Sunday, May 29, 2016

323. Memorials

Over the Memorial Day Weekend, C.W. likes to appear in his inquisitive young man form and visit military cemeteries. Don’t ask why. Something about all those orderly-spaced tombstones fascinates him. Devoted readers will remember the time we visited one in Little Rock and witnessed an elderly vet remembering his lover who had died at Pearl Harbor. He’s probably dead now too. The World War Two vets are vanishing at a sad and alarming rate.

This time we were driving to visit a spot near here where a group of Confederate soldiers from the Civil War era are buried. C.W. was peppering me with questions as usual.

“Tell me again the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day.”

I took a breath. “I’ve told you before. On Veterans’ Day we honor all veterans who have served in the military.”

“Even the girls?”

“Of course even gi ... the women.”

“Oh. And Memorial Day?”

“We pay tribute to those who died serving in the military.”

“Oh. So this weekend honors those who died gloriously in battle?”

I started to respond, but held myself. “We’ll see,” I said.

We drove into the cemetery, a sad and lonely spot as so many are. It was there that C.W. learned this was the resting spot for a group of soldier who were not slain in battle but died of a highly contagious disease that ravaged their unit.”

His face turned ashen. “They weren’t stabbed or shot or blown up or something?”

“No,” I said. “They simply took sick and died. That was the case in a majority of deaths during that particular war.”

“Most weren’t killed in battle?”

“No. Most died from disease. There were no sanitary measures taken on either side of that conflict. Filth and the subsequent spread of disease took a tragic toll.”

“No sanitary measures?”

“None. Not even designated latrines.”

“But the Roman armies practiced sanitation before the designated birth date of the Galilean.”

“We forgot them,” “or maybe we just thought they were too much trouble or expense.”
Would that your wars could be
so neat and orderly. - C.W.

“Your species let men die from lack of medical care?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“And the leaders of that war are considered great men now?”

“Yes. We even celebrate the birthday of one of them as a holiday in our state.”

Apparently shaken, he shook his head. “Soldiers fighting for their cause but dying because of improper medical care. Is this the way your species goes to war?”

“Not anymore,” I said. “We provide excellent medical care for our men and women in combat.”

“Yes,” he said, looking out at the tombstones. “It’s only after they leave the battles now that the medical care diminishes.”

“I’m afraid so,” I said. “It’s considered too costly.”

“Well,” he said. “It is cheaper to build memorials.”

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

322. Humor

“You know what I find odd about your species?”

“You find a lot of things odd about our species.”

“I mean really odd.”

I played along. I was taking C.W. for a ride in my new truck to let things cool down a bit back home. Since we were in the country, he was in the shape of a farmer, or rancher, or how he assumed one would appear: khaki shirt and pants, and a “stockman’s hat” perched over a sunburnt face. He was trying to develop a proper wave, since rural men each have a unique wave that identifies them, even if their face isn’t clearly visible while driving. He had about decided on the “two-finger flip," modified to make it slightly different from that of a neighbor. Then he worked on a “turkey tail,” as he called it but couldn’t decide whether to unfurl it as part of the wave or simply flash it full blown.

Did I mention that he was getting on my nerves?

“So,” he said, flashing his “unfolding turkey-tail” wave at a woman mowing her yard. She looked at him as though he might have been, well, an alien or something. He turned back to me. “Want to know what I really find odd?” He flashed a motorist who shot back a one-finger wave, and it was not a friendly one. "Would you?"

“I think I’m fixing to,” I say in a mocking rural tone.

“You Americans have no sense of humor.”

“We what?”

“Not a smudging bit.”

“That’s a smidgen bit,” I said, “and most of us do.”

“Not around your house.”

“Are you referring to my wife?”

“I report. You decide,” he said, mocking a fake news channel he turns on when my wife isn’t looking.

“You don’t think my wife has a sense of humor?”

“Reports are,” he said, “the last time she showed one was the night she married you.

“You’re blaming her for the little dust-up this morning.”

“She certainly wasn’t exhibiting the quality of being filled with cheerfulness or merriment.”

“She normally doesn’t exhibit much jollity when someone uses her best and most expensive sewing scissors to cut tin cans for making their artwork.”

“I was making a mobile, and I told her it would be hilarious.”

