* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where the only dot we've had any personal experience with was Purple Microdot. That has absolutely nothing to do with this week's piece by Michael Fowler, except that dropping some Purple Microdot right before reading might make it better. Purple Microdot makes everything better. After reading, see our blogroll on the right for a link to buy Michael's book, God Made the Animals.

I Can’t Connect Dots

By:
mfowl4916@gmail.com

My problem with dots was bad all through high school. At prom my date asked me, in a gentle tone and batting her eyes, if I minded if she went and sat with friends. I said, diggety, she sure is polite, and told her to go ahead. She wanted to see her friends, nothing wrong with that. It didn’t dawn on me, not until 12 years had passed and I was a deteriorated 30, that she had ditched me because I was a farm boy with no conversation who wore overalls to prom and smelled like chicken feed and russet potatoes. On top of that, I talked out loud to myself and used words like “diggety” as rural equivalents for urban curse words. After all those years the truth of the situation bore down on me like a crushing weight. I went from thinking highly of my date, for her good manners and consideration for me, to the overwhelming feeling that she had cut out my beating heart with her nail file and stomped it flat in her low heels. I said, doggety, I am such a sack of it.

Another time in high school when I failed to connect the dots was at graduation. My guidance counselor asked me if I’d enjoy working in a hardware store for a career. I said, daggety, I sure want to be a research scientist, but my counselor appreciates my entrepreneurial abilities and skill with tools, so maybe I should take his advice. And I beamed with eagerness. Only years later, when I actually was working in a hardware store and hating it, did I realize that my counselor had encouraged many of my classmates to go on to medical and law school, and written glowing letters of recommendation for them, but clearly thought I was a dunce destined to walk around with nails and screws bulging my pockets and a pen stuck behind one ear. I did manage to get into a community college later on and study organic chemistry and quantum mechanics, but what a cheap shot from a small-time school board employee who probably made less than 20 dollars an hour and didn’t even ask me about my interest in science. And I hadn’t called him out! I said, who has chaff for brains? Dumbhead me, that’s who.

Working my way through college, I took a position in a large bank—take that, guidance counselor! More specifically, one morning at the start of business I was applying Windex to the glass door of the bank building I worked in, thinking how nice it would be to be on the bank’s payroll instead of a cleaning company’s. A great-looking woman came walking in the door and I stared fixedly at her through the glass. She let out a weary sigh as she passed me by, and I said, the poor babe has to get up early in the morning and work as a capitalist in a bank. It wasn’t until 15 years later, when I had my doctorate in chemistry and had quit the bank job and was already bald and diabetic, that I understood that maybe, in fact certainly, her sigh had been because of my lecherous leer and not the earliness of the hour. Despite the great passage of time, shame overcame me and I blushed furiously. What an insensitive creep I was to have looked at her like that, with boneration distending my pelvic region and all! I said, if only she had slapped me hard in the face, even a simple chem student and cleaning staff member who still spread manure and dug carrots by hand on occasion would have gotten the message. I am such a crud, I said.

Maybe this has happened to you. One time at a company where I determined safe bacteria levels for frozen pizza someone committed murder, and the police detective assigned to the case called it a “locked room” mystery. I said, whoa horsie, this is like Murder, She Wrote. And I tried to think the plot through. Here’s what I knew for sure: it could only have been me or four other people, since no one else was on the scene. Well, I knew I hadn’t done it. My memory is bad, but not so bad that I’d forget if I committed a murder on the day in question, and I recalled clearly that all I’d done was handle a couple hundred pounds of toxic cheese. And I knew it couldn’t have been Jack, since I’d had my eye on him all that day, giving him an alibi. And it couldn’t have been Ted, because he had the roast beef sandwich with mustard for lunch, and used the blue cream dispenser, and got a phone call right at 2 p.m. And it couldn’t have been Sally, since she had the chicken salad and only used barbecue sauce, and her car was in the shop, and she never added cream to her tea. That left Allan, and if I’d realized at the time that he was the killer, I could have spared the police six months of intensive interviews and searching for evidence and DNA testing. But the dots didn’t line up for me until the police had already proved Allan guilty, even though I suspected him all along because of what he said about me at the holiday party.

A final example of how dots continue to bewilderate the holy goo out of me. My current job is with a company that produces genetically modified vegetables for households and school cafeterias. One day I took my vegetable processor, which is essentially a gene splicer that emits radiation, to the house shop for repair, since it was leaking hazardous material everywhere and giving me terrible electric shocks. When he handed it back in an hour, I asked the tech what the problem had been. He told me it was a fault in the circuits. I walked out of the shop, my processor under my arm, fully satisfied. I felt I’d gotten specificity, and that the tech had taken me to the root of the issue. But then something odd happened. Amazingly, for once in my life I could see the dots connect, and it hadn’t taken me years upon years. The whole vegetable processor was nothing but circuits, plus some unsafe nuclear material, and the tech was cracking wise. His diagnosis of a fault in the circuits was like my plumber telling me I had a fault in my water pipes, or my doctor saying there was a snafu in my organs. There was no specificity at all. And I had fallen for it, letting the tech have his joke.

I said, scorch my biscuits, I’ll always be a doofus with dots…if again you’ll pardon my rusticacious fill-ins for trendy big-time invective.

 

Share
* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we believe the demented have rights too -- just not quite the same rights as the rest of us. When you've finished perusing this newest nonsense from Michael Fowler, check our blogroll on the right for a link to his book, God Made the Animals.

I Hold Myself To A High Standard Of Dementia

By:
mfowl4916@gmail.com

My dad and I were visiting a bunch of old codgers in the solarium at their rest home. Some of them wore hospital gowns and others outdated clothes such as polyester slacks with suspenders and knee socks. One wore a pressure stocking on his leg. Another had a small bandage taped high up on his forehead. They were talking about the meaning John Denver had brought to their lives.

“For me it was certain far-out parameters that occurred along with, I don’t know, a joyful and innocuous meaningful state that for me defined a new era grounded in, what I mean is, openness and acceptance and a commitment to all living — uh, life,” said Bob, who had only shaved one side of his face that morning. I think his name was Bob, but don’t quote me. “That captured the era, you know, for those of us determined not to leave on any military vehicle, ship, or plane on our Rocky Mountain high,” Bob concluded.

“For me,” said I think Ted, who had managed to get the belt of his bathrobe caught in his wheelchair spokes so that he couldn’t roll forward or backward without squeezing the breath out of himself, “it was the time of our new age with granny glasses, the dawning or awakening of the senses within the cosmos — I’m coming to a stairway here — when the touch of a six-string guitar was all we needed to fly like an eagle. Still, I never made it out of Cleveland.”

“Lots of good hiking along the Cuyahoga River,” said a third. I couldn’t even guess his name, but he wasn’t allowed to drink anything caffeinated since that would launch heart palpitations.

