Adventures in Writing

Adventures in Writing: Part 1 of 20?
Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one, and write something about it.

Simple? Maybe not.

The past is the past. That’s what they say — like the past has nothing to do with the present or the future.

They’re wrong.

There is no escaping your past. That’s another thing they say.

They’re right.

Everything in your past is directly connected to what you are, do and think today: whatever you were — doctor, lawyer, rodeo clown; whatever you did — saved lives, destroyed reputations, jumped in a barrel; whatever you thought — socialized medicine is bad, crime is good for business, bulls are really, really quick.

You cannot change what happened, but you can change what will happen. It’s all about controlling the uncontrollable.

So, get out there, kick your past in the ass, and take command of your life. You are large and in charge.

Unless, of course, you are in prison for life without possibility of parole because you hacked your mother-in-law to death with a carving knife in front of your entire family one Thanksgiving Day dinner. Then, you’re pretty much screwed.

Adventures in Writing: Part 2 of 20?
Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one, and write something about it.

Simple? Maybe not.

To so-called “normal” people (you know who you are), a handshake is a pair of right (or sometimes left) hands briefly clasped together, possibly moving up and down, in a gesture of friendship, greeting or finalizing some sort of deal.

The practice developed, as I understand it, back in more primitive times when two individuals advanced toward each other and mutually showed that they were not bearing weapons by offering an open hand. Naturally, they still needed to be wary of anyone approaching with one hand outstretched while the other was concealed behind his or her back.

So much for normal people. As a longtime computer geek, I also see the “handshake” as something completely different — the ofttimes frustrating and frequently fruitless process of getting two different electronic entities to play nice with each other. (Curse you, Play Station 3!)

At no time in digital history was this exercise more audibly obvious than when attempting to connect to the internet via telephone modem. For those who don’t go back as far as the days of steam-powered computers, it went something like this:

beep! beep! beep! beep! beep! beep! beep! (Hello, this is Mr. Micron [pet name for my longtime computer companion]. Anybody there?)

whirrrrr! whirrrr! (Yeah? This is AOL. What do you want?)

warble, burble (I would like to access the internet through this telephone number, if that’s OK with you.)

gimble! vorpal! snicker-snack! (Let me check your credentials. Hmm. Looks like you’re on the list. I’ll try to connect you. Hold on.)

wheeeeeeee! ding! ding! ding! ding! hissssss! hisssss! (Thanks. I’ll wait.)

honk! honk! (Standby) hisssssssss! (Well that speed is no good) Hissssssssssssssssssss!(Nope, that one won’t work, either.) HISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!! (Thaaat’s never gonna happen) stutter, stutter, hissss! (Looks like we’ll need to settle for this one. Does that work for you?)

klaatu barada nikto (Sure. I’m just grateful to be connected at any speed. Thank you so much.) 

waffle, baffle, zibble, zonk, bloof! (OK. You’re good to go. As always, remember that you may be disconnected without warning at any time, especially if you are cluttering up this phone line with an all-day download of the latest IE upgrade. Understood, Micron?)

bibbidi, bobbidi, boo. (Understood, AOL. Thanks again.)

Buzzzzzzz! (handshake completed)

I believe the whole handshaking process still takes place today whenever two devices need to connect. It’s just accomplished in the background, more speedily and efficiently — except when it’s not.

I last used the term when we had a cable guy come to the house because we were unable to get the box to connect to a new HD television set. I was aware that these devices, before they could hook up, had to reassure each other that they would never, ever consider, even for a microsecond, illegally copying intellectual property; but that assurance wasn’t happening.

It seems like they’re not completing their handshake,” I helpfully volunteered to the technician.

The look he gave me began as a blank stare and finished with the one that said: “I guess this geezer is off his meds.” He made a non-committal noise and proceeded to replace the box.

As he left, neither of us extended a hand to seal the deal.

Adventures in Writing: Part 3 of 20?
Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one, and write something about it.

Simple? Maybe not.

(New York, N.Y., Friday) — Media icon Hearty Harharre will be taken to court next month in a civil suit filed here today by his brother, Hale.

The action alleges that Hearty has unfairly capitalized on the “Hale and Hearty” image established by both brothers more than 50 years ago and has failed to equitably share the revenue generated by that image. The suit seeks a total of $11.6 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Industry experts have expected legal action on the issue for decades.

“The surprise, here,” observed Beatrice Kale, CEO of the Eat What’s Good for You or Else Conglomerate, “is not that Hearty is being sued by Hale, but that it took so many years for it to happen.”

Some speculated that the closeness of the two brothers made the issue too emotionally charged for action until now. Others theorized that the death of their mother, Hedy, last month may have triggered the action. Their father, Hardy, died in 1996.

The brothers had been extremely close from birth. As identical twins, they didn’t have much choice at the starting gate.

They were inseparable while growing up in rural Vermont, becoming the very epitomes of robust young men in that healthy environment. Both got into body-building in their teens, and it wasn’t long before advertising agencies discovered the brothers and came a-knockin’.

A brand was born.

Soon, everyone wanted to be Hale and Hearty. Their images appeared on breakfast cereal boxes, soup cans and a variety of feminine hygiene products. The last didn’t do very well, but you can’t blame an ambitious advertising agency for trying.

No one knows exactly what happened, but in 1987, Hearty decided to strike out on his own. Perhaps he had noticed that no one ever referred to a substantial meal as “hale.” Hearty had become a standalone, household word, whereas Hale seemed to have virtually disappeared from the American lexicon.

“It was a logical move,” Kale said. “Hale had more or less just been along for the ride for quite some time, so it made sense to dump the baggage.”

Hale was blindsided and devastated. He tried to sell the Hale brand, but found no takers. Spelling-impaired focus groups associated the word with iceballs falling from the sky or yelling for a cab, neither of which were going to move goods and services. A rare exception was the Hale and Hearty Soups chain in New York, but Hale was not getting a cut of that action.

Hale sank into depression, becoming addicted to alcohol, Altoids and Candy Crush. He never spoke publicly of the rift with his brother, but those close to the Harharre family said that Hale never lost hope that he and Hearty would be reunited.

Each year on their birthday, insiders reported, Hale invited Hearty to celebrate. Hearty never accepted, leaving Hale alone with his symbolic single-candle cake.

“My client is only seeking what he deserves,” said Sharky Shyster, Hale’s attorney in the lawsuit. “He bears no malice toward his brother.”

“Hale was always a follower,” Hearty boomed in his trademark megaphone voice. “Going solo was as much ‘tough love’ as anything.”

“We are just twins, for God’s sake, not Siamese twins,” he finished with a hearty laugh

Adventures in Writing: Part 4 of 20?
Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one, and write something about it.

Simple? Maybe not.

The charge was this: Failure to perform household duties as hinted by wife.

My plea: Guilty as charged.

My sentence: To be pronounced within the next few hours.

I couldn’t really plead “not guilty” to the crime. The evidence, a dog-hair reinforced dust bunny big enough to be a trip hazard, was right there, under the chair, exactly where it had been identified about an hour earlier. Numerous  lesser associates of the bunny in question also remained, unmoved, at their common gathering places throughout the living and dining rooms.

I was aware of what had been implied when my birthday-celebrating wife announced the super-bunny’s presence as she prepared to head for her Sunday church service. I had even acknowledged the creature in a “yes, that’s a really nice one” sort of way.

In the back of my mind, I planned to remove the bunny and his buddies before she returned. The thing is, she was correct in her assumption that I wanted to finish a recorded TV program I had started watching the previous night. I had shrewdly calculated that I could put that task at the top of my priority list and still have plenty of time to round up the Dust Bunny Gang before she returned. Generally speaking, a church service takes about an hour, plus another hour for money-counting and a side trip to the supermarket on the way home. I had plenty of time.

