Category Archives: Daddy, Why Can’t I Say Ass?

(Excerpts from completed manuscript. Unpublished.)

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 11—Obfuscate and Derail (Tushy Sushi)


PG Rated








“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 11—Obfuscate and Derail


I have to face facts, I’m ridiculous. The problem is, I’m the oldstyle ‘ridiculous,’ not the new, bitchingly cool ‘ridiculous!’ To some of my daughter’s friends, I’m crazy—except it’s not the good kind of modern ‘crazy,’ it’s the old, stoo-pid crazy. If I say in friendly greeting, ‘Hey Nigger!’ I’m a raving bigot, not a brotherly soul. I’m ‘okay,’ but slightly anachronistic. I try to be ‘hella’ current, bitch, but come off as an old beatnik lost in an unknown part of the city.

I’m verbally behind the times, and have retreated into a real language with universally accepted terms: English. I capitulated, in other words. To some of Katy’s friends, this renders me oft-unintelligible and arguably superior, the way I like it.

One of the greatest allies parents have is their vocabulary, along with a platform from which to use it. Teens are obligated to listen to you, as a parent, so long as you have leverage. When you hold the keys to the car, you’re like EF Hutton—they listen when you speak. However, no matter what the situation, your teen will come to you prepared with an arsenal of arguments to prove what they want is just, correct, and the only decent course of action. They’re all lawyers at that age. That’s where having a vocabulary comes in handy.

“Dad!I need new clothes…”

What? I’m buying clothes all the time, most of which I see later in a brown bag earmarked for The Salvation Army. “What happened to the habiliments I keep getting you?”

“The what..?”

“Look it up.” Teens will do anything other than crack a dictionary, even if they have to do it with no clothes. Mostly, they’ll slip away in silence. Sufficiently obfuscated, now I derail. “Besides, you’re always wearing Missy’s or Kelly’s clothes. Have them buy something new. Have you done your homework?”

“Yes,” of course.

“Aren’t report cards coming soon? How’s algeb…” I’m talking to her back.

Like the cat who’s walking away, poor kid’s only got one eye… I chuckle to myself.


We’re in the car, ready to head to the movies. Missy is with us, a friend of Katy’s. The three of us are waiting for Babe in the carport. I can feel Katy ramping up to ask the obvious question and employ some pre-emptive derailment.

“Say something funny…” I say. This way I can deflect any hard questions before they arise, like: Is she coming? Meaning Babe, which I would have to answer with an unsatisfying and irritating: Eventually

“Like what?” Katy wants to know.

“I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking you.”

Missy thinks about it and says: “Tushy…” She remembers that whenever someone says ‘tushy’ I laugh. I don’t know why, I just do. “Tushy, tushy, tushy…”

I laugh. “Very FANNY…” and struggle with what to say next. Say anything that comes to mind… I think. Quickly! “We should open a sushi place and call it Tushy Sushi.” Which is so hard to say even once we all have trouble with it.

Missy: “Tushy Shushy.”

Katy: “Tushi Shushi.”

We’re all laughing and trying to say Tushy Sushi correctly, even once, then three times fast. It’s impossible.

“We can advertise that it’s ‘all that it’s cracked up to be,’” I offer.

The two girls reply in unison, “Ewwww?”

“That’s so asinine, Dad.”

“Think it’s a BUM idea?” (Delayed laugh.) While they’re scrambling for “ass” puns I get us back on track. “Sound YAKI?” (Shrieks of laughter). “HAMACHI wanna bet it’ll work?” As a sushi aficionado already, Katy gets this but Missy is lost.

I tell them, “I know… you can’t TEKKA MAKI me anywhere!” (This cliché is before their time.) “You SASHIMI on a good day though.” (Groans.)

“One more word and I’m gonna SAKÉ you,” Katy jumps into the verbal fray.

I mentally congratulate her. “Okay, okay, but it’s TOBIKKONTINUED though. TUNA in later—”

“Oh my gawd! Shut up?”

Thankfully, Babe makes it out the door, checks the doorknob to make sure it’s locked then stops—wondering, I’m sure, if she’s left a cigarette burning.

“What’s she doing now?” Katy wants to know, long past being ready to leave.

“I don’t know,” I set her up. “Looks FISHY to me.”

“Will you stop!”

“Want me to CLAM up?”

Both the kids groan. Babe makes her way to the car and gets inside.

“Thank God you’re here,” Missy says to her.

“Can we go now?” Katy asks.

“What are you guys talking about?” Babe wants to know.

“Tushy Shushy…” I try to tell her but it comes out wrong, again. The girls laugh.

“Tooshy Shooshy…” Missy laughs.

“Tushy Shlushy… Ha-ha!” Katy fails in her attempt to tell Babe what we’ve been talking about. Both the girls start flinging words around.

“Tushy Mushy…”

“Fluffy Tuffy…”

The three of us are laughing out loud. Babe is eyeing me with a sidelong glance as she situates herself in the car. I get the feeling she’s searching for an explanation.

“Ass fish,” I tell her.

“What the hell?”

“Best not to ask,” I suggest, and start the car.

Copyright © 2009 Mitchell Geller

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 14—Censor This

Rated PG (language)







“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 14—Censor This


When Katy was eight years old, she sat down on the kitchen floor while I washed dishes and innocently wondered: “Daddy, why can’t I say ‘ass?’”

I sighed and stared out the window, looking for some wisdom to give her a good answer, and thought I found it.

“You can,” I said, brilliantly. “So long as you’re referring to a donkey.” Satisfied with that, I went back to washing dishes, wondering if she knew what ‘referring to’ meant. She thought about it with all the depth it deserved, then used it in a sentence.

“Okay,” she said. “That donkey over there has a fat ass…”

With shoulders slumped, I capitulated. “Perfect”

By the time she was sixteen, Katy had full control of her vocabulary—that is, her slang. She uses the word ‘ass’ in all its glory now; picking and choosing its location with verbal acuity, the appropriate amount of inflection, and the timing of an adult. She is comfortable with ass, and I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t even notice, in fact, when it slips out in context with where (or who) ‘ass’ fits.

In our household, Profanity is defined simply as: Abusive. Some would have you take it on faith that Vulgar and Irreverent should belong in the definition of Profanity. Using the word ‘Ass’ as example, which is hardly profane any more but used to be, though it didn’t start out that way, let’s put it in the context of Vulgar (which is, out of the two words above, its common association; although in the case of ‘mooning’ someone I would put it under Irreverent). Is it vulgar because doody comes out there? Notice I didn’t say shit, that would be vulgar. Yet to apply either of those words to offend someone’s character means two different things. It’s one thing to be an Ass, but quite another to be a Shit—and neither have to involve vulgarity.

You may think that doesn’t make sense; someone along the way has decided for us all that one body part is painfully more profane than another—notwithstanding what comes out of it. I guess that’s fine in a household that never ‘takes a shit,’ but in my castle it doesn’t fly. If a donkey can be an ass, then so can, for example, George W. Bush, but I wouldn’t say that as a matter of Free Speech because it’s Irreverent, see?

If I said Bush was a ‘Fuck,’ my daughter, at eight, would have asked: “What’s a Fuck, Daddy?” I would have had to reply with an incorrect definition of Fuck; that is, I would have said: “That means he’s an Asshole, honey,” (which is, admittedly, more specific than an ‘Ass’). As I understand the generally accepted concept, ‘Fuck’ mostly refers to making love, or Sex, and it wouldn’t have made any sense to her at all because I would have had to cast ‘fucking’ or ‘sex’ in a bad light and then it all starts to get too complicated for an eight-year-old (especially if Bush is in the mix). However, I can explain to her, as a teenager, the difference between ‘making love’ and ‘fucking,’ and that if she does it right, there is none.

None of this is very confusing, I know, but here’s how it grows up…

Soon my sweet sixteen-year-old was asking me different questions, which always led to the same end: “Daddy, can I have some money for the movies?” You’ve heard of the terrible two’s? At sixteen you are in the Broke Teen Years, or the Pre-Job era of their life. Movies provide the escape from reality most normal teens want. Who can blame them?

Parents start by sticking the young ones down on potty trainers in front of TVs so they can learn to understand that watching TV is as natural as taking a shit, so long as you don’t show someone taking an actual shit on TV.

Before you know it, they are being weaned through a system of movie Ratings. Starting with a ‘G’ rating, for parents who want to drop their kids off at the movies to get away from them for awhile, and perhaps go see an R movie while they’re there. Then ‘PG,’ because theaters realized that, at young teen ages, kids are too dangerous to let loose in empty, dark theaters without supervision, so someone old enough to go to an ‘R’ movie must chaperone. After that there’s ‘PG-13,’ which includes kids already beyond the control of parents and way beyond chaperones that the theaters employ extra clean-up crews for. Up the ladder to an ‘R’ Rating, which allows kids who are old enough to join the armed services and kill people or be killed who can’t legally drink alcohol but can at least smoke as long as someone old enough for an ‘NC-17’ Rated movie buys the cigarettes because, once they are already bought, it’s okay to smoke, outside. Ultimately, we succumb to the final Rating that excludes almost everyone except the truly Profane: The ‘XXX’ Rating—a Rating conjuring up in most people unnerving feelings not unlike the X in ‘ex-spouse’ might.

I’m no expert about the Ratings, but as I see it basically any movie that shows a penis is automatically rated NC-17 (I can say Penis, of course, so long as I don’t say Cock). Should the owner of the aforeskinned mentioned Penis be doing anything with it, then it’s definitely XXX, or actually three times as Vulgar as NC-17 (yet they still let you in at the same age and price as an NC-17-rated movie so it’s a better deal). It doesn’t matter if that Penis is peeing or in a can of ham, it’s XXX-rated and only if you’re old enough to kill someone and not have a stiff drink afterwards can you enter.

On the other hand, should your preferences lie in the Horror Movie genre, you are free to watch all manner of creative torture, horror, maiming, and terror for your $8.00 student-reduced ticket price. (Later, oh Broke Teen, you’ll be able to invest only two hours of your work life to be able to pay for that ticket at minimum wage, which, after the time invested watching The House of Incredibly Imaginative Terrors nets out to around four hours of your thoughtful, stimulating and otherwise productive day). For that modest (and reduced!) fee you are treated to Abuse, if you will, to use a mild term for the heinous acts of fantasy produced on film for the general consumption of our mind-molding teens. That is essentially what it is, unless you want to tack on adjectives like Hellish and Sick to it.

So at this point I ask myself (I could ‘ass-k’ myself, but that would be Profane), “Would I rather send my daughter to an X-rated movie or an R-rated horror pic?” I ask in reply, “Which one?”

Not all X-Rated movies are the same. Most are abusive and definitely not about ‘making love’ as much as they are about ‘gratuitous fucking’ (defined as: pre-marital). If you were to ask the industry why most movies are made with this attitude of domination and abuse you will likely hear a similar cry to that of the car industry, who insists on making over-powerful vehicles that are abusive to our ecosphere and all peoples within it “Because that’s what the consumer is buying!”

