Weather News Happens or Not

An article from earlier this week in the Des Moines Register had this headline: Blizzard Conditions Hit Norwest Iowa.

Like my eyes to Cubs, Packers, or Blazers apparel and paraphernalia on my fellow man or woman, I snapped to attention at the almost-concatenation of the end of the second word and the beginning of the third, which would have produced the Captain Underpants humor-worthy headline of Blizzard Condition Shit Norwest Iowa, as in prior to a gastrointestinal event in a weather system, northwest Iowa as we know it did not exist.

I shared this spacing insight in a screenshot to my 14-year-old son and my brothers, both in their 20s, and we got good laughs as only males can. I still chuckle to myself when I see the chocolate frozen yogurt extruding from the machine. I can’t help it. It’s a frozen condition of my gender.

But I feel the need to go further, to reach beyond gender roles concerning toilet humor. If a weather system can have an excretory event and produce new land, this seems momentous and worthy of sharing with all humans, i.e., this calls for fake news.

* * *

Farmers in northwest Iowa discovered they had brown thumbs today, and not because of their growing skills or lack thereof. A freak blizzard/tornado touched down on every hog, cattle, and fertilizer operation in the state. These powerful, dual-pronged storms sucked up feces with tornado power and blew it around with blizzard intensity. The result: a brown Christmas, and not of the Charlie Brown variety.

“Puts a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘brown and serve,’” said Vernon Welcher, manager for the Farmland hog-buying station in Grundy Center, IA.

“Takes mud bogging to a new level,” said Clancy Critters, self-proclaimed mud bogging champion, hillbilly, and crystal meth cook.

“I’m concerned about the animals’ welfare,” said Theresa Hartman, local veterinarian, “though I suppose, for the pigs, anyway, it’s probably the best way to go. They are flying, and we must believe,” she said, holding up a hand and shielding her eyes from the brilliant, coffee filtered light, casting her face in half shadow, and not totally obscuring a smile.

These takes on shades of airborne tree bark are novel, but they fail to reach the magnitude of the storms’ largest effect: terraforming.

Following the fecal patina, a new section of Iowa appeared as if conjured from a magic spell, one cast from the kicks of a karate master, a brown belt. Former northwest Iowa is now northeast. Per Dale Hodges, founder and managing partner of Hodges & Associates Surveyors, the storms terraformed new ground and expanded the state’s footprint by roughly 50 square miles, over the top of which “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown would have been proud to dance,” Bill said.

Since this new land is mostly manure mixed with a smidgen of soil, it is highly fertile. Early experiments (read: in the last few hours since the literal shit storm touched down) have produced amazing results. A dead branch from an oak tree grew into a 100’ monster in minutes, your writer observed. A bag of potpourri broke out, changed genus into tulips, filled 100 acres, and awarded itself the international tulip festival title.

The former title holder, Gretchen Kjarten, reached by phone, said she did not plan to fight this reassignment of title. “What would you have me do to compete?” She said. “Lift up my skirts, climb onto a broom, fly around in circles, and let loose?!”

The potential to spark tremendous growth is exciting and equally concerning. “We haven’t seen anyone coming out with corn stalks instead of legs,” said Polk County Sheriff Rodney Faulkner, “but we’re restricting access, nonetheless.” Faulkner is working with Bruno Guy, head of fertilizer research at CornChem, an Iowa agricultural chemical company. Guy said his team has observed no abnormal human growth, but your writer observed a chorus of researchers singing Jimmy Crack Corn.

Fears about superintelligence and who might access, develop, and control it, lead US Department of Agriculture Secretary Marsha L.L. Town to order a rolling brownout to the power grid in the area to discourage rubberneckers. “Better out than in,” she said. “We don’t want ‘shut your corn hole’ to lose its metaphorical status.”

* * *

Sidenote of real news: I hear the Cleveland Browns are thinking of relocating.

Apples Around the Dollar Tree

I stand in line at the Des Moines, IA Dollar Tree on SE 14th, six feet back from the shopper ahead of me. We are spaced properly, but he is behind his blue painter’s tape line, so I am forced to stand behind mine, lest I should open a gap that is wastefully large. I stand there for a minute, and nothing happens.

The family ahead of the off-line agitator is apparently buying a month’s worth of groceries. The cashier has yellow hair, cut short, unmoving as if it were a wax mop placed atop her head wet and left there to dry. Her hands move in a blur to scan the family’s trove of foodstuffs. Her frame is large, but it seems she is shrinking, like an inflatable animal losing air and wanting to serve out its purpose before it is rendered flat and put away for the season.