“You know who I like?” said Seth, definitely Seth, who was scheduled to die that morning, in a few minutes in fact. “I don’t know why I like her as much as I do, but I do like her, I like her very much. You know who it is that I like so much? I just like her songs. I like very much the way she sings them. It is Carole King.” He then announced that he was ready for the euthanasia, and as a favor my dad pressed the nurse call button. It was none too soon, in my opinion, before they all started singing “I Feel the Earth Move.”

“Are you just giving up, then?” Burl asked Seth, badly missing the point, I’m afraid. I’m calling him Burl since he looked like Burl Ives, or Burl Ives after he’d been dead for a while.

The guys with the cameras and sound system came over. Seth was recording a farewell video to be sent to friends and family after his euthanasia. For personal reasons Seth had elected to die in the presence of his closest friends only. He didn’t mind having me and Dad there, although Dad had only visited him a couple of times before and this was my first visit, but he was afraid his family wouldn’t understand and would interfere with the proceedings. He was likely wrong about that. Dad, who had met them, told me his family was a bunch of idiots who failed to appreciate him — in fact, they regarded him as dregs. But neither of us spoke up about that.

“I’ve enjoyed my life,” said Seth, not without a dry catch in his voice.

“And we’ve enjoyed watching you live it,” said Burl. “Except for your recent acid reflux and vile temper.”

“But it’s time to go,” said Seth. “Time to skedaddle. Though I’m no ways tired.”

“Was it an easy decision?” my dad asked.

“Heck no,” said Seth. “I was looking forward to a few more years of restful mesothelioma. But then, unconsciously, without my being aware of it, I began to let go of life. The last days I was at home, I invited my neighbors to go through my garage and take whatever tools they wanted.”

“Whatever tools they wanted?” asked the man in the pressure stocking. The gimp could hardly believe his ears. “You might have let me know.”

“I didn’t know you then,” said Seth. “I only met you at the foot doctor here. And then what would you do with tools? You can’t even stand. But as I was saying, I let my neighbors choose from among my power mowers, leaf blowers, edgers, hedge trimmers, weed whackers, sprinklers, snowplows, bug zappers, gas grills and all the rest of that crap. Heck, it was like a Home Depot in there. But I no longer cared about any of it. My mind had made itself up. It was time to let material things go.”

“I would never allow myself to degenerate so far as to give up my tools,” said the man with the bandage on his cranium. “Your doctor should have put you out of your misery years ago.”

“Will you be transitioning to anything?” the cameraman asked Seth, stifling a yawn. “We have props to indicate several hereafters, including hunting rifles, roses, clouds, gold columns…”

“Of course he will,” said my dad. “There’s always a better life to come, isn’t there?”

“That’s heartening,” said the cameraman.

“I believe in a life after,” said Seth. “That’s the kind of roach clip I am. I want to sit on a cloudbank beside a mound of roses, singing John Denver tunes. Of course Carole King penned some worthy anthems too, and I might hum a few of those throughout eternity.”

“I want to be black, next go-around. I’ve thought it over carefully, and I want to come back as a black man.” That was Homer, who was already black. Good to know he was satisfied.

“What about a woman?” asked my dad.

“What about her?” asked Seth.

“I mean, why not come back as a woman, next time around?”

I was proud of my dad. He was a nonsexist reincarnationist, and probably an all-around equal opportunity one too. He wanted the reincarnated to represent a broad diversity of folks, or so I gathered. And he was proud enough of me to introduce me to his batty friends, even though not one of them reacted to my presence. At the same time I was worried about the old man. He was beginning to show his age and decrepitude, as was clear from the kind of people he was hanging out with. I also needed to let him know that there was no way I was letting him euthanize himself like Seth, and I wasn’t leaving him today until he understood that.

In a short time Seth lay on a gurney and absorbed his potion, Socrates-like only through an IV tube. As the film crew took down all our credit card numbers for advance orders of Seth’s farewell documentary, the nurse drew the sheet up over Seth’s face. Dad and I got up to leave as the elderly witnesses began to fall asleep in their seats.

“That was some exit,” said my dad, burning the hair off several knuckles with a glowing cigarette lighter as he sometimes did to ease tension. We were outside the rest home and in his car now, where he proceeded to light up a smoke. “Seth really did himself proud,” he added, starting the engine.

On the way back to his house, where I had left my car, Dad drove hideously. As he had on the way over, he ran through stop signs and sideswiped a couple of mailboxes that were set out close to the curb. He didn’t mention these alarming errors — didn’t seem aware of them, in fact. He held his head high, admiring his road skills, or what was left of them.

“Dad,” I said, “To be honest I hope you haven’t lined up anything like an assisted suicide for yourself LOOKOUT! Because I don’t approve of this euthanasia business for the able elderly WATCHWHEREYOU’REGOING! and as your son I’ll fight you on it MYGODSLOWDOWN! and WHYAREYOUSMOKINGANDDRIVING!?”

“If I ever become a bad driver, a real road hazard, you’ll tell me, won’t you?” he said, laughing his ass off. He narrowly missed smacking a parked car.

I considered this. It was clear that Dad held himself to a high standard of dementia, since he was practically begging me to keep him off the road, if I understood him correctly. I admired that, and promised myself that I would attain to the same high standard when my driving skills deteriorated and I became a road menace. I’d surrender my keys on the spot as soon as I saw that happening. But after all we’d been through today, I couldn’t bring myself to tell Dad that I’d never ride with him again under any circumstances, not if my life depended on it. Not yet.

“You’re not doing too bad,” I said.

“That’s why you keep screaming and curling up in a ball,” he cackled.

After he pulled into his drive, almost smashing the taillight of my parked car, he sat in the driver’s seat playing with the turn signal like a child with a toy.

“I’m going the distance,” he said after a minute. “Yea though I walk through the valley of baldness and hip replacements with countless hairline fractures and a prostate of stone, I won’t be checking out early.”

“Attaboy,” I said. “Of course you can reconsider if you start drooling on yourself and behaving like a potted plant. We both can reconsider.”

Then I demanded the car keys, and after stubbing out his cigarette he handed them over with hardly a word of protest, only bellowing in rage and thrashing about wildly while I literally tore them from his hands, which began bleeding. Then he grabbed them back from me and stuck them in his pants pocket, laughing like a maniac. I had to rip off the pocket, which came away with a great tearing sound, to get at them again. When I held them once more, securely this time, he only smiled contentedly and settled back in the car seat. This was the old geezer I admired and still wanted to be with, the one who was ageing gracefully and whose lofty dementia I would someday emulate.

Too bad I needed to make him bleed and ruin his pants to find him.

 

 

 

 

Share
* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we define full employment as doing this web site for free. When you're done reading this latest outrage from Michael Fowler, check our blogroll on the right for a link to his book, God Made the Animals.

