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What My Husband Wants To Know

I just asked my husband what he would like me to write about and this is what he said, “I want to know why women don’t like the Three Stooges.”

Three StoogesReally? Of all the thoughts that go through my mind THIS is the question that keeps him up at night? Well, ok, here goes. This is why I don’t like the Three Stooges.

First of all, I want to clarify that I don’t hate them. Not in a loathing kind of way. They’re funny for about the first five minutes but how many times can you see eye poking and ear pulling before it just looks mean?

Here’s another reason, personality-wise I don’t really like them. They are annoying people. Can you imagine having to wait in line with them? Those accents and the mumbling they do while insulting each other. And, of course, they are completely accurate in their insulting assessments. I bet they smell, too. All that hair grease dripping down their faces and sweating inside their wool suits. I know it was the style back then, but most stylish people don’t work up a sweat by throwing themselves into tables full of food. Just sayin’.

I just read this to my husband and he told me that it is insulting on multiple levels. Thanks. I’ll take that as a compliment.

What I think is insulting is the way the other people are portrayed in the movies. I mean, seriously, how would these guys ever get any women, especially good looking ones. And the rich people. Surely, they couldn’t have been that stereotypical in those days. Please, tell me that just because you were rich it didn’t mean you had to talk like you had a bunch of marbles in your mouth.

So, after about five minutes the humor is gone for me and I’m back talking to my three year old. Who, I might add, knows that you don’t put hot irons down someone’s pants and can actually figure out how to use a tape measure pretty easily.

Wild Banshees

The natives were restless that afternoon. Running around their primitive structures with wild abandon, screaming unintelligible words that caused my blood to curdle. Plumes of dirt puffed up from under their stomping feet as they danced around me with jerky movements that made no sense.

Dread flooded my heart.

As the group circled around I recognized one of them. I’d known him for two years and he’d shown me mercy in the past. I reached out a hand but he ignored me, caught up in the energy of the ritual.

Behind him a girl caught my attention and we made eye contact. For a second we were connected and I thought—hoped–I had another chance to escape this madness. My hopes were dashed when she opened her mouth to let out a shriek that sent shivers up my spine. Turning on her heels, she ran in the opposite direction and the others followed, crashing into one another as they righted themselves with the new rotation.

I looked around at the other parents and a collective sigh escaped us. It was going to be a long day at the playground.

Dumm-Bell

Years ago my brother-in-law, Casey Bell, attended Coast Guard basic training at Training Center (TRACEN) Cape May, New Jersey. This is my retelling of one of the many stories to come out of his time there…

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At TRACEN tradition dictated the newest recruits were always last in line for lunch. On days when the meal was particularly good this worked in their favor because the officers were too busy eating to pay attention to the newbies filing past their table. However, on days when the chefs’ culinary skills were lacking the officers switched their attention towards the recruits. Infractions were called out and punishments were administered randomly.

Well…mostly randomly.

The day my brother-in-law came under their scrutiny it was obvious there had been a plan in place.

“Bell!” one of them yelled, jumping from his chair and rounding the table to stand nose-to-nose with Casey. “Your cup is not in its place!”

As this was going on another officer had left the table to corner a different recruit. More accusations were leveled and then the punishments were administered…

“Both of you! Go to the front of the room and take turns yelling out your last names. Loud!”

Together, the two sailors marched to the end of the room and for the next half hour…in their most military sounding voices…they yelled;

“DUMM!” “BELL!”

“DUMM!” “BELL!”

“DUMM!” “BELL!”

“DUMM!” “BELL!”

“DUMM!” “BELL!”

A Visit From Cupid

Ding… Dong…

The door opened and there she stood, my project: Julia.

She was in her late thirties now and far from being ready for love; sabotaging her own happiness as a coping method to manage the pain accumulated over years of destructive relationships.

“Hi,” I say, “My name’s Cupid.”

“Cupid?” she repeated, dumbstruck.

“Yea,” I point a finger backwards towards my wings, “Can I come in? It’s pretty cold out here and I’m not wearing any pants.”

“Of course, come in…please.” I could hear a hopeful note behind the surprise in her voice. “What are you doing here?”

As I follow her into her living room I see a table set for one. A candle’s flame flickered pitifully over her half eaten meal.

“Really? You have to ask?” The sarcasm came out without censor. I’ve seen this same setting too many times during my long career and, frankly, I was tired of feigning loving concern for people who can’t let go of the fantasy. But I could see by Julia’s confused look she was blinded by her illusion of love so I took a softer approach. “Listen, we both know I’ve given you many chances at love…many, many chances at love. Remember the rock star? That wasn’t as easy as it seemed.”

