Showing posts with label humor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label humor. Show all posts

30 November 2018

The Kindness of Strangers
A Thanksgiving Thanksgiving


The Oyster Pub, Dalton, Florida, and Georgia American Legion Riders. Remember that.

Meanwhile…

The near ox died at noon. After prayers, we buried our little Bessie beside the loyal beast, then continued south at wagon train speed.

Georgie Boy Cruise XL
Bertha
So it seemed. I was volunteered to drive a 40-foot, 33,000-pound machine a thousand miles from Indianapolis to Orlando. (12m, 15,000kg, and 1600km, respectively) I’ve driven that distance straight through, but not a 16½-ton covered wagon the size of a Greyhound bus: Freightliner chassis, Caterpillar diesel engine, Allison transmission, a flippin’ huge RV.

I haven’t driven anything that size since young and foolish teen years driving large, dual-axle trucks semi-legally (notice author’s clever avoidance of the word ‘illegally’) for a legislator who interpreted his state’s labor and highway laws loosely.

With three drivers and only two vehicles, the trip should have been a snap, right? Except…

It’s like that puzzle of the weird guy at a river who wants to ferry a chicken, a fox, and a sack of grain in a rowboat that can accommodate only one thing at a time (setting aside the obvious question of why he’s carrying around a fox drooling over his pet chicken). See, one of the drivers couldn’t drive the big motorhome. One person couldn’t drive at night. Another party (me) wasn’t permitted to drive the car. I was told that’s because of my out-of-state license, but I suspect it had more to do with a previous encounter with an elk. Furthermore, parties with XX chromosomes suffered motion sickness. Coincidentally, said motor coach suffered XX passengers’ deep fingernail gouges in armrests when XY chromosome driver gleefully hurtled down twisting Tennessee mountain roads. Ahem.

After fighting high winds and icy roads either side of Louisville, we holed up in Murfreesboro, Tennessee to gather strength. From the rolling, twisting, pitching hills, two drivers took sick… consumption or maybe cholera. Another driver (me) was running critically short of sleep.

We opted for a motel rather than further strain the RV’s sensitive plumbing. The motel, which shall remain anonymous, featured two unique amenities.

First, the immaculately tiled bathroom stank like a water buffalo died. We came to suspect the stench was piped in through the ventilation system from room 127, a room where Bobby MacAllister caught his wife in bed with his best friend Buddy Hatfield, in flagrante delicto you might say. He shot them both, hung a ‘Do Not Disturb’ placard on the door, and paid for the room for the next six months. I’m pretty sure I’m correct.

Second were the fine acoustics that allowed us to hear every nuance of neighbors on either side. Room 125 thoughtfully tuned in the shopping channel for the entire night. I’m not sure how mental exhaustion played into it, but I’m now the proud owner of genuine 45kt zirconia earrings, a set of exquisite, hand-painted vice president portrait collector’s plates, and a complete set of Rachel Ray engraved Chinese-quality knives– and I’m not even sure who Rachel Ray is.

The other neighbor (for those who suspect I’m susceptible to hyperbole, I swear this is absolutely true) had a bangin’ good time… again and again… loudly… at length (pardon the pun).

Session № 1 commenced at 02:54 –that’s AM in the bleedin’ early morning– and ended at 03:11. For the really good at math, that’s more than a quarter of an hour of energetic bunny rabbit bumping. After a mere ten minutes, my lower back muscles began to ache in sympathy. Guys know what I’m talking about.

After fifteen continuous minutes, one of the women suggested loudspeaker lady was alone and “really spanking it,” whatever that meant.

I didn’t think so. Maybe I’m wrong, but symphonic percussion included slapping headboard and xylophonic bedsprings allegro, accompanied by feminine coloratura ‘ooo’s, gasps, and grace-note shrieks. Duet or solo? May the reader decide.

Eventually the participant(s) wore out and went silent. We settled in, trying to sleep to a sales pitch for the Rachel Ray Chinese macramé kit, which if ordered now, included a matching tea cosy and serviette ties.

Session № 2 commenced at 7:14. I swear that time’s accurate because I’d blankly stared at the clock for hours. This session waxed as enthusiastically as the previous bumps in the night.

I’m ashamed of the womenfolk, I really am. Granted, once again they were abruptly awakened, but what good are all those romance novels if one nips flowering love in the bud? I’m talking their loud clearing of throats and not-so-discreet coughs while I’m hushing them, “Shhh! Shhh!”

I’ve studiously ducked that no-win discussion whether men are more logical than the opposite sex, but when admittedly half-asleep women in a motel call out, “Get a room!” I retreat back to my cave to avoid debate.

After delicious Waffle House carbohydrates served by country’s most patient waitresses, the wagon train again hit the road. What is it those FedEx tandem trucks have against me? Barely three minutes into the journey, one of FedEx’s semis towing twin trailers passed me… almost… before it pulled back to the right lane… with me still there. Apparently the driver forget he was hauling two wagons.

FedEx predator
Interstate 75’s “Christine”
Swift, heroic action on my part saved the day. Heroic here means gut-wrenching terror.

This marked the second time I was attacked by a FedEx tandem rig. The day before, a speeding driver in heavy winds nearly sideswiped me and others as the semi serpentined down a mountainside from median to right shoulder and back again. At the bottom of the slope, the road straightened and the driver regained control, whereupon he headed to the nearest Pilot truck stop to wash his jeans.

On the way and at loose ends, we’d discussed where to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner. The tally had run against me 2-to-1. My companions opted for Cracker Barrel. I don’t have anything against crackers or barrels, but I have this prejudice about the evil lovechild of a rooster and a cow called chicken-fried steak. I mean, how bad does a meat slab have to be to rekill it with a hammer, bread it and deep fry it? Maybe it’s just me. With visions of steak-fried turkey dancing in my head, we pulled off I-75 at Exit 333, Dalton, Georgia.

I’m not saying West Walnut Avenue isn’t made for motor homes, but skateboards would feel more comfortable among its dips, hollows, and tight turns. In fact, a number of RVs could be found there, caught, I believe, in a sort of giant Venus flytrap.

I inadvertently (or perhaps Freudianly) passed the street to the Cracker Barrel. With a charming brick median and short, narrow streets, I had to figure out how to turn around.

My co-pilot suggested reversing in the Steak ’n’ Shake parking lot perched atop a hill. I looked aghast at it. This flatlander’s not saying it was steep, but goats rappelled up the slope with T-bars. Best I could make out, my navigator meant the tilting 14-foot tall (4.25m) vehicle should tiptoe low-gear up a dangerous, curving slope and suicidally leap off the cliff into the correct lane. That’s my theory.

I chose to squeeze through a bank parking lot where my graceful U-turn back onto Walnut resembled… well, picture a twelve-foot high, fifteen ton, unbalanced washing machine determined to shake its way out of a laundromat.

