Ask Doctor Drummond

By: Helmut Luchs

Dear Doctor Drummond,

If you ever met anyone who would stay up late to watch a Jerry Lewis picture on Turner Classic Movies, you have either met Jerry Lewis or my wife. If the person wore a hybrid wig of porcupine quills and crabgrass, it was my wife.

Jerry is her new idol and she is constantly mugging at me asking if she looks like the original Nutty Professor. She does — and always has — but what really brands an ugly scar in my mind is when she sings songs from his pictures. This morning she was singing “I Lost My Heart at a Drive-in Movie,” and that is what prompted me to write this letter.

It has not always been like this, and I believe I can recall what accidents preceded her peculiar sense of humor; but I know only you can set me on a course for sanity.

It started several weeks ago, on a very unusual evening. My wife and I were engaged in a pillow fight (not unusual) that was to determine who would get the bed and who would sleep in the corner on the bearskin rug (jokingly referred to as “the bare-skin rug” ever since my wife accidentally doused it with hair-remover instead of carpet cleaner). The one who remained conscious would get first choice.

I was feeling soft-hearted that night and had decided to make it easy on the old lady, for the fighting often lasted into the night, exhausting her completely. So I had slipped a couple dozen quarters into my pillowcase, to hasten the outcome. She obviously felt good-natured too; for while I was gathering up quarters from the bottom of my drawer, I saw her from the corner of my eye, adding silver dollars and a small rock collection to what now looked more like a sack of potatoes than a pillow.

My wife is quick on her feet and strong in her arms. She used to be an athletic coach at a nearby college, and had even won a trophy in the Women’s Shot Put competition at the State Fair. It always rested on the shelf just above her bed. Funny, though – where was the trophy now? “Oh well,” I thought, “she has just stuffed it away somewhere.”

As you may have guessed, with this lack of concentration on my part she landed the first blow, and what no doubt would have been the last if I had not been wearing my souvenir World War I doughboy helmet. The helmet was now badly dented on one side, with the rim wedged into the plasterboard and streams of cracks running from ceiling to floor.

After the feathers had settled to the floor I opened my eyes only to find I was not in heaven and had perhaps been cast into the extremes. My wife stood gawking over me, scratching her head. Silver dollars were scattered along the floor, while near my feet lay the missing trophy.

The pillow was my wife’s prize possession because she had won it at a carnival by guessing the number of feathers it held. The point of this recollection is that upon restuffing the pillow we found that a feather was missing. It was one of the smaller ones, but a feather nonetheless. My theory is that this feather found lodging in my wife’s left inner ear. She often giggles while scratching the left side of her head. This is fairly conclusive evidence as to how she acquired her unusual and provoking sense of humor.

However, there is another, equally justifiable theory. A few days after the pillow incident my wife was in the basement doing the laundry. She is almost always doing the laundry nowadays. She says that washing has become easier and almost fun, ever since she found a new liquid detergent. It’s called Seagram’s Seven Crown, but I do not necessarily recommend it. My clothes come out as dirty – or dirtier – and smell more like compost than fabric softener. But I did not write to give my testimonial on behalf of any detergents, and mention the laundry only because that was what my wife was about to do when she had her accident.

You see, burglars have been breaking into our basement and sneaking upstairs to use our washroom and an electric toothbrush left behind by some previous tenant of the house.

I wired a simple explosive charge to the toothbrush, then for the stairway I designed an ingenious burglar alarm and had the neighbor boy install it. It consists of marbles spread in an even layer over every third step. I’ll admit it’s devilishly simple, and that it wouldn’t take a mathematical burglar to walk two, hop one; but from the thuds and wailing screams that echo upstairs at night, I surmise we are dealing with the dying breed of Homo Invertus, a race of men who walk on their heads — or do they think with their feet? Anyway, they are a dying breed, and for obvious reasons. Still, I was awakened one night by an explosion that more than likely came from our washroom. Oh, well. If I ever see a smart burglar with no teeth, I’ll have him put away on the double.

My wife is the one person whose tumble down the stairs leaves me with remorse. To a superstitious man her fall would indicate that she is actually a burglar. But I find it sufficient to say she belongs to a dying breed which I need not name.

Just how she fell I’m not certain, but I remember seeing her disappear around the corner to the stairs with a load of laundry in her arms and a small bottle of detergent in her teeth. She now giggles while scratching both sides of her head, and has taken to freestyle diving down the stairs. She says it smooths down the hard lumps that grow under her wig. I often kid her about it, saying “I’m more concerned with the soft spots,” and insisting that I could remove them with an ice cream scoop.

But don’t let me kid you, Doc — it’s true.


Corby Jenkins

P.S. — If you happen upon a smart burglar with no teeth, call me and hold him until I get there.

Dear Mr. Jenkins,

In reading your letter, it becomes obvious that neither you nor your wife have any sense of humor whatsoever. Your wife is under extreme stress because of it.

You live common lives and have the common hopes and fears of most Americans. Your lives are too predictable and leave no room for absurd or frivolous activities. For this reason, your wife has turned to outside influences to relieve tension. Discovering Jerry Lewis was like finding a needle in a haystack and sitting on it. It makes no sense to find the needle unless you intend to avoid it.

My suggestion is that you look into yourselves for comic relief. Find something funny in your everyday environment. I can think of something right off: your wife’s hybrid wig of porcupine quills and crabgrass. My wife has one of porcupine quills and another of crabgrass, but who would ever think of combining the two? Isn’t that a riot!?!

Yours truly,

The Doc

P.S.– I’d appreciate your sending me a few bottles of that detergent for experimental purposes.


Dear Doctor Drummond,

I am writing you from the Morgue County Prison. It seems either the world or I have gone mad and I trust solely in your opinion.

