Word Plays

WordPlays is an inventive collection of stories on a theme. They are quite clever and were one of my earlier projects, back when I was working on producing for newspaper syndication. That’s how I got my start in writing, editing and publishing. Since I saw myself as a journalist first and foremost, newspaper and magazine writing is what I wanted to do most of all. I had good luck at the beginning and contributed articles and stories to many fine publications. But then an unexpected thing happened and it changed the course of my career. Others started submitting their writing to me in the hope that I would represent them and get them published. I quickly seized upon this opportunity and that’s how JSA Publications, Inc. was founded. WordPlays was an early idea that was proposed by a writer whose name I cannot recall. David something. David, if you are still out there, you are a real talent. But as these are very dated and humor ages poorly, can you send me some more?
A collection of 22 essays which each feature a thematic play on words and ideas that have a common origin or source.

SLANGUAGE 101
I was pretty young in the fifties but I did my best to be cool and crazy, dig? Unfortunately I was rather luke-warm sane. But I wasn’t square, at least. My friends were beats, man. Hip, no hang-ups. Not only was I hung up, I never really knew what scene it was that I was trying to make.

Then in the sixties I soon found out where to tune in, and dropping out was no problem, never having actually dropped in. Though I found myself turned off almost as much as on. I did manage to stay high, if you don’t count my grades, and I discovered an innate ability to space out whether or not anyone gave me space, which came in handy. Things really seemed unreal, and after a while everything became so far out I could honestly say it was out of sight. Luckily I had the kind of mind it was very easy to blow. Letting it all hang out wasn’t difficult, either, but getting it back together turned out to be something else.

Feedback facilitated my being more up-front with my feelings in the seventies. I worked on opening my chakras, even though some should perhaps have remained closed, and I led the regulation mellow and laid-back lifestyle. It seemed important to relate to people, to identify with where they were coming from. Once I found out, however, I often wished them back there again, but it was important to keep the dialogue open. My consciousness was definitely evolving too—into what remained to be seen, but it would be holistic, I knew. And the process would be natural and organic.

Then when the eighties rolled around I was ready to prioritize and diversify. My bottom line was getting maximized too, but there was always aerobics. It was a time to be totally committed, if you could afford it, or to network until you could. One felt the need to interface with technology, since high-tech seemed to be in your face whether you liked it or not. I tried to ride the crest of the new wave, and it truly was, in a post-modern sense of course, awesome.

REIGNING CATS AND DOGS
Whether to move in together, pets and all, that was the question. He’d been hounding her to let him and his dog join her cat under one rent for so long, he wondered if he was barking up the wrong tree.

She’d been playing cat and mouse with him, and pussyfooting around the issue each time it was mentioned. He’d told her his life was going to the dogs without her: that it would easier to keep the wolf from the door together. He pointed out that there was no room to swing a in cat in his apartment, that days alone were just dog days, and that he was starting to think she was just a scaredy-cat.

Well, she almost had kittens at the thought of having to bring him to a heel, and they fought like cat and dog about it all. For a while she acted like a cat on a hot tin roof and he was in the doghouse, but he soon realized there was more than one way to skin a cat. Rather than say he’d be living a dog’s life if they lived apart, he decided to stop being the underdog. Every dog has its day, after all, and if he had to a wolf in sheep’s clothing to move in, then that was the way it had to be. Besides, he was getting dog-tired of always dogging her heels for a decision.

So he went back with his tail between his legs and wearing a hangdog expression, and explained that his bark was far worse than his bite. In a husky voice he told her she was the cats meow, and that doggone it what they shared was far more than mere puppy love.

Looking like the cat that swallowed the canary, and grinning like a Cheshire cat, she told him his putting on the dog wouldn’t work, and to keep his paws off her in future. She said he was far too dogmatic and that she had no intention of wasting any of her nine lives trying to housetrain such a mutt. Then she told him that she not only didn’t love him, but she didn’t love his dog either, and it would be just fine with her if she never saw hide nor hair of either of them ever again.

CLIMATES OF THE HEART
He’d always had the hots for her. He’d imagined they could become a hot ticket, could’ve gotten hot and heavy. He fantasized their being the hot gossip in the neighborhood, but she constantly seemed to show him the cold shoulder. It was hard to understand because he knew he was pretty hot stuff, but she acted as if she had cold feet.

