The Passion of the Carbs

Thank you, Father Jentz, thank you for pulling me aside, because I agree that we should discuss this matter in private like civilized men and not disturb the pancake supper. Okay, okay, here’s why I’m perfectly entitled to partake of the offerings tonight even though I've already eaten at two previous pancake suppers for the Newly Saved in the last month: you have simply been remiss in defining the term “Newly Saved” for members of your congregation. If you recall, I first accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior on the seventeenth of January---I have it written down on this Safeway receipt right here; I remember it because I also bought Tang that day, as noted---but I had asked you to kindly rescind that acceptance because I felt ill-equipped to be saved before the long holiday weekend. Do you remember me asking you to push that back because I was going to Atlantic City? Yes, yes, and you might also recall that I was given special dispensation to attend the pancake supper before offering myself to the Lord because they were doing some spraying in my building and I was going to have to stay with my sister before going to Atlantic City and it was really the only chance I had to eat the pancakes. So we’re agreed that I was not yet fully ‘saved’ going into pancake dinner #2, right? And you’ll remember I went to that one as well because you told me I was technically newly saved since the twentieth and you forgot to print my name on the newly saved list for the January nineteenth service. Hey, your fault, not mine. And then after the second pancake dinner, you remember what happened, right? Remember we had that talk on the third of February and I said I maybe still felt more comfortable as a Druid, and then I saw you at the liquor store the next morning and I changed my mind and said I felt okay about being saved? Of course you do. So really, this is my first delicious pancake buffet supper since being “Newly Saved.” I mean, I would hate for you to think I’m just trying to scam you for free pancakes, so here’s what I’ll do, I’ll just load up my plate a couple of times and sit over there in the narthex and I won’t even talk to anyone. And then I’ll skedaddle out of here and Bam, with the last mouthful of Mrs. Swinnerton’s gynormously fantastic scrambled eggs I’ll be officially newly saved and won’t come to anymore introductory suppers and we can get cracking on this Jesus thing, because let me tell you, I am ALL about Christ from now on. I am like a piety vending machine, seriously, push any button and I’ll hook you up with some Scripture from memory. And while I have you here, let me toss something out to you: what about having different kinds of syrups for the next Newly Saved pancake supper? I've seen the collection plate when it gets passed around; we can sure as hell come up with enough scratch to get some boysenberry action in this joint. Here’s what I’m seeing: me alleviating your stress by taking over this whole deal from top to bottom, doing the organizing, printing the flyers, setting the menu, pouring the orange juice, and just generally being here every month to make sure things go off like clockwork. What do you say, J-man? Are you in or out?


Call Me Snake Eyes---I Really Don't Mind.

