A Pause for Reflection

Now that I’ve broken the all-time strikeout record, yes, I do feel a sense of relief. It’s been a long, hard haul, and I’ve been out here every day in the heat and the cold, through every ache and pain, no matter what else was going on in the world. Do I see myself retiring? Well, it’s not really up to me, is it. Look, here’s the deal: I don’t pitch for records, though number 3,549 has been in the back of my mind for years. There are those who will claim that you can screen those kinds of thoughts out completely, but I don’t really believe them. And I don’t pitch for money, obviously, or fame. I pitch for a much simpler reason: because the kid who owns me keeps putting balls in my mechanical arm, setting the speed on SEMI-FAST, and then pressing ACTIVATE.

I won’t even really respond to suggestions that my record is tarnished somewhat because I’ve struck out the same kid for eleven years. The way I look at it, to strike someone out from the age of seven to eighteen is a real accomplishment. And I don’t see why it matters that he’s not very good. I mean, he pretty much knows exactly what’s coming, but I still keep blowing him away. Seriously, if he set me on CURVE more often, I’d be up to five thousand strikeouts by now. I don’t mean to sound boastful, but that’s just the way it is. And I’ll remind you that more than one hundred of my strikeouts came against the Glick kid from down the road between 1998 and 2000 when he was in his physical prime. I’ll grant you that notching eleven Ks against that elderly dude who visits from time to time hasn’t been the most amazing achievement, but it’s still honest work and it doesn’t fatigue me any less to mow down a seventy year-old. My arm has to throw according to the setting it’s on. I wouldn't even know how to let up if I wanted to.

Sure, there’s a good chance I’ll have to give up the ghost when the kid goes off to college in the fall and starts his classes at Swarthmore. Maybe I’ll add a few more strikeouts when he’s visiting during Thanksgiving or something. But like I say, it’s not about accumulating statistics; it’s always been about being the best pitcher I can be.

Nice kid. I have nothing against him. It’s always been a purely athletic rivalry. I hear he’s going to major in sociology. Yeah, there’s a good move.


When Logic Strikes

Listen, listen, listen….just listen. Because you’re missing my point completely, people. Just break it down to the bare facts and you should be able to see where I’m coming from. One: we are Wilkes-Barre’s most renowned all-volunteer community theater group. That’s not immodesty; that’s a cold hard fact. The Register’s three and a half-star review of Noises Off did not write itself. Two: despite our success and the undeniable buzz over our upcoming staging of Murder on the Orient Express, subscriptions are down ten percent, from twenty to eighteen this year. Three: through an incredibly unique confluence of one-of-a-kind factors, I have been offered what I think you would all agree is an amazing price on a used, all-wooden, thirty-six foot catapult. Now, take a moment and put these three facts together, adding a dose of progressive thinking, and try to deny the immutable truth that with the writing of a single check, we would be the only community theater group in this town in possession of a working catapult. Before you open your mouths again to repeat your tired arguments, let me say again that finding a use for the catapult is not the issue at hand. First we must take action; then we can figure out how to make the catapult work for us. And don’t tell me it would have “no purpose.” I refuse to believe that six intelligent people, a group which includes a bank manager and a high school science teacher, will never be able to come up with a plan to marry a rock-sturdy catapult with the perfect maximum-cast-of-ten drama presentation. I mean, do I need to show you the picture again? Have you noted the sheer size of the thing? And it’s functional, everyone. It works. I’ve seen a video. And if it ever breaks, my brother thinks he can even fix it. So, long story short, we, The Princely Players of Wilkes-Barre, have less than twenty hours to invest no more than fifty percent of our treasury in the most extraordinary prop and/or marketing tool we will ever know. If ten o’clock tomorrow comes and I have not placed a call to the name written on the back of this matchbook with a promise of four hundred American dollars to be delivered no later than Tuesday as payment in full, there will be no tractor trailer on I-81 next week bringing us a catapult. It will simply be gone, with no opportunity ever to get it back. There is even a chance, albeit remote, that some other community theater group---perhaps a direct competitor for our fan base’s attentions----could wind up with the device in question. Instead of us using it to completely re-invent Agnes of God, the Birch Street Amateur Actors League or maybe the St. Martin’s Seniors Theatrical Society could conceivably wind up working it into Arsenic and Old Lace or even their annual winter production of The Anne Frank Story. Then where would we be, people? How stupid would we look? Again, it is immaterial at this juncture that plays of modest budgets involving catapults are rare, or that it won’t currently fit inside the building. This is why God gave the people in this room such extraordinary imaginations. We are pillars of the creative community, and as such, we will find a profitable use for this catapult which both makes for provocative theater and honors all time-tested stage traditions. On this issue, I see no more room for debate. Now then, who here has access to a phone so we can get this ball rolling?