While he was experiencing hot flushes whenever she was near, she would be cold as ice. If he ever showed her a warm reception he got a cool response. Even when he got hotheaded and turned up the heat, she’d be as cool as a cucumber. At best, she was lukewarm.

At first he thought she simply blew hot and cold, and rather than get all hot under the collar and lose her cool she was trying to be a cool customer. If so, he could play the same cold war. Perhaps she’d warm up after a while if he chilled out. Maybe if he just cooled it she’d realize what a red hot deal they had, and hotfoot it into his warm embrace.

But no, she was just a cold fish. He decided she wasn’t that hot a number anyway if she could shut him out in the cold like that. It was obvious he’d just have to stop cold, cold-heartedly cut her out of his life in cold blood, and go cold turkey on the whole non-affair. So what if she’d poured cold water on his plans, it was time to get off the hot seat and stop warming the bench for her. Tough to put his feelings into cold storage perhaps, but better than getting into hot water with someone cold-blooded. No point in getting all hot and bothered about cold cuts; time to come in out of the cold.

She could keep her cool, and he’d just cool his heels for a while. Then he’d follow up his friends’ hot tips and find some hot tomato at one of the hot spots in town. Cool.

MEDLEY IN LOVE
Hello, Mary Lou?

…Don’t hang up, I just called to say I love you. I can’t help myself – I’ve got to have you back in my arms again. I can’t stop loving you, can’t get used to losing you. My world is empty without you, babe. I’m all shook up…

…Baby comes back. Give me just a little more time, we can work it out. We’ve only just begun. Love will keep us together, and you can’t hurry love. I’m hopelessly devoted to you. You’re my everything: You are the sunshine of my life, you are my destiny. You’re my dream lover – let me be your teddy bear…

…Now I’m all by myself. Lucille? Mandy? Michelle? That’ll be the day. I got you, babe, and you’re the one that I want. It’s just the two of us. Don’t you want me? I want you to want me. We were so happy together, I can’t believe you’re leaving me. Where did our love go?

…Don’t be cruel. Don’t go breaking my heart. Do you really want to hurt me? Don’t let me be lonely tonight: I’ve been lonely too long. And you’re so far away. Are you lonesome tonight? I’m so lonesome I could cry. Help me make it through the night. I want to hold your hand; I want to make it with you. I’m in the mood for love – I feel like making love – all night long…

…What’d you mean the thrill is gone? I never promised you a rose garden. Have mercy, baby, — let’s hang on. I want you. You belong to me, and when a man loves a woman…

…All right. Let it be. You’ve lost that loving feeling. No don’t worry, baby – that’s life. Que sera, sera. It’s just that that breaking up is so very hard to do. But remember: you’ve got a friend – why can’t we still be friends? I’ll be there, I’ll keep holding on. I wish you love.

Bye-Bye, love.

A PICKUP IN THE PARKING LOT
So he pulls in next to me and asks me if I always drive like that. I say if you don’t like the way I drive, stay off the sidewalk, and yes, as a matter of fact I do own the whole damn road. Crossing the parking lot he’s right behind me. I say not so close, we hardly know each other. I mean, if you get any closer you’d better introduce yourself. He says I’m the guy your mother warned you about, and asks me how old my car is. I say don’t laugh, it’s paid for, and anyway my other car is a Rolls Royce. He laughs and says, I love your smile, and then he says you wouldn’t go for a drink with me, would you? I say ask me – I might, but I break for coffee. So he says it’s ok not to drink, and we go over to the diner.

So we order and I ask him what he does. He says I was born to act, but I’d rather be fishing. When he asks me, I tell him nurses do it with care. He wants to know if it’s hard for a woman to deal with sickness all the time, and I say the best man for the job is a woman. He says sure, a woman’s place is in the house and the senate, but doesn’t it get me down? I tell him God is my co-pilot, and he says life’s been much easier since I gave up hope. I say yeah, don’t blame me – I don’t for him. He says life’s a bitch, then you die. Beam me up, Scotty, this planet sucks. I say the future isn’t what it used to be. And one nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day, he says. I had to agree. We oughta give peace a chance, I say.

Then he grins and says well, tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life, and I say smile, God loves you. He says I love my Doberman, and if everyone needs to believe in something, I believe I’ll have another beer.