Employment Can Strike Anyone

By:
mfowl4916@gmail.com

You think you’re safe now, living in your grandma’s basement and only having to mow her lawn and water her azaleas for rent. You’ve been able to devote your life to video games, sleep in past 2 p.m., and since the old bird is deaf and almost senseless, nothing stands in the way of your friends coming over to blast music and smoke substances throughout the day and night. But the warning signs are all around you — you’ve seen them on your trips outdoors: “Help Wanted,” “Apply Now,” “Asst Mgr Needed,” and perhaps the most ominous of all: “Start Today.” They give you a feeling in the pit of your stomach comparable to eating an extra-large bean burrito with sour cream. Yes, these not-so-subtle listings, these unwelcome solicitations, these signboard postings in garish block letters, are taunting you. Perhaps someone you know and thought reliable has succumbed to an “entry-level position” or attended an “interview” or “job fair,” and you think: could I be next?

The short answer is yes. The next victim of employment could well be you. Still you wonder, despite the signs, how can this be? With the economy flat or expanding with infinite slowness, with record numbers laid off or disabled and receiving aid to recover from work, with throngs in your age bracket still living at home, and many of those lacking marketable skills to start with, how do so many continue to fall prey to employment? What motivates them? How can they simply turn their backs on a life of leisure? And how vanishingly small are the odds that, once gainfully employed, they can find their way back to a rewarding, nonproductive life of earning nothing at all?

The first thing to know is that employment afflicts all ethnicities and all genders. It can strike the healthy and unhealthy, the old and the young. It usually doesn’t affect those in nursing homes or preschool, but even here there are exceptions. The rich and poor both work, the well-educated and the illiterate find jobs, the sane and the insane punch a time clock, those with two blue eyes and those with one blue eye and one green eye cash a paycheck. People work with their hands, their brains, and virtually any other body part. In brief, anyone may find himself or herself at the mercy of a blood-sucking vampire of an employer, just as Marx wrote.

To avoid the scourge of work, and a life spent in endless toil for starvation wages or an annual salary of up to six figures plus benefits and bonuses, it is above all important to know the right sort of people. Let’s say an invitation to your fifth high school reunion comes in the mail at Grandma’s house. That puts you, if you do the math, in your early 20s. You’ll have a chance to meet again those guys you almost flunked out with in eleventh grade, and finally did drop out of college with, many of whom, if they’re lucky, haven’t worked a day in their lives and still live in their childhood rooms, though sometimes they redecorate. Those are the lucky ones, the ones who have made it to full adulthood while avoiding both the shameful stigma and the physical and emotional trauma of work. You wouldn’t mind meeting them again, to gain their moral support, and to achieve insight in how to live off the largesse of caring family members, using guilt and pathetic pleas to secure major “loans.” In fact, you probably see them every day already, and it’s as if time has stood still for all of you. You’re all still chasing that perfect high, that peak of relaxation, and every man jack of them is due to arrive at Grandma’s house tonight at seven for video games and beer and more.

Not so lucky are your other high school pals, those who got fooled by the curveball the economy hurled their way. They succumbed to part- or even full-time employment, and will tell you all about it at the reunion dinner while you try to scarf the roast beef au jus and green salad without listening. At first they’ll appear normal to you, but after talking to them for a few minutes, you’ll pick up hints that their time is not always their own, that they have fallen into degrading and ruinous careers because, unlike fortunate freeloaders like you, they must now buy things and pay bills, and as a result are destitute. If they’re really far gone, they might even be married and have dependents who use food and clothing on a daily basis. You’ll shake your head in pity to hear it, as well you should.

But be wary. At first their comments will sound seductive. Bill, whom you’ve known since the fifth grade, will talk of reading the stock reports at night, and celebrating his capital gains with a fine cigar in his den while his wife polishes the Waterford crystal in the kitchen. Jeff, in your graduating class and like you a former member of marching band and chess club, now accumulates static electricity in an office and, when you mention that you’re between work projects, suggests that you come in and apply at his firm, where he can put in a word for you. Then before you know it you’ve taken a shower and shaved, purchased work boots, and signed on to drive a forklift for $15.00 an hour. A good steady job with benefits, and you rolled right into it like a sinkhole.

Sure, maybe you start part-time and think you can stop there. Maybe a Good Samaritan will intervene and give you a heads-up on the treacherous path before you. But before you know it you’re hooked on a 35-hour workweek like it was heroin and lolling in the gutter with a new title and a raise. After that you donate your video games to the Neediest Kids of All and even say goodbye to Granny. Worst of all, there’s no turning back, particularly if you land a gold-digging girlfriend, and is there any other kind?

Let this be a warning to you.

 

 

 

 

Share
* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are preparing to celebrate the fun and the folly of this little thing called democracy. Meanwhile, our good friend Michael Fowler is preparing for the worst -- which comes to pretty much the same thing. When you've finished reading his latest bit of hilarity, be sure to check our blogroll on the right for a link to his book, God Made the Animals.

If Trump Wins, I’m Moving To The Sticks

By:
mfowl4916@gmail.com

If Trump is elected this year, I’m moving to the sticks. Goodbye big city, hello boondocks. I’ll be looking for a town so tiny and moribund that not even the Donald can degrade it more.

I’m thinking something I can afford, say a river town with shanties, probably in the Midwest where I’m from. There are plenty of tiny burgs along the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers, for example, with populations of no more than 1500 where I can hole up and ride out the heinous Trump administration. I’ll sit on my wooden front porch, rotten and warped as it may be, and watch the river roll by, holding my head in my hands. “It’s not our country anymore,” I’ll say to my dog Colin, as he lies motionlessly, almost breathlessly, at my feet. “I don’t know who it belongs to now.”

Of course I’d prefer fancier surroundings. The city apartment I have now isn’t bad at all, near my work and lots of nightlife. But I don’t have the funds to follow Whoopi and Babs to Spain or Portugal or whatever beautiful European coastal regions stars like that’ll be going to, to avoid Trump’s wrath. I wish I could go with them, but I can barely afford the airfare. They won’t miss me, of course, and I’ll do my best not to miss them, though it will be hard. They’re my kind of folks.

The town I choose, whatever it’s called, will likely be dying former ironworkers or coal miners and their tubercular wives, abandoned by the global economy and by their grown children. Or dirt-poor farmers too proud to accept ethanol subsidies. Not much affluence, not much hope, lots of drugs. I’m 31 and in good health, and Colin and I have many long days left to plant ourselves on that porch on Main Street, the ramshackle one I envision, hopefully down by the river, about three blocks from the shuttered mill or rusted foundry where everyone used to work. I’ll wave a somber hello to those who, like me, have escaped Trump’s mania, and we’ll exchange hushed greetings at the Dollar Store. We’ll all smile timidly into our plates at the Sunday spaghetti supper. There’s no question of the town becoming great again; it can’t. Its greatest claim to fame is being home to the first concrete street in America, built in 1935, or a cannonball factory that bolted its doors in 1865, or some such historical glitz. It will never reach that height again, with or without our mad new president.