Anyone researching X-Rated sites on the internet these days will tell you that many sites don’t show full length motion pictures, but rather select scenes made specifically to show what subscribers are going there to see. There is no story plot anymore, as much as there is pure fetishness, per se’, or genre’s from which to choose your interests. Now you can watch the fetish without the abuse, horrific dialogue and trainwreck soundtrack. It’s more honest, if you will. When it comes to the Arts and Free Speech, moral responsibility lies squarely on the creator of content.

I do not have to go see these Horror movies, to be sure, but apparently my kid and lots of other people do because you know what, they’re out there! Am I promoting Censorship? No, but rather Responsibility by the producers of such horror when my kid could just as happily be absorbing fine stories of Art, Love, Science and Metaphysics if they were showing in its place. They only watch what is being shown, after all.

In concept, I would have to say to my daughter Yes! Go see Last Tango in Paris in favor of House of Wax! Teach my kid how to communicate with a loved one (or what to avoid!) and then how some people may make love; all within a medium she trusts.

Some movies she watches do teach her worthy ideas about communicating and love and other important lessons. Many times they are corroborating notions I have already told her that she may not have been able to put into a context she could relate to at the time. Sometimes just the fact that a notion or an idea (or even wisdom!) has come from me alone renders it suspect. Basically, she needs a second opinion, and Movies are something she listens to and tries to follow.

It took a couple generations to decide that armpits can be shown on TV without offense. How many generations must live and die before How to Make Love supplants The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as a way of celluloid life? Which is the Profane? What, exactly, do I tell my kid? ‘Sex is nasty. Don’t have intercourse with anyone before signing a life-long commitment, but chainsaws in the forehead… fun stuff. You’ll get used to it. You should try it sometime! Ha-ha! You can plead ‘chemical imbalance’ in your defense! Ha-ha! You can have that library upstairs of yours filled with traumatic nightmares for decades to come! Sleep with Raisinettes and popcorn on your night table…’

All I know for sure is whichever donkey of a censor put this system in place has a fat ass.

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 2—Do Ants Sleep?

Rated PG (Language)

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 2—Do Ants Sleep?


It must have been a Saturday…

“…and he says, ‘Play it? As soon as I figure out how to get her pajamas off we’re outta here!’ Aha-ha-ha-ha!”

“Huh? Oh. Ha-ha…” Babe chuckled politely when my joke fell flat.

It was a nice day to lay out by the community pool. The clouds looked like they were from the midwest—a nice change to the typical California whiteness that passes for sky. The pool water was glass a few minutes after we had gotten out to dry off and relax. The place was empty but for us two. Babe lay on her stomach on the lounge chair, to even out her tan. I sat with a towel over my head, musing about nothing after my joke went belly up. The vinyl straps used to make the chair were white and uninteresting. I picked at one like it was a banjo string. Babe lay watching the ants underneath her chair.

“Do ants ever sleep?” she finally asked, casting a ripple into the still pool of our thoughts. “Or do they just run around all day until they poop out?”

Babe is my counterpart. Whatever absurd thoughts I haven’t had myself, she keeps track of for me to use later. After fifteen years together, we’re used to it. I had to think about that for a while, and came up empty about whether or not I’ve ever known an ant to fall asleep. I couldn’t say I’d ever seen one even standing still, unless it was mulling something over—some engineering project about getting a big leaf into a tiny hole, I suspect—and I’ve never seen one curled in an ant fetal position sawing logs. The whole question was rendered moot if they only lived a couple hours. If that were true, they wouldn’t even understand the concept of an ant-nap, presuming they could understand concepts. How long would an ant nap last, a few seconds? The fact was and is, I didn’t know, so I answered, “Shit, I don’t know…”

“Do they have a heart?” Babe tossed into my conundrum salad about ants.

It seemed to me it’d be pretty small if they did, so I said, “Seems like it would be pretty small if they did…” and quickly asked a question of my own, before she could paralyze my mind with more unanswerable queries. “Do they even have any blood to pump?” and followed with, “Could we even see it?” That got her wondering. Secretly, I wondered: Is it red?

“Hmmm,” Babe said, thoughtfully, while I tried to remember how much juice I got out of the last ant I stepped on (quite unintentionally, of course). Was there juice, or just flattened ant-skin? I wanted to ask if ants even had skin, but didn’t want to sound as ant-stupid as I really am. I’m pretty sure ants know more about me than I know about them.

“Of course we can see it,” Babe offered, confident that someone could see ant juice if they really wanted to.

“You sound confid-ant…” I said, which Babe ignored after a short moan so I continued, inspired by the little fellers. “Just to be an ant requires a huge amount of heart. Construction boots alone have got to be, what, ten thousand times bigger than the ant bold enough to venture out underfoot? Does that daunt him? No. Does it slow him down?”

Babe one-eye-balled me suspiciously.

“Yes, maybe, depending on vibrant soles and whether or not you’re a lucky enough ant to be standing between them when they fall around you. I would have to say a resounding Yes! Ants have a heart!
“What do we do when we play cards? We ante up, that’s what! It says you’re a player. And when you w-ant to stay ahead of the game, you anticipate! If you make it to old age, you’re antediluvian, that’s what!” (Pause while my brain went into overdrive.) “Consider, if you must, all the great music written: Gee Baby, Ant I Good to You? and Ant No Mountain High Enough…” I cracked myself up with that last one.

“Don’t forget: Ant no Sunshine When She’s Gone,” Babe added, against her better judgement.

“Exactly! And Ant Misbehavin. But do they sleep?” I asked.

“Shit, I don’t know,” she said. “It ant nobody’s business but their own.” We laughed.

“I agree, it’s an anti-matter. Maybe we should dally on llamas instead.”

Babe narrowed her eyes. “Now you’re starting to bug me.”

I threw the towel over my head and continued playing the vinyl-strap banjo, one pluck at a time… content to never know.

Next day:

Fucking ants!” Babe is chasing a line of them around the kitchen, wielding a toothpick with Grants Ant Goop on it, which she is attempting to smear on each, individual ant. “I hate them!” These are the tiny variety, no bigger than a millimeter, and scrawny. I lean on the kitchen door, sipping a cup of coffee and watch her drag a chair around to climb up and paste these nasty little fuckers as they crawl along the ceiling. Ants are okay, so long as they’re running around outside. Katy walks out her bedroom door, sees an ant and screams like a teenager. I’m inured to it; she’s been a teenager since turning thirteen, obviously, which seems like a long time ago.

“Is this what they mean by ‘ant-climactic’?” I asked Babe nonchalantly. She ignored me. “Maybe we should wait until they fall asleep, then—”

She sneers and interrupts, sensing I’m not about to offer anything helpful. “Where the fuck do they come from?” she wants to know, as if it mattered. Anywhere they want. Katy walks toward the kitchen on tip-toes, her arms hugging her chest in a protective, self-defensive posture. If an ant touches her, even accidentally, she’ll explode like a can of nitro that says: Shake Well. I’ve been slaughtering all manner of pestilence since Katy came to live with us when she was eight.

I venture a guess at where ants come from, “Antartica?” Babe stops, clearly exasperated. I back away slowly and disappear around the corner. There must be some yard work I can do…

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 4—Anatomy of a Fart

FartNowLoadingRated PG (language, situation)






(Author’s Note: When my writing voice found me on 05/05/05, I discovered I could write about anything in which I had a sincere interest. All I had to do was sit backwards on the commode and an idea would surface (among other things) to write about. Brushing my teeth, showering and flossing all became tricks to let my mind do its work without the pressure of having a keyboard at my fingertips—waiting for me to type something epiphanous. Apparently, flatulence was one of those interests.)

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 4—Anatomy of a Fart


I’m sitting backwards on the commode. I don’t have to take a shit, I’m waiting for an idea. If something doesn’t come up soon I may have to brush my teeth. Or worse, floss. I face the wall, as usual, with my legs straddling the seat cover and look at my towel.

You’re going to fart, says my inner voice, my inspiration.

“I know. Why is that, do you suppose?”

I’ll assume you didn’t mean to ask Why do we fart? but rather, why is it that you always fart while you sit backwards on the toilet seat?

It’s true. Whenever I need an idea a fart precedes it. It’s usually not a tiny, cursory-type fart but a surprisingly loud one, too. Maybe it’s because of the seat cover being hard, I don’t know.

There’s good acoustics in here. Have you ever actually seen a fart?

I have to laugh at that. “Of course not, well not really anyhow. It’s almost by definition that you can’t see a fart. Like cleavage, it’s implied. On the other hand, if you light one up with a match I can tell you from experience it will explode. Depending on the nature of the specific fart, it could go off like a can of hairspray!”

That would be a ‘Category 5’ fart?


Then there’s supposed farts; ones that are disguised as farts but, when put to the test, are actually shit. Technically those are just shit—and, regrettably, a rather unfartunate experience. Basically, the only way to see flatulence is to cover it up with something; but then you only see the fart’s force, not the actual wind. I saw one travel down a guy’s leg once; he was also sitting on something hard. I don’t want to take any credibility away from the story by saying it was at the tail end of an acid trip when it happened because our trips always ended up in a farting match.

Are you sure that was because of the acid?


Wait, here it comes!

I wait. There it is, like clockwork. The rumblings start in my intestines (or whatever they are) and sure enough, it drops down to the launching pad. Once there, I can almost decide how it’s going to sound on the way out just by the way I arrange my butt. Oh yes, a real virtuoso am I.

Quick, go look at it in the mirror!

“Wha…!? You want me to go look at it? I can tell you right now I’m not going to go watch my fart come out in the mirror.”

Why not, aren’t you curious?


Well, now you are!

Fuck. My inner, creative voice was right.

You’re curious because I mentioned it. C’mon, it’ll be a gas!

“It’ll be sick.” I’m very sure of that.


Who’s gonna know?


…unless you say something.

“That’s cruel,” I say.

Rumble, pause.

I jump off the toilet. “Damn, I can’t believe I’m doing this.”

Atta boy!

I have my own rooting section. I run to the mirror and drop my pants, hoping now that I can hold it in for as long as it takes to get a good view of the thing as it’s delivered. I’ve had to look at my asshole before, naturally, but never with this in mind. Usually, well, nevermind…

Here she comes! We give it a gender. Get set!

“Okay, okay!” I get set, bending over and spreading my ass up to the mirror, hoping Babe doesn’t suddenly walk through the door. “This is a really bad idea.” I’m a grown man, I shouldn’t be holding my farts up to the mirror for inspection.

I have to move a little closer and flip on another light. I can now tell you for certain that No, the sun doesn’t shine down there. So I finally get my bunghole lit up and there it is, staring back at me as a mis-shapen, tiny hole surrounded by what can best be described as its own aureola. It looks almost prehistoric—like we should be evolving out of the need for an asshole altogether. It’s also got that crinkled look, which allows it to expand, I surmise. If you were to look at a photo enlargement of the thing, you may see it as an old roll of tan crepe paper that’s been stored in the sun too long. Briefly, I’m reminded of Crazy Bob and the shit he took off the Little League backstop that night in the pouring rain.

Shhh! Here it comes! (Fart protocol dictates you listen for it.)