Last month my wife and I decided to rent out the second floor of our house. An unpleasant couple answered our online ad. The man looked harmless enough and as fragile as an eggshell, but his wife was enormous and appeared deadly powerful. The man wore a large shapeless overcoat and the woman wore a wig that would take a taxidermist’s skill and a poet’s pen to describe. Despite my presentiments, I took a gamble and a thousand dollars for the first month’s rent. To ask more would have been unjust, for there was no washing machine and we would have to share the upstairs bathroom. Well, I have read every Believe It or Not book and am now certain I could write a few of my own.

The couple that moved in seemed to possess the notion that they had bought the house, and were entirely unaware of their landlords downstairs. They would have fights that lasted late into the night. They threw rocks and money around and God knows what else. We couldn’t even get to the washroom upstairs. They put marbles on the stairway and I fell, hurting myself badly several times, but no one came to my aid. In fact, when I did make it to the washroom my toothbrush exploded in my face like a trick cigar.

We never saw the husband after the first night, but every day his wife would fall downstairs with laundry in one arm and a bottle of whiskey clenched in her teeth. For reasons best known to her, she would run the wash through our trash compactor several times and then stumble back upstairs or go to sleep in the oven with the heat on low. We put up with this for a whole month until their rent was due again. I summoned my courage and crawled out the window and around to the front door. I was determined to tell them they could not stay another day.

It was the husband that answered my reluctant knock. He looked startled at first, but then his expression grew calm and his lips curled into a wry smile. “Oh honey,” he said, “look who’s here.” His wife came in from the kitchen and she too was unaccountably startled. She looked to her husband and they nodded in understanding. This unnerved me somewhat and I probably showed it. I was about to explain my reasons for coming but the husband cut me off. “Like to use our washroom?” he asked. “No, thank you, I’ve come to –” I didn’t have time to finish my sentence. His wife had snuck up behind me and her thick-boned arm closed on my neck like a nutcracker. “It’s him, all right. Look, he has no teeth!” she hissed. “Hit him with the detergent bottle!” yelled the husband. I smelled whiskey, and then a spark of fire ran through my head and darkness closed in.

I woke up under bright lights with a package of smelling salts broken and stuffed halfway up my nose. It was Morgue County Police asking an endless stream of questions about breaking and entering the house of a local citizen. I answered no to all the questions I could understand. Then one of them waved the remains of a toothbrush in my face and asked, “Have you ever seen this before?” “Of course,” I said. “Thanks, that’s all we wanted to know. Take him away, boys.”

Please advise me on my next move. I’ve been sitting rigid for three or four days in fear that if I move they’ll think I’m either trying to escape or to kill the guard.


J. Binkly

Dear Mr. Binkly,

I have read your letter quite thoroughly. Please forgive me if I say that I laughed the whole way through. I have compared your letter with the one written by Mr. Jenkins and come up with the obvious conclusion that you, too, are suffering from the lack of a sense of humor. How can you be so wretched and woebegone when you have living with you this first class pair of prize jokers? They have been teasing you all along, trying to pull a smile out of that tightly-drawn mouth of yours. You are as tough as a turtle shell not to have been laughing the whole time. It is my advice that if you have not foolishly wasted your one allotted call on a lawyer, you should ring up those clowns and invite them over for a party. They will surely bail you out and your troubles will be over.

Yours (or someone’s),

Doc Dummond

P.S. — The next time you smell whiskey, try to give me a better idea of the precise location. Otherwise I cannot begin to help you, and you are probably doomed. Best of luck to you.


Digging Up Old Friends And Relatives

By: Helmut Luchs

Excuse me if the title of this article conjures up pictures of me actually digging up the graves of my friends and relatives, stealing their gold watches, diamond rings and other valuables. My friends and relatives were all, as I found out, quite poor and ragged people at death, and the most I ever reclaimed from any of them was a pair of brass knuckles. The most interesting item I discovered was a doll in the coffin of a maiden aunt I had always hated. The doll was a perfect likeness of me, and it made me feel guilty to think that she had loved me enough to fashion this marvelous little treasure in my image to keep by her side always. When I finally got all the pins out of it, it looked as good as new, which reminds me of something.

Isn’t it strange how some things remind you of other things? I’m reminded of something very terrible and yet quite wonderful. Something from long, long ago…ah, so long ago. It’s amazing the thoughts that come to you after you’ve taken a nice hot shower and are relaxing in the nude on the couch. In fact I’m still wet, so I’m sitting on yesterday’s newspaper, the one with the photo of the President smiling and holding a toy gun to his head. Of course it’s so hard to tell the toys from the real ones these days. Oops! I wonder if the newsprint will come off on me. I’ll be right back, I’m going to look in the mirror…Oh, my! It’s all there in black and white, though due to its positioning, the President’s smile is bigger than ever.

You know, if somebody had told me yesterday that this morning my rump would be covered with newsprint, I would’ve said they were crazy — I mean, wouldn’t you? Of course, if someone had told me that, today I would’ve seen that they were right, and for the first time in my life I might have had someone to believe in, someone to follow and worship and give me life to, someone who knew all things. Instead, I sit here with yesterday’s news all over my rump, just as sad and lost as the next fellow. I remember when I was a little boy (or was it a little girl? Oh what a chest full of memories I carry with me), I was hiding in the linen closet with jar of mother’s homemade cookies, fearful of my punishment should I be caught. But when they opened the closet door to find me with my hand in the jar and crumbs on my lips, they simply smiled, chained me to the stove and flogged me into blissful unconsciousness.