Further misadventures ensued until we found the backside of Cracker Barrel and parked in a mall lot. Here, my friends, our story took a charmingly unexpected turn.

The Kindness of Strangers

I love people who don’t ‘act’ polite and caring but *are* polite and caring. I want to be a Southerner, I really do. Except for cracklins. My grandmother cooked grits and cracklins. I love Southern food but I could not abide hominy or pork rinds, a sad defect in my genetic makeup.

Two gentlemen of Dalton who’d parked nearby noticed my forlorn look as I foot-dragged toward the Cracker Barrel. John and Steve were headed toward a tavern called The Oyster where, they explained, we could eat homemade Thanksgiving dinner without charge. Gratis. Free.

American Legion riders
I didn’t understand how that was possible, but we took them up on it. Thanksgiving in The Oyster turned out the highlight of the trip.

Thanksgiving dinner was sponsored by a local consortium underpinned by local American Legion Riders, as explained by John Brown, Assistant State Director of the Department of Georgia. They made a tradition of inviting folks who couldn’t be home for the holidays.

Loved it! We enjoyed ourselves and the food… oh, that Georgia cooking. The turkey breast, moist and tender, ranked right up there with the best. Great corn. Homemade mashed potatoes, another weakness. People enjoying themselves.

Thank you, Dalton, Georgia. Thank you for the kindness of strangers.

20 November 2018

Putting the Happy in Happy Thanksgiving


It's two days until Thanksgiving, and I bet some of you are stressed. Maybe it's because you're cooking and ... it's the first time you're hosting, and you want it to be perfect. Or your mother-in-law is coming, and your turkey never lives up to hers. Or the weatherman is predicting snow on Thanksgiving and you're afraid that your relatives won't show up ... or maybe that they will.
Or maybe your stress stems from being a guest. Are you an introvert, dreading a day of small talk with the extended family? A picky eater, going to the home of a gourmet who makes food way to fancy for your tastes? Or are you a dieter, going to the home of someone who likes to push food and you're likely to spend the day going, "no thanks, no rolls for me," "no thanks, no candied yams for me," "no thanks, no cookies for me," ... "dear lord, lady, what part of no thanks don't you get?"

No matter who you are, or what your situation, Thanksgiving can cause stress. The best way to deal with stress is laughter. And that's where I come in. So set down that baster and get ready to smile, because I've got some fictional characters who've had a worse Thanksgiving than you.

Paul and Jamie Buchman from Mad About You
 

They tried so hard to make the perfect dinner ... only to have their dog, Murray, eat the turkey.


Rachel Green from Friends


All she wanted was to cook a nice dessert for her friends ... only to learn too late that she wasn't supposed to put beef in the trifle. It did not taste good.


The Gang from Cheers 


Those poor Thanksgiving orphans. They waited hours for a turkey that just wouldn't cook ... only to then suffer the indignity of being involved in a food fight. (For anyone who's ever read my story "Biscuits, Carats, and Gravy," this Cheers episode was the inspiration.)


Debra Barone from Everybody Loves Raymond


She was determined to have a happy Thanksgiving despite her overly critical mother-in-law ... only to drop her uncooked turkey on the floor three times before flinging it into the oven. Yum.



Arthur Carlson from WKRP in Cincinnati




He wanted to create the greatest promotion ever, inviting the public to a shopping mall and providing free turkeys ... live ones ... only to learn too late that turkeys don't fly so when you toss them out of a helicopter from 2,000 feet in the air they hit the ground like sacks of wet cement.


Garner Duffy from "Bug Appétit"


All this con man wanted for Thanksgiving was to eat some good food at his mark's home before stealing her jewelry ... only to learn too late that her mother is an ... inventive cook. ("Bug Appétit" is my story in the current (November/December) issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. I'm so pleased to have heard from several readers who enjoyed it, including one who called it "hilarious.")

So, dear readers, I hope you're smiling and feeling less stressed. If you'd like to read my story, you could pick up a copy of the current EQMM, available in some Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million bookstores, as well as in an electronic version. You can find more information about getting the magazine here. The issue also has a story from SleuthSayer alum David Dean that I'm sure you'll enjoy.) As to the TV episodes mentioned above, I bet you can find them all online.

Until next time, please share your favorite funny turkey day story (fictional or real) in the comments. Happy Thanksgiving!

09 November 2018

The Power of Prepositions


Far away and four times a thousand and one nights ago, this tale appeared in Criminal Brief. Dial in a little Rimsky-Korsakov and read on.


The Power of Prepositions
by Leigh Lundin

Aladdin was getting along in years and found that he was unable to pitch a tent as he had done in his youth. Smart as well as lucky, Aladdin still had his magic lamp and, frugal with his wishes, he had one wish left.
He rubbed his lamp and the génie appeared. Aladdin begged him, “My camel can no longer thread the needle. Can you cure my erectile impotence?”
Genie said, “I can whisk away your problem.” With that, he rubbed his hands, evoking a puff of billowing blue smoke. Genie said, “I’ve dealt you a powerful spell, but at your age, you’ll be able to invoke it only once a year.”
“How do I use it?” asked Aladdin.
“All you have to do is say ‘one, two, three,’ and it shall rise for as long as you wish, but only once a year.”
Aladdin asked, “What happens when I’m exhausted and I no longer want to continue?”
Genie replied, “All you or your lady has to say is ‘one, two, three, four,’ and it will fade like a Sahara sunset. But be warned: the spell will not work again for another year.”
Aladdin galloped home, eager to try out his new powers of the flesh. That evening, Aladdin bathed away the dust of the desert and scented himself with oil of exotic myrrh. He climbed into bed where his resigned wife lay turned away, about to slip into Scheherazadic dreams.
Aladdin took a deep breath and said, “One, two, three.” Instantly, he became more aroused than he ever had in youth, a magnificent happenstance of tree-trunk proportions.
His wife, hearing Aladdin’s words, rolled back toward him and said, “What did you say ‘one, two, three,’ for?”
And that, dear readers, is why you should not end a sentence with a preposition.

27 October 2018

Just in Time for Hallowe'en! Books I will Never Write Part 1: Dino Porn


Apparently, I have been sounding too normal these days.  There have been complaints. The following is an attempt to rectify that.

People pay money for the weirdest reads.  Don't believe me?

DINOSAUR PORN

Yes, you heard that right.  This is a 'thing.'  No, I don't mean porn that randy male dinosaurs might read, involving somewhat sassy females of the same species who like a good time.  Last I checked, dinosaurs couldn't read.  Not even the urban ones.

But I'm not here to talk about that.  I'm not even going to talk about the weirdness of someone wanting to *write* about sexual relations between a human of today and a creature that might possibly have become extinct during an ice storm back in the good old days.  All writers are weird.  Some are more weird than others (thank you, George Orwell.)