When my wife returned unexpectedly early, I froze in my position on the couch. I was not oblivious to her ire and glares in my direction and at the dust bunny, who seemed to wink at me and my predicament. Being oblivious, however, is a handy survival skill husbands develop early in a successful marriage. In as much as she already had the sweeper in hand and was grumpily attacking the bunny, I remained seated and felt grateful that the sweeper was not being used on me instead.

I recalled what my drill instructor had said to me during Navy boot camp training so many years ago when talking about synchronous rifle exercises: “If you’re wrong, stay wrong.” Getting into the right position, after everyone else in the company had stopped moving, only called attention to your error. I kept my position on the couch as I mused about what my punishment might be.

I didn’t have long to wait. We had planned to look at new beds that afternoon. (Yay!) What I had not anticipated was spending 9 hours watching my wife try out different mattresses — over and over and over — as she attempted to discern their subtle differences. In the end, we left without making a purchase, but the saga will be continued.

The episode reminded me of what we both now refer to as “The Punishment Tour.” Back in our early courtship days, while we were still in the process of getting to know the various quirks of our personalities, I made the mistake of being a little too glib about something she said. That was the first time I got the extended silent treatment, but the punishment for my crime was not to end there.

The following day, we embarked on “The Punishment Tour,” in which we spent endless hours going from shop to shop, no make that  “shoppe to shoppe,” in a tourist town. As I recall, no actual purchases were made on that occasion, either.

Punishing the guilty is never really about buying anything.

Adventures in Writing: Part 5 of 20?
Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one, and write something about it.

Simple? Maybe not.

Back in the day, I was inclined to use the phrase, “if memory serves,” which was a polite way to say “my memory is better than yours, so here’s what really happened.”

I no longer use that phrase for one reason. Memory no longer serves. I can’t even get memory to return my calls, much less produce what I need at a moment’s notice.

It’s a little disturbing. I chalk it up to age, but does that mean I’m on a fast track to Alzheimer’s? Not necessarily, from what I’ve read. Being unable to recall simple words or names every now and then is normal, some experts say, even among those relatively young, like 40-somethings. Still, that knowledge does not rule out developing a completely blank mind down the road.

I continued to fret until yesterday, when I saw a television commercial for Prevagen. This over-the-counter miracle medication, according to the manufacturer’s web site, can improve absentmindedness and memory, plus helps with “mild memory problems associated with aging.” Check, double-check and triple-check. My worries were over.

I read more. The magic ingredient in Prevagen is apoaequorin (say that three times fast, or even once), a protein that makes certain jelly fish (specifically, Aequorea victoria) glow.

Eh? Not to worry, the web site reassures potential Prevagen customers, “glowing is not a side-effect.” Hmm. That was a little disappointing. As side-effects go, that would have been a pretty neat one.

Anyway, among the other facts provided on the site, apoaequorin was discovered by a Nobel Prize winner, so you know it’s got to be good. Furthermore, vast numbers of jellyfish are not being killed to make Prevagen, as apoaequorin is now grown in a safe and controlled manufacturing process.” The site proudly displays the “Made in the USA” flag logo.

Well, as promising as all of this sounded, I was still not convinced that swallowing jellyfish protein even the “extra-strength” version, every 24 hours for 30 to 90 days, was my path to memory salvation. The site notes that the benefits of Prevagen are backed by a 90-day study done by Quincy Bioscience, a Madison, Wisconsin, company which also happens to be the “official retailer” of Prevagen.

Hmm. Seemed like the results of that study might have something of a conflict of interest involved, so I decided to do a little investigating of my own. As luck would have it, several Aequorea victorias, including one I had met, Alfred, just happened to live in my neighborhood, so I dropped in on him for a little chat.

Keeping in mind that Al was under water, behind glass and English was not his first language, our conversation went something like this:

“Hi, Al,” I began. “Sorry to show up without calling ahead, but I’m doing a little research into Prevagen, and I thought you might be in unique position to give me some answers.”

Al glowed bashfully. “Excuse me,” he replied. “Have we met?”

“Sure. We talked sushi for a few minutes at the Fourth of July party here last month, remember?”

“No. Please forgive me, but my memory isn’t what is used to be. I’m already four months old. That’s 85 in human years. I get more absentminded every week.”

“But, aren’t you mostly made of the protein used in Prevagen to aid human memory. In fact, isn’t that the very thing that makes you glow?”

“I think that’s what somebody one said, but I’m not sure. The days all seem to run together. I can’t even say for sure what I ate for breakfast, although I’m told it’s the same, soft-bodied organisms every meal.”

“That really makes me question the value of your magic memory protein. Hello?”

Al seemed to be drifting aimlessly in his tank, apparently dozing until I rapped on the glass.

“Huh? Hi,” Al said with a waking snort. “Do I know you?”

“Yes, we’ve talked.”

“I take your word on that. Have we talked about anything interesting?”

“No, just sushi and memories.”

“Memories are nice. I wish I had some.”

Well, I guess I can cancel that order for a lifetime supply of Prevagen. For now, I’ll continue to rely on salmon, whole grains and Cheetos to keep me sharp.

Adventures in Writing: Part 6 of 20?

Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one, and write something about it.

Simple? Maybe not.

“Out” is a word that can’t be trusted. Not for a moment. Even standing alone, “out” reeks of something negative.

“Out” means gone, no more, not in and a few other thousand problem-posing developments. When “out” hangs out with some of its friends (especially that bad influence, “of”), the phrases you get are rarely something good.

Check out the tragic case of Donald McRonald.

Donald had an outstanding five years of high school. He went out for baseball, caught a lot of outbound balls in the outfield and struck out the fewest times in the history of the school.

Girls almost always said “yes” when Donald asked them out, even though they knew he expected them to put out. Donald believed that the few girls who thought they were out of his league were clearly out of their minds. All of Donald’s locker room buddies considered him to be the school make-out king.

As you may have figured out, Donald was not the sharpest knife his his high school silverware drawer.

During his fifth year of studies, Donald’s teachers had been not-so-subtly hinting that he might want to consider pursuing his fortunes out in the real world. Confident that his outgoing personality would continue to serve him as well outside the school walls as it had inside, Donald decided to drop out. Little did he know that his life was about to turn inside-out.

Donald was immediately dismayed to learn that his top post-secondary school career choice, phone sex, had been completely outsourced. Also out were his next two choices, telemarketing and customer service.

After a week of scouring the classifieds and pounding the sidewalks, he finally found work assembling take-out orders at an outback Steakhouse. He didn’t work out, however, as he was frequently out of sorts with the customers and sometimes, depending on how long he had been out the night before, completely out of it. He turned out to be a Bloomin’ Onion addict, and quickly became out-of-shape and out-of-breath. Less than a month after he started, he was out the door.

For a while, Donald managed to hang out with his old high school baseball buddies. His deadbeat ways were quickly found out. His friends were outraged, and they kicked him out. Donald’s parents pretended to be out whenever he rang the doorbell.

Donald was out of friends, out of work and out on the streets. The outlook was bleak for poor Donald. He was out of cash, out of ideas and out of hope. Winter came, and Donald was literally out in the cold. Running out of gas, Donald weakly stumbled, then crawled toward the best thing he could pull out of his memory.

They found him early one morning, lying face-down, just outside the home team dugout at his old high school baseball diamond, the height of his glory. For Donald, time had run out.

What should you get out of reading the Saga of Donald? Well, the next time you’re out and about, look out for “out.” Those three little letters can easily outwit, outplay and outlast you.

(Word count: 521. Out count: 63)

Adventures in Writing: Part 7 of 20?
Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one and write something about it.

Simple? Maybe not.