My father once told me something, just before he went out for what he called “shopping with a gun.” He said, “Son, you only have one real friend in this life, and I’ll be damned if I know who it is. Now get the hell out of my sight.” As he walked out the door, he was cut down by a shower of bullets. Earlier in the afternoon it had been drizzling .22 cartridges and no one had thought much of it. But now 60-millimeter shells were pummeling the ground. People were dropping like flies. Flies were dropping like people. The bird droppings were the same as usual, and everything mixed together into one ugly mess. There seemed no end to this reign of terror, although the Weather Channel had reported that the day would be mostly sunny and warmer with only a slight chance of scattered gunfire in the early hours of the morning.

At first I thought there was no hope for my father, so I sat down and watched TV. But after a few minutes I could hear him calling to me for help. When my program was over I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a huge sheet of lead that happened to be leaning against the refrigerator (thank goodness for the conveniences of the modern kitchen), and balancing it on my head, I crawled outside to my father. By the time I reached him, he looked as if he had done 20 retakes for the tollbooth scene in The Godfather.

It was at this moment that I stopped believing in a Supreme Being, or at least in one who had total control over everything that happened in the universe. I began to believe in a Supreme Being who could bake a beautiful quiche Lorraine but who often burnt His toast or scalded His cocoa. A Supreme Being who was the smartest cookie on this or any other side of the Milky Way, but who consistently lost at the blackjack tables in Vegas. A Supreme Being who could create an entire universe and then set it down, returning a minute later only to forget where He had left it. It was this line of thought that formed the new foundation of my character — a foundation built not out of concrete beliefs and ideas but of fear, indecision and Lincoln Logs. I guess you could say I was one of many who belonged to the saddest, most solemn society in the world: the Society of Frightened People.

In fact you should say it, because it’s true. We charged a membership fee of five dollars and we held our first meeting at my house. Half the members were too afraid to show up. The other half were too terrified to leave, and are still hiding in various broom closets and cabinets. I know they are still there because I often hear them whimpering with uncontrollable fear as I tiptoe by. The stinking cowards! I wish I had the nerve to throw them out.

Oh well, I supposed everyone is afraid of something. My great-grandfather was a paranoid schizophrenic with delusions of grandeur. He believed he was a 28-pound turkey, and was convinced the whole world was out to eat him. His favorite motto became “Once bitten, twice shy.” He was, of course, an absolute madman. Still, I must admit he didn’t taste bad.


Your Money Or Your Wife

By: Helmut Luchs

I don’t regret what happened. As they say, everyone does it — I just got caught. It was about a month ago. I was watching an old Fred MacMurray film on Turner Classic Movies called Double Indemnity. It’s about an insurance man who falls for a dame in a big way. They murder her husband to collect on his policy, but an insurance investigator smells a rotten egg that leads him straight to their little love nest. Do you like yours fried or scrambled? The basic idea was good, I thought; the trouble was, there were two of them. I decided I would try something similar, but without the dame. I immediately began to draw up plans. Nothing would be left to chance.

When my wife walked through the front door that night I acted as if everything were normal, as if our life together could go on for an eternity, never faltering, never changing, never drifting from its destined dreary course; and then, quite suddenly I chopped off her head with an ax. I had meant to wait until she sat down. Until she was reading comfortably in her favorite chair. She often complained that I was in her reading light, and I thought it would be fun (or at least appropriate) to hear her say one last time as I stood behind her, ax raised overhead, “Honey, you’re in my light again.” But somehow (and you’d know how if you knew her), when she came through that door I had what the amateur psychologist might call an insane compulsion to kill her. Not a bad guess. The professional, however, would’ve recognized it as merely the dog in me which instinctively desires to see an old thing buried. Preferably six feet underground with a marker to remind what and where it is.

After I was quite sure she was dead (which was doubtful at first since her head rolled around on the living room floor for several minutes, biting at table legs and pausing now and then to throw a hideous glance my way), I quickly removed all the eye shadow and hair clips from her purse to create the impression she’d been robbed. Then I called the police. I told them my wife had been horribly murdered. The Captain asked if I might be “exaggerating just a wee bit.” I admitted it was possible but insisted she had been badly murdered at the very least, and furthermore, whether it had been good, bad or indifferent the result was fatal, and they should skip over here immediately. The Captain threatened to hang up on me at the first sign of another ill-tempered outburst. After a mild debate he agreed he would come out the next day a little after lunch to check the body, but he warned me there would have to be someone home to answer the door. I promised to stick around.

It was only after I had hung up and settled myself in a comfortable chair to gloat over my accomplishments that I realized neither my wife nor I had insurance of any kind. My dreams of incredible wealth were fading before my eyes. My ship had at last come in, but it had hit the dock and was sinking fast. How could so much go wrong when I had been so careful?

I had to think fast. I called the police again. “Hello,” I said. “I’m the man who just murdered his wife. I mean, the man whose wife was just murdered. What I really mean is, she’s not actually dead at all. She’s simply suffering from extremely poor posture.” I finally convinced them everything was all right by agreeing to buy two tickets to the policeman’s ball.

It was late now and nothing more could be done tonight. Tomorrow I would go down to the insurance office and fill out their best policy in person, and then take it home and forge my wife’s signature. But the next day was Christmas and everything was closed. So I watched the parade, then went home to open my presents. Damn! More neckties, and after all the trouble I had gone through to buy her perfume and a new frying pan. If I hadn’t killed her last night, I would’ve used one of those ties on her today. I was happy I had killed her. For once in my life I was doing something for me.

The next day I picked up the policy. After experimenting a while, I realized it would take an expert’s hand to forge my wife’s name. I decided on the little neighbor boy. He had once forged my name on an ugly letter that had somehow ended up in the hands of the President of the United States and put me in bad with most of Washington.

I took the policy next door but the kid was busy watching TV. He finally signed it during a commercial break. The little bugger was good, real good. I slapped a five-dollar bill in his hand and closed it tight. “Listen,” I said, “you ain’t never seen me here, see?” He grinned and closed his eyes. “No, I don’t see,” he said. I gave him a slap in the face that sent him sprawling. I don’t like smart aleck kids.