At long last, Mission Control hit the button and sent it down the chute; or in this position, up the chute. I was poised, ready, and staring directly into my own asshole—waiting for it to emerge—to prove to my inner, creative voice that you can’t actually see a fart. Final stages complete, it was at the door and ready to break on through to the other side. I watched, actually curious now. When it came, my butt hole opened up just a little bit and actually pushed out, like an anemone discharges the bones of a fish, until it was in just the right position. Finally, at the moment of truth, it said: Pfoooot! and collapsed. The hole got smaller and went ‘at ease.’ At that point I was staring at my asshole for no reason and straightened up quickly. I hadn’t lost all my faculties.

“There, I told you! You can’t see a fart!”

Did you just say ‘Foot!’ with your asshole? Aha-ha-ha-ha! I can’t believe you actually did that. Aha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

We were both laughing while I moved away from the area around the mirror.

Your bunghole has an aureola, dude! Aha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Now I’m inspired. “I should make a movie. A digital one I can e-mail to people I don’t like.” Then I tried to imagine what it would be like to set up the camera and wait for a fart: “And… action!”

Aha-ha-ha-ha-ha! My inner impetus continued laughing. Put that idea on the back burner for now, okay? Aha-ha-ha-ha-ha! We both can’t stop laughing. I have to point out, though, aha-ha-ha-ha-ha!, that in the same sense as we see a cannon firing a cannonball, we can say that a fart can be seen in the same manner.

“No way, man. Cannons don’t fart!” I argued. “Technically, they’re taking a shit ha-ha.”

Aha-ha-ha-ha-ha, work with me, dude! Aha-ha-ha-ha-ha! If I were you I’d start flossing for another idea, aha-ha-ha-ha-ha!


The writing gig wasn’t working out like I had envisioned.

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 12—Kittenspeak

Rated PG (language)

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 12—Kittenspeak


Christmas trees with shiny strings,
Tiny mice and what they bring.
Turn around in tight spaces,
Show my butt to their faces.
Covering a fat, cat crap,
Having a happy cat nap.
Successful when I’m able
To knock stuff off the table.
About this do I dream.
Some of my favorite things.


When I look at my keyboard and it goes blank, sometimes I make tea and talk to the cats.

“Tink…” (ROOKIE CAT knows that ‘tink.’ It is the kettle making ready to boil water.)

ROOKIE CAT (swishes onto the kitchen linoleum and skids to a halt): “Teatime! Teatime! Cmon-cmon-cmon, you’re so slow!” (Applies burning, hypnotic stare to MASTER FEEDER and thinks: Faster-faster-faster….).

MASTER FEEDER: “It’s a puddy! Such a preeeeetty puddddddy…. Acha-pretty-puddy?”

ROOKIE CAT (still hypnotizing): “What? Shut the fuck up and let me do my work. Get the teabag, get the teabag… It’s working!”

MASTER FEEDER (takes the teabag out of its wrapper, begins crumpling said wrapper into a tight little ball of paper): “Is that a big, mean ol’ hunter I see? Ooooooh, sucha mean ol’ puddy….”

ROOKIE CAT: Must… stare… harder….

MASTER FEEDER (with best impersonation of Star Wars Emperor and holding up the little paper ball): “Yes… you want this, don’t you? Come over to the Dark Side, your destiny awaits you at my side!”

ROOKIE CAT: “Fuck that shit, just throw the paper ball! Throw it now, throw it now…”

MASTER FEEDER (tossing the wadded-up paper on the floor): “BWAH-ha-ha-ha..! Yes! Give in to the Dark Side!”

ROOKIE CAT (slaps the paper toward the water dish, skimming it like a hockey puck): “What’s this? You think you can get away from me!?” (Charges it.)

MASTER FEEDER (grabbing a napkin and letting it drop to the floor): “That’s icing! Penalty! You didn’t cross the blue line!” (MF knocks it over with his foot to the center of the ice.)

ROOKIE CAT: “Damn! Get back here! Why I oughta…” (slides to a halt on top of it). “Where’d you go? What? Where? What’s this?” (Finds it under herself and slaps it towards the refrigerator, the goal).

MASTER FEEDER: “Oh! And it’s a slapshot from center ice! What a shot, what a shot! But it bounces off the goal and rests in the crease! Where’s the defense!?

ROOKIE CAT (bolting for it): “Now you’re mine!” (Slaps it under the fridge.)

MASTER FEEDER: “Score! Count it baby!” (Signals a touchdown at a hockey game.)

ROOKIE CAT (digging under fridge now): “Hey, where’d you go? Get back here, I’m not through with you yet, you pesky critter…” (dig, dig, dig).

VETERAN CAT (casually watches the ROOKIE CAT from a nearby chair, then looks at MF): “What a rookie.”

MASTER FEEDER (talking to VETERAN CAT): “Yeah, but she’s got at least fifty goals stuffed under the refrigerator this season alone. She’s good, you know it.”

VETERAN CAT (not impressed): “I’m not impressed.” (Yawns.)

MASTER FEEDER: “And what have you done for me lately? Where were you when that fly was buzzing the window, huh?”

VETERAN CAT (looking away): “Those things taste shitty. Ever eaten one?”

ROOKIE CAT: “What fly, where? I’ll kill that fucking bastard! Lemme at him… Hey, isn’t it time for another tea?” (Must… stare… harder…)

MASTER FEEDER: “Ooooooh, sucha great hunter you are! And such a preeeeedy puuuddy…..”

VETERAN CAT (jumping off chair and going over to door): “Christ. What I wouldn’t give for a dry furball right now.”


The writing was going well, I thought, at times. But it was sporadic, episodic, and there was nothing holding it together. Mostly, there was no point to it. There wasn’t much knowledge or wisdom showing either. If I was going to write something, maybe I should try and make it count for something. On the other hand, who cares what I think?

“Not me, if you’re asking,” said the Rookie. “Let’s eat some catnip. You need another cup of tea. What was that?”

“What was what? Where?” I turned around to look at whatever she was staring at. There was nothing. I turned back and Rookie was disinterestedly licking her paw.

“Made you look…”

It wasn’t coming as easily as I thought it should.

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 20—The Crux of the Biscuit

Rated PG (language)

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 20—The Crux of the Biscuit


‘Might is write,’ I wrote. God that sucks

I wasn’t writing during much of this period when Katy was younger. Instead, I concentrated my creative efforts on photography, and even did some paintings. On the surface, a picture was worth a thousand words. Underneath, I knew that a thousand words could be used to express almost anything. To shape a mental image within the friendly confines of verbiage was a much trickier and more sublime undertaking. Words had to be so specific… The visual arts were more of a pastime for me, until the real thing opened up and spilled into reams of perfectly strung words.

I paced myself, hovering on the fringes of my ultimate desire: to write. When I wrote letters and poems to Babe during our secret affair of several months they were inspired by a new love that was trapped in an old bubble. Sentences escaped like air from a deflating tire, rather than like helium raising a balloon. The suffering was there, and it vented like a hot radiator onto page after page of emerging thoughts about life and happiness and fulfilment, and how to get them all to line up into the perfect paragraphs of my existence. But once the heartfelt suffering was gone, the words went with them.

That’s what I was waiting for, the return of the words, but it wasn’t happening. I refuse to suffer for the sake of writing! That’s an old fart’s tale! I truly believe. But… but… where is it? Where do I get this inspiration; enough to overflow with the rich texture of language at my command? When I asked myself What do I have to do? the answer always came back: Nothing.


I’m in the bathroom, looking for ideas. I sit backwards on the john and face the wall. Then I wait. It usually doesn’t take long, typically less time than it does for me to take a shit, actually, though I don’t want to brag. It’s not that I have a writer’s block thing going, I’m just more confident on the john. The bathroom settles my mind; it’s where the bubbles rise…


Back again? my oft-creative, inner voice asks.

“You know why I’m here. Hit me with it,” I think, therefore I wait. I’m not impatient, this always works.

Hit you with what?

“I don’t know, make it up,” I muse, silently staring at my bath towel.

You didn’t run out of ideas, you just can’t remember some of them right now.

“True, then remember them for me. Please.” I add politely.

Pause. Nothing. Still nothing. Followed by nothing. Nothing is following anything.


Say it like: No Thing.

No thing. Still no thing. Foll—

Say: No Thing is following Any Thing… when, in fact, it could just as easily be: No Thing is preceding Some Thing.

“Fuck that!” I shake myself. “C’mon man, talk to me!”

Listen to yourself, I’m told. You’re like your old, addict self. You’re practically detoxing with the need to write something, aren’t you?

“Well, no.”

But it reads better that way, don’t you agree?

“Well, yes.”

Good, I’m glad we agree.

“Where were we?” I ask myself, calm now.

No Where.

Followed by more of No Thing

Not ‘No Thing.’ Write ‘Apostrophe’ instead.

Pregnant pause, followed by a double space…


“Oh yeah!” I remember now. “The Zappa song!” I ruminate about this for a time while staring at my towel, making sure I don’t have to whiz as long as I’m there. I know immediately where I’m headed with this, Stink-foot.

Maybe you should take some of Fido’s advice, comes the voice in my head.

“Should I add another ‘Pause’ here?”

If you wish.

I do, because it sinks in then what I’m telling myself. I am referring to what I think is perhaps the best verse in rock ‘n roll, the verse in Frank Zappa’s Stink-foot that goes like this (italics mine):

Then Fido got off the floor,
and he rolled over and looked me straight in the eye,
and you know what he said?
Once upon a time
somebody say to me
(this is the dog talking now)
What is your
conceptual continuity?
Well I told him right then, Fido said,
It should be easy to see.
The crux of the biscuit,
is the

I puzzled over the riddle of those lyrics for literally decades.

Do you get the point?

I didn’t want to but yes, I did. I didn’t have to think anymore, or listen. I just had to look at my towel. It’s brown.

It’s Cocoa.


I knew what the verse meant to me. Even if Zappa didn’t write it for my interpretation, this was the way I chose to understand it and it hit me like a proverbial ton of bricks. So much so, I felt I must surely be cognizing the artist’s intent.

Say ‘a ton of feathers’ instead.

“What? No one will get it.”


“God I love Zappa…”

You’re always in awe of his work. Even songs you’ve heard for, what is it, thirty-seven years now?

“Please don’t remind me,” I plead.

They never get old, do they?

“Not like I do.”

Ha-ha! That’s funny….

“Okay. Look, I get the point. You’re telling me to go back out and shut the computer down.”

No, leave the music playing if you like. Just don’t write anything.


I understood. The apostrophe is the space between the sounds. As such, it represents (to me) the existential stillness of life. It symbolizes the ‘No Thing,’ if you will, between the Other Things. It’s the ‘Be Here Now’ spot between the letters used to spell life’s stuff. It stops you before you carry on with the rest of the word; if only for the split second it takes to make the transition.

Not only that, it’s the ‘crux of the biscuit,’ too, as Fido said. Without the apostrophe, the break between, everything runs together and there’s no rest. Everything needs rest; witness Light resolving Darkness, and Stop always follows Go. ‘Rest’ is the analogy of drawing back the bow and arrow. The further you pull it back, the longer the arrow flies — the more powerful it is. Without rest, you soon have nonsense.