Eh, It Happens.

TO: Employees of Google – Production Department
FROM: Terence M., VP of Quality Control

To everyone involved in the ongoing bug fix:

I don’t want to see a single one of you in cafeterias 5, 7, or 8 until the bug solution has been found. I am dead serious about this. I want you going over every line of code ever written in the history of network computing and I don’t want your eyelids to touch each other once until you’re done. No one is to even get up from your chair unless your appendix is bursting through your left nostril. Another 120 million searches today lost and another thousand headlines in newspapers across America. We are the TOP STORY ON CNN, PEOPLE, so NO ONE leaves this damn office until THIS BUG IS FIXED. I see NO REASON for this nightmare to continue into a third day. If, at five this afternoon, I type “Baltimore Orioles” or “fix my Chevy” or “best date movie” OR EVEN “RAUNCHY SLIMY GOAT SEX” INTO GOOGLE AND I GET A LINE OF TEXT BACK THAT SAYS “Did you mean ‘Hal Linden’?” I WILL BURN DOWN THIS ENTIRE COMPLEX. SOMEONE PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD MAKE OUR SEARCH ENGINE STOP ASKING PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD IF THEY MEANT HAL LINDEN. OUR ADVERTISERS ARE BAILING OUT ALL AROUND US AND OUR NAME HAS BECOME A LAUGHINGSTOCK AND THE ONLY PERSON ON EARTH WHO DOESN’T THINK THIS COMPANY IS GOING TO GO UNDER BY SATURDAY IS THE ONE LOSER IN BUTTNECK, IDAHO WHO IS ACTUALLY DOING A SEARCH ON HAL LINDEN. WE ALL LOVED BARNEY MILLER, PEOPLE, BUT IF I SEE THE PHRASE “Did you mean ‘Hal Linden’?” ONE MORE TIME ON A GOOGLE SCREEN, I WILL CALL ON SATAN HIMSELF TO SUCK YOUR SOULS THROUGH A KRAZY STRAW. I JUST TRIED TO USE OUR MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR SEARCH ENGINE TO RESEARCH HOW TO MOW DOWN EVERY OVERPRICED TECHNICIAN IN THE BUILDING WITH A RUSSIAN SUBMACHINE GUN AND IT ASKED ME “Did you mean ‘Hal Linden’?” AND I’M TEMPTED TO SAY YES, I DID MEAN HAL LINDEN, BECAUSE ONLY HIS STERN BUT WARM-HEARTED PERSONA CAN POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND THE DEPTHS OF THE ETERNAL WRETCHED PAIN I AM EXPERIENCING AT THIS MOMENT BECAUSE OF YOU PRINGLES-MUNCHING, SUPER MARIO-PLAYING RETARDS!!!

P.S. The winner of the pumpkin decorating contest is Sarah Hardy.


I've Discovered Cocaine!

Wowwwwwwwwww, did I ever just discover something super-spectacular! You may know it as cocaine, but as far as I’m concerned, its name should be Genie in a Bottle, because it made all my wishes come true yesterday! I cannot believe that all of you were holding out on me for so long and not letting me in on this stupendous treat. If we all weren’t such great friends, I’d be really miffed. You, Ralph, you scamp, you did coke in the eighties---nice job keeping me away from it all these years! But the secret is out and I am all over it. And Paula---didn’t your brother get seriously into the stuff a few years ago? Let me know if you hear from him again, because he and I have oodles to talk about! Man, what a delight cocaine is! I’m still trying to find a flaw. In fact, while the experience is still fresh in my mind, let me quantify my happiness with this once-in-a-lifetime product:

Price: A. More than reasonable.
Intake: A-. An easy inhale and I was on my way!
Experience: A+. I felt like I was on top of the world for six straight hours, like anything was possible. I had more energy than I’ve had in years and everything seemed exciting and new!
Cleanup: B+. A little leftover residue on the keyboard of the pipe organ almost made Father Donovan stop his sermon and ask me what was going on, but I managed to get almost all of it into my paper clip tray so he just kept talking and it wasn’t wasted.
Overall grade: A big old A!!

Again, I simply could not be more satisfied with my cocaine experience, and I’m really looking forward to ingesting some more this weekend---if not sooner! So I bet you're asking: would I recommend cocaine to a friend? Hey, that’s like asking if I would recommend finding a million dollars on the street to a friend. The answer is: Duh!