I'll tell you, being a model at this level of the industry is absolutely exhausting, which is why I suppose it’s my longevity that I’m more proud of than anything else. It’s hard to imagine I did my first shoot at age eight, and now tomorrow I’ll be doing a shoot with my own son. And I know he’s going to be good, too. Back when I was the child on the early Battleship box, the business was different---we just wanted to do quality work, which meant following the two As: 1) Arrive on time, and 2) Appear wildly delighted that the dice and/or spinner just gave you a result favorable enough to cause you to throw your arms up in the air. That was modeling in a nutshell. Following those rules got me on the boxes of Chutes and Ladders, Stratego, and SuperSport Soccer all in the same year, and I never looked back. Nowadays, though, it’s about “attitude,” whatever that means. Over the last eleven years I’ve modeled for thirty-nine different board game boxes (including the 25th anniversary re-issue of Cops ‘n’ Robbers ‘n’ Franks ‘n’ Beans, easily the most grueling shoot of my career) and on every one I displayed the exact same expression: vapid parental pride as my hired offspring rolled a seven and became freakishly excited. Sometimes, if the photographer was adventurous, I was allowed to reach a hand out to the model playing my son or daughter and place a gentle hand on their shoulder. And that was it. That bought me a two bedroom place off Texarkana Street for me and Janey and the sweet little Ford Focus you see parked in the driveway. Now, though, all the photographers want you to be a little edgy on the boxes, a little angry. They want you to silently express dissatisfaction with society and an inner malaise that no session of Mall Madness can alleviate. Some of them are actually having the models express frustration over having landed on a bad space instead of showing glee that the game is going well and the whole family is having a wonderful time. Plus you can forget about having a genial grandparent shown on the box, sitting at the table, finally included in a family activity. The demographics have squeezed them out entirely, which is really a shame, because these shoots can get so chaotic that you really need veteran experience in the room. Where did all this cynicism come from, I wonder? Last month we took three days in the studio to do the box for Monkeys On My Sternum and the kid was told to scowl and cross his arms as he spun the spinner and I was asked to look off into the distance bitterly, which the producer claimed was a “more realistic depiction of today’s suburban disenfranchisement.” Meanwhile the little girl who is usually just told to watch appreciatively as if she’s waiting for her turn was given a cell phone and instructed to talk into it while holding her free hand over her ear to screen out the noise. And an elderly grandparent was brought in all right---but they had the woman plugged into an I.V. and sitting off in one corner in front of the TV, eyes half-open, totally unaware of her surroundings. Hey, I’m all for hyper-realism---I love the Rush Hour movies as much as the next guy---but aren’t we trying to sell a little happiness here? And please, what’s with this multi-cultural thing? Why am I, a white dude, depicted as having a family which includes a Maori girl and an Asian uncle?

I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just a little angry because my three-year string of sleeping with every one of the models playing my wife came to such an abrupt end. I told you the time for the hair weave was last October. I told you.


It's the Little Things

Yes, Mr. Pinkershin, yes….I admit it, I really dropped the ball on this one. If you’ve got blame to unload, my shoulders are more than willing to carry the burden in this case. However, because I know you have vision and daring, I’m going to throw something at you here, something which a less advanced intelligence might not comprehend as being a possible solution to our little problem. Ready? Okay. Fact: You told me to hire a contractor to make and install a neon sign to hang over your new clinic, a sign which was to read, simply, MOUNT HOLYGREEN URGENT CARE. Fact: The sign which was installed this morning over the entrance to the facility instead reads MOUNT HOLYGREEN URGENT CAFE. Fact: This creates a bit of a predicament. I understand perfectly that if a citizen of Milwaukee is shot, stabbed, or in dire need of appendix removal, the sign may cause him or her to lose precious seconds as they come to believe that we are not equipped to deal with their dilemma. Furthermore, it goes without saying that we cannot have young couples intending to kill time before Juno starts coming in here looking for a tall almond chai and a bagel and instead finding a waiting room full of people with bleeding feet or arrows in their eyes. But instead of firing me on the spot for having a hand in creating this awkward moment, what if there were another option---perhaps a more profitable one? Have you ever thought that medicine, while certainly an honorable calling, is somehow not as satisfying as offering a sea of hungry unpublished novelists a place to eat raspberry scones baked fresh on the premises daily? Don’t you think it’s time teenagers in the tenth grade had another place to come eat bananas and feta wraps while accessing free wireless internet? Which would you honestly rather look at all day: x-rays or lists of coffee specials printed each and every morning on my own home computer (I have Word 2007 and a truly impressive clip art database, FYI)? Is it just possible that this “titanic embarrassment” is actually Miss Opportunity in disguise? Could this situation indeed be directly analagous to the one which Mr. Martin Scorsese found himself in so many years ago when, upon completing a brilliant script called Taxi River, a gripping depiction of a single mother's determination to row across the Everglades, he found himself flummoxed when a confused printer added an errant D to the title page, thus giving the Oscar-winning director an even better idea to present to investors?