Then I get up to leave. Easy does it, I tell him. Yeah, he says, let’s not meet by accident. No, I tell him, hit me – I need the money. Well, he says, looking kinda sad, just don’t follow me – I’m lost.

HOUSEHOLD NAMES
Fixing up this Pandora’s box of a house would take the patience of Job, she knew, and would probably become the labors of Hercules. But Martha’s Vineyard was perfect, especially after Coogan’s Bluff, and she’d never been chauvinistic about New York anyway.

She loved the Queen Anne’s ace and the boysenberries in the yard, the little Victorian davenport desk next to the chesterfield in which she kept her Roget’s, Bartlett’s and Webster’s, the Venus’ flytrap in it’s Wedgwood bowl. She even loved the sagging verandah, which seemed to defy Newton’s laws and would probably prove the embodiment of Murphy’s too. The whole place was perfect the setting for her pre-Raphaelite beauty.

But her Achilles’ heel was her saturnine husband, who with his cardigans, Vandyke and bobbing Adam’s apple pursued a Nobel with quixotic fervor. He lived in a world of Bunsen burners and Leyden jars, and was more familiar with Brownian motion than that required taking out the trash. The Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction theory was far clearer to him than the needs of his wife, and she often wished he would search for her Grafenberg spot with the intensity he reserved for the proof of Fermat’s last theorem. If only he could be galvanized into romantic action, but no – he was content with his Fibonnacci sequence and Doppler effect, little realizing he had pasteurized their love.

But it was Hobson’s choice: either put up with him or move back in with her mother, who not only had Alzheimer’s and a touch of Parkinson’s too, but also had so many pets her house resembled Noah’s ark. Besides, the lady was as old as Methuselah and it was only a matter of time before she was in the bosom of Abraham.

No, to stay with her would be masochistic at least; a Pyrrhic victory at best, and she finally chose a Bacchic mixture of Jack Daniel’s and Sara Lee.

AN INITIAL ATTRACTION
They met in the parking lot of the Y when her BMW backed into his MGB GT, and they waited for the AAA together.

She described herself as a high-IQ JAP with BS from CAL and an MA from USC, trying to decide between a JD and a MD. Meanwhile she’d been writing PR for ABC, NBC, and CBS, even occasionally for HBO. She’d worked for the ERA with NOW, was a VIP with the ACLU and involved with the AFL-CIO, fighting the KKK, the NRA and PMS. She thought she might become a DA. Concerned about PCB’s and the DDT still in the food chain, preferred FM radio and BBC TV, was a supporter of MOMA and the UN. She believed in B1, B6 and large amounts of C, and was obsessed with STD’s – especially AIDS.

He said he was a high-IQ WASP with an MA from NYU, a PHD from MIT, had been in ROTC, with IBM for a while and eventually the CIA. But he got tired of the BS, got into LSD and PCP, and had gone AWOL on R&R one day and nearly OD’d. They let him go when he got a DUI – almost a DOA, he said – and he realized he’d better get into AA PDQ. He guessed he’d been a bit of a MCP SOB too, but since EST he understood his MO and was OK now. Currently he was into his PC, VCR and SLR, enjoying his ELO and AC/DC CD’s. He also contributed a lot of his time to CARE, the UFW and the NSPCC.

They knew from the start they were GU, with him in NYC and her LA, but for a while they made the effort to zip across the US between LAX and JFK. They joked about single-handedly keeping TWA and PAN AM in business, and needing to ship each other COD UPS, or fire each other across like ICBM’s. Perhaps they could make a HQ for TLC halfway. But in the end it came down to NSF and they reluctantly had to admit it was NG, and say RIP to the relationship.

APHRODISIA SUBURBIA
If they had anything else in common, I’m sure I wouldn’t know. I’m not sure they would either – there just couldn’t have been enough time for them to find out. From the first time they met, it was mattress dancing all the way.

I used to work out with Jackie, but now she got her exercise horizontally. Instead of pumping iron and jumping rope, she and George bumped bellies and jumped bones. In place of bench presses, bed presses; while they did a lot of tumbling and diving, it was all in the dark. I think they were going for the gold in carnal gymnastics.

The cooking classes went out the window, too – now they played hide-the-salami all by themselves, and it was always bananas and cream for dessert.

Horse riding was another thing Jackie and I used to do together her own oats rolling in the hay. Their four-legged frolics were while the nag was stabled. She still spent a lot of time mounted, but in a different kind of saddle.