Behind me, a glassy-eyed employee, pushing a cart of $1 each orphan detritus, wanders the aisles like someone lost in the desert. I’ve seen her in all the places I’ve been in the store. I don’t know if she’s stalking me, if she has an assigned task, or if she lacks a directive and is, thus, moving around like a slow-motion human pinball, caroming off the stationary aisle, rolling through seasonal, and ricocheting down the front aisle for the hell of it.

Purpose aside, her vectors bring her up behind me, and she bumps her cart into my butt. Rather than slacken her push, she increases it, as though I am an annoyance to be removed, like I am a stubborn cart in a line that must be loosened and rousted from the ground where I stand, an undeserving claim jumper whose deloucheing will bring about what she desires most: uninterrupted caroming, orbital freedom, walkabout within the four walls of the store. I move out of the way. She moves forward and offers a Dollar Tree apology but neither looks at me nor slows. I feel hot. I want justice. I’ve been wronged, and not just me—my butt!

I think about the after-action report where I would have to justify screaming at a Dollar Tree employee, and my temperature cools. Is this an offense? Have I been wronged? Maybe. I rock my hand back and forth in my mind. Considering the degree of offense with, say, murdering someone in cold blood, bumping of my butt with a cart is decidedly un-duel-worthy, so I get over it.

The man in front of me turns to talk to the lady next to him. She cants her body toward his. She is shorter, older, more dried, like a towel left to bake on a clothesline and then run through a pair or rollers to flatten her out. Her smooth, deeply tanned skin, though, retains its grooved pattern. She wears a crisp black sweatshirt with pink lettering encased in pink wedges that look like pie pieces tumbled off a plate and stacked up wedge-to-point with intention. The letters say

BUCKLE UP

BUTTERCUP

YOU JUST FLIPPED

MY BITCH SWITCH

The pyramidic, juvenile meter of the lines tells me their placement was made for graphic design considerations, rather than poetic.

The man increases his turn toward the woman, and I see him full on. He wears a dusty sweatshirt and stiff jeans, the kind that might withstand a glancing blow from a naked circular saw blade. He looks hardened, a tradesman, perhaps, someone who lives with the labor of his hands. I see the words emblazoned on his mask: FUCK OFF.

Perhaps he meant for it to say FUCK OFF, I HAVE COVID. That would have made sense. Even if it were substituting moonshine for cooking sherry, it would have been an accurate overreaction.

Flipped Bitch Switch leaves the line, and I hear snippets of dialogue between her and FUCK OFF about going back for another this or that. Given that this is the Dollar Tree, those could be brand names.

So missing his companion, FUCK OFF turns to motion me forward. I am surprised and temporarily frozen, like the tailgate of a truck after a freezing rain. I have my AirPods in, listening to the soothing sounds of John C Maxwell discuss Teamwork 101, so I miss a chance to act immediately on FUCK OFF’s beckoning. The irony of my failure to work with the team of the Dollar Tree queue escapes me. But FUCK OFF is persistent in his offering. He intensifies his beckoning, like I’m a long-lost friend, and he’ll be damned if he misses an opportunity for us to connect, if only for a moment.

I move ahead, make the perfunctory protestations one makes when one receives unexpected charity one fully intends to accept. Said protestations are jovially rejected, the offer renewed, and I advance beyond mine and FUCK OFF’s blue tape lines to land behind the family filling up its survival cache. Progress!

Or so it seems, as the pile of foodstuffs has only grown. Perhaps the loading dock is like a bowling ball return, and it pops up right underneath this cashier’s scanner.

“I’m gonna do some in cash and the rest in card,” the young lady says. I take her to be the family matriarch. “The fucking bank locked our cards until Monday.” It is Friday evening, and I wonder what this means for them. I steal a glance at the cash to be used as the primary source of payment. It is all ones. A pile of them, but still ones, and, yes, this is the Dollar Tree, but when you’ve got the bowling ball return feeding TV dinners to you at a steady clip, your pile will quickly feel its inadequacy.

Finally, the bowling ball return jams; the cache is full; and the family moves toward the door, still muttering curses about the “fucking bank,” but they seem to enjoy their public therapy.

I recall similar situations of having engaged in public therapy. One occurred when the road was blocked on mine and my family’s way out to the Oregon coast a few months ago. My fellow motorists and I nosed our cars out of line to try to get a better look. Like cabinets tilted over on their sides, our cars the doors, we flopped open, hoping to be the one to see the cause and take the news to no one in particular, but in the meantime, we shook our collective heads and fists and felt better about it, so I do not begrudge the public therapy of the cache-cash-card family.