Returning home I discovered there was quite a collection of policemen around my house. Most of them were playing on the swing set in the back yard, but a couple were removing my wife’s body on a stretcher. I was about to run but it was too late, I’d been spotted. One of the officers was calling me over to the swing set to balance off the seesaw, which had four on one side and only three on the other. Another cop who had been sniffing around for clues approached me and announced that I was under arrest for the murder of my wife. “How can you prove it was me?” I demanded. “As the saying goes,” he replied, “a criminal always returns to the scene of the crime.” “But I live here,” I said. “I’m sorry, sir, but the saying makes no provisions or exclusions for those living at the scene of a crime.” “That will never hold up,” I said, “not even in a court of law.”

But I was wrong. At the trial it seemed things were hopelessly against me, but then came a new piece of evidence. It was a letter the police had received in the mail, signed by me and claiming responsibility for the murder of my wife, as well as confessing it was I who had stolen the athletic equipment from Lincoln Elementary School last spring. All the experts agreed it was definitely my signature. I looked at it and it was, but I had never written any such letter. Then they brought out the insurance policy. The experts all agreed it was positively nothing but a cheap forgery of my wife’s name. In fact, one of them pointed out, it was so bad a child could do better. In the audience of the courtroom I spotted the little neighbor boy eyeing me with an impish grin as if he were watching an insect squirming near a hot match.

The jury deliberated for 14 hours. There was one sweet old man who insisted that someone of my apparent intelligence were going to kill his wife, he would have done it years ago. In the end, however, the jury found me guilty and the judge sentenced me to death.

I guess it’s what I deserve for watching a movie that stars Fred MacMurray. Now it’s just one hour before the State of Illinois is to execute me by means of lethal injection.

I only hope it’s good stuff.


Be My Ghost

By: Helmut Luchs

Recently, two of my readers recognized me at the train station. The first one approached me and was reaching into his vest pocket when a shot rang out. Pulling a pen and paper from his pocket he gave a look that seemed to say, “Will you please autograph this?” And then, as if the look were not enough, he said those exact words and dropped dead at my feet. I’m highly suspicious of anyone who reads my work, you see, and am inclined to shoot first and sign autographs second.

The next man who approached me was nothing but a sobbing, slobbering, jellied mass of tears. The man’s name is a secret between him and myself which I will sell for a quarter to anyone who can prove they have a healthy interest in sports, foam rubber or blackmail. He cried on my shoulder for a long, long time, and I considered having him surgically removed because he was costing me a fortune in train fare and making for unfavorable sleeping conditions at home, until my wife suggested I ask him what was wrong. It worked!

The man said he had nearly been driven insane by a ghost. The ghost had entered his house via the television set and tortured him by making double images on the screen and changing channels when he went to the washroom. Later the ghost learned to frighten him by casting shadows that looked like Alfred Hitchcock. In the end, before the man fled the house, the ghost would access his email and delete just enough words to make the exact intent of a message unclear. In trying to respond to his friends, the man only succeeded in alienating them to the point where they stopped writing back.

It was then that he came to me for help, although I can’t see why; I’m certainly no expert on the subject. It’s my opinion that there is no ghost in his house, but plenty of bats in his belfry. Or it could be that his story, like so many others, is true, but so ridiculous that one can’t care. In any case I will state here what I do know of ghosts if it will be any help.

I first heard of ghosts as a child happily growing up in the little town of Stunt Growth, Michigan. For years our next-door neighbors believed they were being tortured by a ghost that would shout in a deep, bellowing voice, “For God’s sake, get out!” Instead, they discovered, it was only the efforts of a patient fireman trying to rescue them from their house, which had been steadily burning for years. After being rescued, the mother wept tears of joy, until she remembered the house was not insured. Then the tears became real. Running back into the house, she threw herself into the flames, but as the flames were very small she only succeeded in putting out the fire and blistering a finger or two.

My firsthand experience with ghosts has been very limited, but pleasant. I have only seen a few in my entire life. Usually they are strolling down the sidewalk, passing in the opposite direction, in which case we exchange nods, a cheerful smile or a jovial wink, as did one ghost who was ecstatic over a new pair of platform shoes he was sporting. Ghosts, as you may know, are absolutely crazy for new shoes, and especially shoes with high heels. They are quite vain about their height, probably because they are so hard to see in the first place. In fact, after seeing one I always have to ask myself, “Did I truly see a ghost?” Although I can never get a straight answer from me, I find it much safer than asking someone else. Once I merely wished for someone to confirm what I’d just seen, and inquired of the fellow walking alongside of me. “Surely, my good man,” I said, “surely that was a ghost wearing platform shoes that just passed by and winked at me, was it not?” The man acted very much as if he had no other choice than to strike me in the face repeatedly, knocking me down into the street and oncoming traffic. The experience was extremely humiliating, and for years I was convinced it had devastated my sex life, until my wife explained to me what sex was. What a relief!

This kind of ghost story is not uncommon, for apparently no everyone can see ghosts, or if they can they have the good sense to ignore them. My grandfather could do neither. He complained that although he never caught sight of his ghostly assailants, every night as he was dozing off, several of them would sneak up and tickle his feet until he was almost conscious, then run and lock themselves in the bathroom along with the best magazines in the house. Grandpa would kick and scream and pound on the bathroom door, his face turning orange, then green, then a lovely shade of purple (I never actually saw him at those exact moments, but I know those were the colors Grandpa turned when he kicked and screamed and pounded on things). But it was no use.