Seriously, I Really Did Have a Job Once


1) S. H. L. O. R. A. P.
2) N. I. F. N. O. R. F.
3) H. E. L. L. H. E. A. D.
4) D. O. O. O. O. O. D.
5) S. K. E. E. K. S. & S. K. A. Z. N. I. K. S.
6) V. L. U. R. P.
7) S. C. O. O. P. E. R. S.
8) B. O. I. N. G. G. G.
9) M. A. D. D.
10) B. O. O. B. Y. M. A. N.


If They Could Save Time in a Bottle


I am aware that our leave guidelines seem a little strict upon first glance, but this is just a reminder that if you are not feeling well, please, please do not come to work. Every full time employee is allotted seven sick days per year and we urge you to take them. There is no point in coming into the office and either infecting another staff member or being unproductive. Susan from Public Relations was sneezing repeatedly in the kitchen today and we don't need everyone getting a cold. Meanwhile, Glen from Enrollment doesn't seem to be shaking the flu and he has been frustratingly lethargic in meetings. Finally, I was walking past Jerry's cubicle this morning and saw that he came into work today as nothing more than a hipbone. Regardless of the events which led to his current state, I think we can all agree that if you're nothing but a hipbone, you're not going to get much done and should take sick leave. While I admire Jerry's dedication, it takes time to recover from being reduced by illness or misadventure to being nothing more than a hipbone, and this is time better spent at home. This edict goes for all serious conditions, whether it be an employee engulfed in from head to toe in fire, as happened last month with Betsy from Billing, or one who has already been given last rites by a priest (Stan, we're glad you beat total organ failure, but next time, just rest up a little more before coming back). Also, there is no need to phone in late for a meeting if you are literally in the process of being stabbed seven times by a mugger (Thomas G.) or to call and ask someone to cover your desk because your car is in actual mid-spin from being sideswiped by a tractor trailer a split second before (Jennifer B.). Wait for these situations to resolve themselves, go to the hospital, and THEN contact your supervisor. And if your heart suddenly stops for eight full seconds during lung surgery, Paula S., that is not the time to dial into the network to make sure your Out of Office message is extended; get better and worry about that later. Oh, and here's a good rule of thumb, Gavin G.: if you find yourself trapped under water for ANY reason again and oxygen is rapidly running out, put thoughts of falling behind on updating the sales spreadsheet out of your head just long enough to get back to the surface; I don't need my Blackberry vibrating with a message from you about how you'll be a little late uploading the sheet to the server when you should be focusing on scratching and clawing your way to the nearest source of air. Long story short, if you wake up and you're just a HIPBONE, for God's sake, think of something else besides the admittedly strict leave guidelines and get back into bed. Thank you for your attention.

P.S. Doughnuts in the kitchen, big fat honking sugary death-bringers, so have at it.


The Wedge and I

Would I ever give up my job guarding the big green wedge? Oh no, absolutely f***ing not. I’ve come to love the job intensely, and to feel I’m really making a difference. When Lars Nilbitz first saw me guarding the big green wedge at his group show at the El Paso Museum of Contemporary Art and praised me so effusively for keeping that eight year-old kid behind the black piece of tape on the floor, I had a feeling my life was about to change. I guarded Mr. Nilbitz’s big green wedge, along with Madeleine Vank’s Sculpture of the Letter L As It Weeps For a Memory and Per Oapt’s Angry Spaghetti Stain, for three weeks, and it was the wedge that drew the longest stares and tested my skills as a museum security guard the most. Nobody ever touched that f***ing wedge on my shift, and that’s exactly why Mr. Nilbitz hired me to follow it from El Paso to Abilene to East Fort Worth to Texarkana, always working the room where it hangs. And believe me, people want to get close to the f***ing thing. Many of them have never seen a big green f***ing triangular plaster and wood wedge hanging on the wall of a museum before without so much as a title card to tell people what it’s called, and a lot of people seem really upset that it’s there. Hence the need for my services.