Nope.  I'm here to talk about the blatant inequality in the dinosaur porn field.  Not only that, in ALL areas of human/not-even-remotely-human erotica.

Don't believe me?  Have you noticed that all these erotic books that star humans and some other race like Vampires or Werewolves or Aliens or Ducks (hey - has it been done?) always feature a girl with the Vampire or Werewolf?  Or in our case, a girl with the T-Rex?

Why is it always that way around?  Never do you see a young man being pursued by, say, a randy female dino.  I have to assume female dinos are more discriminating.

So in the interests of fair play, just in time for Hallowe'en, I offer my version of Dino porn.

It might go like this:

"La, la, lalalala, la, lala, la la..." <innocent young female stegosaurus frolics among the Precambrian (whatever) wild-flowers, unaware that she is about to be approached from behind>

"Hey hey," says health male homo sapien, who obviously time-traveled here from another era.  "You on Tinder, babe?"

"Tinder?" says Steggy-gal, unfamiliar with the vernacular.  "Isn't this a grassland?"


"How about I just show you my equipment?" says creepy guy, who might possibly be blind.  "I'll just take it out here...oops, no.  That's my phone."

"Oh! There's a butterfly!" says Steggy-gal, easily distracted.

"HA," says creep, lining up to do the dirty.  "Bet ya never had it like THIS before!"

"Gee, these flies are a nuisance," says Steggy, batting the annoyance away with her spiked tale.  "Why do they always hang around THAT end..."

"YEOOOOOOOW"

Okay, enough pastiche-ing around.  It's discimination, pure and simple.  Okay, maybe not pure.  And possibly more complicated than simple.  All those extra bits.  Which reminds me.  Girl with a Squid comes out in 2019.

Melodie Campbell writes some pretty wild comedy.  She even gets paid to do it, by poor unsuspecting publishers.  Check out her many series at www.melodiecampbell.com


07 October 2018

Talking Turkey


Tomorrow Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving and, in case you wondered, Liberia celebrates Thanksgiving the first Thursday in November. The time or place matters little to bachelors who celebrate the holiday much the same no matter when or where.

A Bachelor Thanksgiving
in honour of the Canadian holiday
arrangement in ironic pentameter
by deservedly anonymous


Thanksgiving cornucopia
I think I shall never sniff
A poem as lovely as a whiff
Of turkey and mashed po—
tatoes and frozen snow–

Peas in vast disproportion
As I gulp another portion.
Cranberry sauce, count me a fan,
Maintains the shape of the can.

Cheap beer and cheaper whiskey
Makes the shallow heart grow frisky.
Three litre jugs of screw-capped wine
First tastes horrible, then tastes fine.

Deli turkey, cellophane wrapped.
Processed ham and all that crap.
Sherbet, ice cream, anything frozen,
Packaged cupcakes by the dozen,

Ruffled chips and onion dip,
Reddi-Wip and Miracle Whip,
Maple frosting found in tins
Hide the worst culinary sins.

Seven-fifty millilitres of
Grain vodka labeled Scruitov,
Cheap brandy and cheaper beer
First smells awful, then tastes queer.

Pumpkin pie and store-bought cake,
Anything I need not bake.
If it’s boxed, if it’s canned,
I’m no gourmet, only gourmand.

Chorus    

Baseball, football on the TV.
One spilt bowl of poutine gravy.
This little poem with each verse,
I give thanks if it grows no worse.
vintage post card wreath turkey

vintage post card children, turkey, pumpkin

We admit nothing except Happy Thanksgiving. Graphics courtesy of Antique Images, The Holiday Spot, and Spruce Crafts.

Talking Turkey


Tomorrow Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving and, in case you wondered, Liberia celebrates Thanksgiving the first Thursday in November. The time or place matters little to bachelors who celebrate the holiday much the same no matter when or where.

A Bachelor Thanksgiving
in honour of the Canadian holiday
arrangement in ironic pentameter
by deservedly anonymous



I think I shall never sniff
A poem as lovely as a whiff
Of turkey and mashed po—
tatoes and frozen snow–

Peas in vast disproportion
As I gulp another portion.
Cranberry sauce, count me fan,
Maintains the shape of the can.

Cheap beer and cheaper whiskey
Makes the shallow heart grow frisky.
Three litre jugs of screw-capped wine
First tastes horrible, then tastes fine.

Deli turkey, cellophane wrapped.
Processed ham and all that crap.
Sherbet, ice cream, anything frozen,
Packaged cupcakes by the dozen,

Ruffled chips and onion dip,
Reddi-Wip and Miracle Whip,
Maple frosting found in tins
Hide the worst culinary sins.

Seven-fifty millilitres of
Grain vodka labled Scruitov,
Cheap brandy and cheaper beer
First tastes horrible, then tastes queer.

Pumpkin pie and store-bought cake,
Anything I need not bake.
If it’s boxed, if it’s canned,
I’m no gourmet, only gourmand.

Chorus    

Baseball, football on the TV.
One spilt bowl of poutine gravy.
This little poem with each verse,
I give thanks it grows no worse.


We admit nothing except Happy Thanksgiving.

16 September 2018

Truth in Advertising 1


Craig’s List
In an unusual local ad, a young lady offered men’s shaving services for free, beards and mustaches not included. Curious, I queried the offerer, who politely wrote back.
    She’s an Orlando UCF student. Her privates shaving service really is free– not even tips allowed. Her clients are mannerly, and she finds her hobby challenging, entertaining, and stimulating.
    Maybe it’s just me, but why not? I can’t pinpoint why, but her avocation oddly charmed me. Surely a romance author or French film-maker could find an offbeat story here.
I ended up with a couple of vehicles I didn’t need and decided to sell them through Craig’s List. They were flawed and I made that as clear as possible. It occurred to me both had a criminal element behind them, hence today’s article.

Craig’s List and Small Crimes

Craig’s List has become an international institution, represented in seventy or so countries. Oddly, the US has the most restrictions. Although CL has helped federal authorities solve crimes, state and local prosecutors threatened lawsuits against the enterprise, claiming its personals facilitated prostitution. Politicians further surmised it could encourage pedophilia, citing approximately the same proof found in Alex Jones’ favorite pizza parlour. Sorry, boys and girls, Craig bent to political pressure and shuttered its personals section.

But today’s column (and next week’s) is about cars and petty crimes.

1. Mercedes 450SL

Restoring a forty-year-old sports car started out as a project until other matters intervened. Needing the garage for other things, I parked it in front, whereupon a local kid vandalized it, as described in the following ad copy.

Turns out, after I placed the ad, the State of Florida couldn’t locate all its records, including chain of ownership. It further appeared a woman from Canfield, Ohio may have forged signatures on its title. The DMV is still working out this unexpected wrinkle. In the meantime, I ran this ad and, like a good writer, I told its story.