I’ve never lived in a small town, and it surprises even me that I’m planning to transfer to one now. But it’ll bring back memories nonetheless. My parents used to take the family to a dump like the one I’m thinking of back when my sister and I were kids; that’s probably what makes me think of living in the boonies now. The town we visited was never what you’d call great, either, and I forget the name of it: just some hamlet off Interstate 75 in northern Ohio. We visited the dime store and a burger joint — Sookies’s, I think; great burgers — where we went for lunch when we couldn’t stand another meal in our kitchen. But what were we doing there in the first place? Why the hell would my family travel to such a benighted backwater? Oh, now I remember! We were visiting a lake a few miles away and were taking a break from our waterfront cottage with its cramped quarters and spiders and no TV. We were driven to the town by pure boredom.

Not that there was nothing going on at the lake. There was an amusement park alongside a marina and — I’ll never forget — a shop where you could buy donuts at all hours except at night. The donuts were made out of special ingredients but I forget what. There was also an area on the lakefront where you could jump on a trampoline and a pizza place with a pinball machine. Man, the memories. One thing I remember clearly, and ha! — it’s a funny story too. When my sister and I visited the lake years ago, we used to get so bored sitting in our cottage that she would threaten to shave her head if our parents didn’t take us home immediately. And I’d stick gum in my hair just to pull it out. Yet the entire family looked forward to going back to this horrible lake every year.

I have no intention of going back to the lake during Trump’s reign of terror, though. I’ve heard it’s completely changed now after 20 years anyway, and not for the better, with the amusement park closed and biker gangs trolling all the restaurants. Even the cottages have folded for good. The lake will never be great again. So there’s no question of my living there, and I’m just going to have to rent an apartment or lease a shanty in a small river town, as I said, and also get a new job, thanks to Trump. The job part is kind of frightening, since I don’t think anyone in the kind of town I’m looking at has worked in decades. Still, I’m reasonably optimistic. Something always turns up in my field of abstract art sales.

If I want nightlife or excitement I can hop in my car and the drive fifty or so miles to the city. But I’m thinking I’ll be selling the car and pretty much staying indoors around the calendar. Just me and Colin and the damp walls. How does the song go? “Hello, wall. It’s me again.” Maybe a line about a porch, too.

At night I’ll turn on a little blue light in my front window to let folks know I still have hope. Folks on the river will see it and understand. It may not be the life Jon and Cher and the in-crowd will lead in France or Italy when Trump wins, but I’ll get by.

Then after Trump serves out his final term or is impeached, I’ll fly to Paris for the international celebration.

Share
* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are celebrating the second half of a monumental literary event known as Michael Fowler Fortnight -- two weeks of one of our favorite humorists. This week Mr. Fowler takes on an amazing new development in senior care, or possibly a new form of elder abuse, depending on your view of England and those who love her. When you've finished perusing his latest laugh riot, be sure to check our blogroll on the right for a link to his book, God Made the Animals.

Visiting Anglophiles

By:
mfowl4916@gmail.com

You’re worried about your dad. He’s at home — your home until other arrangements can be made — and some days he seems lost and confused, often turning the stove on right before he locks himself out of the house. On top of that, when asked whether the English or the Germans have the superior music culture, your dad’s response is listless and not very pro-English. What to do?

We at Visiting Anglophiles will have a knowledgeable caregiver by your dad’s side within 48 hours to assess his health concerns, ensure his home is senior-proof, and impress upon him that, song-by-song, England’s Rolling Stones outperform Germany’s Scorpions even if Klaus Meine does rock.

Betty, age 87, can comb her hair, prepare lunch, and even bathe herself. But the native Kentuckian doesn’t always pay close attention to the doings of the British Royal Family. The fashion sense of Princess Kate is a muddle to her, and the climatological insights of Prince Charles go right over her head. This can be embarrassing when she has company over for high tea, and to make matters worse, she calls digestives “cookies.”

Our Visiting Anglophile will administer a dementia test to Betty, asking her to repeat three common words from memory, such as “loo,” “peckish” and “Brexit.” Then Betty will draw the face of a clock with the hands at 3. She receives extra points toward lucidity if she draws Big Ben, the clock tower built in London in 1859 and today a prominent symbol of the great nation of England.

Why a Visiting Anglophile?

You recognize that the English do everything best, and that a Visiting Anglophile is like a Supernanny for geriatrics. Under the tutelage of a Visiting Anglophile, your aging parent or relative will acquire the look and even sound of an English peer, while you stand in the background happy as a king. Please note that we are not that other elder care agency with a similar sounding name, Visiting Angels. We are Anglophiles, not angels. Angels may care about everybody, but we Anglophiles care about the English and enforcing a strictly English way of life — always in your elder’s best interests, of course.

Meet One of Our Anglophiles

Samantha, born in England 57 years ago and the proud possessor of an English peaches-and-cream complexion, is well up on both Medicare billing and English pub fare. Does your aged mother prefer a light breakfast? Not anymore, as Samantha will introduce her to the “fry-up,” a series of hearty meats that the English adore for their first meal of the day. Does your dear mother like a foaming glass of cold beer with dinner? She’ll soon prefer a nearly noncarbonated pint of rather warm bitter, which is Samantha’s favorite as well. Mom, in her unenlightened phase, may fear the bitter was drained from her goldfish aquarium, but will find that it tastes much better and is eventually habit-forming once she adjusts to that corrosive aftertaste.

A Word about Falling

What many elderly and their families fear most, not without reason, is a fall, after which the victim may lie helplessly in pain until discovered. Statistics show that fully half of American citizens over the age of 75 will suffer a painful fall in their lives. But if you’re concerned that something like that could happen to your elderly parent, you may be reassured to know that the wonderful BBC television series Downton Abbey, set in Edwardian England, is now shown throughout the United States on local stations. Actress Dame Maggie Smith takes a role in the show, and isn’t that a great title for a lady — Dame? It’s English, you know.

A Word about Solicitors and Scams

Here at Visiting Anglophiles we are ever on the alert to protect your elder from uninvited solicitors and phone scammers. These unscrupulous dealers may want to sell your mother or father a security system or an emergency call button that is quite unneeded. At Visiting Anglophiles, we believe in having an Anglophile on the scene before any emergency occurs, in particular an Anglophile who is licensed to offer your parent the complete box set of Downton Abbey DVDs — that’s eight full seasons — in case her local TV provider doesn’t subscribe to the broadcast. These beautifully packaged discs are ready to be shipped to America for the low price of $59.95 per season, shipping extra. Yes, we accept dollars!

A Word about Sex after 75

Visiting Anglophiles is pleased to sponsor a nine-day bus tour of England, beginning in England’s capital. From an open-top bus, your mum or dad will view all the famous sites in London, and then it’s off for golfing on the coast, a castle sleepover, a pub crawl, and those big stones at Stonehenge. Here at Visiting Anglophiles we can arrange for even the most enfeebled American tourist and her breathing apparatus to enjoy this exciting trip. The climax of the journey? Undoubtedly the night at Stratford-upon-Avon, where a naughty few will choose to see our special live production of Anne Hathaway’s Cottage: After Hours, for very adults only.