Yeah, fuck the bank, I think, but I don’t feel it. Not like them.  

I tread in the wake of bank-directed epithets and at last move in front of yellow and stiff mop hair. I notice a stack of pink pregnancy tests. $1 to learn if life will forever change. $1 invested to find out if one is going to be in hock for $250,000 more. I think, Is this enough financial assurance for the weight carrying the result down the hill to the test taker? Is it advisable to see a Micro Machine rolling toward one’s feet when it is distracting one from the dumpster tearing along behind?

I get my total for the clothespins I’ve selected: $5.35. Either a bargain or a cheap ticket to a poorly produced show that will happen the next day when I attempt to use the clothespins in place of gutter hangers. We moved into a new house a couple weeks ago, and this has rendered me a latecomer to the Christmas light display race but has not, alas, lowered expectations from my children. I hope for calm winds.

I pay my $5.35, or attempt to. I stand there staring at the kiosk. It shows me the bullet points of my masked PIN lined up in a row, four of them, each entered with the ultra-modern cyber security awareness of a raised forearm, a palm cupped like a cave, and a turned torso to block would-be looky-loos. The bullet points remain. I am confused. Mop hair looks like she’s in suspended animation, but the medical crew forgot to lower her eyelids. I realize my mistake: I forgot to press the enter key. I feel annoyed that I made this mistake and then simultaneously, inappropriately, unjustifiably angry that I should be forced to follow a step that I forgot. But I bear up, lower my ungloved finger for another go, press the button, and complete the transaction. No one scolds me. No one hurries me along. I am alone in my thoughts of offense. Alone at the dais of my own impatience and incompetence and entitlement. I am arguing with an empty room.

I leave and head for my car, dodging puddles. The temperatures climbed into the 40s today. I had full feeling in my fingers all afternoon. Be damned, drafty windows! I had to push the door open myself on my way out the store, but on my way in, a young girl, perhaps 15, had held the door for me as I fiddled with my gloves, trying to snap them together like a civilized person rather than stuffing them in the pockets of my coat like a brute. I’m refined, I had thought. I put away my gloves properly.

But a kid held the door for me. A guy in a FUCK OFF mask promoted me to a better place in line. A family having ill-defined financial troubles used me and other bodies as unpaid and unlicensed talk therapy.

There was good. There was generosity. There was butt bouncing annoyance. There was presumptuous foisting of troubles. There was perspective twisting of my own reception of decent acts. There was self-reproach that I was a taker, not a giver of acts of kindness.

At the Dollar Tree, everything’s a dollar.

But more is free.

Approaching Asylum

We were listening to Christmas music through our Amazon Echo Dot. The selection was on It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas, an old version by Perry Como, and the Dot transferred sound seamlessly to our ears as we moved throughout our new house.

Once, when the singers got to the Mom and Dad section, they broke out in hysterical, on-pitch laughter. They sounded like they were a short bus ride away from the asylum. Drifting into the turn lane of insanity. In a word: crazy.

Backing up a few lines, Perry croons, “A pair of hop-a-long boots and a pistol that shoots.” What the what?! Are you kidding me? What do you need to wade through with the boots? What’s the pistol for?

Are other songs similarly siren calls to sapid grips on reality? Are they the stuff of nightmares masquerading as seasonal, saccharine, sanguine drink? It goes down easy but kicks like a bitch?

As you read these twisted interpretations of popular Christmas songs, keep in mind that I’m listening to the audio book rendering of The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair, which is equal parts terrible and beautiful and has doubtless influenced this column. We also are in the middle of watching the Netflix adaption of You, a novel by Caroline Kepnes. Chicago stockyards or hopeful immigrant influence? Bookstore clerk with a mallet or aspiring writer influence?

You decide.

This Christmas

Selfishness abounds in this song. Over and over, the chorus repeats, “And this Christmas, will be, a very special Christmas, for me.” “[F]or me.” What else is one to think of when one is stuck in the asylum?

One must make up specialness in one’s head, imagine the tree, the lights, and the smell of liquor coming off the eggnog, the sulphureous combination turning to sweet burning when someone lights a match and puts it to a pipe, bending down over the eggnog bowl to shield the lighting action from a drafty common room door, only to receive an incinerating, sticky blast that renders pipe and smoker and drink as one.

Underneath the Tree

This song is an ode to the truths of one’s grim situation. “You’re here, where you should be,” the song declares on repeat. Getting past the usage of second person POV, we see the lyrics are non-specific on where “here” is and who “you” is.