The apostrophe is that spot on the wall where the ball changes direction, before it goes the other way. The crux of the biscuit is to Be Here Now, and what better way to represent that than with the ages-old, reliable, important and trust-worthy apostrophe? Our old friend— who knew its sublime signifigance all this time? Zappa did, that’s who, as well as any loin-clothed yogi meditating on the banks of the Ganges would have — though it’s not likely they’d be listening to a Stink-foot raga for that bit of revelation.

Maybe I will whiz, as long as I’m here.


So what are you going to do now, as if I don’t already know

I laughed. “Sure, I’ll stop for awhile. I get it, right after I write this down.”

Are you hopeless? Are you addicted to writing?

“Well, no. And yes. Maybe. Does it matter? Are you saying I’m addicted to writing?”

Well, I, er…

“What does that mean, exactly, and does it matter?”

Let’s just say you’re ‘compelled’ to write, and leave it at that.

“So what’s the difference between being compelled and/or addicted?”

Nothing, I guess.

“So shut up.”

Sure, sure, whatever you say…


Feel that?

“Yes, I know.”

It’s only compulsion when you have something to say. Without that, it’s addiction. That’s why you’re here, in the bathroom again, looking for something to say so you can satisfy that ‘compulsion’of yours.

“I think I see the point…”

Probably not all of it. You also want validation, recognition and remuneration. In the meantime you treat it like your other oral addictions. Think about it, if you’re not smoking or drinking coffee, gin, wine, Irish Mist, cognac or tea, then you’re doing both. Have a Raisinette.

“So is that a bad thing?”

Could be worse.

I think about that. “I don’t think I’m addicted to sitting backwards on the toilet seat.”

That would be worse.


The Rookie walks through the bathroom door, poking it aside with a paw stuck through the crack. She is fast becoming Teenage Cat.

“Hey, you wanna play cards?” she asks me.


“I gotta go…”

I know, we’ll talk later.


Nods to Zappa. Stink-foot © 1974 Rykodisc.

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 1—Red Snapper

Rated R (language)

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 1—Red Snapper


June, 2005—California; a large, shoebox mobile home a short, barefoot walk from the community pool. Modest, humble, almost cabana-like. Original paintings, prints and photographs cover every wall. I work at my computer, my throne, in a makeshift office that used to be a dining room. Stashed in an L-shaped arrangement of low bookshelves, this is where I proceed to fulfill my destiny—that of: the struggling writer. Living with my menopausal wife and 16.5 year-old daughter, I am the eye of the storm.


‘I smoke, drink, and don’t believe there’s such a thing as ‘dirty’ words—unless you count hate, bigotry, ignorance, abuse and politician among them. Religion ain’t so great either… Can we talk about Moral Arrogance and Death Penalty and Ten Commandments for a while? Let’s not, because I’m only interested in Truth,’ (The Guy) said.

(That’s good, said my inner, parenthetical, creative voice. I like that.)

(Get out of my head, I’m busy… I replied, also parenthetically, but without the italics.)

(I know you don’t mean that.)

(I told me: Yes, I do. Babe is stirring in the kitchen, I feel interruptions coming on.)


Babe, my Hawaiian tahini. My little almond butter. Her head is in the freezer. “What do you want for dinner tomorrow night?” she asks.

I knew that question was coming eventually, but this early? On Saturday? She is asking this about tomorrow, of a person who hasn’t worn a watch in nearly a decade; who so rarely knows what day it is he has divided the week in two: Weekday and Weekend. Someone who never, ever knows what time of day it is or even the day. I have a graveyard of watches hanging on pushpins on the wall, time of death precisely 6:47, 11:17 and 12:11. (I’m hoping to have one stop at 10:08, then it’ll look new.) They’re trophies. Mounted heads. A little monument to Einstein and Salvadore Dali. I’m never quite sure what I will feel like eating in some distant future.

The reality is I don’t care. “Uh… I don’t know. What have we got?” I never care what’s for dinner. When I’m hungry I’ll eat anything she puts in front of me.


(So what are you going to name this character?)

“I don’t know!” I say out loud. (Forget about that for now!)


“What?” Babe calls to me from the kitchen. I am on my throne, wiggling my fingers over the keyboard. “I bought fish yesterday.”

Sounds good. Not salmon, though. “What kind of fish?” I ask. Trout or catfish would do nicely. A perch, perchance?

“Uh…” She bought it yesterday. She knows what it is, just can’t remember what it’s called.

She’ll get it, eventually. Inspired, I continue:

‘(This Guy) fancies himself as ‘laid back,’ and maintains a very fine collection of Hawaiian shirts. He has a new one on today. It is a beautiful silk pattern of orchids, with koa buttons. More than that, the print lines up in places like the pocket, the yoke, the collar and down the front. A printer would say: the crossovers are dead-on. It is way too expensive a shirt for his means; it was a gift from his mistress of sixteen years, his Babe…’


(Do you know where you’re going with this?)

(Of course not, I say to myself.)

(I see, the Just Start method.)


“Tomorrow’s Father’s Day, what do you want to do?” Babe asks me, placing her hand on my shoulder.

I just want silence, and to sit on my throne and fondle my keyboard. “I don’t know…” I trail off.

“How’s the story going?”

“Hmm…” I trail off again.

“Are we going to Williams Sonoma today?”

I sigh, just a little bit. Not enough to be noticed because I’ve been married to one woman or another for the past thirty years and I know. I actually want to go to Williams Sonoma. I actually want to go to: The Mall. Every so often I like to share in this exciting world of hers. It is a modern day walk along the Boulevard. It’s the Easter Parade without eggs. It’s anything I can think of to make it something other than: The Mall, in my mind.

Babe can shop, there’s no doubt about that. She was a pro way before we ever met. I knew that. I didn’t care. She looks cute when she shops. I like to watch her try on clothes. I peek inside the dressing rooms, sometimes even going in with her, especially the small ones. It’s fun. She is sexy and exotic, and fills out her black, lacy bra.

Spending is not an issue. Since Babe is the major bread-winner in the family and the bookkeeper, I have narrowed down my association with the household finances to receiving an allowance. Pin money, that’s all I ask for and all I get. Butts, coffee and a keyboard are all I need. I feel lucky. Since I have nothing to do with the household monies, I no longer have to open mail.

I feel especially confident today. We’re not going to Shop, we’re going to return the popcorn maker she was given as a birthday gift five months ago. It’s an exchange, we should get out pretty cleanly. She wants a mango peeler. So do I. I know what this means. We are going to exchange a fifty dollar item and all we want is a twelve dollar mango peeler in its place. There will be a store credit—a credit impossible to ignore. To a woman who shops, a store credit is no less than a dare.

“Sure,” I assure her, reasonably excited. She has to take a shower first, that gives me forty- five minutes. I crack my knuckles and get back to work.


‘This Guy…’

‘This Guy…’

(Yes? This Guy? Haven’t thought of a name yet, I see.)

I hang my head. No.

(Don’t really have a plot yet either, do you… I say to me, not really a question. Time for a trip to the bathroom.)

I go there to not think. I assume the backwards position on the john, stare at my towel, and wait. It always comes to me in the bathroom. It never fails.

(Nuther cuppa joe?)

I chuckle. Ah, there you are, my Temptation. Time for a break. Mentally relax. Let it come…

(Have another hack at it first.)

‘This Guy…’


I return to my throne, where I Am Man and Master of My Kingdom! From here I control everything: music, TV, volume, picture, even the smell (incense or Marlboro, sometimes worse). I have no qualms about firing up a real Cuban cigar while on my royal chair, when lucky enough to have one. (Cigars are not a way of life for me, they‘re celebratory. Just having one is cause for celebration.) I am at the helm—ready for anything. Prepared, I am. Once my fingers touch the keyboard the “Just Start” method kicks in…

I hate TV. If it were up to me I’d disconnect the dish. I can’t even watch sports with background music anymore. You must take steroids and speed to compete, or you don’t compete at all. These are no longer games; this is lifestyle and greed. This is Status. This is young men trading their dick for a fat contract. I shudder at the thought.

They have taken the game away from me, like they took away the colors from my daughter at school. They took red and blue out of school. Imagine. I’m stunned. No red or blue. No gang colors. You can’t wear red or blue at school. I keep repeating that in my mind, incredulous. No red or blue anymore. You can’t have them. They actually took them away. Games have been replaced by big business with small members, and red and blue have been pronounced guilty. There’s no red or blue!! Goddamnit, NO RED. NO BLUE. YOU CAN’T HAVE IT ANYMORE! I weep for them.

(You weep?)

(Yes, it’s too sad, I tell myself. It’s not their fault! I want to scream. You’ve got it all wrong! I want to explain. It’s not them, it’s us!)

(So what about ‘This Guy?’)

I’m off to sit on the john again. Fuckin’ crips and bloods, you’ll never get uppercase out of me! You tried, Tookie, at the end, but the ball you helped put in motion ran over itself.


(Cat Box…)

(That’s it? That’s all you’re giving me? I came to the bathroom for this?)


Babe is in the shower. I peek.

“Hi Babe!” she says happily, pink razor in hand and looking slippery. She looks great wet.

Her naturally curly hair is long, dark and streaked with highlights of all shades. She is beautiful, and refuses to acknowledge that fact no matter what I say. I don’t qualify to make the call, because I love her. What I hate are those pink razors—the memory of a burn from one still etched in my craw. I’ll never run out of manly razors on vacation again. No, not ever.

“I’m almost done,” which is code for: Quit looking at me so I can finish. I take my cue and smile, stretching it out a little bit. I know the exact moment is near; when the loving, slippery look of demure sexiness turns to: Shut the fucking Mickey Mouse shower curtain and go back to looking at your towel. No boddah me! I know these things, and the timing involved with letting her shower in peace before, just before, it becomes annoying. The Art of Annoyance is something I learned at an early age and perfected on an older sister. I wish my daughter Katy wasn’t better than me.

I scan Babe from the top down and say, “I love it when you’re wet.” It’s a sincere compliment, not a double entendre. When you’re sincere, you’re understood. Dale Carnegie taught me how to win friends and influence people. She couldn’t help letting a small smile slip out. I slid the curtain shut and tucked the end around so it wouldn’t drip water onto the floor. Damn I’m good.

Fuckin’ pink razors… I don’t particularly care for hair gel either. It makes a terrible face moisturizer when you pick up the wrong tube.


(Cat Box.)

(I know, I know! But what about ‘This Guy?’)


(Will you quit that shit? Please?) Pause. My towel is green.

(It’s Sea Mist.)

(I come here for inspiration and you give me chores and color palettes? What kind of shit is this?)

(Both garbages.)


(And you’re almost out of butts.)

‘This Guy—’

(Don’t think about the name yet.)

(I wasn’t.)


“Hungry, Babe?” Babe calls me Babe, too. Yes, I am hungry. We’ll have hotdogs.


‘But Hamlet was cross today, not laid back a’tall. They had taken away his Red and Blue and he was PISSED about it.’