A Reminder about Dementia

Nothing is more tragic than your parent forgetting the names of those nearest and dearest to him or her, or that Henry the Fifth was also called Hal, or misplacing her passport and credit card when packing for our nine-day bus tour. A Visiting Anglophile will be present every step of the way to be sure that these oversights don’t throw a spanner into Mom or Dad’s well-deserved vacation.

A Final Word about Sex after 75

We don’t know what Anne Hathaway looked like, but as the wife of William Shakespeare, the world’s greatest playwright, she must have had a tidy pair of ankles and a pert bosom, at the very least. We can say with assurance that a man like Shakespeare, with his intimate knowledge of Cleopatra and Juliet, would have settled for nothing less. The mere thought of Anne Hathaway’s cottage and its contents, especially the “second best bed” mentioned in Shakespeare’s will, is arousing to many seniors. They love to speculate about what went on in that bed when the playwright was in town, and also when he wasn’t, until Anne died in 1623, likely from the plague.

Our special DVD, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage: After Hours, filmed on location right in Mrs. Shakespeare’s cottage by Visiting Anglophiles Productions, is now available for $49.95, shipping extra. Note: Be sure to specify the After Hours edition, or you may receive the scholastic version of Anne Hathaway’s Cottage that we send to libraries in Iowa. We want you to receive the titillating film we made with very adults in mind.

A Few Testimonials to our Services

“Your DVD Anne Hathaway’s Cottage: After Hours really steamed my cataracts.”

“What I liked best were the accents. And the buns on Shakespeare’s daughter.”

“We love that big Irish nurse you guys sent over who makes Mom take her pills with hardly any screaming.”

“Juanita is fluent in both English and the Spanish my dad pretends he learned in college. And he loves her bangers and mash.”

 

 

Share
* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where solving little family squabbles is sort of a sideline for us. And for Michael Fowler. Incidentally, this week marks the first half of what we like to call Michael Fowler Fortnight. Come back next week for another dose of Mr. Fowler. When you've finished reading his latest piece, do check our blogroll on the right for a link to his book, God Made the Animals.

Hey Brother And Sister, Mom’s Will Is Grossly Unfair To Me

By:
mfowl4916@gmail.com

Listen Up Sibs,

The cruel document I received in the mail that supposedly is Mom’s final will has my head in a spin, and I’m sending this note to the two of you to let you know how cheated I feel. I’d phone or come around in person, except as you know my jail time for expectorating in a government building after repeated warnings lasts another two weeks. I do thank you and your pals at probate court for keeping me in the loop Momwise, but hear me out.

I understand Mark is the executor. Mom always doted on her legitimate son much more than on me, and on Mark more than Tina, and the dad you guys shared was the one stud our old slut of a mother had a financially rewarding relationship with. Brendon had a job and a bank account, unlike my dad, who simply joined Mom for a margarita or two and then a wild night at the Green Roof Inn, Hour Rates, 59 years ago, back when she had a pulse.

Blood is thicker than margaritas, I get that, but don’t forget I’ve got as much of our mother’s DNA in my genome as either of you. And dealing me out of any appreciable inheritance is about as fair as the way Mom treated my dad Al at the end. I mean his end. You may recall she wouldn’t let him pitch his tent on her lawn when he turned up out of the blue a while back and then refused to tide him over during his extended battle with demon rum, forcing him to live under a bridge on I-75 South near Cincinnati. When they found him late in the summer, he was indistinguishable from road kill.

So now everyone wants to deny me all sustenance too? Are the sins of the father to be visited upon the son? Well, based on my impression of your dad, the aforementioned Brendon, our mother probably had more fun on the night she made me than in all the 20 years she had to put up with that insufferable stuffed shirt before his cancer made him even grimmer, and then dead. You know what he said to me once, at that grill-out I came to on their 19th anniversary or whenever the last time I saw you two together was? The one where I had to put up with those kids of Tina’s whose names I didn’t know and who obviously needed medication for behavioral issues, since they treated my Ford convertible like a latrine? Brendon-Boy handed me a beer, and then told me he’d once hired Al to paint his fence for 20 dollars, and to show his gratitude Dad stole his wristwatch. Then he got upset when I laughed and told him Dad never overlooked life’s freebies. What did he expect me to do, pay for the watch? It was one of those periods I wasn’t even working.

Well it looks like I’m paying for it now. Mark and Tina get the entire house and property and all Mom’s possessions per stirpes and in equal shares, as the will states in plain English, and if there’s any money left over after Mom’s bills and debts are satisfied, I get all of $100 cash and the lawnmower I sometimes used to mow Mom’s yard. I guess the idea is, I can go on mowing Mark’s grass while he continues to live there, as he has rent-free for the last five decades. Mark also gets my stepdad’s shotguns and cars, never mind that I don’t have a lethal weapon to my name, and my car is that same old convertible Tina’s kids threw up and peed in after eating and drinking too much crap all those years ago.

The final insult, of course, is that if and when Mark does sell the place, you two, my fine and fair-minded sibs, split the proceeds equally, and I’m left out in the cold. And I suppose you think that’s fair. True, Mark took care of Mom till the ugly end with adult diapers and awkward sponge baths and whatnot, never being man enough to move out and let the hospice care tend to the maternal relic. And Mom and I had always fought. She never forgave me the time I heaved a pound of frozen hamburger at her when she refused me a loan, and hit that precious porcelain bird she kept in her living room. Or the time I filled the house with thick smoke trying to burn that dead raccoon out of her chimney and sent her to the ER with coughing. After those fiascos, I pretty much left her alone.

But Tina ignored her as much as I did. You have to admit, Sister dear, you didn’t come within a mile of her if you could help it. You never took her shopping, never went out with her for a meal, because you were afraid she’d start fondling total strangers, the way she did in her final years, and smile too broadly at minorities. Yeah, Mark told me all. His gossip was the only payment I got for cutting the yard. And when you did show up, Sis, it was to borrow money from the old broad that you never paid back. At least she gave you a few bucks now and then, which she never did me, not without raking me over the coals first.

I know how you all felt about me, of course. If I had a dollar for every time I heard you guys repeat after Mom “Like father like son,” or for every time I blew a job interview because my breath caught on fire, I wouldn’t need the Roth IRA I don’t own. But come on. I’m still your brother, your half-brother, anyway. And I’m not asking for you to split the sale of the property with me when Mark unloads it. Likely it’ll fetch a cool hundred and fifty too, it’s a nice location, and that figure is wonderfully divisible by three. But never mind, it’s all yours.

Here’s the deal. On the day I’m discharged from the justice center, greet me with a hundred bucks each on top of my hundred from the estate, and we’ll call it square. With three hundred my heap and I can make it down to Florida, where I can fish and live in a thong. And if that plan seems sketchy for a man pushing 60, and my bleached bones wash up on the shore in about a month, you don’t need to move a muscle to identify me, the way I had to go and identify my dad’s tanned, trim and lifeless corpse. Like him, I’ll be too dead to care. One way or the other you’ll never hear from me again.