I sometimes wondered how they managed to make a living; they seemed so often to be concentrating solely on night work. I suppose they had other ways of making ends meet.

And as for going anywhere together, they were too busy going all the way. They played cars and garages so often that they were too in and out to actually leave.

I kept waiting for them to get tired to tangle, or at least too sore to score, but they were just consummate at consumption. They got off on getting it on. They were hooked on nooky; hanky-pankyphiles.

I abandoned our friendship in the end. Whenever I called it was grumble grunt, and if I made the mistake of dropping in there was never any reply to the doorbell, just the sound of bouncy-bouncy from upstairs. There was just no stopping the schtupping.

ANGUISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE
Dear Mother,

It is now a year since I am in this wonderful land of honeys and milk, and it is high times I am shouting at the breeze with you. You will see I am becoming a truly blue American, by bounds and leaps. Not only can I speak the ordinary congregational English (though some of the bowel sounds are difficult for me), but believe it or don’t I am learning the special sayings and proverbs also.

Well, to make a long story short, at first I am not suppressing myself properly. Whenever I open my mouth I would always put my foot in it. Because of this unfortunate circumcision my appeals for employment fell on deaf eyes, and soon I am living from foot to mouth. To add incest to injury I could not pay the runt, and I was immortal danger of being evacated. The landlord and I quickly became enemas. Yes, I was between a crock and a hard place.

People said I would never land on a good job. They think I end up pumping Vaseline or whatever’s. But he who laughs last should not throw the
stones, because I put my nose to the wheel and find painful employment. I stop hiding my light under a bush and pretty soon I am winning bread and bringing home the ham.

But here is the big news. I do not wish to count chickens before they are crossed, but I think I soon have a fine new condom in the foothills, where you can’t see the forest for the trees. It is, as they say here, to die from. But you always taught me to have high expectations, and I cling to them with teeth and toenails.

Anyway, in confusion I would like to say I am missing you. I am glad I took this chance to chew your fat with you. But now it is late, and early to bed, early to rise, makes an early boy catch the worms.

Your loving son, Joey.

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DEALING IN WHEELING
‘Course, starting a used-car lot from scratch is no easy matter. First off, you hafta corral the mustangs and the pintos, reclaim the mavericks, and break in a few broncos. Rustle up a couple of colts too, and if you’re lucky, a Morgan.

Then you need to catch the barracudas, hook a marlin or two. Stingrays will give you trouble if you’re not careful.

You gotta get the beetles and crickets outta the woodwork, and watch out for the hornets and spiders.

Next you hafta bring down a few larks and skylarks, some tercels and maybe a golden hawk or eagle. Firebirds and falcons are always popular.

The tough ones to trap are the old tigers; the lynxes and the sables are a lot easier. You often have to track down the cougars, and the bobcats are hard to find, too. Jaguars are always a problem, of course. And bearcats are real rare.

Easier to go after an impala or two; run down the odd roadrunner. And there’s rabbits and foxes all over the place if you look carefully. Hard to see those cobras, though, till you’re right on top of ‘em.

Yes sir, I’ve been from Biscayne to Belvedere, Belle Air to Bonneville to find good used automobiles. I’m known from Pontiac to Plymouth. I’ve started in Catalina with a Newporter friend of mine, driven up through Malibu and Ventura to Monterey, cut over through Aspen to Saratoga, and ended up in Manhattan making a deal with a New Yorker. All on one trip.

I’ve looked for 4×4’s in Phoenix and Laredo. I even hit the racetracks: Daytona one week, then over to Le Mans and the Monaco Grand Prix. It’s true – I’ve been known to go to Europe to get the good ones. I’ll fly into Seville, check out Montego, Firenza and Savoy. Cruise down through Cordoba to Granada, then over to Monte Carlo, Capri and the rest of the Riviera. Meet some Parisienne dealers in Versailles, pop over to Bavaria, then back to Calais and home.

And Lincoln may not be Eldorado for a used-car dealership, but I like it.

IMAGINARY MENAGERIE
Well, as so soon as we got there the boys wanted to see the wild goose chase and the rat race, but of course we see that stuff all the time. The girls dragged us off to the paper tiger’s cage, where they were enchanted by the cub reporters and watching the scaredy-cats pussyfoot around.