I notice that you now seem to have pounded me on the head with a large skillet or frying pan. Can I throw one more idea your way, which is to break my fall with a coat or cushion of some sort to minimize the ensuing damage to my cranium? Is there any chance before you veto this notion that I can offer you a couple of articles clipped from recent issues of Modern Medicine suggesting that this type of action can greatly alleviate the pain of such a rapid, unexpected descent to a tile surface? I’m sorry….is that a “no” or are you gesturing that you’ll get back to me as soon as you get off the phone? With you it's tough to tell sometimes.



Yes, yes, Count Mauvignon, I do accept the challenge you have put before me. I absolutely and unequivocably do respond to your absurd request for a duel---I say absurd because usually when such a call goes forward, it is issued by a man rather than a sniveling worm such as yourself! And so I say to you here and now, before all these good people, that we will duel at dawn in Potter’s Field, and duel to the death we shall to settle the matter with which you have offended both my honor and my intelligence! And I further add a single caveat to your most foolhardy challenge: I may need to borrow a sword from you.

Yes, Count---see how I sneer at the very expression of the word, for I doubt even the authenticity of your lineage---I happen to be short a sword at the moment, so in order to drive a silver point through your gloating chest and put an end to your odious insults for the good of mankind, I’ll have to ask if you can possibly lend me one of yours. Which one in particular interests me not at all, for I assure you that my skills with the rapier extend to even the lowliest cutlass, and I can ensure that your end comes quickly and cleanly, but yeah, if you could see your way clear to bringing an extra along when you show up tomorrow, that would truly be aces. Normally I’m not this absent-minded---despite your ridiculous pretensions to consistently denigrate my brilliance and acumen in affairs of both business and the heart---but I let Prince Favian walk off with my pearl-handled friend just the other day, and despite his oath to return said weapon after its use as a prop during his theatrical stint in Whither the Wanton Wainscot, good luck finding him. Perhaps during one of your many ale-drenched swoons through the most revolting taverns and whorehouses in Tuscany tonight, you may run into the Prince---are you not the closest of scurrilous compatriots? If you see him, please do ask my fair acquaintance to bring back the aforementioned sword so I can take your life in two battings of my eyelashes! But if you don’t see him, seriously, any chance I could bum a sword off you tomorrow, just for fifteen minutes or however long the duel lasts? I’ll even clean it. See, it’s just that if you can’t lend me one, I don’t know where I’m going to get one on such short notice. So damn your eyes, I say, and I shall see you on the morrow---and I shall see you dead in a thrice!

Oh, you know what else, I can’t be there till like ten or so. I got a part time job taking gondola reservations and my boss is kind of touchy. So there’s that too, you dundering follop! Heed my warnings and count your life’s blessings, for soon that life will come to a merciful end!

Hey, where’s everyone headed? To the puppet show? Where exactly is that? In the square? Excellent. Count Mauvignon, is it okay if I follow you so I don’t get lost?


Ancient Downtime

Well, Idomeneus, you tell me then: when is it a good time to bring this topic up? Because frankly, you’ve been dodging it ever since we crossed the river Pindus. Now here we are, locked inside this gigantic wooden horse, waiting to surprise our enemies, and we’ve got a good two hours to kill and no games of chance on us. So why should we not talk about this? All I’m saying is, try to dry the flasks fully before you put them into the cupboard at night. It’s no fun picking up a flask and starting to fill it with sweet sweet wine and realizing there’s a few beads of water rolling around in there. It’s just gross somehow.

I don’t understand, how am I embarrassing you? Why is this not suitable talk for inside the Trojan Horse? I know this mission is vital to Greece’s defense. I know we’re not just out here to give Virgil something to write about. But there’s something else that’s important in this world, and that’s common courtesy. I’m fairly positive that every man in this rickety gizmo would gladly lie down and offer his spleen to the enemy rather than come home, looking forward to nothing more than a nice tankard or flagon or chalice of nectar after a hard day’s work, and see a little line of spitty-looking water dribble out when he holds the thing up to make sure there are no asps crawling around inside.

