Did Someone Call Me Snorer?

By:

Sleep…sweet, sweet, sleep…let it come…the soft fog lowering among the white pines…black waves hissing against the sand…in, and out…in, and out…the unblinking moon in the mist…a sea bird trills gently, distantly…the bird cries…how sad, it says…how beautiful…its voice goes an octave lower…two octaves higher…it gurgles…hiccups…what’s wrong with that bird?…it makes a sound like a rachet…getting closer, louder…rasping like a ruptured air hose…now shrieking and swooping…gibbering and — and laughing!…flapping horribly — that thing was never meant to fly…oh God, it’s not a bird, not a bird but a bug…a great, hideous, jabbering insect…all swirling tendrils and swollen abdomen…a thousand eyes, a thousand mouths — all staring, screaming…blotting out everything…

I bolted upright, gasping. My wife lay next to me. Her snores filled the room with a wash of sound, an alien symphony of whistles, grunts and nasal blasts. When I nudged her she mumbled and turned over, muffling the free concert. I lay back thinking, Where did she get such talent? From her Uncle George, the one who could smoke cigarettes through his ears? Or the grandfather she wouldn’t talk about — what was his name?…

“Grandpa Vlad.”

“Jah?” He raised his lidless eyes and looked through me. Hard to believe a gaze that tranquil could hide a broken mind.

“Your soup, Grandpa. Finish your soup.” I pushed the bowl toward him and he looked through it. I placed the spoon in his hand and he smiled. He began warbling a little song, accompanying himself by tapping the spoon on his water glass.

“In heaven dere iss no beer, dat’s why ve drink it here…” He coughed into his soup.

“Grandpa!”

“Jah, jah sure,” he said. He peered into the bowl. “Hello in dere. Anybody home?” When no one answered he dipped his spoon, took a long sip followed by a long breath and, liking the rhythm of it, finished his soup that way — sipping and breathing. The obscene slurping noises he made complemented his cadaverous wheezings, and I found myself listening for which would stop first. But they didn’t stop.

He reached the bottom of the bowl and kept going, licking the bowl when his spoon failed to bring up any more. His tongue was incredibly long. I wondered why I had never noticed it before.

“That’s enough, Grandpa.” The slurping got louder. There was no more soup but he kept sucking frantically, pursing his thick lips into a pulsating “O” like some monstrous pink lamprey. How could he keep inhaling without exhaling? I shivered suddenly and backed away. The slurping was deafening — he held the bowl to his face by sheer force of suction — and then the bowl vanished inside him. His unblinking eyes bulged swiveling from his head as the wind from within him tugged at everything loose in the restaurant: knives, forks, napkins, saltshakers, tablecloths — all flew into the widening hole that had been his face. A busboy screamed, waved his arms and tried to run, but Grandpa got him, sucking him in like a piece of lint.

Then he turned on me. His gaping orifice emitted sounds that should never be heard on this earth. Just as he was reaching for me with his shuddering snout he inhaled one of his own arms. There was a terrible screeching of torn fabric and flesh, and in a moment he sucked himself out of existence, disappearing with an audible pop.

I sat up yelling his name before I knew where I was. I didn’t want to be alone then. Shaking my wife to rouse her enough to share my misery, I noticed she wasn’t breathing right. She was sleeping on her stomach — something I had never seen her do — and her face was buried in the pillow, twisting back and forth. I turned her over but the pillow came with her, and I had to pull it out of her mouth.

“What are you doing?” she snapped. “Leave me alone!”

“You tried to swallow the pillow.”

“So?”

“You were making a noise like a vacuum cleaner in molasses.”

“So?”

“So you woke me up.”

I woke you up? I was only trying to cover my ears. I haven’t gotten three minutes of sleep all night with your snoring. You sound like a French horn being played by a rabid howler monkey.”

I hit her with the pillow and got up to look at the moon.

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A Bare Bodkin, Or: One Lunch, Naked, To Go

By:

Once in a millennium, it is an editor’s sacred privilege to play midwife to a writer of earthshaking significance and eye-rolling originality. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened to us yet, but until it does we are honored to introduce our readers to Richard Bodkin, or “the San Francisco Earthquake,” as he is known to intimates. Mr. Bodkin, our readers; readers, Mr. Bodkin.

For years, Mr. Bodkin has been jotting down odd thoughts at odd moments, using dinner napkins and playing cards for stationery, and then stuffing the scraps into his hatband and losing the hat. Such retiring habits are no boon in the rough-and-tumble arena of literary backslapping and backbiting. Bodkin has never sought after eminence; nor, up to now, has it shown any interest in him.

We hope to change all that. Below are printed, for the first time anywhere, the collected works of Richard Bodkin. Spanning the years 1944 to 1990 (“the prolific period”), they readily demonstrate why Robinson Jeffers referred to Bodkin as “that fat, slobbering stinkbug,” and why T.S. Eliot, upon meeting Bodkin for the first time, felt it was an act of simple Christian charity to smother him with a pillow. Luckily for Bodkin, Edna St. Vincent Millay was in the room at the time. After an impassioned argument, she convinced Eliot to give her the pillow, and was attempting to smother Bodkin herself when the police raided the joint.

*****

The Scum Also Rises (an excerpt)

Brad sat in the only café in the little Spanish town and drank a bottle of the local wine. He did this by pouring the wine into a soiled piece of gauze and wringing out the bandage over his face, catching the drops with his tongue as they fell. The gauze had been with him in the War. It was all he had left. That and some chewing tobacco.