“They were all cowards,” he said. “Four to one, and they were still afraid.” He knew there were four because once they were taunting him by asking, “Guess how many of us there are, you old goat. Go on, guess.” “One?” asked Grandpa defiantly. “No!” they all cried with delight. “Two?” They simply laughed. “Three?” “You’re dumber than a jackass!” they screamed. “Four?” “None of your damn business,” they growled. He had obviously touched a sore spot, but it didn’t help him to know whether there were two, four, or a dozen. The only way he could ever get any sleep was to keep a vacuum cleaner running by his bed all night. He claimed the ghosts were loathe to come near it for fear of being sucked up and forced to spend eternity among old carpet dust and bits of shredded Kleenex.

Unfortunately, my grandmother shared the same fear and finally left him. I was the only one in the family who believed him, and he was committed to a home, where I believe he did very well until his death several months ago. In fact, I recently received a letter from him that stated, “I believe I did very well until my death several months ago.”

This being all the information I have on ghosts, I ask my readers to go now in peace, and may God be with you. Run! You must run and never stop running. Don’t look back over your shoulder unless you wish to know where you’ve been. Go on, scat. Boo!


Roses Are Red, Or: The Terror In Our Topsoil

By: Helmut Luchs

Man’s history is full of brutal killings, rapes and unimaginable tortures. He overflows with hate and envy and is afflicted with more psychotic disorders than you could spell with a Dr. Seuss alphabet. I’d say all in all he’s a pretty swell guy when you don’t get to know him.

Lately, however, I’ve become aware of the violence that surrounds us, which is perpetrated not by man, but by happy little animals, buzzing insects, and yes, even by those shy, reticent plants.

I recently learned that there are no less than 367 known species of carnivorous plants (isn’t Mother’s Day coming up?). I remind you that’s only the known species. God knows how many take a bite here, a nibble there, when you’re not looking.

I always knew that those common-as-dirt platitudes about plants living for nothing but water and sweet sunshine were a lot of fertilizer. They’re out for blood and raw meat. They’re the worst sorts of maniacs, so quiet and unassuming. Yet we’re lulled by their beauty and charming manners. We take them into our homes, provide them with shelter, water them, and even play music to stimulate their growth. I am now certain that the only reason they like music is because it covers up their wicked conversations about how they’d like to swim in pools of our blood.

Right now, as I sit here, the plants in this room are watching me, hungrily waiting for me to nod off. Good Lord, how evil they look when you know the truth! I can almost see them licking their thin plant-lips, and when I come near I can read their damp, pungent thoughts. They wish I would fall and crack my head open on their ceramic planters so that my vital fluids would drain into their miserable leafy clutches.

Some will argue that man is the only creature that kills for pleasure, while plants and animals kill only for food. But this is not so. Just look at the variety of plants that use poison as a means to your end. They are the Sidney Greenstreets of the plant world, the gentlemen killers, very refined, very discreet and very deadly. They don’t kill for food. To them, killing is a game of wits, and their victories (as they would call them) are tabulated and run up on a scoreboard. Of course, if you were to confront one of them with this, he would give a deep, hearty laugh and say, “Sir, you sorely misjudge me. I’m not a machine, you know. I take exquisite delight in holding the mysterious elixir of life in my tendrils. I kill with passion, I kill because I find it exhilarating, because it quickens my blood and electrifies my soul. I like best the face that is made when they first realize what has happened, and that it is too late. It is a peculiar face, almost comical, and one I suppose I shall never tire of seeing.”

It has been said, “the meek shall inherit the earth” (I believe I saw it on the back of a flower seed packet). I don’t know about you, but I intend to do my part to make sure that “the meek” don’t come in the form of green chlorophyll monstrosities. I’ve already taken a flamethrower to my neighborhood and if my petrol holds out, I’ll make it to yours soon. So what are you going to do, tree hugger? How much more will you take before you stand up and scream? I suggest you do so now. A loud, sudden noise frightens plants temporarily, and it may give you time for that last cigarette.


I’ve Got An Idea

By: Helmut Luchs

I’m a writer. I live in Hollywood. I write for network television. I’ve got an idea. It’s incredible. It’ll be the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s full of pathos and humor. The effect will be awe inspiring. People will laugh and cry and pull their hair out with both hands.

Oh, wait…I’ve got another idea. This is ten times better. Instead of the girl boarding the train and riding to Peoria to see her sick uncle, she robs it. She’s nude, she has no gun, she just asks for the money and they give it to her. They have to. It’s in the script.

Oh, wait, damn it — they won’t let me show full-frontal nudity on network television. Yet. Damn, damn, damn! I wanted to say something even stronger than that but they won’t let me use those words in articles about writing for network television, let alone in writing for network television itself. Yet. But back to the naked girl robbing the train — how long will we writers be held back by such infantile taboos? Oh, well, she can be in her underwear or something. I read an article somewhere which said that women with some clothes on are sexier than those with no clothes on. I wonder if that’s true? I know my wife is sexiest when she’s under the covers and I can’t see her at all.

My wife and I are getting a divorce. Did I tell you? It’s just like that movie Unfaithful except she doesn’t look like Diane Lane and I don’t look like Richard Gere…or like Diane Lane. I could’ve written that movie, you know. In fact, I’m going to — for TV. I don’t mean I’m going to write it exactly, but something similar, you know, something suspenseful and erotic and ironic and so real you could swear you were there.

You know, the great thing is that my wife and I love each other more now than we’ve ever loved each other before. Really, it’s true. Ours is a deep love burning with a hard, bright, jewel-like flame. We just need a little space apart from each other so we can grow. I kid her about it and say, “Why do you want to grow, you’re already six-foot-three?” Then she slaps me in the face with the strength of a mountain gorilla and I go flying into the wall again, but she doesn’t really mean it. She loves me.

I wonder where my wife is, she should’ve been home hours ago. Oh, wait, that’s right — she moved to Florida or someplace. Lord, I love that woman. I have to write this down, it would make a great sitcom. A man forgets that his family moved to Florida. Or someplace.