IT’S JUST NASTY, that’s why! I don’t care that all of human history is looking towards us at this moment on our day of legend. I WANT NICE DRY FLASKS IN MY HOUSE. Look, dorko, I’m paying five more drachmas in rent than you are every month, and I have to put up with your silly girlfriend staying over all the time and kicking the wall in her sleep with her big retarded foot so I can’t get some decent shuteye before a big battle, so I think I’ll just keep right on talking if you don’t mind.

Oh, sure, blame my castigations on boredom. Of course I’m bored. This is stupid. Why is everyone being so quiet? Is there a reason we can’t pass the time by playing Guess the Feared and Renowned Immortal God Who Doth Reside in the Stars Above Us By Posing Questions Twenty? I’m not in the mood to sit around listening to Diomedes’ teeth making that irritating whistling sound, I'll tell you that much. (Dude, I know we’re living a couple thousand years in the past and all, but there’s a few people here and there giving primitive dentistry a shot nowadays; you should have one of them check that out. Of course, they’re all outside where it’s sunny instead of being locked up in the dark like mushrooms.)

What? You have GOT to be kidding me. We’re not eating until AFTER the attack? Oh, thanks for telling me before I got in this glorified piñata, dillweed!


The Dreams of Youth

Oh, I know it’s weird, trust me. It’s got to be one of the weirdest thoughts I’ve ever had in my sixteen years on this earth, and I know I’ve had a few doozys in my day. I mean, I just can’t keep it out of my head for some reason. I wake up in the morning just like I have every morning since school let out for the summer, ride my bike down the block, open up the shop for Mr. Pinelli, and then the thought hits me all over again, and I just can’t rid of it for the rest of the day. It doesn’t matter how many hoagies, grinders, subs, calzones, sandwiches, fries, and sodas I make that day, how busy we are, how tired I get, it’s always there: the absolute conviction that I, Sammy Rugglesfield, soon to be a junior at Tall Oats High School, will one day be forced into exile by my own heir.

Believe me, I’ve tried talking to my parents about it already. They don’t seem all that interested. Like at dinner the other night. I was happy at first because we were having sloppy joes, but then the thought hit me again, and I said out loud, “Mom, Dad, I’m not sure why, but I’ve become completely haunted by the feeling that I will one day be forced into exile by my own heir.” They just looked at me and asked me if I was keeping up with my science project for the fair, and if I wanted to dry the dishes or put them away that night (Tuesdays is Choice Night, FYI.) Then when me and Allie were at the mall on Saturday (we went to see Cloverfield and it was SO retarded), I told her at Sbarro’s that as far as I was concerned, it seemed an utter certainty that fate was to deal me the wicked blow of one day being forced into exile by my own heir, and she was like, “I thought you were going to be a veterinarian. What happened to that?”

I just can’t make anyone seem to understand how clear my destiny seems to me. My friend Casper, the one who only has one ear because of that thing that happened, kind of gets it, I think. When I told him the whole deal, he nodded and said that ever since he was seven, he just absolutely knew that in his mid-twenties he was going to be killed by a hard foul ball at a mid-season Toronto Blue Jays game. In fact, he’s already dropped out of school because he doesn’t much see the point of getting educated. He had his folks’ permission to do it, too. They’re more or less on board with his premonition. Jeez, why can’t my parents be that awesome?

So anyway, yeah. That’s what I’ve been up to, more or less. And playing a lot of Wii Bowling. Once in a while I get this odd feeling that before the summer is over, I’m going to wind up discovering someone named Miss Eliza and her blackguard of an illicit lover Johann in a compromising position during the Feast of St. Albans, whatever the heck that might be, after which I’ll mourn the loss of the two hundred guineas I lent that cad to purchase oxen in Strasbourg. Seems pretty whacked, I know, but it is what it is. You got any Pez on you?