“Alone on Christmas day” draws a lost soul, writhing on her side on the floor of the common room, the cold from asbestos tile seeping through a thin hospital gown, holding spent match sticks (thrown aside by the previously incinerated pipe smoker) over her head and imagining their reincorporation into a Christmas tree.

Without specifics about where “here” is and who “you” is, the insistence on talking about a fictional “you” reveals the asylum connection. Is the character joyful? Perhaps, but in words only. Who is “you”? “[Y]ou” may only be a mirage against the glass, incapable of making any response but to copy its creator.

All I Want for Christmas Is You

Mariah Carey’s seminal Christmas classic is not what it seems. Like Underneath the Tree, this one straddles the line between second person and sane person. “All I want for Christmas is you”? Why is that?

Is it because the singer’s nose is pressed against the glass of the bus that is nearing the asylum, and while snow falls on the fields, the temperature of the glass reminds the singer of the coolness of a wedding ring slipped onto his finger at the jewelers, and then the hot blood running from the jeweler’s throat when the customer (our nose-to-glass fellow) slammed the jeweler’s head into the display case when the jeweler failed to honor an advertised sale?

“All I want for Christmas is you”? Again, I ask, who is “you”? Is there a “you”? These Christmas songs produce warm feelings in listeners, but they are frighteningly non-specific about the antecedents of second person pronouns.

Is Santa’s suit dipped in dye or in blood? Can’t say for sure.

I’ve never seen the workshop.

Have you?

We’re Starting to Paint Tomorrow and Moving Our Stiff in on Saturday

We bought a house in Carlisle, IA. It’s a pretty sweet place, ranch style on a corner lot, with vaulted ceilings and a finished basement, on just shy of a quarter-acre, in an established, newer, planned neighborhood, the back of which opens up onto common wilderness space that will never host development.

Consequently, this guarantee against future development makes it the perfect place to dump a dead body.

Apropos of this, while texting with my dad on when they would be able to visit, Dad asked me what our plan was for occupying the new place. Drawing on typos as a source for humor, as is my bent, I texted, “We’re starting to paint tomorrow and moving our stiff in on Saturday.” I caught the typo before sending. No stiffs in need of a deep freeze in our new, roomy garage. No missing persons reports that I read and to which respond with a sheepish grin (conspiratorial grin?).

No dead bodies in this house.

But what if I had been telling the truth?

* * *

How and when does one move a dead body?

Wait until the weekend, of course. Weekends are made for things like ice-fishing, curing beef jerky, and marathon BBQ competitions—all activities that are good to pair with moving from house to house, all activities that require a large vessel for transporting goods, all activities into which one could insert a stiff, with the most notable comment of any participant not in the know being, Gee, this thing’s awkward, as they teeter side-to-side like an amateur tightrope walker.

Once one makes to lift a body into one’s trunk, the real fun begins. Lifting a body into a trunk is, I imagine, like lifting a huge storage bin filled halfway with paper, the paper being on the opposite side from where one must lift because the surface area of the proper ergonomic lift is, let’s say, covered in anthrax and staphylococcus paste.

The result? One looks like one is holding a thrashing, freshly caught marlin by its tail and wondering why it doesn’t assume taxidermy-like stiffness. Could also be concern about the anthrax/staphylococcus paste.

Beyond activity pairing and lifting techniques, though, the question remains: why would one need to move a dead body? Some reasons:

  • Keeping a Saint

In Viking times, clergy members would take great pride in possessing a piece of a departed saint’s corpus. Having a finger or toe in one’s collection was sure to bring wealth, prosperity, and understanding from God when clergymen visited the backroom of the local tavern, and not to inspect the ale barrels.

But to have an entire skeleton, perhaps with a few sheets of pastry sheet thin, desiccated flesh remaining stubbornly attached? The benefits that could accrue from such a possession were worthy of violating all manner of corpse abuse laws.

Alas, I am neither Catholic nor living in the ninth or 10th century, so we must look elsewhere for why I’d have a stiff with me.

  • Mom and Dad Wanted a Country View

About a decade ago, my parents moved out to Lost Nation, IA and bought a small farm and acreage. They’re in their 60s and stay fit, so this column is not intended to signal anything about them going over their life’s data cap. But when they do get into overage territory, and the upcharges are too high, I think they might be open to a permanent view from the front porch, and someone’s got to take them there.