“This is a good café,” he said in English to the waiter, “and good wine, and I am a very good boy.” The waiter smiled that childlike Spanish smile and emptied a pot of coffee into Brad’s lap. Brad laughed bitterly at the man’s quiet courage. He had been brave once. Now he was a coward. Worse than a coward. A fool. Worse than a fool. In love.

Lady Bitcherly walked in and took the waiter in her arms and kissed him and gave him her room number, saying it loudly and slowly in Spanish. The waiter began to smile that smile again but was interrupted by Brad’s wine bottle breaking over his head.

“Good bottle, that,” said Lady Bitcherly.

“Good waiter,” said Brad. “Why the hell don’t we take him up to your room and give him what for?”

“Why the hell not?” she said. He knocked her out and began to drag them both upstairs. This is what war is like, he thought.

*****

Bodkin’s first and only novel, of course, went unpublished during his lifetime, like all of his work. Still, he had the admiration of the critics. Edmund Wilson called this manuscript “the sort of thing a carnival pinhead might produce after drinking a gallon of rotgut and spending a weekend on a tilt-a-whirl.” It was praise like this that kept Bodkin writing until he was struck down several years ago by a trolley car going uphill. He wasn’t killed immediately, although the conductor went back over him several times to make sure. He was taken to a trauma center by a squad car, and pronounced dead on arrival by the doctor.

“No, I’m not,” he said weakly.

“We’ll soon take care of that,” replied the doctor, at heart a kind man who couldn’t stand the sight of suffering. He administered a dose of strychnine to Bodkin and waited for the results. Bodkin asked for a sheet of paper and a pencil, and in a few moments had composed his only known book of poetry, To Hell in a Handbasket.

*****

A Poem

I think that I shall never see

A thing as lovely as me.

This somewhat stilted poem was Bodkin’s first attempt at verse, and as such is understandably traditional in its rhyme scheme. In his later poems (about three minutes later) Bodkin abandoned rhyme for a verse structure so free as to be promiscuous. As Robert Frost once said of Bodkin’s prose works, “If Bodkin’s blood could but be spilled/And his mewling forever stilled!” This heartfelt comment applies equally to Bodkin’s verse output.

*****

Another Poem

Ha ha! Fooled you, didn’t I?

Bodkin rarely showed his sense of humor, and the above poem reveals why. In it, Bodkin anticipated the Beatnik writers, but in typical fashion he was 35 years too late. Because of this literary historians seldom class him with the Beats, and he is most often classed with the nematodes (in the words of Daniel Webster, “any of a class or phylum of elongated cylindrical worms parasitic in animals or plants or free-living in soil or water”).

*****

Yet Another Poem

This time I’m going to write one if it kills m–

Of this last of Bodkin’s works, what can be said? Sic transit gloria mundi.

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Leave The Gun, Take The Cannoli:
A Wiseguy’s Guide To The Workplace

By:

You probably know me as America’s foremost business guru, the author of motivational bestsellers like Who Moved My “Who Moved My Cheese” Book?, Swimming With Inflatable Sharks, and Good To Great Depression: Seven Ways To Make The Collapse Of The World Economy Work For You. If you bought any of my earlier books, I thank you — and I also pity you, because they have all been rendered useless by this one, my magnum opus.

You see, in scouring the globe for the most valuable business strategies, I was looking for the love of money in all the wrong places. Sure, the owners and managers of the great multinational corporations love money. They love it enough to steal, lie, and cheat for it…but so few of them love it enough to kill for it.

That’s what separates them from the real business geniuses — the men who run the Mafia. These guys will kill for money. They know how to make it — and how to keep it. Not one of them has ever filed a corporate tax return or issued a shareholder’s report — and yet profits roll in year after year. You want to see how a real business organization runs? Look at organized crime. You want real business wisdom? Ask a wiseguy. Problem is, he won’t tell you, and if he did then he’d have to kill you.

Fortunately, I am under no such constraint. I spent the last few years studying the ways of the Mafia, the mob, the Cosa Nostra, or whatever you want to call it. I read police reports, court transcripts, the screenplays for all three Godfather movies, and other vital wiseguy documents. I even talked to Vinny down at the cigar store (whenever he wasn’t on the phone to his bookie). Then I entered the Witness Protection Program to write this book, which brings you all the greatest gems of wiseguy strategy in one convenient volume.

Unfortunately, many wiseguy sayings and ideas are convoluted — some would say “twisted” — and hard to understand. That’s why I’ve thoughtfully provided explanations after each bit of advice. Let’s face it: If you were already wise, you wouldn’t need to listen to real wiseguys like these. But it’s never too late to wise up and start moving up your own corporate ladder! Let the lessons begin.

Choosing A Career

May Emmerich: Oh Lon, when I think of all those awful people you come in contact with — downright criminals — I get scared.

Alonzo D. Emmerich: Oh, there’s nothing so different about them. After all, crime is only…a left-handed form of human endeavor.

— The Asphalt Jungle

(Whereas business is a left-handed form of human endeavor where everybody has two left hands, and the first left hand doesn’t know what the other left hand is doing.)

Getting Ahead: Tips For Success

Teittleman: Do you have a daughter, Mr. Soprano?