“She didn’t think so.”

“It would have been. It was little figures of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Popeye and Olive, Charlie Brown and Lucy, and others. Their little arms and legs would be coiled pieces of tin can and when the wind blew them into one another the springs would pop free, and their limbs would wrap around one another. It would look like they were …”

“I know what it would look like,” I said, stopping him. “And she didn’t think it was funny.”

“Case closed … you have no sense of humor.”

“Americans have a great sense of humor,” I said. “I can prove it to you.”

“How?” he said, flipping his fingers to a passing farmer who returned the “modified salute” greeting.

“Ted Cruz.”

“The one John McCain called a ‘wacko bird?” he said, suppressing a smile.

“Rand Paul.”

The smile broke through. “That toupee. The horror. The horror.”

“Michele Bachmann.”

He giggled. “Oh please, not Michele ‘Carbon dioxide is harmless’ Bachmann.”

“Sheriff Joe Arpaio.”

He guffawed, “Prisoners in pink. You can stop now.”

“Sarah Palin.”

“Oh please,” he said. I looked over and saw tears forming.

If he had said, "Joel Osteen" I really
would have had an accident. - C.W.
“And Bristol,” I said. “Don’t let’s forget the Czarina of Abstinence.”

He was convulsing. “Oh stop,” he said. “I can’t stand it anymore.” Snot was coming from his nose.

“Donald Trump.”

“Oh stop. Stop,” he said. “You’ve got to stop.”

“I have more.”

“No,” he said. “I mean really stop. Stop the truck.”

I braked and pulled over. He shot from the truck toward a stand of trees. I could see a dark stain forming in the seat of his farmer’s khakis.

He flashed the Turkey Tail at a passing pickup and disappeared into the woods.

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Sunday, May 15, 2016

321. Hate

Have you ever had to try to explain our penchant for hatred to an alien? Well I have, and it isn’t fun. Especially when the alien pops up in the form of a Marine Corps drill sergeant. There he was, sitting in the back yard under a tree with a Budweiser, one of mine. He took a sip and motioned for me to sit.

“I want to talk to you,” he said.

“That’s no surprise.”


I obeyed. That’s always the best course of action when he gets like this.

“Tell me,” he said, “about this instinct your species has for hate. There seems to be a lot of it going around these days.”

“I’m not an expert on the subject,” I said.

“What do you mean?”

“I try not to engage in it.”



“I happen to know that you hate that little button on your vehicle key that makes the horn start honking if your thumb happens to press against it.”

I said nothing.

“And,” he said. “I know you hate Windows 10.”

“Not as much as I once did.”

“And you hate those daytime television shows that have women screaming nonsense at one another.”

“Only when I walk into a room and one happens to be playing.”

He ignored me. “And I happen to know, from talking to your friends, that you hated the year that you spent sentenced to something called ‘Vacation Bible School,’ when you were a child.”

“It was actually only a week or two,” I said. “I tell folks it was a year for dramatic emphasis.”

“You hate speed bumps.”

“They are a sign that civilization is collapsing,” I said. “And what, may I ask, is the meaning of all this?”

“The Elders want to know if it is true that your next presidential election will be decided on the basis of hate.”

“Maybe not,” I said. “There is still time.”

“Sit up straight,” he said, barking it at me with a startling degree of vehemence.

As I straightened, he said, “You, yourself, do have your good points.”


“Yes. You don’t seem to hate people.”

“I try not to.”

“Even people you consider your enemies. You may feel a strong aversion or intense dislike for some.”

“Yes,” I said. “I do detest some. But my mentor, The Galilean, forbids me from hating them.”

“Even those on that fake TV news show?”

“Even those on Fox News.”

“Back to your mentor,” he said. “Why doesn’t he forbid the hating of your president, and other people of color?”
Youthful exuberance and good communications
seem to be essentials for spreading hate. - C.W.

“He does,” I said.

“Do those who claim to worship him know that?”

“Yes, but many decide to ignore him.”

“Choosing the satisfaction of hate over the promise of salvation seems odd,” he said. “But back to you. You don’t even seem to hate any particular food.”

“Well, there was something my wife cooked once. She called it ‘cornbread gravy’ and I can’t say it turned out too well.”

“May I ask her about it?”