I’d better work on that one right now before I forget it. The naked girl on the train can wait. I’m not sure I like the idea anyway. You’re probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about. Did I forget to tell you? I’m a writer. I live in Hollywood. I write for network television. And I, my friend, I have got an idea. Oh, wait — what was it?



Sweet Mystery Of Life

By: Helmut Luchs

I have often wondered if my life on this planet is a coincidence, something that happened simply because three sailors got drunk one night, raped a tattoo artist (my grandmother), and then returned 20 years later, still drunk, to rape my mother. Or has my life been cut out for me with the precision of a finely wrought gem to fit into this scattered jigsaw puzzle we call the universe (from the Latin word for “outhouse”)?

If the latter is true, then who is it that cuts the patterns and pulls the strings? God? Or is it that farmer in Wisconsin I asked for directions not long ago? He had the strangest look on his face, very disturbed, and very revealing. I think he wanted to scream, “I’m not just a farmer! I also water-ski, play tennis and control your life!” Maybe that farmer was God, or maybe he was a psychotic egomaniac doing a bit of wishful thinking. For all I know, the poor old duff just had gas pains, but that was a pretty strange look, even for a farmer in Wisconsin.

I find myself constantly analyzing even the smallest mysteries in life to see if they might be part of a cosmic plan, or are mere coincidence. For instance, why did I just look at my watch? Was it only to see the time, or did God intend for me to do something important at this precise moment? The first is unlikely, since my watch stopped three years ago. In this case it would appear that God had a plan, something He wanted me to accomplish. Perhaps He simply wanted me to look at a watch that stopped three years ago. I never said it was a good plan. If that’s all He’s after, I wish He’d lay off, because it drives me nuts.

Other oddities in life reveal themselves as definite coincidence. The pyramids, for example. Everyone knows that those tasty little crocodile snacks known as Egyptians had neither the engineering capability nor the ambition to build anything larger than a doghouse for one of their beak-nosed queens. Besides that, it would’ve been one of the Seven Wonders of the World just to obtain a building permit for those crazy, lopsided things. I believe the pyramids are actually icebergs that ran aground, were filled by drifting sand and left as hollow as sugar cones when the ice melted away.

At other times I haven’t a clue whether a particular event is meant to be, or simply happens. A friend of mine came home late one night and heard loud moaning and hysterical, almost insane laughter coming from inside his apartment. The door was locked, but fearing for his wife’s safety, he began to throw himself against it wildly. Inside, the noise stopped, and he could hear his wife exclaim, “Uh-oh! It’s my husband!”

“Thank God!” he thought to himself. “At least she’s still conscious and aware of her surroundings. Maybe I’m not too late.” Just then the door flew open and he saw several dozen men on their hands and knees, groping for their trousers on the floor. His wife, always kind to strangers, was helping them, even though she wasn’t dressed to receive company.

Was it pure chance that the postman, the gas-meter reader, the janitor and the entire city’s fire department found themselves lost and without trousers in my friend’s apartment at that late hour of the night? Or was it some inescapable guiding force that led them there, some irresistible command they had to obey?

Either way, I want to find the guy who has my trousers. His are three sizes too small for me.


The Two Worlds Of Don Don

By: Helmut Luchs

My name is Carlos Piñata. I’m an illegal alien living in the United States and going to college on a government grant. My mother would have wanted it that way. In fact, she said on her deathbed (which happened to be a bed of nails), “Son, I want you to take this mattress back where you got it. And another thing. It is my wish that you live in the United States as an illegal alien and attend college on a government grant.”

“But Mama,” I said, “we are living in the United States as illegal aliens, and I am going to college on a government grant.” She died with a smile on her face and nails in her back.

It was around this time that I began to actively reassert my interest in prank phone calls, which eventually led to my arrest on harassment charges. Even then I used my one phone call to order a pizza, leaving a false name and address for delivery. I was going nowhere at that point in my life. I had graduated from college with a degree in mushroomology, unable to find work and still making large payments on the mattress my poor mother died on.

Then one day I decided to actively reassert my interest in getting drunk and stealing cars. I was on my way to church in a stolen pickup truck when it struck me that there must be something more to living. I took a sharp turn in the road and in my life and headed down towards Mexico to go barhopping. Shortly after I crossed the border I must have passed out from intoxication. I had nightmares about a large silver crow that swooped down from a red sky to peck at my head. Then the crow was mysteriously transformed into something that looked like Colonel Sanders in a sombrero. I woke up just as the old man was putting out a small brush fire on my forehead.

Strangely enough, when I awoke I was lying in the middle of the road, my truck was upside down in a ditch and the old man from my dream was setting a torch to it. This was my first meeting with the infamous Don Don, or as his friends called him, Donny. I yelled, “Get away from that truck you crazy old crow!” but just then it burst into flames. “You’ll pay for that!” I screamed. He walked up to me smiling.

“Do not be fooled by what you think you see,” he said, “for there is more than one world and more than one reality. What you can’t see is often more real than what you think you see. Let me show you: How many fingers am I holding up?”

“Two,” I said, and with that he poked me in the eyes.

“Now how many?”

“I don’t know. I can’t see a thing.”

“Yet I still hold up two fingers in a world you are unable to perceive.”

“Hey, get your hands out of my pockets!”

“Ah, already with just one lesson your perception of this other world has increased dramatically.”

“Well, I have taken a couple of metaphysics classes,” I said modestly.

“Fascinating!” exclaimed the old sorcerer. “But tell me, where do you keep your money?”

“In my shoes, of course.” I had no sooner answered than a fiery pain came to my head and I fell unconscious. However, due to my highly stimulated sense of awareness, I believe I was actually conscious that I was unconscious, and I remember thinking that the old man was truly a man of knowledge.