Do I sometimes hate the big green f***ing wedge for getting so much attention from human beings when I would give up everything I own to have a single friend? Sure, sometimes. Do I despise standing in front of it eight hours a day, six days a week, never once being able to figure out what the point of it is? Absolutely. But how many f***ing big green triangular plaster and wood wedges are in the world today? What if this is the only one of its size (twenty-two feet by eighteen feet) out there? How am I going to feel if someone defaces the wedge, or God forbid, steals it? So you see what I’m saying. It’s all about duty. When my Friday shift is over, the wedge will be taken down and moved via trailer to the new Art Corridor at Broward County Community College, and I’ll go with it. Sure, the small blue pineapple with a dagger in it and the glass foot that some deaf French woman made are going too, and I’ll have to make sure nobody tries to swipe those f***ing things either, but to me it’ll always be about the wedge. Sometimes I have dreams where I’m floating out to sea as I lie on top of it, perfectly content. Other times I have dreams where it’s on fire and it’s crushing me, crushing me, scorching my flesh, squeezing the life out of me with its infernal weight (383 pounds), squashing my soul and everything in it until I feel an almost sexual surge of power course through me and I rip it to shreds with my f***ing teeth, which bleed and bleed---but I don’t even feel it. Anyway, it’s been a fun two years, and that’s basically why I’m sitting in front of you today applying for a job as Secret Serviceman. I like to think the President is the ultimate big green f***ing wedge. I should tell you that I actually was put on administrative leave from watching the wedge when I shot and killed a woman who made a threatening gesture towards it, but I really think that just shows I’m ready to take swift action to protect the stuff I’m supposed to. So, should I mention now that I’ll need a week off in November for some very risky brain surgery, or should I fill out the application first?


Why I Was Fired: The NASA Transcript

GROUND CONTROL: Come in, Aquarius 4, do you read me?

ME: I’m here, Ground Control.

GROUND CONTROL: Terrific, Aquarius 4. So the big moment is finally here. Again, apologies for making you hold above the surface for four days, but the landing thrusters are re-calibrated now and you’re all set. Not to make you nervous, but the President is waiting on the line to talk to you as soon as you step out.

ME: Great, great….I guess the TV feed is up too….

GROUND CONTROL: Three billion people! All the world’s networks will switch over to the main exterior shuttle camera in about two minutes. You can consider yourself watched by the entire earth.

ME: Great, great. There’s just one thi---

GROUND CONTROL: Go ahead and deploy the thrusters, Aquarius 4….you’re within fifty feet of the surface, right? They should work fine as long as you’re within fifty feet, just take her down gently, here we go….

ME: Yeah, about that, I’ve been meaning to raise a point for a few days….

GROUND CONTROL: What is it? Are the thermal jets kicking up too much dust? We can activate the sweeper, you’ll just have to go without A/C for a few minutes.

ME: No no, not the jets….it’s just that my position isn’t quite optimal. I’m not really seeing Mars at this time. Through the window.

GROUND CONTROL: What do you mean? You need an instrument landing? No problem, if the light--

ME: Well, it’s more like I don’t really know where Mars is right now. I mean, obviously I know where Mars is, but at this time there’s a gap between my coordinates and the planet itself, a fundamental gap, I would say, between the ideal position you’d like me to be in and where the shuttle is currently, um, being.

GROUND CONTROL: I….I’m sorry, Aquarius 4, you--

ME: Yeah, basically I think I’m pretty much lost. Essentially what I have is black sky without nothing in any direction.

GROUND CONTROL: Aquarius 4, what is your ConGen reading?

ME: Um….7778UL-44?

GROUND CONTROL: That’s----UL? UL?! Aquarius 4, the UL curve is ninety-five thousand miles away from Mars!

ME: Well, here’s what happened. Usually Uri takes care of the navigation, and we had this fight over the last juice box, and he kind of left in the pod on Tuesday.

GROUND CONTROL: He left in the pod?!

ME: Yeah, so….

GROUND CONTROL: We don’t even have a 7778 prefix in the system, you moron! I can’t even tell where you are!

ME: Um, I can tell you that the sky is a very strong, very definite black, with lots of little white points far away, is that helpful? I haven’t seen any planets or anything for a while.

GROUND CONTROL: Why didn’t you bring this up four days ago when you claimed you were holding above the surface?!

ME: Well….I don’t know, sometimes it seems like you guys are kind of judgy with me about things, and I was afraid that I’d get that tone, you know that tone I keep mentioning….

GROUND CONTROL: Aquarius 4, you don’t even have enough oxygen to return to the rescue vector!!

ME: Yeah….yeah, I thought that might come up, and that was concerning me, but I mean, you have to hear that tone in your voice the way I hear it, then you’d know how it feels to be on the other end of it. I can only compare it to this high school teacher I used to have, Mr. Jotz, he taught French, and I remember this one time where we had to talk for five minutes about our favorite movie, but we had to do it in French, so I got up and started, and I had taken a lot of cold medication and I wasn’t doing so well, and Mr. Jotz cut me off and said--

(Ground Control detaches communication link.)

ME: Hello? Hey, guys? Something’s making a wheezing sound in the aft hydraulic wedge. I was warming a hot dog in there yesterday and I think maybe I--guys?