(Hamlet? That works, I like that…)

‘But Hamlet was cross today, not laid back at all…’

(They didn’t take away his Red and Blue, that’s STUPID… oh fuck, [sigh]. Oh no, please don’t turn on the teevee…)


Babe turns on the television and scans the stations. Guys play cards… soccer barely rates a kick… some guy… Oprah looks concerned… a fly-by over basketball… forbidding weather looms over the Carolinas… Finally, Peter Pan meets Hong Kong and the hotdogs are ready.

“This is the world’s longest moving sidewalk…” the teevee says. With that, I’m sucked in. I want to rollerskate along the world’s longest moving sidewalk. I’ve always wanted to rollerskate along the world’s longest moving sidewalk and never knew it. I learn much about myself eating hot dogs in front of the teevee.


‘Hamlet was not laid back at all, he never was while watching TV. At least it had Red and Blue. And Green.’

(Just give up.)


‘It was never about anger with Hamlet, it was always Passion, he would say. That’s what he liked to call his tirades over inanity: Passion. He would have run for office but was much too sane for that…’


“Ready?” Babe asks.

“Yeah, sure. Let’s go.” We can’t leave through the front door because it’s stuck shut—what with the house titling and all. When the front door worked, Katy’s bathroom door was stuck shut. Now that it doesn’t open, her bathroom door swings open when someone walks by. Babe shuts it, we exit, and I yank the back door closed—hoping the knob doesn’t come off in my hand, again. We’re off to: The Mall, and get in the car.

“Did you bring the popcorn maker?”

I go back inside and get it.


‘Harry/Hamlet/This Guy was a schmoe, but he liked nice shirts…’

‘Macbeth needed a drink…’

(NO! NO! NO!)

“Red light!” Babe advises me.

I slam on the brakes. “Oh, sorry.”


This place isnt a Mall, it’s a fucking Metropolis. “Parking place!” Babe points it out. Hard left, hard left, hard left, handicapped… “Oh, sorry.”


Othello is laid back, he doesn’t care. He’s wearing his gorgeous new Hawaiian shirt (Aloha shirt?) and it’s a beautiful day smack dab in the middle of the Left Coast.’


(I know but I like it here.)

(Othello? Is that a sly clue that your character is black?)

(Yes! Very good!)

(Will it have something to do with the plot?)

(Probably not.) “What difference does it make?” I say out loud.

(True enough, o wise one…)

“Well, about $400 bucks after it’s towed.” Babe told me, about the handicapped parking.

Hard left, so I’m driving in squares. I stalk a shopper heading to her car, toying with the idea of asking her if she wants a lift. We have to wait while she gets in. I wave off two other cars with intent to steal. Graciously, they acquiese. I’m hoping she’s not simply eating lunch in her car.

(Remember where it is…)

I remember this Mall when it was no more than a Payless selling prescriptions, flip-flops and Xmas trees. Twenty years ago it had an Outdoors. Now it was Little China in the Astrodome. Once inside, you’re in Tiananmen Square, with a catwalk. Squirrely asides cast you into Blade Runner on a shiny, silver platter. Who was real and who was Replicant?


Odysseus and his Penelope strode purposefully, boldly forward…’


“Which way?” I asked Penelope. I was pretty sure she didn’t know.

“Hmmm…” We merged with the current and veered left, always left, where it began to sweep us around its giant curves and alleys. Too many faces, too many things to look at. To continue walking meant to leave off looking at one thing as it was supplanted with another. What is it? What is it? Shoes. Crepes. Shoes. Phones in my path. Hawker… He’ll want me to buy a phone. I look him dead in the eye. Go ahead, make your pitch.

He eyeballs the popcorn maker. “Gonna have a party, eh?”

I slow down slightly. “Nope. I prefer to sauté my kernels,” and keep walking.

“Oh…” He doesn’t know what the fuck I mean. Gadgets. Knick-knacks. Shoes. Shoes. Shoes!

“I know it’s upstairs,” Babe says. I smell cookies. We go upstairs, hard left. Round and round we go… Now we are on a Walkabout. Sports Dugout. Dresses! I like looking at the dresses. Hmmm, nice manequin! Her hair is carved. Plus, she’s got big tits for a mannequin! Nice touch. She’s hot! I check for nipples… can’t tell, but the dress is nice. I’d like to see Penelope try the black dress on but Smart Enough to Know Better kicks in and I barely hesitate past it. We have a purpose. As a long-time married man I know, or rather I am hoping, that having a specific goal of going to: The Mall, to exchange a fifty dollar popcorn maker for a twelve dollar mango peeler, shouldn’t cost me much—another reason I am happy to shop with my beloved today. My almond butter

In place of empty stores, there are giant graphics mounted on thick foam-core advertising some such shit. I’m too close to be able to read the entire message, it’s so big. Two beautiful, blonde models, bigger than Shaquille O’Neal, allow me to look down their throats. Nice, but their free-throws suck. They look like they floss. Nice gums. No gingivitis here! A teevee show is being advertised: KYLE YX. I only read it because it’s illegible in the stylized font they’ve created to add to the movie’s Terminator-like aura. I force myself to translate it like it was an eye test, though I don’t cover one eye.

“Oh look, Hawaiian jewelry! Mmmm…” I hover while Babe peels off the track for a pitstop to ‘look.’ It’s one of those concession booths, too small for its own store. It is the tiniest layer of shopping in the maelstrom around it. The most powerful. Luckily, the sales attendant is attending the phone, sitting down, talking quietly. Her blouse is slightly crooked and I’m slowly heading her direction to circle back, hopefully to collect Penelope before she lingers too long. Babe is wearing her usual accoutrements: an ensemble of gold Hawaiian bracelets, her pala’oa, a smoothe, palm tree necklace and gold rings on four fingers. The gold is beautiful against her polynesian almond-butter skin. At just the right angle, I can peer down the attendant’s blouse as I pass. I check. It may be an A cup, but it’s a nice, pale blue. I am not a pig, this is my pastime and recompense for carrying a popcorn maker across the Kalahari.

(Please don’t ask me where we parked the car…)

I’m caving in—desperate now. There’s no choice anymore, nothing else I can do. I can’t keep going like this. I can drive for hours in a Lincoln Towncar through Boston until I end up where I started but I simply can’t do it here, not carrying a popcorn maker.

Unsteadily, I raise the torn and tattered white flag: “Don’t they have Directories here?” I completely capitulate, ashamed of myself, unable to look my Penelope in the eyes. I’ve asked for a map.


“Fuck,” I whisper, it’s color-coded. It may as well be three dimensional chess. I back off, let the pro handle this, feigning ‘no glasses.’ The perfect ruse. Damn I’m good. I rarely bring them with me anywhere. That way I avoid having to read anything small and important. Babe scans and translates the menus for me, automatically dismissing what she knows I won’t be interested in. She does this for the newspaper, the National Geographic, and nearly all the current bestsellers; providing concise, incisive summary of each. Saves me a hell of a lot of time and aggravation. Don’t misunderstand; I am not an ostrich. I read headlines.

“It’s downstairs now. They’ve moved.” I knew she’d find it. We depart the catwalk and take the stairs back to the lower level. It seems that when we want to change levels the stairs are always closer than the moving stairs. (Rollerskates wouldn’t work on moving stairs.) It’s so fucking crowded down there I wish the store would move back upstairs. Where did Babe’s mother ever get the idea we needed a hot-air popcorn popper? That suddenly seems so besides the point. We’ve curved twice since our first hard left into the Great Mall of China, now we’re heading back the way we came. Theoretically. Did I say Kalahari? I meant Sahara.

Shoes! Jewelry! Sickly Sweet Smelling Sticky Buns!


Out, damned Sticky buns! Out, I say!’ saith Mac, absconding his Lady’s line while fussing at the pearly grease of cinnamon on his freshly acquired silk Aloha raiment (Hawaiian raiment?) ‘Oh, I am fortune’s fool!’

Babe looks at me strangely. “What are you laughing at?”

“Nothing, fair maiden, I am but enamoured of you.” I would have bowed if I wasn’t carrying a fucking popcorn maker.

Suddenly we’re there, halfway past it before realizing. “Here it is.” I want to cry out loud: Olly-olly-oxen-free! (check sp.) and tag the first guy I see: a young kid with a bluetooth in his ear who looks like he ought to be in The City in The Clouds on a George Lucas set.

“Hi! Welcome to the store!” he says to me brightly, cheerily. Perfect. This is a good sign. Someone who worked there made eye contact, spoke, and offered help. The fact that he acknowledged me automatically qualified him as being an authority on what I needed to know.

“Hi,” I said with a genuine smile. “We’d like to exchange this.”

“What’s wrong with it?” he wondered, jumping the gun.

“I have no idea, we’ve never opened it.”

“Oh, right this way please.” Bluetooth walked us five feet to the registers and laid it out grandly with a fine, sweeping gesture. I would have bowed but…

(Repeat conversation with another boy at the register.) “Are you on our email list?” he wants to know. In a bit of quick thinking I tell him Yes. “Zip code?” I resist the urge to say Yes again and tell him my zip code, as if I have to. It’s one of the God-awful amount of numbers and passwords I have to remember. Social security, drivers license, three phone numbers, date of birth…

“Drivers license please?” like that really needs a question mark. I wonder why he wants to see my drivers license in order to return a popcorn maker, but let it slide. He works at my credit and I make use of his captive attention while my Penelope wanders off.

“You got that mango peeler thing?” Oops, he is not a multi-tasker. The question confuses him slightly but to his credit he recovers pretty well. I am the most critical customer in the known shopping world. Oh yes, I have every right—having spent many years in Sales, living on commission. I expect your full, undivided attention every time. If the phone rings and you answer it without checking with me first you’re fucked in my book. I won’t mind making extra work for you. I will ask you if I can try this sandal in a size 12 just to make you go get it. I’m the guy who wants honey in my coffee and a penny’s worth of jelly beans… Then, I laugh behind your back—good naturedly of course.

“I think it’s over…” he’s not certain where it is and that’s fine with me. You can’t know where everything is in a store. It’s moot. Babe already has another employee in her buying bubble and they’re chatting amicably near the Spoons. She’s already got something in her hand.

“I found it, Babe!” she calls to me. I smile and turn away. I truly am glad we found a mango peeler. I love mangoes and hate peeling them. I’m happy. Now comes the hard part.

I’m given a little plastic card worth $49.95 plus a lot of mental math at 8.25 percent sales tax and make my way through the kitchen bric-a-brac to Babe. “So you got the mango peeler,” I casual. “How much is it?” She tells me twelve bucks. I tell her she has $37.95 plus tax left on her credit. I say it not as a command, mind you, but as an accountant.