Old is such a relative term. I don’t mean that in terms of Great Aunt Lucy or Grandpa Zachary, although that’s how I thought when I was a kid. Old is those people you see once or twice a year at a birthday party or on a holiday — the people who tell you how big, not how old, you’ve gotten.
I don’t know at what point in life I crossed into old. The milestone number has been continually pushed forward.

When I was a teenager, they were saying “never trust anyone over 30.” When I hit 30, I didn’t feel particularly untrustworthy; but I was more than a little suspicious of the 50-something crowd. Now well over 50, I have accepted the remote possibility that I might very well be old — or am I just a Baby Boomer?

A lot of wiser (and maybe even younger) people have had their say on old. Let’s take a look.

I don’t know but I’ve been told, if you keep on dancing you’ll never grow old.
Steve Miller, I’ve got to say, this just doesn’t play right in my world. First, if you literally keep on dancing, you’ll soon be exhausted. Exhaustion, numerous scientific studies have shown, does not contribute to longevity. Second, if you grow old when you’re not dancing, I should have been pushing up daisies decades ago.

The only time I dance is when my wife drags me away from the bar at a wedding reception. Even then, the understanding is “slow dances only.” No point in getting too lively.

You’re only as old as you feel.
I don’t know who came up with this saying, but he or she clearly has never gotten up in the morning with my right foot. The right foot goes missing nearly every night.

By day, it snaps, crackles and pops; it twitches, throbs and burns. I once thought I spotted wisps of smoke coming from the offending appendage, but I have since dismissed that as an agony-induced hallucination.

The foot eventually begins to function, but never without a long start-up process.

The doctor told me my arch has collapsed, and a tendon is about ready to let loose. Now, I’m wearing arch supports and experiencing a whole new kind of pain. It’s the kind of pain I might expect to experience if two red-hot marbles were parked in my shoes directly under my arches — if I had arches.

My feet have always been so flat they could be mistaken for unleavened bread, but the foot situation only kicked in a year or two ago. Nothing but advancing age can account for that deterioration.

You’re only as old as your weakest body part feels. In my case, that makes me about 95. I’m at that awkward ambulatory age: too old walk without a limp; to young to need a walker.

Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.
Leave it to a poet, in this case Robert Browning, to take a merry view of aging. If I may be so bold, allow me to add a few lines of my own about becoming old.

I’m freakin’ full of glee. If only I could see
The words have grown so small, I cannot read at all.
I’m grateful still to hear, but now sounds must be near.
I’ve kept my sense of feel, although it hurts to kneel.
Oh, Bob, you must be wrong! The best has come and gone.

Youth is wasted on the young.
George Bernard Shaw left a sizable legacy of quotable quotes. While this one may be pithily clever, it’s really just another way of saying “If only I could be (insert much younger age here) again and know what I know now.”

While both expressions ring true, you can’t accomplish much by condemning everything you did when you still had a little spring in your step. Let’s say, just for fun, that you could travel back in time to give your 20-year-old self the benefit of all you’ve learned.

I know your failing memory may be a problem here, but I’ll wager that your more youthful self totally ignored any sage advice given by your parents as well as anyone else in that age bracket. What would make you treat counseling from your future self any differently? Beyond that, you probably would be hard-pressed to recognize the you-to-be, much less accept the whole time travel explanation.

Nope, as much of a disadvantage as it is, we all seem to have a universal need to learn things for ourselves.

Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, and it’s the youngest you’ll ever be again.
Thank Eleanor Roosevelt (and Google) for this variation on “today is the first day in the rest of your life.”

This is just more wishful messing with the concept of time. Sure, it puts a positive spin on getting older; but like most spins, the best you’re going to get from it is a cheap, temporary high.

This may have given you the impression that I don’t find a lot of value in the sayings of others. You’re right.

I am getting better, though. Back in my younger days, I thought of each birthday as being another year closer to death. Now I see these annual anniversaries as another year of staying one step ahead of the Grim Reaper.

Call me Old Man Optimism.

Adventures in Writing: Part 8 of 20?

Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one and write something about it.

The present is that infinitely small slice of the space-time continuum in which I travel. Behind and ahead of me stretch the infinite past and future.

The size of my now cannot be measured. Scientists have put numbers on how long the continuum has been and will be. Perhaps that gives them comfort.

I have been present throughout my timeline. To simply be present does not differ from being absent. I must be actively present if I am to steer my line, even imperceptibly outward or inward, as I move forward through time.

My infinitesimally small bubble of present is expanded to include those whose lines intersect mine. To not do so is to deny those who would add meaning to my life.

My timeline is a present from the Universe. When it ends, I will present myself to the Universal Mind and hope to not be found wanting.

Either that, or that big bottle of Belgian ale I just polished off has really messed with my head.

Adventures in Writing: Part 9 of 20?

Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one and write something about it.

Simple? Maybe not.

Special wife and husband installment.


Twelve Things Learned in Nearly 12 Years of Marriage

1. I’ve learned that men just poop more than women and they take their sweet natured time about completing the action.

Not only do men poop more, but they are unable to carry out the mission without words…written words. I’ve seen my husband scrounging the house for something to read when the month is drawing near the end, and he’s gone through the multitude of magazines that he subscribes to and houses in his bathroom. I can see his mental struggle when he has to choose between my Oprah magazine or the back of a cereal box for possible reading material.

I order two magazines and very seldom get through either of them. As a practical matter, I poop once a day and do not dally about. I get in and out. I do not read. I poop and leave the premises once my mission has been accomplished. I can think of more pleasant environments in which to read.

2. I’ve learned that Cheetos are an extremely valuable natural resource. I discovered this just last week when I reached into the towel drawer in my husband’s bathroom to retrieve a towel to dry our grandson off after his bath and was both horrified and hysterical when I discovered a family-size bag of Cheetos hiding under the towels. Once I composed myself, I came out of the bathroom and asked my husband just why there was a bag of Cheetos in his bathroom. His reply, “So you aren’t tempted by them.” Really? Really? I have never in my entire married life eaten “his” Cheetos when they were left in plain view. Really? So “I” wouldn’t be tempted by them?

3. I’ve learned to trust my husband when he opens all four windows in the car in below zero weather and yells, “Flush” that it is in my best interest to turn my face to the open window and breath deep.

I consider the “flush” a community service.

4. I’ve learned that no mail may be disposed of with our name and address on it – even if the name is “RESIDENT”. I used to violate this policy only to find my discarded mail sorted with name and address removed and disposed of in the correct garbage receptacle.

I now fear the mail. Anything with my name on it sits in great piles on our kitchen island waiting for me to review it. If it’s junk, I put it in one pile. If it’s something I need/want, it goes into another pile. I then hide the pile of what I want/need so he doesn’t destroy it and cautiously leave the pile of mail I don’t want in the middle of the island which gives him permission to do his identity removal and secret sorting.

Mail is a confusing process and I leave it to the professional!

5. I’ve learned that my darling spouse cannot give our dogs simple commands to correct their inappropriate actions. For example, our two-year-old Puggle, Ziggy, recently went to the patio door several times with a whimper which typically designates one of two thing: 1) a leaf just blew across the back yard and he needs to get out there to kill it, or 2) he needs to eliminate some liquid or solid. Granted, Ziggy more often than not stands by the patio door whimpering five minutes after he’s just been out. However, in this particular case, he apparently needed to perform the second of the two options and when he wasn’t allowed outside, he did what came naturally – he left a huge puddle right in front of the patio door.

My husband jumped from his chair with a litany of curse words that would make a Marine blush and began chastising of the now empty dog. Watching this from a safe distance, I mentioned that the dog did the same thing earlier in the week when I hadn’t taken him out when he whimpered at the door as I believed it was a false alarm…and discovered it was not as he peed on the cupboard. I said that I couldn’t even yell at Zigs because he told me; I just didn’t listen.