Anthony “Tony” Soprano, Sr.: Yes. Call me Tony.

Teittleman: What would you do if your daughter was abused by her husband?

Anthony “Tony” Soprano, Sr.: Talk to him —

Silvio Dante: Yeah, [with] a ball peen hammer.

— The Sopranos (“Denial, Anger, Acceptance,” Season 1)

(You can’t do the job right without the proper tools.)

Getting Along With Your Boss

Marlowe: You know what he’ll do when he comes back? Beat my teeth out, then kick me in the stomach for mumbling.

— The Big Sleep

(And dock your pay for getting blood on his shoes.)

Getting Along With Your Coworkers

Dr. Jennifer Melfi: What was the last time you had a prostate exam?

Anthony “Tony” Soprano Sr.: Hey, I don’t even let anybody wag their finger in my face.

— The Sopranos (“Pax Soprana” Season 1)

(Respect boundaries.)

Effective Communication

[Jules shoots the guy on the couch during Brett’s interrogation]

Jules: Oh, I’m sorry. Did I break your concentration?

— Pulp Fiction

(When their attention wanders, gently but firmly return them to the topic at hand.)

Job Descriptions

Carlito: You a gangster now. You can’t learn it at school…you can’t have a late start.

— Carlito’s Way

(However, the hours are good, and look at the benefits!)

Office Politics, Office Etiquette

Walter Brown: You make me sick to my stomach.

Mrs. Neall: Well, use your own sink.

— The Narrow Margin (1952)

(Interdepartmental cooperation is a joy to behold.)

Business Ethics

Harry Lime: In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

— The Third Man

(Very clever observation — until you realize people actually buy cuckoo clocks.)

Learning From Your Mistakes

Bernstein: Every day above ground is a good day.

— Scarface (1983)

(On the other hand, every day underground will be a day you don’t have to sit through a staff meeting.)

Managing Through Intimidation

Joel Cairo: You — you imbecile! You bloated idiot! You stupid fat-head!

— The Maltese Falcon

(Keep job reviews short and to the point.)

Beating The Competition — Literally

Bill the Butcher: I’m going to paint paradise square with his blood. Two coats.

— Gangs of New York

(To beat the competition, you must be prepared to work twice as hard.)

Doing Business Like A Wiseguy

Nice Guy Eddie: We got places all over the place.

— Reservoir Dogs

(Be intimately familiar with all your branch offices.)

Dealing With Change…Or The Lack Of It

Tom: No money, no weed. It’s all been replaced by a pile of corpses.

— Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

(If life gives you corpses — use them for fertilizer, grow your own weed, and make all that lovely money back!)

The Last Word

Tony Montana: I kill Communists for fun.

— Scarface (1983)

(If you can’t enjoy what you do, what’s the point?)

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The OCD Repeater:
A Journal Of Understanding

By:

The Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Repeater (“Bet you can’t read it just once!”) is published monthly, or sometimes more often if we can’t stop ourselves, for victims of OCD. As always, we welcome your letters. Of course, we pledge to reveal only your problem, not your identity. All symptoms discussed here will be considered completely confidential, unless some strange overwhelming urge compels us to scream your name to the world at 10-second intervals.

*****

Dear OCD Repeater:

I am normal in every respect, except for a slight tendency to touch the doorknob with my forehead 500 times each morning before leaving for work. Don’t advise me to change my habits. I’ve already tried making drastic variations in my routine. One morning, for example, I touched my forehead to the doorknob 512 times, but instead of producing the inner peace I have come to depend on, this pointless overindulgence left me feeling jaded and world-weary, as if I were only going through the motions.

The next morning, in a mad mood of defiance, I touched my head to the doorknob only 497 times. At first this gave me a false sense of bravado. As the day progressed, however, the premonition grew on me that I would soon pay for my recklessness — and I did.

When I made my daily stop at the Pig & Swig for a cup of cappuccino at precisely 6:15 a.m., I was told they were out of low-cal nondairy creamer. How they snickered when they saw the panic bubbling behind my eyes! I strived to calm myself by rubbing the secret patch of flannel I carry in my pocket for just such emergencies. I even tried stepping over every third crack in the sidewalk on the way to work, but it was no use. My morning, and quite likely my life, was ruined.

I am getting a bit off the point, though. What I want to say is, Why can’t people just leave me alone? I harm no one. I do my job. I pay taxes. Aside from forming a hollow in my forehead so pronounced that my skull is occasionally mistaken for a ceramic planter, my “little hobby” (as I call it) has brought me the only real happiness I’ve ever known. What’s wrong with that?

Soft in the Noggin in New York City

Dear Soft:

Clearly your need to touch your forehead to the doorknob accomplishes nothing of practical value, except perhaps polishing the brass. To be sure, there are many actions we must constantly repeat that do not in themselves constitute obsessive-compulsive disorder. For instance, I find it impossible to get through the day unless I fill my briefs with a mixture of oat bran and cough syrup while humming “Lara’s Theme” from Doctor Zhivago. Surely my reasons are obvious. But does anyone have the slightest idea why you carry on like such a jackass? I don’t.

*****

Dear OCD Repeater:

Who discovered obsessive-compulsive disorder? And is there a cure? I have a friend who needs to know.