  • Clark Got too Close to the Electrical Box

In our new neighborhood, the residents get into Christmas lights, so I know it’s only a matter of time until a Clark Griswold-like accident goes beyond the ability of a gutter to stop downward progress off a roof, and I find a dead body in my front yard. Can’t leave it there. That would totally clash with Santa. Not the right shade of red.

  • Funeral Director Needed an Assist

Since we’re back in the Midwest, ice and snowstorms are the norm. I’m anticipating the day when I’m driving behind a meat wagon, and it spins out, the back doors flying open, chucking out bodies like a lawn fertilizer spreader or some mad PEZ dispenser. As a good Midwesterner, I feel it’s my duty to assist with stiff lift.

  • Skydiver Got Confused

What’s that whump on the roof of the car? Did Santa get confused? Are Pterodactyls a thing again, and they’ve got indigestion problems? Is FedEx air freight hauling bowling balls and having trouble securing its cargo doors?

None of the above. We’re dealing with winter skydiving.

When this combines with power lines that were not on the descent trajectory map, one finds oneself with dead weight. It does’t look as good as a Christmas tree and might need to go through the woodchipper early.

* * *

Right now, on the cusp of winter, the common wilderness space behind our Carlisle house is a spectrum of beige. The foliage bends over this way and that like a greying giant’s unwashed mane.

When it turns green in the spring, however, I’ll be on the lookout for spots that dive deeper into the verdant palette smear.

Each of those spots represents a story and a potential prison sentence, but we’re new in town, and as my mom always said, beggars can’t be choosers.

But anyone can be a body mover.

Don’t Pick Up Abandoned Pancakes at the Park

Will borrowed my American Eagle hoodie to wear to the Phipps Prairie Park in Silvis, IL. Later, he told me he used it to pick up a pancake he found and toss it into the woods. I was mad, but this burned out like a single spark.

How mad can you be when your son picks up a piece of abandoned breakfast at the park? At least he spared some other unfortunate soul the pain of coming across a harried, homeless hot cake.

There are few decisions in the world with the weight that accompanies deciding whether to toss a pancake into the woods. Among them:

* * *

Deciding Whether to Toss a Paper Cup into the Woods

This might not be trash. It might be part of the collection of cups belonging to the winner of the world champion cup-stacking competition. Have you seen those videos of people who can stack into a pyramid and unstack to small piles a group of cups in a matter of seconds?

They leave you thinking you’ve seen a video full of cuts and jumps rather than someone with superior skill. But watching more closely reveals no trickery, just an amazing human.

You wouldn’t be so callous as to throw away the tools that made them famous, would you?

Deciding Whether to Toss a Shoe into the Woods

Whether the laces are twisted around a high-power line or lying flaccid on the ground like abandoned snakeskin, laces play an important role in any shoes, abandoned or otherwise. So why give them the blame when their owner failed to cinch them tightly enough to prevent them from falling off?

We could be talking about an escaped criminal on the run. We could be talking about the next Alberto Salazar or Steve Prefontaine or Usain Bolt. We could be talking about The Flash who was looking for some rural chic to add to the texture of his runs to balance out the old-town cityscape of Central City—I mean, Portland, OR.

But in each case, the wearer lost a shoe and has a responsibility to return to claim it and accept its accompanying consequences. For the criminal, evidence, jail; elite runner, talisman, hall-of-fame; The Flash, recovery of evidence that could reveal his identity, sequestering of such at normal speeds with no member of the public looking around.

You wouldn’t be so callous as to throw away the shoes of responsibility, would you?

Deciding Whether to Toss a Dirty Diaper into the Woods

This one seems a no-brainer. I’ll admit, I’ve had to sit here a minute to think of a plausible reason why one would approach a discarded dirty diaper, let alone swing it into a momentous arc and toss it into the woods, let further alone use my American Eagle hoodie to do said momentous swinging. (The most impactful and complex questions deserve space in which to develop, or molder.)

But I’ve got it.

What if these discarded diapers are not discarded but rather stored? What if they are the ammunition cache created with the help of an army of diarrhea-inflicted toddlers and intended be used to launch an assault on a political establishment? “What smear campaigns couldn’t do, we will fill the gap with poo,” the military cadence rallying cry of this underground and overfilled movement.

You wouldn’t be so callous as to throw away the buttloads of butts, would you?

* * *

To pick up a pancake at the park and toss it away is an unconventional use of clothing. I wonder if the American Eagle brand would cringe at its involvement with litter clearing that carries potentially momentous consequences.

Is this, then, license to pass by? To consider history?

To leave my American Eagle hoodie unmarked?