She reads me perfectly. “I wish I could find a Spoon like the one that broke, remember that?” Sorta, yes. Wooden spoon, kinda short, kinda flat, brown. She’s poking through slots after having already been through the rows of different styles of Spoons littering the aisle. She and the other employee, a woman this time, have been chatting about Spoons on a level way deeper than I could ever hope to join in on. They are talking edges and shapes and depth and…

I see one and try to help. “This one sorta looks like what I remem—”

“That’s a rice paddle,” both women say to me at once with seamless, natural, woman-to-man-dismissal and continue talking between themselves. Sheepishly, embarrassed, I put it back in its slot. I’m not offended. Men do the same thing, worse. I admit it, I don’t know the first fucking thing about Spoons. Or rather, the second fucking thing about Spoons—I think I know the first, but now I’m not sure. I may even be a little confused about Spoons. Maybe I should drift away

Finally, the women agree they are talking about the same Spoon. “I got mine in France,” says the helpful, sincere, employee Spoon specialist, adding a good-natured chuckle after realizing how pompous that sounded. “So my advice is, go to France!” and we all laugh together. It was pleasant. I wanted to ask her if she’d make me a turkey sandwich. Unfortunately, the Spoon on which Babe fondly reminisces is not among the wealth and battallion of Spoons at Williams & Sonoma in our: Mall Mecca.

That’s bad. It means our mission is over; we are simply standing in a giant: Mall, with no plan. We’ll have to drift… to shop. This is where it gets expensive, any man knows this. If you don’t, it tells me you have money but don’t know women. Which means you’re a sap. But I digress…


‘This Guy…’


‘Mac and Beth wore their matching Aloha shirts and were pleasantly sipping a blue drink at the bar by the pool. It was a people-watching spot and they chatted happily between themselves while the alcohol dripped intraveinously (sp?) into their love tryst. Pink flamingoes, real ones, looked flamingo-like and, I’m assuming, never having heard one, sounded that way too.

‘Oh honey,’ Beth oozed onto Mac’s arm like an alcoholic tiger kitten and purred in his ear: ‘Wouldn’t you love to have a Cuisine de Chateau stove? Deep, midnight-blue enamel… with brass trim, stainless top, and…’’


“Oh yeah, that’s beautiful,” I agree. I don’t even want to know where the price tag is for this epicurean ‘functional centerpiece to [my] kitchen,’ this stove. “Very nice,” I say, noticing a display of CDs and sliding towards it. “Have you seen anything you want?” I meant here, in reality; rhetorically.

The CD was called New York and had Keely Smith, Mo’ Horizons and Oleta Adams. Fifteen bucks. “This looks good,” I offered my considered appraisal for Babe to decide. It was her birthday gift, the popcorn maker, so it was up to her. Also professionally married with a trained eye and perfect ear for nuance, she agreed to the CD. “That leaves twenty-three bucks… What about that cake pan I ruined not long enough ago, have they got another one here you like?” After Spoons and the rice paddle faux pas, I wasn’t about to tackle cake pans without guidance. She scoffed at the idea, brushing it off casually and moving on. Cake pan indeed! I may have crossed the line with that stupid cake pan remark. Damn, I thought I was so good… Of course not a cake pan, schmuck. That’s a kitchen gift, as far apart from a birthday gift as two different Spoons. Oh my gawd, what a rookie mistake! She is too kind by blowing me off completely and moving on. She is a Saint. She shows me Mercy. She shows me kindness. She shows me a knife block.

I blatantly reveal my naiveté about Knife Blocks. “How much is it?”

She looks at me sweetly, demurely, with her disarming, changing-room smile and says with an otherwise straight face and without hesitation: “Seventy bucks.”

I must stammer here. “I… uh… it’s what? Seventy bucks!?”

She looks at it longingly. “My knives get so dull in the drawer and this will open up some space and…”

I notice a different sort of Knife Block, the kind you put in a drawer. “How much is this one?”

“No. That’s for a drawer.” Negatory. Roger that.

“Great! Let’s get it, if that’s what you want. You’ve been talking about this a long time and…”

I’m selling her on it because she wants it and this way it looks like it’s partly my decision, too. We have bought the Knife Block together and haul it and the mango peeler to the register, where I give the young boy back the card he gave me in our pre-Knife Block and mango peeler days. We owe him $47.95 plus tax. I wondered if I could get to like hot-air popcorn and paid him.


’Free at last! Free at last! Great God Almightly I’m free at last!’ Hamlet was in rare form for a hot afternoon and put on his new silk happy-shirt with the brightly colored mixed drinks all over it to celebrate. He couldn’t remember where he parked his car but didn’t care, he was too…’


“It’s this way…” Babe knows my question before asking.


‘Odysseus and his Penelope had just negotiated the Sirenum Scopuli and were leaving the Sirens to their dalliance with Persephone. With Orpheus plucking the lyre, the Argonauts rowed them to the safety of the parking lot.’


Babe: “…red dress. I always like…”


‘Odysseus straightened his new, silk tunic.’ (Toga?)


“…looking for…”

“…those barrels and…”


‘Naught but Nyx, Chaos or Hecate!’

‘…and cast the ropes to the deck in relief. The entrance they sought was two doors down from the store. They had sailed around the world, seen many sights together, and discovered: the Mall, was round. By Circe, what wizardry is this!’


“…charms. Here we are.”

I open the car door for Babe. Not so much out of chivalry but because the door lock on the drivers side doesn’t work. It’s been busted over two years. It looks kind of cool when we’re together, so gentlemanly and all, but when you’re driving alone it looks dumb and inconvenient. I throw the Block in the trunk, strike up the beatmaster, and row home.


Later that night…

‘This Guy…’ I write, tiredly.

(This guy goes into a bar and…)

“Oh, put a cork in it…” I tell my inner, creative voice—out loud.


“What?” Babe asks. She has tired eyes. Slits are one thing, but when they start crossing she is only 3.2 minutes removed from utter narcolepsy. The National Geographic is open on her lap to the page she turned to a half hour ago. Virtually asleep, she will not lose her place. She is a sleep-reader.

“Go to bed, Lover,” I say, employing her alternate pet name. If she doesn’t, she’ll pinch her neck in the chair. Then her shoulders will ache. She’ll nap like that until 1:00 in the morning and awaken with a second wind—enough to scratch her lottery tickets for the next thirty minutes. She won $1000 bucks once. When the eyes cross, it’s too late even for that.

“I’m going to bed…” She rests her head on my shoulder and kisses me on the neck, then the lips. “I love you.”

“Sleep perfectly, Lover.” I kiss her in return, and add two new ones—one for each breast.

“You too,” she tells me, and patters off to bed unsteadily.

The house is dark. I am on the throne. I am Man and… (Yawn.)

(Yeah, me too…)

I have to chuckle a little bit, remembering earlier in the evening when I needed a knife. Of course the drawer was nearly empty, the knives having been moved to the Block. Where was that thing… ah, here we go, stashed neatly near the toaster oven, the Magic Bullet blender, the bright red Kitchenaid blender-thingy, the coffee grinder, espresso machine and two elegant and lovely bottles of oily liquid with a bunch of shit floating around in them which we never open. We don’t even know what’s in them. The closest thing to a label on either of them is a rafetta string-tie. What was I looking for? Oh yeah, the knife. Of course, by their handle they all look alike. It was easier when they were in the drawer. So this becomes one of those Man/Woman things both sexes are obligated to reconcile if they wish to cohabitate successfully for any length of meaningful time. These are the ‘little things’ they talk about the moment our God signs the wedding certificate. You know what I’m saying, men. It’s the moment you lose the Garden Section of the newspaper as a placemat. I don’t care where the hell the knives are, really, once I get used to it. In fact, I’m pretty certain I won’t even be able to find the mango peeler when I need it, but I don’t care! If it makes Babe happy, Penelope to my Odysseus, I’m happy. The place could be filled with raffeta, oily bottles of unknown substance, bread-makers and ice-cream machines; Ab-loungers, Bowflex’s, Nordic Trax or train tracks; old lottery scratch-off’s, hair gel with foreign labels or cone incense; but without her my home has no Flung Shway (or whatever the hell they call it). So long as I have my pin money, coffee, butts and a keyboard, and you throw a clam at me once in a while, I’m good. Without Babe, I am almond butter without the jelly and liable to get stuck on the roof of my own mouth.


‘This G—’


“Red snapper,” Babe says quietly, sleepily behind me. I turn around and her eyes are closed as she stands, but she has come out of bed to tell me: red snapper. I can’t help it, I have to laugh. Dinner tomorrow. Babe starts to laugh too. Feeling better, she can sleep soundly now.

“Sounds good. Sleep perfectly, Lover.”

“You too. I love you.”

“I love you too, Babe.”




“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 19—Thanksgiving

Rated G

Chapter 19—Thanksgiving

We’re all there—the grandparents, the parents, and the grandkids—sitting around the dinner table. We’re talking about Pop’s old paintings that went the way of a fire sale at the church, when they left town so suddenly fed up with it all in NYC. The Wonder Woman, the Purple Horse, Lee Harvey Oswald driving the Chevelle… Pop has forgotten the one with me as a small boy, painted with dyes on glass as if it was my reflection watching the first homicide on television — the Oswald murder. The painting behind the glass was a grayscale/op-art rendition of the shooting that exaggerated the screen resolution of our old black and white TV. With the glass dye-painting of me covering it, it really looked like a television. What hectic times those were…

Ma says: “The whole country was in such denial back then.”

“Denial?” Pop says, buttering his biscuit. “I thought that was a river in Egypt.”

Unflustered after decades of this kind of verbal abuse, Ma retorts: “You don’t have to Rhine about it.”

I chime in my two cents. “Did I Mississippi something here? Or is this conversation getting Volga?”

Sis jumps in the fray, while the grandkids try to keep up. “I’m getting ready to Colorado the whole thing off!”

“I know,” I continue, “I can’t Stanislaus much more of this either.”

“That would be Rio Grande with me, this conversation is taking a rapids dive.” Pop decides.

“I’ll Klamath up if you will-eth.” I’m trying to get the last shot in, and add: “I’m not Russian into anything though,” just to be sure.

“I’m Delaware of that,” Pop replies. The grandkids are getting a geography lesson and don’t even know it. They listen quietly and watch as if it were a ping pong game. A long silence ensues in a thinktank atmosphere — as one of us is surely going to pick up the ball.

“A conversation like this could drive you in-Seine,” Sis serves up as she passes the candied yams. We are all laughing and spitting food out while we scramble for more river puns. “We Congo on like this for hours.”

“I was Euphrates say that. Someone please put me out of my Missouri… and pass the gravy.” I manage to choke out. We have totally forgotten the conversation. “It’s Amazon to me that we ever get anything discussed. Don’t worry kids, Elbe all over soon.” They still look worried. “Thames are changing.” Now we’re laughing too hard to carry on this stream of thought.

“Could you be more Pacific?” Pop asks me, biting the tip off an asparagus.

“I’m Red Sea whenever you are.”

“Better make it quick,” Pop says. “I’m Aegean fast.”

“Can we go outside?” All the grandkids get up to leave. It’s raining, hard, but that doesn’t matter to them.

“What, no dessert?”

“Maybe later.” They file out in a line. It’s a walkout. They seem to have lost their appetite.

I’m seeing more white meat on the platter and help myself to seconds. “Could you pass the cranberries?” I ask Sis.

“I’d be berry happy to.”

“Now you’re just being silly,” I say.

“I cran if I want to,” she replies. I’m pretty sure I want to join the kids now.

