Belated Replies To The Inquiries And Statements Of Brad Welch, Circa 1983

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“Hey, did you forget to wipe your butt?”

Actually no, I did not forget to wipe my butt. As a nine-year-old, I already have a good amount of butt-wiping under my belt (so to speak) and have the routine pretty well down. Your implication, I take it, is that I stink, which is likely the case. But considering that we are boys in a third-grade gym class, this is not a distinguishing characteristic, i.e., we all stink.

“I bet you’ve never kissed a girl.”

You bet right. I have never kissed a girl. It will be several more years before I do. I won’t sleep with a girl until college. This romantic timeline will be freighted with anxiety and awkwardness, missed opportunities and painful rejections. But, at this moment, I am in third grade; I’m not convinced that I even want to kiss girls. So I’m not sure that your assertion, regardless of its veracity, is particularly relevant.

“Your head is too big. It looks weird.”

I have a large head. What’s more, I have a small body. If you were clever, you might compare me to a bobble-head doll. But you’re not clever, Brad Welch. In fact, you’re a bit of a dullard, even for third grade. I imagine that you will grow up to be a mean, petty man with a drinking problem who drives an expensive car and is secretly despised by everyone he knows.

“You suck at volleyball.”

I do suck at volleyball. But I would argue that I’m not alone here. Why the sadist they’ve hired to teach P.E. makes us play volleyball when there are so many other, better games (kickball, for example) is beyond me. The fact that you, Brad Welch, are slightly better at volleyball means little when you consider that neither of us has much success in hitting the ball over the net — which, I am given to understand, is the object of this wretched sport.

“My picture is in a magazine. You’re ugly.”

You are not actually pictured in a magazine. Your photograph did appear in a children’s clothing catalog once. Your parents — who, if you are any indication, must be terrible people — are apparently intent on saddling you with an inflated sense of self-regard. This, trust me, will not serve you well later in life. Besides, in a year or two you won’t be cute anymore.

“Get up. Get up. Get up.”

It’s difficult for me to get up when you are repeatedly pushing me down. Also, in a minute, the P.E. teacher will notice this scuffle and punish us both for “roughhousing” — even though all I did was get thrown to the ground over and over again. This will result in my name being written on the board, a punishment that will not, in retrospect, seem that severe, but at that very moment will feel like the Greatest Injustice in the History of Man.

“See you later, buttface.”

Goodbye, Brad Welch. I wish you ill.

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Ruminations of “Shaolin Monk #13,” Awaiting the Order to Attack Jet Li

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How dare this arrogant warrior stroll uninvited into our monastery, and openly challenge our exalted Master Fu in front of his assembled acolytes. Let us teach him a painful lesson in humility, my brothers!

I am honored beyond measure that the Master has allowed me to stand by his side, despite my being shamefully knocked unconscious in training mere moments ago. I awoke dazed, with only hazy recollections of my enigmatic name, “Shaolin monk #13,” and my purpose, “extra for the battle scene at Shrouded Dragon Temple.”

But looking around at my assembled brothers and the majestic temple grounds, I now realize I truly am a Shaolin brother of the legendary shrine, chosen as extra protection for Master Fu himself! He must have foreseen this — truly his wisdom and cunning are unrivaled. And with the arrival of this grave threat, I have been given the perfect chance to redeem myself in his eyes! Despite this fighter’s obvious prowess, we shall overwhelm him soon enough.

Then why are we all standing around? Why won’t Master Fu order us to attack as one? No! One must never question the Master! Recall the gruesome fate of Hum Bao, when he dared speak out of turn, or when Chow Fan returned in shame after his unsuccessful assassination attempt. The fury and skill of Master Fu are boundless!

But what are we waiting for? This single enemy, skilled though he is, cannot possibly hope to block all of our weapons and blows simultaneously. Why are my brothers feinting uselessly as they encircle him, even allowing him to grasp a spear and sweep six of them off their feet? I saw that move coming a mile distant!

Outrageous! My brothers time their blows precisely so that our foe can seamlessly parry them! It is as if they are intentionally losing! Where is their pride? Where is their devotion to the Master?

Enough! I cannot abide this shameful display any longer! I must strike for Master Fu, even if he will not strike himself!

Yes! I have done it! The rogue warrior never saw my blow coming! See how he staggers about, holding his bleeding head and gaping at me in wonder! Strike now, my brothers — we have him!

Why are we stopping again?! Who is this crazed man screaming in my face, demanding to know what my problem is? Why is Master Fu kowtowing and referring to him as the “Director?” Why are several of my brothers actually aiding our injured foe, and reverently calling him “Jet” and “Mr. Li?” How do they know his name? And who are these men with badges and odd hats, holding tiny weapons crackling with electrical fire? Master, I don’t under–

I awake to find myself upon a strange wheeled pallet, surrounded by white garbed men who seek to strap me down upon it. They hope to imprison me in a white metal wagon, festooned with flashing red lanterns, and wailing like a demonic animal!