Just wondering in Wheeling, West Virginia

Dear Wondering:

OCD was first diagnosed in 1963 by Dr. Neil Bogusian, who realized that his wife’s insatiable need to serve “snapping turtle surprise” and lima beans every night of the year was more a cry for help than a cold-blooded attempt to drive him insane. After having her euthanized by the family vet (Mrs. Bogusian was a dead ringer for a dachshund, and had missed her last two distemper shots anyway), the good doctor devised the original five-step program for alleviating the pain of OCD sufferers:

1. Admit that you have a problem.

2. Admit that you are helplessly in the thrall of some malignant, unseen power that is making you admit you have a problem.

3. Admit that you just added up the number of letters in the above two sentences and subtracted the total from the last four digits of your Social Security number.

4. Sing “There was a boy who had a dog, and Bingo was his name-o” under your breath whenever you see a red object.

5. Repeat steps one through four until the feeling of nameless dread passes.

*****

Last issue’s Case of the Month brought a host of helpful ideas. You’ll recall that our correspondent, a Mr. M.L. of Wheaton, Illinois, complained he was unable to cross the street without reciting the Gettysburg Address four score and seven times, and that the strenuous demands of this absolute necessity were consuming more and more of his time, until he started falling asleep on the curb after midnight and being sideswiped by street-sweeping machines.

Some were sympathetic. “I know just how he feels,” wrote M.W. of Peoria. “Personally, I can’t make it through an intersection without reenacting the Sand Creek Massacre. You wouldn’t believe the number of accidents this has caused — or the number of friends I have made.” Others were less patient. C.K. of Buffalo wrote, “He ought to thank his lucky stars it’s the Gettysburg Address and not a pep talk from the Nuremburg rallies.” The best thought came from K.Z. of Des Moines, who suggested a switch from presidential speeches to Scripture passages, preferably John 11:35 (“Jesus wept”).

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The Kafka Convention

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“What do you mean you can’t find my briefcase?” K.’s voice rose harshly above the general clatter and muttering at the airport’s baggage claim area. It was not the first time he had asked that question that morning. Once more, with diminishing patience, the official-looking young clerk gave his explanation.

“Sir, I’ve told you all I know. We have no record of your briefcase ever being on board this or any other flight. We show no luggage for you at all. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I don’t even find you on the seating chart. Unless you can produce a ticket stub of some kind…” He let the sentence dangle in the air, as if to underscore the nebulous nature of K.’s claim. His bright blue uniform gave him the appearance of a policeman, and for some reason the sight of his shiny but useless epaulets filled K. with a vague apprehension. Nonetheless, K. was shouting and gesticulating wildly. People nearby looked up in curiosity.

“I’m telling you for the last time. My ticket stub is gone, vanished — poof! You understand? Somehow my overcoat became confused with that of another passenger, and I now wear the garment of a Doctor Thomas Mann. See? Here’s his ticket stub!” K. waved a ragged scrap of pasteboard in the clerk’s immobile face.

“If you’re suggesting I give you Doctor Mann’s baggage, I’m afraid I can’t do that either,” said the young man, who had already begun to process the papers of the customer just behind K.

“I don’t want Doctor Mann’s baggage, you imbecile!” Without thinking, he had grabbed the clerk by the lapels and lifted him clear off his toes. When he heard another clerk mention calling security, K. suddenly became quiet, almost apologetic. He let go of the clerk’s collar and even brushed a June bug off one of his epaulets. “I only want what’s coming to me. My briefcase, you understand, no other’s. I’m not looking for any favors, but my briefcase happens to contain the only existing copy of my thesis, which I am to deliver later today at the convention.”

“Oh? And what convention might that be?” the clerk said with a sneer that made the other customers titter.

“The K-kafka C-convention,” K. stuttered. But for a nearly imperceptible look of horror, the clerk’s face remained blank. K. continued with feverish enthusiasm. “Franz K-kafka, the writer. In my thesis I compare him to a variety of intestinal worm, you see, a species whose appetite and capacity for guilt are equally immense. Such parasites usually starve themselves to d-d-death, in a sense.”

“To b-b-be sure,” mocked the clerk, “but if you’ll excuse me…” Everyone laughed but K., who turned red and started to back away.

“Of course, of course,” he said. “Never mind me.” He stumbled into an obese, unkempt woman who was openly nursing the largest infant K. had ever seen. Despite the sickening bluish tint of the child’s skull, K. felt obliged to pat it and say something, however banal: “Nice baby.” At that moment the head came up to bite his hand, and K. found to his amazement and repulsion that it belonged not to a child but to a wizened old man with smacking gums. The octogenarian giggled inanely and snatched K.’s alpine hat from his head.

“My hat! Mine!” screeched the old man with delight. The woman removed a large sausage from her handbag and began to methodically beat K. with it.

“Filth!” she yelled.

“Of course,” said K. He had backed all the way to the edge of the up escalator, and now tumbled backwards down the sharp metal stairs. He could hear more laughter and what sounded like applause coming from above as he lay crumpled at the foot of the escalator. His face protruded over the moving stairs, and as each new step emerged his chin bounced on it painfully.

“Perhaps if I remain here suffering quietly,” K. thought, “the Superintendent of this facility will notice that I — an honored foreigner having received official invitation, no less — am being treated in this scandalous fashion, and will take pity on me. If he is worthy of his office he will be outraged, and with a snap of his fingers he will order that my briefcase be restored to me. Who knows? He may even award me certain damages.”