“Please don’t,” I said.

“But you don’t hate any other food?”

“If you were a real military man,” I said, “you would know that you quickly learn to eat what is served and that being a finicky eater is a sign of weakness.”

“Speaking of weaknesses,” he said. “The Falloonian Elders are asking me if I think this growing fondness for hatred within your species will lead to its downfall.”

I thought. “There was a philosopher once,” I said, named Friedrich Nietzsche, who said, ‘That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.’ Maybe hate makes us stronger.”

He looked at me with surprise. “No,” he said. “it makes you stupid.”

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Sunday, May 8, 2016

320. Explanations

“You want to try and explain it?”

“Well no,” I said. “I haven’t the slightest idea.” I was talking to C.W. of course, who was sitting in my favorite chair in a perfect image of the TV character Archie Bunker. He had just looked up from his newspaper.

“Want me to?”

“Sure,” I said, “That’s what I was hoping for this morning when I made coffee: an alien from a planet 50 light-years away explaining American politics to me.” I sat, with my coffee, on a less comfortable chair, facing him. “Lay it on me,” I said.

Lay what on you?”

“It’s just an expression,” I said.

“Like when Mrs. Big Dope threatens to ‘lay one on you’ when she’s mad?”

“Uh, not exactly. But go ahead.”

“That word ‘lay’ is a confusing one for aliens,” he said. “Hens lay eggs, after the weather lays. How do we know what to think?”

“Context,” I said. “Context. “And entertainers lay bombs, so you be careful.”

“Sometimes it causes your species to smile,” he said. “like when you talk about getting …”

I interrupted him. “Why don’t you get back to explaining things?”

“Well,” he said, “remember when your people used to laugh at me and make all sorts of fun?”

“Laugh at you? When?”

“Back in the 1970s”

“You weren’t here then.”

“My character, you meathead.”

“Oh … Archie,” I said.

“The very one. Now, do you know the problem?”

“No. Tell me.”

“Lots of folks weren’t laughing.”


“No. Lots of folks were saying, ‘Gee, I wish I were free to talk like that.”

“But your character was a bigoted, uneducated, bully.”

He dropped his chin, looked over his reading glassed, and said, “Do I have to draw you a visual representation or image drawn on a flat surface?”

“You don’t have to draw me a picture,” I said. “I get your drift.”

“You what?”

“I understand.”

“I thought maybe you would,” he said. “Now, second point: your species currently has a great deal of trouble telling the difference between the ‘promiseable’ and the ‘doable.’ Do you get my continuous slow movement from one place to another, as you say?”

“I think you need to work on your grammar,” I said, “but yes. I understand.

“Your species likes it when someone puts things in colorful language that is easy to understand. Whether it is reality-based matters very little to them.”

He had a point.

“And,” he said, “that’s another part of the problem.”

“How so?”

“Your species hates complexity.”

“As in …”

“How about the genetic structure of a living organism?”

“Well now,” I said. “That is complex.”
Not all actors can be president.
But all presidents must be actors.  - C.W

“Yes,” he said, “we don’t teach it until Year Two on Falloonia.”

“Well it baffles us,” I said, “A lot of people don’t fully understand the concept, and some don’t understand it at all.”

“Favoring instead,” he said, “a ‘bronze-age’ mythology of a gray-haired spirit in the sky who snapped his fingers and it all appeared?”

“Now you best be careful saying things like that.”

“Why? I’m not running for president.”

“Why not? Because you are an alien?”

“Get serious,” he said. “Your country has had several aliens who have served as president.”

That floored me, but I decided to play along. “Then what would stop you from running?”

“I have no theatrical skills at all.”

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Monday, May 2, 2016

A Parable

Dear Friends and Admirers:
I'm developing my writing skills now and Big Dope said I could post a parable I wrote. So ...

Cotton pickers in Pulaski County, AR. There is a legend there of a champion cotton picker named Charterene, who could pick more pounds per day than even the strongest man. People spoke of her in awe and newspaper writers lauded her as “The Spirit of America.”

Weighing in after a long, hard day's work. 
The daughter of a northern industrialist millionaire—she herself having never seen a cotton field—promised to take a year off from her international travels and revolutionize the cotton picking industry by forcing Charterene’s methods nation-wide.

