.

“Don’t tell me,” I said.

“Hello Mr. Big Dope, I mean, good morning sir.”

My antennae immediately went on full alert. “We are being a little polite this morning, aren’t we?”

“I don’t know what you mean, sir,” he said as he continued to write. “I pride myself on being nice to everyone.”


“In fact,” he said. “I am preparing these two lists called ‘naughty’ and ‘nice’ as a recap of the past year, see?”

He held the tablet so I could see it. The list called ‘nice’ filled several pages while the ‘naughty’ list lacked a single entry.

“I should say that is a pretty fair record for the year, wouldn’t you?”

“One moment,” I said, going to my computer. As I fired it up, he began to squirm.

“What are you doing, sir?”

“Just checking a few of your e-mail records.”

“Oh,” he said. “No need. I already checked them.”

“Really?” I said. “How about this one. ‘Dear Todd Aiken: I am attaching a circular from the National Institute of Physiology that you might find helpful in preparing your campaign interviews.’”


“The National Institute of Physiology?”

“I sort of made that up,” he said, adding ‘overactive imagination’ to the ‘naughty’ list.

“Or this one, ‘Dear Mr. Zuckerberg: I love Facebook and think it would be great for you to take its stock public so I, and other small investors, could feel ownership.’”

“So, I was wrong.”

“How about this one: ‘Dear Mr. Romney, I am attaching a Google Earth Map of the Middle East showing the canal through Syria that provides Iran access to the sea.’”

“They don’t allow geography in school anymore.”

“How about math?” I said. “Dear Mr. Rove: You might find the attached polling data from the Southeastern Headquarters for Institutional Training helpful in your punditry.’”

“Now that was funny,” he said. “I don’t care who you are.”

“Well,” I said. “This one wasn’t: ‘Dear President Obama: Next time you talk to President Putin, why don’t you tell him that you will have more flexibility in foreign relations during your second term?’”

“Well he will, won’t he?”

“Undoubtedly.” I scrolled through files. “And what is this expenditure I found for a video camera that you purchased for Jimmy Carter’s grandson?”

“So I am generous.”

“Never mean-spirited?”

“Never,” he said indignantly.

“So, ‘Dear Learning Channel: I think it would be highly educational to develop a reality television show featuring a semi-literate redneck family with a chubby, child beauty pageant, contestant as its star’ is not mean-spirited?”

“Your species loves it some illiterate rednecks.”

“You should be ashamed.”

“Well, all those were sometime back. Maybe I have reformed.”

People should do as Mr. Big Dope
does and use my advice at
their own peril. - C.W.
“Oh really,” I said. “How about this one from a week ago. ‘Dear Mr. LaPierre: I am a student in elementary school and I would feel safer if everyone that goes to school or teaches there would carry a gun. Could you help me get the message out?’”

“I was only trying to be helpful.”

“I rather gather that you aren’t expecting any presents this year” I said.
“What? What did I do?”

Sunday, December 16, 2012

127. Remnants

This morning, I didn’t really feel like talking. Of course that is when C.W. is most likely to show. And of course he did.

Our country was suffering in shock from another mass murder by a gun-wielding lunatic. No use to go into the numbers and methodology. It is all too painfully familiar by now.

Anyway, as I say, C.W. never misses a chance. I looked up from my computer screen into a dark room to see him standing in the form of a six year old child, pale but emitting a slight white glow. He stood staring at me without speaking for several seconds. Then he spoke in a soft child’s voice that floated around the room like a smoky whisper.

“Do you know why they killed me?”

I studied the figure. C.W., despite his often comic and cynical approaches to our society, chooses very carefully when he will be serious.

“No,” I said. “I don’t.”

“Then you seem to be the only one of your species that doesn’t, from what I observed on the social networking websites this morning.”

“You’ve been on my computer?”

“Oh please,” he said. “So you don’t know?”

“I can’t begin to fathom.”

“Someone blamed it on a god.”

“I’m sure they did.”

“Some think your species needs fewer guns.”

“I’m sure they do.”

“Others think you need more guns.”

I didn’t answer him. So he kept talking.

“The ones who seem the most positive are the ones who don’t have a clue.”

“That is usually the case,” I said.

“You know I went through considerable training before the Falloonian Elders sent me to your planet.”

“I would assume as much.”

“You want to know their short take on your species?”

“Why not?” I was glad to escape my own thoughts.

“That you had managed to overcome, to a remarkable degree, your prehistoric reliance on violence as a survival strategy.”

“That’s good, right?”

“But,” he continued. “It never left the DNA strand and it will surface from time to time, often most tragically.”

“Ask your classmates,” I said.

“Ask the families of the children of Baghdad the morning your country started raining bombs on them,” he said.

“You are not being very comforting,” I said.

“One of your country’s founders—I forget which one—said ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.’”