“‘Nuther biscuit?” Ma offers. I take one and look for the butter. It’s way down at the end of the table. Sis passes it over.

“Butter late than never,” she always says. I change the subject, fast.

“So… What’s for dessert?” I look at my brother JP and his lovely, brilliant, exceedingly patient wife, Leanne. This is their shindig, they’ve done all the cooking. JP looks at me, seriously.

“Don’t ask,” he begs. “Please.” He’s afraid, rightfully, what we’ll say about his pies. I turn to Pop.

“Looks like we’ll have to pump-kin him for answers.”

JP interrupts, getting up to leave the table. “Coffee anyone?”

Daddy, Why Can’t I Say Ass? Ch. 35—Coffee Break

Rated PG (language)

Chapter 35—Coffee Break

There’s a very specific ritual about making coffee. First and foremost, you must start with a good bean. I prefer the dark roasts; Italian and French, for example, make a good mix. Ideally, coffee beans should be stored in the freezer. When grinding, care must be taken to achieve the perfect granule for drip-brewing, or powder for espresso. As a rule, powder unleashes the most flavor; however this is problematic for the drip-brew drinker at the bottom of the cup, where much of it settles. That shit will quickly turn your teeth a gritty shade of gray.

While I may appreciate the subtle nuances between drip-brewing or French-pressing my coffee, I am an espresso with steamed milk maker. That means I grind for powder. If you turn an Indonesian bean to dust and pack a full espresso basket, it still easily drips espresso. Try that with a French or Italian bean and you will require more than a small, home-style espresso maker to drip the dark roasts. To affect the perfect balance of a well-ground bean with slightly less than two-thirds of a twelve ounce mug of milk, the optimum time to grind dark roasts in a small, stainless nut grinder is twenty-five to thirty seconds. Go beyond that, and you’re espresso basket is impacted to constipation by the dust-powder, resulting in an interminably slow espresso drip. Impossibly slow. It’s the oiliness of the bean which clogs up the works. To remedy this, the powder must instead be a granule. This sacrifices some flavor, but at least I can get a cuppa joe in under twenty minutes.

Twenty-five or thirty seconds is a long time for a coffee bean to be hacked by two stainless steel blades. I counted out the ‘mississippi’s’ and carefully lifted off the top to the grinder. There, sitting in the center of finely chopped, brown dust, sat one lone bean covered in powder. It was whole — unsullied and untouched.

What’s this? Why hello, little feller! I took it out, held it up, and dusted it off. How the hell did you escape the blades of final dissolution? How could you possibly not be powder by now, crushed and disseminated throughout my grinder with the rest of the beans? Did you balance your tightrope act in the dead center of those blades, twirling like a dirvish on knives of steel? You, little bean, have passed through the flames of consumption and emerged unscathed! You are a survivor, much like myself. You are anti-centrifugal, and refused to lie down. You are an inspiration, to be commended! Where have you bean all my life?


Off you go, little survivor… I tossed it back in the bag with the others. I’ll get you next time… Ah, it is the ‘morning’ version of the Wonder Child. That is, the early afternoon version. Her hair is early day-bed, her face Sleepy the Dwarf as she wipes her hand across Snow White eyes. Her pajamas talk to me slowly, “Who are you talking to? Can I have a cup of coffee?”

Flannel pajamas and a t-shirt with a dancer on it. She is at an age when her father had already conceived and subsequently aborted a child. She wants to be in love. Her father was in love by twelve, and again at thirteen, and fourteen, and seventeen… then once more. Her father never wore pajamas… “Did I say that out loud? Sure, I’ll make you a cup,” and I start making our coffee. Her father was drinking coffee by her age, having developed an early jones for café con leche in Spain. Her father was drinking a lot of wine and beer too, at her age, and trying to give up being addicted to getting high on pot and acid and heroin and pills and… Her father had lived a life of crime already, by her age. She is unlike her father in all the right ways. She’s going to love coffee.

When I picked Katy up from school on her seventeenth birthday she was covered in balloons, flowers, and small, pink stuffed animals. Everyone was nice to her that day. She told me her French teacher had cornered her at lunchtime and started speaking to her in French.

Katy told me, “I just nodded and said: ‘Uh, sure! Thanks!’ In class they all tried to sing to me, but nobody knew the song and it was all out of tune. Sounded terrible…”

I wanted to know what her French teacher said to her, but Katy had no idea. “Didn’t you ask her what she meant?”


“Why not?”

“Because I’m supposed to know!” Then she picked up my wine glass and took a sip.

“How do you like the wine?”

“Yuck, not good with gum…” This is something we have in common. Seventeen… out of the severe misnomer that is Sweet Sixteen and into another grand teen year of life as they know it at that age. For her birthday we gave her a gift certificate at a good book store, two chocolate bars, a fine dinner at an Italian Restaurant of her choosing and six lottery scratch-off tickets she won sixteen bucks with. The next day I received a letter from our bank stating that they covered five transactions of hers she didn’t have the money for, and she must now remit $105 in penalties. They didn’t know the half of it, as she had recently been fired from her part-time Juice Jockey Job and had no income other than what I gave her for lunch money, when she asked. I forked over the sixteen bucks lottery winnings and the non-existant money was floating out of my hands at every turn. “Do I have to use this for lunch?” I handed her three more bucks. Her father was stealing drugs for money, breaking into drugstores and doctors offices for more drugs… When he ate, he ate lobster at The Stratton. At seventeen, her father and his friend skipped out the side door of a swank Hollywood Boulevard hotel on a lobster tab. This is something we don’t have in common.

“Please don’t tell me you woke up with gum in your mouth,” I mutter almost to myself.

Katy goes to the bathroom while I finish the coffee. When she comes out, I hand her her cuppa joe. She takes a sip and some foam lingers on her upper lip area. “Mmm-m-m…” Her eyes close a little. She starts in immediately:

“On tuesday we have to perform at…” (time and place which I immediately forget to remember) “…and on Wednesday there’s a party…” (at some o’clock) “…for the dance team and we’re doing a gift exchange…” (sly hint for money) “…and don’t forget my haircut on Monday and OH MY GAWD I have to tell you… Missy and I were practicing…” (some dance step) “…and she fell right on her face! HA-HA-HA! We were laughing so hard! She was sitting on her butt and she pushed back and said ‘Oh my gawd, I just peed!’ Then she showed me the little puddle…” (on the gym floor) “…and we started laughing even harder! Missy had to get up and run to the boys bathroom and left little drops of pee all the way…! Oh my gawd I couldn’t stop laughing! First it was Amanda, then Kelly at camp and now Missy, HA-HA-HA!”

I’m thinking: I don’t really need to know this, it gives me the eeky-jeebies. Quickly man, change the subject… Still, I’m laughing. It’s potty humor and her father still laughs when anyone says ‘tushy.’ Her father looked his own fart in the eye of the mirror.

Deftly, I change the subject. “Coffee starting to kick in?”

“Uh-huh,” she nods eagerly. Her father’s cup only succeeds in warding off a headache, until the next one comes in the late afternoon. There is a silent moment.

“Your Aunt Jessica would have had a birthday this month.”

Katy nods. “I wonder how Beverly is doing?” She is referring to her Aunt Jessica’s cat, who we all tried to take care of while Jessica was in and out of the hospital with an incredible array of vast diseases, slamming her relentlessly. The cat clearly flipped its poor lid, attacking anything at any given time, with or without a possessed-sounding warning. When I went there I wore long pants, boots, a heavy jacket, thick leather gloves and carried an umbrella, which I used to back her away from the door when I entered — popping it out like a belligerant peacock when she went for my feet, where she once drew blood. To feed the cat and shovel her shit, I dressed like a bomb squad worker. Later I realized a much easier way to keep Beverly at bay. I smoked. When I smoked, I could go inside wearing a Speedo and she wouldn’t come near me. Shortly after that, Aunt Jessica passed away. Beverly was taken in by a family with two other cats and, I was told, they all get along famously well.

“I’m sure Beverly’s living life on her own terms,” I tell my daughter as she sips her latte.

Katy chuckles, thinking of Beverly. “That cat was insane.”

I agree, fondling my mug. Last night Katy went to ‘Teen Zone,’ which is a gymnasium at a local school that hosts an occasional dance for the kids. She also knows a member of two of the bands who performed, a drummer and a bass guitar player. They play ‘rock,’ I was told. I ask her how they were.

“Oh, pretty good.” Then she immediately downgrades them to, “Not too bad.”

“How was the turnout?” I ask.

“Only about twenty people.”

I’m surprised there were so few. When her father went to rock concerts at the The Fillmore East he had to negotiate millions just to get there. His Pop taught him to slice through Lexington Avenue at five o’clock like Emerson Boozer after taking the handoff from Broadway Joe. Her father took the subway to get to concerts, but much preferred the elevated line that took him to see Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly, and others he could no longer remember.

“Did you know many people there?” I ask, sniffing around for the boy’s name I think might be behind this. She doesn’t go there, which could mean that she’s seriously more picky now than she used to be. I like to think she’s taken my advice and isn’t trusting anybody with her feelings. I don’t really know if this is right or wrong, but I’m pretty sure it’s the safest stance to take. I want her to hold out a while longer before committing her heart to anyone, at least until the hormones slow from raging to just monthly. Then, she’ll have at least three weeks a month to stay open-minded and clear-headed. (The other week, if she stays athletic, I can hope she’s at least clear-headed.)

“Yeah, I knew a few people. Most of the rest were from…” and she names the rival school. “They’re weird…”

Oh god, not more weirdness. That assessment always puts me on edge. Her father had weird friends once upon a time, when he was her age. They were weird enough to wield guns and knives, and commit acts of armed robbery, breaking and entering, grand theft, petty theft, any theft no matter how trivial, no matter from whom. They were really weird on acid, and glue, and too much booze, and barbituates, and morphine, and worse.

“How so?” I always have to ask.

“Well, the way they dress… I mean, in girls clothes… It’s the hard coursing.” She knows I’m going to take this a little strangely, so she pauses enough to let it sink in, warming both hands on her cup.

“They what? I…” didn’t quite understand. I didn’t even know what question to ask first. “What’s hard coursing?”

“Hard coursing..! It’s the hard coursing.”

“What?” Like I knew what she was talking about. “Hard coursing..?”

“Hard, core, scene!”

“Oh-h-h, it’s the hard core scene…”

“Yeah, you know…” (I didn’t) “…short jackets and frilly shirts…”

“You have to e-nun-ciate around me, especially with slang.” I’m trying to get a sense of how much of this is gay and how much of it is just campy. “You mean like Prince?” (The talented musician with the damned annoying Insignia.)

“Yeah, more like Prince, but they wear girl’s pants.”

“What’s the difference?” I want to know. She tells me in specific, no-uncertain terms that it’s the cut, and the low waist that makes them different than men’s pants. And the cost, I think. So I’m seeing pimply-faced teen Prince impersonators from Tyrol dressed like Twiggy, in my mind. This doesn’t make it any easier to accept. Katy’s father wondered if the boys were transvestites. He wondered if it was fair to ask that about someone their age. He wondered if anyone could know at that age whether or not they were a transvestite. But he knew it didn’t matter.