K.’s meditations were interrupted by a piercing pain in his backside. He turned to discover a lean Hispanic janitor trying to impale him on a pointed spike and lift him into a refuse bag. “Stop that nonsense at once, or I’ll report you to the Authorities! Do you hear?” K. did his best to sound threatening, but his voice had suddenly acquired an odd, squeaking quality. He quickly learned that he had also lost control of his body.

The janitor paused and looked at him oddly. “Hey, Tony, come over here!” he called to another man further down the hall. “You gotta see this! This June bug is at least four inches long, and its mouth is moving almost like it’s trying to say something!” K. sputtered and tried to deny the ridiculous charge that he had become an insect, but upon examination he saw that such was indeed the case. He had been flipped upon his back and could only wave his six pitifully thin legs in the air and make a nervous sort of buzz. His speech was no longer comprehensible.

“Pleazzze, help meezzzz! I muzzzt get to zzzee convenzzzion!” The janitors both laughed heartily at these pathetic sounds.

“Man, that’s spooky! I don’t know what it is, but I think we better kill it quick,” said the one who had first noticed K. “Livin’ la vida loca, and now your back is broke-a,” the one called Tony said as his partner flipped K. over and tried once more to run him through. K. found the peculiar singsong strangely comforting, and did not resist as the man put the sharp spike through the space between his folded wings, lifted him roughly, and stuffed him into the dark plastic bag.

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How Am I Driving?

By:

Thank you for calling the Chrome Donkey Truck Co. driver hotline! We really want to know how our drivers are doing, so please share your experience with us by following these directions and answering a few simple questions.

To report a good experience with a Chrome Donkey Truck Co. driver, press 1.

To report a bad experience with a Chrome Donkey Truck Co. driver, press 2.

If your bad experience involved only a verbal altercation or misunderstanding, however disturbing, press 1.

If there was a physical accident of some kind, press 2.

Was it a minor accident? If so, press 1.

If it was a major accident, press 2.

If the accident was so major that you are now in a full body cast and unable to move your hand, ask the attending physician or nurse to press 3 for you.

If the accident was way beyond major and caused third-degree burns over most of your body and face, making speech impossible, try to establish a “one blink for yes, two blinks for no” communication code with your caregivers, and then convey that they should press 4 for you.

If your eyelids are fused together or no longer there, see if you can wiggle your ears (of course we’re using “see” in the figurative sense here). If so, try to establish a “one wiggle for yes, two wiggles for no” communication code with your caregivers. Once they have stopped chuckling, convey that they should press 5 for you, and have them do all the button pressing from here on out.

Which of the following came flying through your windshield during the accident? Press the pound key for each item that applies.

* Hubcap.

* Tire iron.

* Tire (fully inflated).

* Tire (exploded).

* Chrome Donkey Truck Co. driver (fully clothed).

* Chrome Donkey Truck Co. driver (partially clothed, partially on fire).

* Chrome Donkey Truck Co. driver (naked and charred).

* Cow (mad).

* Cow (not mad, exactly, but feelings very hurt).

* Other livestock in varying states of emotional distress.

* Barrel of oil.

* Barrel of industrial cyanide (top intact).

* Barrel of industrial cyanide (top breached).

* Crate of dynamite (no blasting caps).

* Crate of dynamite (with blasting caps).

* Large chunks of weapons-grade plutonium.

* Sidewinder missile.

Now press 1 if the driver apologized.

Press 2 if the driver did not apologize, but had a look on his face as if he might be about to.

Press 3 if you can’t be sure whether the driver apologized because, as far as you remember, there was no driver.

Press 4 if you can’t be sure whether the driver apologized because, as far as you remember, the driver was a wide-eyed orangutan wearing pilot’s goggles.

Press 5 if you are a member of the Orangutan Workers Union and are calling to demand safer working conditions for orangutans in general.

Press 6 if you are Chuckles The Orange and are looking for your “one banana, two banana” severance package from this morning’s horrific 12-vehicle collision.

If you feel the accident was your fault, press 7.

Just kidding! If a Chrome Donkey Truck Co. driver was to blame, press 8.

Next, do you want to take your case to court? If so, press 1.

If you’re willing to settle out of court, press 2.

Now press the number with which your desired settlement amount begins.

Finally, press 0 for every decimal place in your desired settlement amount, or until you see a smile on your attorney’s face.

And thank you again for calling the driver hotline at the Chrome Donkey Truck Co., where — when we’re not driving over you in a jackknifed, out-of-control 18-wheeler — we’re proud to be driving you nuts.

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In The Clouds

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“I wandered lonely as a cloud,” wrote Wordsworth, but as usual he was probably just reaching for the nearest rhyme. There is small reason to suspect that clouds get lonely, for they are hardly ever alone. If anything the average cloud is, like most of us, hurting for a little privacy — a quiet space where he can concentrate on personal growth, perfect his racquetball serve, learn to stop saying “yes” when he means “go to hell,” and work on that hard-hitting novel about the nasty but wacky inner world of advertising.

“Where do all these clouds come from?” you ask (not out loud, I hope, or people will shy away from you and you’ll be lonelier than any cloud ever was). A scientist will tell you clouds are merely water vapor suspended in the atmosphere. He will tell you that, and then look away in embarrassment, knowing he has told you nothing. He wishes to God he knew something about clouds, but he’s too busy tickling white rats with electrodes to find out anything.