“It is attributed to Thomas Jefferson,” I said. “But I’m not sure it was he.”
“It makes no difference, don’t you see. What is important is the cosmic truth of it. Your species must remain vigilant over those primordial instincts that have existed, and still exist, since your ancestors crawled from the oceans.”

“So you mean …?”

“Sorry, but I have to go now,” he said, looking past me to a point far away. “One of the things I planned to do when I learned to write good was to keep a diary.” He paused. “But of course I never got to do it.”

It is hard, some mornings,
to continue believing in the
acquired goodness of people.
But you must keep trying. - C.W.
I must have looked confused.

“Oh,” he said. “I met a friend who kept a very good one before the violence took her and she has promised to read it to me.”

And he faded away, leaving me more confused than ever.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

126. Consequences

C.W. is finishing his first college course. Says he wants major in history as he doesn’t have to depend upon a degree to get a job. His first class was one in American foreign policy since World War Two. It has him bumfuzzled. I found him working on his final term paper early this morning in a raccoon coat and one of those silly hats straight out of an Andy Hardy movie.
“Hey Big Dope,” he said. “Just the person I needed to see.”


“Yes, I have to decide upon the most unfortunate foreign policy decision of the U.S. government since 1945.”


“There are so many to choose from.”

“Well pick one then,” I said.

“I leaned heavily at first,” said he, “On Dwight Eisenhower’s decision to overthrow, as a favor to the British Petroleum Company, the democratically elected government of Iran, and its head of government Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in August of 1953.”

“Why that one?”

“Simple,” he said. “Chain reactions.”

“Chain reactions?”

“Yes. It created a permanent, and hitherto non-existent, hatred of the U.S. by the Iranian people and led to the hostage taking in 1979 which led to the election of Ronald Reagan and, well, you know the rest.”


“Of course the involvement of your country in Vietnam has to be high on the radio detection and ranging screen.”


“That one involved you personally, eh?”

“Yes, so I must recuse on it,” I said, grateful for the opportunity.

“Old Dwight D. started that one too, didn’t he?

“No comment.”

“He was sort of a ‘poster-child’ for the Law of Unintended Consequences, wasn’t he?”

“No comment. But … you might google Watergate, or Bay of Pigs.”

“Of course your beloved sage Walter Cronkite said that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was the worst policy decision in modern history, and illegal from the start.”

“Yay, Walter!”

“But all those pale in comparison with my final selection.”

“Your selection for the worst policy decision in modern history?”

“Yes sir.” He tends to get formal at times like this.

“And that would be?”

“Reality TV.”


“You heard me.”

“Reality TV? What does that have to do with foreign policy?”

“You are portraying to the world that your country is composed of a bunch of snaggle-toothed, overweight, swamp-dwelling, violence-worshiping, child-exploiting, snuff-drooling, tattoo-seeking, death-wishing, foul-mouthed, junk-hoarding, obsessive-compulsive, stuff-loving, gun-toting, sex-starved morons.”

Won't you please,

Won't you please,

Please won't you be my neighbor?
It's a wonderful day in the
cosmic universe. - C.W.
“But that represents only a small percentage of Americans,” I said.

“Only a small percentage of Americans lived an idyllic life like that of the Cleaver family during the 1950s,” he said. “But see how that image has prevailed, even among some African-Americans like Thomas Sowell.”

That stumped me. “But,” I said, “We love the arts, books, knowledge, music, and all things inspiring.”

“Try telling that to the people on Planet Rylinskria,” he said.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

125. Hospitals

Good morning Earthling friends. Big Dope won’t be able to record one of our fascinating conversations this morning. His wife took a nasty spill and tore up her ankle pretty badly. I’ve spent the weekend so far at the hospital with him while they operated on her. He said they had to install metal circular eating dishes to support her bones. I didn’t quite understand but assumed it is an Earthling thing.

I did have an opportunity to observe at close hand your methods of treating your damaged and infirm. Quite strange. Wouldn’t it be considerably simpler for society just to treat them and pay for their care? A sick or injured person truly represents those among you who are least able to take care of themselves. It seems to me that a philosophy that encouraged caring for them would be greatly beneficial to you as a species. But your ways aren’t Falloonian ways, I suppose.

Mrs. Big Dope appreciates all your
concerns and looks forward to
being "waited upon." - C.W.
The hardest thing so far for me to attempt to explain to the Falloonian Elders is why your species insists on making the provision of basic human needs a profit-making endeavor. Terribly inefficient if you ask me, which nobody has.

As they say on my planet, “To a starving person, the entire universe is food.” It probably loses something in the translation. Suffice it to say, we must be off. The lady sharing the room with Mrs. Big Dope cannot leave the hospital until she “passes gas,” whatever that means. Let’s just devoutly wish that he episode has been consummated by the time we arrive.