“Oh?” her eyes widened. I could tell this thought hadn’t occurred to her. They all think it’s their looks and charisma that draws people to them. People are so naive.

“Yes. You see, at first I tried to send over men that fit your personality…the good ones, I call them. I tried to find a match that would compliment your strengths and understand your weaknesses, but you found them ‘boring’. So I spiced up the selection. The young rebel, the shifty business owner, the coked-up car salesman, then I finally topped it off with the, afore-mentioned, rock star.”

Her mouth curled into a sly smile as she remembered her lovers.

“Oh, I see…you think it was all fun and games, then?” I challenged. “Well, look at you now…thirty-eight, bitter, sad, and alone on St. Valentine’s Day.”

Her brows furrowed together as tears welled up in her eyes. “Well, what am I supposed to do? Whenever I start to fall for a guy they blow me off. And the others…I can’t help it if I’m not drawn to someone, can I?”

“No…no, that’s a fact. But maybe you need to reevaluate what you’re doing in your relationships.”

“Like what?”

“Do I really have to spell it out for you?”

“Well, you didn’t come here for tea, did you?” Her expression changed and I knew she wanted to get down to business.

“Ok, listen,” we sat down on opposites sides of the table. “There are four things you need to change.”

“Only four?” she let out a huff.

“Well, let’s start off small, shall we?”

She took a deep breath and nodded her agreement.

“First of all, you need to know that no one is perfect…” I held up a hand when I saw that she was about to object, “Don’t interrupt… Nobody is perfect, including you, and that’s ok. It’s our imperfections that make us interesting. Be open to people that aren’t exactly like you on the surface; get to know them before you brush them off.”

“But…”

“Listen, if you want love you need to hear what I have to say. Okay?’

“Go on…” she relented.

“Don’t expect the fantasy. It’s not real. What is real is the fact that these guys really do want to make you happy but they’re guessing at it…mind reading doesn’t come naturally to them.”

“I don’t expect them to read my mind but I don’t want to spell it out for them either. They should have some sense of romance.”

“Yea, well, they don’t…or it’s different than yours. Don’t fault them for that, just accept their intentions and be grateful for the everyday love they do show you.”

“Everyday love?”

“You know…asking how your day was, helping you with some chores, taking care of you when you’re sick. The stuff that really matters…the stuff a friend would do.”

“But I don’t want a friend. I have friends. I want a lover, a partner.”

“And that’s what you’ll get, if you are that for them.” I took her hand in my own, “You see, you must develop the trust that friends have before your desire can deepen into love.”

Her eyes stayed on our hands and I knew my words were making an impact. “Well, ok…I can work on that.”

“Shall I go on?”

She nodded.

“Drop all the games. Drop the hair flipping, the haughty attitude, the bitchiness…it’s not cute. It’s immature. It’s a bad habit you picked up in high school.”

“It used to work,” she countered.

“Is it working for you now?”

“No,” she whispered. “Alright..what else?”

I dropped her hand and in my most stern voice, said, “For God’s sake, Julia, you’ve got to stop sleeping with them so fast.”

“I don’t sleep with them too fast,” she stumbled over the speed of her words, “I’m not a slut, you know!”

“Of course, you’re not…you did wait for the concert to end before you screwed the rock star.”

“Why do you keep bringing him up?” anger pushed her words out.

“Because it’s his memory that’s tripping you up.”

“Well, he was pretty exciting.”

“Excitement is temporary. It’s true love that you’re looking for, my dear.”

Julia lowered her head, “I know…”

“Ok, then…” I checked my cell phone, “Well, I’ve got to go. It’s the busy season and I’m swamped until after June.” I stood, shaking my head, “Everyone wants to have a spring wedding nowadays.”

We walked to the front door in silence.

“Thanks for stopping by,” she said, opening the door wide.

“I hope you’ll take my advice, Julia,” I said as I twisted my body through the doorway. My wings are always so cumbersome in a human’s house.

“I will. I promise,” she murmured halfheartedly. I could tell she was in mourning for the loss of her childhood fantasy of love.

“Happy Valentines Day,” I offered sympathetically.

Anger flooded her face as she slammed the door shut.

Ready or Not, Here She Comes

“I have a birth mother interested in you,” our attorney told me over the phone.

“Really?!”