The ancient Chinese believed that clouds were the breath of a sleeping dragon. Storm clouds resulted when the dragon had been smoking in bed, while chain lightning, typhoons and tornadoes meant that he had been awakened before he could get a full eight hours. Today, of course, these childish explanations have been discarded, and the modern Chinese are well aware that clouds are the product of wrong-thinking reactionaries conspiring to form a fascist hegemony with the imperialist war-mongering dogs of the West.

Next to Wilhelm Reich’s cloud theories, these Chinese ideas look pretty serious. Reich did most of his damage in his chosen field of psychiatry, but in his spare time he did more to cloud the cloud issue than any other man in history. He was convinced that clouds are not always clouds — that sometimes they are accumulations of deadly orgone energy sent by the saucer men to destroy us. What is orgone energy? When asked, Reich would only chuckle cryptically, “You wouldn’t want to sprinkle any on your breakfast cereal.” According to him it saps our strength and makes us talk and act like Don Knotts, and sometimes even buy bumper stickers that say “Fishermen Do It After Tying Up Their Loved Ones With High-Test Fish Line.”

Reich had an eye for spotting orgone clouds, though glasses later corrected it so he would see only a banana cream pie hovering safely out of reach. When he spied one (a cloud, not a pie) he’d attack it with a device of his own making called a cloud-buster, which looked like a menage a trois between a heating pipe, a Slinky toy and one of those tinfoil tuxedoes Liberace used to wear. Invariably, when fired upon, the cloud would always disperse or drift away, and the final score was always Humanity: 1, Saucer Men: 0.

If only all visionaries were as harmless.

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The Ballad Of Bigfoot
(Hidden In Rudyard Kipling’s Desk By Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

By:

 

The name’s Dan O’Brien and I won’t be lyin’

If I say I’ve seen a thing or two.

I’ve sailed more than most from coast to coast,

From the China Sea to Timbuktu.
 

I’ve braved many a gale on back of a whale,

Sent many a fool to Davy’s Locker;

Cut sails from the gizzards o’ giant lizards

And still I ain’t ready for a rocker.

 

I’ve kissed native girls with coral for curls

And bodies like burnished ivory.

Then after my pleasures I plunder their treasures

With whiskey and wiles and connivery.

 

I take their gold to have and to hold

And leave ’em to sob in their huts.

I’ve nothin’ to do with ’em when I’m through with ’em —

The Devil take the heathen sluts!

 

But in all the years passed before the mast

I never yet knew a creature

As could make me squeal or turn on my heel

And holler for a preacher,

 

Unless you’re exceptin’ that beast of deception

With a smell like pickled pig’s foot,

That hairy mound who howled like a hound

The fearful name o’ — Bigfoot!

 

My leaking bark was the Crippled Shark,

My crew was two score and ten;

Recruited from middens and debtors’ prisons

To a man they were desperate men.

 

We hoisted our ales and lowered the sails

And pointed her into the sun,

Then to celebrate this affair of state

Fired the cook from the forward gun.

 

The sea was clear as a maiden’s mirror,

The sky was blue as a vein;

We were three days south when the weather gave out

And began the cursed rain.

 

It hailed cats and dogs and poisonous frogs

Till we thought we were Noah’s Ark.

Then the mainmast split when the lightning spit

And crippled the Crippled Shark.


We were tossed and torn around the Horn,

All the while the deck was burning,

But I swore allegiance to the regions

From which there’s no returning.

 

When the hurricane ceased and gave us peace

We all of us made crosses,

Then dropped a rope near the Cape o’ No Hope

To ascertain our losses:

 

One bosun burned, or so I learned

When I breathed in half his ashes;

The first mate hid ‘neath a lifeboat lid

Till I gave him forty lashes.

 

The cabin boy had been thrown like a toy

Behind the fo’c’s’le ladder

And there he stayed while the thunder played

And he lost control of his bladder.

 

“Press on!” says I. “We’ll do or we’ll die,

And woe to them that disobey.

The first to utter a cowardly mutter

Will be the first to lose his toupee!”

 

Though my crew of fifty were yellow and shifty

And wouldn’t stand my scrutiny,

I settled their hash with musket and lash

Till they planned a murderous mutiny.

 

They brought me a broth of boiled sloth

To make me sleep like a gypsy;

Then the second mate took a silver plate

And bashed me until I was tipsy.

 

They set me adrift in a scurvy skiff

With my noggin nailed to the floor

And said, “Roses are red, but dead is dead

And we’ll never see you no more.”

 

The tropical air baked me medium rare,

To the four winds I was a slave;

And while I was waitin’ I prayed to Satan

To take my crew to the grave.

 

For days without number I had no slumber

Nor food, nor drink to tide me by,

And should things get dull a passing gull

Would make a pass at my one good eye.

 

By luck at last my bones were cast

Upon a sharp and slimy beach

Where on the sand a moth-eaten band

Of monkeys gabbled, each to each.

 

Monstrous they were with matted fur,

Faces smiling like open sores;

Such was their stench that it gave me a wrench:

“Touch me not or you’re damned!” I roars.

 

But worst of all, though their heads were small

And fit like nuts for cracking,

Their feet were the size of Victoria’s thighs —

No use to try attacking.

 

Odoriferous, Lord! And vociferous

They stammered and stank all about me,

Then tried to unmind me by pointing behind me

When one of ’em made to clout me.