This story apparently had no impact on my husband as he swore and explained to Ziggy in great detail how he felt about his piddling on the floor. Ziggy stood looking at my husband with a look on his doggy face that was clearly saying, “Hey, I’m innocent here. I told you.” That look fell on deaf ears as the scolding continued until all remnants of the “accident” had been removed.

6. I have learned that my husband is not, as he reminds me often, “my girlfriend”. If I tell him something about someone who has either hurt or annoyed me, he will put his mind to work on an immediate solution. That solution will include a complete dissemination of said offender’s character as well as various scenarios of how I can get my revenge on said person. Then, as an added benefit, he will remember that person’s crime far longer than I will and if I bring that person up in casual conversation, he will remind me of the past crimes said person committed against me even though it is now obvious that we are buds.

I do give my hubby credit. He tries to listen without giving advice. It’s just that men are take-action kind of people and if I am just venting, I should indeed save that conversation for my girlfriends!

7. I have learned the true lyrics to many songs. While I have mistakenly sung lyrics such as Paul McCartney’s: “Helen, hell on wheels,” I now know through my husband’s song-singing that what Paul was really singing was “Hello, yellow wheels.” This is just one of many true lyrics that I’ve learned over the years. During any road trip that is accompanied by background music, I often discover additional lost lyrics as he belts out the tunes. I used to correct my husband, but the lyrics that he sings are firmly planted in his head and there is no replacing them. I will admit here and now that ONCE I sang the wrong lyrics to the Eagles “Life in the Fast Lane.” I will never live that down…never.

8. I have learned that you can indeed drive exactly 25 miles per hour in the city or 70 miles per hour on the highway without exceeding the speed limit because that is what my husband does. He feels no stress as cars back up behind him. He is cheery as others zoom by with a raised finger and eyes blazing. He is happy in his law-abiding, NOT in the fast lane world.

Now I will admit that maybe, just maybe, I exceed the speed limit just a tad, and have paid the price twice, but really, 25 miles an hour? Well, I could get out and walk faster, right?

9. I have learned that my husband, unlike me, is a good loser. We can play six games of Yahtzee, three hours of cribbage, or a marathon game of Scrabble. Although he, more often than not, loses, he continues playing just to spend time with me. He gets that playing games is just a way to pass time in each other’s company. If I, on the other hand, lose two games of anything either consecutively or intermittently and I get crabby and want to quit.

10. I have learned thoughtfulness comes in unexpected ways from the man that I’ve been married to for nearly a dozen years. I’ve been on the receiving end of sentimental and well thought out gifts for each of our anniversaries.

My husband spends unknown amounts of time building the number of years we’ve been married into the gifts. Last year, for our 11th anniversary, I received 11 books – some on writing, some just well-written books because I want to pursue some type of writing career. For our 9th anniversary, I received a picture with 9 separate panels related to music – another one of my loves. Our 6th anniversary gift was a beautiful picture with six gold leaves.

I look around and see his thoughtfulness reflected on and throughout the walls of our home.

11. I’ve learned that a sense of humor – whether it’s laughing at your own stupid actions or just a moment that catches you off guard is essential for a man cohabitating with a woman whose emotions tend to go off the charts. I believe that one of my requirements in my Yahoo personal ad 15 plus years ago was to find someone I could laugh with. While that statement may be considered overused and trite, I have laughed at and with my husband throughout our 15-year relationship and it continues to be our words to live by.

Laughter reminds you not to take yourself too seriously. It is a breath of fresh air when tension fills the room. It is the foundation of our best memories.

I am blessed with a marriage full of laughter.

12. Finally, I’ve learned that my husband is my rock. He has loved, cradled and quietly encouraged me through good times and bad. He hurts when I hurt. He holds me up when I’m falling. He laughs when I laugh. He sings when I sing. He is there when I need him. He gives me space to be my own person. He sees who I am and loves me in spite of it. He is the man of my dreams.

While it may take a village to raise a child, it takes just two, the patience of a saint and an incredible sense of humor to build and maintain a marriage. As our 12-year wedding anniversary looms on the horizon, I’d have to say that it’s been a great ride, Honey! Here’s to you for teaching me all the important things in life!

What major dozen things have I learned about marriage as the 12th anniversary of my being wedded to the most wonderful woman in the world (TMWWW) approaches? I might have spent an incredible amount of time digging deep within the recesses of my so-called memory to answer that question, but I’ll just take the easy way out and delve into the subject areas so graciously provided to me by TMWWW herself.

1. Scientific studies have confirmed that the average bathroom output volume of men and women does not differ significantly. What women do not know is that sitting on the throne and reading just naturally go together — like horse and carriage, love and marriage or screaming eagles and sandsnakes.

Humanity has been simplified as two basic types of people in more ways than I can count. One of those divides us into “Randoms” and “Sequentials.”

I am a painful example of the latter. I have great difficulty moving to another task before I have completed the one at hand. Unfortunately for me, today’s world puts a high premium on “multitasking,” which falls into the realm of the Randoms.

If performing these two bathroom tasks takes longer than one might expect, it’s only due to mismatched timing. An article may take longer to finish than my primary duty, but a Sequential never stops reading in mid-story. Anything started must be completed.

Trips to the bathroom present opportunities for me to overcome my basic inability to multitask. Sure, it’s only “double-tasking” — simultaneously reading and that other thing — but I should be given credit for self-improvement and enhanced employability.

2. A towel drawer is a perfect place to “store,” not “hide,” a family-size bag of Cheetos. My explanation for how the bag came to be there was yet another example how thoughtful I am.

TMWWW claims that she would never dip into a tempting bag of Cheetos placed in plain sight. What she meant to say is that she would never violate an “unopened” bag.

As my immediate plans for the bag definitely included opening it, I thought that stashing it in a bathroom drawer was a proactive move. I was merely trying to keep TMWWW from following my evil nutritional ways.

3. Clearing a car cabin of sudden, mysterious atmospheric changes is one of the sworn duties of a good husband. Time spent determining the source or nature of these variations is time wasted in what could be an emergency situation.

A four-window flush, leading safety experts say, is the quickest way to restore a safe environment in a speeding automobile, regardless of whether the situation was caused by an inflow of deadly anhydrous ammonia from a just-passed farm field or was generated by an innocent internal gas leak. Fortunately, I have an extremely well-developed early detection ability, enabling me to take action long before other occupants become aware of any danger.

4. MWWW should be afraid of the mail. Very afraid. With much junk mail comes much responsibility.

Our household has two basic incoming mail-handling systems. In TMWWW’s system, each day’s mail goes in either one pile or two. If I see two piles on the kitchen island, it means that TMWWW has gone though the offerings and filtered out the items for which she personally has further purpose. Sometimes, I can correctly identify the “save” pile. Most of the time, I cannot.

Over the course of a week or two, without intervention on my part, each pile will continue to grow to proportions threatening to require an addition to the house. That’s when I am forced to apply my system.

In that system, both of TMWWW’s mountainous mail piles are reevaluated and sorted into three piles. The first pile is “keepers” — bills, bank and credit card statements, notices of foreclosure — all the little things which might hold consequences if lost or ignored. The second pile is heading for the shredder — junk mail like credit card offers, pre-approved loan notices, insurance quotes — along with anything else bearing our names and/or address which, if they were to be found blowing about the streets, would bring the litter police directly to our doorstep. The third pile is strictly advertising, sans name or address, which gets recycled.

Is it any wonder that a LifeLock identity theft insurance purchase comes with a free shredder?

5. I am aware that our dogs are quite probably unable to translate English into Barkese. My lengthy, expletive-laced verbal response to whatever offense they have committed is mostly for me, not them.

They do not understand my sentences. They do understand the tone in which the words are delivered. They are polite enough to look at me for the duration of my diatribes before they return to doing whatever the hell they were doing to spark my ire.