CL Orlando > for sale > cars & trucks > by owner…

1978 Mercedes 450SL

1978 Mercedes Benz 450SL make:
model:
year:
VIN:
condition:
cylinders:
drive:
fuel:
paint:
size:
title:
trans:
type:
Mercedes
450SL
1978
107044…︎

pathetic
4.5L V-8
RWD
gasoline
blue
sports
?
auto
roadster
conv

A charming teen miscreant vandalized my 1978 Mercedes 450SL. Neighbors explained I’m not allowed to dismember the little shìt, so I’m selling my poor car for the highest offer.

Specs
Body: 2-seater cabriolet designed by Friedrich Geiger. Engine: 4.52 litre 90° V-8 with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection. Suspension: independent double wishbone diagonal-pivot swing axle Speed: rated 210kmph, in excess of 130mph. At 100kmph, the machine tachs at a mere 2865rpm. Overall: sexy.

The roadster can be switched from a hardtop to convertible. Both hard and soft tops come with this vehicle. The paint code is Gentian Blue.

Note
It needs a lot of work. CL has no ‘rough’ option, so to be fair, I’m telling you it’s rough. I rebuilt the engine, so retorque head-bolts. I’ve tried to document the damage, mainly smashed windows and shredded tires.

If you always wanted a classic Mercedes sports machine and love tinkering on motorcars, now is your chance. Save back enough cash to sand, repaint, and fix the damn windows and tires, then make me an offer I can't refuse. Hey, I might need the money for bail if I catch that little window-smashing sod.


Can’t get more forthright than that, can I? Next week, I sell a dumb drug dealer’s SUV.

23 June 2018

CANADA DAY - Pass the Hootch


by Melodie Campbell  (Digressing from crime, for this post only.  Bad Girl gets paid for writing humour, which come to think of it, may be a crime.)


July 1 is Canada Day.  This is the holiday in which we celebrate the birth of Canada by getting stuck in cottage traffic for hours and hours and throwing firecrackers at each other.  Canadians are a hardy lot.

I want to be serious for a moment and give some thought as to how this country was born (definitely a breech birth with lots of screaming.)

Canada became a country in 1867.  I wasn't at the original Fathers of Confederation gig in PEI.  But I suspect it went something like this.

Father 1 of Confederation:  "So.  Do we all want to band together as one country and get ourselves universal healthcare?  Pass the hootch."

Father 2 of Confederation:  "Yeah, okay, eh.  Sounds good.  Pass the hootch."

Father 3 of Confederation:  "Snore..."

Meanwhile, the Mothers of Confederation were busy doing useful things like making bannock and throwing venison on the barbie.  And when they found out...well, let me just say there was hell to pay.

"You bozos didn't include a Caribbean Island??  Come on Mildred...Abigail.  We're buying a trailer in Florida."

Because you see: Canada is cold.  It is particularly cold during the months of winter, which can fiendishly usurp months from autumn and spring and hold them ransom until summer.

And then, just to be contrary, the guys with the hootch made Ottawa the capital of Canada.

Why did they choose Ottawa?  Apparently they were afraid you Yanks might capture the capital if they put it in some desirable place like Toronto.  (Too close to the border, with great shopping and restaurants.)

I'm told that Ottawa and Moscow are considered the worst places to be posted if you are an ambassador.  This is because they are the two most northern capitals in the world...well, capitals of any country to which humans might actually want to go.

Personally, I think this is a great exaggeration.  No one wants to go to Ottawa and Moscow.

Okay, okay.  Ottawa can be a pretty place in summer.  Thing is, it is held hostage by Jack Frost most of the rest of the year.  Look at a map.  Ottawa is dangerously close to the Arctic Circle.  (In actual fact, so are Aurora and Newmarket.  If you're wondering why that commute into Toronto takes so long...)

In hindsight, I figure the Fathers of Confederation did a pretty good job.  We have universal healthcare and the best beer in the world.  We get rid of our politicians by sending them to Ottawa every year.  Talk about punishment.

And since 1867, Canada has never been invaded by Americans.  Of course, that may change this fall, after the midterms...

Two things, if you like this sort of humour:
Check out Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN for my guest blog this Wednesday https://somethingisgoingtohappen.net/
and
Check out the Derringer and Arthur Ellis award-winning crime series, The Goddaughter.  Sold at all
the usual suspects. 


15 April 2018

Kranky Kalls
Telemarketing Tales 1


Judy Hopps © Zootopia
Zootopia • Judy Hopps © Disney
My phone rang at 08:01 this morning, waking me up. In my house in Florida, 8am qualifies as ‘middle of the night’, but more about that later.
“Hello?”

“Hey, is Diana there?”

“Nooo…” I say cautiously. “Diana won’t return until tomorrow.”

“In that case, maybe you can help me. I’m with the First Responders Philanthropy Foundation, and we’re collecting for police and firemen in your area.”
In three sentences, he’d told me three lies. His question about ‘Diana’ had thrown me off. The real Diana is my housekeeper who doubles as den mother. His ‘Diana’ was of course mythical. So was his phony soi-disant charitable foundation and collecting for rescue officers. According to telemarketing reports, the vast majority of police ‘charities’ and all but one military assistance organization vary from fake to fraudulent.

Notice the salesman’s generic use of “in your area,” instead of looking up where his targets lived. All said, he’d actually committed four deceptions. His caller ID number was faked, or in internet parlance ‘spoofed’.

I’d fallen out of practice. If I’d been on my game, our conversation would have gone something like this:
“Hello?”

“Hey, is Diana there?”

(sharply) “Who are you and why are you using this line?”

“Maybe you can help me. I’m with the National First Responders Philanthropy Foundation, and we’re collecting for police and firemen in your area.”

“This isn’t funny. Get off this line immediately.”

“Sir, I can assure you I’m collecting for our fine first responders…”

“Sure, sure. You thought it would be funny to screw with an op. Where are you located?”

“Kansas City, but…”

“Your fake caller-ID says Jacksonville. You think interfering with federal surveillance is funny?” (muffled aside) “John, trace this idiot, find out where he’s calling from.” (back into the phone) “All right, clown, what’s your name?”

“Sir, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m hanging up now.”
Asleep at the Switch

This ‘story-telling’ began long ago when I designed software packages. Typically I worked nights when all was dark and quiet, I could concentrate, and I had Westinghouse’s computers all to myself.

A substantial part of our business came from Europe. As part of the deal, I had to be prepared to take phone calls from overseas and the Americas during the day… my sleep time. As a professional, I had to instantly snap awake when the phone rang… I’m still pretty good at sounding awake… even when I’m not.

That wasn’t the downside– the real bane was telemarketers. Post-Millennials who encounter phone solicitation only every week or two might not believe we endured multiple calls a day hawking encyclopedias, dubious diamonds, water softeners, and religious donations.