Then we decided to go to the aquarium and look in on the loan sharks, follow a few red herrings, but we adults were all too similar with big fish in little ponds.

Next door were a couple of scapegoats locking horns, a family of black sheep, and we got a kick out of the kangaroo court. All the seemed to enjoy the reptile house with its snakes in the grass and lounge lizards, and then they bugged us to take them to the insect house to see the spelling bee and let them open up a can of worms. The roadhogs were popular too, and everyone had fun watching the pigs in a poke.

Next, the bigger kids wanted to horse around in the mare’s nest and look in the mouths of the gift horses. The nightmares turned out to be a little frightening, though, and I had to tell them to get down off their high horses. Then we all had time to visit the doghouse to see the dog in the manger and the underdogs, before we went to find hot dogs for lunch.

The afternoon was anticlimactic. We checked out the spring chickens and cold turkeys, and then passed by the eager beavers and the lone wolf. Everyone found the wolf in sheep’s clothing pretty pathetic, and no one was impressed by the stool pigeons either. We all liked the sitting ducks better than the lame ones, even if they did have wonderfully ugly ducklings.

The white elephants are always a big attraction, but the kids were indifferent to the sacred cows their parents had always told them about. And even though they’d been excited to see the goose that laid the golden eggs, they soon got bored and we all went home.

SPEED LIMITS OF THE SOUL
I was fresh out of the showroom when we meet, so to speak. All the optional extras, still in cherry condition, cranked up for open road and eager to get my foot down.

She and I spiritually sideswiped each other outside some bar, and from that moment on we paced the racetrack of our youth. Sleek, she was, and well built. I was all power and noise, full of my own speed, always in overdrive.

We hit the open road in partnership, shiny and new. Burning rubber in search of some elusive destination — the road to riches, perhaps. For three years we drove each other farther, higher. Three years of top-down, flat out, fast living. Until the day I made a wrong turn.

She was happy to go on joyriding, but it was me that put on the brakes. I said I thought we ought to throttle back, maybe get hitched. Well, I guess my timing was off. I should’ve known you couldn’t run a high-octane relationship on cheap gas. And you can’t keep a high-performance engine idling without fouling up the sparks.

I steered us wrong. Our new direction turned out to be a detour down a one-way street, with no U-turns. And we’d never had to deal with each other parked before. Suddenly our feelings stalled and couldn’t get jump-started. All we had in common was what we’d left behind. On the road. On our road.

One day she backed out of my arms and hit the single lane highway alone, taking my heart with her. I puttered around, running on empty, looking for someone to recharge my battery. I drove around in circles, cruising, my life out of alignment, untuned. I was all over the map. I had missed my exit on the freeway of life. I was a wreck.

Then one day, still stuck in the emotional slow lane, she passed by. She was still fast, still in good shape. But I could still keep up with her, too – we were still well matched. I pulled alongside and I’ve stayed there ever since.
Side by side we drive love’s highway.

FLESH AND BLOOD
This place always used to be spick and span when Agnes was still alive. Yes siree, she put her heart and soul into this house. Her pride and joy, it was.

Held onto it through the depression, by tooth and nail. Thought we’d go to rack and ruin, her dad did. Said we’d left high and dry. But we came through safe and sound.

‘Course, we had our ups and downs. Couldn’t pick and choose in those days, y’know. Weren’t so free and easy then. If you were lucky you’d get to court and spark a little, but no playing fast and loose or her kith and kin would tar and feather you, pure and simple.

You kids today, you want to be footloose and fancy-free. If it isn’t fine and dandy all the time, then you think it’s all over and done with and done with. You want to keep it free and easy, but life isn’t all beer and skittles, boy.

No, it was the tried and true methods that worked – you went through thick and thin together, good times and bad, and you got to know each other through and through. Weren’t no ball and chain, just give and take.

But things were touch and go there for a while. Had no money; lived off odds and ends, worked here and there. Times were when we were skin and bone, but she never made any song and dance about it. Went through hell and back with me, she did.

Agnes and me, we got over and above what most couples get. Loved her body and soul, I did, and I reckon I couldn’t’ve done better if I’d looked far and wide. Women like that are few and far between.

But now and then she’d get these aches and pains. Right then and there I should’ve seen, but she seemed to have the same get up and go. Rise and
shine, bright and early. Anyhow, I always figured we’d both get our threescore and ten. But you live and learn, I guess. Now she’s dead and gone and I’m all at sixes and sevens without her.