6. My limited options for responding to tales of woe told to me by TMWWW became apparent to me very early in our relationship, even before my girlfriend became my fiancee, and my fiancee became TMWWW. The concept that I could simply listen to a problem but not be required to offer a solution was a little hard to grasp.

I guess that initially thought it might be a trap. I was being told something, and I didn’t have to do anything about it? It seemed too good to be true. Once my suspicions subsided, I wholehearted embraced the arrangement.

Times still come when I can’t resist offering my all-purpose suggestion: “Just kill them.” I should know better, as that response has never been well received.

7. When it comes to memorizing song lyrics, I definitely do not the have the purist perspective of TMWWW. I sing what I hear.

Paul McCartney’s “hello, yellow wheel” (Helen Wheels) is just the tip of the lyric iceberg. I’ve also heard Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “There’s a bathroom on the right” (Bad Moon Rising); Jimmy Hendrix’s “scuse me, while I kiss this guy” (Purple Haze); Queen’s “need somebody to love, bite!” (Somebody to Love); and Simon and Garfunkel’s “in the quiet of the railway station. lettuce skin” (The Boxer)

For the record, the lyrics I heard and sang correctly from the Eagles’ “Life in the Fast Lane” were “they didn’t care, they were just dying to get off.” TMWWW has never revealed her interpretation of that particular sentence. In fact, she has become quite peeved on those few hundred occasions I have reminded her that I was right.

8. I’ve got one rule that I apply to driving speeds: “Never speed, never worry.” By subconsciously following this rule, I feel no need to watch for lurking squad cars or keep up with my fellow drivers. Neither do I worry about how I will fund the $7,234.13 conglomeration of fine, court fees, taxes, surcharges and tips I would have to pay after being busted for driving 26 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone.

TMWWW, on the other hand, has a different rule even more eloquently simple than mine: “One speed.” That speed seems to be 70 mph.

Whenever I’m riding shotgun, I no longer look at the speedometer or innocently ask how fast we’re going. I know.

9. You could believe, as TMWWW does, that I am a good loser. In fact, I would much prefer to win whatever game we’re playing. I just don’t get too upset about losing. Maybe that makes me more of a neutral loser.

Whether I lose or win, I recognize the real purpose of the game is to spend time together, laughing and often engaging in extended, highly accented “stupid talk.”

10. I do endeavor to find anniversary gifts symbolic of the number being observed. Some have been less successful than others.

A digital camera with a model number ending in eight, for example, was not the most memorable gift on the eighth anniversary. In my defense, TMWWW had said that she wanted a camera. Luckily for her, 8-track tape players were no longer available.

An 11-book assortment specially picked for a budding memoir writer were the best I could do last year, but not for lack of searching. Eleven does not seem to be a popular number in the worlds of jewelry or art.

I’m a little at a loss for the upcoming anniversary at this point. I’ve been told that space is no longer available for anything that might need to be hung on a wall, so paintings are out.

I’m leaning toward a nice, fresh carton of a dozen eggs. Seems so natural. Nothing but Eggland’s Best, of course, for TMWWW.

11. I am in full agreement with TMWWW on the subject of humor. We are as likely to laugh at something one of us said or did as we are to laugh at the antics of others. While you can’t build a successful marriage on laughter alone, you can’t build one without it. We’ve got a treasure trove of humorous building blocks in our marriage foundation.

12. As much as I am TMWWW’s rock, she is mine. She has an unfailing ability to bring out the best in me, even when I have no idea of what my best might be. I don’t know how I ever managed without her comfort, caring and companionship, or how I could possibly exist without her.

A while back, TMWWW added one of those of “words of wisdom” signs among the many found in our home decor. It reads “If I had my life to live over again, I’d find you sooner, so I that could love you longer.”

That says it all. TMWWW is the love of a lifetime, my lifetime.


Adventures in Writing: Party 10 of 20

Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one and write something about it.

Simple? Maybe not.

Although this creation may seem like a darkly written memoir, it’s not. It reflects neither real events nor real feelings.

It’s simply a work of fiction designed to come up with something for the word …

I sit in my father’s hospice room. I have been there, off and on, for days, maybe weeks. After a while, it all runs together. It has been a long vigil, too long to be exact.

It is a deathwatch for an only child. My father is terminally ill, and he has decided to die. He has stopped taking his medications. He has stopped taking meals. His organs, the doctors say, are shutting down. His time will come soon, they warn or assure me.

I love my father because he is my father, but I do not really like him. Perhaps that is for the same reason.

In the dimly-lit room, I can hear his raspy breathing. In. Out. In. Out. Mesmeric. Hypnotic. I might be lulled into fitful sleep by the rhythm, were it not for the cane.

He clutches the cane in his left hand. He is slumped forward in the wheelchair, which he has stubbornly insisted serve as a substitute for a deathbed. The cane is all that stands between him and the floor.

As I fixate on the cane in this room, so I have fixated on it since I was a small boy. Made for a king, I was told. Given by a grateful sire to a peasant who had saved his king’s life by merely being in the right place at the right time. Passed on, generation to generation, from an ancestor prefixed by so many greats, the relationship is meaningless.

The cane, topped by a tarnished golden orb centered on the King of Beasts, is truly a thing of beauty. The lion’s eyes glow evil red. His fiercely snarling face is surrounded by jungle leaves.

Below the lion are alternating symbols, some sort of Franco-Prussian, fleur de lis and iron cross incarnations. All are supported by rearing serpents, as the crown gives way to rich, dark wood.

I have always wanted that cane — since the very first time I saw it. It was the ultimate objectification of manly authority. He who wielded the cane was in charge, whether administering a punishing rap to the head or an approving slap to the buttocks. I want that cane in an almost patricidal way.

My father deserves that cane. His left leg was blown off below the knee by an landmine near the end of World War II. He was an 18-year-old Army private.

He is understandably embittered. Who can blame him for lashing out more often in anger than reward with his duly inherited Cane of Authority? I must have that cane, if ever I am to become the man my father expects me to be. The cane must be mine!

I snap from my musings to refocus on my father. Silence. From my chair, I cannot ascertain if he is still breathing. Could my momentary lapse of attention have caused me to miss his passing?

I leave my seat and quietly approach my father. The cane! The cane! Could it really be mine?

Reaching his wheelchair, I grasp the object of my desire.

A sharp intake of breath! Shock! His grip on the cane tightens, displaying strength far beyond that of a dying man. One jaundiced, blood-shot eye pops opens to glare at me.

“Not yet,” he croaks.

Adventures in Writing: Part 11 of 20?

Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one and write something about it.

Simple? Maybe not.

There I was, routinely guiding my Parrot Bebop over a nearby enchanted forest, intensely watching the camera feed on my battered laptop, and there he was! Clearly visible in a small clearing, unmistakable, a dragon!
I jumped into my red Nissan Juke, the Ruby Rocket, and sped to the location. Surprised to be discovered, he was hostile, at first. After much cajoling and whining on my part, he reluctantly agreed to an interview. A lifelong dream realized!

Me: Thanks for agreeing to this, Mr. Dragon. I’m a big fan.
Dragon: My first impulse was to burn you to a crisp, but my race has a longstanding tradition of watching over humans — the good and the stupid ones, anyway. Besides, people probably knew you were out there in the woods. If you mysteriously disappeared, it would bring publicity, search parties and other unwelcome attention.

M: Well, thanks even more for that, Mr. Dragon. Has anyone ever told you that you sound a lot like Sean Connery?
D: I get that a lot, mostly from people who have watched Dragonheart a few too many times. You can call me Pete.

M: Peter Dragon. Hey, you aren’t by any chance, the author of Line in the Sand, are you?
P: No, I’m not. Neither did I pen Sitting under the Grandstand, by I. Seymour Butts. Are we done revisiting your childhood?