 

‘Twas my belief that she was their chief

(If such could be anointed);

Each toe was big as a suckling pig

And her tiny skull was pointed.

 

In midair she stopped, to her knees she dropped

And kissed my offended fingers.

I’ve since washed and washed at a fatal cost

Yet still the smell of her lingers.

 

“In short,” she queried, “would you be married?

And if you’re not, are you looking?

Unless you’re my beau, your carcass we’ll throw

Into that pot a-cooking.”

 

She showed me a stew where my traitorous crew

Were turned into appetizers.

My men, once vicious, were now delicious

And none of them the wiser.

 

“In every port,” I says in retort,

“I’ve got a gal I call my wife

And more’s the pity ’cause they’re all pretty

With looks not like to shorten my life.

 

“In any event your lovely scent

Leaves something to be desired.

I’d sooner be buried than getting married

To an animal that’s expired!”

 

At this she rears and covers her ears

And screams to have me skewered.

Though few the men within her ken

She seems to want one fewer.

 

But I offers my knee completely free

To her dainty knob of a nose;

Then as if by chance I dances a dance

On all twelve of her swollen toes.

 

And before the twits could gather their wits

I parted ’em like the ocean

And rendered ‘em gutless with dagger and cutlass

To prove my undying devotion.

 

Without looking back I beat a track

To the brink of the Devil’s waters

And diving headfirst I swore a curse

On Darwin and all his daughters.

 

It was sink or swim and by God’s whim

I sunk straight down to the bottom

Where my bones were sweet with delicate meat

For all the sharks that got ’em.

 

When next I awoke I was coughing up smoke

And tied to a bed o’ fire;

The name’s Dan O’Brien and now I’m lyin’

Where everyone’s a liar.

 

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Boneheads

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September 14 — Africa at last! After weeks of preparation and days of nausea aboard rickety twin-engine prop planes and even more rickety Jeeps, we reached the famed Olduvai Gorge where some of the earliest known human remains have been discovered. My excitement at arriving was tempered by the realization that Professor Donaldson is here also, seeking evidence for his asinine theory that the earliest humans possessed the secret of sheer pantyhose. To my colleague Dr. Rollo and myself, on the other hand, it is apparent that the first humanoids perished precisely because of the lack of proper leggings. Professor Donaldson crashed our arrival celebration and argued his point by giving a disgustingly graphic demonstration of what early man might have looked like in nylons. Meanwhile, I had our cook fill his pith helmet with dung beetles. When he put it back on the beetles believed they had found a mother lode of their favorite food and attacked his bald cranium savagely. He ran off screaming, but I fear we haven’t seen the last of him.

September 16 — A good day. After scrabbling in the dust of Olduvai for nearly 11 hours and finding nothing besides an Oh Henry! wrapper dating from approximately the mid-1970s, I suddenly came upon part of a humanoid tibia. I haven’t properly dated it yet, but my initial guess is that it is at least four million years old. If not, then it may be part of the remains of our driver, who was pecked to death by hummingbirds two days ago — a brutal ordeal lasting almost 24 hours (the African hummingbird is somewhat larger and meaner than its North American cousin). Either way, it is a significant find. I celebrated by sharing a bottle of champagne with our crew. They were rather subdued until Dr. Rollo stepped on a scorpion and started doing a fair imitation of the local fire dance. This put the men in jolly spirits for the remainder of the night, and we all went to bed with smiles on our faces.

September 17 — Professor Donaldson snuck past the native guards and into our camp once again, spoiling an otherwise pleasant breakfast of ostrich eggs and python strips. Somehow word of yesterday’s find had already leaked out, and of course he had to come sniffing around, the meddling fool. I showed it to him nonetheless and asked his professional opinion out of courtesy more than anything else. He snorted and said that, far from being four million years old and humanoid, it appeared to him to be four weeks old and canine. He then offered to trade me his recent “find” for it: a soft, pliable bone with bits of flesh still attached, which he claimed was from a perfectly preserved pterodactyl, though he could not explain how he came to be carrying it in a Kentucky Fried Chicken box. I declined his offer and had our headman Yobi show him the fast route to the bottom of the gorge — the one with the missing rung on the rope ladder. Hopefully he won’t trouble us again.

September 18 — Today I began serious work on the ancient tibia fragment. My first attempt at carbon dating was disappointing, giving a result of less than 100 years. But assuming a modest margin of error of only 99.99 percent, this could be interpreted as supporting my hypothesis. I would guess this specimen to be a female — call her “Louise” — because of her coyness about her exact age. In size and general appearance she no doubt resembled Danny DeVito, although she didn’t shave as often and almost certainly never starred in any major Hollywood productions. Her diet probably consisted of whatever insects flew into her open mouth. Fake fur was not an option, so she wrapped herself in real animal skins. Her embarrassment at this faux pas would explain why she spent her days hiding in caves — either that or the lack of a reliable sun block and skin moisturizer.

September 20 — Another amazing discovery! At the bottom of Olduvai this morning I uncovered a nearly complete male skeleton from the same species as Louise. Because I found it near Professor Donaldson’s discarded hat and shoes, I think it only fair that, despite our professional differences, I name it after him: Homo habilis donis. Like Louise, this proto-man had a cranial capacity roughly half the modern average. I’m sure if he were alive today he’d be either a teamster or a human resources manager. What’s more, I feel certain that “Donnie” (as I already affectionately refer to him) lacked the power of speech. Most likely in a conversation he was the one nodding his head and going, “Mmm-hmm.” He probably communicated by a complex series of grunts, gestures and whistles, not unlike English soccer fans.