“She’s due in two weeks.”

 “WHAT?”

Unlike the many stories of ‘typical’ adoptions we’d heard, our search hadn’t taken the months or even years that some do. In fact, we’d only begun our search seven weeks ago. Seven weeks! We had nothing ready for a baby…Nothing…no clothes, no diapers, no crib…we didn’t even have a room available at the time because we had a guest staying with us. The scramble to get things ready was on!

Time was not on our side but, fortunately, our friends were. They generously donated clothes, supplies, and furniture from their own nurseries and by week two the essentials were in place. It was at that point I took a breather and reassessed what was left to do and it came to my attention that something vital was missing from my parenting arsenal:  Advice.

Normally, a mother would have several months and possibly a baby shower or two to learn how to care for her newborn. Her friends and family would offer the tips and advice that had made their baby’s life easier and their own adjustment to parenthood less stressful. I, on the other hand, had a couple ‘how to’ books that hopefully would provide me with ‘Everything You Need to Know During the First Year’. Now, typically a book wouldn’t be my first choice as a guide but at this point I was looking for a security blanket as much as the guidance these books contained.

On several occasions I offered the books to my husband. To be honest I was overwhelmed with the thought of being the sole source of information about how to care for our little bundle of joy and wanted a back-up. My husband, however, seemed perfectly at peace with our rapidly approaching monumental change and continually refused to read the books, assuring me that he would “do it later”. Actually, I think he realized his days as a child-free dude were coming to an end and he didn’t want homework. I couldn’t blame him. Even if his disinterest was annoying I could relate to his apparent denial of premature responsibility.

When we finally got the call from our birth mother we raced to the airport and hopped a flight to the city where our daughter was to be born. We arrived in the middle of the night and went directly to the hospital but our birth mother was asleep so we continued on to our hotel. The next day we met our birth mother, her new boyfriend, her family, her doctor and nurses, and the social worker facilitating the adoption. All those eyes were on us as they evaluated every aspect of our parenting potential.

After spending the day at the hospital we took some time to have dinner and relax a little by ourselves back at the hotel until ‘the call’ came. The doctor was going to induce labor…we needed to get back to the hospital as soon as possible. We took a deep breath and began getting ready, all the while knowing these were the last moments for the rest of our lives that it was just the two of us. It was an exciting, frightening, and overwhelming feeling.

I offered these thoughts up to my husband as I was fixing my hair. When he didn’t respond I turned around to see what he was so focused on and found him sitting on the edge of the bed digging through our bags like a hound at a fox hole.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

He pulled out the baby book and, with an urgency I had never before witnessed, he started thumbing through the index. Without raising his head, he said, “Looking at the book.”

“What?”

“I’m looking at the baby book.”

“SERIOUSLY?” I asked, flabbergasted, “You’re cramming…for a baby?!!”

His sheepish look was all the answer I got.

Well, I’m happy to report the adoption went well and we have managed parenthood for nearly two years with only a couple hiccups…and I don’t think he ever looked at that baby book again.

The Fortune Teller

For some reason I’d only imagined gypsies as either young and passionate or very, very old, but this fortune-teller was neither. She was my age…although you wouldn’t know it by looking at her. It wasn’t because of the wrinkles stretching across her face or the gray strands crinkling their way through her, otherwise, coal-black hair. It was the knowing look in her green eyes that had aged her. Her life lessons had taught her how to survive…above all else.

 After a rumbling cough she removed the cigarette stub from between her cracked lips, snuffing it out on the tip of her middle finger before flicking it into the grass. “Give me your hand,” she commanded with a rich, throaty voice. 

I held out my palm and she grasped it between large hands that were thick and rough like a man’s. I felt the vitality of this woman coursing through me, plucking at my tendons and buzzing up my arm. The gypsy’s eyes closed and her head tilted backwards. Light coming from a campfire behind her cast an orange aura around her body. 

Without warning the woman let out a high-pitched scream that cracked the stillness of the night like a whip. Sparks from the fire burst skyward. Leaning further back, the gypsy dragged my hand closer to her body but I resisted. A stronger current of electricity surged between us and she dug her fingers deep into my flesh.

 “Stop!” she yelled. My body weakened and I obediently sat back down.  Leaning forward, she whispered, “You are special, my child. You have been selected… one among millions.” I leaned in, too, intense interest obliterating all my fears.

“You are to go out into the world and explore it. You will meet many people.” Her eyes drilled into me until I was sure they could see my soul. “You will use your gifts to unite the believers. You will lead them home.”