M: Sorry. I’ve always wanted to interview a dragon. You’re so mystical.
P: I’m just another one of God’s creatures. Other than my multi-millennial age, I’m nothing special.

M: Nothing special? You’re kidding, right? None of the other creatures breathe fire.
P: Dragons breathing fire is just an illusion perpetrated by your species through popular media. No living being can breathe fire. The first breath would scorch it’s lungs and result in painful instant death. You’ve got to be the one who’s kidding. How did humans ever get so close to the top of the evolutionary ladder? You must have bumped your heads a lot on the way up. Is your brainpower as much a myth as my fire-breathing?

M: What? I’ve seen dragons breathing fire lots of times on Game of Thrones. You know George R.R. Martin would never write anything not based on fact. How can you deny having this ability?
P: Hold on there, laddie. I said we didn’t breathe fire. I didn’t say we can’t produce it.

M: How do you manage that illusion?
P: Without going into a lot of complicated anatomical detail, let’s just say that dragons have a far greater ability than humans to manufacture and store methane. The composition of our teeth includes significant amounts of rock and metal. Whenever we snap our jaws just right as we discharge accumulated methane, presto! Instant flamethrower.

M: So, you’re really just burning off farts?
P: Crudely put, but accurate. Although you must admit that it’s an improvement over humans, who wastefully vent their precious methane into the atmosphere, often in socially unacceptable situations.

M: That’s quite an evolutionary accomplishment. Was it developed as a defense mechanism?
P: No, this trait is rooted in the fact that dragons have never been able to digest raw meat very well. I’m not saying that flicking our Bics hasn’t also been useful for defensive and offensive purposes. Things can get a little toasty during mating season.

M: Flicking your Bic. That’s very ’70s, but it reminds me of a question I’ve always wanted to ask my first dragon. I realize I’m taking my life in my hands, here, but I’ve got to go all juvenile on you one more time, OK?
P: OK, but I have a feeling that I know where you’re going with this. Fire away.

M: Here goes. Hey, buddy, have you got a light?

Adventures in Writing: Part 12 of 20?

Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one and write something about it.

Simple? Maybe not.

(With profound apologies to the estate of Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel)


I’ve always wanted to be “in”

I’ve always wanted to be thin

I’ve always wanted a nice grin

I’ve always wanted a cleft chin

I’ve always wanted handsome skin

I’ve always wanted Rin Tin Tin

I’ve never played the mandolin

I’ve never sampled bathtub gin

I’ve never loved a manikin

I’ve never visited Berlin

I never know quite where I’ve been

I’ve never wanted to begin

Drinking tea with saccharin

I’ve always wanted a “good” twin

I’d like to grow a dorsal fin

And take a sports car for a spin

I always have admired sin

I’ve always wanted discipline

To buy and fly my own zeppelin

It looks like I may never win

Adventures in Writing: Part 13 of 20?

Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one and write something about it.

Simple? Maybe not.

Ah, this word was not one of mine, but I am quite ecstatic about the opportunity to share the many facts about “fart” that I have learned over the years.

Now, when I say “facts,” I am referring to the facts as I recall them. I’m old, curmudgeonly, and I never let actual “facts” get in the way of my memories.

Do not challenge any of the things you are about to be told. These are my memories, and no one will ever convince me that they are anything but completely accurate.

Let’s begin.

The chief component of the fart has been with us since the very beginnings of life. Methane, heated by the sun, bubbled freely in the primordial soup, churning and mixing the amino acids which eventually became us.

“Primordial,” by the way, is soon to become a new Campbell’s “Healthy Request(®) offering. Watch for it on your supermarket shelves.

Although the fart has always been with us, the modern word is derived from the German infinitive “furzenzimmer,” which freely translated means “to clear a room.” The noun is also rooted in the German word, “furzenraketetreibmittel,” which can be translated and condensed as “rocket propellant.

Is it any wonder this word has been shortened to four letters?

“Fart” has played many roles throughout human history, both standing alone and working with other syllables. The very first known instance goes back to the time of the Romans, the national group which became Italians  in 1953.

The Romans found and trained the greatest barbarian fighter ever to perform in the Colosseum. I speak, needless to say, of  the most famous gladiator of all times, Fartacus.

Fartacus fought and defeated wave after wave of deadly Christian Ninjas for decades. This greatly amused Roman citizens who had become disenchanted with bread and circuses.

Fartacus was finally felled in 1851 by the divinely enhanced swordsmanship of St. Fartholomew. Fartholomew was honored for this deed by being named “Patron Saint of Cheesecutters.”

The next historical record of “fart” joining forces with other letters to become a famous name took place in what is now France with the man who conquered the world, Napoleon Bonafarte. Bonafarte is most renowned for his 1913 victory in the Battle of Waterloo, where he soundly trounced the troops of Russia.

Back then, for those who might be confused, Russia was known as the Soviet Union. That evil empire was destroyed just last year when Bolshevik leader Vlad “The Impaler” Putin toppled the czar.

To celebrate his triumph, Bonafarte wrote and performed “The 1812 Overture.” The French were so grateful to Bonafarte, they gave him a permanent, all-expense-paid vacation on the legendary resort island of Atlantis. He was never heard from again.

Beyond history, my richest vein of “fart” material, by far, is found in the various branches of the entertainment industry. My parents, for example, were immensely entertained by the TV program Kids Make the Darndest Smells, which was hosted by Fart Linkletter.

Little-known, fun fact: Linkletter emigrated to the United States from Canada as Gordon Arthur Kelley. His name was changed by Ellis Island immigration officials, who thought the new name would help him better fit into American society and give him a leg up on his comedic career aspirations. As an unexpected bonus to getting a good laugh at Linkletter’s expense, they were right.

Moving down the entertainment tree trunk to the music branch, who could forget the folksinging team of Fart Garfartel and old what’s-his-name? The hit parade was topped for several months by their biggest song, “That Smell.” Garfartel went on to enjoy a momentary career as an acclaimed actor.

Well, I’ve got a real treasure trove of additional fart-related memories I haven’t even mentioned stored in this old noggin, like the vast world of fine fart and the many famous fartists whose works hang on fart gallery walls throughout the world. I’ve got to save something for those conversational times around the 4 pm dinner table in my skilled care, independent living facility — after residents have loosened their belts, before they head back to their apartments with their containers of leftovers. The subject of farts is often breeched during these few happy reminiscing minutes.

I think I’ve made my point.

The next time you suddenly find a powerful, unmistakable aroma wafting into your nostrils, producing a barely controllable urge to wretch, remember the fart’s noble place in Humankind. Don’t start pointing fingers.

If you are the doer of the deed, don’t cower and shrink from attention. Step forward and proudly proclaim: “That was me! And you’re welcome.”

Adventures in Writing: Part 14 of 20?

Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one and write something about it.

Simple? Maybe not.

Wendy was into all things new.

Whenever she saw a commercial for something new on television, she felt that the pitch was aimed directly at her. It was almost as if they knew her.

They did. In fact, they were getting to know her better every day.

Only yesterday, Wendy had been roaming the aisles of her local Great Wall of China Super Mart, just checking for anything new, when she saw it. It was the latest VerySmart TV set.

Wendy’s old set, which was literally new 6 months ago, had been working just fine. This one was really new. For Wendy, it was a “must buy.”

The set was on sale — 30 percent off. On top of that, with the purchase of her 40-inch screen, she could get a second set of equal or smaller size for half-price. She left the store as proud new owner of two 40-inchers. Wendy could not believe her luck.

When she got them home, she knew just where to hang them. One went on the wall of her “open concept” living room/dining room/kitchen. The other went on her bedroom wall.

It was a smallish apartment. Now, she could watch TV from any room, even from the bathroom if she left the door open.