Telemarketers were the phlegm of phones, the bunions of business, the hemorrhoids of humanity. They interrupted family dinners, high school homework, television dramas, tender love moments, and possibly a romantic proposal or two. One day I fought back.

I had fallen sound asleep for the third time one fateful morning when yet another call came in. I snapped awake, prepared to deal with a tech problem in Sacramento, Senegal, or Switzerland, and I heard the following…

Kustom Kleaning
“Good morning, sir. We’re Kustom Kleaners and we’re offering to clean three rooms, yes, three rooms of your choice for only $29.95, and additional rooms for only $19 more plus tax, a real bargain. What do you…”

“How dare you.”

“Huh?”

“How dare you. Let me guess. You saw the news and thought calling would be funny? Have a giggle while others listen in? Record this for a laugh with colleagues?”

“Sir, I have no idea…”

“Sure, right. The blood isn’t even dried and you thought you’d have a yuk, you and your so-called Kustom Kleaning caper, right? Never gave a thought to the victims, not even buried yet, eh?”

“Sir, I assure you…”

“You sick bastards, trolling families in their time of crisis, blood still everywhere, my wife sobbing, you sacks of…”

“Sir, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I won’t bother you again, I won’t. I promise.”
I settled back to sleep until…

Kustom Kaskets
“Good morning, young man. I’m Fred of Fine Funeral Financing. Have you thought ahead about your loved ones, their grief at your final passing? That’s why we offer prepaid-burial services. Mega-Mortuary membership allows you to choose every nuance of your funeral arrangements, paid in small monthly increments until your passing. No detail is overlooked by our fine professionals. How does that sound to you?”

“Every detail? I pick out my own casket?”

“Of course, sir. We carry a fine line of hand-crafted Kustom Koffins, highlighting hand-rubbed lacquered woods, polished brass or even precious metals. Each vessel to the beyond is lined with the most comfortable of satin or other exquisite materials. How does that sound?”

“Wonderful. If I may ask, is it possible to purchase caskets with crosses on them?”

“Right you are, sir. Crosses are among our most popular adornments for one’s heavenly crossing.”

“This is really important to me. Can you mount the crosses upside-down?”

(long pause) “Sir, why would you want to do that?”

“It’s part of my belief system, an inverted cross is really important to me. Let’s write it up now, I’ll grab my credit card. Can you take the first installment over the phone?”

“Uh, sir. I’m not sure I can do that.”

“Why not? You said your coffins are the finest woods and the crosses come in brass. When the time comes, I need your guarantee each cross will be positioned upside down, one on each side and one on the… do you call it a lid or pop top?”

“I’m uh, I don’t think we can…”

“Can you ring up the total?”

“Uh, I’ll have to call you back, sir.”

“Okay, you have my number. I’ll be waiting.”
Kranky Kraftmanship…

Each evening, I related these tales to my girlfriend who worked for Disney. At lunch, she shared my phone misadventures to a growing audience. A fan club of sorts developed. Disney artist Mark Chichiarra suggested the Kasket salesman would have really freaked out if asked to bury a buyer face down. Mark said, “Leigh thinks fast on his feet, doesn’t he.”

“On his feet? Probably not. Flat asleep maybe…”

Still the calls rolled in.

Coming up, a cottage industry of …

Kold Kalls

15 February 2018

Older Than You Think


"You, hear me! Give this fire to that old man. Pull the black worm off the bark and give it to the mother. And no spitting in the ashes!" - (Explanation later)
The New York Times ran a great article the other day called, "Many Animals Can Count, Some Better Than You".  I am sure that every one of us who has /had a pet can assure them of that.  (Try to gyp a dog out of the correct number of treats.)  Not only can they count - as a female frog literally counts the number of mating clucks of the male - but they can compare numbers.  (Read about the guppies and the sticklebacks.)

But where the article really got interesting was where they talked about that, despite math phobia, etc., humans have an innate "number sense." There is archaeological evidence suggesting that humans have been counting for at least 50,000 years.  Before writing ever came around, people were using other ways of tallying numbers, from carving notches (bones, wood, stones) to clay tokens that lie all over Sumerian sites and which often looked, for decades, to archaeologists like bits of clay trash.

But the ability to count and the desire to count and to keep track comes before tokens or notches, otherwise they'd never have bothered.  And language - blessed language - comes before all of that.  So get this:  they say that the number words for small quantities — less than five — are not only strikingly similar across virtually every language in the world, but also are older (and more similar) than the words for mother, father, and body parts.  Except certain words like... no, not that!  (Get your mind out of the gutter)  Except the words for the eye and the tongue. Make of that what you will...

Dr Mark Pagel, biologist at Reading University, said, “It’s not out of the question that you could have been wandering around 15,000 years ago and encountered a few of the last remaining Neanderthals, pointed to yourself and said, ‘one,’ and pointed to them and said, ‘three,’ and those words, in an odd, coarse way, would have been understood.”  That just gave me goosebumps when I read it.  


Evolution of the cuneiform sign SAG "head", 3000–1000 BC
Development of Sumerian cunieform writing,
Td k at Wikipedia

I admit, I'm fascinated by the past. (That's why I became a historian...)  To me, history is time travel for pedestrians, a way to connect with our ancient ancestors.  So let's zip around a bit, starting with jokes (Reuters):

Sumerian man,
looking slightly upset...
(Wikipedia)
“Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.” - Sumeria, ca 1900 BC

“How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? You sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the pharaoh to go catch a fish.” - Egypt, ca 1600 BC, supposedly about the randy Pharaoh Snofru

The earliest [written] "yo' mamma" joke, from an incomplete Babylonian fragment, ca 1500 BC:
"…your mother is by the one who has intercourse with her. What/who is it?"
(Okay, so it doesn't translate that well, but we all know where it's heading.)

And this riddle from 10th century Britain (for more see here):
"I am a wondrous creature for women in expectation, a service for neighbors. I harm none of the citizens except my slayer alone. My stem is erect, I stand up in bed, hairy somewhere down below. A very comely peasant’s daughter, dares sometimes, proud maiden, that she grips at me, attacks me in my redness, plunders my head, confines me in a stronghold, feels my encounter directly, woman with braided hair. Wet be that eye."
(Answer at the end and no peeking!)

Plot lines go very, very far back as well.  

Ancient Egyptian leather 
sandals (Wikipedia)
The fairy tale with the oldest provenance is "The Smith and the Devil" which goes back at least 7,000 years, and has been mapped out over 35 Indo-European languages, and geographically from India to Scandinavia.  (Curiosity)  The bones of the story are that the Smith makes a deal with the Devil (or death) and cheats him.  Now there's been all sorts of variations on it. In a very old one, the smith gains the power to weld any materials, then uses this power to stick the devil to an immovable object, allowing the smith to renege on the bargain. Over time, the smith's been transformed to clever peasants, wise simpletons, and, of course, fiddlers ("The Devil Went Down to Georgia" is, whether Charlie Daniels knew it or not, a variation on this very, very old fairy tale), and the devil occasionally got transformed to death or even a rich mean relative.  Check out Grimm's "The Peasant and the Devil" and "Why the Sea is Salt".