Well, that’s about the long and short of it, son. Hate to cut and run, but time and tide, time and tide…

LIFE’S GREAT MYSTERIES
Some of life’s most important questions are never even addressed, let alone answered. It’s time they were brought out into the open, if you will. Or even if you won’t.

For instance, who was Willy Nilly? And why must Bill Posters always be prosecuted? How does Gerry Mandering stay in politics so long? How do they know when juries are hung? Can loose morals be tightened? And where does your lap go when you stand?

Are beavers really eager? Are peccadilloes becoming extinct? Do insects commit pesticide? Why are only suits made from the hair of a MO? How many naugas have to die to make a Naugahyde sofa? Were pigs ever really sold in pokes? And is there really more than one way to skin a cat?

Where can I buy a humble pie? Or elbow grease? Did hotcakes ever really sell that well? Has anyone ever actually cried his or her eyes out? And did anyone ever visit a gray area?

What is a rumpus, and why do people kick them up? Just what is it about clocks that make people want to punch them? Why are the British so concerned with keeping peckers up? And just what the hell are cahoots anyway?

Why would anyone want to cut crap? If thought is faster than lightning, why does it travel by train? Where are the cookies of the heart, and why do they always need warming? Are people ever given tall shrift? And how old are the hills?

Why do days always break? Are stolen kisses ever recovered by the police? What have circles got to be so vicious about? Don’t old husbands tell tales too? And if you get my drift, where can I get more?

Is anyone ever underwhelmed? Or just whelmed to begin with? Is anyone ever grunted? Ruthful? Why do stories have to be outlined – aren’t they clear enough? And why must plots always thicken?

It’s exasperating. If we can’t drink and drive, can we still be driven to drink? Can I give someone the hot shoulder? What’s up where? How do I do what?
And just who are the “they” that say all those things?

A GREAT DOUBLE FEATURE
This is the storyline: Our debt was one night at the local mall. We met in the cinema and got into a dialogue about the movie.

There seemed to be no hackneyed lines, neither of us tried to take the lead. I hoped this was a preview of what was to come in the second reel. This could be our theme – no leading man, no leading play, no role-playing.

Just equal billing all the way.
So, this was our establishing scene. But was this a prologue for romance, or would we flop, bomb? Would we take our cue and give our parts everything we had, or would we just go through the motions? Would this dissolve into another dreary documentary on dating?

And how would our friends feel? Would we receive critical acclaim – two thumbs up? Be considered first-rate, four-star? A nine? I couldn’t project how we would develop. We both had character, but who knew how good our continuity would be. We had the outline of a plot, but would it thicken? Were we scripted to succeed?

Perhaps we would be a short, a B movie. Or degenerate into maudlin melodrama or farce. Maybe I was destined to be a walk-on in her life; maybe she just has a bit part in mine. Would we survive the close-up?

It was hard to tell what our genre would be. Would our relationship be scorching and tempestuous or lyric and intimate? Would we be devastatingly savage or electrifyingly compelling?

I sensed we had an epic on our hands. In flashback, everything else had been a prequel to this moment. Everyone around us had become extras, supporting characters. A cast of thousands.

Yes, I could see soft focus, Cinerama, Technicolor. The emotional honesty, the chemistry… this was a blockbuster. We needed no special effects, no stunts. It was easy to see we were inspired, fated to become a classic.

THE SUPERMARKETER
Looking back, I suppose it was inevitable that I enter the market business. I was fresh, fancy, and had a wide mouth. I planned to be the new and improved manager. I thought my rise to the top would be instant; I was a natural. I had the new formula. I was hot and ready to serve.

Not for me the lite, the only-ply, the generic jobs. I felt unbreakable. I suppose in those days I was just a giant size ego in a single serve pack.

And there was Maggie. Squeezably soft, she was, and man-sized. I was chunk-style; she was creamy. While I was plain wrap, she was premium. And when I was sour she was always sweet.

Little did I know I’d be pitted against the heavy-duty people, the choice of the establishment. I thought if I concentrated I could skim the profits; thought my extra strength could deal with any spill. But I grated on the big boys. And to them I was recyclable, disposable.