The great new features of the set included a camera and microphone. They would enable, the owner’s manual said, Wendy to wirelessly connect any VerySmart SpeakEasy19bs or higher cell phone to her sets for a big-screen HD MugTime experience.

That would have to wait. Wendy had the SpeakEasy18hs. The 19bs was new, so she had every intention of getting it as soon as it was released.

The operator’s manual didn’t mention all of the bells and whistles possessed by her new TV sets. After all, it wasn’t so much a manual as a “quick set-up guide.” The full manual was available for download if she desired. She did not. Wendy was not into details.

Unknown to Wendy, her new TV sets had a special feature. They were watching her. All the time.

With their super wide-angle lenses, the television sets were perfectly positioned to keep Wendy in view. Her apartment afforded no nook or cranny for her to hide.

Powered by an uninteruptible rechargeable battery, the camera was always on, even when the set was switched off. Along with a permanent internet connection, Netflix and a rudimentary web browser, the set came equipped with the very latest, regularly updated, facial expression interpreting software.

Wendy’s every smile, frown and forehead wrinkle were recorded and relayed to the set manufacturer. All of her likes and dislikes were automatically analyzed, sorted and sold to the highest bidder, along with the exact location of the television set generating the data.

Wendy had given the VerySmart Corporation a head start on getting to know her by completing a survey packed with her sets. By completing the questionnaire, which VerySmart stated would “help us better serve your needs,” Wendy got the warranties on her new sets, at no additional cost, doubled from the standard six months to a full year. Wendy could not believe her luck.

In exchange, VerySmart got Wendy’s age, income range, employer and many of her personal preferences. The corporation was very happy to learn about Wendy. A woman like her, obsessed with all things new, was a potential merchandising gold mine.

Advertisers soon knew that Wendy has a cat named Mittens. They learned that Wendy is a single, 42-year-old woman, who often works late and has a tendency to eat convenience meals. They discovered she loves Cheetos. They knew where she shops — everywhere she shops.

They knew when she was sleeping. There’s a pill for that. They knew when she was awake. There’s a pill for that. They knew if she had been bad or good — although Wendy was always good, for goodness sake. No pill for that, yet.

The good people at VerySmart soon knew more about Wendy than Wendy knew about herself. They even knew what Mittens did when Wendy was at work. Naughty, naughty cat.

The infiltration began with little things. Wendy learned, from a commercial strategically placed between the opening and first scene of her favorite program, that her supermarket’s weekly sales items included “new and improved” Cheetos and a new brand of cat food very similar to what she served Mittens, but at a much lower introductory price. What luck! She loaded up on both.

Within a month, Wendy’s entire weekly shopping list consisted of new items she had seen advertised on her VerySmart TV sets. She was amazed at how frequently an ad exactly matched her needs, often when she was about to run out of something. How could she be so lucky?

The time had come for advertisers to lock their grip on Wendy. As she was checking “suggested” programs on her television guide one night, she happened upon a eye-opener: All about Winnie.

She read the summary of this “new hit” and found that it was a situation comedy drama, which meant it would feature a canned laugh track and one or two characters who either cried or swore during each episode.

The show centered on a 40-something single woman and her adorable, but mischievous kitty, Snowshoes. Wow! It would be like watching herself starring in a television show, and it was new! How could she resist?

The opening episode was a total immersion experience for Wendy. She absolutely loved Winnie’s apartment kitchen. That hot pink single-cup coffee maker! To die for!

Wendy eyed her own basic black single-cupper with distaste. Well, that would have to change.

Winnie’s appliances! They were all that new, fingerprint-proof stainless steel. Wendy’s would have to go.

The premiere episode gave Wendy a new mission. Although she was a woman of modest means, she now knew where all of her disposable income would be going. It might take a while, but eventually her and Winnie’s worlds would be identical.

Somewhere, deep inside the VerySmart Corp., a technician typed a few keystrokes to reprogram Wendy’s TV sets. Recording Wendy’s life would no longer be necessary.

Adventures in Writing: Part 15 of 20?

Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one and write something about it.
Simple? Maybe not.

“What’s in the hold, Captain?”

I cringed inwardly. I was expecting the question, of course. I had hoped it would not be asked so soon after we had emerged from the stasis pods.

“That’s ‘need to know’ only,” I told my overly curious co-pilot, George.

I didn’t really care if the only other crew member aboard the SXS Elon Musk knew what we were carrying, but I had been sworn to secrecy before launch. Time had been too short for questions when we boarded and were hustled into the pods. The ground crew had stowed our cargo after putting us under. Even I had not gotten a look at it.

“Oh, come on,” George pleaded. “I’ve got the same top secret clearance as you, and I really have a need to know.”

“Not the same thing, as I’m sure you’re aware,” I said.

I smiled. George could be persistent. Good thing I liked him. Even more saving to the relationship was being in stasis for most of the four-year trip out to Enceladus.

Without the pods, I would like him a lot less. One of us would be dead, and I probably wouldn’t have cared who.

As it was, we were in for a long couple of weeks of keeping each other company. Nobody, especially us, trusted the ship instruments to take us the last million or so miles to our destination. Too many things could go wrong in this crowded solar system neighborhood for us to remain asleep on the job.

“Do you even know what we’re carrying?” George asked.

“I do, and you will too, eventually,” I answered.

“Well, if I correctly guess what’s in the hold, will you tell me if I’m right?”

“We’ll see.”

I didn’t see any harm in that non-committal promise. I didn’t want George to get too squirrelly. I was confident that, with a little bit of misdirection, I could keep him guessing until delivery. The only condition I stipulated was that the questions could only be answered with “yes” or “no.” Besides, if George had even momentarily considered his childhood, he would have remembered that “we’ll see” means “no.”

So, he guessed — constantly — unless I called a timeout, or he hit his mandatory sleep period. Blessed relief!

I gave him quite a few hints along the way. Our mission was unique. Its more than $2 billion price tag had been internationally crowd-financed in record time. George never put the pieces together.

He was still guessing as we made our final approach to the designated landing site. All he had established about the contents of our hold was that it was “animal,” bigger than a breadbox and would not fit in his mouth. George was not a good guesser.

The landing was perfect. George was amazed, after I keyed the door open, when he saw what was in our hold.

“What the hell! A stasis pod!” he exclaimed.

“What did you expect?” I countered. “You guessed that it was a living thing. Did you expect to see a food trough and litter box that were good for four years?”

“Who’s in it?”

“Still can’t tell you.”

“Chris, you are a bastard!”

“I know.”

With a little elbow grease and no small amount of robotic help, we were able to move the pod through the main airlock and onto the frigid Enceladus surface. We encased the pod in a survival tent, which we stocked with 2 years of survival supplies.

After setting up a video camera far enough from the tent to take in the entire scene, we quickly retreated to the Musk. We wasted no time on niceties like a countdown before we lifted for the return trip to Earth. If we wanted to get back before we were nursing home fodder, our window of opportunity was critically small.

I watched the moon grow smaller until it was time to head for the stasis pods. En route, I found Curious George with his eyes glued to the video feed from the surface camera.

Just microseconds before the Enceladus rotation took the transmission offline, I took a look at the monitor. Our former passenger had emerged from the survival tent. Even from a distance, the disheveled, badly-colored orange comb-over was unmistakable.

The man had finally gotten what he wanted. He was king of the world.


Adventure in Writing: Part 16 of 20?

Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one, and write something about it.

Simple? Maybe not.


Am I a dinosaur?

I only partially match the literal definition of the word.

I am not, to the best of my knowledge, genetically reptilian. I am reasonably warm-blooded, unless I’m dealing with telemarketers or car dealers.

My teeth are not razor sharp. I have no claws.

I am not extinct. I know this because I just, with only minor difficulty, found my pulse. Good to know.