Enkidu, Gilgamesh's
best friend - his death
sends Gilgamesh in
search of eternal life.
(Urban at French
Wikipedia)
But Cinderella's pretty old, too, and just as universal.  Many people believe that the Eros/Psyche myth is the true original.  The Chinese version, Ye Xian, was written in 850 AD, and has everything including the slipper.  There's a Vietnamese version of ancient lineage, The Story of Tam and Cam.  And there are at least 3 variations of it in 1001 Nights.  (BTW, if you're gonna read 1001 Nights - and I recommend it highly - read the Mardrus and Mathers translation in 4 volumes.  Available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.)

And, of course, many stock plots go at least as far back as Sumeria, including rival brothers (Cain and Abel), blood brothers (Gilgamesh and Enkidu), old men killing their rivals (Lamech, Genesis 4), the Garden of Eden, the Great Flood (complete with ark, dove, and rainbow), and the quest for eternal life (Gilgamesh).

BTW, most of the stories in Genesis come from the Epic of Gilgamesh, which makes perfect sense when you remember that Abraham is said to have come from Ur of the Chaldees, which was a Sumerian city.  

But back to words, which are, after all, our stock in trade as writers.  Remember above, where I quoted the NYT how you could communicate with Neanderthals by pointing and using number words?  And remember that sentence at the very beginning?  
"You, hear me! Give this fire to that old man. Pull the black worm off the bark and give it to the mother. And no spitting in the ashes!" 
According to researchers, if you went back 15,000 years and said that sentence, slowly, perhaps trying various accents, in almost any language, to almost any hunter-gatherer tribe, anywhere, they'd understand most of it.  You see, the words in that sentence are basic, almost integral to life, constantly used, constantly needed, for over 15,000 years, since the last Ice Age.  (It's only recently that we've lost our interest in black worms except in tequila and mescal.)

Due to the fact that we live on a planet with 7.6 billion humans and counting, it's hard to realize that, back around 15,000, there were at most 15,000,000 humans on the entire planet (and perhaps as few as 1,000,000).  They probably shared a language.  If nothing else, they would have shared a basic trading language so that when they ran into each other, they could communicate. Linguistics says that most words are replaced every few thousand years, with a maximum survival of roughly 9,000 years. But 4 British researchers say they've found 23 words - what they call "ultra-conserved" words - that date all the way back to 13,000 BC.

Speaking of 13,000 BC, here's a Lascaux Cave Painting.  Wikipedia

Now there's a list of 200 words - the Swadesh list(s) - which are the core vocabulary of all languages.  (Check them out here at Wikipedia.)  These 200 words are cognates, words that have the same meaning and a similar sound in different languages:
Father (English), padre (Italian), pere (French), pater (Latin) and pitar (Sanskrit).  
Now this makes sense, because English and Sanskrit are both part of the Indo-European language family.  But our 23 ultra-conserved words are "proto-words" that exist in 4 or more language families, including Inuit-Yupik.  (Thank you, Washington Post.  And, if you want to wade through linguistic science, here's the original paper over at the National Academy of Sciences.)

So, what are they?  What are these ultra-conserved words, 15,000 years old, and a window to a time of hunter-gatherers painting in Lascaux and trying to survive the end of the Younger Dryas (the next-to-the last mini-Ice Age; the last was in 1300-1850 AD)?  Here you go:

thou, I, not, that, we, to give, 
who, this, what, man/male, 
ye, old, mother, to hear, 
hand, fire, to pull, black, 
to flow, bark, ashes, to spit, worm

There's got to be a story there.  How about this?

"I give this fire to flow down the bark!  Who pulls the man from the mother?  Who pulls his hand from the fire?  Who / what / we?"

I was trying a couple of variations on these words, and then I realized that the ultimate has already been done:


"Who are you?" [said] the Worm.  


PS - the answer to the riddle is "onion".  

21 January 2018

Lost in the Eighties


Scarecrow and Mrs King
Nope, not touching upon the implications here.
Last week, I reviewed Gin Phillip’s Fierce Kingdom.

The protagonist makes several references to a mid-1980s television spy series, Scarecrow and Mrs King. I’ve spent decades without television, so the program was unknown to me. Gin Phillips managed to sufficiently interest me, I streamed the first (out of four) seasons.

The principals, Kate Jackson and Bruce Boxleitner, are attractive and humorous. John le Carré this is not, but it is fun, especially when housewife Amanda King cleverly thwarts baddies and their plots.

For those unfamiliar with the series, I offer this condensed version.
The Spy Who Came In From the Mall

June, 1983, Washington, DC. Intelligence Chief Billy Melrose calls an emergency meeting.

“A dastardly foreign-looking, culturally sophisticated attaché…”

“Culture, that’s suspicious,” says Agent Lee Stetson, aka Scarecrow. “And attaché… that seals it. Only foreigners use diacriticals.”

“Anyway, an undercover operative has stolen the last Galactic Man action figure in Washington.”

“Someone stole it?” Scarecrow asks.

“Well, not if you’re going to be technical. They used a coupon on top of a Toys-Я-Us diplomatic immunity discount card.”

“So what does that mean, boss?”

“It means I have to drive to Baltimore to buy another one for my nephew. The Soviets bought it as part of an incomprehensible kidnapping scenario. I’m foggy on the plot but their operatives, Putin and Pulitov, plan to sabotage national elections. That could never, ever happen, but we have to stop the kidnapping. I mean to send you, Scarecrow, but we need someone to pose as your wife.”

Scarecrow and Francine Desmond
Scarecrow and Francine Desmond
“Me, me! I can do it.” Agent Francine Desmond frantically waves her hand in the air.

Scarecrow’s handsome brow furrows as he stares off in space. “Who could do the job?”

Francine jumps to her feet. “Me, me! I’ve worked here nine years; I can do the job.”

“I don’t know who,” Melrose says. “Barbie’s pregnant and Paula’s on assignment.”

“Me, me! I’ve got two masters and a doctorate in spyology.”

Stetson snaps his fingers. “What about Petunia Oggleswort?”

“Out sick. The entire steno pool fell ill. We’ve run out of options, Lee. Who do you think, Francine?”

“Oh, Chief, I’m so glad you finally asked…”

Whump! The door swings open. Amanda King bouncy-steps in carrying a tray.

“Hi everyone. I brought fresh cookies.”

Francine mutters under her breath. “Oh, no. Go away, you b-b-bitc—.”