When I came to, both Don Don and my money were gone, and in light of this discovery I felt I must actively reassert my interest in bank robbing.

It wasn’t until several years later that I saw Donny again. I was now a rich man and unaccustomed to stopping in at the lower-class bars and brothels, but on this night I decided to make the rounds just for old times’ sake. The bar I found him in was simply a shack made of old road signs and the beverage was nothing more than local sewage that had been stored in a retention pond for several days to give it flavor. Even in the dim light of that tiny shack I recognized him. There he was in his familiar white beard and sombrero, wearing a dress and dancing on top of a table as dark, oily men bought him drinks and stuffed small bills down his front. As I looked on I was stricken with grief and horror at the realization that this was the only way a man of knowledge could get a drink in this country.

I pressed forward through the crowd with tears streaming down my cheeks. When I reached the table, our eyes met. He looked at me and winked, and without hesitation I stuffed a hundred-dollar bill down his brassiere. Insulted by this hint that he could be bought, he slapped my face savagely and I left the bar in shame, having learned another great lesson from this man: a lesson in pride. And never again would I stuff a hundred-dollar bill down the brassiere of a man of knowledge.


The Cat’s Pajamas

By: Helmut Luchs

Outside, the rain had taken league with the cold to ensure that only the very brave or the very foolish would venture into the night. The wind banged furiously on the windows, while the rain hammered on the roof, trying to gain access to the small, lonely cottage.

But inside, a cozy, warm fire blazed out of control in the kitchen. Mr. Whitehead, a wizened old man, sat engrossed in a game of chess with his presumptuous, wisecracking son, Hubert. Deep within Mr. Whitehead, where very little else stirred, lived a small yet ridiculous dream of becoming head lifeguard at the town swimming hole that summer. He would never see that day, and it was just as well, since he couldn’t swim in anything over three inches deep. Especially water. Mrs. Whitehead sat in the corner working hard, squeezing the last few drops of blood from a turnip for a lovely blood pudding.

“Check,” announced Mr. Whitehead for all to hear.

The old woman stopped her work and looked up in surprise. Hubert grinned impishly and then with a nasty little chuckle made his move.

“Checkmate.” Mrs. Whitehead returned to her blood pudding. “Well,” said Hubert, “I beat you again, you senile old stooge.”

“Well, Alexander Bromide Whitehead,” the old woman cackled, “there’s no denying our little king has a way about him.”

“No,” replied her husband sternly. “I would never deny anything about our little king. Especially if the law were present.”

Suddenly there came a loud knock at the door, and a voice: “Come quick and let me in — I’m freezing!”

“Sorry, nobody’s home,” cracked Hubert.

“Oh, my!” exclaimed Mr. Whitehead. “That must be Sergeant Major Morton. Last week I invited him to visit us tonight, but who would think that anyone would brave this weather?”

He lifted the bolt on the door and flung it open. A man staggered in almost falling, and then caught his balance with the help of Mr. Whitehead’s arm.

His eyes were fearsomely large and wild. Clumps of flaming red beard clung perilously to his face. Having lost most of his beard in the war (just which war is uncertain — he claims to have been in a dozen or more), he had been advised by the doctors to amputate the rest. He had bravely refused, and now got along on slightly less than half a beard. He was middle-aged, yet appeared to be quite strong, not with the strength of youth, but rather with the strength of old, beaten leather. His hair stood straight up, and from time to time a spark would leap from his head to the ceiling and disappear. Also sticking to his head, as if glued, were some antique forks and knives, a couple of large paper clips, and some snips of loose wire. These were easily explained by the metal plate in his head, which he had acquired during “the war” (again, just which war he probably could not say). Rumor had it that the forks and knives were attracted to his head by the need to feel part of a complete dinner set. Actually, though, he had been struck in the head by lightning several times, which electrically magnetized the plate.

Aside from these details, there was a large red question mark tattooed on his forehead. Smooth, dark hair grew on his palms, and rotten teeth fell from his mouth like candy from a broken piñata. In short, he was a cab driver, and had seen everything in the world there was to see — maybe more.

Mrs. Whitehead, who sat staring in awe at the strange creature her husband had befriended, now believed that she, too, had seen everything.

The sergeant major sat smoking a pipe and consuming a comfortable amount of whiskey without saying much until dinner was served. At dinner he was alive and glowing with stories about India, Africa, wars of all sorts, and the many queer experiences he’d had with those who had ridden in his cab. Hubert dared to laugh once, and the sergeant major shot him a glance with twisted lip and squinted eyes so fierce and forbidding that Hubert had to leave the table for a change of pants.

It was late in the evening when the Whitehead’s guest finally broached the subject of a strange, magical garment known as the Cat’s Pajamas.

“How did they get their name?” inquired Mrs. Whitehead. “I mean, were they really the pajamas of someone’s cat?”

“Of a cat,” he explained. “A royal cat in ancient Egypt who was the direct descendant of the Great Sphinx.”

“You mean that statue?” asked Mrs. Whitehead.

“No, I mean the original Sphinx, not that silly carving. She was very upset by that, you know. She felt it was an extremely poor likeness, and was greatly angered that the artist had not bothered to consult her. She often asked those who crossed her path, ‘Who’s responsible for this thing? It doesn’t even look like me! Where are my whiskers?’ When they could not answer, she gobbled them up. Once, however, being too tired to ask the whole question, she said simply, ‘Where are my whiskers?’ To which the young man quaking in front of her replied, ‘You’re wearing them.’ This, of course, was not the answer the Sphinx desired, but being fair and not very hungry at the moment, she let the young man pass with just a fractured skull.

“Anyway, to continue. These pajamas are unique both because anyone in possession of them may be granted three wishes, and because they are reversible and may double as a beautiful smoking jacket, which, it seems to me, is an idea remarkably ahead of its time. But then, some people are still baffled by the pyramids.”