Jeezuz

A lady staffer at a church we used to attend always pronounced Jesus like Jeezuz, like suds, spuds, or was, with a strong emphasis on the hard, buzzing z instead of a soft s.

Why did she do this?

It’s because she knows the Jesus that most mainstream Christians have yet to meet: Funky Jesus aka Jeezuz. Funky Jesus talks like a combination of Bob Marley and the characters from the Jamaican bobsled team in Cool Runnings. Funky Jesus isn’t shy in using His powers to help everybody be cool, Baby. In His own words, here’s Funky Jesus describing how He helps us lower our temperatures when we’re about ready to whistle for tea.

* * *

On Election Madness

I don’t understand why y’all gettin’ bodered, Mon. You elect who you want, and I’ll still have de power. Chew on some figs and t’ink about dat.

On Cross-Country Moves

It’s good to travel to see uduh parts o’ de country, Mon. You’ll recall I did de same t’in’, and y’all got everlastin’ life out o’ dat.

On Midwest Versus Pacific Northwest

Everybody be makin’ beer, Mon. I prefer foot wine, but any drink tastes better when enjoyed at home.

On Packers Versus Bears

A friend o’ Mine, David, o’ slingshot fame, has some experience wid bears. Dose experiences didn’t end well for de bears. But on My cross-country walks, food packin’ skills go a long way, Mon. So de green and yellow are close to holy colors.

On City Versus Country

I came to seek and to save dose who are lost, and it’s easier to get lost in de country dan de city, so de country is where I’ll be, chillin’ on My front porch and sippin’ a glass o’ de foot wine.

On Chevy Versus Ford

Eider make is fine once you break it down to its base elements. Only petty pride prevents brand endusiasts from seein’ dis. Sit wid your neighbor, Mon, a Ford owner, on de lowered tailgates o’ your respective trucks. You’ll have more in common when your legs are swingin’ and logos are out o’ view.

On Bro Country

A lot o’ t’ese songs discuss alcohol and its positive effects. Den de alcohol runs out, and de party dies. Dat doesn’t happen to Me. No beer runs means no drunk drivin’. Dat’s somet’in’ to chisel tablet about—dat and maybe a lyric about sandal fashion.

On Pianos in the Basement

You make music where you can, Mon. Wouldn’t you rader play in a muffled tomb dan try to match pitch wid pinched, herniated grunts? Sub-level garages are functional and promote healdy livin’. Stay in de basement, Mon. Make your music. If you open de garage door, de sound will still carry.

On PODS

If I had to do it over again, I would have stored de wood from de cross in one o’ dese and den had it delivered to holy men and women around de world, one splinter at a time. Dat would have saved all dat trouble wid de toodpick factory’s claims o’ relic possession. But I convinced dem de best use for deir false relics was to clean de Poke vegetables out o’ deir teeth. A claim o’ apostacy turned into a win for oral hygiene. Dat’s Jeezuz’ way.

On Sleazebag Motels

If I am wid you, you are safe wherever you lay down your head. But I will not guarantee, Mon, dat your sleazebag motel pillows will be stain-free, nor your mattress bedbug-free, nor de corners o’ your room corpse remnant-free, but should t’in’s go badly for you, I will be here on My heavenly country porch, sippin’ de foot wine.

* * *

Funky Jesus doesn’t get upset; He finds solutions. But most importantly.

He knows how to have a good time.

Wid foot wine.

The Great Banana Sacrifice

Amy told me about a gardening strategy she wants to try to get our tomato plant to ripen faster. The plan involves picking the tomatoes and putting them into a brown paper bag with bananas. The bananas release ethylene, she said, a chemical that aids in the ripening of fruit. Call it original creative destruction. Consequently, the bananas will go near to rot before the ripening process is complete, so we’ve called this The Great Banana Sacrifice.

But what about other meanings behind this title? If you hadn’t read my opening vignette, and had read only this piece’s title, what might you have thought I would write about? To save you from the trouble, I’ve thought through a few possibilities.

* * *

1. On the island of Bananaschweiger, natives treat visitors to an unusual welcoming ceremony. After they are festooned with leis, showered with affection, and entertained by attractive women in short, grass skirts, they are held down, tied to a bamboo pole with vines, set on a spit over coals, and seasoned with—you guessed it—bananas, which grow plentifully on Bananaschweiger.

But seasoning Sally, Sam, and Sandra is salutary, not sadistic.