September 23 — The local police have arrested me, either for the murder of Professor Donaldson or for littering, depending on how their analysis of the recently discovered humanoid skeleton turns out. The fools! They can imprison my body but not my mind. While awaiting trial in their hastily assembled kangaroo court (the kangaroos are being flown in overnight from Australia via FedEx), I began excavating my cell. My cellmates soon joined in, but lacking a spirit of scientific inquiry they preferred to tunnel sideways rather than down, using my head as a combination battering ram-shovel. Within a few hours they made good their escape, leaving me no worse for wear except that my neck has disappeared and I cannot stop saying, “Welcome to McDonald’s, may I take your order please?” Yes, the end is near. I can feel my life force ebbing away from me. Or possibly it is just saliva leaking out of a mouth that no longer closes properly. My final act, once I make this last diary entry with my remaining good arm, will be to arrange my limbs so that they will create a positive first impression when some paleontologist from the future digs me up. If there’s anything I hate it’s a messy excavation site.

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1040M

By:

1040M U.S. Individual Mafioso Tax Return 2002

Label

Use the IRS label. Otherwise, please print or type, or at least let Luigi in accounting forge it for you.

Your first name and initial

Last name

Official nickname

Home address

No, your real home address

City, state, and ZIP code

Pool room where you can normally be reached

If a joint return, mistress’s first name and initial

Last name

Illegal campaign contribution

Do you want $10,000 to go to this fund? Yes_____ No_____

Note: Checking “Yes” will not shorten any currently pending prison sentences.

Filing Status

Check only one box.

1 Single

2 Married filing joint return (even if spouse is now part of patio or swimming pool)

3 Married filing separate return (spouse is nominal head of separate dummy corporation)

4 Head or member of extended criminal family. (See page 10.)

5 Qualifying widow(er). (Spouse died of natural causes.)

Exemptions

If more than six imaginary dependents, see page 10.

6a Yourself. If your godfather (or someone else) can claim you as a dependent on his or her return — hey, that’s OK, too

b Guard dog

c Dependents

(1) First name

Nickname

Last name

(2) Dependent’s relationship to you (e.g., “lousy no-good nephew who should be drowned in a vat of acid before he can squeal to the grand jury again”)

d Total number of exemptions claimed

e Total number of exemptions you actually hope to get away with

Income

Attach Copy B of your Forms W-2, W-2G, and 1099-R here, along with any gambling IOUs you have a reasonable chance of collecting on.

If you did not get a W-2, see page 12.

If you want us to think you didn’t get a W-2, see page 13.

If you got a W-2 from a fictitious construction company, see page 14.

If your W-2 is illegible due to liquor, blood or other stains, see page 15.

Enclose but do not attach any payment.

Note: Casino chips are not U.S. currency.

7 Wages, salaries, horse-racing tips, etc. Attach Form(s) W-2

8 Loan-shark interest

9 Alimony check returned uncashed due to sudden accidental death of ex-spouse

10 Total goodwill distributions to the IRA

11 Cannabis-farm income or (loss). Attach Schedule F

12 Other income. List type, amount, and federal statute broken

13 Add the amounts in the far right column for lines 7 through 12. This is your total income

Adjusted Gross Income

14 Moving expenses. Note: Transporting bodies or body parts across state lines is an itemized deduction, not a moving expense. Use Schedule A

15 Health-insurance deduction. Include any protection money paid here

16 Add lines 14 and 15

17 Subtract line 16 from line 13. This is your adjusted gross income

Tax Computation

If you want the IRS to figure your tax, see page 18.

If you want the IRS to figure your jail sentence, see page 19.

18 Check if: _____You were 65 or older _____Blind _____Honest I didn’t see anything Dominick I swear oh God please don’t shoot no no no no no. Add the number of boxes checked above and enter the total here.

19 Subtract line 18 from line 17

20 If line 19 is $30,900 or less, go back to Mr. Alonzo in Queens, grab him by the ankles and shake him upside down vigorously until more loose change falls from his pockets

21 Taxable income. Subtract line 20 from line 19

22 Tax

Credits

Multiply $2000 by total number of years you spent on Rikers Island.

Other Taxes

23 Alternative under-the-counter minimum tax. Attach bribe to Form 6251

24 Social security and Medicare tax on tip income not reported to employer. Attach Form 4137

25 Subtract Medicare payments for injuries inflicted by employer upon learning about unreported income

26 Add lines 23 through 25. This is your total tax

Payments

27 Federal income tax withheld

28 2002 estimated payments to circuit-court judge

29 Payment of excessive interest to Vinny

30 Add lines 27, 28, and 29. This is your total payment

Refund

Don’t even think about it.

Amount You Owe

That’s more like it.

30 If line 25 is more than line 29, subtract line 29 from line 25. This is the AMOUNT YOU OWE. For details on how to pay, be at the Rt. 73 overpass next Tuesday at midnight

Sign Here

Do not under any circumstances keep a copy of this return, and better make sure Ricardo doesn’t have one, either.

Under penalty of perjury, I hereby invoke my constitutional privilege not to incriminate myself.

Your signature

Date

Your cover occupation

Paid Informer’s Use Only

Informer’s signature

Date

Next of kin

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