I cannot allow them to take me prisoner! I realize now that the man I so bravely defended is but a cowering impostor, no doubt planted by the insidious “Director.” And this “Jet” must have come to unmask the treacherous cur; no wonder my brothers were so reluctant to strike. They must have known Jet’s true mission, and were letting him win! I must return to Shrouded Dragon Temple, and help rescue the true Master Fu!

Yes! Again I have done it! By feigning unconsciousness, I have surprised my unwary foes. See how they stare dumbfounded as I leap from their pallet, easily escaping their feeble attempts to recapture me. See how I overpower their “security guard,” and use his own devilish lightning baton against him. How does it feel to be jerked about like a child’s puppet yourself, arrogant badged man?

Now to return to Shrouded Dragon Temple and aid the noble Jet in defeating the evil Director. I am coming, Master Fu. Vengeance is at hand!

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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Little is known about the fifth Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Picasso.

MICHELANGELO: Totally rad — this toxic waste has made us into, like, super-turtles!!

PICASSO: Bros, I don’t feel so great after all that toxic waste.

LEONARDO: I’m stronger than ever and I can easily wield this Japanese sword I just found. How about you, Picasso? What’s your special new power?

PICASSO: I’m nauseous, and all my hair is falling out.

DONATELLO: In Japanese, “hair falling out” is “hea-shikkyaku-auto.” My awesome new power is knowing Japanese.

LEONARDO: Doitashi mashitay. Ha ji may ma shitay!

DONATELLO: Good one. Japanese is easy.

RAPHAEL: And I feel super light and agile. Cowabunga!

PICASSO: I also feel totally light, bro. But I think it’s totally less due to a new power and more due to a lack of red blood cells, white blood cells, and hair.

DONATELLO: And it’s totally cool that we all have our own colors now!

LEONARDO: Yeah. Like, Raphael is red, Donatello is purple, Picasso is albino and bleeding uncontrollably, and Michelangelo is orange.

RAPHAEL: How about weapons, dudes? I just have this feeling that I am going to kick tail with Ninja daggers.

PICASSO: Does having too many chromosomes count as a weapon? I have five too many chromosomes.

MICHELANGELO: The bo staff counts. I am good at the bo staff.

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The Subroutine Not Taken

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10 HOME

20 PRINT “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.”

30 INPUT “Which would you like to travel (L / R / BOTH)? “; A$

40 IF A$ = “BOTH” THEN 70

50 PRINT “Are you sure? Try to be more philosophical.”

60 GOTO 20

70 PRINT “Sorry, you cannot travel both and be one traveler. I would think that’s obvious, actually.”

80 INPUT “Would you like to look down one as far as you can (Y / N)? “; B$

90 IF B$ = “Y” THEN 120

100 PRINT “What, you’re too good to look down a road? That yellow could be urine, you know. Best to take a peek.”

110 GOTO 80

120 INPUT “Hm, a lot of undergrowth that way. Do you want to look down the other one (Y / N)? “; C$

130 IF C$ = “Y” THEN 150

140 PRINT “You’re a stubborn one, aren’t you? I guess it’s true what they say about New Englanders. Fine, I’m going to tell you anyway.”

150 PRINT “A bit grassier in that direction. Though really about the same. Pretty leaves on both, too.”

160 PRINT “A stumper, this. Let’s mull it over.”

170 FOR X = 1 to 10000 STEP 1

180 NEXT X

190 INPUT “Tell you what, how about we keep the first for another day? “; D$

200 IF D$ = “BUT YOU KNOW HOW WAY LEADS TO WAY. I DOUBT IF I SHOULD EVER COME BACK” THEN 230

210 PRINT “Maybe, but somehow your answer isn’t giving me quite the right frisson. The trick is to be both literal and symbolic at the same time. Give it another go.”

220 GOTO 190

230 PRINT “Whoa, shallow and deep all at once. That’s the high heat there!”

240 GOSUB 350

250 IF E$ = “S” THEN 400

270 PRINT “Ok then. You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. Time to panic, if you can, my taciturn friend.”

280 PRINT “See? There is a Wumpus here. He looks hungry.”

290 PRINT “*** You have died. ***”

300 GOTO 450

350 PRINT “Now that you’re here, I should probably mention that I smell a Wumpus.”

360 PRINT “And, well — this is awkward, I know — I’m pretty sure that the only thing down the other path was a lemonade stand. Didn’t you see the sign? Kind of makes sense that more people would choose that path, when you think about it.”

370 INPUT “Anyhoo, I still smell that Wumpus. Shoot or move (S / M)?”; E$

380 RETURN

400 INPUT “Shoot with what? Your bare hands?”; F$

410 IF F$ = “USE OVERPOWERING SENSE OF ENNUI” THEN 440

420 PRINT “Nothing happens.”

430 GOTO 400

440 PRINT “Aha! Your hopeless sigh got the Wumpus! I can hear the faint sound of his weeping. Good for you; now you’re both dead inside.”

450 PRINT “And somewhere ages and ages hence the lament shall be coded:”

460 PRINT “Two roads diverged in a wood, and you –”

470 PRINT “You took the subroutine less traveled by,”

480 PRINT “And that has made ” RND(Z) ” the difference.”

490 END

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