The bananas of Bananaschweiger contain magical properties that are released in their highest potency when converted to smoke and seasoning. Thus, the skewering, mounting, seasoning, and cooking of a wayward, sea-faring adventurer is not cannibalism, not barbarism, not brutality; it is a show of honor.

So go forth and adventure on the waters of the world, friends, and maybe you, too, will receive the Bananaschweiger sacred seasoning of The Great Banana Sacrifice.

2. Reincarnation preferences are rarely honored. One must achieve the pinnacle of human achievement and humanitarianism to be awarded one’s preference. For those purposed enough to pursue pragmatic accomplishments, the ultimate prize awaits: reincarnation as a banana.

The fuck would I want to be a banana? You may be asking yourself. Don’t want to be mixed into a smoothie, used for sex ed, or used to attract fruit flies?

Those thoughts are understandable but misdirected.

While it is possible to suffer the fates mentioned, it’s also possible to be the slippery peel left on the polished marble floor of the office building across which a terrorist is running to reach a dirty bomb. If he reaches it, bye-bye Barcelona.

Enter The Great Banana Sacrifice.

His innards eaten and husk discarded, Barry the Reincarnated Banana paid a high price to be placed in the path of an extremist, but Barry was where he needed to be because the extremist slipped on the banana peel, cracked his head on the marble, and suffered a subdural hematoma (I was paying attention during ER) and brain death and, thus, never reached the dirty bomb.

Eaten and used and altogether abused, but Barry was honored with The Great Banana Sacrifice.

3. Have you seen Moana? At the core of the story is a magical jewel that powers an ancient god. When the jewel is removed, the god turns into a demon. Unfortunately, the jewel is lost for generations, and the demon reigns supreme.

But what’s little known about the demon Te Kā is that she was actually suffering from a potassium deficiency, not the lack of a life-giving jewel. Only humans reincarnated as bananas who’ve chosen in their reincarnated form to make The Great Banana Sacrifice will be powerful enough to serve as Te Kā’s return to vitamin sufficiency and back to Te Feti.

You might be dying for a snack, but the whole world might be relying on you to make The Great Banana Sacrifice and be the snack.

* * *

Bet you’ll think twice before letting a banana go to waste, won’t you?

Worthy are the ones who acquire brown spots.

Cut the Fruit and Pack All the Knives

“Cut the fruit and pack all the knives,” Amy said as we were packing up the house for moving and trying to determine what we could take with us on the road. Sounds like a conversation between a husband and wife, health-conscious contract killer team.

* * *

The fruit bowl had just been filled. Ron was admiring its capacity to both hold the promise of sweetness and the assurance of a healthy snack when Tobin, his wife, walked in the room. She held five knives in each hand, like a dealer holds cards. She twirled and swiveled and rotated the knives of each hand independently of the other, like Edward Scissorhands with an option to go all-human.

She crossed the room, hips swaying like a runway model who likes steak, and bread, playing at her knife act the whole way. She stopped two feet in front of him, invading his personal space. He felt the wind from the spinning and slicing knives on his face. He’d shaved that morning and had no more than a micron of growth on his face, but Tobin’s dexterity with the knives took care of that. He wouldn’t even have razor burn, he knew, so clean was her cut. He liked it when she shaved him, and he started to smile.

“No,” she said sharply. “Relaxed cheeks, unless you want me to cut you off a piece of jowl to go with your clippings.” He did not want that, so he relaxed his face into expressionless dough. But quickly enough, his spirit took on the character of arcing sugar art. “Cut the fruit and pack all the knives, Babe,” she said. “We’re in the news again. Time to run.”

“So soon?”

“We’ve done enough shopping. Time to pick a new market with fresh product on the shelves.”

He knew she was referring both to marks for their hired killer business and to fresh fruit. Either could go rotten and attract attention from the wrong kind of flies. Flies that would sample here and there, collect a bit for themselves, another bit for their friends, and open the possibility of deeper analysis rather than just having a tasty snack.

Shelf-life for hired killers was one or two days and the same number of kills.

Their business took them to small towns, where it was common for people to drop dead in pairs. Alcohol and broken hearts and trucks and sharp curves come together in a deadly combination naturally, not just in country songs. All Tobin and Ron did was stir the ingredients in the pot faster, adding a little here, substituting and subtracting a little there until the brew that fed the masses was as harmless as a story about old ladies quilting in the church basement.

That simile reminded him of something: yarn treated in formaldehyde. Grannies were liable to squawk if their marked granny friends failed to show for quilting.