Chief Melrose brightens. “Oh hi, Amanda. I’m afraid we’re too busy to chat. We’re in the midst of a crisis trying to figure out who…” He stops and looks significantly at Stetson. “You thinking what I’m thinking?”

Scarecrow selects an oatmeal chocolate chip. “I’m thinking we need coffee with the cookies.”

“No, I mean the op. Right in front of our noses: Amanda! We use Mrs King! She could pose as your wife.”

“Oh no,” says Stetson, vigorously shaking his head. “Not a civilian.”

Francine nods. “Exactly. She’s just a silly suburban tw—“ She stops as everyone turns to stare at her. “… uh, twenty-nine year old housewife.”

Amanda distributes more cookies. “Twenty-six and no, I don’t want the job. I have to run home to head up the birthday party for my son, uh, whats-his-name and my other boy, um, er… His name will come to me too. And my mother’s babysitting right now although she’d rather be cleaning the refrigerator and I have to take my station wagon in for the twenty-two thousand mile oil change and visit the book store where we killed that mafia guy and grab lunch at the tea shoppe where those foreign agents shot at us and and buy vegetables although I can’t understand why people like broccoli or eggplant, and do my nails and watch my soaps and MacGyver and Cheers and I never miss Columbo so you see I’m very busy.”

“Hmmph. Busy seeking endless praise and admiration, you attention craving c—…” Francine suddenly realizes she’s mumbling aloud. “Er, I mean cunning manipulator, just too perfect for poor spies like us.”

“It’s settled then. Scarecrow, you and Mrs. King check into the resort as a honeymoon couple. Francine, see to the details.”

Francine throws up her hands. “Oh, no, no. I’m not covering for that skinny-ass—“ She stops. “… assiduously slender housewife. Okay, okay, I’ll do it. I’ll do it. Then shoot me.”


In his subtle silver Porsche 365 with NOT•A•SPY license plates to disguise the car, Lee Stetson speeds with Amanda to the Lake Coochy-Coo Resort. At the bar, he orders a ’78 Grand Cru des Saults Ste Marie.

Amanda sips a glass. “I’m afraid I don’t know these fancified wines and stuff. Now my mother loves colorful booze, pinks and pastels. I feel so outclassed. Really, that time you bought me steak tartare I thought it was raw hamburger, but that shows you my taste or lack of taste, as I’m sure you already know because I’m happy with Burger King where they cook the steak tartare and put it on a sesame seed bun with pickles and onions and…. Oh, look! There’s our quarry.”

“Shh, Amanda. Don't stare."

“But he looks so much like Francine.”

“It is Francine. She slipped into disguise to fool the bad guys. Let’s find our room and get some sleep.”

Once they unlock the door, Amanda protests.

“There’s only one bed.”

“Yes, of course. We share one bed in episodes 2, 20 and 33. Our cover is we’re on our honeymoon.”

“Not me, buster. I wasn’t raised that way. Maybe Mr. King said my notion of oral sex was endlessly talking, but that’s why he’s the ex-Mr. King ’cause he expected hanky-panky on our honeymoon and I’m not that kind of girl, I mean he’s still Mr. King I guess but I’m not his Mrs ’cause that’s not my sort of thing although you and I glow with repressed sexual attraction and everyone except McMillan & Wife has been bangin’ since the 1960s, well, 1920s and before, I mean look at the court of Louis XIV, but anyway I’ll take the sofa because you won’t fit, on the sofa I mean, or you can stay up and hide in the hallway closet– there’s a metaphor if I ever said one– and spy on the guy about to be kidnapped, anyway I think it’s wrong of the agency to put us together like this and… Are you snoring? Hey, are you awake? Well, I’ll just slip out and look for the kidnappers on my own.”


Next morning, Lee Stetson awakes to the sound of the telephone.

“Scarecrow, where are you? The kidnappers nabbed their victim along with Amanda. They made a run for the get-away limo, but they couldn’t unlock it. They’re headed for their escape chopper.”

“I’m on my way, now.”

Stetson arrives in time to see the helicopter start to lift off. Abruptly its engine chokes, coughs black smoke, and the whirlybird settles back to the ground as it backfires and dies.

The kidnappers fire several machine gun rounds before the doors burst open and the bad guys fall out, knuckling their eyes. Amanda steps down, holding a can of hair spray.

“Hi everyone! I haven’t been trained with mace, but I had my big-hair-spray can and let ’em have it. And I put fingernail polish in the limo locks so the bad guys couldn’t get in and I borrowed, well, purloined actually, maple syrup from kitchen and poured it into the helicopter gas tank. I didn’t know if it would work, but figured it worth a try, and it did pretty well, didn’t it? Didn’t it?”

“Congratulations, Mrs King,” says Chief Melrose. “I’m sure the President wants to award you another secret commendation.”

Francine stares daggers. “Why you scheming, sleazy, slu…” She stops under the glare of Melrose and Stetson. “I mean sultry, sultry and silky Mata Hari.”

“Matty Harry who? I’m just a simple suburban housewife and mother of uh, two, I think, let’s see… one… yes, two, and I’m so pleased I could stop the bad guys and speaking of stop, I should be at the bus stop to pick up my kids, no wait, maybe Mom will pick them up or they can walk. But any awards should go to Lee because he’s the best secret agent ever and I’d do him if we didn’t work together and I love Francine who alerted the bad guys we were on to them spooking them with that innovative disguise that put them on the run. Anyway, I promised to make meatloaf for next week’s royal heiress episode.”

“You’re adorable,” says Stetson.

“Winsome,” Chief Melrose says. “Isn’t she a darling, Francine? Francine?”

“Uh-oh! Francine’s choking,” cries Amanda. “Quick, I learned Cub Scout CPR.”

25 November 2017

OATLANDER – Why I can never write a book straight (one of the zany posts)


It happened again.  One little letter got switched around, and those little writer demons in my head let loose.

It started with a quote from an industry reviewer, regarding my time travel series starting with Rowena Through the Wall.  He said:  “OUTLANDER meets SEX AND THE CITY.”

Nice way to describe Rowena et al.  I’m very grateful to him.  But of course, when I quoted him, I messed up the spelling of Outlander.

So here’s a sneak preview of my next book:

OATLANDER

Claire (okay, lets change that to Flaire) falls through time and lands in virtually the same country she did in that other book.  The country that thinks using animal bladders for instruments is a really neat idea.

“What the heck,” says Flaire, looking around at all the sheep.  “This isn’t Kansas.”

“Ach no,” says ruggedly handsome and unmarried oat farmer, who might possibly be named Jamie (okay, let’s change that to –heck, nothing rhymes.  Tamie?  Bamie?  Okay, Balmy.  “And why are you wearing just your slip, lass?”

Flaire (looking down): “Blast. So’s I am.  Well, fuck-a-duck.”