I was roasted behind my back and frozen out. I was frosted. I hadn’t realized those easy open doors were also reclosable. It just wasn’t kosher.

My extra-fancy ideas now seemed day-old, discount, and closeout. And what made things more complicated was that, instead of an individual serving I was now family size, homestyle. No longer childproof, I had a four-pack.

Gone were the days when I was energy packed. Now I had to be vitamin fortified, even medicated. I’d gone from non-fat and super thin to bath-size jumbo.

But Maggie came through. She said if I just gave 25% extra and we got some dual action going, we could start our own place. Value priced and convenient. All-day, all-purpose, all new.

And she was right. It’s sort of trial size at the moment, and economy, but it’s ours. And it’s grade AA with me.

THE NEWS ANCHOR’S LOVE LETTER
You have kidnapped my heart and held it hostage. Your glances have targeted my bases; your looks impacted my soul.

I am adrift in a no-man’s land without hope of rescue. I need your humanitarian aid. I need a Red Cross shipment of your affection.

My policy of nonintervention can last no longer. I want to storm your embassy. I yearn to explore your perimeters, undermine your defenses. I’d like to reconnoiter the infrastructure of your private sectors. I dream of involving you in undercover operations.

Can we deescalate our hostilities, negotiate a truce? Couldn’t we at least initiate a feasibility study of a coalition? Peaceful coexistence? Détente? Can we meet for peace talks in some demilitarized zone?

I would never monopolize your affections. I envision no totalitarian regime, no dictatorship. We could achieve a balance power, I know it.

Are my feelings really unilateral? Anonymous sources suggest otherwise. I know you’re not interested in public affairs, public relations, but we can be clandestine; we can keep our actions covert. I can be diplomatic.

Tell me my glasnost has not been a tactical error. Tell me you’re nonaligned, open to free trade. Spare me your protectionist policies -– throw open your borders and accept my advances.

Let me take you to the summit. Bring your demands to the bargaining table and we’ll negotiate, define our areas of involvement. We can settle any regional conflicts, safeguard your national interests.

It would be a liberation, not an invasion. We could live in a new climate of rapprochement. We could reciprocate, become bipartisan. Together we could work towards perestroika. As allies, we could move into the new century in a spirit of unity and cooperation.

Let us stand our prime time together.

DESERTING THE DESSERTS
Well, I got to a point where I was demoralized by my descent into degeneracy, devastated by the depths of my depravity. Not to mention disgusted with the demands of my debtors and depressed by the decline of my deposits. I was desolate, dejected, and desperate.

I knew I was deceiving myself if I thought I could decrease my degradation without detoxing. I needed to deactivate my dependencies if I was ever to define to define my own destiny. I had to devote myself to demonstrating my detachment from those debilitating drugs.

After all, it’s not as if I were some derelict. At least, not yet. All I needed was to decide on a different direction, deliberately develop a more decorous destination. I had a disease and I would deal with it.

I had to debate every dubious diet decision, demand denial. My duty double: to discard the disobedience, and to dare to defy my demons. It was daunting. Of course, dining was dismal.

Yes, it was difficult. I had to downplay the donut, dispense with the Danish, and drop the diary. I had to decline the date bread, defect from the Ding-Dongs, damn the Dove bars. I knew I was dooming myself to daily disappointment. I was demented.

But in my own defense I was determined. I drove myself dotty. I would not be dominated by the dark demands of my deviant desires. No longer would I defer to my devils.

It took discipline. But I was dogged, devoted. Not for me the dangers of tooth, or moral, decay. And from the debris of my dreams I grew dynamic and denounced decadence.

I desisted from the dehumanizing effects of my destructive drives, and in doing so delivered myself from delinquency and doubt. I deflected my downhill dive and departed into the daylight. I was delighted.

NEVER SAY DIE
Nothing just plain dies, apparently. Except perhaps car engines and love.

No, agriculturists buy the farm. From the Grim Reaper, no doubt. Gardeners are nipped in the bud, and then push up the daisies. Carpenters meet their maker, sculptors return to clay. Musicians, of course, decompose.

Pilots join the angels; Native Americans join their ancestors. Bounty hunters go to their reward; sportsmen go to the happy hunting grounds. Cowboy’s head to the last roundup, hikers cross the great divine.

Sailors shove off, fathers pop off, and footballers kick off when the final whistle blows. Singers croak, and then join the angelic choir. I imagine Greek scholars cross the Stygian ferry. Attorneys answer the final summons.