Looking in the mirror, however, I seem to exhibit some characteristics of the big lizards. My skin is a little scaly looking – just a little, not full-blown alligator skin scaly. I possess a diminutive dewlap, which I can make disappear, I think, by looking straight up at the ceiling.

My eyesight is less than 20-20. I can compensate by squinting. Unfortunately that contributes to my overall dinosaur resemblance. Better to keep the world softly blurred.

Overall, I do not look much like a dinosaur. Now, my wife’s cousin, Earl. There’s a guy everyone says is a dinosaur. Not just behind his back. When they see him coming down the street, they actually scream “Dinosaur!”

I am quite fond of meat. I would not attempt to eat it raw unless it is very lean and has been run through a grinder. Steak tartare. Yum.

I have been known to roar when injured or sufficiently agitated. Keep that in mind, insurance company claim-deniers who send me forms to see if anyone else can pay.

Moving on to the figurative definition of dinosaur – I see myself, and yet I don’t.

I am generally uncomfortable with change. When I come home to find that my wife has again rearranged the living room furniture, I react with all the enthusiasm I generally reserve for discovering my supermarket has moved cold beer from aisle 14 to an undisclosed, super-secret location.

I am, as the dictionary definition of the figurative dinosaur states, “impractically large.” I don’t believe that I have grown dinosaur-large, but large enough to put me in a category size somewhere between normal human and standard dinosaur. I maintain that I’m just “big-boned.”

In other areas, I have been all too readily receptive to change. Take technology. I’m the guy who will buy a shiny, new Blu-ray Disc player for several hundred dollars when the devices make their initial appearance. A dinosaur would have waited a few months and bought a more feature-rich model for less than half what I paid.

True dinosaurs are more frugal and cash-retentive than I. They also have larger bank accounts, many of them in the Cayman Islands.

I see myself as neither out-of-date or obsolete, two other terms used in the dictionary definition of the figurative dinosaur. Despite my Social Security benefit-qualified age, I’m still gainfully employed and working 40 to 60 hours per week.

I am not protected by a union and have signed the mandatory “employed at will” stipulation, meaning they don’t need no stinking reason to kick my mangy ass out the door. My employer of nearly 11 years is not one to keep non-productive employees on board. I therefore assume that I am still seen as adding more than I am subtracting from the company bottom line.

That doesn’t mean that I take my job for granted. I go to work every day thinking that it might be my last. I frequently spin around without warning to see what threats may be lurking behind me – just in case. In contrast, dinosaurs never saw their demise coming.

So, purebred dinosaur, in any form, I am not. These days, though, I often think that it might be nice to be a dinosaur. They ruled the earth for 150 million years. Humans, including all of our apish ancestors, have only been around for about 6 million years.

I don’t see a 150-million-candle birthday cake in the Human Race’s future.


Take a single word chosen at random. Turn it into something.

Sounds simple? Maybe not.


The evidence was obvious and overwhelming, at least to me.

Poor John “Buddy” Boddy’s braincase had been cracked wide open by a baseball bat wielded by none other than Jonathan “Jack” Mustard, legendary gridiron great turned sportscaster The murder took place in the observatory of Buddy’s Hollywood Hills party home as he peered through his 150mm Maksutov-Cassegrain during the wee morning hours. The dumbbell never saw it coming.

I was sure that I had more than enough evidence to take Mustard off the air for the rest of his life; but Buddy’s body was missing, and the other five overnight guests hadn’t a clue. I knew that I had no choice but to roll the dice and play the game if I was to come out a winner.

Who am I? My name is Victor Plum. I’m a billionaire software designer, and I’ve got “game.”

Let’s start with the party guest/suspect list. In addition to myself and Mustard, we’ve got Kasandra Scarlet, leading lady and consummate casting couch cover; Jacob Green, a man of murky occupation who, a couple of hundred years ago, would have been a highly successful snake oil salesman; Diane White, a child film star whose grip on the present is tenuous, at best; and Eleanor Peacock, a woman so filthy rich she can only marginally relate to lifeforms beneath her caste.


We had all received the party invitation, which had included an intriguing addition. Buddy had scribbled a note to each of us that he feared for his life and hoped that his true friends could help.

“True friends” was a stretch. To me, Buddy was, at best, a frequent associate; but who could resist a note like that?

We all arrived fashionably late and were met with enthusiastic greetings by our host. Dinner and drinks filled the night. We all asked Buddy about his strange note. He had no real evidence to support his fears, only a sense of being watched and a vague feeling of dread.

As the party wound down, we all bid Buddy good night and retired to our rooms. By morning, he was gone.

While the others buzzed about the shocking but not unexpected development, I quickly gathered my evidence. I knew that Buddy was dead, but I wanted to make sure I had what I needed to implicate the killer.

I had been around the board enough times to know that jumping into a room and announcing the perpetrator right up front would not work, so I bowed to tradition and let Scarlet take the lead.

She quickly sashayed to the spa and declared that Green had done the deed in that very room with a wrench. She couldn’t have been more wrong.

Buddy was about as handy as a thumbless Tim Taylor. He had wrenched his back several years ago attempting to do a cartwheel after six margaritas, but any wrench Buddy had owned was left behind when he moved from his old mansion to his new home in 2008.

Green was livid at the accusation. Buddy was his best bud, he said — an unquestionable quid pro quo kind of guy. He wasted no time in naming the real culprit. Without a doubt, he said, White had offed Buddy by whacking him over the head with a lead pipe in the library.

I stand corrected. Scarlet could have been more wrong. Not only was Buddy’s home too new to incorporate lead plumbing, the library had been remodeled into a theater not long after video had replaced print as the world’s primary source of entertainment.

White, although she said that she was flattered by being cast in such a central role in the intrigue, could not claim credit. She nominated Peacock for the honor, adding that she believed Peacock clubbed Buddy to death with a baseball bat whist he was spying on the neighbors from his observatory.

Whaaat? Right location, right weapon, wrong perpetrator. Had she actually seen something?

Peacock frostily replied that she would not dignify the accusation with a response.

It was Mustard’s trip to the plate. The man sputtered something about Buddy having no enemies and expressed complete amazement that any foul play could befall the man.

Mentally, I rubbed my hands together in glee. Everyone had taken a shot, so my turn had come.

I dismissed the clueless Scarlet and Green in short order — no wrench, no lead pipe, no library, no supporting evidence. White was another story.

I questioned her and was able to determine she had only seen a shadowy figure in the observatory with Buddy when she looked out her bedroom window during a bout with insomnia. The baseball bat was pure conjecture because she had seen one in the hallway umbrella stand when she arrived for the party but it was no longer there. “Evidence” like that would not hold up in court.

I pounced.

I produced the bat, decorated with Buddy’s blood and Mustard’s fingerprints. Solid evidence establishing the bat as the murder weapon and Mustard as the culprit. Then, I led them to a large trunk in a storage room just off the observatory, opened the lid and produced another essential piece of evidence in the case — Buddy’s body.

Mustard was still proclaiming his innocence as the cops cuffed him and took him away. I knew he would. Despite all the evidence against him, Mustard did not kill Buddy. I did.

Back in my office, I removed the incredibly lifelike mask I had worn to the party and resumed my true identity — Professor Plum. Yes, I had killed Buddy for the sole reason of framing Mustard and taking him out.

I knew that Mustard, as an ex-jock, could not resist the urge to swing that bat sitting in the hallway when he arrived for the party, leaving a nice set of fingerprints. The rest was easy.

Victor Plum had been my first victim. I had primed Buddy’s paranoia by following him for weeks.

Next on my list is White. She came a little too close to derailing things this time. I’m not going to give her a second chance.

Nothing is going to get in the way of my master plan. In the end, nobody in my game will have a first name.


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