The second part of Tobin’s market comment concerned hers and his daily diet. It took strength to plan a subtle killing. Better to eat the banana than to slip on its peel, Ron would often say—to both his wife and to complete strangers. If the strangers had known Ron was referring to the fresh fruit-fueled intellectual prowess necessary to carry out a successful contract killing with no one in the community the wiser, perhaps they would not have laughed so heartily, but they didn’t know, and Ron had given them a laugh, brightened their day, and he could see they thought he was alright.

Ron often took bites of an apple at the moment of murderous climax; Tobin, popped grapes, saying they reminded her of lives exploding at the command of her crunch. Ron thought this imagery distasteful, but they were killing people for money, so he supposed he didn’t have the right to nitpick her fruit of choice and the literary association she assigned thereto.

Tobin finished whirling her pentagonal cutting arrays and, his face as smooth and hairless as a bubble, Ron took the knives from her and packed them away, keeping one apple out for himself, munching it, and looked down at a single blade that remained on the kitchen counter.

* * *

Trouble in passion fruit paradise?

Dr. Rocks Off

A buddy of mine said the doctor who performed his vasectomy was named Dr. Rocks Off. Probably not how his name was spelled, but that’s what I heard, and it got me thinking.

Somewhere, there’s a real Dr. Rocks Off, who casts aside traditions of modesty like garbage on the side of the highway, all in the name of serving this mantra: rocks off, no consequences.

* * *

At first, Dr. Rocks Off catered to the porno crowd, keeping stars engaged, gainfully employed, and free of the need to switch genres to hot, pregnant mamas to care for little Johnny. But after the Morality Police held nightly rallies outside his home, dressed in the finest cardboard and burlap sacks, Dr. Rocks Off grew a conscience and changed his practice’s market specialty to scoundrels.

“Male and female created he them,” says the Good Book. By the same token, scoundrels, male and female, services he them, so implies Dr. Rocks Off’s new slogan.

Don’t get the wrong impression. It’s not just—not just—that these scoundrels want to get their rocks off, courtesy of Rocks Off, with a bunch of strange; they also have laudable goals, such as:

Building Fortune 500 Companies

Little difficult to secure financing, poach the best talent, and shove the old tax code up the rear of the feds when you’ve got to take your turn at diaper duty every other night. This produces a lack of sleep, poor judgment, and the gathering of subsequent waves of angry mobs in the wings, ready and willing to take the place of the Morality Police.

Even sans kid, tensions build and must be relieved. Consenting adults do what they do and must suffer the consequences.

But what if we could avoid defrauded investors, angry mobs placing chastity belts on bananas, and grocery stores placing modesty blankets over cucumbers? Shouldn’t we do so?

Dr. Rocks Off thinks so.

That’s why he caters to business titan scoundrels. He’s just as interested in protecting the public as the next average investor. Forget snipping coupons. A snip here and a snap there of the vas deferens, and the lords and ladies of business can do as they please, pick their stallion and stable of choice, spend as much time getting their animal into its enclosure as necessary, and you, my friends, can retire at 137 like the rest of us average Americans.

What’s more red, white, and blue—but not that kind of blue—than that? No spherical shapes adopting a shade of the ocean, just federalist patriotism and an uncommon devotion to one’s fiduciary duties.

Lobby for Population Reduction

At latest count, the Earth houses nearly eight-billion people. According to numerous sci-fi plots, that’s too many and must be reduced post haste, lest we achieve a planet-wide case of water retention, rendering the world’s brewers without water—this, of course, being the chief concern.

As with running a large company, lobbying for reduced population and thereby for increased availability of alcohol for those left behind, takes tremendous amounts of energy and produces an equal amount of stress.

Stress must be relieved, lest the do-gooder become the 20-megaton nuke as such he has cast the overpopulated mass. (Can you tell I’m reading Anna Karenina as I write this?) Stress relief can be complex, such as when companies desire to turn a profit from selling you an idea you could have gotten for free had you not been so stressed. Or stress relief can be simple, a la sex.

Ah, but our theme recurs yet again. Sex without limits has nasty consequences for both reputations and finances.

Enter Dr. Rocks Off.

A snip here and a snap there, and overpopulating takes a backseat to copulating.

* * *

I didn’t set out to fill this column with so many innuendos, but what’s a man to do when he’s packing a house filled with pencils, weenie-roaster forks, and shafts and shafts of weight equipment?

I think I’ll write a few limericks, fire up the BBQ, and then workout. Should the pencils break in my pockets with points inward, BBQ explode at waist level, or shaft collars lose control of steel plates, I’ll probably be good in the reproductive control department.

But just in case.

I’ve got Dr. Rocks Off.