Does that seem too much to ask?

Your Prisoner Bastard of a Half-Brother,

Toddikins

 

 

 

 

 

Share
* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your number one source for information on the tough and gritty noirish world of genetic research. It takes a talented gumshoe to track the semi-human genome back to its lair -- a gumshoe like Michael Fowler. When you're done reading his latest case, be sure to check our blogroll on the right for a link to his book, God Made the Animals.

The Double Helix, Hardboiled

By:
mfowl4916@gmail.com

I reported straight to the Cavendish lab to powwow with my new bosses. The two eggheads wore white lab coats like the soda jerks at Woolworth’s back in Chicago, and introduced themselves with friendly but strained grins. Crick, English and crisp as a fried kipper, and the soft-spoken yank Watson, nicknamed Birdman due to his liking for birds, the winged type, and I’d have bet the kind that sashayed on pretty gams too. I came on like a jolly and brash young chemist, but I sensed a fog of gloom in the lab that the off-kilter grins only made heavier. The fog lay on everyone’s sprit, even mine, and I’d just arrived. “What is it, chums?” I said. “Spill it.”

They spilled it. Crick did most of the talking while the American, obviously a worrier, probed his thatch of hair with a long forefinger. What it boiled down to was, a dame called Dr. Rosalind Franklin, a knockout dish with a brain like Aristotle’s, was sitting on some critical crystallographic X-ray images of amino acids, as I twigged the lingo. She had them stashed in her lab down the hall, refusing to share them with my bosses, like a spoiled little vixen too special to be nice to fellow humans, especially male humans. My lads needed a peek at the snapshots to confirm a theory about the structure of the DNA molecule, and were dead frantic someone would chime to it first and beat them to a sure Nobel Prize. As I listened to these details, a light bulb clicked on in my skull.

Minutes later I crept down the hallway to Dr. Franklin’s lab. I silently pushed the door open, and was greeted by a reedy runt in the trim, spotless white coat that everyone wore around this place. “Are you enquiring after Dr. Franklin?” he twittered in an upper-class accent. “I’m afraid she’s not in. Come back tomorrow.”

I could see a long-legged knockout with raven tresses moving among the flasks and test tubes in the background, so I was having none of it. “Nerts to you, Clive,” I said, and dealt him a hand sandwich to the mandible, all lean knuckles and no mayo. His Fruit of the Looms kissed the floor. He was out like a defective flashlight.

“Who is it, Gosling?” the dark beauty said, gracefully moving my way to see what the commotion was. She did a double take on seeing the little shrimp napping on the floor, then turned to me.

“Your name Rosie?” I asked while she gathered her wits, taking in the lush curves swelling her lab coat in all the right places. Her lustrous, shoulder-length hair and full lips reminded me of midnight out back of my mother’s garage with the gardener’s daughter. I tried not to let her delishful exterior get to me and to concentrate on business, but hey, I’m as human as the next bodink.

“My friends call me Dr. Franklin,” she said breathily. “What have you done to my assistant?” As I set my mouth to reply, she fed me a kiss that plummeted to my arches and then rebounded up to my brainpan, where it ricocheted around for a country mile.

Before I succumbed to her wiles, I laid my cards on the table. I told her I’d come from the lab down the hall, where the inmates were desperate for a gander at her latest crystallographic snapshots of amino acid groups or whaddya call ’em, my lips stumbling over the odd syllables.

“Those hot dogs,” she scoffed, urging me toward a long sofa she kept parked in a back corner near the Bunsen burners and titration vessels. “I imagine they’ve got some shaky theory about the structure of DNA they want to confirm. Don’t those boys get that science is a gradual process, like a long, luxurious bath, and not a lucky shot in the dark?”

All the same, she pulled open a file drawer and handed me some glossy images. I couldn’t make heads or tails of them, but I knew Watson and Crick could. “Call me a sucker for your chiseled features and tapering waist,” the lady purred in my ear. “Just have them back to me tonight, shall we say at seven? I’ll be waiting for you.”

Suddenly a gat thumped “Hullo!” A speeding slug slammed into the file cabinet, neatly bisecting the space between us.

“Linus, no!” she screamed, as a highly recognizable figure scuttled out the rear window of her lab and dropped onto the surrounding yard before I could bring up my own heater.

“Was that–?” I began.

“You know it, handsome,” she said. “Linus Pauling, the father of modern chemistry. He was after my pictures too. Arrived here yesterday from California all in a lather. Soon as he spied my work he started cackling that he’d cracked the code, and spent the night here writing up a thesis to submit to Modern Molecule. Says when he garners the Nobel Prize, he and me are taking a little cruise to Miami. But if you ask me, he’s just another shot across the bow.”

“Who wants like hell to keep matters under his hat,” I said, fingering the bullet hole in her cabinet. At the same time I pictured Rosie in a bathing suit, one of those newfangled numbers with detachable straps and wire inserts. That Pauling had the right idea. I sussed that the two of them had done a lot more during the night than talk chemistry. “What’s his theory, sweetie?” I asked her, trying to sound casual. A lot depended on her answer, and to ease my nerves I flicked my thumbnail across my grizzled jaw. Flick flick. Flick flick flick.

When she said a triple helix, I didn’t show any emotion. I knew Watson and Crick were banking on a deuce, not a trey. And if the pictures I’d stuffed in my lab coat pocket bore them out, we would beat Linus, the lion of chemistry, to the Nobel punch.

Hours later my lab partners were still celebrating with beakers of hooch. They had built a toy model of the helical tidbit that coiled like an Erector Set, and almost finished typing up their report for Modern Molecule. Franklin’s pictures had done the trick, and I tried to feel their joy. I reflected that a Nobel Prize, even a third of one, was a fair day’s pay. But there was something big I still had to get off my chest.

When the smoke cleared, my intellectual pals agreed to leave my name off their script. It would only embarrass them when it came out that I was no chemist, in fact not even a college graduate. I was a lowly gumshoe from Chicago, stateside, who barely finished high school. I was there to track down one James D. Watson who had back-pedaled on a university instructor, an auburn wren with the sheaves to sky me across the Atlantic puddle to pin him. Watson went all red-faced on hearing this, but smug Crick seemed to enjoy the joke. Even geniuses have a funny bone.

The duo told me that they’d use the name Maurice Wilkins in their write-up, and leave me out completely. I knew this Wilkins character was another white coat who haunted a lab, but other than that, his involvement in the big-deal helix was over my head. Just another superbrain they owed a favor to, I guessed.

That night I made arrangements to fly home to Chicago and report to Watson’s oriole that he was still unattached and in winning form. That should cover her questions. But first I had a rendezvous at seven in Rosie Franklin’s lab. My nose told me the doctor was waiting.

 

 

 

 

Share
* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we want your corpse to be coiffed as stylishly as possible, and Michael Fowler is just the man for the job. As always, we encourage you to click on the links to his book, "God Made The Animals," in our blogroll.