Balmy:  “Canna no dae that, lass. Only sheep here.”

<We travel further along in the story, to the battle of Culloden, where Balmy and the local rebels exchange words.>

Leader of Rebels:  “Today  will go down in history, lads!  Grab yer spikes and pitch forks!  We go to spill English blood!”

Balmy: “Not on me oat field, ye don’t.”

“SCOTLAND! SCOTLAND! SCOTLAND!”  Rebels charge.

Flaire, watching everyone trip over sheep.  “This isn’t going to end well.”

Balmy:  “Back to Kansas, Lass?”

Flaire:  “Sure.  No oats though. We’d have to call this…Cornlander.

Balmy <scratching chin>:  “But that would be-“

Flaire:  “Corny?” 

Melodie Campbell writes funny books.  Mostly about crime.  Or maybe her comedy is criminal.  You be the judge. 
 On Amazon

29 October 2017

Plastic Fantastic Family Noir, Halloween edition


taxidermied Trigger
Taxidermied Trigger © Horse Nation
When I was a wee girl, my Grandfather Albert sat me on his knee and told me about singing cowboys. The famed Roy Rogers appeared in movies and television and restaurant chains. He owned a Jeep named Nelly Belle, a palomino named Trigger, a German shepherd named Bullet, and a wife named Dale. When his dog died, he had it stuffed by a taxidermist. When his horse Trigger died, he had it stuffed. When his wife died, I’m not sure if Roy had his woman taxidermied, but Grandfather would gaze fondly at Granny Crystal and say it made a beautifully sentimental story.

Then Granny Crystal died. She was a fine-looking woman with a trim figure and surprisingly perky C-cups. Grandfather started thinking about preserving his beloved. By then, technology had advanced. He considered Cryovac like the butcher uses for chickens in the market, but it was only a step up from Saran Wrap and subject to freezer burn even when double-wrapped.

About that time, Fox News ran a segment about Körperwelten, a German company that plasticizes human bodies for museums and exhibitions. Grandpa Albert got so excited, he took time out from Fox’s 134th definitive investigation into Vince Foster and asked me to google human plastination. He was disappointed to learn the cost to preserve Granny in plastic was €122 000 plus shipping and tax, even after saving $52 in freight costs by labeling her ‘non-GMO export product’.

Körperwelten Body Worlds
© Körperwelten Body Worlds

Then we found a Chinese company, Hoison Sun, which could fulfill his dream of keeping Granny forever for only $87. I expressed some skepticism about the low price, but he pointed out the vast difference between German engineering and Chinese sweatshop production.

“It’s guaranteed,” he said. “No cost of burial. No cost of cremation. Waste not, want not, I say. How could we go wrong?”

Revell Visible Woman
Visible Woman © Revell
He studied the photos and videos. About that time he remembered those Revell plastic models of ‘Visible Man’ and ‘Visible Woman’ and decided that was the way to go, a clear body– after all, her name was Crystal– where you could see the muscles and organs.

At a yard sale, we bought a huge styrofoam chest with a 7-Eleven logo on the side. We packed it with Granny and lots of dry ice. The UPS man grunted at the weight and asked with a wink if we were shipping dead bodies to China, ha-ha. I kind of tee-heed and said that would be crazy.

The German competitor required a year to plasticize bodies, so it came as a surprise a month later when our doorbell rang and the FedEx man struggled up the steps with a wooden crate from Guangzhou in the Guangdong province.

Grandfather pried off the sides with a claw hammer and then stared in awe. There stood granny in all her shimmering glory, naked right down to her muscles and bones.

Right away, we noticed one of the Chinese shortcuts. I never knew breast implants accounted for Granny’s perky boobies.

“I didn’t think they’d preserve those,” said Grandfather.

Her right rib was imprinted with the LG logo and the words “中国制造 ©李 隆丁, Tech Support call 800-867-5309.”

“Do you want to request a return RMA from tech support? She must be under warranty.”

He decided to think about it. The other problem was a sort of Tupperware-food-in-the-microwave smell, which grew more noticeable as the day warmed up. We learned the answer when Fox News reported a class action suit against the Chinese company for cutting preservation corners and a shortcoming in the curing process. Fox recommended turning the thermostat down to 58°. Grandfather decided he could live with that.

My next concern was my 12-year-old son, Bobby Jr. He invited his friends over and they stood around inspecting her perfect breasts and saying, “Wow, your great-grandmother is hot. Well, cool but hot, too.” That probably ruined the boys for life, thinking women grow implants like that.

I worry Bobby Jr may never have a love life at all. The lifelike glass eyeballs in Granny’s skull tend to rattle him.

He worked up a little bravery.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Uh… gall bladder, I guess. Come to think of it, your grandfather has a whole lot of gall.”

“And that?”

“That’s an ovary.”

“You mean where eggs come from?”

“Right.”

“And that?”

“That would be the womb and below that is where the cervix should be.”

Bridgitte and Ginger in Ginger Snaps
Brigitte and Ginger
Bobby turned pale. I never knew he had a queasy stomach. His goth sister Louise chain-watches Ginger Snaps and Scream, and drenches her ice cream in cherry-chocolate syrup to look like blood.

“So a baby’s supposed to… You mean a baby fits… How’s that possible?”

“It’s not. That’s why God makes spinal epidural blocks, anesthesia, and 1.5-litres of Southern Comfort.”

“You’re not planning to, uh, preserve Great-Grandfather Albert, are you?”

Grandpa's adage of waste-not, want-not, crossed my mind. By now, Bobby had turned greenish-grey.

“I’m not sure. He’s got ulcers, a softball-size prostate and his liver drips like a Toyota oil pan. Bobby… Bobby, are you okay?”

Thinking it would help illustrate, I dragged out the Revell Visible Man to present a male rôle model perspective, so to speak.

“See, there’s the liver, the kidneys, the pancreas and the prostate. Your great-grandfather’s is about fourteen times that size. Bobby? Bobby?”

He cracked his head against the table as he fainted. “Prostrate from the prostate,” said Grandfather unhelpfully. Fortunately surrounded by medical models, I was able to palpate his skull plates back in place and saved the expense of an ambulance to the emergency room.

Grandfather warmed Granny’s side of the bed with a hot pad and gently laid her on it. That struck me as a bit Norman Bates, but snuggling gives him comfort at night, especially under his blanket fort when he lights up her insides with a flashlight. He smells a little plasticky in the morning, so I turn the thermostat down to 58° and insist he tub soaks before coming down to breakfast.

I’m okay with Granny now. Tech support removed the silicone breast prostheses and applied extra body sealant. You can see straight through her perky boobs and from the side, they make an amazing magnifying glass. Grandfather uses them all the time when reading Sport Fisherman.

Bobby finds it extremely disturbing his friends play hacky-sack with the retired implants. Waste not, want not, I say.