“Then this cat did have its vices?” inquired Mrs. Whitehead, in connection with the smoking jacket.

“Oh, yes indeed. And it was smoking that was directly responsible for the spell cast on the pajamas, or curse if you will.”

“I will not!” declared the old woman. “I’m a Christian.”

“He means the spell was a curse,” explained her husband.

“Come off it,” challenged Hubert. “How could three little wishes hurt anyone?”

“Your mother wished for you, didn’t she?” laughed Mr. Whitehead, delighted at having got the jump on Hubert.

Sergeant Major Morton coughed to break up the argument and continued with his story.

“This cat tried for years to give up smoking, with little success. Finally, in desperation he turned to an old wizard and said, ‘What the hell are you doing in my house?’

“‘I’ve come to help you stop smoking,’ said the old necromancer.

“‘How much will that cost me?’

“‘Fifteen cartons of cigarettes,’ said the wizard, who enjoyed smoking and was not about to give it up.

“‘Fair enough,’ came the reply. And with that a spell was cast which made the cat extremely nauseated any time he even thought about cigarettes. ‘Here,’ the cat gulped, pushing 40 cartons of cigarettes at the wizard. ‘Take them all, they make me sick.’

“Several days later the cat was approached by Nile Cigarettes, Inc., the largest manufacturer and distributor of cigarettes in Egypt. They wanted him to pose for an advertisement that read, ‘I buy Niles by the mile!’ It would’ve made him one of the richest cats in Egypt, but the very idea of it made him sick. A week later he saw the advertisement on a billboard with the old wizard posing in his place. Needless to say, he puked his guts out. The cat now realized it was fate that ruled everyone’s life, and that to tamper with it only brought grief and the heartbreak of psoriasis. So, being one who didn’t like to suffer alone, he had the wizard put a spell on the pajamas to ensure that future generations would continue to make the same foolish mistakes.”

“Why pajamas?” probed Mr. Whitehead with intense interest.

“Probably for the sake of humiliation, since one must wear the silly-looking things upsidedown, covering the head completely, before making a wish.”

“Do they still exist?” inquired Mrs. Whitehead anxiously.

“They do,” said the sergeant major, as he reached into his breast pocket and revealed a peculiar cloth. All eyes were on the drunken cabbie and the room was perfectly hushed as even the act of breathing was forgotten momentarily. Bringing the cloth to his face, he blew his nose, then stuffed the hanky back in his pocket.

“But how do you know they exist?” insisted Mr. Whitehead impatiently.

“Because I have them here,” said Sergeant Major Morton. And reaching into another pocket, he pulled out the pajamas and quickly blew his nose on them.

“Good heavens!” screamed Mrs. Whitehead. “Where did you get them, and why do you treat them so lightly?”

“I bought them on sale for five dollars at Carson Pirie Scott.”

“At Carson Pirie Scott?” repeated Mrs. Whitehead, dumbfounded.

“Yes, but it’s no use going back for more. These were the only ones ever made, and finding them was a rare bit of luck, I suppose.”

“How do you happen to know so much about them?” Hubert questioned suspiciously.

“Everything I’ve told you is there on the label, right below where it says ‘100% Cotton.’ I didn’t notice it until I got home, but I’m returning them tomorrow.”

“Are you crazy?” screamed Mr. Whitehead. “What about the three wishes?”

“Do you take me for a fool? I read the label, you know. These things are cursed and I’m taking them back.”

“You’re insane. I’ll give you 25 dollars for them, five times what you paid.”

“Don’t be such a moron, pop,” yelled Hubert. “Can’t you see he’s trying to cheat you?” Again the angered cabbie shot a glance at Hubert so terrifying that Hubert left the table to change into his last clean pair of pants.

“I agree with Hubert,” said Mrs. Whitehead.

“I’m not trying to cheat anyone!” bellowed the sergeant major, throwing the pajamas at the floor. “You can keep the bloody things, and you can burn in Hell, and don’t ever say I didn’t warn you!” He stomped over to the door, then turned around and said politely, “By the way, in case you haven’t noticed, your kitchen’s on fire.” With that, he slammed the door behind him.

It took them several hours to put the fire out using a garden hose and wetted blankets from Mr. Whitehead’s bed, which, according to Hubert, “choked the fire because they smelled so bad.”

All were exhausted afterwards, and Mr. Whitehead slumped down into the easy chair to rest. Suddenly his eyes grew bright and he sat up straight.

“Oh, what a fool I am!” he exclaimed. “Why didn’t I think of it? I should’ve used the Cat’s Pajamas and wished the fire away.”

“You’re a fool, all right,” agreed his wife. “You were going to pay 25 dollars for those useless rags. If they were worth any wishing, I’d wish you had never met that walking liquor cabinet of a man.”

“No, mother! Don’t forget you must wear them on your head,” joked Hubert.

“Oh, yes.” She laughed, and snatched them up quickly from the floor. Her husband stepped towards her, but it was too late. They were on her head. “How do I look?” she giggled, doing a dance around the world and blindly knocking over furniture.

“Please don’t!” pleaded Mr. Whitehead.

“Wish, Mother!” screamed Hubert, hysterical with laughter. “Wish!”

“I wish — cha cha cha — that my poor, foolish husband — cha cha cha — had never met the highly distinguished and very flammable Sergeant Major Morton!” The pajamas instantly tightened around her neck like a hangman’s noose, and jerked her feet off the ground. She let out a blood-curdling shriek and made a repugnant sort of gurgle.

Then, in the wink of an eye, they were all transported to a time earlier in the evening. Father and Son were at chess, Mother sat in the corner with her blood pudding, and a cozy, warm fire blazed out of control in the kitchen.

The next day’s paper reported sadly that the entire Whitehead family had perished in a fire which completely destroyed their small home.