Hairdresser To The Stiffs

By:
mmfowler@fuse.net

I’m a barber running my own hole-in-the wall shop. On one side of me is a deli, on the other a Laundromat. Down the street are a bar and a new funeral home. I do the old hairstyles: the Caligula, the Sal Mineo, the “Kookie” Burns. I don’t get many customers anymore. Never did, and I mainly live off a war wound. If I were smarter I’d think of a way out. But I’m not very smart. I made it to sixth grade. I have a low IQ. Turn left at the peak in the bell curve and go down a standard deviation or so, and there you’ll find me: 85 on the Wechsler scale and 83 on the Stanford-Binet. I’m the imbecile behind the waxed mustache, hoping his sartorial signature is not irremissibly louche.

When a customer comes in, he’s usually a drunk from the bar down the block. I tip him back in my worn leather chair and let him relax. If he wants to start a conversation, I let him do the talking. If I talk at all, I steer clear of the unholy duo of divisiveness: sports and weather. I prefer the safer topics: Darwinism and religion, affirmative action as it affects race relations, and the threat pluralism poses to moral universalism. When my customer is good and relaxed, I open its case and break out my billion-dollar Stradivarius. That’s what I call my old set of electric clippers. It’s a standing joke in my establishment and often draws a laugh, at least if the customer hasn’t heard it too often. Most of my customers have heard the joke too many times and now pretend to be deaf.

Sometimes a customer will ask me why I don’t update my place. They like the new hairstyling spot down the block. This establishment just opened, and would take all my business if I had any. It’s run by a family of foreigners, probably Asians or Mexicans. They may not even be legal, but they get no trouble from the town, so they maybe paid somebody off. What kills me is their son. He’s the same age as mine, 13, but he does women’s pedicures in their shop. That slays me. A 13-year-old boy in a blue smock and earrings kneeling before middle-aged women to scrape their heels and paint their toes. Does a good job too. My wife got a pedicure from him that took 20 years off her feet. I understand this may be part of their family tradition, but it’s just wrong. What will that do to the boy’s manhood? He should be giving himself tattoos with a charred needle and buzzing gang names in his scalp like my boy. My boy’s on thin ice at school, but his manhood isn’t in doubt. He’s gender-normative for a kid born with testicles. Meanwhile my wife left me. I guess she wanted a man with young feet like hers.

She’ll be sorry she left. What I mean is, my career may finally be taking off. Out of curiosity one day I dropped in at the new funeral home they built near my shop, Bottom-Rate Burials. They had an ad in their window for a mortician’s cosmetologist. I went in and applied, told two men about my hair and skin expertise. They asked how I’d feel about tidying up men who were covered with blood and powder burns after testing explosives back in the woods. I said I didn’t see a problem, I did drunks in my shop who came in bloody with knife wounds and with liquor and puke all over them all the time. By the time I was done with them, they were presentable enough to be burned or buried easy, especially if you put a shroud over them. The men laughed and clapped me on the back. They told me they’d call if they decided to detonate the explosives.

They didn’t call, so I called them. Joe, one of the guys I’d talked to before, told me the explosions were on hold, and they’d decided to go on fronting as a cost-cutting cremation and burying service. If I was interested, I could do the sprucing up of the stiffs until they hired a mortician. I said I had no experience with embalming or makeup, but Joe said if I did haircuts and shaves and maybe manicures if the nails were grimy, they’d provide cheap new suits, and that would be sufficient. Did he take me for a fool? I said look, my wife used to do nails at my joint, but she was long gone. Shaves and haircuts I could manage, but no one would mistake my manicures for the real thing. Joe disagreed and after listening to him, I saw he was right. My fear of change now looked regressive and any objection quite nugatory.

I start Thursday. If this works out, I’ll be bridging to an elite economic status and joining the vanguard of upward mobility. Eleanor, do you hear me? And one more thing, sugar: any idiot can do nails, so long as the customers grow rigid in the chair and can’t open their stupid yaps.

 

Share
* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where the only thing we are practical about is practical jokes. Hearken to the expert advice of our good friend Michael Fowler. Again, we urge you to click on the links to his books, "A Happy Death" and "The Created Couple," in our blogroll.

The Golden Age Of Practical Jokes

By:
mmfowler@fuse.net

Me and some guys working highway construction were having our lunch in a field one time. Bob hawked a loogie into his thermos, like he always did, so no one would drink out of it when he wasn’t looking. What he didn’t realize was that, while he unwrapped his sandwich, I put a blackbird in his car. When he drove off at the end of the day he had to fight this crazed bird that kept flapping against the inside of his windshield and pecking at his eyes. This was back in the day when people weren’t sensitive about every single one of their rights and didn’t haul you into court over any little infraction of the law. I call it the golden age of practical jokes. Bob would call it that too except this past year he lost his power of speech in a terrible medical tragedy.

The morning after the bird joke Bob told us guys that somehow this insane blackbird had got into his Fairlane, causing him to drive into a ravine. Now he had a motorcycle. I never confessed I was the one who put the bird in his car, but maybe he figured it out from my laughing so hard. Anyway a few days later I looked down to light a cigarette and just then someone slipped a young coyote down my shirt. This was back in the day when a lot of us guys smoked. I owned a blue butane lighter that I was fond of and hated the day I lost it. I had a strong suspicion Bob handled the coyote, to get even, but if so he never let on, and I didn’t really see him do it. My wife, after she heard about a coyote, wouldn’t even put that shirt in the laundry. She just threw it out.

Another time on a bridge project I was leaning off the top of the bridge and dangling a plumb bob, when someone in a small boat on the river reached out and cut off the bob. I never did see who did it, but I could put two and two together. It was Bob. It made me laugh harder than the time Bob and I were relaxing in a storm drain and he pushed me into a rushing torrent. My shoes didn’t get all the way dry until the next day. I got even by putting a hornet’s nest in Bob’s motorcycle helmet. This was back in the day you didn’t have to wear a helmet, but I was glad Bob wore one. I watched him put on his helmet at the end of the day and roar off, only to swerve to the side of the road, pull off his helmet, and start slapping himself all over the face and neck. The next day his face was red and swollen, but he hadn’t gone to the doctor even though he was allergic to insect venom and fell into a coma that lasted through the night. Back in those days you didn’t go to the doctor for every little ache and pain. Bob once set his own broken leg using a shovel for a splint, and passed a kidney stone while operating a jackhammer. I once sweated out Lyme disease while operating a Bobcat. It was a manlier age.

Bob must have figured out that I had something to do with the hornets in his helmet, because a few days later I drove off after work and discovered two raccoons in my car, one injured and bleeding and the other rabid. There was quite a tussle in the front seat of my Monte Carlo, but I finally got shut of those animals without too much damage to me or the car. My jacket was shredded and I had some deep scratches on my arms, but nothing serious enough to complain about, let alone see a doctor over. And I didn’t want to lose face in front of the guys, especially Bob, by acting delicate. We were tough back then. Anyway I scored again when I spread half a pound of deer feces on the door handle of our portable toilet right before Bob had to go real bad. Watching him react was great. He got me back by heating up the doorknob of our work trailer with a blowtorch when I wasn’t looking, then asking me to get the door for him. That really blistered me, but it was great too.