Our soldiers go to glory; their soldiers are rendered inoperative. Astronomers go on to a better world, realtors move on to better things. Or perhaps they hear the last trump. And in the case of mathematicians – their number’s up.

Jews and Christians lie in Abraham’s bosom, nuns sleep with the Lord, finally. Hedonists go the way of all flesh; breathe their last. Mediums give up the ghost; fortunetellers meet their fate.

Bookkeepers go to their last account, automobile designers become obsolete, actors shuffle off this mortal coil – after the final curtain, anyway. Gourmands lay down the knife and fork. Insomniacs go to their eternal rest. Prima donnas climb the golden staircase.

Gamblers cash in their chips, supermarket cashiers check out. Firemen burn out. Pioneers go west, watchmakers come to an untimely end, and beer drinkers go belly up.

Janitors kick the bucket, coke users snuff it, and dirt bikers bite the dust. Tap dancers turn up their toes, poets perish. And for women novelists – that’s all she wrote.

BLIND DATA
They had been peripherals in each other’s lives for some time, and then after being set up by friends they belated realized they were compatible. They shared the same frequency, the same number of bytes. Soon they interacted, and bit-by-bit they interfaced.

She liked his intensity profile, his key-in commands, and his primitive attributes. She appreciated his input, respected the quality of his hardware, the number of his chips. She learned to love his logic.

He was attracted to her display resolution, her text arrays, her spline curves, and her drive. He dreamed of her modeling matrices, her fill style, and the flexibility of her shading algorithms. He found himself plotting to multitask together, bringing over batches to process each evening.

And so they time-shared, hardwired their subroutines, exchanged software. They spent more and more of their real-time learning each other’s language, searching memories, exploring each other’s archival subsystems.

He took her to his mainframe and set up a workstation for her. She allowed him random access to her core. They shared a database; went on-line. They crunched numbers on spreadsheets, nesting.

Late at night they could be found deeply immersed in testing their Boolean formulas, stretching their Eigen functions. They did everything together: matrix manipulation, associative dimensioning, Phone shading. Not to mention comparing their non-uniform rational B-spline surfaces.

Nobody knows what happened to them. Perhaps they didn’t allow for enough intervals in their routine, perhaps they didn’t include failsafe diagnostics in their run-time. Maybe they started to experience signal drift and noise interfered with their program.

Glitches may have become bugs, and bugs may have caused malfunctions. Whatever it was, one day their linkage ceased; their relationship became terminal. She dumped him and he offloaded her.

And yet, though they would never compute together again, they would always be coded deep within each other’s circuits.

AUF WIEDERSEHEN, MON AMI
While I was wallowing in Weltschmerz he always seemed to have such sang-froid. His idee fixe was simply to find his milieu and develop his oeuvre. He was the perennial enfant terrible—blasé, insouciant.

I, on the other hand, was totally lacking in joie de vivre, frantically searching for a minuscule raison d’être let alone a magnum opus. While he seemed to have carte blanche to be outré, I struggled with the sturm und drang of my bêtes noire, rapidly becoming like some rara avis. While he was au courant with the haut monde, I didn’t even feel au naturel with the bourgeoisie. He had been mots; I had faux pas.

His wanderlust and my introspection took us on paths that rarely crossed en route. I would occasionally see his nom de plume, run across one of his entourage and hear, in absentia, the latest reports of his cherchez la femme. After some time, though, I managed to achieve some status quo in my own life, and while my work wasn’t exactly a cause celebre my objects d’art were becoming de rigeur with the nouveaux riches.

When we eventually met again at his pied-a-terre for a brief tete-a-tete he seemed to have lost much of his former esprit de corps. His doubles entendres were passe, and the stories of his being caught in flagrante delicto during his extra-marital contretemps now dragged on ad nauseam. Now it was I who was the bon vivant, infused with zeitgeist.

I heard later that he had become an entrepreneur for some couturiere of the kaffeeklatsch. Caveat emptor, I thought. Funny, but I had always assumed he and I would eventually fall out over some ménage a trois—-a little divertissement of his with an amour of mine. Au contraire, he had simply become persona non grata.

Strange to think that the denouement of our relationship should be over something as gauche as a difference of weltanschauung. Oh well, c’est la vie.

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