As fate would have it though, when the crowds gathered to watch the champion in action, facts emerged. First, Charterene selected the best row in the field to pick. Further, it had been prepared ahead of time by young boys who removed the inferior and rotten bolls. Then the farmer gave Charterene a head start.

Sure enough though, she picked a quarter of a pound more cotton than the nearest competitor. “Proof,” cried the writers. “Out,” said the owner to the manager who had doubted Charterne’s methods. “I’m on it,” said the industrialist’s daughter, instructing the Governor to proclaim in “Charterene Day” in the state.

The industry changed. Cotton fields weren’t picked clean like before, only enough to maximize profits. Bolls not meeting minimum standards remained in the heat-soaked fields to rot. Soon, America had to import high-quality cotton from India.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

319. Monsters

Have I told you that C.W. has taken up reading? Oh yes. He’ll fold into the shape of an Oxford Don and read for hours these days. It’s a welcome relief from some of his shenanigans. He says it’s a sort of punishment meted out to him by the Falloonian Elders for that movie theater incident.

Don’t ask.

Anyway, he seemed to be taking a break for I found him on my wife’s computer this morning pecking away like a student finishing an overdue paper.

“You know you’re going to die,” I said. “Don’t you?”

“Wait one,” he said, and finished a thought. Then he looked at me. “What’s your problem?”

“Not my problem,” I said. “Yours. When she wakes up and catches you on her computer, you’ll be a dead ma…, uh thi.., uh alien.”

“It’s okay,” he said. “She told me I could.”

“Could what?”

“Write a book.”

“A book about what?”



“Yes, perfect husbands.”

“What did you tell her you would call it?”

“I Married A Monster.”

I sat down. “Does it have a plot?”

“Of course.”

“Are you at liberty to share it?”

He thought for a moment. “Why not?” He looked away and started to speak.

“Just a moment,” I said. I rose and walked to the coffee pot and poured myself a healthy portion. I returned and sat. I sipped and savored the taste. “This had better be good,” I said.

“Okay,” he said. “So there is this woman who wants to create the perfect man, see?”

“I can’t imagine where this might be going,” I said, “but proceed.”

“So she takes the raw material and first decides that he needs no education or understanding of any body of knowledge, other than blind obedience to commands … her commands.”

I said nothing.

“So,” he continued, “she educates him by force-feeding a 24-hour barrage of meaningless input from a TV monitor, designed to make him hate and fear the outside world and distrust any authority but that of his handler.”

“I can’t see,” I said, “how any woman would want that. But it’s your story.”

“Then,” he said, “she subjects him to an intense behavior modification program.”

“Designed to do what?”

“Despise any other living species other than his immediate handler. The slogan is: ‘Inside good. Outside bad,’ and this produces a rabid person marked by the general hatred, distrust or contempt of the human species or human nature.”

I interrupted. “A what?”

“What I just said.”

“Did you mean misanthrope?”

“Of course,” he said. “That’s why I said it.” He sighed his sigh of exasperation contempt. “Now may I continue?”

“Sure,” I said. “What is next?”


“As in?”

“As in there is a paradise filled with pizza and ice cream reserved for those who obey.”

“So this is it?”

“No, there is one more step,” he said.

“And it is?”

“Role modeling.”


“She has people who appeal to his developing instincts counsel him.”

“About what?”

“About how successful and happy he will be when he is like them, and rich … how filthy rich he will be.”

“This is how they became rich?”

“Oh no,” he said. “They were born rich, but he is so baffled by now that he forgets things.”

“I must leave soon,” I said. “Want to hit me with the ending?”

“Well of course,” he said. “She thinks she has created the perfect husband: obedient, unthinking, unquestioning, fiercely loyal, protective, distrusting of strangers, and disciplined.”

I can't see why Mrs. Big Dope is so mad.
It looks like a perfect husband to me. - C.W.

“Can’t you imagine what occurs?”

“The law of unintended consequences?”

“In a hard external covering in which the kernel of a nut is enclosed,” he said.

“Yes,” I said. “In a nutshell. And the ending?”

“She is gazing out over a dead, cratered, and smoldering landscape where her house once stood.”

“And the final line?”

“What shall be done? What can we do? My monster is on the loose.”

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