One time I tricked Bob into feeding a doughnut to a wild horse. The horse bit him on the chest and wouldn’t let go until Bob punched it in the nose half a dozen times. The skin wasn’t broken, but Bob got a bruise as wide as his ribcage. But he didn’t go to the doctor, since he wasn’t delicate. We joked that it would have been worse if he’d been a woman, and he just laughed at that comment. Women are more delicate and exposed to danger in the chest area than men, you have to admit.

I confess Bob did a good number on me soon after the horse joke. I was eating my lunch in a meadow, enjoying my sandwich and the view while sitting against the biggest cow carcass I’d ever seen. Well, Bob came rushing up and kicked that carcass a good one with his work boot, and didn’t a dozen angry possums come running out of that hollow belly, just fussing and hissing at me for ruining their peaceful meal. The expression on my face must have been something when I saw those angry devils surrounding me, because Bob spit the bite of egg salad sandwich in his mouth about fifty feet. After seeing how far that egg salad traveled, we both let out a hoot.

After work me and Bob used to sit out on the grass by an elementary school and shoot pennies out of each other’s fingers with our .22 rifles. This was back in the day when gun laws weren’t as strict as they are now. We got good enough that we could hit the penny, held steady between thumb and forefinger, at fifty yards. One time Bob decided to have some fun. He shot off the tip of my right forefinger, missing the penny completely. Of course I didn’t go to the doctor. Back in those days a missing finger or toe wasn’t even considered disfigurement. It certainly was nothing to get upset about. Bob said I required less nourishment now, being not so substantial, and from then on helped himself to my lunch Twinkie. That was pretty funny, and made a certain sense. To even the score I shot him in the buttocks with my rifle. He carried the slug on his right hip to remind us of the laughs we had until the day a stroke silenced him. If you think he went to the doctor over a thing like that, you’re wrong. I mean the bullet, not the stroke. He’s in a nursing home because of the stroke, and I don’t see him coming out.

 

Share
* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we like to channel James Brown every now and then, with the manly help of Michael Fowler. As always, we encourage you to check out the links to his books, "A Happy Death" and "The Created Couple," in our blogroll.

A Man’s World

By:
mmfowler@fuse.net

Training class over, I hit the floor with the rest of the new service reps. I have one goal: to make myself stand out at Red Bone Financing like a supernova. Shouldn’t be difficult, since the others are mostly females, soft, dim and troublesome by nature, along with a few chestless guys built to stand still for 30 years. There’s even one pre-corpse toting a cane and portable breathing apparatus. I mean, what is this dead end even doing here? Are times so hard even this schlub has to work? Someone needs to drag him out in the hall and shoot him. To make things worse, the class is assigned to a female supervisor named Bippi or something that cute, with a torpedo-shaped hairdo and her face rouged up like a barn. I need to make her understand right away that I am not afraid of any woman and if it comes to a fight, I will prevail.

Score my first coup right off the bat by commandeering the best office-space in our area, the only one with a full window view. I achieve this feat by scouting out the floor before we’re supposed to and leaving a crapload of my stuff behind, my empty briefcase on the desk, and my jacket draped over the chair, to hold my spot. Some high-strung, spindly female deprived of both muscle and good sense tries to move in on me when I return, pretending she doesn’t see my things, but I defend my turf with tenacity. She leaves in tears, boo hoo boo hoo.

Bippi stops by, catching me finishing a pick-me-up candy bar, and I turn to face her, flossing. She smiles and asks how I’m settling in, but her casual act doesn’t fool me. Ron, our male trainer, has doubtless marked me with a bullet, as a rising star to be watched, and she wants to check out the phenom. But then who trusts Ron, that spermless filament? The doofus thinks he’s the Great Motivator, serving up soulless bon mots like “straight from the shoulder” and “shot in the arm” that went out with Nehru shirts. I let my floss dangle from an incisor and spell it out for Bippi. I’m giving the company six months tops to make me a manager, I tell her, or I’m out the door to greener pastures. I emphasize my right to success with some fist pumping, along with some ritualistic not to say mandatory pecker flexing. I come close to touching the actual equipment, and hear Bippi gasp, so I cover by playing air guitar at pelvis level. I make twangy sounds with my lips and tongue to make it look more real. I think she gets the message. When you hire me, babe, you hire me and my penis both.

Bippi departs, and the mousy female in the cage next door asks me some inane question about starting up her computer. I don’t remember her name after only six weeks in class with her — it wasn’t near enough time — but I think, here we go. Day one on the floor and already the also-rans are trying to drag me down to basement level with them. Maybe this pulseless chick thinks that just because she’s on her monthlies or has typhoid, or whatever her problem is, that I’m going to be her handler. Time to fix that perception. I stare into her baby browns and tell her, straight from the shoulder as Ron would say, that in the business world it’s dog-eat-dog, sink-or-swim, spoils-to-the-victor, devil-take-the-hindmost, once more unto the breach, theirs not to reason why and a throatful of other clichés that are good reasons not to be bothered with her. Her look conveys the impression that she should ask someone else. And why doesn’t she know that by now?

Meanwhile I need stats, I need to be on the board! Always be closing! I get my chance that very morning when Bippi opens the front door and a stream of actual clients walk in, most of them hideously repulsive, but still, at Red Bone the consumers are the job. I am all over them, grabbing one and sitting him or her down, and filling their ears with whatever comes to mind, then jumping up and grabbing a new one, faster than anyone else. Along with the live scum I’m handling phone calls, dozens of them from gibbering idiots, averaging less than 30 seconds a call, no doubt a company record. Still, by the time lunch rolls around an unhappy-looking Bippi is occupying my personal space. She tells me my clients are phoning the complaint department and her, saying they don’t understand a word I tell them, and sometimes I’m rude and even obscene.

That really ticks me off. A town without pity situation is going down, with this bitch standing in for the town, and I feel the hostility. My superiority is actually questioned. Instinctively I do some additional pecker flexing, not bothering to disguise it as air guitar. I tell Bippi I’m not afraid of her or any woman, that as a man I am stronger than she is, that she doesn’t intimidate me, and that the world is better off run by males. And before she accuses me of touching myself, I tell her I’m trying to pass a kidney stone. To make that sound more believable, I tell her my health benefits haven’t kicked in yet, and that’s true. I won’t have job-related coverage for 60 days.

I think I’ve won, but within 10 minutes two beefy security guards stand at my side. Smirking, they tell me to get a grip on myself. They add that I have five minutes to clean out my desk, and then they will escort me out the door. They do, too, over my loud protests, and soon I’m on the street holding my briefcase and jacket, canned.

These oh-so-sensitive women! My next job I’m working for The Man, and I mean that literally.

 

Share