 She paused, closing her eyes and swaying from side-to-side rhythmically.

 I waited a moment then dared to ask, “How will I do it?”

 The swaying ceased. She took in a deep breath, slowly…deliberately…exhaling a cloud that vanished in the frosty air.

 Sparkling emerald eyes bore into my baby blues and a sly smile split her face as she let go of my hand …

 “Twenty dollars more.”

Descending the Corporate Ladder

This is a story about a past employer of mine. It’s a funny story in a politically incorrect way, so if you take offense easily you probably shouldn’t read this. Names have been changed to protect, well…me.

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The corporate bigwigs were in town for the annual ‘pat on the back, the company’s doing great’ New Year’s bullshit they fed us every year. “Happy Holidays! Here’s your free turkey…Oh, and, by the way, we’re changing insurance companies on you.” In other words, it was that time of year when you and your co-workers found out what benefits you’d be losing next year.

All of us, around four hundred, walked into the lobby. It was a large, open space with a curved staircase rising to the second floor executive suites. Everyone filed in and quickly found a place to stand. Their expressions differed mainly according to age. The grayer the hair; the more pronounced was the look of cynical resignation. I took my seat along with the rest of my team and waited.

Our second in command stood up. “Good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us today…”  Blah, blah, blah… “I’d like to introduce our president, who flew in especially for today’s meeting.” Then ‘the suit’ stood and took the mic. He was the kind of man who rarely, if ever, thought about the present or past, focusing almost exclusively on the future, studying his target and planning his next strategic move. He appeared entirely devoid of personality.

The speech droned on the way it was planned:  Positive remarks about the company and how important all of us are to the organization. The usual accolades were handed out to the leadership teams…of course; it came as no surprise to them because they’d planned it. What they’d call the awards, who’d get which ones…based on what project?  It all needed to seem legitimate; earned, to justify their end-of-year bonuses.

After a brief mention about the company stock the speech ended. The president thanked everyone for their time and said, “Now, where’s Dan?”

“Dan:” The General Manager of our division and the person holding our financial lives in his hands. He’d made a name for himself in sales early in his career and climbed the ladder to a prominent position in an international corporation before his fiftieth birthday. And, he wasn’t just a successful businessman…he was also accomplished in his personal life, having overcome losing a leg in a high school boating accident.

However, he’d also picked up the less desirable characteristics of his elevated social class. One could say he was a self-absorbed individual. An example: At a time when the company was conducting regular layoffs he made sure he got his box seats at the coliseum into the yearly budget. Another story…He was part of a group of co-workers trying to lose weight and every Monday they’d weigh in on a scale in the sales manager’s office. One morning “Sheila” was conducting a job interview when Dan burst in, mumbled the obligatory “Morning,” then immediately went to work unstrapping his artificial leg. He slapped the large, plastic and metal contraption down on the table between the sales manager and the poor, dumbstruck applicant, hopped over to the scale in the corner…the whole time babbling away to no one in particular…and weighed himself. When he was done he strapped his leg back on and walked out.

Like I said…totally disconnected to what was going on around him.

However, that is not what this story is about. Back to the company-wide meeting…

With a big, sweeping gesture towards the stairs, Mr. President said, “And now I’ll turn it over to Dan.” The crowd’s attention swung obediently towards the man responsible for their continued success, who happened to be about halfway down the stairs by now. Dan raised his arm in acknowledgement just as an ominous chink, chink was heard from his artificial leg. His hand clamped down on the banister, gripping it in his fake tanned fist just before he disappeared behind the banister wall.

Thump, thump, thump! We all knew what was happening and none of us could look away.

He slid down a few stairs before coming to a stop with one last, loud thump on the mid-point landing. Then just as suddenly as he had disappeared, he popped back up like Leslie Nielsen in a Police Squad sketch. His usually perfectly coiffed hair was askew and the collar of his golf shirt was pushed to the side. As he regained his composure his face began deepening to a striking scarlet color. In one conjoined motion, the rest of us went from staring at the spectacle on the stairs to a deep visual study of our feet. No one dared share a glance for fear of the shrieks of joyous contempt threatening to burst forth.

The meeting went on without a reference to the awkward moment. He made it downstairs and after a moment of recovery he delivered his prepared lines. I noticed that our president’s expression remained unchanged…he must be dead inside at this point in his career.

There’s no great moral discourse meant to come from this moment other than…

Nature has a way of equalizing us all.

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