“So are they gay?” She doesn’t know for sure and I believe her — that she’s not sure. “What about eye liner?” I ask her.

“Oh yeah.”

Then I ask her the telltale question: “Anyone hit on you?”


“That’s it, they’re gay.” I tell her.

She laughs, “Probably.” I don’t even ask her if they can dance, I don’t need to. Anyone who cross dresses even a little can dance. These boys could just be theatrical, or they could be gay. Katy’s already told me that she won’t take the Drama classes in school because the people are all gay and lesbian pot smokers. Katy is hetero and doesn’t get high; what would they have in common? Again, I didn’t pass any judgements. She did that for herself and decided it wasn’t worth the risk. As usual, she just wants the Easy way out of school. The path of least resistance. In this case it probably works in her favor.

We don’t care about the gay and lesbian part of working within the drama group. It’s the pot smoking I’m glad she’s avoiding. I don’t want her to start having too much fun yet; it’s distracting from actually finding an interest she can be passionate about. Her father found that passion, but it took many years of experimentation.

“What about the lesbians, do they buy men’s clothes?” I wonder.

“Only the butch ones. Oh…” she laughs, “…and then, Apryle pokes me and says: ‘Do you see those guys wearing chickens on their heads?’ It’s true! Some guys were wearing chicken heads! I said…” (to Apryle) “‘…Yeah.’ And she said: ‘Good, I didn’t want to be the only one!’ Ha-ha!”

Ha-ha, I think. Very funny? Cross dressing juniors with frilly shirts, low-waisted pants, eye liner, and chickens on their heads… that is funny, isn’t it? Her father’s time pre-dated punk. When spikes and mohawks showed up, he was freaked! How much more outlandish will teens be willing to take this show of independence? Now they are piercing holy places all over their bodies like they were pin cushions and spray painting their hair Rustoleum orange. While I’m trying to decide what’s next, Katy’s still talking.

“…he felt really bad because the lead singer started throwing up all over the stage and…”

“Wait, wait!” I interrupt. “Start that over again?”

“Yeah, he felt really bad (her friend in the band) because he convinced him (his friend, the lead singer) to go (perform) even though he was sick. Then he (the lead singer) threw up all over…”

“Oh… That sucks,” I commiserate.

“Yeah,” she says, studying the foam left in her cup and swiping at it with her pinky. “Can I put more chocolate on this?”

“Sure…” I’m lost in my own foam. When handled properly, foam can be nursed like a bar beer — pacing it all the way to the last, true gulp. After it’s gone, it signifies one thing only: You are done with your coffee. Oh sure, there’s that last little dribble to coax out, but that’s only a tease for the next cup. My second cup of this warm, autumn day is half empty already, this early in the afternoon. I’ve been gulping. I should slow down. I toy with the idea of speeding up and making another but I knew I wouldn’t. I have to pace myself, or the experience will diminish. Katy sits back down at the kitchen table. She’s still talking.

“And Missy, she wouldn’t shut up! She kept shhh-shhh’ing in the back…” I’m lost. “She and Lisa have been hanging out together because they both have boyfriends and I don’t. They have something to talk about…”

“Mm-hmm,” I offer sympathetically. “How about Kelly, has she got a boyfriend?”


“So hang out with her,” I say. Then, after a pause, “So, no boy troubles then?”

“No,” she tells me a little dejectedly. “I’ve given up on boys.”

“Good,” I reiterate, like I have before on the subject. “Best to wait until you’re thirty.”

She seems truly depressed that I might be right, after all. “I know.”

I don’t want to squash her hopes completely, so I soften up a little. “It’s possible you can find someone in your twenties… if you’re careful.”

“Yeah, sure.” She changed the subject, “I was with Apryle. We were trying to shut Missy up. Oh, it was so funny, because we couldn’t laugh, you know?”

Of course I knew. The resistence to laughing is always in direct opposition to the seriousness of the moment. “Remind me again, where were you?”

“I told you, at the City Council meeting,” where the girls try to get money from the city for their Dance Squad. She’s talking about a few nights ago.

“So this guy comes over and takes her arm…” (Missy’s) “…and tells her to be quiet..! And Apryle started laughing, and…” (I think I know what’s coming) “…blew a giant snot bubble! Aha-ha-ha!”

Naturally… “Did you call her on it?”

“Of course!” Katy laughs. That’s my girl.

“What’d she do?” I wanted details.

“She covered it up with her hand.” I laughed. I mean, what else are you going to do when you blow snot at a City Council meeting? It was a stupid question. I think I should change the subject, move on to tonight’s plans.

“So, you guys are planning to go to the movies tonight?”


“What are you going to see?”

“Brokeback Mountain.”

Briefly I wonder why, but not for long. She loves love stories. She thrives on movies that make her cry and scream. “Why?” I ask her anyway, knowing already.

She tells me in no uncertain terms: “Because I hear it’s good!” She’ll want money, of course. Her father rarely paid to see movies. He crawled in on his hands and knees, under the ticket seller and through the door, past the candy counter, then ran up the stairs to the loge, where he and his friends could smoke and throw garbage down on the seats below — occasionally knocking a drink over the side before running out the door. Or he walked backwards in the side door as people were leaving, even lighting a cigarette so he’d look like he was egressing with the rest of the crowd. His daughter would never do that.



“Can I get my driver’s permit next week?”

I gulp more coffee. My foam is on its last gasp, the final lump will hit my mouth and bubble a little bit before going down. Then I’ll be left with only the dribble, and the recurring question, Should I have another? The answer will be No, as usual. I’ll nurse the dribble twice, squeezing a littler dribble out of the first, until the smallest, tiniest, last hope of a drip dries on the cup before it can make its way onto my tongue. Her father was learning how to drive when he was seventeen…


What did his father before him, the Painter, teach him besides how to negotiate the sidewalk? He didn’t… he just was. He was himself, and no one else to anyone. He was there, invoking his passion for his son to see. Oh, his son said, fifty years later, licking the dry foam from the inside of his mug.


“Sure… we can do that.”

“Yay!” she said to her father, fully upright in her chair with eyes the size of hockey pucks.

Scraping the last bit of foam with her finger and sticking it in her mouth, “Mmmm…” she said. “When?”


Romeo and Juliet’s Alternate Ending

Alternate Ending—Rated… uh, I’m not really sure. PG?

38—Romeo and Juliet

In this alternate ending to Shakespeare’s classic play, Romeo and Juliet have staged an elaborate ruse and are not really dead at all. Instead, they moved to Viagra Beach and grew old together. To give credit where it’s due, Bill Shakespeare wrote most of this.

ROMEO: …and the buccaneer saith: ‘Mine octopus shall playeth one such musical instrument after the next. Yea. Be they lyre, harpsichord or flugelhorn… One hundred doubloons to the first knave who bringeth forth an instrument he cannot but charm the sweetness from — like a bee charms honey from a rose by any other name.’ Twas well and good, til one codger did arrive with bagpipes…

JULIET: Butt soft! What wind from under covers breaks? Romeo, Romeo, why fart thou, Romeo?

ROMEO: To pee or not to pee? My fly is up, but my thoughts remain below. I go, and it is done. I suffer the slings and arrows of she who pulleth mine finger…

JULIET: Ay vey… Thou art the sphincter of my discontent. ‘Twas but the unkindest cut of all… Out, damned smell! I’ll be sick to-day for this morn’s wafting. A plague o’ both your holes!

ROMEO: Farting is such sweet sorrow… Now is the winter of my incontinence.

JULIET: O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain… Beware the hides of farts! What a piece of work is man! Shall I not, then, be stifled in the eiderdown, to whose foul mouth no healthsome air breathes in? Fie on thy own bagpipes!

ROMEO: All the world’s a potty… Floridians, Romans, countrymen, lend me some toilet paper…. The lady doth protest too much, ‘me stinks…’

JULIET: Something is rotten and is not, I fear, in the state of Denmark but ‘tis you in its stead… (Stage whispers: I follow him to serve my turn upon him.)

ROMEO: Asses are made to bear, and so are you to mine… To air is human, to forgive divine.

JULIET: Save your rhymes for future times, and Popes like Alexander; get thee to a potty! So all that bedsheet’s not mold. Thy slow burner doth not fade away… Nay, naught forthwith enough!

ROMEO: To sleep, perchance to shutteth up — oy, where’s the plug? I am constipated as the northern star; of whose true-fix’d and resting quality eludes the firmament in this fellow. Shall we on without apology? I cannot bound a pinch: Under love’s heavy burden do I stink.

JULIET: How now? A dead rat?

ROMEO (Aside: Is this a dagger which I see before me? Was ever woman in this humour woo’d? Was ever woman in this fragrance won? Only by the thumbing of my prick, something wicked this way comes, methinks. O unhappy dagger! This is thy sheath; there rust, and let lie while like a hell-broth boil and bubble inside.)

JULIET (Also aside: With palindrome, I say aside, aside say I, that he’s bad, ‘tis true, ‘tis true ‘tis pity, and pity ‘tis ‘tis true. True, ‘tis ‘tis pity, and pity ‘tis true ‘tis true, bad he’s that I say aside, aside say I…) Love looks not with the nose but with watery eyes. The man that hath foul music in himself, nor is not mov’d with concord of sweet laxative, is unfit for reason, stratagems, and sweet cheeses.

ROMEO: Be not afraid of flatulence: some are born flatulent, some achieve flatulence, and some have flatulence thrust upon ‘em. Blow, blow, thou winter wind. Thou art not so unkind as man’s ingratitude. Let every nose negotiate for itself and trust no agent. What’s gone and what’s passed should be passed with relief. This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine.

JULIET: The course of true love never did run smooth. We should be woo’d and were not made to woo. Woo-who? Lord, what fools these mortals be. We that are true lovers run into strange vapors; but as all is mortal in nature, so is all nature in love mortal folly. My soliloquy ne’er ripped so foul, Romeo, O Romeo, as thou.

ROMEO: What noise is here? Fie, you slug-a-bed! O lamentable day! Stench lies on me like an untimely frost! O, I would have thee judicious use of flatulence depurates. You lay the dagger on my paté. I’ll re you, I’ll fa you; do you note me? And do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti you, too. Which brings us back to…

JULIET: What is the matter? (Aside: I give pause, forthwith to continue…) Canneth giveth and naught taketh?

ROMEO: (Aside: Says she, so trippingly off the tainted tongue.) Naught! How now, brown sow? Aesop was never so grim…


(Enter FRIAR LAURENCE and PARIS, with Musicians)

ROMEO and JULIET: Nevermore now!

(Exit FRIAR LAURENCE and PARIS, with Musicians)

(Rip needle from record album.) Then they really did kill each other, simultaneously, by smotheration of scents over-foul.


PRINCE (Offstage): A glomming crapulence this morning with it brings; The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head: Go hence, or have more scents of these bad things; Some shall be pardon’d, and some punished: For never was a story of more Whoa! than this of Juliet and her Romeo.

The Endeth.


Fuck. This blows, dude… said my inner voice.

Too late now, I replied. Sorry Bill.