Oh God, It's That Guy Again

Hey, thank you very much for giving me the restroom key---I appreciate that. Lots of bookstores would take one look at my unshaven, haggard face and my torn, filthy clothing and not let me go in there. Anyway, I must admit I’ve asked you for the key under false pretenses----you see, I was really more curious to see what sort of thing you had attached the key to. I notice it’s a small ceramic mug---very cute, very nice. But have you really considered all your options here? Allow me to introduce myself, Susan: my name is Benjamelt Yost, and I represent AttachCo, Michigan’s most prominent manufacturer, distributor, and servicer of objects that small businesses can hook their restroom keys to. For more than eleven years, we’ve catered to the small businessman with our personal touch and wide variety of objects that tell your customers, “Yes, you can use our restroom, but good luck making off with the means of entry!” Sure, you’re tempted daily to go “upscale” and buy some restroom key attachment device from the big companies that’ll wind up being more than you need. Don’t do it, Susan! May I invite you out to our showroom off the Gerald Ford Causeway east of Route 84? There you’ll be free to roam our wide selection of R.K.A.T.C.s (restroom key anti-theft concepts) in an unhurried fashion. We’ve got everything from bricks in three different sizes to old dented license plates to our Executive Line for the small business on the move. Ever seen a restroom key attached to an actual, working, fully populated fish tank? You will when you visit the showroom! No, no, ha, I’m kidding of course. Actually the strangest object we sell for you to attach your restroom key to is a yardstick painted orange. But don’t just choose us for the selection. It’s our service plans that truly set us apart. I’m sure you’re not used to dealing with a company that will repair the object you attach your restroom key to AT NO CHARGE for two years, and no doubt you’ll look at me with a mixture of fear and pity when I tell you that with each sale I make comes my personal cell phone number, which you can call AT ANY TIME regarding your changing R.K.A.T.C. needs. Want to report a problem, or need a product demo, or just want to talk about how your store’s growth will change what you look for in the thing that your restroom key is attached to? Just call me. I guarantee, Susan, that no matter what time of day or night, I won’t be doing anything more interesting than making sure you have the restroom key thingie that you desire.

Oh….why yes, I am ready to check out, actually. Indeed, I know this is a lot of Seek-A-Word magazines, but you see, I possess a great deal of downtime between sales calls. So much so, in fact, that I confess that I’m thinking of starting my very own business that manufactures, distributes, and services objects that small businesses can hook their restroom keys to. Would you like to help me choose a name for it, perhaps over dinner tonight? What’s that you say? Well, I know you’re not an actual person and that I’ve been talking to a picture of Doris Lessing on the back of a book for the last few minutes. But do you not love me all the same, my sweet? Eh? Eh? If you’re not happy with me, I can be even crazier …anything for you, butterfly….shall I flutter my index finger against my lips to make a bubba-beeba-bubba-beeba sound so as to bring my dangerous insanity into sharper relief for passersby, just the way you like? Yes, yes, my pet, of course we can simply go home. But I’m not watching X-Men again. Here’s a bit of information that might interest you: it’s only good if you’re an idiot, okay?


Earn Extra Money At Home By Weeping!

Hey North America!

Are you tired of entering your own children into futuristic demolition races just to earn a little extra money? Had it with selling your blood to that homeless guy down the street so you can afford another week’s worth of macaroni and cheese? Well, I’m here to tell you about a wondrous new program that allows you to earn big money at home simply by weeping!

You’ve already heard this offer advertised on a series of award-winning commercials starring Grover Polk, the voice of Germany’s favorite cartoon lobster. And they’re all true: the road to financial security now begins and ends with your tear ducts. As a result of groundbreaking science from accredited universities, major companies will pay YOU to weep uncontrollably, with no strings attached! This multi-level marketing campaign has already given millions of luckless people a reason to get up in the morning, and the best part is that no one will ever come to your home to collect the product of your self-pity. Thanks to three-tiered business methods perfected in countries we are not at liberty to mention, major companies I spoke of like Entron and Itco need only to verify once a week that you are weeping at least six hours a day in order to pay you!

Your weeping can be caused by any one of these factors which you yourself choose:

1) general sadness
2) loss of a loved one
3) buried Hiroshima guilt
4) toes or fingers crushed in a vice-like apparatus

And more!

The astonishing earning power of weeping is waiting for YOU. Don’t let your neighbors cash in before you do. The basic package is just $89.95 and you can order it now through http://www.filepath389223.44.11/creditcardentry/

Again, we are not at liberty to mention the countries and/or personages where this program originates. The use of company names Entron and Itco in this advertisement is meant only to suggest hypothetical business entities and not actual ones. This ad may in fact be for something entirely different than the weeping program; certain key passages of text may have been eliminated and others inserted for margin alignment reasons only and they hold no legal weight.